Category Archives: British Film

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

 

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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.

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)

Sebastiane (1976) | Derek Jarman’s first feature on Blu-ray and iTunes from BFI

Sebastiane

Derek Jarman’s first feature, Sebastiane, directed with Paul Humfress and released in 1976, presents the controversial, sensual and sexualised story of the 4th century Praetorian Guard whose human goodness leads to humiliation and martyrdom.

On 18 March 2019 Sebastiane comes to stand-alone Blu-ray for the first time in the UK, and iTunes, released by the BFI. Extras include Sebastiane: A Work in Progress (c1976) and The Making of Sebastiane (1975) and an illustrated booklet.

In Sebastiane, the heat of the Sardinian desert is powerfully captured on film – both cast and crew go through their paces, sweating it out Herzog-style – while Brian Eno’s distinctly moving score beautifully complements the superb framing and stunning slow-motion photography.

Sebastiane is a glorious hymn to the very real, living, breathing, male body and is presented here in a new digital version remastered from the original camera negative by the BFI National Archive.

Special features
• Presented in High Definition
• Jazz Calendar (1968, 36 mins): footage of the Royal Ballet in rehearsal featuring scenery and costumes by Derek Jarman
• Sebastiane: A Work in Progress (c1976, 62 mins): an incomplete, black and white and un-subtitled work-in-progress cut featuring alternative music
• The Making of Sebastiane (1975, 23 mins): Super 8 making-of, shot by the feature’s sound assistant Hugh Smith, along with Jarman
• John Scarlett-Davis Remembers Sebastiane (2018, 7 mins): artist filmmaker John Scarlett-Davis talks about his experiences on the set of Sebastiane
• Stills Gallery
• Illustrated booklet with writing on the film by BFI curator William Fowler, original review by Tony Rayns and full film credits

Out on Blu-ray and iTunes release on 18 March 2019

Jarman – Volume Two (1987-1994) | The BFI presents six final features from the iconoclastic artist, plus 66 superlative special features, on Blu-ray

It has been 25 years since British filmmaker Derek Jarman died, aged 52 (on 19 February 1994), and yet his artistic legacy continues to live on. Embracing the experimental, the political and the artistic, his cinema was fearlessly unique but also touchingly personal and truly inspirational.

The BFI’s second Limited Edition Blu-ray collection brings together Jarman’s final six features, made during a prolonged burst of creativity and political activism that followed his HIV diagnosis in 1987, and all of them featuring his artistic muse, Tilda Swinton.

These include The Last of England (1987), War Requiem (1989) with Laurence Olivier in his last screen performance, The Garden (1990), Edward II (1993) with Steven Waddington, Wittgenstein (1993) with Michael Gough, Blue (1993) with composers Brian Eno, Coil, Scanner and Simon Fisher Turner, and the posthumously-released elegy to Super 8, Glitterbug (1994), with music from Brian Eno.

All the films are presented in High Definition for the first time in the UK, and the box-set includes 66 amazing special features – both new and archival, plus trailers, galleries of rare stills and promotional materials, and a 100-page collector’s. This truly is a must-have, and a perfect companion to the BFI’s first volume (1972-1986), which contains In the Shadow of the Sun (1974), Sebastiane (1976), Jubilee (1977), The Tempest (1979), The Angelic Conversation (1985) and Caravaggio (1986).

•••THE FILMS AND THOSE EXTRA FEATURES IN DETAIL•••

THE LAST OF ENGLAND
Jarman’s highly personal allegory of England in the 1980s. The film combines images of inner-city decay, footage from home movies of three generations of Jarman’s family and a post-apocalypse vision of London ruled by a para-military authority.

Dead Cat (1989, 20 mins): Derek Jarman and Genesis P-Orridge feature in this startling surrealist film in which a young man is terrorised and humiliated, later engaging in a mechanised, industrial sexual encounter
Isle of Sheppey (1984, 7 mins): edited highlights from a VHS video shot on a location-hunting expedition, featuring Derek Jarman and cultural historian Jon Savage
Depuis le jour (1987, 5 mins): Derek Jarman’s sequence from the anthology film Aria
Depuis le jour: audio commentary by producer Don Boyd
Remembering Derek Jarman (2014, 13 mins)
• James Mackay Remembers The Last of England (2019, 14 mins)
• Don Boyd Remembers The Last of England and Aria (2019, 16 mins)
• Homemade Stuff and Wild Ideas: Simon Fisher Turner on Derek Jarman (2019, 16 mins): the composer looks back on his involvement with Derek Jarman’s art
• Another Derek: Jarman’s Life Away From the Limelight (2019, 5 mins): interview with artist filmmaker John Scarlett-Davis
• An Odd Morality (2019, 4 mins): interview with Lee Drysdale
• Another World for Ourselves (2019, 9 mins): director John Maybury on meeting Jarman
• David Lewis Remembers Dead Cat (2019, 15 mins)
• Audio commentary on The Last of England with James Mackay, Christopher Hughes, Christopher Hobbs and Simon Fisher Turner
• Galleries

