Blu-ray guide: National Film Theatre on Blu-ray

Supplemental material is a wide field, whether you call them bonus features, special features or VAM (value added material). Even when material may seem available through online archives, often valuable resources that can aid with understanding a director or actor’s work will be consigned to special features, and they may in the process fall out of print. The BFI’s website and YouTube channel (including their older channel) host some of the more recent BFI Southbank panels, that the BFI and other labels often duplicate for some of their Blu-ray releases. The Guardian‘s archives dating back to 1980 are in theory available as audio files, but only by appointment. Though the BFI’s website is wonderful for free access to archive film, a film database, and Sight & Sound articles, it lacks a section for one of the most historic parts of the Southbank’s history, resurrecting the lives and careers – and often the honesty – of industry professionals.

There’s been many changes over the years, with the BFI Southbank identity supplanting the NFT in 2007. (Perhaps the major difference, to my eyes, is it doesn’t supplement the acclaimed National Theatre.) As Geoffrey Macnab wrote at the time:

 “BFI Southbank sounds like a furniture store with its own cashpoint,” one was heard grumbling.

Featurettes, interviews, documentaries, video essays and short films seem to be the most vulnerable to being hosted online as streams and torrents of illegal rips, especially when they reflect major studio releases, but the amount of material exclusive to disc is far greater. Similarly, material hosted online is always vulnerable to copyright takedowns and the demise of the domains they’re hosted on.

However, some of the material most resistant to piracy can be audio interviews, panels and commentaries. Even by owners of vast collections, these materials can sometimes be overlooked for lacking visual interest, often played against static backgrounds, stills, or a film that may only be of partial relevance. By no means do these elements completely disappear in the decades after a panel is held: rather, transcripts and select quotes turn up reproduced in books and reference guides, and The Guardian website carries an archive of transcripts from 1997-2009. Similarly, a handful of edited transcripts can be accessed through the old BFI Screenonline site. That being said, listening to a director or actor speak about their experiences in their own words can be a quite different experience to seeing them in print, where sections can easily be glanced over.

In this guide, I’ve created an (albeit incomplete) list to NFT panels available on disc, divided by label and form (on-camera or audio only).

Arrow Video/Academy

On-camera:

The Long Good Friday/Mona Lisa Limited Edition

Q+A with Bob Hoskins and John Mackenzie

(also available on Anchor Bay DVD)

The Sorrow and the Pity
Interview with director Marcel Ophuls, filmed in 2004

Audio only:

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

The John Player Lecture: Sam Peckinpah, audio recording of the director’s on-stage appearance at the National Film Theatre

Dekalog

The Guardian Interview: Krzysztof Kieślowski, an onstage conversation with Derek Malcolm at London’s National Film Theatre on 2 April 1990 to mark the British premiere of Dekalog

The Hired Hand

Warren Oates and Peter Fonda at the National Film Theatre, an audio recording of the actors’ appearance at the NFT in 1971

Hold Back the Dawn

The Guardian Lecture: Olivia de Havilland, A career-spanning onstage audio interview with Olivia de Havilland recorded at the National Film Theatre in 1971

Ramrod

Andre DeToth Interviewed at the National Film Theatre, a career-spanning archival interview from 1994, conducted by writer and broadcaster Kevin Jackson

The Running Man

Lee Remick at the National Film Theatre, an audio-only recording of the actor’s appearance at the NFT in 1970

Eureka Entertainment

On-camera:

The Friends of Eddie Coyle

A 1996 career-spanning on-stage interview with Peter Yates hosted by critic Derek Malcolm*

*shared material with Signal One (Eyewitness)

Kes

Extensive 1992 on-stage interview at the NFT with Ken Loach, interviewed by Derek Malcolm*

*shared material with BFI (Three Films by Ken Loach) and Signal One (Hidden Agenda)

Audio only:

The African Queen 

Audio recording of an on-stage NFT discussion about the film with Anjelica Huston and script supervisor Angela Allen from 2010*

