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?]