Blog Archives

Belle de Jour (1967) | Luis Buñuel’s exquisite exploration of female desire gets a 50th anniversary 4k restoration release

Belle de Jour (1967)

From Studiocanal comes the newly-restored 4k version of director Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour (1967) starring Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel and Michel Piccoli.

Belle de Jour (1967)

Séverine (Catherine Deneuve), the reserved wife of successful Parisian surgeon Pierre (Jean Sorel), is prone to masochistic fantasies which reveal her sexual frustration. Driven by a mixture of ennui and curiosity, she pays a visit to a brothel run by Madame Anaïs (Geneviève Page), where she begins to work there during the day under the name Belle de Jour.

Seemingly having found an inner peace through the satisfaction of her clients’ desires, things soon turn sour when Marcel (Michel Piccoli), a loutish friend of Pierre’s, insists on having Séverine all to himself. Panic-stricken, Séverine quits her dangerous day job but is it too late?

Belle de Jour (1967)

Buñuel blends memory, fantasy and reality, seamlessly, in his surrealistic voyage into the mind of Deneuve’s bored housewife to show the deep mysteries of sex without showing the sex act itself – and it is never certain if what is seen is reality or fantasy.

Sumptuously filmed in and around the streets of Paris (many of which you can still visit today), it is a exquisite exploration of female desire, but the film’s moral tone shocked the notorious British social activist Mary Whitehouse into a vocal campaign against the BBC on its first TV screening.

It was, however, Buñuel’s most successful film of his entire career, winning the Best Picture award at the 1976 Venice Film Festival. A spellbinding must-have for your world cinema collection.

Belle de Jour (1967)

The 50th Anniversary Edition is out now on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital download with brand new extras material (see below) and 6 exclusive art cards.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Commentary by professor Peter W Evans
• The Last Script
• A Story of Perversion or Emancipation?
• Interview with Dr Sylvain Mimoun
• NEW Trailer
• NEW Jean-Claude Carrière interview (fascinating stuff)
• NEW Masterclass with Diego Buñuel and Jean-Claude Carrière (also very illuminating)

Belle de Jour (1967)

To accompany the re-issue and to celebrate work of the Spanish surrealist director, Buñuel: The Essential Collection, a box-set of 7 of the director’s most significant films, will be released next week (and I can’t wait).

Luis Bunuel box-set

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Advertisements

Melody (1971) | This enchanting tale of first love and youthful rebellion is no longer a forgotten gem

Melody (1971)

‘A forgotten, inspiring gem’ Wes Anderson

Set against the backdrop of a 1970s south London comprehensive school, Melody was director Alan Parker’s debut screenplay and his first film collaboration with producer David Puttnam, and it reunited Mark Lester and Jack Wild, who starred in the 1968 musical film adaptation of Oliver!, alongside 11-year-old Tracy Hyde making her acting debut.

Melody (1971)

Quiet, well-behaved Daniel (Lester) and cheeky troublemaker Ornshaw (Wild) could not be more different but they become the best of friends. That is, until Daniel spots Melody (Tracy Hyde) at the school disco.

The boys’ friendship becomes jeopardised, as Ornshaw grows jealous when his Daniel seems more interested in a hanging out with a girl. Initially embarrassed by the attention, Melody comes to return Daniel’s feelings, and the couple announce to their parents, teachers and friends that they want to get married and now.

The adults attempt to dissuade them, but Daniel and Melody’s determination leads Ornshaw to have a change of heart. He and their classmates gather together at one of the children’s hideouts to ‘marry’ the couple, with their discovery leading to a final riotous, no-holds-barred showdown where the children stick it to the grown-ups…

Melody (1971)

The film was the brainchild of Puttnam, who had secured the rights to five Bee Gees songs and wanted to craft a movie around it. Drawing on the lyrics of those songs, as well as the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young hit ‘Teach Your Children’, Parker’s script captured what it was like to be a kid on the brink of adolescence in 1970s Britain, drawing inspiration from his and Puttnam’s own school experiences, and these are brought to vivid life by Warris Hussein (Doctor Who) and cinematographer Peter Suschitzky (A History of Violence), who make excellent use of the Lambeth and Soho locations.

