Over the last month I’ve had a lot of fun watching the all-too-brief Made in Britain season, which saw a bunch of homegrown film gems get a big screen outing across the country. The pleasingly eclectic choices saw comedy happily rub shoulders with sci-fi and horror – genres too often overlooked when it comes to handing out cinema re-releases. It was a very real joy to experience these films in their proper habitat. The only downside was the occasional sniggering from some audience members who failed to grasp the concept that acting styles and production values change and evolve over the years.
I propose that StudioCanal make this an annual month-long event. Not only would it be a perfect showcase for their back catalogue, it would continue to raise public awareness about the rich legacy of British cinema and provide support for those who continue to keep its flame alive. There are after all plenty of other neglected gems that deserve a cinematic airing. More Ealing and Hammer classics of course, and I think we can all agree that Flash Gordon deserves the restoration and re-release treatment.
Anyway, thanks to Take One I was able to view and review them all, and (as much for my benefit as yours) here are links to the complete set:
Passport to Pimlico
The Plague of the Zombies
The Man Who Fell to Earth
Quatermass and the Pit
A jewel in the crown of British science-fiction, QUATERMASS AND THE PIT remains as taut and enthralling today as it was when first released over 40 years ago. Hammer’s third and final adaptation of the classic BBC TV series from genre mastermind Nigel Kneale deals with themes not too dissimilar from those of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, released only a few months later, as well as this year’s considerably more expensive PROMETHEUS: speculating on the origins of human civilization, and how an alien race might have played a key role in our evolution. Kneale knew how to tell epic stories in a contemporary, down-to-earth way, making them not only credible but also financially feasible. This naturally made them appealing to low-budget studios like Hammer, whose earlier Quatermass movies – THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT and QUATERMASS 2 – had been instrumental in establishing its reputation as the home of horror.
Quatermass and the Pit | TAKE ONE
A truly Great British romance as well as a deliciously unconventional romantic comedy, HOBSON’S CHOICE remains a treat nearly 60 years after it first arrived on our screens. Showing as part of the ‘Made in Britain’ season, this is arguably a story that could only have been made in this country. Its working class, northern English roots give the film a bracing texture that never allows it to become sappy or fall victim to cliché. It can also boast a trio of superb performances, led by the larger-than-life Charles Laughton, and marvellous direction from an on-the-cusp-of-greatness David Lean.
Full review: Hobson’s Choice | TAKE ONE
Eschewing the conventional, Nicolas Roeg’s stylish adaptation of Walter Tevis’ sci-fi novel is more often than not a rewarding experience, tempered only by occasional overindulgence. Where one might expect Hollywood spectacle the film offers abstract imagery, and instead of tugging at the heartstrings Roeg delivers sex, sex and more sex. It’s surely a film that could only have been made in the Seventies. But when it’s good, it’s great; beautifully shot, the haunting mood and tone is largely that of sadness and regret.
Full review: The Man Who Fell to Earth | TAKE ONE
Anyone attracted by the throat-grabbing title and hoping for lashings of brain-munching action should look elsewhere: Hammer’s undead thriller from 1966 is a much tamer affair than today’s audiences might expect. But those who are more familiar with Hammer’s full-blooded style should find much to enjoy. THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES is one of those rare zombie movies made before George A. Romero’s landmark horror opus NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD; so while there is a reasonable amount of Hammer’s trademark bright red blood, there’s certainly none of Romero’s flesh-ripping cynicism.
Full review: The Plague of the Zombies | TAKE ONE
The Ealing brand is well known for its comedy output in the late 1940s and early 1950s, but 1949 was a particularly golden year even by their standards: in addition to PASSPORT TO PIMLICO, the studio released WHISKY GALORE! and possibly the most brilliant of them all, KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS. PIMLICO falls a notch or so beneath these two, but still ranks among the finest comedies ever to be made on these shores.
Full review: Passport to Pimlico | TAKE ONE