Classic TV, Page To Screen, Romance

Jane Eyre Discussion Part 2: My Favourite Screen Adaptation

With the novel Jane Eyre being so beloved, it is not hard to see why so many screen adaptations for this one exist. There have been many big and small screen adaptations made over the years. I like many of them, and despise a good many more of them.

My biggest complaint by far about this story on screen, is that most of the adaptations cut far too much of the novel out. The development of Jane and Rochester’s romance is often rushed, and there is too much cut out from the rest of the story. Much of the beautiful original language of the novel is also missing, making the dialogue more akin to modern language.

I think that the worst adaptations are the 1934 and 2011 film versions. I think the best of the big screen versions is the 1943 film starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine.

I also have a real soft spot for the much underrated 1970 TV film, starring George C. Scott and Susannah York; this version still cuts much out, but Scott is the actor who is pretty much like the Rochester of the novel in terms of looks and mood.

My favourite screen adaptation however will always be the 1983 miniseries, starring Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke.  This one has held a special place in my heart since I borrowed the video boxset from my local Library. This was made by the BBC and directed by Julian Amyes. It was adapted for the screen by Alexander Baron. Why do I love this adaptation so much? How much time do you have? 

I think the performances by Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke are superb. They both make you care for their characters of Rochester and Jane. Zelah captures Jane’s quiet and gentle nature, and also her inner self yearning to break free. In the later part of the series when she flees Thornfield, Zelah makes Jane so vulnerable and devastated you just want to wrap her up in your arms. Timothy captures the enigmatic nature, despair, tenderness and frustration of Rochester perfectly. I also think the height difference between Timothy and Zelah works for the series because they just look so adorable together.

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The series is also pretty much word for word like the book. It even contains the vast majority of the original language that other adaptations change. It also features the gypsy fortune teller sequence. It also focuses heavily on Jane’s childhood, and upon her time later with Rivers and his sisters, something which other adaptations barely focus upon. The series lets the actors act, and lets them bring these characters to life. The series isn’t rushed in any way.

This is also the only adaptation where I as a viewer feel what Jane and Rochester are going through. The proposal sequence is a good example of this, Zelah makes your heart break when she delivers the famous speech about Jane having heart. The way she and Timothy look at each other in this is incredible. I can’t find the words to describe what those looks convey, they just have such strong chemistry and make you believe the emotional bond between the characters. You believe that they really are falling in love before you.

This adaptation also focuses on the fact that Jane and Rochester each serve as a rescuer for the other. Jane saves Rochester from depression and horror, and he saves her from cruelty and a life of blending into the background, instead of standing out in the crowd. Zelah and Timothy convey all that perfectly, particularly in the scene where Rochester tells Jane he has found the pure and innocent being he wishes to be with in life.

This series features strong performances from the entire cast, and it really is the adaptation which is the closest to the book. There are many adaptations out there, but it is to this one that I return again, and again and again.

The series itself is also a good example of the sort of series that we in Britain used to excel at producing. Series that took their time and were not rushed. Series that allow the actors to convey all we need (no need for fancy editing, or for intrusive music in every scene).

My favourite scenes are the following. The “so, you’ve come out at last” scene where Jane becomes ill and faints. The proposal scene. The scene on the stairs where Rochester says he thinks Jane looks depressed. Young Jane standing up to Mrs. Reed. All the scenes with Grace Poole. Jane saving Rochester from the fire, and their conversation afterwards. Jane asking for permission to go and visit her aunt. Rochester looking at Jane’s paintings. The aftermath of Mason getting attacked by Bertha. The gypsy fortune scene. All the scenes where Jane is staying with the Rivers siblings. The “is this my mustard seed?” scene. Rochester greeting Jane in the grounds when she returns from her aunts house. Rochester begging Jane to stay with him. The final scenes.

If there is a downside to the series I would say it lies in the casting of Zelah. Whilst she is superb as Jane, she looks much older than Jane’s eighteen years. This seems to always be a problem in all of the adaptations. Timothy is also more handsome than the Rochester of the novel (who to my mind resembles how George C. Scott looked in the 1970 film)but he really is the best actor to capture the personality and torment of the man.

Beautiful costumes and music all add something to the series. My favourites from amongst the supporting cast are Mary Tamm, as the beautiful and self centred Blanche. Robert James, as the cold and cruel Mr. Brocklehurst. Jean Harvey as the loveable and loyal Mrs. Fairfax.

I’d love to hear from you what you think of this series? What are your favourite screen adaptations of this story? Leave your comments below.

 

 

 

Book Chat, Romance

Jane Eyre Discussion Part 1: The Novel

It’s time for some book chat. I’ve wanted to write about Jane Eyre for such a long time now. I love this novel so much, so I do hope you will indulge me as I first discuss the novel, and then in a future post as I write about my favourite screen adaptation of this classic.

For anyone out there who doesn’t know the story, here is a brief plot description. Jane Eyre is an orphan who is raised by her cruel aunt. Jane is sent to a boarding school that is so bad it is more like a prison. Jane overcomes her childhood horrors and becomes a governess. She is appointed governess to Adele, the young ward of Mr. Edward Rochester, the mysterious master of Thornfield Hall. Rochester falls in love with Jane and does all in his power to make her fall for him in return. Secrets and heartbreak await within the next pages.

