Saturday, October 15, 2016

THE LONG HAUL (1957)


This film opens ominously late at night behind a contemporary, driving score with modern fonts. It has the intriguing feel of a possible Cold War drama. An Army truck comes to a halt near London and out pops Victor Mature with his trademark countenance of superior sarcasm. His heavy eyelids not from an all night drive. This will be his last delivery for the U.S. Army and with his discharge sets his sights back to America. His British wife would rather stay put to raise their family. After a moment of heated discussion, Mature realizes staying put is best for their marriage.

His lorry driving comes to an abrupt end, through no fault of his own, after an incident places Mature on Britain’s “do not call list.” Desperate for living money he gets involved with a smuggling operation run by Patrick Allen. Allen’s girl, Diana Dors, has been under his wing for some time. He made her as his image and treats her like any of his property. Keeping her looking cheap is anything but. In an intense exchange she walks out on him and hides in Mature’s lorry. Oh boy. Mature opens the driver’s door and is not liking the arrangement. She insists he take her any place else. She prefers a Mature man much to Allen’s ire and they begin an on-again, off-again affair with Mature’s marriage taking the brunt.


Always scheming, Allen wants to complete a money-making long haul and a sizable cash reward persuades Mature to drive. The middle seat is cushioned by Dors. How the three of them continue to get along is a wonder. The time sensitive delivery through forest and mountain shortcut is exciting with literal cliffhangers at every turn. They cross a stream but get stuck on the embankment coming out. While Mature is trying to free up a wheel, Allen diabolically lets the lorry roll backward, hoping to mash Mature. A fist fight ensues with neither actor appearing to use a stunt double as they slosh around the shoreline. Allen is hit by a sliding box from the truck bed and then smothered under a mountain of falling fur boxes and drowns.

After making the delivery of some soggy furs to the cargo ship on time, Mature and Dors take a cab back to town. Their route was the better one for that fur delivery in hind sight. She begs him to run away with her. The money he got from the long haul is meant for his wife as a final goodbye gesture. Dors delivers it and his wife delivers a slap across her face. Dors overhears talk of Mature’s son’s health (an earlier blow to the head from a fall has turned serious) but she is hesitant to mention it upon reentering the cab, which is a pretty low-down. He knew nothing of the illness and will not leave his wife and son despite his impending arrest. Dors returns to her nightclub gig and all live not so happily ever after.


Mature was more than halfway down the slope of his long haul career (note a pun-driven poster) is to be expected.and with a couple exceptions, this might be his best late-career serious role. It is hard to fault Mature in any of his prior projects where he usually dominated the screen. Although self-deprecating of his career, he turns in a solid performance for a script that takes its time to unravel. Dors’ acting is fine and her vocal range can be taken more seriously than the weak, breathy Monroe. In her early scenes, she seems out of place in a trucking industry setting, however. Like burning magnesium, she is not hard to spot.

Hollywood continues churning out this tired premise of the weak male having an affair. They now leave the weak part out, suggesting it is inevitable behavior. The guilt has disappeared. Not so in a late Fifties Hollywood.

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