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Knick, Knack, Paddy Whack!
Spikeopath12 December 2012
The Criminal (AKA: The Concrete Jungle) is directed by Joseph Losey and written by Alun Owen. It stars Stanley Baker, Sam Wanamaker, Margrit Saad, Patrick Magee, Grégoire Aslan, Rupert Davies and Laurence Naismith. Music is by John Dankworth and cinematography by Robert Krasker.

Johnny Bannion (Baker) is an ex-con who's taken part in the robbery of a racetrack but is caught and sent back to prison; but not before he has time to bury the cash from the gig. Back in prison Johnny is keeping the cards close to his chest but finds there are big crime forces wanting a piece of his action. With plans afoot to "twist" his arm, and his girlfriend kidnapped, Johnny knows something is going to have to give...

All my sadness and all my joy, comes from loving a thieving boy.

Once tagged as being "The toughest picture ever made in Britain", The Criminal obviously seems tame by today's increasingly over the top standards. Yet it still packs quite a punch and shows the very best of Messrs Losey, Baker and Krasker.

In some ways it's a strange film, the pace is purposely slow and the narrative is bolstered by bouts of hang wringing tension, where periods of calm come laced with a grim oppressive atmosphere, but there's often electricity bristling in the air when Bannion (Baker is magnetic and brilliant as he apparently models the character on Albert Dimes) is holding court. Even when on the outside and feeling the love of a good woman, Bannion exudes a loner like danger, he's tough but being a hard bastard can't break him free from the shackles of his life. We know it and you sense that he himself knows it, and it gives the film an exciting edge not befitting the downbeat tone of the story. Characters here have not been delivered from happy land, you will struggle to find someone here who isn't nasty of heart, bad in the head or simply foolish. Inside this concrete jungle it's a multi cultural hive of emotional disintegration, and at the core stirring the honey pot is one Johnny Bannion. The film makers here are all about pessimism, self-destruction and the battle against the system and the underworld, right up to (and including) a finale fit to grace the best noirs of the 40s.

Losey and Krasker ensure the prison sequences are stifling, the walls close in, the bars and netting are unsettling and close ups of the odd ball assortment of crims and warders strike an incarcerated chord, visually it's an impressive piece of noirish film. But it's not just about shadows and filtered light, the director has skills aplenty with his camera. A kaleidoscope shot has a delightfully off kilter kink to it, while his overhead filming and pull away crane usage for the frosty cold finale is as memorable as it is skillful in selection. Musically the pic begins and ends with the soulful warbling of Cleo Laine, the tune is a Prison Ballad (Thieving Boy), and it's tonally perfect, while Dankworth and his orchestra provide jazz shards that thrust in and out of the story like knowing accomplices to fate unfolding. Set design is superb, especially for the recreation of a Victorian prison which is impressive and makes it easy to not lament an actual prison location used, while the supporting actors are very strong, particularly Magee (Zulu) who excels doing sneaky menace as Warder Barrows.

Flaws? Not any if you don't actually expect the toughest film made in Britain back in the day (though it was banned in some countries!). I do wonder why Baker had to be an Irish character and not just be Welsh and therefore do his natural Welsh accent? And if we are are being over critical we could suggest there are some prison stereotypes that even by 1960 were looking frayed around the edges. But ultimately this is tough stuff, a gritty and moody piece of cinema with class on either side of the camera. 8/10
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Falling between two stools
allenrogerj25 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
A strange film.

