Category Archives: British crime cinema

“Dirt under its nails”: Ted Lewis’s Plender

Confession time. I have not been reading a lot of new crime fiction in 2020 and, for reasons that I am sure many of you share, have found it hard to concentrate on reading anything during the Covid-19 lockdown. What I find has been working for me is just picking up something at random from the large number of unread books I have on my shelves and seeing how far I get. Sometimes I don’t get more than 20 pages before turning my attention to something else. Other titles I can’t put down.

Ted Lewis’s 1971 book, Plender, was definitely in the latter category.

I didn’t come to Plender completely cold. As regular readers of this site will know, I am a major Lewis fan. I have written at length about Lewis’s 1970 novel, Jack’s Return Home a.k.a Get Carter, and I reviewed Nick Triplow’s biography of Lewis by Nick Triplow, Getting Carter: Ted Lewis and the Birth of Brit Noir on this site here. Triplow had also recommended Plender at some point in our online correspondence, saying, “It’s got dirt under its nails”. I duly ordered a copy and left it on my shelf where it sat for several years.

Plender was Lewis’s follow up novel to Jack’s Return Home.… Read more

They Made Me a Fugitive

I recently wrote a yet to be published article on the critical furore that greeted the 1939 James Hadley Chase book, No Orchids for Miss Blandish, and the 1948 film version. Among my research was an article by British film academic James Chapman which discussed the film version of No Orchids as part of a cycle of British crime films that drew severe condemnation from censors, moralists and film critics for their depiction of sex and violence and their bleak take on post-war British life. Another was the 1948 adaptation of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock. But it was the first of this cycle, appearing in 1947, that I had not seen and only vaguely heard about, They Made Me a Fugitive or I Became a Criminal, the title it was released under in the United States.

Fugitive stars Trevor Howard as Clem Morgan, a demobbed Royal Air Force pilot who joins a criminal gang headed by a flash gangster with a very nasty streak, Narcy (Griffith Jones). Narcy runs a funeral parlour business as a front for a black-market operation, the good smuggled in the coffins. Morgan and Narcy take an instant alpha male dislike to each other. Morgan is particularly critical of Narcy’s decision to traffic in what he calls ‘sherbet’, which I think is cocaine (although this is not spelt out in the film).… Read more

Dirk Bogarde twilight of the British empire double feature

In a simpler, less stressful time, i.e., a couple of weeks ago, I was looking forward to the start of Melbourne Cinematheque’s season of Dirk Bogarde films. For obvious reasons it was not to be. So I thought I would undertake my own mini-festival in memory of one of my favourite British actors, focusing on his lesser known films.

I might post on a few of these over the next couple of weeks but, for now, the Rank Organisation’s Simba (1955) is first cab off the rank. The movie takes place at the height of what was termed the Mau Mau Uprising, a rebellion by a number of Kenyan tribes against British colonial rule. It began in the early 1950s and lasted until 1960, when the British finally managed to crush the rebels using tactics that they had learnt fighting communist rebels in Malaya around the same period.

Bogarde plays Alan Howard, a somewhat footloose Englishman who visits his farmer brother in Kenya. No sooner has Howard stepped off the plane plan and been picked up by the daughter of another farmer, Mary Crawford (Virginia McKenna, better known for her lead role in the 1956 film, A Town Like Alice), who it is inferred he has a past with, than he discovers his brother has been murdered by the Mau Mai.… Read more

“The Horror Never Leaves My Mind”: Ian Sharp’s ‘Who Dares Wins’

I have just contributed my debut piece for the amazing site, We Are The Mutants. It’s on nuclear nightmares & the amazingly contradictory contradictory politics of Ian Sharp’s 1982 film, Who Dares Wins. A sledgehammer of the 1980s political thriller, influenced by real events and with an avowedly conservative agenda, the film was a favourite of US President Ronald Reagan. But is also accurately captures much of the zeitgeist of the peace movement, which I was active in, of the time.

You can check out my piece in full here.

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The heist always goes wrong, part 4: 10 more heist films you’ve never seen

To celebrate the re-release of my heist thriller, Gunshine State, by Down and Out books, it is time for another of my top 10 heist posts.

This is my fourth post  along the theme of ‘the heist always goes wrong’. Previous posts have been: ‘The heist always goes wrong, part 1: ten of the best heist movies ever made’, ‘The heist always goes wrong, part 2: reader picks and other favourite heist movies’, ‘The heist always goes wrong, part 3: 10 of the best heist films you’ve probably never seen’.

This instalment continues where I left of in part 3, with 10 more unknown or under appreciated heist films that you might want to check out.

So have a read, and, if you haven’t already maybe pick up a copy of Gunshine State in e-book of paperback format here.

Machine Gun McCain (1969)

Even when he was slumming it, John Cassavetes was still incredible and Machine Gun McCain is proof. This hard boiled 1969 Italian film tells the story of a paroled armed robber (Cassavetes) whose plan to heist a Las Vegan casino falls foul of a battle for territory between the east and west cost Mafia. Cassavetes’s co-starts include Peter Faulk, Britt Elland, and such Italian genre film stars as Luigi Pistilli and Grabiele Ferzetti.… Read more