Monday, 8 December 2008

Oliver Twist (1948)





With David Lean's centenary still upon us, and at this chilly season seems an apt time to reflect upon one of his darkest and most memorable films. As a benchmark of Lean’s career Lawrence of Arabia was probably the pinnacle of his success, but for many, his adaptations of Dickens were in another class altogether, and for me, his Oliver Twist is the most striking and enthralling of all his adaptations.

Like most of my generation, I have to confess that my first awareness of the Charles Dickens novel was through the film musical Oliver!, made in 1968 by another noted British film director, Carol Reed. Many would take this version to be the basic definitive telling of the story, yet many amendments were made to the original novel, and those scenes that were cut down or re-emphasised were not actually adapting the Dickens novel - but the Stanley Haynes and David Lean film script of 1948. Such is its impact.



David Lean with Josephine Stuart at Pinewood Studios


Where the musical mentions certain notable events of the book in passing (and then gets on with the songs), the 1948 film emblazons them in bold, dramatic style. Not least is the atmospheric opening, purely and perfectly visual, charting Oliver's birth, as a storm swells up reflecting the pains of his mother (Josephine Stuart) who struggles to the workhouse. An effect of tree branches (similar in some ways to the opening of Great Expectations) turn to spiky thorns as she struggles from the pain of labour. The weather (and her condition) deteriorates, but she fights on through to the workhouse, where the baby is born - just as the storm clears - and has just enough strength to hold the child in her hands and kiss it, before she dies. Back in the days when I was writing my own Star Wars prequel trilogy, this was how I envisioned the dramatic build-up to the birth of Luke Skywalker.


As the mother dies, a greedy nursemaid at the workhouse happens to notice a little golden medallion worn by the dead girl, and pilfers it (a plot detail that will have crucial influence later on) whilst the baby himself is taken into the custody of the workhouse. Here Lean lapses into a rare instance of using written words on the screen, instead of his largely visual style:

"Oliver Twist cried lustily. If he had known that he was to grow up in under the tender mercies of the Beadle and the Matron, he would have cried even louder.”



The name Oliver Twist, we learn, was coined by the workhouse Beadle, Mr. Bumble (brilliantly played by Francis L. Sullivan as a sort of masculine Edith Evans), who pays a house call on the Matron (also forcefully played by Mary Clare). Shortly thereafter, we see the boy himself, now eight years older, with that famous, oddly beautiful countenance that seems out of place in such a horrid setting, just as Dickens intended.


Oliver is played by future TV comedy producer and all-round supremo John Howard Davies, and though there’s little sign of his future career to come, he perfectly suits the role, and clearly seems mature enough for one so young to handle material so demanding. That, and of course, he had a brilliant director to see him through the role.


Indeed, it is unfair to single out any individual character in a film like this, when practically all the performances etch them out so well and so distinctively: much later into the film comes Henry Stephenson as kindly old man Mr. Brownlow, played with a genuine air of grandfatherly benevolence and dignity by veteran Hollywood Brit Henry Stephenson. His mood of despondency when Oliver disappears during a chess game, I find incredibly moving. Elsewhere in the far from distant background can be see the likes of Hattie Jacques (as a Cockney tavern singer) and a young Diana Dors as Charlotte, maid and girlfriend of slimy Noah Claypole (Michael Dear), at the house of creepy undertaker Mr. Sowerberry, (amusingly played by Gibb McLaughlin) and Mrs. Sowerberry (played by the great Kathleen Harrison.)


And then of course, once Oliver escapes the Sowerberrys to London, there come the most memorable characters of the lot: the Artful Dodger (a brilliant young performance from the emerging Anthony Newley) who befriends the starving Oliver, but what he leads him into is something else indeed: a nest of a gang of child pickpockets, led by their Jewish mastermind, Fagin (Alec Guinness).


There were objections at the time (across the Atlantic in America at least) that the portrayal of Fagin - only 3 years after the end of World War II and all the horrors of the Nazi regime – was grossly anti-Semitic, when in truth all that Guinness, Lean, Stanley Haynes and make-up maestro Stuart Freeborn were doing were faithfully translating the character as written by Charles Dickens in the 19th century. Freeborn’s make-up design (based upon the novel’s original illustrations by George Cruikshank) had all the stereotypes, but was nonetheless a vividly drawn character. I don’t believe Alec Guinness has ever bettered this portrayal for sheer total transformation into the character. Just think - from young Herbert Pocket in Great Expectations, just two years before, to old Fagin in Oliver Twist.


Some scenes that were censored from the American release of the film - where Fagin revels in his riches and also briefly encourages Oliver to become a pickpocket - were actually rather more endearing than anti-Semitic, and their omission only served to make Fagin appear like a monster. The enjoyable performance by Ron Moody in Oliver! compromised Fagin by trying to redeem him, whereas the portrayal in the David Lean film was totally true to the character as written, and was, as with many subsequent performances by Alec Guinness, the definitive article.


As if Fagin wasn’t imposing enough, in comes the terrifying figure of Bill Sikes, electrifyingly played by Robert Newton with demonic drunken torment. The drink element was not entirely fictional on Newton’s part: a heavy alcoholic, he could be inclined to ham on many occasions (and was a brilliant Long John Silver in later years), but his Sikes was an extremely focused and powerful performance, and it was thanks to David Lean’s skill that he was able to control his acting, and (where possible) his alcoholism.


Sikes’s “squeeze”, Nancy (given no surname but presumed wife/lover) is, often I find, a character slightly out of sync with the rest of the set-up, just a little too inherently good to really fit in with these extremely unpleasant men. Kay Walsh, who plays Nancy in spirited fashion, was in fact the instigator of the project. She was then married to David Lean – the opening scene was her conception – and what is clearly established in this version (and the other ones subsequently), is the semi-maternal attitude that Nancy adopts towards Oliver, that ultimately leads to her downfall.


There were many other characters and scenes in the book of course, and Dickens fans may lament the absence of Harry Maylie, Rose Maylie, and the wider significance of Noah Claypole's relationship to Oliver. But David Lean was making a film, not a book, retaining the book’s most memorable scenes, and where the characters and lines were omitted, Lean compensated with his own rich, visually Dickensian language, together with the help of Guy Green's striking Expressionistic black-and-white photography, a marvellous score by Arnold Bax, and John Bryan's brilliantly clever sets, making maximum use of limited space with seamless integration of matte paintings.

