Man Bait (1952)

Man Bait (1952) is an exceptionally literal title for a film that appeared with several different titles  none of which were any cop in the film noir title stakes. 

With every passing year, as film grew in popularity as a method of impregnating global minds with ideas of sexuality, more morality for girls was forged on the screen.

Sexuality was in the air, and film noir tells of its dangers, the dangers of crime and crime's links to sexuality; it tells of of sexuality and sexuality's links to crime; noir tells of sexuality's exposure of male morals to catastrophically attractive female beauty, and everybody's inability to cope with the results.

This is in fact what film noir does best; it destroys the surface currents which pull us a long, dragging hapless males and sexualised females to the bottom of a vortex from where no one will emerge happily married.

On top of this, Limey noir is a crazy prospect. Crazy because, try as they may to transplant the misery en scene of classic film noir to the British Isles, and try as they may to take a regular every day film noir tale of male weakness, female cunning, robbery, blackmail and murder — try as they may and the British will fake it.

Sexuality in a book shop in Man Bait (1952)
Diana Dors and John Brent

Post-war Britain was not like post-war America. There was no cause for optimism and rationing was very much still in place. There was no domestic dream, and instead of film noir, brutish Britain gave birth to the kitchen-sink drama. There was no suggestion of wealth, corruption and paranoia, because everyone was still living as if in wartime, almost in that same shock and readiness, with even the clubs seeming a bit flat.

Workplace —  incident? 
Man Bait (1952)

Film noir stories were attempted in the UK, and one can only imagine how great an American film noir Man Bait would have made. A bit of workplace harassment, which may be dubious to begin with, leads through venality, chance and opportunism to blackmail and then double murder, and the framing of an innocent family man. 

Somehow it doesn't sit with the British pluck, as everybody forces themselves with stiff upper lips to the conclusion. Had this been stateside noir, it would have been different, heavy duty even.

Peter Reynolds and Eleanor Summerfield — boring post-War Britain in
Man Bait (1952)

The way that Diana Dors meets Peter Reynolds, who plays the real villain of the piece, is terrific noir —  even by Limey standards. He is stealing a book from her bookshop, and she spots him and watches. After some flirting and nuance, he replaces the stolen book and they arrange a date.

Office life in Limey noir
Man Bait (1952)

There is a me-too story too to feel in this seventy year old work. Fundamentally the film does revolve around a workplace sexual harassment claim. The claim is not a valid one (more of which below) and it is settled with more criminality, in the form of a pimping young villain who persuades young victim Diana Dors, to turn to blackmail to clear her boss's name.

Blackmail leads to murder? Diana Dors in
Man Bait (1952)

It's 1950s Britain and nothing can stop the optimism, certainly not film noir. So despite what is about to transpire, Man Bait (note: not Man Boat) opens with some upbeat and optimistic New Britain, new hope, bright and breezy music.

It's not clear what the title Man Bait is quite supposed to evoke. Other than perhaps the idea that a man will fall for anything wrapped in a tight skirt, and he will lose sight of morality and end up in trouble.

Yet that is not exactly what happens in this film, suggesting the title is of course bait of its own kind.

Lie still
Man Bait (1952)

The workplace — which appears to be strict and stern — is a bookshop, and the film opens with this bookshop opening one morning, and a subservient and possibly even bullied young female staff member, dusting the books.

Yet the cards are stacked against any man who falls for her kind of Man Bait.

The Last Page FilmPoster.jpeg

This cover art can be obtained from, Fair use, Link

Admiring this poster, it should be said that at no point in the film does Diana Dors appear in this outfit, or anything like it. Here she is in her underwear in an attempt to gather interest; and yet the face of her male lead, who does not even qualify as hapless victim, he is that uninterested in her; his shocked and somewhat prurient face captures all our pent up feelings at seeing sexuality on display on the screen - and actually in the workplace, most oddly of all here, a bookshop.

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