The Passenger, Otley, Gumshoe and Town on Trial – March releases from Indicator

The Passenger

Drama, Thriller | Italy, 1975|15 | Dir.Michelangelo Antonioni | Jack Nicholson, Maria Schneider, Jenny Runacre

One of Jack Nicholson’s least known films, The Passenger is a haunting examination of the desire to escape and start afresh. Nicholson’s role as a world-weary television journalist (David Locke) isn’t a particularly demanding one but it is fascinating to see him give a performance so different from anything else we have seen from him and one which is much better than the horny little devil efforts he has sadly specialised in since One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Some may find the opening twenty minutes of the film, where there is virtually no dialogue, hard-going but this perfectly illustrates the sparse and confusing environment of the North African desert where the film begins. Antonioni creates a mood that is almost indefinable throughout, a kind of hollow detachment which is exactly the perspective that Locke has on the world which has gradually worn him down yet the director still manages to conjure up power and simple romance between Locke and the girl he meets (Maria Schneider). The film was not a hit at the box-office which is not surprising considering it’s uncommercial style but artistically and cinematically it is a triumph of innovation.


Comedy | UK, 1969 | PG | Dir.Dick Clement | Tom Courtenay, Romy Schneider, Alan Badel

I like to think of ‘Otley’ as the unauthorised sequel to ‘Billy Liar’. Not only does ‘Otley’ star the original Billy, Tom Courtenay, it features other actors from ‘Billy Liar’, and has Romy Schneider in a very Julie Christie-esque ‘It-Girl’ role. ‘Otley’ is strictly knockabout farce with none of the pretensions to social commentary of ‘Billy Liar’, but it is great fun to watch – don’t even try to understand the deliberately over-complicated plot.

It’s a pleasure to see Courtenay doing comedy, in one of his last major commercial roles before he largely retired from filmmaking for the stage. The role of Otley could easily have been cast as a Michael Caine style Cockney chancer, but Courtenay’s dishevelled and slightly ineffectual opportunism gives the film a quality which separates it from the pack.


Crime, Drama | UK, 1971 | 12 |Stephen Frears | Albert Finney, Billie Whitelaw, Frank Finlay

Gumshoe is a skilled pastiche of classic film noir, with Albert Finney as a bingo caller and part-time comedian who fancies himself as a private eye. In his first day as a self-styled Sam Spade, he receives a mysterious phone call, plunging him into a superbly-realised world fusing the mundanity of Liverpool life with the Chandler-esquire yarn going on inside Finney’s head. It’s deftly done, with a ready wit and the deep knowledge of crime flicks (and the odd Western) essential to such genre explorations, while the script fairly drips with zingers.

Finney is faultless in the lead, delivering his hard-boiled patter in a sliding hybrid of Bogart and Scouse, and keeping us guessing as to just how far gone his character is. The supporting cast includes Porridge favourite Fulton Mackay, making an ideal heavy as the Scottish hood on Finney’s trail, Frank Finlay as our hero’s menacing brother and Samuel Beckett alumnus Billie Whitelaw, playing a morally ambiguous woman caught between the siblings and sporting a hairstyle that would be impressively ’80s were it not so resolutely ’70s. Also cropping up in bit parts are Maureen Lipman as our bookshop floozy and Wendy Richards, speaking nineteen-to-the-dozen in a way that’s very hard to decipher. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score – containing a rock ‘n’ roll parody written with Tim Rice – is also good fun, and if the eventual uncovering of the film’s central conspiracy is a touch too small-scale to pack the requisite punch, that’s a minor price to pay for 80 minutes of tense, superbly-scripted British noir.

Town on Trial

Film Noir, Crime | UK, 1957 | 12 | Dir.John Guillermin | John Mills, Charles Coburn, Barbara Bates
Town on Trial is the kind of film that is simply not made these days. I imagine it is the sort of thing that formed part of the staple repertoire of B-movies that were shown in cinemas in the days when filmgoers were treated to an appetiser before the main feature was aired. Such films were usually unpretentious, workmanlike dramas that provided solid but unmemorable entertainment to get patrons in the mood for the (hopefully) more sophisticated fare that was to follow. “Town on Trial” is a good example of that kind of film.