WAR REQUIEM
A must-see for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in Benjamin Britten’s choral masterpiece, Jarman’s film interpretation includes readings of Wilfred Owen’s World War One poetry and disturbing images of wars since. Tragedy without the triumph, in other words. Features Nathaniel Parker (as Owen), Laurence Olivier, Sean Bean, Patricia Hayes and Nigel Terry.

Books By My Bedside: Derek Jarman (1989, 25 mins)
Derek Jarman in Conversation with Simon Field (1989, 32 mins)
Requiem For Jarman (2008, 37 mins): recollections on the making of War Requiem
• Don Boyd Remembers War Requiem (2019, 38 mins)
• John Maybury Remembers War Requiem (2019, 8 mins)
• The Nature of Super 8 (2019, 8 mins)
Caravaggio was Accidental (2019, 10 mins): Simon Fisher Turner remembers his first feature soundtrack for Derek Jarman
• Before The Last (2019, 15 mins): James Mackay recalls working with Derek Jarman on The Angelic Conversation and Imagining October
•Derek Jarman Presents (2019, 27 mins): John Maybury remembers the Super 8 filmmaking scene
War Requiem trailer
· Audio commentary on War Requiem with Don Boyd
War Requiem image gallery

THE GARDEN
In the last of three very personal films, Jarman used an explosive combination of scenes and images to bring together his loves, hates and desires – united by his imagery of the Passion.

Derek’s Shoot in Dungeness (1990, 6 mins): rare behind-the-scenes Super 8 footage shot on location at the time of The Garden
The Wanderer (1991, 30 mins): experimental film by David Lewis based on the Anglo-Saxon poem of the same name, featuring Michael Gough and Michael York
Kiss 25 Goodbye (1991, 7 mins): experimental short on the 1991 OutRage! ‘kiss-in’ protest at Bow Street police station
Clause and Effect (1988, 19 mins): the gay community unites against Clause 28
Orange Juice (1984, 41 mins): Derek Jarman’s location shoot for the promo for ‘What Presence?!’ by post-punk band Orange Juice, fronted by Edwyn Collins
Shooting the Hunter (2015, 5 mins)
• James Mackay Remembers The Garden (2019, 15 mins)
• Anything Can Happen (2019, 11 mins): Richard Heslop on working with Derek Jarman
• David Lewis Remembers The Garden (2019, 15 mins)
• The Other Great Masterpiece (2019, 6 mins): John Maybury considers Jarman’s enthusiasm for gardening
The Garden trailers
• Life with Derek (2018, 44 mins): Composer Simon Fisher Turner’s collage of audio clips

EDWARD II
Jarman’s trenchant sort-of-modern-dress adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s play about the downfall of the medieval monarch, richly-textured with atmosphere, but with the homosexual content expanded, embellished and politicised.

Derek’s Edward (2009, 24 mins): the making of Edward II
Ostia (1987, 27 mins): Jarman embodies Pier Paolo Pasolini in this ambitious student film imagining the last hours of the Italian director’s life
Ostia director’s audio commentary
The Clearing (1993, 7 mins): short film by Alex Bistikas starring Derek Jarman and Keith Collins
The Extended Derek Jarman Interview (1991, 70 mins): With Colin McCabe
Cut/Action (2019, 8 mins): Video essay with music and narration by Simon Fisher Turner
• David Lewis Remembers Edward II (2019, 4 mins)
• The Same Spirit (2019, 6 mins): Don Boyd remembers Jarman’s later years
• Truly Beautiful (2019, 19 mins): interview with costumer designer Sandy Powell
Derek Jarman in Conversation with Colin McCabe (1991, 97 mins, audio only)
• Galleries

WITTGENSTEIN
Jarman executed this critically-acclaimed Channel 4 film celebrating the life of Austrian-born philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein in just two weeks (on a tiny £300,000 budget). Visually stunning, with some fantastic costumes (from Sandy Powell), it explores Wittgenstein’s repressed homosexuality alongside his reputation as one of greatest thinkers of the century, and features Michael Gough and John Quentin as Bertrand Russell and Maynard Keynes.

