Its curious, the circuitous routes that steer us to certain films. I was impressed last month by the performance of June Thorburn in Hammer’s The Scarlet Blade, whereupon I learned of her tragic death and a career that never realised its potential. The latter point has come home to me having just seen The Price of Silence, a film that caught my attention only because I saw her name in the credits. Thorburn’s role in the film is as undemanding, underwritten and thankless as one could fear and I imagine that if this is as representative of her filmography as I expect, she must have been feeling quite frustrated and disheartened. She deserved much better than this, but most actresses of her generation likely did, too.
Alas, partly this is no doubt reflective of the times -the film dates from 1960 and is indicative of women’s roles in both film and in society in general. Thorburn’s role in The Price of Silence is little more than a meek, passive (and decidedly wholesome) love-interest for Gordon Jackson’s character, offering him support and driving him around. Its almost a wonder she didn’t blend into the wallpaper. She’s literally walking her dog and bumps into him as he’s selling the house next door and promptly falls for him- as if she’s living on a desert island somewhere and has come across the first man she’s seen in years. Conveniently she is also rather rich, living alone in a huge house with a second property out in the country- the film is literally that contrived and convenient. She’s got no traction for any drama, so Thorburn just has to be pretty and deferential to her male lead.
None of this is helped by the fact that the film itself is a rather week, and numbingly predictable crime thriller, in which jailed-for-a-crime-he-didn’t-commit Richard Fuller (well, he did do it, but he did it for foolish reasons and was left in the lurch and did the honourable thing etc) is released from prison and finds it hard to get a break on the outside. He resorts to changing his name and hiding his criminal background, finding good work in an estate agents office where he progresses well, until an old lag from stir recognises him in the street and blackmails him, threatening to reveal his true past. Adding to Fuller’s woes is his elderly employer’s decidedly young and flirtatious wife, Maria (Maya Koumani) whose overtures he has to repeatedly resist, a sub-plot that fails to go anywhere until Fuller’s alibi for a murder depends on her.
Gordon Jackson is pretty good as the morally upstanding Fuller, but even he seems to find it difficult to muster much enthusiasm, lacking any chemistry with any of the ladies that are so besotted by him. Jackson just wasn’t that kind of romantic player, so is rather miscast here and the film instead bores when it ideally should simmer. Without that heated sexual dynamic that might breathe some life into it, the whole thing feels neutered and routine and lacks any real drama at all. I like Jackson and in the right role he can be fiery and dynamic but while his leading role here is unusual for him, and therefore has some interest, it sadly doesn’t work. I suppose he’s not helped by the perfunctory and bland direction, nor the script which is predictable and never really shows any ambition or drive to shake things up a bit, or really even feel the need to convince. Any energy seems reserved for the performances of the dogs in the film.
A pretty poor effort indeed.