The Kidnapped – Rediscovering ‘The Squeeze’ (UK 1977 – 104 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - May 06, 2015
The Kidnapped – Rediscovering ‘The Squeeze’ (UK 1977 – 104 mins)

One the most under-rated British movies of the 1970’s, gritty crime flick ‘The Squeeze’ has always been overshadowed by the more well-known titles ‘Get Carter’, ‘Villain’ (both ’71) and ‘The Long Good Friday’ (’79). Sordid and seamy with a terrific cast, it may be my favourite of the whole British gangster genre.

After his ex-wife and her daughter are kidnapped by a mob working for local crime lord Vic (Stephen Boyd), alcoholic ex-cop Jim Naboth (Stacy Keach) is tasked by her new husband (Edward Fox) to help find them. Various hitches and violent confrontations arise as Naboth and his loyal sidekick Teddy (Freddie Starr) close in on Vic and his henchmen, leading to an explosive final showdown.

What raises this movie above many others is the excellent use of London locations and the wonderful one-off cast. Stacy Keach gives a terrific performance here as the washed-up and troubled Naboth. A superb stage actor, Keach has a natural quality about his performances and here he really brings his sweaty character to life. Carol White is suitably worried-looking as his abducted ex-wife Jill, and she would only make one more movie (1983’s ‘Nutcracker’) before her untimely death in 1991. Edward Fox is his usual serious self as White’s wealthy husband and, in his last movie before his early death that same year at just 45, Stephen Boyd (complete with dodgy sideburns) gives a standout performance as the ruthless mob boss Vic. British comedian Freddie Starr gives a surprisingly good turn as Keach’s loyal friend Teddy, and I’m surprised he didn’t try his hand at other dramatic roles as he proved himself more than capable here. David Hemmings is solid as the leader of Vic’s gang, and Roy Marsden and Alan Ford give good support as two of his henchmen.

Directing only his third movie, famed television (including the ‘7 Up’ series) filmmaker Michael Apted handles the often uncompromising material with ease. Apted would score a big hit in the US a couple of years later when he made the Oscar-winning biopic ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ (’80). The tough screenplay was by Leon Griffiths who adapted it from the novel “Whose Little Girl Are You?” by former journalist James Tucker. Griffiths would soon gain huge success as the creator of the superb British television series ‘Minder’.

‘The Squeeze’ has numerous memorable moments including the opening credits which has Stacy Keach’s drunken ex-cop stumbling through the London underground before collapsing on the escalator. Another has the degrading moment when Carol White is forced to do an impromptu strip-tease in front of her kidnappers, while “You Make Me Feel Brand New” by ‘The Stylistics’ blares out in the background. The excitingly staged finale is particularly impressive, with its sudden bursts of violence including a motorcycle cop riding head-on into the crooks’ van.

With its run-down boozers, dodgy markets and grubby greasy-spoons, ‘The Squeeze’ is an authentic and fast paced thriller with an outstanding cast. Gripping from start to finish, it’s a criminally neglected gem of British cinema and one that’s just waiting to be rediscovered by crime fans everywhere.

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