The memorable finale, where the mob pursues the murderous Sikes, who has also abducted Oliver (nowhere near this spot in the original novel), but is strangled by his own rope in his attempts to escape, is suitably rousing. The final moment, as Oliver is reunited with old Brownlow and his housekeeper Mrs. Bedwin (a lovely cameo by Amy Veness) captures all the excitement and satisfaction of Dickens, especially after all that has gone before.


Oliver Twist has not dated: this version is still as vivid and exciting as it was 60 years ago. This was David Lean at his most unstoppable. It was no wonder that within ten years he was on his way to even bigger films.







The original costume for Fagin (Alec Guinness) at the BFI South Bank's David Lean exhibition.








Criterion Contraption review blog

Saturday, 22 November 2008

JFK (1991)


Most people who lived through it can remember exactly where they were and what they were doing on 22nd November 1963 when they first heard the news that President Kennedy had been assassinated. For my mother, it was at "The Eight Bells" in Putney where the news was revealed on a television set inside the pub. My father was a conductor on the buses when he overheard the news. It is a moment as pivotal in history as 11th September 2001 was for a later generation when the World Trade Centre was destroyed.

Oliver Stone was a budding stockbroker (chronicled in his semi-autobiographical Wall Street) at the time of 22nd November 1963, but he like everyone else, especially in America, felt the depth of anguish and heartbreak at the loss of arguably their greatest President. It is this passion which fuels his brilliant assassination conspiracy drama JFK, highly speculative for the most part, but all based on factual incidents witnessed by a variety of sources.

The one undeniable incident of the whole sad story is of course the assassination itself, on Dealey Plaza in Texas, which, the media were quick to tell the public at the time, was committed by Lee Harvey Oswald. The subsequent assassination of Oswald himself, by Jack Ruby, left a whole load of questions unanswered before anyone even thought to ask them - and set in motion over 40 years of conspiracy speculation - about Oswald's part in the overall plot to kill Kennedy, which surely could not have been his alone, especially as the results were so fatally successful.

Oswald, as played uncannily by Gary Oldman, is depicted as an occasionally aggressive but largely bewildered "patsy", and is just one of many star names whose appearance in the film is of secondary importance to that of the subject itself: there is the chief suspect put on trial by Jim Garrison, Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones), in addition to other dubious witnesses such as David Ferrie (Joe Pesci), Willie O'Keefe (Kevin Bacon), shady lawyer Dean Andrews (an unusually edgy John Candy), and notably a mysterious Washington insider named "X" (aka. Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty) played with dignified relish by Donald Sutherland. Even veterans like Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon (in separate scenes) and Ed Asner have cameos, giving the film an added respectability from the supposedly stubborn older generation. All of these actors deliver characteristic, ready-to-order performances which are woven brilliantly by Stone into the narrative of history.

Indeed, the secret of the film's (artistic) success is the brilliant intercutting and cross-flowing narrative of the editing of real/fake and colour/black-and-white footage, by Joe Hutshing and Pietro Scalia, which makes a 3 hour+ film incredibly gripping - and led in some ways to something of a Hollywood trend for long films not to have (or in in this case not need) an intermission. Be it not forgotten also, the rhythm of the film is orchestrated by an impassioned and typically fine score by the ever adaptable John Williams.


The only fundamental criticism I would have is that the film whitewashes John F. Kennedy, but the story is not really about him anyway. Kennedy was a great enough man for his flaws to be well charted as well as his triumphs. It perhaps also paints too clean-cut and heroic a picture of Jim Garrison, as played by the handsome looking Kevin Costner (if you want to know what the real Jim Garrison looked like, he actually appears in the film - as Earl Warren, the very man who headed the report which Garrison sought to debunk.) Despite this, Costner invests a great deal of energy and unassuming integrity to his part, feeling the same sense of outrage and yearning for the truth as his director.

The tone of the film is investigative and interrogative, rather than outright statement of history, as some detractors of the film have been misled to believe. Its opinions are forthright and controversial - but opinions just the same. Certainly the way Stone manipulates certain elements such as the Zapruder footage, combined with his own reconstruction of the event, are seamlessly crafted, and he is generally given more credit as a film maker than as a conspiracy theorist. In both aspects he is very forceful.

Stone never says that Oswald didn't pull the trigger: what he maintains throughout the film is a view of impassioned cinematic detective work.

He throws the many varied and wild conspiracy theories about the assassination (including the official one) into the air like tennis balls, to see where they land and how they stand up. Ultimately all he is doing is asking questions, not coming to any firm conclusions himself; all bar one: that the truth has to be told to the American public. You could argue that his wild assertions are just a lot of muck-raking because he has no concrete evidence of his own. On the other hand, there are so many cases in history (such as the Titanic disaster) where all that is definitely known is what individual witnesses have experienced, so their views have to be respected and taken as (possible) truth.

Nothing since has proven that Stone's assertions of a conspiracy were unfounded - although plenty of fellow historians have been quick to chastise his version of events, as indeed they were towards Jim Garrison. When I first saw the film back in January of 1992, I came out of the Odeon Colchester impassioned, exhilarated and highly discussant of the film's many arguments, which is just what Stone wanted his audience to feel. It was certainly the most arresting of an otherwise fairly conservative crop of films around at the time.

Oliver Stone has since taken on the mantle of charting modern American history, his way, (although rather less successfully ancient history in Alexander) with two notable screen biographies of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. He also interestingly went up close and personal in a documentary with one of Kennedy's old adversaries, Fidel Castro. Kevin Costner meanwhile was sufficiently moved by the subject to switch his political allegiance away from his Republican loyalties towards the Democrats, and also appeared in an excellent account of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Thirteen Days - as John F. Kennedy's appointments secretary Ken O'Donnell.

Of his other films, Platoon is a brilliantly searing (and perhaps the first truthful) memoir of the Vietnam war, and his other previous historical epic Born on the Fourth of July is subjective but brings out a surprisingly visceral performance from Tom Cruise. But JFK unquestionably demonstrates Oliver Stone at his most passionate, his most skillful as a film maker, and with a sense of urgency that this is a subject which demands attention.


