Tag Archives: Filmhouse

January 2015 at Edinburgh Filmhouse


It’s probably a sign of old age that one of the most enjoyable ways for me to spend an hour or so each month is to pick the new Filmhouse programme off the mat, rip open the envelope and to browse the forthcoming films I want to head along to in the coming weeks – the more classics and reissues I can see, the better.

January 2015 programme

Wake in Fright

In 2014, 1971’s Wake in Fright proved to be my discovery of the year. This hard-going Australian classic stars Gary Bond as John Grant, a straight-laced Sydney teacher working in the outback who takes a detour to the town of Bundanyabba on his way back to the city for Christmas.

Grant enjoys the hospitality of The Yabba a bit too much, ending up hitting rock bottom in the company of Doc Tydon (Donald Pleasence) and other assorted characters. It’s gritty, gripping and repulsive, a film that draws the viewer in and forces them to be a part of Grant’s downfall.

Filmhouse are giving us another chance to see Wake in Fright on Tuesday 13 January at 18.05, and I’d recommend everyone get themselves along (it really needs to be seen on the big screen) or buys the Blu-ray if they can’t make it.

Wake in Fright is screening as part of the cinema’s annual January spotlight on films from the previous year that deserve to be seen before they find a home on DVD. Other titles I hope to see include Interstellar (showing from 70mm), IdaLeviathan and Willow and Wind.

The Marx Brothers

Elsewhere, I’m looking forward to Duck Soup and Animal Crackers: The Best of the Marx Brothers season, seven films designed to brighten up the winter months. Fans of 35mm will be able to see A Day at the Races, A Night in Casablanca and A Night at the Opera in the format, while other titles include Duck Soup, Horse Feathers, Monkey Business, Animal Crackers and The Cocoanuts.

I’ll admit that my Marx Brothers knowledge is limited to what I’ve seen on TV so I’ll try to get along to as many of these as possible (feel free to leave suggestions below as to which ones I can’t miss).

Ed Wood

A film that’s definitely in the diary is Tim Burton’s 1995 biopic, Ed Wood, which I have vague memories of seeing at the cinema on its original release. I certainly owned the VHS back in the day, and was discussing it recently with a friend after seeing clips from Plan 9 from Outer Space on TV. Filmhouse will be showing Ed Wood on Thursday 22 January at 20.25, along with a Pink Panther short from 1966.

Also showing

Abel Gance’s 1919 epic, J’accuse, comes to Filmhouse on Thursday 5 February at 8pm as part of The First World War in Cinema series hosted by Pasquale Iannone. The film chronicles the decimation of a Provençal village as the sons of France go off to fight, either dying on the front or returning as shell-shocked, hollow men, and it’s another film that I’ve wanted to see for a long time. This one will be shown on Screen One.

There’s a special screening of Luis Bunuel’s 1930 surrealist drama, L’Age d’Or, on Friday 23 January at 9pm, with live musical accompaniment from Sink and Noize Choir; The Introduction to European Cinema programme continues with Rome, Open City, Germany Year Zero and Bande à part; Schindler’s List will be shown on Tuesday 27 January at 7pm as part of Holocaust Memorial Day; and 1976’s A Sunday in Hell is a must-see for cyclists as it follows participants in the Paris-Roubaix bike race (I saw it on BBC Four a few months back and loved it).

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Filmhouse announces Jack Nicholson season

We’re about to be spoiled with another fantastic classic film season in Edinburgh, this one devoted to Jack Nicholson’s lengthy career.

The retrospective season will run through November and December and showcase films that explore the depths of Nicholson’s career spanning over five decades, including Chinatown, Easy Rider, The Shining, The Crossing Guard, The Last Detail, Reds, The Passenger and The King of Marvin Gardens.

Out of that little lot I’ve yet to see The Crossing Guard, The Last Detail or Reds, so hopefully I’ll make it along for the one-off screenings. I’d like to have seen 1989’s Batman in there, but you can’t have it all.

As for the others, there’s not a duffer among them, and I was particularly impressed by The King of Marvin Gardens when I saw it at Filmhouse earlier this year, even if I did miss most of the visual references noted in this Guardian article.

I was also lucky enough to watch Chinatown in Los Angeles in 2012 as part of the TCM Classic Film Festival, where I recorded this short introduction to the film with its writer, Robert Towne, and producer, Robert Evans. They spent around fifteen minutes discussing the evolution of the film with TCM host, Robert Osborne at the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.

