Crooks Anonymous (1962): Ken Annakis’ British Crime Comedy, starring Leslie Phillips, Stanley Baxter, Julie Christie in Debut

From Our Vaults:

Ken Annakin directed Crooks Anonymous, a crime comedy starring Leslie Phillips, Stanley Baxter, and Julie Christie in her film debut.

Captain “Dandy Forsdyke” (Phillips) is habitual criminal who can’t resist tempting robbery. His gifts are for pickpocketing and safecracking. He never uses his real name, of which he’s ashamed. However, he is engaged to Babette (Christie), a stripper who wants him to go straight.

In love, he desperately wants to quit, but he is always lured back into another crime by his associates. Babette comes across a society known as Crooks Anonymous which helps hardened thieves go straight. Founded by Mr Montague (Hyde-White), and funded by generous legacy, they have an excellent track record. Babette agrees to help them cure Forsdyke.

Forsdyke is picked up during robbery by a Crooks Anonymous man, Brother Widdowes (Stanley Baxter), who is disguised as a policeman, and taken to the Crooks Anonymous’ headquarters.

Confronted by Montague, Forsdyke admits he wants to give up crime and marry Babette, but he is habitual liar, whose real name is Cox, and never seen military service, despite claim to be a decorated veteran.

Widdowes and Montague embark Forsdyke on punishment therapy and rehabilitation. They begin by locking him in a room filled with safes, which contain cigarettes, food, drink and a number of booby traps which make opening them a hazardous business. After a week of this torture, Forsdyke is beginning to crack. Nonetheless, he fails a test to see how much progress he has made, reverting to his old ways as soon as he is outside.

After a month of correctional therapy and reinforcement training, Forsdyke passes the test and is released into society. He moves in with Babette, gets job as Father Christmas in department store, and refuses offer by his old pals to go back into crime.

However, after drinking heavily at Christmas party he passes out and finds himself alone in the department store, with £250,000 of takings near him in the safe. Forsdyke breaks in intending to steal the money, and then panicking at his relapse, calls Crooks Anonymous for help. They send their two top men, including Brother Widdowes, who also cave at the sight of the money. They in turn call for Senior Brother, who arrives with his Secretary.

Confronted with this opportunity, the five decide to steal the money and split it. They escape past the drunken watchmen and head through the streets.

However, at Forsdyke’s house, they are confronted by an outraged Babette, who demands they put the money back. Grudgingly they agree, when she threatens to call Scotland Yard and inform them of the burglary.

They manage to return the money, but unfortunately trigger an alarm, which brings the watchmen out. Just making good their escape, they breathe a sigh of relief.

Forsdyke marries Babette, and as a sign of appreciation for keeping them honest, they make her Guardian Angel of Crooks Anonymous.

Cast

Leslie Phillips – Captain “Dandy” Forsdyke/Fred Cox
Stanley Baxter – Brother Widdowes
Wilfrid Hyde-White – Senior Brother Montague
Julie Christie – Babette
James Robertson Justice – Sir Harvey Russelrod
Michael Medwin – Ronnie
Pauline Jameson – Sister Prunella
Robertson Hare – Grimsdale
Raymond Huntley – Wagstaffe
Dermot Kelly – Stanley
Norman Rossington – Bert
Harry Fowler – Woods
Charles Lloyd-Pack – Fletcher
Harold Goodwin – George
Harry Locke – Fred
Colin Gordon – Drunk
Jeremy Lloyd – M.C. at the Peekaboo Club
Dennis Waterman – Boy in park
Bryan Coleman – Holding
Arthur Mullard – Grogan
Joyce Blair – Carol
Timothy Bateson – Partrige
John Bennett – Thomas
Victor Brooks – Police Officer
Julian Orchard – 1st Jeweller
Patrick Newell – 2nd Jeweller
Alfred Burke – Caulfield
Arthur Lovegrove – Jones
Cardew Robinson – Wiseman – Helicopter Brother
Dick Emery – Reginald Cundell
Totti Truman Taylor
Joby Blanshard – Peekaboo Doorman
Frank Gatliff – Policeman in the park
Marianne Stone
Jerold Wells – Sydney – large Nightwatchman
Dandy Nichols – Mrs Cundell
David Drummond – Assistant to Sir Harvey Russelrod