Jane Eyre  (hereafter written as JE) was written by Charlotte Bronte, and was published in 1847. Charlotte and her sisters Anne and Emily wrote novels which continue to enthrall readers over a century after they were published.  JE in particular remains a beloved and much discussed classic novel. Why though does this story continue to delight readers today? Why is there still such an interest in this novel?

I think it remains so popular because it is about finding your soulmate. Jane and Rochester each find that special someone and are so close it’s like they are one. Even today we are still desperate to have a person like that in our lives, all desperate to be loved and accepted for who we are.

I’m sure it is so frequently discussed because there so much within it that is still worthy of discussion and debate. It deals with child abuse, with treatment of the mentally ill, with loneliness and despair, and it has good detail about what life at the time the novel was written was like. The relationship between Rochester and Jane is interesting too. Rochester plays with her emotions, he goes after what he wants (her as his love)and awakens her heart, desire and passion. Their connection is genuine, and even though it’s partly brought about through his control of the situation the connection isn’t there just because of that.

JE also shows us that true love is not about looks and sex, but about two souls and minds connecting. It lets us see that people should marry for love, not for money, or so they can bring two estates together. I think that so many of the themes and issues in this novel are still relevant in todays world.

I first read JE in my early teens and instantly fell in love with it. It has become a firm favourite, and it is a novel I can read again, and again and never get bored with. I connect with the lonely, damaged and passionate Jane. I pity and adore the brooding and desperate Rochester. I pity the extremely ill Bertha. I love the time taken to develop the relationship between Jane and Rochester. I smile at the antics of the adorable Adele, and of the loyal Mrs. Fairfax. I hate the selfish Blanche. I want to slap the evil and hypocritical Mr. Brocklehurst(what a loathsome creature he is!)I really feel the growing affection, friendship and romantic attachment between Jane and Rochester.

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I also love this book for the old language. There are many words, objects and phrases etc that I was unfamiliar with before reading the novel. There inclusion in the novel lead me to go and research what they meant. There are some great words in it that you never hear used anymore, words such as physiognomy for example.

In so many screen adaptations of JE, these old words and way of speaking is not present, I think that’s a real shame as it’s not being true to the novel, or to the time period it is set in. My favourite screen adaptation retains the novels historical language though, something for which I will always be grateful.

If you have never read or watched Jane Eyre, please don’t read any further. Spoilers afoot!

Through her novel, Bronte gives us a window into her time, and also gives us a heroine who stays true to her principles, who is a strong, passionate and independent woman. Jane suffered unspeakable cruelty and injustice in her childhood, she did not let that break or define her though. Jane is admirable for being able to move above and past the horrors of her childhood. She is a shy, gentle and passionate woman who wants to be accepted for her mind and soul, not for money or appearance. Society (even today)places too much importance on looks and status, it is the person inside and our actions that should count most in this world. This novel tackles these issues at a time when they were of paramount importance to all who lived.

The character best remembered from this story by most people, is the brooding master of Thornfield Hall, one Mr. Rochester. Like Jane, Rochester had a deeply unhappy childhood, he wants true love and contentment more than anything else in this world. Despite his marriage to Bertha, Rochester wants Jane, he needs her and wants (and deserves)his own happiness too. Some will judge him harshly for wanting to marry a woman despite already being married.

I don’t hate Rochester for that, on the contrary, I pity him and respect him. We see he was not cruel to Bertha, he looked after her. He could have just shipped her off to the nearest asylum and dumped her there, but he didn’t. Between him and Grace caring for her she was well looked after, and was treated with compassion and as much dignity as possible.

At the asylum Bertha no doubt would have been badly treated and been scared. So he gets all my respect for keeping her at home. Secondly Bertha was raving mad, Rochester was told nothing of this when his marriage to her was arranged. How would you react and feel if you were him? He lives a pretty depressing life for years, until the kind, pure and fresh Jane comes into his life. Here is the wife he should have had.

I see no problem with him taking Jane as his wife because why should he remain married to someone who wasn’t even aware of his existence? At least he didn’t try and take Jane as his mistress, he was all set to marry her until Mason showed up. I’m pretty shocked that you couldn’t divorce due to mental illness in those days. I understand the “in sickness and in health”vow, but I think that should only apply if something develops during the marriage, Bertha had a pre-existing condition that was kept from Rochester who quickly discovered the truth shortly after the marriage. Why should he have to stay married in that instance?

I’m in two minds about Jane’s reaction when she learns the truth. I get that her religious/moral convictions made her think she had no choice but to leave and not stay and marry him. On the other hand why couldn’t she see what I said earlier? It’s not like he was cheating on his wife, she was his wife in name only anyway, they were not intimate either emotionally or physically. So where is the harm in staying with him?