The Kennedy memorial in Runnymede

Sunday, 2 November 2008

This is Cinerama (1952)

The Wonder of Widescreen

At the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford - or the National Media Museum as it's now more simply known - is contained a slightly withering original print of the first film produced in Cinerama, It is shown at the museum's adjacent Pictureville Cinema every first Saturday of the month. The Pictureville is - in point of fact - the only remaining facility in the world that shows the original 3-strip, triple projection Cinerama format.

The process began officially in 1952 with this demonstration film, but the evolution of Cinerama stems as far back as the 1920s, when Abel Gance experimented with many photographic innovations for his 1927 epic Napoleon, with a finale where one standard image became three in a giant triptych, creating a glorious panorama. Other widescreen experiments came along in thesubsequent decades, including a 1940s John Wayne Western, The Big Trail, which didn't catch on, largely because of the scarcity of the equipment required to project the film in general theatres.

Come the 1950s however, and a new menace to cinema had arrived in the shape of television. To combat the threat many Hollywood studios looked to some of their earlier experiments, and most of them were struck in awe by the success of the fledgling new Cinerama company, and their debut demonstration film This is Cinerama in 1952.

The opening of the film feels like witnessing the first telephone conversation by Thomas Edison or the first TV broadcast by John Logie Baird - or indeed the first words spoken by Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer - all of which such pioneering achievements are referred to in the opening prologue presented and narrated by one Lowell Thomas, then a distinguished radio newscaster and noted chronicler of the adventures of T.E. Lawrence, and now unwittingly the first "star" as such to be seen in Cinerama. Walking around his office in a conventional 35mm black & white frame, Thomas introduces himself to the premiere audience of that first momentous screening in September 1952 (and all subsequent screenings of the film), declaring to the audience with great gusto "this is Cinerama!".....


...and suddenly the single black & white image transforms into three vibrant colour images on the giant screen - almost as far as the average human's peripheral vision - and the audience finds itself on the front seat of a giant rollercoaster. Seated in the front row of the auditorium (as I was at the Pictureville), with the curved screen surround, gives all the impression of riding on the rollercoaster itself, without the cinema seats having moved one inch!

The exhilarating opening few minutes on the rollercoaster are the undoubted highlight of the film (and the doubtless inspiration for thousands of funfair simulation rides), but there's much else to enjoy, starting with the now in full colour and three-screen Cinerama Lowell Thomas, as he takes us on a journey around some of the sights and sounds of the world in all its spectacle, which include Venice, La Scala Opera in Milan, a Highland Games in Scotland, and most curiously, a Florida theme park at Cypress Gardens in Lake Eloise, with a motorboat and water ski display, the water skis ridden by several "Aquabelles" who sit around the park looking pretty the rest of the time. One of them in particular, is named "Toni", and clearly has elements of Scarlett O'Hara's feistiness about her. To my surprise and disappointment, I can find absolutely no record of the actress who plays this particular part, in what is in effect, the first dramatic character performance in a Cinerama film.

How the effect looks in the cinema

The finale is one of the best advertisements for America that I know, as the Cinerama cameras take a helicopter ride all the way from East Coast to West (parts of which were also used for the finale of How the West was Won), with a stirring soundtrack of American music (partly scored by Max Steiner). This is Cinerama is perhaps a bit of museum piece nowadays, especially in the light of subsequent big screen developments which came along in 50s - such as 70mm Cinemascope, Todd AO (developed by one of this film's producers, Michael Todd), Panavision, Technirama, and now most recently IMAX - but it's worth noting that the widescreen revolution began in earnest right here. It's also a nice slice of the 1950s, and for me, I find it a lot of fun to watch those three images trying to keep together, and it's often breathtaking when they do. Treat yourself to a day out in Bradford to watch it.





See also in70mm.com article

Thursday, 30 October 2008

The Omen (1976)


"When the Jews return to Zion,

and a comet rips the sky,

and the Holy Roman Empire rises,
then you and I must die.
From the eternal sea He rises,
turning armies against either shore,
turning Man against his brother.

Till Man exists no more."

Complete poppycock of course, but with a hint of the Book of Revelation about it, and delivered in such a way to make it feel compelling and chillingly predictive. The one actual quote from the Bible does appear at the end of the film:

"Here is Wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is 666."

The theme of the three sixes forms the basis for David Seltzer's slightly overrated but highly commercial script, which thanks to the careful direction of Richard Donner made The Omen a compelling premise for the rise of the Antichrist in the late 20th century, and a big hit for a 1970's American audiences still trying to come to terms with a society crumbling and the Vietnam war being lost, and needing some sort of spiritual solace or affirmation in a similar vein to The Exorcist.

Opening apocalyptically enough, on the 6th June at 6am, we see the dignified figure of Gregory Peck, no less, as American diplomat Robert Thorn (changed from "Jeremy" Thorn because of the similarity to the controversial British MP Jeremy Thorpe) urgently on his way to a Rome hospital where his wife Kathy (Lee Remick) is in labour, but the news - dare one say the omens - are not good. A mysterious priest (Martin Benson) reveals in voiceover that their baby son died soon after leaving the womb. But deliverance is at hand. For fear that the loss of another baby (there'd been an earlier miscarriage) would destroy Kathy, Thorn apprehensively agrees to secretly take on another little sprog as substitute, that happened be born the same time as the Thorns' beloved, with "its mother" dying in childbirth.

"On this night Mr. Thorn, God has given you a son.", the priest declares, and so Thorn walks in with little Damien in his arms to the delight of the innocently unaware Mrs. Thorn, who is told that this is her child. Little though Thorn realises it, he has made a fateful decision which will herald the beginning of the apocalypse....

...though there's little sign of it at this early stage in proceedings. Interestingly, Donner's approach was to treat the story as a gradual mental deterioration of the principal characters rather than as a definite charting of the rise of the Antichrist. It is this straightforwardness, combined with suspenseful elements of the potentially supernatural that make The Omen so effective. The truth of the matter is never in doubt as far as the audience is concerned however, thanks to the ominous opening credits and Jerry Goldsmith's screechingly Gothic theme music.

But indeed, for the next reel or two, all seems to proceed smoothly and happily for the Thorns, and unusually for a horror film, it even briefly takes on the pretence of being a love story. There's some more good news just round the corner for the Thorns too: Robert has been promoted (prophetically perhaps) to the Court of St. James, ie. US Ambassador to London (in those days the most senior role outside the White House), thanks to a little helpful influence from an old college roommate: the President of the United States.


