Sunday, 3 June 2018

Winter Chills - Part One: The Damned (1962)

I’ve been left on my own for five-and-a-half weeks...
What to do, what to do?  Well, for a start: I’m going to watch all those horror/fantasy/sci-fi films I’ve always been meaning to get to
… and write about them here!


The Damned (1962)

Definitely in the ‘what did I just watch?’ category.
A heady mix of Brighton Rock and Village of the Damned, flavoured with Kubrick and Orwell, with the result looking a little like a bleak Avengers episode (an oxymoron if there ever was one).

Whatever memorable elements this film contains - and any scene with Oliver Reed in it is always one of them - everything seems to have been secondary to the director Joseph Losey’s exacting vision.
And so, on his insistence,  the final script was rewritten two weeks before filming began and costs quickly spiralled out of control from there.  Helicopters, a spectacular crash into a river, costly reshoots...

The finished film is undoubtedly great to look at and disturbing to contemplate, but Hammer and Columbia were left with such a difficult-to-define mash-up that no-one knew how to market the finished product.  
The black and white photography makes me wish more films were still made this way, and I enjoyed the performances. It’s hard to know if Hammer were exploiting Reed or whether it was the other way around - as if he was always aware of his talent and simply using them to get his screen ‘flying hours’ up.

Few ever saw this film, but critics recognised that there was cinematic mastery somewhere beneath the surface.
A challenging watch which expects you to keep up as the tone and genre abruptly shifts gear several times, then back again. But also a film which might prove difficult to forget.  Special thanks to Zac and Bill who went to great lengths to procure this for me - well worth the effort!

Star Wars (1977)

The original , you might say. I bought the unspecial-ed version of this 1977 life-changer on disc many years ago, but was always shallowly drawn to the extra bells and whistles of the new release whenever I felt like a rewatch. This time I resisted and I’m so glad I did.

The 1977 version has a rawness and urgency about it, almost a desperation, which smoothed- over (and now hideously outdated) CGI effects only clash with. It’s fascinating to see actors and technicians sometimes working counter to Lucas’s aims (he certainly didn’t have the obsessive control then that he would have in later years) and creating something all the better for it.

I’m not ungrateful for all you’ve done, George, but this is my Star Wars. Han shoots (first) and scores!

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