• Karl Johnson on Wittgenstein (2007, 9 mins)
• Tilda Swinton on Wittgenstein and Derek Jarman (2007, 10 mins)
• Tariq Ali on Producing Wittgenstein (2007, 9 mins)
Wittgenstein: Behind the Scenes (1993, 22 mins)
Wittgenstein: An Introduction (2007, 4 mins)
Face to Face: Derek Jarman (1993, 41 mins): Jarman discusses his HIV status and sexuality with Jeremy Isaacs
• Producer Tariq Ali on Wittgenstein (2014, 7 mins)
• Jarmanalia with Simon Fisher Turner (2019, 17 mins)
• Films Made by a Painter (2019, 5 mins): James Mackay reflects on Jarman’s distinctive style as a filmmaker

BLUE & GLITTERBUG
Blue – the third film in the highly-personal trilogy begun by The Last of England and The Garden – received a standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival for its uncompromising look at what it’s like to live and work as an artist with the emotional and physical agonies of AIDS. A challenge to conventional filmmaking ideas, the film sees Jarman (and friends) musing on life, death and living with AIDS using vocal and musical testimony against a blank blue screen. Its a fitting goodbye from a director who never once compromised his principals or his own vision. The posthumously-released Glitterbug is a wonderful elegy to Super 8, featuring a compilation of shorts in which the likes of Adam Ant, William S Burroughs and Marianne Faithfull all contribute.

21st Century Nuns (1994, 10 mins): A look at the British chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and their ‘colourful’ activist efforts at fighting homophobia. Great to see this included, as it features some dear friends (some of whom are no longer with us), and is a reminder of just how far we have come with gay/lesbian/transgender rights.
Delphinium: A Childhood Portrait of Derek Jarman (2009, 13 mins)
• James Mackay Remembers Blue (2019, 15 mins)
• Simon Fisher Turner Remembers Blue (2019, 8 mins)
• David Lewis Remembers Blue (2019, 13 mins)
• Hard to Imagine (2019, 8 mins): John Maybury recalls Jarman’s journey towards Blue
• After The Garden (2019, 10 mins): Richard Heslop remembers Jarman’s later days
• Total Magic (2019, 6 mins): production designer Christopher Hobbs looks back upon Jarman’s fascination with occult imagery
• After Neutron (2019, 8 mins): interview with Lee Drysdale
• The Best Mentor (2019, 9 mins): John Scarlett-Davis on Jarman’s artistic legacy
Glitterbug and Beyond (2019, 7 mins): James Mackay on the production of Glitterbug
• David Lewis Remembers Glitterbug (2019, 7 mins)
Bliss (1991, 40 mins, audio only): the London debut of the avant-garde live show that helped raise funds to produce Blue, featuring Derek Jarman and Tilda Swinton. This is another of my personal favourites as I was in the audience for this performance, and ended up meeting and chatting with Jarman after the gig. He later gave me some Super 8mm film to shoot my own experimental short, Cruising Headstones.
• Galleries

Michael Gough in The Wanderer

 

Night of the Demon (1957) | 2018’s best Blu-ray box-set release is out now!

Night of the Demon (1957)

Based on MR James’ classic tale of terror Casting the Runes and adapted for the screen by regular Hitchcock collaborator Charles Bennett, director Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon is considered to be one of the seminal horror films of 20th-century cinema.

Night of the Demon (1957)

Niall MacGinnis is the politely malevolent Dr Julian Karswell, an eminent British scientist who has been dabbling in black magic (while also hosting children’s parties dressed as a clown). When rival scientist Professor Harrington (Maurice Denham), threatens to expose his nefarious activities, Karswell invokes a demon which kills him.

Night of the Demon (1957)

Dana Andrews plays the sceptical psychologist Dr. John Holden who refuses to believe Harrington’s niece Joanna (Peggy Cummins) when she suspects something demonic is at work, but he soon has good cause to think she is telling the truth when Karswell passes him a piece of parchment at London’s British Museum which may bring about his death inside four days…

Night of the Demon (1957)

Although the titular demon appears at the beginning and the end, it’s the constant level of fear throughout that makes this classic British horror such a genuinely scary chiller and remains a bona fide classic of the genre.

