Director: Sidney Hayers
Starring: Michael Craig, Billie Whitelaw, Tom Bell, Françoise Provost
Made in 1961, this British noir film belongs to an intriguing sub-genre of movies like Jules Dassin’s Night and The City and Nowhere to Go. Payroll is set in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and deals with a vicious gang of crooks, led by the charismatic Johnny Mellors (Michael Craig), whose plans to rob a payroll car with the assistance of a man who knows the route go horribly awry. Craig was a B-list actor who never really made any impact outside of Britain but he makes a likeable enough lead here. Billie Whitelaw, who went on to appear in films like The Krays years later, turns in a decent enough performance as the wife of the man who is killed during the gang’s robbery and seeks revenge and Tom Bell as Blackie makes for a suitably creepy henchman. The BFI have cleaned this up so to such an extent that sometimes it looks like it was shot yesterday and it is fascinating to see Newcastle of the early sixties. Hayers keeps the action moving rather proficiently and the double and triple crosses that are the staple of noir are well-represented. As with all films of this vintage, none of the criminals get away with their crimes. It is good to see Payroll on DVD and Blu-ray.