Spin a Dark Web


1h 16m 1957

Brief Synopsis

The rise and fall of a sweet-faced villainess in London's underworld.

Film Details

Also Known As
44 Soho Square, Soho Incident
Release Date
Feb 1957
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Film Locations, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
London, England, Great Britain
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Wide Boys Never Work by Robert Westerby (London, 1937).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 16m

Synopsis

Jim Bankley, an amoral, opportunistic Canadian ex-soldier living in London, visits his old army friend Buddy to ask for help in finding a job. Buddy, who works for Sicilian gambling racketeer Rico Francesi, introduces Jim to his boss. Although Rico expresses no interest in Jim, Rico's darkly dangerous sister Bella insists on hiring the ruggedly handsome Canadian. Later, at the Francesi headquarters at 44 Soho Square, Rico, furious that boxer Bill Walker has failed to throw a match, thus causing the organization great losses, sends strong-arm man McLeod to intimidate the fighter into following orders. After Bill responds to the threat by throwing a punch, the hot-headed McLeod retaliates by bludgeoning him to death. When Rico fires McLeod for attracting unwanted police attention because of his reckless behavior, McLeod tries to extort money from Rico. Jim, a friend of Bill, his boxing trainer father Tom and sister Betty, visits Betty to pay his condolences, but upon learning that Jim is now working for Francesi, Tom orders him to get out. Later, Bella invites Jim to go for a ride and drives him to her home, where she wastes no time seducing him. Betty, questioned about Jim by Inspector Collis of Scotland Yard, defends her friend's integrity. Collis then asks Betty to continue her friendship with Jim to try to find out if he knows where McLeod is hiding. When Rico, the owner of a winning race horse, enlists Jim's expertise as an ex-engineer to feed the bookies false betting information, thus increasing the odds on Rico's horse, Jim proposes tapping into the bookies' phone lines. At a café one day, Betty encounters Jim and innocently questions him about his job, but their conversation is interrupted by Bella. When Betty reports the incident to Collis, he advises her to forget about Jim. On the day of the big race, Jim successfully taps into the phone lines, and when Rico's horse wins ten to one, Rico throws a party to celebrate. That night, McLeod sneaks into Rico's house, but when Rico calls out for help, McLeod flees to a nearby warehouse. After Rico, Bella, Buddy and Jim pursue him there, McLeod, trying to escape, climbs on a rope suspended from the ceiling. Bella then goads her brother to cutting the rope, sending McLeod plunging to his death. Repulsed, Jim vows to get out of the rackets and hurries to Bella's house to pack his suitcase. Declaring that no one will ever leave her, Bella slaps Jim, and as the two struggle, Rico enters. Managing to escape, Jim seeks refuge at the Walker home, where a sympathetic Betty offers to help him. When Tom points out that Betty could be charged as an accomplice to murder, however, Jim departs. At 44 Soho Square, Rico informs Bella that he has arranged for them to leave the country that night by boat. When Bella insists on settling with Jim first, Buddy, Rico and Bella drive to the Walker house, assuming that Jim has taken refuge there. When Jim phones the house, Bella answers and threatens to harm Betty unless he comes immediately. Concerned about Betty's safety, Jim phones Collis and, after he explains the situation, the inspector agrees to let Jim through the police lines with the proviso that he turn himself in afterward. As soon as Jim arrives at the Walkers', Buddy reports that two carloads of police have pulled up outside. Phoning Collis, Bella informs him that Betty will die unless they are granted safe passage. With Betty and Jim as hostages, Bella, Rico and Buddy climb into the car and head for the coast. As Buddy drives, Jim warns his old friend that he is next in line for betrayal and warns that the Francesis have no intention of taking him along on their voyage. Upon reaching the countryside, Bella orders Buddy to drive into the woods, after which Rico leads Jim and Betty into the underbrush, intending to kill them. Peering into the car's trunk Buddy sees provisions for only two and, realizing that Jim was right, orders Rico to stop. Jumping out of the car, Bella shoots Buddy. Startled by the gunshots, Rico drops his guard and Jim wrestles him to the ground. Bella fires at Jim and misses, shooting Rico instead. Grabbing the disabled Rico's gun, Jim shoots and wounds Bella, who fires back, then climbs into her car. Gravely injured, Bella swerves off the side of the road and dies. Wounded by Bella, Jim collapses, and as Betty huddles over him, the police arrive. One month later, a now recovered Jim is brought to trial, and due to the Walkers' intervention, is sentenced to only two years probation.

