I would love this film if only for its music: the beginning, to me, was the most perfect part, when the choir of inmates resounds through the prison, passing on the message that one inmate is back. Their repetitive bellowing intermixes with random sounds, John Dankworth’s moody jazz music, the theme song “Thieving boy”, sung by Cleo Laine and lonesome calypso of Guyanese Tomy Eytle. I found these scenes so unforgettable that I think they will forever live in my brain next to the street scenes and mannequin fighting from Stanley Kubrick’s “The Killing”, which is a film often compared to “The Criminal”. And rightly so, because both are masterful noir films that don’t hide their lack of darkness with black ink. Stanley Baker, who is my latest obsession, because he was a gangster socialist, and kind of the Michael K Williams of black&white UK cinema, is so creepy and wonderful. I only wish the black men in prison had more story time (ok, I’m spoiled by The Wire), even though the “Ok Sailor?” refrain of one of them is loaded and haunting.
The Criminal (Concrete Jungle), 1960
Director: Joseph Losey