I’ve read this again recently and picked up on something I never noticed before. It seems like Jane only gives herself one hundred percent to Rochester when he is no longer in control of their situation. At the end he is a blind cripple, he no longer has any dominance in their relationship. He had experience in physical love and matters of the heart and he played with her early in the story due to her inexperience in these things. Now he cannot see her reactions to (say a kiss they share, or how she reacts on their wedding night.) To me it’s like she didn’t like to be seen (at times) and now he can’t see her she comes to him. He can no longer be in control of their intimate moments the way he is at the end ( I know later he regains eyesight.) This doesn’t take anything away from this romantic story, but it does add an aspect to think about. Has anyone else noticed this?

In short, JE is a novel that I never get bored of returning to. It’s well written, descriptive, vivid and moves me so much. Bronte’s characters are as interesting and alive today, as they were when they first appeared in 1847.

In my next post I will share my favourite screen adaptation of the novel.

What are your thoughts on the novel? I welcome you comments and thoughts on my observations and views of Bronte’s story. Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

British Cinema, Detective, Thriller, True Story

Robbery (1967)

In August, 1963, the British public could talk about only one thing over their bacon, eggs,toast and orange juice. The topic of the day was a robbery, not just any robbery though. Oh no, this robbery was considered to be the robbery to end all robberies.

Early in the morning of the 8th of August, 1963, sixteen men had held up a Royal Mail train on its way down from Glasgow to London. They boarded the train while it was stopped on a bridge, severely injured the trains driver, Jack Mills by hitting him with a metal bar, and made off with all the cash on board. The grand total they got away with? £2.6 million. At the time, this was the largest money robbery in British history.

Several of the gang were eventually caught and a trial was held in 1964. Two of the gang, Ronnie Biggs and Charlie Wilson escaped prison in daring prison breaks, and they and many others lived abroad for decades. The case is well known here in the UK, but if you’re not familiar with it you can find more about the case, trial, and the gang members themselves online.

The robbery and what happened afterwards sounds like it’s a plot straight out of a film. Fact can be stranger than fiction though, and that is certainly true in this case.

It proved too much of an opportunity to pass up on, and so in 1967, production began in the UK on a film based upon the robbery. It was a rather fictionalised account and peoples names were changed etc, and it didn’t end quite how the real life event did.

The film was directed by Peter Yates (who would go on to great fame as the director of Bullitt), and it was produced by Stanley Baker and Michael Deeley. Baker would also star as the leader of the gang aiming to rob the Royal Mail train of its cash. The films electrifying score was by Johnny Keating, and his music adds so much atmosphere to the film.

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Robbery is a tense, gripping and gritty flick. It has you on the edge of your seat throughout and I think it has a very realistic look to it. I also like how the Police are not shown as idiots or the enemy here as is so often the case in films mainly focusing on the criminals. Also we don’t really (well I didn’t anyway)feel like we should be fully on the side of either the cops, or of the criminals, the depiction of what both sides did and went through is well balanced I think.  We can envy at the audacity of the plan, and the fact that it works, but we don’t forget these are criminals, nor that the Police have to (and should) do their job to get them.

The first fifteen minutes are some of the most tense I’ve ever seen in a film. The film opens with four criminals setting up a robbery in broad daylight. They set up a gas canister in the car of a man who has a briefcase handcuffed to him. The gas is set to go off at a certain time, it does so knocking out the driver and the man with the case, and causes the car to crash. Three of the gang in a stolen ambulance take the two men out of the car and drive off. In the ambulance they remove the case and some diamonds.

They abandon the ambulance and get into a getaway vehicle, they are spotted by coppers in a passing car who are on the look out for the stolen ambulance, thus begins one of the best car chases in film history. The Police pursue the robbers car at high speed, as the gang try and evade capture. Filmed out on location in and around London streets, this chase had me on the edge of my seat, peeking through my fingers. In some ways this can easily be seen as the warm up for Yates film Bullitt(which features another brilliant car chase.) The bit where the gang get nearer to a London school crossing is edge of your seat stuff.

The film sees Paul Clifton(Stanley Baker)get a crew together to help him rob a Royal Mail train. Clifton has thought every possibility through, and is leaving nothing to chance. He doesn’t bet on the determined Scotland Yard Detective George Langdon (James Booth). Langdon gets to hear interesting info from some of his informers which alerts him to the fact that a big job is about to go down. Langdon and fellow colleagues set about trying to uncover what the job is, and do their best to capture the criminals.  

Solid performances can be found throughout by some of the best character actors in British film history.

Stanley Baker is excellent as the tough criminal mastermind who you wouldn’t want to mess with. James Booth (Baker’s co-star in the classic war flick Zulu)steals every scene he is in, as the copper determined to get the gang. Barry Foster, Clinton Greyn, Frank Finlay, George Sewell and William Marlowe all impress as members of Clifton’s crew. Joanna Pettet has a small role as Clifton’s stylish wife, she doesn’t get much to do here, but she does make an impression when she is on the screen.

My favourite scenes are the following. The opening car chase. Frank Finlay’s character being rescued from the prison yard. The line up, where the schoolteacher identifies the man who was driving the speeding car. Clifton’s wife asking him why he has a gun. The train robbery sequence. The discussion at the football match. I also really love the opening title sequence, where the names and credits go backwards, giving us the impression that the train is passing them by.

