The Ealing Studios Rarities Collection, Volume 3 [2 DVDs]: Cage of Gold (1950) / Death Drives Through (1935) / The Impassive Footman (1932) / Frieda (1947)

The Ealing Studios Rarities Collection, Volume 3 [2 DVDs]: Cage of Gold (1950) / Death Drives Through (1935) / The Impassive Footman (1932) / Frieda (1947)



This third package is another great mix of items from early and late Ealing: two from the studio’s post-war high period under Michael Balcon, plus two from the half-forgotten Basil Dean years of the 1930s. The most obvious continuity between early and late is comedy, as confirmed in the two previous sets of ‘Rarities’, but this quartet demonstrates an equally strong one: melodrama. 

All four are firmly rooted in their historical moments: this is a big part of their value as rediscoveries. Directed, like Escape! from set 1, by Dean himself, The Impassive Footman (1932) was retitled Woman in Bondage for US release; the woman, Grace, is stuck in an oppressive marriage to a rich and vindictive invalid, but it is the servant of the original title who holds the film’s explosive dramatic secret, dating back to the Great War. Death Drives Through – directed in 1935 by Edward L Cahn from Hollywood, with a story credit for the young John Huston – is shorter and lighter: its historical interest comes from the vivid location footage of motor racing at the steeply-banked Brooklands circuit in Surrey, site of a classic struggle between two men for victory, and for a woman. 

The two later Ealing melodramas form a much tighter pair. Both are the work of the producer/director team of Michael Relph and Basil Dearden, both star David Farrar, and both have powerful film noir elements. Frieda (1947) centres on the topical issue of post-war attitudes to Germany: the bride brought home by Farrar is evidently a ‘good German’, but neither the local community nor, eventually, Farrar himself finds it easy to accept this. Cage of Gold (1950) deals likewise with the aftermath of war: here, Farrar is a glamorous ex-pilot who cannot adjust to the Britain of the new Welfare State. In both, as in the two 1930s films, tensions explode into climactic violence, and then uneasy romantic resolution.

Even more than in the previous sets of Rarities, we can note the strength of the women performers. Dorothy Bouchier, better known as Chili Bouchier, was one of the longest-lasting British stars from the silent era, and her performance in Death Drives Through (in which she pilots a light aircraft) may be the fullest that survives. Betty Stockfeld – Australian-born, later to divide her time between British cinema and French – is wonderful as Grace in The Impassive Footman, caught between less complex males. And the brides of Farrar in the later films, Mai Zetterling and Jean Simmons, stand out likewise as the strong emotional centres of their respective melodramas.

Charles Barr 


A global byword for cinematic quality of a quintessentially British nature, Ealing Studios made more than 150 films over a three decade period. A cherished and significant part of British film history, only selected films from both the Ealing and Associated Talking Pictures strands have previously been made available on home video format - with some remaining unseen since their original theatrical release.

The Ealing Rarities Collection redresses this imbalance - featuring new transfers from the best available elements, in their correct aspect ratio, this multi-volume collection showcases a range of scarce films from both Basil Dean's and Michael Balcon's tenure as studio head, making them available once more to the general public.

A young woman finds herself cruelly duped by the hero of her schooldays and tries to find happiness in the aftermath of betrayal.
Black and White / 1.33:1 / Mono / English

A dirt-track driver turns professional, but after stirring resentment both on and off the track he finds himself being blamed for the death of another driver.
Black and White / 1.33:1 / Mono / English

A woman finds brief respite from the selfishness of her husband with a young doctor, but can their friendship remain platonic?
Black and White / 1.19:1 / Mono / English

FRIEDA (1947)
An airman weds the German girl who helped him escape from a PoW camp, and the pair return to England – but the arrival of her brother overshadows their happiness.
Black and White / 1.33:1 / Mono / English

UK Region 2 PAL Double-DVD set, Network/StudioCanal 2013

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