Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 33
  1. #1
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Posts
    9,605
    Liked
    151 times
    Invitation to a lynching



    A powerful movie tells the true story of an innocent man and the trial that ended the death penalty in England.



    By Charles Taylor



    On July 30, a British appeals court did what it could to right one of that country's most notorious miscarriages of justice by exonerating Derek Bentley, hanged in 1953 at the age of 19 for the murder of a police officer. The court found that Bentley had been denied "that fair trial which is the birthright of every British citizen." The judge had instructed the jury to disregard the whole of Bentley's defense, and to give an inordinate amount of weight to what was most likely perjured police testimony.



    There were other problems. Bentley (who also suffered from epilepsy and was nearly illiterate) was estimated to have a mental age of 11 and should probably never have appeared in court. The biggest problem, though, was something that no one disputed: Bentley had not committed the murder. In fact, he'd been arrested, without offering any resistance, 20 minutes earlier by a policeman at the scene. The killer's identity was never in doubt: Bentley's friend, 16-year-old Chris Craig. Bentley and Craig were surprised by police while breaking into a London warehouse, and Craig, who was armed, opened fire, killing an officer. Because of his age, Craig could not be tried as an adult (he received 10 years and was released in 1963), so thoughts of vengeance turned to Bentley. At the trial, several policemen testified that Bentley had incited Craig to shoot by yelling, "Let him have it, Chris!" Both Bentley and Craig denied he had ever said those words. Even if he had, they prove nothing. As Bentley's lawyer argued, "Let him have it, Chris!" could easily have meant "Give him the gun, Chris!"



    That's certainly what Bentley (Christopher Eccleston) means when he frantically blurts out the line in Peter Medak's 1991 film "Let Him Have It." The double meaning here is in the title. Stripped of the exclamation point, "Let Him Have It" becomes a cold, methodical description of what the British judicial system did to Derek Bentley. In the movie's view, his execution was the horribly logical culmination of the way Derek had been treated all his life by the systems meant to care for his welfare.



    Medak and his screenwriters, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, begin their account of Derek's path to the gallows with an adolescent act of petty vandalism that sends him to a reform school. He serves only a few years because, the headmaster admits, his low IQ and epilepsy make him difficult to reach. But when Derek's father (Tom Courtenay) charges that a boy in such a condition should never have been sent up in the first place, the only answer the headmaster can muster, in precise, upper-class tones, is that Derek committed a crime, and something had to be done. In the world of "Let Him Have It," the hardest thing for those in power to do is admit they've made a mistake.



    "Let Him Have It" picks up Derek's story in 1952, a year after his release from reform school. Isolated from his old friends and embarrassed about his stint at the school, his low intelligence and his seizures, Derek hasn't once set foot outside the family home. He spends his locked days in his room with the blinds drawn, smoking and poring over comic books. Pressured by his parent's worried and well-meaning entreaties to get a job, Derek turns to his devoted sister Iris (Clare Holman, who gives a lovely performance as a young woman defined by her warmth and common sense) to act as a buffer. Finally, though, getting Derek out of the house takes another woman as well: singer Kay Starr. Derek hears Starr's "Wheel of Fortune" on the wireless and flips for it. Iris convinces him to accompany her to the local record shop to buy his own copy. Soon he's going out on his own, walking the dogs and running errands. He even gets a job street sweeping. But in the movie's cruel central twist, Derek emerges from his small, private world only to become enmeshed in the fantasy universe of a sociopath.



    If "Let Him Have It" argues that British society did nothing for Derek Bentley, it is honestly baffled about what could have been done for Chris Craig (Paul Reynolds). Short, squat and with baby fat still clinging to his cheeks, Craig seems no more than a kid. When his older brother, Niven (Paul McGann), a full-blown con whom he worships, is sent to prison, Craig weeps in his bedroom like a child. The jarring note is the revolver he clutches as some kids would a teddy bear. In their overcoats and fedoras, Craig and his cronies play at being the gangsters they've seen in American movies, carrying guns or tagging along to help Niven unload his swag. They're half-size hoods, and they'd be funny if they weren't so dangerous. (It should be said that since being released from prison in 1963, Craig has had no trouble with the law. After Bentley's exoneration, he said, "A day does not go by when I don't think about Derek.") All that matters to Derek is that Craig accepts him without making him feel stupid.



