The Uninvited

Starring Ray Milland, Gail Russell and Ruth Hussey
Written by Frank Partos and Dodie Smith from the novel by Dorothy Macardle
Directed by Lewis Allen
Production year 1944
Running time 99 minutes

The Christmas season is a traditional time for tales of the supernatural - for many years the BBC would televise works by the British horror writer MR James - some of them very scary indeed...
This little-known gem from 1944 is one of the best and most atmospheric ghost stories to be filmed. Like the best spooky tales, such as Robert Wise's chilling 1963 movie The Haunting, it relies more on suggestion and what you do not see than elaborate special effects and big noisy scares.
Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey play a brother and sister who buy Windward House - an old abandoned Gothic mansion in a rocky coastal area of England. After they move in a series of strange events lead them to believe that the house is haunted and their attempts to find out the identity of the spirit lead to some spine-tingling moments.
The Uninvited boasts stunning black and white photography, an atmospheric score and well judged performances by Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey and the others in the cast.
Among the writers of the screenplay is Dodie Smith, the British novelist whose much-loved books included I Capture The Castle and 101 Dalmatians.

Don't miss this classy tale of the uncanny - our last film of 2012.

Les Triplettes de Belleville

Starring Beatrice Bonifassi and Lina Boudreault
Written and directed by Sylvain Chomet
Production year 2003
Running time 78 minutes

In the three years that the film club has been running we have never shown an animated film. Not everybody likes animation and it is traditionally thought of as a children's medium which can be loud and brash and unsubtle. But animation has undoubtedly given us some of the greatest experiences in cinema from the Warner Brothers cartoons of the 1940s, Disney's many classics and the brilliant work done by Pixar in the last 20 years. Animation has been dominated by America since its inception in the 1920s but every now and again a masterpiece appears from elsewhere in the world. This is just such a film. The Triplets Of Belleville is a gorgeous slice of gallic weirdness with a fantastic musical score that references Django Reinhardt, Fred Astaire and Josephine Baker. It tells the story of a champion road cyclist, his grandmother and their dog and what happens when he is kidnapped by mobsters and taken to America. If it sounds crazy that's because it is...Sylvain Chomet's animation style is unique - very French with a fantastic retro look and numerous nods to Jaques Tati along the way. The Triplets Of Belleville will have your toes tapping and put a smile on your face. Don't miss it.

Something Wild

Starring Melanie Griffith, Jeff Daniels and Ray Liotta
Written by E Max Frye
Directed by Jonathan Demme
Production year 1986
Running Time 113 Minutes

Charlie Driggs is a straight-laced banker who leads a dull and ordinary life until he happens to meet Lulu - a freewheeling wild child who takes him on a series of adventures and a perilous encounter with her past. This smart, sexy comedy was one of a number of films from the 1980s in which yuppies found themselves in trouble and out of their comfort zone. Other examples include Scorsese's After Hours and John Landis' Into The Night.
  Something Wild was directed by Jonathan Demme, a graduate of the Roger Corman expoitation school of filmmaking whose work includes perhaps the best concert film ever made - Stop Making Sense (featuring Talking Heads) and the delightful offbeat drama Melvin and Howard. Demme is probably best known as a director for Silence Of The Lambs  which won him an Academy Award.
  He is a quirky, unusual talent who works as often in documentary as he does in fiction and has a habit of blending comedy with edgy violence to surprise and unsettle his audience.
  Demme's choice of music for this film is inspired - including tracks by  Fine Young Cannibals, Big Audio Dynamite, Jimmy Cliff, New Order and David Byrne  as well as several versions of Wild Thing.
  Melanie Griffith and Jeff Daniels are perfectly cast as the misfit couple of Lulu and  Charlie but the film is stolen by Ray Liotta in his first big role. His chilling, charismatic performance as the ex from hell is genuinely disturbing.

Rumble Fish

Starring Mickey Rourke, Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, Dennis Hopper and Tom Waits
Written by S.E Hinton and Francis Ford Coppola
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Production year 1983
Running time 94 minutes

After an extraordinary purple patch of films in the 1970s that included The Conversation, The Godfather and Apocalypse Now Francis Ford Coppola entered the new decade riding high and with his very own studio - Zoetrope Pictures. The 1980s however  would prove  troubled times for him, with high profile and expensive flops including One From The Heart and The Cotton Club almost bankrupting him and his new company. In the midst of these  failures however he directed two striking cult films back-to-back - The Outsiders and Rumble Fish. Both were based on books by S E Hinton, whose 1967 debut novel The Outsiders - written while she was still a teenager, has sold more than 14 million copies to date.

