Friday, June 9, 2017

Trunk Crime (UK 1939)

aka Design for Murder

It sounded pretty good. Bentley, a sensitive wealthy college boy, sits playing the grand piano in his large rented room. Some of his rich drunken classmates force their way in. One goes to vomit in his bedroom. They trash the place. They smash his record collection, break his tea set, they manage to tear one of the legs off his piano so it topples over and they vandalize a painting.

The next morning, the hung-over leader of the vandals comes to apologize. They've been doing this to him for years, since their days in boarding school.

"I'm ever so sorry, old chap."

Bentley is awfully good-natured about it. He's a chemistry major and offers the fellow his hang-over cure. The guy drinks it, finds himself paralyzed, and Bentley dumps him in a trunk explaining that he's going to bury him alive in a swamp.

What could be better! A obnoxious wealthy youth being murdered by a somewhat sympathetic wealthy youth! He should kill them all! Then go to prison!

Things go wrong rather quickly. For one thing, the other drunken vandals decide to apologize to Bentley, too, so they get on a train to follow him to his cottage where he's gone with the trunk.

Quota quickies

The film was what they called a "quota quickie", a British movie made simply to meet the British government  quota for British-made films as their country was being overrun by Hollywood.

Crushing other countries' movie industries under Hollywood's massive weight is actual U.S. government policy. The last demand the United States made before giving aid to France under the Marshall Plan was that they remove limits on the number of foreign films shown in the country. Of course, the result was The French New Wave---those guys became fixated on American B movies.

In the words of anti-fascist Spanish novelist Juan Goytisolo, who died this week at age 92:
“The vitality of a culture is in its capacity to assimilate foreign influences. The culture that’s defensive and closed condemns itself to decadence.”
The British in the 1950's were taken over by American youth culture. British youth wore blue jeans and hung around in milk bars listening to rock and roll. There was even a special news report on U.S. network TV about it. The eventual result was the Beatles and the triumphant British Invasion which reduced America to what it is today.

The movie is a modest 48 minutes which is plenty long. I saw it on Roku on the public domain channel Pub-D-Hub.

A warning

I did an image search to find the poster above. Discovered that if you google "trunk crime", you mostly get pictures of actual dismembered murder victims in trunks. You don't want to see that. 

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