Full details of the Jack Nicholson season are now up on the Filmhouse website.

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Vilmos Zsigmond season at Filmhouse

The UK film media appears to have gone Heaven’s Gate-mad recently, delighting in the fact that the 1980 flop has been re-released by Park Circus Films in a shiny new print.

Having never seen the film, partly due to its reputation but mainly due to nobody making it easy to watch it, I can’t make any comments on the quality, though I will be able to rectify that when the film comes to Edinburgh’s Filmhouse on Friday 30 August.

Michael Cimino’s epic stars Kris Kristofferson as a lawyer trying to help immigrants on the Western frontier, and the story surrounding its production is almost as epic as the one in the script.

I’m a sucker for Westerns, whether that’s Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012), Sidney Lanfield’s Station West (1948) or the knockabout They Call Me Trinity (1970), all of which I’ve enjoyed over the last few months. I’ll give the three and a half hour Heaven’s Gate a chance, fingers crossed it’s been worth the wait – I’ll also have another read of Tim Robey’s gushing article in the meantime.

Watch the Heaven’s Gate trailer

Heaven’s Gate is part of a short season celebrating the work of Hungarian cinematographer, Vilmos Zsigmond. There’s a chance to watch John Boorman’s 1972 drama, Deliverance, and the recently re-released Scarecrow (1973), starring Gene Hackman and Al Pacino. The latter title has been shown at a few Scottish cinemas this year and I’ve missed it each time, hopefully in September I’ll get along to see it.

Watch the Scarecrow trailer

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Daleks’ Invasion Edinburgh: 2013 AD

Daleks Invasion of Earth

Having been a Doctor Who fan for many years, it seems something has now seeped into my DNA, a “fan gene” as it were, which means I have to go and see anything Who related when it’s nearby. Whether that’s a Doctor Who Roadshow, Doctor Who Live or screenings of TV episodes in Edinburgh and Glasgow, I’m usually there.

In the last few weeks that’s meant taking myself along to two screenings of the 1960s Doctor Who (sorry, Dr. Who?) films at Filmhouse, with the second screened this weekend to an appreciative audience.

William Hartnell was still the Doctor in blurry black and white on BBC One in 1965, but it was decided that a bigger name was required for the transition to cinema screens. Peter Cushing, already a household name from his work in the Hammer horrors, was drafted in as scientist Dr. Who, along with granddaughters Susan (Roberta Tovey) and Barbara Who (Jennie Linden).

No longer a crotchety alien, this version of the Doctor is an old buffer who has built Tardis (it’s not the Tardis anymore) in his back garden and has little grasp of the complexities of space and time travel. When Barbara’s new boyfriend, Ian (Roy Castle) pops round to visit, he’s soon whisked off to the planet Skaro so that Dr. Who can have a wander.

What must have appealed to fans at the time was a chance to see the Daleks in colour, their evil schemes played out upon a more visually exciting canvas than a BBC budget could ever hope for. This reworking of the very first Dalek TV adventure from 1963 retains many of its plot points and as such isn’t a particularly rewarding watch.

That’s not to say director Gordon Flemyng fails, it just might have been better if writer Milton Subotsky had made the rather dull Thals, whom Dr. Who spends quite a bit of time helping, more, well, cinematic.

Things righted themselves somewhat for 1966’s sequel, Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 AD, based on the 1964 TV serial, The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Immediately there’s a feeling that everyone involved has more confidence in what they’re doing and that they simply want to give the audience a bit of a romp.

Sadly, Dr. Who hasn’t learned from his antics of the first film and he’s once again happy to send his time machine into the unknown, this time with Susan, niece Louise (Jill Curzon) and hapless policeman, Tom Cameron (Bernard Cribbins) aboard.

Tardis lands in, you’ve guessed it, 2150 AD, where the time team soon find themselves caught up in (you’ve guessed it) a Dalek invasion. In typical Doctor Who fashion, the Tardis crew are split up, captured and rescued multiple times, all the while trying to get themselves to the most important place on Earth, a mine in Bedford.

Daleks’ Invasion holds up well almost 50 years down the line. Bernard Cribbins’ Tom is an improvement on the first film’s Ian character; Andrew Keir makes a strong impression as Wyler, though a bit of back story might have been nice; some welcome moral ambiguity is introduced in the shape of Philip Madoc’s Brockley and Sheila Steafel’s spinster; and the whole thing looks like a few quid has been spent on it, with dozens of Daleks and a shiny new spaceship interior on show.

