Price Fixing


Seem to be having an unplanned J Lee Thompson session. I can’t love him — I’m too aware of his horrible late work with Charles Bronson which seemed to be omnipresent during my teenage years. But his early work has great energy, and after a few films he could harness that to a decent story and make sensible choices.

MURDER WITHOUT CRIME was J. Lee Thompson’s first film, based on a play what he wrote. Interestingly, the film has all the snap and thrust and oomph of his best work, directorially, but is a fairly wretched piece of writing: a tricksy plot devised to jerk pasteboard characters through their paces. Nobody is sympathetic, and the casting is so on-the-nose that even Dennis Price, the one “name,” can’t breathe much life into his oily aristo role. But the visuals are fun. It’s the kind of movie where you can lay odds within minutes of the start that somebody will knock a lamp over in a struggle, and half an hour later they do.

It also has a weird VO but an unnamed yank who doesn’t appear, half in the vein of Carold Reed’s chummy THIRD MAN narration, half simply describing what we see with startling literalness. It doesn’t help anything. Giving the VO to Price might’ve been nice, but that would have made his decadent toff even more of a second-string Waldo Lydecker.

The low-angle shots and dutch tilts are lovely, though so persistent that alien archeologists recovering this film from the ruins of human civilisation will be forced to conclude that British movies were photographed by a dwarf with one leg shorter than the other. There’s also a lovely transition, and I can’t quite decide how planned it was. Generally in movies, though, if something looks like a happy accident, you find it was entirely deliberate.


oh my god there’s a car coming out of my eyes help I hate this kind of thing

6 Responses to “Price Fixing”

  1. David Boxwell Says:

    Much better Thin Dennis Price in a Dressing Gown movie: DEAR MURDERER (47). Meow-Mix-ing it up with Eric Portman in a Dinner Jacket. Bonus: Maxwell Reed sporting a massive oiled quiff hairstyle.

  2. Maxwell Reed! How to explain this guy? But Price and Portman sound like an irresistible combo.

  3. Dennis Price has one of the very best scenes in Victim, nearly stealing the picture from Dirk Bogarde — which is no easy feat.

  4. J. Lee Thompson had a rather significant association with Shirley MacLaine producing the likes of What a Way To Go (the one Comden and Green script whose results they disown) and John Goldfarb Please Come Home which nearly sparked an international incident with the Arab emerets. He also figure a clef (as does Shirley) in The Exorcist

  5. HE’S Burke Dennings? As played by a defenestrated Jack MacGowran? That’s hilarious. The whole character is hilarious, as no Brit would be called Burke as a first name, it’s too like the insult “berk”. And as impersonated by MacGowran in his best sozzled style, a wildly disruptive element in the movie.

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