 Tonight's film Rumble Fish was shot using high contrast black and white stock and owes much to both both the French New Wave and German Expressionism in its visual style. Time lapse photography along with exaggerated compositions and strange angles make this one of Coppola's most fascinating and experimental pictures.

 The soundtrack too is avant garde with percussive compositions by Stewart Copeland of The Police who used a new device called a Musync that allowed him to mix street sounds with musical notes.

 A hugely talented cast is headed by Matt Dillon and Mickey Rourke who star alongside a gang of idiosyncratic supporting actors including Nick Cage (Coppola's nephew), Dennis Hopper and Tom Waits.

 Look out for the author  herself in a small role as 'Hooker on Strip'

The Ipcress File

Starring Michael Caine, Nigel Green
Sue Lloyd  and Gordon Jackson
Written by Bill Canaway and James Doran
Based upon the novel by Len Deighton
Directed by Sidney J Furie
Production Year 1965
Running time 109 minutes

This slick, immaculately scripted and super cool 1960s spy film would make a star of leading man Michael Caine and spawn two sequels - 'Funeral in Berlin' and 'Billion Dollar Brain'. Caine plays Harry Palmer, an insubordinate British agent with a love of fine food and classical music. The dialogue is sharp and funny owing much to the writing in Len Deighton's original novel. Deighton came from a very different background to Ian Fleming and his hero Palmer is in stark contrast to the Old Etonian James Bond. Palmer wears glasses, talks with a cockney accent and moves in a grimy, downbeat world full of red tape and inter-departmental rivalries.  In fact a number of those involved in the production of the James Bond films also worked on 'The Ipcress File' including Producer Harry Saltzman, Production Designer Ken Adam and the composer John Barry whose jazz score provides a minimalist and atmospheric accompaniment to the action.

Along with 'The Spy Who Came In From The Cold'  made in the same year 'The Ipcress File' began a genre of uniquely British espionage films, the latest of which is the 2011 production of John le Carre's 'Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy'.

For Michael Caine 'The Ipcress File' was part of a rich seam which continued with 'Alfie' and 'The Italian Job' and culminated with 'Get Carter' in 1972. Since those heady days he has rarely hit such heights again...

The African Queen

Starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn
Written by John Huston, James Agee, John Collier and Peter Viertel
Directed by John Huston
Production year 1951
Running time 105 minutes

One of the greatest  films from the golden age of Hollywood this sparkling comedy adventure features two of the most iconic movie stars ever to grace the silver screen. Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn were 52 and 44 respectively when they appeared in The African Queen. He plays a curmudgeonly boat captain and she a prim Methodist missionary, thrown together in German East Africa at the beginning of World War 1. Their unlikely friendship, born in adversity, blossoms into an even more unlikely romance...

 Four writers worked on the screenplay including James Agee and John Huston. Also credited is the novelist Peter Viertel who turned the experience of working on the film into his book 'White Hunter, Black Heart', which was made into a film by Clint Eastwood in 1990.

 The African Queen was directed by John Huston whose glittering 45 year career included such early classics as The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure  Of The Sierra Madre as well as later gems like The Man Who Would Be King, Prizzi's Honour and The Dead. He was a larger than life character who at various times was a boxer, portrait painter, cavalry rider and reporter. Huston loved hunting, gambling and drinking and directed his pictures with the vision of an artist. He got great performances from his players and himself acted from time to time - his most memorable role being the evil patriarch Noah Cross in  Roman Polanski's 'Chinatown'.

Pan's Labyrinth

Starring Ivan Baquero, Ariadna Gil
and Sergi Lopez
Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro
Production year 2006
Running time 119 minutes

The Mexican director Guillermo del Toro is one of the most gifted visual stylists working in cinema today. His ambitious and idiosyncratic   body of work includes Cronos and Hellboy but  two  films stand out for their bewitching combination of fantasy and history - The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth. Both are set during the Spanish Civil War and combine this period setting with supernatural elements to startling effect.

 In Pan's Labyrinth, Ofelia, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer, escapes into an eerie but captivating parallel world through a door that she draws with chalk. In this world she meets various strange creatures and is set a series of tasks which she must complete before the next full moon.

 This magical, poetic and intensely moving film is unlike any other - an allegorical tale about Spain but also a dreamlike and sometimes disturbing  exploration of the subconscious.
The film was the winner of no less than three Academy Awards and three BAFTAs along with numerous other international prizes.

