Did you know that impressionist Freddie Starr appeared in perhaps the grittiest British crime thriller ever made? That The X-Factor was parodied over 40 years ago in a controversial satire starring Manfred Mann’s Peter Jones? Or that a classic Ken Russell film can’t be bought on DVD anywhere in the world?
These were just some of the facts learned during this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival as a season of ‘forgotten’ films were screened to packed audiences in the city. Dubbed After the Wave, due to most of the films having been released after the 1960s British New Wave, this was a rare chance to watch titles which have either never been brought out on video or DVD or which have been dismissed by critics as unimportant.
I’d never heard of 1977’s The Squeeze from director Michael Apted, a violent thriller starring Stacy Keach as drink-sodden PI Jim Naboth, alongside Freddie Starr as his sidekick, Teddy, but now I want everyone to watch it, dubious treatment of lead actress Carol White and all.
Peter Watkins’ Privilege from 1967 is already out on DVD but was meant to be seen on the silver screen, its powerful message that you shouldn’t believe everything you see on TV still potent in this Simon Cowell-infused society.
We also had Edinburgh-born director John Mackenzie’s Made (1972), Patrick McGoohan in The Hard Way (1979), Stephen Frears’ Gumshoe and Ken Russell’s overlooked (and unavailable to buy) masterpiece, Savage Messiah (1972), the latter two introduced by their directors.
It became clear watching these pictures that Britain’s cinema history is much more than the standard set of films we’re frequently told are classics, and that for every Get Carter or Long Good Friday there’s a less well remembered Freddie Starr film hiding in the shadows. Shouldn’t we be given the chance to revisit our celluloid past even if DVDs aren’t possible?
It’s interesting to note that London’s BFI cinema hosts regular screenings such as the above under their Flipside banner, and they’re so popular that a DVD range is now available. But what about Scotland? Could one of Edinburgh’s cinemas, most likely the Filmhouse or Cameo, step in to show such titles?
Which forgotten, or little seen, British films would you like to see at a cinema near you? Let me know in the comments below or over on Twitter and I’ll print the best suggestions in the paper next week.