Gray 1960s England in Three Movies: All Night Long, Inadmissable Evidence, the White Bus
Lindsay Anderson (1923-94) was, with Tony Richardson, Karel Reisz, Richard Lester, and Sidney J. Furie, a pioneer of the early 1960s new British cinema of working class antiheroes, most notably in “This Sporting Life” (1963) starring Richard Harris and Rachel Roberts. Insofar as he is remembered at all it is for two “subversive” and occasionally surrealistic movies starring Malcolm MacDowell, “If — ” (1968) and “O Lucky Man!” (1973). Some of that surrealism, particularly bursts of violent fantasy was on view in “The White Bus” (1967, also known as “Red, White and Zero”).
Purportedly, “The White Bus” is an adaptation of a story by Shelagh Delaney (whose play “A Taste of Honey” Richardson directed in 1961, making Rita Tushingham a very unlikely star). I say “purportedly,” because I cannot find a story there. An unnamed young and attractive young woman (Patricia Healy) feeling stifled in a secretarial pool in a London office takes a train to Manchester (which may be where she originated) and joins a somewhat posh tour of Manchester. The main interest of the movie is looking around Manchester of the mid-1960s as shot by Milos Forman’s cameraman Miroslav Ondrcek (dating back to “Loves of a Blonde”, running through “Valmont”). The sententious Lord Mayor in a cocked hat was played by Arthur Lowe. Even looking for a character billed as “the Brechtian,” I missed Anthony Hopkins (singing in German?). The throbbing color flashes within a mostly black-and-white movie prefigure later Anderson movies.
Pre-mod, back when jazz was chic, “All Night Long” (1962, currently on a Criterion Eclipse (barebones) release of four movies by Basil Dearden, along with The Victim, Sapphire, and The League of Gentlemen) is a very tedious riff on “Othello” with Paul Harris playing a jazz pianist married to a white chanteuse Desdemona who has left the stage for wedded bliss with him (Marti Stevens), and a drummer Iago (Patrick McGoohan). The movie takes place in a warehouse that (producer?) Richard Attenborough has rented for an all-night jam session/anniversary party. The music (including an appearance by Charles Mingus on bass and Dave Brubeck on piano) is of some interest, but the acting is very unimpressive (or too desperately vicious in the case of McGoohan), and the provision of a happy ending (with all the principals alive) drains he tragedy of Shakespeare’s model/inspiration.
John Osborne in British theater
John Osborne (1929-94) was a key contributor to the “kitchen-sink” realism in the British theater (Look Back in Anger) that stimulated the “Free Cinema” clique. The 1968 adaptation of his 1964 play “Inadmissable Evidence,” directed by Anthony Page, has a strong performance by Nicol Williamson as Bill Maitland, a London attorney who specializes in what today would be regarded as workplace sexual harassment. Surprisingly, he is not a lush, but he is definitely a lout ‘” to his wife (Eleanor Fazan) and daughter (Ingrid Brett) who is enjoying the “swinging” London of the Carnaby Street era (Bill Maitland pays a visit to a “mod” men’s clothing store and gets it on with a mini-skirted secretary in his office). He is not happy with himself or his work associates or bedmates (the latter two categories have considerable overlap).
His mind wanders from the case of a woman (Isobel Dean) seeking a divorce for her husband’s flagrant infidelities. The most interesting part is another case of a gay married man (John Normington) who has been entrapped by an undercover policeman, but Maitland’s mind wanders while the man is telling his story, leaving the viewer to try to make sense of the story. (Osborne’s next play “A Patriot for Me” in which the homosexuality of a Hapsburg officer, Col. Redl, was the basis for being blackmailed by the Russians. It was adapted to the screen by Istv¡n Szab³ in 1985 with Klaus Maria Brandauer as Redl.)
Maybe Williamson was too good at making Maitland unlikable?
Maitland has made a bleak world for himself, and I found it difficult to feel any sympathy for his character. His self-pity seems more than he deserves, and certainly quite enough to avoid stimulating any sympathy from this viewer. The understated performance by Peter Sallis as the attorney in the office who has to cover for him with clients, mistresses, and wife provides a welcome contrast (and, as in “Butley,” he decides to stop taking the abuse of the bully pseudo-mentor).
I’ll grant that the movie breaks out of the office and courtroom and also shows much of what the character on stage (played in the original London and Broadway productions by Williamson) tells the audience.
These three movies are available for streaming from Netflix. The better Dearden melodrama (also about blackmailing of homosexuals), “The Victim” (1961) was released by itself on a Criterion disc several years back as well as on the recent Dearden Eclipse release.