    At one point during the uproar that follows Derek's death sentence, the British home secretary says that "the British judicial system is now on trial." Medak, Purvis and Wade prove devastating prosecutors. What follows from Derek and Craig's botched break-in (expertly filmed) is both agonizing and unbearably swift. Listening to Derek trying to make himself understood in the witness box is like trying to untangle crossed wires using an egg beater.



    Everything the movie has suggested about Britain's class system pays off in its trial scenes. Medak asks us to imagine what it means to plead for your life before a man dressed in one of those ridiculous wigs, whose manner tells you he's taken the title of "Lord" all too literally. But "Let Him Have It" also shows us the public outcry that resulted from Derek's death sentence. The legacy of that outcry was Parliament's abolition, 12 years later, of the death penalty.



    Medak never lets his anger at what happened to Derek Bentley overwhelm his film's humanity. As Derek, Eccleston, staring warily out of his deep-set eyes, greets the world outside the safety of his home as if he were a child set loose in a dark forest. Hunched over, his movements are lumbering yet tentative, as if he weren't sure how to work his body. Eccleston is ineffably touching as he shows Derek taking uncertain steps toward forming his own identity, working to get past his shame. The payoff of Eccleston's performance is the dignity Derek achieves awaiting his execution as he tries to allay his family's sadness with jokes and good cheer.



    There's another major performance in "Let Him Have It." Courtenay is best known as the hero of the British Angry Young Man movies "Billy Liar" and "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner," but he's never been better than he is here. William Bentley is an ordinary man forced to act with extraordinary courage at the same time he's forced to question the faith he's always placed in the bedrock institutions of his society. As William chokes down his own fears and presses ahead, determined to save his son's life, Courtenay achieves a heroic decency.



    "Let Him Have It" is a superb piece of craftsmanship. It's also not an easy movie to watch. Amid the institutional savagery it depicts are glimpses of singularly British moments of compassion: On Derek's way to the gallows, one of his guards (Michael Elphick) favors him with a quick, nearly subliminal wink, encouraging him to be brave for just a bit longer. The end titles tell us that William and his wife Lillian continued to fight to clear Derek's name until their deaths in the '70s. "Today," the final title reads, "Iris continues that fight." Iris died from cancer early last year. It was Iris' daughter, Maria Dingwall-Bentley, who toasted her uncle's exoneration a few weeks ago. There was a final poignant detail to the celebration: The bottle of champagne she opened had been purchased by her mother and grandfather in 1958 in anticipation of the day when they could savor their victory.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Posts
    141
    Liked
    0 times
    'Let Him Have It' is an excellent film and one that is well worthy of a place in the A-Z of films on this site. I had a long standing interest in this case and was very pleased that justice was finally done.



    It's interesting to note that the Bentley family themselves though were not overly impressed with the film. Iris Bentley's (Derek's sister) autobiography 'Let Him Have Justice' features an interesting insight into the movie.



    Alex Cox was initially hired to direct and cast Eccleston and Paul Reynolds as Christopher Craig. He fell out with the producers and Peter Medak was hired. Eccleston and Reynolds had to audition again. Eccleston was close to Iris Bentley, did thorough research into his role including Derek's epilepsy. He was said to regret making the film because the views of the Bentley's were largely ignored though according to Iris Bentley his portrayal of Derek was wonderful and the best thing about the movie.

