On the surface, Pink String And Sealing Wax is a study of what happens when two very different worlds collide. On the one side, we have the very proper and uptight Suttons, ruled by a stultifying patriarch, played brilliantly by Mervyn Johns. On the other, we have Pearl Bond (Googie Withers), a working class barmaid who wants more than her drunken alcoholic husband – and society – will allow.
However, Robert Hamer was a director who loved to subvert an audience’s expectations and behind the Victorian melodrama lurks a much grittier film which we, sadly, only glimpse through the screen darkly.
Mrs Sutton (Mary Merrall) is a study in repression and anger issues. The kids (David Walbridge, Sally-Anne Hawes and Jean Ireland) are manipulative and secretive. The Sutton’s eldest, David (played with an unnerving quiet poise by Gordon Jackson) is a sadist. Peggy herself is almost – but not quite – classic femme fatal material. Morally ambiguous, alluringly wicked, and damned from the moment she slinks on screen.
And it’s all those ‘not quites’ which make Pink String And Sealing Wax a film that never really manages to deliver everything it promises.
There’s a Noir-ish edge to both narrative and characters that screams to be developed more fully. Perhaps 1945 was simply too early for Ealing to delve into Third Man (1949) and Brighton Rock (1945) territory? Or perhaps Robert Hamer was too intent on keeping his own demons firmly in the box to even go there. One thing’s for sure. Had it been made a few years later, the ending – and Pearl Bond’s fate – would have been very different, than the priggish denouement Ealing delivers.
Pink String is a beautifully executed film, filled with moments of genuine tension and some sparkling performances. But fewer heaving bosoms, and more emotional depth and daring would have made this into the film it deserves to be.