Seth Holt’s Nowhere to Go (1958), starring George Nader, Maggie Smith and Bernard Lee, is a film which still packs a punch more than fifty years after its initial release. Paul Gregory (Nader) is a crook. Stealing a valuable coin collection from vulnerable widow Harriet Jefferson (Bessie Love), he sells it, puts the money in a safe deposit box and allows himself to be captured. Expecting to get five years maximum, he is shocked when he is jailed for ten. With the help of his friend Victor Sloane (Lee), Paul escapes and goes on the run, in the process meeting socialite Bridget Howard (Smith). Bridget is determined to help Paul, but for how long can they evade the law?
Made by Ealing during its final years – it was to be their penultimate production – Nowhere to Go is significant for several reasons. Not only was this story of a crook on the run one of the studio’s only forays into the murky world of film noir, but it is also notable for introducing a young Maggie Smith in her first credited role. Playing a 1950s ‘It’ girl Smith stands out from a cast – including James Bond’s future boss Bernard Lee – in a part which saw her nominated for a BAFTA award for Best Newcomer.
Watching and re-evaluating Nowhere to Go now, the stylish edge which has made British icon Smith one of the world’s most revered actresses is evident even then, as she imbues her character Bridget with an air of innocence dashed with feisty independence. Smith aside, it’s Nader who stands out in the central role of the anti-heroic Gregory, with no bones being made about his character being an out and out bad boy. The viewer, however, can’t help rooting for him, especially during several impressively staged chase sequences, where he plays cat and mouse with the police – culminating in a tense climax amidst the wild and desolate Welsh countryside that still packs a punch so many decades later.
Nowhere to Go is revered for its nine-minute opening sequence, depicting Gregory’s audacious jail break, accompanied by a strident jazz theme by Dizzy Reece. Coupled with the fact that it is really just one long chase scene, as Gregory constantly tries to evade capture by the police and a host of double crossing criminals, Holt’s film feels all the more impressive for its ability to actually do very little – yet hold your attention for the duration. This classic exercise in suspense, finally released on DVD courtesy of StudioCanal, could teach many modern filmmakers in the art of saying more with less.