There seems to be no slowing-down in the unceasing instances of the film as a
point of reference, in matters of varied significance. The film clearly
touched on matters of human significance in such ways as account for the
longevity of its place in the culture. It is not just a matter of nostalgia;
and it’s not just because of its moral stance, crucial as that is. It is
also, finally, a superbly crafted piece of filmmaking with some
unforgettable performances and moments of visual and aural power.
Far from being cinematically backward, 1950s British film had dashes of imagination that outdid more famous or prestigious examples from the cinematic canon. In his contribution to this book, Dave Rolinson, particularly in his recovery of the neglected The Horse's Mouth, aptly draws attention to a sharper edge to 1950s British film comedy than is always acknowledged. British film of this period is not often credited with that kind of audacity or comic cheek. The comedy is often characterised as postcard or parochial, with the likeable but limited registers of, say, Henry Cornelius's Genevieve or Basil Dearden's The Smallest Show on Earth being typical of the range. Again a classic image from 1950s British cinema would be Jack Hawkins in The Cruel Sea, the epitome of quiet English integrity.