Hell Drivers is a 1957 British Film Noir directed by Cy Endfield. Probably more notable for the amount of Retroactive Recognition it generates than anything else, it stars Stanley Baker, William Hartnell, Peggy Cummins, Herbert Lom, and Patrick McGoohan, with significant appearances from Sid James, David McCallum, and Sean Connery.
Cartley (Hartnell) is the manager of a contractor named Hawletts, which employs many drivers to transport at least 18 loads of gravel across 20 miles each working day. A man, who is said to be called "Joe Yately" but goes by "Tom" (Baker), has just been released from prison and is determined to leave his criminal past behind him. He joins Hawletts as the new thirteenth driver and Cartley is impressed with his first-day work. One worker that isn't is the driver of truck #1, Red (McGoohan), a wild Irishman who boasts that he can make the most deliveries out of the rest of the team, offering to give anyone that beats him his expensive cigarette case. Tom is ready to take up the challenge, exciting the smug Red and amusing the rest of the team.
Tom soon becomes successful with his deliveries and works up to be one of the best in the team, making Red feel threatened. Despite his improvements, Tom still seems to be the outcast of the rest of the group, who are suspicious of his history. The only person that Tom gets along with is an Italian worker named Gino (Lom), who is dating the Hawletts' secretary Lucy (Cummins), who herself is having second thoughts. When Red warns Tom to back away from even considering to attempt his cigarette case challenge, Gino jumps in to defend him, but he and Tom soon discover a Hawletts' conspiracy when Tom's pay is notably smaller than it should be...
- The Ace: Red, who prides himself on this.
- Actual Pacifist: Tom doesn't want to get into any fights that might throw him back in jail. This leads to everyone in the delivery team trying to make him crack when he doesn't fight with them in the nightclub.
- Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: The fight in the nightclub with the Hawletts gang. Some are drunk, and others are drunk on the nightlife.
- All of the Other Reindeer: After Tom refuses to fight in the nightclub and runs back to his apartment, the rest of the driving team bully him for being a "coward" by sabotaging his truck and impounding it, ruining his dinner, and/or purposely avoiding him. Red is delighted, but Gino (who wasn't at the event) finds it ridiculous and refuses to participate.
- Apron Matron: Ma West, the landlady for Tom's apartment.
- Blood Knight: Red. Once Tom begins to improve, he wants him dead.
- Boisterous Bruiser: All of the members of the Hawlett's delivery driving team, apart from Tom and Gino. This is possibly why they're treated as outcasts.
- The Con: Cartley (with the help of Red) is cheating workers out of the right amount of pay for their work by hiring less workers, claiming that the budget won't allow any more, and forcing the hired to work more and deducting money that they deserve.
- Dirty Coward: What the group later calls Tom for not getting involved with their fight on the dance-floor. Tom actually didn't participate because he didn't want to go back to jail again.
- The Dragon: Red, it turns out, who is helping Cartley cheat workers out of their earnings.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Cartley becomes nervous when Red sets out to kill Tom, snapping at him in disagreement.
- Film Noir: Hell Drivers is a dark film all around, with Chiaroscuro lighting, features Peggy Cummins, a death and a murder, an ex-con vs. a bloodthirsty ace, a Corrupt Corporate Executive... There are no femmes fatales, however, apart from Lucy.
- Fighting Irish: Red challenges Tom to a fight. It was a bad idea.
- Hard Truckin': The normal hardships of the job are made worse by feuding and corruption.
- I Have No Son!: Tom is treated like this by his mother when he visits her and her other son Jimmy.
- I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Gino's dying wish is for Tom and Lucy to date.
- I Own This Town: Cartley, with the business. Becomes significant later.
- Love Triangle: One develops at the nightclub between Dusty and another man over a woman they're dancing with. This leads to the nightclub fight.
- The Man Behind the Man: Red is the Hate Sink of the entire movie, but he is not the main villain. The actual bad guy is Cartley.
- Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Tom and Gino discover that Tom's pay is suspiciously low. When they go to confront the wage staff, Red orders them to leave and stop with their tall tales.
- Mood Whiplash: For a dark movie, seeing Sid James Disguised in Drag with balloon breasts in order to dance with a (clearly uninterested) woman is both strange and hilarious.
- Nice Guy: Gino and Lucy.
- Nostalgia Filter: One of Gino favourite date nights with Lucy is watching Italian-language films that remind him of home. Lucy doesn't enjoy it because of the language barrier, however, she enjoys that Gino enjoys it.
- Pride: Red is number one, and doesn't let anyone forget about it. Tom's improvements make him turn nasty.
- Red Herring: Lucy. Tom is disgusted that she is leading Gino on by flirting with him when Gino isn't around. Considering the later plot, it would make sense that she was the villain too, but she is as innocent as Gino.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!:
- Gino tells Tom that he wants to drive his truck, after hearing rumours that Red wants to kill him during a job.
- Tom drives a truck after Gino's death to avenge him and confront Red.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After fighting and being threatened by Red, as well as his mother refusing to accept him, Tom heads for the train station to book a one-way ticket to London. Lucy manages to stop him in time to tell him that Gino has been taken to hospital for serious burns.
- Sophisticated as Hell: Cartley.
- Token Minority: Gino, who is the only Italian in a job full of different people around the British Isles.
- Transatlantic Equivalent: When the movie was released, the British press didn't know what to compare it to. Some went with "a British western" whereas others went with "a British action film", but with Film Noir influences. Years later, British film analysts called it "a British Duel".
- The Unreveal: Neither we nor the characters ever find out why Tom was in jail. It is implied, however, that he might have been involved with theft because his mother refuses his money, assuming that he stole it.