Ballard’s Cinema: Notes for a Retrospective – The Drowned World (J. Lee Thompson 1974; director’s cut 2017)

 

JG-Ballard-photographed-i-006Thwarted in his attempt to produce and star in an adaptation of The Wind from Nowhere (1961), Stanley Baker optioned Ballard’s follow-up novel, The Drowned World (1962), before the ‘Seer of Shepperton’ had even completed a draft.

However, dogged by financial difficulties arising from his South African film projects, Baker was forced to abandon his plans to adapt it.

Some years later, a chance meeting led to Patrick McGoohan – who had co-starred with Baker in Cy Endfield’s gravel-pit noir Hell Drivers (1958) – persuading Lew Grade to finance the film, with Endfield directing. But when The Prisoner (1967-68) flopped, the TV mogul, who had yet to break into film production, dropped McGoohan from the project.

Grade offered Robert Shaw the lead, and replaced Endfield with J. Lee Thompson, who had until recently been attached to direct Gale Force (Guest 1967), as producer Michael Carreras had retitled The Wind from Nowhere.

While Grade got cold feet about branching out into film, Thompson’s enthusiasm for the project never waned. He tried to persuade Gregory Peck to become involved, but when he turned down the lead, Peck suggested it would be more suited to Charlton Heston – who only agreed to briefly reprise the role of Taylor in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (Post 1970) if producer Arthur P. Jacobs took on the now-lapsed option.

18s3rujcms82tjpgAPJAC Productions hired Thompson to direct, then replaced him with John Guillermin, who insisted on relocating the story to New York. A week into shooting, Guillermin and Heston got into a now notorious on-set argument. Filming crashed to a halt. Jacobs backed his star over his director. Guillermin was fired, and Heston personally entreated Thompson to return to save the film.

Which, some suggest, was Heston’s intention in provoking Guillermin all along.

Not that things then proceeded smoothly.

The shoot became increasingly tempestuous as Thompson and Heston fought over their different visions for the film. Thompson accepted the change of setting – really he had no choice, since the expensive New York sets had already been constructed –  but insisted on revising the end of the script so as to retain Ballard’s conclusion.

Heston, conscious of his titanic persona, and feeling that Thompson owed him, argued for a more heroic ending, The scenes he scripted acknowledge that, while he cannot save the world, his willingness to sacrifice his own life might bring respite and hope to the remaining survivors of the global climate upheaval.

To everyone’s surprise, Jacobs, irked by Heston, this time backed his director – until mediocre preview screenings changed his mind. Thompson begrudgingly shot Heston’s ending, but the film still performed poorly.

After Thompson’s death in 2002, reels containing footage from his original ending were discovered, enabling its reconstruction in accordance with his notes and those of his editor, Marjorie Fowler.

We are thrilled to present not just the original release version but also the UK premier of the newly-restored director’s cut.

Other films in the retrospective
Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola 1979)
Carry On Getting It Up (Gerald Thomas 1977)
El Dorado (BBC 1992-93; 156 episodes)
Gale Force (Val Guest 1967)
Jodorowsky’s Burning World (Frank Pavich 2013)
Track 12 (Joseph Losey 1967)

 

 

Ballard’s Cinema: Notes for a Retrospective – Carry On Getting It Up (Gerald Thomas 1977)

JG-Ballard-photographed-i-006Following the disastrous performance of Carry on England (Thomas 1976), pulled from cinemas after just three days, producer Peter Rogers decided the long-running series of tepid sex comedies needed a change of direction if it was to survive.

For the 29th instalment, he turned to Jack Trevor Story, then enjoying all the notoriety a weekly Guardian column about his disastrous domestic and romantic entanglements could bring.

An occasional and peripheral figure in the British science fiction New Wave, Story rapidly produced a screenplay parodying Ballard’s High Rise (1975). Despite the scepticism of director Gerald Thomas, Rogers took the plunge, in the hope that they could cash in on the publicity for Nicolas Roeg’s official adaptation, then in production.

