Deadly Affair, The Reckoning, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg and The National Health – August releases from Indicator

Deadly Affair

Crime, mystery, drama | UK, 1966 | 15 | 28th August 2017 (UK) | Indicator | Dir.Sidney Lumet | James Mason, Maximilian Schell, Simone Signoret, Lyn Redgrave | Buy: [Blu-ray] [2017]

Lumet has directed some fine movies, and he’s great with actors, but he’s done a lot of flawed movies, too. With The Deadly Affair, those flaws seem magnified. First, the angst and conflicts of Smiley’s relationship with his wife is a major part of the story…and it’s like reading an agony column over and over. Nothing changes the impression that Smiley must be impotent and that Ann is a nymphomaniac. We’re given scene after scene of the two of them emotionally baring their souls without either of them willing to identify what the problem is. Second, this means that Mason and Andersson have a series of “acting” moments that bring the spy story to a screeching halt. It isn’t helped that Signoret as Mrs. Fennan also is given two major, teary “acting” scenes. Her scenes help advance the plot a bit and help us understand her, but they’re basically designed by Lumet to give Signoret a change to do her stuff in close-up. Third, because of all these actor moments, the film lurches from story point to story point. One moment we’re getting much involved in the spy story and how Smiley is prizing out the secrets, then we stumble into a scene where good actors are given far too much opportunity to emote.

Even with all this, The Deadly Affair is a favorite of mine. The mood of the movie is somber but it’s not dull. The plot is clever and twisting, with a minimum of required violence. Figuring out the killer isn’t too hard. Figuring out who is a spy, why and why the anonymous letter about Fennan that started everything takes some thinking. The acting, even with all the marital angst, is high caliber. James Mason as Charles Dobbs aka George Smiley gives as fine a performance as I’ve ever seen. He agonizes over his relationship with Ann while refusing to give up on learning the real story behind Samuel Fennan. Signoret may have been indulged by Lumet for those acting moments, but she never the less is a force to be reckoned with. Harry Andrews as Mendel is terrific as the literal and resourceful counterpoint to the cerebral and clever Smiley.

Special Features
• Audio commentary with film historians Michael Brooke and Johnny Mains
• The National Film Theatre Lecture with James Mason (1967): archival audio recording of an interview conducted by Leslie Hardcastle
• The Guardian Lecture with Sidney Lumet (1983): archival audio recording of an interview conducted by Derek Malcolm at the National Film Theatre, London
• A Different Kind of Spy: Paul Dehn’s Deadly Affair (2017): writer David Kipen discusses the life and work of screenwriter Paul Dehn
• Take One and Move On (2017): camera operator Brian West on The Deadly Affair
• Lumet’s London (2017): the London locations of The Deadly Affairexplored
• Original theatrical trailer and Image Gallery
• Limited edition exclusive 32-page booklet with a new essay by Thirza Wakefield, archival interviews with cinematographer Freddie Young and James Mason, and an overview of contemporary critical responses.

The Reckoning

Drama | UK, 1970 | 15 | Indicator Films | 28th August 2017 (UK) | Dir.Jack Gold | Nicol Williamson, Ann Bell, Lilita De Barros, Tom Kempinski | Buy:The Reckoning [Blu-ray] [2017] [Region Free]

If I can get away with that, I can get away with anything!
Thus says Michael Marler, a predatory cutthroat businessman who indulges in nihilistic social Darwinism. Director Jack Gold explores the British class system, the violence inherent within British culture and performative masculinity in this film about family, duty and retribution…with absolutely no honour.

Nicol Williamson is riveting as Marler, the virile, fast-talking, domineering wolf in pin stripes who lives in a passionate though bitterly loveless marriage with a coldly contemptuous middle class wife (Ann Bell). He returns to his Irish immigrant family in poverty-stricken Liverpool to be with his dying father but arrives too late. Returning as something of a prodigal son, it falls on Marler to do the family’s dirty work and avenge his father’s death when the local forces of law and order exclude the Irish from the justice system.

Thrust back into the poverty, the corruption, the fractious bar brawls and racial tensions amid the cavalcade of toothless sunken-eyed grotesques from his childhood, Marler gets in touch with his Irish roots and comes marvellously alive. A particularly wonderful sequence occurs at a violent wrestling match in which the patrons break into all-out fisticuffs prompting the wrestlers in the ring to stop and scratch their heads. Likewise In a montage later in the film, Marler returns to London and walks around the estate on which he lives, shocked by the excess and privilege that has become part of his life.

