Category Archives: British crime cinema

Book review: The Real Diana Dors

One of the reasons I was interested in reading Anna Cale’s recently released biography of the late British actress Diana Dors, The Real Diana Dors, is that I was curious to test out what I thought I knew about Dors and the reality of her life. What I was pretty certain about, and Cale confirms, is that Dors was stereotyped from the beginning of her career as either the sultry femme fatale bad girl or, as she herself once wrote, ‘the flighty, sexy little thing who pops in and out of the story whenever a little light relief seems to be called for.’

What I didn’t know, that Cale’s book taught me, was what a determined, serious, and hard headed performer Dors was. She accumulated a hundred screen credits in a career that began with her first bit part in the 1947 crime drama, The Code of Scotland Yard, to her last film role, Steaming, which appeared in 1985, a year after she died at the age of just 54. She resisted attempts to stereotype when she could, and no doubt like a lot of post war actresses undoubtedly had the talent and drive to be even bigger if not for various factors, of which beginning her career in the morally conservative, sexually hypocritical Britain of the late 1940s and early 1950s, was a major one.… Read more

Fifty years later, Get Carter is still the iconic British gangster film

When you get a moment, my latest for the CrimeReads site is on 50 years of Get Carter, how the Michael Caine revenge flick attained cult status and changed the face of British crime cinema. I don’t think Get Carter is the best British gangster film ever made but it is certainly the most influential. You can read my piece in full at this site via this link.Read more

Heading north before Get Carter: The Reckoning (1970)

This is an addendum to the post earlier in the week on my 10 favourite British gangster films (which you can read here), itself an homage to the 50th anniversary of seminal 1971 crime movie, Get Carter. Amid the responses to this piece was a recommendation I check out a 1970 film, The Reckoning. I’d vaguely heard of The Reckoning but hadn’t seen it and didn’t include it on that list because I didn’t think it was gangster film. And it’s not. But it is a really interesting piece of early seventies British cinema. A proto Get Carter that appeared a year earlier, it is similarly set in northern England and features as its key narrative a man who returns to the working class town of his youth on a mission of revenge.

Michael Marler (Nicol Williamson – best known for his role as Merlin in John Boorman’s 1981 film, Excalibur) is a hard living up and coming middle manager in a London firm that sells accounting machinery. He has fancy clothes, drives a Jaguar car, a beautiful home, and a beautiful trophy wife (Ann Bell), with whom he has a deceptively complex relationship. He is also an utter bastard. A flagrant womaniser, with no loyalty, who despises his managers at the company while at the same time sucking up to them.… Read more

My top 10 British gangster films

One of my favourite British gangster films, Mike Hodges’s Get Carter, is 50 years old. It premiered in the UK in the northern British city of Newcastle, where it was filmed, on March 7, and in the US on March 18. I have penned a piece for a prominent crime fiction/related site on the influence of Get Carter on crime cinema, but am not exactly sure when this will come out. For now, I thought the film’s half century anniversary was as good a time as any to hit you with my top 10 British gangster films.

They Made Me a Fugitive (1947)

I wrote about They Made Me a Fugitive in some length on this site here. It was one of a trio of early post-war British gangster films that caused a stir with censors, the others being No Orchids for Miss Blandish and Brighton Rock, both of which appeared in 1948. Fugitive stars Trevor Howard as Clem Morgan, a demobbed Royal Air Force pilot who reluctantly joins a criminal gang headed by a flash gangster with a very nasty streak, Narcy, but baulks when his discovers his new employer is into drug trafficking. What I love about this film, and the aspect that attracted the most critical condemnation when it first appeared, is its depiction of the poverty and desperation of post-war British life.… Read more

John le Carre, my 2020 and The Looking Glass War

It is fitting that my last post on this site for 2020 is a short tribute to the passing of a writer who has given me an enormous amount of pleasure during this difficult year, David John Moore Cornwell or as he is better known, John le Carré. Since his death on December 12, a sea of ink has been spilt on le Carré’s influence on the spy novel and his undoubted merits as a writer. I don’t intend to go over this territory again. Instead, I want to briefly discuss what it is about his George Smiley series I have found so fascinating. I also want to talk about one of the films based on his work that I believe does not get nearly enough praise, Frank R Pierson’s 1970 adaptation of le Carré’s 1965 novel, The Looking Glass War.

Melbourne, the city I live in, spent the better part of 2020 in hard lockdown in response to the Covid 19 virus. Reading was one of my many responses to suddenly finding myself with more free time. One very wet, cold Saturday morning at the outset of winter I picked up a paperback I bought ages ago – I can’t even remember when and where – the 1964 Penguin Crime edition of Call for the Dead.… Read more