One particular reason for my enthusiasm for The Omen was its choice of location. Back in the 1970's Star Wars was the thing, but that was set in a galaxy far, far away, and shot in distant faraway countries (with the exception of Elstree Studios). Here on the other hand, was a film which contained similar elements of the fantastic, but in recognisable places, and right in one's back yard so to speak. I've since visited some of these locations, including the actual US Embassy in Grosvenor Square (left), and also Pyrford Court in Woking, which becomes Thorn Manor, and where the first signs of untoward happenings begin to occur. It is Damien's 5th birthday, and he's now grown into the cherubic but slightly mischievous looking form of Harvey Stephens - it amused me how, being born myself in 1971, this 1976 film therefore had the Antichrist born at a similar time!

At the sight of an unidentified stray bloodhound, Damien's nanny (Holly Palance) inexplicably decides to hang herself, in full view of all the partygoers, including the horrified Thorns, and a seedy looking photographer, Keith Jennings (David Warner), who's been on the look-out for any dirt to dish out - and may bitten off much more than he can chew.

Pursuing the story further, Jennings decides to stick around the US Embassy, where an odd little priest, Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton) turns up, not to spread the good tidings of the Lord, as Thorn expects, but to tell him that he is the father of Satan. Thorn naturally decides to thrown the old codger out, but Brennan has a chilling coda: he has seen Thorn's "son" being born (overlooking how a mad Irish priest would be anywhere near a hospital in Rome.) As Brennan is escorted out of Grosvenor House, Jennings takes a photo, and then things start to get a bit odd, as the photograph of Brennan has a strange mark on the negative, the same as for the dead nanny.

The seemingly normal but slightly odd developments continue when a replacement nanny arrives from nowhere, a Mrs. Baylock, played with deceitful relish by Billie Whitelaw as a sort of Machiavellian Mary Poppins. Soon the real mother and son relationship is not between Kathy and Damien, but Damien and Mrs. Baylock.

Damien himself then starts behaving strangely - common for a five-year old you might think - at a high society wedding for one of Thorn's friends, because of the sanctity of a very Gothic looking church - Guildford Cathedral in fact (left), and is prepared to go to the length of pulling Mummy Thorn's hair out to prevent himself entering holy ground. Loving Kathy deduces that the little brat's just had a bad moment, as there's nothing else wrong with him - at all. He's never even had a cold, Thorn notices, as well as noticing that mangy mutt from the birthday party is still hanging around the house.

At Windsor, things fare no better for the Thorns: Kathy takes Damien on a mother-and-son bonding trip to the Safari Park, but this time instead of the little beast not liking the place, it's the little beasts that don't like Him. Ambassador Thorn meanwhile is on official business at a rugby match near Windsor Castle, with Jennings ever on the look-out, when that pesky priest turns up again, and demands a showdown with Thorn, as his wife is in danger this time - not to mention the whole world.

The grounds of Shepperton Studios, where Father Brennan confronts Thorn after the rugby match.


At Bishop's Park in Fulham (right) seated by the Thames, with a grave, martyr-like tone in his voice, Brennan recites the apocalyptic verse about Jews returning to Zion, etc., which proves to haunt Thorn in his subsequent travails, but at the time he dismisses it as nonsense.

Brennan's time is up however, and as Thorn departs, some unnatural winds begin to stir up in the trees....

The nervous priest rushes through Bishop's Park towards All Saints Church next door (left), which alas is locked, and a bolt of lightning just happens to strike a weather vane on the church tower, which flies off and impales Brennan right through the heart. Serves him right for delivering the Antichrist.

The weird deaths continue: the already plastercasted Kathy (who's had another miscarriage thanks to naughty Damien) is thrown out of a hospital window (filmed at Northwick Park) by the evil Mrs. Baylock, but the piece de resistance comes much later in the film with the demise of Jennings - who by now has decided to get in on the act with Thorn to find out the truth - decapitated by a sheet of glass, a suitable send-off for perhaps the most interesting character in the film.

Thorn realises that enough is enough, and sets out with the daggers that will destroy the son of Satan given to him by an old exorcist named Bugenhagen (an uncredited Leo McKern) who, though German-named, lives for some reason underground in Jerusalem - even odder than an Irish priest from Rome.

Thorn outwits Damien's demonic guard dog, and then defeats the even more demonic Mrs. Baylock (aka. "Balaack" the beast) in the film's one moment of genuine silliness - before we come to the main event of Damien himself, who is hurled out of Pyrford Court and driven at breakneck speed down the road to St. Peter's Church in Staines, but not before a police escort is on the trail of the irrational American ambassador.

Damien makes his first - and potentially last - visit to hallowed ground, and Thorn looks to God for assistance on the altar, as he raises the first dagger to do the ghastly deed. But a police marksman is on hand to intervene...

At the film's end, at a funeral at Brookwood Cemetery in Woking (standing in for Arlington), guess who's holding the hand of the President of the United States, with not a scratch on his impish little face....

The policeman's intervention at the climax of The Omen suggested the theme of a possible corporate conspiracy to protect Satan, in order to appoint Him to the pinnacle of power, a theme that was continued in DAMIEN: OMEN II (1978), which was also unfortunately a basic rehash of the original, with William Holden (who turned down the Gregory Peck role) as Damien's uncle, and for me, the bad idea of shifting the setting away from Europe into rather less Gothic corporate America. The sequel's lack of success led to the apocalypse being downscaled from four films to three, with Damien grown into sinister adult Aryan-looking Sam Neill by the time of THE FINAL CONFLICT (1981), although at least this rather low-budget rendering of the apocalypse did have the good sense to return the setting to Europe, with Damien Thorn following in his father's footsteps to Grosvenor Square, and the score by Jerry Goldsmith is his best of the entire Omen trilogy. A half-hearted TV sequel came along in 1991, but by then the story had pretty much been told.

My own initial reaction to The Omen on first viewing, I must admit, was one of silliness, but it's grown on me since. The best and worst thing about it is the score by Jerry Goldsmith, which is overbearing at times, with its use of Satanic Latin chanting that make the outlandish deaths even more ridiculous. At other times however the music is much creepier and unsettling, in keeping with the tone of most of Donner's film. My favourite musical moment is the scene in Father Brennan's house, where Jennings and Thorn enter the dead priest's room wallpapered with pages from the Bible (the masterwork of art director Carmen Dillon), and Jennings unfurls the build-up of information leading to the unthinkable - at the end of which, he reveals the photograph foretelling himself being decapitated. Goldsmith builds up the atmosphere and then right at the end of the scene there's even a minor cadence of the decapitation music which will be reprised in much louder fashion later on. Goldsmith's Oscar for The Omen was at least deserved recognition for his lifetime's work in many different film genres.


