BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Jan 6th, 2013 •

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This blend of WHITE HEAT with UK mod gangster Ronnie Kray, is an intentionally dismal looking affair, whose dialogue (use of the word ‘sordid’ crops up too often to be randomly chosen), super-grainy washed-out look, and slimy-Limey lead Richard Burton’s penchant for gut-punching his victims and his hapless male lover, all swirl turgidly together to produce a vulgar little noir that makes no concessions to its audience.

So who are the responsible talents involved:
Director Michael Tuchner has a lot of credits, but not much biographical info. He also directed the BAFTA TV award winning television play BAR MITZVAH BOY, and the 1983 Disney live-action film TRENCHCOAT. VILLAIN was his first feature. He left the underworld milieu shortly after, and remained outside it.

Cinematographer Christopher Challis has a long and distinguished resume. If you think that VILLAIN’s grimy look was accidental, think again. He shot THE TALES OF HOFFMANN for Powell & Pressburger, not to mention TWO FOR THE ROAD, ARABESQUE, THE WILD HEART and THE GRASS IS GREENER. He was capable of creating images of great beauty.

Producer Alan Ladd Jr. started his career in England, also producing THENIGHTCOMERS with Marlon Brando, and Tuchner’s second film, FEAR IS THE KEY. He later became President of 20th Century Fox, and returned to producing with, among other films, a lovely noir called GONE BABY GONE, directed by Ben Affleck.

Producer Jay Kanter was a theatrical agent for Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Marlon Brando. Not surprisingly he was also a producer on THE NIGHTCOMERS, but in addition was involved in a production capacity in a cult Brit horror flick called RAW MEAT.

Exec Producer Elliott Kastner also received production credits on WHERE EAGLES DARE, HARPER, THE NIGHT OF THE FOLLOWING DAY, EQUUS and THE MISSOURI BREAKS.

Screenwriter Dick Clement did a lot of TV, but also ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and THE BANK JOB. And Ian La Frenais went uncredited as a scripter on NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN. He and Clements worked together a lot and formed a company together.

Interesting people all, who obviously saw the quirky merit in VILLAIN, and hoped for the best, but they were largely unsuccessful. The dialogue in the first half hour feels like it should have been in a stage play. The actors seem uncomfortable much of the time. Burton comes to life, clearly relishing the sadistic nature of his role. Fiona Lewis, in a thankless role, makes the best of it, and has a gorgeous body. She later appeared in DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN, but not as Vulnavia.

Close as Burton’s performance may be to Ronnie Kray, including his homosexual obsessions (Kray proudly claimed to be bi-sexual), I can’t find any info to support his having a mother fixation on Violet Kray, though he and his twin brother Reggie were allowed out of prison to attend her funeral. So I assume the screenwriters stirred the Raoul Walsh film into the mix.

VILLAIN is definitely worth seeing. Maybe not worth owning.

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