Grand National Night (1953)
The Grand National Killer
Horse trainer Gerald Coates (Nigel Patrick) finds himself in a confrontation with his self-centred, party loving wife Babs (Moira Lister) when on Grand National night she returns home from partying and has a go at him. It leads to a scuffle and Gerald accidentally killing her but in a moment of panic he decides to load her body into her car and dump it in Liverpool before returning home. But Inspector Ayling (Michael Hordern) is called in to investigate when Babs' body is discovered and he is convinced that Gerald killed her and his friends and staff are helping to cover for him.
"Grand National Night" is the sort of movie which makes my day, not because it is great or original but because it manages to grab your entertainment and keep you interested. And I love it because it is one of those old British movies from the 50s which has generally been forgotten about yet when anyone watches it they finish it wondering why it isn't better known. As such whilst "Grand National Night" sounds like a bog standard thriller of an inspector trying to prove what we already know it has something more about it which draws you in.
That something more is in the detail as the characters are exceptionally well drawn and in the opening scenes we get to know Babs; we see that she is getting older and starting to lose her beauty which bothers her but she is also self centred and treats people and animals with no respect what so ever. We also become aware that her marriage to Gerald is pretty much over as he spends all his time with his horses which may have caused her to go out partying and carrying on with another man. But at the same time we see how whilst the staff dislikes Babs they are loyal to the kindly Gerald who treats them like his family.
It is because director Bob McNaught takes time to establish the domestic situation and allows us to make our own judgements on the marital disharmony in the Coates household that we become immersed in this drama. It also means when during the second half and we have Inspector Ayling investigating that people's actions make sense and we are torn as Gerald is a nice guy who made a mistake by panicking. We also end up impressed at how convincing Gerald is when it comes to his lies, creating this story that Babs stayed in Liverpool the night before.
What this all boils down to is that "Grand National Night" is not a great movie but it is one of those forgotten about British thrillers which when you discover you question why it has been forgotten about as it draws you in to the drama and keeps you involved.
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