The Black Panther is a 1977 British crime thriller directed by Ian Merrick, written by Michael Armstrong (The Haunted House of Horror; Mark of the Devil; House of the Long Shadows). It stars Donald Sumpter, Debbie Farrington and Marjorie Yates.
A true case, with details verified from primary sources and limited dramatic licence, the film was heavily attacked in the media on first release, with interviewer Sue Lawley calling the film “sick” on the BBC’s Tonight programme. but John Patterson for The Guardian commented on its dual-format DVD and Blu-ray release in 2012 that it “emerges as a meticulous, tactful, well-made and highly responsible true-crime movie”.
Ex-soldier turned armed robber Donald Neilson kills three sub-postmasters and kidnaps a teenage heiress.
“The combination of the shocking and the ordinary is ultimately the reason why The Black Panther succeeds. It demystifies Neilson without ever diminishing just how awful his crimes were. There is no celebration here nor is there any exploitation.” Anthony Nield, The Digital Fix
“Its garish promotion at the time made it come off as a sleazy horror film, and while the treatment isn’t too far off from The Town that Dreaded Sundown territory (how could it be given they both feature shotgun psychos with hoods?), this is far from your average exploitation film.” Nathaniel Thompson, Mondo Digital
“Sumpter’s riveting performance, Armstrong’s immersive script and some cool and detached direction from Ian Merrick together with Richard Arnell’s unobtrusive but frequently chilling score mark The Black Panther out as a massively underrated gem of British crime cinema.” Black Gloves, Horrorview
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