The body of an unpopular man, Ben Jones, is found in the woods by the man’s love rival, Bob Carter. Bob rather stupidly picks up the pistol that killed Mr Jones and is spotted by the local bobby who promptly arrests him for the potential murder of Ben.
The evidence stacks up against Bob, with witnesses stating that they saw him giving chase after Mr Jones, following a brief fight at the lumber yard where Ben works. Apparently the fight was over the affections of flirtatious local girl, Hilda, who works at a pub (called Who’d A Thot It?) as a barmaid. It’s then down to visiting detective, Grey, to work out what really happened and try and save a man from the rope.
Revolving around this main thriller plot thread is the social drama of seven year old Cliff Bonsell (Anthony Richmond) who lives a solitary life, in an old nissan hut, with his widowed father (Warner) on a decommissioned American army base. Cliff has few friends, his main companion being the slightly older Willy Maxted (Barrett), a quiet and introverted child who lives nearby with his grandmother (Beatrice Varley). Cliff has developed a fascination for guns from films he has seen, regarding them as fun toys with which to play imaginative games. And it’s one of these ‘games’ that leads, sadly, to the death of Ben Jones.
Bang! You’re Dead doesn’t quite know what it wants to be – a social drama about the differences between the middle class (represented here by the soon to be dead Ben Jones) and the rural working class who dislike him and are jealous of his relatively easy life shuffling paper around, while they do hard graft in the fields and woods, or a Hitchcockian-styled thriller.
Personally I think it’s more of a social drama because it quickly becomes apparent as to what’s actually happened to Mr Jones so that fact alone rapidly loses the film its thriller credentials. However, as a piece of period history and filmmaking ‘Bang!’ is a fun film to watch and, although it’s dated quite badly, it still manages to hold the interest and entertain.
Any film that has men wearing trilbies and wellies, whilst drinking ales called ‘Beer – X227’, (which some of them pay for with dead birds) and smoking copiously and, in Cliff’s dad’s case adding half a tin of Brylcream to their hair when not wearing said hats, can’t be all that bad, can it? Although Cliff’s dad does almost drown the boy’s kittens to teach him a lesson so that wasn’t so good!
I think my favourite parts of the film were not those sections which feature the adults, but watching the interplay between Cliff and his friend Willy, who obviously has some sort of learning difficulty. Both are likeable characters and their adventures together kind of reminded me of my own childhood and growing up in ‘seemingly’ more innocent times in a rural setting. The only real difference was that my mates and I were more likely to find discarded porn magazines in the hedge than an ex-army pistol!
Once again this is a nice transfer of this mid-fifties film and Network Distributing is to be praised for bringing yet another British film to a wider audience. The picture and sound quality are both good, as is the contrast between the blacks and greys.
Overall, I’d recommend the film, but don’t expect an edge of your seat thriller, it’s more of a subdued and socially informed piece.
Bang! You’re Dead has just been released on DVD and is being distributed by Network Distributing as part of their ‘British Film’ collection. Sadly the only extra on the disc is a stills gallery of shots taken directly from the film. There are 11 of these in total. It would have been nice to have had some additional features, although I suspect obtaining them for a more obscure film of this age might have been difficult.
Reviewer: Justin Richards