A bloated Richard Burton is in rare high spirits as vicious homosexual mob boss and protection racketeer Vic Dakin, whose sadism is offset by outpourings of sentimentality and a faintly weird devotion to his old mum (Cathleen Nesbit).
A stew of Kray mythology and memories of White Heat, mixed up with screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian LaFrenais’ talent for comic dialogue, Villain is an uneasy mix of high camp and shocking violence.
Thought to be incredibly violent in 1971 – and featuring one of the toughest payroll robberies ever shown on a British screen – the film studies the villain in his habitat and shows how that habitat is enlarged by fear, sustained by vice, entrenched by profit, and only marginally diminished by the Law.
Burton’s performance is riveting, the most frightening he ever gave.
A supporting cast usually associated with TV – most notably Ian Lovejoy McShane as the “nice peasant boy” who is the object of Dakin’s affections and the worst of his temper – only adds to the bizarre atmosphere.
Although it’s no match for its contemporary Get Carter, Villain is still, without doubt, a unique viewing experience.
Based on James Barlow’s novel, The Burden Of Proof.
PC Bob Matthews