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Basil Dearden's London Underground [Criterion Collection] [4 Discs] [DVD]

Release Date:01/25/2011
When British director Basil Dearden perished in an automobile accident in March 1971, at the relatively young age of 60, his demise put an end to one of the most exciting and unique directorial careers in contemporary British cinema. Dearden's work had grown particularly noteworthy in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when he left his 'home studio' of Ealing and began to strike notes seldom heard in English movie theaters at that time, with films that explored such issues as race, homosexuality, the legacy of Britain's involvement in World War II, and many more controversial subjects. This box set from the Criterion Collection's Eclipse series features four such films. It begins with the 1959 Sapphire, starring Nigel Patrick and Yvonne Mitchell - in the tale of a slain young woman whose death opens a window into the bitter racism belying late '50s London. The second feature in the set, 1960's The League of Gentlemen, concerns a disillusioned veteran (Jack Hawkins) who assembles a cadre of washed-up ex-WWII soldiers to launch a sophisticated heist. The third film in the set, 1961's Victim, stars Dirk Bogarde as a closeted, married homosexual who risks disclosure to thwart a blackmailer preying on England's gay community. Finally, 1962's All Night Long updates Shakespeare's Othello to early '60s London, for the tale of a chaotic, betrayal-ridden anniversary party; the film also contains rare performances by Dave Brubeck and Charles Mingus.

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    In its time, Victim was considered as a daring a film as had ever been made in England. Taken at face value, Janet Green and John McCormick's screenplay is nothing new: Dirk Bogarde plays a lawyer who agrees to defend an old friend (John McEnery) on a theft charge, only to be enmeshed in a blackmailing scheme. What set this one apart is the fact that the lawyer had once been the male lover of his client. At a time when homosexuality was a criminal offense in England, any film that depicted the gay scene in a non-judgmental light was in for a rough time from the bluenose brigades. What really startled filmgoers of 1962 is that the homosexuals shown in Victim were seemingly normal, everyday blokes, a far cry from the stereotyped "nance" characters common to films. Denied the MPAA seal when it was released to the United States, Victim surprisingly ran into very little interference when it was released to television in the mid-1960s. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    All Night Long
    The British All Night Long is Othello to a jazz beat. Paul Harris is the Othello counterpart, a bandleader happily married to "Desdemona" Marti Stevens. Patrick McGoohan plays the film's funky Iago character, who covets Harris' job. McGoohan hopes to unnerve Harris by spreading rumors that Stevens has been unfaithful. Like the 1956 Joe MacBeth, All Night Long can either be taken seriously or as what used to be called 'high camp." Jazz aficionados will appreciate the brief appearances by Dave Brubeck, Johnny Dankworth, Paul Mingus, Tubby Hayes, Charles Mingus, Kenny Napper and several other top musicians. Also showing up in a cameo role is dancing star Geoffrey Holder, who wouldn't make a bad Othello (or Iago) himself. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The League of Gentlemen
    An engrossing suspenser with dashes of comedy, League of Gentlemen is about a daring group of highly trained army men, turned bank robbers. When Hyde (Jack Hawkins) is drummed out of the army after years of devoted service, he decides to get back at society in general. One by one, he finds seven other army officers who are now broke and who walk on the shady side of the law. All eight men go into hiding as they plan the robbery with the care and attention of a behind-the-lines reconnaissance mission. As they undertake tasks like raiding a military depot for explosives and similar stunts, suspense and incidental humor increase, leading up to bank day when the really big show has to be pulled off without a hitch. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi

    Nigel Patrick and Michael Craig portray two Scotland Yard detectives who are investigating the murder of a young black woman who had been passing for white. As timely a topic today as when made in an England rampant with racial prejudice in the 1950s, it stays just this side of an in-depth indictment of racism and bigotry as the detectives investigate the vast array of suspects--everyone from the girl's white boyfriend and his parents who feared that the association would destroy his career to the boys that the girl had spurned when she was accepted by white society. ~ Tana Hobart, Rovi

    Cast & Crew

    • Dirk Bogarde
      Dirk Bogarde - Melville Farr
    • Sylvia Syms
      Sylvia Syms - Laura Farr
    • Dennis Price
      Dennis Price - Calloway
    • Anthony Nicholls
      Anthony Nicholls - Lord Fullbrook
    • Image coming soon
      Peter Copley - Paul Mandrake

    Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.