Special Features
• Culture Clash (2017): a new interview with writer, journalist and broadcaster Matthew Sweet
• Memories of Marler (2017): a new interview with actor Tom Kempinski
• On Your Marks (2017): a new interview with second assistant director Joe Marks
• Original theatrical trailer and image gallery
• Limited edition exclusive 32-page booklet with a new essay by Michael Pattison, Jack Gold on The Reckoning, Kenneth Tynan on actor Nicol Williamson, and an overview of contemporary critical responses

A Day in the Death of Joe Egg

Comedy, Drama | UK, 1973 | 15 | Indicator Films | 28th August 2017 (UK) | Dir.Peter Medak | Alan Bates, Janet Suzman, Peter Bowles, Sheila Gish, Joan Hickson | Buy: [Blu-ray] [2017]

Based on a Peter Nichols play, Peter Medak‘s ‘A Day in the Death of Joe Egg‘ is an intelligent pitch black humored morality piece concerning a couple Bri & Sheila who are faced with the difficulties of raising their vegetative-state handicapped daughter Jo. For a decade the young parents have used black comedy as a peculiar coping mechanism, but after so long their thoughts have swayed towards euthanasia or other ways out.

Not exactly a walk in the park due to its subject. Medak’s movie is nonetheless a worthwhile thought provoking film, thats often darkly funny (even though you begin to laugh hesitantly). Its rare in film they treat handicapped in such an honest, none obvious award pandering manner. Both Alan Bates & Janet Suzman give truly brilliant performances, their characters (more so with Bates as the teacher Bri) dip in and out of made up persona’s to help cope with their suppressed anxiety at such an hopeless situation. Being a parent can be tough even when your kids are psychically fine, hats off to any parent dealing in similar situations as here.

The movie never really loses its stageplay feel which could put off some viewers. Personally it worked great for me, even though I was initially frustrated with the casting of Peter Bowles. Who played Sheila’s pal Freddie, the whole diner party segment started to feel a bit like a sitcom. But he delivers some of the movies most integral lines later on.

Special Features
• Audio commentary with director Peter Medak and film historian Sam Dunn
• Remembering the Day: Janet Suzman on ‘Joe Egg’ (2017): a new interview with the acclaimed actor
• From Stage to Screen: Peter Nichols on ‘Joe Egg’ (2017): a new interview with the celebrated playwright
• Original theatrical trailer
• Limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by Marcus Hearn, Peter Nichols on the making of the film, and a look at the original Citizens Theatre stage production

The National Health

Comedy, Drama | UK, 1973 | 15 | Indicator Films | 28th August 2017 (UK)| Dir.Jack Gold | Jim Dale, Lynn Redgrave, Colin Blakely, Bob Hoskins, Donald Sinden | Buy:[Blu-ray] [2017]

The National Health” falls into the trap of so many British films: that of staying faithful to its previous incarnation in another medium. This is a stage-play only nominally opened up, made cinematic. I suppose this makes a marginally refreshing change from 1970s British cinema’s more common ploy of barely adapting television sitcoms to the big-screen. Marginally.

It attempts allegory through the use of irony; counter-posing scenes of idealised US television depictions of hospital life with the ‘reality’ of NHS life in grimmer 1970s Britain. The film certainly captures some of the loss of faith in the Welfare State that was occurring, and eventually led to the rise of Margaret Thatcher and the ‘New Right’, who looked to reform state services. It should be noted, however, that the NHS was not privatised by Thatcher, and remains, broadly speaking, a public health provider with care free at the point of use (despite the experience of greater marketisation that staff have had, behind the scenes).

The acting is, naturally, faultless; from the fine character actor Clive Swift, to a well-cast Jim Dale – making a conscious link to the “Carry Ons” – to Bob Hoskins (playing the socialist Foster, the one character unreservedly defending 1970s Britain) and to Colin Blakely as the laconic, archetypal gloomy Loach. Oh, and the presence of the striking, mellifluous Eleanor Bron is recommendation enough for any film.

Special Features
• New audio commentary with actor Jim Dale and journalist Nick Pinkerton
• Back to Health (2017): a new interview with author and playwright Peter Nichols
• Original theatrical trailer and image gallery
• Limited edition exclusive 32-page booklet with a new essay by Laura Mayne, archival interviews, historical articles, and an overview of contemporary critical responses



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