*[recorded at BFI Southbank]

Audio recording of the Guardian interview with John Huston at the National Film Theatre in 1981, discussing his work and career

Forty Guns

Audio interview with Samuel Fuller from 1969 at the National Film Theatre in London

Hard Times

NFT Audio Interview with director Walter Hill

High Noon

A 1969 audio interview with writer Carl Foreman from the National Film Theatre in London

Yanks

Archival interview with director John Schlesinger

Indicator

On-camera:

Vampires and Ghosts of Mars

The Guardian Interview with John Carpenter – Part One, 1962-1983 (1994, 38 mins): the director discusses his career with Nigel Floyd at the National Film Theatre, London

The Guardian Interview with John Carpenter – Part Two, 1984-1994 (1994, 41 mins): the director discusses his career with Nigel Floyd at the National Film Theatre, London

Audio only:

Age of Consent

The Beauty of the Image: The John Player Lecture with Michael Powell (1971, 85 mins): archival audio recording of the celebrated filmmaker in conversation with Kevin Gough-Yates at London’s National Film Theatre 

The Guardian Interview with Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (1985, 105 mins): archival audio recording of the Archers in conversation with Ian Christie at London’s National Film Theatre

Berserk

The BFI interview with Joan Crawford (1956)

Blue Collar

Paul Schrader BFI Masterclass (1982, 106 mins): the filmmaker presents a fascinating summary of the many issues and ideas he explores in his screenwriting class, recorded at the National Film Theatre, London*

*shared material with BFI (The Comfort of Strangers)

The Border

The Guardian/NFT Tribute to Tony Richardson (1992, 58 mins): archival audio recording of an event chaired by Sight & Sound editor Philip Dodd, featuring Lindsay Anderson, Kevin Brownlow, Jocelyn Herbert, Vanessa Redgrave, Karel Reisz and Natasha Richardson, each sharing their memories of Tony Richardson

Castle Keep

The John Player Lecture with Burt Lancaster (1972, 100 mins): audio recording of an interview conducted by Joan Bakewell at the National Film Theatre, London

Charley Varrick

The John Player Lecture with Don Siegel (1973, 75 mins): archival audio recording of an interview conducted at London’s National Film Theatre 

The Guardian Lecture with Walter Matthau (1988, 89 mins): archival audio recording of an interview conducted by Tony Sloman at London’s National Film Theatre

The China Syndrome

The John Player Lecture with Jack Lemmon (1973, 80 mins): archival audio recording of an interview conducted by Philip Oakes at London’s National Film Theatre

The Collector

The Guardian Interview with William Wyler (1981, 83 mins): archival audio recording of the celebrated filmmaker in conversation with Adrian Turner at London’s National Film Theatre 

The Guardian Interview with Terence Stamp (1989, 92 mins): archival audio recording of the award-winning actor in conversation with Tony Sloman at the National Film Theatre

The Deadly Affair

The National Film Theatre Lecture with James Mason (1967, 48 mins): archival audio recording of an interview conducted by Leslie Hardcastle 

The Guardian Lecture with Sidney Lumet (1983, 89 mins): archival audio recording of an interview conducted by Derek Malcolm at the National Film Theatre, London

Dragonwyck

The John Player Lecture with Vincent Price (1969, 76 mins): archival audio recording of the celebrated actor in conversation at London’s National Film Theatre

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds

The John Player Lecture with Paul Newman (1972): archival audio recording of an interview conducted by Joan Bakewell at London’s National Film Theatre 

The Guardian Interview with Joanne Woodward (1984, 65 mins): archival audio recording of an interview conducted by Tony Bilbow at the National Film Theatre

Fat City

The John Player Lecture with John Huston (1972, 88 mins): audio recording of an interview conducted by Brian Baxter at the National Film Theatre, London

Five Tall Tales

The John Player Lecture with Budd Boetticher (1969): archival audio interview conducted by Horizons West author Jim Kitses at the National Film Theatre, London 

