David and I are back with another episode of The Eclipse Viewer, the podcast dedicated to the Criterion Collection’s Eclipse Series of DVDs.
In this episode, we talk about Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden’s London Underground.
Basil Dearden was a rather prolific English director in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, though the first time I’d heard of him was when The Criterion Collection released this set a few years ago. Perhaps not well remembered today, Dearden’s work is solid if perhaps a touch conventional. The films in this set might feel conventional in some ways, but each has a unique perspective, usually digging into British social issues in provocative ways.
The first film in the set is Sapphire (1959), which begins with the discovery of a dead girl’s body in Hampstead Heath. A police procedural, Sapphire follows Superintendent Robert Hazard (Nigel Patrick) on the trail to the murderer. What makes this film even more interesting, though, is its exploration of race relations in London. As it turns out, the young girl was of mixed race, though she had recently decided to pass as white.
Next is The League of Gentlemen (1960), a fun heist film starring, among others, Roger Livesy, Nigel Patrick, Richard Attenborough, Jack Hawkins, and Bryan Forbes. As it begins, Lieutenant-Colonel Hyde (who has just crawled out of manhole to get to his Rolls-Royce) is bringing together a group of disparate World War II veterans who cannot find their place in society. He wants to utilize their skills and love of discipline to finally get what society owes them.
Victim (1961) is the third film, and my personal favorite. It stars Dirk Bogarde as a closeted homosexual barrister who has to put his career and marriage on the line to find a group of blackmailers. Notable for being — so I’ve heard — the first mainstream film to use the word “homosexual” — it deals with homosexuality in a frank, non-judgmental manner.
Last, All Night Long (1962) is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello, brought into an all-night Jazz party. Patrick McGoohan (whom I just brought up in my review of Scanners here) is fantastic as Johnnie Cousins, the manipulative Iago-character.
All four films are compelling for a variety of reasons, and this is one of my favorite Eclipse Sets.
Please find the podcast, the shownotes, and plenty of links over at CriterionCast here.
In the next episode of The Eclipse Viewer, David and I will be discussing Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu, covering these four films: Japanese Girls at the Harbor (1933), Mr. Thank You (1936), The Masseurs and a Woman (1938), and Ornamental Hairpin (1941).