Tag Archives: 60s British cinema

Auteur Books on 60s British Cinema

Witchfinder General
By Ian Cooper
Auteur 105pp £9.99

Let the Right One In
By Anne Billson
Auteur 112pp £9.99

Studying British Cinema: The 1960s
By Danny Powell
Auteur 254pp £18.99

Auteur Books produce informed and approachable texts aimed at undergraduate students – but of interest to the general film enthusiast. They have recently published several books in two of their specialist lines that are worthy of attention. In the Devil’s Advocate series they have two new offerings, Witchfinder General and Let the Right One In. In their already established and well-received Studying British Cinema series, Danny Powell’s Studying the 60s offers a solid and informed overview of this boom and bust period of British cinema history. After an introduction that maps out his approach to the period along with a useful contextualisation of the truths (and myths) about the 60s, he proceeds to look at the decade through key films from each year. From Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960) up to the ‘self-parodying… anachronism’ The Italian Job (Peter Collinson, 1969), Powell takes the reader on an often fascinating journey through that much maligned (and over-praised) decade.

Some observations though: more might have been made of the gender issues implied by the fact that Anne Jellicoe wrote The Knack, and although the book does not intend to be comprehensive, the lack of even cursory mention of important players like Alan Bates, Oliver Reed, Tony Tenser, Michael Reeves and Ken Russell, and production companies like Tigon and Amicus, is to be lamented. And what of quintessential period films such as Smashing Time, Morgan, Isadora, Charlie Bubbles, Up the Junction or Poor Cow? These omissions are all the more striking as valuable space is given over twice to Clive Donner’s Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.

In contrast, Ian Cooper’s Witchfinder General covers much of the same period but is paradoxically able to consider a wider cultural field by virtue of honing in on one particular movie. There are inevitable differences in interpretation in both works and this is sometimes a result of the research: Cooper cites Julian Petley’s key text, ‘The Lost Continent’ while Powell does not make any reference to it. In his 1986 article, Petley argued for a consideration of aspects of British cinema that fell outside the then predominant critical view that only films of social realist tendency and toned down emotional excess or spectacle were of import. Reflection on Petley’s thesis might perhaps have allowed Powell’s cinematic net to be cast over a slightly larger area.

Nonetheless, both books are informative and assured and as neither is intended to be definitive or comprehensive both succeed in their brevity. The same can be said of Anne Billison’s succinct account of the Swedish milestone Let the Right One In and her contextualisation of vampirism in respect to this post-modern cinematic contribution to the genre. We can look forward to more sparkling titles in these worthy series.

James B. Evans

To kick off this new and regular bonus addition to Cine Lit – in which the column’s intrepid editor pays homage to wonderful film books that are out of print or just plain ‘missing in action’ – it seems only right to highlight one of the most sought after, and as a consequence one of the more valuable, tomes to appear (occasionally) on second-hand websites, Mark Thomas McGee’s Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures. McGee offers what must be the authoritative history of the drive-in circuits’ favourite provider of thrills, spills and chills. Exchanging hands at prices of up to £200, the 1996 edition of his book is a scholarly but non-academic account of the rise and fall of that legendary production/exhibition/distribution hothouse of low-budget ‘youth’ films within whose ranks Roger Corman and his ‘school’ of first-time directors passed: Martin Scorcese, Francis Coppola, Monte Hellman, Robert Towne, Jonathan Demme, Peter Bogdanovich – to name but a few. This warts-and-all tale of the fabulations and near-cons of owners Samuel Arkoff and James Nicholson is a terrific read and a valuable addition to American cinematic history. Save this book! JE

The Tindersticks’ Film Jukebox

The Tindersticks (Photo by Christophe Agou)

Not only have The Tindersticks long had an affiliation with film – dreamy, countrified soundscapes and orchestrated backing featuring on many albums – but they’ve also written many soundtracks for filmmaker Claire Denis, including 35 Shots of Rum, Trouble Every Day, Nénette et Boni and White Material. They release their new nine-track album The Something Rain on Lucky Dog on 20 February 2012. You can see them play live at Soho Theatre, London, during their four-night residency from 22 to 25 February. The band also play several European dates in March and co-headline End of the Road Festival, UK, in August/September. For more information please go to the Tinderticks website. The list below was compiled by long-standing Tindersticks member David Boulter. Delia Sparrer

1. Get Carter (1971)
Most of my favourite films are, like this, ones I saw growing up. I’d have been around 13 when I first saw this, and it amazed me. Michael Caine at his best. Wonderfully shot around Newcastle and Gateshead. With a great Harold Budd score, which took me about five years to find and cost me a month’s wages. The beautiful Britt Ekland as well, giving a young boy sleepless nights.

2. The Wicker Man (1973)
[SPOILER ALERT] Another film I saw around 12-13. I grew up watching the Hammer horrors and loved Christopher Lee’s Dracula. This film’s much darker. Pagan sacrifice of Edward Woodward, the policeman virgin, to save Summer Isle and bring a fruitful harvest. Great story, great characters. Another great score. And more sleepless nights from Britt.

3. Kes (1969)
The story of a boy growing up in Yorkshire with nothing and little future until he gets a falcon to look after. It could be my school and a boy in my class. Shows life in the early 70s perfectly. A beautiful film, yet another beautiful score, impossible to find until Johnny Trunk came along with his wonderful releases.

4. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Another big event growing up was the Bond films. The first I actually saw at the cinema was The Man with the Golden Gun, another Britt – Christopher Lee pairing. But most memorable were Sean Connery’s, usually shown at Christmas or Bank Holidays, when trips would be cut short to get home in time to watch them. Strangely, this isn’t Sean, but George Lazenby, in his only outing as Bond (or anyone really). Still my favourite. Great music from John Barry. The best story for me, and the wonderful Diana Rigg. When I first left home, the chap I lived with had a video recorder, which not many people had at the time. He had this on tape and I watched it every night for about a month.

5. Carry On… Up the Khyber (1968)
I love Sid James, I can watch him in anything. Like James Bond, Carry On films were a big part of my childhood. I probably didn’t get all the jokes, but they still made me laugh. It’s hard for me to choose a favourite, this and Screaming I have the most memories of. This one probably has the best story. And the great stiff upper lip dinner scene – very ‘British’.

6. The Ladykillers (1955)
Beautiful film about a gang of criminals foiled by a little old lady. A simple story, made so wonderful by the characters and great performances. I was a big fan of Ealing films, especially their comedies.

7. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)
Arthur Seaton became my hero, but I was more like Colin, the character in another of Alan Sillitoe’s stories and another great film, Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. I saw Saturday Night and Sunday Morning first and loved it. Set in Nottingham, where I grew up. One of my cousin’s actually in the film, a child in the street.

8. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
I’d already seen A Fistful of Dollars, which I loved too. I remember being excited all week waiting for this. I’d be about 12. It was on late on a Friday, so I was allowed to stay up and watch it. I remember my Dad coming home from the pub with fish and chips for us. An epic film. I went out and got the soundtrack shortly afterwards too. I drove my Mum crazy with it.

9. Darling (1965)
I was a big fan of Dirk Bogarde, some people said I even looked like him. I saw this and The Servant around the same time, again early teens. Also the beautiful Julie Christie and Laurence Harvey. I think this film had a big influence on me, and a story I wrote later, called ‘My Sister’.

10. Women in Love (1969)
I’d read a lot of D.H. Lawrence at school. I was madly in love with Glenda Jackson after this – more sleepless nights. We’ve planned a video of the wrestling scene for a while. Stuart’s fireplace is very similar to that in the film. Dan, our bass player, looks very Alan Bates too.