Category Archives: British Film
Lonely ex-con Carl Woods (Toby Jones) is trying to find his way back in the world after a stint inside (jail). He’s got himself a council flat in a Brutalist block of flats, has a kindly neighbour Monique (Cecilia Noble) who is looking out for him, and is eager to have his first date in years with Abby (Sinead Matthews), who he has just met online. But one morning, he wakes to a shocking discovery – Abby’s dead corpse on his bathroom room. As he desperately tries to recall what happened, his estranged mother (Anne Reid) suddenly arrives – and she has no intention of leaving…
Toby Jones is one of Britain’s most outstanding actors in the UK and he gives a bravo turn in his brother Rupert’s 2017 debut film debut, a nightmarish psychological thriller that will hold you captivate throughout. ‘National Treasure’ Anne Reid also delivers a nuanced performance as the slightly sinister mother, who may or may not have a history of incest with her son, and there’s certainly more than meets the eye when it comes to Sinead Matthews’ character.
This intense thriller has been described as paying homage to Hitchcock, but it’s structure, themes and single setting actually evoke Polanski’s claustrophobic psychological classics, Repulsion and The Tenant, which both featured a silent, isolated observer in hiding, while the film’s setting also chimes with Polanski’s recurring motif of the horror of the apartment space. The modernist estate in Hackney, East London where the film was shot features an eleven-storey staircases which becomes a key visual metaphor for the film’s many twists and turns.
Now I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s not too much of a spoiler to say that everything you are about to witness is all seen through the distorted prism of Carl’s broken mind. Just how the reality-bender narrative plays out is best seen for yourself.
Kaleidoscope is available now on UK digital platforms and DVD.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Hackney estate seen in the film was designed by Skinner, Bailey & Lubetkin and completed in 1957. It includes two Y-shaped eleven-storey blocks, George Loveless House and James Hammett House, and the lower-rise James Brine House, Robert Owen House and Arthur Wade House, which were all named after the Tolpuddle Martyrs. The location can also be seen in 2015’s Legend, in which Tom Hardy played both Ron and Reggie Kray, and in Alfonso Cuaron’s 2006 dystopian sci-fi Children of Men, where it was turned into a refugee camp.
This 1978 British horror from Return of the Jedi director Richard Marquand fuses that mystery staple, the old dark house – seen in many a classic, including James Whale’s 1932 whodunit and the long-running Agatha Christie play on London’s West End, The Mousetrap – with the in-vogue satanic frighteners of the day like The Omen and Race With the Devil.
Katharine Ross and Sam Elliott (who later married after meeting on the set) play an American couple who become reluctant guests at the English country mansion of a dying Satanist (John Standing) who believes Ross to be the reincarnation of an ancestor and next in line to head his powerful cult. But standing in her way are five house guests, who soon meet with spectacular deaths including drowning, burning, impaling and a botched tracheotomy.
The cast boasts some famous faces, including The Who’s Roger Daltrey, playing a music impresario – of course; Charles Gray (still my favourite Blofeld) as a weapons dealer; and West End actress Margaret Tyzack (who’d go on to play Bianca and Ricky’s gran in EastEnders) as a nurse who can turn herself into a white cat.
With its themes of reincarnation, possession and telekinesis, The Legacy – which was written by the legendary Jimmy Sangster – follows in the wake of other occult-themed films like The Omen and Suspiria, and was very much inspired by them. While it’s no masterpiece, and didn’t catch the box-office alight – unlike Gray’s character, it’s still a stylish exercise in suspense with some decent special effects, crisp autumnal photography by Dick Bush and Alan Hume, and an ‘eccentric’ score from Theatre of Blood composer Michael J Lewis, who also wrote the annoying theme tune, Another Side of Me (sung by Kiki Dee).
Today you can visit the film’s main location, Loseley Manor in Surrey, as the house and gardens are open to the public all year round. But if you do, watch out for any suspicious-looking nurses lurking about. Meanwhile, the village scenes were shot in Hambleden, Bucks – which has been used for huge number of films and TV shows, from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to Good Omens.
The Indicator Limited Edition Blu-ray (UK premiere) is available from 29 July and includes the following special features…
• The UK theatrical cut, presented open matte from a Standard Definition master (102 mins): The film was released in UK cinemas in September 1978.
• The US theatrical cut, presented in widescreen from a High Definition master (100 mins): The film was released in the US in 1979, with a shorter runtime and some alternative shots
• Original stereo audio
• An Extended Legacy (2019, 11 mins): an analysis of the differences between the US and UK cuts (This is found in the Play sub-menu): There 13 instances of unique footage across the two version – 12 in the UK cut and 1 in the UK cut.
