Town on Trial is an odd little film. There have been some murders in a British town, and now everyone is under suspicion. John Mills plays police superintendent Mike Halloran, who is sent in by Scotland Yard to sort out case when the town party girl Molly Stevens (Magda Miler) is found. Of course the locals resent the presence of an outsider, and Halloran must navigate issues of class, adultery, schizophrenia and small-town life. Another theme is the Americanisation of Britain, so it’s quite ahead of its time for 1957.
Despite having some interesting ideas, the film doesn’t really add up, and to be honest it’s a bit of a bore. It was directed by John Guillermin, who had quite an interesting career that ranged from war films to Tarzan movies to the big-budget 1970s remake of King Kong. His biggest hit was probably Towering Inferno, but he did make some well—respected moves, such as Rapture and The Blue Max. He has some skill, but when the ending comes, the big payoff you’re hoping for just isn’t there.
The film has not been widely seen, but it does have some good shots. While some have claimed his use of killer POV shots had an impact on Dario Argento, that doesn’t hold up—its not “psychotronic” enough to have piqued Argento’s interest, and similar shots were used by many noir directors and Mario Bava.
Although its been given a very handsome package by Powerhouse, it may not stand up well next to the other films in their collection. Features include an audio recording of a lecture by John Mills, an appreciation of the film by Barry Forshaw, one of the director’s short features (Adventure in the Hopfields) and an interview with the focus puller from that film, a trailer, gallery, and big booklet with new and old writing on the film.