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The Chatterley Affair [DVD] [2006]
The Chatterley Affair [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Louise Delamere

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A dramatisation of a pivtol moment in cultural history, 28 Jan 2014
Poor Lawrence- D.H, that is. Lawrence can never escape his reputation as smut-peddlar and people giggle and snigger, particularly when it comes to Lady Chatterley's Lover- his most notorious book and unfortunately not his best, though it is a clear representation of many of his themes.

The movie (a TV one made by the BBC) dramatises the momentous court case where Penguin Books was brought under a charge of publishing obscene literature. The book in question was Lady Chatterley's Lover, which had never received an unexpurgated publishing in Britain, though it was first published in 1930. Alongside the tension of the trial, two of the jurors (Rafe Spall and Louise Delamere) begin an affair that mirrors the events of the novel- first accidentally, and then literally, as they try out everything in the novel.

Keith (Spall) is working class but the power dynamic of the novel is shifted as he is shown the ropes by the upper class Helena (Delamere). It's a good way of drawing in viewers who won't have heard of the novel or Lawrence, much less care, and helps to add some stakes in a trial where we know the outcome.

The most interesting part is not the jurors but the trial, which is pretty much verbatim. Most notable of the defendents of the novel was literary critic Richard Hoggart (David Tennant), who endures the snobbery and moral outrage of Mervyn Griffith-Jones (Pip Torrens). What emerges most strongly is that it does not matter whether the novel is the best thing in the English language or whether it's a lesser Lawrence novel. The idea of 'literary merit' and how one judges it evolved from moral judgement and applauding decency to a more nuanced reading. If art is made honestly, even if it does not entirely succeed, it should not be banned.

Of course, one could view this as just another attempt to throw a bit of Lawrence into the schedules in order to titillate the viewer. There is full frontal nudity and frankness about sex...well, like the novel. However, the jurors are genuinely trying to explore these depths- can one really have a passion like in Lady Chatterley's Lover and is it really worth the risk? A key aspect of the book is that despite rather blunt language, Lawrence speaks quite tenderly about sex. He did have a tendency to be overly serious so it is sometimes unintentionally funny, paving the way for Ian McEwan and other literary writers, but we forget the magnitude of what he was doing and the importance of his message. I think that the film deals with that nicely without becoming over-reverential. This is not a hagiography.

I shall leave you with a quote from the novel. Judge for yourself how accurate it is today: "It's the one insane taboo left: sex as a natural and vital thing. They won't have it, and they'll kill you before they'll let you have it."

Withnail And I : 20th Anniversary Edition (3 Disc Digitally Remastered Special Edition) [1988] [DVD]
Withnail And I : 20th Anniversary Edition (3 Disc Digitally Remastered Special Edition) [1988] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Richard E. Grant
Offered by lightningdvd
Price: £34.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A stoner comedy or Chekhovian exploration of male friendship or allegory for the end of the sixties- whichever you like, 26 Jan 2014

How I long to try and regain the film's reputation as a cult stoner comedy for laddish students to watch as if this is their life on screen. Really, it's a modern Chekhovian tale; the reference to Chekhov being about "women whining about ducks going to Moscow" is not accidental. It's 1969, and 'I' (whose real name, Marwood is never mentioned but is visible on a telegram) and his friend Withnail (Richard E Grant) live in a squalid hell. The hell is literal; their flat in Camden Town is unheated and their kitchen is as vile as any student house. However the hell is also metaphorical, though no less real. Marwood (Paul McGann) has a drug-induced neurosis and Withnail is an eccentric drunk with no dignity. There's no hint of a woman in the film and even if there was, these boys would not get one.

Withnail and Marwood make the decision to escape the bliss for a weekend in the country, staying in a cottage owned by Withnail's flamboyant Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths). However, village life is not the bucolic vision Marwood imagined it would be, and the 'accidental' holiday turns into a nightmare with the surprise arrival of Uncle Monty. Their dealer friend Danny (Ralph Brown) laments the death of the sixties.

