BEAT GIRL, Edmond T Greville, director/BFI Blu-Ray-DVD Before the notorious and sexually provocative Beat Girl (1960), the director Edmond T Greville had made an idiosyncratic and distinctive entry in the post-austerity crime genre with Noose (1948) but loamier fare was to be found in his later juvenile delinquent-related outing, now available in impressive BFI Blu-ray/DVD versions, offering alternative versions of the film (including a stronger, uncensored cut). Any cinema showing in the 21st century of the film would probably be met with a certain degree of irony from a modern audience – this once-sensational exploitation movie (with its famous poster showing Gillian Hills pouting provocatively in black bra, suspender and stockings) now looks quaint (‘Dynamic drama of youth – mad about ‘beat’ – living for KICKS!’), even though there are a few fascinating harbingers of highly successful careers inaugurated here: Christopher Lee is at the beginning of a lengthy stint in screen villainy, though his one-dimensional spivvy nightclub owner here gives little indication of the actor’s talents, while the late John Barry’s distinguished career as a composer for the cinema begins with Beat Girl (Barry came to the film as part of a package with its singing star, Adam Faith, as the composer had arranged Faith’s pop hits). Much incidental obscura, in fact (as I wrote in British Crime Film) to enjoy. As in the same year’s Never Let Go, the inexpressive Adam Faith (present more for marquee value than any conspicuous histrionic skills) is the inarticulate voice of youth, but here accoutred with a guitar and sporting other 1950s characteristics of the ‘creative musician’ (filmgoers of the day would have been prepared to go along with this credulity-stretching notion, such was Faith’s celebrity – perhaps a more difficult reach for the modern viewer). Nevertheless, in this pre-Beatles era, popular music is posited by Greville as an avenue of escape for teenagers who might wish to avoid the easy lure of criminality as represented by the not-too-convincing sleazy nightclub, with its petty crooks and the sexual availability of the cleavage-flashing female employees. In the early 21st century, audiences might be indulgent towards this of-its-time vision of adult lowlife and teen rebellion, but such indulgence would be unlikely to be extended to the architect (and disapproving parent) played by the stolid David Farrar. In fact, there was only one director in Britain who saw the possibilities of this intriguing actor – Michael Powell, who in the deliciously over-heated Black Narcissus presented him as a virile symbol of male sexuality, creating hormonal disturbances among a group of sexually repressed nuns. The later The Party’s Over (also available uncut from the BFI) was a touch reminiscent of Beat Girl in its picture of dissolute youth, though Hamilton’s moral commentary on his protagonists is very different. But the restoration of Greville’s film is a real plus factor.
PENDA’S FEN, Allan Clarke, director/BFI The BFI release of this remarkable film is a persuasive argument for the excavation of long-unseen work in the DVD/Blu-Ray medium. First shown on BBC1 in 1974 and little viewed since, Penda’s Fen has acquired a considerable reputation, and the film is a salutary reminder of an ambitious era of British television which is now a distant memory. Released for the first time on Blu-ray and DVD by the BFI, this unclassifiable piece from the director of Scum and The Firm has been newly transferred in High Definition, and is finessed with a newly created documentary featuring interviews with its writer David Rudkin and producer David Rose. The central notions here include an examination of identity, language, history and industrial progress. Utilising the music of Elgar, Penda’s Fen addresses ancient legends and erotic awakening with a provocativeness little evident in today’s TV fare.
