You have to like any mystery that starts with a dead body, and "Sapphire" uses that as a jumping off point for a compelling puzzle that is more who was she than who done it, although that is not unimportant here. The movie turns that into a smart and pointed critique of the racism of the time the movie was made in England which only surprised me as far as the segregation was concerned but there is none of the mistrust of the police that I would come to expect.(Is it any wonder that Basil Dearden would go on to direct "Victim" two years later?) The movie is also far ahead of its time in popping any number of stereotypes in its nuanced depiction of black professionals. At first, I thought maybe the attitudes on race might be generational but Hazard is the consummate professional, especially compared to his younger colleague, as the movie is firmly interested in not letting anyone off the hook.
The first big success of Basil Dearden, Sapphire is the story of a girl with this name that is killed in the beginning of the film. Throughout the film we follow the detectives around and are introduced to a number of potential suspects, eaxh with their own motives and stories. The characters are well developed and add richness to the film. The movie deals with racism and several racial slurs including the N word. Although controversial, especially by today's standards, the racially motivated plots are what add most of the tension and ultimately the cause of the murder.