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Roman Baker
Roman Baker

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They Made Me a Fugitive (AKA: I Became a Criminal) is directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, and adapted to screenplay by Noel Langley from the novel A Convict Has Escaped written by Jackson Budd. It stars Trevor Howard, Sally Gray, Griffith Jones, Rene Ray and Mary Merrall. Music is by Marius-Francois Gaillard and cinematography by Otto Heller.Ex-RAF man Clem Morgan (Howard) finds civilian life is dull and a struggle for him to ingratiate himself into. Searching for some excitement he is tempted into joining a black market gang fronted by ruthless Narcy (Jones). But Clem and Narcy don't exactly hit it off and when disaster strikes during a getaway, Clem finds himself set up as a fall-guy. So begins a tale of murder, beatings and revenge.Call it either Brit film noir or spiv crime melodrama, they Made Me a Fugitive is a 100% potent and important movie in the cycle of British crime films that came out in the late 1940's; films that caused quite a stir upon their release. Shifting from wartime propaganda to post-war malaise and the dubious moral conditions of the cities, "Fugitive", and films of its ilk such as Brighton Rock, baited the censors at the BBFC, where although some minor tone downs were used as a compromise, Cavalcanti refused to bow down to any requests for striping the film of its violence and grim social realistic core. His standing was such that the film was passed uncut for release in the summer of 47, thus it was able to shock the contemporary British audience. Sadly American audiences were not so lucky, instead receiving a cut minus 20 minutes, that was released under the title I Became a Criminal in 1948. Suffice to say that the only version to see these days is the one that runs at just under 100 minutes in length.Hard to believe that such a tough picture was scripted by the same guy who wrote the screenplays for the Wizard of Oz (1939) and Scrooge (1951), but that is the case. Langley's teaming with Cavalcanti and Heller proved to be a great one, ensuring that the film looked, sounded and played out as the grim tale it ultimately is. The violence, and in fact the staging of such, is of course tame when viewed nowadays, but the film has such a sense of time period it's easy to get transported into the movie and feel the unflinching nature of the beast. Besides, the violence against women and coppers used here will always carry with it a sense of nastiness. Film is also boosted by the performances of Howard (making no attempt to play Clem as likable), Jones (eloquent spiv nastiness supreme) and Gray (hot to trot). Howard was right in the middle of what would be a purple period in his career, with Brief Encounter just behind him and The Third Man on the horizon, Howard was on form. That this film warrants being mentioned in the same breath as those two movies is testament to its, and his, worth.Perhaps a little surprising given the itchy texture of the film, there's also some dark humour within. It's not for nothing that the bad guys work out of a funeral parlour, where constant reminders of death are evident via the coffins and sarcastic advertisements on the walls. This base also acts as the back drop to the big face off during the finale, tensely played out on the roof where a huge sign grimly reads R.I.P. Where the film gets its Brit film noir tag from is due to the look provided by Heller's photography and the scenes constructed by Cavalcanti in dimly lit rooms and ramshackle alleyways. While the ending, thankfully, doesn't cop out and ensures that no film noir fan will be disappointed. All in it's a classic piece of British crime film making, taking chances by not shying away from playing the drama straight and true, while revelling in a mood of bitterness. 9/10




