Hell Drivers (1957) - The Dump Truck Film November 8, 2019 09:00
Sometimes delving through the past of some of your favorite actor's early roles leads to discovering some gems you never knew existed. Hell Drivers is one of those films, Sean Connery's third role in a large scale motion picture. While Connery doesn't play much of a role in the story, the film itself is an enjoyable blend of action, comedy and drama, a true diamond in the rough of 1950's British cinema.
Hell Drivers stars Stanley Baker as Tom Yately, a mysterious character who procures a job at Hawlett Trucking Company as a driver. It's an interesting position that thrives on competition and speed. Drivers are paid four shillings an hour and seven shillings a load (truck load of gravel), a minimum of twelve loads are required a day or the driver is fired. Speed is the key, the faster you drive the more loads you can carry in a day, the more loads you carry the more money you make, and the person with the most loads receives the prize of a solid gold cigarette case. But to win the gold you have to defeat the leader, the road foreman named Red (Patrick McGoohan), who drives truck number 1 and keeps all the other drivers at bay with his 18 loads a day.
Tom makes a couple attempts at breaking Red's record but quickly discovers there's no rules in this competition, anything goes for Red and he'll do whatever it takes to hold onto that record. Tom quickly becomes an outcast among most of the drivers as he seems to shy away from confrontation, it seems to be linked to his rather shady past that's revealed later in the film. But Tom does manage to make friends with one driver named Gino (Herbert Lom). Gino has high hopes of moving back to Italy and taking his girl Lucy (Peggy Cummins) with him. Lucy is the secretary at Hawlett Trucking, but she's hardly Gino's girl, in fact she's quite attracted to Tom, although Tom shies away from getting involved with the girl his good friend is seeing. But eventually things begin to spiral out of control as the other drivers begin to make life miserable for him, and Lucy won't stop throwing herself at him.
At first Hell Drivers might not sound like much of a film, speeding around on the back roads of Europe hauling gravel, but as the film progresses the story beings to evolve into quite an interesting and exciting drama. Other than Sean Connery and Patrick McGoohan, I've never heard of anyone else in this film, but they all give good performances. Top performances go to the two main characters played by Baker and McGoohan. Baker does a great job playing a rather reserved character with some secrets and McGoohan plays a very convincing arrogant nemesis.
Overall, I found Hell Drivers to be pretty unique, thrilling and interesting. The film's first and last twenty minutes are by far the best, as the beginning is extremely funny and does a nice job setting up the basis of the story and the conclusion is very dramatic, nicely wrapping up the film with quite a few twists. It's not a perfect film, but it's not too often I watch a seemingly unknown black and white film and can really get into it. If you can get your hands on this I recommend checking it out, it's well worth it, especially for fans of this era of cinema.