KILLER DAMES: The Red Queen Kills Seven Times and The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, Emilio P. Miraglia, director/Arrow Video Blu-Ray Less well-known than other more high-profile entries in their genre, Emilio P. Miraglia’s colourful and gruesome Italian giallo outings The Red Queen Kills Seven Times and The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave premiere on dual format Blu-ray and DVD in this strikingly restored, limited edition collection. At the height of the Italian giallo boom in the early 1970s, scores of filmmakers turned their hand to crafting their own takes (sometimes imaginative, sometimes dully derivative) on these lurid murder-mystery thrillers. Miraglia – who is no Mario Bava – has an approach that involves convoluted whodunit narratives and one-dimensional characters interlaced with kinetic violence. In the eccentric The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, an age-old family curse hits sisters Kitty (Barbara Bouchet) and Franziska (Marina Malfatti) after the death of their grandfather Tobias (Rudolf Schündler). Every hundred years, so the legend suggests, the bloodthirsty Red Queen returns and claims seven fresh victims. Was Tobias just the first… and are Kitty and Franziska next? The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is even odder fare, full of enough whip-lashing semi-nude sadomasochism to please the most fastidious of British Ministers of Culture, and an initially bloodless scenario that builds to an outrageously over-the-top blood-drenched climax that (as they say) has to be seen to be believed. More unintentional fun? Well, there’s a hilarious faux-English setting — as Italian as a Puccini opera — and wildly incoherent plotting (it’s no spoiler to point out that one murderer goes unpunished – not for dramatic irony, but because it’s simply been forgotten…)
CSI: THE COMPLETE SEASON 15 Various director/Entertainment One Brass (Paul Guilfoyle) return to investigate an explosion in a casino. The Finale closes the casebook on one of the most successful TV crime series of recent years. Mixing deduction, gritty and edgy subject matter and character-driven drama, CSI shifted the focus from the cops and the lawyers and delved in to the world of the crime-fighters who use the physical evidence that the perpetrators leave behind to solve the case. CSI changed the way crime shows were produced and stories were presented – spawning a successful franchise, with spinoffs set in Miami, New York and, finally, in cyberspace with CSI Cyber, as well as a the next generation of crime dramas such as ‘Criminal Minds’ and ‘Bones’ in the US and ‘Silent Witness’ in the UK.
A WOMAN’S VENGEANCE, Zoltan Korda, director/Screenbound The writer Aldous Huxley’s career in American films was something of a chequered one, but this quirky adaptation of his ‘The Giaconda Smile’ is a solid enough mystery that manages to capture some of the literary qualities of the writer in its screenplay (when did you last hear the word ‘discontinuity’ in a Hollywood screenplay?). Charles Boyer is the film’s principal star, but the real interest lies with Jessica Tandy and Cedric Hardwicke playing a cat and mouse game over the cocktails and card games.
HINTERLAND SERIES TWO Various directors/Arrow Nordic Noir and Beyond The cult series is released in a Welsh and English version since it has been filmed in both languages. The compelling 5-part series premiered on BBC Four on Saturday 23rd April after its success in both Wales and England over the past year and has been renewed for a third series, which is currently being filmed in the idyllic surroundings of Aberystwyth, Wales. As the series is currently a hit on Netflix US, episode one of series two is scheduled to be shown at a Welsh Film Event in New York this year. The drama stars Richard Harrington (Poldark) as DCI Tom Mathias, who is haunted by his own demons while he hunts down the ones that are bringing unrest to the quiet town of Aberystwyth and its surroundings. Throughout, the series he comes face to face with murders, stalkers and their victims as he is being pulled into their dark world. Mathias’ partner DI Mared Rhys, portrayed by Mali Harries, is a complex but intelligent woman with whom he has formed a close relationship.
REVENGE, Sidney Hayers, director/Network Joan Collins, James Booth and Sinéad Cusack star in this gritty and compelling thriller in which an ordinary family turn to vigilante justice in the wake of their daughter’s murder. Revenge benefits from taut direction from Sidney Hayers (Circus of Horrors) and a tense script from The Saint screenwriter John Kruse, Revenge was a notable success in both Britain and the USA; it is featured here in a brand-new High Definition transfer from the original film elements in its original theatrical aspect ratio. Publicans Carol and Jim Radford learn that a reclusive local man suspected of raping and murdering their ten-year-old daughter has been released due to insufficient evidence. Heartbroken and hungry for vengeance, Jim hatches a chilling plan to force a confession from the suspect: abducting and imprisoning him in the pub’s cellar, he will become judge, jury and – if necessary – executioner.