British Noir

British Noir

10 Episodes

In the aftermath of World War II, Britain cultivated its own form of film noir with a distinctly English accent. Marked by fatalistic wit, visual lyricism, and a pronounced concern for working-class lives, British crime dramas reflected an era of turbulent change, as generational and class conflict, the growing racial diversity of the postcolonial era, and ambivalence toward the U.S.’s new global dominance reshaped English society. Heavily influenced by the arrival of blacklisted Hollywood directors like Jules Dassin (NIGHT AND THE CITY), Edward Dmytryk (OBSESSION), and Cy Endfield (HELL DRIVERS) working alongside homegrown talent like Carol Reed (ODD MAN OUT) and Basil Dearden (POOL OF LONDON), these stylish and suspenseful films are enlivened by the flamboyant panache of Cockney gangsters, the feisty grit of barmaids and truck drivers, and the diabolical politeness of gentleman murderers, all set against a gorgeously chiaroscuro backdrop of weeping skies, cozy pubs, industrial docks, soot-blackened alleys, and bomb-ravaged but unbreakable cities.

Subscribe Share
British Noir
  • Introducing British Noir

    Episode 1

    The following interview with critic Imogen Sara Smith was recorded in 2023.

  • Green for Danger

    Episode 2

    Directed by Sidney Gilliat • 1946 • United Kingdom
    Starring Trevor Howard, Sally Gray, Alastair Sim

    In the midst of Nazi air raids, a postman dies on the operating table at a rural English hospital. But was the death accidental? A delightful and wholly unexpected murder mystery, British writer/d...

  • Odd Man Out

    Episode 3

    Directed by Carol Reed • 1947 • United Kingdom
    Starring James Mason, Kathleen Ryan, Robert Newton

    Taking place largely over the course of one tense night, Carol Reed’s psychological noir, set in an unnamed Belfast, stars James Mason as a revolutionary ex-con leading a robbery that goes horribly ...

  • Obsession

    Episode 4

    Directed by Edward Dmytryk • 1949 • United Kingdom

    A Scotland Yard man investigates a London psychiatrist's diabolical revenge against his adulterous wife's lover.

  • The Small Back Room

    Episode 5

    Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger • 1949 • United Kingdom
    Starring David Farrar, Kathleen Byron, Jack Hawkins

    After the lavish Technicolor spectacle of THE RED SHOES, British filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger retreated into the inward, shadowy recesses of this mood...

  • Night and the City

    Episode 6

    Directed by Jules Dassin • 1950 • United States
    Starring Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, Googie Withers

    Two-bit hustler Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) longs for “a life of ease and plenty.” Trailed by an inglorious history of go-nowhere schemes, he tries to hatch a lucrative plan with a famous wr...

  • The Woman in Question

    Episode 7

    Directed by Anthony Asquith • 1950 • United Kingdom
    Starring Jean Kent, Dirk Bogarde, John McCallum

    Fortune teller Agnes Huston (Jean Kent), a.k.a. Madame Astra, has been murdered—but that’s about all anyone can agree on as five different perspectives on the dead woman’s personality come to ligh...

  • Hell Drivers

    Episode 8

    Directed by Cy Endfield • 1957 • United Kingdom
    Starring Stanley Baker, Herbert Lom, Peggy Cummins

    Blacklisted from Hollywood, American director Cy Endfield found a fresh start in Britain, where he brought a pronounced anticapitalist punch to this exciting crime drama set in the trucking industr...

  • Time Without Pity

    Episode 9

    Directed by Joseph Losey • 1957 • United Kingdom
    Starring Michael Redgrave, Ann Todd, Leo McKern

    On the day before his estranged son is scheduled to be executed for a murder he didn’t commit, an alcoholic writer (a riveting Michael Redgrave) embarks on a last-ditch attempt to save him, journeyin...

  • All Night Long

    Episode 10

    Directed by Basil Dearden • 1962 • United Kingdom

    Othello is translated to the world of sixties London jazz clubs in Basil Dearden's smoky and sensational All Night Long. Over the course of one eventful evening, the anniversary celebration of the musical and romantic partners Aurelius Rex (Pau...