Party Out of Bounds

Tired of reading about new DVD/Blu-ray releases that are being released in other parts of the world but are not viewable here because they are produced in a different broadcast format? (The U.S. standard is NTSC; PAL is common in Europe and the U.K. and SECAM is prevalent in China and the USSR). If so, why not consider the purchase of an all-region Blu-Ray player. They are relatively inexpensive and will allow you to finally purchase and view films you’ve always wanted to see or dreamed about revisiting. To give you some idea of what you’re missing, especially if you are an anglophile, I point to BFI Flipside, a classy underdog in the world of DVD/Blu-Ray distribution, who launched this label in 2009 with the following explanation on all of their box art: “The Flipside: rescuing weird and wonderful British films from obscurity and presenting them in new high-quality editions.”

Earlier releases have included Bill Forsyth’s debut feature That Sinking Feeling (1979), a comedy about a quartet of working class lads with a dubious black market scheme, Gerry O’Mara’s The Pleasure Girls (1965) a Swinging London soap opera starring Francesca Annis, Suzanna Leigh, Ian McShane and Klaus Kinski, and Don Levy’s Herostratus (1967), an avant-garde curio with a surprising cameo by a young, undressed Helen Mirren, who has never been one to complain about nude scenes. One of my favorite releases from BFI Flipside is The Party’s Over (1965), a stylish and edgy study of some bohemian Londoners during the mod sixties with a scene-stealing performance by Oliver Reed and enough disturbing elements to make the censors froth at the mouth. In fact, their negative reactions, prevented the film, which was filmed in 1962, from receiving a theatrical release until 1965. During the interim, the film was subjected to numerous rounds of cuts and revisions before finally being slapped with a ‘X’ certificate – a rating that spelled box-office poison for exhibitors.      

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Sean Connery as a Gypsy Grifter

What’s your favorite Sean Connery role before he became famous as James Bond. This question might stump the average movie-goer but film buffs would probably choose one of his menacing villain roles in either Hell Drivers (1957) or Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (1959) or possibly his dashing romantic hero opposite Janet Munro in Walt Disney’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959), where he actually gets to sing. The latter is easily my favorite with the Irish mythology of leprechauns, pookas and banshees giving it the edge but there is something quite appealing about Connery trying his hand at comedy in the lesser-known British B-movie Operation Snafu (1961), which was released in the U.K. as On the Fiddle (It was also known as Operation War Head).  

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Roald Dahl’s Gift to Patricia Neal

What do you get when you mix together a serial killer thriller, a May-December romance between an older woman and younger man and a masochistic mother-adopted daughter relationship melodrama with echoes of Now, Voyager (1942)? The result, The Night Digger (1971, aka The Road Builder), from a screenplay by Roald Dahl, is much more homogeneous than you’d expect and is an unjustifiably overlooked curiosity in the filmography of Patricia Neal.   Continue reading

The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game

Released in the U.K. as The System and the U.S. as The Girl-Getters in 1964, this unheralded little gem of a film is not only a vivid snapshot of the swinging sixties but a surprisingly frank and intelligent treatment of sexual gamesmanship and barely disguised class warfare promoted as a typical youth exploitation picture in the style of a “Beach Party” movie by distributor American International Pictures.   Continue reading

Gloom and Doom in Snowdonia

After winning the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature at the 2019 Edinburgh International Film Festival and various other accolades in Europe, William McGregor’s debut feature Gwen is opening in selected theaters across the U.S. this August. Some critics have compared it to Robert Eggers’ The Witch (2015), Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England (2013) and other historical dramas with supernatural elements but don’t be misled by those comparisons. The horrors that await Gwen are grounded in reality – sickness, animal deaths, misogyny and grinding poverty.   Continue reading

God Stave the Queen

Criterion DVD cover of Derek Jarman's JubileeOne of the few films to emerge from Britain’s punk rock movement of the mid-seventies that succinctly expressed the anger and anarchic spirit of the times, Jubilee (1978) is possibly director Derek Jarman’s most accessible film though its irreverent mixture of history, fantasy and agitprop shot, guerilla-style, on the back streets of London is not for everyone. The loosely structured film has a framing device that is set in the year 1578 as Queen Elizabeth I ponders the future of her country. Along with her court magician, Dr. John Dee, and lady-in-waiting, she is transported to contemporary England by the angel Ariel. There she finds a mirror image of herself as Bod, the leader of an outlaw band of deviants, who struggles for dominance in a post-Margaret Thatcher wasteland controlled by the fascist media mogul Borgia Ginz.   Continue reading