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A shocking portrayal of the Death Penalty in 50's England
venushunters10 November 2002
A shocking portrayal of the use of the Death Penalty in the United Kingdom during the 1950's. A mentally unstable young man with epilepsy called Derek Bentley faces the gallows for a crime he did not commit, While the accomplice, Christopher Craig, who did fire the fatal shot, only serves time at Her Majesties Pleasure. In reality Christopher Craig only served 10 years while Derek Bentley had his life taken away. A gritty drama telling of Bentley and Craig's criminal exploits in South London shortly after the war.
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9/10
A chilling tale
Mike-DD22 August 2000
I did not know about this case before I watched this film, but the synopsis on the back of the video case was so compelling I had to rent it. I did not expect to be emotionally involved but it was hard to keep from shouting at the TV screen that it's unfair. The system portrayed seemed almost hellbent on sending Derek to the gallows, guilty or not. Even when evidence seem tainted or appeared to cast doubts on the veracity of some of the testimonies, the only cry ringing out was that a cop was killed and someone's blood must be spilled in revenge. It is chilling to know that sometimes justice can be blinded when emotions are involved, showing how important it must be to fully understand the implications before imposing any penalties which cannot be reversed even if desired.
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Is Bentley really one of the Gang?
frankiehudson4 November 2003
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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8/10
On death and belonging
paul2001sw-14 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This review contains what may be considered as SPOILERS by those who do not know the true story on which this film is based.

Derek Bentley was one of the most unfortunate men to suffer the death penalty in Britain. He was mentally sub-normal, he didn't kill anyone personally and even his fatal cry to his accomplice, Christopher Craig, echoed in this film's title, was disputed in court and is anyway ambiguous in meaning. And even after his conviction, both judge and jury recommended clemency. But a policeman had died, Craig (who shot him) was too young to hang and so Bentley was murdered by the state.

The strength of Peter Medak's reconstruction of these events is that neither man is presented as a devil or an angel; Craig (played by Paul Reynolds) is just a boy with fantasies of becoming a gangster (but no less dangerous for that); Bentley (Chris Ecclestone) a sad and lonely figure, motivated by the desperate need to belong. Both young actors are excellent. Their portrayals are set against a bleak but convincing backdrop of the forgotten rhythms of life in austerity Britain, a period (perhaps because it predated rock and roll) rarely celebrated by cheap nostalgia.

'Let Him Have It' is not the most entertaining film ever made, but its power grows as you watch it. Certainly a film with the power to make proponents of the death penalty uneasy.
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Brilliantly Portrayed True Tale of a Cruel Injustice.
LordGnu16 March 2003
Warning: Spoilers
This film inflamed me with frustration and anger when i watched it, not at any failing in its telling, but at the injustice and state brutality which took place within it. This film is a lovingly crafted character driven drama set in 1950's England, covering the true story of Derek Bentley, a young epileptic man of limited intelligence who is innocently led astray by his younger troubled tearaway friend Chris Craig. Their initially minor law infringements escalate to murder one night, and both end up on trial. The films title is pivotal in this, but i do not wish to provide any spoilers for anyone who does not know the true story.

