Tony (Derren Nesbitt) and his friend Frank (Keith Faulkner) are partners in crime. The guys spend a lot of time and money at the dog track. Down on their luck, Tony comes up with a sure way to make money. Every night Joe Carter (Harry Locke), a bookie at the Brookvale Greyhound Stadium, takes the day’s receipts and puts them in a locked bag. He then handcuffs himself to the bag. Tony plans on taking the money from Joe and taking off in Joe’s car. They will split the money later. Tony broke his leg a while ago and can’t drive. He needs Frank to be the driver. Frank is a little leery about the heist but does whatever Tony wants.
When Joe leaves the track he forgets to take the key to the handcuffs with him. Tony hits him and knocks him out. Realizing the locked bag is chained to Joe they start looking for a key. When they hear someone coming they toss Joe in the bag seat and race out of there. They try various ways to relieve Joe of the bag but one thing or another interrupts them. Not wanting Joe to wake up until they find a solution Tony beats him up some more.
Needing to get the bag off of Joe’s wrist they eventually decide to go to Frank’s house and get a chisel and hammer to break the chain. Frank’s wife Jean (Carol White) wants to know where Frank’s been and what is going on. Jean doesn’t like or trust Tony and doesn’t like Frank hanging around him. Finding the tools he needs Frank leaves a furious Jean and he and Tony take off again.
Once again things don’t go their way. They end up back at Frank’s house and have to deal with Jean. Jean finds out about the guy in the back seat and that he is hurt. Tony makes up a story about how the guy got that way. By now Tony had gotten the bag off of Joe’s wrist but now they have to deal with what to do with Joe. Tony is ready to leave him somewhere but Frank balks.
Promising to take him to a hospital Frank and Tony put Joe back in the back seat. Things go downhill from there. They try to leave Joe near the hospital but that doesn’t work. They get a flat tire, they run out of gas. Where ever they go, whatever they do, they end up back in the car with the man in the back seat.
“The Man in the Back Seat” was released in 1961 and was directed by Vernon Sewell. It is a British crime movie and one of Britain’s quota quickie “B” films. The movie was based on a story by Edgar Wallace.
There are quite a few film noir elements to the film. Enough that I would call it a rather good British noir. This quirky little film is both crime drama and low key black comedy. With a limited cast you get to know the characters quite well. Tony is the black hearted sociopath and Frank is the tender hearted weakling with a conscience that is under Tony’s spell. Jean is the long suffering wife that just wants her husband to stay away from the track and away from Tony’s influence. Nothing in their tragic lives ever turns out for the better and this scheme is no exception. They are both over their heads but Tony refuses to admit it.
Vernon Sewell directed a number of horror and crime films. This is one of his best. It is short and tight. At less than an hour long there’s no padding and no slow down. Most of the film is two guys riding in a car but the action is still perpetual. Anything that can happen does happen. It’s an excellent way to spend an hour.