Nowhere to Go follows the plight of Paul Gregory (George Nader), an American con-man and dead ringer for DIY SOS presenter Nick Knowles, who, it is revealed in a lengthy flashback, misjudged a previous scheme to fool a wealthy Canadian out of several thousand pounds. Planning to hide the cash and hand himself in, on the basis that he’d only have to spend a maximum 5 years in stir, Gregory comes up against a hard judge and is sent down for a full ten years. Thus, he has to stage a breakout, and from there contend with all manner of double-crosses, unfortunate accidents and paranoia-fuelled mistakes as he attempts retrieve the loot and get out of the country. Along the way he is aided or let down by a variety of underworld hoods, including Bernard Lee as a slimy accomplice and a pre-Steptoe and Son Harry H Corbett as a crime boss, as well as Maggie Smith’s lonely but sympathetic society girl. Alas, Gregory’s inability to trust anybody but himself leads to his inevitable downfall.
It’s pure pulp, surprisingly audacious in its looks and delivery. The confined, idealised staginess of the average Ealing picture is replaced by crisp, deeply shadowed scenes shot at unusual angles (shades of The Third Man) and numerous, fascinating on-location shots of contemporary central London. It looks, and often sounds, like an American picture, yet populated by celebrated British archetypes like spivs and blundering Bobbies. The effect is often disarming.
Screenwriter Tynan, along with director Seth Holt (who had worked as an editor at the studio since 1943) are also happy to let long scenes unfold with hardly any dialogue. The opening sequence, for example, documenting a jailbreak, lasts nearly ten minutes without any intelligible exchanges, while in a later scene, Gregory’s criminal antics are soundtracked by the eerie tinkling of an ornamental clock. Then there is the foot-tapping jazz score, by the Dizzy Reece Orchestra, similar again to the pulpy American thrillers of the era, which lends Nowhere to Go an atmosphere that is profoundly cool.
Here is a film that demands to be rediscovered by film buffs and thrill-lovers alike, a deliciously tense, visually impressive tale, and the best movie ever to feature a jackdaw walking about on a football.