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MACHINEGUNNER
DVD region 2. Network.

MachinegunnerBack in the 1970's and 80's, Britain made its fair share of TV movies, but given the theatrical fixations of British television, they were always referred to as 'plays' (the same reason that all British TV used to refer to a production as being 'by' the writer - the director relegated, as in this case, to the end of the closing credits). Make no mistake though - 1976 production Machinegunner is a movie, and a pretty impressive one at that.

Leonard Rossiter plays Cyril Dugdale, a Bristol debt collector (the 'machinegunner' of the title) and would-be detective who agrees to handle a well-paid divorce case for the mysterious Felicity (Nina Baden-Semper). His job is to get incriminating photographs of property developer Jack Bone (Colin Welland), who is carrying out an adulterous affair, but after getting the shots, Dugdale finds himself caught up in an escalating series of events - hunted by Bone's heavies who want the negatives, he manages to just about avoid them only to see Bone murdered by people who are just as keen to get hold of the photographs and get rid of business (not top mention romantic) rivals. And Felicity is refusing to reveal who her real client is...

Machinegunner is a tight, twisting mix of dark humour, noir-esque crime drama and gritty Seventies bleakness, topped off with a heavy sprinkling of racial tension (delicate viewers might cringe at some of the language used here). It's got a Sweeney-esque feel at times, with villains toting sawn off 'shooters', corruption in high places and urban violence, and is laced through with a black comic feel.

Rossiter is excellent as Dugdale, making a pretty unlikeable character (he's greedy, cowardly and lecherous) seem sympathetic - an actor doomed to be remembered for a couple of (admittedly excellent) sitcoms, he was always more than that, and this gives him a chance to stretch dramatically. Baden-Semper (best known for Love Thy Neighbour) is suitably seductive, aloof and untrustworthy as the mystery woman who - in the grand tradition of film noir - sets events in motion, and there are solid turns from Welland and Kate O'Mara as the woman at the centre of the action.

A real find then (I was blissfully unaware of the existence of the film prior to this release) and a must for fans of cynical Seventies crime movies.

Machinegunner is only available directly from www.networkdvd.co.uk.

DAVID FLINT

 

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