Melody (1971)

While it scored huge success in Japan and South America when it was released in 1971, Melody – which would not have been made if not for some unlikely support in the guise of Joan Collins – got a lukewarm reception both at home and in the US (mostly on account of its poor promotion and being given the awkward title of S.W.A.L.K. (aka Sealed With A Loving Kiss).

But it has since grown into something of a cult, with director Wes Anderson using it as the inspiration for his film, Moonrise Kingdom, while Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron cites the film as the inspiration for him going into film-making.

Melody (1971)

Having finally watched in myself, I can guarantee that your heart will swell and you’ll have tears in your eyes as you see the world again through the eyes of these youngsters. It might paint a rosy view of inner city London life in the 1970s, but it will nevertheless bring much joy and contemplation about a much more innocent time. And the songs are so catchy, I went out and hunted down the original soundtrack.

Melody is available now on DVD, Blu-ray and EST as part of Studiocanal’s Vintage Classics Collection, and includes as special features, interviews with Lord David Puttnam, Sir Alan Parker, Waris Hussein and Mark Lester; plus a stills gallery.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Almodovar Collection | Six of the best from the Spanish director – restored and in one beautiful box-set

The Almodóvar Collection

From Studiocanal comes six newly-restored films from Spain’s celebrated filmmaker, Pedro Almodóvar – complete with brand new interviews and bonus extras – in one box-set on DVD and Blu-ray.

WHAT’S IN THE COLLECTION…
dark_habits

Dark Habits (1983)
Despite the commercial constraints that prevented Almodóvar from taking full flight, this is a ferociously funny satire of religious institutions and morality that still packs a punch. Cristina Sánchez Pascual plays a fugitive nightclub singer hiding out in an impoverished convent with a group of nuns, whose eccentric number include a heroin addicted Mother Superior, a writer of lurid pulp fiction and a acid head masochist with a tiger for a pet. Imagine Sister Act, dressed in day-glo and speeding on a cocktail of LSD and cocaine. Fabulous kitsch fun.

what-have-i-done-to-deserve-this

What Have I Done to Deserve This? (1984)
Almodóvar mercilessly sends up family life in this terrific hyperrealist black comedy starring Carmen Maura (the director’s favourite leading lady) as a blissfully clueless Madrid mother driven to amphetamine addiction by her ungrateful family. Her husband is forging Hitler’s diaries, one son sells drugs, while another is pimping himself to a lecherous dentist. Add in some sex maniacs, a pet lizard, and a mischievous mother-in-law (Chus Lampgreave) and you have Almodóvar at his most absurdist.

the-law-of-desire

The Law of Desire (1987)
This kitsch camp melodrama was Almodóvar’s first film to be screened in the UK, and helped propel Antonio Banderas onto the international stage. It was also Almodóvar first explicitly gay movie as it spun an overblown tale about the complicated love lives of a gay film director (Eusebio Poncela), his hunky lover (Banderas) and a struggling transgender actress (Carmen Maura). Playing fast and furious with Spain’s beloved telenovella genre, this is a hilarious, albeit offensive, delight with more than whiff of early John Waters in its blackly comic approach.

women_on_the_verge_of_a_nervous_breakdown_poster

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)
Almodóvar scored a Best Foreign Film Oscar nomination for this OTT screwball comedy in which a pregnant actress (Carmen Maura in fabulous form) becomes embroiled in a chaotic series of misadventures when she desperately tries to track down her ex-lover. Irreverent and surreal, this stagey cult hit is pure slapstick of the wackiest kind.

