Villain (1971 film)
Meet Vic Dakin. Then wish you hadn't.
|Directed by||Michael Tuchner|
|Produced by||Jay Kanter
Alan Ladd, Jr.
Elliott Kastner (executive producer)
|Written by||Dick Clement
Ian La Frenais
Al Lettieri (adaptation)
|Based on||novel The Burden of Proof by James Barlow|
T. P. McKenna
|Music by||Jonathan Hodge|
|Edited by||Ralph Sheldon|
|Distributed by||MGM-EMI (UK)
|Release date(s)||May 26, 1971|
|Running time||98 min.|
Ruthless East End gangster Vic Dakin has plans for an ambitious raid on the wages van of a plastic factory. This is a departure from Dakin's usual modus operandi, and the job is further complicated by his having to work with fellow gangster Frank Fletcher's firm.
Essentially a standard story about a heist, there are intricate sub-plots depicting:
- Dakin's sadistic nature
- Dakin's relationship with Wolfie
- Wolfie's bisexual relationship with Venetia and Dakin
- Dakin's irritation at having to work with Frank Fletcher's seemingly weak brother-in-law: Ed Lowis
- MP Gerald Draycott being blackmailed by Dakin (via Wolfie) to provide a cast-iron alibi
- Detectives Bob Matthews and Tom Binney pursuing Dakin and Lissner.
In a growing trend for movies of the same era and genre (Get Carter, Clockword Orange, French Connection for example) some of the violence is quite graphic especially during the heist itself and foreshadows several 1970s cop TV shows such as The Sweeney, Target and Special Branch.
- Richard Burton as Vic Dakin
- Ian McShane as Wolfe Lissner
- Nigel Davenport as Bob Matthews
- Fiona Lewis as Venetia
- Joss Ackland as Edgar Lowis
- T. P. McKenna as Frank Fletcher
- Donald Sinden as Gerald Draycott
- Cathleen Nesbitt as Mrs Dakin
- Colin Welland as Tom Binney
- Tony Selby as Duncan
- Del Henney as Webb
- John Hallam as Terry
- James Cossins as Brown
- Anthony Sagar as Danny
- Clive Francis as Vivian
- Elizabeth Knight as Patti
- Shirley Cain as Mrs Matthews
The film was written by an unusual combination of two well-known British comedy television writers, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, and the American actor Al Lettieri, renowned for his 'tough-guy' image in films such as The Godfather and The Getaway as well as for his real life associations with the New York Gambino Family.
According to Melvyn Bragg's 1988 biography Richard Burton: A Life, the film was a terrible flop and helped erode Burton's status as a box office star. Two years before Villain, Burton had played a homosexual hairdresser in the comedy Staircase (in which Cathleen Nesbitt also played his mother), which had proved a huge bust at the box office despite the talents of co-star Rex Harrison and director Stanley Donen. A gay love scene between Burton and co-star Ian McShane was cut from Villain, possibly as it was felt it wouldn't boost ticket sales, as cinema audiences already had not accepted Burton, one of the cinema's most notorious Don Juans, as a homosexual.
However, Alexander Walker, in his book about the 70s British film industry, National Heroes, says the film was "outstandingly successful at the British box office." And British exhibitors voted him the most popular star at the local box office in 1971, although Villain was not listed among the top ten most popular movies.
Coincidentally, Burton was mentioned in James Barlow's 1968 novel, The Burden Of Proof, upon which the film was based. In the book, the prosecutor asks a female witnesses if she "likes the actor Richard Burton".
The film received bad reviews, and Burton—whose acting style was predicated upon the precise use of his mellifluous voice—was particularly savaged for his attempt at a Cockney accent.
The film coined a popular phrase used regularly and adapted accordingly of "Don't be a berk all your life; take a day off!"
Ian McShane revealed recently in The Daily Mail that he had mixed feelings about playing Richard Burton's bisexual lover. "After kissing me, he's going to beat the hell out of me and it's that kind of relationship – rather hostile. It was very S&M. It wasn't shown in the film. He said to me, 'I'm very glad you're doing this film.' I said, 'So am I Richard.' He said, 'You know why, don't you?' I said, 'Why?' He said, 'You remind me of Elizabeth.' I guess that made the kissing easier."
In 2009 Empire Magazine named it #2 in a poll of the 20 Greatest Gangster Movies You've Never Seen* (*Probably)
The character of Vic Dakin was inspired by the real life gangster Ronnie Kray, who was jailed several years before production began, in 1967. Like Kray, the character Dakin is a London underworld boss, he a homosexual, he is obsessed with caring for his mother and has a secret association with a member of Parliament.
- Alexander Walker, National Heroes: British Cinema in the Seventies and Eighties, Harrap, 1985 p 28
- Peter Waymark. "Richard Burton top draw in British cinemas." Times [London, England] 30 Dec. 1971: 2. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
- "Catching Up with Ian McShane | Out Magazine". Out.com. 2010-02-09. Retrieved 2013-07-28.
- Villain at the Internet Movie Database
- Villain at AllMovie
- Villain at BFI Screenonline
- "Villain" at cinemaretro.com
- "Villain" at Cinedelica.com