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This Sporting Life (The Criterion Collection) (1963)

Richard Harris , Lindsay Anderson  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Richard Harris
  • Directors: Lindsay Anderson
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Dolby, NTSC, Restored, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: January 22, 2008
  • Run Time: 135 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000XPSC16
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,147 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "This Sporting Life (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

One of the finest British films ever made, this benchmark of kitchen-sink realism follows the self-defeating professional and romantic pursuits of a miner turned rugby player eking out an existence in drab Yorkshire. With an astonishing, raging performance by a young Richard Harris, an equally blistering turn by fellow Oscar nominee Rachel Roberts as the widow with whom he lodges, and electrifying direction by Lindsay Anderson, in his feature-film debut following years of documentary work, This Sporting Life remains a dramatic powerhouse.


New, restored high-definition digital transfer

Audio commentary featuring Paul Ryan, editor of Never Apologise: The Collected Writings of Lindsay Anderson, and David Storey, screenwriter and author of This Sporting Life

Theatrical trailer

Lindsay Anderson: Lucky Man? (2004, 30 min), a BBC Scotland documentary featuring interviews with many of the director s close friends and collaborators

New video interview with Lois Sutcliffe Smith, Anderson s close friend and president of the Lindsay Anderson Memorial Foundation

Meet the Pioneers (1948), Lindsay Anderson s first documentary short

Wakefield Express (1952), Anderson s short-film contribution to England s Free Cinema series, shot in the same town that served as the location for This Sporting Life

Is That All There Is? (1992, 50 min), Anderson s autobiographical, final film

PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film scholar Neil Sinyard and writings by Anderson, including his groundbreaking article, Stand Up! Stand Up!

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A British Masterpiece of the 1960s May 2, 2000
By mackjay
This masterpiece by Lindsay Anderson should be on any film aficionado's must-see list. It is an uncompromising study of alienation, social class, maturity, and loneliness. Richard Harris gives a performance of astonishing realism: it seems unlikely he could ever surpass it. The character moves from physicalized anger to tenderness often within a moment. Harris builds to a completely believable dramatic eruption by the climax. He is matched all along the way by Rachel Roberts, a great actress in an unforgettable role: a woman unwilling to let go of the past and the pain it contains.
Anderson populates the film with several other memorable characters--an older man who seems to be in love with the hero, the grasping team-owner's wife who wishes to possess him.
The film contains scenes of nearly unbearable intensity and anguish (Frank's drunken ballad sung in a bar, or Margaret's pleading to be left alone). Also of note is the film's unusual structure, functioning on two levels at once: in "real time" and in Frank's memory, which he may be coloring by his own reactions (something for the viewer to contemplate).
The black and white cinematography is often beautiful as it poeticizes Frank's plight (for example, near the end of the film, he ends up wandering along moonlit railway tracks in a world of steely, silvery loneliness. Also of note, the wonderfully nightmarish music by Roberto Gerhard, an avant-garde composer who differed with the director on the scoring the film.
See the film on DVD for maximum quality. Although the disc contains no special features, it is good to know this great picture has been preserved in the new medium.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
I am pleased to see that Criterion has recently introduced the work of British director Lindsay Anderson to its oeuvre of classic and/or challenging films. Anderson may not have great name recognition to modern audiences (although he made films as late as 1993), but his movies were pivotal in helping to establish a more realistic and topical British film industry of the sixties. Many of Anderson's films featured an "angry young man" antihero as their protagonist, and this lent a certain toughness to his work that became his early trademark. With the inclusion of "If..." and now "This Sporting Life" in the Criterion collection, I hope younger film enthusiasts will check into Anderson's legacy!

Highlighted by a gritty realism that captures both the world of rugby and working class England, "This Sporting Life" is primarily a romance--albeit an unlikely one. Richard Harris is full of bravado and arrogance as a young rugby player who sees the sport as an opportunity to raise his income, if not exactly his station. Embraced and exploited by the ball club, he soon becomes seduced by success. But really, he just wants to feel acceptance--particularly from the widow who rents him a room. Rachel Roberts is a vital blend of strength and vulnerability in this role. This is perhaps her finest screen performance. As her resistance gives way to moments of joy and back again--every feeling is telegraphed by her face. This slow-burning romance inevitably erupts in a fury and passion rarely seen in film--and this remarkable duo are given the opportunity to explode with emotional fireworks.

