They Made Me a Fugitive (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
July 15, 2012 by Dennis Amith
“They Made Me a Fugitive” is suspenseful thriller with many unexpected moments. Featuring a wonderful performance by actor Trevor Howard and an entertaining British film noir that looks great on Blu-ray!
TITLE: They Made Me a Fugitive (I Became a Criminal)
YEAR OF RELEASE: 1947
DURATION: 100 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:33:1), Black and White, 2.0 Mono
COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber
RATED: Not Rated
Release Date: July 24, 2012
Directed by Alberto Cavalcanti
Based on the Novel “A Convict Has Escaped” by Jackson Budd
Screenplay by Noel Langley
Produced by Nat A. Bronstein
Executive Producer: James A. Carter
Associate Producer: Noel Langley
Music by Marius-Francois Gaillard
Cinematography by Otto Heller
Edited by Margery Saunders
Art Direction by Andrew Mazzei
Sally Gray as Sally Connor
Trevor Howard as George Clement “Clem” Morgan
Griffith Jones as Narcy
Rene Ray as Cora
Mary Merrall as Aggie
Charles Farrell as Curley
Michael Brennan as Jim
Jack McNaughton as Soapy
Cyril Smith as Bert
John Penrose as Shawney
Eve Ashley as Ellen
Phyllis Robins as Olga
Bill O’Connor as Bill
Director Alberto Cavalcanti (When the Day Went Well?) turns his sights on the London underworld in the engrossing Brit-Noir gangland drama THEY MADE ME A FUGITIVE.
Set in unsettled post-WWII England where crime is on the upsurge, FUGITIVE is a suspenseful thriller which uses the picturesque Soho district to brilliant effect. The London pubs, alleys, and back bedrooms are transformed into brooding images of poetic urban realism. Trevor Howard (Brief Encounter, The Third Man) gives one of his greatest performances as Clem, an ex-serviceman who is fed up after the war and drawn to the excitement of black-marketeering. His psychopathic gang boss, Narcy (Griffith Jones), betrays him when he refuses to deal drugs, and the story becomes a breathtaking tale of revenge.
In 1947, the British film noir “They Made Me a Fugitive (also known as “I Became a Criminal” was released in theaters.
Based on the novel written “A Convicted Has Escaped” by Jackson Budd, the film would be directed by Alberto Cavalcanti (best known for “Dead of Night”, “Went the Day Well?” and “Song of the Sea”), a screenplay by Noel Langley (“The Wizard of Oz”, “A Christmas Carol”, “Ivanhoe”) and cinematography by Otto Heller (“The Ladykillers”, “Alfie”, “Peeping Tom”).
The film would star Trevor Howard (“Brief Encounter”, “The Third Man”, “Gandhi”, “Superman”), Sally Grace (“The Hidden Room”, “The Saint in London”, “Suicide Squadron”), Griffith Jones (“Henry V”, “The Comedy of Errors”, “Kill Her Gently”) and Rene Ray (“Jennifer Hale”, “The Passing of Third Floor Back” and “Twilight Women”).
The film will be released on Blu-ray in July 2012 courtesy of Kino Lorber featuring a restoration by the BFI National Archive with funding provided by The Film Foundation.
“They Made Me a Fugitive” is set in Post-World War II and revolves around an ex-serviceman of the Royal Air Force named George Clement (Clem) Morgan. Not happy with his life after the war (as his life has become too peaceful), Clem decides to be involved in black market racketeering headed by Narcy (as portrayed by Griffith Jones), a man who deals in contraband (in post-war times and with shortages, this included cigarettes, alcohol and food) and hides his illegal dealings through his funeral business.
But when Clem finds out that Narcy wants him to sell drugs, Clem who thought it would deal with contraband is upset and wants out and even goes as far into challenging Narcy’s authority. Which sets Narcy off and reminding Clem that it’s his business and he can do whatever he wants.
During Clem’s first job, Narcy decides to get back at Clem by using the fire alarm to alert the police. As Clem gets into the getaway car and the others are being chased down by cops, one constable tries to get in front of the car. Narcy wants to run him over but Clem tries to prevent the driver Soapy (as portrayed by Jack McNaughton) to not do it. But Clem is unsuccessful. The constable is run over and the Clem and the gang run into a pole. Narcy hits Clem in the head and he and Soapy escape, leaving Clem in the car and eventually being framed for the constable’s murder.
