Although it was distributed by Columbia, The Long Haul is a bit unique from your typical Hollywood offerings. Victor Mature is an American G.I., who settled in England with his English wife following the end of the war. He has a cross-cultural marriage in a post-war landscape and since this is a British production, you have an American as the outsider.
While Victor Mature often comes off as a pretty face, even a plastic one, movies like The Long Haul offer him something to work with, and he gives it an earnest turn. There’s also some audience identification for the sole fact he is one of us (I’m speaking as an American), and if you’ve ever lived anywhere where you felt out of place, it’s easy enough to relate.
The Long Haul is also subtly a movie of family favors. Even as his bride is hesitant to leave her home country for the purported prosperity of America, she gets Harry a job with her uncle’s trucking company. There aren’t many prospects and it’s tough work, but he doesn’t have much choice if only to placate his wife.
It also turns out to be a dirty business, run more like a black market operation than a legitimate business and those with the most brazen tenacity are the ones who get ahead. Right at the center of the racket is Joe Easy (Patrick Allen).
As far as characters go, he’s probably the most intriguing with his lascivious, take-no-prisoners mentality. Again, he’s a heavy not unlike what we’re accustomed to seeing. Still, it’s up to the performer to make something out of it, and Allen has a brutal kind of conviction that makes him a worthy adversary. He’s not the kind of man you want to cross.
Harry does it unwittingly and finds himself thrown out of the man’s office in the presence of his sympathetic moll (Diana Dors). She’s with Joe, and also finagled a job for her brother — he’s off a stint in prison.
Sans the interludes of out-and-out melodrama and complementary scoring, there’s a lot to enjoy about the world in a noirish sense. We watch Mature as he is handcuffed, trapped in a life and a world he cannot get out of, and he finds himself doing a deal with the devil.
He tries to do the right thing, but the prevailing forces against him all seem corrupt. At the very least, the most powerful cogs are handled by the most devious hands. Over the course of the movie, he vies for the affections of the blonde draped in furs. She’s treated like a tramp, and Dors, while not given a whole lot that’s novel, tries her best to make the part a bit more fragile. She does garner some sympathy caught between all the loveless shows of affection.
Although it’s probably the weakest of the lot, it comes out of a solid tradition including They Drive By Night, Thieves Highway, and even Wages of Fear. The Long Haul of course offers its own British flair (if not exactly Liverpudlian).
The beginning of the end comes when he agrees to take one final load. They are racing against the clock whether it be creditors or the police, and they are forced to take the road less traveled. Their giant cache of furs rumbles through the woods, the rocky passages until it’s finally derailed in a stream. As the wheels come off, we’ve reached a tipping point. The uneasy alliance between Harry and Joe is terminated for good.
Depending on how you look at it, Harry is either aided or hampered by a conscience. Despite all the chaos, there is light at the end of the tunnel. He has a taxi with Lynn headed to the coast. They can catch a boat to America and begin a new life. But he’s not a selfish man. His heartstrings still tug at him — no matter the state of his home life — he feels compelled to be there for his son. The beautiful blonde watches her own plans crumble around her.
While Mature’s protagonist maintains his own private sense of integrity, it’s crucial in adhering to the tenets of noir. Heartbreak is the only answer, and there’s a dour question mark for an ending. While it’s nothing spectacular nor particularly original, there is some enjoyment gleaned from Mature and Dors being cast as tragic companions. In a cutthroat world, it just wasn’t meant to be.