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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
The Shooting Party (Collector's Edition) [DVD] [1985]
Format: DVD|Change
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on 12 October 2006
This film was previously unknown to me. It is a high quality historical drama, and deserves to be better known. It's a subtle, gently paced film, which conveys much in only an hour and a half.

The film depicts a country house weekend shooting party, in the autumn of 1913. It explores some of the tensions that existed in British society in the run up to World War I. The personal relationships between the upper class characters are interesting, and provide rich sub-plots. The film also illustrates the strong bond of respect that existed between the rural working class and the landed gentry.

One wonderful aspect of the film is the mature cast. James Mason, Dorothy Tutin, John Gielgud, Edward Fox, Gordon Jackson and Frank Windsor all radiate effortless charisma. They are true character actors, and are totally absorbing.

I won't spoil the plot by describing the full story but to give you a flavour of the film, one of the sub-plots involves Judi Bowker and Robert Hardy, as a married couple who seem to have a strong affection and respect for each other, yet are distanced by their age gap and differing intellects. A meeting of minds sees Bowker become drawn to Rupert Frazer, and they embark on a passionate, but non-physical, affair. It is interesting to watch this slowly unfold, and the fact it doesn't end happily adds emotion to the film's conclusion.

The line of guns, onto which birds are systematically herded to their death, is a simile of the impending Great War, where the youth of both sides would walk forward only to be shot to pieces by machine gun and artillery.

Further pathos is added by the unnecessary competition between two guns, Edward Fox and Rupert Frazer, leading to the death of one of the beaters. This storyline again echoes the fruitlessness of World War I, which would see the civilisations of Europe fight a terrible war in which they had everything to lose, yet had nothing to gain.

Regarding the DVD itself, the picture quality is good and the extras are excellent; a worthy memorial to the film and its cast.
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on 18 August 2017
Beautifully set period piece depicting a society in its death throws. Mason aside, the acting is horribly stilted, a promising cameo from Gielgud peters out and the script writers dispense with any kind of story, means that it is a frustrating watch. The Upstairs Downstairs episode, A Change of Scene, covers this territory far more effectively. This is an undeveloped project that should be much better.
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on 29 July 2017
Excellent dvd
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on 2 October 2017
Excellent film.
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on 25 July 2017
Evokes a world that is almost gone.
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on 13 May 2017
Husband was pleased
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on 16 May 2010
The year is 1913, the setting the autumnal British countryside, and a wealthy aristocrat has invited rich friends to take part in a shooting party on part of his 1,000 acre estate. Both outdoors and indoors, we see the complex interactions among the main characters, as well as among the poorer and less well-educated rural servants - the gamekeepers and the beaters. As the story unfolds, a sense of foreboding grows, and the tale duly ends in a tragic climax.

The story is heavily suffused with allegory and with unspoken apprehension about the immediate future. The senseless slaughter of the game birds is an allegorical reference to the slaughter that is shortly to come on the battlefields of the First World War; the film is replete with references, some not too subtle, about the rapidly approaching end of an era. At dinner, one of the characters observes that civilization is coming to an end - and just in case you haven't got the point, the director immediately cuts to the sudden cracking of a burning log in the fireplace. If you like that sort of thing, you will find much to admire in this film.

For me, the main problem with The Shooting Party is that it is history seen with the gift of hindsight. All of us nowadays know that 1913 was the last "normal" year for Europe before the ghastliness of the First World War engulfed the countries of the continent. But whether British aristocrats in 1913 were aware that they were living at such a pivotal moment in history is another matter altogether. Moreover the "end of an era" concept can easily be exaggerated. The social and cultural peculiarities portrayed in the film didn't cease in 1914, but continued, albeit in changing form, well into the 1920s and 1930s (in fact for Britain, 1945 was arguably more the end of an era than 1914 was).

Be that as it may, this gloomy and rather portentous film works well within the limits it has set itself, and the development of the plot, though slow, keeps the attention. That this is so is largely due to the excellence of the acting. James Mason, in his last film performance, is outstandingly good, so much so that the DVD is probably worth buying for his performance alone. John Gielgud makes a memorable cameo appearance as a batty but highly civilized animal rights protester. All the other members of the star-studded cast are never anything less than highly impressive.

The sound on my copy was not very good, and did not always capture the timbre of the lighter voices of the women, making it a little difficult to follow some parts of the dialogue. With relatively minor qualifications, a film that is definitely worth seeing.
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on 5 June 2008
England 1913.Over a long weekend Lord Nettleby(James Mason)entertains various members of the aristocracy at his country home where the men indulge in the shooting competition and the women gently gossip about marriages ,potential marriages and debt.
Exquisite rendering of Isobel Colegate's dazzling book has memorable performances(James Mason and Dorothy Tutin in particular), a beautifully judged script from Julien Bond which allows so many characters(from the peasantry to the gentry)to be fully developed thus allowing themes such as the seriousness of the disintegration of rural life and concerns about a forthcoming" conflict" to be interwoven into the narrative from multiple perspectives.
Wonderful period detail and John Scott's subtle score add finesse to this lovely film.Only an obviously limited budget and a slightly abrupt ending detract from an even more profound study of Edwardian mores.
The documentary is affectionately done with the reminder of exactly who was meant to have been playing Lord Nettleby but did not complete the first day of shooting.
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on 4 April 2008
This film might have been a little slow. It is not. Kept to a reasonably short length, it retains the interest throughout, as a decent landowner, just before 1914, invites some English and a foreign semi-vulgarian to shoot on his estate. The actors are superb (Fox, Mason et al) and the locations authentic. You feel as if you are there at times. The jarring clash of the Victorian, Edwardian and post-Edwardian ways of life is beautifully drawn.

Without wishing to spoil the film, the subtlety of the director shows in both the eventual fate of the grandson's pet wild duck and in the fact that the arrogant foreign gun is NOT a Prussian or Austrian but a real Hungarian, not even an Austro-type Hungarian (i.e., a "k. und k." Austro-Hungarian).

I very nearly saw this film on or soon after its release, when it was being shown (I think, only there, in London at least) at the art-house Curzon Cinema, in Curzon Street, Mayfair. I wish I had. Recommended.
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on 31 December 2011
Excellent movie, beautifully cast and redolent to the last frame of how life must have been in the Edwardian age, approximately eight months before the start of the First World War. A poignant memory of a leasured, yet stratified lifestyle which was filled with the time honoured "gentlemen's pursuits" such as shooting game birds specially reared for the sport and discrete (and frequently welcomed and expected) bed-hopping amongst the privileged house-guests. Despite the sense of overall fairness and kindliness emanating from the 'lord of the manor', class distinctions were rigidly enforced although it is clear that on this country estate nearly every individual is well-known personally to the family in the "big house" as the people involved have lived and grown up together over the generations.

Highly recommended, a much more authentic and genuine depiction of an age long gone, than Downton Abbey could ever be.
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