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Seven Days to Noon
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Seven Days to Noon

Seven Days to Noon

Long before the Coen Brothers ever made a movie – actually, long before the Coens were even conceived – there were the Boulting Brothers, a popular British writing-producing-directing partnership with a Coen-like division of labor. These ambitious, talented twin brothers enjoyed a rare type of synergy when making a motion picture. Through their accomplishments as both filmmakers and movie distributors, they eventually became two of the more powerful men in the British entertainment industry.

Technically speaking, Seven Days to Noon (1950), a dire, nerve-racking thriller about the possible nuclear annihilation of London, was directed by John Boulting, while Roy produced the film and co-wrote the screenplay. But both the brothers were likely to have fingers in a variety of pies during a project, so their official credits on the film might be deceptive in terms of their total contributions. Roy, however, was the one who took home the hardware when the Seven Days to Noon script he was credited as co-writing with Frank Harvey won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

As with so many other Boulting projects, Seven Days to Noon is heavy with a social conscience. Barry Jones stars as Prof. Willingdon, a brilliant atomic scientist who is appalled that the world knows so little about the realities of the A-bomb. Over time, Jones is driven mad by society's indifference, and takes it upon himself to teach everyone a lesson; he sends a letter to the Prime Minister telling him that he's stolen what would now be called a WMD, and, unless Britain stops producing atomic weaponry by noon the next Sunday, he will use it to flatten London. The supporting cast, especially Olive Sloane as a former showgirl who befriends the morally-stricken scientist, is first rate.

Given the darkness of Seven Days to Noon, it will surprise viewers who aren't familiar with their work that the Boultings were just as adept with humor and family drama. Perhaps their best known films outside of England are the Peter Sellers satire I'm All Right Jack (1959) and The Family Way (1966), a poignant, working class drama about a young couple's marital problems, but Seven Days to Noon is a high-water mark in a long, illustrious collaboration.

Director: John Boulting
Producer: Roy Boulting
Screenplay: Roy Boulting, Frank Harvey (based on a story by Paul Dehn, James Bernard)
Editor: Roy Boulting
Cinematographer: Gilbert Taylor, Ray Sturgess
Music: John Addison
Art Design: John Elphick
Cast: Barry Jones (Prof. Willingdon), Olive Sloane (Goldie), Andre Morell (Supt. Folland), Sheila Manahan (Ann Willingdon), Hugh Cross (Stephen Lane), Joan Hickson (Mrs. Peckett.)
B&W-94m.

by Paul Tatara

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