An ex-con trying to go clean ends up working for a crooked trucking company swindling money.
Unless I'm pushed that is. Ex-convict Tom Yately snags himself a job driving for haulage company Hawletts. The drivers are paid per trip, something that spurs the men on to drive faster and be more reckless than your average employee. Making few friends at Hawletts, Tom uncovers shifty dealings between brutal foreman, Red, and Hawletts manager, Cartley. Something that ups the stakes considerably more as Tom and Red clash on and off the road. A true British hard boiler is Hell Drivers, a pic that is chocked full of machismo. Who would have thought that a film about lorry drivers transporting gravel could be so exciting? Directed by Cy Endfield (Zulu), Hell Drivers has something of the quintessential working class about it, which is good to see and is no bad thing at all. Gritty in texture, piece, although a crime film in essence, has good character substance. Tom, played by the criminally undervalued Stanley Baker, is a guy trying to move on with his life, his past misdemeanours hang heavy with him, courtesy of a nice family thread that exists within the picture. But here he is trying to earn a hard days pay, only to find that crime, through no fault of his own, wont leave him be. There's also a crucial thread of bullying, essayed by the hulking and fabulous Patrick McGoohan. And of course there's the women caught up in this macho world, observers to daily recklessness, coming to terms with affairs of the heart as much as the daily grind. Set to a back drop of cafés, boarding houses, village dances, disused quarries and tight winding roads, Endfield and his crew have the working class atmosphere spot on. For sure it's the roaring trucks that bring the excitement, but it's the working class everyman (and woman) heart that drives Hell Drivers along. Be that as it may mind, it's the trucks, and the men behind the wheels, that Hell Drivers is most remembered for. Endfield shoots the road beasts from front and rear, which really puts us out on the road with them. That we are involved with the characters and their surroundings, for better or worse, really aids the experience, such is the authentic feel that Endfield has crafted. A roll call of Great British talent lines up alongside McGoohan, who may have been born in America, but was an honorary Brit due to his work on TV show The Prisoner. Into the Baker led beef stew comes Sean Connery, Sid James, William Hartnel, Alfie Bass, Wilfrid Lawson, David McCallum and Gordon Jackson. With Herbert Lom adding a continental aspect as the crucial, and emotionally driven Gino Rossi. The girls are played by Peggy Cummins, Jill Ireland and Marjorie Rhodes, with Cummins particularly standing out in amongst this hairy knuckled world. On release the film garnered mixed reviews, but with each passing decade Hell Drivers has broken free of its cult only status. To which it now stands tall as a true British classic, one that thankfully got a DVD treatment in 2007 to finally do it justice. 9/10