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I Became a Criminal (1947)
"They Made Me a Fugitive" (original title)

 -  Crime | Drama | Film-Noir  -  6 March 1948 (USA)
7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 730 users  
Reviews: 24 user | 23 critic

In this gritty film noir, cynical ex-RAF flyer Morgan, bored with civilian life, joins a break-in gang led by Narcy. On his first job, the getaway car crashes after killing a policeman. ... See full summary »

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(as Cavalcanti)

Writers:

(novel), (screenplay)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Sally Gray ...
...
Griffith Jones ...
Narcy
René Ray ...
Cora (as Rene Ray)
Mary Merrall ...
Aggie
Charles Farrell ...
Curley
Michael Brennan ...
Jim
Jack McNaughton ...
Soapy
Cyril Smith ...
Bert
John Penrose ...
Shawney
Eve Ashley ...
Ellen
Phyllis Robins ...
Olga
Bill O'Connor ...
Bill
Maurice Denham ...
Mr. Fenshaw
Vida Hope ...
Mrs. Fenshaw
Edit

Storyline

In this gritty film noir, cynical ex-RAF flyer Morgan, bored with civilian life, joins a break-in gang led by Narcy. On his first job, the getaway car crashes after killing a policeman. Morgan is framed as the driver and sent to jail. Seeking revenge, he escapes and heads for London. Along the way he's helped by a woman (Mrs. Fenshaw), who wants him to murder her husband. In London, Morgan is sheltered by Sally, who falls in love with him. He confronts Narcy and the gang in an abandoned warehouse. Brazilian Director Cavalcanti's crime drama should not be confused with the totally unrelated "They Made Me a Criminal" (1939). Written by Mike Rogers <MICHAELPEM@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

6 March 1948 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

I Became a Criminal  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Feature-film debut of Michael Brennan. See more »

Soundtracks

Caress Me
(uncredited)
Performed on-stage by Phyllis Robins and others
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User Reviews

 
Don't be so reactionary, this is the century of the common man.
22 June 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

They Made Me a Fugitive (AKA: I Became a Criminal) is directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, and adapted to screenplay by Noel Langley from the novel A Convict Has Escaped written by Jackson Budd. It stars Trevor Howard, Sally Gray, Griffith Jones, Rene Ray and Mary Merrall. Music is by Marius-Francois Gaillard and cinematography by Otto Heller.

Ex-RAF man Clem Morgan (Howard) finds civilian life is dull and a struggle for him to ingratiate himself into. Searching for some excitement he is tempted into joining a black market gang fronted by ruthless Narcy (Jones). But Clem and Narcy don't exactly hit it off and when disaster strikes during a getaway, Clem finds himself set up as a fall-guy. So begins a tale of murder, beatings and revenge.

Call it either Brit film noir or spiv crime melodrama, they Made Me a Fugitive is a 100% potent and important movie in the cycle of British crime films that came out in the late 1940's; films that caused quite a stir upon their release. Shifting from wartime propaganda to post-war malaise and the dubious moral conditions of the cities, "Fugitive", and films of its ilk such as Brighton Rock, baited the censors at the BBFC, where although some minor tone downs were used as a compromise, Cavalcanti refused to bow down to any requests for striping the film of its violence and grim social realistic core. His standing was such that the film was passed uncut for release in the summer of 47, thus it was able to shock the contemporary British audience. Sadly American audiences were not so lucky, instead receiving a cut minus 20 minutes, that was released under the title I Became a Criminal in 1948. Suffice to say that the only version to see these days is the one that runs at just under 100 minutes in length.

Hard to believe that such a tough picture was scripted by the same guy who wrote the screenplays for the Wizard of Oz (1939) and Scrooge (1951), but that is the case. Langley's teaming with Cavalcanti and Heller proved to be a great one, ensuring that the film looked, sounded and played out as the grim tale it ultimately is. The violence, and in fact the staging of such, is of course tame when viewed nowadays, but the film has such a sense of time period it's easy to get transported into the movie and feel the unflinching nature of the beast. Besides, the violence against women and coppers used here will always carry with it a sense of nastiness. Film is also boosted by the performances of Howard (making no attempt to play Clem as likable), Jones (eloquent spiv nastiness supreme) and Gray (hot to trot). Howard was right in the middle of what would be a purple period in his career, with Brief Encounter just behind him and The Third Man on the horizon, Howard was on form. That this film warrants being mentioned in the same breath as those two movies is testament to its, and his, worth.

Perhaps a little surprising given the itchy texture of the film, there's also some dark humour within. It's not for nothing that the bad guys work out of a funeral parlour, where constant reminders of death are evident via the coffins and sarcastic advertisements on the walls. This base also acts as the back drop to the big face off during the finale, tensely played out on the roof where a huge sign grimly reads R.I.P. Where the film gets its Brit film noir tag from is due to the look provided by Heller's photography and the scenes constructed by Cavalcanti in dimly lit rooms and ramshackle alleyways. While the ending, thankfully, doesn't cop out and ensures that no film noir fan will be disappointed. All in it's a classic piece of British crime film making, taking chances by not shying away from playing the drama straight and true, while revelling in a mood of bitterness. 9/10


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