As the eponymous Withnail, Grant is suitably grotesque. He has a thin, rat-like look, and swans around in a ridiculous coat, bottle in hand. Marwood is devoted to him, as you can see from early shots in the film, where Marwood is always slightly behind Withnail, yet close, as if he is Withnail's puppy. However as the country offers a rare moment of sobriety, Marwood knows deep down that Withnail is no more loyal than a drinking buddy. Despite all the booze and betrayal, Grant shows Withnail as a desperate innocent, a man who cannot and will not survive without his sidekick.

McGann's brilliance as an actor is that he can take secondary roles and make them subtle and nuanced. Although the audience is superficially attracted to and fascinated by Withnail, it is Marwood that remains an enigma. He's the Nick Carraway to Grant's Gatsby, a delicate observer with a rather odd and specific neurosis: that he will be sodomised. Throughout the film, there are references or imagery that foreshadow Monty's intentions. Whether one interprets that as some repressed homosexuality or whether it is simply Marwood's knowledge that a betrayal is imminent is up to the viewer to decide. As well as Grant looking the part of Withnail, McGann looks the part of Marwood. Classically beautiful and radiating a seductive innocence, it is natural that someone like Monty would persue him. The actor playing the role needs that specific type of beauty; he can't simply be good-looking. It's the Ancient Grecian rent-boy, the 'youth' who Shakespeare addresses in the majority of his sonnets. It's also vital for the role that the actor playing Marwood should be a good actor, as Marwood is given to playing various roles- partly in order to get out of scrapes but partly because he's an actor, and actors like playing dress-up. Withnail is also an actor, except he only has one role.

The final person in the triangle is Richard Griffifths as Uncle Monty. Monty is an old-fashioned homosexual, a 'queen' with a pet cat who he insists is ruining his life. He is also a Wildean aesthete, given to poetic monologues and musings. Monty is involved in the darkest scene in the whole film, where there is almost a French farce going on as Marwood tries to find a bedroom where he will be safe from Monty's advances. Monty's advances are tragicomic; however their humour does not take away the severity. Writer and director Bruce Robinson based the character on Franco Zeffirelli, who had tried it on with him. The character is written with a certain bitterness, as Marwood is incredibly unsympathetic as to Monty's stories of young love and his broken heart. However Griffiths is so good in the role that you genuinely feel sorry for him.

The only other character of note is Withnail and Marwood's dealer, the psychedelic philosopher Danny (Ralph Brown) who offers philosphy and politics as well as drugs. He is basically the commentator that provides some social context and the wake-up call that Marwood needs. Upon finding that the rats in their flat had been drugged, Marwood is outraged and hurt. It is as if reality has somehow corrupted and poisoned his innocent friendship with Withnail.

The film succeeds best when dealing with Withnail and Marwood's friendship; it is a kind of boyish secluded world, which no one can disturb. However, society does not allow such intense male friendships and we know that the dream must be broken. How much loyalty Withnail genuinely has for Marwood is questionable; there appears to be love and yet Withnail is ultimately a narcissist. In a way, it's a tale of unrequited love, an unequal friendship. Because the two characters have such a isolated pure friendship, some viewers will naturally wonder whether there isn't something else going on. I've said earlier that they wouldn't get girls but it is surprising that Marwood wouldn't even get a casual girl or one-night-stand. However, I don't think there's any suggestion that Withnail and Marwood are sexually attracted to each other, though one might suggest that Withnail's pimping of Marwood is a vicarious desire for him.

Oh yeah, and it's got loads of quotable lines that will just pop into your head at random moments and irritate you with their brilliance/irritate others by quoting them.


I'm reviewing the 3-Disc Anniversary Edition. It's a little misleading because one of the discs is actually a CD with the score to the film (not the soundtrack as some might think). I haven't experienced all the extras yet. There are two commentaries- one with McGann and Brown, the other with Bruce Robinson. I listened to the first one and loved it; it's just like the actors are sitting with you on the sofa, chatting about the film and giving amusing anecdotes. It's also a surprise that neither of them sound anything like their characters. Well, I knew already that McGann was Scouse but Brown actually has quite a posh voice, which makes you appreciate his performance even more.

