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All Night Long (1962) | Basil Dearden’s jazz-fuelled drama that swings to a Shakespearean beat

All NIght Long (1962)

 

Patrick McGoohan headlines director Basil Dearden’s modern dress, modern jazz adaptation of Othello, with jazz greats Charlie Mingus, Dave Brubeck, Johnny Dankworth and Tubby Hayes appearing as themselves.

Musical comedy star Paul Harris plays Aurelius Rex, a musician whose wife, Delia (Marti Stevens), gave up a prosperous singing career when she accepted his hand in marriage. But the peaceful structure of their relationship is shattered during a late night warehouse party in Bermondsey, when ambitious drummer Johnny Cousin (McGoohan) uses every dirty trick to woo Delia into working with him.

This powerful psychological drama is now out on Blu-ray and DVD, as part of Network’s ‘The British Film’ collection, and is presented in a new High Definition transfer from original film elements in its original, as-exhibited aspect ratio. The special features include original theatrical trailer and an image gallery.

All Night Long also makes its Channel Premiere today at 9.40pm on Talking Pictures (Sky 343, Freeview/Youview 81, Freesat 306).

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Revenge (1971) | James Booth and Joan Collins are out for blood in the sensational X-rated British shocker!

Revenge (1971)

If you look in the basement… be prepared to SCREAM!
Following the murder of his young daughter Jenny, publican Jim Radford (James Booth) is persuaded by his best mate Harry (Ray Barratt) to hunt down the suspected child killer who has just been freed by the police and extract a confession from him.

Aided by his 18-year-old son Lee (Tom Marshall), Jim and Harry abduct loner Seely (Kenneth Griffith), then lock him up in the pub’s cellar where they beat him to a pulp under the watchful eye of Jim’s wife Carol (Joan Collins). But keeping their quarry a secret from the police and the pub’s punters while they decide what to do next puts their loyalties to the test…

Revenge_5

Welcome to the Inn of the Frightened People
With tight direction from Sidney Hayers (Circus of Horrors, Night of the Eagle) and a script bristling with tension and melodrama from The Saint screenwriter John Kruse, Revenge was one of the most lurid British thrillers to come out of the 1970s, and quite the departure for producer Peter Rogers, who was better known for the Carry On films.

But there’s quite the carry-on happening down at The Crown pub where James Booth’s landlord Ray must decide the fate of the man he’s got tied up cellar – is he really responsible for his daughter’s death or has he been falsely accused? While Kruse’s script touches on the very emotive subject of child killers and sex offenders that’s still very relevant today, it concerns itself more about matters of conscience. For Ray, it’s the nagging thought that he may have gone to far; for Lee, it’s being unable to perform for girlfriend Rose (Sinéad Cusack), and for Carol, it’s all about looking the other way.

Revenge (1971)

Working entirely on location and shooting in vivid Eastmancolor, Hayers (coming directly off TV’s The Avengers) and cinematographer Ken Hodges (The Shuttered Room) make excellent use of the pub’s nooks and crannies and surrounding suburban streets (in Little Marlow in Buckinghamshire), which lend the proceedings a suitably claustrophobic air – all the better for the ensuring drama to heat up as Ray, Carol and Lee try to cover their tracks, and tensions start to fray, climaxing (no pun intended) in the film’s most sordid scene in which Lee engages in rough sex with step-mum Carol while a bound and gagged Seely looks on through shattered glasses.

Revenge (1971)

The abduction of a suspected child killer by a grieving dad and his mates was also used as the premise of the shocking 2013 Israeli film Big Bad Wolves. But that relied on scenes of extreme violence to tell its politicised vigilante story. Now, Revenge may have been regarded as one of the most unsavoury British thrillers of the 1970s, but it’s pretty tame by today’s standards, and could easily be a storyline in one of those ITV real-life dramas or a British soap – after all The Queen Vic’s cellar in EastEnders was the setting of Dirty Den’s ultimate demise. And I must admit that watching Joan Collins as landlady Carol in Revenge, I couldn’t help but wonder what she’d be like taking over The Vic now that Babs Windsor’s Peggy Mitchell has said her final goodbyes. Maybe she should be speaking to her agent?

Revenge (1971)THE NETWORK RELEASE
Revenge is featured in a brand-new High Definition transfer from the original film elements in its original theatrical aspect ratio on Blu-ray and DVD, as part of Network’s The British Film collection.

The extras includes restored original theatrical trailer (which thankfully doesn’t have any spoilers), an image gallery (with lots of modelling shots of Joan Collins), a script (in pdf) and a collector’s booklet with articles by Professor Neil Sinyard.