The Omen
was one of a breed of films in the 1970s that dared to take chances (its twist ending was suggested late into production by Fox studio head Alan Ladd Jnr.), and did so in much subtler fashion than its many imitations or follow-ups. Its Biblical overtones and the use of various locations around the world helped to give it an epic feel (yet the film was actually made on a very restrained budget), and with the participation of a veteran Hollywood star at its centre, it hit the box office jackpot. The less said about the cut 'n' paste remake of 2006 (released on - aha! - 06/06/06), the better. That was truly the work of the devil.




See also The Omen Filming Locations

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Oh Mr Porter! (1937)

For some reason there's been a lot of stuff on the telly recently about railways and their history; timely enough therefore, that BBC Four should have been so providential to feature this old gem from the archives.

This is probably the best - certainly the best remembered - of all Will Hay's endearing British comedies where he played a slightly incompetent figure of mockable authority, especially those involving Moore Marriott (from The Crazy Gang) and Graham Moffatt - who played a cheeky schoolboy usually one step ahead of his master (Hay of course) in Good Morning Boys, and continued in that vein through this film and others.

These three (as directed by British comedy veteran Marcel Varnel - far right) were an incomparable trio - but there's much else to Oh Mr Porter! besides just them that make this such a classic. One factor not least, was the sleepy but highly nostalgic setting of an old railway station on the Irish border, a station so forgotten about that even the trains don't bother to stop there anymore!

"Buggleskelly" station was in fact Cliddesden, a delightfully out-of-the-way spot in a charming English village near Basingstoke. At the time of filming (in 1936) the line had closed and much of the track was already being torn up; in the meantime it was the perfect spot for the film makers to use as their out-of-the-way and forgotten fictitious station on the Irish border. Little remains of the station today, but the attractive trees that lined the platform still stand neatly in a row, as does the outline of the old Basingstoke to Alton route itself. With a bit of judicious dressing up by the Gainsborough Studios art department, adding a signal box and covering the corrugated iron roof of Cliddesden with wooden planks, shabby, crazy-house looking Buggleskelly station was born, to be immortalised in film comedy history.

Even shabbier looking than the station however, is old Harbottle (Marriott), the chief clerk and assistant porter, whose three word answer to any passenger's enquiry is "Next train's gone!" Together with the aforementioned Graham Moffatt as Albert the porter (with a small "p"), and the station's resident engine "Gladstone" (a refashioning of "Northiam" from the Rother Valley Railway in Kent), this motley assortment of a station staff might well be a credit to Network Rail today, but as far as the good people of the Northern Irish railway are concerned, it seems the perfect place for shabby-but-well-bred-and-impossible-to-know-what-to-know-what-to-do-with wheeltapper William Porter (Hay) to become station master - and with good reason: Buggleskelly is a cursed line.

This second spooky factor to its success owes a certain amount of debt (superficially) to Arnold Ridley's The Ghost Train - and it's appropriate perhaps, that there should be a distinct air of the later Dad's Army about the antics of Messrs. Hay, Marriott and Moffatt. Indeed, Will Porter could be considered the cinematic ancestor to Captain Mainwaring. As in the Ridley play, the legend of "One-Eyed Joe" the Phantom Miller is a pretence of some shadier dealings, and the film's generally light-hearted tone is offset nicely by a ghoulish and memorable cameo by Dennis Wyndham as the sinister "Joe", captain of the "Buggleskelly Wednesday".

Will's serendipitous meeting with the villain comes as a result of a brawl in the saloon - as always for any film set in Ireland seemingly - from which Albert and Harbottle are knocked out cold. Come the morning, with Porter's special excursion to Connemara (containing the Buggleskelly Wednesday) having mysteriously vanished, the boys naturally think the old man's off his head, like all the previous station masters before him. And worse is to come for Porter - the locals discover he's seen One-Eyed Joe!

Undaunted, the intrepid Will investigates, with the grudging help of his two cohorts.

At the film's heady climax, the three heroes are stuck on separate ends of the haunted windmill's sails (filmed at Terling in Essex), and following the staple rule of old comedy, there's a chase at the end, with Gladstone chuffing away for all her worth (through the Basingstoke rail sidings) with the dastardly crooks on board, trapped inside - in the days before auto-locking - by the resourceful Albert who sits atop the coach roof bashing any interlopers over the head with his shovel. Apparently that really was Graham Moffatt strapped to the top of a moving train.

Oh Mr Porter! in a way has set the image of the well-meaning but ultimately incompetent railway station master, and many other subsequent cliches. The title itself was derived from a popular song of the times, and subsequent railway stories have borrowed various elements from Marcel Varnel's film - such as the TV comedy series Oh Doctor Beeching! among others.

And if you think of the two unmistakable images of Will Hay, it will be either in the mortarboard and master's gown of Good Morning Boys, or as the inept station master of Buggleskelly.

"Oh Mister Porter, what a funny man you are!"

"Buggleskelly" station today

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Casino Royale (2006)

For as long as the Broccoli family have been making the Bond series, they had always secretly wanted to make Casino Royale; for almost as long as I can remember developing an interest in the series, I'd always felt that the great unmade Bond film was Casino Royale. Both of us had to wait a long time for our dreams to come true - and when they did, the result was quite something else indeed: a third animal, the tougher, grittier James Bond with new added feeling.

If you look way back to the first Bond film, Dr. No in 1962, the very first sight of Sean Connery is at the Baccarat table. For the next four decades, the Broccolis would occasionally wheedle other tiny elements of the novel into their subsequent epics: a famous torture scene in Goldfinger has a golden laser threatening one particular part of Bond's anatomy, as in Casino Royale; a Baccarat game also pops up in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, as indeed does a tragic ending. A romanticised TV action biopic of Ian Fleming, Spymaster (starring Jason Connery), contained a similarly tragic love interest (played by Kristin Scott-Thomas), with echoes of Casino Royale's ill-fated heroine Vesper Lynd.

