They Killed One Man Too Many… Hers!

Yesterday I caught an old British black and white crime movie from 1961. Directed by Sidney Hayers (“Circus Of Horrors”, “Night Of The Eagle”), the film was inexplicably titled “I Promised To Pay” for the US market, but went under the title “Payroll” here in the UK.


Derek Bickerton - Payroll
Derek Bickerton – Payroll

With a screenplay by George Baxt, the film is based upon a 1959 novel, also titled “Payroll”, by author Derek Bickerton who later became a linguist and professor at several universities.

The begins with a scene of a man trying to smash his way into the back of an armoured truck outside a Newcastle factory. When people come running to find out what’s going on it’s revealed to be a demonstration by the security company to show how impregnable their new trucks are.  Harry Parker (William Peacock – “I’m All Right Jack”) concludes his demonstration declaring that the factory’s “payroll’s as safe with us as it is in the bank.”

William Lucas
Françoise Prévost & William Lucas

One of the accounting staff in the firm’s payroll department, Dennis Pearson (William Lucas – “The Adventures Of Black Beauty”, “Touch Of Death”) is under pressure to provide a higher standard of living for his wife Katie (Françoise Prévost – “Spirits Of The Dead”) and is passing information to a gang of crooks about the payroll delivery route.

Michael Craig
Michael Craig

When the leader of the gang, Johnny Mellors (Michael Craig – “The Vault Of Horror”, “Modesty Blaise”), discovers that the security arrangements have been changed and the new armoured truck is being used, he is determined to press ahead, despite Dennis’s reservations.

Michael Craig
Michael Craig, Barry Keegan, Kenneth Griffith & Tom Bell

Together with the rest of his gang – Blackie (Tom Bell – “Royal Flash”), Monty (Kenneth Griffith – “The Wild Geese”) and Bert (Barry Keegan – “Gorgo”) – Johnny rams the truck, resulting in the death of the driver, who happens to be Harry Parker.

Billie Whitelaw
Billie Whitelaw

Harry’s wife, Jackie (Billie Whitelaw – “The Omen, “Twisted Nerve”), upon learning of her husband’s death, vows that the people responsible will not get away with their crime.

full.payroll-1sh-746__60023.1425138747.1280.1280Inevitably things start to go wrong for the gang and their inside man, Dennis, struggles with his secret even as his wife Katie makes a play for Johnny – and all the while Jackie is on the trail…

This film had the feel of a distinctly British crime drama, though lacking the regional accents one might expect from a film set in Newcastle in this day and age!

On the acting front there were no weak links, but performances of note can be attributed to Lucas, Craig and Whitelaw.

Overall, I found this to be a pretty gripping movie with a decent sense of suspense and a nicely laid out story. Well worth catching…


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