    The main objections of the Bentley's were that there were too many factual inaccuracies. The worst of these being the words "Let Him Have It" around which the whole movie revolves. The family maintain Derek never actually said those words. Evidence would actually indicate they were right to dispute this.Ultimately they believed the movie to be too "Hollywood"



    Whether you agree with these objections or not 'Let Him Have It' remains a very powerful and moving film which undoubtedly maintained the pressure for justice to be done. The performances of all the cast but in particular Eccleston and Tom Coutenay are magnificent. The scene of Derek's execution is a brilliantly filmed. One of my favourite British movies of the last 20 years.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Posts
    9,605
    Liked
    151 times
    Bobj:

    Alex Cox was initially hired to direct and cast Eccleston and Paul Reynolds as Christopher Craig. He fell out with the producers and Peter Medak was hired.
    Yep, Alex wanted to shoot the film in b&w. Medak's earlier success with The Krays probably made him an obvious alternative.



    there were too many factual inaccuracies. The worst of these being the words "Let Him Have It" around which the whole movie revolves. The family maintain Derek never actually said those words. Evidence would actually indicate they were right to dispute this. Ultimately they believed the movie to be too "Hollywood".
    I certainly wouldn't describe the film as 'Hollywood', if anything it is moulded in a similar style to Mike Newell's Ruth Ellis biopic Dance with a Stranger.



    What took place that night will always be open to conjecture but it still doesn't alter the fact Bentley was in effective custody at the time and never pulled the trigger. That his trial only lasted 2 days and few witnesses were called in his defence was a real travesty.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Posts
    141
    Liked
    0 times
    I totally agree with you DB7. I wouldn't describe the film as "Hollywood" either. Thanks I didn't realise Cox wanted to shoot in b&w. No doubt he probably had some other unconventional ideas!

    I recently purchased the DVD. Low price but the lack of extras is disappointing. I hope one day we'll be able to look forward to something a bit more comprehensive.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Posts
    792
    Liked
    0 times
    The late Alan Clarke made a much better fist of the Bentley and Craig case with David Yallop's script "TO ENCOURAGE THE OTHERS" 1972 a BBC play.

    BODj's comment about "Factual Inaccuracies" is polite. The sight of Craig running around the roof shooting in the air is rubbish and never happend. But then Medak's film about the Krays was not mutch on fact.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Country: Scotland
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    520
    Liked
    0 times
    "He never killed or hurt anyone, or at least, not in that robbery.



    Er, I thought Craig DID kill somebody. Isn't that fairly notorious?



    Ludovic Kennedy claims to have proved that Derek Bentley never shouted the famous "Let him have it," which seems to have been dragged in from an earlier case and used to prosecute Bentley since Craig was too young to hang.

  7. #7
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Posts
    29,732
    Liked
    418 times
    Quote Originally Posted by D Cairns
    "He never killed or hurt anyone, or at least, not in that robbery.



    Er, I thought Craig DID kill somebody. Isn't that fairly notorious?



    Ludovic Kennedy claims to have proved that Derek Bentley never shouted the famous "Let him have it," which seems to have been dragged in from an earlier case and used to prosecute Bentley since Craig was too young to hang.
    I edited my post quite quickly to say that it isn't certain that he killed anyone. The forensic tests strongly suggest the fatal bullet wasn't fired from his gun



    And even if Bentley did shout the famous "Let him have it", did he mean "shoot him", or "give him the gun"?



    Steve

  8. #8
    Super Moderator Country: UK batman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    27,595
    Liked
    255 times
    This case has so many contentious issues that it is possible we will never know exactly what happened on that roof. Some of these issues are ...



    Bentley was hanged for the murder of PC Miles, but it was DC Fairfax whom Craig shot at immediately after the infamous cry of 'Let him have it, Chris'.



    What exactly did Bentley mean by that cry? Was it 'shoot him' or 'give him the gun'



    Bentley was already under arrest when PC Miles was shot, therefore their 'joint enterprise' was at an end by the time PC Miles was killed.



    Did Bentley know Craig had a gun when they climbed on the roof?



    ... there are many, many more examples of similar questions.