 Pan's Labyrinth is the last film before our summer break. The Acton Film Club will begin again on September 5th.

O Lucky Man!

Starring Malcolm McDowell,
Ralph Richardson, Rachel Roberts
and Helen Mirren
Written by David Sherwin
Directed by Lindsay Anderson
Production year 1973
Running time 180 minutes

 Lindsay Anderson's sprawling, raucous  satire on the state of Britain in 1973 is one of the most remarkable films in the history of British cinema. It follows the adventures of Mick Travis (the hero of Anderson's most celebrated film If) travelling the country as a coffee salesman and hungry to climb the ladder of success. Often compared to 'Candide' or 'The Pilgrim's Progress' the narrative is underscored and commented upon by the  music of Alan Price - frequently playing on camera.

 The film's director Lindsay Anderson made only 8 films during a career mostly spent in theatre. Anderson's greatest works 'If' and 'This Sporting Life' are eloquent on the subject of class and privilege in British society and feature outstanding performances at their heart.
The cast of O Lucky Man! is exceptional - comprising a handful of great British actors including Ralph Richardson, Arthur Lowe, Rachel Roberts and Helen Mirren. The central role of Mick is played by Malcolm McDowell - an iconic performer whose portrayal of Alex in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange is one of the most chilling and memorable creations in film.

 At three hours  long O Lucky Man! is not for everyone but the invention, energy and scathing wit of this movie make for an exhilarating experience.

La Nuite Americaine

Starring Jaqueline Bisset, Valentina Cortese, Alexandre Stewart and Francois Truffaut
Written and directed by Francois Truffaut
Production year 1973
Running time 115 minutes

La Nuit Americaine is one of the finest films by Francois Truffaut, who along with Jean Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol and Eric Rohmer was one of the leading lights in the Nouvelle Vague or New Wave in French cinema. Together they revolutionised filmmaking in the early 60s with a series of pictures that broke with the conventions of Hollywood and Europe. Truffaut's first film 'The 400 Blows' is one of the most auspicious debuts in all of cinema.

 La Nuit Americaine, known in English as 'Day For Night', is a delicate and delightful comedy that follows the dramas on and off the set of a fictional feature  called 'Je Vous Presente Pamela'. The ageing male star of the movie, the neurotic British actress playing opposite him and others in the cast and crew are the characters in this film. Truffaut himself plays the director struggling to solve the myriad problems  in front of and behind the camera as romances, affairs and break-ups conspire to bring the production to a halt.

 Though a comedy, La Nuit Americaine is perhaps the most truthful and revealing of any film made about filmmaking. The title describes the technique of shooting nighttime scenes during  daylight hours by placing a filter over the lens of the camera. In France this trick is known as American night.

 La Nuit Americaine won both the Oscar and the BAFTA for best foreign language film in 1974.


Starring Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey
Written by Nathan Parker and Duncan Jones
Directed by Duncan Jones
Running Time 97 minutes
Production Year 2009

This absorbing, atmospheric and philosophical science fiction film is the debut feature of Duncan Jones (formerly known as Zowie Bowie and son of David Bowie) It is set on a mining base on the moon where lone astronaut Sam Bell is in charge of recovering the precious gas Helium 3 for export back to earth. When a crash occurs outside of the base Sam makes a disturbing discovery about his own identity and that of  an unknown injured man that he  recovers from the accident.

 Owing much in tone and style to such classic sci-fi movies of the 1960s and 70s as 'Outland', '2001', 'Silent Running' and 'Solaris' this intriguing drama is beautifully played by Sam Rockwell in what amounts to a one man show. It was shot on a tiny budget by modern sci-fi standards and relies on ingenuity and atmosphere rather than expensive special effects to draw us in. At the heart of Moon are some  unsettling and very possible dilemmas which science could well present us with one day.

 Moon was critically lauded and as a result Duncan Jones' next picture - 'Source Code' had a much larger budget. That film also played with notions of identity and the soul and was a considerable critical and box office success. Jones is currently working on a sequel to Moon having declined a number of higher profile projects.


Starring Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb and Vincent Price
Written by Jay Dratler, Samuel Hoffenstein and  Elizabeth Reinhardt
Directed by Otto Preminger
Production Year 1944
Running Time 88 minutes

 This film noir is one of the most stylish, celebrated and elaborately plotted murder mysteries to come out of Hollywood. It was directed  by Otto Preminger,  an Austro-Hungarian emigre whose output included a number of the most controversial and ground breaking films in post war cinema. His movies troubled the censor and pushed the boundaries of what could be portrayed. In The Man With The Golden Arm Preminger tackled   drug addiction, Anatomy Of A Murder dealt frankly with the subject of rape and in Advise And Consent homosexuality was overtly referenced.

