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The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (DVD + Blu-ray)
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51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on 7 August 2005
Ever since I first saw this film, I found it unforgettable. It is based on a short story by Alan Sillitoe, and does a wonderful job of bringing the unique atmosphere of his story to the screen (Sillitoe wrote the screenplay himself). There is a lot to admire in this film: the b&w cinematography (its power especially evident in the lyrical running sequences);the realistic presentation of the environment of the English working class at the time; brilliant acting, especially in the scenes of the confrontations between the - both masterful - Tom Courtenay and Michael Redgrave. All these ingredients provide for a richly textured study of the fine complications of emotion, experience and self-analysis. I would, of course, be in some ways inclined to agree that this film is outdated, but the main theme, that of the titular loneliness of the individual caused by the inadequacy of human means of communication, is something that can be still be felt in the modern times. Although the movement that spawned this film, the British Free Cinema, lasted for only a brief period of time, "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner" has become the key British film of the 60s and a masterpiece of world cinema that,if you are a lover of classic films,you cannot allow yourself NOT to have.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 26 March 2007
Good acting , good direction and an accurate storyline. This workmanlike british film of the fifties is enjoyable and interesting. By far the biggest atribute , in my own personal eyes , is its accuracy and authenticity to the borstal system. Being a borstal officer during this period , many of the situations and incidents contained within the film are equal to many I have encountered over the years. The "feel" of the film is very authentic indeed. Good performances by Redgrave , Courtney and a fledgling John Thaw .

Not exactly a film to relax with but nevertheless enjoyable
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on 6 March 2005
I don't understand why another reviewer has said that this film is dated. The school system may not be the same, but the battle of wills that plays out in the film is being played out not just in every school, but on every factory floor, every office, every lab, football team, choir, everywhere. This is one of the supreme human stories and if you don't have this film, you have no excuse. It's an element of what makes people people.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Tom Courtenay is the archetypal 'Angry Young Man' in this Sixties kitchen sink drama. Made in the heyday of British cinema it is a true classic and arguably the finest of its genre. The disaffection, depression and disenfranchisement of a working-class Northern lad with no prospects apart from poverty or jail, are the cement in a bleak but necessary piece of film-making. With strong support from Michael Redgrave, James Bolam and James Fox, amongst others, this is one of those films you really ought to see at least once. Powerful, emotive and gripping stuff.

The DVD extras on here are pretty good too, as mentioned above. It's worth mentioning that the film is also in its original black and white; hence the DVD cover pictured above.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
This is the fully restored British Film Institute version of Tony Richardson's 1962 classic - and it's beautifully done - clean from start to finish. Even as the credits roll - it's spotless - a truly fantastic restoration job.

Because the clean up is so good it also pummels home the austerity of post-war England in almost every scene, while the black & white film stock and the hand-held camera work only add to its gritty and downbeat feel. We also get to properly see the intensity of Tom Courtney's extraordinary performance - all working class defiance and mind games. Another noticeable improvement is the music. The brass band stuff that accompanies every running shot is very punchy now - its either military or patriotic - or both. It acts as a sort of sneering backdrop, like "If..." almost...

The internal Borstal scenes are well done, as is Tom's appallingly claustrophobic home life - all that family repression and rage building up to his final racing sabotage. There are also many famous faces in there - John Thaw, James Bolam, Michael Redgrave - even a cameo by Edward Fox as runner number 7 towards the end. Having said all of that, it's not a film you warm to easily - it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea to sit down to this unrelenting feast of "it's grim up north..."

The extras are interesting too. First there's a commentary on the movie (On or Off whichever you want), second is a sort of "making of" named after the principal cameraman "Walter Lasally Video Essay" in which he explains why certain shots were filmed in certain ways. He also references other Richardson work. Also you get to see the original stock footage of the opening credits BEFORE the restoration - it's covered in lines and smudges - so when you do to see the actual movie, you realise what a huge amount of work was put into this.

Number 3 is a curio that jazz buffs will love - it's Tony Anderson's "Momma Don't Allow" - a short film made about ordinary British workers ending up in a jazz club. It was filmed in the gloriously named "Art & Viv's Sander's Wood Green Jazz Club in The Fishmonger's Arms". It features The Chris Barber Jazz Band - Pat Halcox, Ron Bowden, Lonnie Donegan, Jim Bray and Ollie Paterson. It's really badly scratched and decayed, but the soundtrack is very good - and I guess it's a miracle that it's survived at all.

The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner wouldn't be everyone's first choice for a cheery Sunday afternoon watch - but for those who do love this bitterly repressed yet still relevant film - they will adore how beautifully the BFI have restored it.

