Directed by: Paul Van Carter
Starring: Freddie Foreman
Freddie Foreman (also known as ‘Brown Bread Fred’) is a notorious British gangster who was an associate of the even more notorious Kray twins – Ronnie and Reggie – in the 1960s. This intimate and eye-opening documentary sees Freddie himself carefully discussing his criminal activities he admits to in his book, and also attempts to gather new details on some of his crimes.
As the interview begins, you expect you’re about to witness a former gangster open up and reveal his darkest secrets, but in actual fact this documentary switches gears and instead focuses on trying to find out how Freddie goes about his day to day life knowing what he has done and keeping the secrets that he undoubtedly does. Freddie has always maintained that his crimes were ‘victimless’ and that no one who was innocent (children, women, police, innocent men) were ever victims of his criminal activity – the full extent of which is still unknown. But Paul Van Carter becomes more interested in trying to draw out confessions of regret or guilt from Freddie who has never publicly shown an ounce of any for his criminal actions.
At the beginning of the interview Freddie is sat on the opposite side of the table to the camera, so from the second the documentary starts it feels personal and as though you’re sat opposite this notorious gangster. Despite the nature of the topic at hand, the documentary is shot in an incredibly relaxed manner – for example there are times where you can hear mobile phones ringing in the background as Carter is questioning Freddie, and members of the crew walking in front of the camera as if it wasn’t even there.
Building his own little empire consisting of clubs, housing properties, various other ventures, Freddie was quickly building a reputation in London and his involvement with crime was no secret. After being found guilty of dumping the body of Jack ‘The Hat’ McVitie following his murder at the hands of Reggie Kray, Freddie served 10 years – his first stint in prison. Freddie is rumoured to have been a hitman for the Krays, but this is something he has always denied.
Freddie is noticeably careful with his answers during this interview – obviously not wanting to reveal anything he hasn’t previously admitted to. Even when questioned on something he talks about openly in his book, Freddie is hesitant to reply for what I can only assume is fear he might slip up and say something that could get him in trouble. He attempts to quickly skip past his involvement in the Shoreditch ‘Security Express Robbery’, in which £9 million was stolen by Freddie and his associates. This robbery was the largest cash robbery in the UK at the time, which increased Freddie’s notoriety.
There are shots of Freddie being photographed for promotional material for this documentary where he’s suited up and looking incredibly intimidating. This is shortly followed by contrasting footage filmed for this documentary of him visiting his previously owned properties and his local pub and we see him in more casual clothing and walking with the aid of his walking stick. These more personal shots of Freddie become more frequent as Paul Van Carter’s questioning moves from trying to uncover new information, to trying to understand why Freddie doesn’t show any remorse or guilt for what he’s done in the past. The topics of feelings and emotions is something he tries to skip over during the documentary, but I would say it’s clear from his body language that this is an act for the camera.
As the documentary progresses and we learn more about Freddie, his childhood, his family life, and the repercussions his criminal activity has had on them, the camera begins to follow this aging gangster through his daily life, including a look inside his tiny apartment within a home – a far cry from the luxurious life he would have once lived with the money from his criminal activities. This insight strips away his intimidating facade that had a strong presence in the beginning and reveals the toll of Freddie’s past has taken on both himself and the people who know him.
‘Fred: The Godfather of British Crime’ is available to download May 28th, and available on DVD from June 4th – and if have an interest in British crime or find yourself intrigued by this review, I definitely recommend seeking it out.
This intimate one-to-one with such a notorious figure makes for fascinating viewing and the way in which the interview evolves from a up-close and personal interview to sort of a fly on the wall type documentary is incredibly well done and it evolves so naturally that it doesn’t feel like it’s suddenly switched from one to the other.