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I Became a Criminal

Although film noir in the United States has received the attention it deserves, the same cannot be said for British noir, a movement equally downbeat and striking but more indebted to French poetic realism than to German Expressionism. THEY MADE ME A FUGITIVE, though more Teutonic than some other British noirs, is nonetheless one of the finest representations of the postwar malaise which also infected Great Britain. Trevor Howard is Clem, an RAF officer who falls from grace, winds up a crook, gets framed by Narcey (Jones), and is thrown in the pen. Getting out, Clem heads for London's Soho district, seeking revenge on Narcey and his dope-dealing gang. It's up to Sally (Gray) to try to save him from sinking too low. Artfully sculpted and suspenseful, THEY MADE ME A FUGITIVE makes for gripping, adult cinema. Few stars began their film careers with more outstanding films made back to back than did Howard, who plumbs the depths of Clem's decline without ever sinking into bathos. He is well supported by Gray as a sympathetic noir blonde, and by a seasoned cast of British veterans, with Jones especially good as the chilling Narcey. With its striking compositions and starkly dramatic lighting, the film shows the mastery of director Alberto Cavalcanti, an eclectic talent who began making short avant-garde silent films in France, made several outstanding features (DEAD OF NIGHT, WENT THE DAY WELL?) in Great Britain and later attempted to imitate Hollywood's industrial success when he headed up the short-lived Vera Cruz studios in Brazil.