WHO had thought it was a good idea to have Roger Daltrey play a hardened criminal and WHO would ever of realised he’d pull it off so convincingly? Right that’s got the WHO gags out the way. Roger Daltrey if you didn’t already know was the lead singer of the British rock group The Who. Branching out from the music side of things, the band had expanded into film production. The Who Films started with the classic Mods and Rockers clash, Quadrophenia in 1979 along with the bands very own documentary The Kids Are Alright. The production company only made one other film. The prison drama, McVicar.
Tagline – “They said nobody escapes from “The Cage” but they forgot that McVICAR had nothing to lose!!“
Roger Daltrey had already exercised his acting chops in two crazy Ken Russell films, Tommy (1975) and Lisztomania (1975). If I’m honest I wasn’t much of a fan of either but his third acting film role, with McVicar, was a completely different story. It had come to our attention around the same time as films like The Warriors, The Wanderers, Scum and the above mentioned Quadrophenia etc. All made in 1979. They all hit television or the video stores at round the same time. Entertaining this generation of teenagers in the early part of the 80s. They were all heavy hitting films. Filled with tough hard-boiled characters, bloody violence, hardcore swearing and enough quotes and sayings to pass around the school yard impressing your mates. All those factors led to creating another cult classic film in the minds of us teenage lads.
Tagline – “Everyone’s out to get McVICAR because McVICAR wants out….”
The film is based on the real life convicted armed robber John McVicar. Roger Daltrey portrays McVicar here as a cheeky chappy, an almost lovable rogue. Still he has a temper on him and he’s likely to explode into a rage at any given time. “Make sure you’re not involved, woncha? Cos I’ll put a tool right in your belly!” After doing the classic “just one last job” he inevitability gets caught, sentenced and banged up. Imprisoned in the infamous HM Prison Durham. Which at the time was a Category A prison housing some of Britain’s most dangerous and depraved convicts. Desperate to escape his caged new life he befriends inmate Walter, played by pop teen idol Adam Faith. Together they plan their escape. Digging through a wall in the shower room, which leads to possible freedom. This gives Roger and the boys in the band the perfect opportunity to sing “FrrEEEeeeEEE Meeee”
The first half of the movie is set within the toughness of prison’s walls. The conditions, the company you share and the power struggle against the guards and inmates alike. From beatings, to solitary confident. To dodging getting shanked, getting caught up in riot, to navigating piss food. Plus of course, a whole lot of classic British swearing. Determined and dedicated McVicar and his partner dig their way out this maximum security prison. Once out we get to follow McVicar keeping a low profile and cashing in favours to help him out. This leads us to our youthful, most talked about, scene in the film appears. With Georgina Hale cooking up a “cheeky” English fried breakfast and cooling down his hot sausage! Well his banger had been banged up for sometime!
After his breakout, Scotland Yard tagged him with the notorious title of Public Enemy No 1. Having spent almost a year on the run he desperately wanted to see his son and wife Shelia (Cheryl Campbell) again. Had it been long enough for the heat to die down on his family home? It’s hard not to give the ending away as that leads to how this film was made! It’s pretty obvious to be honest.
John McVicar would be later caught on November 12th 1970 and re-sentenced with a hefty 26 years of prison time. Something clicked in John and he buried himself in education. He enrolled as an Open University student studying Sociology. Later, when reformed and released, he’d study for a postgraduate degree at University. During this time he wrote his autobiography and began scripting for this biographical film. After the success of both he would become a journalist and author. Bizarrely it looks like he’s written an in-depth biography of actor Jude Law! Or is that just another writer by the same name?
McVicar is directed, along with some screenplay duties, by Tom Clegg. He’s a director I didn’t know but really should have. The guy’s filmography on British television is off the chart. Space 1999, Special Branch, The Sweeney, Minder and what looks to be his legacy, directing Sean Bean in 16 superb Sharpe TV movies.
