Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

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Matt
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Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#1 Post by Matt » Fri Oct 15, 2010 3:38 pm

Eclipse Series 25:Basil Dearden’s London Underground

[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/release_images/3097/ES25_Dearden_w128.png[/img]

After mastering the mix of comedy, suspense, and horror that helped define the golden age of British cinema, Basil Dearden (along with his producing partner Michael Relph) left the legendary Ealing Studios and, in the late fifties and early sixties, created a series of gripping, groundbreaking, even controversial films. In dealing with racism, homophobia, and the lingering effects of World War II, these noir-tinged dramas burrowed into corners of London rarely seen on-screen. This set of elegantly crafted films—Sapphire, a dissection of a hate crime; The League of Gentlemen, a deft heist adventure suffused with postwar melancholy; Victim, a landmark gay character study, starring Dirk Bogarde; and All Night Long, a provocative transposition of Othello to the swinging London jazz scene—brings this quintessential figure of British cinema out of the shadows.

Sapphire

[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/product_images/1220/Sapphire_box_w100.jpg[/img]

Basil Dearden’s bold, direct police procedural, starring Nigel Patrick as the detective in charge of the investigation, is a devastating look at the way bigotry crosses class divides, and a snapshot of late-fifties England’s increasingly interracial culture.

The League of Gentlemen

[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/product_images/1223/LeagueOfGentlemen_Box_w100.jpg[/img]

A delightful cast of British all-stars, including Richard Attenborough, Bryan Forbes, and Roger Livesey, brings to life this precisely cali­brated caper, which was immensely popular and influenced countless Hollywood heist films.

Victim

[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/product_images/1226/Victim_box_w100.jpg[/img]

Basil Dearden’s unmistakably political taboo buster was one of the first films to address homophobia head-on, a cry of protest against British laws forbidding homosexuality.

All Night Long

[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/product_images/1229/AllNightLong_box_w100.jpg[/img]

Othello is translated to the world of sixties London jazz clubs in Basil Dearden’s smoky and sensational All Night Long. This daring psychodrama is also remarkable for its on-screen appearances by such jazz legends as Charles Mingus, Dave Brubeck, and Tubby Hayes.

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#2 Post by HistoryProf » Fri Oct 15, 2010 4:20 pm

Can't say i'm familiar with the films, but this looks like an amazing set for Eclipse. Holy cow.

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#3 Post by cdnchris » Fri Oct 15, 2010 4:52 pm

Victim's quite good and based on that I'm quite looking forward to seeing the others. I'm a little surprised Victim's been placed in the Eclipse line but I hope it at least gets a nice looking transfer. I recall the Hve DVD being "meh."

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#4 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:04 pm

The League of Gentlemen is a great 'getting a gang together for a heist' film and Victim is the homosexual blackmail film (and interesting to contrast with the US film Advise and Consent from a couple of years later) which apparently Bogarde did both to bury his family friendly persona of the Doctor films, and also on the condition that he could make the homosexual angle explicit in the "you won't be content until you've ripped it out of me - I saw him because I wanted him" confrontation with his wife about his gay lover. It might be a little overwrought now and still quite innocent in its explanation that "Farr is Queer" painted on Bogarde's garage door means more than just feeling a little under the weather. But considering homosexuality wasn't decriminalised in the UK until 1967, this film was still quite a daring one.

Both of those films regularly get shown on British television, and really deserve a mainline release (although likely they don't have a huge audience outside of Britain), but I guess they stand on their own merits enough to not need any particular contextualising extra features. I've not seen the other two, so I'm particularly excited about getting the set for the chance to see these! Sapphire is apparently about an investigation into a racially motivated murder, and All Night Long a Jazz-world version of Othello.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Thu Jan 06, 2011 12:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#5 Post by HistoryProf » Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:14 pm

Thanks Colin...I've been reading up on these and have to say this may be one of the most essential releases in the Eclipse line in a long time. I'm a great admirer of British Cinema, but this period is where I'm most in the dark - and these look to be some hard-hitting social exposes...precisely the kind of thing I love from this era.
Last edited by HistoryProf on Mon Oct 18, 2010 11:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#6 Post by htdm » Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:41 pm

Patrick McGoohan is absolutely brilliant in All Night Long.
Very glad we're getting a R1 release.

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#7 Post by knives » Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:47 pm

Has anyone here seen The Assassination Bureau? There was a Paramount DVD that seems OOP now, but it doesn't seem to be going at too unreasonable of a price if it is any good.

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#8 Post by headacheboy » Sat Oct 16, 2010 1:19 am

Victim is certainly welcome even if it is on Eclipse. I got it through Netflix awhile back and it is still available. All Night Long, which I've never seen, is available only via streaming through Netflix. I'm definitely looking forward to picking this set up. (I had hoped Series #25 would be a Bergman box of his television work, but perhaps it will still happen someday soon!)

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#9 Post by Jonathan S » Sat Oct 16, 2010 5:02 am

colinr0380 wrote: But considering homosexuality wasn't decriminalised in the UK until 1967, this film was still quite a daring one.
Victim is of course often credited with playing a major part in that decriminalisation. Personally, I've never liked it at all beyond feeling a historical sense of gratitude. When I saw it around the time of my own coming out in the late 70s and early 80s it seemed at best dramatically and morally incoherent, and at worst downright laughable (and I've never been someone who "laughs at old movies"). I find it hard to warm to a film where even the minor gay characters, quite unnecessarily, go around saying things like "Nature's played us a dirty trick"!

Pauline Kael is a critic I rarely value but she wrote a devastatingly witty and incisive review of the film on its US release. She comments, for instance, on the film's "terribly self-conscious and unconvincing attempt to distinguish between the 'love' the barrister feels for his wife and the physical desire - presumably some lower order of emotion - that he felt for a boy who is more interesting in every way than his wife". Also the fact that "the hero of the film is a man who has never given way to his homosexual impulses; he has fought them - that's part of his heroism." Nevertheless, the film was refused a MPAA seal of approval in the US and received some very homophobic reviews, one of them (Time's) quoted by Kael, who strongly criticised the other reviewers' opinion that "if homosexuality were not a crime it would spread" - adding the withering remark, "The assumption seems to be that heterosexuality couldn't hold its own in a free market"!

If there was ever a film more important for its socio-historical context than its intrinsic merit as film-making, I think Victim is it, so this seems to me a missed opportunity for Criterion. There have been plenty of UK TV programmes about it (at least in part), including the 1992 Bogarde documentary By Myself in which he was still claiming, "The people who were in it were all straight, I think, except for Dennis Price who was at that time a homosexual but didn't mind a bit." The extreme contrast between Bogarde's bold enthusiasm (and self-congratulation) for the film with his great lifelong reticence about his own sexuality is a fascinating subject in itself.

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#10 Post by Sloper » Sat Oct 16, 2010 6:13 am

I agree - Victim is exactly the sort of film I might buy if it were presented with some good contextualising extra features, but my memories of the film itself are that it was pretty dull. But then I'm not a big fan of Bogarde generally. I do, however, have a huge amount of affection for The League of Gentlemen: the heist film is one of my favourite genres, and this one pushes all the right buttons. Great cast, witty dialogue, a fair amount of suspense, and at times it feels genuinely subversive in the way that it makes heroes out of these men who are, for the most part, as corrupt as they are unfortunate. It may be worth mentioning that there is an openly gay (and totally sympathetic) character here, as well as a sexually ambiguous relationship between Jack Hawkins and Nigel Patrick; less worth mentioning, perhaps, is Oliver Reed's bit-part as a mincing thespian. Anyway, a great film, only marred the horribly intrusive, self-congratulatory score.

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#11 Post by Dr Amicus » Sat Oct 16, 2010 7:48 am

I can see where the criticism of Victim is coming from, but I have a rather soft spot for it despite its flaws. Sapphire is similar in that it is not really as daring as it thinks it is (but is substantially ahead of what, say, mainstream Hollywood was generally producing at the time) but is certainly far from negligible. IIRC a BFI compilation video a few years back included the final sequence (ie the solving of the murder) as part of a series of extracts from key British films dealing with black British experience - so when I got to see the film a few years back I knew who the killer was! Still, it's an impressive piece of filmmaking and I can't help feel Dearden has been rather undervalued for a time.

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#12 Post by lubitsch » Sat Oct 16, 2010 8:06 am

Strangely Sappire had never a DVD release in GB until now and while I know there's an Australian disc, all I had until now was a bad copy, so this alone and the subs for all films make this an eagerly awaited purchase for me. However I also greatly appreciate the fact that Criterion presents classical British films which are being reevaluated now, just consider the books that were published on filmmakers like Asquith, Roy Ward Baker, Dickinson, the Boulting or Dearden, it seems the classical modesty and denigration of the national film heritage makes way for a more positive approach.

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#13 Post by Finch » Sat Oct 16, 2010 3:03 pm

Can anyone give an idea of what All Night Long is like, and where you'd put it in Deardon's oeuvre? Colin's description of it as Othello in the Jazz world sounds very intriguing!

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#14 Post by Florinaldo » Sat Oct 16, 2010 4:29 pm

The League of Gentlemen is a very enjoyable crime comedy - I have it on a Network UK DVD which has a nice commentary with actors Bryan Forbes and Nanette Newman. The film also features Roger Livesey, now mostly remembered for his appearances in Powell-Pressburger films (except I suppose for those who saw him on the stage during his extensive theater career).

And yes, that's where the absurdist English comedy troupe borrowed its name.

I saw Victim again about 10 years ago; some elements do appear dated, both in terms of the social mores depicted and of the way the filmmakers treat the important issues they raise (their approach appears melodramatic and heavy-handed to our contemporary eyes). But the performance by Bogarde is riveting and ultimately carries the film.

The other two titles look interesting.
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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#15 Post by zedz » Sun Oct 17, 2010 2:27 pm

Florinaldo wrote:And yes, that's where the absurdist English comedy troupe borrowed its name.
Also a Robert Fripp side project from the early eighties [/dating oneself]
. . . the social morays depicted
Right now Criterion are kicking themselves over the missed opportunity for a wacky animal newsletter clue.

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#16 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Oct 17, 2010 3:36 pm

zedz wrote:
...the social morays depicted
Right now Criterion are kicking themselves over the missed opportunity for a wacky animal newsletter clue.
Missed? It'll be perfect for their eventual release of The Social Network.

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#17 Post by filmyfan » Mon Oct 18, 2010 5:30 am

I read a review of this fairly recently released (Dec 2009) book in "Sight and Sound" at the time and it sounded very interesting-would go nicely with this Eclipse set... but the price is shocking!

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#18 Post by zedz » Mon Oct 18, 2010 2:26 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
zedz wrote:
...the social morays depicted
Right now Criterion are kicking themselves over the missed opportunity for a wacky animal newsletter clue.
Missed? It'll be perfect for their eventual release of The Social Network.
Or Tampopo: "o tempura, o morays!"

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#19 Post by MichaelB » Wed Oct 20, 2010 9:25 am

Finch wrote:Can anyone give an idea of what All Night Long is like, and where you'd put it in Deardon's oeuvre? Colin's description of it as Othello in the Jazz world sounds very intriguing!
Intriguing and 100% accurate, though that's not necessarily a full-blown recommendation. Looking up what I wrote about it on Screenonline many years ago, I see I called it "an enjoyable curio: a not entirely successful but nonetheless entertaining attempt at restaging Shakespeare's Othello in the context of a fashionable London jazz party hosted by wealthy proto-yuppie Richard Attenborough, who appears to have anticipated the fashion for converting Docklands warehouses into loft apartments by a good two or three decades."

The piece also has the original Monthly Film Bulletin review attached, which is far more negative.

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#20 Post by Matango » Sat Oct 23, 2010 1:24 pm

The League of Gentlemen was Criterion lasersdisc #318, released in 1997. No extras.

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#21 Post by JakeB » Fri Jan 07, 2011 5:46 am

I don't own any Basil Dearden films on DVD, but I've seen both Victim and The League Of Gentlemen and love them. I might be tempted to cave and get this boxset if it pops up on amazon.co.uk, if it turns out I can't get the other in print films for cheaper.

Are any of the currently available DVDs of All Night Long in 1:66:1? I heard somewhere that there was one knocking around.

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#22 Post by cdnchris » Sat Feb 05, 2011 3:07 am


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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#23 Post by knives » Wed Feb 09, 2011 1:06 am

Jonathan S wrote: I find it hard to warm to a film where even the minor gay characters, quite unnecessarily, go around saying things like "Nature's played us a dirty trick"!
While not as good I found this aspect of the film to be a bit like the three conversations in Shock Corridor. It's little stories to show different aspects of harm caused by homophobia. Like I said it's not all together successful, but it didn't distract for me either.

That said of the three I've seen so far The League of Gentlemen is easily the best with so many funny lines and visual gags I can't help but be charmed. My biggest laugh probably came about because it was so unexpected,
SpoilerShow
I regret to say the bitch is still going,
but it still left me flabbergasted all the same. I can't really say much beyond that sadly, the characters are likable, but the meat of things are the gags and I don't want to spend a post just listing those. So not the strongest eclipse, but still enormously fun.

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#24 Post by MoonlitKnight » Wed Mar 16, 2011 7:48 pm

htdm wrote:Patrick McGoohan is absolutely brilliant in All Night Long.
Very glad we're getting a R1 release.
Agreed. He was slimy as hell. :)

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Re: Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground

#25 Post by Jean-Luc Garbo » Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:30 pm

Just learned that John Coldstream wrote a BFI Film Classics monograph on Victim.

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