Saturday, 20 July 2013

Chilling Story

Highly controversial on its release for being 'too soon'. 'The Black Panther' is an unadorned account of the true life and crimes of Donald Neilson, the robber, kidnapper and killer who was Britain's public enemy number one in the mid-seventies. A very capable man in some respects, Neilson was also a psychopath, and his long string of crimes reflect his love of violence and obsession with military planning and living in the woods like a proto-Rambo.

The film is deadpan, matter of fact - but the crimes themselves are bloody and cruel and, for all their advance planning, seem chaotic and impulsive. His most infamous deed, the kidnapping and eventual murder of seventeen year old heiress Lesley Whittle, is by necessity at the heart of the drama, but the real life complexity of the case is difficult to portray, and the film loses a little focus as it wades through the comedy of errors, coincidences and missed opportunities that led to her death (the high ranking detective in charge was subsequently reduced in rank to uniformed police constable). 

Neilson was finally arrested after vaingloriously trying to hijack a police car. There was a struggle, and the coppers and members of the public kicked the shit out of him as a crowd stood by watching and eating chips.  

Neilson served his life sentence, and died in Norwich prison in 2011.

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