Film Details

Also Known As
44 Soho Square, Soho Incident
Release Date
Feb 1957
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Film Locations, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
London, England, Great Britain
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Wide Boys Never Work by Robert Westerby (London, 1937).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 16m

Articles

Spin a Dark Web - SPIN A DARK WEB - Faith Domergue in 1956 British Noir


Largely forgotten today, the 1937 novel Wide Boys Never Work by Robert Westerby introduced to the British public a phrase bandied about in criminal circles but seldom heard in polite conversation. Referring to the wide-eyed, nattily-attired ne'r-do-wells who haunted the country's race tracks and betting parlors, and who brokered black market merchandise during spells of wartime rationing, "wide boys" came to be called "spivs" (the neologism is believed to be a reverse formation of the anagram V.I.P.s) after the Second World War. A veritable spiv cycle of crime films proliferated after 1945, among them John Boulting's Brighton Rock (1947), Harold Huth's Night Beat (1947, cowritten by Westerby), and Basil Dearden's The Blue Lamp (1950). Around the time the cycle was dying out, Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949) depicted a wily American black marketer (Orson Welles) at play in postwar Vienna and the film may have had an influence on the "Brit Noir" films that followed, in which Hollywood actors were imported to widen the appeal of Night and the City (1950, with Richard Widmark), Wings of Danger (US: Dead on Course, 1952, with Zachary Scott), Mask of Dust (US: Race for Life, 1954 with Richard Conte) and The Glass Cage (US: The Glass Tomb, 1955, with John Ireland).

US distributor Columbia Pictures renamed Vernon Sewall's Soho Incident (1956) Spin a Dark Web for American audiences, though it was known through production as 44 Soho Square -- purported "nerve center of global gangdom." Despite being an in-demand screenwriter for hire, source novelist Robert Westerby did not adapt his own material (he was in Hollywood, laboring on the script for War and Peace for Paramount and producers Carlo Ponti and Dino De Laurentiis), which was instead put into the hands of Ian Stuart Black, author of six episodes of the BBC's Patrol Car series. Former RKO starlet Faith Domergue (leading lady of Universal's This Island Earth and Cult of the Cobra the previous year) stars as Bella Francesi, the wanton sister of an Italian mobster (Martin Benson, famously crushed in an automobile compactor in Terence Young's Thunderball [1964]) and gaming racketeer. When Bella compels her brother to bring ex-GI Jim Bankley (Lee Patterson) into the gang it is at the imperative of her insatiable libido... but being complicit in murder is more than the luckless Bankley has signed on for.

Pinioned between Night and the City and John Mackenzie's The Long Good Friday (1979), Spin a Dark Web speaks to the hunger of marginalized people (foreigner Jim isn't even American, he's Canadian) for a measure of legitimacy. Martin Benson's beetle-browed Rico Francesi is a precursor of Bob Hoskins' forward-thinking but luckless Howard Shand, a wannabe legitimate businessman who coaches his thugs to keep "everything nice and quiet and polite." Producer "Big Mike" Frankovitch had bankrolled Joe Macbeth (1955) a year earlier and Spin a Dark Web goes similarly pear-shaped due to the machinations of a female who refuses to know her place. The stakes are refreshingly small here, with the film's caper setpiece (the manipulation of telephone lines to rig a horse race) carried off without a hitch and the gang brought down due to the bumbling of a minor player (Bernard Fox, in his film debut) who must be taken out of the game. Location shooting gives the film a documentary flourish while a wall poster seen inside Rico's Soho headquarters heralds a boxing exhibition featuring both Ronnie Kray (whose criminal exploits with brother Reginald were chronicled in Peter Medak's The Krays [1990]) and his older sibling Charlie, pointing the way to the true future of London crime.

In its American ad campaign, Columbia played up the film's sex appeal, depicting Domergue in posters as a Gilda style temptress in a backless satin gown but the actress stays bundled up (complete with scarf) throughout Spin a Dark Web against what were clearly unseasonably frigid temperatures, both on location in London within the walls of Nettleford Studio in Surrey. A decidedly low boil but engaging programmer, Spin a Dark Web will be of value most to those who enjoy seeing British character actors ply their trade, and that number includes Sam Kydd (They Made Me a Fugitive,Passport to Pimlico), Peter Burton (cinema's first "Q" in Dr. No, replaced by Desmond Llewellyn in subsequent James Bond films), and Robert Arden (who went from a plum role in Orson Welles' Mr. Arkadin to the doomed American Ambassador compelled by Satanic forces to blow out his brains at the top of Omen III: The Final Conflict). Spin a Dark Web was photographed by Basil Emmott, a specialist in British "quota quickies" and a DP for the young Michael Powell. Art direction was by Ken Adam, later a celebrity in his own right for his work on Eon Productions' James Bond franchise.

Produced under the Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's "Choice Collection" label of films manufactured on demand, Spin a Dark Web looks only so-so. The black and white image is grainy but contrasts are good, leaving the viewer with an overall satisfactory viewing experience of a fairly rare and obscure title. Sound is equally adequate and extras are (as is the custom for DVD-R releases) limited to a 2m 14s theatrical trailer.

