Watch the five best cult British movies you’ve (probably) never seen - selected by Julian Upton
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Picture this. Someone’s got a gun to your head, and you’ve got to recite great British bands. The second you stop, you’re dead… Well, it’d be an awkward way to go about your life, but I daresay you could still enjoy a surprisingly long innings. Now imagine it was films. Cripes! “Ummm, Brief Encounter, Withnail and I, The Life of Brian, Performance, The Wicker Man… ummm…4 Weddings and a…” BANG!

Don’t get me wrong, the Brits have made many good flicks, but they feel so over-familiar that you can find yourself suspecting that they constitute a fig-leaf covering a peculiar national nudity…

Enter Julian Upton and his terrific new book Offbeat, a guide to the predominantly uncharted terrain of great cult British cinema, with sparkling reviews of over a hundred lost classics, along with other interviews and essays documenting the highs and lows of the British film industry “from the buoyant leap in film production in the late fifties to the dying embers of popular domestic cinema in the early eighties.”

Months in advance of the worldwide paperback release, one hundred copies only were released yesterday by Headpress, in a beautiful fully illustrated, hardcover, heavy paper edition, with head and tail bands, plus a ribbon (!) available right here and here only for the special price of £22.50 (which is like $33-and-a-tiny-tiny-tiny-bit, plus a couple of dollars US postage). And Mr Upton has been good enough to personally compile and introduce - exclusively for Dangerous Minds - five of the best cult British movies you’ve (probably) never seen. Plus, you can watch them all here, one after the other over the course of your weekend, or at least until some lawyer somewhere gets them taken the fuck down

1. Cash On Demand (Quentin Lawrence. 1961)


“This taut little thriller about a stuffy bank manager, Fordyce, hoodwinked into helping to rob his own bank on Christmas Eve is perhaps the ne plus ultra of the 60s British B Movie. The premise is ingenious, the pacing drumskin-tight and the performances from Peter Cushing (as the angular, priggish Fordyce) and Andre Morell (as his louche, villainous tormentor) first rate. Imagine a well-mannered Dog Day Afternoon without guns or loosened clothing. But Cash On Demand is no less tense, gripping and enjoyable. It’s just that the English prefer their bank heists to have rather less shouting and carrying on.”

2. Night of the Eagle (Sidney Hayers. 1962)


“Often compared to — but too often overshadowed by — Jacques Tourneur’s 1957 similarly-titled British classic Night of the Demon, this is a minor masterpiece in its own right. A heady tale of horror set on a university campus, Night of the Eagle sees supernatural skeptic Professor Taylor (Peter Wyngarde) shocked to discover that his own wife is a fervent practitioner of the occult arts. Eagle moves at a faster clip than most British films of the period but it doesn’t stint on atmosphere, building effectively to a crescendo of terror as Taylor finds himself embroiled in a modern-day nightmare of sorcery and witchcraft.”

3. The Reckoning (Jack Gold. 1969)


“Released a couple of years after The Reckoning, Get Carter trod the same path and ultimately stole its thunder. But The Reckoning is arguably the better film. Much more than just a brutal revenge drama, it astutely juxtaposes the violent honor of the provincial slums with the aggressive backstabbing of the business world. Its anti-hero Michael Marler (Nicol Williamson) is a northern thug-made-good-down-south, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots, and when he discovers his dying father has been worked over by a couple of hoods back home, he hotfoots it to Liverpool to administer some justice. Williamson gives a powerhouse performance, and The Reckoning is as deep (and, occasionally, as funny) as it is tough.”

4. The Lovers! (1972)


“The ubiquitous 1970s big-screen sitcom spin-off was not noted for its cinematic style or wit, but there were a few examples of the genre that stood out: Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais’ The Likely Lads (1976) and Porridge (1979), and Jack Rosenthal’s The Lovers! (1972). But where the former are still staples of the Christmas TV schedules, The Lovers!, based on a Granada sitcom starring Richard Beckinsale and Paula Wilcox (in their first major roles), sadly never gets an airing. This is a pity as this film version is laugh-out-loud funny and stands up a lot better than many a British sex comedy of the era, accurately capturing a post-sixties’ mood of frustration where provincial men were continually scuppered in their efforts to locate any actual evidence of ‘the permissive society’.”

5. The Black Panther (Ian Merrick. 1977)


“This harrowing dramatization of the life and crimes of armed-robber-turned-murderer Donald Neilson — who became known as the Black Panther and was finally captured following the kidnap-murder of teenager Lesley Whittle in the Midlands in 1975 — was roundly dismissed as exploitation upon its release. But in fact it is a sober and measured reconstruction of the events in question, with admirable attention to detail and a striking central performance by Donald Sumpter as Neilson. In its exploration of an unhinged, loner psyche, it also works as something of a British companion piece to Taxi Driver. Definitely ripe for reappraisal.”

Posted by Thomas McGrath
10:10 am



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