The Guardian Interview with Budd Boetticher (1994): an extensive filmed interview conducted by film historian David Meeker at the National Film Theatre, London 

The Guardian Interview with Elmore Leonard (1997): the celebrated author, and writer of the short story upon which The Tall T is based, in conversation at London’s National Film Theatre

Gardens of Stone

The Guardian Interview with Anjelica Huston (2006, 65 mins), archival audio recording of the celebrated actor in conversation with critic and producer Adrian Wootton at London’s National Film Theatre

Georgy Girl

The Guardian Interview with Charlotte Rampling (2001, 59 mins): an archival audio recording of a career-spanning interview conducted by Christopher Cook at London’s National Film Theatre

Hammer vol. 3

The Guardian Interview with Val Guest (2005): archival audio recording of the celebrated filmmaker in conversation with Jonathan Rigby at London’s National Film Theatre

Hardcore

The Guardian Interview with Paul Schrader (1993, 85 mins): audio recording of an on-stage interview conducted by Derek Malcolm at the National Film Theatre, London*

*shared material with BFI (The Comfort of Strangers)

Housekeeping

BFI Interview with Bill Forsyth (1994, 36 mins): archival audio recording of an on-stage interview conducted by Nick James at the National Film Theatre, London

The Last Movie

The Guardian Interview with Dennis Hopper (1990, 91 mins): archival audio recording of the filmmaker and actor in conversation with critic Derek Malcolm at London’s National Film Theatre

Lilith

The Guardian Interview with Warren Beatty (1990, 87 mins): archival audio recording of a career-spanning interview with the celebrated actor and director, hosted by Christopher Cook and conducted at London’s National Film Theatre

Mickey One

The Guardian Lecture with Arthur Penn (1981, 59 mins): archival audio recording of an interview conducted by Richard Combs at the National Film Theatre, London

Ministry of Fear

The BFI Interview with Fritz Lang (1962, 80 mins): archival audio recording of the celebrated filmmaker in conversation with Stanley Reed at London’s National Film Theatre

Missing

The Guardian Interview with Jack Lemmon and Jonathan Miller (1986): archival audio recording of an interview conducted at London’s National Film Theatre

The Odessa File

BFI Interview with director Ronald Neame 

BFI Interview with cinematographer Oswald Morris

Otley

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

The Sinbad Trilogy

BFI interview with Ray Harryhausen (1981, 85 mins): archival audio recording of an interview conducted by Philip Strick at the National Film Theatre, London

The John Player Lecture with Ray Harryhausen and producer Charles H Schneer (1970, 90 mins): archival audio recording of an interview conducted at the National Film Theatre, London

The Stone Killer

The John Player Lecture with Michael Winner (1970, 64 mins): audio recording of an interview with the director conducted by Margaret Hinxman at the National Film Theatre, London

They Made Me a Fugitive

The John Player Lecture with Alberto Cavalcanti (1970, 62 mins): archival audio recording of the celebrated director at London’s National Film Theatre, including an audience Q&A with fellow filmmakers Michael Balcon, Paul Rotha and Basil Wright

Time Without Pity

The John Player Lecture with Joseph Losey (1973, 80 mins): the celebrated filmmaker in conversation with film critic Dilys Powell at London’s National Film Theatre*

*shared material with StudioCanal (The Go Between)

Torture Garden

The Guardian Interview with Freddie Francis (1995, 77 mins): the great cinematographer and director in conversation with journalist Alan Jones recorded at the National Film Theatre, London

Town on Trial

The John Player Lecture with John Mills (1972, 96 mins): archival audio recording of an interview conducted by Margaret Hinxman at London’s National Film Theatre

Track 29

The NFT Interview with Nicolas Roeg (1994, 68 mins): archival audio recording of the celebrated filmmaker in conversation at London’s National Film Theatre

Young Winston

The John Player Lecture with Richard Attenborough (1971, 78 mins): the celebrated filmmaker in conversation with film critic Dilys Powell at London’s National Film Theatre

BFI

On-camera

Akenfield

Akenfield Cast and Crew Interview at the National Film Theatre (2004, 27 mins): on-stage interview, presented with original mute 16mm location footage

Carmen Jones

The Guardian Interview: Harry Belafonte at the National Film Theatre

Les Demoiselles de Rochefort

Guardian Interview: Catherine Deneuve (2005)

Night and the City

The Guardian Lecture: 1981 interview with Jules Dassin by film critic Alexander Walker.