kika

Kika (1993)
This outrageous satire on television journalism follows an overly optimistic Madrid beautician named Kika (Veronica Forque) whose tangled relationships with an underwear photographer, an expat American novelist and a psychotic escaped rapist turn into tabloid TV fodder by an unscrupulous reporter (Victoria Abril). Attracting controversy over its rape scene, Kika is one film in Almodóvar’s canon that deserves re-assessment and revisiting, especially in how the director approaches his favourite theme – the power of women. It also marked the first time the director collaborated with fashion designer Jean-Paul Gautier.

theflowerofmysecret-dvdfilm-0063289

The Flower of My Secret (1995)
This precursor to Almodóvar’s critically-acclaimed success, All About my Mother, is amongst the director’s most elegant and emotive works. Ditching the kitsch in favour of a more low-key approach, Almodóvar weaves a sentimental tale in which Marisa Paredes (in a career best role) plays a bestselling novelist of pulp romance at the crossroads in her professional and private life. Nominated for multiple Goya awards, this is an intimate yet comic portrait of suffering and pain, and marked a big turning point in Almodóvar’s filmmaking, which makes it the perfect final feature to complete this box-set.

THE EXTRAS
Each disc includes brand new interviews with the director, his producing-partner brother Agustín, plus his stable of stars, including Marisa Paredes, Mercedes Guilamon, Javier Camara, Carlos Areces, Anabel Alonzo, Esther Garcia, Alberto Iglesias, Elena Anaya, Javier Camara, Rossy di Palma, Victoria Abril and Loles Leon.

the-almodovar-collection_2

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Sid & Nancy (1986) | Alex Cox’s harrowing punk tragedy turns 30!

Sid & Nancy (1986)

Sid & Nancy is one of the most important films ever made about the UK punk era, featuring career-defining performances from Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb, and made director Alex Cox the one to watch following his 1984 cult Repo Man. To celebrate the punk classic’s 30th anniversary – as part of the Punk at 40 celebrations – comes a restored DVD/Blu-ray release from Studiocanal in the UK.

Sid & Nancy (1986)

This isn’t a tale of ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’, but a harrowing drama about ‘drugs, depression and death’ – one that deals with the tragic life of the Sex Pistols’ bass player Sid Vicious. And it all rests on Gary Oldman’s ferocious performance as the drug-addled Vicious (aka John Beverly), as well as Chloe Webb’s grating turn as his groupie American girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Cox’s gruelling depiction of Sid’s slow downward spiral into heroin addiction, self parody and miserable death is anything but entertaining, but as a sensitive and powerful character study, it makes for compulsive viewing.

Sid & Nancy (1986)

The special edition Blu-ray/DVD features the restored film approved by cinematographer Roger Deakins (Hail Caesar, The Shawshank Redemption), and a host of special features, including interviews with Deakins, director Alex Cox and Big Audio Dynamite’s Don Letts.

To celebrate its release, there’s a special screening on 29 August in support of War Child at Screen on the Green – the same venue where the Sex Pistols played in 1977 – which will also include a DJ set from Don Letts . For more information, visit: http://www.everymancinema.com/films/film-info?film=14451

 

Une Femme Est Une Femme (1961) | Jean-Luc Godard’s delightful tribute to the Hollywood musical

Une Femme est une Femme (1961)

Parisian striptease dancer Angela (Anna Karina) yearns to have a child, but her bookseller husband Emile (Jean-Claude Brialy) is only interested in cycling. Angela then turns her attentions to Emile’s best friend Alfred (Jean-Paul Belmondo) who ends up falling in love with her.

This delightful light comedy from 1961 was Jean-Luc Godard’s second feature, but his first to be shot in colour and in a studio. It also earned him and his then wife Anna Karina awards at the Berlin Film Festival.

