Monday, 20 March 2017

DVD Review: S&M: Les Sadiques

With a wintry Berlin as its backdrop, Alex Bakshaev's "S&M:Les Sadiques" offers a heartfelt tribute to the late Jess Franco while making its own mark in the cinema of unease.
Here, in the heartland of David Bowie's greatest triumphs (look out for the shrine), trans peed along tracks headed to nowhere; the lost and the lonely nurse drinks in seedy
bars, and a young woman searches for bed and board in a city where everything has its price.

College dropout Marie (Nadine Pape) soon discovers that if the streets are mean, bricks and mortar can hose even more hazards as she narrowly avoids rape,
ending up in the abode of a woman who "takes orders from no-one.
Sandra (Sandra Bourdonecc) soon introduces her latest charge to a world where pain and pleasure co-exist; a lifestyle that leads to betrayal and murder.

With nods to "Succubus", "Venus In Furs" and "She Killed In Ecstasy", "S&M" also draws on the poetic elements of Jean Rollin, where snow covered streets replace beaches,
leaving short-lived footprints that will soon fade forever.
The film is accompanied by an evocative soundtrack from Kevin Kopacka and Alexander Zhemchuzhnikov ( Stuart Lindsay performing the music of Daniel White at various points), and brought to life by exquisite photography, capturing the magic and the harsh realities of the location.

Cast-wise, there are two stimulating performances from the female leads, ably supported by Kevin Kopacka (Marie's lover), Harry Baer as her Uncle Franz and Nikolaus Sternfeld as Tom.
Thanks to the script by Alex Bakshaev and Sarnt Utamachote, there's plenty to stretch performers and viewers alike, installing this as a film that will most certainly repay multiple viewings.

It's extremely bloody in places, with jealousy and betrayal leading to a reprehensible act that will surely make your blood run cold.
There are also moments of tenderness and togetherness, recalling happier times when the world seemed less oppressive.
"S&M: Les Sadiques" scores highly in all the key areas and carries my recommendation as a perversion story with a heart and soul.

Image quality on the DVD is pin-sharp, highlighting the beautifully lit interior and exterior scenes. There are also 3 trailers. One for the main feature,
and for two other enticing titles: "Dylan" and "The Devil Of Kreuzberg".

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Blu-ray Review: The Crying Game (BFI dual format)

In the world of cinema, different markets often deliver polar opposite responses. In the US, Neil Jordan's "The Crying Game" was greeted with open arms by audiences fascinated by the film's sexual politics.
In the UK, the spectre of the IRA - very much active in England at the time - turned off cinema goers who were unwilling to accept that a member of this organisation could possess a human side.

A carnival in Northern Ireland is the setting for the kidnapping of Jody (Forest Whitaker); a soldier who is ensnared by the gorgeous Jude (Miranda Richardson) and taken at gunpoint to a safe house near Newry, some 34 miles from Belfast.
One of the senior members of the IRA is being interrogated at Castlereagh, and Jody is informed that he'll be shot unless their comrade is released within 3 days.
Slowly, Jody's personality and situation infiltrates the very soul of Fergus Hennessey (Stephen Rea); a footsoldier for the IRA, who reveals that behind the political brainwashing lies a man capable of forging friendships across the great divide.
When the inevitable occurs, Fergus has cultivated a bond with Jude, resulting in a journey to London where Dil (Jaye Davidson) works in a hairdressers, awaiting Jodie's return.

"The Crying Game" is a film of secrets deceptions and identity, with a twist halfway through through that's beautifully timed, and which leads to some incredibly moving scenes.
Rea is particularly fine here, succeeding in a supremely difficult task of getting the audience on his side, moving from potential cold-blooded executioner to a person who can laugh, love and feel for fellow human beings. Praise too, for the excellent supporting cast, including Richardson's thoroughly evil agent who eventually turns up in London, reminding Fergus that "You're never out!", having established her cruel nature at an early stage: "Don't leave me with her!" implores a frightened Jody and that's before he takes a heavy blow to the face from the butt of her gun!
Jim Broadbent's go-between barkeep Colin; an affecting turn from Whitaker; Adrian Dunbar's fiery IRA hitman and a quite brilliant performance from Davidson make this a film to enthrall from start to finish.
While it's true there is one scene in particular that requires huge suspension of disbelief, the film overall succeeds as a love story punctuated by the blood and bullets of a dark period in our history.

