Lady Latterly’s Shover

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Marlon Brando gets jiggy repulsively bestial with the fragrant Stephanie Beacham in Michael Winner’s THE NIGHTCOMERS, reviewed by me over at Electric Sheep Magazine. Of course, frame-grabbing moments like this from the big sex montage allows me to present Winner’s World of Erotica in condensed diamond form, his lap dissolves (he edited it too) creating a Janus-faced limb-tangle, a Brando-Beacham telepod mishap, like something out of Brian Yuzna’s SOCIETY.

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Look, Stephanie is eating a tiny arm! How adorable.

Arguably Winner was Britain’s greatest underrated experimental filmmaker, devoting fully three decades of his career to exploring the myriad ways of making a film simply fail to work. An inexhaustible field of study for one so resourceful.

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12 Responses to “Lady Latterly’s Shover”

  1. I wonder if we can construe The Fall album “Are You Missing Winner?” as an oblique reference to Michael Winner?

  2. Seems possible. He was a very present figure in British culture, appearing in commercials, reviewing restaurants, etc. He even had his own catch-phrase, “Calm down, dear,” as a result of the ads he was in (which he directed, incompetently, himself).

  3. I’ve been thinking how Michael Winner films could be a good teaching aid, but I’ve haven’t actually carried it out.
    When teaching about Hawks and his deceptively simple style there are sometimes students who feel that he’s overrated, and they can see through it. That there should be more direction, high angles, low angles, cutting, darkness and light. I’ve heard Hawks described as “bland” and “vanilla” because there’s too “little” direction. Which, if you’re thinking of a gripping demo reel, is slightly understandable

    So I’ve thought an interesting exercise would be to compare scenes from Hawks’s Big Sleep and Winner’s. They share many similar scenes. Take Marlowe’s first meeting with Vivian, where she tries to find out why her father hired him. In the Winner, it’s exactly how some film students would do it: darkly lit, lots of low angles, cutting between a static Marlowe and Vivian on either side of this massive mansion. And it’s dull. And it conveys so much less than the Hawks, with Marlowe and Vivian moving across the room, pursuing each other. And you can do that with several other scenes the two films share.

    In Winner’s defense, though, if I had had to make a film noir in 70s England, I would also have used Edward Fox as a sleazy blackmailer character, Joan Collins as a moll, Oliver Reed as the heavy and John Mills as the friend on the force.
    Maybe also had Roy Kinnear in a Sydney Greeenstreet role (see Hammett) and Denholm Elliott in a Peter Lorre role (see about a 1/4 of his total output)

  4. Winner’s extreme choices are always a bit random: he’ll put the camera low or hide it behind a lamp in a long shot to make it “interesting” — and he’s as likely to do this in a comedy as a drama.

    In The Nightcomers he shoots Thora Hird’s POV climbing a tree (a bold choice) but intercuts it not with a similarly handheld tight shot on her face, looking down, but with a static wide from below that stamps on any suspense or energy he’s created. And then he goes back and forth a couple of times to emphasise the mismatch in emotion.

    His early stuff isn’t totally inept, I haven’t quite decided why The Jokers plays so much better.

    Winner, the patriot, CHOSE to shoot The Big Sleep in England, which is all the proof I need of his tone-deaf tastelessness. Of all the projects he could have chosen…

  5. The only Winner film I’ve found of interest is “The Mechanic” (recently remade and de-gayed) What made it work was the screenplay by Lewis John Carlino about an apprentice hitman who falls in love with his mentor. Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent (today a sad one-legged wreck of his former self) were quite good in it.

  6. When The Mechanic was released, I went with a friend of mine who had misread the ad and told me it had been directed by Michael Ritchie. I think Ritchie was just coming off Prime Cut, so this seemed like a plausible follow-up. I paid no attention to the credits but my buddy did a spit take with his soda. “What?” I said. He shook his head, numbly. I was blown away by the dialogue-free first 15 minutes and left the theater thinking that Michael Ritchie had just made his best film to date and was clearly A Man To Watch.

  7. Credit Carlino for that dialogue-free opening. He not only directed but co-produced to protect his script. Winner seems at least somewhat aware of the gay subtext, going by the ass-level camera angles. I find the film gets less interesting as it goes on, basically devolving into shoot-em-up and car chase stuff, but it’s certainly the least worst of the Bronson cycle.

  8. Alex Winter (Bill from Bill and Ted and now a pretty good director) got one of his first big roles as a villain in Death Wish 3. He introduces the film here

    He has some pretty dark Michael Winner stories. He also singles out The Mechanic for praise, but makes the point that Winner didn’t have much to do with it. If only Hellman had stayed on

    In the 80s Cannon, in an act of anti-genius gave him the job of adapting Captain America (of all the directors on their books, the worst choice-Godard, Mailer, Ruiz, Konchalovsky, all could’ve done more with the idea)
    There’s an interesting article about the mad script here.
    http://cinetropolis.net/what-the-hey-calm-down-dear-its-cannons-captain-america/
    I have to say, with it’s kidnapped Statue of Liberty, and its 17 stone severed finger being delivered, it sounds a bit more fun then the current anonymous product from Marvel’s hit factory

    Apparently the co-writer of Parting Shots, Bullseye, and some better stuff, Nick Mead, is doing an honest biography about Winner. I can’t wait.

  9. God, Capt America sounds astounding. But not with Winner involved. (Cannon did trash the Statue in Superman IV, I think).

    An honest bio — imagine the stories cast and crew have been waiting to tell! — could be really something.

  10. I can’t imagine who could play Winner in a bio pic. All the obvious choices– Patrick Magee, Zero Mostel, Timothy Carey– have passed on. Meanwhile, this is a Captain America story just crying out for a faithful adaptation.

  11. Winner’s so easy to impersonate — even I can do him. (My repertoire: Herzog, Winner, Malcolm McDowell.) Just don’t get Anthony Hopkins.

    Maybe Stephen Frears, if you gave him that drug that makes people eat each other’s faces?

  12. I notice The Nightcomers is discussed on The Film Programme, Radio 4, 11pm tonight. Already available online: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b053bv5q at the beginning and at 16:50. Beacham can also do a Winner impersonation.

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