• Audio commentary with Kevin Lyons, editor of The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Film and Television website (I thoroughly enjoyed this, especially when Kevin discusses the filming locations and compares the screenplay with the the film’s paperback tie-in – which I have – and yes, I did go straight to page 183 to find out more about Charles Gray’s gruesome death)
• An Editing Legacy (2015, 14 mins): editor and second unit director Anne V Coates recalls her work on the film (this one is ported over from the Scream Factory release)
• The Make-up Effects of The Legacy (2015, 11 mins): Robin Grantham on his make-up creations for the film, including that squrim-inducing tracheotomy (also ported over from Scream Factory)
• Ashes and Crashes (2019, 4 mins): interview with second unit director Joe Marks, who shares his memories of working with the film’s cast and crew (this one was shot for this release)
• Between the Anvil and the Hammer (1973, 27 mins): Richard Marquand’s Central Office of Information short about the Liverpool police force (this is a real eye-opener — and an historic step back in time — when it really was grim up North)
• Theatrical trailer
• Image gallery
• Collector’s booklet with a new essay by Julian Upton, an archival location report, Jimmy Sangster on The Legacy, extracts from the novelisation, an overview of critical responses, an introduction to Between the Anvil and the Hammer, and film credits
After the banning of their original 1977 BBC TV version, director Alan Clarke (The Firm) and writer Roy Minton (Funny Farm) set out to remake their drama, Scum. The resulting film, released now in a special UK Blu-ray edition to mark its 40th anniversary, was an even more vitriolic portrait of a corrupt and violent institution which stunned cinema audiences and caused outrage…
IN BORSTAL SURVIVAL RULES!
Young offenders Carlin (Ray Winstone), Angel (Alrick Riley) and Davis (Julian Firth) are sent to a tough British borstal in the country where they are brutalised by inmates and governors alike. After being singled out by Banks (John Blundell), the existing ‘Daddy’ on his wing, Carlin fights back, rising to the top of the prisoner heap. But for Angel and Davis life behind bars is much harder to take, especially so for Davis who takes his own life after a terrifying gang rape…
I’M THE F***ING DADDY NOW!
Roy Minton‘s script lays bare the brutal reality of British borstals, which were intended to reform young offenders, but ended up becoming breeding grounds for the next generation of hardened criminals. From the fire and brimstone governor (Peter Howell), sadistic wing head Mr Sands (John Judd) and his thuggish officers to ineffectual house master Goodyear (John Grillo) and an uncaring matron (Jo Kendall), there is not one sympathetic character amongst the staff in charge of the boys, who are so desperately in need of guidance, understanding and discipline, but end up being treated with brutal force and intimidation.
Set essentially in a boarding school with bars, Clarke’s film evokes the rebellious ‘two-fingers up at the establishment’ spirit of Lindsay Anderson’s If… (1968), and this is perfect captured in the film’s (improvised) riot scene in which the inmates vent their anger in response to Davis’ suicide. There are also shades of A Clockwork Orange in there, especially in Grillo’s greasy house master, who reminded me of Anthony Sharp’s sleazy Minister of the Interior in Kubrick’s film. Cinematically, the film is shot with a documentary flair, while its wintery exterior scenes are reminiscent of the paintings of LS Lowry.
Grim and overwhelming in its squalid sense of reality, the film is a fist in the face in terms of its foul language, racial and religious taunts (politically incorrect by today’s standards), graphic violence and male rape scene, while the acting from the young cast, including future famous faces like Mick Ford, Phil Daniels and Ray Burdis, is uniformly excellent. 40 years on, Scum still resonates (the snooker ball in a sock scene is iconic). But how much has really changed with regards to how we treat our young offenders?
The Indicator Limited Edition Blu-ray release includes the following special features…
• 2K restoration from the original negative, newly re-graded and approved by director of photography Phil Méheux
• Original mono audio
• Audio commentary with actor Ray Winstone and film critic Nigel Floyd (2006)
• No Luxuries (2019, 20 mins): actor Mick Ford looks at his character of Archer
• An Outbreak of Acting (2019, 16 mins): actor Ray Burdis on returning to the role of Eckersley for the feature film
• Smashing Windows (2019, 12 mins): actor Perry Benson recalls the daily experiences of being on set
• Continuous Tension (2019, 18 mins): director of photography Phil Méheux analyses the documentary approach of his cinematography
• Criminal Record (2019, 10 mins): associate producer Martin Campbell on remaking the banned teleplay for the big screen
• Back to Borstal (2019, 32 mins): executive producer Don Boyd reflects on his efforts to reinvigorate British cinema in the late 1970s
• Concealing the Art (2019, 30 mins): veteran editor Michael Bradsell recalls collaborating with Alan Clarke
• That Kind of Casting (2019, 22 mins): casting director Esta Charkham on the influence the Anna Scher Theatre had on production
• Interview with Roy Minton and Clive Parsons (1999, 16 mins)
• Interview with Roy Minton (2005, 20 mins)
• Interview with Davina Belling and Clive Parsons (2005, 9 mins)
• Interview with Don Boyd (2005, 13 mins)
• Cast Memories (2005, 17 mins): archive interviews with Phil Daniels, Julian Firth, Mick Ford and David Threlfall
• Original ‘U’ and ‘X’ certificate theatrical trailers
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• Limited edition collector’s book
• Limited edition exclusive double-sided poster
Two classic Amicus horror anthologies, The House That Dripped Blood & Asylum, get a limited edition UK Blu-ray release
On 29 July 2019, Second Sight Films will release Limited Edition UK Blu-ray releases of the Amicus horror anthologies – The House That Dripped Blood and Asylum. Each release will be presented in a stunning box set featuring original artwork from Graham Humphreys alongside a host of special features, including essays from horror aficionados and a collector’s booklet.
