Continuing my list of the Fifty Greatest British Cult Movies, here is my selection from 40 -31:
40. SCUM Alan Clarke (1979)
Alan Clarke was known for his direct, no frills approach to film. He cut his teeth on TV, notably with Play For Today. This exposé of the brutality in the borstal system was originally made for that slot but was considered too violent for home consumption. Scum is another hard man role for Ray Winstone. Not for wimps.
39. THE COMPANY OF WOLVES Neil Jordan (1984)
“The worst wolves are hairy on the inside”. Angel Carter’s short story is a feminist retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. The visually striking movie is not an entirely successful adaptation but manages to keep the ideas alive.
38. ROOM AT THE TOP Jack Clayton (1958)
This is a film that always makes me think of John Lennon’s lines from Working Class Hero : “There’s room at the top, they are telling you still, but first you must learn to smile as you kill”. Set in Yorkshire, in the late 1940s, it is the story of Joe Lampton (brilliantly played by Laurence Harvey) , a young ambitious a man determined to rise from humble roots but who finds that screwing the daughter of the boss is a bad strategy.
37. BILLY LIAR John Schesinger (1963)
There aren’t many films that make me laugh out loud but the antics of Tom Courtney in the title role crease me up every time. Based on the novel by Keith Waterhouse, it is a period piece that shows that the sixties didn’t swing for everyone.
36. SATURDAY NIGHT, SUNDAY MORNING Karel Reisz (1960)
More gritty working class drama, this time with Albert Finney as Arthur Seaton, an angry young man hell bent on trying to escape his soul destroying factory job. The opening voiceover says it all: “I’m me and nobody else. Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not; because they don’t know a bloody thing about me”.
35. A TASTE OF HONEY Tony Richardson (1961)
“I dreamt about you last night; And I fell out of bed twice” – the line from this movie was lifted by Morrissey for The Smiths’ Reel Around The Fountain. It was ahead of its time for addressing radical themes in such a sympathetic manner : inter-racial sex, unwanted pregnancy, a friendship with a young gay man and a young woman coping with a dysfunctional family. Very funny too. A lovely movie.
34. KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS Robert Hamer (1949)
One of the most perfect scripts in the history of cinema and an example of the genius of Alec Guinness at the height of his powers. Guinness plays all eight members of the D’Ascoyne family (male and female) who smooth talking and unscrupulous Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price) plots to murder one by one to claim the Dukedom he feels is rightfully his. A timeless classic and the best movie produced by Ealing Studios.
33. BRIGHTON ROCK John Boulting (1947)
Hard to think of Richard Attenborough as a nasty villain but ‘Dickie’ is very convincing as the vicious ‘Pinkie’ in this punchy adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel of low-life criminality.
32. QUADROPHENIA Franc Roddam (1979)
Tommy, the album is imho one of the most overrated albums in rock history and I hated Ken Russell’s film version too. The Who’s other rock opera is, on the other hand, a masterpiece and the movie is equally superb. Jeff Daniels is perfectly cast as the young Mod who dies before he gets old.
31. GET CARTER Mike Hodges (1971)
One of the most loved British films by critics and public alike. Michael Caine stars in a no holds barred performance as a gangster seeking vengeance for the death of his brother. A movie that pulls no punches.
To be continued………..