The reason for all this shying away from the actual novel itself was of course because the Broccolis and United Artists did not have the rights to adapt Ian Fleming's original story. That privilege had been granted in the early days to Columbia Pictures - who did make a film in 1967 which bore the title Casino Royale, but little else.

Brief mention should be made of this turkey, not because it's one of the biggest ever wastes of time, money and an all-star cast - with the essence of being made as one big Swinging Sixties party - but for its brief transference of the novel to the screen, with a fragmentary moment of suspense as Evelyn Tremble (Peter Sellers - posing as Bond) mentally jousts with Le Chiffre (Orson Welles) at the Baccarat table, and with the help of glamorous Vesper(Ursula Andress), manages to win, but with unfortunate repercussions.

Whatever may have resulted from director Joseph McGrath's version version of the film will never be known, as McGrath was kicked out soon afterwards at Peter Sellers' insistence, and then Sellers himself (in something of a state of near mental breakdown) also walked out.

Desperate to make a film that would out-spoof the official spoofs, producer Charles Feldman came up with the madcap idea of overloading the film with another five directors (including John Huston and Val Guest) and several stars, including David Niven (Ian Fleming's original choice) to play "Sir" James Bond. The 1967 film was fun - for those in the mood, and for those making it at the time - but the novel had been shamelessly lampooned and dismembered, with little resemblance to its original plot.

Roughly a decade before, there had also been an intriguing American live TV version for NBC's "Climax Theatre", with Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre overshadowing Barry Nelson's uncomfortable looking Bond - switched from a British to an American Secret Service agent. But by and large, proper cinematic justice had not been done to the original novel, and up till recently it seemed that perhaps it never would.

But then in 2002, after Die Another Day had taken the gadgets and the elaborate action (and in-jokes from the previous 40 years of Bond films) that little bit too far, speculation was rife that the series was about to be injected with new blood. Various star names were banded about for the lead role such as Russell Crowe or Clive Owen. The new choice to replace Pierce Brosnan however, when it came, proved to be a highly controversial one for many of the fans.

My own initial reaction to the casting of Daniel Craig was admittedly one of abject surprise; Craig is normally the sort of actor generally more suited to hard-edged villainy than that of the protagonist himself, and up till then Bond had also nearly always been associated with being suave and black-haired. On the other hand, it sounded like a welcome return to a more hard-edged 007 in the tradition of Timothy Dalton and Sean Connery - and most exciting of all, it was to be an adaptation of the first Bond novel (at long last) following on from the recent vogue for "prequels" that allowed established characters to be reinvented in a new format.

With a certain amount of trepidation at how exactly they were going to "modernise" the novel (keeping such recent elements as Judi Dench as "M"), I rubbed my hands together in anticipation.

Fleming's debut novel has all the elements of intrigue, suspense, glamour, romance, politics (intrinsically the Cold War - not the War on Terror) and ultimately, tragedy. It's also the only one of Fleming's yarns that I felt sufficiently motivated to read (in the mid-1990s), to get a proper impression of the story, after seeing the largely unsatisfying and unrepresentative film versions.

As in the novel, the centrepiece of the 2006 film is not the high-octane action (which includes a very energetic chase sequence with stuntman Sebastien Foucan), but the pivotal card game (changed from Baccarat to "Texas Hold 'Em" Poker for modern purposes.) It's to the credit of the scriptwriters and director Martin Campbell that this long running batle of wits holds the attention - keeping true to Fleming's style with the occasional tense moment of action thrown in, such as an assassination attempt not on Bond, but on Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) by some of his vengeful African creditors. Having ironically saved the enemy he is hoping to destroy, Bond comforts Vesper (Eva Green) sitting fully clothed in the shower trying to calm herself. Much attention was focused on this new "humanist" approach (as written by co-screenwriter Paul Haggis) which Daniel Craig was instrumental in helping to bring about.


The other notable interruption to the card game (in the novel) is in the form of an unexpected intervention by an agent of Le Chiffre's with a lethal walking stick (a striking resemblance to the "poisoned umbrella" that killed Russian defector Georgi Markov and more recently Alexander Litvinenko.) In the new version, Bond swallows a lethal substance (administered into the obligatory glass of Martini), and only thanks to the quick thinking of those back at MI6 on a live link-up, is he able to bring himself back round, with Vesper coming to the rescue too.

The two characters of James and his lover are also more closely established that in most Bond romances. As well as the aforementioned bathroom scene, there is also a moment when Vesper enters the casino, resplendent in a gown that Bond has ordered her to wear (to distract the other players) but she walks in so that James can see her. Bond is likewise touched by the gesture. Although Eva Green's slightly stilted French speaking of English makes for not the most ideal chemistry with Daniel Craig (various actresses such as Thandie Newton tried and failed to seure the role), and the climactic action scene in Venice is pure nonsense (with a nod to The Maltese Falcon and its "heroine left in the elevator" finale), the quality of the story and the characterisation still comes through.

What seems most remarkable about it all, apart from the amount of faith kept with the original novel, is how the central character is of much greater interest than the actual plot or the action, coming through against all the opposition about his casting (as well the track record of all the previous Bonds), with his reputation and his Manhood intact, and setting a striking new note on a film character 44 years and 21 films old.

I choose this as a favourite because it was the film I'd always hoped would be made (properly), and for being so unexpectedly good - but I do wonder how long the freshness will last. Previous Bonds such as Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and even Sean Connery, had the tendency to fade after the first vivid impression - and films like the upcoming Quantum of Solace may well revert once again back to the gadgets and the outlandish action, rather than the combination of characterisation and sheer belligerence which made Casino Royale so effective.

The last scene of the 2006 film excitingly sets the stamp on this new leaner, meaner Bond. The first time I first read it, I knew that the book's famous last line (which does make it into the film) would be a hard sell for the Broccolis, and that Bond would have to be seen taking some sort of vengeance on his enemies. Sure enough - and satisfyingly enough - the mysterious Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) stands over the beautiful Lake Como, receives an unexpected phone call, and is suddenly struck by an assassin's bullet. Out steps 007, who stoops over his adversary, and utters the famous line.

