The Movie Waffler Re-Release Review - THE FRIGHTENED CITY | The Movie Waffler

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Re-Release Review - THE FRIGHTENED CITY

the frightened city review
A cat burglar becomes an enforcer for a syndicate terrorising London.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: John Lemont

Starring: Sean Connery, Herbert Lom, Yvonne Romain, John Gregson, Alfred Marks

the frightened city blu-ray

Long before he played an Irish cop with a Scottish accent in The Untouchables, Sean Connery played an Irish criminal with a Scottish accent in director John Lemont's 1961 London gangland thriller The Frightened City. The movie also features Czech born Herbert Lom playing a Russian and Londoner Yvonne Romain as a French-Algerian with Russian parents.

the frightened city review

Dodgy accents aside, it’s the cast that enlivens what is otherwise a rickety gangster movie. Lom is at his slimy best as Waldo Zhernikov, a White Russian √©migr√© who takes mustachioed mob boss Harry Foulcher (Alfred Marks, laying the groundwork for Only Fools and Horses' resident spiv Boycie) under his wing. The ambitious Zhernikov has a plan to unite London's six most powerful gangs into an all-controlling syndicate that can dominate the city's protection rackets. Despite some objections by one boss, Alf Peters (David Davies), a deal is struck.


Brought in to head up the coercion of London's shopkeepers, nightclub owners and restaurateurs is Irish cat burglar Paddy Damion (Connery), who combines his hulking physical frame with some smooth talk. Said attributes are acknowledged not just by his marks but by nightclub performer Anya (Romain), who happens to be the squeeze of Zhernikov. Meanwhile, all of this is being quietly observed by Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Sayers (John Gregson), waiting for the right moment to pounce and break up the racket.

the frightened city review

Watching Connery here, it's easy to see why he caught the eye of Cubby Broccoli to assume the role of 007 the following year. As Damion he combines physical threat with seductive animal magnetism. Like Bond, Damion treats women as disposable toys, happily seducing Anya at a party under the nose of his girlfriend (Olive McFarland). Lom and Romain are so convincing in their somewhat stock roles that you wonder why they never found themselves playing a Bond villain and Bond girl respectively. A supporting cast that looks like they were hauled out of an East End boozer at closing time adds some authentic colour to supplement the marquee appeal of the three leads.


The Frightened City never quite makes enough of its characters however. It's too focused on its uninspired plot, which plays like a London reworking of a '30s Warner Bros gangster movie. Lom gets some fun condescending lines as the sophisticated Slavic toff looking down his nose at the cockney oiks he's forced to ally himself with, but otherwise the dialogue is functional at best, preachy at worst. The scenes in Scotland Yard, in which various detectives bemoan how they're hamstrung by the law, play like they belong in one of those old G-Men propaganda shorts.

the frightened city review

Lemont's film arrived amid a wave of British noirs that saw cops chasing villains through the post war rubble of urban England, but aside from giving Connery a rehearsal for his signature role, it doesn't offer much to stand out from its crime thriller contemporaries.

The Frightened City
 is on UK blu-ray, DVD and Digital from April 12th.