This is a realistic and thrilling crime film inspired by a incredible true story. I’d also like to say that fans of vintage British cars will be in for a real treat, this film is full of old cars that are sure to bring back happy memories for car lovers.

I highly recommend you see this one on Blu-Ray to see it looking at its best. The Network Blu-Ray release also has lots of very good extras to enjoy, including an interesting interview with Stanley Baker.

Any other fans of this film? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detective, Noir

Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 10:The Big Heat (1953)

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What a film this is! A gripping story of violence, corruption, hate, revenge, and a strong determination to fight back against evil. It also quite interestingly shows us that the line between people who are good and bad can sometimes get quite blurred.

The film is based upon the Saturday Evening Post Serial by William P. McGivern. I have never read this but would love to do so. If you have read it, I would love to get your take on the differences  and similarities between the text and the film. 

For a film from the 50’s, this one is very violent and brutal. Some of the violence we actually see on screen, some is inferred, but all of it makes quite an impact on us. The film still shocks and grips when viewed today. The clothes and cars may have dated, but the story, shock of the violence, and  the types of people seen in the film certainly haven’t changed.

The film is directed by Fritz Lang. He made so many masterpieces throughout his career(especially his German Silent films, such as Metropolis), that it is very hard to single out any one of his films as being better than others. The Big Heat is one of his that I would certainly single out though, and for me it is his best American film.

Lang focuses on the darkness of humanity and really rubs our noses in that darkness and dirt. He also lets us see that there can sometimes be good, decency and courage found in the sewer of humanity. This is a film that is all about humanity, and Lang focuses upon the characters and their actions instead of making the film one that is all about visuals or action. 

This is an actors film, the camera is focused on them throughout and lets them convey to us what’s going on. The entire cast all deliver superb performances, and for some I think it’s fair to say they deliver career best performances. Glenn Ford in particular is excellent as the good detective who ends up going around filled with barely concealed rage and hatred.

The vast majority of the films power comes via the interactions between characters and their reaction to the violence that occurs throughout the film. I also love how the film is split into little sections which almost come across as mini films in their own right. Apart from one scene, the film all takes place inside. The interior locations and the close way the camera is focused on the actors really gives the film a claustrophobic feel. Much of the film also has an almost documentary style feel about it, there is a strong sense of realism in this film.

Women play a major role in this film. The female characters we see are very strong women and once they get mixed up with Bannion’s investigation they suffer unspeakable cruelty. Much of the violence in this film is directed towards women. Women are the main victims in this film, they either end up getting killed, physically scarred, emotionally damaged, or have their lives put at risk. Even Detective Bannion’s own daughter suffers too; in as much as her childhood innocence gets shattered and lost by what happens to her mum.

It is also the women in this film who take most of the risks, and in the end it is a woman who gets revenge on two of the main villains of the film. Bannion, who is the films hero actually doesn’t get his hands dirty often, but through his investigation and persuasion others face danger or lose their lives by helping him get revenge. Bannion also does or say things that make him not unlike the people he is seeking revenge against. There’s that old saying which I think applies to him and his situation; violence begets violence. Revenge is just a never ending cycle of pain and violence.

The film begins with Bertha Duncan (Jeanette Nolan)hearing a gunshot. She comes downstairs and finds her husband (a police detective)dead in an apparent suicide. She reads a letter he has written, but we don’t see what is in it. Throughout all of this she never looks shocked or upset in any way, she looks cold and seems unbothered by the grim sight before her. She makes a call to dapper crime boss Lagana (Alexander Scourby)to inform him of the death, he seems to have mixed feelings to her news, and he says he will see her soon.

Detective Dave Bannion(Glenn Ford)is put on the case and at first seems convinced it is a simple suicide. His suspicions are aroused when he speaks to Lucy Chapman(Dorothy Green)a woman who was Duncan’s mistress and who claims there is no way he killed himself. Bannion sees there is more to this when Lucy is found brutally murdered shortly after telling him what she did.

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Across town, the thuggish Vince Stone (Lee Marvin)is one of Lagana’s men and he is put in charge of getting rid of Bannion. A car bomb meant to take out the curious detective accidentally kills Bannion’s wife Katie (Jocelyn Brando) instead. Bannion driven crazy by grief is determined to get revenge and uncover the truth about the case. He also puts his young daughter into the protective custody of former army pals of his to keep her safe. 

Stone’s flirtatious, and fun loving girl Debby(Gloria Grahame)is rebellious and takes a liking to Bannion. This affection gets her a pot of boiling coffee in the face, scarring her for life. Debby teams up with Bannion in his quest and dishes out some revenge of her own.

Glenn Ford is excellent as a decent, ordinary man plunged headfirst into violence, grief and pain. He is excellent at conveying little gestures or looks showing Bannion becoming enraged and no longer playing by the rules. His performance is all in the eyes, pay close attention to him in every scene. Glenn often looked quite baby faced in many roles, but here he looks more mature and proves what a good dramatic actor he could be.

Lee Marvin steals every scene he is in as the despicable heavy, who has no feelings for anyone, not even for a woman who is supposed to be his girlfriend. Marvin had such an expressive and fascinating face and here he says so much with that face.