the plot isn't the primary focus of this film, however compelling and obviously important it is. The film centres on the relationships between Derek and those he knows, his family, Chris, and the gang that he and Chris join (Derek for acceptance, and Chris to emulate the American gangsters he sees at the cinema and impress his thuggish brother). The cast are totally convincing, Christopher Eccleston giving a very accomplished performance as a simple man thrust into complex circumstances, and Paul Reynolds is also perfect as the playful but insecure troublemaker who fires the fatal shot. the film is essentially an account of the interactions and emotions of a small group of people put in a terrible situation, of innocence robbed, and of state brutality (you'll clench your fists at the ignorance and insensitivity). it's not an explosive film, it doesn't throw up audiovisual storms of any kind, it just follows the lives of these characters, rooting the film in the reality on which it is based. i cried at the end you know, i thought i might and then i did, it's one of those sorts of films. but please do watch it, i promise it's more interesting than i've made it sound.
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10/10
Gut-wrenching
Mike3 June 2004
This movie is one of the saddest pictures ever made. Made even more sad by the fact that this is based on a true story. I couldn't believe this was Christopher Eccleston's 2nd movie; I hadn't seen him in anything before JUDE. I'm utterly speechless to talk about this movie. I noticed someone commented saying this is like DEAD MAN WALKING; that movie does not compare to this. Bare in mind that LET HIM HAVE IT WAS MADE 4 years before DMW. I felt this one was much, much, much more rendering and mournful. God bless you Brits for making films on social content with such potency; American audiences could take a lesson from you: SCUM, LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER, ALFIE, ...if, TRAINSPOTTING (best movie ever made)
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7/10
Thoughtful Docudrama.
Robert J. Maxwell6 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Christopher Eccleston is Derek Bentley, a marginally retarded, epileptic, working-class British kid growing up in the 1940s. He's been in trouble with the authorities for much of his life. By the age of nineteen, he's more or less a member of a teen-age gang, though his father, Tom Courtenay in a solid role, and the rest of his family try to protect him from the adolescent impulses of the gang's world.

They're not benign impulses either. Britain was a nation of shopkeepers, as someone said, and there are lots of shops around to be burglarized and robbed. The gang members imitate in their dress and style the villains of the films noir they're seeing on the screen. (One imagines Tommy Udo as prima inter pares.) They dress in suits and ties, black overcoats, and black fedoras. They may carry knives and brass knuckles, and sometimes one or two of them may carry a pistol, giving them an advantage of sorts over the unarmed police.

Eccleston and his Jungian shadow, a young kid played by Paul Reynolds, are interrupted during a burglary. The police officer who intrudes manages to clap his hands on the pliant Eccleston and put him under arrest before Reynold whips out his pistol and wounds the officer in the shoulder. A horde of cops descend upon the rooftop scene because, London not being Newark, all those noisy gunshots are disturbing the public. Reynold manages, perhaps half accidentally, to shoot a constable through the forehead. Then he jumps off the roof and is captured.

That shoot out is interesting. Paul Reynolds does a fine job of projecting the exhilaration a feral kid can feel when his reptilian brain is unleashed, shooting wildly in the air, pinging bullets off his surroundings. The adrenalin rush doesn't last long but while it does, you're the monarch of all you survey. You -- how do the firing range cadre put it? -- you "command your environment." Through all this brouhaha Eccleston has been behaving like the dumb but essentially harmless kid he is. When the first officer on the scene tells Reynold to give up the gun, Eccleston shouts, "Let him have it," meaning give him the gun. When the officer is shot and helpless, Eccleston doesn't try to escape.

At the trial, that shout -- "Let him have it!" -- is interpreted by the jury as meaning, "Shoot him!" Reynolds, only sixteen years old, is given an indeterminate sentence. Eccleston, nineteen, is sentenced to hang despite the jury's verdict of "guilty but with a recommendation of mercy." It's a true story. The trial generated not just publicity but outrage at the sentence imposed on Eccleston. He was hanged apace, but the obvious miscarriage challenged the mortmain of the death penalty and led to Britain's joining the rest of the Western societies in banning capital punishment.

The film is "thoughtful" and made for adults. Eccleston is no hero. He's a disturbed and stupid kid who hangs out with people in his neighborhood, as all kids do, only these kids are kind of malignant.

I'll give an example of how this movie could have gone irretrievably wrong. It could have followed the model already established, and imitated many times, and given us an extremely detailed description of the preparation of the inmate for execution. See "Ted Bundy" for a beacon of meretriciousness. Instead, there are a few relevant scenes of Eccleston in the slams, mostly discussing his appeal with his family. The execution itself is over with in two minutes. No long parade to the gallows led by a pastor reading from the Bible. No lugubrious climbing of thirteen steps. No inquiry from the warden about any last words. No last words.
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8/10
Some real facts (dont think these are in the films credits)
Reedy197616 March 2005
Eventually, in 1993 the then Home Secretary Michael Howard granted Bentley a partial pardon, saying it was clear he should never have been hanged but he remained guilty of taking part in the murder.