    The bottom line is that, regardless of any 'new' evidence or theory, Craig and Bentley were convicted of the murder of PC Miles. The sentences on both were carried out. Bentley is dead and Craig has led a law-abiding life since his release. Craig was 16 when PC Miles was shot. I am sure we all did things at aged 16 we regret and would never do again. Regardless of the surrounding issues Craig did his time and following his release has not (as far as I know) broken the law again. Perhaps he learned his lesson. For that we should be pleased to be able to say that, in his case, rehabilitation worked. For what happened to Derek Bentley, IMHO we should all be thoroughly ashamed.



    My main sympathies in this case go to the family of PC Miles.



    Bats.

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Posts
    792
    Liked
    0 times
    Quote Originally Posted by batman
    This case has so many contentious issues that it is possible we will never know exactly what happened on that roof. Some of these issues are ...



    Bentley was hanged for the murder of PC Miles, but it was DC Fairfax whom Craig shot at immediately after the infamous cry of 'Let him have it, Chris'.



    What exactly did Bentley mean by that cry? Was it 'shoot him' or 'give him the gun'



    Bentley was already under arrest when PC Miles was shot, therefore their 'joint enterprise' was at an end by the time PC Miles was killed.



    Did Bentley know Craig had a gun when they climbed on the roof?



    ... there are many, many more examples of similar questions.



    The bottom line is that, regardless of any 'new' evidence or theory, Craig and Bentley were convicted of the murder of PC Miles. The sentences on both were carried out. Bentley is dead and Craig has led a law-abiding life since his release. Craig was 16 when PC Miles was shot. I am sure we all did things at aged 16 we regret and would never do again. Regardless of the surrounding issues Craig did his time and following his release has not (as far as I know) broken the law again. Perhaps he learned his lesson. For that we should be pleased to be able to say that, in his case, rehabilitation worked. For what happened to Derek Bentley, IMHO we should all be thoroughly ashamed.



    My main sympathies in this case go to the family of PC Miles.



    Bats.
    I'm not ashamed one bit. Why should I be I wasn't born. If Bentley was hanged on the new"Let him have it" theory then somebody lied under oath. A 1950's policemans statement was a very damning piece of evidence back then. Christies evidence from the witness box against Evans was given a lot of credence by the fact that he served as a sort of policeman during the war. If they lied then thier perjured statements put the ropes around Bentley and Evans necks.

    The Bentley case is much better served by Alan Clarke's BBC play than that complete Bollocks of Peter Medak's "LET HIM HAVE IT" that even Iris Bentley turned her back on.

  10. #10
    Super Moderator Country: UK batman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    27,595
    Liked
    255 times
    When I used the word we I was using it as a collective term for our society. If, as an individual, you do not feel ashamed that's OK. We all have our own beliefs, standards or whatever and I fully respect your point of view.



    Personally I find it difficult to accept what happened to that young man. IIRC Bentley is the only person in legal history to have been hanged for a crime for which two people were convicted and the other person didn't suffer the same fate. In similar cases either both the perpetrators were hanged or both served prison terms instead. Bentley, a 19yr old who was learning disabled with a mental age of 7, was killed purely "to encourage the others" (ie 'juvenile delinquents') to behave themselves. IMHO, and that of many people more knowledgable about the law than me, Bentley was little more than an "accessory before the fact". That we as a society allowed, even wanted, him to be hanged is IMHO shameful.



    After reading many books on this subject, and seeing various dramatisations (inc the 2 mentioned above) I think it is quite possible that some police officers did lie at the trial.



    However, PC Miles was obviously not one of those who may have lied, so as I said before, my main sympathies lie with his family.



    Bats.

  11. #11
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Posts
    792
    Liked
    0 times
    Both Evans and Bentley had educational problems which should have been taken into question I would agree with that. But I also take into account the feelings of the time. A murdered mother and daughter bodies dumped in an outside wc washroom and a policeman shot dead. Take as an example the ferment up in Liverpool at the moment over the murder of Rhys Jones and the Peter Tobin case. If you took a vote on bringing back the rope in thier home towns it would be a resounding yes. I don't think hindsight should make us as a society feel ashamed or guilty, that was then.