The second disc extras play up the stoner elements. There's a drinking game featurette that by some miracle they have stretched to fill 15 minutes. Basically, the summary is that there is a drinking game where you match the boys drink for drink, and the presenter goes through every moment where drink is mentioned. If you leave the disc to run on, you get the swearathon, which is all the swearwords in the film strung together. If you are a ten-year-old boy, you will love it, but as the film's not very sweary anyway, it seems a bit pointless. Arguably if you're a ten-year-old boy, you shouldn't be watching, though many men are ten-year-old boys at heart. The only other extras I've watched are a short gallery of photographs with Grant and McGann messing about in a bath pulling faces- inspiring the film's poster and DVD cover. And no, it's not that kind of messing around in a bath. And I watched the trailer, which pitches the film as a sort of riff on Cold Comfort Farm, with drugs and booze and men being hopeless. Therein lies the humour for the female viewer as Marwood and Withnail desparately try to forage for food, cook, and make friends with the locals.

I do prefer more cerebral extras- film critics commentating, though that makes me sound terribly boring- rather than 'humorous' extras. To be fair, I haven't tried all the features. I would suggest casual viewers of the film pick up the old 2001 Anchor Bay version, which has the McGann/Brown commentary and the trailer, and can be purchased dirt-cheap. It is mainly the remastering on this DVD that is the bonus. The film's quite a low-budget blurry pick anyway but the remastering helps clean it up a little, letting you appreciate detail. And the better audio is a great bonus, as like all the Region 2 releases, the film doesn't have subtitles. One can't help but feel some irony there, considering how much the film is quoted.

The Rainbow [DVD] [1989]
The Rainbow [DVD] [1989]
Dvd ~ Sammi Davis
Price: £5.70

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful little film, 25 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Rainbow [DVD] [1989] (DVD)
The product itself is a bare bones version in full-screen (i.e. if you have a little telly it'll fit lovely, if you have a widescreen, you might have to distort the picture to get rid of the black bars around it). No subtitles, though we get a suitably cheesy trailer about a girl who refuses to play by the rules, and scene selection (no doubt some will have, er, favoured scenes).

But despite the vanilla release, the picture is anything but vanilla. It's dated, low budget and stars an actress who can't act, and yet I think it's a beautiful film- one of my favourites.

Director Ken Russell was made for DH Lawrence. I've only seen clips of his other Lawrence adaptations (Women in Love and Lady Chatterley's Lover) but to me, this is perfect Lawrence- the aspects of Lawrence that people should focus on, rather than Lawrence's philosophical ponderings and wanderings into smut. What Lawrence's works are really about is the 'life instinct'- the drive humans have towards beauty, fulfilment and fertility, escaping everything that is dead and empty.

The rainbow of the title is the unreachable goal of the life instinct. Nevertheless, young lass Ursula Brangwen (Sammi Davis) yearns for the personal fulfilment she believes it will give her. She attempts to fulfil herself through work and the two great loves of her life: strident gym mistress Winifred Inger (Amanda Donohoe) and dashing soldier Anton Skrebensky (Paul McGann). Coincidentally, both McGann and Donohoe star together in Paper Mask, which came out the following year. But Ursula learns that people cannot be relied on for fulfilment, and that true fulfilment comes from the ability to cope with the challenges that life brings.

It's a wonderful message for a costume drama to have. All the attempts to try and distort classic works into symbols of feminism, and praising the feistiness of the heroines are futile, because a costume drama heroine cannot be complete without her man. Naturally this leaves the female viewer yearning for some Mr Darcy but what a sad indictment of womanhood: you will always be miserable and unfulfilled until you have a man. Well, Ursula gets plenty of fulfilment but she refuses to be defined by anybody else.

Though Sammi Davis is not a great actress, she is at least spirited. Of course, this involves a lot of uncontrollable giggling and strange intonation that makes everything she says sound cheesy. However I find her performance perversely charming; that one note of optimism perfectly fits with Lawrence's life instinct. You genuinely feel as if she has that rainbow in her mind all the time. Besides, Ursula doesn't really 'grow up' until Women in Love (though this film was made after Russell's version of Women in Love, The Rainbow is actually the prequel), so the film needs that contrast.

Amanda Donohoe has a far from flattering character to play and yet she does play the older woman well (despite being roughly the same age as Davis). You can see how Ursula would look up to Winifred as a powerful woman, admiring her sexual candour. Donohoe's performance is brilliantly deceptive; for all Winifred's talk of bohemian values, she's able to play at being a conventional woman. One wonders whether Winifred really does have principles or whether she simply likes the idea of being the corrupter.

