Man Bait (aka The Last Page) (1952): British Film Noir, Hammer Production, Starring George Brent and Dina Dors

Terence Fisher directed Man Bait (aka The Last Page), a British film noir produced by Hammer Films, starring George Brent, Marguerite Chapman and Diana Dors.

The film was based on James Hadley Chase’s play, which premiered in London in 1946.

This is the first Hammer film directed by Terence Fisher, who would play crucial role in the company’s influential and successful horror film cycle.

It’s also the first film made under a four-year production and distribution contract between Hammer and the US distribution company, Lippert Pictures. George Brent, whose Hollywood career was in decline, had just made “FBI Girl” for Lippert.

In all of these films, the lead was played by a Hollywood star in order to ensure familiarity with and therefore commercial appeal to American audiences.

Disregard the publicity stint, the false opening credits, which claim “Introducing Diana Dors,” although she had made her debut in The Shop at Sly Corner (1946) and been in several other movies.

The sexy Dors plays Ruby Bruce catches small-time crook Jeff Hart (Reynolds) trying to steal a rare book, but instead of turning him in, she accepts a date.  Bookstore manager John Harman (Brent) reprimands her for being late to work, but when he later tries to kiss her, Ruby informs on him and Hart forces her to blackmail Harman.

When he refuses to pay off, Jeff tells Ruby to write a letter to Harman’s sick wife, which causes her death from a heart attack. Depressed by the tragedy, Harman gives Ruby £300 when she renews her demands.

Brutal Jeff catches Ruby hiding part of the money, kills her and hides her body in a packing case. Harman discovers Ruby’s body and, fearing of being accused, flees in panic. He then enlists the help of his secretary Stella (Chapman) to help him.

In the last scene, Stella stumbles on Hart alone, and is nearly killed by him, when Harman arrives just in time to save her, and the police arrest Hart.

The film, also known as Murder in Safety and Blonde Blackmail, was adapted into a workable script by Frederick Knott who had just written Dial M for Murder, which later became a famous Hitchcock movie, starring Grace Kelly and Ray Milland.

Due to the quota of American movies allowed to be shown, Robert Lippert distributed his pictures in Britain via Exclusive, the parent company of Hammer Films.

Cast

George Brent as John Harman
Marguerite Chapman as Stella Tracy
Diana Dors as Ruby Bruce
Meredith Edwards as Inspector Dale
Harry Fowler as Joe, clerk
Raymond Huntley as Clive Oliver
Peter Reynolds as Jeffrey Hart
Eleanor Summerfield as Vi
Nelly Arno as Miss Rossetti