Serious Charge

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For the soundtrack EP, see Serious Charge (EP).
Serious Charge
Serious Charge FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Terence Young
Produced by Mickey Delamar
Written by Mickey Delamar
Guy Elmes
Starring Anthony Quayle
Sarah Churchill
Andrew Ray
Irene Browne
Music by Leighton Lucas (Score)
Lionel Bart (Songs)
Cinematography Georges Périnal
Edited by Allan Harris
Release dates
  • 1959 (1959)
Running time
107 mins
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Serious Charge (also known as A Touch of Hell) is a British 1959 film now most notable for being Cliff Richard’s screen acting début in a minor supporting role. Directed by Terence Young, and written and produced by Mickey Delamar, the film was adapted from a stage play written by Philip King.


An unmarried vicar, the Reverend Howard Phillips (Anthony Quayle), newly arrived in the parish, attempts to force local 19-year-old thug and petty criminal Larry Thompson (Andrew Ray) to face up to his responsibilities to Mary Williams (Leigh Madison), the naive young girl he has impregnated. Tempers are lost, a struggle ensues, and in retaliation Thompson accuses Phillips of 'interfering' with him. The episode is witnessed by Hester Peters (Sarah Churchill), the daughter of the parish’s previous clergyman, who had become infatuated with the athletic and handsome new vicar. However, having earlier seen a young girl (Mary) leaving the vicarage late one night (she had sought the vicar's advice about her pregnancy), Hester jumps to the conclusion the two are romantically linked and, 'a fury like a woman scorned',[1] refuses to contradict Thompson's palpably false accusation. Mary is killed shortly afterwards; discovering Thompson kissing another girl at a bus shelter, she blindly flees across the road into the path of a car.

As a consequence of the malicious accusation, the Reverend Phillips is subjected to ridicule and abuse by his parishioners; his car's tyres are slashed, and he receives poison pen letters. Matters are only resolved when his atheist mother (Irene Browne) arrives; with a woman's intuition, she quickly comprehends the situation, takes Hester to task, and compels her to tell the truth. Thompson duly receives his come-uppance at the hands of his father.[2]

The drawcard of the film was the cameo role of Cliff Richard, then a teenage pop idol, as Larry Thompson's layabout younger brother, Curley. Richard barely speaks in the film, other than to sing three songs, mostly notably Living Doll (a number #1 in the British Charts) in the local café to the rather incongruous accompaniment of The Shadows (still known as The Drifters at the time) and the Norrie Paramour orchestra. A fellow delinquent was played by another 1950s rock and roll star, the uncredited Jess Conrad in an early acting performance.



Main article: Serious Charge(EP)


  1. ^ Congreve, William. (1697). The Mourning Bride, (play).
  2. ^ Film plot

External links[edit]