The Gangster and The Pervert Peer Review: Kray-ving Scandal?

February 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

THE GANGSTER AND THE PERVERT PEER, Channel 4, Monday 16th Feb, 9:00pm Alert Me

Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone (oh yes, this actually happened).

Over the years, the public has been subjected to many an unholy and incredibly unlikely hook up, but I’d challenge you to find more of a naturally intriguing dalliance than the focus of Channel 4’s latest episode in its ‘Toffs and Crims’ series.

Subtitled ‘The Gangster and The Pervert Peer’, it explores the affinity and seemingly natural connection that blossomed between the upper echelons of the British power system and the mass murdering, London gangster twins The Krays. What started out as a fairly auspicious East End cockney gangster racket quickly gathered pace to become the most powerful criminal organisation that London had ever seen, and it’s unsurprising to see that this didn’t merely come about due to schoolboy bully-style intimidation and threats of the occasional ‘Chelsea Smile’.

Shockingly for the time (it was still illegal), Reggie Kray was relatively open about his homosexuality (then again, I suppose few people would really want to take a paranoid, sociopathic psychopath to task on the matter), and through a carefully series of high-risk sexual parties and rentboy to politician pimping bylines, was able to worm his away into a position of such power that his organisation became virtually untouchable.

While its subject matter is arguably captivating enough, Pervert Peer bristles along with flashy cuts and momentarily brilliant bursts of Waltz with Bashir-style neo-realist animation that really serve to drag you in whenever you’re starting to lose interest. Original news footage and hilariously enlightening interviews with those close to the shamed politicians and gangsters are also brutally frank. The fact that one of the Krays was involved in some decidedly dodgy sexual practices is an eye opener as it is. Hearing an upper class toff quote verbatim the Urban Dictionary’s definition of the various acts in all his wobbly jowl cheeked amazement is an image and sound byte I sincerely doubt is likely to be topped anytime soon.

On a ‘Heat-generation’ celebrity gossip level, this works; watercooler-worthy factoids and jaw-dropping sexual secrets are uncovered with entertaining regularity. But it also serves as a telling and mildly depressing expose into the criminal fallibility of Britain’s political system and the powerless attempts to rectify it. As one of the case’s top journalists laments as he flicks through a previously unopened case file: “I thought it was a good world where if you told the truth you shamed the devil. But it doesn’t seem to work like that in this country.?

Watch this and begin to understand why.

Matt Risley

Interested in more of Matt’s awesome (or so HE tells us) reviews? See- Dispatches: Too old to work and Mad Men: Back for a cracking new series. He’s also a bitter anti-romantic who has compiled a list of Top 7 Anti Valentine’s Films that Make You Glad to be Single.