For more information about Spin a Dark Web, visit Sony Pictures. To order Spin a Dark Web, go to TCM Shopping.

by Richard Harland Smith
Spin A Dark Web - Spin A Dark Web - Faith Domergue In 1956 British Noir

Spin a Dark Web - SPIN A DARK WEB - Faith Domergue in 1956 British Noir

Largely forgotten today, the 1937 novel Wide Boys Never Work by Robert Westerby introduced to the British public a phrase bandied about in criminal circles but seldom heard in polite conversation. Referring to the wide-eyed, nattily-attired ne'r-do-wells who haunted the country's race tracks and betting parlors, and who brokered black market merchandise during spells of wartime rationing, "wide boys" came to be called "spivs" (the neologism is believed to be a reverse formation of the anagram V.I.P.s) after the Second World War. A veritable spiv cycle of crime films proliferated after 1945, among them John Boulting's Brighton Rock (1947), Harold Huth's Night Beat (1947, cowritten by Westerby), and Basil Dearden's The Blue Lamp (1950). Around the time the cycle was dying out, Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949) depicted a wily American black marketer (Orson Welles) at play in postwar Vienna and the film may have had an influence on the "Brit Noir" films that followed, in which Hollywood actors were imported to widen the appeal of Night and the City (1950, with Richard Widmark), Wings of Danger (US: Dead on Course, 1952, with Zachary Scott), Mask of Dust (US: Race for Life, 1954 with Richard Conte) and The Glass Cage (US: The Glass Tomb, 1955, with John Ireland). US distributor Columbia Pictures renamed Vernon Sewall's Soho Incident (1956) Spin a Dark Web for American audiences, though it was known through production as 44 Soho Square -- purported "nerve center of global gangdom." Despite being an in-demand screenwriter for hire, source novelist Robert Westerby did not adapt his own material (he was in Hollywood, laboring on the script for War and Peace for Paramount and producers Carlo Ponti and Dino De Laurentiis), which was instead put into the hands of Ian Stuart Black, author of six episodes of the BBC's Patrol Car series. Former RKO starlet Faith Domergue (leading lady of Universal's This Island Earth and Cult of the Cobra the previous year) stars as Bella Francesi, the wanton sister of an Italian mobster (Martin Benson, famously crushed in an automobile compactor in Terence Young's Thunderball [1964]) and gaming racketeer. When Bella compels her brother to bring ex-GI Jim Bankley (Lee Patterson) into the gang it is at the imperative of her insatiable libido... but being complicit in murder is more than the luckless Bankley has signed on for. Pinioned between Night and the City and John Mackenzie's The Long Good Friday (1979), Spin a Dark Web speaks to the hunger of marginalized people (foreigner Jim isn't even American, he's Canadian) for a measure of legitimacy. Martin Benson's beetle-browed Rico Francesi is a precursor of Bob Hoskins' forward-thinking but luckless Howard Shand, a wannabe legitimate businessman who coaches his thugs to keep "everything nice and quiet and polite." Producer "Big Mike" Frankovitch had bankrolled Joe Macbeth (1955) a year earlier and Spin a Dark Web goes similarly pear-shaped due to the machinations of a female who refuses to know her place. The stakes are refreshingly small here, with the film's caper setpiece (the manipulation of telephone lines to rig a horse race) carried off without a hitch and the gang brought down due to the bumbling of a minor player (Bernard Fox, in his film debut) who must be taken out of the game. Location shooting gives the film a documentary flourish while a wall poster seen inside Rico's Soho headquarters heralds a boxing exhibition featuring both Ronnie Kray (whose criminal exploits with brother Reginald were chronicled in Peter Medak's The Krays [1990]) and his older sibling Charlie, pointing the way to the true future of London crime. In its American ad campaign, Columbia played up the film's sex appeal, depicting Domergue in posters as a Gilda style temptress in a backless satin gown but the actress stays bundled up (complete with scarf) throughout Spin a Dark Web against what were clearly unseasonably frigid temperatures, both on location in London within the walls of Nettleford Studio in Surrey. A decidedly low boil but engaging programmer, Spin a Dark Web will be of value most to those who enjoy seeing British character actors ply their trade, and that number includes Sam Kydd (They Made Me a Fugitive,Passport to Pimlico), Peter Burton (cinema's first "Q" in Dr. No, replaced by Desmond Llewellyn in subsequent James Bond films), and Robert Arden (who went from a plum role in Orson Welles' Mr. Arkadin to the doomed American Ambassador compelled by Satanic forces to blow out his brains at the top of Omen III: The Final Conflict). Spin a Dark Web was photographed by Basil Emmott, a specialist in British "quota quickies" and a DP for the young Michael Powell. Art direction was by Ken Adam, later a celebrity in his own right for his work on Eon Productions' James Bond franchise. Produced under the Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's "Choice Collection" label of films manufactured on demand, Spin a Dark Web looks only so-so. The black and white image is grainy but contrasts are good, leaving the viewer with an overall satisfactory viewing experience of a fairly rare and obscure title. Sound is equally adequate and extras are (as is the custom for DVD-R releases) limited to a 2m 14s theatrical trailer. For more information about Spin a Dark Web, visit Sony Pictures. To order Spin a Dark Web, go to TCM Shopping. by Richard Harland Smith

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working titles of this film were 44 Soho Square and Soho Incident. The opening and closing onscreen cast credits differ slightly in order. The picture was shot in London.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter February 1957

Released in United States Winter February 1957