Celebrating Independence Day – With Back To Britain!
I’ve always loved British movies. My first movie-going memory was Lawrence of Arabia. Many a countless night I stayed up later than I should have on school nights watching British movies on the late show on TV. Most of them haven’t played on US televisions in years and are only available as PAL DVDs from the UK. However, now a number of them are showing up on Youtube.
Here are some of the ones that I grew up on and that still hold a warm place in my heart. They are here on this page either in their entirety or as the first of several parts.
The first one is Sammy Going South, which was released in the US as The Boy Ten Feet Tall, where it was also cut down from 119 minutes to 88. It is about a ten year-old boy whose parents are killed in Egypt in the mid-1950s, who then embarks on a 5,000 mile journey to his Aunt Jane in Durbin, South Africa. Watching it again I think it is one of the finest performances the Edward G. Robinson ever gave.
A Matter of Life and Death is one of the most remarkable films I’ve ever seen and has been a part of my life since a teen ager. Written & directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger, released in 1946, David Niven plays an R.A.F. bomber pilot returning from the last raid on the last night of the war. He bails out of his plane without a parachute, but miraculously awakes the next morning, washed up on a beach. At first he thinks he’s in Heaven, then discovers he’s still alive and on the shores of England. As it turns out, he was supposed to be the last casualty of the war, but a clerk in Heaven made a mistake and he slipped through the cracks. Now Heaven wants Niven to rejoin the rest of his fallen crew, but he says it’s Heaven’s problem that he’s alive and not his. Around all of this he has to have neuro surgery on his brain, so the question is – is this real or all playing out in his imagination? Released as Stairway to Heaven in the U.S., the original British version of A Matter of Life and Death is now available here in the States on DVD.
The Jokers is another favorite, from the swingin’ London of the 1960s. It stars a very young Michael Crawford, later made famous as The Phantom of the Opera. Directed by Michael Winner, who then partnered up with one of my best friends, Michael Dryhurst, who worked with Winner as assistant director, second unit director and associate producer on seven films. Michael Dryhurst helped us with our film, Year, and gave one of it’s best performances.
Hell Drivers was a British movie that I’d never heard of, then started playing and saw that it was photographed by Geoffrey Unsworth (2001: A Space Odyssey), with whom I knew that Michael Dryhurst used to work with. Sent him an e-mail and got this reply:
‘Hell Drivers’? I was Second Unit Clapper/Loader (2nd A/C); Stanley Baker, Sean Connery, Patrick McGoohan, etc., etc. Luv, M.
Robbery was directed by Peter Yates and features a car chase sequence that was remarkable for it’s time. Yates then went on to direct another car chase in San Francisco with Steve McQueen called Bullitt.
Here also are a series of British comedies about an all-girls school called St. Trinian’s. I loved watching them on late-night TV as a kid but have never met anyone in the US who knows anything about them.
Have a Happy 4th of July!