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Crossroads to Crime

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Crossroads to Crime
A black-and-white shot of a road filled with cars and buses, in front of background buildings, has the title "Crossroads to Crime" superimposed in the centre
Original title
Directed byGerry Anderson
Produced byGerry Anderson
Screenplay byAlun Falconer
StarringAnthony Oliver
Ferdy Mayne
George Murcell
Miriam Karlin
Victor Maddern
Arthur Rigby
David Graham
Music byBarry Gray
CinematographyJohn Read
Edited byDavid Elliott
Production
company
Distributed byAnglo-Amalgamated
Release date
November 1960
Running time
57 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Budget£16,250

Crossroads to Crime is a 1960 British crime film; it is the first and only film to be directed by Gerry Anderson for his production company, AP Films. Anderson, then a producer of children's puppet television series, accepted an offer from Anglo-Amalgamated to shoot a one-hour, low-budget B movie when no TV network could be found to distribute Supercar. The first of Anderson's productions to use live actors, Crossroads to Crime follows a police constable (Anthony Oliver) who turns detective in order to confront and bring down a gang of vehicle hi-jackers led by Miles (Ferdy Mayne).

Shot mostly on location between May and June 1960, the film's cast includes several actors who would appear in later Anderson productions. The score was written by Barry Gray, who along with John Read (the film's director of photography) and David Elliott (its editor) would also continue his association with Anderson.

Released in November 1960, Crossroads to Crime was a box office disappointment and has attracted a predominantly negative critical response. Although it was praised by one source as a competent "cops and robbers" thriller,[1] criticism has been directed at the film's script, editing and set design, as well as its low production values.[2][3] The film has been broadcast at least twice on British TV since the end of its brief theatrical run, most recently on Talking Pictures TV in September 2019.[1] It was released on DVD in 2013.[4][5]

Plot[edit]

While on the beat, Police Constable Don Ross (Anthony Oliver) discovers a gang of lorry hi-jackers operating from the back of a transport café. He sees gang members Diamond (George Murcell) and Johnny (David Graham) driving away in a car with Connie Williams (Miriam Karlin), the café owner, seemingly being held hostage in the back seat. Ross tries to stop the car by jumping onto its side but is thrown into the road, suffering a head injury. Posing as innocent passers-by, Diamond and Johnny take Ross home. Williams is brought before the hijackers' affluent ringleader, Miles (Ferdy Mayne), who warns her not to betray them to the authorities.

Despite evidence linking the gang to a spate of vehicle thefts along the A1 road, Ross is unable to persuade his superior, Sergeant Pearson (Arthur Rigby), to investigate the transport café. He therefore takes matters into his own hands, confronting Diamond with his knowledge and forcing the gangster to bribe him in exchange for his silence. Learning of Ross' private investigation, Pearson threatens him with dismissal, causing Ross's relationship with his wife Joan (Patricia Heneghan) to become strained. However, Ross continues to gather evidence as the gang capture a shipment of cigarettes.

As the gang prepare to make one last raid – their target being a £20,000 haul of nickel ingots – Ross joins the operation in a bid to expose and topple Miles. Learning of Ross's actions, Diamond pulls a gun on the constable and chases him through the café cellars. He wounds and eventually corners Ross only to be shot dead by Johnny, who is revealed to be an undercover detective. Johnny informs Ross that the authorities know Miles' location and that he and the rest of the gang will soon be apprehended. Ross returns to his life as an ordinary beat constable.

Production[edit]

In 1960, following the success of Four Feather Falls, Gerry Anderson approached Nat Cohen and Stuart Levy, co-founders of film production company Anglo-Amalgamated, for work after Granada Television rejected his proposal for a new Supermarionation TV series that would eventually become Supercar.[6] Anglo-Amalgamated, which had helped to commission Four Feather Falls after responding positively to its first episode,[7] produced mainly low-budget B movies with short running times to increase the amount of British-made content in its output.[8] Keen to establish himself as a film director, Anderson agreed to make such a feature both without a contract and on a low budget of £16,250 (equivalent to £368,000 in 2018).[8][9]

Crossroads to Crime was written by Alun Falconer, who had previously written the thriller Never Let Go and the crime drama The Unstoppable Man.[8] As an in-joke, Four Feather Falls is mentioned during a scene in which two young men consider playing a tune from the TV series on the café's jukebox.[10]

