Kidnapped heiress falls in love with her gangster abductor, with tragic results.
A fascinating film in many ways, not necessarily because it's good, but fascinating nonetheless. It seems to be more widely known now for the excoriating contemporary criticism it received than for anything involving the actual film. And in this modern age, it's hard to see what the fuss was. Indeed, the criticism seems more reflective of the hypocrisy of postwar Britain and America than anything actually onscreen (i.e. it's fine to firebomb civilians, but morally abhorrent to portray sex or violence in the movies). It doesn't help that modern-day "critics" (i.e. regurgitators) like Halliwell and Maltin merely snigger the same line.
That all being said, the attempt to generate an American atmosphere in a British film is a noble failure at best and utterly woeful at worst. The continual interruption of specialty nightclub acts doesn't help the film's pace, either. The violence is indeed over the top, but moreso because it's so ludicrously overdone, especially when the gang starts to eliminate witnesses in such an over the top way than it guarantees the cops will crash down on them hard. That's more the fault of James Hadley Chase's pulpy source novel. That ending is sure something, though!
A few of the cast are good (Crisham, Parke and Goldner especially), most are stiff and obviously out of their comfort zones playing Americans, some can't act (Marsden), some can't act OR sing (Gail), and some are completely undescribable (Lester's police captain and McDermott's "American" Scots accent). There are highlights, though: Travers' dead soul Miss Blandish, drifitng like a doomed ghost through her scenes, Nielson's nasty little punk, Balfour's pathetic drunk, and Sid James being quintessentially Jamesian even this early in his career.
In the end, not a great film by any means, but the seediness of the film accurately reflects the seediness of its denizens, and makes it linger in one's mind for longer than it perhaps has any right to on purely aesthetic grounds.
Thanks to Gerald Lovell and Scott Palmer for identifying many of the unknowns!