Iris Bentley (Dereks mother) died in 1997 before the case was referred back to the Appeal Court.

In 1998 the Appeal Court quashed Bentley's conviction on the grounds the original trial judge was biased against the defendants and misdirected the jury on points of law.

Scientific evidence also showed the three police officers who testified about Bentley shouting "Let him have it" had lied under oath.

Craig served 10 years before being released.
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4/10
Events in 1952 viewed with the benefit of 40 -odd years hindsight
ianlouisiana12 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Not much in the way of subtlety here,the makers' stall is set out from early on,Derek Bentley was murdered by "The State" in revenge for his juvenile partner-in-crime's murder of a policeman.They couldn't hang a boy of 16 so they hanged Bentley instead. Let's have a closer look at the facts.Firstly,this happened in 1952.There was no "gun culture" amongst teenagers.Teddy Boys,the "Hoodies" of their day,carried razor blades or flick knives.There were no drive by shootings,no drug wars.For a young man to have access to a gun was a very rare event.Christopher Craig apparently had access to a gun obtained by his older brother,a professional criminal.Very few professional criminals took guns with them on the job because if you have a gun,you will use it. In 1952 the law of the land was very clear about what would happen to you if you killed someone in furtherance of theft.You would hang.If two of you were so engaged,you would both hang. Regardless of what we might think of this law today it was in force in 1952. You cannot judge the Bentley/Craig case by 21st century standards. And this is what "Let him have it Chris" demands that you do. One of the cornerstones of the controversy is the title of the film. The defence argued that when (or,later,if)Bentley shouted that across the rooftop he meant the Craig should surrender his gun to the police. Not surprisingly the prosecution argued that he was telling Craig to shoot the policeman.Craig denies it was ever said.This turns those five words into a "verbal",the defence say,a statement fabricated by the police.Now if you think seriously about this you may find that "Let him have it Chris" is far too ambivalent to be a verbal."Shoot the bastard" would be far more to the point and there could be no argument as to its meaning.You might think that police officers would be far more likely to fabricate a unequivocal verbal. The implication that Craig was pushed off the roof is ludicrous,there is no evidence to support it.It's merely a move to further discredit the police.If you spread enough muck around some of it is bound to stick. And the emotive power of the phrase "Bentley was already in police custody when Craig fired the shot" doesn't give a true reflection of what actually occurred.He wasn't in a cell somewhere,he was on the rooftop,in the dead of night,being restrained by a police officer. Scarcely "in police custody" then, in any meaningful sense of the term. Questions about his mental acuity are,once again,beyond the remit of our 21st century overview.The degree of his handicap has been in dispute for years,but to call him a virtual mental defective is simplistic in the extreme. Certainly in these more enlightened times it is unlikely given the strongly argued mental competence issue that he would be charged with murder - I would expect a plea of diminished responsibility to be acceptable to the prosecution.But this was 1952,and I cannot emphasise enough the folly of considering events of the past through the sensibi- -lities of the present. Derek Bentley may not have been very sharp,but he knew that warehousebreaking was a crime and he went out and did it anyway.He may well have been in thrall to Christopher Craig who was clearly the main instigator of the crime,but he wasn't dragged up on that rooftop kicking and screaming. The only innocent victim here is PC Miles,whose name no one seems to remember.He was just a middle-aged London copper trying to do his job and get home safely in the morning.Thanks to Derek Bentley and Christopher Craig he never made it.
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9/10
An excellent film!
golden-64 June 1999
I rented this movie with not very high expectations, but I was extremely surprised. It was a truly great movie with good acting. I recommend this movie to anybody who liked "Dead Man Walking" or any other crime/drama movie. This movie was great!
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WOW....a HUGE injustice.
facetothemaxx5 October 2004
This just wasn't right. A 16 year old is given a 10 year sentence for shooting and fatally wounding a police officer while his friend who was IN POLICE CUSTODY at the time of the shooting gets death by hanging. All because he was 19 at the time and shouted "let him have it." First, there is no malice aforethought to justify murder. He did not want the police officer to be killed; in fact after the officer was killed he told his friend to give up the gun and surrender. At MOST he could be faced with an involuntary manslaughter charge with up to 10 years in prison (maybe not in 1952 Europe). This film was shocking. I urge anyone who has any interest in the law to watch this film. It was amazing well done and kept to the point that the law is the law even when it is wrong.
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6/10
Despite The Do-Gooder Agenda A Searing Example Of Injustice
Theo Robertson29 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
!!!! SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO DON`T KNOW THE CASE !!!!

