Anyway, last night I went to see a couple of films screening as part of the Made in Brighton Film Festival. I mostly went to watch Luther Jones' short film The Crunch which was screening with with one of the features and didn't really know what to expect when it came to the features themselves. The first was The Gelignite Gang, a 1950s crime thriller with Brighton doubling for London. The story was classic genre stuff about two private detectives, one British the other American, intent on catching a gang of jewel thieves despite repeatedly being warned to stay off the case by the police and various shady underworld characters. It was clunky in places and a bit slow, but also had some fantastic moments, including clever use of wandering buskers who changed tunes to alert the gang that police were nearby. Some neat twists too.
The second was The Big Switch, a 60s crime thriller directed by Pete Walker about a photographer caught up in a body-switching plot. Brighton featured much more prominently in this film, with several scenes of the characters driving along the seafront and a final shootout on the West Pier. It was very cool and also unintentionally hilarious. But there was something very British about the scenes that now seem funny. The driving, for example, was funny because of its realism - cars would stall, make awkward turns, have to wait for passing traffic and all the time the energetic jazz soundtrack was struggling to make this seem exciting. Another great moment was in the bad guys' 'hideout' where the hero and his girl are being held prisoner. On the day they are to be killed they sit with the head henchman eating breakfast from plates on their laps - it was a bizarrely domestic, pedestrian scene for what should be a high tension moment. And there's something very British about that.
What struck me as interesting was that I'd never heard of or seen either film in connection with Brighton or British filmmaking, and maybe the reasons for that are obvious. But it was further proof that we used capable of producing solid genre films in this country, and that we used to be make genre films outside of London. It was also kind of cool seeing the short films of contemporary Brighton filmmakers next to films that people seem to have forgotten were filmed here.