McVicar (1980) – Moving Image : Complete Film



  • Robert Walker, Jr. as Corder
  • James Marcus as Sewell
  • Tony Haygarth as Rabies
  • Anthony May as Billy
  • Charles Cork as Martin
  • Paul Kernber
  • Stanley Lloyd as Magistrate
  • Ronald Herdman as Nobby
  • Tony Rohr as Bootsie
  • Michael Feast as Cody
  • Richard Simpson as Douglas
  • Malcolm Terris as Principal Officer

McVicar is a British drama film released in 1980 by The Who Films, Ltd., starring Roger Daltrey of The Who in the title role of John McVicar. John McVicar was a 1960s armed robber turned writer whom Scotland Yard publicly announced to be Public Enemy Number One and wanted dead or alive. The film was directed by Tom Clegg, and was based on a non-fiction book written by John McVicar detailing several months of his experiences with prison. Bill Curbishley and Roy Baird acted as producers. The film is noted as a gritty, reality-based example of British crime drama, and received a 1981 nomination for Best Picture at MystFest, the International Mystery Film Festival of Cattolica.

The action is set about half in Durham prison and half whilst McVicar is on the run in London. The film features ‘motors’ (cars), ‘birds’ (women), ‘blags’ (armed robberies), and London villains.

Despite its ‘pop’ leanings – with Roger Daltrey (lead singer with The Who) and sixties pop star and actor Adam Faith, playing the two lead roles—as well as a fine support cast that includes Billy Murray, Brian Hall, Steven Berkoff and Cheryl Campbell as his wife Sheila—McVicar seems to succeed in recreating a fairly ‘realistic’ account of Durham prison in the 1960s/early 1970s. Relations between ‘screws’ (prison officers) and ‘cons’ (convicts) are portrayed as being fairly unrelentingly antagonistic; prison officer brutality makes a couple of brief appearances and there is a fairly even-handed portrayal of the Durham prison ‘riot’ when the inmates took over E wing and presented the authorities with their demands for improvements in the ‘lifers’ (prisoners serving a life sentence) regime.

The second half of the film is set in London after McVicar has escaped from Durham. Here he re-establishes relationships with his partner and child and eventually decides to try and escape from his life of crime. Arguably the point of the film is that McVicar had to break out of prison to stand any chance of being ‘rehabilitated’. Whilst in the ‘lifers’ wing at Durham he was locked into an unprofitable conflict between staff and cons. Re-establishing family relations provided the spur to reform and the closing titles tell us that after being recaptured and sent back to prison McVicar obtained a degree in Sociology and, subsequently, early parole. Roger Daltrey commented at completion of the film that he wanted to make the film to show what a waste resulted from a life of crime.

Extract from McVicar (1980) in Wikipedia