"The Crying Game" may not have set the box office alight over here, but it's not been forgotten and the release of this dual-format BFI Blu-ray and DVD will delight old admirers and recruit a new generation of film buffs.
The Blu-ray presentation offers solid colours, deep blacks and no anomalies. A rich viewing experience.
The supplementary material commences with a director's audio commentary track. Neil Jordan talks about cinematic influences; casting choices; why he shot in cinemascope; the research undertaken for Jaye Davidson's character and also acknowledges the tip of the hat to "Mr Arkadin."
Jordan also talks about shooting with a minimal budget: a state of affairs amplified in "The Making of The Crying Game" (50m 24s).
Here, the director is joined by Stephen Woolley, Stephen Rea, Janes Giles and Nik Powell; the latter providing further insight with regard to the low budget.
We also hear about Channel Four's main two objections to the script; how the finance was raised and why this film was very much make or break for Neil Jordan.

An alternative ending (with optional director's commentary) is presented for the first time, taken from VHS tape and running for 4m 55s.
Channel Four insisted on an alternative ending being shot, and finally agreed with Jordan that his original ending was better and could be filmed.
I'd say this was the right decision, although the inclusion of the alternative - shot in snowy London streets - is worth seeing.
"Northern Troubles" (8m 50s) Here, a Catholic and a Protestant take separate journeys through Belfast, sharing their respective views on the politics in their world.
The package is rounded off with 2 trailers. The 1st runs for 1m 37s, while the second (53s) is a series of review quotes under the film poster.
The BFI have also compiled a booklet featuring excellent essays by Ashley Clark and Juliet Jacques, and a valuable Neil Jordan overview from Brian Hoyle. Excellent writing from all three participants and worthy of your time.

"The Crying Game" will be released on 20th February.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Blu-ray Review: Assault On Precinct 13 (Second Sight)

My first encounter with John Carpenter's "Assault On Precinct 13" occurred during a golden age of cinema double bills in the 1970s.
In those days, film buffs had the opportunity to catch the likes of Lucio Fulci's "The Beyond" / "House By The Cemetery", "The Exorcist" / "Exorcist II" and "Jason And The Argonauts" / "Chariots Of The Gods". Assault turned up on a double header with "Halloween" and quickly convinced me that Carpenter was a director who merited special attention from that point on.
Certainly, Assault still comes over today as a job well done, being an intoxicating old school mix of "Rio Bravo" and "Night Of The Living Dead" as heroes and heroines emerge from a retired police station under siege from a LA gang.

After a bloody shootout between police and gang members, we join Lieutenant Bishop (Austin Stoker) who is on the way to oversee the closure of the Anderson precinct police station. Here, the cells are empty and the electricity supply is due to be bumped before the 4.00am shutdown as Leigh (Laurie Zimmer) and Julie (Nancy Loomis) carry on winding down their duties. On the other side of town, shackled prisoner 'Napoleon' Wilson (Darwin Joston) is heading for Death Row under armed supervision while members of the LA Thunder - still smarting from the deaths of 6 members - commit an unbelievable atrocity which culminates in a shell-shocked man stumbling into Anderson station having killed the gang's leader.
Wilson also ends up at the station , but it's really the grieving stranger who is the subject of the gang's attention, prompting the delivery of a chilling blood oath declaring they are willing to lose more gang members until revenge is taken.
So begins a long, dark night of the soul with the hoodlums silencers greatly adding to the eerie atmosphere and ensuring no-one can hear their shots.

Carpenter's taut direction and entirely memorable score - one of his very best - creates a nightmarish scenario which the cast respond to admirably. We have Julie, desperate to turn over a man whose world (unknown to them) has already ended, while Bishop and Wilson gradually build mutual respect in the fight to stay alive. Best of all may be the gorgeous Laurie Zimmer, who comes over as an enormously resourceful woman in the face of true adversity.
2016 marks the 40th anniversary of this film, which remains the crowd-pleasing gem it was all those years ago. The infamous scene that drew gasps of disbelief at the screening I attended has retained its power to shock to the core, and there are many other scenes that stay with you long after the credits have rolled: witness the scene where stray bullets disturb a wall clock from its previously serene resting place, demonstrating time no longer has any meaning in this night without end.

