Directed by: Ian Merrick
Actors: Donald Sumpter, Debbie Farrington, Marjorie Yates
Also known as: Donald Neilson, la jena di Londra
Description: A rare British film from the late 70’s starring Donald Sumpter as the infamous Donald Neilson, an obsessed ex-military man who begins a secret life of crime, ending in the kidnapping and imprisonment of a young heiress who he chains in a sewer.
A VERY FINE, FORGOTTEN FILM, THE PINNACLE OF ‘70’S BRITISH CINEMA.
The victim of a hysterical proto-sadist video press campaign which killed its initial theatrical run, The Black Panther is actually anything but the insensitive exploitation piece is was labelled as which damned it so long to distribution limbo.
Charting the bizarre killing spree of wannabe criminal mastermind Donald Neilson, this insightful, intelligent thriller feels chillingly authentic in the way it is constructed. No avant- garde pretensions or sensationalist hyper reality to be found here unlike its accused grindhouse brethren. Director Ian Merrick is to the point with his direction and only benefits the film with his “lack of adventure” should i say, but major credit goes to Michael Armstrong who’s minute detail script does what the journalists at the time couldn’t be bothered with and lays out fully the whole grim affair to the best the evidence available could suggest. Donald Sumpter is fearless as Panther. A little theatrical for some maybe, but you have to consider that this was no ordinary serial killer. A house thief that turned to armed robbery, then kidnap for ransom, this was no clueless man-child or crusading zealot, he really thought himself as a criminal genius and so would be full of himself, yes? Sumpter understood this and his portrayal of Neilson as the tragic fool gives great clarity to the events on top of the well researched script.
Overall a horrific, challenging and truthful dramatisation that is a masterclass in true life crime filmmaking, a hidden gem.