It was also famously referred to in Science Fiction/Double Feature (the opening track in Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Picture Show), with the witty line: ‘Dana Andrews says prunes gave him the runes…’

Night of the Demon (1957)

Released on Blu-ray for the very first time in the UK from Powerhouse Films/Indicator, Night of the Demon is presented here in four different versions (including the BFI’s 2013 2K restoration of the 96-minute version), and is accompanied by a huge array of new and archival special features., plus a double-sided poster and 80-page book. Check them all out below and then order here: https://www.powerhousefilms.co.uk/collections/frontpage/products/night-of-the-demon-le

Night of the Demon (1957)SPECIAL FEATURES:
• The BFI’s 2013 2K restoration of the 96-minute version
• High-definition remaster of the 82-minute cut
• Original mono audio
• Four presentations of the film: Night of the Demon – the original full-length pre-release version (96 mins), and the original UK theatrical cut (82 minutes); Curse of the Demon – the original US theatrical cut (82 mins), and the US re-issue version (96 mins)
• Audio commentary with film historian Tony Earnshaw
Speak of the Devil: The Making of ‘Night of the Demon’ (2007): documentary featuring interviews with actor Peggy Cummins, production designer Ken Adam and historians Tony Earnshaw and Jonathan Rigby
• Dana Andrews rare audio interview
The Devil’s in the Detail (2018): Christopher Frayling on Ken Adam
Horrors Unseen (2018): biographer Chris Fujiwara on Jacques Tourneur
Sinister Signs (2018): an analysis by critic/author Kim Newman
Under the Spell (2018): horror writer Ramsey Campbell on MR James and Tourneur
The Devil in Music (2018): a new appreciation of Clifton Parker’s score by author David Huckvale
The Devil Gets His Due (2018): film historian Scott MacQueen on the film’s release history
The Truth of Alchemy (2018) a discussion of MR James and ‘Casting the Runes’ by author Roger Clarke
Cloven In Two (2018): a new video piece exploring the different versions of the film
Escape: ‘Casting the Runes’ (1947): a radio play adaptation of James’ original story
• Super 8 version: original cut-down home cinema presentation
• Isolated music & effects track on the US theatrical cut
• Original US Curse of the Demon theatrical trailer
• Image gallery:  including rare production design sketches
• New and improved English subtitles
• Limited Edition book containing a new essay by Kat Ellinger, M R James on ghost stories, a history of the film’s production through the words of its principle creators, a profile of witchcraft consultant Margaret Murray, the film’s history with the BBFC, a look at the different versions of the film, contemporary critical responses, a look at Charles Bennett’s original scripted ending, and film credits

And here’s something from my own archives, the late Peggy Cummins (who left us aged 92 in 2017) introducing an outdoor screening of the BFI’s restoration print at the British Museum back in 2013.

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Death Line (1972) | Mind the doors! – Gary Sherman’s grim but moving London Underground cannibal cult horror gets the HD remaster treatment

Death Line (1972)

Fans of classic British horror need no introduction to director Gary Sherman’s London Underground-set cannibal film Death Line. Nearly 50 years on from its release on 12 October 1972 (in the UK), this oddly moving cult still packs a mighty punch, and features a standout turn from Donald Pleasence.

Previously available only on DVD and VHS (remember those?), Death Line (which got recut and renamed Raw Meat in the US) has been newly scanned to 2k resolution from the original 35mm camera negative for an exclusive UK Blu-ray release from Network – and it looks and sounds bloody fantastic! Finally time to ditch my second gen VHS!

Here’s my take on the exploitation cult, ‘But first were gonna get some tea… MARRRRSHAL!!!’

Death Line (1972)

Following a visit to Soho’s strip joints, James Manfred, OBE (a sleazy James Cossins, from Fawlty Towers and Doctor Who fame) is attacked by a feral-looking bloke at Russell Square tube station. Finding him collapsed by a stairwell, university student Patricia (Patricia Gurney) and her American boyfriend Alex (David Ladd) alert a local police officer, but when they return to the scene – there’s no sign of the politician.

