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Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky


From the novels by Patrick Hamilton, set in the 1930s in and around the Midnight Bell (title of first story) a pub off London’s Euston Road it’s a trilogy following the intertwined lives and futile loves of three ordinary people, first Bob (Bryan Dick) a barman who’s hopelessly frittering away his savings on a feckless prostitute Jenny. Painfully as we watch we want to yell out “No, Bob, no!”

Secondly, in The Siege of Pleasure we see how Zoë Tapper’s Jenny when working as a household servant, spends an evening drinking in a pub with some dodgy characters who promise her a career in modelling which, surprise surprise, is actually the inevitable.

Thirdly in The Plains of Cement barmaid Ella (Sally Hawkins) who works with Bob in the pub and is secretly in love with him, is wooed by one of the pub’s customers the patronising middle class inadequate, Mr Eccles (played by Phil Davis) who wishes to marry her. Whilst the marriage would free her from her life of working clad drudgery, it would at the same time bind her to a man to whom she’s not attracted. 

The pub exterior is totally authentic, and interior shots whether putting on uniform, Brasso-ing the pump bases, pulling pints from wickets before pumpclips were the norm, wearing headgear indoors are oh-so-carefully observed - the designers and set-dressers are the unsung stars of this trilogy. If you remember the multi-roomed Ship Inn by the bridge in Castleford just recall those bell pushes in the panelling and you visualise a barman Bob coming to take your order!

The director is Simon Curtis who made Cranford. Watch out for Tony Haygarth as the landlord. He’s has over 130 different tv and film rôles since playing PC Wilmot in Rosie  

You can get it in Blu-Ray from Amazon for just £8.98 or on normal dvd for £12.88. Mine has Dutch subtitles, which I’ve yet to find out how to switch off, but cost me only £4.50 from a play.com trader via “Also available new & used”                                 © RKW