In 1950s England, slow-witted Derek Bentley falls in with a group of petty criminals led by Chris Craig, a teenager with a fondness for American gangster movies. Chris and Derek's friendship leads to their involvement in the case which would forever shake the United Kingdom's belief in capital punishment.Written by
Scott Renshaw <firstname.lastname@example.org>
William Bentley tells his son that no-one had been hanged in the 20th century where the jury recommended mercy and the Judge agreed. He may have been trying to comfort his son, but the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment (1953) Cmd 8932, note 5 on page 11, states that there had been six such cases in England and one in Scotland between 1900 and 1949 when this had happened. See more »
[after jumping off the roof and falling through a glass ceiling to escape police]
I wish I was fuckin' dead... I woulda killed the fuckin' lot of ya!
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This is a very convincing film of the life of Derek Bentley and his eventual execution. 1950s Britain is just beginning to emerge from the years of post-War austerity with all of the milk bars, pop records and teddy boy youth culture showing a new, malign confidence. The undercurrent is definitely youth crime gone wild. But is Derek Bentley really one of the gang?
Christopher Eccleston is absolutely brilliant playing Bentley, and truly captures the inner torment and diffidence of a young man suffering from years of epilepsy and failure at school. Bentley is clearly not normal and probably more impressionable than most people of his age this is the essence of this tragic story. He wants to be like everyone else but stupidly chooses the wrong people or do they choose him?
You are never sure whether Bentley's friend Chris Craig (the brilliant Paul Reynolds) is a nasty piece of work or maybe someone else led astray, this time by his truly monstrous, menacing older brother Niven Craig (Mark McGann) who he sees receiving 10 years for armed resistance to police arrest. Who is Craig - is he Pinkie in Brighton Rock (Boulting 1947), Jimmy Hanley in the Blue Lamp (Dearden, 1950) or one of the famous five with a gun?
After his brother's trial, Chris lies down at night and then rather poignantly and in a nice little flourish from director Peter Medak lays down his handgun on his bedside table, finding a gap amongst his toy cars, trams and aeroplanes. Perhaps he's just a naïve little kid after all.
When the gang goes to the cinema what else would they watch but a Jimmy Cagney gangster movie? Maybe if they'd watched the Blue Lamp instead they would have been warned off.
Anyway, Bentley clearly did not murder the policeman on the rooftop - that was Craig (some say it was a policeman's bullet gone astray). Bentley was executed for a crime he did not commit, pure and simple.
Good, haunting musical score by Michael Kamen.
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