Assigned to investigate, Inspector Calhoun (Donald Pleasence), takes an instant dislike to the youngsters and continues to question them, then finds himself being warned off the case by a secretive MI5 handler (Christopher Lee). Meanwhile, the assailant (Hugh Armstrong) is revealed to be one of the last surviving members of a family of railway workers who became trapped underground after a cave-in in 1892, and resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. When his female companion dies, ‘The Man’ flies into a rage and kills three maintenance workers – then, when Patricia, finds herself alone on the tube at Holborn Station – he knocks her out and takes her back to his lair. Will she become his next meal – or does he just wants some company?

Writer/Director Gary Sherman has crafted a neat little fright film that belies its exploitation label, for at its dark heart lies a tragic class consciousness love story in which Armstrong brings great sympathy to the grotesque and violent cannibal, who resembles a destitute Jesus meets Rasputin, but with the shuffling gait of Boris Karloff’s drunken mute butler Morgan from James Whales’ Old Dark House. Despite his murderous impulses following the sad death of his partner, you can’t help but pity ‘The Man’ as he is credited in the film; and that’s compounded when he tries and fails to communicate with Patricia using the only words he knows: ‘Mind the doors!’.

Death Line (1972)

Then there’s Donald Pleasence’s fantastic turn as the abrasive, tea-loving, hippie-hating Inspector Calhoun – who loves Queen and country, but despises his upper class MI5 superiors and even more so philandering politicians. He has some great scenes (particular with Heather Stoney’s WPC Alice Marshall and Norman Rossington’s DS Rogers) and gets in some lines like: ‘That’s handy, pop round and see if he’s a nutter!’ and ‘Get ur bloody hair cut!’. Alongside Alfred Marks’ Superintendent Bellaver in 1970’s Scream and Scream Again, Pleasence’s Calhoun most certainly gave rise to the sweary likes of John Thaws’ DI Jack Regan in TV’s The Sweeney a couple of years later.

Cinematographer Alex Thomson (who became Nicolas Roeg’s favourite camera operator) provides the stylishly grim imagery, making atmospheric use of the dark and dingy real life London Underground locations (it was partly filmed at Aldwych). So effective where these scenes that London Underground took offence to the subject matter and banned its advertising on any station platform! Meanwhile, Wil Mallone and Jeremy Rose’s rumbustious soundtrack is another highlight, perfectly capturing the sleazy vibe of Soho’s strip joints, while also chiming with the film’s sadder moments.

Death Line (1972)

Keep an eye out for Keeping Up Appearances‘ Clive Swift as a detective and Christopher Lee (in just one scene) as the suited and booted bureaucrat.

Network’s exclusive UK Blu-ray release, includes the following special features…

Mind the Doors!: an engaging interview with actor Hugh Armstrong, talking about his life and career
• Theatrical Trailer
• Image Gallery
• PDF Material
• Collector’s booklet

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Assault (1971) | Sidney Hayers’ taut British thriller gets a 2k remaster

 

Assault (1971)

16-year-old schoolgirl Tessa Hurst (Lesley-Anne Down) is brutally attacked and raped when she takes a short cut home from school across a wooded common known as Devil’s End. Neither the police nor doctors can learn anything from the girl, who withdraws into a trance-like state.

While Tessa slowly recovers under the care of Dr Greg Lomax (James Laurenson), another girl is attacked – and this time is killed. Julie West (Suzy Kendall), an arts teacher at the all-girls private school, then places her own life in jeopardy in a bid to lure the sex maniac into the open…

Assault (1971)

This taut Rank thriller (retitled In the Devil’s Garden in the US) was directed by Sidney Hayers – best-known for Circus of Horrors (1960), occult chiller Night of the Eagle (1962), and a handful of Edgar Wallace Mysteries – who brings an exploitative dash of Italian giallo to the proceedings with some graphic violence, while also making suspenseful use of the camera-as-murderer technique (which made Peeping Tom so unforgettable in 1960). Hayers would follow this hard-hitter with another thriller dealing with a child sex crime, Revenge, the following year (read my review here).

Assault (1971)

The screenplay is by John Kruse (who did lots of ITC shows like The Saint), and is based on a novel by Kendal Young called The Ravine. It follows standard potboiler British thriller tradition, as the police (headed up by Frank Finlay) question their prime suspects, including Leslie Sandord (Tony Beckley), the emasculated husband of the school’s headmistress (Dilys Hamlett). But added to the mix is a not-so subtle attack on cheque-book journalism (with Freddie Jones going to town as a sexist reporter), while Julie’s amateur sleuthing (how very Argento) has shocking results.

