Now the Second World War is over, the ex-soldiers are demobbed and sent back to Civvy Street, two of those men being Ted Peters (Richard Attenborough) and his good friend Dave Robinson (Bill Owen), but though they still know each other and chat regularly, their paths in life have taken different directions. Ted has a job on the straight and narrow as a taxi driver, making enough to get by but not enough to marry his girlfriend Joy Goodall (Sheila Sim), who is a dancer also finding times rather lean, yet Dave branched out on his own into more illegal territory, taking part in dodgy dealings on the black market. He keeps tempting Ted with promises of easy money, but Ted knows that comes at a price...
While film noir was dominating Hollywood cinema across the Atlantic, over in Blighty it had not gone unnoticed, so you had a good few melodramas and thrillers that sought to engender the same depth in Britain's cinema as the American version had across the world. Naturally it wasn't anywhere near as successful aside from a select number of breakthrough titles, but there are British crime movie addicts who find these tales of the underworld irresistible, and Dancing with Crime was in that category for them. It was made a year before star Attenborough filmed a genuine classic of the style in Brighton Rock, so if you were comparing the two one would emerge the better.
And it wasn't this one, which made no attempt to upset the customary choices of the genre and therefore stand out more than its contemporaries, but there were pleasures to be taken should you be invested or even lightly interested in the society that it sprang from. It wasn't exactly a valuable document of the era, yet its concerns spoke to much that original audiences would sympathise with, that sense of wondering if the future they had been promised during wartime was ever going to materialise or if they were stuck with austerity and making do and mending, with only those who turned to crime ever able to generate any kind of funds.
Dave is one of those spivs - an obsession during the forties, the sort of sharp-suited chap who could get you what you wanted for a price - and he finds himself in over his head when he is shot in the back in a nightclub as a deal he made goes horribly wrong. No honour among thieves, as they say, though Dave didn't seem such a bad sort as he had given Ted a huge tip when he was run to the club in his taxi, and as the driver is drinking down his profit in a nearby pub, Dave crawls into the back of the cab unnoticed to expire. When Ted drives back to the depot, he is horrified to see his pal dead when he opens the rear door, and the police naturally take an interest soon enough.
It would be the cue for man on the run suspense if this had been an Alfred Hitchcock movie, or one of his emulators, but here there was a lack of mystery that harmed the mood of potential excitement as we were shown everything from innocent Ted and Joy to the investigating officers to the bad guys scheming with nothing left to the imagination. Fair enough, they had a running time to fill up, but it did play out less outlandishly than it could have aside from some plot contrivances to get Ted into the right places to keep things moving and him at the heart of the drama. This left you in between punch ups and interrogations looking at the surrounding details, noting a brunette Diana Dors in one of her first roles as a dancer getting Joy a job at the night club (where she is handily placed to be a spy), Bill Owen decades before sitcom Last of the Summer Wine made him a household name, and Dirk Bogarde in there somewhere as a copper. By this stage, films such as Dancing with Crime were more for specialists, or those seeking Sunday afternoon entertainment to doze to. Music by Benjamin Frankel.
[Simply Media's DVD has no extras, but the film looks pristine.]