Second Sight's Blu-ray presentation adds fine detail, solid colours and even a greater sense of purpose to this classic, and goes on to deliver some meaty extras for those of us who love to really step inside a film.
First up is a John Carpenter commentary track where the director talks about the challenges he faced with a $100,000 budget. John discusses the critical reception; admits there are a few scenes he wouldn't have got away with today; chats about cast and crew and pronounces that Assault was unique for its time.

Art director and sound effects designer Tommy Lee Wallace is joined by Michael Felsher for a second commentary track which takes in Tommy's high school days with JC; the panavision filmmaking process; that shocking murder scene and his own work as a director.

Return To Precinct 13: An Interview With Austin Stoker (9m 20s)
Austin recalls his early movie-going experiences; how he first met JC, and the big responsibility of being the main character.

Filmmaking With John: An Interview With Tommy Lee Wallace (21m 41s)
Tommy recalls his high school band days with JC; talks about the magic of 35mm film and of his relationship with John, calling him extremely well prepared and motivated.

Producing Precinct 13: Interview With Executive Producer Joseph Kaufman (15m 39s)
Here, Joseph brushes aside the $100,000 budget claims; chats about John's time at USC and digs into Assault's production history.

Captain Voyeur (8m 27s)
Made in 1969 at Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts, "Captain Voyeur" is a John Carpenter student film, recently re-discovered by school archivist Dino Everett in 2011. This creepy little number could be loosely referenced to Carpenter's "Halloween", employing a masked figure on the loose in back gardens and alleyways where a light in a window is the signal for our peeping tom to strike.

Do You Remember Laurie Zimmer? (53m 41s

In 1977, Charlotte Szlovak wanted to make a film that would really translate the city of LA, with a woman at the centre of the story.
Charlotte chose Laurie Zimmer who played an actress driving round the city in search of a indefinable something to spark her life.
After filming was completed, Charlotte lost touch with her newfound friend, and this compelling short tells the story of her journey to find Laurie. It's a haunting tale for sure, as Charlotte delivers poetic narration while negotiating blond alleys and dead ends during her search for the actress. It's an uplifting story, demosntarting that a strong bond can never truly be broken.

Interview With John Carpenter and Austin Stoker (23m 8s)
This was filmed before an appreciative audience at the Egyptian Theatre in 2002, where JC and Austin discuss how Austin got the role of Bishop and other cast choices. "They Live" and "Dark Star" are just two of the films that come up during a lively Q&A with the audience.

The Sassy One With Actor Nancy Loomis (12m 44s)
Nancy recalls her formative years at high school and USC; tells how she handled nerves during her first couple of features; talks about "Halloween" and "The Fog" and touches on her opinion of fan conventions.
The extras conclude with a 2m 3s theatrical trailer and 1m 4s worth of radio spots. Fans will also be delighted by the inclusion of a bonus CD soundtrack disc exclusive to the box set and 5 exclusive art cards.
"Assault On Precinct 13" will be released on 28th November in the UK, and is an essential purchase for all fans of John Carpenter.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Blu-ray Review: Paris Blues (BFI)

Set in an Autumnal Paris, Martin Ritt's 1961 film throws together a quartet of Americans. Two of them - Ram Bowen (Paul Newman) and Eddie Cook (Sidney Poitier) - are jazz musicians drunk on the artistic spirit of the city, and also the freedom it provides.
Lillian (Joanne Woodward) and Connie (Diahann Carroll) are tourists, arriving for a two week stay with the aim of taking in all the popular haunts in this city of lovers.

The arrival of jazz legend Wild Man Moore (Louis Armstrong) sends the local community into a frenzy; many of whom hang out a Marie Seoul's jazz cave where Ram and Eddie play.
After a false start which suggested Ram and Connie could well develop a certain chemistry, Ram takes up with Lillian, leaving Eddie to fall for Connie.
As jealousy and the plight of a talented musician and friend simmer and pop in the background, both men are forced to choose between their potentially rewarding careers and the chance to find real love with adoring partners.