Forget the examples of " Innocent " Irishman from republican ghettoes who just happened to be visiting England during IRA bombing campaigns during the mid 1970s and being " falsely accussed of crimes they didn`t commit " . The most glaring example of injustice is the case of Derek Bentley and Christopher Craig . Bentley and Craig were caught breaking into a warehouse in the 1950s . 19 year old Bentley was arrested by the police on the scene . Minutes later 16 year old Craig shot a policeman dead . Guess who the state hung for the murder of the cop ? That`s right the 19 year old who was already in police custody and had nothing to do with the shooting

I repeat this is the greatest injustice ever carried out by an English court , a great wrong that can never be put right was carried out . However I do have a problem with LET HIM HAVE IT and that is in the portrayal of Christopher Craig . Poor Christopher , poor poor Christopher who shot a policeman was really a victim of the system . He grew up in poverty , he was surrounded by criminals , guns were easy to access , all those Hollywood movies put ideas into young Christopher`s head and tradgedy of tragedies Christopher`s big brother was arrested by the old bill and sentenced to a long prison term . Poor unfortunate Christopher , what chance did he have in life ? or at least that`s what the film seems to be trying to tell us . It also insinuates that he actually shot the policeman ( Whose name I`ve forgotten - You do get the impression only Bentley and Craig are the victims here ) by accident . And there`s an incident that goes against all the other accounts I`ve read on the case - The scene where Craig " falls " off the roof . I`ve read elsewhere from several sources that Craig shouted " Give my love to < His girlfriend > " and jumped . Instead we see a revenge filled Fairfax growling at Craig with the heavy hint that the criminal was thrown off the roof by the detective .

There`s one other thing that bothered me about the events in this account . There`s a lot of sympathy for both Bentley and Craig ( perhaps too much sympathy for the latter ) so why did the film show the most controversial aspect of that fateful night ? This is where Bentley screams " Let him have it Chris " , hence the title . Over the years Craig is on record as saying that Bentley had said no such thing and that the police had lied and despite what he`d done in the past there`s absolutely no motive whatsoever for Craig to keep up this pretence . It`s almost certain the police at the trial lied under oath by saying Bentley somehow encouraged Craig . Of course in those days lawyers , judges and most especially juries believed what the police would tell them and it`s strange that a film with cynical 1990s sensibilities seems to take what the police said on that night as gospel truth . In many ways it jars with the bleeding heart attitude that makes up the rest of the film .

Flaws aside I`ll give the film its due . The director has picked a very good cast with Brit vets Tom Courtenay and Tom Bell adding experience to the two newbie stars of the film : Paul Reynolds who unfortunately seems to have disappeared and Christopher Eccleston who`s great here and is great in everything else he`s done which gives hope to even the most disillusioned DOCTOR WHO fan

So watch the film and decide for yourself what you think about the death penalty . Bare in mind that there were two victims that night and neither of them were Christopher Craig
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9/10
The best argument against the death penalty
waynethg3 August 2008
A better argument against the death penalty you will not see. A shameful episode in the recent history of Great Britain. Anyone who wants the return of the death penalty in this country should take the time to watch this film.