Une Femme est une Femme (1961)

Channelling the spirit of American screwball comedies and musicals of the 1930’s, with an affectionate nod to director Ernst Lubitsch (Belmondo’s character is named after the Hollywood legend), this off-centre tribute is dominated by an engaging Karina as the naïve dancer and Belmondo as the gauche, tongue-tied Alfred. A colourful confection indeed.

Godard The Essential Collection

 

Une Femme Est Une Femme (Cert PG, 80min) is available on StudioCanal’s Jean-Luc Godard The Essential Blu-ray Collection five-disc box set alongside featuring Breathless, Le Mépris, Pierrot le fou and Alphaville.

The special features include and introduction by Colin McCabe, an interview with Anna Karina, and galleries of photos and posters.

 

Nina Forever (2015) | A grave but sexy ghoul-mance for the morbidly curious

nina forever poster

Lovelorn supermarket shelf-stacker and paramedic in training Holly (Abigail Hardingham), sets her sights on suicidal colleague, Rob (Cian Barry), who is still grieving over the death of his girlfriend Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy). But during the couple’s first fumbling attempt at sex, Nina emerges from a blood-stained mattress to interrupt them. It soon becomes clear that the potty-mouthed Nina has no intention of letting Rob go, and wants Holly out of the way…

Nina Forever (2015)

This quirky British indie horror comedy comes from writer/director brothers, Ben and Chris Blaine, who cut their teeth editing Jack Whitehall’s Bad Education UK TV sitcom. But it’s worlds away from that show’s irreverent humour, as guilt, loss and closure lies at the dark heart of this black comedy, played out through a bunch of characters who are all stuck in their own particular limbo.

Nina Forever (2015)

As Nina, O’Shaughnessy (Utopia) steals the show and watching her I was reminded of another ghostly comedy in which a restless spirit comes between a couple: in Noel Coward’s quintessentially English comedy of manners, Blithe Spirit. And there are shades of Coward’s disruptive Elvira in O’Shaughnessy’s Nina, only with the added vocal mannerisms of Michelle Gomez’s Missy from Doctor Who.

Nina Forever (2015)

Cian Barry (Doctor Foster) and Abigail Hardingham (Hollyoaks Later) bring a moody emo intensity to their dysfunctional wannabe lovers, Rob and Holly, while also getting their kit off for the film’s many sex scenes – which actually left me cold (probably on account of Nina’s constant corpus interruptus.

Nina Forever (2015)

While the film does falter in parts, David Troughton’s forgiving dad and Elizabeth Elvin’s grieving mum are on hand to paper over the cracks, with one scene in particular, in which Troughton’s Dan lets slip his mask to vent his anger, supplying some genuinely raw emotion.

Nina Forever is released by StudioCanal on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK from 22 February 2016

 

Alphaville (1965) | Jean-Luc Godard’s seminal future noir is a blast from the past

Alphaville (1965)Fusing George Orwell’s 1984, a plot from 1950s pulp fiction, references from 1930s serials, FW Murnau’s Nosferatu, Fritz Lang’s Dr Mabuse, and Jean Cocteau’s Orphee, the 1965 monochrome future noir Alphaville is one of Jean-Luc Godard’s most idiosyncratic and inventive films, yet also one of his more accessiable ones.

Having appeared as novelist Peter Cheyney’s private eye Lemmy Caution in a series of French films in the 1950s and 1960s, US actor Eddie Constantine reprises his screen persona in this futuristic homage, which has been released as part of StudioCanal’s Jean-Luc Godard The Essential Blu-ray Collection.