Gloria Grahame (who to me has always been quite an underrated actress)is at her best as the fun loving, strong and independent Debby. In the last part of the film Debby becomes the main focus of the film instead of Bannion. Gloria relishes these scenes where she shows us Debby overcoming her pain to become a strong woman determined to get some justice for herself and Bannion.

Jocelyn Brando (older sister of Marlon) is very good as Bannion’s loving wife. She gives him a normal, happy and stable existence away from the darkness of his job. Jocelyn and Glenn work well together making us feel this couples connection and devotion.

Jeannette Nolan steals every scene she is in as the ice cold woman who thinks only of her self. Her character is one of the most interesting and controlling in the whole film. Jeannette was a superb actress, but I think this may be one of the best performances she ever gave.

Alexander Scourby oozes evil as the big boss who thinks he is king of the city. He has people very afraid indeed, but of course he won’t dirty his own hands by killing or injuring, he hires heavies to do that for him. Lagana uses words and body language to scare and intimidate, he finds this doesn’t work on Bannion. Scourby is excellent and gives you a good sense of what his character is all about.

This film features many fine supporting performances from the following: Dan Seymour, Willis Bouchey, Edith Evanson and a young Carolyn Jones.

My favourite scenes are the following. Debby answering the phonecall from Lagana for Vince. Bannion and Katie sharing a steak, a drink and a cigarette. Debby going to Bannion after she has been injured. The carbomb sequence. The “sisters under the mink” sequence. Bannion speaking to the old woman through the fence. The finale in the penthouse. Bannion’s Lt speaking to him after Katie’s funeral.

A taut film that packs quite a bit into just 89 minutes. There is not one wasted second in this. There are also scenes where you don’t find yourselves wondering why two characters are suddenly together, as they will say a few words that explain all (we don’t need to see them come together to do what they are about to when we catch up to them.)

I also have to praise the photography by Charles Lang, he keeps the camera close to the actors at all times and makes us feel a part of the scenes. The film is interesting visually, without the look of the film being the sole focus of attention (like many of the visuals in Fritz Lang’s Silent films.)

Be sure to see this one on Blu-Ray to see it looking its best. This format also has some great extras for you to enjoy.

Any other fans of this film? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

Dystopian, Page To Screen, Science Fiction

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

Francois Truffaut’s 1966 film is an excellent adaptation of the acclaimed 1953 novel of the same name, by American Sci-Fi author, Ray Bradbury. The book and the film highlight that the desire to open ones self up to new ideas will never (hopefully not)die. Books give us access to new cultures, worlds, ideas, perspectives. Both the film and the novel also highlight that when something is forbidden, that ban only increases curiosity about, and a strong desire to seek out the banned thing.

Fictional novels also allow us to relax and to take a break from reality. How is that break different to watching a drama on TV? Reading fiction exercises your imagination, you see in your head the characters, the locations, the clothes etc. Reading is an experience unlike any other as your mind brings the words to life. Written words are some of the most powerful things to be found on this earth, some people don’t like that fact, and they want to silence some of those words and control access to them.

This is a film that made a very strong impression on me when I first watched it a few years ago. As a book lover it makes me so mad to see books being destroyed in this film. It makes me even more angry to see the gaining of knowledge, and the use of ones own imagination being denied and controlled by the state. The film also depicts people addicted to drugs, and when they run out, more drugs are given by the state. Many people have to take stimulants (most likely to stave off the frustration and dullness of what the reality of this life is.) 

It is not hard to see the eerie similarities in the film to the notorious book burnings in Nazi Germany. That state also controlled what was taught, what people did and didn’t do. It also ensured that all citizens followed a strict and controlled life. As we know, if anyone didn’t conform, or anyone took a stand against the Nazi’s they were killed or imprisoned.

The film is also very interesting to look at from a visual perspective. The futuristic buildings look sleek and very Art Deco, yet they also look cold, and there is nothing unique about them (reflecting the confirmative society the film is set in.) The suspended monorail on which people travel to and from work is also very interesting visually. I think that reflects the futuristic leaps made in engineering/transport. This sequence was filmed at the SAFEGE monorail test track in France.

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When I watch this film it makes me think of what books mean to me. Books are a vital part of life for me, just like breathing in the air is vital for me to survive. I simply cannot imagine being without books. It sickens and scares me when access to books is denied, or when they are destroyed. I’m not a fan of E-books, or of Kindles either, they hurt my eyes, and I find them very impersonal. While this technology may encourage some people to read (which is a fantastic thing)I do not want them to ever replace real books.As far as I’m concerned nothing will ever be able to replace the special feeling of holding a book, or of borrowing a book from a Library, knowing that many readers before me have turned these same pages.  

Francois Truffaut’s superb film is set in a future where books (and the reading of them)are banned by law. Some citizens still read in secret though, if they are discovered they are reported to the authorities. Firemen are then sent after these people. The firemen seek out and burn the books in their possession.

