Cinema: The New Pictures, Dec. 25, 1950

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Seven Days to Noon (London Films). A top British atomic scientist, in acute moral distress over his work, sends an ultimatum to No. 10 Downing Street: unless the government publicly renounces the manufacture of atomic bombs within seven days, he will set one off in the heart of midday London. The discovery that Professor Willingdon (Barry Jones) is indeed missing from his government laboratory— along with a potent U.K. 12 that could fit into his small satchel—touches off a major crisis in London and a major moviemaking feat by Britain's young (37) producing-directing twins, Roy and John (The Guinea Pig) Boulting.

The Boultings have succeeded in persuading London itself to act out the crisis as if it were really happening. Their film uses striking documentary detail, a wealth of British character bits; it uses no twists or gimmicks to spoil a logical, harrowing account of how the metropolis tries to head off its doom and at the same time prepares to meet it.

While Scotland Yard, aided by the professor's daughter and his young colleague, directs a nip & tuck hunt for the man and his bomb, the cabinet secretly orders the machinery of evacuation oiled up. Rumor gives the public a bad case of war jitters. Then, crowded by the professor's deadline, the Prime Minister shares the secret with the people in a tense radio talk. Troops and civil defense workers take over the city; packing only what belongings they can carry by hand, London's millions queue up resolutely to roll out in all directions in a placarded fleet of buses, military trucks and trains.

The professor, ominous little bag in hand, scurries for hiding through dark, deserted streets in which floodlights roam eerily over huge posters bearing his picture. Piccadilly Circus becomes the desolate crossroads of a ghost city; Waterloo Station is an empty tomb except for confiscated pets and such prohibited excess baggage as trunks, tennis rackets and a sandwich man's sign ("The Wages of Sin Is Death"). On doomsday morning, from the city's rim, four army divisions move in for a house-to-house search.

Though it gives human, often humorous, color to the grim story, the film never compromises its chilling realism with the conventions of movie fiction. The heroine (Sheila Manahan) is unglamorously plump and dowdy; the young hero (Hugh Cross) wears a rumpled, ill-fitting suit; the Scotland Yard superintendent (Andre Morell) is a sternly workmanlike type with no quaint traits. The most likable character is a bighearted, middle-aged floozy (Olive Sloane) who shelters the professor. But the real heroine of Seven Days is London, with its streets, landmarks and citizens. The city gives a terrifyingly good performance.

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