 Laura, the bewitching tale of a mysterious and beautiful woman and the men who are obsessed with her, was initially to be directed by Rouben Mamoulian but he was replaced by Preminger after creative differences. The two young leads Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews were made stars by the film and it features a memorable supporting role for Clifton Webb as the splendidly named Waldo Lydecker - a powerful newspaper columnist with some of the greatest one liners ever heard on film.

 The haunting theme song by David Raksin  has been recorded by many artists including Nat King Cole, Charley Parker, Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra.


Starring Leo Fitzpatrick, Justin Pierce
Chloe Sevigny and Rosario Dawson
Written by Larry Clark and Harmony Korine
Directed by Larry Clark
Production Year 1996
Running time 91 minutes

One of the most controversial films of recent times Kids is a film by  maverick American photographer and writer Larry Clark whose work  frequently explores the dark side of the teenage world and features drug use, underage sex and violence.

 It tells the story of one day in the life of a group of New York teenagers in the mid 1990s 
Their casual encounters, drug use and conversations are recorded in documentary style and the verisimilitude of the performances is at times unnerving.

 The co-writer of the film Harmony Korine  met director  Clark whilst skateboarding in Washington Square Park in New York. Clark asked him to write a script about teenagers and within three weeks Korine had done so. The result  is startling and shocking and for some a highly dubious piece of work. It  provoked much debate over it's artistic merit and whether it is exploitative or even immoral.

 One of the principal funders of the film Miramax was owned by the Walt  Disney corporation at the time of production and under pressure from Disney was forced to dissociate the parent company from the finished film. Kids cost $1.5 million went on to make $20 million dollars worldwide.

Kids is without doubt the most challenging film we have screened to date
- are you up for it?

Johnny Guitar

Starring Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden and Mercedes McCambridge
Written by Ben Maddow and Philip Yordan
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Production Year 1954
Running time 110 minutes

 Francois Truffaut called this extraordinary and eccentric film 'The Beauty and Beast of Westerns - a Western Dream' .
It tells the story of a female saloon keeper played by Joan Crawford, her liasion with a bandit called The Dancin' Kid and her battle with Emma Small, a revenge-obsessed local cattle rancher. The baroque and stylised script was by blacklisted screenwriter Ben Maddow and references the bigotry and intolerance of the Communist witch hunts of Senator Joseph McCarthy that were prevalent at the time. Maddow's name was replaced with that of Philip Yordan for release.

 The film's iconoclastic director Nicholas Ray is idolised by many notable directors of the modern era including  Martin Scorsese, Pedro Almodovar, Wim Wenders and Jean Luc Godard. After Johnny Guitar, Ray went on to make Rebel Without A Cause - one of the key films of the 1950s and influential to this day. It starred James Dean, whose performance and character in the film  means he remains  a powerful cultural icon.

 The Acton Film Club has never screened a Western in the 3 years since it started - this kinky and delirious blend of Freudian symbolism, alpha females and cowboy action seems the right place to start...


Starring Stellan Skarsgard and Sverre Anker Ousdal
Written by Erik Skjoldbjaerg and Nikolaj Frobenius
Directed by Erik Skjoldbjaerg
Production year 1997
Running time 95 minutes

Scandinavia has dominated the thriller and detective story in recent years. From Stieg Larsson's  phenomenally successful Millennium Trilogy  to Wallander and The Killing the frozen landscapes and taciturn inhabitants of these northern European lands have proved rich sources for mystery and mayhem.

 But 15 years ago, before the current wave was evident, an ingenious and low-key thriller from Norway showed the shape of things to come. It would be remade by Christopher Nolan starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams in 2002  just as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has been remade by David Fincher in 2011.

 The story is of Engstrom and Vik, two policemen investigating a murder case in the Arctic Circle during the time of the midnight sun. Engstrom, a Swede, has a dark past that has caused him to move to Norway, his partner Vik is nearing retirement. When the investigation goes badly wrong the killer is able to blackmail one of the two cops and an intriguing cat and mouse game begins...

 Stellan Skarsgaard gives a typically nuanced performance as the sleep-deprived Engstrom and the landscape makes a perfect backdrop to the action.