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Tea and Larceny: Classic British Crime Films

September 2, 2009 - September 26, 2009

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Night and the City, September 5

Here at home, we may have our “mean streets,” as Raymond Chandler called them, but England has its own bleak equivalent, a cobbled stretch paved in battery and betrayal. Tea and Larceny is no parlor game for the well-behaved teetotaler, but a boisterous gathering of gin-soaked malcontents bent on mayhem, malarkey, and murder most foul. Not necessarily noir, each film does set its sights on misdeeds of lurid ambition, corrupted love, or poorly pent pathology. We’ve avoided the usual suspects such as Carol Reed’s The Third Man or The Fallen Idol, instead digging up cold cases like I Met a Murderer, So Evil My Love, The October Man, and the foul-scented No Orchids for Miss Blandish, as well as the recently exhumed Brighton Rock and It Always Rains on Sunday. Beyond the dank country manors and fog-draped alleyways, beyond the prim sitting rooms and cliff-edged highways, lies a scheming sensibility that is England’s own. Though a few films, like Obsession and Night and the City, have ties to the tough mugs of American movies, most give up the goods as only the Brits could do it—it’s all menace hiding behind the manners.

Steve Seid
Video Curator

Wednesday, September 2, 2009
7:00 p.m. Obsession
Edward Dmytryk (U.K., 1949). A very proper psychiatrist plots a “perfect crime” in this acidly witty thriller, “a first-rate study in suspense.”—N.Y. Times (98 mins)

Thursday, September 3, 2009
6:30 p.m. Footsteps in the Fog
Arthur Lubin (U.K., 1955). Murderous aristocrat Stewart Granger’s crime is discovered by scheming servant girl Jean Simmons, who wouldn’t mind becoming the new lady of the manor. A Gaslight-like Edwardian noir enveloped in London fog. (90 mins)

Thursday, September 3, 2009
8:20 p.m. I Met a Murderer
Roy Kellino (U.K., 1939). James Mason stars as a murderer on the run in this early noir, a rare example of independent filmmaking in 1930s Britain. “Graceful, gallant, resourceful . . . better than most studio pictures.”—James Agee (78 mins)

Friday, September 4, 2009
8:30 p.m. It Always Rains on Sunday
Robert Hamer (U.K., 1947). An escaped convict seeks refuge in London’s dreary East End in this fatalistic Ealing Studios noir, from the director of Dead of Night and Kind Hearts and Coronets. “A masterpiece . . . a brilliantly written choral work.”—Bertrand Tavernier (92 mins)

Saturday, September 5, 2009
6:30 p.m. It Always Rains on Sunday
Robert Hamer (U.K., 1947). See September 4. (92 mins)

Saturday, September 5, 2009
8:25 p.m. Night and the City
Jules Dassin (U.K., 1950). Richard Widmark brilliantly plays a club tout and compulsive striver in this underworld classic that “turns all of London into a giant expressionist trap.”—Village Voice (95 mins)

Sunday, September 6, 2009
7:00 p.m. Hell Drivers
Cy Endfield (U.K., 1957). The trucking business is a microcosm of capitalist exploitation in this full-throttle thriller featuring Stanley Baker, Patrick McGoohan, and a young Sean Connery. “An unjustly neglected nail-biter.”—Time Out (108 mins)

Thursday, September 10, 2009
6:30 p.m. The Snorkel
Guy Green (U.K., 1958). A debonair villain turns a piece of scuba-diving equipment into an unusual instrument of murder in this clever chiller from the Hammer studios. (90 mins)

Thursday, September 10, 2009
8:20 p.m. Noose
Edmond T. Greville (U.K., 1948). A brassy Yankee reporter and her ex-commando fiancé take on British mobsters who are cornering the postwar black market. “Boldly stylized direction gives this grippingly black yet bleakly funny thriller an almost Wellesian edge.”—Time Out (95 mins)

Friday, September 11, 2009
8:40 p.m. So Evil My Love
Lewis Allen (U.K., 1948). Straitlaced widow Ann Todd falls for compelling con artist Ray Milland in this period melodrama of larceny, blackmail, and murder. (112 mins)

Saturday, September 12, 2009
6:30 p.m. The October Man
Roy Ward Baker (U.K., 1947). Eric Ambler provided the sardonic script for this murder mystery–cum–psychological melodrama. John Mills stars as an innocent man whose own self-doubt makes him a suspect. (110 mins)

Friday, September 18, 2009
6:30 p.m. She Played with Fire
Sidney Gilliat (U.K., 1957). This rarely seen gem from the great Launder-Gilliat writing-directing team brings a touch of British Gothic to a complicated mystery of forgery, insurance fraud, and worse. (95 mins)

Saturday, September 19, 2009
8:30 p.m. Brighton Rock
John Boulting (U.K., 1947). Richard Attenborough stars as a teenage psychopath leading a gang of toughs in Britain’s seedy Brighton Rock resort. Written by Graham Greene. “The best film to capture Greene’s seedy world of evil, sin, and betrayal.”—The Observer (92 mins)

Sunday, September 20, 2009
5:00 p.m. The Long Haul
Ken Hughes (U.K., 1957). Racketeering is the principal cargo in this well-tuned tale starring Victor Mature as a trucker in trouble. (88 mins)

Saturday, September 26, 2009
8:30 p.m. No Orchids for Miss Blandish
St. John L. Clowes (U.K., 1948). An heiress falls for the leader of a crime syndicate in this Z-grade gangster noir. “The most sickening exhibition of brutality, perversion, sex, and sadism ever to be shown on a cinema screen.”—Monthly Film Bulletin (102 mins)

Series curated at PFA by Steve Seid. PFA wishes to thank Bruce Goldstein, Film Forum, for spearheading this series, as well as the British Film Institute, BBC, Park Circus, Sony Pictures, and John Henderson and Richard Gordon for their generosity. Tea and Larceny is dedicated to film historian and collector William K. Everson—he saw it all, first.