Director: Brian Desmond Hurst
Script: Dubley Leslie, William Freshman and Marjorie Deans
Cast: John Lodge, Margaret Vynar, Francis Lister, Joan Marion, Dianne Churchill, Jerry Verno, Martin Walker, Henry Oscar, Felix Aylmer, Richard Bird, Dennis Wyndhan
Running time: 65 minutes
Based on the play ‘Murder Gang’ by George Munro and Basil Dean, Sensation focuses on how the lives of newspaper journalists are often closely intertwined with the stories they are covering, at least for a short while anyway.
An early feature by Brian Desmond Hurst, who went onto find a certain level of industry fame with the likes of Malta Story, Scrooge and Theirs Was the Glory, this shot at Elstree quickie is a pacey affair, never really stopping for breath, as it’s intrepid hack hero, Pat Heaton, (playfully essayed by John Lodge (Little Women, The Scarlet Empress)), follows the rather inept police investigation of a pretty waitress who is found murdered in some home counties woods.
Being as smart as he is smarmy, Pat soon finds himself one step ahead of the police, who seem to be a pretty clueless lot, as to who might have done the poor girl in, even more so than his fellow hacks, who seem to spend more time propping up the bars and taking the piss out of each other than following up on story leads. Some of Heaton’s colleagues even hire in a spiritualist to help them dig up some leads, while Pat himself leap-frogs his own investigation over the rest of them and the local Bobbies.
Pat, shrewd as he is, still needs help and ends up depending more and more on his despairing fiancée, Claire (Margaret Vynar), to help cause distractions, disable a suspect’s car, and generally lend him her ear. Sadly, in the final reel, her help and patience don’t seem to deter him from his chosen profession, which she wants him to quit, and the film ends with him heading off following another juicy scoop, while poor Claire looks on, dumbfounded, knowing that he won’t be home anytime soon!
Sensation is the sort of film that gives journalists a bad rep, although many do deserve one. It does seem intent on highlighting the less salubrious traits of the profession, although mostly for comedic value, it has to be said. In fact, taken as just that, a black comedy, Sensation works fairly well, but as a murder mystery, it’s pretty rubbish.
This brand new transfer by Network looks great for a film of this age, although the sound hasn’t buffed up as well, unfortunately, and is a bit soft at times. There are signs of print damage in places – a few lines here and there, but otherwise, the film is in really good nick for something that’s about 80 years old!
For me, one of the most off-putting aspects to the film, was the central ‘hero’ figure of Pat Heaton. He’s just too arrogant, over confident, and pushy to, well, like. In fact I wish that his girlfriend, Claire, had had more screen-time, as she was probably the most relatable person in it. However, I guess the story is all a bit over melodramatic anyway, with rapid dialogue aplenty, and lots of overly stagey bickering going on between the hacks. Having said that some of these heated exchanges are quite amusing and seeing a dozen or so journos all fighting over one pay phone was somewhat funny. However, some of the humour falls flat, including the aforementioned séance scene, which doesn’t really move the film along and makes the hacks look like even bigger dorks!
Overall, if you’re a fan of sometimes witty fast patter, liberally sprinkled over a hackneyed murder mystery you could do a lot worse than a film like Sensation.
Network Distributing are distributing Sensation on DVD. Extras on the disc include a picture gallery, including the original pressbook.