The Hysteria of Exile: Cy Endfield’s Hell Drivers and Joseph Losey’s Time Without Pity
Queens University Belfast
(at time of presentation)
Peter Jameson is a PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast researching the theatrical origins of Joseph Losey’s filmmaking style. His research interests include Losey, post-war British Cinema and screen performance.
In 1957, two intense, explosive dramas hit British cinema screens, both made by fugitives from Hollywood’s anti-communist blacklist. Cy Endfield’s Hell Drivers and Joseph Losey’s Time Without Pity represent an eccentric side-branch in a British film industry looking back towards Michael Balcon and forward to the “social realism” movement. The two films offer violent, emotional and iconoclastic perspectives on nineteen-fifties Britain from two men who both came to attention as genre filmmakers leaning towards “social conscience” messages. Hell Drivers is an ensemble piece where new faces and new sensibilities – including Sean Connery and Patrick McGoohan – combined with character stalwarts like William Hartnell and Wilfred Lawson. It is startlingly raw in its depiction of lorry drivers competing over the fastest runs to and from a quarry, not least because of the leading performance of Stanley Baker. As Andrew Higson and others have noted, Baker represented a new kind of film star in British cinema, a change made possible by Hell Drivers. In Time Without Pity, British class prejudices are ever-present in a melodrama about an alcoholic trying to save his wrongly convicted son from the gallows. The formal devices Losey employs to intensify the emotions are at times almost excruciating. This paper shows how, in different ways, the films present a heightened, almost hysterical, rendering of faultlines in British society from the point of view of two insider-outsiders. Their response to exile reveals much about the countries that expelled and adopted them.