    This happend after the Bentley case.

    In 1960 four youths beat and kicked to death Alan Jee while robbing him. Norman Harris 23, Christopher Darby 23, Francis Forsyth 18 and Terrance Lutt 17 were arrested and charged with capital murder; murder in the furtherance of theft. Darby was found guilty of non capital murder the other three guilty of capital murder. Harris and Forsyth hanged. Lutt didn't he was only 17. During the attack Lutt struck the first blow then held Jee down with the help of Harris and Darby while Forsyth repetedly kicked him, at the end Harris went through Jee pockets. When Forsyth was arrested he still had Jee's blood on his winklepicker shoes. In his statement he said he just kicked him to shut him up. Also on the day Harris and Forsyth were executed a friend of Forsyth called Victor Terry and two accomplices shot dead a bank guard during a robbery. Again 20 year old Terry took the drop the two 17 year old 's got life.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    3,295
    Liked
    13 times
    I've never cared for either of these two films and see them both as lost opportunities. The liberties taken by the film maker are just too much for some of us to stomach. I can't help but feel a more talented film-maker could have produced something for the ages. Both these films have little or no reputation outside the UK and that is no fault of their subject matter. If you ask med, and I know you didn't, these are strictly second class stuff.

  13. #13
    Super Moderator Country: UK batman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    27,595
    Liked
    255 times
    Quote Originally Posted by billy bentley
    The liberties taken by the film maker are just too much for some of us to stomach.
    I'd agree that in The Krays events were portrayed not in their correct chronological order and were sometimes combined for dramatic effect .... but I would be interested in knowing what the 'liberties' are that were taken with regard to the Bentley film .... having read several books on the subject and seen a couple of documentaries, I felt it was pretty accurate in it's portrayal of those tragic events.

  14. #14
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Posts
    29,732
    Liked
    418 times
    Quote Originally Posted by billy bentley
    I've never cared for either of these two films and see them both as lost opportunities. The liberties taken by the film maker are just too much for some of us to stomach. I can't help but feel a more talented film-maker could have produced something for the ages. Both these films have little or no reputation outside the UK and that is no fault of their subject matter. If you ask med, and I know you didn't, these are strictly second class stuff.
    Would your surname be anything to do with your not liking the way events are portrayed in Let Him Have It?



    Steve

  15. #15
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    3,295
    Liked
    13 times
    Absolutely not, I'm no relation whatsover. How can you compare Medak's work on these two with say Scosese's on "Mean Streets" and "Goodfellas" ? Unlike Scorsese's work (with some exceptions) they lack authenticity. Nor do tey hold up against "Brighton Rock" or "Odd Man Out" The Kray twins sstory, is probably the greatest Britsh gangster story ever and Derek Bentley ultomately got hung for talking. Medak's films, do not for me, do those stories cinematic justice. Fleischer did a much better job with "10 Rillington Place".

  16. #16
    Senior Member Country: UK CaptainWaggett's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    25,718
    Liked
    492 times
    Quote Originally Posted by billy bentley
    I've never cared for either of these two films and see them both as lost opportunities. The liberties taken by the film maker are just too much for some of us to stomach. I can't help but feel a more talented film-maker could have produced something for the ages. Both these films have little or no reputation outside the UK and that is no fault of their subject matter. If you ask med, and I know you didn't, these are strictly second class stuff.
    Why is it important that these films should have a reputation outside the UK? I should think that very few films held in high regard by board members are internationally famous. Though I'd still be interested in hear what the major inaccuracies in Let Him Have It are as I've never heard that particular criticism before., Obviously there's some doubt about whether Bentley said the actual words (and the defence counsel never used the obvious arguement that he might have been referring to Craig surrendering his gun) but it's the most famous thing about the case and it would have been rather odd not to use the line.

