ONCE A THIEF is a British crime drama from 1935 with an interesting and rather in-depth storyline to recommend it. The film features the likable John Stuart playing a mild-mannered chemist whose fortunes change for the better when he's given a job interview at a paint company. Unfortunately he doesn't have the money to buy a suit, but when he finds a discarded purse he decides to borrow the cash for his own needs, although he later returns it in full to the owner. Unfortunately for him, this action soon catches up with him...
This film offers something a little different from the usual country house murder mysteries that British film companies usually made around the middle of the decade. The story feels quite modern and the situations in which Stuart finds himself are readily identifiable to the viewer. It also gives the director a chance to explore class divide, the face of modern industry, and the justice system. Despite the darkness of some of the plot twists, ONCE A THIEF has a lightness of touch that makes it an easy watch and for once the romantic material doesn't drag it down. Watch out for Ronald Shiner's brief but important cameo.
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