Assault (1971)

Assault (1971)

The top star cast includes Anthony Ainley as the creepy head of the local mental hospital where Lomax works, James Cosmo as a detective, and David Essex as ‘Man in Chemist Shop’. Composer Eric Rogers crafts a rousing (if repetitive) main theme, while Ken Hodges’ cinematography turns leafy Black Park in Buckinghamshire into the stuff of nightmares.

Assault (1971)

Assault (1971)

Assault has been remastered to 2K resolution from the original 35mm camera negative preserved by the BFI National Archive, and Network’s Blu-ray release (out today) includes the following special features.

• Theatrical Trailer
• Image Gallery
• Limited edition, collectable booklet written by Laura Mayne and Adrian Smith
• PDF material

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Time to reveal Graham Humphreys’ exclusive artwork for the Attack of the Adult Babies limited edition Blu-ray

Attack of the Adult Babies

Nucleus Films have released the stunning new artwork created exclusively by the legendary graphic artist Graham Humphreys for the slipcase 1-1000 numbered limited edition Blu-ray of Dominic Brunt’s Attack of the Adult Babies, which is being released nationwide on 11 June.

And, in further good news for genre fans, HMV will be racking the limited Edition Blu-ray in their “Special Edition range” in stores across the country.

Attack of the Adult Babies

Jake West, co-director of Nucleus Films, said today: “In a time where it’s increasingly difficult to release truly independent movies in physical formats, this is a real treat for film fans. As a movie collector myself, who enjoyed the thrills of the Video Nasty era, I loved the ritual of browsing through the racks and taking a chance on something because the cover art and title caught my eye.

We wanted to re-create the thrill of that era and what better artist could we ask to do that than Graham Humphreys – and what better film could there be than Dominic Brunt’s outrageous Attack of the Adult Babies!”

West’s partner at Nucleus Films, Marc Morris. added: “We’re very excited that HMV are really getting behind the release, giving fans of physical media a chance to pick up their copy in the real world!”

Attack of the Adult Babies

Graham Humphreys commentated: “I met Dominic Brunt at FrightFest some three or four years ago, where he mentioned the idea for the Adult Baby project, so it was a happy surprise to be asked to provide this slipcase cover for the Nucleus films release.

It’s always daunting working on an image with multiple elements, as a busy layout can be visually confusing. However, by focussing on key characters and using carefully considered colour palette, I hope I’ve managed some level of visual restraint. I’ve intentionally used ‘baby’ colours, pinks and pale blues, these contrast well with the dark red blood, capturing the creepy mix of the infantile and adult horrors.”

World premiered at FrightFest 2017, Attack of the Adult Babies has been described as disgusting, depraved, brave, bonkers, brilliant and quintessentially British in its humour and depravity…

The aftermath of a shocking home invasion forces three frightened family members to break into a remote country manor and steal Top Secret documents. Little do they know the stately pile is also the clandestine venue where a group of high-powered elderly men go to take refuge from the stresses and strains of daily life by dressing up in nappies and having a bevy of beautiful nurses indulging their every perverse nursery whim. Nor do they realise this grotesque assembly is compelled to refuel the world’s economy by very sinister, sick and monstrous means. As the bodily fluids hit the fan, the bloody carnage and freaky weirdness escalates.

Starring Sally Dexter, Charlie Chuck, Kate Coogan, Joanne Mitchell and Laurence Harvey, Attack of the Adult Babies is released on 11 June on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download and there is a special advance screening at Derby Quad, Friday 4 May, 7.45pm, with Dominic Brunt and Joanne Mitchell in attendance. A special London screening will be announced soon.

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Jarman – Volume One: 1972-1986 | Six of the best from the iconoclastic British artist collected and restored on Blu-ray

Jarman Volume 124 years have gone by since his death aged just 52, but the legacy of British filmmaker Derek Jarman (1942-1994) lives on, and his highly personal work has lost none of its relevance or impact. The BFI have now released the first of two deluxe limited edition box sets that bring together six of his feature films on Blu-ray for the first time.

In the Shadow of the Sun (1974), Jarman’s debut abstract short film is comprised of a series of Super 8 films and is provided with a soundtrack from music group Throbbing Gristle. Personally, it was thanks to this film that I started experimenting with my own short films, and turned me into a big fan of Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV and Coil.