  17. #17
    Super Moderator Country: UK batman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    27,595
    Liked
    255 times
    Quote Originally Posted by billy bentley
    How can you compare Medak's work on these two with say Scosese's on "Mean Streets" and "Goodfellas" ? Unlike Scorsese's work (with some exceptions) they lack authenticity. Nor do tey hold up against "Brighton Rock" or "Odd Man Out". Fleischer did a much better job with "10 Rillington Place".
    I wouldn't attempt to compare two British films with Scorses' very American films. The comparison is pointless because Medak was a 'hired gun' for both those films while Scorsese stamped his own personal style on his. Also, to compare Medak's two films with the two earlier Brit films is again a pointless exercise. They have little in common with BR (except gangsters) and almost nothing with OMO. 10 Rillington Place is a good film and IMHO LHHI is it's equal.



    I would still like to know what these 'liberties' are in LHHI.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Country: UK Windthrop's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Posts
    5,207
    Liked
    44 times
    As I understand it the liberties were in the court room scenes - it's not unknown for films to do this : In the Name Of The Father did the same, some legal reality sacrificed for dramatic impact. LHHI still sticks to the spirit of the events - a disgraceful episode in the annals of the criminal justice system.



    I still find it rather sad that DB hasn't yet been cleared of murder.

  19. #19
    Member Country: UK
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Posts
    35
    Liked
    0 times
    Quote Originally Posted by Windthrop
    As I understand it the liberties were in the court room scenes - it's not unknown for films to do this : In the Name Of The Father did the same, some legal reality sacrificed for dramatic impact. LHHI still sticks to the spirit of the events - a disgraceful episode in the annals of the criminal justice system.



    I still find it rather sad that DB hasn't yet been cleared of murder.
    Surely Derek Bentley has been cleared of murder. The Court of Appeal quashed his conviction in 1998. Reading this thread made me re-read the judgment of Lord Bingham CJ when doing so, and I came upon an interesting passage in His Lordship's judgment when dealing with the 'Let him have it' point.







    The second matter related to the expression "Let him have it": these words were used in a case in 1940, R v Appleby (1940) 28 Cr.App.R 1, by one of two professional criminals who were found guilty of murdering a police officer. It was suggested that it was too remarkable a coincidence that those self same words were used by the appellant, and that the officers, probably at the behest of Detective Chief Inspector Smith, the officer in charge of the investigation, had drawn on their knowledge of that case and invented that piece of evidence. We are bound to say that we found that submission far fetched. The expression "Let him have it" meaning "kill him" was hardly an unusual one, and would have been well known to anyone who had been to see gangster films, particularly those imported from the United States of America




    Can anyone think of the film(s) His Lordsdhip had in mind ?

  20. #20
    Senior Member Country: UK Windthrop's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Posts
    5,207
    Liked
    44 times
    Quote Originally Posted by Hugo Fitch
    Surely Derek Bentley has been cleared of murder. The Court of Appeal quashed his conviction in 1998. Reading this thread made me re-read the judgment of Lord Bingham CJ when doing so, and I came upon an interesting passage in His Lordship's judgment when dealing with the 'Let him have it' point.







    The second matter related to the expression "Let him have it": these words were used in a case in 1940, R v Appleby (1940) 28 Cr.App.R 1, by one of two professional criminals who were found guilty of murdering a police officer. It was suggested that it was too remarkable a coincidence that those self same words were used by the appellant, and that the officers, probably at the behest of Detective Chief Inspector Smith, the officer in charge of the investigation, had drawn on their knowledge of that case and invented that piece of evidence. We are bound to say that we found that submission far fetched. The expression "Let him have it" meaning "kill him" was hardly an unusual one, and would have been well known to anyone who had been to see gangster films, particularly those imported from the United States of America




    Can anyone think of the film(s) His Lordsdhip had in mind ?
    Your right - am behind the times.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts