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Recently released on DVD as a double bill with the infamously violent
"Big Breadwinner Hog", its predecessor "Spindoe" is quite a tough
gangster drama as well, and a convincing example of Robin Chapman's
writing talents.Spindoe is actually a spin off from the academic crime
buster drama "The Fellows", starring one of its top villains.
In some introductions to Spindoe he is described as a "brash Cockney gangster", but McAnally's character really isn't like that. He is an original combination of a nervous accountant/family man type and a violent criminal mastermind. In the opening scene of the series Spindoe gets out of jail. While trying to regain his old kingdom he acts as a catalyst for a gang war masterminded by the Lucifer-like boss of the North, Mackleson (great Richard Hurndall). A loyal thug (Glynn Edwards) and a private eye (Patrick Sewell) join Spindoe, offering him help that he doesn't deserve.
Unlike some thoroughly cynical gangster dramas trying to maximize toughness, there are also sympathetic and idealistic "good" people in Spindoe's world. They act as a contrast against which all the cheap and violent acts seem more shocking. This is a show with some excitingly complicated plotting, outstanding acting and dialogue. In fact most of the hard nosed characters occasionally break into long, poetic monologues. Unfortunately the production values of Spindoe aren't quite as good. It looks like one of those early b&w episodes of Callan, with far more camera crew equipment visible in the shots. The equipment shadows shaking wildly over the actors are a bit distracting at times. But that means nothing to a tough gangster drama fan.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When former gangland boss Alec Spindoe (Ray McAnally) is released from
prison after doing a 5-year stretch he soon finds out that his business
partner Eddie Edwards (Anthony Bate) has stolen not only his former
empire, but also his money and his wife. Spindoe (1968) is written by
Robin Chapman and features the eponymous villain from an earlier
Chapman drama The Fellows (1967), and reminded me a bit of the work of
gritty Northern writer Ted Lewis, whose novel Jack Returns Home (1970)
was adapted by Lewis into the classic British gangster movie Get Carter
The story charts Spindoe's return to power, and we soon see him regaining his position as boss of South London. This unfortunately puts him at odds with the reptilian boss of the North of the City, Henry Mackleson (Richard Hurndall), who has designs on the whole shebang. There is a theatricality to Chapman's writing, particularly some of the dialogue, that gives the story a surreal edge, and this contrasts brilliantly well with the gritty realism of the violence. Chapman followed Spindoe with another amazing British gangster series, the ultra violent Big Breadwinner Hog (1969), which, like Spindoe, was directed by Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).
Both Spindoe and Big Breadwinner Hog are available on DVD from Network. (8/10)
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