Tuesday, 16 April 2013

BFI Flipside: Captured (1959, John Krish)

Captured is a 1959 film directed by John Krish. If the name doesn't ring a bell, I'm sure you have seen at least one of his rather full on and disturbing child safety videos. Chances are, if you where a kid growing up in the seventies your nightmares where fuelled by John Krish. Anyway, we can relive those nightmares later because it's time for me to actually review this title.

The film was commissioned by the Army Kinema Corporation for the sole purpose of teaching our soldiers how to withstand and overcome the event of becoming a POW. It was restricted from public viewing until 2004 where it was screened to the public for the first time. The thing that surprised me the most was just how cinematic this piece of film is. Of course, you wouldn't expect that at first glance because instead of opening up with credits to those involved, the audience is greeted to the words "This film is RESTRICTED" and our introduction comes from a military officer who is us letting us know what we can expect over the course of the next hour.

Captured has a fine balance of education and drama. Those who are fans of the of the output from The Documentary Movement in the 1930's and 1940's will definitely enjoy (f that's the right word for a film of this nature and the subject matter) this one. As will fans of war films in general. The film is clearly well researched and the the characters in the film are equally well written. I could definitely see this piece doing it's job back when it was first released and having an effect on those watching it.

One thing that did surprise me was just how graphic this film could be. Of course by today's standards the on screen violence and interrogation techniques shown are very tame but you have to take into account this was long before the Internet and long before the rise of the extreme horror film. One of the scenes that stands out is the water boarding scene. This scene is executed brilliantly and genuinely had me clearing my throat an awful lot as I watching. Of course, physical violence isn't the only factor in atrocities on show. We also have to deal with some genuinely powerful psychological elements. The actors playing the band of soldiers being held by the Chinese do a great job in making you feel a bond that is slowly being destroyed by the Chinese, the results are genuinely devastating.

Overall, I was just spellbound by what I witnessing. This is to me a fantastic piece of cinema that gives the best Italian neo-realism cinema of the 1940's a run for it's money. Krish has managed to create a piece of art in it's own right as well doing what the Army Kinema Corporation expected. Amongst all the on screen suffering the overriding theme of standing together and uniting as one really shines through. I won't spoil how the film finishes mainly because there is no real end but trust me a smile and possibly a tear will occur. Captured is a fantastic ultra real humanist tale that should be experienced and thanks to marvellous BFI we finally can in what I have to say is one of the most beautiful looking and sounding transfers I have experienced of a film from this era and nature. A real triumph that for me is one of the releases of the year.

Not only do we get treated to a simply gorgeous presentation but the BFI have also provided a wealth of tremendous special features which include an informative and sizable booklet to accompany the film as well as some of Krish's other works and a documentary about the film maker himself:

H.M.P - 1976:
A 52 minute fly-on-the-wall style recruitment film commissioned by the prison service.

Sewing Machine - 1973:
A 1 minute hard hitting road safety video aimed at children

The Finishing Line - 1977:
The somewhat infamous railway line safety video which haunted children for years.

Searching - 1974
An extremely disturbing safety aimed at children warning them of the dangers of matches.

Shooting The Message - 2013A new and extensive interview John Krish about his career and films

Captured is out now on Blu-ray and DVD combo from the BFI

More information about this release as well as links to purchase it can be found here.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Jess The Ripper - A Tribute

Yesterday (as of typing this obviously) the world of cinema lost another true hero, Jess Franco. I'm going to come right out and say it. I haven't even managed to watch a tiny fraction of Jess Franco's work and I wouldn't do my readers or Jess himself the injustice of claiming to have done so. If you want to read a much more informed and personal account of Mr. Franco I would suggest strongly you read Tim Lucas's touching and emotional posts here and here.

Love him or hate him, you can't deny that Jess Franco wasn't a hard worker. With literally hundreds of film credits under his belt all the way from directing, acting to being cinematographer and so many more jobs. The funny thing is, his IMDB Page is rather inaccurate as there are so many more projects out there that had some sort of Franco involvement! Not only was he one of the most hard working and ultra prolific figures in the world of film, Jess also was an accomplished jazz musician.

Sure, some of his films might be weak and might miss the mark but I implore you to say a bad word about a man who did what he wanted  and never succumbed to major studio pressure. I implore you to say a bad word about a man who gave the world such beauties as Lina Romay. Yeah I thought as much.

I owe a very personal thanks to Jess because Mondo Squallido would just not exist without him or his work. 99 Women was the first film I reviewed for Mondo Squallido. I won't pimp that video out here but if you want to see it, it's on my Youtube page. It's figures like Jess that keep my film watching experience a exciting one. As I said, there are some stinkers in the filmography, there in MANY directors filmographies. You can have your "perfect" multimillion dollar budget blockbusters, that bores the Hell out of me! I want a film that was shot back to back with another film, I love corners being cut, I love the schlock and imperfections of the cinema from the likes of Jess.

Well, I'm going to close this little tribute. Like I said, my experience with Jess and his work is an ongoing one and thanks to the wonders of modern technology and independent DVD labels we are discovering, rediscovering and most importantly enjoying work from one of cinema's most hard working and well loved cult directors.

Thank you so much Jess for the joy you have given me with your films.