British Crime Cinema

British Crime Cinema

British Crime Cinema

British Crime Cinema


This is the first substantial study of British cinema's most neglected genre. Bringing together original work from some of the leading writers on British popular film, this book includes interviews with key directors Mike Hodges ( Get Carter ) and Donald Cammel ( Performance ). It discusses an abundance of films including:* acclaimed recent crime films such as Shallow Grave , Shopping , and Face .* early classics like They Made Me A Fugitive * acknowledged classics such as Brighton Rock and The Long Good Friday * 50s seminal works including The Lavender Hill Mob and The Ladykillers .


Part of what s good about The Long Good Friday, you really did buy that these guys were villains. In our case, you didn't have any choice, because our guys are villains

(Guy Richie, director of Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels (1998),
interviewed by Tom Charity, Time Out, 12-19 August 1998)

The crime genre is likely to assume a prominence in discussion of the national cinemas of the United States, Japan and France. Why is it, then, that it plays little or no part in critics' discussions of British cinema? Denis Gifford classifies a monumental 1,336 (26 per cent) of British films released between 1930 and 1983 as crime films, but they have been relegated to an underworld beneath the critical gaze. The coterie of writers who, in the 1940s, did so much to codify the values of 'quality' British cinema (Ellis 1996) largely dismissed indigenous attempts at making crime films as both imitative of American originals and in poor taste. Their views reinforced an ideology of censorship that approached any sordid subject matter with suspicion and viewed an emphasis on criminality as essentially un-British. The felonious crime genre was rigorously excluded from the canon of social realist cinema and imprisoned in the Gulag Britannia reserved for unrespectable elements of British film culture. As Charles Barr (1986:14) has noted, this incarceration received official sanction in 1948 when Harold Wilson, as President of the Board of Trade, condemned 'gangster, sadistic and psychological films', and called for 'more films which genuinely show our way of life'. Ever since, crime films have been the British genre that 'dare not speak its name', largely ignored even in the critical literature on the social problem film (Hill 1986; Landy 1991).

While the American gangster movie and film noir have been feted by scholars, their recalcitrant British brethren have continued to languish unconsidered and unseen by all but a handful of insomniac television viewers. The films have been overlooked in the rush to liberate other British genre offerings for critical re-evaluation. The academic interest heralded by Julian Petley's (1986) call for volunteers to explore the 'lost continent' of British non-realist film may have sent cultural cartographers rushing towards Hammer horrors

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