The Nightcomers (1971) | Michael Winner’s The Turn of the Screw prequel – a brave, bold, underrated gem or a foolish flop?

The Nightcomers (1971)
Two Children. Two Adults. One Unspeakable Crime
Left in the care of their governess Miss Jessel (Stephanie Beacham) and housekeeper Mrs Grose (Thora Hird) at their absent uncle’s grand Tudor manor, Bly House, young orphans Flora (Verna Harvey) and Miles (Christopher Ellis) become enthralled by the estate’s Irish retainer Peter Quint (Marlon Brando), whose enigmatic presence exerts a corrupting hold of them as he enters into a sadomasochistic affair with their governess…

The Nightcomers (1971)

‘To really love someone, you must want to kill’
1971’s The Nightcomers, based on an original screenplay by dramatist Michael Hastings, sketches a prequel to Henry James’ 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw. Directed by a pre-Death Wish Michael Winner, and shot on location at Sawston Hall in Cambridgeshire, it features a Bafta-nominated performance from Marlon Brando, and marks Stephanie Beacham’s first leading role in a feature.

The Nightcomers (1971)

Past his prime, but not yet podgy, Brando was on the cusp of his later acting career when he made Winner’s sub-Lawrentian sado-masochistic drama. Despite the mumbling Irish lilt and telltale bald patch, he makes for a compelling over-the-hill Heathcliffe, but one who is still agile and virile enough to cast a roguish spell. Winner managed to secure Brando because: ‘Despite being a legend in the industry nobody cared about him.’ But Winner regarded Brando’s performance as ‘breathtaking’.

The Nightcomers (1971)

Winner must have been either very brave or very foolish to go anywhere near Henry James’ iconic ghost story (which had been given a sublime screen adaptation in Jack Clayton’s The Innocents in 1961), but The Nightcomers makes for a fascinating speculation on how Miss Jessel and Peter Quint died and what that ‘hinted at’ evil was in James’s tale. With the core theme being: ‘To really love someone, you must want to kill’, Winner and Hastings conjured up a scenario in which it is the children who become instrumental in the couple’s demise.

The Nightcomers (1971)

Now, I don’t know whether its the script or the performances, but Brando’s Quint seems more like a free spirit than a purely evil corrupting influence, while Beacham’s Jessel comes off like a wannabe suffragette struggling against repression rather than a sexually depraved harlot. What is disturbing is the idea that the children are so impressionable that they become sociopaths just by watching Jessel and Quint having rough sex. Considering this entails little more than some rope bondage and the odd whipping, one wonders how those 12-year-olds in France will be affected after witnessing the ‘Red Room of Pain’ in the film version of Fifty Shades of Grey? Winner’s film does, however, open up a debate on the question of sexuality and innocence, which is only skirted around here.

The Nightcomers (1971)

While both Brando and Beacham are compelling in their roles, and Thora Hird smashing as the no-nonsense housekeeper, Verna Harvey and Christopher Ellis bring little depth to Miles and Flora, the fault being in their stage school reading of the script (they’re certainly no match for Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin in The Innocents).  For me, however, what really stands out here is Robert Paynter’s crisp cinematography, which gorgeously captures the winter light over the Cambridgeshire countryside, and the stunning Sawston Hall Tudor mansion (see below).

The Nightcomers (1971)AUTHOR’S NOTE
London dramatist Michael Hastings (1938-2011) is best known for his controversial play, Tom and Viv, about the first marriage of TS Eliot, but was also the youngest of the ‘angry young men’ Royal Court playwrights whose gritty dramas in the 1950s forged a renaissance in British theatre. When writing The Nightcomers, Hastings’ said he did not set out to impersonate Henry James’ unique quality, but as there was something ‘hidden’ and ‘remained’ at Bly house, he felt there was a need for a further account of the characters of Miss Jessel and Peter Quint. In the foreward to his novelisation of the fim, Hastings wrote: ‘No matter how often he paid lip service to the mystery of those strange ghosts and the intangible hold upon the children their deaths created – that “shadow of a shadow” and “thinness” as James called it – any reading of Turn left a sense of further mystery. Who were they and what did they do?’ The Nightcomers is Hastings’ speculation.

Sawston HallDID YOU KNOW?
The 500-year-old Grade I-listed Sawston Hall in Cambridgeshire is said to be haunted by the ghost of Queen Mary, who has been seen floating through the house and gardens (much like Miss Jessel’s spirit in The Turn of the Screw). The Catholic ruler took refuge here on her way to claim the throne in 1553, however a protestant mob (said to be the Duke of Northumberland) burnt the manor down after the Queen escaped disguised as a dairymaid. Queen Mary repaid the owners by allowing the Hall to rebuilt using stone from nearby Cambridge Castle. Featuring a 100ft great hall, moat, chapel, and ancient ‘priest holes’, Sawston was, until recently, owned by hedge fund supremo Steven Coates.

THE UK RELEASE
Presented as part of Network Distributing’s The British Film collection, The Nightcomers is presented in a high definition transfer (on Blu-ray and DVD) from the original film elements, and includes original theatrical trailer, teaser trailer and gallery.

Baby Love (1968) | Linda Hayden is a knockout in this dark and disturbing British sex drama

Baby Love DVD cover

Would YOU give a home to a girl like Luci?
When her mother Liz (Diana Dors) commits suicide, 15-year-old Luci (Linda Hayden) leaves the Lancashire slums to live with Liz’s former lover, Robert Quayle (Keith Barron), and his family at their posh Hampton Court home. Haunted by her mother’s death and overawed by her new surroundings, Luci swings between depression and excitement, but her arrival also brings out deep-seated fears, guilt and desires within her adoptive family whom she seduces and ultimately destroys…

Baby Love (1968)

Sex, class and teenage fury!
Adapted from a novel by Tina Chad Christian, Baby Love was released in the UK at the same time as Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Teorema, and both share the same central theme of a stranger who destroys a family and its societal values from within. Fuse that with a disturbing Lolita-styled story, a cracking cast and excellent colour photography and you have one helluva film. When it was released in 1968, it was the UK’s 11th most popular film of the year. Today, it’s ripe for rediscovery.

Baby Love (1968)

The opening titles certainly lets the viewer in on what to expect. It starts with droplets, followed by a trickle, then the viewer is showered with the full force of its fury in an explosive finale which is set in motion with the chilling line: ‘Don’t you want to play with your little doll?’ And the doll in question is Linda Hayden, who brings great depth and sensitivity to her troubled character, Luci, who alternates from being a lost child yearning for love to a sensual young woman testing the boundaries of her burgeoning sexuality. Hayden, who was herself just 15 at the time, would go onto star in the cult horror classics, Taste the Blood of Dracula for Hammer (1970) and Blood on Satan’s Claw for Tigon (1971), as well as the Confessions… sex comedies for Michael Klinger, the producer of Baby Love. But this is her finest hour.

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Every scene builds an atmosphere of tension, and that’s down to the imaginative direction, tight editing and evocative camera work. Diana Dors’ death scene in a steamed up bathroom and the cat paws dripping her blood will stay with me forever. Director Alastair Reid later won a Bafta for Traffik (1990), while editor John Glen is best known for his work on eight Bond movies and veteran cinematographer Desmond Dickinson for his luminous lensing of Olivier’s Hamlet (1948).

Class and sexuality intertwine in the dark and disturbing drama. The artifice of British middle class values is ripped apart (most noticeably in a scene involving a drunken pool party in which Dick Emery plays it straight and very sleazy), while Luci’s exhibitionism is an overt comment on the sexual revolution happening in Britain at the time.

Baby Love (1968)

And it’s through sex that Luci discovers she can get what she wants, and its best summed up in the line: ‘I’m going to paint my face and paint and paint and be utterly evil’. She’s a tease to Robert’s son Nick (Derek Lamden), and stirs something forbidden in Robert’s wife Amy (expertly played by Ann Lynn). The secret sexual liaison that develops between them is disturbing (for the viewer), but liberating (for Amy). Although avoiding being exploitative, the film’s treatment of lesbianism follows that of The Children’s Hour (1961) and The Killing of Sister George (1968) – as something tragic. But Luci’s ultimate goal is Robert (Keith Barron at his brittle best). Luci resents him for abandoning her mother. Everything could have been so different for her. But is this really all for revenge sake or does her presence just reveal the fragile cracks that already exist in the Quayle household?

THE UK DVD RELEASE
Released on DVD in the UK as part Network’s The British Film collection, Baby Love is presented in a brand-new transfer from the original elements and includes an image gallery and press materials in pdf format.

DID YOU KNOW?
Sir Christopher Wren’s former home in East Molesey stands in the family’s Hampton Court home, while the film also makes effective use of Richmond Lock and Twickenham Bridge, as well as London’s Bond Street and Hanover Square. The film’s theme song is performed by 1960s soft rock band KATCH22 during a disco scene, and was released on the album Major Catastrophe.

