Now at FilmStruck – Streamline

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In case you haven’t noticed, the Turner Classic Movie’s Morlocks blog has been renamed Streamline and is currently part of the new TCM & Criterion film streaming service at FilmStruck.com

What is FilmStruck? Here’s an excerpt from a Time Warner press release:

“Developed and managed by Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in collaboration with the Criterion Collection, FilmStruck will feature the largest streaming library of contemporary and classic arthouse, indie, foreign and cult films as well as extensive bonus content, filmmaker interviews and rare footage, making it a must-have service for serious film lovers. Later this year, FilmStruck will also become the exclusive streaming home to the world-renowned Criterion Collection library, where die-hard film aficionados can gain access to the Criterion Collection’s entire streaming library through FilmStruck’s exclusive premium add-on tier, The Criterion Channel. FilmStruck will be available exclusively on Amazon Fire TV, web, iOS and Android devices at launch, and on Apple TV and other platforms and devices in the coming months.”

I am still writing for TCM regularly in association with FilmStruck and Criterion and my weekly contributions to the Streamline blog will continue to be posted every Thursday, but there will be some notable differences. You’ll notice a focus on FilmStruck programming as well as Criterion releases and I’m no longer responsible for posting my own images, which are selected by an editor.

This change is a bit problematic for me and will be difficult to get used to because if you’ve been following my film writing for the last 10 years, you would notice that images often play a big part in it. I enjoy curating my own content and some of my most popular posts for the Movie Morlocks were photo and poster galleries. I also enjoy sharing my own film stills, which I typically put as much care and thought into as my writing whenever possible. Simply put, film is a visual medium so I think the images associated with film writing can often be just as powerful as the writing itself. However, having an editor on board is something I’ve wanted for a long time and I hope they’ll be able to correct my occasional typos, misspellings, and grammar errors!

Despite working numerous jobs and other responsibilities, I’ve managed to write one blog post a week for The Movie Morlocks for the past 6 years. I’ve only missed posting twice and both times were due to serious illness. Having to pump out a post week after week can be daunting since that gives me very little time to research, thoughtfully consider and write about a particular topic but the challenge has been very rewarding and I hope the results have been worthwhile.

If you followed my work at the Movie Morlocks I hope you’ll continue to follow my work at the new Streamline blog. I don’t know what the future holds, but FilmStruck promises to be an interesting addition to TCM’s programming and I’m happy to be a part of it.

My first post for Streamline is a brief overview of one of my favorite film topics; The British New Wave. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart that I’ve discussed here before and at the Movie Morlocks. From my latest piece:

“The style and attitude of these aspiring filmmakers merged with the burgeoning writers of the period as Anderson, Richardson and Reisz began adapting the work of Osborne, Sillitoe, Delaney and their contemporaries for the screen. In the process, the two camps created a new type of British drama known as kitchen-sink realism that was often grittier and more unforgiving than much of the British cinema that had come before it. This New Wave of British films were typically shot in stark black and white, populated by characters that were not particularly likable or even conventionally attractive. A tangible sense of loss existed amid the urban squalor on display and the dialogue was surprisingly frank, refusing to shy away from unsavory topics such as an unwanted pregnancy or spousal abuse.”

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) Directed by Tony Richardson Shown: Tom Courtenay (as Colin Smith)

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)
Directed by Tony Richardson
Shown: Tom Courtenay (as Colin Smith)

…these films contain powerful central performances by bruised, edgy and unpredictable actors. The critically acclaimed roles they inhabited solidified the ‘angry young man’ persona for film audiences and gave voice to a generation forced to settle for less, but desperate for something more. They also bluntly and poetically challenged the social order, throwing aggressive and graceful punches at an established class system that expected them to know their place and remain there.” – Kimberly Lindbergs for Streamline

You can find my entire piece “Angry Cinema: The British New Wave” here.

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2013 at the Movie Morlocks

jfrancoJess Franco 1930-2013

What follows is a collection of links to some of my posts at TCM’s Movie Morlocks from 2013. These are (in my estimation) the best and most interesting articles I wrote last year but you can read my entire output for 2013 at the Movie Morlocks if you peruse the archives. From this point onward on I’ll be collecting links to my Morlocks’ posts and sharing them here at the end of each month.