"Paris Blues" is beautifully paced throughout, moving from the exhilarating jam sessions and backroom bust-ups to quiet, reflective moments which involve the most painful soul -
We have Ram showing his drug-addicted buddy a mirror image of what he'll become if he doesn't quit the coke; Eddie, fearful of exposing himself to the racism back home, and there's a fateful encounter between Ram and a music promoter who must decide whether Ram's compositions represent a seriously accomplished piece of work.
Add to this the two smitten females who are convinced their partners are a once-in-a-lifetime find, and you'll see there's a multitude of emotions to take in, all of them conveyed by a first rate cast while the superb soundtrack plays on.
Wild Man's comment to Ram that "They tell me I have to blow real hard to put you down" is entirely correct, and both men participate in an almighty session, blowin' fit to burst, with not a hint of one upmanship. Just the joy of playing, and being a part of great things.The venue, too, is a delight as jazz aficionado's sit at tables with candles perched in wine bottles, living every note as the music flies up the stairs and out into the magical Parisian night air.
"Paris Blues" captures the atmosphere of these venues, but also explores the fallout from musical infatuation and genuine fears about the specter of racism that haunts many who left their countries for something better. It's an absorbing study of how lives can change so quickly and why we sometimes do things for the wrong reasons.

This BFI release is part of their Black Star season, dedicated to the power and versatility of black actors.
"Paris Blues" certainly looks splendid in HD, with exquisite detail. Duke Ellington's Oscar-nominated score can be enjoyed to the full on an isolated music and effects track.

Adrian Martin is fast becoming my favourite when it comes to the audio commentary department, so I was pleased to discover he takes the microphone here to deliver an informative talk.
Adrian goes into the wealth of information and detail in various scenes; talks about method actors and character psychology; brings "One Eyed Jacks", Brando and John Cassavetes into the equation, and discusses the mixture of studio and location shots. Adrian acknowledges "Paris Blues" was not a highly regarded film at the time, but makes a solid case as to why it offers real value.

The BFI also includes a stills gallery, comprising of b/w and colour stills, plus film posters and there's also a 2m 49s trailer.
You'll also find a booklet in this dual format release, which includes essays from Nicolas Pillai and Rashida K. Braggs, together with Philip Kemp's look at the career of
Martin Ritt.

"Paris Blues" will be available to buy from 24th October. Highly recommended!

Sunday, 28 August 2016

A Warm Welcome to Indicator: An Exciting New British Label

Indicator is a new British Blu-ray and DVD label, owned and operated by Powerhouse Films, London.
Indicator promise a comprehensive range of classic films, expertly encoded and supported by a generous range of supplementary material.
These dual format releases will be accompanied by booklets featuring newly commissioned essays, together with contemporary articles, features and reviews.
New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing will also be a feature of Indicator releases.

Launching on 24th October, the first titles will be John Carpenter's "Christine" and Brian De Palma's "Body Double".

• Original stereo audio
• Alternative 5.1 surround sound track
• Audio commentary with director John Carpenter and actor Keith Gordon
• Christine: Ignition, Fast and Furious & Finish Line (2003, 48 mins): three-part ‘making of’ documentary, featuring interviews with cast and crew, including John Carpenter and Keith Gordon
• Deleted scenes (26 mins): twenty-one sequences which never made the final cut
• Isolated score: experience John Carpenter’s original soundtrack music
• Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
• Original theatrical trailer
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive 24-page booklet with a new essay by Jeff Billington and a 1996 article on Carpenter’s cinematic ‘guilty pleasures’
• Limited Dual Format Edition of 5,000 copies
• UK Blu-ray premiere

• Original stereo audio
• Alternative 5.1 surround sound track
• Craig Wasson Interview (1984, 10 mins): archival NBC interview conducted by Bobbie Wygant
• Pure Cinema (38 mins): extensive interview with first assistant director Joe Napolitano
• The Seduction (17 mins): De Palma discusses the first treatment of the script
• The Setup (17 mins): an examination of the plot
• The Mystery (12 mins): Melanie Griffith discusses her nude scenes and De Palma's shyness
• The Controversy (6 mins): cast and crew discuss the film's critical reception
• Isolated score: experience Pino Donaggio’s original soundtrack music
• Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
• Original theatrical trailer
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Ashley Clark and archival reprints, including a lengthy 1985 interview with De Palma
• Limited Dual Format Edition of 5,000 copies
• UK Blu-ray premiere

Here's a rundown of the first batch of releases:

