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Hell Drivers (1957)

Released from prison and seeking anonymity, Tom Yately takes a job with Hawletts – a firm of unscrupulous haulage contractors who stretch both drivers and regulations to the limit.

Stanley Baker stars (in his first leading role) as the ex-con driving lorries at perilous speeds to meet the deadlines, who uncovers a racket run by his unprincipled manager, Mr Cartley (William Hartnell).

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The haulage firm has won a contract to transport loads of track ballast from a quarry to a building site ten miles away and operates a bonus system under which the drivers receive seven shillings a load and four shillings an hour.

They are expected to deliver a minimum of twelve loads a day.

If they achieve this target (and some drivers achieve more) they can make a good working wage, but they can only achieve it by driving at dangerously high speeds along narrow country roads – something to which the company turns a blind eye.

The drivers all live in the same boarding house and eat at the same café. Tom makes a friend in Italian driver Gino (Herbert Lom) but alienates the others when – afraid to do anything that might violate his parole – he refuses to join in when they get involved in a brawl with some local youths at a dance hall.

Tom’s particular enemy is Red, the violent and bullying foreman (Patrick McGoohan), who takes great pride in the fact that he can make eighteen runs in a day. Tom becomes fixated with the idea of beating Red, and it is their rivalry which is the focus of the film’s plot.

There is also a sub-plot about a love-triangle involving Tom and Gino who, despite their friendship, are in love with the same girl.

The supporting cast is top class – a veritable Who’s Who of British actors who would go on to find fame on the big and the small screens, none more so than a young, pre-Bond Sean Connery.

This gripping British thriller is given a cutting edge of social reality by former Hollywood director Cy Endfield (billed here as C Raker Endfield) who relocated to Britain in 1953 after falling foul of HUAC (the House Un-American Activities Committee).

Endfield and his star Baker would go on to collaborate to even greater effect when they made Zulu (1964) together later.

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Tom (Joe) Yately
Stanley Baker
Gino
Herbert Lom
Lucy
Peggy Cummins
Red
Patrick McGoohan
Mr Cartley
William Hartnell
Ed
Wilfrid Lawson
Dusty
Sidney James
Jill
Jill Ireland
Tinker
Alfie Bass
Scottie
Gordon Jackson
Jimmy Yately
David McCallum
Johnny
Sean Connery
Ma West
Marjorie Rhodes
Pop
Wensley Pithey
Tub
George Murcell

Director
C Raker Endfield (Cy Endfield)

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