Recommended.

PS: the BFI have also done the stunning "Saturday Night And Sunday Morning" with Albert Finney and Sally Anne Fields (see REVIEW) - and their restoration work on Stanley Baker's "Zulu" and Michael Caine's 1969 masterpiece "The Italian Job" (see REVIEW) is simply off the charts...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 27 December 2012
I was prompted to buy this after seeing a powerful production in a local theatre. Sensitive updating, excellent acting and impressive athletic strength of the main character made it vibrant, and exciting to watch. The film, in comparison is clearly from the time in which it was written, and a significant part of our culture. I'd recommend it to those with an interest in sport, equality, and British film.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 November 2010
Made in 1962, this great "kitchen sink" drama is in my opinion the best example of the genre.

The main character of the film, Colin (a great film debut by Tom Courtenay) is a rebel against the system, who is sent to Borstal after being found guilty of burglary, where he eventually discovers a talent for long-distance running.
While entrusted by the Borstal authorities to return to captivity when exercising in the local countryside, the flashbacks in his mind as he runs tell the story of his homelife and beyond, including the burglary and subsequent arrest.

Wonderful performances all round help to make this film a classic, including Michael Redgrave as the Borstal governer, who sees Colin's running abilities as a way to reflect positively on the Borstal and himself.
James Bolam is also excellent as Colin's friend and partner-in crime, Avis Bunnage is equally impressive as Colin's shrewish mother, good support is also provided by Julia Foster and Topsy Jane as the two girlfriends, (also, look out for a young John Thaw as one of the inmates).
The surprise ending is fitting, considering Colin's stubborn, anti-establishment character.

This film is a real treat, in turns as cold and bleak as the snow and rain it is sometimes set, but with light relief provided by the odd dash of humour here and there.
This is a tough, unflinching, and totally absorbing story, this movie held my attention from start to finish. Highly recommended.

The black and white widescreen picture and sound quality are good, the film is 100 minutes approx.
The extras include:
* A commentary by film historian Robert Murphy, with Tom Courtenay and Alan Sillitoe.
* A video essay.
* Director and writer biographies.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" (1962), a black and white British, sports oriented drama, was based on Alan Sillitoe's semi-autobiographical novel about a rebellious 18-year-old living in dreary Nottingham, Nottinghamshire. The writer, also the author of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, who was then one of the foremost practitioners of the school of English writing known as "the angry young men," that was so influential at the time, wrote the screenplay. The hugely talented British Tony Richardson (Tom Jones [DVD] [1963]) produced and directed the film.

Tom Courtenay, of the harshly chiseled face, (The Dresser [DVD] [1984]) made a stunning debut - it's hard to even tell he's acting -- as Colin Smith, the long-distance runner of the title, a cynical young man determined to fight the system at every turn. He has no interest in school or in the no-future factory job awaiting him, so he turns to a life of petty crime alongside his friend Mike, played by a very young James Bolam (The Beiderbecke Trilogy: The Complete Series (Repackaged) [DVD]). A botched robbery of a local bakery lands the two in Ruxton Towers, a reform school - they were then known as Borstals. The Governor, the top school official, played by Sir Michael Redgrave,The Importance Of Being Earnest [DVD] [1952], who was to be Richardson's real-life father-in-law, believes in the rehabilitative value of physical training. He sees Colin's hidden talent as a runner and arranges a day of track events against a nearby, prestigious public school (that'd be a private school to Americans.) Colin, a conflicted and bitter young man, must decide whether to nurture his ability or once again rebel against authority.

Avis Brunnage,who'd played so many similar parts, does good work as Colin's etched in acid mother. A number of to-be-successful British actors show up in smaller parts: Alec Mc Cowen as Brown, Colin's headmaster; Frank Finlay as a railway booking office clerk. A very young John Thaw (that'd be Inspector Morse, or Kavanaugh QC to you) shows up as Bosworth, another of the Borstal inmates. A young woman with the unlikely name of Topsy Jane debuts as Audrey, Colin's girlfriend: she was slated to play with Courtenay again in the soon-to-be filmed Billy Liar [DVD] [1963], but apparently had a nervous breakdown shortly before filming began. The young Julie Christie stepped into the part, and we know what happened there. A similarly young James Fox, with Edward, one of those greatly talented identical Fox twins, James being the brother who gave up acting for the contemplative life of a religious, gives us one of his earliest impressions of an upper-class twit as No. 7, Gunthorpe, the public school's best runner: the climactic race of the day is going to come down to a duel between him, and Colin's No. 14.

