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Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden's London Underground

Genres: Drama, Thriller, Crime / Criminals, 60s, Criterion Collection, United Kingdom, Eclipse Series, Crime Drama, Boxed Sets

Cast: Nigel Patrick, Jack Hawkins, Richard Attenborough, Bryan Forbes, Roger Livesey, Dirk Bogarde, Paul Harris, Marti Stevens, Patrick McGoohan

Director: Basil Dearden

Synopsis: After mastering the mix of comedy, suspense, and horror that helped define the golden age of British cinema, Basil Dearden (along with his producing partner Michael Relph) left the legendary Ealing Studios and, in the late fifties and early sixties, created a series of gripping, groundbreaking, even controversial films. In dealing with racism, homophobia, and the lingering effects of World War II, these noir-tinged dramas burrowed into corners of London rarely seen on-screen. This set of elegantly crafted films—Sapphire, a dissection of a hate crime; The League of Gentlemen, a deft heist adventure suffused with postwar melancholy; Victim, a landmark gay character study, starring Dirk Bogarde; and All Night Long, a provocative transposition of Othello to the swinging London jazz scene—brings this quintessential figure of British cinema out of the shadows.

Films:
SAPPHIRE (1959 • 92 minutes • Color • Monaural • 1.66:1): A beautiful female college student is found dead in a public park; the police soon discover that her murder may have been racially motivated. Basil Dearden's bold, direct police procedural, starring Nigel Patrick as the detective in charge of the investigation, is a devastating look at the way bigotry crosses class divides, and a snapshot of late-fifties England's increasingly interracial culture.

THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN (1960 • 116 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • 1.66:1): Jack Hawkins wittily embodies a colonel, bitter about being forced into retirement, who ropes a cadre of corrupt former British army men into aiding him in a one-million-pound bank robbery—a risky, multi-tiered plan that also involves infiltrating a military compound. A delightful cast of British all-stars, including Richard Attenborough, Bryan Forbes, and Roger Livesey, brings to life this precisely calibrated caper, which was immensely popular and influenced countless Hollywood heist films.

VICTIM (1961 • 100 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • 1.66:1): An extraordinary performance by Dirk Bogarde grounds this intense, sobering indictment of early-sixties social intolerance and sexual puritanism. Bogarde plays Melville Farr, a married barrister who is one of a large group of closeted London men who become targets of a blackmailer. Basil Dearden's unmistakably political taboo buster was one of the first films to address homophobia head-on, a cry of protest against British laws forbidding homosexuality.

ALL NIGHT LONG (1962 • 91 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • 1.66:1): Othello is translated to the world of sixties London jazz clubs in Basil Dearden's smoky and sensational All Night Long. Over the course of one eventful evening, during the anniversary celebration of the musical and romantic partners Aurelius Rex (Paul Harris), a band leader, and Delia Lane (Marti Stevens), a singer, Johnny Cousin (Patrick McGoohan), racked by ambition and jealousy, attempts to tear the interracial couple apart. This daring psychodrama is also remarkable for its on-screen appearances by such jazz legends as Charles Mingus, Dave Brubeck, and Tubby Hayes.

Language: English

Country of Origin: United Kingdom

Production Year: 1962

Reviews:

  • "Expertly played... Rififi with English actors. (The League of Gentlemen)", The New York Times
  • "A crime thriller and, as a character study... a film of courage. (Victim)", Roger Ebert
  • "An entertaining restaging of Shakespeare's Othello in the context of a fashionable London Jazz party. (All Night Long)", BFI Screen Online

Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden's London Underground
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