Some of the acting performances in this film are truly immense. The film-makers do a great job in recreating the dark gloomy streets of 1950's London. Having watched this film it is hard to see why the two young actors in the lead roles never went on to star in many more motion pictures. To summarise there are no real weaknesses in the telling of this tragic tale, I Would recommend this film to all who want to watch a powerful emotional story.
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9/10
Blind Justice or Justice Blinded
lord woodburry18 June 2004
"Let him have it" often shown on A & E here in the US as "Let him have it, Chris" is an excellent polemic that doesn't lose sight of balance in its preaching against the death penalty. For a film written by an American, there is a nearly English even hand in the account.

We start with a cute boy dazed in the blitz of 1940s London. A little dim witted, he takes the rap (American Jive: catches the case) for some local hooligans and ends up remanded to juvy where he comes of age.

There's a glimmer of Rocky Sullivan (James Cagney) from Angels with Dirty Faces in Derek Bentley (Christopher Eccleston) but unlike Rocky Sullivan who's a nihilist by choice, poor Derek is a bit too simple to understand.

The path might have led to rehabilitation but for the bad environment. In an ambiguous situation, miscalculation leads to the unforgivable and now Derek Bentley faces the gallows.

The story might have drifted into a self-indulgent, tear-jerking, liberal sensitivity philippic except that the film kept its objectivity on the central issue.

Oh there is the usual liberal hue and cry: the police lied to juice up their case (as they usually do), the lawyers poor people get are incompetent (a wide range of abilities might be more charitable), justice even Her Majesty can be a little cold to cop killers, the wrong people get off easy on loopholes etc.

However the authors, surprising for the American writer, kept an English sense of fairness on the critical question.

Did Derek Bentley rightly go to the gallows for what he done? See the film. Comparable Films: Hoodlum Priest
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9/10
Compelling true life drama
cmccarthy-1322 December 2007
Convincing performances and a reasonably unbiased approach to the facts make this an intense and compelling true life film. Neither Derek Bentley or Christopher Craig are portrayed as being all good or all bad. Derek is vulnerable and just wants to fit in with the 'gang' but goes about it in all the wrong ways and Chris whilst being the more hardened of the two still cries over his brothers imprisonment.

Whatever your views on the death penalty this film will make you stop and think. Its supporters will be forced to see the issue in a new light and those who campaigned for its abolition will have their views reaffirmed.This is not an easy film to watch but it is well worth it and the conclusion will stay with you for a very long time.
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8/10
Very well made, but not a cheerful film.
Joseph Henshaw9 December 2007
The case of Derek Bentley and Christopher Craig is perhaps one of the most famous miscarriages of justice in the UK. 'Let Him Have It', directed by Peter Medak tells the whole story in full, right up to the terrible death of Bentley. The film is predominantly set in the year 1952. Derek Bentley, aged nineteen, has had a difficult life from the beginning. The film begins by telling us a little about Derek's early life. We see that he suffers from learning difficulties and epilepsy, and often falls prey to temptation, getting into crime and gangs. He is caught, and spends most of his teenage years in an approved school. The film then jumps forward a further four years, and we finally meet the main Derek, aged nineteen, played by Christopher Eccleston. He soon meets Christopher Craig, and joins him as a friend. Throughout the first half of the film, we follow Bentley as he is drawn into a life of petty crime. This leads up to the grand climax of the film, the famous break-in which eventually turned into a murder scene. What follows, is a long and emotional journey through the weeks after Bentley is sentenced to death. As part of the English GCSE syllabus, we have been watching this film as part of our media review project. I can't say I enjoyed it - it has a very depressing and upsetting plot line - but it was a very well made and interesting portrayal of the story.
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9/10
Amazing
faycarolanderson12 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I think this is one of the most upsetting films i have ever seen We watched this in my English class and every girl started to cry when Derek Bently in the end got hung i think that Iris was write for trying so hard to clear her brothers name and i heard from a girl at my school that in 1998 she finally managed to do so If you are thinking on watching this film i strongly advice to do so but be sure to stock up on loads of tissues I can not believe that something like this could ever happen to someone it was never proved what he actually meant by let him have it i hope who ever watches this film enjoys it and i hope i have been some help Love Fay p.s WATCH IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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10/10
Derek Bentley
dickenson_8828 June 2005
OK, some might find Let Him Have It just a little boring to watch because if it's old setting, but it really is a great film and it does Bentley justice.

