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The Horse's Mouth (The Criterion Collection)

4.6 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Very touching story based on life of famous British painter who enjoyed living in squalor, always looking for bigger and better canvas.

Amazon.com

Alec Guinness was in the full bloom of his stardom when he suggested, scripted, and starred in this wonderfully odd 1958 adaptation of Joyce Cary's novel. As Gulley Jimson, a gravel-voiced, antisocial painter, whose artistic drive is as single-minded (and as self-absorbed) as a terrier's, Guinness sketches one of his carefully constructed marvels. The film has a bumpily episodic structure, but when it works, it really works: Gulley inhabiting (and mostly destroying) a penthouse apartment when the upper-crusty owners go on holiday for six weeks, or marshaling an army of apprentices to create a masterpiece on a giant wall in a condemned building. Departing from the novel, Guinness concocted the movie's madcap ending, which is guaranteed to bring a smile. Adding verve is the music, adapted from Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kijé, which fits Gulley like the paint under his dirty nails. The artworks, vivid and thick, are by John Bratby. --Robert Horton

Special Features

  • New widescreen digital transfer supervised by Ronald Neame
  • 2001 video interview with director Ronald Neame
  • D.A. Pennebaker's short documentary film Daybreak Express, which opened the original New York theatrical run of The Horse's Mouth, plus a video introduction by Pennebaker

Product Details

  • Actors: Alec Guinness, Renee Houston, Kay Walsh
  • Directors: Ronald Neame
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: June 1, 2010
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000063N9O
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,304 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Horse's Mouth (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jonathan P. Walters on August 11, 2003
Format: DVD
If a film buff askes you to name a classic film you realy like you can do no worse than to answer "The Horse's Mouth". Try to suppress a smile as the buff looks at first puzzled and then cautiously admits that they have never heard of let alone seen that movie so can it be that good?
Well actually yes it is explain to them then casually mention that it is the only film that Alec Guinness ever wrote a screenplay for and that he gained an Academy Award nomination for his trouble and that in his "Parkinson" interview in 1977 he almost (but not quite) admitted that it was his favourite film in his long career.
Then you can go on to tell that it is one of the few films from the 1950's that shows London in colour and the music adapted from Sergei Prokofieff's "Lieutenant Kije" gives the film a touch of class and a unique sense of style not to be found in other films of the period.
You may then mention that the acting is superb; as well as Guinness' faultless study of an obsessive and slightly desturbed artist Gulley Jimson. Kay Walsh(Mrs. David Lean)adds humour and pathos as Miss Coker the comugenly woman who none the less has a soft spot for Jimson and music hall turn Renee Houston as Sara Munday (Gulley's ex-wife) adds a bit of bawdy fun to the proceedings. Young actor Mike Morgan gives an energetic perfomance all the more sad because he died before the film's release.
As the discussion continues you may point out that there are a few technical problems; the original three strip Technicolour camaras were so heavy, with their sound blimps, that the camera doesn't move that much during dialoge shots but that makes the actors move more especially when Gulley and Coker are escaping from the police .
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I recently purchased this film from Amazon as well as "The Alec Guinness Collection" which includes Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) plus four others: The Man in the White Suit (1951), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Captain's Paradise (1953), and The Ladykillers (1955). Frankly, I was amazed how well each of the six films has held up since I first saw it.

This film is based on a novel by Joyce Cary, The Horse's Mouth. Guinness wrote the screenplay which was nominated for an Academy Award. The director was Ronald Neame who also produced it. Special credit should also be given to the cinematographer, Arthur Ibbetson, who brilliantly captures the beauty of London while sustaining the viewer's focus on both the splendor and squalor of Gulley Jimson's passions. For me, Guinness' portrayal of that aging and impoverished but obsessed painter gives a whole new meaning to the word "eccentric." As in the novel, the spirit of William Blake is very evident. Art is Jimson's religion for which he is not only willing but eager to make whatever sacrifices may be necessary, his or another's. There are both lambs and tigers in Blake's world and, indeed, in Jimson's world. As portrayed by Guinness, he manifests the dominant characteristics of both lion and lamb in his own personality and behavior.

Members of the supporting cast are outstanding, notably Mike Morgan (Nosey) and Kay Walsh (Coker) who remain devoted to Jimson throughout his constant use and abuse of them. I hasten to add that, after recently watching this bittersweet film again, I found its several comic moments hilarious. The best of Guinness' comic films always include special "touches" which enrich their appeal. Whether it was his idea or Neame's (or theirs together), clever use is made of Sergei Prokofiev's "Lieutenant Kije" suite throughout the film. I am unable to explain why so few people who claim to be "film buffs" know about this classic...nor why even fewer people have seen it.
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Format: VHS Tape
First off, this isn't a review--it's a reminiscence. I saw this film in the '60s in Berkeley, and I loved it then partly because it spoke to me of what I believed were the issues of the day--freedom (artistic and otherwise) and the power of the individual. I am now buying the video so that I can at long last have a joyous reunion with the unforgettable characters--the artist's dishevelled, indignant and loyal girlfriend; his equally dishevelled, adoring and unquestioning young admirer, and the artist himself, the outrageous Gully Jimson (Guinness). I still see his raffish little boat on the Thames, chugging along to the regal strains of Prokofiev, just as the often obnoxious and stubborn Jimson is dignified by the strength of his commitment to art and self. (This film was based on the novel by Joyce Cary)
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Format: DVD
"The Horse's Mouth" is one of those British comedies that will bring a smile to your face if you already love those kind of movies and television shows, and is an indispensible DVD for fans of the great Alec Guinness. He plays Gulley Jimson (who the novel's author, Joyce Cary, based on his friend the poet Dylan Thomas.) Jimson is a broken-down, scabrous old reprobate of an artist, who is also recognized by those in the know as a genius. Dressed in shabby old clothes, Guinness scowls, sneers, growls in an unforgettable voice, insults everyone, and schemes and plots his next big painting. He is supported by Nosy, a young would-be artist, and Coker, a tough old barmaid who likes Jimson in spite of herself. Jimson worms his way into the apartment of an upper-crust couple to paint his mural on their wall "The Resurrection of Lazarus", with hilariously catastrophic results. While fleeing from the police, Jimson discovers a bare wall in an old church scheduled for demolition, and Tom Sawyer-like, recruits an army of apprentices to paint his next big mural, "The Last Judgement."

Guinness wrote the screenplay, and it has been criticized by some for softening the novel, especially the ending. But this movie is a perfectly reasonable interpretation that perhaps reflects Guinness' religious faith (check out the titles of the paintings, Coker's prayer, and Jimson's last line in the film.) Some have described Gulley as a sort of proto-hippie, but there is nothing soft, sentimental, or utopian about him. He is a tough-minded, self-critical anarchist whose faith in another world besides this one, "the world of color", carries him through his troubles. Jimson stands for the incorrigible individual against the small-minded materialistic elites that hate and fear real beauty because they have a hard time understanding it. This is a wonderful movie that deserves its high reputation and inclusion in the Criterion Collection of DVD's.
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