001 - CHRISTINE (John Carpenter, 1983)
002 - BODY DOUBLE (Brian De Palma, 1984)
003 - GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER (Stanley Kramer, 1967)
004 - TO SIR, WITH LOVE (James Clavell, 1967)
005 - 10 RILLINGTON PLACE (Richard Fleischer, 1971)
006 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (J. Lee Thompson, 1981)
007 - THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (Orson Welles, 1947)
008 - BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (Otto Preminger, 1965)
009 - FAT CITY (John Huston, 1972)
010 - THE LAST DETAIL (Hal Ashby, 1973)
011 - EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (Blake Edwards, 1962)
012 - THE ANDERSON TAPES (Sidney Lumet, 1971)

I hope you will join me in supporting this enterprising new label. A mouth-watering selection of titles for sure.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

The Passion Of Joan of Arc: A Very Special Night

27th August, 1995. The second collaboration between London's National Film Theatre and New Musical Express magazine presented a series of films linking music with the moving image. 'Screenage Kicks' featured some of the best music-related films, and notable performers and broadcasters were invited to introduce movies that had inspired them. John Peel, Jarvis Cocker (Pulp), Andrew Oldham and Martin Carr (The Boo Radleys) were just a few of the celebrities involved as "Withnail And I", "Kes","Sweet Smell of Success", and "Midnight Run"rubbed shoulders with classic footage from the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young and The Who.

As far as I was concerned, the most intriguing event looked to be a one-off screening of Karl Dreyer's "The Passion of Joan of Arc", with live musical backing from Nick Cave And The Dirty Three. So, the evening of August 27th saw me arrive at the NFT with high expectations. I wasn't in the least surprised to discover that NFT1 was completely sold out, and the large number of folks vying for a handful of returned tickets contributed to an indefinable ambiance; the like of which I'd rarely encountered at the cinema. After spending half an hour in the NFT bar, it was time to take my seat for this most special event, which was introduced by Gavin Martin, editor of the NME film section. Martin explained that Nick Cave had suggested composing a score for Dreyer's silent classic; a project which had taken several months of rehearsals and careful planning. With that, Cave strode onto the stage, accompanied by Warren Ellis (violin), Mick Turner (guitar) and Jim White (drums).

"The Passion of Joan of Arc" is certainly Dreyer's finest hour, and Cave's heartfelt tribute turned it into a truly extraordinary experience; quite simply the most emotional and physically draining experience I've witnessed at the cinema. Dreyer's film is based on two novels by Joseph Delteil on the original transcript of this infamous trial. Delteil assisted Dreyer with the screenplay, but there's little doubt that the court records set the tone for this harrowing film. THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC is composed almost entirely of close-ups, and the final stages of the trial - along with Joan's execution - are dominated by the face of Renee ('Marie') Falconetti. The plight of the woman who claimed she was sent by God to save France is indelibly printed on Falconetti's tortured visage; indeed her performance is so intense, it seems as though she was actually possessed by the spirit of this revered Saint. As Joan is tortured and humiliated by the 'devil's agents' en route to her eventual confession, Falconetti cries what are so obviously real tears. This has to be a real contender for the most courageous performance ever given by an actress, and I was astonished to learn that this was her first and last film. Reports indicate she received help and advice from her director along every step of the way but, ultimately, Renee Falconetti must have felt more alone than any woman in silver screen history. Her overwhelming presence makes this a painful viewing experience, and Dreyer's obsessive approach to his subject matter is still guaranteed to disturb, even in an age where we think we've seen everything. Falconetti's inner strength, her unparalleled suffering and eventual despair manage to cross that often impenetrable barrier between screen and audience, forcing us to feel her pain and, occasionally recoil in horror. The scene where Joan is 'bled' so that she may live to deny her faith is extremely graphic, drawing gasps from an incredulous audience and when her execution takes place, the band stop playing and become as one with the packed auditorium who are stunned by this tragic history lesson.
Cave has gone on record as saying this is his all-time favourite film and it showed, Nick! Here, The Dirty Three offered mostly understated background support, with smoldering violin and guitar anchored down by Jim White's steady beat. Occasionally, the boys really put their feet on the pedals, responding to Dreyer's disturbing visuals with all the brutality of prime-time Bad Seeds. However, it was the quieter moments that really left a scar: Cave's beautifully fragile piano, his wordless vocals which often mutate into a haunting 'This is my desire' refrain, and his unerring ability to correctly call when the music should stop. A prime example of this came near the end of the film, when Joan is burnt at the stake. As the flames rise, a deathly silence envelopes the NFT, as we watch the crowd who gathered to witness the execution suddenly realise the enormity of this obscene act and openly revolt. It's then that Cave chooses to deliver his only song of the evening; a plaintive vocal which addresses "God's non-intervention".

