One of six films Stanley Baker would do with another Hollywood blacklistee, director Joseph Losey, The Criminal combines heist, prison and gangster film tropes with an arthouse texture and feel.
Baker’s character, Johnny Bannion, is a tough criminal who plans a racecourse hold-up from his prison cell. On his release, former associate Mike Carter (Sam Wanamaker) informs Johnny he knows an individual who can dispose of the loot.
At a party, Johnny meets Suzanne (Margit Saad), a ravishing foreign girl, and – infatuated with her – dumps his old flame, Maggie (Jill Bennett).
The robbery goes smoothly, and £40,000 are grabbed, but Johnny foolishly pockets £550 before burying the rest in a remote field. Maggie tips off the police, the notes are traced and Johnny is arrested.
He returns to the same prison but won’t tell his associates where he has hidden the dough. Inside contacts give him a working over, but he still remains silent. So Carter and his men kidnap Suzanne.
Johnny breaks out of jail and a tremendous fight for the money ensues. Mortally wounded, Johnny dies as he nears the field.
Modelled on real-life Soho villain Alfred Dimer (who advised Losey during filming), Bannion represents the new school of British cinema criminal: aware how repellent his milieu is, ruthless and violent in his dealings with other gangsters, and tender towards his sophisticated girlfriend.
Chief Warder Barrows
Kenneth J. Warren
John Van Eyssen