Don’t Look Now - Ed. Paul Newland

This article is from 2010.

Don’t Look Now - Ed. Paul Newland

Private Road

(Intellect Press)

Don’t Look Now is a work of low-key persuasion; it wants to convince us that seventies British cinema wasn’t an aesthetic dire strait, but a forking path of numerous possibilities. The decade may have given us film versions of On the Buses, Love Thy Neighbour and Till Death us do Part, Carry On movies and the Confessions films, but the years between 1970 and 1980 also offered up Don’t Look Now, Tommy, Get Carter, Rude Boy, The Silent Cry, Private Road and The Bill Douglas Trilogy. For every hack making money, there was someone else trying to make art. Some of the directors were well- known: they might have often been prophets without honour in their own land, but they managed to turn a profit elsewhere: Nic Roeg and Ken Russell were international filmmakers. Others were lucky, though, to find any audience at all.

Directors like Roeg and Russell are now seen as people whose careers have been slow fade outs, but the death rattle wasn’t so obviously due to limited funding and viewer indifference. From New York-born but British-based Stephen Dwoskin to Jack Hazan, from Barney Platts-Mills to Bill Douglas, these directors’ careers were in various ways, and to varying degrees, still born: there is more than enough work to show singular brilliance, but in certain instances not enough to illustrate fulfilled genius. Part of the sorrow of seeing The Bill Douglas Trilogy now lies in not only viewing the stunted life of his central character, but also watching aware of the stunted directorial career of what many see as Scotland’s finest ever filmmaker.

With this new book, edited by Paul Newland, and a season of seventies films at the Edinburgh Film Festival this year, will the revisionism result in seventies film becoming perceived as a golden age? In his introduction, Newland talks of 'a dystopian negativity' that still informs views of 1970s Britain, and the cinema produced in the period has been viewed within this context. But next to the cappuccino froth of the Blair era, with Notting Hill, Jack and Sarah and Love, Actually, the salt of the earth sentimentalism of The Full Monty and Billy Elliot, dystopian negativity has a ring of aesthetic optimism to it.

In total there are nineteen essays from various academic figures, and the pieces include a look at actors Glenda Jackson and Stanley Baker, Stephen Dwoskin’s Silent Cry, British apocalyptic films of the decade, male anxiety in A Clockwork Orange, Tommy, The Man Who Fell to Earth and a useful article by Dave Rollinson where he returns to British television films within the context of studio production. Maybe the most insightful, though, is Melanie Williams’ essay on Glenda Jackson. Jackson is an interesting case: someone who often showed contempt towards a profession she would eventually leave and which she was hardly expected to enter. After she graduated from RADA in the late fifties, she was told to expect much unemployment: that she was “too young for the sort of parts they thought would suit her – like 43 year old chars.” Jackson might be little referred to now, but she exemplifies a moment when actors from working class backgrounds could become stars and didn’t feel any obligation to be grateful about it. She sought, in Alexander Walker’s words, “a fetishistic disowning of her own fame.” In this she was rather less successful than some of the fine directors we’ve already mentioned – Douglas, Dwoskin and others – as she obviously made more money in films like A Touch of Class than it cost to make some of the independent works. They could have done with a little of Jackson’s disowned fame, when it came to getting funding, no matter their own intransigent independence. A book like Don’t Look Now, and the season at the EIFF, can belatedly help the redistributive process.

The Rise And Rise Of Michael Rimmer

  • 1970
  • UK
  • 1h 40min
  • tbc
  • Directed by: Kevin Billington
  • Written by: Peter Cook, John Cleese, Graham Chapman & Kevin Billington
  • Cast: Peter Cook, Vanessa Howard, John Cleese, Harold Pinter, Arthur Lowe

What gets you further: the personality of your politics, or the politics of your personality? Peter Cook's mischievous performance fuels this uproarious satire, scripted by members of Monty Python, no less. Armed with little more than a clipboard and a whole lot of chutzpah, the mysterious Michael Rimmer sets on his…

The Boy Who Turned Yellow

  • 1972
  • UK
  • 54min
  • U
  • Directed by: Michael Powell
  • Written by: Emeric Pressburger
  • Cast: Mark Dightam, Robert Eddison, Helen Weir, Brian Worth

When looking for his lost mouse in London, John meets a yellow alien who travels via electricity and might just be able to help him.

The Final Programme

  • 1973
  • UK
  • 1h 29min
  • Directed by: Robert Fuest
  • Cast: Jon Finch, Jenny Runacre, Sterling Hayden

Dystopian sci-fi tale about self-replicating humans.

The Glitterball

  • 1977
  • UK
  • 56min
  • U
  • Directed by: Harley Cokeliss
  • Cast: Ben Buckton, Keith Jayne, Ron Pember

Two teenage boys try to help a tiny spherical alien get back to its mothership, while the army and a devious petty crook pursue the creature for its wonderful powers.


