‘Herostratus,’ directed by Don Levy

Movie, 1967 Intense, arty film about a struggling nihilistic poet who enlists the help of an advertising agency in order to turn his suicide into a media event. While there are some ideas which sit a little awkwardly or backfire – some of the archive footage cut into the main action seems a little heavy-handed – this is a breath-taking spectacle which despite its tricksiness, … Continue reading ‘Herostratus,’ directed by Don Levy

“Murder Underground,” by Mavis Doriel Hay

Novel, 1934 Genteel crime novel set not in some country estate, but the nonetheless leafy environs of Belsize Park in London, with a trip up to Coventry thrown in for good measure. While this, and the quite revealing look at life in a boarding house provide a different backdrop, the plotting and mystery are fairly run of the mill. Still, the book works quite well … Continue reading “Murder Underground,” by Mavis Doriel Hay

“Three and Out,” directed by Jonathan Gershfield

Movie, 2008 British romcom, in which a tube driver contrives to involve himself in a third fatal accident in order to get paid off and out of his job. Not the worst premise and not the absolute worst film in the world, but neither is this a standout, with some fairly flat acting, scripting and a pitch and situations which never quite feel believable, and … Continue reading “Three and Out,” directed by Jonathan Gershfield

“The Time of the Angels”, by Iris Murdoch

Novel, 1966 The world of an atheist rector, his daughter and his niece, who have recently moved to London from the countryside, and their household and close acquaintances. A book of darkness, both literal and metaphorical, with little relief or let up, with characters held together in strange power plays and family ties. The hints of hope are always just that; hints against a backdrop … Continue reading “The Time of the Angels”, by Iris Murdoch

“The Spy Who Came in From the Cold”, directed by Martin Ritt

Movie, 1965 Bleak, eerie and nihilistic existences in the Cold War, partly set in London, Berlin and other locations in Germany. A poetic despondency hangs over this film depicting the lives of an aging operative and a young Communist idealist, who both seem to exist and to not exist, and are both played in a strange, murky world full and empty of rain, pettiness, flamboyant … Continue reading “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold”, directed by Martin Ritt

“Tiger in the Smoke”, directed by Roy Ward Baker

Movie, 1956 Adaptation of a particularly atmospheric Margery Allingham mystery. Much of the novel’s strength lies in conjuring an atmosphere in the reader’s mind. For much of the start of the film, the same effect is achieved. The band of shell-shocked WWII veterans evoke a distinctly other-worldly feeling in the gloom you can more or less feel coming out of the screen. The trouble is … Continue reading “Tiger in the Smoke”, directed by Roy Ward Baker

“Horrors of the Black Museum”, directed by Arthur Crabtree

Movie, 1959 Horror in glorious, gaudy colour, in which the plot and any suspense is demystified almost from the off, leaving space for some pretty sadistic, well directed gore, in which there’s a pleasing mix of cruelty, inevitability, melodrama and ghastly deeds which are every bit as unseen as they are visible. In a film of this vintage and manners, there are still a couple … Continue reading “Horrors of the Black Museum”, directed by Arthur Crabtree

“The Day the Earth Caught Fire”, directed by Val Guest

Movie, 1961 Ecological disaster film, which skillfully drives atmosphere and captures a feeling of desperation and panic, largely through the familiar settings, economic use of effects and subplots, which threaten to plod, but never do. This is a film which is instantly gripping and which ratchets up the tension as Planet Earth is battered by a mankind seemingly intent on self-annihilation. Some robust acting – … Continue reading “The Day the Earth Caught Fire”, directed by Val Guest

“Queenie’s Castle,” by Lena Kennedy

Novel, 1994 East End crime novel set around a pub, with a familiar-feeling cast of gang members, coppers and jailbirds and those involved with or affected by them. While this all feels a little old-fashioned, and there are a few issues, maybe, with the technical execution of some of the writing, for the most part, the story chugs along nicely and keeps the pages turning. … Continue reading “Queenie’s Castle,” by Lena Kennedy

"The Small World of Sammy Lee," directed by Ken Hughes

Movie, 1963 A film which looks slight and a little kitsch despite its strip joints, thugs and poker games, but which packs a punch all the same, through the tension built around the anti-hero and the cinematography which gives a wonderful black and white, light and shade, multi-faceted portrait of Soho. Anthony Newley’s down trodden sarcastic charm suits the title role and surroundings. Some strange … Continue reading "The Small World of Sammy Lee," directed by Ken Hughes