By Eve Pearce
Although we tend to associate movies with the glitz and glamor of Hollywood, some of the best films ever made came from Britain. Yes, that one tiny island has created cult classics, witty comedies and terrifying dramas in the past few decades. Here's a look at just some of the British movies, now available on Blu-ray, guaranteed have you practicing your accent all week. Just try not too make it too Dick Van Dyke.
Quadrophenia – 1979
Mods, Rockers, teenage angst and parka jackets. Everything you need to know about 1960s London is in this movie. Phil Daniels plays disillusioned, bored Mod Jimmy who escapes his banal life with drink, drugs and fights. It's a movie that is defined by its symbolic ending. Realizing that his hero Ace Face (played by a very young Sting) is a big phony, Jimmy steals his scooter and throws it off the famous cliffs of Beachy Head. The Criterion Collection Blu-ray features a restored, uncut version of the film with audio commentary, interviews, plus archive and on-set footage. Anglophiles can check out all the impressive movie locations. Barely any of the movie was filmed in the studio, so there are plenty of interesting London and Brighton landmarks to spot. However, the real highlight of the film is the rock opera soundtrack by The Who and it'll be stuck in your head long after the credits roll.
Withnail & I – 1987
Perhaps one of the most quotable British films ever made. From “We've gone on holiday by mistake” to “I demand to have some booze!” it seems that yelling lines from the movie is a pastime for British students. A rite-of-passage related to the film is to try and match Withnail, drink for drink, but good luck on surviving this. The movie was almost never made, with one of the producers keen to shut it down three days into production saying that it had no 'discernable jokes', but luckily for us, production forged on and the movie is now immortalized in Blu-ray. Unfortunately, the disk offers very little in the way of features and no attempts seem to have been made to restore the audio or sound, leaving the film very much in its 1980s state.
A Clockwork Orange – 1971
Restored to all its colorful, striking glory, the two-disk Blu-ray anniversary edition of Kubrick's masterpiece is stuffed with features to keep even the most die-hard fan amused. From Malcolm McDowell reflecting on his experience of making the film and working with Kubrick, to commentary, making of documentaries and footage of Kubrick early in his career. The film is not easy watching, with graphic scenes of violence, rape and murder, but what did you expect from a film that was withdrawn from Britain for 27 years? Although it's set in a dystopian future, most of the movie was filmed around London the surrounding areas, and there's much debate about the political aspects of the film.
Trainspotting - 1996
If you can understand the Scottish accents, then you're halfway to enjoying this gritty and stylish film. Luckily, the Blu-ray has subtitles, as well as audio commentary from director Danny Boyle, a making of featurette and tons of other extras. The movie won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay, and you can see why. If you like your humor incredibly dark and your drama disturbing then Trainspotting has it all. However, first time viewers should be aware that there are some pretty stomach-churning and gut-wrenching moments that can leave you feeling a tad depressed by the end.
The Red Shoes – 1948
If any movie deserved the Criterion treatment, it's The Red Shoes. The Blu-ray manages to show the film in all its Technicolor glory, which is just as well since the dance scenes are some of the most beautiful captured on film. The Blu-ray offers the standard extras, although the commentary by film historian Ian Christie is particularly insightful, but it's the aesthetics of the film that make the Blu-ray worth investing in. Even those who aren't huge fans of ballet can appreciate the work that has gone into restoring the film, with the UCLA Film and Television Archive assisting in the process.
British cinema has an eclectic range of film guaranteed to excite even the most hardcore of movie buffs. Although not always as slick and expensive as their American counterparts, a good Blu-Ray Boxset from Britain will stand the test of time and are essential for any serious collection.
Evelyn is an ex-pat living in Britain who enjoys the quirkier side of indie and cult cinema, especially when it's shown on glorious Blu-Ray.
Criterion/Mirmax/Warner Bros. All