I keep coming across these little gems from a treasure trove of unknown British crime films released between 1950 and 1965 and wonder why they aren't better known. Last night brought a real scorcher, A Prize of Arms (1961) starring Stanley Baker, a young Tom Bell and a host of other excellent Brit character actors. It's a heist film set in a military camp where 3 ex-soldiers plan to rob the base of £100K. It's a stripped down, tense and efficient film, has no extraneous women characters to muck things up and ends with a bang.
This is about the tenth excellent yet unheralded British crime film I've seen from this period and it really strikes me as strange that the genre/period isn't better known. They seem to share a basic structure, a downbeat “pitch” for lack of a better word and have an urgency and nervous energy that make them pretty darn riveting. One of the first ones I caught was Never Let Go (1961) starring Richard Todd and an unbelievable turn as a bad-ass carjacker by Peter Sellers of all people. Three starring Nigel Patrick followed Forbidden Cargo (1954) ...only ok, The Informers (1963) excellent!, and Sapphire (1959) weird, but good. Stanley Baker and Richard Attenborough seem to have about 6 credits each during the period with Baker's Hell Drivers (1957), Jet Storm (1959), Hell is the City (1960) and The Criminal (1960) all well worth a look. Worthy Attenborough credits include several more well known films such as Brighton Rock (the earliest one, from '47), League of Gentlemen (1960) and the extraordinarily creepy Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964). The Long Memory (1952) was another recent BV gem, again from a bit earlier starring John Mills an innocent man recently released from prison who searches out those that put him there.
A few of these are on Region 1 DVD and the balance are in the Black Vault or on the PAL wall at the FBW. I'd recommend Never Let Go and Hell is the City as two to start with. They're fast, cheap, hardboiled flicks for guys.