British film noir
in European film noir
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Critical enthusiasm for realism in British cinema, from Grierson to Ken Loach, has obscured the fact that the majority of British films pay little regard to a realist ethos. Tony Williams's 'British Film Noir', in Alain Silver and James Ursini's Film Noir Reader, points to 'the British representation of male trauma and insecurity' as one of the distinctive characteristics of British noir films. The brutal traditions of British popular entertainment feed into Victorian stage melodrama which in turn combined with German expressionism, pessimistic French poetic realism and American populist detective fiction to give British cinema its own indigenous strains of noir. Such characteristics as a charismatic villain indulging in cruel sexual depredation were reworked into stories about contemporary society, most prolifically in the works of Edgar Wallace, whose books and plays provided the British film industry with a seemingly endless supply of lurid melodramas.

Editor: Andrew Spicer

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