* photos courtesy of The Michael Klinger Papers, University of West of England

Catacombs (1965) | Gordon Hessler’s suspenseful directorial debut twists and twists again

Catacombs (1965)

The story of a girl who twice returned from the grave!
Taylor Mills CEO Ellen Garth (Georgina Cookson) is devoted to her business, her money and her husband Raymond (Gary Merrill), and is worth £1m dead. Feeling little more than a carer and 24-hr stud, Raymond drifts towards Ellen’s attractive young niece Alice (Jane Merrow), but is thrown out when the possessive Ellen catches them in a tender tryst.

With nothing to lose, Raymond joins Ellen’s shady attorney Richard Corbett (Neil McCallum) in an elaborate scheme to murder his wife. Events take a sinister turn when Raymond kills Ellen and buries her in a garden shed before the plan can be put in motion. But, as Ellen believed in life after death, there are signs that she is not content to remain in her grave…

Catacombs (1965)

…will live forever as a masterpiece of suspense!
This 1965 thriller (called The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die in the US) marked the directorial debut of the late Gordon Hessler (he died in January of this year at the age of 83), who had cut his teeth on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in the US, and would later helm the cult horror duo The Oblong Box (1969) and Scream and Scream Again (1970) in the UK, both starring Vincent Price, as well as Ray Harryhausen’s Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973).

The routine script is an adaptation of the 1959 novel by Jay Bennett, a former scriptwriter on the Hitchcock TV series, and shares similar themes to Henri Georges Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques (1955), William Castle’s The Night Walker (1964) and even Otto Preminger’s Laura (1944).

Catacombs (1965)

Gary Merrill, best known for starring in 1950’s All About Eve with Bette Davis, was also a regular on the Hitchcock TV series. His age and looks certainly make him an unlikely gigolo here, but he carries it off quite well. And Jane Merrow, who plays the Lolita like Alice later turned up in 1967’s Night of the Big Heat and Hands of the Ripper (1971). Producer Jack Parsons was responsible for such cult genre fare as 1962’s Witchcraft, starring Lon Chaney Jr, in his only British film role, The Earth Dies Screaming (1964) and Don Sharp’s underrated Curse of the Fly (1965).

While Catacombs plays like a feature-length episode of a Hitchcock TV mystery, there are some disturbing moments that linger: like when Raymond is commanded by Ellen to carry her to bed for sex (it will make you cringe); or Ellen’s look-a-like getting a brick to the head then being set alight in a car that’s then sent over a cliff (vicious stuff). The catacombs of the title don’t actually appear in the film, but provide a vital clue in solving the mystery, and there’s more than one twist after the big reveal – which is straight out of William Castle’s The Tingler (1959).

Catacombs (1965)

THE UK DVD RELEASE
Catacombs is presented in a brand-new transfer from the original film elements, in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio from Network Distributing as part of their British Film collection. The special features include image gallery and promotion material (in pdf form).

Hands of the Ripper (1971) | Hammer’s ripping yarn is a grisly, stylish affair

Hands of the Ripper Blu-ray

THE RIPPER STRIKES AGAIN?
In the autum of 1888 the infant Anna watches as her father, the infamous Jack the Ripper, brutally murders her mother, after which he kisses her and leaves. Years later, the orphaned Anna (Angharad Rees) is now under the care of a fake psychic (Dora Bryan) and has been forced into prostitution. When the psychic is found gorily impaled on a spike, psychiatrist Dr John Pritchard (Eric Porter) suspects Anna killed her.

And he’s right, for whenever light reflections and an embrace coincide, Anna goes into a trance-like state and stabs whoever touches her. Unaware of this trigger and wanting to cure her homicidal impulses using new Freudian techniques, Pritchard takes Anna under his wing and into his home. But as the murders continue, Pritchard unwittingly puts himself and all those under his roof in mortal peril…

Hands of the Ripper (1971)

A NEW TERROR-FILLED X FILM
In Hands of the Ripper, director Peter Sasdy, who also helmed the excellent Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) and the troublesome Countess Dracula (1971), gave Hammer his finest feature. Sasdy stages his Freudian-inspired psycho horror with suspenseful precision and lends the proceedings a perversely incestuous aura, which plays out through the paternal Pritchard’s obsessive desire to penetrate Anna’s mind. According to critic Phil Hardy, in his Encyclopedia of Horror Movies, this is also Sasdy’s reply to Michael Powell’s sadistic voyeuristic thriller Peeping Tom (1960), in which he makes Anna the victim of her father’s perversion, who then compulsively turns any expression of love into ‘spectacularly staged lethal penetrations’ (*). It’s a quite a mature, serious offering from Hammer and Sasdy, and grimer than horror fans had expected at the time.