Gordon Flemyng adds some lovely flourishes to the picture, particularly in the scene where the Doctor is imprisoned and the camera circles him within a confined space. There’s also a longer sequence in the Dalek control room where Flemyng takes the camera behind various girders and handrails, lifting what would otherwise be a fairly bog standard scene into something more interesting.

It’s actually Cushing who comes out worst here. He does the job fine but is rarely the focus of the script, with so many characters vying for attention around him. I’m still not sure how I actually feel towards his Doctor, whether his casual attitude to time travel and the safety of his companions is something to be celebrated. OK, so he’s willing to do what he can to save them once they’re in trouble, but if he’d just settled down to a quiet retirement back in 1960s Earth they would have been fine.

Overall, it was a treat to see both films at the cinema in newly restored DCPs, meaning I probably won’t be buying the new Blu-ray sets that are out in the next few weeks. These aren’t films I can watch regularly, but perhaps in another 10 years there’ll be a chance to see them at the pictures again and I’ll be there.

Maybe I’ll feel differently towards Dr. Who and his ways by then.

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Going Mad for 3D

The Mad Magician

I’ve never been a fan of 3D. It doesn’t do anything for me, no matter how much Martin Scorsese claims Hugo is better in the format or James Cameron trumpets advances in the technology for Avatar and its sequels.

The fact that I found Avatar about as exciting as being poked in the eye with one of those vines in Cameron’s CGI rainforests probably didn’t help. If the story isn’t up to much then having to effectively wear sunglasses to dull the image isn’t going to impress me.

All that changed in March (yes, it’s taken me a while to get around to this post) when I sat down to enjoy a 3D spectacular from 1954 at my local indie cinema, Edinburgh’s Filmhouse. It was a film which had the audience laughing at the ridiculousness of the plot and the perfectly pitched performance of its leading man.

The Mad Magician stars Vincent Price as Gallico the Great, the inventor of elaborate stage tricks for magicians who decides he wants to become a performer himself. Gallico is about to debut his new buzz saw act when he’s forced to stop by Ross Ormond (Donald Randolph), who Gallico has an unfortunate agreement with regarding ownership of his tricks.

Gallico isn’t too fond of Ormond for other reasons, mainly that he stole his wife from him, so this latest slight tips him over the edge and our “hero” ends up using the saw on Ormond.

From here, Gallico is forced to cover his tracks in various gruesome ways as he attempts to forge a stage career for himself.

The plot may be pretty thin but Crane Wilbur’s witty script is brought to life by Price, who once again manages to walk the fine line between sanity and lunacy where many of his characters seem to dwell. Admittedly most of those characters end up in the latter camp, but it’s always a joy watching Price teeter on the brink.

This newly restored version of the film looked sharp in black and white, with the 3D reduced to some gimmicky moments of water being sprayed at the audience, a saw spinning towards the screen and other “terrifying” moments which caused more laughter than scares.

Still, it’s the best use of 3D I’ve seen in a long time – 2010’s How to Train Your Dragon is perhaps the only time I’ve really found the 3D actually effective – and I’d happily sit and watch classic movies like this with specs on. It also helps that it’s in black and white, meaning the dull nature of 3D is offset somewhat.

I see there’s now a restored version of Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder (1954) returning to cinemas in 3D. I’ll be looking out for this at Filmhouse.

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Roman Polanski season at Filmhouse

Last year I attended a screening of Roman Polanski’s 1974 crime classic, Chinatown, at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre, an event which found an audience of a thousand or so film lovers enraptured by Jack Nicholson’s performance and a suitably complex plot.

Set in the Los Angeles of 1937, Chinatown centres on Jake Gittes’ (Nicholson) investigation into the extra-marital affair of Evelyn Mulwray’s (Faye Dunaway) husband. The investigation soon spirals into other directions involving corruption and family issues involving Mulwray’s father, played by the towering John Huston.

At the time I decided to see more Polanski films at the cinema but the opportunity hasn’t arisen until now, with Edinburgh’s Filmhouse about to screen a number of them from this weekend.

Filmhouse begins its Polanski season tomorrow with eight of his short films before going on to show Knife in the Water (1962), Cul-de-sac (1966), Macbeth (1971), Repulsion (1965) and Dance of the Vampires (1967).

