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Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden's London Underground (Sapphire / The League of Gentlemen / Victim / All Night Long) (The Criterion Collection)

4.9 out of 5 stars 24 ratings

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January 25, 2011
The Criterion Collection
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  • Eclipse Series 25: Basil Dearden's London Underground (Sapphire / The League of Gentlemen / Victim / All Night Long) (The Criterion Collection)
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  • Eclipse 36: Three Wicked Melodramas from Gainsborough Pictures: The Man in Grey, Madonna of the Seven Moons, The Wicked Lady (Criterion Collection)
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  • Eclipse Series 16: Alexander Korda's Private Lives (The Private Life of Henry VIII / The Rise of Catherine the Great / The Private Life of Don Juan / Rembrandt) (The Criterion Collection)
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After mastering the mix of comedy, suspense, and horror that helped define the golden age of British cinema, Basil Dearden (along with his producing partner Michael Relph) left the legendary Ealing Studios and, in the late fifties and early sixties, created a series of gripping, groundbreaking, even controversial films. In dealing with racism, homophobia, and the lingering effects of World War II, these noir-tinged dramas burrowed into corners of London rarely seen on-screen. This set of elegantly crafted films—Sapphire, a dissection of a hate crime; The League of Gentlemen, a deft heist adventure suffused with postwar melancholy; Victim, a landmark gay character study, starring Dirk Bogarde; and All Night Long, a provocative transposition of Othello to the swinging London jazz scene—brings this quintessential figure of British cinema out of the shadows.

Sapphire A beautiful female college student is found dead in a public park; the police soon discover that her murder may have been racially motivated. Basil Dearden’s bold, direct police procedural, starring Nigel Patrick as the detective in charge of the investigation, is a devastating look at the way bigotry crosses class divides, and a snapshot of late-fifties England’s increasingly interracial culture.

1959 · 92 minutes · Color · Monaural · 1.66:1 aspect ratio

The League of Gentlemen Jack Hawkins wittily embodies a colonel, bitter about being forced into retirement, who ropes a cadre of corrupt former British army men into aiding him in a one-million-pound bank robbery—a risky, multitiered plan that also involves infiltrating a military compound. A delightful cast of British all-stars, including Richard Attenborough, Bryan Forbes, and Roger Livesey, brings to life this precisely calibrated caper, which was immensely popular and influenced countless Hollywood heist films.

1960 · 116 minutes · Black & White · Monaural · 1.66:1 aspect ratio

Victim An extraordinary performance by Dirk Bogarde grounds this intense, sobering indictment of early-sixties social intolerance and sexual puritanism. Bogarde plays Melville Farr, a married barrister who is one of a large group of closeted London men who become targets of a blackmailer. Basil Dearden’s unmistakably political taboo buster was one of the first films to address homophobia head-on, a cry of protest against British laws forbidding homosexuality.

1961 · 100 minutes · Black & White · Monaural · 1.66:1 aspect ratio

All Night Long Othello is translated to the world of sixties London jazz clubs in Basil Dearden’s smoky and sensational All Night Long. Over the course of one eventful evening, during the anniversary celebration of the musical and romantic partners Aurelius Rex (Paul Harris), a band leader, and Delia Lane (Marti Stevens), a singer, Johnny Cousin (Patrick McGoohan), racked by ambition and jealousy, attempts to tear the interracial couple apart. This daring psychodrama is also remarkable for its on-screen appearances by such jazz legends as Charles Mingus, Dave Brubeck, and Tubby Hayes.

1962 · 91 minutes · Black & White · Monaural · 1.66:1 aspect ratio

Amazon.com

Veteran British director Basil Dearden shaped mid-20th-century English film with his prolific body of work--but upended everything after World War II and going independent. The amazing Criterion Collection set Basil Dearden's London Underground shows Dearden's fearless take on weary postwar London. The films in the set--Sapphire, All Night Long, The League of Gentlemen, and Victim--share unsettling noir qualities, creative and unnerving scores, and groundbreaking takes on controversial topics.

Victim: Dearden takes a cue from Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train in this tale of homophobia, blackmail, and desperation. Dirk Bogarde gives an unforgettable performance as a respected barrister who gets caught up in a scandal that threatens to unravel the British judicial system--and, maybe worse, its status quo.

The League of Gentlemen: This seminal caper film influenced dozens of later movies like Ocean's Eleven and even the Beatles' Help! Jack Hawkins stars, along with Richard Attenborough (a favorite of Dearden's), Roger Livesey, and Bryan Forbes--though the shaping character in Gentlemen is the War--and how it shaped each man for the thrilling task at hand.

Sapphire: The only film of the four shot in color, Sapphire still carries deep elements of film noir in its mystery and affect. Nigel Patrick plays the world-weary inspector investigating the murder of a young college student--a murder that may have been racially motivated.

All Night Long: Dearden retells Othello against the backdrop of the London jazz scene of the late '50s and early '60s. The cast is headed by Patrick McGoohan and a spunky Richard Attenborough, but the true stars of All Night Long are the jazz musicians who play themselves, and who jam together during the entire film. Jazz fans will love seeing Charles Mingus, Dave Brubeck, and many others mill around as characters in an increasingly tense tale that can only end in tragedy.

Basil Dearden's London Underground is a fascinating piece of film history for fans of British film, film noir, and all mid-century filmmaking. --A.T. Hurley


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Top international reviews

Mark Anderson
4.0 out of 5 stars Three Very Good Basil Dearden Movies In A Four Movie Package
Reviewed in Canada on August 17, 2013
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Carole Perret
5.0 out of 5 stars c'est parfait
Reviewed in France on December 7, 2013
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