Paul McGann (aka. 'I' from Withnail and I, aka The Eighth Doctor) is perfect as Anton Skrebensky. It's not really much of a role and yet McGann is brilliant at 'not much of a role' roles. His dashing-o-meter is off the scale as he courts Ursula. The audience might be mistaken for thinking that they're going to get a charming old-fashioned costume drama hero. But when someone familiar with Lawrence hears the line "That's because you can't imagine me out of my uniform", you know that the promise will be delivered. Underneath that conventional uniform is Lawrencian lustiness, providing Ursula with the sexual fulfilment she craves. However underneath THAT is a prissy conventionality. The whole point of this role is emptiness; Anton is meant to be charming but essentially he is a toy soldier, merely a sexual fantasy.

Because this is Russell and Lawrence, we get a whole heap of Freudian imagery, rather heavy-handedly at times. I recently noticed the rocking movement- it's no coincidence that we keep getting that rocking movement. Of course, we all know what that's leading up to! The second Freudian image is the moon that Ursula watches during a sex scene with Anton; you'd be forgiven for thinking she was about to turn into a werewolf! However, it does do something interesting. Anton becomes almost invisible; what matters is Ursula's need for fulfilment. We do see them together as a couple, in the shot that graces the DVD cover. In the film, that's the bit where they make love against a tree, complete with gushing waterfall in the background! Okay, we get it.

People tend to watch costume dramas because they are relatively sexless. It's all looks and good old-fashioned courtship, though if you're lucky, you'll get a woman in her corset or Colin Firth in a wet shirt. Here, you get a fair bit of nudity and sex, because it's inescapably part of the story. All of the main three actors strip off and yet it's done relatively tastefully (yes, I was shocked too!). It's more about the celebration of the body, rather than titilation, and I admire the actors for their bravery.

There's many films that people say are inspirational and inspire them to go out and better themselves, but The Rainbow is genuinely inspirational. It makes you want to go outside and experience everything, following your own path towards coming-of-age and spiritual fulfilment.

Luther - Series 2 [DVD]
Luther - Series 2 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Idris Elba
Price: £7.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment after a cracking first series, 21 Jan 2014
This review is from: Luther - Series 2 [DVD] (DVD)
The second series of Luther is rather odd. It's only four episodes long, and as I hoped they wouldn't do, Mark North (Paul McGann) makes a brief appearance but has nothing to do. Just when Luther was starting to give us an insight into its characters, it removes a bunch of them, as Luther is redeployed into a Violent Crims Unit. He has two cases- one makes up episode 1 and 2, the other makes up 3 and 4- plus trying to save Jenny, a teenage prostitute, from a murky underworld of violent pornography.

Luther has fully converted to the Scandinavian gloom that is so popular now but it has lost the thriller element. The loss of Alice (Ruth Wilson) is also a mistake as despite her character being rather broad, it is her relationship with John that makes the show distinct from other cop dramas. As a character, John has mellowed considerably, as had Mark from his brief appearance. There's a lovely scene where John asks Mark to babysit Jenny (Aimee Ffion-Edwards), and Mark briefly bonds with Jenny over her tragic loss. Also, the friendship between Jenny and John is sweet and sensitively done- perhaps the only nice innocence in Luther's life.

The crimes are much weaker as well. The first one is exciting but the second is disappointing, seeming more like a run-of-the-mill crime drama.

What I'd like to see from Series 3 is character. If I wanted to see crime, I could watch Silent Witness. I hope the show doesn't throw away all the things that made it so different.

Situation Vacant (Doctor Who: the Eighth Doctor Adventures)
Situation Vacant (Doctor Who: the Eighth Doctor Adventures)
by Eddie Robson
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £10.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Dramatically Vacant, 20 Jan 2014
So, The Doctor's set up a set of challenges in order to select a new companion, in the manner of The Apprentice. Cue lots of metafictional pondering on what makes a good companion. If you like comic episodes, you'll enjoy this, but I found it a bit too cringy. Yes, Paul McGann can do comedy but he's an excellent actor, evidence of which can be heard in another of the adventures, Death in Blackpool.

This is one for big fans only.