On the one hand it is a realistically drawn Melvillean study of criminals who fall out and destroy one another; on the other it is a non-naturalistic Behanesque portrayal of prison life, its hierarchies and the relationships among and between warders and prisoners. At a guess, the crime story dominated in the original script and Alun Owen emphasised the prison scenes and introduced the element of ensemble work in the later version. The problem with this mixture of films, either of which could be good on its own, is that they don't fit together- that's leaving aside the film's Dickensian relish for characters, regardless of their relevance to the story. Thus the comic Northerner who wants to hire the gang's getaway taxi after the robbery, the piano-tuner in Bannion's flat (what does Bannion want a piano for anyway?- it's isn't consistent with his character.) when they are talking plans for the robbery, many of the prisoners- effectively portrayed as helplessly institutionalised, Magee's talismanic and enigmatic head warder, the prison doctor, the cynical prison governor- all distract from the film's plot, but aren't given enough time for their own story, which might be more interesting- the mixture of antagonism and co-operation between prison staff and prisoners- "Come on" says a screw, "I always treat you straight; you do the same for me." an effective tactic- is well-portrayed and rouses our interest without satisfying it. Equally, important parts of the crime story are thrown away- we never see the robbery and Bannion goes back to prison remarkably quickly- six weeks, we are told- we never even learn how long he will spend back in prison. The women- the abandoned moll played by Jill Bennett and her replacement- aren't convincing at all, mere plot-devices; on the other hand, the suggestion that some of the characters are homosexual is well-placed and carefully shown in passing. There are strengths too- effective and sometimes beautiful camera-work, especially in the prison scenes, all of the actors are good in their parts, a very fine score by John Dankworth. It's certainly a film worth seeing, but we can't help regretting what it could be but isn't- but then, that's true of so many British films.
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Mr Stanley Baker -Diamond Geezer,not Toytown Gangster.
ianlouisiana7 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Joseph Losey's C.V. was nothing if not eclectic.Once considered by some critics as a major force in British Cinema,he can,with hindsight ,be seen to have been following trends rather than creating them for most of his career.Nonetheless,his films were,as a rule,recognisably the work of a considerable artist,albeit one working within the limits imposed by the studios,and within clearly defined genres. He was involved in film-making for 45 years,right up to his death in 1984. Blacklisted by the H.U.A.C.,Mr Losey brought a welcome dash of verve and inmagination to a fairly moribund British Film Industry. He could take a straightforward prison movie like "The Criminal" - destined to be a pot-boiler in the hands of many an English hack director - and turn it into a rather remarkable work. The British cannot do crime films.I know we think we can,and we certainly make enough of them,but the results give lie to the proverb that practise makes perfect.It's not enough to fill the screen with snarling professional Cockneys with tattooed fingers like bunches of sausages spouting rhyming - slang never heard outside of a script writer's study in Islington.Watch Britpop gangster films like"Lock,stock etc" or "Essex Boys" and you can scarcely hear the dialogue for laughter and the more ludicrously violent the film gets the more the audience laughs."The Criminal" is not noticeably risible. There is violence,but it is not comic book violence,it is the sort of violence that leaves it's victims scarred physically and mentally. There is real menace.Mr Stanley Baker and Mr Sam Wanamaker are hard men. Compared to them Mr Sean Bean is a pussycat,Mr Vinnie Jones a dilettante. It is not so much a film noir as a film gris,the exteriors shot in bright light,softening the contrast whilst retaining pin-sharp focusing.These shadings of grey reflect the moral ambivalence of the main characters.Only the truly unpleasant P.O. Barrow,played with hissing relish by Mr Patrick Magee,is shot in high contrast. Mr Stanley Baker is very convincing as a major criminal,hardly surprising when you consider he had been known to move in the same social circles as some of London's biggest villains.He makes no unnecessary gestures,remains aloof from his fellow prisoners,truly a man apart.You just know he won't be taking up those courses in basket weaving. The plot - such as it is - revolves around a "Thieves fall out" scenario familiar to moviegoers since the first train robber galloped across the flickering screen.It's familiarity doesn't matter,its what Mr Losey does with it that counts,after all,"Romeo and Juliet" wasn't exactly state of the art cutting edge audience challenging stuff when Shakespeare first got hold of it. Released at a time when British films were just about to enjoy a short - lived renaissance,"The Criminal" ended up being trampled under the feet of critics lavishing excessive praise on a succession of flat cap and whippet sagas that eventually disappeared up their own outdoor privy. Viewed at a distance of 45 years,Mr Wanamaker crossing the street in his camelhair coat is an image that will remain long after the last crumpled Woodbine is ground out in an overflowing ashtray in a smoke - filled changing room before the poor exploited hero runs out - coughing to play football/rugby league/pigeon racing in front of an audience of seven men and a dog - probably a whippet.
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Gripping from start to finish
aromatic-221 March 2001
Joseph Losey does a superb job of directing cinema-verite'-style from start to finish. From the moment Cleo Laine sings Thieving Boy over the opening credits, I knew I was in for a special experience. Stanley Baker spent a career delivering some of the most haunting criminal characterizations of all time, and this is one of his all-time best. Patrick Magee is memorable in a minor supporting role. An incredible gritty film.
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A neglected gem from Joseph Losey starring the excellent Stanley Baker
susannah-straughan-115 June 2009
Stanley Baker's dodgy Irish accent strikes the only false note in Joseph Losey's hard-nosed crime drama. A lethal combination of charm, guile and brute force makes jailbird Johnny Bannion the top dog in B block. Once he's released, Bannion is plunged straight back into a world of free-flowing booze, casual sex and cool jazz in his well-appointed bachelor pad. But there's no thought of going straight as he plots a lucrative racetrack heist with the reptilian Carter (Sam Wanamaker). The intrigue here lies not in the heist itself but in the web of betrayals that follow, as Losey and screenwriter Alun Owen build an authentic portrait of the criminal underworld on both sides of the prison wall. There's no hint here of the cartoonish Swinging London and stereotypical cockney villains that continue to plague British cinema. Robert Krasker's photography lends a stark beauty to the pollarded trees in the prison courtyard and Johnny Dankworth's score, punctuated by a mournful Cleo Laine ballad, is superb. With its harsh, sweaty depiction of prison violence, this is a million miles from the upper-class shenanigans depicted in the director's later films like The Servant and The Go-Between.
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Stark and bleak of expression with mixed performances, too much talk, and several dramatically muddled and muffed sequences
BOUF3 January 2009
Stanley Baker is convincing as a brutal villain, but it looked to me that he could easily have been nobbled by several of his prison inmates. There's a lot of talk that attempts to sew the plot together, but not a lot of action - and I don't mean fights and car chases, I mean the difference between taking the audience on a cinematic journey as opposed to being told what's happening by the dialogue. There's too much telling and not enough showing. Several of the set-pieces in this essentially crime/gangster genre story are clumsily handled. The robbery is poorly covered: we don't know what the plan is, or what the perpetrators are up against, plus several opportunities for high tension are muffed. In the prison, the conflicts are fairly well developed and realised, but often they're stagey or overwrought. Gregoire Aslan is an excellent 'capo' and there is some good character work by the supporting cast, but there is also some woeful acting. The general statement of this film is that this is a grim, bleak, violent society in which ordinary man is always imprisoned - that part works, but as a drama or a thriller it's clunky and uneven. An under-developed script, some patchy, but energetic direction, and a generally excellent job of anamorphic lensing by Aussie Robert Krasker.
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THE CRIMINAL (Joseph Losey, 1960) ***
Bunuel197623 August 2006
When I was in Hollywood late last year, I managed to watch Losey's classic sci-fi THESE ARE THE DAMNED (1963) - surely Hammer Films' strangest release; at the time, while I had been sufficiently impressed with the film (despite the poor quality of the print I came across but, at least, it was the full-length version!), I had also found the experience somewhat overwhelming.