That’s only the start however, with the print programme noting that next month we’re getting Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Tenant (1976), Death and the Maiden (1994), Chinatown (1974), Tess (1979), The Pianist (2002), Oliver Twist (2005), The Ghost (2010) and Carnage (2011).

Hopefully I’ll be able to make it along to a few of these and I’d recommend watching out for Chinatown if nothing else – full details can be found on the Filmhouse website.

Watch the Chinatown trailer on YouTube

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Hitchcock leads a killer August line-up at Filmhouse

One of the joys of living in Edinburgh is the huge amount of films I can choose to watch on any given day of the week.

From the latest blockbusters in our multiplexes to smaller independent and international titles that are regularly shown at the Cameo and Filmhouse, not forgetting the Edinburgh Film Guild and numerous special monthly film groups and events, the city is a movie buff’s paradise.

Then there are the classic film screenings which inspired this very blog.

Helping to justify the blog’s existence for another month is Filmhouse, Scotland’s finest independent cinema which presents a more varied programme than any other in the country and which has just published its August line-up.

Read it and weep. I almost did.

The new programme is spearheaded by a season of Alfred Hitchcock films, The Genius of Hitchcock, ported over from London’s BFI, which will run over an impressive three month period. Starting with the newly restored version of 1926’s The Lodger on 10 August, we’ll be served up a total of 16 slices of murder and mystery before another batch are offered up in September and into October.

Elsewhere, there’s a full week’s worth of Marilyn Monroe films, including Some Like it Hot (1959), The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and All About Eve (1950), to mark the 50th anniversary of her death.

Gregory Peck pops up in both the Hitchcock season’s The Paradine Case (1947) and in 1962’s To Kill a Mockingbird, the latter given a spit and polish and restored to its original glory.

J Lee Thompson’s 1957 melodrama, Woman in a Dressing Gown, arrives from 31 August until 6 September and stars Anthony Quayle and Yvonne Mitchell in a story that tells of the “impact of adultery on the psyche of three desperate characters” – I’m quoting from the website as I’ve not seen this one but will add it to the list.

In association with the Edinburgh International Book Festival there’s a screening of 1979’s Stalker on 7 and 8 of August, the Tarkovsky drama set in a totalitarian society.

Apologies if I’ve missed any more golden oldies, I only have so many hours of the day that I can spend perusing the programme.

Finally, I recommend booking a place at The Lost Art of the Film Explainer, a special event that takes place on Sunday 19 August in Screen One. I’ll once again quote from the Filmhouse website as it sums the event up better than I could:

“During the silent era, the live musician was an essential part of the cinema experience, but some audiences were also treated to the finely honed craft of the Film Explainer. Part narrator and part actor, the Film Explainer stood next to the screen enriching the movies with an entertaining combination of background information, unique interpretation and theatrical storytelling. Often more celebrated than the screen stars for whom they spoke, the art of the Film Explainer has since been largely forgotten.”

I managed to miss the first staging of this event at this year’s Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema so I’m glad to see it in the programme. Andy Cannon, Wendy Weatherby and Frank McLaughlin will present this and I’d urge every reader of this blog who can make it along to please do so.

What will you be going to see?

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The First Born at Edinburgh Filmhouse

Premiered at the BFI London Film Festival in 2011, Miles Mander’s 1928 silent melodrama The First Born finally arrived in Edinburgh tonight at the Filmhouse.

Introduced and accompanied by composer Stephen Horne, whose new score debuted with this newly restored version of the film back in October, The First Born tells of the sex lives of the rich and famous, with philandering MPs and their wives getting up to mischief behind closed doors. Nothing’s changed there then.

Written by Mrs Alfred Hitchcock, Alma Reville, Horne explained that the BFI Bryony Dixon stumbled upon the film a decade ago while researching Reville’s work, only to discover a forgotten classic.

Now spruced up and returned to the big screen, the film sees Mander, who also stars as the caddish Hugo Boycott, wringing every ounce of drama from the script. The stunning Madeleine Carroll co-stars as Boycott’s equally scheming wife.

It’s relatively fast-paced and there’s some terrific direction from Mander, who gets up close with the camera and tries out some innovative angles throughout, including an impressive point of view shot that was partly the reason Dixon went ahead with the restoration.

Although the event seemed to go somewhat unheralded by the Filmhouse’s PR team – the screening was moved from the large Screen One into the smaller Screen Three – it was nevertheless a success with the near-capacity audience and I’d recommend seeing The First Born if it comes to a cinema near you.

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