Hands of the Ripper (1971)

The film’s Victorian sets and décor (left over from Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes) and cinematographer Kenneth Talbot’s muted colour palette gives the film an authentic period look, while each grisly killing is executed in surprisingly stylish fashion, albeit quite shocking. Indeed, the violence is most graphic ever to appear in a Hammer horror with one scene, in which Lynda Baron’s lesbian prostitute gets a handful of hat-pins in her eye, not fit for US censors. The film was also banned in Finland and Norway because of its violence. For the film’s climax, the Whispering Gallery in St Paul’s Cathedral was recreated at Pinewood after the film-makers were refused permission to film there.

Hands of the Ripper (1971)

In the UK, Hands of the Ripper ended up as the support feature for Twins of Evil, the third entry in Hammer’s Karnstein trilogy, and never really got the praise it deserved. Thankfully, its home entertainment release on Blu-ray and DVD from Network in the UK and Synapse in the US gives newcomers the chance to revisit what is undoubtedly one of the last masterpieces from Hammer. Director Sasdy would go on to helm another classic in its own right, the 1972 TV play, The Stone Tape – now that’s a frightfest indeed.

Hands of the Ripper (1971)

THE UK BLU-RAY RELEASE
Hands of the Ripper is presented on Blu-ray in a High Definition transfer made from original film elements in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio as part of Network Distributing’s The British Film collection. The extras are the same that appeared on Network’s 2006 Special Edition DVD release: an audio commentary with the late Angharad Rees (who died aged 68 in 2012 from cancer) and horror historians Kim Newman and Stephen Jones, an episode from the Thriller TV series, Once the Killing Starts starring Rees, theatrical trailer, gallery and commemorative booklet.

 

SOURCES:
(*) The Encyclopedia of Horror Movies, Phil Hardy, 1986
The Hammer Vault, Marcus Hearn, 2011

Black Limelight (1939) | An atmospheric thriller where a woman’s work is never done when there’s a killer to catch

Black Limelight (1939)

A house in south west London stands full in the ugly glare of publicity, with a police cordon round it and angry crowds lurking outside. Inside, Mary Charrington (Joan Marion) waits in bewilderment for the next act in the tragedy. Her husband Peter (Raymond Massey) is wanted for the murder of Lily James (Coral Browne) at a seaside bungalow in Dorset, which the tabloids have dubbed the work of the ‘moon murderer’. When Peter sneaks back home after three weeks on the run, Mary takes in onto herself to unmask the real killer. But in doing so puts herself in terrible jeopardy…

Black Limelight (1939)

THE LOWDOWN
This vintage British crime thriller, which was called Footsteps in the Sand in the US, and directed by former silent movie helmer Paul Stein, certainly doesn’t attempt to hide its stage roots, being based on a 1936 play by Gordon Sherry, which scored much success on Broadway and in the West End.

This being Britain of a bygone age, manners are prim and proper, everyone speaks the Queen’s English, children are seen but not heard, and women are regarded as hysterical creatures, not to be listened to. But not our heroine Mary… With her husband on the run, Mary juggles useless Scotland Yard detectives, a nosey American reporter (Dan Tobin), and unwanted neighbours, while also turning sleuth to prove Peter’s innocence. And she does so with jolly good bravado.

The drama very much wears its heart on its sleeve: men are portrayed as fools for straying from the marital home where wives provide all the love they need. Even the Monthly Film Bulletin drew attention to this in their review about Joan Marion’s performance, which it described as ‘so convincingly restrained that a film which begins as just another murder thriller almost ends up as a social document’.

Black Limelight (1939)

Social comment aside, Black Limelight is an engaging and atmospheric affair, featuring some sprightly performances. Never one to stand for convention herself, Coral Browne was the perfect choice to play free-spirited Lily, whose tragic story gets told in flashback. Despite only having a few minutes on screen, the Australian actress’ scenes give the stage-bound proceedings a well-deserved lift, while also providing a neat counterpoint to Marion’s wholesome Mary. And as loyal maid Jemima, Elliott Mason provides some much needed light relief. Raymond Massey, however, does little more than look like a lost puppy throughout.

While the killer’s identity is rather obvious, this musty drawing room mystery will draw you in, and it’s great fun watching Marion’s Mary practically sacrificing herself to unmask the culprit courtesy of a single handkerchief. A woman’s work is never done when there’s a killer to catch…

THE UK DVD RELEASE
Part of Network Distributing’s The British Film collection, Black Limelight is presented in a brand-new transfer from the original film elements in its as-exhibited theatrical 1.33:1 aspect ratio. It also includes an image gallery and the original shooting script (in pdf). While the mono sound is scratchy at times, the print is excellent, with Claude Friese-Greene’s monochrome cinematography at its shimmering best in the bungalow scenes.

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