Crime film plus.
- Sapphire review by Steve Mason
Hard to believe a film critiquing the racism in 1950s London could hit so relatively few bum notes when viewed from 2020. Dearden and scriptwriter Janet Green teamed up for a pair of films about prejudice and social injustice in this period (Victim, 1961). Sapphire is a black woman who has been 'passing for white' in a London where being black imposes so many impediments, which this film goes on to expose. When she is found dead on Hampstead Heath, a traditional police procedural drama is set in motion, with racial hatred the likely motive for the killing. The cast is superb, especially Nigel Patrick as the liberal police inspector, Earl Cameron as a GP and the victim's more obviously black brother, and the always excellent Yvonne Mitchell as a lonely mother consumed by anger and resentment. The camera work is fluid and dynamic and for a message film, it is hugely entertaining. Anyone determined to look for dated attitudes to race will inevitably find them. But the heart of this film is huge compassion for the bigotry and poverty suffered by so many of the Windrush generation on arriving in the UK.
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