The Controversies of British Crime Film During the 1940's

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The controversies surrounding British crime film releases between 1947 and 1949 are not due to the films themselves, but rather the ways in which the filmmakers were imitating Hollywood cinema’. Making reference to one British crime film in this period alongside primary and secondary source materials, explain to what extent this statement is true?

The Controversies surrounding British post-war crime dramas are often thought of as being the visually distasteful and sordid, mindless violence that could be found in British crime dramas at a time when censorship was unstable, but the controversial nature of these films are embedded much deeper than that. They root themselves deep within the fabric of society, it asks some very important questions about the state of the country post-war and how these films caused mass hysteria which reached the highest levels of government. This essay is about the fragile nature of a society in an unstable economy in a changing landscape, which threatens to belittle the police and glorify the criminal gangs. It compares British crime dramas to the Hollywood gangster films of the 1930’s and compares the similar styles and looks at what this meant for British film culture.

The 1947 film ‘Brighton Rock’, based on the 1938 Graham Greene novel of the same name, was one of the more controversial films of the time. Grenne worked on the adaptation of the novel, credited as co-writer of the screenplay. Greene is infamous for attacking popular culture and the social, political and economic systems of the time. Books such as ‘Brighton Rock’, ‘A Gun for Hire’ and ‘The Ministry of Fear’ can all be viewed as a commentary on the state of humanity, whereas the film adaptations of these books are more concerned with...

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...s such as Brighton Rock, They mad me a fugitive, Noose and No Orchids for Miss Blandish, it isn’t clear whether these films reflect the mood and tone of the nation or influence it. Although the Blue Lamp was an obvious form of police propaganda, did it change the way in which people viewed the police? Maybe, but then again the BBFC had regained stability and had hardened its certification process after the media and government uproar, so a lot of the spiv movies that would have been recently passed now didn’t stand a chance. And finally, it is important to remember that as with any public controversy, especially surrounding films, most of the hysteria was upheld by people that, more than likely, hadn’t even seen the movies. They are just the vociferous public who wish to feel that they have a part to play in a debate, despite not knowing what they are talking about.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that the controversies surrounding british crime film releases between 1947 and 1949 are not due to the films themselves, but rather the ways in which the filmmakers were imitating hollywood cinema.
  • Compares british post-war crime dramas to hollywood gangster films of the 1930's and examines what this meant for british film culture.
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