Secrets of the Krays
The Kray twins are a household name to many, whether remembered as the lords of the East End in the 1960s or as the subjects of ultra-glamorised biopic Legend (starring Tom Hardy as both twins). For those who are not acquainted with the reputation of the Krays, they were violent and ruthless gangsters who terrorised the East End of London throughout the 1960s. ITV’s three-part series, Secrets of the Krays, compiles a varied series of interviews with everyone from relatives to historians of the twins, recalling the havoc and brutality they unleashed.
The first compliment this series deserves is that, unlike the aforementioned film, it does not strive to romanticise or make icons of the twins. In fact, one of the first lines of the series from society photographer David Bailey is, “You have to be careful making heroes of people who don’t deserve it.” In one of the trailers for Legend the taglines is “Love like a legend” – and then the film proceeds to show Reggie Kray raping his mentally ill wife. Through interviews with people who knew the Krays personally or studied them, this series ensures that they are shown for what they were: violent and merciless criminals, not legends.
Where the series falters is that it makes the assumption that the audience already has a certain amount of knowledge about the twins. Near the opening the death of their mother is discussed, without having fully introduced the brothers themselves. The narrative also jumps from one topic to another without any consistency, jumping from Ronnie’s sexuality to their BBC interview and their connection to Frank Mitchell (“The Mad Axeman”), then back to their personal relationships. Although the information is detailed and intriguing, the flow of the series feels disjointed and rushed.
However, it is always reassuring to see sinister men exposed for what they truly are, and not portrayed as “iconic” because they wore expensive suits and had natural good looks. The Krays murdered, terrorised and took advantage of their celebrity status to intimidate and tyrannise, and that is exactly what Secrets of the Krays shows.
Secrets of the Krays is released on Britbox on 13th May 2021.
Watch the trailer for Secrets of the Krays here: