Movie: The Weapon (1956)

1956’s The Weapon begins with a kid digging in rubble and finding a handgun somehow embedded in a block.  Kids in postwar English had it rough.  All I ever dug through to get to a toy was a box of cereal.  Then again, I never found a real gun in one. In a struggle with some other kids, the gun dislodges and shoots one of them.  Thinking he will be arrested, the boy goes into hiding.

Turns out the bullet is of an unusual caliber, and the gun which fired it is German.  The bullet happens to be an exact match from a cold case a decade prior.  Hmm…the gun was German.  Is the kid possibly also a war criminal?  As a kid, I got spanked a lot, made to stand in the corner and even got my mouth washed out with soap, so I can’t imagine what kind of punishment would be dealt if I had committed any wartime atrocities.

Lizbeth Scott plays the boy’s mother.  This is an actress I have previously seen only in some lower rent noirs and she was serviceable in those.  Here, she has the opportunity to demonstrate some range and fares much better than she did in those other films.  She convincingly plays the role of the anguished mother and is initially in denial her son could have shot somebody.  Doubtlessly, her son earlier promised to end his murderous ways but, you know…kids.

The real star of this is supposed to be Steve Cochran.  At first, I thought it read “Steve Coogan” and I was seriously confused.  Cochran is supposed to be the hero, and he is top-billed here but, Jesus, this character is such an unlikeable asshole.  He’s some high-ranking military officer and we first see him charging a subordinate with “inefficiency”, which I didn’t know was even a thing.  He’s not even well-liked by his superiors in the military.

Soon he’s annoying the police as well, as he tries to find the gun.  As a police inspector says derisively, “They told me you were a one-man army, I didn’t know you were a one-man police force, too.”  For reasons I couldn’t comprehend, the inspector gives him 24 hours to do the investigation before the police will intervene.  And Cochran isn’t interested in finding the missing kid, just the gun.  But that doesn’t stop him from putting the moves on the mom.

The villain is played by George Cole, who has a vested interest in finding the gun.  To get information on the kid, he reports a fake sighting, saying the kid stole a bottle of milk off his doorstep.  There is a surprisingly creepy moment where he conceals a full bottle of milk in his trash can.

One of the things the movie has going for it is much of it takes place in areas of London that hadn’t been rebuilt after WWII.  Footage shot in these areas closely resemble similar scenes in The Third Man

The movie’s first and third acts are pretty strong, but it takes a couple of bizarre stumbles around the middle.  Confusingly, the second act finds the movie completely forgetting there’s a runaway child with a gun running around London.

Perhaps the most baffling scene has Cole menacing a female acquaintance before she is to meet with Cochran.  Instead of killing her in her apartment, he waits until she is standing at her second (maybe third?) floor window and shoots her from the street after she has already been talking to Cochran for a while.  So: the killer pointlessly waited until after she had time to possibly give incriminating information to Cochran, and then shoots her from a distance and angle that make it far from guaranteed he would hit his target.  I think this guy should have been the one charged with inefficiency!

The Weapon has its moments, but it is disappointing it is not a better film.  The basic premise is interesting, but it inexplicably shifts its focus to Cochran, who plays a startlingly unlikeable jerk.  While far from the best British noir I have seen, it may appeal to dedicated fans of the genre.

Dir: Val Guest

Starring Steve Cochran, Lizbeth Scott, George Cole

Watched on Olive blu-ray