I first watched this film in school - it had all the girls in my English class in tears. It sparked an interest in capital punishment, which I am now pursuing in depth (being very much against). The good thing about this film is that it is very much accurate, so you do get the real picture of the Bentley/Craig case. This film stirs emotion well: it certainly makes me feel angry.

To summarise, Let Him Have It is a film about Derek Bently, an innocent man who was executed in England in 1953 for the murder of a policeman. Not only was he innocent, but he was very easily-led by Christopher Craig (the murderer) as he had a mental age of only 11-years-old. The world now knows that Bentley is innocent, and his sister, Irene, managed to get his pardon from the government... shame we executed him, isn't it? IF YOU DO NOT LIKE THIS FILM, YOU ARE HEARTLESS!
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8/10
Chris Eggleston, a great star nobodys knows of
stuhh20011 February 2002
When I first saw the movie I liked it, and thought Chris Eggleston was very good. Then I saw it again, and thought he was more than "very good". Since then I've seen him in "The Price Above Rubies" and the transformation from semi retarded English teen to a New York Hassidic man is scary. How did he do it? How did he get inside the head of an orthodox Jew? Then in "Gone In 60 Seconds" he's the evil "baddie". Look, I'm not a professional critic, but if we don't have a future acting giant here, I'll be very surprised. The film is also helped by two pillars of the English stage, Tom Courtenay, and Eileen Atkins. I work in the video room of a rather large library and I couldn't get people to see this film. It didn't have "stars" with names like "Brad" and "Julia". I'm joking, but not by much.
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10/10
Thank god we abolished the death penalty
Caz196410 May 2006
I cant really elaborate much on any one else's comments,but i went to see this film in Leicester Square when it first came out,it never went any further than London for some reason,so a lot of people never got the chance to see this film until it went on video or on TV.My parents always talked about this case saying how wrong it was that Derek Bentley was hanged and Ruth Ellis and Timothy Evans,all these cases were paramount in the abolishment of capital punishment.Derek Bentleys is the most obvious case of a miscarriage of justice it practically screams at you.He did not shoot the policeman,and the words Let him have it do not imply that he wanted his friend to,whether he said it or not?so which ever way you slice it he shouldn't have been hung.On the other hand i believe the law was right to detain the sixteen year old on Her Majestys Pleasure,as at this age your parents are the ones responsible for you,Christopher Craig was a very immature 16 year old and his mentality was probably more like a 13-14 year old,Derek Bentley had the mental age of an 11 year old,i don't think it was as such that Derek was manipulated,i believe that they were on more or less the same mentality level,Christopher Craig was the aggressor,Derek the much more gentle. Christopher Craigs biggest punishment is that he has had to live with his friends death on his conscience for the rest of his life.And from his own statements he has said he will never forget Derek,he has always regretted what happened.The policemans death was also a tragedy and was rightly mourned,but the justice system at the time gave out the wrong measure of punishment and reached a far to harsh decision instead of being fair,so the publics view swung to sympathy towards Derek Bentley,and still does.The miscarriage of justice seems to outweigh the crime and sadly everyone has forgot who the policeman was.Derek Bentley was hanged as an example to other teenagers in a post war era that was seeing a big rise in crime,and young people were slowly losing respect towards authority and towards their elders.Derek was sacrificed for this despite the fact he had learning difficulties and was epileptic,it didn't seem to matter, the justice system wanted its pound of flesh.This is a good film for anyone who doesn't know much about this case as it is probably the nearest we will ever get to the truth of what happened that day.Chris Ecclestons performance was great in one of his earliest roles.
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A wonderful piece of work- riveting and unsettling.
rosie12514 December 1999
This is a brilliant film. If you've ever heard of this case but not identified with it, or think that justice is always done in court, WATCH THIS FILM. I watched it and struggled not to cry- even as a fictional story it would be moving, but the fact that it is real makes it even more poignant. The shots are brilliant too and this makes it one of the best political films I have ever seen. This film will force you to rethink your views on capital punishment.
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9/10
Very good, thought-provoking movie
smileatalltimes10 January 2006
I can't say with honesty that I 'enjoyed' this film exactly, because it's not a 'bundle of laughs', but it did blow me away and really set my mind wandering. It's a difficult subject matter and would be easy to over-play, but it's handled very well and is well worth watching. If anyone is in favour of the 'death-penalty for pointless or inexcusable acts of murder' , this films is for you.