Any critical analysis of a film such as this is largely superfluous. “Town on Trial” knows exactly what it is doing – and delivers a solidly entertaining mystery that has the air of an early forerunner of an episode of the current British TV series “Midsomer Murders”. The cast includes an impressive array of well-known British character actors of the time, such as Raymond Huntley, Derek Farr, Fay Compton, Harry Fowler, Geoffrey Keen, Margaretta Scott and the wonderfully-named Totti Truman Taylor. It is competently directed and scripted and, while it will not live long in the memory, provides 90 minutes or so of undemanding entertainment.

Peter Fletcher

Special Features

The Passenger
• Alternative presentation with original Italian Professione: reporter titles and credits
• Audio commentary with actor Jack Nicholson (2006)
• Audio commentary with screenwriter Mark Peploe and journalist Aurora Irvine (2006)
• New audio commentary with film historian Adrian Martin (2018)
• Jenny Runacre on ‘The Passenger’ (2018): new interview in which the South African-born English actor recalls the film’s production
• Steven Berkoff on ‘The Passenger’ (2018): new interview in which the actor-writer-director remembers working with Antonioni
• Profession Reporter (1975): Michelangelo Antonioni discusses The 
Passenger in an archival interview conducted at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival
• Antonioni on Cinema (1975): the acclaimed filmmaker discusses The Passenger and his philosophy of cinema
• The Final Sequence (1985): Antonioni analyses The Passenger’s much-celebrated climactic sequence
• Original theatrical trailer and Image gallery
• Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Amy Simmons, Antonioni’s production notes, archival interviews with Antonioni and Nicholson and film credits

• Audio commentary with director Dick Clement and film historian Sam Dunn (2018)
• The Guardian Lecture with Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (2008): archival audio recording of an interview conducted by Dick Fiddy at London’s National Film Theatre
• Tom Courtenay on ‘Otely’ (2018): a new interview with the renowned British actor
• Ian La Frenais on ‘Otley’ (2018): new interview with the acclaimed co-writer of Otley
• Original theatrical trailer and Image gallery
• Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Laura Mayne, an extract from Martin Waddell’s original novel, location reports, archival interviews with Tom Courtenay, an overview of contemporary critical responses and film credits

• Stephen Frears on ‘Gumshoe’ (2018): the acclaimed director discusses the film’s production history
• Neville Smith on ‘Gumshoe’ (2018): the celebrated writer and actor discusses his work on the film, for which he won a Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Award
• Producer Michael Medwin on ‘Gumshoe’ (2018): a short interview
with the actor and producer
• Editor Charles Rees on ‘Gumshoe’ (2018): an insightful interview
with the film’s original editor
• Production Designer Michael Seymour on ‘Gumshoe’ (2018): a
brief recollection of the film’s production
• Actor Tom Kempinski on ‘Gumshoe’ (2018): the actor recalls the shooting of his scene with Finney
• The Burning (1968): Frears’ haunting debut short film, made for Finney’s production company, Memorial Enterprises
• Trailers and Image gallery
• Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Robert Murphy, an archival set report, an interview with Billie Whitelaw, an overview of contemporary critical responses and film credits

Town on Trial
• The John Player Lecture with John Mills (1972): archival audio recording of an interview conducted by Margaret Hinxman at London’s National Film Theatre
• Barry Forshaw on ‘Town on Trial’ (2018): an appreciation by the author of British Crime Film: Subverting the Social Order and Brit Noir
• Adventure in the Hopfields (1954): director John Guillermin’s Children’s Film Foundation drama starring Mandy Miller (The Snorkel)
• Shooting Hops (2018): focus puller Alec Burridge discusses working with John Guillermin and the production of Adventure in the Hopfields
• Original theatrical trailer and Image gallery
• Limited edition exclusive 36-page booklet with a new essay by Neil Sinyard, extracts from the original campaign book, a profile of actor Barbara Bates, an overview of contemporary critical responses and film credits