Penny and the Pownall Case (1948) Poster

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Tongue in cheek spy yarn.
Neil-11715 January 2002
This is a delightful wartime comedy in which a bimbo fashion model outsmarts a gang of Nazi supporters operating in Britain. Fortunately for British morale at the time, Penny spends a great deal of time changing her clothes in front of the camera. The story is really a mere excuse to parade this good looking young woman on screen, but it's done ever so tastefully and with tongue firmly in cheek. Ironically, future sex symbol Diana Dors is cast as a dowdy secretary at this early stage of her career.
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Penny AND THE POWNALL CASE (Slim Hand, 1948) **1/2
Bunuel197618 July 2015
This 45-minute (i.e. barely feature-length) thriller is odd for being a Rank Organization release – perhaps it was just an experiment to test the possible star qualities of a number of talents: if so, this would certainly prove true for an impossibly-youthful Christopher Lee (rather stiff in his first villainous role) and Diana Dors (then still a brunette). For the record, these two would be credited (as opposed to appearing, since they share no scenes here) together again in HANNIE CAULDER (1971; which I eventually caught up with at a later time on the same day as this viewing) and NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT (1973; Lee's solitary foray into production).

The narrative recounts a most typical detective yarn: World War II was still fresh enough to make the baddies fugitive Nazis passing on their coded messages via cartoons (drawn by Lee) innocuously inserted in periodicals – shades of Ealing's seminal comedy HUE AND CRY (1946). Another much-abused element is the fact that the heroine, a fanatic of (and even model for) the animated form, eventually assumes amateur sleuth duties – thus looking forward to the best Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis vehicle, i.e. Frank Tashlin's ARTISTS AND MODELS (1955) – and effectively solves the case for Scotland Yard (while conveniently winning the affections of the Inspector probing the mystery, whose secretary {Dors} happens to be her flatmate).

Ultimately, the film is no lost classic – but it is certainly harmless, if anything, worth viewing in order to catch Lee and Dors at the start of their respective careers. While this was the curiously-named Slim Hand's sole effort as director, it is interesting to note a Philip Saville among the supporting cast – soon to take up a directorial vocation himself, and among whose most notable work is an acclaimed BBC rendition of Bram Stoker's COUNT Dracula (1977)…which, of course, would eventually also become Lee's signature part!
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In for a Penny
eddie-837 January 2002
`Penny & the Pownall Case' runs barely 45 minutes yet when it ended I felt that I had watched a feature film if only because of the glimpses we are afforded of life in that long-ago post-war England.

For instance when Penny is asked to fill in a form she responds `You're worse than the Food Office', a reference to rationing of groceries prevalent then. And a comment on the weather brings the response ` We've only just begun Double Summer Time, its still winter'

Interesting to see brunette Diana Dors in a secondary part. She was plump and mousy then but was there a spark of Britain's first blonde bombshell or is it just the benefit of hindsight?

And an alarmingly youthful but unmistakably Saturnine Christopher Lee was already typecast as a villain.

The plot concerns fleeing Nazi war criminals and a newspaper comic strip obviously based on the Daily Mirror's famous scantily clad `Jane'

Made at Highbury Studio on a rationed budget `Penny...' is at the most a dated curiosity.
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The Rank Charm School
hjhill-6835329 May 2018
The Rank Company of Youth (the Charm School) was not based at the Highbury Studios. It was located in a rather grubby church hall a few hundred yards away. In a 1982 BBC-tv documentary presented by Barry Norman the likes of Diana Dors and Barbara Murray spoke of how unglamorous it was. It was alleged that male and female changing was behind curtains at either end of the hall, and that the toilet facilities were at the Highbury Studios! This first manifestation of the Charm School closed around 1949 when Rank was making economies. The Highbury Studios were closed at that time too.
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Another from the Rank Charm School
malcolmgsw28 September 2017
Highbury Studios,where this film was made,was the home of the Rank Charm School for budding screen actors.In this case the soon to be famous Diana Dors,still sporting dark hair,and Christopher Lee.Films such as these had the joint benefit of providing second features and showcasing new talent.This is no better or worse than similar features of this type.
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Curious film with a stunning beauty.
flamehead21 January 2003
The premise for the film is rather cute, a beautiful bimbo getting herself in the center of an international espionage adventure. The movie is quite quick with a surprising amount of sexual innuendo and lingering shots of the striking and well lit Peggy Evans in high fashion and states of undress verging on gratuitous. Evans' acting for such a litterally comic roll is commendable, but cannot be said for the male lead, even his reaction shots are remarkably poor.

An interesting curiousity is that Penny is seen in a bikini with briefs that cover her sacred belly button, however, in the comics drawn for her in the film, she wears a relatively modern bikini (tight fit and cut).

Possibly worth looking at if no other movie is running just to see what a gratuitous film looked like post-war era. Not worth going out of your way to see or even wasting the time to program your VCR.
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Chance to see early Diana Dors
howardmorley21 September 2015
The Story concerns catching escaped German WWII prisoners in early post war Britain.Christopher Lee plays a General Kressman a Nazi who is posing as an artist who draws a comic strip in the style of the 1940s Daily Mirror "Jane". This requires the services of the statuesque model Penny Justin who for once steals the glamour thunder from the soon to be peroxided Diana Dors.Clues are embedded by Lee into the succeeding comic strips which can then be read by his foreign agents.Penny has ambitions herself to become a detective being a voracious reader of crime novels which have gone to her head.Meanwhile DD is the secretary, Molly James, to Ralph Michael (Inspector Michael Carson) of Scotland Yard.His job is to track down the war criminals and investigate the murder of Detective Henry Pownall.

Part of the investigation means travelling to Spain and here we briefly meet Sam Costa more famous for appearing in the 1940s radio comedy "Much Binding in the Marsh".A rare comic sequence involves a road sign painter who nearly gets run over by the baddies car then the police car and who then gives up painting "Thank You" onto the sign.Lee in his first role on screen has that far away look of a fanatical Nazi in his eyes which sold him as a "baddy" thereafter to future casting directors.

I have never seen Penny Justin in other roles, perhaps she was a real life full time model when not filming.Michael Carson successfully completes his investigation with the not inconsiderable help of Penny while falling for her rated this film 5.8 while my rating was 6.0
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