When fellow secret agent Henri Dixon (Akim Tamiroff) disappears, Lemmy Caution sets out to the über-modernist city of Alphaville. His mission: to locate his old pal; destroy the sentient Alpha 60 computer, which is holding the city under totalitarian control; and apprehend its creator, Professor von Braun (Howard Vernon). With the assistance of von Braun’s programmer daughter Natacha (Anna Karina), can Lemmy rage against the machine or will he be assimilated like the rest of Alphaville’s denizens?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Winner of the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival in 1965, Alphaville has become one of those modern film classics that’s on every world cinema fans hit list. While not a sci-fi in the strictest sense, it’s truly inspired, helped greatly by the dazzling stylistic images of 1960s Paris that evokes the future (mainly brutalist architecture of glass and steel decked out in modernist decor) and pays homage to film noir (with its starkly-lit shots of seedy hotels and Paris’ périphérique); while Godard’s underlying themes of conformity versus individualism continue to resonant. And bringing it all together is the thunderously dramatic score and the performances of the two leads. A deadpan Constantine makes for an ideal dour, grizzled detective that’s seen better days (and the fact he’s not a good actor just emphasises Godard’s playful approach), while Karina oozes a coldly ethereal charm as the programmer on the path to enlightenment.

Godard The Essential Collection

 

Alphaville (Cert PG, 95min) is available on StudioCanal’s Jean-Luc Godard The Essential Blu-ray Collection five-disc box set alongside Breathless, Le Mépris, Pierrot Le Fou, and Une Femme est Une Femme.

The special features on this release include a candid interview with Anna Karina; an introduction by Colin McCabe; poster gallery and a trailer.

Jean-Luc Godard is also being honoured in a retrospective at the BFI Southbank in London until March 2016. Click here for details.

 

 

Le Mépris (1963) | Is Jean-Luc Godard’s New Wave sensation an arthouse triumph or just an aching bore?

Le Mépris (1963)Released in 1963, Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mépris oozed 1960s style and sexuality, mainly due to the bare buttocks of its seductive star, Brigitte Bardot.

One of the New Wave’s masterpieces and a landmark in world cinema, the lauded French drama is back in cinemas in the UK, and is the centrepiece of a major retrospective of the director’s 60-year career at the BFI Southbank in London. It is also one of the key highlights in StudioCanal’s five-disc Blu-ray collection being released on 1 February.

But does it hold up 52 years on?

More Bold! More Brazen! And Much, Much More Bardot!
French screenwriter Paul Javal (Michel Piccoli) is offered a commission to rewrite a stylised adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey being directed by the legendary Fritz Lang (playing himself). But he’s soon at war with his beautiful wife, Camille (Brigitte Bardot), who mistakenly believes he is using her to get friendly with the film’s brash American Jeremy Prokosh (Jack Palance)…

Based on the novel A Ghost at Noon by Italian writer Alberto Moravia (The Conformist), Le Mépris was a huge success in France – and much of that was due to Bardot’s nude scenes which were added in at the behest of the film’s producers, Joseph Levine and Carlo Ponti. Godard had originally wanted Kim Novak and Frank Sinatra, but Ponti wanted his wife Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. In end, however, Godard got the right mix right with sex kitten Brigitte Bardot and French actor Michel Piccoli.

Le Mépris (1963)

Making great use of the location settings (firstly Rome, then the island of Capri), Godard and cinematographer Raoul Coutard perfectly capture (in Scope) the primary colours of the Pop Art movement that was big in the day. With its radical improvised set-ups and repetitive use of Georges Delerue’s mournful soundtrack, this sumptuously dressed marriage-in-crisis melodrama certainly gave audiences something they had never seen before. But this monumental arthouse experiment is also an aching bore for those to don’t ‘get’ the caustic in-jokes and movie-making references.

Le Mépris (1963)

A famous quote by film pioneer Louis Lumiere opens Godard’s artfest: ‘Cinema is an invention without future…’ And this is what drives most of th dialogue, which comes off like an internal rant by the director, who uses the film to expound his New Wave theories. While cinephiles may cream their pants over Le Mépris being a sleekly seductive film about film-making, newbies will be left wondering what the hell is going on as Piccoli and Bardot bicker for what seems like an eternity (actually 30-minutes) in a sparse modernist apartment in Rome.

