It’s too bad we can’t have a separate category for Alec Guinness films but that would mess with the auteur mojo I’m using around here. I wish Alexander MacKendrick had made more movies. I have an inexplicable affection for Ken Russell but keep that under your lid, will ya?


Thriving on a riff!

Notes on the British directors who didn’t make the Masters/Majors cut and whatnot.


John Boorman often visited the film department at Columbia University when I was a student there.  He was a nice, genuine sort of guy.   I’ve always loved Point Blank which was based on The Hunter, one of the Parker novels by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake).   It could well be the best hard-boiled novel series on the market!

Whatever happened to Bill Forsyth?  Maybe he only had two or three good films in him.  I took a bus tour past the Scottish locale for Local Hero last year.  It looked completely different from the film, but felt idyllic all the same.

Alexander Korda didn’t direct that many films but he was behind the camera when Charles Laughton gave two of his finest early performances (The Private Life of Henry VIII & Rembrandt) and who can forget the Oliviers in That Hamilton Woman?  Alas,  Korda’s brand of historical epic became old hat during WWII.

David Lean and Carol Reed were pretty much crucified by the auteur critics.  Their later films are pretty dreary but I’m willing to give both of them another shot on the strength of the 1940s films.   Outcast of the Islands could well be the best screen adaptation of Conrad.  I like but don’t love The Third Man.  I know…’tis blasphemy.

If The Ladykillers and Sweet Smell of Success somehow haven’t won you over to Alexander MacKendrick, then you should check out his first film Whisky Galore based on the wonderful novel by Compton MacKenzie.  Truly droll filmmaking sure to tickle your funny bone.

It’s not easy to own up to liking Ken Russell but his was a career which turned shamelessness into a virtue.  To these eyes, Russell’s perverse take on the world was funnier and more weirdly profound than  that of David Lynch.



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