Luther - Series 1 [DVD]
Luther - Series 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Idris Elba
Price: £8.07

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Works both as intellectual thriller and character study, 16 Jan 2014
This review is from: Luther - Series 1 [DVD] (DVD)
This is truly edge-of-your-seat drama, though be warned, it's very brutal.

The feel of Luther is almost American. I don't mean that in a Hollywood way, but more in the way of American TV Dramas like The Wire, from a shaky scale of morality to the arty music of the titles to the shots of next week's episode interspersed with the credits (the latter idea is brilliant- wonder if anyone's done it before?).

It's true that Idris Elba does play John Luther as 'shouty angry cop' (think Boyd from Waking The Dead)and he does that crime drama thing of picking out a detail and instantly deducing something about a suspect, or even identifying the killer! However I think it works- partly because it adds some levity to a show where morality goes out the window and partly because he's the central character of the show. He's got to have something interesting about him. It also adds some delicious ambiguity- is Luther really psychotic? And when the stakes are so high, is it worth employing someone who's a bit of a maverick if it gets results? Every crime show has a detective who 'doesn't do things by the rules' and you always wonder why they would employ someone like that, but Luther genuinely tries to explore it. The show suggests two things- one, that Luther is a genius, and two, that it's only his personal integrity that stops him from being one of the psychopaths. If you're looking for a more upbeat version of that, Sherlock is a good alternative.

What is unusual for a British crime show is that despite the episodes focusing on a different crime each week, there is an over-riding arc centred around an odd sort of love square. John Luther's wife Zoe (Indira Varma) is torn between her loyalty to John and her lover Mark North (Paul McGann). I take exception to the idea that they are cardboard cut-outs. In any drama, you have characters which are less developed as their main importance is their relationship to the protagonist. I think there are elements of those characters they could have played with more- Zoe (and maybe Mark as well) is a human rights lawyer, so she has even more reason to feel horrified by some of the things Luther does. Because Varma plays Zoe as normal, some viewers might see the character as weak, but her reactions make far more sense than characters in other shows. Her affair with Mark is not simply playing around whilst her husband's away; there's a sweet little scene where Zoe playfully throws toast at Mark, and the viewer knows that these two are right for each other.

Luther of course is still desperately in love with Zoe and detests Mark but Mark actually comes out quite well. McGann is a very good actor anyway but he's particularly good at taking weak scripts or 2D characters and making them feel like people. At the end of the day, Mark just wants to be with the woman he's meant to be with and his requests that Zoe stay away from Luther are quite understandable. Again, because McGann plays the character as normal, whereas other characters are hammed up a bit more, you might see that as weak, but it's vital that Zoe and Mark come across as normal 'good' people.

This is where the fourth point of the square come in: Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson). Alice is a psychotic genius and one body away from being a serial killer. Try as he might, Luther can't pin anything on her. But she's not his nemesis simply because she evades capture; she is obsessed with Luther and sees him as a sort of soulmate. As the series progresses, you start to wonder whether there isn't some truth in that...

The message of Luther (the show) seems rather grim and depressing: morality is a myth, a beautiful lie, and in order to get anything done, you have to ignore it. Writer Neil Cross is mistaken in not bringing Zoe and Mark into the argument more- after all, morality is their job. Hopefully this idea might be developed in Series 2. Overall though, I think that Cross isn't simply trying to make as grim and bleak a show as possible. Characters develop- for better or worse- over the course of the series, as does the theme of how notions of 'right' and 'wrong' contrast with personal desire.

Luther's colleagues are all interesting as well; I won't go into any detail about them because they tie into the story. Of course, the general feeling around the office is that Luther is a loose cannon (again, see Sherlock) and that his temper will get the better of him. However, he does have one supporter- rookie detective Justin Ripley (Warren Brown), who sees the goodness behind John's temper.

Luther is, in summary, a tightly woven drama that raises a lot of ethical questions, provides some human drama, a bit of romance and some cracking thriller moments. At the finale, I was literally on the edge of my seat, squealing at the TV. It also has an advantage over American shows in that this series has only 6 episodes, so there's no filler- just thriller.

As for the product itself, I haven't bought it yet. It has the advantage of having subtitles, which I think should be compulsory for all DVD releases, and there's a 'making of' type documentary. Personally, I would have preferred audio commentaries, but the play's the thing.