The social aspects and commentary that mark Anderson's film career are all present in "This Sporting Life.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harris' Finest Performance October 8, 2003
While viewing this film again recently, I was curious to see if it has lost any of its edge since I first saw it almost 40 years ago. It hasn't. In fact, in light of almost daily revelations of inappropriate (if not illegal) conduct by professional and even by so-called amateur athletes, it has perhaps even more relevance today. In my opinion, Richard Harris (Frank Machin) delivers his finest performance as a coal miner in Northern England (Yorkshire) who gains fame and fortune as a professional rugby player. I am reminded of Scorcese and De Niro's presentation of Jake La Motta in Raging Bull. (Both athletes fail in their personal relationships for precisely the same reasons they succeed in competition.) Rachel Roberts plays Mrs. Hammond, the only person Machin sincerely cares about, other than himself. Most of the time, she endures his use and abuse of her but in one memorable scene, she confronts him as the arrogant bully he is. He appreciates her only after....
David Storey wrote the screenplay based on his novel (same title) and, under Lindsay Anderson's crisp and sure direction, each member of the cast delivers a superb performance, including Glenda Jackson in what I think is her debut role. The colorful, often violent action on various playing fields is effectively portrayed, in stunning contrast with the drab lives of those who cheer on the teams. Credit Denys Coop for the cinematography. In essence, this film explores the nature and extent of one man's raw ambition and almost animalistic determination as his natural talents enable him to seize opportunities available to few others. Comparisons of This Sporting Life with Raging Bull are not a stretch. (Presumably De Niro saw this film prior to portraying La Motta. Did Harris see Brando in On the Waterfront before portraying Machin?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Richard Harris' Finest Work
Harris did this film very early in his career. You can see the raw power of his acting and the inner turmoil of someone with only a vague awareness of what it means to be part of... Read more
Published 12 months ago by William A. Bonnet
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than many think
I thoroughly enjoyed seeing "This Sporting Life" when I first watched this, mum was making fun of me because she thinks, the hero is raping his love interest. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Max-Hellmuth Ostermann
4.0 out of 5 stars Brawls and Rugby Balls: This Tough-Minded British Drama Packs A Punch
I am pleased to see that there is still an interest in the work of British director Lindsay Anderson with his oeuvre of classic and/or challenging films. Read more
Published on September 15, 2012 by K. Harris
5.0 out of 5 stars Tragedy in Black and White
What a movie! Heavy. Heavy. But great if a little long. I never knew Richard Harris could act. I only had seen him in later, lesser movies. Read more
Published on August 11, 2012 by mphilipm
5.0 out of 5 stars Scorching Sport-Centered Drama That's Still Angry After All These...
"This Sporting Life." (1963). A true black and white British classic, a scorching sport-centered drama, helmed by prolific director Lindsay Anderson (O Lucky Man! Read more
Published on December 7, 2011 by Stephanie De Pue
3.0 out of 5 stars This Sporting Life
Good movie, reminding me of my early life in Britain's industrial northland.
Quality of DVD was not good. Movie stopped several times and some parts did not play at all. Read more
Published on February 20, 2011 by Geordie
4.0 out of 5 stars A strong and impressive first feature by Lindsay Anderson
A lower-class young man (Richard Harris) makes his mark as a particularly violent, tough rugby player, while trying, in his awkward, coarse way to seduce his landlady (Rachel... Read more
Published on October 19, 2010 by K. Gordon
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Throughout the dozen or so film roles I had seen him in I was never particularly impressed with the film work of Richard Harris. Read more
Published on September 1, 2010 by Cosmoetica
5.0 out of 5 stars "Take a good look...there isn't a bleedin' man amongst them!"
It was in the early part of this decade, when I was in my late teens, that I first began my obsession with movies. Read more
Published on June 26, 2009 by Leif Sheppard
2.0 out of 5 stars VERY DISAPPOINTING
As a rugger I wanted to enjoy this movie very much but was very disappointed. Richard Harris' Frank Machin rocks back and forth between angry tirades and sadness, with no nuance... Read more
Published on June 24, 2009 by Mike Crestwood
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