Better use has probably never been made of the anthem "Jerusalem" that comments upon the Great Britain of the time: the utter sense of futility felt by the lower classes; the gritty cityscape, the gray, cold, damp and desolate look of the U.K. in winter. The film shows us the oppression of Colin's home life and his imprisonment, and the freedom he feels when running. The movie obviously falls among the contemporaneous "kitchen sink," angry young man school of film-making: Saturday Night And Sunday Morning [DVD] [1960]; This Sporting Life [1963] [DVD]; Room At The Top [1959] [DVD]. It makes good use of jump cuts and lengthy flashbacks, ideas then rather new to UK filmmakers that were borrowed from the contemporaneous French "nouvelle vogue" directors. The film was, in fact, influential in the early 60's, although it is now underrated and little known. It has, undoubtedly, dated a bit, but it is still powerful, gripping, arresting: you can supply your own favorite adjectives when you see it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 August 2012
Tom Courtenay as Colin in the lead role is excellent. Alan Stillitoe's novel of the 1960s borstal boy is a classic and the film does the book justice. It is not comfortable watching. If you were a lad in those times and coming of age in a working class community disintegrating under the new wealth, new identity (its where being a teenager had its roots-self identity kicking out against old people-our parents) then this resonates. I saw the double standards of kids from my neck of the woods being sent down while richer kids were sent abroad or nod, nod, wink, wink to magistrates to know it was and still is a weighted system if you are not born of the right class of parents. And then there is the added insult for all of us ever forced to endure that event cross country running. Yeah, like Colin, it was often time to switch out of the dirge of daily life and be on your own but it was also often frigging cold, and try running five miles with more mud on your plimsolls than Clacton has on its beaches. Yes, this film certainly had the memory bank ticking over. A good film but not one for sixties "Wasn't Britain luverly then" nostalgia freaks or those who like to feel inspired with heartfelt joy of being alive.
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I saw this film in the cinema as a teenager some 40 years ago. Whilst it didn't affect me in quite the same way as the similar-era classic 'Kes' (which I also saw around the same time all those years ago), I think that could be put down to this film being a little more 'adult' in nature (it's a '12', Kes is a 'U') so perhaps I didn't understand the often more subtle elements of it that 'Kes'.

It is quite rightly a revered film, but because of the likely more limited age-range 'appeal' due to those adult matters it covers it has undoubtedly, unfairly in my opinion, suffered in the popularity stakes.

This restored Blu-ray/DVD combo is, bizarrely, usually cheaper than what I think are the identical single offerings so is something of a no-brainer; on Blu-ray it looks and sounds as good you could expect for a British production from that era - clean/clear but not ultra sharp with a flat, often slightly, essentially dialogue-driven 'muffled' soundtrack.

The obvious highlight of this film is the presence of Tom Courtenay in the 'title' role - 1962 was his debut-year in filmmaking and this was his second effort; he quite rightly earned a 'Best Newcomer' BAFTA for this part (portraying a young man perhaps some 10 years younger than his own age).

Despite his innocent-looking appearance, his character falls into a life of petty-crime and general misdemeanour which quickly get him into serious trouble....

His background, upbringing and immediate family situation are perhaps contributory factors, but despite the film hinting that is the case it is one of those many subtle elements of the story I alluded to which make it not 100% certain - I think that he could have been an 'angry young man' without those other aspects for all we know....

It is the completely convincing way that Courtenay manages to portray and project those wildly different traits of innocence and anger etc that make the film such an engrossing watch (he is hardly ever off the screen) - you never really know exactly what is going through his mind or what he will do next, a fact which for me allows the ending to be so successful and shocking....

Like 'Kes' (it is perhaps pertinent to observe that TLoftheLDR was made a few years earlier) this film manages to depict the various settings and lifestyles of that time with striking realism - it would be easy to forget it's a film and instead a 'fly on the wall' documentary....

The cast are universally excellent and the sets are often the real thing - for me it's the plot as well as those characterisations which ensure you remain transfixed and left thinking even once the 'climax' occurs, also meaning repeat-viewings are guaranteed.

In comparison to modern films, the classification of '12' (I see that the BBFC also states it can be a '15') for 'moderate violence' is a little baffling but I think appropriate, since if it is followed properly the film's portrayals and overall influence could be significant.

So, if you like your drama heavy but also 'covert' with supreme acting and gritty settings this film is for you and the DVD or Blu-ray will do.

Finally, it's worth mentioning the incredible coincidence that the short story on which this film is based was released in the same year (1959) as the oh-so-similar classic Truffaut (French) film 'Les Quatre Cents Coups' (The 400 Blows) - which naturally I also recommend viewing !
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