The Last Train through Harecastle Tunnel
The Wednesday Play

A spotty railway enthusiast and his trip by train where a great labor has been superseded by the electric line, a special train at midnight, trains there and back.

An office clerk by day, with two others who, amongst the bevy of people he encounters on his journey, somehow express the meaning of the event.

A great masterpiece (cp. RenÚ Clair’s Le Voyage imaginaire).

 

Sovereign’s Company
The Wednesday Play

Decline of the Academy, on the point of honour. Mercenaries graduate and resign to serve for pay, General Cantfield in the absence of God and country holds to his old regiment, which faces disbandment.

Not to be in command of oneself, not to be in command of the situation, these are fatal qualities in an officer, one cadet is “chopped” for it, the other kept on for pragmatism’s sake, a matter of “more efficient and more functional”. The Academy psychiatrist takes a different view.

This is evidently related to The Last Train through Harecastle Tunnel and To Encourage the Others and Scum in various ways.

 

Under the Age
Thirty Minute Theatre

The poofter barman, two fellows out to christen their van, two girls described in the title, and the boy under the barman’s thumb.

“This is an ale house, not a friggin’ snack bar.”

For BBC Birmingham.

 

Penda’s Fen
Play for Today

He the last pagan king.

And consequently, though some argue the work is extraneous to Clarke’s œuvre, a perfect portrait of the adolescent mind.

The parson’s son, The Dream of Gerontius, the witch Joan of Arc, rugby, buggery, Sir Edward himself confiding the “enigma”, even a touch of Polanski (Rosemary’s Baby) and Rossellini (La Macchina Ammazzacattivi), even King Penda for the blessing.

 

A Follower for Emily
Play for Today

Love and death at the old folks’ home, same as anywhere, just as Browning says.

 

Funny Farm
Play for Today

Goodbye to all that (the trenches come into it) at a hospital for the disturbed and the moribund.

No money in it to live on, the saintly male nurse bikes off.

Framed as exposÚ, with statistics, a glancing theme of Scum, supply and demand, end titles rattle off the deprivation of psychiatric cases.

 

Diane

After Penda’s Fen, and before Made in Britain, she emerges from the nightmare at a halfway house and disappears with it, or not.

Girl from the flats, widower Dad, a child of sorts.

The kinship to Bresson has been noted.

 

Scum
Play for Today

The position is explained, a borstal is where you put young villains to keep them off your street, and punish lesser offenders appositely to put them on the right road.

One of the villains topples a “daddy” and takes a “missus”. Others dream of knocking over banks for crumpet, the milder ones of putting this behind them.

One inmate kills himself, buggered and finding no sympathy from guardian or daddy.

A riot in the refectory is answered in the punishment block.

It might be Lumet’s The Hill or Gries’ The Glass House.

The theme is addressed in such films as Crime School (dir. Lewis Seiler) and Hell’s Kitchen (dirs. Seiler and Dupont).

 

Nina
Play for Today

The pangs of exile, an irreconcilable split between fervor for one’s compatriots still held captive and the simple desire for “a normal life” at home, naturally.

Soviet dissidents, refuseniks, in London. Nina, Ninotchka, is the better half.

 

Scum

Phil Meheux’s beautiful cinematography gives rare wintry exteriors, the interiors are reportedly of a mental hospital.

 

Beloved Enemy
Play for Today

Business effectively runs Whitehall, but the workers must be put down, they must accept what management gives them and no more.

Factories in Britain are therefore closed and reopened abroad, where strikes are not permitted, Czechoslovakia, for example.

The play describes negotiations for such a plant in the Soviet Union. The technical means can be used for military purposes, the proprietary interest must be safeguarded.

Thus UKM enters into partnership with the Soviets on an equal basis.

The signing of contracts is exactly like a treaty signing.

China and Brazil are also topics of discussion at an informal meeting of company leadership.

 

Baal

The poet.

His career resembles that of Rimbaud, from a certain point of view.

1904-1912 in Germany, conveyed with staggering erudition by reproducing the silent film setups most fitting, in color, for the BBC.

 

Made in Britain

From the author of Beloved Enemy, and following on Scum, here is the terrible villain “on your street”, a perfect shitsack, “a brick shithouse”, sixteen years old with a swastika between his eyes.

Everything is done to save him, but to a borstal or detention centre he must go.

 

Contact

A British patrol in the countryside of Northern Ireland.

Each day they march to some objective, a helicopter flies them back to base, shot at, bombed.

Not much for morale.

 

Rita, Sue and Bob Too

Clarke’s idea of a comedy, a perfect one.

The girls, roast beef and Yorkshire pud, live in rundown council flats with family, school’s out nearly, they baby-sit for Bob and he gives them a jump.

Wife doesn’t like it.

Neither Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) nor Hal Hinson (Washington Post) had the foggiest.

Oscar Lewenstein is the executive producer.

Janet Maslin (New York Times) couldn’t see it through.

“Something of a lark” (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader).

“Humour in the worst possible taste” (Time Out Film Guide).

Variety had a go.

 

Christine

She carries the heroin on foot through the suburbs, head down, a nondescript lass with a plastic bag from the shops, to all her friends who live at home in nice digs with American kitchens and cartoons on the telly.

A quiet lassitude follows each injection (cp. Elephant).

 

Road

Britain’s dirty arse end finds hope of escape in “Try a Little Tenderness”.

Clarke’s ability to turn actors into real people has been commented on, here he preserves on location a theatrical element presumably from the Royal Court Theatre production.

 

Elephant

One murder after another, approach, dispatch, escape, body or bodies, in various locations, no explanation or connection, pistol or shotgun, Steadicam, for BBC Northern Ireland.

 

The Firm

The subject is football hooliganism, not the yobbos of yore but men who sell houses in London and the like, with the BMW or Volkswagen convertible or perhaps a Ford Granada in the garage.

Kubrick nevertheless is the key, as elsewhere with Clarke (Made in Britain), A Clockwork Orange reaching here back to 2001: A Space Odyssey’s apes for the “buzz”.