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I don't know where the comparisons to "The Third Man" come from. This movie and Carol Reed's masterpiece have little in common except the use of smuggling as a crime. This movie is a little slow at first but engages the viewer after the first ten minutes or so. Nothing much more than that.A diverting post-war tale of a gang of British criminals led by Narcy. Something to do with smuggling and robberies. Returned and demobilized RAF hero Trevor Howard joins them out of desperation. Narcy doesn't like "amateurs" and frames Howard for a murder. Howard escapes and, aided by another "amateur", the pouty and sensual blond, Sally Grey, he spends the rest of his time trying to track the gang members down and get them to spill the beans about his innocence. They, in turn, are anxious for him to be silenced. There is a climactic brawl between Howard and the gang members in the Valhalla Casket Company. The wind up is that Narcy falls off a roof and is killed without confessing to Howard's innocence. Howard is sent off to jail again and Grey shouts that she'll wait for him.Man, these settings are seedy and so are the people. They're cynical, greedy, totally lacking in compassion. The dialog is -- I hope -- intentionally and amusingly overblown. Cop to Narcy, referring to Narcy's bodyguard: "I see you brought Frankenstein along." Narcy: "He's working his way through college." And, later, Narcy to a sobbing young woman: "Shut your trap. There's a draft." And Howard's refrain: "I believe you; thousands wouldn't." And then there are the names, Soapy, Aggie, Curly, Fidgety Phil. It's as if the writer and director were doing a semi-serious parody of American films noir, except that when this was shot there were no such things as films noir. They may have had the earlier gangster movies in mind -- "Little Caesar" and the like -- or it may have been a case of independent invention.I will now point out two differences between "I Became a Fugitive" and American crime dramas of the period. One -- and I find this morally offensive -- is that the British movie makes use of the word "damn" -- twice. It made my hackles rise. How would the Brits have felt if we upright, God-fearing, Americans had thrown "bloody" about in a recklessly adjectival manner, eh? "Bloody" -- now there's a silly taboo word if I ever heard one. And don't even get me started on "bum" and "bottom" and "Bristol." Here's another difference. In this dark British crime drama, hardly anybody has a gun! When the gang is together, planning to murder Howard, Narcy has to ask who's carrying a piece. You, Curly? "Nah, I always use me toothpick." (Switchblade knife.) Finally Narcy manages to locate a gun -- not even a snub-nosed .38 -- and hands it to one of the gang who, get this, refuses to promise he'll use it. The gun is fired during the climactic fight, but only once deliberately, and it misses. When Howard is holding the loaded automatic and the knife wielder is charging him, Howard flings the pistol at his assailant and it bounces from his forehead. In a good, old-fashioned, honest American movie, that climactic fight would end up with a warehouse awash in blood, with Uzis puncturing every puncturable object within miles, with dead bodies hanging from meat hooks, eyeballs rolling around on the floor like marbles.I'm kidding about all that, but what really was something of a surprise at the end was when Scotland Yard carts Howard off to the slams and he's saying good-bye to the dewy eyed blond who loves him. Since no one has admitted that Howard was framed, he's off to serve out his original sentence -- and more. The Inspector gives only a hint that he might escape this punishment. It was surprising because, after all, Howard has killed no one, is guilty of nothing more than small-time smuggling, and has been willingly instrumental in helping the police capture the gang. On top of that, he's presumably willing to testify against them in court, which will close a few open cases. It's believable but a touch grim.The director handles everything pretty deftly but has a tendency to have the actor stare directly into the camera when making a pronouncement. And these aren't point-of-view shots. They're just people speaking to a lens. Howard is good, Gray is bland, and Griffith Jones, who plays Narcy, is reduced to a stereotype with his gangsta talk. He always sneers, orders helpless women to be beaten with heavy belts, never says thanks, and shows no affection or unusual habits. He has no redeeming features and no interesting ones either. I don't think he was meant to play the role clownishly but that's how it comes across.It isn't badly done but it's unjust to compare it to "The Third Man" or even noirs like "Cry of the City."


When I started watching "Clue" I was amused by the fact that it was based on the famous game of the same name. Two or three actors that I liked are also listed in the cast, so I thought I might give this a shot, if only for curiosity value. Well, what do you know, "Clue" is one of the most fast paced and wittiest play-like comedies ever committed to film! Somehow the makers really managed to make this an original crime/comedy that spoofs all the Agatha Christie whodunnit-movies and blending it effortlessly with references to the the game. The script is so witty and clever it seems like a modern Oscar Wilde-adaptation. The actors and actresses help making it come to life. Even though I was mainly watching this for Christopher Lloyd (who starred in "Back To The Future" that same year, which is kinda hard to believe if you compare his looks in the two movies), Tim Curry (whose performance here seriously rivals all his other great roles like Frank 'N' Furter and Pennywise The Clown) and Michael McKean (great as ever), the whole cast really blew me away, because it had such a great on screen-chemistry together.Up until the ending (the three different endings, that is), "Clue" is one hell of an entertaining ride that doesn't bore you for a second. This one is a real sleeper, one of the greatest and most overlooked comedies of the 80's. If you get a chance to watch it, definitely do so!


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