Hell Drivers (film)

Hell Drivers (1957) is a British film drama film noir directed by Cy Endfield and starring Stanley Baker, Herbert Lom, Peggy Cummins and Patrick McGoohan. The film was produced by the Rank Organisation and Aqua Film Productions. The film revolves around ex-convict Tom Yately (Baker) whose attempts at going straight are thwarted when he takes a driver's job at a haulage company.[1]

Hell Drivers
Directed byCy Endfield
Produced byBenjamin Fisz
Earl St. John
Written byCy Endfield
John Kruse
StarringStanley Baker
Herbert Lom
Peggy Cummins
Patrick McGoohan
Music byHubert Clifford
CinematographyGeoffrey Unsworth
Edited byJohn D. Guthridge
Aqua Film Productions
Distributed byRank Organisation
Release date
  • 23 July 1957 (1957-07-23)
Running time
108 min.
CountryUnited Kingdom


Joe Yately (Stanley Baker), who everyone calls Tom, has just been released from prison and is determined to start a new life. He arrives at Hawletts, a contractor which transports loads of gravel ("ballast") from a nearby quarry, and tells gatekeeper Harry that he is looking for work. Harry lets him in and sends him to Mr Cartley (William Hartnell), the manager.

Tom tells Cartley's secretary Lucy (Peggy Cummins) that he met "Leggy" Legubin, a former Hawletts driver who had an accident resulting in a plate in his skull and told Tom that Hawletts paid its drivers well. After Legubin's accident, Tom assumes that there was a job available. Lucy recommends him to Cartley, who hires him for a trial run. Cartley tells Tom that his drivers transport their ten-ton loads fast, over bad roads. Speeding tickets and repairs are covered by the drivers.

Hawletts has a bonus system in which the drivers receive seven shillings a load and four shillings an hour, with an additional weekly bonus for the cleanest truck. They are expected to deliver a minimum of twelve loads a day; if a driver falls behind, he is fired. Each run is 20 mi (32 km) round-trip; according to Cartley, one driver makes eighteen runs a day.

Tom goes on a trial run with Ed, the mechanic, who is impressed with his driving skill but appears noncommittal. During the trial run, the brakes on his faulty truck, No. 13, temporarily go out. Ed says the minimum average speed to avoid being dismissed is 30mph although the speed limit for goods vehicles was then 30mph.

Cartley hires him. Tom is accepted by all the other drivers except Red (Patrick McGoohan), an Irish foreman and head driver who is a violent bully. Tom befriends Gino (Herbert Lom), an Italian driver who is in love with Lucy and who is very religious. Red offers a £250 gold cigarette case to any driver who can make more runs than him in a day, and Tom is determined to try. However, he learns that Red has kept his place at the top by taking a very risky short cut through a quarry which none of the other drivers will do.

One evening, the drivers go to a dance at a nearby hall and start a fight. When the police are called Tom flees the scene, fearful that his criminal record will return him to prison. Red calls Tom a coward and the other drivers (except Gino) turn on him, bullying him incessantly and repeatedly trying to thwart his attempts at completing as many runs as possible while always calling him, "Yellow Belly."

Lucy and Tom are attracted to each other, but Tom hesitates out of loyalty to Gino. The other drivers continue picking on him but, determined to escape his criminal past, he does not fight back. Tom learns that Cartley and Red have been scamming money by hiring fewer drivers than the budget allows and pocketing the difference, forcing the drivers to haul extra loads at high speed. Tom confronts Red and defeats him in a fistfight. Gino offers to switch truck numbers with Tom the next day, so that the others can harass him instead of Tom for a change, to help Tom to win the gold cigarette case. That night, Lucy breaks up with Gino, who has asked her to marry him and learns that she loves Tom. Despite his heartbreak, Gino switches numbers as arranged and uses Tom's number 13 the next day, without realising that Tom has left and is about to catch a train for London and go back to his life of crime. While waiting for his train, Lucy rushes into the waiting room and tells him that Gino has been seriously injured in a crash. Distraught, they rush to his hospital bedside where he is dying. He tells Tom, "I threw them off like we planned, for you to win. Crazy. You don't even come." Tom asks him if it was Red, and with his dying breath, Gino tries to say "Red."

