The Good Die Young is a British noir film from the ’50s. The Brits didn’t do tons of noirs, but did make a couple key ones, like The Third Man (probably the best British film of the ’40s), Brighton Rock, and various films from American directors who went into exile due to McCarthyism, like Jules Dassin’s Night and the City and Joseph Losey’s Criminal. It’s also interesting to note that The Good Die Young is actually a based on a novel by Richard Macaulay, who was a screenwriter for Hollywood films including The Roaring Twenties, They Drive by Night, Across the Pacific and perhaps his most memorable script, Born to Kill – the film that Jim Goad based his entire persona on (I’m joking, but he is a dead ringer for the total psycho that Laurence Tierney plays.) Macaulay also was one of the first screenwriters to name names in front of Congress during the HUAC, so he was a piece of shit as well.
This film, however, is a solid noir/heist flick, which starts with four men in a car who are about to knock over a post office. The Bank of England invested money in the film, so besides the location being changed from the US to UK, the location of a robbery was changed from a bank to a post office. The majority of the film is told through flashbacks about how and why these four men have ended up in such need that they think robbing a post office is a good idea.
The cast is really solid, with a mixture of noted American and British actors. Laurence Harvey gives a deliciously sadistic turn as this rich guy who just sponges off his wife and basically manipulates the three other men to do his bidding. Stanley Baker plays the noir trope of the aging boxer who is going to do one last fight—incidentally, the older Morrissey gets, the more and more he resembles a bloated Stanley Baker. The Americans include Richard Baseheart, who was no stranger to films noir (and even appeared in two Fellini films); John Ireland, better known for his work in Westerns; and even Gloria Grahame, who shines in an utterly thankless role. The world this film inhabits is very much a man’s world.
It’s no lost classic, but it’s a nuts-and-bolts take on noir by the solid director Lewis Gilbert, who would go on to direct Alfie and three Bond films, including my personal favourite, You Only Live Twice. If you are interested in diving a little deeper into British noir, it’s not a bad place to start, given it’s an American noir story transferred to the mean streets of London.
The release includes two cuts: the international cut was considered too “anti-establishment” for UK audiences which is only on the Blu-Ray. The rest of the extras are mainly BFI archival shorts, but there is an on-stage audio interview with Lewis Gilbert from the ’90s, with an introduction from Michael Caine. The The new essays are by the BFI’s Dr. Josephine Botting and Peter Rankin (Gilbert’s former assistant). It’s also a dual format release on DVD and Blu-Ray.