Sunday, June 15, 2014

Crime Unlimited

Back in the 1930s, the UK had a law that British theaters had to show at least a certain minimum percentage of British-made movies. The Hollywood studios wanted to show their movies in British theaters, but obviously those movies wouldn't count toward the quota of British films. So the studios solved their problem more or less by setting up production arms in the UK and making B movies as quickly and cheaply as possible, putting those on the bill with the Hollywood product to reach the quota of British-made movies. These films were never really intended for anything other than cheap, disposable domestic consumption, much like Hollywood probably never expected anybody to take an interest in its own B movies 50 years on. In 2007, TCM got the American broadcast rights to six of the movies made at Warner Bros.' British production unit. One of those, Crime Unlimited, is back on the TCM schedule tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM.

The plot is fairly simple. There's a rash of jewel robberies going on in London. Naturally, the police are having difficult solving the cases, so the police take one of their inspectors, Pete Borden (Esmond Knight), and have him try to infiltrate the gang. Along the way, Borden meets Natacha (Lilli Palmer), a moll of one of the gang members, who claims that she'd really like to get out of the racket. But does she really believe that, or is she going to betray Borden to the unsees gang leader when the time comes?

This is a B movie, so there's not much to it, but that doesn't mean it's a bad movie at all. The six of these movies that TCM got the rights to fit in just fine with all the Hollywood B movies they show: there's stuff that's a bit dumb, and stuff that turns out to be quite entertaining. None of it, however, will ever be mistaken for the greatest movies ever made. If any of them in addition to Crime Unlimited show up on TCM, give them a chance.

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