Un-Sporting Conduct at the Members Club
There are certain actor's names which have a certain weight about them, that any movie they appear in you expect to be good or at least not terrible. "Town on Trial" doesn't have one name but for me two as it stars John Mills and Charles Coburn two great actors. But sadly whilst neither Mills and Coburn deliver disappointing performances neither do they bring this movie to life and that means whilst "Town on Trail" is an entertaining who dunnit it is not exactly memorable, just a reasonable way to spend 95 minutes.
All the men at Oakley Park members club know about Molly Parker (Magda Miller), they can't keep their eyes off of her and the women hate her for being such a flirt. But when she is discovered murdered they would rather ignore the fact except with the fanatical Supt. Mike Halloran (John Mills - Bright Young Things) called in to investigate he won't rest till he solves the case and catches the killer. But with the locals less than thrilled to help and his direct manner upsetting many Halloran has to work his way through a series of red herrings before he can work out who the murderer is.
So as already mentioned "Town on Trial" is a who dunnit as we follow Inspector Mike Halloran investigating the murder of Molly Stevens and finds himself with a trio of suspects. It's all quite standard stuff as Halloran speaks to various people and uncovers secrets about the three suspects Molly's recently dumped boyfriend Peter, her lover Mark Roper and Dr. Fenner who is less than forthcoming with information. And slowly as Halloran wheedles his way through various red herrings as well as another dead body he closes in on who the murderer is.
Now all of which is entertaining, the trio of suspects with their secrets make for interesting subjects and whilst there are countless gaping plot holes everything does end up tying together. Plus there is a fantastic ending where Halloran gets his man but does so in quite spectacular style, especially when you consider that "Town of Trial" is a product of the 50s. In fact the powerful ending is the best part of the movie and it makes up for the distraction of a romantic subplot as the widowed Halloran starts to date Dr. Fenner's niece Elizabeth. Actually there are other distractions including the opening where we actually meet the attractive Molly Parker, a woman who it has to be said would cause men's pulses to race and jealousy to surface.
As for the acting well like the movie it is solid but unspectacular, both John Mills and Charles Coburn deliver fine performances creating characters which are interesting especially Coburn who as Dr. Fenner is almost sinister at times. And both Alec McCowen as Peter Crowley and Derek Farr as Mark Roper are just as interesting as the other suspects. But none of it is memorable, in fact you end up remembering the various women such as Magda Miller as Molly Stevens and Barbara Bates as Elizabeth Fenner because both were very beautiful and their beauty really stands out.
But whilst "Town on Trail" is really just an average who dunnit it does have one thing going for it and that is the way it portrays the members of the club. There is an element that whilst a murder has happened they would rather ignore it, sweeping it under the carpet so to speak and so feel threatened by the forceful investigation of Halloran who doesn't care if he upsets a town. It's not a huge element to the movie but it does make it interesting.
What this all boils down to is that "Town on Trial" is a solid enough British who dunnit with a few stars and some actors who would go on to be stars. But whilst solid it's not really memorable with the exception of a terrific climax which in some ways feels like it could have come out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.