Author Archives: Peter Fuller

The Damned | Book Review

Andy Ellis reviews The Damned by Nick Riddle.

I’ve just finished this excellent book on Hammer’s sci-fi gem (which was originally released in the UK on 20 May 1963) – highly recommended for fans of Hammer, Joseph Losey, British sci-fi, and quality film criticism. It’s the latest in the Constellations series published by Auteur, who also do the terrific Devil’s Advocates series. This one is up there with that series’ books on Frenzy and Witchfinder General (both by Ian Cooper), Suspiria (by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas), Texas Chain Saw Massacre (by James Rose) and Dead of Night (by Jez Connolly & David Owain Bates).

It covers the historical context of the film, its links to preceding and following genre works, and to other of Losey’s films, and themes of what the author describes as a ‘genre-hopping story that explores the links between youth culture, authority and nuclear terror’. Intelligent, but accessible writing – like a greatly extended version of those incisive paragraphs in one of Jonathan Rigby’s books on a key film [please do a book-length in-depth study of one film, Mr Rigby !]. Fascinating observations on aspects like the use of Elisabeth Frink’s sculpture, the musical score, the performances, and the camera work – I especially enjoyed his in-depth analysis of 2 or 3 key sequences.

Riddle is not afraid to discuss the films flaws, especially some plot points and Shirley Anne Field’s acting, although some of these contribute to the film’s overall impact. Like all the Auteur books, it suffers slightly from having very few illustrations, but the descriptions of scenes is very good. The book really makes me want to watch the film again – I learnt so much that I’d not spotted or thought about before. I’ve always liked The Damned, but I now rate it as one of Hammer’s greatest achievements. All together now, “Black leather, black leather, rock, rock, rock…”

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The Night of the Generals | The World War Two whodunnit on Blu-ray

From Eureka Entertainment comes the World War Two thriller, The Night of the Generals, on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK, taken from a brand new 4K restoration, as part of the Eureka Classics range.

In 1942 Warsaw, a prostitute is found brutally murdered. Normally, the crime would attract little attention in war, but evidence points to one of three top Nazi generals as the killer. Thanks to German Military Intelligence officer, Major Grau, an epic man-hunt begins, through to Nazi-occupied Paris where, in 1944, an almost exact replica of the crime is committed…

This epic 1967 film, adapted from Joseph Kessel’s novel and directed by Anatole Litvak (making his penultimate picture), has a cast to die for! Not only do you have Peter O’Toole, Donald Pleasence and Charles Gray playing the prime suspects, you’ve got Omar Sharif (as Grau), Tom Courtenay, Christopher Plummer, Gordon Jackson, Coral Browne and many more. Even Juliette Greco gets in a little song.

More whodunnit than full-on war drama (with a Hitler assassination subplot that, frankly, seems a bit of an add-on), it also features a magnificent score from Maurice Jarre and evocative film location camerawork, alongside Litvak’s carefully calculated direction.

The highlight for me, however, was seeing Gray and Browne sparring as the devoted von Seidlitz-Gabler couple – as they would play similar roles on the London stage in 1975 in Jean Anouilh’s Ardèle alongside Browne’s hubby, Vincent Price. But O’Toole really is also totally captivating – even though he looks rather pale, sweaty and ill throughout most of the proceedings.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray, taken from a stunning 4K restoration
• Uncompressed LPCM audio (original mono presentation)
• Optional English subtitles
• Brand new and exclusive Audio Commentary by author Scott Harrison
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by author Scott Harrison

 

The Woman in the Window | Fritz Lang’s influential 1940s film noir on Blu-ray

From Eureka Entertainment comes Fritz Lang’s The Woman in the Window (1944), starring Edward G Robinson and Joan Bennett, as part of The Masters of Cinema Series for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK.

Robinson plays Richard Wanley, a psychiatrist biding his time while his wife and children are on vacation when he encounters Alice (Joan Bennett), who bears an uncanny resemblance to the subject of a portrait he is fascinated by. When Richard and Alice retire to her home, her wealthy, jealous boyfriend intrudes, and is killed after a struggle.

Alice convinces Richard to cover up the crime, but as Richard’s district attorney friend (Raymond Massey) investigates and the boyfriend’s bodyguard (Dan Duryea) begins to apply pressure to Richard, the walls begin to close in…

The Woman in the Window is a fantastic thriller made by Fritz Lang at the end of a very profitable decade in Hollywood, years which had already yielded Fury, You Only Live Twice, The Return of Frank James and Hangmen Also Die.

