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Archive for August, 2014

This British horror film was directed by Martin Kemp, better known for his music career in Spandau Ballet, and his acting career (The Krays, Eastenders, amongst others).  Also known as Exposé, it is based on a 1976 film called The House on Straw Hill (alternative name Trauma).

Paula (Anna Brecon) is a writer, struggling with her second novel.  At her publisher’s suggestion, she goes to stay at an old house which belongs to her uncle, in order to concentrate her mind.  When an assistant named Linda (Jane March) turns up to help Paula, everything seems fine at first, but it soon becomes clear that Laura is dangerously unbalanced.

I am not normally a fan of horror films, but I watched this because the delectable Colin Salmon is in it.  It was actually pretty entertaining, and held my attention throughout (it’s a short film, coming in at just under 80 minutes).  I would say that it is more of a psychological horror, than a gory horror – and there are definitely no ghosts or ghouls here.

Anna Brecon did a decent job as Paula, and Colin Salmon was great as Leo, Paula’s counsellor and friend.  Occasionally, the dialogue was a bit clunky, but overall it was enjoyable enough, and there was a twist which I should have seen coming, but didn’t.

It’s not the best of its genre, but if you are a fan of thrillers (rather than out-and-out horrors), then I would say that this film is worth an hour and a half of your time.

Year of release: 2010

Director: Martin Kemp

Producers: Kevin Byrne, James Kenelm Clarke, Will Horn, Ciaran Mullaney, Gareth Mullaney, Billy Murray, Gary Phillips, Simon Phillips, Mark Vennis, David Beazley, Johnathan Sothcott, Danny Young

Writers: James Kenelm Clarke, Martin Kemp, Jonathan Sothcott, Phillip Barron

Main cast: Anna Brecon, Jane March, Jennifer Matter, Billy Murray, Colin Salmon, Linda Hayden

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This three part mini-series was an adaptation of Sarah Waters’ excellent novel of the same name. It tells the story of Nancy (Nan) Astley (Rachael Stirling), a Whitstable oyster girl in the 1800s, who falls in love with singer and dancer Kitty Butler (Keeley Hawes). The two women become partners on and off stage, but the path of true love does not always run smooth, and life has a lot of surprises in store for Nan.

The book was actually my least favourite of Sarah Waters’, but that is not to say that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it, and I did wonder if the adaptation would be as enjoyable. As it turned out, it was absolutely fantastic, and stayed very faithful to the story. Rachael Stirling was absolutely superb as Nan – utterly believable as both a young and naive girl who doesn’t really understand her feelings towards Kitty, and equally so as a mature, world-weary woman, who has to draw upon all her resources and courage to make a living in 19th century London. Keeley Hawes was fine as Kitty Butler, and the supporting cast, including (the always wonderful) Anna Chancellor, John Bowe, and Jodhi May, were also great. Hugh Bonneville made an impact, despite being in only the third instalment of the series.

Anyone who has read the book will know that there are several explicit sex scenes in the book, and these scenes are also in the series. If you do not like raunchiness on screen, then this is definitely not the show for you! However, there is FAR more to this story than just sex; there is also a compelling and wonderfully acted story, showing how Nan deals with all the problems that life can throw at her. If you like period drama and excellent acting, with added sauciness and humour, then I highly recommend this series.

Year of release: 2002

Director: Geoffrey Sax

Producers: Gareth Neame, Sally Head, Sally Woodward Gentle, Georgina Lowe

Writers: Sarah Waters (novel), Andrew Davies

Main cast: Rachael Stirling, Keeley Hawes, Jodhi May, Anna Chancellor, John Bowe, Sally Hawkins

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Despite being acknowledged as an excellent actor both on stage and in films, Richard Burton is largely remembered for his tempestuous marriages to Elizabeth Burton, and his enormous capacity for alcohol.  Melvyn Bragg’s excellent biography delves into his life, to reveal that there was far far more to Burton – that he was a highly intelligent and thoughtful man, a voracious reader, that he was plagued by guilt over his children, and generous to a fault.

Burton’s notebooks (essentially a diary) which he started during his life with Elizabeth Taylor were released to Bragg by Burton’s widow Sally, and here they appear (albeit abridged) for the first time in print.  After describing Burton’s tough but loving childhood and adolescence, and marriage to first wife Sybil, Bragg wisely lets his own writing take a back seat to Burton’s words, as he reproduces large sections of the notebooks.  (It is worth noting that the notebooks have since been released in their entirety as The Richard Burton Diaries; I have a copy of this and intend to read it very soon, but Bragg’s biography is useful in that it provides context.)  I thoroughly enjoyed reading Burton’s words – he was incredibly witty (I laughed out loud on several occasions, particularly when he described social situations), certainly wry, and often melancholy.

The biography is clearly meticulously researched, and while Bragg is never sycophantic, he is always respectful of his subject.  What I did find unusual at first, was that in many ways, it was also a study of Burton the man.  Bragg would offer his own opinion as to Burton’s motivations for certain actions, and it felt as if he was trying to understand certain events in this very interesting life, rather than just relate them.  However, this did not spoil my enjoyment of the book, and actually demonstrated the author’s great interest in his subject.

The book was written with the collaboration of many of Burton’s family and friends, and refreshingly, does not just focus on the more scandalous areas of his life; it concerns itself equally with Burton’s Welsh family, his career, his life after ‘the Elizabethan period’ and of course, his premature death at a time which tragically came at a time when he seemed to have his life back on track.

It’s a thick book – 600+ pages – but so well written, and so very interesting, that I found myself reading huge chunks at a time.  Anybody interested in Richard Burton, or indeed in acting in general, should certainly read this – I strongly recommend it, and will definitely be keeping it to read again in the future.

(For more information about Richard Burton, please click here.)

 

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