Rio – Rififi Style! GRAND SLAM (1967)
A Brief History of the Telefilm
Out, out, brief candle: Jon Finch 1942-2012
This is a Time for Ghosts : THE AWAKENING (2012)
All Love is Mad : MAD LOVE (1935)
Does Oscar gold come with an Oscar curse?
Telefilm Time Machine: DAUGHTER OF THE MIND (1969)
Tracing My Irish Roots Through the Movies
The Pulp Adventures of Lee Marvin
Telefilm Time Machine: THAT CERTAIN SUMMER (1972)
In Memoriam: Jesús “Jess” Franco (1930-2013)
Lon Chaney Jr. – Lady Killer
Comic Relief with ARTISTS AND MODELS (1955)
Telefilm Time Machine – FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY (1973)
GUN AND SWORD: An Encyclopedia of Japanese Gangster Films 1955-1980
Personal Passions: Alain Delon
Derelict Dancers: Gerard Depardieu vs. Roman Polanski – A PURE FORMALITY (1994)
Hail Cleopatra! Queen of the Nile & Queen of ’60s Style
Arsenic & Ambiguity in David Lean’s MADELEINE (1950)
Final Faces
Francois Truffaut – Friend, Teacher & Film Critic
Someone is Bleeding: LES SEINS DE GLACE (1974)
Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be? : SO LONG AT THE FAIR (1950)
Telefilm Time Machine: Steven Spielberg’s SOMETHING EVIL (1972)
Four Reasons Why I Love Natalie Wood
Julie Harris 1925-2013: “And we who walk here, walk alone.
The Story of Film: UN CHIEN ANDALOU (1928)
In the Trenches with James Whale
Hollywood Goes to the Dolls
Telefilm Time Machine: SATAN’S TRIANGLE (1975)
Vincent Price Takes Center Stage
Vincent Price’s Small Screen Successes
Vincent Price & Gene Tierney: A Doomed Romance
In the Kitchen with Vincent Price
Adults Only: HOUSE ON STRAW HILL (1976)
Fighting Prejudice with Sidney Poitier
A Celluloid Revolution – James Dean: Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray
Telefilm Time Machine: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (1972)

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The Children Are Watching: Ruminations on Jack Clayton

Harold Pinter, Anne Banecroft & Jack Clayton on the set of THE PUMPKIN EATER (1964)

I really enjoyed TCM’s British New Wave Mondays in March and I made time to revisit some of my favorite films included in the series such as Jack Clayton’s THE PUMPKIN EATER. I hadn’t seen the film in years but I found it even more powerful and chilling than I had remembered it. I couldn’t resist writing about the film so this week I shared some thoughts about THE PUMPKIN EATER and director Jack Clayton at The Movie Morlocks. Here’s an outtake from my blog post:

“One of the most frightening aspects of Clayton’s work is the ways in which he makes monsters out of children. Adults in Clayton’s film procreate beyond reason and without responsibility. They give birth to babies they can’t financially or emotionally care for in some vain attempt to fend off their own mortality or fill some bottomless void. While it’s easy to see the children in Clayton’s films as victims of circumstance, it’s impossible to ignore the cruelty they often display towards adults and one another. Clayton began his career as a child actor and he often talked about how much he enjoyed working with kids. He was able to get some incredibly nuanced performances from the young actors in his care. But it’s wrong to assume that his films simply depict children who are corrupted by the adult world when their roles are much more complex and far reaching than that. In THE INNOCENTS and OUR MOTHER’S HOUSE, children aren’t just pliable blameless creatures. They’re menacing, malicious and bloodthirsty. They often display a viciousness that’s more organic than conditioned. Even in films like ROOM AT THE TOP (1959), THE GREAT GATSBY (1974) and THE LONELY PASSION OF JUDITH HEARNE (1987) children act as barriers (or bad mistakes), blocking the adult’s road to happiness while depriving them of true love and financial security.”