Considered as one of the most important examples of the genre, it was a triumph for Lang, writer/producer Nunnally Johnson (The Grapes of Wrath), and Edward G Robinson, and remains a classic nail-biter.

Bennett is in top form as the slinky femme fatale, while Duryea is at his silkily treacherous best as the blackmailer. Bennett and Duryea re-teamed with Robinson and Lang the following year for the equally exciting Scarlet Street.

Available to order from: Amazon

SPECIAL FEATURES
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray
• LPCM audio (original mono presentation)
• Optional English subtitles
• Video essay by critic David Cairns
• Audio Commentary by Film Historian Imogen Sara Smith, author of In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City
• Original theatrical trailer
• Collector’s booklet featuring new essays; alongside rare archival imagery

The Big Clock | John Farrow’s superior 1940’s noir heads to Blu-ray

Screwball comedy and heady thrills collide in director John Farrow’s superior noir suspenser, The Big Clock (1948), adapted from the classic 1946 Kenneth Fearing novel of the same name.

Overworked true crime editor George Stroud (Ray Milland) has been planning a vacation for months. However, when his boss, the tyrannical Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton), insists he skips his holidays, Stroud resigns before embarking on a drunken night out with his boss’ mistress, Pauline York (Rita Johnson). When Janoth kills Pauline in a fit of rage, Stroud finds himself becoming the prime suspect in her murder…

Charles Laughton may steal the limelight here, but Elsa Lanchester (aka Mrs Laughton) is a real gem as the zany painter with a string of ex-husbands. Ray Milland and Maureen O’Sullivan (aka Mrs Farrow) are also good as the hero and heroine, and George Macready is super hissable as usual. Farrow tops off his terrific vintage thriller with an exciting chase climax.

The Arrow Academy Blu-ray edition of The Big Clock is out on 13 May 2019

SPECIAL FEATURES
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation transferred from original film elements
• Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• New audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
Turning Back the Clock: analysis of the film by Adrian Wootton
A Difficult Actor: an appreciation of Charles Laughton by Simon Callow
• 1948 radio dramatisation by the Lux Radio Theatre, starring Ray Milland
• Original theatrical trailer
• Gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring two original artwork options

The Grand Duel | Lee Van Cleef’s last great western gets a 2k Blu-ray release

Genre stalwart Lee Van Cleef stars as a gnarled ex-sheriff called Clayton who comes to the aid of young Philipp Wermeer (Alberto Dentice), a fugitive framed for the murder of a powerful figure called The Patriarch. Clayton helps Philipp fend off attacks from bounty hunters in a series of thrilling shootouts before the two make their way to Jefferson to confront the Saxon brothers, the cunning David (Horst Frank), the hotheaded Eli (Marc Mazza), and depraved psycho Adam (Klaus Grünberg), and reveal who really killed The Patriarch.

Penned by giallo writer Ernesto Gastaldi, The Grand Duel is one of the best Spaghetti Westerns of the 1970’s, featuring a superb central performance from Lee Van Clee, assured direction from Giancarlo Santi (a former as assistant-director to both Sergio Leone and Giulio Petroni), and a soaring tuneful score from composer Luis Bacalov (Django).

Add in some knock-out action sequences, a bunch of colourful characters, and a touch of giallo-noir in the second half and this forgotten gem really is one of the grandest of all the Italian westerns. But the highlight for me was Klaus Grünberg’s pockmarked villain Adam Saxon. Dressed in white, with matching gloves, he is truly despicable – especially when he massacres a group of Dutch immigrants just for the fun of it.

The Grand Duel is out on Blu-ray from Arrow Video from 6 May 2019.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• New 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Uncompressed mono 1.0 LPCM audio
• Original English and Italian soundtracks, titles and credits
• Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the English soundtrack
• Audio commentary by film critic, historian and theorist Stephen Prince
An Unconventional Western: interview with director Giancarlo Santi
The Last of the Great Westerns: interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi
Cowboy by Chance: interview with the actor Alberto Dentice (aka Peter O’Brien)
Out of the Box: interview with producer Ettore Rosboch
The Day of the Big Showdown: interview with assistant director Harald Buggenig
Saxon City Showdown: video appreciation by the academic Austin Fisher
• Original Italian and international theatrical trailers
• Extensive image gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring original artwork by Matt Griffin
• Collector’s booklet (First pressing only)

The Witch | The last 30-minutes of this South Korean sci-fi blockbuster is a blood-drenched assault on the senses

10 years ago, Koo Ja-yoon (Kim Da-mi) escaped from a medical facility during an incident and her memory. Now an unusually bright high school student, the farmer’s daughter enters a TV talent show which makes her a target to those who want her back. But she responds with a terrifying transformation from innocent girl into cold-blooded super killer!

