Monday, 19 February 2018

The War Game.








After you have watched Peter Watkins disturbing vision of a limited nuclear attack on Kent towns in the south of England could you please tell me why some idiots still want to preserve our nuclear weaponry?  Maybe people think there safe because Trident is based in Scotland and not on the Thames, something you should remember that could easily change.

Made in 1965, commissioned by the BBC following the success of Culloden, but banned from TV screens for 20 years, which in it self smells of a conspiracy between the government and the BBC. I would be the first to admit that it’s a very hard watch but that’s no excuse not the to show this very important documentary style movie which is even more relevant today within 2018’s political atmosphere. Perhaps we ‘the public’ could not be trusted with such a horrifying scenario that when a nuclear war takes place we would all die, and not always very quickly and certainly in pain.

In 1966 it was decided to educate the Establishment with a number of private screenings at the National Film Theatre in London but still the mass population was kept well away. That was until public pressure and a parliamentary motion led to U-turn and the film was granted a limited release via the British Film Institute.

Peter Watkins received no monetary reward from the eventual wider distribution of the film or from its subsequent DVD release even though it did win the Academy Award for the Best Documentary Feature in 1967.


Watkins film is not an historical artifact and should not be viewed as such, its a warning given out in the 1960’s for what could happen anytime in the future if the authoritarian establishment don’t get their act together - and it certainly doesn’t look that their going too any time soon.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Three and Out




My interest in this British movie came about because it starred Mackenzie Crook who I had enjoyed in the brilliant BBC TV series Detectorists where he plays opposite Toby Jones as one of two metal detecting friends Andy. This award winning comedy has been a great joy to watch and all 3 series are highly recommended.

In Three and Out (2008) Crook plays Paul Callow a dreamer who is a driver on the London Underground system. He wants to move to Scotland (who in there right mind would not want to) and right a novel. But the sticking point is a lack of funds. After he has two fatal accidents, while driving his train, in less than a month he finds out that if he can manage a further fatal accident within the same month London Transport will give him early retirement and 10 years salary, which would allow him to live out his dream All he needs to do is find a volunteer to jump in front of his train!


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I enjoyed the rather black humour of this twisted story, but I realise that I am in the minority. The critic hated it and ASLEF the train drivers union organised a protest at the movies premiere accusing the films plot of being ‘insulting and foolish’. They pointed out, quite rightly, that any train driver involved in fatal incidents could be traumatised by it.  Although I can see where the Union are coming from, I don’t agree with the critics.   

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Lady Macbeth.


These days I'm not as impressed with many of the cinematic releases and don’t go to the cinema anywhere near as much as I used too so it's really nice to find a movie that's as highly commendable as Lady Macbeth (2016). Firstly let me say that it's not based on the Shakespearean play only inspired by it.  This latest interpretation of a novel by the Russian novelist and short story writer Nikolai Leskov who wrote his novel Lady Macbeth of the Mitsensk in 1864, the story that was rightly said to be a 'picture of the most unrelieved wickedness and passion' which in turn went on to inspire an opera of the same name. Directed by theatre director William Oldroyd with a brilliant screenplay by Alice Birch this drama is set in North East England in 1865 and filmed in the Northumberland National Park close to a beautiful area of Northumberland where I was fortunate to stay earlier this year.
 
The wonderful Florence Pugh. 
Katherine is stifled by her loveless and unhappy marriage to Alexander a man twice her age. When both Alexander and his brutal father Boris leave the family house on separate business Katherine is left with only an assortment of servants and estate workers. When her sexual frustrations get the better of her she embarks on a passionate affair with Sebastian a young stable hand which leads her to unleash a force that will drive her on a pathway of evil with a determination to make sure that she gets her own way in affairs of heart.
 
Katherine and the love of her life. 

You can probably tell that I was very impressed with this great British movie and certainly with the calibre of the acting involved. None more so than with the 21 year old Oxford born actress Florence Pugh as the strong minded Katherine. This is her first lead role but you may have seen her in her debut feature film performance in the mystery drama directed by Carol Morley The Falling released in 2014. It may be a clique but her role in this latest release can truly be described as an award winning performance. It’s strange but it is the strength of Pugh’s performance that gives you a sneaking admiration for the character even though you know that you should really dislike her. Also cast in this wonderful period drama are the American actor Cosmo Jarvis as Sebastian, Christopher Fairbanks, still probably best known as the plasterer Moxey in Aug Wiedersehen Pet which he appeared in between 1983 and 2004, as Boris and Paul Hilton as Katherine's husband Alexander.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Whisky Galore! 1949


After a recent tour of the Outer Hebrides I thought that it was the right time to revisit, what is regarded as one of the best of the comedies to come from the Ealing Studios, Whisky Galore! It was released in 1949, which was a peak year for the studios with Passport to Pimlico and Kind Hearts and Coronets also released that year. 
 
SS Cabinet Minister runs aground.
Based on Compton Mackenzie’s 1947 novel of the same name, which it self was based on a real life incident that occurred in 1941 on the Hebridean island of Eriskay when the SS Politician ran aground with its cargo of malt whisky. The movie is set in 1943 and the Island of Todday is in disaster mode when it runs out of whisky, the staple tipple of the Outer Hebridean Island and because WW2 is still going full swing there is a problem replenishing the islands stock.  That is until a freighter on its way to America with 50000 cases of the uisge-beatha runs aground off the foggy coast. After the crew abandon the ship and before it sinks the locals organise to relieve the ship from its cargo. All seems fine until the Sassenach captain of the Home Guard calls in Customs and Excise officers to spoil the Islanders enjoyment of their ill-gotten gains.


Replenished stock. 

 Whisky Galore! was directed by American born Scottish director Alexander Mackendrick who also directed other classics including  The Man With The White Suit (1951), The Maggie (1954) and The Lady Killers (1955). The film stars Basil Radford as the formidable Captain Waggett, Wylie Watson as the wily storekeeper Joseph Macroon and the sultry Joan Greenwood as his daughter Peggy. Also involved in the shenanigans are James Robertson Justice, a very young Gordon Jackson, John Gregson and Finlay Currie whose voice can be heard narrating the movie. Also seen in a wee cameo role is the novels author as the SS Cabinet Ministers captain.
 
Castlebay Barra.

Kisimul  Castle.

The Church. 

Although the original incident took place on Eriskay the film was shot on location on the neighbouring island of Barra and main settlement of Castlebay can easily be recognised from the main street heading to the shore with Kisimul Castle in the background and the Catholic Church that overlooks the town centre. The movie brings out the closeness of the islands community and their way of life including the observance of the Sabbath which continues, for example on some parts of the Outer Hebrides where you can not purchase a Sunday paper until Monday. It’s also a grand example of how ordinary working folk can triumph over bureaucracy.  Not to be confused with any inferior remakes.

Eriskey Township. 

Eriskay Restaurant named after the original ship. 

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