Actor Richard Widmark interviewed at the National Film Theatre in 2002 by Adrian Wootton.

Odds Against Tomorrow

The Guardian Interview: Robert Wise at the National Film Theatre (1995, 74 mins): a career-spanning onstage interview

The John Player Lecture: Robert Ryan at the National Film Theatre (1969, 63 mins): the actor talks at length about his craft

Audio only

Bergman: A Year in the Life

Ingmar Bergman Guardian Interview (1982, 62 mins, audio only): Bergman pays tribute to theatre and film director Alf Sjöberg, discussing his influence and impact on his own career. Recorded at the NFT in 1982

Betrayed

Guardian Interview with Costa-Gavras (1984, 71 mins, audio only): the Oscar winning director discusses his career in this interview recorded four years before the release of Betrayed

Comes a Horseman

The Guardian Interview: Alan J Pakula (1986, 95 mins, audio): the director in conversation with Quentin Falk, recorded at the National Film Theatre in 1986

The Comfort of Strangers

Prospectus for a Course Not Given: The Paul Schrader Film Masterclass (1982, 100 mins, audio only): Paul Schrader provides an illuminating precis of the film course   he had recently presented in America*

Paul Schrader Guardian Interview (1993, 85 mins, audio only): the director discusses films and filmmaking with critic Derek Malcolm*

*shared material with Indicator (Blue Collar, Hardcore)

Les Demoiselles de Rochefort 

Guardian Interview: Jacques Demy (1982, audio only) (75:50)

Guardian Interview: Michel Legrand (1991, audio only) (71:23)*

Guardian Lecture: Gene Kelly (1980, audio only) (76:00)

*shared material with Criterion (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg)

Eye of the Needle

Donald Sutherland Guardian Interview (1987, 73 mins, audio only)

Hair

Nicholas Ray in Conversation (1969, audio, 56 mins): the legendary filmmaker interviewed in London

Heat and Dust

The Guardian Interview: Ismail Merchant, James Ivory and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (1992, 100 mins, audio only): John Pym moderates a panel discussion at the NFT

How I Won the War

Richard Lester in Conversation with Steven Soderbergh (1995, audio only): the director discusses his career in an interview recorded at the NFT

Judgement at Nuremberg

The Guardian Interview: Maximillian Schell (1971, 86 mins, audio only): the actor in conversation with film critic Deac Rossell

Life is Sweet

The Guardian Lecture: Mike Leigh in Conversation with Derek Malcolm (62 mins, audio only)

Maurice

Screening E M Forster (2019, 8 mins, audio only): audio extracts of James Ivory and Ismail Merchant in a panel discussion recorded at the BFI’s National Film Theatre in 1992

Mr. Topaze

Peter Sellers at the NFT (1960, 97 mins, audio only): the actor addresses an enthusiastic throng of fans

Red, White and Zero

Lindsay Anderson Introduction/Stills Gallery (1968, 5 mins) an audio recording of Anderson addressing the NFT in 1968, played over stills

Rossellini/Bergman Collection

Ingrid Bergman at the National Film Theatre (Chris Mohr, 1981, 37 mins): archival Guardian interview

Stranger in the House

James Mason in Conversation (1981, 86 mins, audio only): the actor discusses his career in an interview at the National Film Theatre, London

El Sur

Victor Erice interviewed by Geoff Andrew (2003, 83 mins, audio only)

