Pool of London

Pool of London ★★★★

202nd film of 2021: Pool of London (Dearden, 1951) released by Ealing Studios and shot on location in London and around the docks of London on the river Thames this is an outstanding example of postwar noir that explores issues of class and race through the lens of noir style with some expressive use of Dutch angles, high-key lighting, and wonderful use of nighttime settings. In the beginning it seems to be a simple story of the crew of the Dunbar a merchant/commerical ship that enters the port of London on a three day pass before returing back to service. The viewer watches as the commanding officers and crew including Dan MacDonald (Bonar Colleano) and his buddy a Jamaican by the name of Johnny (Earl Cameron) prepare to disembark for some relaxation after dealing with the custom's officers. American character actor Colleano is very good as Dan who earns extra money for himself by smuggling goods off the ship and into the city, including items such as nylons, perfume, cigarettes and alcohol. Unlike the other crew members Dan treats Johnny with respect and even offers to cut him in on his smuggling scheme but Johnny is merely biding time to return home to study and as he says later to Pat (Susan Shaw) the ticket taker at a vaudeville theater to make something more of his life. Pat and Johnny begin a brief but intense relationship that is striking as it was one of the first instances of an interracial relationship in British film at the time. Dan in an effort to expand his smuggling opportunities gets involved with Vernon (Max Adrian) a disgruntled acrobat/vaudeville performer who has developed a plan to steal a cache of diamonds from an import/export business where his brother works using the help of local crooks. Vernon enlists Dan's help to smuggle the diamonds out on the ship and take them to Rotterdam for a 100 pounds, but in the beginning Dan knows nothing of the plan or what he is to smuggle only that is a quick job that pays well. However, when the robbery goes awry leading to the death of the watchmen Dan learns the truth from his working class girlfriend Maisie (Moira Lister) who devises a plan to take the diamonds and then see Johnny blamed for the theft because she does not like him nor his friendship with Dan. Thus, Dan is faced with a great choice and one that seems brave as he decides to sacrifice himself and his freedom to protect Johnny, especially after the police round up the crooks from the robbery and Vernon dies before being apprehended.