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DVD & Blu-ray Picks: January 2016

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The Angry Silence (1960)

Early 1960s industrial strife forms the backdrop for this British drama, which was the first film a production company formed by Richard Attenborough and Bryan Forbes.

Set in a fictionalised town it portrays the dilemma of a factory worker (Attenborough) belonging to a unionised workforce who gradually comes to doubt his union bosses and later comes into conflict with them when some members start harassing his wife (Pier Angeli) and family.

The film has an interesting approach to the issue of UK labour relations, pitting a protagonist in between his family and his fellow workers engaging in a wildcat strike.

As the narrative progresses some would argue that the story is somewhat lopsided against the strikers, but for a British film of this period to tackle such issues was bold, even if at times it resembles a poor mans On the Waterfront (1954) – still the gold-plated classic of this sub-genre.

From a contemporary view – where union power has become greatly reduced – this film may look a little bizarre, even offensive to some – but as a certain story, set in a specific time, it is perhaps wiser to acknowledge the historical context.

Indeed, as fully paid members of film industry unions the makers of this film would have known all to well the value of not being at the mercy of studio bosses.

Themes aside, the technical qualities of this film are what you might expect of the era: consistent shooting style, and slightly overcooked dialogue and acting.

The director Guy Green was a fine cinematographer for two classic David Lean films – Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948) – but he was less skilled in the director’s chair going on to make films like the poorly received The Magus (1968) and The Devil’s Advocate (1977).

Despite being less than a classic, it remains an interesting curiosity for those interested in a lesser known example of the British new wave of the 1960s.

> Buy The Angry Silence at Amazon UK
> Find out more about British New Wave Cinema at Wikipedia

The Captive Heart (1946)

Set in a German POW camp for British soldiers this drama stars Michael Redgrave as a Czech agent, who assumes the identity of a deceased British officer to avoid the Nazis.

Director Basil Dearden was a prolific figure in pre and post-war British cinema at Ealing Studios, co-directing comedies films like The Goose Steps Out (1942), influential horror anthology Dead of Night (1945) and The Blue Lamp (1950) – the latter spawning PC George Dixon of TVs ‘Dixon of Dock Green’.

Although a prolific figure in British and international cinema – with films such as Khartoum (1966) – he had his detractors, including David Thomson who wrote in his New Biographical Dictionary of Film:

“His films are decent, empty, and plodding and his association with Michael Relph is a fair representative of the British preference for bureaucratic cinema.”

There is some truth to this, and it can even be detected in a serious war drama like The Captive Heart. The stilted upper class speech of officers and the borderline comic cockney tones of infantrymen are all here in abundance.

Despite this, it is still worth seeing.

The original purpose may have been to ease British audiences back to normality, but its depiction of a blinded soldier (Gordon Jackson) and the complex nature of Michael Redgrave’s character do still resonate in this era of wounded veterans fresh from wars in the Middle East.

Another curious parallel is that the central conceit of the film is strikingly similar to a key plot element of TV modern classic Mad Men (2007-2015) – that of a major character posing as another man who died during World War II.

Other elements of interest include its release right after the war and use of actual prisoner of war camps in Germany. One of these was near Westertimke, which had remained largely intact after the end of the conflict.

Produced by the legendary Carl Foreman, it ultimately remains a standard issue World Two melodrama, not great but not too bad either.

> The Captive Heart on Blu-ray and DVD at Amazon UK
> More about Basil Dearden at Wikipedia