They Came to a City

Michael Balcon NFT Lecture (audio only, 59 mins): recorded in 1969, the producer discusses the different stages of his career

Three Films by Ken Loach

Ken Loach: The Guardian Lecture at the National Film Theatre with Derek Malcolm (1992, 74 mins)*

*shared material with Eureka (Kes) and Signal One (Hidden Agenda)

Valentino

The Guardian Lecture: Ken Russell in conversation with Derek Malcolm (1988, 90 mins, audio with stills)

Vivre sa vie

Leslie Hardcastle Introduces Vivre sa vie at the National Film Theatre (1968, 3 mins, audio only)

The Wages of Fear

The Guardian Lecture: Yves Montand in conversation with Don Allen (98 mins, audio only): recorded in 1989, the star discusses his distinguished career

Women in Love

The Guardian Lecture: Glenda Jackson interviewed at the National Film Theatre (1982, 90 mins, audio only)

StudioCanal

On-camera:

INLAND EMPIRE

Guardian Interview with David Lynch at The National Film Theatre” featurette

A Kind of Loving

NFT interview with John Schlesinger from 1988

Audio only:

The Go Between (digibook)

Audio Recording of Joseph Losey being interviewed by film critic Dilys Powell in 1973.*

*shared material with Indicator (Time Without Pity)

Signal One

On-camera:

Compulsion

The Guardian Interview with Richard Fleischer (1994): Fleischer returns to the NFT for this filmed interview

Eyewitness

Peter Yates in conversation with Quentin Falk (1996): filmed discussion at the National Film Theatre

Hidden Agenda

The Guardian Interview with Ken Loach (1992): archival interview filmed at the NFT*

*shared material with Eureka (Kes) and BFI (Three Films by Ken Loach)

Kiss of Death

Interview with Richard Widmark (2002): the celebrated actor in conversation at the National Film Theatre

Audio only:

Compulsion

The Guardian Interview with Richard Fleischer (1981, audio only): the award-winning director discusses his career after a screening of Compulsion

Doc

The Guardian Interview with Faye Dunaway (1980, 72 mins, audio only): the star of Doc discusses her career with critic Alexander Walker

Eyewitness

Peter Yates in conversation with Derek Malcolm (1982, audio only): archival interview with the director*

*shared material with Eureka (The Friends of Eddie Coyle)

Gas-s-s-s

The Guardian Interview with director Roger Corman (1970): archival interview conducted the day after work was completed on Gas-s-s-s

The Guardian Interview with director Roger Corman (1991): the legendary director returns to the NFT to discuss his career

The Honey Pot

The Guardian Interview with Rex Harrison (1971, audio only): the celebrated actor discusses his career

The Guardian Interview with Joseph Mankiewicz (1982 audio only): archival interview held at the NFT

Criterion Collection

Autumn Sonata

A 1981 conversation between actor Ingrid Bergman and critic John Russell Taylor at the National Film Theatre in London

David Lean Directs Noël Coward

Audio recording of a 1969 conversation between actor Richard Attenborough and Coward at London’s National Film Theatre

Dekalog

Archival interview with director Krzysztof Kieślowski, a 1990 audio recording from the National Film Theatre in London

Forty Guns

Audio interview with Samuel Fuller at London’s National Film Theatre from 1969

Life is Sweet

Audio recording of a 1991 interview with Leigh at the National Film Theatre in London

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Audio recordings of interviews with actor Catherine Deneuve (1983) and Legrand (1991)* at the National Film Theatre in London

*shared material with BFI (Les Demoiselles des Rochefort)

Criterion Reflections: Tales of Beatrix Potter (1971), dir. Reginald Mills

For episode 56 of the podcast Criterion Reflections, going through the films in the Criterion Collection year by year of their original release, I joined David Blakeslee to discuss the earliest Beatrix Potter adaptation – a part of the collection for streaming on the Criterion Channel. It’s an episode that helped me remember these books and locations I grew up with; even recently I couldn’t help but notice a stone ornament of Jemima Puddleduck in a garden centre! (My previous efforts of podcasting can be accessed on Soundcloud.) However, as always happens even when notes have been written and with only so long a conversation can progress through until it reaches its natural conclusion, I didn’t cover everything that I researched and observed about the film, so I compiled a companion thread on Twitter with additional thoughts and information. This post will serve to organise this all into one place as a supplement to the episode. I’d recommend listening to the episode first for our thoughts, but perhaps the information presented here will encourage some more listeners?