Follow the link to read the whole piece:

“The Children Are Watching” @ TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog>

I also created a Fickr gallery with images from the film that you can find here.

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British New Wave Mondays In March On TCM

Top: Tom Courtenay & Julie Christie in BILLY LIAR (1963)
Middle: Richard Lester, John Schlesinger & Tony Richardson
Bottom: Richard Harris & Rachel Roberts in THIS SPORTING LIFE (1963)

I recently took a quick look through my blog archives and discovered that I’ve written about British Cinema more than any other topic. I shouldn’t have been surprised because the truth is that I adore British Cinema and I could probably spend all my free time writing about it. One subject that particularly interests me is the British New Wave or “Kitchen Sink Dramas” released in the ’60s. When I started blogging six years ago there was very little information about the British New Wave available online. The topic was rarely discussed among blog critics and film journalists in the US. When it did come up it generated mixed reactions and very little passion. The truth is that British cinema has often gotten the short end of the critical stick but thankfully that’s slowly changing and the general outlook towards British Cinema is much more positive than it was just six short years ago.

With this in mind, I was was particularly happy to learn that TCM will be playing host to British New Wave Mondays In March. All month long British film fans will be able to tune in to TCM on Monday night and watch British films all evening until the early hours of the morning. Here’s a complete schedule of all the films being shown:

March 5

Room at the Top (1959)
The Entertainer (1960)
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)
Morgan: a Suitable Case for Treatment (1966)
Victim (1961)

March 12

A Kind of Loving (1962)
The L-Shaped Room (1962)
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)
A Taste of Honey (1961)
Girl With Green Eyes (1964)

March 19

This Sporting Life (1963)
Billy Liar (1963)
The Servant (1963)
Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1965)
Only Two Can Play (1962)

March 26

Kes (1969)
Darling (1965)
The Pumpkin Eater (1964)
The Knack . . . and How To Get It (1965)
Petulia (1968)

You can find more information about British New Wave Mondays In March On TCM here. I’ve also tried to collect some (not all) of my relevant posts about the films, performers and directors associated with the British New Wave, which you can access by following this link:
British New Wave @ Cinebeats

I especially hope that you’ll take the time to read my article and interview with The Alan Sillitoe Committee. Alan Sillitoe is responsible for writing and scripting some of the most important films to emerge from the British New Wave and The Alan Sillitoe Committee is committed to preserving his legacy.

“Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down!”

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I recently got the opportunity to discuss the work of British screenwriter and novelist, Alan Sillitoe with members of The Alan Sillitoe Committee, including Alan’s son David. The name might not be familiar to many film fans but Alan Sillitoe is responsible for writing SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING (Karel Reisz; 1961) and THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER (Tony Richardson; 1962). He gave a voice to Britain’s “angry young men” and helped define a generation.

Both SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING and THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER are films that are near and dear to my heart and undoubtedly two of the best films to emerge from the British New Wave in the ’60s. I’ve briefly mentioned both movies on numerous occasions but I haven’t given them as much attention as I’d like. SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING will be airing on TCM this Saturday (Nov. 19th) so I thought it would be a good time to rectify my negligence. You can find my interview with members of The Alan Sillitoe Committee at the Movie Morlocks and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts about the film here.

In SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING, Albert Finney made his incredible screen debut as a young man by the name of Arthur Seaton. Arthur is a working-class lad raised in Nottingham who lives with his parents. He has a dead-end factory job that pays the bills but it leaves little room for much else. He spends the work week looking forward to his Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. During these weekend breaks Arthur fishes with friends, drinks himself into a stupor and seduces any willing lady that catches his eye. When he clashes with his boss and is accused of being a ‘red’ (communist) or gets beaten up for sleeping with a married woman, Arthur doesn’t let it faze him and lives by the motto, “Don’t let the bastards get you down!” while making it known that, “I’m out for a good time – all the rest is propaganda!” Arthur is much too smart and much too curious to be satisfied with the life his parents have accepted. Unfortunately his rough existence has made him a little mean and he doesn’t suffer fools lightly. But underneath all that false bravado is an angry young man with a volcanic size chip on his shoulder that could explode at any moment. Despite the underlying tension that filters through every frame of SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING, the film seems to end on a somewhat upbeat note with Arthur denouncing his parents (“They have a TV set and a packet of fags, but they’re both dead from the neck up.”) and realizing that he’s his own man, able to make his own way in the world, even if that world seems determined to hold him back.
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“And trouble for me it’ll be, fighting every day until I die. Why do they make soldiers out of us when we’re fighting up to the hilt as it is? Fighting with mothers and wives, landlords and gaffers, coppers, army, government… Well, it’s a good life and a good world, all said and done, if you don’t weaken, and if you know that the big wide world hasn’t heard from you yet, no, not by a long way, though it won’t be long now.” – Arthur Seaton from Alan Sillitoe’s ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’

Watching SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING again recently, I was reminded of how poignant and powerful the film’s underlying message still was. Few films address the concerns of young working-class people so directly and so well. As I said earlier, it’s one of the most important movies that emerged from the British New Wave and it features a literal ‘who’s-who’ of British cinema at the time including the fabulous Albert Finney, as young Arthur. Finney swaggers through the film like a beautiful bulldog always keenly aware of everything going on around him. The film made Finney a star and it’s easy to see why. He’s a handsome man but it’s more than just looks that make young Finney so irresistible. He’s deeply committed to the role of Arthur Seaton and he was able to harness the kind of rough and tumble working-class spirit that is so hard to find in today’s young actors. He’s a genuine tough guy and you don’t want to mess with him but he’s just soft enough to win a woman’s heart.

SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING was directed by Karel Reiz who brought a real authenticity to the film. Reiz was part of the British Free Cinema movement and his documentary background gave him the ability to honestly apture the Nottingham local. He gave the film a real sense of place and purpose. The celebrated cinematographer Freddie Francis also helped shape the look of the film and there are some truly beautiful scenes that showcase Albert Finney and his costars (including award-winning actress Rachel Roberts and Shirley Anne Field) in the most flattering light imaginable. These lush moments can occasionally take you out of the film but Reiz and Francis quickly return you to the gritty streets of Nottingham. SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING was also edited by Seth Holt (THE NANNY) and produced by Tony Richardson (THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER) along with Harry Saltzman (LOOK BACK IN ANGER). And last but not least, it features an amazing jazz riddled score by John Dankworth (THE SERVANT).

If you’d like to learn more about this terrific film please follow the link to the Movie Morlocks. It will take you to my interview with members of The Alan Sillitoe Committe where we discuss Sillitoe’s work in film.
“Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down!” @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

I also wanted to give a special shout-out to fellow film blogger and Alan Sillitoe Committee member Neil Fulwood who agreed to answer questions and went out of his way to contact Alan’s son David. Cheers, Neil! Please stop by his terrific film blog, The Agitation of the Mind and tell him I sent ya.

Happy Birthday Joseph Losey!

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Two of my favorite people: Director Joseph Losey & actor Dirk Bogarde

Today marks what would have been Joseph Losey’s 102 birthday. Unfortunately very few of us live that long and Losey died in 1984 at age 75. Lately critics around the world seem to be rediscovering his work and rethinking their opinion of the director’s impressive legacy. Joseph Losey is gaining new fans every day and it’s wonderful to see this sudden resurgence of interest in his films. As a lifelong Losey fan this makes me extremely happy! I’ve enjoyed writing about Losey’s work here at Cinebeats as well as contributing to Harkit Records release of John Barry’s soundtrack for Boom! which happens to be one of my favorite Losey films. I hope to write more about his work in the future but if you would like to read my previous posts about the director you can find them here:
Joseph Losey @ Cinebeats

Introducing Laurence Harvey

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I recently watched the British horror movie House of Darkness (Oswald Mitchell; 1948), which features Laurence Harvey in his very first film role. Harvey’s one of my favorite actors but I haven’t had the opportunity to write about him much so I decided to rectify that this week by including a lot of background information about Harvey in a review of House of Darkness for TCM. If you like classic horror films or happen to be a Laurence Harvey fan like myself, you might find House of Darkness worth a look. It’s a lumbering and rather dull film but Harvey manages to make it watchable. Or maybe I just find Harvey incredibly watchable? Whatever the case may be, you can read Introducing Laurence Harvey at the Movie Morlocks Blog.