Christopher Eccleston is wonderful and raw in it and gives a very vulnerable and yet gritty performance without camping it up at all. Also the lady who plays his Mum is wonderful (sorry, can't remember the actresses name).
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The shocking true story of a miscarriage of justice that will forever stain the honor of the British legal system
grafspee22 October 2005
Derek Bentley a partly retarded youth due to an injury as a child in a bombing raid in World War 11 becomes involved with Christopher Craig and other anti-social misfits called "teddy boys" during the early 1950's.

In November 1952 Craig, with Bentley under his influence decide to rob a confectionery business in Croydon, London but are observed climbing onto the roof of the building and are reported to the police.

When the police arrive and apprehend the youths, Craig opens fire on the officers from a concealed gun killing P.C. Miles, although Bentley has already surrendered beforehand to Detective Fairfax, already wounded by Craig in an earlier part of the shootout.

At the following trial of the two youths for murder, the already biased Lord Chief Justice Goddard is determined to exact the supreme vengeance on the perpetrators of this crime. Craig who fired the shot killing the Police Constable is detained at Her Majesty's pleasure being a juvenile under the age of 16 years. Bentley aged 19 and considered an adult is sentenced to death as an accomplice.

Despite a public outcry over Bentley's fate, and petitions made to save him from the gallows, the Home Secretary Sir David Maxwell Fyfe refuses to grant him a reprieve,and Bentley is hanged on 28th January 1953.

The great irony of this case is that the Home Secretary was the successful chief British Prosecutor of the Nazi War Criminals in 1946 in Nuremburg but tarnished his reputation in a most disgraceful manner in the way he treated the semi-illiterate Derek Bentley who was made the condemned victim for his part in this crime because the real killer could not face the supreme penalty.

The other most shameful and disgusting aspect of this case is that it took over 45 years for the unforgiving self righteous British law courts and representations to the various Governments of the day, to finally overturn the conviction of Derek Bentley, although both his parents had died beforehand, but at least give the rest of his surviving family the satisfaction of knowing that his sentence was totally improper and unjust.

Christopher Eccleston gives a fine performance as Derek Bentley, along with Tom Courtenay as Bentley's father, who wages a relentless but futile attempt to save his son from his fate. The rest of the supporting cast is great.

A must see for those who think justice is blind and fair to everyone.
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9/10
wow.............
joey111714 November 2006
Im speechless, I am truly speechless, this movie, takes a little bit to get into, but when you get it, it is a great movie, filled with crime, action and drama. Each twisted and moved and swirled around in the movie. Major bonus point to the writers. Christopher Eccelson, who now plays the new doctor who, does a superb job in the movie. Even though hes like 20 something and he plays a 19 year old. The Court system that they used in the 50's style england is very accurate. Even right down to the wigs they use in the court. Let him have it is a must see. you may, or may not like it. It is a really great movie, that should be on the list for movies to see.
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