And so, Clem is sentenced 15 years in prison for murder. While in prison, he finds out from Narcy’s ex-girlfriend, Sally Connor (as portrayed by Sally Gray), that his girlfriend Cora (as portrayed by Rene Ray) is now in a relationship with Narcy. But fortunately Sally believes in Clem’s innocence and wants to help him.
Meanwhile, word gets around to Narcy that Sally had visited Clem and beats her up badly.
Clem manages to break out of prison and now becomes the most wanted man in the country. Clem wants Nancy or a member of the gang to confess his innocence, but meanwhile, Narcy wants Clem dead.
Will Clem find a way for the murder charges to be dropped?
“They Made Me a Fugitive” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio) and black and white. The film was restored by the BFI National Archive.
The film looks very good on Blu-ray considering its age. No major flickering problems, no blurring during the video, no warping or any problems. The picture quality is quite clean and looks like the original negative source for the film was in very good shape.
The Blu-ray release of “The Made Me a Fugitive” is definitely a better upgrade over its older Kino DVD counterpart. Better clarity and detail, owners of the previous DVD will definitely feel it is worth upgrading to Blu-ray!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“They Made Me a Fugitive” is presented in LPCM Monaural 2.0. Dialogue is clear, I didn’t hear any large pops or any major crackling during my viewing of the film. Nor did I hear any major audio problems throughout the film.
“They Made Me a Fugitive” comes with no special features.
“They Made Me a Fugitive” is a very enjoyable film showcasing British film noir. While America, had so many gangster and noir films released at the time, Alberto Cavalcanti did a splendid job in with the direction of film and making people feel sympathy for its main character, played by actor, Trevor Howard.
Howard, best known for his role in “Brief Encounter” and “The Third Man” is rather excellent in playing the wanted man, George Clement “Clem” Morgan, who just wants to get the gangster who framed him, to confess that he didn’t kill a constable.
And for a 1947 film, the film was a suspenseful thriller because the film would how people feared the escape of the character Clem. And the pacing of the film of showing the dangers he experiences on the run, from being shot at by a property owner, a woman wanting him to kill her husband, to hitchhiking and the driver already suspecting him.
But as Clem is a man who got pulled into criminal activity, he is still a moral man and the audience feels sympathy for him.
On the other side, you have Griffith Jones playing the psychopath Narcy. Narcy is head honcho and dislikes anyone challenging his authority. The film shows a disturbing scene of Narcy beating up his ex-girlfriend rather badly, and you also see this arrogant man stealing Clem’s girlfriend after framing him. Cavalcanti does a great job in making sure that the audience despises him.
Rene Ray does a good job of playing the only person who is willing to help Clem, a banal character, but yet a major person who believes in Clem and wanting to assist him in getting his freedom back.
But this is a gloomy film with an ending that audiences probably never expected. And one of the most entertaining aspects of “They Made Me a Fugitive” is its unexpected characters. From the man who picks up Clem in the truck, the weird woman who lets Clem into her home, the film is dark in nature but a perfect example of British film noir that is very much different from its American counterpart.
Society in the UK post-war was not filled with jubilation, Clem, a man respected for his work in the Royal Air Force is a man who fought for his country, was a P.O.W. and had his share of near-death encounters with the Nazi military. But the calm life after war has made him wanting a thrill and thus, getting involved in Narcy in a life of a crime.
While the film is entertaining British film noir, it’s also a 1947 film that has its fair share of banal characters and acting that is not so great. As a person who is used to watching cliche elements utilized in earlier Hollywood films, let alone other countries who were inspired by American films, some viewers today may feel that it’s too cliche, the acting for some characters, too stiff. But that’s how things were then and if you put yourself in the shoes of a person watching this film in 1947, I probably would feel that this film was riveting but also being entertained by the various twist and turns and an ending which I wouldn’t have expected.
As for the Blu-ray, while a barebones release, for those wanting more film noir on Blu-ray, will surely enjoy this upgraded restored transfer of “They Made Me a Fugitive” in HD. The film is definitely an improvement over its previous, older Kino DVD release. I just wish there were special features included.
Overall, “They Made Me a Fugitive” is suspenseful thriller with many unexpected moments. Featuring a wonderful performance by actor Trevor Howard and an entertaining British film noir!
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