To paraphrase, by the end there is one unmistakable impression left on the whole enterprise:

The name's Craig...Daniel Craig.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Dark City (1997)

1998 was a particularly dire year for blockbusters. Year by year, since roughly the mid-1980s, as this particular strand of mainstream cinema became dumb and dumber (one film was even given that title), such inanities popped up in the summer of 1998 as Armageddon (or the similar but equally tiresome Deep Impact), Deep Rising, Lost In Space, The Postman, The Relic, the godawful Godzilla, the much derided film version of TV's The Avengers (which I didn't think was actually all that bad), and the most inexplicably successful of the lot: Titanic.

But among all the inane dross, came this unexpected gem*, full of action of its own too, but with at least something approaching intelligence in the making.

The summer of 1998 was also, for a brief experimental period, a time when the British Film Institute introduced such welcome innovations as "National Cinema Day" (which began in 1996 during the cinema's centenary), where patrons could see a film in any cinema in the UK for only £1. As a result of the popularity of the event, Dark City was sold out at the Odeon Colchester, so I trekked out a little further afield a few weeks later, to Clacton-on-Sea instead.

The "Flicks" in Clacton as it is now known - formerly under the name Coronet Century among a few others - is one of a dying breed of old fashioned community cinemas that clings tantalisingly to its original 1930s architecture. Coincidentally, this also perfectly suited the retro atmosphere of Dark City, a 1940s-style film noir world clearly inspired by the paintings of Ed Hopper, and being the first of many pleasant surprises I was to encounter.

Walking into the cinema therefore, was like walking into another world - like ours Jim, but not quite as we know it (Dark World was indeed one of the working titles.)

Few films have such an unusual beginning as this one. Knowing it to be some sort of mixture of film noir and science fiction (two favourite genres of mine), it was another pleasant surprise to see the screen open with an expanse of stars in the night sky - something I've always been a sucker for ever since Star Wars. The camera then pans down from the stars, to the city, to which a sinister voice (Kiefer Sutherland) explains the set-up:

"First, there was darkness. Then came 'the Strangers'..."

Other fans of the film (and indeed the director, the visionary Alex Proyas) have welcomed the removal of this prologue from the Collectors' Edition DVD, but I find it sets the scene nicely and gives audiences a jolt as well as a sense of anticipation of what is to come (without giving away too many of the further twists in the tale), and rarely lets up from then on.

The first person we see is the Prologue himself, Dr. Daniel Paul Schreber, in one of Kiefer Sutherland's creepiest and, I think, most rewarding performances for the cinema - not long before he was about to become a hot property in the TV series 24 . His character here resembles something close to Peter Lorre in the Expressionist German thrillers of the 20s and 30s - of which Dark City is a homage - to Metropolis in particular. Schreber looks at his watch, which ticks round to midnight - at which point unexpectedly, absolutely everything and everyone in the city - apart from "the good doctor" - stops and falls asleep.

Seconds after the entire metropolis has nodded off, the title emerges on screen to a backdrop of encircling spirals (a recurring motif throughout the film), and the camera looms toward a single high rise bathroom window, looking like it could easily be through one of the side doors of the Coronet Cinema.

The occupant of the bathroom is one "John Murdoch" (Rufus Sewell) - a name which he only discovers some time later after desperately fumbling through his possessions - for he, like the main character in a novel by Franz Kafka (whom Sewell resembles physically), is totally bewildered as to who he is and how he got there. More immediate than his identity crisis however, is the sight of a dead girl's body lying in his hotel room, to which three strange bald men in long coats and trilbies, are after him.

So to begin with, Jack the Ripper may well be our potential hero's name - as this is the latest in a series of several killings that he is said to have perpetrated. Before long the police are after Murdoch, and worse than that, the Strangers (played memorably by Rocky Horror Show creator Richard O'Brien and Ian Richardson among others), with their mysterious powers to "alter physical reality by will alone", or "Tuning" as they call it - where buildings morph into taller buildings, different streets, environments, etc. The Strangers can even alter people's memories, but significantly, NOT their personality.

More surprises are to come for Murdoch - and the audience - when he discovers that he can also Tune as well, for whatever reason. Not only that, but at midnight every night - and why is it always night? - everybody goes to sleep, but not Murdoch himself this time.

He also discovers that he has a wife, Emma, played by the lovely Jennifer Connelly - a welcome name in the cast (whom I remembered as the feisty heroine from The Rocketeer and Labyrinth), bringing a touch of humanity (and admittedly decoration) to the proceedings, and sings two snappy songs as well. Emma Murdoch is a trusting and devoted but estranged wife. But is she Mrs Murdoch - or indeed, is her husband a murderer? As Emma significantly mentions later on: "I love you John, you can't fake a thing like that."

The whole existential theme of Dark City together with its haunting 1940s feel is what makes it so involving. The twists are just too numerous for me to spoil for the uninitiated viewer, especially one key moment as Murdoch and Detective Bumstead (William Hurt) begin to unravel the mystery of Shell Beach.

Hurt brings some welcome gravitas and sympathy to his role as the policeman, a much more rounded character than the usual "cop pursing the hero". In some ways I related to his character's description (as outlined by Dr. Schreber) "a very fastidious man, driven by details...rather lonely"; in point of fact, Bumstead was the original central character, until later script drafts shifted the emphasis more towards Murdoch. Not only does Bumstead have an illogical murder case to solve, but also a demented predecessor (Colin Friels) who has gone berserk (a la Renfield in Dracula) because of the case, and is also it turns out, is another "stray" who occasionally stays awake during the Tunings.

Undergound to all this are the Tuning devices themselves, as operated by the Strangers, and recognisably designed by Patrick Tatopolous (he of Independence Day and Stargate and other sci-fi spectaculars), a slick Gothic underworld (peopled by Pinhead lookalikes from Hellraiser) which successfully counteracts David Goyer's vision for the more "realistic" city above.

Sensibly in my view, the noisy climax smashes through from underground to overground, for this is truly where the film's heart lies. The invigorating finale and last scene of the film - on Shell Beach - also has a nostalgic feel to it, and is quite appropriate considering that I was seeing it in a seaside cinema.

Two years after Dark City, came another film about sense of identity in a world created by machines (and even using the same Fox Studios in Sydney): it was called THE MATRIX. Thanks to slick packaging by the Wachowski brothers and the appeal of Keanu Reeves, it made millions. But ultimately it lacked the ideas and the sheer inventiveness of Dark City.