Like Stranger Things, Orphan Black and its like, this South Korean sci-fi (aka Manyeo) deals with an amnesiac with latent genetically-engineered/mutant powers. Yep, we’ve seen it all before, and this one – from writer/director Park Hoon-jung – is a bit of a mixed bag. It starts off pretty slow, with some family domestics, but then comes the jaw-dropping finale – a blood-drenched assault on your senses that’s best experienced on the biggest screen possible and with a really good sound system (just to hear those bones cracking).

Kim Da-mi shines in the title role, but my favourite was Jo Min-soo as Ja-yoon’s ‘creator/mother’, Dr Baek. Channelling Joan Crawford’s mothering skills, her Dr Frankenstein-like brain surgeon is one crazy bitch indeed! One mystery I’d like solved, however, is why her superhuman children are referred to as ‘witches’. There’s no obvious explanation. Or did I miss it?

The Witch did soaring business in its native South Korea, while its full title (Part 1 – The Subversion) hints at more adventures to come. I’d be up for that – if only to get an answer to my question!

The Witch is out now on Digital HD from Signature Entertainment

 

Cujo | The 1980s rabid dog horror from the pen of Stephen King gets a limited edition UK Blu-ray release

Evil bites when a drooling rabid dog lays siege to the frightened occupants of a broken-down car in this 1983 horror from director Lewis Teague (Alligator, The Jewel of the Nile), based on Stephen King’s best-selling novel of the same name.

While Donna (Dee Wallace) and Vic Trenton (Daniel Hugh-Kelly) struggle to save their rocky marriage, their son Tad (Danny Pintauro) befriends the St Bernard who belongs to their mechanic. But what they don’t realise is that a bat bite is transforming Cujo into a vicious killer. With Vic away on business, Donna and Tad’s car trouble pushes them into a living nightmare…

Alongside Maximum Overdrive and Cat’s Eye, this is one of the weakest Stephen King adaptations, but it did do modest business at the box-office back in 1983 when hit became the fourth-highest grossing horror of the year. The simple premise is of a car breaking down, but in order to flesh out the film’s running time, it does so several times.

Dee Wallace and Who’s the Boss’ Danny Pintauro handle their roles pretty well, and Lewis does his best in the director’s chair which was originally occupied by Peter Medak (who left the project two days into filming). But Moe, the St Bernard, who plays Cujo is just too darn loveable looking, even with all that slobber coated over him, to make a convincing hell hound. And valiantly trying to generate suspense with his mobile camera is cinematographer Jan de Bont, who went on to direct Speed.

Eureka Classics’ Limited Edition 2-disc Blu-ray edition is available to order from Amazon

Check out the full specs below.

SPECIAL LIMITED EDITION [4000 UNITS] CONTAINS
• Hardbound Slipcase, featuring newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
• Reversible sleeve featuring artwork by Justin Osbourn and original poster artwork
• 60-page Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Lee Gambin, author Scott Harrison, and Craig Ian Mann; illustrated with archival imagery from the film’s production.

DISC ONE
• 1080p presentation of the film, on Blu-ray for the first time ever in the UK
• Uncompressed LPCM mono soundtrack
• Optional English SDH subtitles
• Audio commentary by Lee Gambin, author of Nope, Nothing Wrong Here: The Making of Cujo
• New interviews with Dee Wallace [40 mins], composer Charles Bernstein [35 mins], stunt people Gary Morgan [25 mins] and Jean Coulter [21 mins], casting director Marcia Ross. [20 mins], visual effects artist Kathie Lawrence [13 mins], special effects designer Robert Clark [12 mins] and dog trainer Teresa Miller [28 mins]
Dog Days: The Making of Cujo – archival documentary on the film’s production [42 mins]

DISC TWO [Limited Edition Only]
• Q&A with Dee Wallace from Cinemaniacs & Monster Fest 2015 [96 mins]
• New interview with critic and author Kim Newman [25 mins]

The Haunted House of Horror | Fancy a seance and an orgy with Frankie Avalon? Well you’ve got the wrong address!

