Hammer Chooseday #12: Hell Is A City

Hell Is A City (1960) 5/5

Not a horror, Hell Is A City is a fast-paced thriller filmed on the grimy backstreets of my home city of Manchester. I spent half of the film trying to recognise landmarks in this long altered cityscape.


Stanley Baker plays Harry Martineau, a tough police inspector on the trail of a man that he put away for robbery fourteen years ago.


Billie Whitelaw marvels at the Inspector’s giant-sized head.

In escaping from jail, Don Starling (played by John Crawford), clubbed a warder who subsequently died, and so is now wanted for murder.


Don Starling, armed with a pistol and his Death Ray Eyes stare.

To further ensure that it is the gallows that await him, the escaped convict puts a gang together to rob bookmaker Gus Hawkins (Donald Pleasence) in an attempt to get enough money to get out of town, but a nineteen year old girl, to whom the bag of money is handcuffed, is killed. And the money is marked with a green ink, too, scuppering that particular plan of escape.


“You know you make me wanna shout, ooh, shout, ooh…”

Starling then desperately seeks places of refuge throughout the city while the Inspector tries to track him down. One implausible place is the bookie’s own attic, after threatening Hawkins’ cheating wife, played by the great Billie Whitelaw.


Hawkins suspects that there is a bird in his attic. Little does he know how right he is: he has a jailbird named Starling.

After the convict terrorises deaf-mute ( and greatly named) Silver Steele, Martineau’s pursuit of Starling ends in a roof-top chase, with both cop and robber injured in a shoot-out. Eventually he is overpowered by police officers where I normally only see pigeons, and heads for the hangman.


“I can see the pub from here.”

This is a good film with a great cast, and, being a lover of old black and white movies, I think it qualifies as a classic film noir.

Anyway, next time: back to horror.


Hell Is A City. You don’t have to tell me: I live here.

1 thought on “Hammer Chooseday #12: Hell Is A City

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