  • 1971
  • UK
  • 1h 26min
  • Directed by: Stephen Frears
  • Written by: Neville Smith
  • Cast: Albert Finney, Billie Whitelaw

Of all the gin joints, she had to walk into his. Private eye Eddie Ginley (Albert Finney) thinks he's Bogart – if Bogie was a compere at a Merseyside bingo – but his latest case may have bamboozled even Raymond Chandler himself. Accompanied by a mesmerising Andrew Lloyd Webber score, Frears' post-modern dismantling of…

The Hard Way

  • 1979
  • UK
  • 1h 29min
  • tbc
  • Directed by: Michael Dryhurst
  • Cast: Patrick McGoohan, Lee Van Cleef, Edna O?Brien

If Jean-Pierre Melville had filmed in Ireland, this could have been the result. A rural hitman (Patrick McGoohan) wants to give up his line of business, only his American 'financer' (Lee Van Cleef) has other ideas. British cinema's most minimalist thriller features not only a career best by McGoohan, but the mossgreen…

The Jokers

  • 1966
  • UK
  • 1h 34min
  • tbc
  • Directed by: Michael Winner
  • Cast: Michael Crawford, Oliver Reed, Harry Andrews

What's the best way to celebrate the Swinging 60s? By stealing the Crown Jewels! Brothers Michael and David (Michael Crawford and Oliver Reed) are typically 60s lochinvars; it's all wine, women, song … and breaking into the Tower of London. Using comic dexterity to hint at the era's underlying distemper, Michael Winner…

Long Shot

  • 1978
  • UK
  • 1h 25min
  • Directed by: Maurice Hatton
  • Cast: Charles Gormley, Neville Smith, Anne Zelda

Satire on filmmaking, filmed at the 1977 Edinburgh International Film Festival.


  • 1972
  • UK
  • 1h 41min
  • tbc
  • Directed by: John Mackenzie
  • Cast: Carol White

When housewife intimacy meets rock star extroversion, beliefs come a-tumblin' down. Do not miss this chance to catch John (Just Another Saturday) MacKenzie's rarely seen masterpiece. Valerie feels caught in a domestic rut, until she meets existentialist rock singer Mike. Her life then becomes passionate, but at an…


  • 1976
  • UK
  • 2h
  • 15
  • Directed by: Horace Ove
  • Cast: Herbert Norville, Oscar James, Frank Singuineau

As London school-leaver Tony attempts to secure employment, he becomes entangled in boiling cultural tensions between the white establishment and his Jamaican background.

Private Road

  • 1971
  • UK
  • 1h 29min
  • Directed by: Barney Platts-Mills

Eric Rohmer wasn't the only one crafting honest and intimate dramas. The second feature by Barney Platt-Mills blooms with beauty and charm alike, while carrying the troubled seeds of Withnail & I. Receptionist Anne's new relationship with nascent writer Peter is opening her eyes to a new lifestyle, one far removed…


  • 1972
  • UK
  • 1h 35min
  • 12
  • Directed by: Mike Hodges
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  • Cast: Michael Caine, Mickey Rooney, Lionel Stander, Lizabeth Scott

Think Get Carter filmed as a dark comedy. In fascist Italy. With really cool sunglasses. Writer Mickey King's (Michael Caine) pulp fiction has nothing on the memoirs he is ghostwriting for the abusive Hollywood gangster actor Preston Gilbert (a caffeine-and-Sterodent-powered Mickey Rooney). A page later, on-screen and…

The Squeeze

  • 1977
  • UK
  • 1h 46min
  • Directed by: Michael Apted
  • Cast: Stacy Keach, David Hemmings, Edward Fox

An alcoholic ex-cop is headed for self-destruction when his ex-wife is kidnapped by by a gangster.

What's Next?

All aboard the ghost train! The Children's Film Foundation goes psychic… After receiving a bump on the head, a young supersleuth develops peekaboo powers of foresight. This comes in very handy, as a ne'er-do-well property developer is planning The Great Plane Robbery! Imagine the creators of The Beano shooting a film…

Savage Messiah

  • 1972
  • UK
  • 1h 47min
  • Directed by: Ken Russell
  • Written by: HS Ede (book), Christopher Logue
  • Cast: Dorothy Tutin, Scott Antony, Helen Mirren

Art is sex. Everything else is propaganda. In his vibrant biopic of French sculptor Henri Gaudier, Ken Russell finds his perfect mouthpiece. As Gaudier romances the author Sophie Brzeska, the enfant terrible of British cinema echoes the artist's rallying cry against the musty treatment of Art. Cue a sensual Helen…

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