The Monocled Mutineer : The Complete BBC Series (2 Disc Set) [DVD] [1986]
The Monocled Mutineer : The Complete BBC Series (2 Disc Set) [DVD] [1986]
Dvd ~ Paul McGann
Price: £5.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Underrated WW1 gem, 23 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Back in the eighties, it was ITV who ruled at the costume drama, with classics like Brideshead Revisited and The Jewel in The Crown spread over eleven and fourteen episodes. They literally don't make them like that any more. The BBC's period dramas had acting that was as cardboard as the set.

The Monocled Mutineer is what the Americans would call a mini-series. It doesn't quite have the scale of the ITV productions; it's four episodes- three 75 mins and the finale is 90 mins. This is a spoiler-free review because I haven't actually seen the final episode! I just got so excited that I decided to review anyway.

The DVD back cover humorously says that it is a "supposedly true story", whereas the general consensus is that it is willfully historically inaccurate. To be honest, unless you are particularly familiar with WW1 minor figure Percy Toplis, I doubt it will bother you. If it does, never watch a play, film or TV show again. The look of the whole thing, from what I can tell, is factually accurate. It's certainly not the 1940 film of Pride and Prejudice, where everyone's wearing outfits from Civil War melodrama Gone with The Wind! The cover also clears up the myth that the show has never been repeated; it was repeated once, in 1988, but not since then.

You know when people go a bit gooey over the 'golden era' of Hollywood? I have the same reaction to these eighties mini-series. They're well-written, well-acted, well-shot...simply good stories that gave us a look at British history that was both nostalgic and critical. With its script written by 'Boys From The Black Stuff' writer Alan Bleasdale, The Monocled Mutineer is mostly critical. At the time, people complained that it was all part of some lefty agenda at the BBC and that it was ruining the honour of the soldiers who fought in it. The Monocled Mutineer certainly has things in common with Boys From The Black Stuff- Toplis's mutiny is clearly reminiscent of the worker's unions- but it's not a rehash or allegory, even if Thatcher Britain saw things in it that reflected their own society.

In a way, I would have liked it to have been longer. Unlike Brideshead or Jewel, which are rammed full of fascinating characters, the focus of The Monocled Mutineer is on, well, 'The Monocled Mutineer'- AKA Percy Toplis. This was Paul McGann's first big role and he just exudes charisma and talent. Though he looks as if he wouldn't last a day in the war, this works in his favour, as Toplis tries to avoid getting involved in, well, anything. Maybe that's what wound up the public; Toplis is a self-serving anti-hero. His big trick is to impersonate an officer so he can go off and have a bit of fun occasionally and McGann manages to play both working-class Yorkshire lad and public-school educated officer beautifully. It's an interesting commentary on how class is simply an accident of birth and that there is nothing inherently special about the upper classes. Another actor would undoubtedly have been stronger playing one class than the other (imagine Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady) but McGann plays them equally as well, giving the impression of a young man whose identity is completely fluid.

I'm not sure how close this is to the real-life Percy Toplis. From photos, Toplis looks like a shifty scallywag, whereas McGann is strikingly good-looking. You might argue that it's just romanticising history but I think that Toplis needs to be at least superficially attractive for the audience to see how people might have fallen for his charisma. McGann's character is still scally-waggish and a bit unpleasant- refreshingly, Bleasdale finds some black humour and irony in this. Instead of making Toplis the baddie or trying to underplay his unpleasantness and making him a working-class hero, Toplis remains enigmatically ambiguous. Is he a reluctant hero or merely just a stirring trickster?

However there are two other great characters- Timothy West as Brigadier General Thomson, who allows the brutalities in the Etaples training camp to happen and mourns that the days when an officer was respected are no longer, and Penelope Wilton as Lady Angela Forbes, who serves the tea at the camp and objects to the sadistic training methods. The dialogue and power play between the two is hilarious, even though the subject matter is brutal. Aside from McGann, Wilton has the best lines. I won't paraphrase because it'll lose some of the brilliance, so you'll just have to watch it!

