Tuesday, December 05, 2006

British Film Noir

Why has there been so little written on Briitish crime movies of the 1940s through the 1950s? Hundreds of such films were made, many of them of a very high quality. Not just well known films like Brighton Rock, the American made Night and the City, Get Carter and Performance, but those films that were the equivalent of US film noir, and made during the period that is often referred to as the golden age of film noir. Many of the films made in Britain were even darker and more bleak in outlook than their American counterparts. Such films, influenced by expressionism as well as social realism, deserved to be remembered and revived. With some great actors, like Stanley Baker, Bonar Colleano (cited by Ian Dury in Reasons to Be Cheerful), Diana Dors, Googie Withers, and a number of very excellent writers, like Graham Greene, Gerald Butler, Robert Hamer, Joan Henry, Julian Maclaren-Ross, John Gilling, Penrose Tennyson, Alan Falconer, Val Guest, etc.. They can be roughly divided into underworld films (They Drive By Night), post-war spiv films (They Made Me a Fugitive), which lasted until the end of rationing and economic recovery during the early 1950s, then the films that used crime movies to raise issues of class and moral deviation (Pool of London, Hell Drivers, Yield to the Night). The demise of such films had as much to do with the political climate as to the integration of a criminal element back into society, the drop in the crime rate, changes in the law regarding gambling and prostitution, the end of double features and b-movies, and, of course, a general disdain by middle class film critics. Even future prime minister, back in the days when he was head of the Board of Trade, condemned "crime, sadistic and psychological" films. I suspect there was also pressure from Hollywood, as there was in France, to show more of their films. But clearly many excellent movies have been wiped from public memory. What's more, other than Chibnall and Murphy's excellent collection of essays and isolated chapters in various books, there has been virtually nothing written on the subject. http://www.facebook.com/facebook-widgets/share.php

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