With public libraries being closed all around us (or threatened with closure), with younger people being hooked on their phones, TVs, and computers instead of reading physical books or engaging face to face with other people; I would say that this film is terrifyingly relevant for todays society. Too many people are nowadays content to sit back and binge on the rubbish being churned out online or on TV.

Many in society are now just like the zombie like, TV addicted people who are depicted in this film. Many young people now don’t read at all, and have zero interest in ever doing so! Their loss I say, but doesn’t it worry anyone else how dumbed down things are becoming in society at large? How fewer and fewer people are avid readers, and how technology is taking over our lives. If this is the future, then it is not one I’m looking forward to being a part of it.

In the future society seen in the film, books and the reading of them are banned. The state controls the lives of its citizens, and all are expected to watch TV for all (or for most of the )day. Some people still read books in secret, if they are discovered the authorities send firemen after them. These men, clad all in black, search for books, and when they find them they burn them. The title of the book and film refers to the temperature at which book paper burns at.

Montag (Oskar Werner) is one of the firemen, he is a yes man (like the majority of his society)and sees nothing wrong in destroying books. When he meets schoolteacher Clarissa (Julie Christie)he starts to question his entire way of life. He himself becomes a hunted fugitive after he is caught reading. Montag must also make a choice between the two women in his life. Should he make a new life with Clarissa, or remain with his TV addicted, glamorous, drug dependent wife, Linda (also played by Julie Christie. ) This man must make a choice between living a restrictive life, or living in seclusion and being allowed to have intellectual freedom.

Oskar is superb as the man who slowly begins to have his eyes opened to the cruelty and evil being committed daily around him. He starts of as a very closed off character emotionally, and then turns passionate, angry and horrified. His performance is all in the eyes, keep watching him closely throughout.  This is one of my favourite performances by him.

Julie shines in a duel performance. She is a vibrant, passionate, outgoing free spirit as Clarissa. As Montag’s wife Linda, she is self centred, brainwashed, chic, and so dull.

Cyril Cusack is marvellous as the loathsome and cruel Captain who is Montag’s superior officer. This man takes sadistic pleasure out of burning books, and in causing great distress to the people who read them. Cusack is excellent and he steals every scene he is in.

Bernard Herrmann composed the music for the film and it adds greatly to the film. It is a mystical, beautiful and very ominous soundtrack, and its presence is a big part of the overall film experience.

Excellent performances, and striking images abound in this terrifying vision of a possible future for mankind. This is my favourite Truffaut film, and it is one that contains a story that will impact viewers very strongly. The way in which Montag discovers books can be shared without getting caught is very powerful as yet (thankfully)nobody can read your thoughts, they can’t eradicate your memories or emotions.

My favourite scenes are the following. The first time we see the firemen. The opening title sequence (this shows us that this is a TV controlled and conformist society.)Montag reading his first ever book. The old woman burning herself alive so she can die with her books. Clarissa asking Montag if it was true that firemen used to put out fires, instead of starting fires. The finale in the woods. Clarissa and Montag’s discussion in the cafe. Montag being pursued by the flying policemen. Montag’s wife participating in the nationwide TV programme. The Captain getting what he deserves.

Interestingly the film also depicts something that has become a reality for us today. TV is now such a major part of life, and many are sadly glued to a screen more than they take part in real life. As in the film, many people now have flat screen TVs. Many also now have multiple TVs in their home (one isn’t enough obviously)and some even watch tiny TVs (now phones)at times too. Knowing all of this was predicted by Bradbury and depicted by Truffaut decades before it came true is spooky.

Be sure to catch this one on Blu-Ray to see it looking at its best. There’s some good extras on the Blu-Ray too, including an interview with Ray Bradbury.

Any other fans of this film? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

Directors Birthdays

Hitchcock’s Birthday: A Tribute. Plus My Five Favourite Hitch Films etc

On this day in 1899, in Leytonstone, London, a filmmaking genius entered the world. Alfred Hitchcock was born.

For a major part of the 20th century, Hitch scared film audiences silly. He created suspense filled dramas and thrillers, which even now, decades after his death, are still considered high points of filmmaking. Visually and technically innovative, Hitch is rightly regarded as one of the greatest of all film directors. Many have tried to imitate him, some have done a good job in doing so (I’m specifically thinking of Brian DePalma), but none have ever come close to becoming the next Hitchcock as far as I’m concerned.

I first became a fan of Alfred Hitchcock in my early teens. At the time I regularly borrowed videos (yep, those things that were around before DVD and Blu-Ray. You even had to make sure you rewound them after viewing was over!)from my local Library.

I was well on my way to becoming a fan of classic cinema by this time, and my mum recommended that I check out Hitchcock’s films. The first one I borrowed was Rear Window. Well, I was completely blown away by what I saw. I loved everything about it, from the plot to the performances. I was very eager to check out the rest of his work after that.

For the next few months, I would walk to the Library every Saturday morning and borrow the next title in the Hitchcock collection. I was very lucky that they had most of his films in stock. Those that were not there I finally got to see over the next few years.  I have been a fan ever since my first Hitchcock video started playing. Few directors have left such an impression on me that I instantly want to continue watching more and more of their work. Hitch did.