Written by Robert Bloch, 1971’s The House That Dripped Blood sees Denholm Elliott, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Jon Pertwee and Ingrid Pitt taking centre stage in four tales of terror that unfold as a Scotland Yard’s Inspector Holloway investigates a mysterious mansion with a ghoulish history and a chilling fate for its occupants…
• Audio commentary with director Peter Duffell and author Jonathan Rigby
• Audio commentary with film historian and author Troy Howarth
• Interview with Second Assistant director Mike Higgins
• A Rated Horror Film: Vintage featurette featuring interviews with director Peter Duffell and actors Geoffrey Bayldon, Ingrid Pitt and Chloe Franks
• Theatrical Trailers
• Radio Spots
• Stills Gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys and original artwork
Directed by Roy Ward Baker from another scare-tastic screenplay from Robert Bloch, 1972’s Asylum sees Robert Powell playing a young doctor attending a job interview at a secluded asylum for the incurably insane, where he hears the macabre stories of four inmates to determine which is the former head of the asylum. The all-star cast includes Peter Cushing, Charlotte Rampling, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom, Barbara Parkins and Patrick Magee.
• Audio commentary with director Roy Ward Baker and camera operator Neil Binney
• Two’s a Company: 1972 On-set BBC report featuring interviews with producer Milton Subotsky, director Roy Ward Baker, actors Charlotte Rampling, James Villiers, Megs Jenkins, Art Director Tony Curtis and production manager Teresa Bolland
• Screenwriter David J Schow on Robert Bloch
• Fiona Subotsky Remembers Milton
• Inside The Fear Factory: Featurette with directors Roy Ward Baker, Freddie Francis and producer Max J Rosenberg
• Theatrical Trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys and original artwork
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS FOR EACH RELEASE
• Rigid slipcase featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys
• 40 page booklet with new essays by Allan Bryce, Jon Towlson and Kat Ellinger
• Reversible poster featuring new and original artwork
Track 29 | Nicolas Roeg and Dennis Potter’s bizarre psycho-drama gets a world Blu-ray premiere release
Freely adapted from Dennis Potter’s 1974 BBC TV play Schmoedipus, this weird psycho-drama sees director Nicolas Roeg toying with his audience as he describes the hallucinations of a mind going off the rails.
Theresa Russell (making her fourth of six films with her director husband) is Linda, the unhappy wife to Dr Henry Henry (Christopher Lloyd) who is more interested in his model trains than her. As Linda contemplates suicide, demons torment her, chiefly the vision of a strange English hitch-hiker Martin (Gary Oldman) who says he’s her long-lost son…
Oldman (doing a satanic variation on Norman Wisdom) is the dynamo that galvanises this bizarre black comedy into life. Overloaded with arthouse conceits bordering on the pretentious, this is Roeg at his most Roegish, and probably the weirdest ever film to be produced by George Harrison’s Hand Made Films. Look out for some suitably surreal supporting turns from Sandra Bernhard and Colleen Camp.
The Indicator limited edition world premiere Blu-ray release includes the following features…
• High Definition remaster
• Original stereo audio
• The NFT Interview with Nicolas Roeg (1994, 68min): archival audio recording
• Audio commentary with filmmaker and historian Jim Hemphill
• Postcards from Cape Fear (2019, 18min): actor Colleen Camp on working with Nicolas Roeg
• On the Right Track (2019, 10min): interview with editor Tony Lawson
• An Air of Mystery (2019, 6min): interview with costume designer Shuna Harwood
• Buzz and Gossip (2019, 15min): interview with sound mixer David Stephenson
• Isolated music & effects track
• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• Exclusive booklet with a new essays, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits
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.
• 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 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
• 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 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
• 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)
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.
• 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
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
• 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
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)
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.