On the Night of the Fire

Known as The Fugitive in the USA

A barber commits a petty theft, which leads to his becoming involved in blackmail and murder.

The following review is from www.britishpictures.com 'o-archive'

As he passes the open window of a factory office, a barber makes a spur of the moment decision to nick £100 left lying around. He hopes to improve his life, but finds his wife is up to her eyes in debt to the local moneylender. He pays the bill, but the moneylender becomes a blackmailer when the money is identified as coming from the robbery. The barber turns killer, but the police are already on his trail...

Some films fit into their period so exactly you can almost tell what day of the month each scene was filmed. Other films are more nebulous, containing echoes of past glories and glimpses of the future. On the Night of the Fire is firmly in the second category.

What we have with this film is a non-patronising view of working class life. There are no lovable comic characters smiling chirpily and touching their forelocks at their betters. Neither are there innocent victims battered by the forces of an unkind society and begging for our sympathy. We wouldn't see the working classes portrayed this well until Play for Today in the 60s.

The echoes of the past come from Gunter Krampf's photography. He was responsible for several German Expressionist classics including Pandora's Box. He brings this sensibility to the film and some shots could have come straight out of the 20s. It looks good despite being studio bound.

On the Night of the Fire is another film that gets overlooked because it does not fit into any established film movement. Yet, despite this, it is one of the most interesting films of the pre-war period and still entertains.

Ralph Richardson and Diana Wynward in On the Night of the Fire (1939)

Starring: Ralph Richardson, Diana Wynward, Romney Brent, Mary Clare and Henry Oscar



Brian sits among cast and crew for the film On the Night of the Fire. Brian is seated with his hand on his knee, Terence Young sits high above the rest of the crew and Ralph Richardson prepares for a scene in his white barbers coat. This is probably one of the earliest photographs of Terence Young on a film set as On the Night of the Fire was his first role as a screenwriter. - Photo courtesy of the BFI



“A riveting psychological study. With its sustained doom-laden atmosphere, Krampf’s expressive cinematography, its adroit mixture of location shooting and Gothic compositions and Richardson’s wonderful performance as a lower middle-class Everyman, On the Night of the Fire clearly shows that an achieved mastery of Film Noir existed in British cinema.”
– Andrew Spicer

“Absorbingly entertaining.” Variety

“For hot-weather entertainment, compares with a cozy nightmare.” The New York Times