Le Mépris (1963)

The French film fans I watched the StudioCanal release with (which had issues with the subtitles at one point), laughingly described the film as ‘L’Avventura in colour’. Which it sort of is. But it also shares its arthouse DNA with Antonioni’s despairing romance, L’Eclisse, which came the year before. Only instead of static shots of the characters moving ever so slowly in a monochrome suburban Rome, we have Godard’s slow tracking shots as his characters spew dialogue like ‘When I hear the word culture I reach for my chequebook’. So, by the time the film finally moved to the blue-green waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea for the Capri scenes, my viewing companions were queuing up to drown themselves.

Le Mépris (1963)

Thankfully the stunning scenery and architecture (notably the modernist Villa Malaparte on Punta Massullo), Palance’s red-hot Alpha Romeo 2600 and Bardot’s bare flesh do help to distract from the ‘non-existent’ story and wholly unlikeable characters: especially Bardot’s cold and contrary Camille, who not only tests the patience of Piccoli’s frustrated writer, but also ours…

Godard The Essential CollectionLe Mépris (Cert: 15, 99min) features alongside Breathless, Pierrot Le Fou, Alphaville and Une Femme est Une Femme in StudioCanal’s Jean-Luc Godard The Essential Blu-ray Collection (available from 1 February) and is accompanied by the following extras:
• Introduction with Colin McCabe
Once Upon A Time There Was… Contempt: An indepth 53-minute featurette in which Godard separates fact from myth over the making of the film.
Contempt… Tenderly: A 32-minute ‘making-of’ that’s overshadowed by the previous one.
The Dinosaur and the Baby: This terrific 61-minute TV special featuring Godard and Lang in conversation is a real treat.
Conversation with Fritz Lang: The cinematic legend is interviewed in a series of on-set recordings (15min).

Dr Who and the Daleks & Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD | A retrospective look at the 1960s Techniscope sci-fi adventures

The 1960s big-screen adaptations of TV’s Doctor Who starring Peter Cushing as the renegade Time Lord screens today on Sony Movies (Sky 323) from 5.25pm in the UK. To celebrate, here’s a retrospective look at the two 1960s Dalek films, which also got a fantastic Blu-ray restoration in 2013 from StudioCanal.

Dr Who and the Daleks

ARE YOU READY FOR DALEKMANIA?
When Dalekmania hit the UK in 1964, a big-screen colour adaptation was quickly put into production by producer Joe Vegoda (who secured the rights from Dalek creator Terry Nation for just £500) and Amicus (who brought Peter Cushing to play the Doctor and Roy Castle as his comic sidekick). When the widescreen spectacle was released on 23 August, Dr Who & the Daleks became one of the top 20 hits of 1965.

Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD

With the Vietnam War escalating in 1966, all US film investment was withdrawn which crippled the British film industry. To fund Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150AD, the film-makers persuaded Quaker Oats to put up the money in exchange for product placement and a number of tie-ins. The new Techniscope sci-fi was developed with Cushing and the same crew, while Bernard Cribbins took over Castle’s duties as the comic stooge. The results however (the film was released in 5 August 1966), was a mixed bag with critics calling it ‘a bit tatty’ – ‘like leftovers from an old film about the London Blitz’. With audiences also less enthusiastic, Dalekmania was officially over.

Dr Who and the Daleks

Dr Who and the Daleks Blu-raySO CLOSE YOU CAN FEEL THEIR FIRE!
Seeing the Daleks in colour and on the big screen for the first time in the 1960s must have been one of those priceless childhood memories. Sadly, I’m from a generation that only ever saw it on the small screen (not on a smartphone, but a 1980s black and white TV set). Now that these bubblegum adventures from British cinema’s golden age have been lovingly restored, I finally have a valid excuse to release my inner child.

StudioCanal’s HD re-mastering of Dr Who & the Daleks is stunning, like a fluroescent comic book come to life. The Daleks look better than I remember (and I still prefer them to the current TV series incarnations), while the studio bound sets of the petrified forest and the Dalek city really zing with colour and scope.