As for the DVD itself, it's a bare bones version. Unlike the VHS, which merged episodes into one long film, the DVD is split into the original four episodes. Happily, there are English subtitles, which is more than you'll get on some DVDs, and as a nice little treat, the main menus use the glorious theme tune as a background and the scene selection menus use McGann's lovely version of 'Let The Great Big World Keep Turning'. You might want some smelling salts by you for that moment in the series because any woman is bound to swoon.

Interesting trivia: Paul McGann was originally meant to star in nineties historical TV series Sharpe, and he shows all the necessary qualities in The Monocled Mutineer. However an injury meant that Sean Bean stepped in- for the better I think. Excellent actor though McGann is, I don't buy him as a fighting type (though he's played many dashing soldiers), whereas Sean Bean is a man's man as well as a ladies' man. McGann got his chance to steal a role when he beat Withnail and I co-star Richard E Grant to the role of the Doctor in Doctor Who. Ah, the many what-ifs of film and television...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 13, 2014 4:06 PM BST

"Withnail and I" (BFI Modern Classics)
"Withnail and I" (BFI Modern Classics)
by Kevin Jackson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting academic insight, 16 Dec 2013
This book is mainly targeted at film studies students or those who have just watched the film and want another perspective on it.

As an academic text, it's very interesting. It gives a shot-by-shot account of the film interspersed with behind-the-scenes info and the author's commentary on certain scenes and certain issues about the film. When I read this, I'd just watched the film and it gave some interesting autobiographical information about director/writer Bruce Robinson that helped me appreciate the film more. It's not dry or dull and the author's love for the film shines through, even when he is discussing potential criticisms of the film.

However I think ardent fans would prefer a more irreverent book that spills the beans about backstage antics and offers fun trivia, as they are likely to know this information anyway. The BFI Modern Classics are essentially accessible books for film studies/cultural studies students.

Lawrence of Arabia - Two Disc Set [DVD]
Lawrence of Arabia - Two Disc Set [DVD]
Dvd ~ Peter O'Toole
Offered by Factory Shop Deals
Price: £16.49

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The epic of all epics, 8 Dec 2013
This is the epic of all epics, rivalling only Gone with The Wind. However this is more of a triumph in that GWTW clearly had all the makings of a hit: romance, lust, Gable, romanticised American history and old-fashioned melodrama. Lawrence of Arabia looks poised to be a bore: almost four hours of a man walking across a desert. Forget love stories- there's not a woman in sight.

And yet there is a love story- Lawrence's love for Arabia. That desert landscape must have astounded audiences in 1962 and even now it is breathtaking. It represents the extremes that filmmakers will go to, shooting in a terrain that's wild and punishing. How they even got the film to stay intact is a mystery. Our introduction to the desert is by way of a great jump cut- Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) blows out a match and we cut to a burning desert sunset. Director David Lean was an editor and it shows in his films (even Brief Encounter, which people forget uses a non-linear narrative and some excellent shots). Though it's a long film, the length is necessary. We must undertake the endurance that Lawrence does.

Lawrence is a tall clumsy back-room officer. He's a great scholar but there's not an ounce of military blood in him. He is sent to Arabia for three months to assist another officer, in the hope that it might make a man out of him. It actually makes a hero out of him. But it also turns him into a madman.

To have a central character in any film be so ambiguous is a risk, let alone an epic. Lawrence is awakened by the desert in the sense that he finds a heroism and determination that he has never had before, but he discovers a more dangerous side- he is sadomasochistic. The scene where he tells his superior General Allenby (Jack Hawkins) that he enjoyed killing is so brilliantly written and performed. It's our first hint that this hero is dangerous and it may destroy him.

Everything about the film- acting, writing, cinematography- matches the epic power of the desert landscape. The film also says far more about Western attitudes to war and the East than any modern film has done or can do. There is blacking up but the performances are genuine, not racial stereotypes.

As for the DVD, the picture looks good. Really, if you have a Blu-Ray you should get that version because the remastered version I saw in the cinema was breathtaking, but the DVD's picture and audio are in good condition. Unfortunately there is no commentary but there is a feature-length making of documentary, some period featurettes, and a detailed booklet. This is the kind of film where you want as many special features as possible so that you can discover the many layers of the film. The documentary also has an interesting moment where the filmmakers say how they indicated that a particular character was aroused- by some climactic coughing into a hankerchief!

