ⓘ The Offence

The Offence

ⓘ The Offence

The Offence is a 1973 British crime neo noir drama film directed by Sidney Lumet, based upon the 1968 stage play This Story of Yours by John Hopkins. It stars Sean Connery as police detective Johnson, who kills suspected child molester Kenneth Baxter while interrogating him. The film explores Johnsons varied, often aggressive attempts at rationalizing what he did, revealing his true motives for killing the suspect in a series of flashbacks. Trevor Howard and Vivien Merchant appear in major supporting roles.


1. Plot

Detective-Sergeant Johnson has been a police officer for 20 years and is deeply affected by the murders, rapes, and other violent crimes he has investigated. He is plagued by images of violence and is losing his mind under the strain.

His anger surfaces while interrogating Kenneth Baxter, who is suspected of raping a young girl. By the end of the interrogation, Johnson has severaly beaten Baxter who is then taken to the hospital where he later dies. Johnson is suspended for the beating and returns home for the night, getting into a violent argument with his wife Maureen. Two of Johnsons colleagues comes to inform him that Baxter died in hospital and that Johnson must come to the station right away.

The following day, Johnson is interviewed by Detective Superintendent Cartwright. During their long confrontation, flashbacks show the events of the previous night, when Johnson beats Baxter.

The flashbacks portray Baxter - whose guilt or innocence is left ambiguous - taunting Johnson, insinuating that he secretly wants to commit the sort of sex crimes he investigates. Johnson at first flies into a rage and strikes Baxter, but he eventually admits that he does indeed harbour obsessive fantasies of murder and rape. He then tearfully begs Baxter to help him. When Baxter recoils from him in disgust, Johnson snaps and kills him.

The film ends with another flashback, this time of Johnson attacking the police officers who pulled him off Baxter, and muttering " God." as he realises what he has done.


2. Cast

  • Hilda Fenemore - woman on common
  • Ronald Radd - Lawson
  • Ian Bannen - Baxter
  • Trevor Howard - Cartwright
  • Maxine Gordon - Janie
  • John Hallam - Panton
  • Anthony Sagar - Hill
  • Sean Connery - Johnson
  • Derek Newark - Jessard
  • Cynthia Lund - child at school
  • Richard Moore - Garrett
  • Rhoda Lewis - woman at school
  • Howard Goorney - Lambert
  • Peter Bowles - Cameron
  • Vivien Merchant - Maureen

3. Production

When Connery agreed to return as James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever, David V. Picker, CEO of United Artists, pledged to back two of Connerys own film projects, provided they cost $2 million or less, in association with Connerys own production company, Tantallon Films. The Offence, made under the working title Something Like the Truth a line that appears in John Hopkins original play, was the first. Connery was keen to shake off the image of James Bond and expand his range as an actor.

Connery had previously worked with Hopkins when the writer had co-scripted Thunderball and had seen the play during its original run in London in 1968. Seeing potential in the story, Connery bought the option on the film rights and asked Hopkins to adapt the script for the big screen.

Having made two films with Sidney Lumet, The Hill and The Anderson Tapes Connery appreciated his straightforward approach and offered him the job of directing. Lumet was keen to work with Connery again and accepted. Ian Bannen, who had also appeared in The Hill was hired as co-star.

The film was shot on a small budget of £385.000 in March and April 1972 in and around Bracknell, Berkshire - notably the Wildridings Mill Pond area and Easthampsteads Point Royal. Interior sets were filmed at Twickenham Studios. The fight sequences between Connery and Bannen were choreographed, uncredited, by Bob Simmons, who had designed similar action scenes for the Bond films. The film remains Sir Harrison Birtwistles only film score.

United Artists released The Offence early in 1973. It was a critical success but a commercial failure and did not yield a profit for nine years, even going unreleased in several markets, including France, where it did not premiere until 2007. United Artists pulled out of the deal and the other project, a film version of Macbeth that Connery was to direct, was scotched by Roman Polanskis adaptation.


4. Reception

"A fascinating look at the human psyche based on Z Cars scriptwriter John Hopkins acclaimed stage play This Story of Yours, The Offence is an expertly crafted study of evil and human weakness that demands to be watched in its entirety. it still packs quite a punch and features compelling performances from both Sean Connery and Ian Bannen."

"Less well-known than his other British pictures, this unrelentingly somber policier inaugurates a newfound force in Lumet’s work. The story, adapted by John Hopkins from his play, abounds in stylistic tics, but the flashiness that pockmarked much of the director’s earlier work has been pruned to hushed, concentrated intensity. Likewise, the movie looks ahead to the bathed-in-gray themes of Lumet’s later studies of law & order ambivalence -- Connery’s pressure-cooker copper, plagued with lurid images palpitating inside his brain, is the template for the protagonists of Serpico, Prince of the City and Q & A. Connery pinpoints some fantastic shadings of bullying, dissatisfaction and self-disgust, matched by Bannen’s peerless razzing - the culminating pounding is less liberating purgation than guilt transference, christened by Bannen’s bloodied leer."


5. DVD releases

In 2004, MGM UK released a DVD of the film which contained no extras or trailers. Simultaneous releases from MGM were made in other PAL format countries, such as Germany and Australia. On 20 October 2008, the film was again released on DVD in the UK by Optimum Releasing, again without extras or trailers. A French Region 2 DVD, preserving the films original ratio of 1:1.66, became available in 2009. In April 2010, MGM put the film out on a U.S. DVD-R "on demand" for the first time. It is available as an exclusive from and contains no extras.

In 2014 the film was released on Blu-ray in the US, and in 2015 it was released in the UK in the same format.


6. This Story of Yours

John Hopkins original play, This Story of Yours, takes the form of three duologues between Johnson and, in Act One, Maureen, then Cartwright in Act Two and Baxter in Act Three. Directed by Christopher Morahan, it opened at Londons Royal Court Theatre on 11 December 1968. The cast was as follows:

  • Cartwright - John Phillips
  • Policemen - Edward Clayton, Steven Barnes, Oliver Maguire, Colin Pinney
  • Maureen - Alethea Charlton
  • Johnson - Michael Bryant
  • Baxter - Gordon Jackson

The first major revival of the play was directed by Jack Gold at Londons Hampstead Theatre, opening on 5 February 1987 with the following cast:

  • Cartwright - Bryan Pringle
  • Police Constables - Paul Fryer, Frederick Lane
  • Det Sgt Jessard - Richard Cubison
  • Maureen - Jane Wood
  • Johnson - David Suchet
  • Baxter - James Hazeldine