At the time the prison was filled with notorious criminals and murderers. I haven’t read the book but I’ve heard that some of the real names were change for the film but kept in the book. With Steven Berkoff being renamed as Ronnie Harrison based on Charlie Richardson gang member from the Richardson’s who feuded with The Kray’s. There’s a deeply disturbing moment during a prison riot that Ian Brady is seen and mentioned under a different name. At the time we hadn’t really taken it in but watching now that whole scene hits like a hammer!
The movie is filled with many familiar faces from television. All playing prison guards or inmates. Brian Hall, Billy Murray, Michael Feast, Tony Haygarth, Tony Rohr, Anthony May, John Rolfe and Charles Cork. None of whom, I’m ashamed to say, I knew their names but have seen their faces plastered over television for the last three plus decades.
Oh I do like re-visiting these movies from my youth. Yes of course they were way too adult for us but that was the buzz. I hadn’t seen it for over 30 years but remembered everything and even sang along to the soundtrack.
My own jail time!
Not a lot a people know that I spent a little time banged up, on a false charge I tell you! Something to do with the matter of a missing cow one evening. What could I say as I was circled by armed cops with red laser sniper dots covering my entire body! Nothing really I guess! Well I had fallen into a food coma. Surrounded by countless empty can’s of beer and a smoldering carcass on a giant BBQ! “Ooops!“. As I look at my hands and fur covered in blood, charcoal and a delicious barbecue sauce. Looking up innocently I say “It’s a fair cop governor” with a cheeky smile. Here’s me testing the bars trying to work out my escape.
Then later checking to see if the coast is clear. Ready to make a dash for it.
You’ll be pleased to know I was out the next day. Bounded straight over the 20ft fence and turned into my human form and no-one knew who I was. Only problem! I was walking through the town stark bollock naked. Arrested again! DOH!
Thanks for popping on in and having a look to see what’s he rambling on about. Feel free to comment if you wish but most of all, enjoy having fun with movies.
PS on a similar tip is the Oliver Reed and Ian McShane film Sitting Target (1972) with it’s prison breakout which I reviewed a few years back.
8 thoughts on “McVicar (1980) Gritty British Prison Escape Movie Starring Roger Daltrey”
Roger Daltry always had an amazing set of vocal cords. He definitely let’s rip in FREE ME!
As to the breakfast fry-up pic, it really does prompt the question doesn’t it – when is a kitchen apron like a hospital gown? Answer? When it’s worn like that!
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He certainly does rip in to that tune. Really suits the film pushing out his pent up anger.
Big laugh on the apron/gown. Not sure I could pull of the look, she does a grand job 🙂
Well THAT was a short rest! And apparently you’re right back into it, with a daily dose of February prison movies on tap! (Or…not). I only know of this film because a) my friend was a Who fan in high school, and b) I liked the song ‘Without Your Love’ that Daltrey sang in it somewhere, and I owned the 45 single at some point. Never saw the film, but I’ve always wondered about the soundtrack…have you ever heard it? (on vinyl, not during the movie you just watched!).
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I had it on cassette tape! But never got round to getting it on vinyl. I should pick it up really. I do like having the soundtracks to movies but I have way less than I would like. “Without your love” is a real nice folky sounding tune. My favorites on the soundtrack are the two “escape” themes by Jeff Wayne. They both play out a little like extensions to his War Of The Worlds LP. Heavy on the guitar with blasts of flute and synths.
Daily dose of prison films! LOL… Next week I hope to do an early 70s mystery thriller with a soundtrack I do have on vinyl and like very much………..
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Not familiar with this one but I do love that Oliver Reed flick. And try to stay out of jail will yah or I’ll have to have Abbott and Costello lock you in your room on the night of the full moon.
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Lol 😂 I’ll keep out the way of Abbot and Costello. Hehe…. Mcvicar definitely worth a DVR if it pops up on cable.
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[…] McVicar (1980) – Wolfman Rating 8.5 – IMDB Rating 6.8 This prison film was what we grew up on as teenagers. To find out all about it and see the wolf locked up himself click here! McVicar review and write up here […]
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