West 11 (1963)

  |  Crime, Drama


West 11 (1963) Poster

This Michael Winner directed film looks into life at Notting Hill, London, then a seedy slum. A down on his luck Joe Beckett (Alfred Lynch) is recruited into crime by Richard Dyce (Eric Portman).


6.5/10
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7 January 2016 | ianbrown65
6
| Smoothly made little Brit-pic
A minor but very smoothly made example of British film noir. Director Michael Winner, then at the start of his career, had a strong cast (Alfred Lynch, Eric Portman, Diana Dors, Finlay Currie, et al) to inhabit this starkly photographed little crime melodrama set in London bedsit-land, all tacky Notting Hill coffee bars and smoky jazz clubs.

Lynch makes a downbeat but sympathetic protagonist, more thoughtful than the usual type of hero. Portman plays the clipped-moustache ex-military man-turned-swindler to perfection. Dors is just right, too, as a blousy divorcée ("Young enough to still want a husband; old enough not get the one I want").

Winner plays up the salacious sex element a bit, but a tight Keith Waterhouse/Willis Hall script touches on Lynch's Catholic guilt, and Currie's existential search for 'truth', just enough to give the story a modicum of depth. There's also an evocative score by Stanley Black, with Acker Bilk on sax.

Until latterly a neglected, even scorned, cinema sub-genre, these usually low-budget British film noirs, often superbly photographed, were violent by the standards of their day, and showed the rain-washed streets of cities like Newcastle (Payroll), Manchester (Hell Is a City) and Brighton (Jigsaw), as well as London, could be pretty mean, too.

Winner's next film, The System with Oliver Reed, was even better.

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