Directed by American expatriate Joseph Losey, who fled to England as a result of the Hollywood blacklist, The Criminal is an uncompromising crime drama scripted by Alun Owen from an original story by Hammer screenwriter Jimmy Sangster. Losey’s morality tale of crime, betrayal and institutionalized mistreatment explores the contradictions of the tough guy submerged within the self-contained prison and underworld culture. Robert Krasker’s superb cinematography creates a suitably harsh, bleak visual style. There are fine performances by Stanley Baker as the brutal central character based on notorious Soho gangster Albert Dimes, and Patrick Magee is suitably sinister as Barrows, the corrupt prison guard.
Recently released from prison, tough criminal mastermind Johnny Bannion immediately sets in motion plans for a brazen daylight robbery on a racecourse. His only stumbling block is that the underworld racketeer represented by Carter wants a bigger share for laundering the stolen money. The heist goes off without a hitch and Bannion drives out into the country to hide the loot, but when he returns to his West End flat, Bannion discovers police inspector Town is waiting to place him under arrest. Subsequently sent back to jail and into the clutches of callous prison warder Barrows, Bannion offers to hand over all the loot to prison godfather Frank Saffron in exchange for being sprung from jail. The escape duly goes ahead when Bannion is being transferred to another prison and now it’s his turn to keep his side of the bargain by telling the double-dealing Carter where the money is. —Britmovie.co.uk
Joseph Walton Losey (January 14, 1909, La Crosse, Wisconsin – June 22, 1984, London) was an American theater and film director. After studying in Germany with Bertolt Brecht, Losey returned to the United States, eventually making his way to Hollywood.
While in Hollywood, Losey co-directed the original U.S. production of Galileo, by Brecht, with Brecht himself as the other co-director. Charles Laughton, who had worked with Brecht on the translation / adaptation, performed the lead role. In the context of that production, Losey also made a half hour film based on Galileo’s life.
During the McCarthy Era, Losey was investigated for his supposed ties with the Communist Party and was blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studio bosses. His career in shambles, he moved to London, where he continued working as a director.
Even in the UK, he experienced problems: his first British film, The Sleeping Tiger, a 1954 film noir crime thriller, bore the pseudonym Victor Hanbury… read more
The Criminal is the first of the numerous masterpieces Joseph Losey directed in the 60's. With The Damned (another summit of his work) shot the following year, Losey says goodbye to the genre films with panache. Yes, The Criminal is Brechtian with its way to avoid emotions and handle violence with a distant caution, Yes, The Criminal is Kafkaïan in the way Losey describes Stanley Baker's luxurious apartment that finally isn't so different than Baker's cell and yes The Criminal is openly the work of a left-wing director who assimilates the prison's structure as the organs of a public company. The result is a formidable British film noir. Indispensable.