Tom returns to the depot and confronts Cartley. He tells him that Gino has died and he knows why, and that he knows about the scam. Cartley offers Tom a deal whereby they can share the extra money, and Tom can take Red's place in Truck 1. Tom is having none of it, but jumps into Truck 1 anyway and drives off. When Red turns up he forces Cartley to join him in Tom's faulty truck No. 13, disguised as truck No. 3, and they give chase. Red correctly guesses that Tom will take the dangerous short cut through the quarry, and they lie in wait there in order to catch Tom on his return journey. When Tom appears with his truck full of ballast, Red gives chase and side swipes Tom's truck many times, finally forcing it off the road and onto the edge of the quarry where it dangles precariously, with Tom unconscious inside. But now the brakes on Red's truck (No. 13) fail, he loses control, goes over the side and he and Cartley are killed when it explodes in a fireball. Tom wakes up and escapes, just in time before his own truck tumbles down into the quarry, and Lucy (who followed them in a Hawlett's jeep) runs to him.[2]



Hell Drivers is notable as being an early film for several actors who later went on to more illustrious careers. It provided early appearances for Jill Ireland and David McCallum, who met and married each other during the film's production. It featured Danger Man and The Prisoner actor Patrick McGoohan, and was the third film role for Sean Connery. William Hartnell was the first actor to play the role of The Doctor in the BBC's Doctor Who; Gordon Jackson appeared as the butler Hudson in ITV's Upstairs, Downstairs. Sid James was already a very popular foil for Tony Hancock on his radio and television series of Hancock's Half Hour; James went on to star in nineteen of the Carry On film series. Herbert Lom starred in the well-remembered ABC Television series The Human Jungle before playing the hapless Commissioner Dreyfus in The Pink Panther film franchise. Cy Endfield directed Stanley Baker in Zulu. Others including Robin Bailey, Charles Lamb, John Horsley and Wensley Pithey featured regularly in British films and television thereafter. Long-established actor Wilfrid Lawson also made an appearance, though by this time bouts of alcoholism made the actor difficult to work with. In 1966 he co-starred with Patrick McGoohan in the final black-and-white episode of Danger Man, titled 'Not So Jolly Roger'.


The character of Yately comes from Blaenllechau in the Rhondda, near actor Stanley Baker's birthplace of Ferndale.

Footage of a Hawlett's lorry going over the edge of a quarry was reused in "The Heiress" episode of the Rank Organisation television series Interpol Calling.

The vehicles used in the film were the Dodge 100 "Kew" parrot-nosed truck, with tipper body. They were lent for filming by W W Drinkwater of Willesden, North London.

Home media

The film was released on DVD in 2007 by Network Distributing in an anamorphically enhanced ratio of 1.77:1. A little of the original 1.96:1 VistaVision (70mm) image is cropped at the sides, which is just noticeable in a few shots. The print used was in excellent condition with good picture and sound. Extras include the original theatrical trailer, 'Look in on Hell Drivers', a 1957 TV programme that went onset, including interviews with Stanley Baker, Cy Endfield and Alfie Bass, plus comments from genuine truck drivers who seemed to confirm the realism of the story. Also included is a contemporary 15-minute television interview with Baker, which focuses on 'Hell Drivers', 'Sea Fury'(1958, also directed by Cy Endfield) and 'Violent Playground' (1958).

On 20 March 2017, Network Distributing issued a Blu-ray of "Hell Drivers", with the film restored by the BFI, and included a swathe of special features, mainly in SD (standard definition) unless noted with as '(HD)' (high definition). Those marked with a * appeared on their previous DVD.

  • Commentary track, with sound assistant Harry Fairbairn and journalist Andrew Robertson
  • Original theatrical Trailer *
  • Documentary - 'Look In on Hell Drivers', which visits the outdoor set *
  • Documentary - 'The Stanley Baker Story'
  • Documentary - 'Full Screen Ahead' (in HD)
  • Galleries (HD) and PDFs
  • Episode of 'Danger Man' (starring Patrick McGoohan): Loyalty Always Pays
  • Archive interview with Stanley Baker (1960s) *
  • 'Who Killed Lamb?' with Stanley Baker, 1974 TV play made and broadcast by Yorkshire Television
  • News footage about Stanley Baker's plaque
  • Documentary - 'Return to the Rhondda'
  • Plus a booklet by Dave Rolinson


  1. Josephine Botting & Kieron Webb (3 October 2017). "Hell Drivers: remembering Stanley Baker and Patrick McGoohan in a British action classic". BFI. BFI. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  2. Mark Duguid. "Hell Drivers (1957)". Screenonline. ITV Global Entertainment Ltd. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
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