In 1950s England, slow-witted Derek Bentley (Christopher Eccleston) falls in with a group of petty criminals led by Chris Craig (Paul Reynolds), a teenager with a fondness for American ...
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In 1950s England, slow-witted Derek Bentley (Christopher Eccleston) falls in with a group of petty criminals led by Chris Craig (Paul Reynolds), a teenager with a fondness for American gangster movies. Chris and Derek's friendship leads to their involvement in the case which would forever shake the United Kingdom's belief in capital punishment.Written by
Scott Renshaw <email@example.com>
Derek Bentley was partially pardoned posthumously by Home Secretary Michael Howard, who said he should not have been hanged, but was still guilty. Bentley's conviction was later overturned by the Court of Appeal, who said that he had not had a fair trial because of the behavior of the trial judge, Lord Goddard. This movie has been credited for keeping the case in the public eye. See more »
In the courtroom scenes where it shows Bentley and Craig sitting, it shows Craig's right arm in a sling. But when they come back into the courtroom after the jury deliberation, his left arm is in a sling. See more »
[about his brother's girlfriend]
You know I could square it with Niv if you want a shot at her, I don't suppose he'd mind, not if you're a pal of mine.
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This is a very convincing film of the life of Derek Bentley and his eventual execution. 1950s Britain is just beginning to emerge from the years of post-War austerity with all of the milk bars, pop records and teddy boy youth culture showing a new, malign confidence. The undercurrent is definitely youth crime gone wild. But is Derek Bentley really one of the gang?
Christopher Eccleston is absolutely brilliant playing Bentley, and truly captures the inner torment and diffidence of a young man suffering from years of epilepsy and failure at school. Bentley is clearly not normal and probably more impressionable than most people of his age this is the essence of this tragic story. He wants to be like everyone else but stupidly chooses the wrong people or do they choose him?
You are never sure whether Bentley's friend Chris Craig (the brilliant Paul Reynolds) is a nasty piece of work or maybe someone else led astray, this time by his truly monstrous, menacing older brother Niven Craig (Mark McGann) who he sees receiving 10 years for armed resistance to police arrest. Who is Craig - is he Pinkie in Brighton Rock (Boulting 1947), Jimmy Hanley in the Blue Lamp (Dearden, 1950) or one of the famous five with a gun?
After his brother's trial, Chris lies down at night and then rather poignantly and in a nice little flourish from director Peter Medak lays down his handgun on his bedside table, finding a gap amongst his toy cars, trams and aeroplanes. Perhaps he's just a naïve little kid after all.
When the gang goes to the cinema what else would they watch but a Jimmy Cagney gangster movie? Maybe if they'd watched the Blue Lamp instead they would have been warned off.
Anyway, Bentley clearly did not murder the policeman on the rooftop - that was Craig (some say it was a policeman's bullet gone astray). Bentley was executed for a crime he did not commit, pure and simple.
Good, haunting musical score by Michael Kamen.
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