The Thirty Nine Steps (1978)

This third film version of The Thirty-Nine Steps stays much closer to the plot of John Buchan’s novel than previous adaptations and moves the story’s setting back to the eve of The First World War.

Colonel Scudder (John Mills) is a British spy who has uncovered a plot to assassinate the Greek premier on his visit to London, something that will spark a crisis in the Balkans and likely lead to war in Europe. When he finds himself pursued by enemy agents determined to kill him and take possession of his evidence against them, Scudder seeks sanctuary in the apartment of a neighbour in his building, Richard Hannay (Robert Powell). Read more …

Power Play (1978)

A military coup in an unnamed country is the basis for this 1970s political thriller starring David Hemmings, Peter O’Toole and Donald Pleasence. 

David Hemmings plays Colonel Narriman, an apparently decent army officer on the verge of retirement. Narriman is looking forward to a quiet life on his farm in the country, when he is persuaded to take part in a coup against the government. The country’s current regime is authoritarian and unpleasant and the country beset by terrorist violence. Narriman himself is finally convinced of the need for action when his friends’ daughter is murdered by the country’s secret police.  Read more …

The Assassination Bureau Limited (1968)

This black comedy from the 1960s stars Oliver Reed and Diana Rigg, the latter in her first film starring role. Rigg plays Sonya Winter, an aspiring journalist in Edwardian England, who has uncovered the existence of a secret criminal organisation, The Assassination Bureau.  Read more …

Zeppelin (1971)

Zeppelin is an adventure film set during the height of the Zeppelin menace in World War I. The giant new German airships float over London at 9000 feet, dropping bombs on the city while flying far out of range of the British fighters or anti-aircraft guns. Read more …

C.E.M.A. (1942): Bringing Culture to the Masses

C.E.M.A. stands for the Council for Encouragement of Music and the Arts. This worthy organisation was a forerunner of the Arts Council, formed during World War II to promote music, art and culture. 

The 17 minute documentary short C.E.M.A. was designed to show audiences the kind of cultural outreach work that the Council was doing during WWII, bringing art, music and theatre to the British people. The film was co-directed by the poet Dylan Thomas, who worked on several of these informational shorts during the Second World War. Read more …

Revisiting ‘Hollywood England’ by Alexander Walker

Alexander Walker was one of Britain’s best known film writers of the late 20th century, the long time film critic for the London newspaper the Evening Standard. He also wrote several books on films, including biographies of Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Peter Sellers, and studies on the silent cinema and the films of Stanley Kubrick.

Between 1974 and 2003 he wrote three books covering the British film industry from the very end of the 1950s to the end of the 20th century – Hollywood EnglandNational Heroes and Icons in the Fire

The first of these books, Hollywood England: The British Film Industry in the Sixties (also published as Hollywood UK), was first published in 1974 and covers the period from 1959 through to 1971, and so deals with a memorable and momentous period for British cinema.  Read more …

Two Cheers for St. Trinian’s: School’s Out!

So we’ve reached the end of our odyssey through the St. Trinian’s films. And what have we learned? 
Well, if a new teacher arrives at St. Trinian’s School and she looks like Joyce Grenfell, then she’s definitely a police spy. Also, never go on a foreign holiday or a “cultural tour” if it’s organised by Cecil Parker – especially if Sid James is involved. Will they never learn?  Read more …

The Great St. Trinian’s Train Robbery (1966)

The Great St. Trinian’s Train Robbery is the fourth and penultimate film in the long-running St. Trinian’s comedy series. It’s the first in the series to be made in colour, and the only one to be directed by both Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat. It’s also the final film in the series to star George Cole as “Flash Harry”, the last remaining principal character from the original film. Read more …

Left, Right and Centre (1959)

This comedy stars Ian Carmichael as Robert Wilcot, a zoologist and explorer turned TV personality, who has decided to run for Parliament. Wilcot will stand as the Conservative Party candidate for the Parliamentary constituency of Earndale. The area was his childhood home and the location of Wilcot Priory, the family seat and current residence of his uncle, Lord Wilcot (Alastair Sim). Read more …

Blue Murder at St. Trinian’s (1957)

The Belles of St. Trinian’s had been a big box office success on its release in 1954, so the producers Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat decided to follow up with a sequel, Blue Murder at St. Trinian’s, something that turned St. Trinian’s from a popular comedy film into a long-running series.

The plot of Blue Murder at St. Trinian’s is even more convoluted than that of the original film. St. Trinian’s has now become such a haven of mischief and mayhem that the army have been called in to take charge and cordon off the school. Read more …

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