All at once, the film is over, and a shell-shocked audience rise to give a standing ovation to Cave and his fellow performers. As we made our way to the exits, I noticed that some people were weeping, others were discussing the film in hushed tones, but most were just too overwhelmed to react. I think we all realised that we had witnessed something extremely special as a passion that has endured for almost 90 years reached new heights.

Monday, 30 May 2016

The Firm (Alan Clarke) BFI Dual Format Release

Back in the 1970s, football violence in England often consisted of one thousand per side battles between rival fans, either inside the ground or on the way back to the railway station or coach parks.
Bloody confrontations were a weekly occurrence, with police struggling to keep these large groups apart.
As time went by, the police began to tighten their grip on proceedings, becoming wise to when and where these fights would take place. This resulted in the hooligans employing different methods to stay one step ahead of the authorities.
Club colours were discarded; smaller groups set up fights with their rivals miles away from the stadiums and weapons such as stanley knives were used to inflict maximum damage in minimum time.

Made in 1988, Alan Clarke's "The Firm" remains probably the best film on football violence, highlighting that this disreputable profession was not solely populated by the disenfranchised but often organised by men in respectable, well-paid positions.
The film follows the activities of The ICC - Inter City Crew - a London firm modelled on West Ham's fearsome ICF and led by Clive 'Bex' Bissell (Gary Oldman).
Bex - a 30 year old real estate agent - leads his mob with a rod of iron, and has ambitions to ply his trade on the international circuit.
The forthcoming European Championship tournament is firmly in Bex's sights, with a national firm consisting of England's finest in need of a leader. The ICC make their way to a swish hotel where their rivals top boys are waiting to stake their own claims. The Buccaneers - led by Yeti (Phil Davis) - and a Birmingham firm fronted by Oboe (Andrew Wilde) fail to agree on a leader, resulting in two organised '0ffs' where last man standing gets the gig.
Clarke - a lifelong Everton fan - hated football violence, and shows this bloodsport at its most damaging.
The BFI disc contains the original BBC broadcast which was cut to run at 1 hr 7 mins.
The director's cut is also included, running for 1 hr 8 mins 6 secs.
The additional footage, deemed to controversial to be screened, further amplifies the extreme damage to life and limb, with the revenge attack on Oboe being a strong case in point.
One of the film's sharpest observations is the contrasting effects of football violence on the family unit.
Bex's wife Sue (Lesley Manville) constantly tells her husband that his involvement has to end, fearing for his well being, and there's a particularly upsetting scene when Bex's young son picks up a stanley knife that's lying around like a discarded toy.
Even parents have a role to play here, with a proud dad reminiscing about having it with Millwall back in the day.

On the casting side, there are some very strong performances. Lesley Manville as the long-suffering wife who reveals her liking for rough sex at the culmination of a disturbing scene that began as something entirely different, while Davis and Wilde are both excellent as contenders for the crown. Best of all has to be Gary Oldman who turns in a frighteningly intense performance, keeping his troops toeing the party line by adopting a rule-by-fear persona and accepting casualties as a small price to pay en route to the coveted number one spot.
For my money, "The Firm" remains the father of football violence films, and is every bit as savagely realistic as the day it came out. The activities portrayed may be offensive in the extreme to many, but it also captures the undoubted buzz experienced by members of football's very own fight club.

This BFI dual format release includes two commentary tracks. The first features Gary Oldman flying solo: a difficult task, but he acquits himself admirably. He talks about working for the late director; Clarke's methods; John Ward's photography; acting with Lesley Manville (his wife at the time) and throws in some golden anecdotes, including why cast and crew had to receive a police escort when things got a bit hot during filming.
The second track features Lesley Manville, Phil Davis, author Dave Robinson and TV archivist Dick Fiddy.
Lesley talks about Clarke's censorship battles with the BBC; how they shot the scene with the toddler and the knife and why she elected not to inform Clarke before or during the shoot that she was pregnant.
Al Hunter's research for the film is covered - including a meeting with two members of West Ham's ICF - together with much admiration for Clarke who gave his actors room to breathe. Alternative endings for "The Firm" are also discussed.

