Archive for September 25th, 2012

by Allan Fish

(UK 1937 84m) DVD2

Next train’s gone!

p  Edward Black  d  Marcel Varnel  w  Marriott Edgar, Val Guest, J.O.C.Orton  story  Frank Launder  ph  Arthur Crabtree  ed  R.E.Dearing, Alfred Roome  md  Louis Levy  art  Alex Vetchinsky

Will Hay (William Porter), Graham Moffatt (Albert), Moore Marriott (Jeremiah Harbottle), Dave O’Toole (Postman), Dennis Wyndham, Frederick Piper, Sebastian Smith, Agnes Laughlan, Percy Walsh,

There never was another like Stockton’s favourite son, Will Hay.  Anyone who isn’t British who may be reading this may think “Will Hay, wasn’t he that killjoy who took the sex out of the movies in the thirties.”  He’s barely mentioned in US film guides, his films only available there through special order through internet sites like Movies Unlimited.  Yet to the British film-viewing masses he’s part of the furniture, a comic genius in the pantheon, as essential and as relevant to his nation in as Jacques Tati in France.  Like Tati’s Monsieur Hulot, Hay is a bumbler, an incompetent, but with a tendency towards the dishonest, who is put into places of responsibility, abuses that responsibility, but somehow comes up smelling of roses.  In an age when so many think British comedy began with Monty Python, it’s nice to be able to remind certain folks that that’s only a later flowering of the tree.  The earliest saw many other comic highpoints, from the anarchy of the Crazy Gang to the less cinematic style of Sid Field.  Yet it’s Hay who worked best on film and who produced a string of minor British comedy classics, from which great things can be found in nearly all of them.  Many will cite his later The Ghost of St Michael’s and My Learned Friend, the latter of which is great in itself, but somehow Hay without his original cohorts, Graham Moffatt and Moore Marriott, is like the Carry Ons without Kenneth Williams and Sid James.  Though the wonderful Ask a Policeman, Convict 99 and Where’s That Fire? are all memorable, Oh Mr Porter! is his and the team’s masterpiece. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1970 57m) not onDVD

By Strauss

p  Ken Russell  d  Ken Russell  w  Ken Russell, Henry Reed  ph  Peter Hall  ed  Dave King  m  Richard Strauss  ch  Terry Gilbert  art  Derek Dodd  cos  Shirley Russell

Christopher Gable (Richard Strauss), Judith Paris (Pauline Strauss), Kenneth Colley (Hitler), Vladek Sheybal (Goebbels), James Mellor (Goering), Imogen Claire (Salome #1), Rita Webb (Salome #2), Sally Bryant (Life), Maggy Maxwell (Potiphar’s Wife),

His earlier musical fantasias on Elgar, Delius, Debussy et al all had their share of bashers, and even the success of his Women in Love just months before drew controversy for that nude wrestling scene between Alan Bates and Ollie Reed.  While shooting his infamous masterwork The Devils, Russell returned to Auntie Beeb for what would be the last time to make his last small screen composer fantasia on Richard Strauss.  There would be films on Liszt and Tchaikovsky to come, but vastly overblown misbegotten enterprises that are best left alone.  These pieces always worked better on the small screen, and his last, Dance of the Seven Veils, is undoubtedly the best.  Not that you’ll get many people to agree with me as so few people have seen it; locked away in the vaults of Shepherds Bush ever since that first screening, condemned in parliament and seeing Ken finally bid Auntie good night.  Even when they did show it, it was preceded by an announcement of typical solemnity, saying the film “has been described as a harsh and at times violent caricature of the life of the composer Richard Strauss.”  It cannot be argued that there’s something to offend everyone, and it’s easy to see just how much The Devils was dominating his mind at the time, but for delirious, rabidly offensive, laugh out loud madness, this cannot be beaten. (more…)

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