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Billy Liar - 50th Anniversary Edition [DVD] 
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Tom Courtenay delivers a star-making turn as William Terrence Fisher (‘Billy Liar’) in one of the most memorable and universally acclaimed films of the 60s.
Running from an unsympathetic working-class family, a pair of demanding fiancées and an insecure job at an undertakers, Billy escapes, Walter Mitty-like, into a world of fantasy where he can realize his dream ambitions. As work and family pressures build to new intolerable levels, Liz (an early, charismatic turn from Julie Christie), enters his drab life and offers Billy the one real chance he’ll ever get to leave the past behind.
Scripted by Keith Waterhouse from his own novel, and sensitively directed by John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy), Billy Liar is one of the few comedies of the British ‘New Wave’, marrying visual and verbal wit with a rather poignant rumination on the futility of dreams.
• Remembering Billy Liar with Tom Courtenay and Helen Fraser
• Interview with Richard Ayoade
• A look through the Keith Waterhouse Archive with British Library Curator Zoe Wilcox
• Interview with Saint Etienne's Bob Stanley
• Stills Gallery
Billy Liar was the multimedia phenomenon of its era. Starting out as a novel by Yorkshire writer Keith Waterhouse, it rapidly became a long-running stage play, adapted by Waterhouse with playwright Willis Hall, which lead to the movie, scripted by Waterhouse and Hall for John Schlesinger to direct, then a stage musical and finally a spin-off TV series. Do you get the feeling it caught the mood of the times?
The basic set-up owes a lot to James Thurber's classic short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Our hero, Billy Fisher, lives at home in a Bradford semi with his nagging parents and works as a lowly clerk in an undertaker's parlour. But, in his imagination he lives a rich and varied fantasy life as gallant military leader, suave socialite, best-selling novelist and so forth. Trouble is, he can't always keep fantasy and reality apart, any more than he can the keep two girls he's engaged to separate. Not to mention his other problems .
Schlesinger's direction brings out the desperation behind the comedy, and Tom Courtenay, at once defiant and hangdog, slips perfectly into the role created on stage by Albert Finney. But the whole cast's a joy, not least the great Leonard Rossiter as undertaker Mr Shadrach, Billy's saturnine boss. And then there's Julie Christie--the luminous spirit of the Swinging 60s--in her first starring role as the girl who offers Billy a chance of real escape. At the end, when she takes the train to London, away from the smoke and the grimness "oop" north, the whole British New Wave went with her.
On the DVD: just the theatrical trailer which is a fairly crass affair. There's been no remastering, it seems, but both sound and vision are clean enough and the print preserves the original's full 2.35:1 widescreen ratio. --Philip Kemp
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Top Customer Reviews
This 50th anniversary Blu-ray is a real treat - a crisp, luminous restoration, a clutch of terrific extras, including a recent interview with Tom Courtenay (the finest actor that's ever lived, and a very nice man to boot) and the wonderful Helen Fraser, who plays the role of Barbara to perfection.
Don't miss it.
Tom Courtnay plays Billy Fisher who has an insecure job at an undertakers and spends a lot of his time living in a fantasy world called "Ambrosia" where he lives out his ideals, hopes and ambitions. Ridiculed by his old fashioned father (Wilfrid Pickles) when Billy explains that he has a chance of being a scriptwriter in London, and nagged by his mother (Mona Washbourne) he longs to escape from this world of drudgery. As he sinks deeper and deeper into his fantasties (some of the scenes here are hilarious; especially when he imagines himself machine gunning down his nagging parents) he feels that his life is becoming even more intolerable. Then one day, he meets . . . .
Thats the story so far, watch the rest, for when Julie Christie in one of her early film roles, arrives on the scene, she offers Billy an opportunity to get on with his life anew.
Even after all these years, I still find this film wonderfully refreshing and quite funny in parts. Adapted from his own novel and play by Keith Waterhouse with Wilis Hall as his co-writer, the script has stood up well. It is a very human, warm and witty story which eventually tranferred well to the small screen and on the stage as a musical. It also brought together two screen actors who became legends of the British screen; Tom Courtnay and Julie Christie. (Both were reunited in David Lean's Dr Zhivago released in 1965).
On the disc, the only extra is a trailer. Picture and sound are good, making this a worthwhile purchase.
This is a great film. The characters are brilliant and the cast play their parts to a tee. The storyline is poignant, witty and insightful and makes you feel a little uncomfortable as, I'm sure, there is a varying degree of Tom Courtenays's character in all of us.
It's difficult to comment much more on the film without giving the plot away but I very much recommend it to anyone both as a very enjoyable story but also as a thoughtful look at a person's mentality and how they deal with their situation, their hopes and their fears in giving up their current lot and breaking free.
And Julie Christie is simply georgeous!
In the days before franking machines, the stamp tin was the personal perquisite (perk) of the junior clerk of the office.
When Billy tries to hand in his notice at the Undertakers where he works, he is told that it will not be accepted until "the stamp book balances".
The piles of unposted Christmas calendards hidden in Billy's bedroom always bring back guilty memories for me!
Also, this movie caused me to fall in love with a young and impossibly beautiful Julie Christie.
A great piece of 1960's Northern life.
Buy and enjoy
Tom Courtenay is William Fisher, a young man with problems. He doesn't like his job as a funeral furnishings employee, he still lives at his parents's home and spends a lot of time lying to his two girlfriends. In order to quit for a while his everyday life, he has created an imaginary world - Ambrosia - that has got some resemblance with the South or Central America bananas republics of the sixties. He is the leader of this country and people adore him. In short, he is an escapist.
BILLY LIAR has been shot partly on location, partly in studio and I often had the feeling to watch two different movies on the screen. Like Billy. The destructions of buildings shown throughout the movie add to the strange impression that a world is collapsing. When Billy meets Liz, played by a terrific Julie Christie, he has the opportunity of his life to give some reality to his dreams because Liz is so real. Let's admire how John Schlesinger, in a french New Wave style, films her strolling in the streets. A great moment of cinema.
Comedy, social study or metaphor on the Cinema, BILLY LIAR can easily be seen at different levels and is, in my opinion, a valuable addition to your library....
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I saw this on TV many years ago, and I have this version (2006). My version is black and white- which I expected, but no subtitles! Shame! Read morePublished 10 months ago by Greg Chapman
Brilliant film & superb acting by Tom Courtenay. Fascinating film as well as the story as it is set in a lost era. Recommended.Published 15 months ago by Manda (Oxon, UK)
Wasn't impressed with this dvd, very silly,not a good comedy at all.Published 17 months ago by anne maddock