Kenneth Williams, in his 25th Carry On, is the only series regular to appear, albeit in little more than an extended cameo. He plays Queen, an effeminate architect presiding over a newly erected but already crumbling apartment building, while struggling to finance further ‘erections’. Elke Sommer, in her second Carry On, plays his perpetually aroused but sexually frustrated wife.

Rogers and Thomas turned to a pair of up-and-coming sex comedy stars for their leading men. Martin Shaw, so effective in LWT’s late-sixties Doctor in the House series, was ideal as the dishy doctor Prang, while Lewis Collins, briefly glimpsed in Norman Cohen’s Confessions of a Driving Instructor (1976), proved his perfect foil as the thuggish, proletarian Nobby. The two actors, however, soon fell out.

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Suzanne Danielle, in a role reputedly intended for Mary Millington, plays the unnamed air hostess displaced from Prang’s bed when his sister – Judy Geeson in her second Carry On – appears. Other familiar faces in minor roles and an extended, if utterly innocuous, orgy scene, include Yute Stensgaard, Valerie Leon, Vicki Michelle, Carol Drinkwater and Koo Stark.

Carry On Getting It Up broke even in just one week, which was as long as it lasted in British cinemas before being withdrawn in the face of legal action – but not from the uncredited, and unpaid, Ballard.

Rather, Ernő Goldfinger, apparently unaware that Ballard’s Royal was partly based on him, took umbrage at being depicted as a poor architect and worse heterosexual.

Deciding not to risk a court case, Rogers suppressed the film, and immediately began work on Carry on Emmannuelle, with Kenneth Williams, a handful of series regulars and, in her first named role, Suzanne Danielle.

What – if anything – Ballard made of Carry On Getting It Up remains a mystery. We have been unable to trace any mention of it by him. We are, however, delighted to bring it back to the big screen for the first time since Morph debuted on the telly and Star Wars was a hit.

Other films in the retrospective
Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola 1979)
The Drowned World (J. Lee Thompson 1974)
The Drowned World: The Director’s Cut (J. Lee Thompson 2015)
El Dorado (BBC 1992-93; 156 episodes)
Gale Force (Val Guest 1967)
Jodorowsky’s Burning World (Frank Pavich 2013)
Track 12 (Joseph Losey 1967)

Ballard’s Cinema: Notes for a Retrospective – Apocalypse Now (Coppola 1979)

JG-Ballard-photographed-i-006In January 1977, some nine months into a disastrous shoot, Francis Ford Coppola hired Ballard to script-doctor a key sequence and to help fashion the satisfactory dénouement that had thus far eluded John Milius, George Lucas and Coppola himself. Ensconced in the Philippines, Ballard eventually declared the de Marias rubber plantation sequence beyond salvaging. He was delighted when problems with the sound recording meant it was cut from the film, and in 2001 declined an invitation to see it restored at the Cannes premier of Apocalypse Now Redux.

Ballard was the first to suggest that the film should end with Willard (Harvey Keitel) not joining but killing Kurtz (Marlon Brando).

However, Coppola rejected Ballard’s suggestion that Willard then press on further up-river, deeper into a jungle that, under prolonged chemical bombardment, has begun to mutate into something pellucid with which he seems to merge.

Other films in the retrospective
Carry On Getting It Up (Gerald Thomas 1977)
The Drowned World (J. Lee Thompson 1974)
The Drowned World: The Director’s Cut (J. Lee Thompson 2015)
El Dorado (BBC 1992-93; 156 episodes)
Gale Force (Val Guest 1967)
Jodorowsky’s Burning World (Frank Pavich 2013)
Track 12 (Joseph Losey 1967)

Bayreuth: unexpectedly science-fictional, unexpectedly saucy, sometimes inaccurate and sometimes just plain wrong

The Doctor Who bar, which seems nice and liberal enough.

But here, in the former Nazi heartlands, they are ominously building a moon, wait, that’s no moon, it’s a space station.

bayds

I have no idea what this is or why.

And while they may be a bit rubbish when it comes to remembering  the names of existentialist philosophers,

baysartre

they are pretty impressive when it comes to statues celebrating equine micturition.

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