It was Andy Coleby who described this British heist movie as a fine example of bread and butter populist cinema. Unmistakable set around 1960 with location shooting taking place in Newcastle and Gateshead, and the black and white photography helping to give the Tyne and Wear area a real gritty bleak feel. Payroll was released in the UK in May 1961and was directed by Sydney Hayers who made two other films of note during this period Circus of Horrors (1960) and Night of the Eagle (1961). It is an unsophisticated tough crime drama involving a group of four unscrupulous villains who originally plan to rob a saloon car that each week carries a very large sum of cash to pay a factory's payroll. Before they can carry out their well-planned undertaking a new means of transporting the money is developed using a company with a prototype secure van, one that supposed to be able to defy any attempt at robbery. But the security company did not allow for the determination of Michael Craig and his rag tag band of villains.
Although the more cynical viewer can pick holes in the narrative it remains a grand example of a British crime noir of the era, at times very exciting with a great robbery sequence that ends in tragedy and which puts other crime dramas of the period to shame. Solidly adapted by George Baxt from a novel by Derek Bickerton it stars Craig as Johnny Mellors the head of the gang that carryout the hoist caper, his three compatriots are played by a very edgy Tom Bell as Blackie, the brilliant composed Kenneth Griffith as the gangs alcoholic weak link Monty and Barry Keegan as Bert the mechanic. Also involved in the shenanigans are Billie Whitelaw, as a vengeful widow who manages to stay one step ahead of the local police force, Dennis Pearson as the wages clerk and the gangs inside man and his unfaithful wife who is played by Francoise Prevost the French actress who in 1968 starred in the Metzengerstein segment of Spirits of the Dead.
|Various scenes from the 1961 film.|