Freddie Francis’ Girly (1969)

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Howard Trevor, Ursula Howells, Vanessa Howard & Pat Heywood
in Freddie Francis’ Girly (1969)

Creepy families with murderous intentions have become a staple of horror cinema. Most recently directors like Rob Zombie have attempted to cash in on this long standing tradition with films like House of 1000 Corpses (2003) and The Devil’s Rejects (2005), but long before Rob ever stood behind a camera other directors such as Jack Hill (Spider Baby; 1968), Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; 1974), Pete Walker (Frightmare; 1974) and Wes Craven (The Hills Have Eyes; 1977) were plotting out similar scenarios with more worthwhile results.

One of the earliest and most interesting films in this tradition is Freddie Francis’ Girly aka Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly (1969). The plot of Girly is rather simple and involves a strange wealthy family that live on an isolated British estate. The family consists of Mumsy (Ursula Howells) and her two children Girly (Vanessa Howard) and Sonny (Howard Trevor) who are cared for by their doting Nanny (Pat Heywood). Girly and Sonny act like two naughty schoolchildren and Mumsy and Nanny enjoy babying them both. They sleep in cribs and play with toys as if they were infants, but the siblings are actually much older and enjoy spending their time luring adult men or new “friends” home to play games that involve torture and eventual death.

Girly isn’t one of Francis’ best looking films, but it is one of his funniest and most unusual movies. This blacker than black horror comedy offers plenty of uncomfortable laughs along with a few chills. The script by author Brian Comport is smart and surprising. It was based on a play called Happy Family written by Maisie Mosco in 1966. I don’t know much about the original play but with the script’s obvious swipes at the British upper-class and its timely take on the era’s sexual politics, Girly seems to distantly echo some of the social themes found in “kitchen sink dramas” that were popular in Britain throughout the ‘60s.

Before Freddie Francis started directing horror films he worked as a cinematographer on celebrated British dramas such as Room at the Top (1959) and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960). His unique talents helped give birth to the British New Wave and he was partially responsible for ushering in a new era of British cinema. Francis considered Girly to be one of his best films and I think it’s fascinating to view the movie as an extension of his previous work as a cinematographer. In some ways Girly could be seen as a seamless blend of Francis’ early beginnings as a member of the British New Wave combined with his bleak sense of humor and macabre sensibilities.

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The family in Girly is clearly a parody of the British upper-class. In the films opening minutes we’re lead to believe that incest among family members is commonplace and as the film progresses they display crude racist humor as well as religious piety. They’re a confused and deeply disturbed bunch, but their male victims aren’t exactly likable either. The unsavory men that find themselves at the isolated estate are drawn there due to their sexual desire for Girly (Vanessa Howard) and it’s not hard to understand why.

Vanessa Howard is perfect as the young nymphet who lures men to their doom while wearing short skirts that are two or three sizes too small. Girly is easily the most interesting character in the movie and Howard is obviously having a blast playing her. Vanessa Howard was a beautiful and talented actress who appeared in some good British horror films such as The Blood Beast Terror (1968) and Corruption (1968). But Girly provided Howard with one of her best roles and she really makes the most of playing a murderous Lolita in the film.

Calling Freddie Francis’ Girly ahead of its time is an understatement. The film foreshadows countless inbreed family nightmares that followed it and scenes from the film must have inspired Stanley Kubrick during the making of The Shinning (1980). As influential and impressive as Girly is, the film owes some of its punch to Michael Powell’s horror classic Peeping Tom (1960). In Girly the character of Sonny makes great use of a camera to record some of the unsavory acts that he and his sister take part in. And it’s hard not to see a little bit of Bette Davis’ infamous Baby Jane as well as Carroll Baker’s Baby Doll in Vanessa Howard’s portrayal of Girly.

