As I have said before Joseph Losey, along with Ben Barzman, was listed by the House of Un-American Activities as communist sympathisers and both took up residence in Britain. Losey settled in London in January1953 and thereafter made some of the best British films of the 1950’s and 60’s some of which can be accessed on my blog by clicking on this Joseph Losey link.
In any other directors hands Blind Date (1959) would have been a conventional British crime drama but as Robert Murphy so rightly points out Losey, with the help of Barzman’s co-written screenplay adapted from Leigh Howards novel Chance Meeting, transforms it into a ‘critique of a repressive class ridden society’ He goes on to explain that in The Servant, King and Country, Accident and The Go-Betweens his [Losey] treatment of the English class system is always that of an outsider, fascinated and slightly appalled, in Blind Date despite its French femme fatale and its Dutch leading character is bolder and more polemical. Its remarkable in the fact that it is the only one of Losey’s films to validate his left wing credentials.
The directors handling of the two working class characters were exceptional. Inspector Morgan (the wonderful Stanley Baker) is the son of a chauffeur and appears to have worked his way through the ranks of the police force the ‘hard way’ and has an uneasy relationship with his middle class colleagues and his superiors. He is told in no uncertain terms that to get any further in his career he must develop a deeper understanding of public service, in other words cowl down to his so called betters and perhaps join the ‘Lodge” which Morgan does not appear to be able, or want, to do! The second working class character is our suspected murderer Jan Van Rooyen (Hardy Kruger) the son of a coal miner and a penniless artist who develops a weakness for our murdered femme fatale, one Jacqueline Cousteau (Paris born Micheline Presle).
We first meet our Dutch artist on his way to a date at the Clive Mews flat of Ms Cousteau, when he arrives the front door is open, he enters closely followed by the police who discover the dead body of the French woman lying covered up on her bed. The hard-bitten Welsh detective Inspector Morgan begins his interrogation of his number one suspect. We are transported back in time to explain the relationship between the rather dislikable Jan and the victim, how they met, her visits to his rented studio, and how Jan fell in love and became enchanted with this beautifully alluring older woman.
I may admittedly be a little biased due to my high regard for the director but urge you to see this more than acceptable crime drama, which as I have said previously not only emphasises exquisitely the British class structure it gives a credible portrait of a love affair of ‘convenience’ between rich and poor, and also underlining how in the British movie industry at that period the portrayal of the police was becoming ever more realistic and far less flattering than the cosy world portrayed in earlier ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ type features.