The episode can also be accessed through Apple Podcasts.

Beatrix Potter’s life and books

One of the aspects we discuss on the episode are the darker elements of the film and of Potter’s work. For those that know her from more recent adaptations and the painted cover/interior illustrations, it might be a grisly surprise that:

Beatrix was happy in time to put down any little creature who fell ill, skin it, and boil the carcass to extract the skeleton for drawing.

Potter was engaged to her publisher, Norman Warne (who was younger than her), before his untimely death of leukaemia in 1905. Considering the state of the publishing industry and the size of Penguin Random House today, it’s pretty mindblowing to learn that the Tale of Peter Rabbit was turned down by commercial publishers before initially being self-published in a run of 250. The public domain status of her books in the UK means that a lot of her books come up with horrific Kindle/Createspace covers!

The film

One of the most beautiful parts of the film is where it approaches Beatrix Potter’s creative process and see her animals become reproduced as sketches, including the transformation of her mouse in a cage. Indeed, Beatrix Potter seems to exist in the same universe as her fictional creations! The film’s use of scale – including human sized animals, the doll’s house, mice with massive surroundings, a cat through the floorboards – reminded me of the trickery of The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), with massive everyday items contrasted against human actors.

I’m still terrified by the prospect of where the feathers in the doll’s house’s pillows came from, considering the other animals we see in the film. Can Jeremy Fisher eat the Cadbury’s milk chocolate advertised in the newspaper he reads?

Despite not being successful in the US and internationally, Richard Goodwin reveals in Laurent Bouzereau’s making of documentary for Murder on the Orient Express (1974), produced for the Paramount DVD release, that the film was successful in the UK and Russia, and that Agatha Christie saw and liked the film and its faithfulness to the books – encouraging her to trust in the adaptation of Orient Express. Speaking in the newly produced interview for StudioCanal’s 2017 Blu-ray, Goodwin discloses that the US distributor, MGM, presented the film in a double bill with Shaft!

Roger Ebert was always a wonderful source for his writing, even if I don’t agree with all of his verdicts. His conclusion in a four star Chicago Sun-Times review for this film’s power in interesting different audiences was rather moving:

I still would have testified it was too highbrow for kids, though, because as a kid it would have been too highbrow for me. […] I took along three kids who hadn’t been told they didn’t like ballet and therefore didn’t know that they were supposed to have a bad time.

Ebert also complains about the film’s limited distribution outside of affluent, middle-class theaters, concluding:

It could be that the kids of the [Chicago] urban core (black and white) could use a little whimsical fantasy once in a while, wouldn’t you think? I mean, a kid’s a kid, right?

EMI produced quite a few children’s films around the same time as Tales of Beatrix Potter, including The Railway Children (1970), Mr. Forbush and the Penguins (1971) and Swallows and Amazons (1974). The Go-Between, certified AA on release (14 or over), deals with more mature themes around innocence, the loss of childhood and memory, but was partially shot in my hometown of Norwich! EMI themselves have many Criterion connections, being headed by Bryan Forbes (The League of Gentlemen, Seance on a Wet Afternoon). EMI worked on titles that were released on laserdisc (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), unreleased on laserdisc (The Elephant Man), with an additional DVD title, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, that would have been funded by EMI before the film helped form George Harrison’s HandMade Films. Originally a part of the record label, for a year, EMI’s library was owned by the Cannon Group before now being under StudioCanal in the UK. An additional Criterion connection can be found in Maggie Unsworth, who worked in the role of Continuity, worked on the films of David Lean, Powell & Pressburger; The Browning Version (1951) and The Ruling Class (1972), and was the wife of cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth (A Night to Remember, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Tess).