Next up is "Elephant" (37m 39s)
This controversial short film was screened by BBC2 on 25th January 1989, and turned the spotlight on chilling executions carried out by the IRA.
Almost completely bereft of dialogue, "Elephant" comprises of a series of murders where one, sometimes two hitmen turn up at petrol stations, swimming pools, football fields and houses to kill those who have incurred the wrath of the Irish Republican Army.
Sometimes there is recognition shown by the victims who seem to know the man with the gun, while others stare blankly at the intruder, but the end result is always the same.
Ward's camera lingers on the various death poses, driving home the obscenity of these acts that take place in a world of emptiness where there are no cars, passers-by or shoppers to witness the slaughter.
It's a tough watch to be sure, but it did educate the public over here in England and make them aware of what was happening in Northern Ireland on a daily basis.
Mark Kermode and producer Danny Boyle offer a thought provoking commentary track where Boyle begins by explaining how he came to work with Alan Clarke. He talks of a man who treated everyone the same; explains why Clarke chose to tackle the subject of civilian murders in Northern Ireland and his reasons for not wanting the film to be shown over there.
Kermode makes some excellent points during the conversation, regarding the settings; the fact that those who got away were not witnesses and declares the murders were un-cinematic.

Open Air Discussion of Elephant BBC1 (21 min)
Screnned on the evening after Elephant's BBC2 airing, Susan Rae presents a phone-in with Alan Clarke taking calls from a largely critical audience. The director was in LA at the time, but close enough to feel the heat from aggrieved callers; some of whom felt his film to be an insult to the people of Northern Ireland.
Clarke defends his work admirably, as does Danny Boyle who appears in the studio for the second half of the programme to take more calls.

Alan Clarke: Out Of His Own Light part 12 (36m 20s)
A fascinating documentary segment, covering "Elephant" and "The Firm", with valuable input from Brian Cox, Stephen Frears, Paul Greengrass, Clarke's daughter Molly, John Ward and other key figures in this story.
Itr's frequently moving to witness the love and respect they had for this much-missed director and a nice way to end one of the finest releases of 2016 thus far.

"The Firm" Blu-ray/DVD combo is available now as a separate release, or as part of the BFI boxset:
"Dissent & Disruption Alan Clarke at the BBC 1969-1989".
Take a look at the contents listed below

lthough probably best remembered for the controversial and groundbreaking dramas Scum, Made in Britain and The Firm, the breadth of Alan Clarke’s radical, political, innovative, inspirational work, along with his influence on generations of filmmakers, such as Gus Van Sant, Paul Greengrass, Andrea Arnold, Harmony Korine, Clio Barnard, Shane Meadows, should see him rightly regarded as one of Britain’s greatest ever filmmaking talents.

This long-overdue collection finally brings together all twenty-three of the surviving stand-alone BBC TV dramas that Alan Clarke directed between 1969 and 1989, including such neglected classics as To Encourage the Others, Horace, Penda’s Fen, Diane, Contact, Christine and Elephant, and also includes Scum and the first ever presentation of Clarke’s original Director’s Cut of The Firm, assembled from his personal answer print, discovered in 2015.

Among the extensive extras, which include David Leland introductions, extracts from BBC discussion shows Open Air and Tonight and newly-produced documentaries and audio commentaries, this Limited Edition 13-Disc Box Set also includes a bonus DVD of Clarke’s Half Hour Story episodes, made for Associated Rediffusion during the late-60s.

The Last Train through Harecastle Tunnel (1969)
Sovereign’s Company (1970)
The Hallelujah Handshake (1970)
To Encourage the Others (1972)
Under the Age (1972)
Horace (1972)
The Love Girl and the Innocent (1973)
Penda’s Fen (1974)
A Follower for Emily (1974)
Diane (1975)
Funny Farm (1975)
Scum (1977)
Nina (1978)
Danton’s Death (1978)
Beloved Enemy (1981)
Psy-Warriors (1981)
Baal (1982)
Stars of the Roller State Disco (1984)
Contact (1985)
Christine (1987)
Road (1987)
The Firm: Director’s Cut (1989, previously unreleased)
The Firm: Broadcast Version (1989)
Elephant (1989)
Bonus Disc (DVD only)
The Gentleman Caller (1967)
Goodnight Albert (1968)
Stella (1968)
The Fifty-Seventh Saturday (1968)
Thief (1968)