Even now having seen the majority of his work (there are still a few of his Silent films I’ve yet to check out) I still get excited watching one of his films. Even though I know what will happen next I still get scared, shocked and drawn in. He made timeless films that generation, after generation can come together to enjoy.

I want to thank Hitch for all he did for cinema. Thank you for all those wonderful films you left us with. Happy Birthday and R.I.P.

 

Here are my five favourite Hitchcock films.

 

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1- The Birds

This creepy tale of birds attacking people freaks me out each time I watch it. Cleverly mixing real birds, fake birds, and matte shots together; Hitch really does make it seem like our avian friends are turning against us. The main reason I love this one so much is due to the flirting, sexual tension, and growing relationship between Melanie (Tippi Hedren)and Mitch(Rod Taylor). You can read my full review of this film here.

 

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2- Rear Window

The first Hitch film I ever saw, this one made a huge impression on me. A gripping tale of suspicion, voyeurism, obsession and love. The film has a very claustrophobic feel to it. The apartment set is extremely impressive and looks real. The performances from the entire cast are superb. Lisa (Grace Kelly)has clothes that I could only dream of owning. The audience are made voyeurs just like James Stewart’s Jeff is, this draws you into the film and makes you a part of it. You can read my full review here.

3- Notorious

Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains are all at their best in this spy thriller. A group of Nazi’s have moved to America after the war, they are being watched by government agencies. An agent recruits the daughter of one of the Nazi’s to help them stop them.

 The highlight of the film for me is the relationship between Grant’s cynical agent, Devlin, and Bergman’s troubled bad girl, Alicia. Bergman gives one of the best performances of her career. Grant is also superb and plays a much darker and more complex character than he had done in previous films. This one really has you on the edge of your seat and makes you fear for the characters taking great risks.

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4-  Family Plot

One of Hitch’s most underrated films is a great favourite of mine. This was his final film and it is a playful wink to his entire career. The film features a multitude of themes and character traits that have showed up in all his films. The film skillfully blends suspense, thrills and comedy to great effect. Medium, Blanche Tyler (Barbara Harris), and her taxi driver boyfriend George (Bruce Dern)are on the trail of a missing heir to a wealthy family. The couple stand to get a huge reward if he is found. They uncover one secret too many, and are soon running for their lives. The jaunty music is by John Williams, and it is one of the great Hitchcock scores. You can read my full review here.

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5- North By Northwest

Hitch’s most stylish film, and one of his very best too in my opinion. This is a perfect blend of suspense, thrills, comedy and action. Cary Grant is at his best as a man mistaken for someone else. He is soon on the run across America trying to evade killers and spies. There are secrets and lies to be uncovered. The film looks incredible, has one of Bernard Herrmann’s best scores and features many superb performances. The film is one that has something happening in it all the time. You can read my full review here.

I’d also like to list five Hitch films that I find to be quite underrated.

Topaz

Sabotage

The Wrong Man

Family Plot

Marnie

Here are the five films that I consider to be Hitchcock’s best.

Rear Window

Vertigo

Shadow Of A Doubt

Psycho

North By Northwest

What is your opinion on the master of suspense? What are your favourite, best and most underrated Hitch films? What are your thoughts on the films I’ve mentioned? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

Blogathons

Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon 2017: The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Hitchcock blogathon EvaEva, over at Classicsandcraziness, is hosting this blogathon all about Alfred Hitchcock. Be sure to visit her site to read all the other entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

I’ve recently just finished hosting my own Hitchcock blogathon, and when I saw that Eva was also hosting one I just couldn’t pass on the opportunity to carry on writing about Hitch’s films. I’m writing this time about The Lady Vanishes, which is one of Hitch’s British films, and was actually the last film he made here in the UK, until he returned here in the 1970’s to make Frenzy.

The Lady Vanishes is a Hitch film that I love a great deal. It is an excellent mystery thriller, has a nice blend of genres, and has lots of humour thrown into the mix as well. There’s also lots of fun to be had in watching a romantic relationship slowly develop between a couple who at first can’t stand each other one bit. This is also a film in which you should never take the characters at face value, more than a few of them will surprise you as the film goes on.

Fans of the comic, cricket obsessed characters Charters and Caldicott are also in for a treat. The duo feature here in fairly major roles ,in what was to be the first screen outing for them. These characters popped up in many British films throughout the 1940’s. 

I also really like how this film doesn’t waste a single moment, and it really manages to pack quite a bit into an hour and a half of running time.

The lead actors of the film are Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave, they would both soon go on to become very popular stars in British cinema. Here though they are both in the very early stages of their respective careers, you’d never guess that this was only Michael’s first screen appearance, or that Margaret had only been acting on screen herself for only around five years. They are both excellent and come across very natural in their performances.

Iris (Margaret Lockwood)is on a walking holiday in Europe with two of her friends. Iris is returning home to the UK before her friends do. When she gets home she will soon be getting married. About to board her homebound train, Iris is hit on the head by a heavy plant pot that falls from a window above her. Iris has a very sore head but seems to be fine otherwise.

Iris is befriended by Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty), an elderly governess who is also returning home to the UK. During the journey Miss Froy looks after the injured Iris, who falls asleep and when she wakes up Miss Froy is missing. Fellow passengers and train staff claim she was never on the train!

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Fellow passenger, Dr. Hartz (Paul Lukas)is concerned that Iris’s head injury could be causing her to hallucinate, but Iris is adamant that she is telling the truth and that Miss Froy was no hallucination. The only one who believes her is the witty musician, Gilbert (Michael Redgrave)who had met and annoyed Iris the night before at her hotel (he was playing music loudly and disturbed her.) Can Gilbert and Iris stop bickering long enough to get to the bottom of what is going on? Just what has happened to the little old lady dressed all in tweed?

Margaret is excellent as the woman who is thrown into danger and adventure, but who won’t back down in her search for her friend. She makes you really feel her mounting confusion and desperation, particularly as it seems more and more likely that she imagined the missing old lady.

Michael steals every scene he is in as the dashing, heroic and witty Gilbert. I love how he conveys to us by the way he looks at Iris that he is falling hard for her. Michael looks at Margaret with such tenderness (I’m swooning just writing this 🙂 ) and you just know these two should get together. I’m really impressed by how good Michael is here considering this is his film debut. He acts like he has been in front of a camera for years before this.

Paul Lukas is excellent as the respectable surgeon who may or may not be hiding a secret. Paul has your attention in every scene he is in. Is his character one to be trusted?

Dame May Whitty is perfect casting as the little old lady, who as it later turns out has quite a few surprises up her sleeve.

Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford are hysterical as the friends to whom nothing else matters apart from getting home to watch a cricket match. They are a riot, and it’s not difficult to see why they went on to appear in many films over the next few years.

Cecil Parker and Linden Travers are also both excellent as a couple who are having an affair. They may have seen Miss Froy, but refuse to get involved as they don’t want to draw attention to themselves.

Googie Withers who(like Margaret Lockwood)would soon go on to become a popular leading lady of British cinema, has a small role as one of Iris’s friends.

My favourite scenes are the following. Gilbert and Iris’s first meeting at the hotel. Gilbert climbing out of the train window as another train comes by on the opposite track. Gilbert and Iris meeting again on the train. All the scenes featuring Charters and Caldicott. The shootout finale. Gilbert and Iris finding the magicians box in the luggage compartment. Gilbert getting all worried about Iris after she faints.

In this film, a whistled tune turns out to be of vital international importance, major head trauma is somehow avoided when a heavy plant pot falls on a human head, and a packet of tea proves to be a vital clue to the whereabouts of a missing woman. There’s romance, arguments, secrets and dangers galore. You really don’t want to avoid boarding this train!

Any other fans of this film? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

 

Blogathons

Announcing The Horrorathon: 26th and 27th Of October, 2017

The Horrorathon 3

In a couple of months time it will be Halloween; cue the scary music, flickering candles, screams, and people banging at your door thinking it’s fine to demand sweets. A perfect opportunity then for us to discuss those films that scare us.

You can discuss anything related to horror films. For example you could discuss your favourite scary film. The Universal Monster Movies (Dracula, The Invisible Man etc.) The Hammer Horror films. The films of Val Lewton. The Horror directors. The Horror stars, such as Vincent Price, Lon Chaney Sr, Peter Cushing etc. It’s entirely up to you.

As usual, I will only be accepting two duplicate posts about the same film, actor etc. There are so many films and stars out there for this genre, that we shouldn’t all need to write about the same ones. Check the participant list below to see who is writing about what. You are welcome to write more than one post.

I’ll put up a new post on each of the days for you to leave me your live links. It’s up to you on which of the days you make your entry live. All I ask is that nobody posts late, you can post early if you like, let me know and I will add your link in on one of the days.

Grab one of the banners below to help spread the word, and put it up on your site somewhere. Have fun writing, and please don’t scare yourselves too much!

 

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Horrorathon 1

Participation List

Maddylovesherclassicfilms – Dead Of Night

Cinematic ScribblingsSpirits of the Dead

LifesdailylessonsblogThe Haunting      13 Ghosts

Thoughts All SortsMy Reaction To Horror Films.

                                   VinniehCat People

Sparksfromacombustiblemind –  Post on Jamie Lee Curtis       Halloween (1978)

Bonnywood ManorDon’t Look Now      The Haunting of Julia

RealweegiemidgetHalloween (1978)

 

Blogathons

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Day 3

Hitchcock blogathon 2

For the final day of our get together, we are in a posh hotel in New York. Our guest speaker is one Mr. Roger Thornhill. Unfortunately he is running late, this is due to a serious case of mistaken identity. 

We better make a start without him. Let our third and final day of Hitchcock discussion commence.

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Day 3 Entries

Lifesdailylessonsblog takes a look at Hitchcock’s Suspicion.

dbmoviesblog writes about Rope.

The Humpo Show boards a train to write about Strangers on a Train.

Taking Up Room peeks through the curtains to take a look at Rear Window.

One Mann’s Movies Special takes a look through the binoculars at Rear Window.

Anybody Got A Match? Takes a look at   To Catch A Thief .