At a ‘swinging’ London party, a group of bored teenagers decide they want a new ‘experience’, so Richard (Julian Barnes) suggests they head to a deserted mansion where an infamous murder took place. But during their ‘ghost hunt’, one of their number ends up brutally stabbed to death. Hiding the body, the gang decide not to tell the police, which turns out to be a really bad move. As guilt gets the better of them, they decide the only solution is to return to the scene of the crime…

Oh dear! This dated 1960s Tigon/AIP horror is embarrassingly bad, yet bizarrely enjoyable for its kitsch value. Beach Party‘s Frankie Avalon swaps his shorts and surfboard for some Carnaby Street clobber as the jaded group’s nominal leader. But he looks way older than his character should be, and practically dials in his performance. But he’s certainly not as stiff as Dennis Price (a last minute replacement for an ailing Boris Karloff), whose police inspector does little more than take phone calls. Among the dolly birds and male model supporting cast are future sitcom stars Richard O’Sullivan and Robin Stewart, pop singer Mark Wynter, and actress Jill Haworth (who ended up in Tower of Evil and The Mutations).

For fans of vintage British horror, you either love or hate this deeply-flawed attempt by Tigon to craft what is probably the UK’s first teen slasher, and its production history is certainly way more interesting than the film itself. Originally called The Dark, it was based on an original screenplay by 23-year-old Michael Armstrong, who also got to direct until he was removed by Tigon’s AIP co-producers, who demanded cuts, script changes and reshoots, to the point that the finished product looked nothing like what Armstrong had originally intended (he want to make a satire on the youth scene). Hence why George Sewell’s scenes look like they come from another movie. They were added to make up the running time after big cuts were made, which got rid of a homosexual subplot and other more interesting elements.

The restoration, however, is impressive as it really highlights the effective camerawork and lighting, particularly so in the mansion scenes (shot on location at the Birkdale Palace Hotel in Southport, but using sets constructed to look battered and aged). There’s so much more detail now and the colours really pop (especially in the cast’s trendy attire). Check out the clip below about the restoration work (But BIG spoiler alert! The killer is revealed).

While the film ended up generating good returns (especially when it was released in the US as Horror House on a double-bill with Crimson Cult – aka Curse of the Crimson Cult) it’s a real pity its a dog’s dinner of a thriller. But one can only imagine how it could have turned out had Armstrong had achieved his original concept with his dream cast of David Bowie, Scott Walker, Ian Ogilvy and Jane Merrow. If you want to read Armstrong’s original screenplay for The Dark, you purchase it from Paper Dragon Productions for £13.99. Just click on the link.

The Haunted House of Horror is available on Blu-ray in the UK from Screenbound

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Commentary and a new interview with director Michael Armstrong
• Interview clips with Michael Armstrong, actors Mark Wynter, Carol Dilworth and Veronica Doran; plus hair stylist Ross Carver, camera operator James Devis, production secretary Jeanette Ferber, dubbing editor Howard Lanning and editor Peter Pitt.

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich | World War III begins on your toy shelf!

The murderous marionettes are back as Fangoria presents their ultraviolent reboot of Charles Band’s Puppet Master horror franchise, The Littlest Reich, from directors Tommy Wiklund and Sonny Laguna.

When divorced comic book writer/store clerk Edgar (Reno 911!’s Thomas Lennon) finds one of the infamous Toulon Blade puppets in mint condition at his family home, he decides to sell it for some quick cash. New girlfriend Ashley (Jenny Pellicer) and nerdy pal Markowitz (Nelson Franklin) join Edgar as he heads to Oregon for an auction being held in the mansion where the infamous Toulon Murders took place 30 years previously.

But when the puppets are reanimated and start targeting ‘undesirables’, the trio team up with a security officer (Barbara Crampton) and a clueless cop (Michael Pare) to draw the puppets from out of the shadows to take them down…

The political satire may be as subtle as one of Donald Trump’s speeches, and the acting questionable, but the cartoon gore is a whole lotta fun and wonderfully offensive. A gypsy guy has his head chopped off while taking a leak, and ends up pissing on his own head; a Jewish couple get barbecued alive; and a black woman has her unborn foetus ripped from her stomach. But the OTT carnage really gets going when the toy shelf Nazis launch their all-out attack on the mansion…

Joining old favourites, Blade, Tunneler, Torch (aka Kaiser) and Pinhead, in this 13th-entry are seven new deadly dolls, including Junior Fuhrer, a diaper-wearing baby doll with the face of Adolf Hitler, who takes possession of a blonde German muscle dude by ripping open his back and crawling inside so he can operate him like a real-life puppet. But the Nazi nipper does get his comeuppance when Markowitz throws him into an oven.