I couldn't quite explain why I felt this way but, having now watched this contemporaneous title (which, in comparison to the fanciful apocalyptic narrative of THESE ARE THE DAMNED, is a relatively straightforward crime drama of the prison/caper variety), I realized that it was due to the essential stylization of Losey's mise-en-scene which, apart from giving a heightened sense of reality to the already intense proceedings, also rendered the film guilty of a certain pretentiousness (marking virtually every scene) not found in similar genre efforts, certainly British-made - demonstrating a definite change of attitude in cinema towards a greater sense of artistry but also more lenient censorship (the sex and violence in this particular film, while not especially graphic by the standards of even a few years later, are clearly more pronounced than in the previous decade)! Still, to be honest, all of this actually serves to make the film doubly arresting - particularly during this gritty phase of Losey's career (his statelier later work grew increasingly more opaque).

What a cast! Stanley Baker was never better than as the almost legendary con whose individuality makes him an outcast even among his own kind, and he's surrounded by some very fine actors - most notably Sam Wanamaker (as his contact on the outside but who harbors ambitions of taking over the gang), Patrick Magee (his first impressive role as a corrupt and menacing prison warden), Gregoire Aslan (as the ageing mobster who rules the underworld even from inside the penitentiary and to whom everyone - Baker included - must acquiesce) and Nigel Green (as Baker's double-crossing associate). Surprisingly, the supporting cast is peppered with faces familiar from several horror films like Rupert Davies (WITCHFINDER GENERAL [1968]), Edward Judd (THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE [1961]), Murray Melvin (THE DEVILS [1971]), John Van Eyssen (HORROR OF Dracula [1958]), Noel Willman (THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE [1963]), Kenneth J. Warren (THE CREEPING FLESH [1973]) and Patrick Wymark (THE BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW [1971]).

Speaking of which, Hammer Films stalwart Jimmy Sangster reportedly contributed to the excellent screenplay (actually credited to A HARD DAY'S NIGHT [1964] scribe Alun Owen!). The film's remarkable and claustrophobic black-and-white cinematography is by the great Robert Krasker (Oscar winner for THE THIRD MAN [1949]). Another big plus is Johnny Dankworth's jazzy score, featuring a recurring ballad sung by Cleo Laine.

While essentially character-driven, the film's seedy milieu and sadistic streak allows for a number of vivid sequences (though the race-track robbery itself is rather thrown away!) including the wild party held at Baker's flat on being released from prison (highlighting sexy Margit Saad who subsequently replaces Jill Bennett as Baker's moll), the equally chaotic prison riot, Baker's escape from the penitentiary (having been betrayed after the robbery and recaptured) and the inevitable showdown with the ruthless Wanamaker.

Unfortunately, apart from the theatrical trailer and admittedly extensive talent bios for both Losey and Baker, the Anchor Bay DVD is a bare-bones affair; pity neither of them is around anymore (Baker died far too young in 1976 at age 49 and Losey, already in his 50s when the film was made, followed him in 1984) to have been involved in this otherwise sparkling edition!

Having watched THE CRIMINAL and, more recently, Losey's SECRET CEREMONY (1968), I've rekindled my interest in this important director's work: I have four of his films as yet unwatched on VHS - THE BIG NIGHT (1951), THE ROMANTIC ENGLISHWOMAN (1975), DON GIOVANNI (1979) and LA TRUITE (1982) - and still need to pick up several of them on DVD - EVE (1962; unwatched...if I can find a copy of the Kino disc which includes two different cuts of the film, neither of them the complete 155-minute version!), THE SERVANT (1963), KING AND COUNTRY (1964; unwatched), MODESTY BLAISE (1966), ACCIDENT (1967), the upcoming THE ASSASSINATION OF TROTSKY (1972; unwatched) and GALILEO (1975; unwatched).
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A sensationally tough crime drama gem
Woodyanders3 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Shrewd, fearsome underworld kingpin Johnny Bannion (a superbly steely and convincing performance by Stanley Baker) gets sprung from the joint so he can mastermind a bold racetrack heist for his slick, shifty hoodlum buddy Mike Carter (a splendidly smarmy Sam Wanamaker). Johnny winds up being incarcerated again after hiding the stolen loot. Can he survive long enough in jail to get back out and retrieve the money? Director Joseph Losey, working from a sharp, precise script written by Alun Owen and Jimmy Sangster, offers a fascinatingly vivid and flavorsome depiction of the seedy criminal milieu, relates the arresting story at a steady pace, and maintains a fierce, unrelenting intensity that never lets up to the literal bitter end. This film further benefits from top-notch acting by a stellar cast, with especially stand-out turns from Baker, Wanamaker, Gregoire Aslan as cunning Italian mop capo Frank Saffron, Margit Saad as Johnny's brash, enticing new girlfriend Suzanne, Jill Bennett as neurotic spurned moll Maggie, Patrick Magee as rugged, no-nonsense prison guard captain Barrows, Laurence Naismith as meddlesome detective Mr. Town, and Kenneth J. Warren as the brutish Clobber. Robert Krasker's crisp, fluid black and white cinematography, the colorful characters, John Dankworth's rousing jazzy score, the uncompromisingly grim'n'gritty tone, the haunting bluesy theme song that's gorgeously sung by Cleo Laine, a potent central message about how greed and money lust destroy the human soul, and the powerful downbeat ending add immensely to the considerable jolting impact of this bang-up little winner.
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A Thieving Boy
bkoganbing28 November 2010
The blacklisted Joseph Losey whose loss to the American cinema was the United Kingdom's gain took his knowledge of American prison films to fashion this gem. Starring in Concrete Jungle is the premier British tough guy Stanley Baker in a role that in America, Humphrey Bogart might have been given first crack at.

Whoever said there was no honor among thieves must have run with Baker's mob. When we meet him, he's a day away from his release from one jail sentence, but not until some prison justice is meted out to a newly arriving Patrick Magee with whom Baker has a grudge over a previous job.

No sooner is Baker out than he's back in a nice caper concerning the robbery of a racetrack. But thieves being what they are somebody rats and Baker's back in stir. But not before he's buried the loot and doesn't tell anyone, the same thing he was mad at Magee for.

