The Good Die Young (UK Remus Films 1954 Directed by Lewis Gilbert 100 minutes)
The Good Die Young is an interesting British noir that employs the unusual homme-noir motif and the more common disillusioned war veteran theme in an original treatment.
“Four men with four guns” the voice-over narrator intones as four guys in a stolen car prepare for a heist on the dark streets of London, before a series of flashbacks traces how each of these four men, with no priors, find themselves in a stolen car, each with a gun in their hand. All four are WW2 vets in financial straits, with three in need of some quick cash and easy targets for the fourth, a wastrel toff cum homme-noir: a man so venal he is loathed and despised by his own father.
While an uneven film, the actual heist and denouement are very strong with deep focus location night-for-night shooting on dark sombre London streets, the London underground, a symbolic sequence in a grave-yard, and expressive tilted framings that break the linearity of the narrative. The opening scene, which regrettably is obscured by the credits, coupled with a dramatic musical score, is evocative of US noirs of the period with the heist car speeding towards the camera on a rainy London night .
The strongest of the four stories are that of a washed-up boxer played beautifully by English actor Stanley Baker and that of the wastrel played with suave menace by a young Laurence Harvey. The other two men are Americans whose stories are less convincing, and Gloria Grahame as the cheating starlet-wife of one of them is wasted in a tacky role. The ‘seduction’ scene where the toff connives to get the others into the caper is marred by redundant and silent-era close-ups of Harvey’s exaggerated facial expressions and arch eye movements.
Interesting historically, and it is worth wading through the first 80 minutes to get to the final action-packed 20 minutes.