in ,

The Squeeze


‘…a shockingly hard-as-nails urban thriller…’

Something of an outlier when discussing great British crime movies, Michael Apted’s The Squeeze seems to have slipped though the net when it comes to streaming; the content of the film is one good reason, as this is a shockingly hard-as-nails urban thriller which provides a rough and ready look at the London underground in every sense. Apted died earlier this year, and while his obituaries found much to discuss in his ground-breaking 7 Up documentary series, or his Bond movies, his first feature film is a fearsome beast, recommended but with the strongest of warnings; this really ain’t a pretty sight.

The poster featured a crim with a head-stocking and a sawn-off shooter, all of which suggests a heist movie, but the robbery sequence doesn’t come until six minutes from the end. Until then, we’ve got a compelling, sleazy narrative concerning alcoholic ex-cop Jim Naboth, played by Stacey Keach, a talented actor who knew his own way around substance misuse by his own admission. Keach brings that expereince to a role that allows him to be utterly convincing as a failing man hitting every rung of the ladder on the way down; the opening scene sees him career backwards down a moving staircase on the Tube. Naboth’s ex wife Jill (Carol White) has remarried ratty tycoon Foreman (Edward Fox), but she’s kidnapped by a gang led by ruthless sadist Keith (David Hemmings). Foreman appeals to Naboth for help, but the detective will have to find a way out of his booze-soaked dwam if he’s to make any headway.

The Squeeze makes a terrific fist of depicting what alcohol can do to a man; this isn’t some careless stroke of characterisation, Naboth feels like he’s tearing himself apart from the get-go. That the voice of reason keeping Naboth on the rails is notorious British comic and professional madman Freddie Starr tells you all you need to know about how off-the-Richter Naboth is. And as if the sordid details of Leon Griffith’s script weren’t enough, both Naborth and his wife are forced to complete involuntary striptease acts at the mercy of gangsters, two painful scenes that add to the stench of moral turpitude here. This kind of sadistic sexual content wouldn’t feature in a mainstream film today, yet was not cut for the ITV tv screening in the 80’s.

A precursor of Guy Ritchie, and the missing link between Get Carter and The Long Good Friday via The Sweeney, The Squeeze is an underrated, no holds barred gangster movie that’s very much testing the limits of what would be acceptable before Star Wars took cinema in a more family friendly direction. Terse and brutal, it features an anti-hero who is prepared to take a school-girl as hostage to get what he wants. The easily shocked should look away, but with a slick Euston Films look, posters of promoting Uriah Heep pasted on street corners, and a wealth of salty performances, The Squeeze is one of the best cop thrillers you’ll ever seen, although the film is probably best viewed between the cracks between your fingers.



Leave a Reply
  1. Cracking great movie. Set a high bar for UK gangster movies that today’s talent seems incapable of surmounting. Great film and no messing – anyone who thinks differently has drunk a lying bastard cocktail!! Arrow, Criterion, where are you???

    • Comment of the day, couldn’t have put it better myself. Not PC, hard and nasty as the characters, would be unthinkable to make a genre film like this now. Cheers, now get your trousers on, you’re nicked, sunshine!

      • Indeed. Stacy Keach was revelatory in his role, as was Freddie Starr. I loved how Naboth was on a downward slide, yet he proves tougher than his opponents in the end. Brilliant stuff!

  2. I remember seeing this on release in a small cinema in in Marlow or Henley I think, home territory for Apted. I don’t remember it being as tough as you suggest but it was a long time ago. It was Apted’s third feature after Triple Echo (1972) with Glenda Jackson and Oliver Reed (crossdressing) and Stardust (1974, on Talking Pictures TV a couple of days ago). Coalminer’s Daughter (1980) would be his main film for me.

    Sadly both Carol White and Stephen Boyd died far too young. Boyd actually had six films/TV appearances in 1977, the year he died aged just 45. Further down the cast list is Lionel Ngakane as a ‘West Indian’. He was from South Africa and became the first Black British filmmaker with the short film Jemima and Johnny in 1966.

    You are right about the shift after Star Wars, many of the mainstream films for adults just melted away. The Squeeze has been badly served by Warners. It’s the kind of film Indicator should be putting out on Blu-ray perhaps?

    • Great comments; I think this really should be a blu-ray, even in a VHS scan, it still has the Euston Films look. Didn’t know about Ngakane, but noted that White and Boyd didn’t go on to much. But tough it assuredly is, a real emphasis on sadism, quite uncomfortable to watch now, and surprising given Apted’s credentials…

      • Given what you say about the film, do you suppose that’s why Michael Apted never made something as good as this again? He’d saw what he made and got cold feet forevermore?

        • I guess so. He had quite a career, but only dabbled this once in the Euston Films vibe that I really dig…

  3. Didn’t quite realise the impact it had on George Lucas and quite why he thought he had to go as far away as possible and back in time to make something that would erase this type of picture in the future.

    • I guess I’m just getting at the abrupt change in the late 70’s from adult to family cinema, Star Wars pretty much blew this kind of fare out of the water…

      • A shame, but I wouldn’t necessarily blame George Lucas (or Spielberg for that matter). After all, remember the words of Oppenheimer; if I didn’t build it, someone else would have. And, y’know, JAWS and STAR WARS are pretty good movies any way you cut it. I’d say others are much more culpable for the decline of certain types of film long before you get to Lucas and Spielberg…

        • Totally, and I was carried along in that wave of family friendly film. But something was lost along the way, and I pine for the adult cinema of the late 70’s…

  4. This is a terrific movie. Didn’t realise it was so hard to get hold of. White is humiliated during her strip and though it is a shocking scene she is superb. I thought Keach was a bit overdone but the gangsters were as you said tough as hell.

    • No reason this shouldn’t be on a paid Amazon slot, it’s a high quality and very memorable movie. And if people don’t want to see it, they don’t have to watch… certainly scared me when I was 14….

  5. When I first saw the title I thought this was going to be a documentary about florida orange juice.

    I’ll have to pass on this, as moral turpentine in my movies gives me gas…

    • He’d been living in London for years before this, and his accent is completely up to snuff, which means it’s good. I’m slapping a big yellow warning sticker on this film, there are NO MUPPETS in this one…or Critters, or Leprechauns. Just dirty, hard cops and robbers…

          • I remember him as Mike Hammer. Also in Sin City. And, you may not know this, he was in one of the Children of the Corn movies. But I don’t remember ever seeing him playing a Brit. He’s a good tough guy though so I’d like to see this.

            • It’s very hard to get, but one of the links at the bottom is for a full length version which is the only way to stream it right now that I can see…you’ll need a hot bath and a lie down after this one….

Leave a Reply