It's a scurvy lot Baker has for friends, I haven't seen this many bad people hold a viewer's interest without there being any redeeming good people in a film since I first saw Goodfellas. But like Goodfellas there is something fascinating about Baker and the whole crew, people like Sam Wanamaker, Gregoire Aslan, etc. Even the cops like Laurence Naismith aren't especially heroic. Naismith admits as much, he's just got a well developed system of stool pigeons which any cop worth his badge has.

Baker really dominates the film, the United Kingdom hasn't produced an actor like him since. Concrete Jungle is a classic example of his tough guy appeal and a great introduction to him.

And you'll love Cleo Laine's singing of A Thieving Boy at the beginning and end of the film.
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The criminal outsider
enochsneed9 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
As other reviewers have noted, this film does contain a mish-mash of themes (being both prison drama and crime thriller) and moments of self-consciously arty direction (the punishment beating of a prisoner in jumpy close-ups, an extreme close-up monologue against a darkened background, and tricksy shot compositions). It is still an interesting study of a man and a system.

At first, Johnny Bannion seems to be top dog among the prisoners. He can withdraw a beating or arrange one, and has hangers-on at his beck and call. When he gets out he has already planned the mythical 'big score' that will put him in Easy Street for a good, long while.

Unfortunately, the criminal system is as skewed as the capitalist one when it comes to exploitation. Mr Bigs have to be fixed - and double the rate they charge for their trouble (you have to deal with them or you can't do business at all). They are ruthless, kidnapping and threatening women to get their way. Eventually they will take everything you have, including your life, to get what they want. And don't expect any justice or comeback from the authorities. They are in on the game, too, and play their own part in keeping things jogging along as long as there isn't too much rough stuff (even the liberal New Statesman-reading prison governor seems wearily aware there can be no rehabilitation or true justice in the world).

By the end of the film Bannion has been bought and sold half-a-dozen times by those he felt he could trust. There is no room for his kind any more, corporate criminality has taken over.

We are left with too many loose ends to make a wholly satisfying story. Does Pauly Larkin pull through? Why was Maggie dumped? There are also tantalising hints at a more sensitive side to Bannion (love of music with the piano and record covers in his apartment, the stifled crossing of himself when he hears of a death) which are never explored.

This is a tough film and very worth watching. It just leaves too many unanswered questions.
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Haunting and unique depiction.
gwilym4919 February 2001
A haunting and unique depiction of prison and criminal life in Britain in the early 1960s. 40 years after its release I still wish to see this film. Before the Great Train Robbery and the prison riots of more recent times the violence and tension portrayed in the work seem to strike a very deep chord which anticipates these later events.
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Stanley Baker's superb interpretation of a criminal
tony_le_stephanois4 April 2015
Director Joseph Losey's aim was to portray the ups and downs of a criminal life. This might be a common theme nowadays but back in 1960 not nine out of every ten films in the video store was exactly like this. First of all there's a much more unusual story, with three films for the price of one: a robbery, a portrayal of prison life, and a gangster romance. This could be a disappointment for fans of the crime genre. As many outdated acting mannerisms of that time, like the demonstrative walking back after a blow, can be a let down for some.

But the film is actually pretty exciting, and most of the credits go to Stanley Baker, who plays Johnny Bannion with an intense style that would become more common in the seventies. Always cheeky, willing to play the highest game, independent. Baker was known having friends in London's underworld. One scene in particular makes him a badass: two gangsters come into his cell with the purpose to rig him but it's Bannion who beats them up. Bannion probably would have lead a Colombian cocaine mafia empire just fine if he had been born a little later.

The Criminal is not everyone's cup of tea because of its script, but is definitely a great watch if you like realistic, vicious atmospheres in movies. The jazz music by John Dankworth reinforces the chaotic atmosphere brilliantly.
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dougdoepke5 December 2010
No doubt about it, Stanley Baker is a riveting screen presence. He commands just by appearing. Maybe it's that patented jut-jawed intensity. In my little book, he's the main reason for catching up with this British crime drama, which otherwise is a disappointment considering that noir-master Joe Losey is in charge.

Admittedly, I lost some of the British dialogue because of my American ears. Nonetheless, there's a one-note monotony to the visuals, the characters, and the storyline-- no one can be trusted, life is grim, and the visuals rub our nose in the ugliness. Still, the movie is titled Concrete Jungle, not Concrete Vacation, so as far as the marquee is concerned, there is 'truth in packaging'. Nonetheless, there's little suspense or tension in the screenplay, an odd outcome for a crime drama. Events simply follow on one another without much structural development.