Daleks’ Invasion also benefits from a nice clean transfer (though there’s a loss of grain in the effects shots). Like the first film, everything comes up nice and sparkly here, except the scenes of a devastated future London (just check out those Sugar Puffs signs), which only shows up the film’s tight budget. Philip Madoc getting blown up in the garden shed remains one of my most favourite moments.

Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD

THE EXTRAS
Dr Who & the Daleks

• Jennie Linden and Roberta Tovey 2002 commentary.
Dalekmania: 1995 documentary made to tie in the with original VHS release.
• Restoring Dr Who & the Daleks: A  look at how the film was digitally restored.
• Interview with The Shepperton Story author Gareth Owen on the making of the film.
• Stills gallery
• The fab ‘So close you can feel their fire!’ trailer.

Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 AD
• Restoring Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150AD: A look at the Techniscope format.
• Interview with Bernard Cribbins (nice memories here)
• Gareth Owen looks at the problems that affected the film.
• Stills gallery
• Theatrical trailer

Save

The Yellow Balloon (1952) | Britain’s first X-rated crime thriller is an atmospheric lost treasure

The Yellow Balloon (1953)

The Yellow Balloon (1953)After accidentally causing his friend’s death while playing in a bombed out building on a Chelsea London estate, distraught 12-year-old Frankie Palmer (Andrew Ray) is blackmailed by unscrupulous crook Len Turner (William Sylvester) into helping him with a robbery.

But when Frankie runs away after the job goes sour, the cold-hearted Len plots to do away with the lad…

 

The 1953 British noir, The Yellow Balloon, was one of the first X-rated films (you had to be 16 or over to see it at the cinema). 13-year-old Andrew Ray, who had made his screen debut in 1950’s The Mudlark, is very convincing as the poor lad torn by telling the truth and living in fear that he might be sent to prison; while William Sylvester’s predatory petty thief is a nasty piece of work, especially in the film’s genuinely frightening, film-noir drenched climax in which he chases Frankie around the darkened tunnels of a closed Queensway Tube Station. It was these scenes that caused the censor to slap on an ‘Adults Only’ certificate, which was only later re-classified when cinemas complained they were losing their much-needed family audience. After all the story was a stranger danger warning and a morality tale best seen by youngsters themselves.

The Yellow Balloon (1953)

A host well-known names provide some great support, including Kenneth More as Ray’s rarely at home sailor dad, Sidney James as a street trader who gets a prized pineapple pinched by Ray, and Bernard Lee as a kindly copper – the type that can only exist in fiction like Dixon of Dock Green. There’s also an uncredited Richard O’Sullivan as one of the kids singing in the Sunday School scene.

The Yellow Balloon (1953)

Director J Lee-Thompson, making his second feature, adapts his own screenplay with an assured hand (although the Hitchcockian elements are evident), while cinematographer Gilbert Taylor (who’d go on to work on Dr Strangelove, Repulsion, The Omen and Star Wars) gives the post-war London locations a gritty neo-realistic air (mainly around Sutton Estate in Chelsea – which today is at the centre of a social cleansing scandal). Lee-Thompson went onto master those Hitchcockian elements in his 1962 psychological thriller, Cape Fear.

The Yellow Balloon (1953)

If there’s one thing that nags watching his vintage fare is how much British society (and indeed society as a whole) has radically changed in the past 60-odd years; especially in regards to helping a distressed youngster wandering the streets alone. Today, most people would keep walking past, either because they don’t care or fear that they’d be labelled a paedophile if they attempted being a Good Samaritan. Although taking a youngster home for a warm meal and a heart-to-heart is really not the done thing today – which happens to poor Frankie in this must-see British noir.

The Yellow Balloon is released on DVD in the UK from StudioCanal, and includes as extras an introduction by film historian Charles Barr and a stills gallery

%d bloggers like this: