Wakefield Express

A weekly newspaper in “this part of Yorkshire”. How it is made from the news roundabout, how it is printed. A job of work (centennial of the founding) like Sternberg’s The Town, with which it has a good deal in common.


O Dreamland

A 16mm reel devoted to sheer amusement.

“The British Film Institute presents...”

Gavin Lambert records a “drearily tawdry, aimlessly hungry world,” Time Out Film Guide “Anderson’s snotty attitude towards it all.”


Thursday’s Children

The arduous training of deaf children in language and lip-reading and speech at a congenial school in Margate.

Little Black Sambo is given purple slippers and a red coat and a beautiful green umbrella by Black Mumbo and Black Jumbo and, “very grand”, has no fear of tigers, even “very fierce” ones.

Co-written and co-directed by Guy Brenton.


Secret Mission
The Adventures of Robin Hood

“A gentle pilgrim comes from France” complaining of the food and drink, by God, King Richard taking names. The Great Bow, archery contest.


The Impostors
The Adventures of Robin Hood

Brenda De Banzie, Nigel Green, Edward Mulhare and Jack Melford in a story about Lady Pomfret, whose husband was so long away fighting in France that Pomfret Castle was forfeit under Norman law.


The Adventures of Robin Hood

A Shakespearean miniature, Prince John (Donald Pleasence) and the French lady, with comic reference to Olivier’s Henry V. The plan is to throw off Princess Avice and be recognized by the King of France, thus deposing King Richard.


The Haunted Mill
The Adventures of Robin Hood

A plague of mice, a stream run dry,

Has filled the miller with alarm.

To catch the villain, Little John

Must lend his strong right arm.

‘Tis the little people, says Sir William Naseby, and offers to buy for a pittance, in hopes of raising prices. Opening shot round the campfire, dolly in to John Schlesinger as Hale the baker singing of one who lost his head to the Normans.


The Adventures of Robin Hood

Prince Arthur in the Tower, adventures “this side of Nottingham”, Fitzwalter Hall, journey to Brittany. A treacherous uncle, Prince John.


Every Day Except Christmas

Farm to “the market at Covent Garden” all night, buyers in the morning, lorries full depart “as far West as Wales and as far North as the Border.”


This Sporting Life

The game is not worth the candle, alack and alas. The deathbed scene points toward a vigorous and comprehensive analysis of Citizen Kane from a single angle. The desire “to be wanted”, to be somebody, to do good, to have spectators, all that vanishes in a single body blow on the rugby field. The nothing that is there finally asserts itself, money is no recompense, the sport perhaps.

A.H. Weiler’s praises (New York Times) are as beside the point as Time Out Film Guide’s dismissal (“shallow”), Variety distinguished itself by a perceptive review.


The White Bus

A charabanc to SEE YOUR CITY in. London, well you may as well go hang, take the train. “A bad day for English football.Manchester, a satire of Things to Come (dir. William Cameron Menzies). Shelagh Delaney’s Salford (dir. Ken Russell). A major study for if...., even to the Vigo dummies, with Arthur Lowe in Ondricek’s color and black-and-white cinematography, score by Misha Donat (Charlie Bubbles, dir. Albert Finney) with The Threepenny Opera and Hanns Eisler and Ralph Vaughan Williams (“Let Us Now Praise Famous Men”), a Woodfall film (Oscar Lewenstein executive producer). Mallarmé’s white sail or blanc souci, the motion picture screen.




A thoroughgoing education. Consider if you but will William Holman Hunt’s painting, May Morning on Magdalen Tower.

“The school as a microcosm of a repressive British society,” says Elliott Stein of the Village Voice. Vincent Canby found it “too confusing and too grotesque to have real meaning” (New York Times). A “punchy, poetic pic” (Variety), “followed by the disastrous Britannia Hospital” (Time Out Film Guide). “The film as a whole,” says Halliwell’s Film Guide, “makes no discernible point.”



England reduced to its imbecilities, a madhouse and no mistake.

Worse than that, a bloody mistake and all.

Very fine thing, the mens and womens is all divided like, question of chairs tended by a fool, la.

Never that far from the sea, in the blood, Drake lost his head, etc.


O Lucky Man!

The school of the world.

if.... was properly the training ground for this satire, “the playing fields of Eton.Again the work is conveniently divided, its five unnumbered sequences are West, Northeast, North, South and East End. There is a silent prologue and a musical coda. Songs by Alan Price are interspersed as commentary, and often shown in performance at the recording studio.

The literary models are said to have been Voltaire’s Candide, Thornton Wilder’s Heaven’s My Destination, and Kafka’s Amerika. The events are elaborated from McDowell’s early career as a coffee salesman, before he took up acting. The earlier models for if.... (David Miller’s Lonely Are the Brave, Stuart Rosenberg’s Cool Hand Luke and especially Peter Brook’s Lord of the Flies) are now engaged more directly. The tragic note is struck, perhaps with reference to Sylvia Plath, personal redemption is the key, the right relationship brought about perforce in if.... is now a determination of enlightenment vis-à-vis the world. This is conceived in acting terms along the line suggested by Antonioni’s satire of the movie business, La Donna senza camelie.

Anderson newly articulates the form with one-second blackouts, some slightly longer. The spacious camera with its long absorbing lens presses farther to isolate and articulate the landscape, resulting in some of the most beautiful pictures of England ever made. At the same time, the outward satire is successively diminished as a consequence of the hero’s inability, or rather and equally well the situation in which he finds himself ill-equipped. The final scene, in which he is directed to smile, is precisely the conclusion reached in Coppola’s The Conversation, a Yeatsian flourish that conveniently makes the entire megillah a portrait of the artist as a young man.

The President’s Analyst (dir. Theodore J. Flicker) figures prominently in the structure, and on this point turns the houseboat scene in Polanski’s Frantic. The nightmare factor of multiple roles taken by a cast from if.... and The White Bus actually diminishes the pressing outward reality with elaborations such as the commodious landlady Mrs. Ball reappearing as the Madonna of the shewbread.

“Revolution is the opium of the intellectuals” scrawled on a London wall comes from Simone Weil, whose faith in poetry is derided with Mrs Richards’ suicide in the face of the “Epilogue to Asolando” and a Salvation Army jab at the “old Adam”, but she is used to it. The last lesson on feeding the sheep comes from Vivian Pickles gamely tending a soup wagon. After that, Dr. Millar’s transplant subject sporting a sandwich board beckons to the cattle call.

The prologue is a Freudian nicety abridging the transition from if.... with no bones about it. The outside world is full of newscasts like a poem by Breton or Cendrars. Travis comes out of prison with his fellow sales trainees, among whom is guileless Biles.

Travis in his suit of golden nylon is Joseph, but his benefactor is also Potiphar at the service of an island Pharaoh (who is bluff Mr. Duff at the plant and the whoring mayor).

“A sincere belief that anything is so will make it so” comes from William Blake with its ambiguity preserved as a truism of sales or a zazen koan and a long development between. Object lessons enforce this, Travis on his way “to the North” is overtaken by a sports car that collides with a truck ahead of him in the fog, police arrive on the scene wanting only the goods spilled on the road. In the East End, he is mobbed, stoned and barreled by the meths drinkers for his charity.

Kurosawa is anticipated in the desolate landscape suddenly bounded by a flowery rillet (Dreams), after Travis’s forced confession to espionage has blown up the secret facility he has come upon in search of Mr. Woolley, the catering manager. Santa Claus comes down the chimney in the humorous stag film at the mayor’s hideaway.

“‘B’ Category Personnel Forbidden Beyond This Point”. The Millar Research Clinic fears the fate of the dinosaurs, looks to “DNA breeding by eugenics,” operates like The Island of Dr. Moreau (Island of Lost Souls, dir. Erle C. Kenton) in reverse.

Billions a day change hands in London, Daddy’s girl takes what she needs from his store, he liquidates the residue of knowledge he has purchased (the muzzled ox of the prologue kicks the empty pail), Professor Stewart goes out the window (an avatar of Dr. Millar, accompanied by one of the facility’s torturers) and receives a curt eulogy.

The minute particulars are of great interest. Business in a Free Export Zone with Zingara requires vast amounts of “honey”, PL-45, to neutralize the opposition. Travis like Rimbaud is snookered as factotum, the principals deny all, he is dished to the fraud squad. Society is not upheld by such as he, a sentence of five years is handed down by the judge, who salves his conscience with a light flogging by his lady bailiff.

All of this is grist for the mill, the substance of O Lucky Man!, a satire out of Pope or Dryden on airy nothingness like the bright balloons falling on the cast at the wrap party.

“A very mixed bag,” Vincent Canby calls it for the New York Times. “No less than an epic look at society”, says Variety. “All puff and no thought” (Time Out Film Guide). Halliwell’s Film Guide finds it “hellishly overlong.”


In Celebration

The pig-breeder’s daughter who married beneath her, a collier.

He bears this out, their sons express it in the course of David Storey’s play, filmed for the AFT on location and in a realistic set for the dramatic combination of styles, under the ægis of John Ford in this instance one would almost say.

Canby (New York Times) saw it but didn’t get it, like the folks in Philadelphia, “a very complete, full-bodied film” nonetheless. Don Druker (Chicago Reader) is very censorious, “barely worth all the trouble.”

“Sharply observant”, says Halliwell, “but fairly predictable dramatics.”


Britannia Hospital

The topping-off of Mick Travis, “man remade”.

The key film is certainly James Whale’s Frankenstein, and the entire structure prepares the revelation of Dr. Millar’s Genesis, a master brain in a pyramidal case shortly to be reduced as a silicon chip.

This historical event is slipped in to make a sort of prelude to Alphaville by way of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and that accounts for a leering canting way of expression, aware of its precedents.

They include Brian Gibson’s The Billion Dollar Bubble for the giggling technicians in the mobile TV studio, and Rod Serling’s “The Brain Center at Whipple’s” (dir. Richard Donner) on The Twilight Zone for the blow to a saboteur in the basement, also there is a certain kinship with Arthur Hiller’s Hospital and Sidney Lumet’s Network.

The Rudyard Kipling Ward is empty because the chars are on strike, a lone nurse watches the telly cover a space shuttle launch.

The film was well-enough received in New York, but English critics hate it so much it might have been made by John Osborne.

Macready’s head’s gone off, so Mick is elected. Mick loses his again, biting the hand that needle-and-threads him. He nearly throttles the mad blighter but expires once and for all, having killed the mistress and collaborator, Dr. MacMillan, almost like The Manchurian Candidate.

“Mr. Anderson’s best film to date” (Vincent Canby, New York Times), “a witty, unsparing exposé” (Variety). Geoff Andrew (Time Out Film Guide) says it has “pretensions to deep significance,” Halliwell shares his opinion, citing the Monthly Film Bulletin, the Daily Mail, and the Guardian to back him up, but not the Sunday Telegraph.


Foreign Skies

Wham! in Peking.

“So where’s all the screaming kids, then?”

The Vice-Minister’s interpreter seems to say that “Paul Robeson used to hold a concert by himself, in Prague,” but this does not get across.

Great Wall, British Embassy, performance.

Anderson’s version is called Wish You Were There, reportedly a very different film suppressed by the band.


Free Cinema
1956 — ?
An essay on film

“Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson, and myself, with Walter Lassally as cameraman, and John Fletcher on camera and sound.”

Source in Humphrey Jennings and the British film tradition. Loss of first two to Hollywood.

Repudiation of David Puttnam, etc., “a captured cinema”. Clips of the work, to Britannia Hospital, the latest.

Literary and theatrical activities (Northern writers, Royal Court Theatre).

“The film of a free man,” Rossellini said of Chaplin’s A King in New York.


The Whales of August

The big fish in the fullness of summer, just before the end of the season. They haven’t been appearing of late, something about submarines during the war, it’s said. Dolphins are rare, too.

The action of the play is Down East backed up by Robert Frost (“Love and a Question”). An importunate visitor is turned away, rather a picture window is set to be installed, better view that way.

Critics were so far from recognizing any drama whatsoever in it, let alone this one, Ebert spoke of an opera libretto to display the singers, and Canby did not even mention Vincent Price, whereas it’s obvious from the start that Lillian Gish means business.

Desson Thomson of the Washington Post wanted to see Bette Davis “harpooned” for an “oversized” performance. Ann Sothern and Harry Carey, Jr. have been complimented.

The author has been most dispraised by reviewers, who could not see his work at all, from a professional standpoint.


Is That All There Is?

Lindsay Anderson under his own direction, bounded in a nutshell, bed and bath, office, London. A phylogeny is apparent, Swiss Cottage has About John Ford in a window, the news keeps a steady pace, actors drop by, producers, Bernard Kops. He reads rejection notices to David Sherwin.

Storey’s Stages with Jocelyn Herbert demonstrating a maquette. Photos of Anderson’s theatrical productions, very illuminating. Britannic hospital by tube. Gag material of various sorts.

Ashes of two favorite actresses, on screen and stage.