Some Brits playing ugly Americans…

Whoaa!!  What a strange film this is, No Orchands for Miss Blandish! Sounds like a little parlor drama, doesn’t it?  Nope, not a chance!

I just happened to catch the second half of this on TV without knowing what it was, but I was hooked by the violence and sex.  What else is there in film?  It’s 1948, and British, but look at this lock-lipped kissing!  It goes on for quite a while – quite unusual.  The censors thought so too, and the film went into oblivion in the UK and the USA, only to become a “cult” favorite.  Apparently, it was revived in 2009.

Many comment on the fact that it is a UK gangster film set in NYC, and that the actors don’t quite get their accents right.  That didn’t strike me – I just thought it was an earlier film, made when actors still spoke in “stage English.”  That made its raw violence and passionate embracing seem even stranger.  From what I’ve read, I missed quite a lot in the first half!

What’s it about?  Some hoods kidnap a rich society girl, and she falls in love with the boss.  The usual interpersonal conflicts ensue among the gang members.

Here’s the cover of the source material for the story.  The image says it all.  I read somewhere that the novel is a pulp-ized version of Faulkner’s Sanctuary, a novel that is not short on violence, sex, and perversion.  What a lineage!

George Orwell wrote an essay comparing this book to the Raffles crime books, and now I’m dying to read the original!  Ah, George!  This is a classic line:

In Mr. Chase’s books there are no gentlemen and no taboos. Emancipation is complete. Freud and Machiavelli have reached the outer suburbs

[Note from 12/11/10:  Okay, now I’ve read the book, and watched the film again.  The book is one of the most sordid and lurid I’ve ever read.  The Grisson gang kills Miss Blandish’s kidnappers and takes her for their own purposes.  Their impotent psychopath gunslinger, Slim, takes a fancy to her.  Doc helps him out by keeping her perpetually drugged.  Ma Grisson, the brains of the outfit, likes Slim being occupied.  When she’s freed and the drugs wear off, she kills herself.  In the film, au contraire, she falls in love with Slim.  “Oh, I know you’ve killed people…but I love you!”  When she frees herself, she kills herself in despair at loosing her lover.  The only man who could…excite her.  Which do you think is the better story?]

10 Responses to Some Brits playing ugly Americans…

  1. I love film noir, but I don’t think I’ve actually seen this film. It sounds an interesting curiosity. In my experience, British actors rarely get American accents right, and it’s perhaps best not to try. I have seen British casts perform American plays such as “Death of a Salesman” and “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” on stage, and, wisely, I think, they underplayed the accents.

    I haven’t read the James Hadley Chase novel either, but I don’t really see how it can have more gratuitous sex & violence than Faulkner’s “Sanctuary”. But I’ll certainly watch out for this film.

  2. Ducky's here says:

    Book caused a bit of a stir when it was published, I believe. Times have changed.

    Wouldn’t have made it past the Hays Code in the U.S.

  3. Lichanos says:

    It is said that the book was the most popular novel with the men and women serving in the British armed forces during WWII.

  4. Guy Savage says:

    Yes, it’s a strange one, but I really liked its weirdness. I left a comment on my blog about the orchid sequence that takes place in the beginning of the film (and then there’s a final scene too).

    Made me think about Patti Hearst.

  5. I’ve just read this. Guy left a comment that you had too.
    I can’t believe she falls for Slim in the film version. What a betrayal!

  6. Guy Savage says:

    I think Orwell is WRONG when he says that Miss Blandish jumped out the window because she couldn’t do without Slim’s caresses (or words along those lines).

    • Lichanos says:

      Hmmm…it’s been a while since I read it and saw the flick, but as I recall the movie, she kills herself in depair at loosing her lover, isn’t that right? So…maybe Orwell saw the movie and got them confused? Is that possible?

  7. Guy Savage says:

    I have two book versions: in the first one, she kills herself clearly because she cannot live with her memories (and the book has fairly constant references to the fact that she must be dead because to think otherwise is too disgusting). The second version has her noticeably PG right before she throws herself out of the window.

    Who knows which version Orwell read. He died in 1950 and the film was 48 so I suppose he could have seen it.
    And yes, that is the way the film played it.

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