Sometimes a film can exceed your expectations of it. I went in that evening at Clacton not expecting much more than a reasonable film, but came out having experienced a classic.


Roger Ebert's view

* out of fairness I should also mention another interesting film (late) that summer, The Truman Show

Saturday, 9 August 2008

West Side Story (1961)

Recently celebrating its 50th anniversary, in its own words this musical "grows younger" with the passing of time. For my own appreciation of this film, I am indebted on this occasion to a certain amount of maternal influence.

Way back in the 1970's in Aylesbury, my mother kept the film soundtrack of West Side Story as one of her most cherished possessions. I didn't know much about music - or films - in those days, but curiosity one day compelled me to ask what that slightly abstract album cover (above) was all about, with two silhouetted figures dancing for joy down some ladders. It was, I soon discovered, connected to a modern day musical version of Romeo & Juliet, transplanting the setting to the streets of New York with two gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, and the two lovers were naturally members of opposite sides.

It was such a favourite of Mum's that she had actually seen the film in the cinema four times, which knocked my obsession for Star Wars (that I'd seen in the cinema a mere twice) into the shade.

Such devotion to a film inevitably compelled me to find out for myself what all the fuss was about. When video cassette recording became fashionable, one of the first films we recorded from the TV was West Side Story - for Mum's benefit, and so also ultimately, for mine too.

It's a film musical which immediately strikes you as bold and rather different, from the first unexpected image which is of some vertical lines across the screen. This continues for several minutes, while some of the film's melodies are overtured. This must have been bizarre and fascinating for cinema audiences to watch, with the image projected over the curtains as they waited for the film to start. As the curtains eventually parted, the three-word title emerges at the bottom of the screen, and those enigmatic lines suddenly turn out to be the skyline of Manhattan.

From that moment, I was hooked. Any film which discharges the need for any unnecessary names of actors and technicians in its opening credits will always win me over. The idea for the opening sequence, together with the long, lingering camera flying over Manhattan towards the story's backstreet setting, was the idea of the film's chief co-director Robert Wise - in collaboration with the stage show's original director Jerome Robbins. With Robbins involved in most of the choreography and Wise dealing with the dramatic side, United Artists hoped to get the best of both worlds. Inevitably however Robbins' ceaseless overworking of his actors (and the budget) led to him being replaced in mid-production with Wise totally supervising all the remaining sequences.

Robbins' hand is very evident in the opening ballet where the first skirmish between Jets and Sharks takes place. After the atmospheric opening we pan down to see Riff (Russ Tamblyn) and his cohorts gathered, finger-clicking in time to the music, and then suddenly see them prancing around like ballet dancers, which may have worked on stage, but to say the least it looks a little odd on screen, in such tough real-life surroundings.

The pirouettes excepted, the opening (completely unspoken) first 10 minutes are a great introduction to the film, not least because of the electrifying music of Leonard Bernstein, whose masterful score is the lynchpin of the film throughout.

As for the singing...well, in those days most actors were actually dubbed by professionally trained singers, but no-one gave it too much thought until it was revealed that major stars the like of Deborah Kerr and Audrey Hepburn were actually being dubbed by Marni Nixon - or in this case, also Natalie Wood, the film's nominal star.

Her casting was the product of a certain amount of compromise brought about by the studio. The makers' original intent was to use relative unknowns in the main roles, to add to the boldness (although Russ Tamblyn was not without renown having appeared in notable musicals such as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Rita Moreno was also a veteran of supporting character roles), but some sort of star name was needed for the sake of the billing. Miss Wood had just come off the back of a strong role opposite James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, and her other emerging films of the 1960's meant that she was a bankable enough name without also being too much of a cash-in for the moneymen. I think she gives a refreshingly bright, truthful and hard-working performance which gives the film much of its heart. It's such a shame that her performance was overshadowed by all the gossip about the fact that she was - secretly - dubbed. (It's also a shame that film history has been largely ignorant of Marni Nixon, outside of her very accomplished singing voice.)

For the role of Romeo (aka. Tony) opposite Natalie Wood's Maria/Juliet, the producers chose Richard Beymer, who was up to the standard for good-looking young men back in 1960. He, like Wood, Tamblyn and Moreno, had emerged on the scene in small roles in notable films (such as The Diary of Ann Frank), and also like them, was dubbed - by Jimmy Bryant.

The resulting love duet "Tonight" therefore, is sung with the voices of Marni Nixon and Jimmy Bryant, and Wood and Beymer providing the faces and the lip-sync. Both elements combine to bring out the romantic power of the song. There were plenty of other notable numbers of course, such as "Maria", "Cool" (a nightmare for the actors to perform successfully), the comical "Officer Krupke", the Dance at the Gym (with an amusing cameo by an uncredited John Astin) where the lovers first meet in beautifully stylised fashion, the "Quintet" - a musical tour de force - and the always vibrant "America", which is actually improved in the film version by including the men as the counterpoint to the women, in what was originally a girls-only melody on stage.

Much of the praise and attention (and the awards) for West Side Story were given to the strength of the numbers and the dancing, but all this would be meaningless without a strong dramatic story to hold it together, and so as the tone turns a little darker with the inevitable fight between the two sides which becomes unexpectedly fatal, the story really kicks into gear. For that, we have to thank one William Shakespeare, and although WSS (SPOILER ALERT) takes a slight divergence from its source material by having one of its central lovers survive the tragedy, none of the power is lost, and if anything the closing procession is made that little more powerful by it.

The closing credits are as innovative as the opening, written on street signs and walls (I used the idea of the closing "END" sign for a film of mine, Cornucopia in 2001.) Generally speaking I find musicals a little twee and all too predictable in their happy-ever-after frothiness, so to come across a genuinely serious musical, and a very well made one at that, is an unexpected pleasure to behold.

And this was also, as I said, a favourite of my mother's, who saw most of her four viewings at the old Astoria cinema in Charing Cross Road, where several of the popular widescreen musicals (including the later phenomenal Sound of Music, also directed by Robert Wise) were often screened.

I had the pleasure to watch West Side Story myself at the Prince Charles Cinema in 1992, and though the film has a certain 1960's look to it, the soundtrack is as timeless as it always was. A 50-year old musical still has the youth of a teenager. Happy Birthday.


The Astoria Charing Cross Road in 2008, overlooking the Dominion Tottenham Court Road in the distance.

100 Favourite Films

100 Favourite Films