This is the ultimate film lover's film, showing everything that is great about cinema.

Doctor Who - The Movie [1996] [DVD] [1963]
Doctor Who - The Movie [1996] [DVD] [1963]
Dvd ~ Paul McGann
Offered by HalfpriceDVDS_FBA
Price: £15.98

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dr Oooh!, 26 Nov 2013
Doctor Who fans will gasp in horror at many of the changes that this TV film, the black sheep of the canon, makes to Doctor Who mythology. Not being one myself, I won't bore you with the details, but the two big ones are the Doctor being half-human and his romance with his companion. That's what you get when the Americans have a hold of the pursestrings!

Leaving that aside for a moment, let's focus on it as a film. The effort put into the film is equivilent to those weepie romantic TV films you get mid-afternoon on Channel 5. Though it was intended to be a pilot for a TV series, it's clear that the filmmakers weren't that bothered, as the whole thing is bland. It's a hodge-podge of The X Files, ER, Frankenstein and a B-Movie, with some Christ allusions for good measure. The Doctor has all his equipment, plus some jelly babies (not that the citizens in the film know what they are!), yet it feels like the scriptwriter is just making a few obligatory nods.

To be fair, it's a tough task trying to distill thirty years of Dr Who history and mythology into an 89 minute film. The writers only get as far as telling us that the Doctor has two hearts and regenerates. It's the regeneration that provides the film's plot, as baddie The Master (Eric Roberts) tries to steal The Doctor's (Paul McGann, more on him later) lives. A bit like when your little brother tries to steal your sweeties, and about as interesting. It's just another instance of the filmmakers simplifying everything to the point of blandness. Oh yeah, and it's New Year's Eve 1999, though it bears no significance to the plot whatsoever. Armageddon this ain't.

It is however of interest to Doctor Who fans, as it marks the leap from the cardboard set days of the classic series to the CGI cinema that the modern series is. Not that there is any particularly remarkable CGI but it does mark a shift towards something new. The regeneration is better than any before it (perhaps with the exception of the original, beautifully primitive regeneration of the First Doctor), with CGI that makes the regenerative process look a little nightmarish. It also provides a striking entrance for Paul McGann's version of the Doctor, as he wakes up in a morgue with complete memory loss.

Aesthetically it's closer to the modern series although it still looks quite like a B-Movie. Eric Roberts as The Master acts as if he's in a B-Movie or a cat-stroking Bond villain. He is completely unconvincing as a part of the Doctor Who world and clearly did no research at all. Yes, Doctor Who didn't take itself too seriously but without believing in its history and mythology at all, the film simply falls flat.

Now the verdict you've been waiting for. This is Paul McGann's only visual adventure as The Eighth Doctor (although he does appear in The Night of The Doctor, a 2013 prequel to the big 50th anniversary episode, The Day of The Doctor). Despite being forced to play the character as a sort of Jesus figure, complete with flowing locks, McGann shows lots of potential. I would describe him as the Timothy Dalton of Doctor Whos- that is to say, a fine actor who never fully got the chance to prove themselves in the role. It also helps that he is very easy on the eye- a quality which might have led people to blow the whole kissing scene out of proportion. From the fan uproars you'd think that it had been a steamy bedroom scene! In context, it's all very chaste as the Doctor is completely guileless. Of course companion, medical consultant Dr Grace Holloway (played by Daphne Ashbrook), has a romantic reaction- well, what woman wouldn't?- but it's hardly the Casanova days of David Tennant's Doctor. As a companion, Grace's part is woefully underwritten. She is a doctor (but a normal medical doctor- see the hilarity?) and is human, which is about the extent of it. Oh yeah, and she's sort of in love with the Doctor but not very convincingly. More like a bloke she's picked up in some bar. The reason why McGann manages to stand out is because he's a very good actor; Ashbrook is average at best, so is simply left to fade away. It's clear that the filmmakers had no real intention of making her a lasting companion, so again, you start to wonder why anyone agreed to this movie in the first place.

The Americans didn't mess the film up because they were dumb. They just didn't care about the series and had no place for it in the American market, so what we're left with is Paul McGann's brilliant performance buried in a bland pointless mess. As every character in the film says at least ten times, the Doctor has two hearts. This film has none.

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