The Black Panther

Forgotten in time, this film is the story of ex-squaddie Donald Neilson’s reign of terror in 1970’s England.  Neilson for those who aren’t familar with him used to rob post offices and people’s homes.  However, as time goes on his crimes get worse and end in murder and kidnap.

Neilson is played in a performance that was surely deserving of many awards by Donald Sumpter (now seen in Game in Thrones). Unfortunately due to typical press hysteria, the film was pulled from distribution and only cropped up on video in the early days of VHS and Betamax on the old Intervision label (remember them?)

The film certainly isn’t an exploitation picture but a serious study of a very twisted man and the truly horrible crimes he commits.  Usually in a true crime film, you get some humour to lighten the proceedings, this film has none and works all the better for it.  There are a few moments who may smile or even laugh quietly, in particular Neilson’s domestic treatment of his family.  In fairness it’s almost a release as Neilson is an appalling individual and Sumpter like I have already said pulls it off brilliantly.

Quite simply a masterpiece of low budget British cinema and one any film scholar should own in their collection.  Beautifully restored by the BFI and the director Ian Merrick from his own print, the people responsible for the film’s ‘disappearance’ for over 30 years should hang their heads in shame.  Put it on your shelf next to The Long Good Friday, Villain and the Sweeney movies.

  • Starring Donald Sumpter  Debbie Farrington
  • Director ian Merrick
  • Distributor BFI