Sleepwalker was made in 1984 by a promising film-maker called Saxon Logan. It's a politically underscored drama about two obnoxious couples who after an evening meal head back to stay the night at the rotting house owned by one of them. Unfortunately one of the group is afflicted with violent somnambulist tendencies and the night will end in tragedy. Running at only 50 minutes in length Sleepwalker is about right in its pacing. It's a thoroughly British affair, although the characters are hardly an attractive representation of our over-filled island. There is a fine air of decay, particularly in the home (English man's castle...?) and as the story threads its way to the finale it is evident that some influence emanates from the Italian giallo cinematic movement. There is also a reminiscent touch of the TV series Hammer House of Horror - I feel that Sleepwalker could almost have been a part of that series.
The Rank studio did not take well to the film back in the mid eighties, putting an end of Saxon Logan's fiction movie career before it really got started, but it's heart-warming that it was later rediscovered (thanks partly to Kim Newman arousing interest in the then-forgotten film some time ago). It's wonderful that BFI have taken films like this to exhume for the more open-minded among contemporary audiences, as it has recently been scanned and mastered for Blu-ray, with excellent results.
The BFI release is also packed with two of Logan's earlier short films also mastered in HD (Stepping Out running at 11 minutes and made in 1977, plus Working Surface, 16 minutes, 1979), which are curiosity pieces making the package feel very complete as far as Logan's fiction work is concerned (he went on to cement himself as a documentary film-maker).
However, BFI have also kindly included another film which, whilst not made by Logan, is thematically linked to the main film in the pack. Running at 45 minutes the 1971 film Insomniac is the only fiction work directed by Rodney Giesler (also a documentary maker). This is about a very average sort of man whose initial difficulty sleeping leads him to enter a lucid dream-world of perpetual daylight and populated by people who exhibit an aversion to light. At a party he meets the perfect female before eloping with her. The surreal aspect of this film I feel could have been pushed a lot further, though it is a nice piece that could easily have been left buried forever. The primary strength of the film arrives in the presence of the vividly beautiful Valerie Ost (who also appeared briefly in Corruption, Satanic Rites of Dracula, and a few Carry-On films in bit roles).
The menus of the disc provide options to watch all three Logan films or a double bill of the two main features if you wish. You'll also find a 72 minute conversation from 2013 with Saxon Logan where he talks about his inspiration (Lindsay Anderson, Hammer films surprisingly, and even more of a surprise is his appreciation for giallo), his education in the mechanics of making films, his experiences making the films contained in this pack, etc. It's a fascinating piece with none of the press-kit approach rubbish you find as extras to most mainstream films. Logan is a coherent, level-headed talker who had talent but couldn't quite take it where he wanted due to the fact that his work wasn't really understood at the time. The occurrences pertaining to the screenings of Sleepwalker, both at the time of its release and the rediscovery years later, are obviously deeply meaningful to the man, something underlined by a particularly poignant moment towards the end of the conversation when he struggles to contain the emotions that are obviously packed inside. A brilliant, essential interview for anyone interested in film, almost worth the price of admission alone.
Not content to leave you with this, BFI also include an attractive booklet presenting written pieces on each element on the disc, with transfer information and stills. The films are also provided on a DVD in the same pack, but as they were scanned at 2K they really are best viewed on Blu-ray for the most authentic representation. Sleepwalker and Insomniac generally won't appeal to the average mainstream movie fan (as you will see by a couple of the lower rated reviews here on Amazon), but for those interested in the heritage of British cinema, more art-house oriented viewers, or possibly even fans of the giallo, this is a great package to have in your collection.
Paul (The Grim Cellar)