The Squeeze (1977)

The Squeeze

A chap we called Book Shop Barry knew, when I was about 15, that I was good at tracking down hard to find films on VHS back in the early 90’s and requested if I happened upon a copy of The Squeeze with Stacy Keach then he would be very grateful. The challenge was accepted and I added it to the mental list of must haves to find when poking around the darkened corners of Belfast’s second hand shops. One day I struck gold, an ex-rental VHS of The Squeeze without a cover popped up and for a whopping 50p it could be relocated to Barry’s possession. However, I had to give it a watch first to see what he was fussing over, and of course, to check the video worked.

That viewing went well and I remember thinking it was a great, low key British thriller. However, a long time has passed and this feels like a good time to revisit. Today I am much more aware of the exceptional cast and the pretty fantastic line of films from director Michael Apted. Revisiting The Squeeze made for a wonderfully gritty experience and beggars the question, why is this not easily available?

Keach plays Jim, an ex-detective who was washed out of the force due to an alcohol addiction. A gremlin that destroyed his career and his personal life. Leading a life of embarrassment Jim struggles from day to day, not least as a father to two young, impressionable boys. A rough night on the town puts Jim into rehab, and an alarming course of sound related shock therapy. Upon his release Jim’s ex-wife’s new partner Foreman (Edward Fox,) the bossman of a security company, informs him that his wife Jill has been kidnapped with Foreman’s daughter. Jim, who tried his hand at private “detectiving” after leaving the force, attempts to step in and rescue them, with the help of his buddy played by Freddy Starr and a less than stellar Ford Zodiac MRKIII.

The Squeeze feels a little like a mix between Get Carter and Violent Naples. Apted chooses to fully embrace London of the 70’s as a multicultural city of ruin, venturing into the filthy avenues of abandoned manufacturing offset by the colour and energy of the densely populated commerce capital. London is both beautiful yet harsh, smokey and dirty. The city feels real, with Keach sporting a pretty flawless accent and the film being shot on location really boosting the film’s authenticity.

As Jim Keach is terrific, keeping a likeable character who understands his demons and wins the odd battle with the odds stacked greatly against him. Starr is Jim’s pal Teddy who supports him with little question whilst showing a few frustrations along the way. Carol White plays Jill and looks the part as her character panics, plots and pleads for freedom. David Hemmings feels a little underutilised as the lead kidnapper in a role that does suit his dapper yet sinister style, as the head of the gang of crooks he gradually becomes more unsettling as the film moves on. By far the most enjoyable role is Stephen Boyd as the Irish mobster and Keach’s neighbour. Boyd just murders it in the role, little moments like his interaction with the blonde at the side of the dressage event shows how committed he is to this smallish and cheap production from a fledgling director.

The plot is nothing special for films of its type. The Squeeze is really a combination of the talent involved to keep things thrilling and dramatic. There are some more interesting layers, with Jim’s sense of duty as it’s not his kids that have not been kidnapped and the interactions with Edward Fox’s Foreman make for some interesting moments. The overhanging alcoholism generates a real sense of disappointment in Jim when he gives in, losing to the demon. In a way Teddy is the bigger hero, with the difficult and thankless task of keeping Jim on track and focused.

As the story unfolds the film throws in some entertaining scenes from Keach’s humiliation by Boyd outside a church to a boat ride with Fox leading to a near miss with an end-of-life Sussex Tradeship. There are moments of humour as Keach quips to the doorman of Debenhams that he should have gone to Woolworths and Starr’s interruption of Keach and his Nurse’s “alone time.” The film builds to an exciting standoff with a brutal heist seeing Keach going head to head with Boyd and Hemmings. Given the affection the audience build’s with Keach the abrupt ending was a touch short for my liking.

Leon Griffiths, screenwriter of the classic Minder TV series, adapted the book by David Craig (one a couple of pseudonyms for novelist Bill James) named Whose Little Girl are You? The Squeeze was worth it. I understand Barry’s desire to have the movie and I will jump at the opportunity to have this as a remaster on Blu-ray one day with a bunch of extras. Right now, the DVD will have to do and it’s pretty good. Thanks Michael, what a smashing outing!

The Squeeze arrived between both of The Sweeney movies and at a time when tough thrillers were arriving by the bucket load from across Europe. The posters are fairly routine for the genre, but look great today and are very enticing with predominantly hand drawn art.

There is a pretty expensive DVD on Amazon at the moment, I picked this up some years ago for £2 from Ebay. By comparison you will be hard pressed to find the film for under £10.

Given the reputation, I would like to think a blu ray label will pick this up and surprised this has not happened already, given the fairly recent loss of the great Michael Apted.


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