The Frightened City is an early ’60s British crime B picture that is probably most notable for having Sean Connery on the screen right before he became Bond… James Bond. It’s all set around London’s Soho, but from what we know about that period, we know it’s a little too Hollywoodised. The film was directed by John Lemont, who also made the British King Kong rip-off Konga the same year—and then never directed a feature film again. Lemont only has only done sporadic television work in the years since, and that seems to have dried up completed by 1979.
Connery, who is the most interesting thing about the film, plays a low-level burglar, Paddy Damion, who gets caught up in a protection racket with slimy mobster Harry Foulcher (Alfred Marks). It’s all set in the Soho nightclub scene, but it’s a very PG-friendly take: there are kind of strip shows, but not really, and one of the clubs is kind of Hawaiian-themed, but not really. There’s none of the walk-up prostitution that actually characterized the area. Foulcher, of course, has his hands on the nightclubs as well. Waldo Zhernikov (Herbert Lom) is the businessman who oversees the whole operation.
It’s an OKish British noir that is probably a little grittier than others made around the same time, but despite a strong start, the film becomes increasingly dull. However, it ends strong. Connery is basically doing a dry-run for his Bond, and even has a scene that exhibits his trademark animalistic sexual energy (which always bordered on being just a little rapey, especially in the Bond films.) The police characters are morally more complex than they normally are for the early ’60s, but they can’t quite admit they are actually corrupted to the core. John Gergson plays the main cop, and would go on to star as George Gideon in the very popular ’60s British cop show Gideon’s Way.
The film has drifted into obscurity over the years, becoming not much more than a footnote in Connery’s career, but it’s an interesting little crime flick. It also has a very groovy theme from The Shadows, which is a rarity as this type of film did not typically use pop music of the time. I will definitely keep an eye out for the 45 of it in my continuous charity-shop adventures.
The disc is pretty barebones except for an appreciation from film history Matthew Sweet— which was shot back-to-back with his appreciation for Catch Us If You Can, because he is the same outfit, which makes him look like a children’s TV show host.