If rumors and DVD Aficionado are to be believed Girly is scheduled to be released on DVD by Code Red in March 2010. Anyone who is fond of horror comedies or enjoys Freddie Francis’ work will definitely want to give the film a look when it becomes more easily available.

New John Dankworth Compilation

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Laurence Harvey, Julie Christie & Dirk Bogarde in Darling (1965)

During the recent Dirk Bogarde movie marathon on TCM I ended up watching John Schlesinger’s Darling (1965) again which stars Dirk Bogarde along with the wonderful Julie Christie and jaw-droppingly gorgeous Laurence Harvey. I’ve seen the film many times before but I love all three of the film’s stars so I never get tired of watching it. Besides the actors and Schlesinger’s impressive direction, another reason that I find Darling incredibly watchable is the film’s great score by British composer John (aka Johnny) Dankworth. Dankworth was an amazing talent and he’s responsible for composing the soundtracks for some of my favorite British films of the ’60s. He also created music for terrific television shows like the original Avengers.

After watching Darling again I decided to try and hunt down a copy of the film’s soundtrack online. Unfortunately I had no luck, but I did discover that a new John Dankworth compliation CD has just been released called Let’s Slip Away – Film and TV 1960-1973.

Let’s Slip Away is the first CD compilation of John Danworth’s scores so if you’re a fan of his music you’ll definitely want to get yourself a copy. This impressive 2 CD set from Eclipse in the UK features over 40 music tracks and includes theme music from Darling as well as Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Karel Reisz; 1960), The Servant (Joseph Losey; 1963), Morgan: A Suitable Case For Treatment (Karel Reisz; 1966), Modesty Blaise (Joseph Losey; 1966) and Accident (Jospeh Losey; 1967). The collection also includes extensive notes by Workers Playtime DJ Martin Green.

The official Eclipse site calls Let’s Slip Away “Beautifully cool jazz-pop from the days before Johnny started calling himself John and getting all serious on your ass.”

Sounds good to me!

The CD collection was released earlier this month and you can currently find new copies at Amazon selling for about $18.75, but there seems to be a glaring error on the website that also lists the CD for $170. Ignore that ridiculous price! If you can’t get new copies of the CD at Amazon I highly recommend picking up a copy at my favorite online soundtrack shop Movie Grooves.

Spend Your Day With Dirk Bogarde

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All summer long Turner Classic Movies is celebrating various actors with their ongoing “Summer Under the Stars” series. But August 10th is truly something to celebrate. Today TCM will be running films that feature one of my all-time favorite actors, the extraordinarily talented and incredibly handsome Dirk Bogarde.

This would be worthy of mention no matter what films they were showing, but TCM has gone out of their way to showcase many of Dirk Bogarde’s best films from the ’50s and ’60s today that are rarely shown in the US and not available on DVD. Some highlights from today’s programing include The Spanish Gardner (Philip Leacock; 1956), Penny Princess (Val Guest; 1952), So Long at the Fair (Terence Fisher & Antony Darnborough; 1950), The Blue Lamp (Basil Dearden; 1950), The Servant (Joseph Losey; 1963), Our Mother’s House (Jack Clayton; 1967) and Darling (John Schlesinger; 1965). They’ll also be playing three films from the popular “Doctor series” (Doctor in the House; 1954, Doctor at Large; 1957, and Doctor in Distress; 1964). The Doctor films were huge hits in the UK and helped make Bogarde a world-renowned film star, but American audiences rarely have the opportunity to see them.

If you happen to be as obsessed with Dirk Bogarde as I am you’ll want to spend the entire day in front of your television. Of course that’s not always possible so consider recording some of these hard to see films for future viewing. Many of these films are not even available in the UK and they’re directed by British luminaries such as Val Guest, Basil Dearden, Jack Clayton and Terrence Fisher. This is truly a rare opportunity to see some great British movies and the event shouldn’t be missed by my fellow Dirk devotees.

Previously at Cinebeats: At Home with Dirk Bogarde.