With a neat (though short) cameo from Udo Keir (as Andre Toulon), a terrific score from the legendary Fabio Frizzi and an ending that hints at the franchise’s return, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is a bloody, silly, fun ride indeed.

Out in selected UK cinemas from 19 April 2019

 

Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker | Clive Donner’s spellbinding film adaptation gets a newly restored BFI release

The Caretaker

The Caretaker remains one of Harold Pinter’s most famous works. This study of shared illusion, tragic dispossession and the fraternal bond of unspoken love, combines the magic of Pinter’s dialogue with some mesmerising performances from Alan Bates, Donald Pleasence and Robert Shaw into a spellbinding film, sensitively directed by Clive Donner and shot by Nicolas Roeg, which is now out in a dual format release from the BFI, presented in a newly-restored print and with a host of extras (check them out at the end of this post).

Here, guest reviewer Ali Pye gives her low down on Pinter, the play, the film and the BFI release…

Harold Pinter was in the right place at the wrong time. A schoolboy witness to the World War II carpet-bombing of London’s East End, his response to such violence placed him as one of the angrier young men on the writing spectrum. By the late 1950’s he was well on the way to blowing the bloody doors off.

The Caretaker was his first commercial theatrical success. Burrowing upwards through inner city post-war debris like a weed, spare, sparse, resilient, it debuted in April 1960 and was feted first off the Charing Cross Road later transferring to Broadway. Regardless however of such glittering cosmopolitan acclaim, the blunt 3 hander set in a single cluttered room remained very much grounded among the bricks and bric-a-brac of down-at-heel Hackney. It was in this borough, where Pinter was born and schooled, that Clive Donner assembled an artist/actor collective and camera crew in late 1962, filming during the coldest winter on record.

Underwritten with donations from British stars of stage and screen, the project was an early GoFundMe fifty years before the concept existed. Each benefactor supplied £1000. Twice that could get you a fourth floor bedsit in Islington within thieving distance of the library. There is little imagination required to explain the empathy behind Peter Sellers’ backing, solitary child of a nomadic theatre family whose shallow roots had dug into the similarly bleak soil of East Finchley. Noel Coward and Elizabeth Taylor’s subscriptions suggest some less personal forces at work.

Shot entirely on location around Clapton, the outer parameters of The Caretaker are the distance a man could trudge from Mare Street in ill-fitting shoes. And no further. Despite the freedoms allowed by film at a time when it was not possible to get a van on stage at the Arts Club, even if had Pinter written one in, the piece remains chillingly claustrophobic. Three men, most usually in dual combinations and head-on, shuffle about the confined space of the upstairs bolt hole arguing status, standing, sheds, Sidcup and seagrass, never more than a few feet apart.

It is a tale full of sound and fury. And in part seemingly told by a madman.

One bitter winter evening, the homeless and dispossessed Davis is saved from a good kicking by a taciturn stranger, Aston and taken into his home. Initially disconcerted by the kindness, the tramp sets about negotiating residency in the rambling, ramshackle property in which, if care is taken, he may find permanent refuge. The garrulous and distracting Mick, Aston’s brother appears to offer alternative terms, although it’s a word game with much the same end.

Amid the chaotic and haphazardly piled junk hoarded by Aston, an ice-cold stove dominates the room. Even if the window were not open, at times with the snow flurrying down outside, diffusing the stench from the unwashed vagrant, there is no possibility of warmth or comfort.

“It’s not connected.” Explains Aston when pressed for a cup of tea.

A lack of connection pervades. Very much more than the cooker appears isolated and without purpose. Aston has entirely withdrawn following a non-specific institutionalisation. The blistering details of his shock therapy are recalled in an uncomfortably invasive single shot. Actor Robert Shaw’s eyelids twitch as he stumbles over the violation at the hospital somewhere “outside London”. For a film in which site-specific references come along more regularly than the #30 bus (via Highbury Corner), with journeys “down the Essex Road to Dalston Junction” taking on a mythic quality and Micks’ knowledge of hump backed bridges on the A2 almost encyclopaedic, there is no safe travelling outside the room resulting in terminus nor arrival nor completion. An offer to drive to Sidcup and collect finally ”the papers” that underpin Davis’ inconstant grasp of identity sees Mick’s van swerving pointlessly around a circular layby, depositing the old man back at the bench from which he started out some half a minute earlier.

