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This Sporting Life (The Criterion Collection)

4.7 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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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!

Special Features


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:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: January 22, 2008
  • Run Time: 135 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000XPSC16
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,709 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "This Sporting Life (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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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Format: DVD
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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By A Customer on January 10, 2000
Format: DVD
Richard Harris is superb (and so young!) as a driven but unsophisticated rugby player struggling to make something of himself. He becomes involved with his grieving landlady, a widow, and persists in trying to get her to feel something for him. Everything is a struggle for the characters in this film, which is realistic but evokes time creatively via flashbacks and cuts to create a stong emotional impact. Lots of mud and broken teeth in the very gritty rugby scenes.
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Format: DVD
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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