Ken Loach’s Weapon for Change: Cathy Come Home (1966)

Reg (Ray Brooks), Cathy (Carol White) and their children find themselves in desperate circumstances in Cathy Come Home (1966), directed by Ken Loach.

It is often regarded as the most important British television drama ever written. The controversy it aroused after its premiere broadcast in 1966 on the Wednesday Play series not only challenged the general perception of TV as a shallow medium but also exposed an endemic social problem in England that the government often overlooked – homelessness. As timely today as it was then, Cathy Come Home is a rare example of a television drama whose impact on the media and the government was so pervasive that it resulted in the creation of “Shelter,” a housing for the homeless charity.  Continue reading

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The Films of Richard Rush: An Interview

Director Richard Rush poses with a flyer for his most famous film, The Stunt Man

Richard Rush has had his ups and downs in the unpredictable world of Hollywood. His more than three decades of filmmaking have included memorable collaborations with such fellow industry legends as Jack Nicholson and cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs as well as long, arduous years in development hell. It took ten years for The Stunt Man to finally reach the screen. Despite it all, Rush remains an eternal optimist with a wonderful sense of humor, genuine love for his craft and a steadfast loyalty to his cast and crew members. The following interview was conducted in April 2010 just prior to the first TCM Classic Film Festival where The Stunt Man was screened and covers some of his films and experiences in the movie business.

* This is a revised and updated version of the original post that first appeared on TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog.   Continue reading

Brigitte Bardot Plays Herself

Before he had reached the age of thirty, French director Louis Malle (born in 1932) had already emerged as one of his country’s most critically acclaimed and internationally recognized filmmakers on the basis of his first three films – The Oscar®-winning documentary, The Silent World (1956), which he co-directed with Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the atmospheric noir Elevator to the Gallows (1958), and the controversial adultery drama, The Lovers (1958). Many film critics felt that his fourth film, Zazie dans le metro (1960), based on the novel by Raymond Queneau, was his most adventurous and impressive work to date but it failed to generate ticket sales and was a costly failure. Due to this, Malle felt pressured to make a more commercial feature and the result was A Very Private Affair (1962, French title Vie privée), starring Brigitte Bardot.   Continue reading

The Radioactive Mud Monster

In many ways a precursor to The Blob (1958) and Caltiki, the Immortal Monster (1959), X the Unknown (1956) is a much more thought-provoking and serious attempt to demonstrate the consequences of science run amok than your standard monster-on-the-rampage chiller. The film, directed by Leslie Norman, was actually inspired by the success of The Quatermass Xperiment (1955, aka The Creeping Unknown), which was released the previous year and was a huge box office hit for Hammer Studios.    Continue reading

Disconnected and Lost in Capri

When did alienation in modern society become a favorite thematic concern in the culture and the arts, particularly in the cinema? Certainly the films of Michelangelo Antonioni addressed the inability of people to connect, feel or relate to each other in a post-industrial age world as early as 1957 in Il Grido. But by the early sixties, it seemed as if every major film director in the world was addressing the topic on some level. A general sense of malaise was in the air as if the modern world was having a counterproductive effect on humanity, creating a sense of futility, amorality or complete apathy. You could see aspects of this reflected in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960), Ingmar Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly (1961), Alain Resnais’s Last Year at Marienbad (1961), Luis Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel (1961) and Jean-Luc Godard’s My Life to Live (1962). All of these are considered cinematic masterworks of the 20th century but there are also many worthy and lesser-known contributions to the pantheon of alienation cinema and one of the most strikingly is Il Mare (The Sea), the 1963 directorial debut of Giuseppe Patroni Griffi.    Continue reading

Picaresque Americana

Everyone involved creatively with the making of Arthur Penn’s landmark of sixties cinema, Bonnie and Clyde (1967), benefited greatly from its astounding international success. Certainly the director and all the key cast members saw an immediate acceleration in their careers and it enabled screenwriter Robert Benton to make his directorial debut in 1972 with Bad Company, working from a script he penned with his Bonnie and Clyde writing partner, David Newman. Structured in a manner similar to the Arthur Penn film, it was a picaresque and episodic road movie, set during the Civil War, with an authentic sense of period detail and moments of biting wit and sudden, shocking violence that gave a contemporary edge to the Americana on display.   Continue reading

Battle of the Bands Throwback

Among the many titles being released through the no-frills Warner Archive Collection are a few oddball orphans and obscurities that didn’t get much love the first time around such as 1971’s Dusty and Sweets McGee, a docudrama of Los Angeles heroin addicts, Carny (1980) starring The Band’s Robbie Robertson, Jodie Foster and Gary Busey, the eccentric Italian sci-fi thriller Wild, Wild Planet (1966) and The Cats aka The Bastard (1968), a Eurocrime drama with Rita Hayworth and Klaus Kinski. These are definitely worth a look but the one that has the potential to make you pogo is Urgh! A Music War (1981), a compilation concert film featuring 33 live music acts recorded in different cities in the U.S. (Los Angeles, New York) and Europe (London; Portsmouth, England, Fréjus, France). Some of the more famous groups featured include X, Devo, The Police, The Go-Gos and The Dead Kennedys but there are also now forgotten acts like Chelsea, John Cooper Clarke and The Alley Cats. And for some reason, Splodgenessabounds, who performed “Two Little Boys,” were completely omitted from the Warner Archive DVD-R.   Continue reading