Other adaptations

The short story of The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin (1903) has some differences – the elision of time, omitting the 6 days of returning to Owl Island with mice (!), a mole, minnows, beetles, honey and an egg; it uses no dialogue but does uses nursery rhymes – Humpty Dumpty and Arthur O’Bower. However, Humpty Dumpty is an older version of the rhyme published by scholar James Orchard Halliwell-Phillips, before the modern version of the rhyme became more popular.

Another filmed version of her work was the ITV/Thames Christmas special The Tailor of Gloucester (1989).

I don’t remember if I ever went to the Lake District’s World of Beatrix Potter, although I probably did, I have a very distinct memory of going to the Wind in the Willows experience in Derbyshire in 2003 (its last year of operation) – run by the same people as World of Beatrix Potter!

Wise Blood (1979), dir. Jhon Huston

 

wiseblood

Adapted from a book by Flannery O’Connor, I can’t say I’m especially taken with Wise Blood as a literary adaptation. The strong imagery and symbolic resonances seem somewhat silly when depicted on screen: false prophets, blind faith preachers finding faith without sight, self-inflicted crucifixion wounds, sexual temptation, an ersatz Mary and a mummified, shrunken and deformed ‘baby’ Jesus (a stolen, substitute relic), fire and water.

The racist Southern worldview we follow is never directly confronted, but framed as a fact of life. African American ‘n———‘ are the followers and sellers of faith, cheap labour building cheap cars that are directly compared to apes in the zoo; the visiting ‘gorilla’ costume, Gonga (essentially a white man within the metaphorical blackness of animalised, ‘African’ black fur), alluding towards the King Kong copycat of Konga (1961), becomes the lead attraction outside the theater for the film’s only African American representation in the guise of black children comprising half of the kids lining up outside in glee. This King Kong parallel is only emphasised within the silliness of the ape costume going wild, becoming something to fear for elderly white couples. Hazel is so white, he can be pulled over by a cop, explicitly speak back to his face and state he has no license, and only end with his broken, steaming car pushed into a lake – not to his demise. The cops can locate his living body across the railroad tracks, and drag him safely home.

The name of Jesus is invoked throughout, not as an aspirational human son/image of God and sanctity, but as a method of selling faith. The atheist preacher worldview of Hazel becomes preferable: selling honestly in the contradiction of a Church of Jesus without Jesus Christ, rather than knowingly selling faith (and gaining dollars from unwitting converts) where no belief lies. There’s something radical in a humanist worldview of the human man – imbued with no bastardisation or spiritual longing – that can speak out against the preachers that act as conmen in selling a ‘false’ faith – like Dean Stanton’s blind man eliciting sympathy for his cane. There’s strength in Hazel resisting the idea that he can bring a dog and become instantly rich. Within a secular realm, faith is sold not only in religion but in the audience and anticipation around Gonga, car dealerships selling their car, belief that the car will survive when it is patently obvious it won’t.

Though Brad Dourif does a good enough job, it’s hard to get past the pinnacle of ‘southern gothic’ in cinema – The Night of the Hunter (1955), with its intoxicatingly seductive lead, the realms of LOVE and HATE, sheep’s clothing and deaths – than in Dourif’s eternally unlikable preacher. The colour cinematography is at times interesting, but Alex North’s score, though good enough in his scores for Kubrick, is plainly unlistenable, destroying any sense of tone within the film; one wonders what Jhon (sic) Huston, directing in his later career, would have made of the novel closer to its original publication, directing in black and white with a more suspenseful atmosphere and (hopefully) a better score. O’Connor’s writing is so powerful in what I’ve read (A Good Man is Hard to Find) that one suspects this parable becomes more effective within prose than depicted with literalism on screen.