Dir: John & Roy Boulting | Cast: Barry Jones, André Morell, Olive Sloane, Sheila Manahan | UK Drama 94′
Just how long ago this was made is evident from the opening shot of the postman marching up to 10 Downing Street and what looks like less than half a dozen letters hitting the mat. That it’s set in a London of barrel-organs, when tickets on the Underground cost tuppence and memories of the Blitz made the evacuation of London seem far less far-fetched then than now makes you realise just how long this particular Sword of Damocles has hung over all our heads.
Before we know the contents to Willingdon’s letter the response of Follard’s assistant to reading it is all the more disturbing for being an amused “Another one for the loony bin I suppose” (the second we see reading it bursts into tears).
Although the authorities automatically declare Willingdon mad and what he attempts is monstrous, the film itself is deliberately ambiguous on the matter. The Boultings in later films sent up the clergy mercilessly but Willingdon’s vicar is portrayed sympathetically. But while the first thing we learn about the Professor is that he’s the son of a bishop but finds no comfort in prayer. @RichardChatten
Dir: Seth Holt | Writers: Brian Clemens, Bryan Forbes, Jean Martet | Cast: Caroll Baker, Peter van Eyck, Ian Bannen, Denholm Elliott, Biff McGuire, Mario Adorf, Hansjorg Felmy | UK Comedy Thriller 101′
Not a film for anybody currently climbing the walls under lockdown. Station Six-Sahara demonstrates that a wide open expanse can be as claustrophobic as a tiny little cabin; the oppressive desert backdrop (of Libya’s Sahara) vividly rendered by veteran cameraman Gerald Gibbs as a blinding white nothingness stretching to infinity (like snow but also oppressively hot).
Usually mistaken for a drama, Station Six-Sahara is more properly enjoyed – if that’s the right word for such an intense experience – as a very black comedy. Bryan Forbes rewrote Brian Clemens’ original script based on a play by Jean Martet which anticipates The Flight of the Phoenix and Dark Star in it’s unsparing depiction of a group of men who didn’t have much in common in the first place driven further round the bend by being cooped up together; or to suffer the final twist of the knife when Carroll Baker literally crashes in on them.
There’s little overt action, the tension deriving from what’s going on inside them rather than what they are actually doing. Or wish they were doing. Richard Chatten.
Writ/Dir: Barnaby Southcombe |Cast: Jodhi May, Jordan Bolger, Jessica Barden, Edward Hogg | UK Drama | 84′
Freed from the confines of the stage, for which it was written by Fiona Evans, Barnaby Southcombe’s seaside love story soars and never loses its footloose fun reflected in Ian Leggett’s energetic hand-held camera and limpid widescreen seascapes. It’s a more lightweight film that his standout noir I, Annathat starred his mother Charlotte Rampling as an enigmatic femme fatale. But his work is always charismatic and entertaining.
Intimate in scope but universal in its subject matter, SCARBOROUGH is a sensory exploration of love through a series of flirty and at times moving vignettes rather than a gripping narrative, and some of the dialogue feels cliched-ridden, but its lightly touching and thoughtful in its modest running time. And when people are coupling up or falling out, glib cliches often pour out volubly through guilt or even lack of imagination.
It sees two couples pursue impossible love stories. Both are generations apart and its clear from the offset that neither will be enduring. In love, longevity often trumps passion, and both the older lovers are in committed relationships that have stood the test of time, despite their downfalls, that seem connected to infertility on both sides.
The narrative sashays between the two couples. Jodhi May is lithe and luminous as a 45 year-old teacher in love with her muscular pupil Daz (Jordan Bolger), whose puppy-like naive enthusiasm could clearly wane. They’ve only actually spent 22 hours together during their snatched lunches and afternoon escapes. But she’s tried for years to get pregnant, and when the result comes through her demeanour changes. May brings considerable complexity to her role, despite its confines. His enthusiasm seems to dampen her ardour, and her maturity as a woman is shown through her skill as an actor.
The other two, Jessica Barden (Mindhorn) and Edward Hogg (Jupiter Ascending), are celebrating her birthday. He’s much older than the giggly twenty-something. Barden has a more difficult role and still feels slightly unconvincing. One always gets the impression she’s a kid and her duplicity makes things worse, especially with lines like “get her off the ‘phone, she’s proper ruining my day”, when he tries sensitively to split up with her girlfriend Chris over the ‘phone. This also seems to be the catalyst for some passionate love-making, yet great sex doesn’t always lead to commitment. Daniel York is particularly amusing in as the hotel manager in this extremely watchable drama. MT
NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE. | PREMIERED DURING WARSAW FILM FESTIVAL | 12-21 October 2018
TV director David Jackson’s bleak look at dysfunctional Britain sees a mother abandon her son to live with her lover.
Sixteen year old Julian (Harper Jackson) is left with his estranged father Francis (Francis Magee), an ageing hippie who lives in a caravan, scratching out a living doing ‘odd jobs’. A fragile bond develops between them but is soon blown apart when tragedy strikes a second time.
Winterlong is tonally all over the place: drifting from social realism to quasi- romantic comedy, with a set of facile caricatures and dialogue to match. We feel sympathy for Julian as the most relatable character, despite his young years, having to contend with puerile adults when strong parenting is what he needs. He feels like a bewildered bystander, while the adults take centre stage with their nonsense. Not much backstory is provided for either father or son, but Francis is clearly a mess, a selfish womaniser who rocks a battered deerstalker and takes pot shots at wildlife, fancying himself as an 18th century highwayman who’s wandered onto the set of Midsomer Murders. And as Winterlong plays out that’s what it reminds us of. How can any sane adult in Britain have a line like: “I’m out here on my own because it’s safer that way”. Where does he think he is: Afghanistan?
Once Francis’ girlfriend Carole appears the story starts to take shape. With a positive outlook and her head screwed on, she demands Julian has a proper roof over his head (well, a plastic caravan one), then disappears back to Belgium, wearing a coke can ring – all Francis can offer from his forages through the ‘dangerous’ woods. Then in wanders batty Barbara (Doon Mackichan), the new neighbour and soi-disant ‘opera singer’ whose desperation for Francis puts all middle-aged women to shame. A weak romance rears its head between Julian and Taylor (Nina Iceton) serving the final melodramatic scenes, but never really coming to anything. Despite its tonal inconsistencies, Winterlong makes a strong statement: It’s a sad reflection on adults seen through innocent children’s eyes – clearly they deserve better. Atmospherically filmed in the Sussex environs of Rye, and accompanied by Rob Lane evocative occasional score, Winterlong is a wake-up call for modern parents. MT
Dir: Lewis Gilbert | Cast: Kenneth Moore, Dana Wynter, Carl Mohner, Laurence Naismith | UK, Wartime Drama 97′
British post-war cinema was fraught with films depicting how we triumphed with our Allies. And one of the most successful and stylish was this 1960 epic featuring actual combat footage. Lewis Gilbert bases his spectacular action thriller on real events that took place when British warships set off to eliminate the pride of the German fleet, the Bismarck, in the North Atlantic. Kenneth Moore is the star turn as the British naval officer tasked with leading the 1940s mission, and putting duty first when still recovering from his wife’s death in an air raid.Sink the Bismarck depicts the human story behind the war effort, showing respect for the enemy, and commemorating the courage of our own brave soldiers, and the unsung ‘backroom heroes.’ This thrilling and authentic adventure drama also features the cruiser HMS Belfast (now preserved on the Thames in London) which was used to depict the cruisers involved in Bismarck’s pursuit. MT