Sebastiane (1976), Jarman’s debut feature film, spoken entirely in Latin and featuring an ambient score from Brian Eno, is an homoerotic account of the life and martyrdom of Saint Sebastiane (Leonardo Treviglio), a Roman soldier who is exiled to a remote outpost where his commanding officer (Barney James) becomes obsessed by him.

Jubilee (1978) | Queen Elizabeth I (Jenny Runacre) is transported through time from 1578 to 1978 by her astrologer John Dee (Richard O’Brien), where she sees what has become of her once glorious kingdom where law and order has broken down. Adam Ant, Toyah Wilcox and Jordan co-star.

The Tempest (1979) | Jarman creates his own interpretation of Shakespeare’s final play. Abandoned on a remote island by his brother Antonio (Richard Warwick), Prospero (Heathcote Williams), the former Duke of Milan, engineers a shipwreck to bring Ferdinand (David Meyer) the Prince of Naples, and his daughter Miranda (Toyah Wilcox) together in a bid to restore peace between Milan and Naples.

The Angelic Conversation (1985), a selection of Shakespeare’s sonnets are read by Judi Dench over atmospheric music by Coil and tableaux images of landscapes and people.

Caravaggio (1986) | A heavily stylised biopic of the Renaissance Italian painter Caravaggio (Nigel Terry) who falls in love with his muse, street thug, Ranuccio Thomasoni (Sean Bean).

Derek Jarman’s first six feature films have all been newly scanned at 2K from original film elements and are presented in this first box set alongside some incredible extras (listed below), all drawn from Jarman’s archive of workbooks and papers held in BFI Special Collections, plus a host of interviews with key cast, crew and friends, which have been exclusively produced for this release.

You can purchase Jarman – Volume One: 1972-1986 direct from the BFI bookshop or from Amazon and HMV (in the UK).

SPECIAL FEATURES
Sebastiane: A Work in Progress (1975): newly remastered from 16mm film elements held by the BFI National Archive, this sadly incomplete early black and white work-print differs significantly from the finished film. This previously unseen alternate edit – assembled in a different order, featuring a different soundtrack – was never subtitled or released
The Making of Sebastiane (Derek Jarman & Hugh Smith, 1975): previously unseen Super 8 footage shot on location in Sardinia
Jazz Calendar (1968): a rarely screened documentary record of the 1968 ballet by Frederick Ashton, performed by The Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, for which Jarman designed sets and costumes
Sloane Square: A Room of One’s Own (1974-76)
• John Scarlett-Davis remembers Sebastiane (2018)
• Message from the Temple (1981)
• TG: Psychic Rally in Heaven (1981)
Pirate Tape (WS Burroughs Film) (1982)
Toyah Willcox: Being Mad (2014)
• Jordan remembers Jubilee (2018)
• Lee Drysdale remembers Jubilee (2018)
Stormy Weather: the Magic Behind The Tempest (2016): Toyah Willcox and Stuart Hopps share their memories of working on The Tempest
• John Scarlett-Davis remembers The Tempest (2018)
• Don Boyd remembers The Tempest (2018)
A Meeting of Minds: Christopher Hobbs on collaborating with Derek Jarman (2018)
Fragments of Memory: Christopher Hobbs on working with Derek Jarman (2007)
To the Cliffs: James Mackay on working with Derek Jarman (2007)
Derek Jarman: The Films that Never Were (2018): A look back on unrealised Derek Jarman features, including Egyptian period drama Akhenaten and science fiction horror Neutron
Akhenaten Image Gallery & Neutron storyboards
• Audio commentary for Caravaggio by cinematographer Gabriel Beristain
Caravaggio in Docklands (1985)
Kind Blasphemy: Nigel Terry on Derek Jarman and Caravaggio (2007)
• Tilda Swinton on Derek Jarman and Caravaggio (2007)
• Italy of the Memory: Christopher Hobbs on Caravaggio (2007)
• Dexter Fletcher on Caravaggio (2014)
• Christopher Hobbs remembers Caravaggio (2018)
• Derek Jarman interviewed by Derek Malcolm (1986, audio only)
In the Studio: Caravaggio soundtrack recording sessions (1986, audio only)
• Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio notebook (Gallery)
• Five galleries featuring storyboards, production designs and Jarman’s notes on Caravaggio
• Image galleries
• Original theatrical trailers for The Angelic Conversation and Caravaggio
• 80-page collector’s book

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