Casting[edit]

Supporting cast[9]
Actor Character Actor Character
Geoffrey Denton Miles' Butler Arthur Rigby Sergeant Pearson
Peter Diamond Police Escort David Sale Young Man 1
Patricia Heneghan Joan Ross Terry Sale Young Man 2
William Kerwin Martin Bill Sawyer Lorry Driver
Victor Maddern Len Donald Tandy Basher
Harry Towb Paddy J. Mark Roberts Phillips

Anderson cast actor Anthony Oliver in the leading role of Police Constable Don Ross after being impressed by his performance in the West End production of the Agatha Christie murder mystery The Mousetrap.[8] David Graham had appeared in a 1957 episode of the TV series Martin Kane, Private Investigator that Anderson had directed.[9] Some of the cast would go on to feature in subsequent Anderson productions: George Murcell voiced the characters of Professor Popkiss and Masterspy in the first series of Supercar while Graham provided the voices of various characters in Stingray and Thunderbirds.

Anderson remembered that Ferdy Mayne sometimes misinterpreted the script.[10] A scene between Oliver and Miriam Karlin's characters had to be re-shot several times when Karlin repeatedly "upstaged" Oliver, altering the physical arrangement of the scene so that the other actor's face ended up being hidden from the camera.[10] Terence Brook, who was cast on the basis of his "tough-guy" appearance in an advertisement for Strand cigarettes, was doubled by editor and second unit director David Elliott for a stunt in which gang member Harry jumps off the back of a lorry.[11]

Filming[edit]

Filming was conducted in and around Slough, Buckinghamshire and Maidenhead, Berkshire over five weeks between May and June 1960.[2][6] The location shooting in Slough made use of the AP Films Studio itself (which appeared as the gang's warehouse), a café over the road from the studio (which appeared as the transport café), the woods of Burnham Beeches[2][11] and various points along the A4 road.[9] In addition, the crew briefly filmed at Halliford Studios in Shepperton, Surrey.[8] On one occasion, when a night shoot inside the café overran into the following morning, the crew attached black drapes to the windows to block out the dawn sunlight and allow the filming to finish.[2]

A number of production staff – including Elliott and John Read, the director of photography – would remain in the employ of AP Films. Anderson's future wife, Sylvia served uncredited as continuity supervisor.[1] She and Anderson were married later in 1960 after Anderson divorced his first wife.[1]

Post-production[edit]

Composer Barry Gray recorded the score in six hours[12] on 21 June 1960.[9][10] The opening titles music was later recycled for the Supercar episode "The White Line", the Fireball XL5 episode "The Robot Freighter Mystery" and the Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons episode "Manhunt".[9]. A biography of Gray suggests that the instrumental nature of the soundtrack was subsequently emulated by Thunderbirds and other Anderson TV series.[13]

To ensure that the British Board of Film Censors would award a family-friendly U certificate, during post-production Elliott dubbed over the film's expletives – for example, replacing "bloody" with the milder "ruddy".[10] To make the film more accessible to an American audience, references to "quid" (a British slang term for the pound sterling) were also changed.[10] The BBFC certified the film U on 26 July 1960.[9][14]

Release[edit]

The film was released in November 1960 with the tagline "£20,000 the Prize and Death the Price!"[1] It was subsequently incorporated into the Edgar Wallace Mysteries B-movie series (also distributed by Anglo-Amalgamated) and re-edited with new opening titles.[4][5] Crossroads to Crime has been televised at least once in the UK since the 1960s.[1] A print of the film is owned by the British Film Institute, which screened it at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television's Pictureville Cinema in 1997 to celebrate Anderson's film and TV career.[1]

Crossroads to Crime was not available on any home video format until Network Distributing released a Region 2 DVD in 2013.[4][5] This uses the newer "Edgar Wallace Presents" opening titles, with the originals included as a bonus feature.[4][5] Also included is a behind-the-scenes film, Remembering Crossroads to Crime, featuring interviews with the Andersons, editor David Elliott and actor David Graham.[4][5] For this release, the BBFC re-classified the film PG for "moderate violence".[14]

Critical response[edit]

When the film finished and the lights came up, there was complete silence. Then Nat Cohen turned round slowly and said, "Well, I've seen worse." In retrospect, I can smile about it. But whenever I work on a production I give it my all in terms of energy and hours spent trying to get it right. Crossroads to Crime was no exception. So at the time I felt terrible about it not being up to the standard I'd hoped it would be.