Where the film can free itself from the immediate physical confines of the attic, Donner does so with a delicate poignancy. On the page the brothers share only two brief scenes together tight amid clutter under the steeple eaves. On the screen they are granted a soundless and affecting moment of reflection above a frozen pond in a winter garden, seen from a distance, indistinct, and tellingly through glass, the sacking-draped top storey window serving to emphasise we look through a camera lens and not straight at a stage.

The music too suggests an inhospitable landscape. Ron Grainer’s disconcerting soundtrack is high pitched scratching, screeching and oddly resonant metallic drips into a tin bucket tied to the ceiling. An echo of the bitter cold outside and in, there is barely a scene not underscored by grating electronic slides as if thin ice were cracking underfoot.

Davis’ obsession with bags and boots, the detritus of a wandering street life calls to mind, inevitably, other tramps from drama of the period. But the nifty pace of Donner’s film, despite long low shots across bedsteads and pipes and years’ worth of newspapers bound in carefully knotted string, ensures we never focus merely on the hiatus. This is much more than a wait between pauses. Donner’s low angles, the splintered lighting and unflinching close-ups are suggestive of a thriller.

Of the three actors, Pleasence, Bates and Shaw, the two former had developed their characters in The Arts Theatre in 1960 and taken them right across the Atlantic. The film-set off Lower Clapton Road must have felt like a homecoming. Pleasence, at forty-four some thirty years younger than the vagrant he portrays, is bundled in patchwork layers of castoffs and coats. Davis resembles nothing more than a tatterdemalion onion, the peeling of which may lead to a concrete identity thus saving the bother of schlepping to Sidcup.

Fear of the foreign, fear of the other and fear of each other all collide in The Caretaker. The film is an unsettling watch catching an unsettled time. The 60’s were not yet swinging but the oddly visionary consortium backing the production, Peter Hall and Richard Burton by no means the least likely pairing, suggest a pendulum movement starting to oscillate. Grainer, the composer of the shard-shattering and unsettling falls was already tinkering with the theme for a forthcoming BBC series. The pilot show in autumn 1963 would feature another ungrounded senior gentleman of dubious provenance and a box smaller on the outside.

Shuffling through freezing early dusk, passing the time that would have passed anyway, Davis is illuminated in the doorway of the Hackney Empire theatre, a welcome blaze of light in a feature lit for the best part by a single bulb on a wire. The back bar where some years earlier an out of work writer named Milligan had encountered a barely in work radio actor named Sellers and comedy history began a gestation.

The Caretaker formed in this crucible, penned by the master of the theatre of menace, part financed by a Goon, scored by the genius who could hear the sound of a TARDIS barrelling through time. Director Donner’s brief was to run with it. He didn’t go far. Balls Pond Road was the outer limit.

This glorious restoration reminds us that expansion need not be dilution. In the hands of an inventive creative (and there were enough involved as a stills photo of Noel Coward hemmed between lighting gaffers on the set sofa bed during production reminds us) a piece so static and rooted and constrained can soar with effortless flight well beyond the derelict geography. An early and brilliant example of thinking outside the box (room).

THE BFI DUAL FORMAT RELEASE
• Newly restored from the original camera negative by the BFI, and presented here in High Definition and Standard Definition
• Audio commentary by actor Alan Bates, director Clive Donner and producer Michael Birkett (2002)
• Introduction by critic and author Michael Billington (2002, 6 mins)
On Location with The Caretaker (1962, 4 mins): an extract from the TV series This Week in Britain
The Caretaker: From Play Into Film (2002, 17 mins):a video essay by Michael Billington, using materials donated by Clive Donner to the BFI National Archive
• US opening titles (1963, 2 mins): the opening title sequence from the US where the film was released as The Guest
• Last To Go (1969, 6 mins): the last of five animated shorts directed by Gerald Potterton for Pinter People, voiced by Harold Pinter and Donald Pleasence
Harold Pinter’s Play Discussed by Clive Donner (1973, 47 mins): the BAFTA-winning director discusses his adaptation of The Caretaker
Stills Gallery
• Ilustrated booklet with new essay by critic and author Amy Simmons, writing by Michael Billington and Clive Donner and full film credits (first pressing only)

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