British Crime Film: Subverting the Social Order by Barry Forshaw

By Barry Forshaw

Presenting a social heritage of British crime movie, this booklet specializes in the ideas utilized in order to handle extra radical notions surrounding classification, politics, intercourse, delinquency, violence and censorship. Spanning post-war crime cinema to present-day "Mockney" productions, it contextualizes the flicks and identifies vital and overlooked works.

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Bryan Forbes’ Deadfall, where the unpleasant aristocratic ‘mark’ is not only superciliously proud of his inherited wealth, but is also both alcoholic and licentious – vices carefully placed in order to allow the audience a smoother ride for their consciences; he deserves to be taken to the cleaners). Of course, certain films which only peripherally utilise crime as their plot engine (such as the Anthony Asquith film adaptations of Terence Rattigan’s plays The Winslow Boy and Carrington VC) locate acts of criminality within specific individuals, with class not conspicuously an issue and corruption not classendemic.

The publicity material for Cash on Demand claimed that the film showed ‘the most daring bank robbery ever’, but a more appropriate adjective than ‘daring’ might be ‘ingenious’, and the working out of the mechanics of the screenplay by David T. Chantler and Lewis Greifer (from a play by Jacques Gillies) is handled with a Swiss watchtooled precision. Despite the fact that the scenario bears strong evidence of its stage origins, filmgoers in the 1960s (and those who have managed to catch it on its infrequent appearances since) will have little cause for complaint about the invisible proscenium arch.

However, on the strength of films such as Piccadilly Third Stop, he deserves a place in the pantheon of the most adroit directors of British crime films. Apart from its considerable virtues as a tautly constructed heist movie, Quentin Lawrence’s Cash on Demand (1961) also affords the viewer a masterclass in film acting from two of the most consummate professionals in British cinema history. As the film was made under the auspices of the Hammer studios (in a break from their more profitable Gothic horror fare), the company was able to call upon the services of two of its most reliable actors, Peter Cushing and André Morell (in another Hammer outing, The Hound of the Baskervilles, the duo were satisfyingly teamed as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson).

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