— Gerry Anderson on the response to the film at its test screening[15]

Crossroads to Crime performed poorly at the box office. In addition, critical response to the film has been negative.[10] Anderson once called it "possibly the worst film ever made",[1] while Elliott describes it as "awful".[3] Cohen and Levy were similarly unimpressed and did not offer Anderson any further commissions.[6] In 1966, while promoting Thunderbirds Are Go, Sylvia Anderson said of Crossroads to Crime, "The less said about it, the better";[16] in her autobiography, she commented that it "hardly ranks as one of our best efforts".[17] A contemporary review in Monthly Film Bulletin was more positive: "Quick off the mark, this modest little thriller soon settles down into a routine 'cops and robbers' format, efficient if not always too convincing."[1] Stronger praise came in the October 1960 issue of Kine Weekly, which commended Crossroads to Crime for being "refreshingly free from pretence" and added: "The film's moral is lofty, its tender domestic asides encourage feminine interest, and the climax is a corker."[10]

Simon Archer and Marcus Hearn, authors of What Made Thunderbirds Go! The Authorised Biography of Gerry Anderson, consider Barry Gray's music overbearing and unsuited to the subject matter, remarking that the "innovative combination of booming brass and twangy electric guitar was possibly intended to evoke the contemporary sounds of Stanley Black or John Barry but fell wide of the mark on both counts."[10] Although they describe Mayne as a "saving grace", they conclude that Crossroads to Crime is "irredeemably compromised by its prosaic settings, convoluted screenplay and minuscule budget".[2] Stephen La Rivière, author of Filmed in Supermarionation: A History of the Future, states that Crossroads to Crime is "remembered with dread", describing its "wafer-thin" plot as a "tedious affair" and criticising the editing for leaving the film "more than a little rough around the edges".[3] He suggests that the film is remembered only because of the Andersons' later success with Thunderbirds.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Feature Film Productions: Crossroads to Crime". fanderson.org.uk. Archived from the original on 21 February 2008. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e Archer and Hearn, p. 56.
  3. ^ a b c La Rivière, p. 47.
  4. ^ a b c d e Anderson, Jamie (16 August 2013). "Crossroads to Crime DVD Release". gerryanderson.co.uk. Anderson Entertainment. Archived from the original on 7 January 2014. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e Rogers, Steve (2013). "Network On Air DVD Review". networkonair.com. Network Distributing. Archived from the original on 14 September 2013. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  6. ^ a b c Bentley, Chris (2001). The Complete Book of Captain Scarlet. London, UK: Carlton Books. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-84222-405-2.
  7. ^ Archer and Hearn, p. 50.
  8. ^ a b c d e Archer and Hearn, p. 55.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Bentley, Chris (2008) [2001]. The Complete Gerry Anderson: The Authorised Episode Guide (4th ed.). London, UK: Reynolds & Hearn. p. 301. ISBN 978-1-905287-74-1.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Archer and Hearn, p. 57.
  11. ^ a b c La Rivière, p. 48.
  12. ^ de Klerk, Theo (25 December 2003). "Complete Studio-Recording List of Barry Gray". tvcentury21.com. Archived from the original on 13 December 2009. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  13. ^ Titterton, Ralph; Ford, Cathy; Bentley, Chris; Gray, Barry. "Barry Gray Biography" (PDF). lampmusic.co.uk. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 July 2010. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  14. ^ a b "BBFC Entry". bbfc.co.uk. British Board of Film Classification. 8 July 2013. Archived from the original on 25 April 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  15. ^ Archer, Simon; Nicholls, Stan (1996). Gerry Anderson: The Authorised Biography. London, UK: Legend Books. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-09-922442-6.
  16. ^ La Rivière, p. 187.
  17. ^ Anderson, Sylvia (2007). My Fab Years! Sylvia Anderson. Neshannock, Pennsylvania: Hermes Press. p. 40. ISBN 978-1-932563-91-7.

Works cited[edit]

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