Why the robbery itself is passed over is puzzling since that would have provided needed suspense. My guess is that a detailed depiction would have followed too closely on the heels of Kubrick's superb racetrack robbery in The Killing (1956). But, whatever the reason, both the crime and the aftermath are dealt with in unimaginative fashion.

Losey does keep things moving in fast-paced style, while Wanamaker's slippery gangster represents an interesting character. Nonetheless, the result lacks the compelling social ambiguities of his better American films. All in all, I agree with reviewer BOUF—the result is "clunky and uneven", with an "under-developed script". Considering the source, I expected better.
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Downbeat mix of prison drama and crime thriller
Leofwine_draca20 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
THE CRIMINAL is another star vehicle for the continually underrated Stanley Baker, an actor who enlivened every film in which he appeared. This one's a low key prison drama for the most part, in which Baker plays a robber who hides some loot in a field but soon finds himself pursued by his fellow gang members desperate to get their hands on the stolen goods. The film is divided into two parts, with the realistic depiction of the mundanity and brutality of prison life contrasting with more familiar criminal behaviour on the outside. It's not the most exciting film in existence, only really picking up in the last twenty minutes or so, but a finely-judged cast of character actors see it through. Highlights include a suave Sam Wanamaker as the fixer, Patrick Magee as a nervy prison guard, and plenty of others including Noel Willman and Kenneth Cope.
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Hard Time
writers_reign24 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is yet another example of a film that was probably impressive when released yet seems risible today. One really expects a little more class from Alun Owen and it's quite possible that the uncredited Jimmy Sangster contributed the lion's share of the Shooting Script given that it bears all the hallmarks of Hammer tat and Sangster and Hammer were made for each other. A lot of second-rate British actors turn in second rate performances here - for some reason neither Murray Melvin or Kenneth Cope are credited on the print I viewed and are probably thankful in retrospect whilst for reasons known only to themselves the producers saw fit to import a German actress, Margit Saad to walk through a gangster's moll role that Joan Collins could have phoned in - ironically Collins' first husband, the dire Maxwell Reed has a small uncredited role. This is arguably the worst movie directed by Losey either in England or America, even The Sleeping Tiger leaves it dead in the water. Would-be hard man Stanley Baker weighs in with his usual would-be hard man performance and throws in a wayward accent that fits where it touches. If it's a choice between this or Carry On Cliché take the latter every time.
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Stock criminals
Bribaba16 August 2012
Joseph Losey's film has acquired something of a reputation since it's release way back when, though it's hard to see why. Stanley Baker playing the eponymous villain is convincing enough but the script and characterisations are weak. This is particularly evident in the prison scenes which comprise most of the film. The incarcerated are stock characters so beloved of British films of this period and they perform true to type (ie terribly). The exception is one of Beckett's favourite actors Patrick Magee, his sinister prison guard is a real stand-out. Aside from his performance the other outstanding feature is the photography from Robert Krasker which, ironically, suggests what a great film this could have been.
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You lose me, Losey
eyesour17 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
After buying an 8 disc box set of Losey's films, because I wanted to watch Mr Klein, having heard good things about it, I've now watched another 4 of the discs. Mr Klein was interesting, and actually quite good, but as for the rest, frankly, I'm so far unimpressed. To put one's finger on what's wrong with them, they are, firstly, extremely poorly cut and paced. After about twenty minutes one simply ceases to care about the characters, and only dogged determination can see one through to the end. I failed to make it more than once, and after fast-forwarding discovered in any case that the trip would not have been worth it.

Secondly, they are irritatingly self-regarding and self-conscious. One gets the constant impression that Losey is permanently saying: Look at me, and what I'm doing. I'm a serious, committed, self-confessed Communist and Stalinist (he actually maintained this attitude for a time), and all you precious intellectuals out there owe it to yourselves to admire and respect me. Sorry, Joe, I'm just not with you on that one. Moreover, although this turgid film includes what amounts to a near-comprehensive roll-call of English character actors, I simply do not respond to the thespian qualities of Losey's frequently employed leads, such as Baker and Bogarde. Baker may have a slight edge over Bogarde, but I wouldn't want to meet either of them.

In the end these films are not entertaining, and their messages are painfully dated. If they ever conveyed anything constructive at all, it was only for a short period, post-war and pre-rock n' roll: 1945-1955. True art is gripping and timeless.

Two out of ten stars. What has gone wrong with the star system?
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