What's on at Phoenix Picturehouse - Vintage Sundays
Director: Abel Gance.
With Albert Dieudonné, Antonin Artaud, Gina Manès, Vladimir Roudenko. France 1927. 333mins (3 intervals)
Abel Gance’s heroic depiction of the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte is an undisputed cinema landmark.
Renowned for its groundbreaking technical innovations, including a stunning triptych finale, Gance’s visionary epic traverses many of the formative experiences that shaped Napoleon’s rapid advancement. Cool under pressure, Bonaparte overcomes fierce rivals, deadly seas and political machinations to seal his imperial destiny. The story’s chapters play out in exhilarating fashion, tied together by an incredible feat of editing and technical ingenuity. With an equally enthralling score composed and conducted by Carl Davis (newly recorded in 7.1), this new digital restoration presents the silent masterpiece in all of its grandiose glory, with rich velvety blacks combining with gorgeously coloured tints and tones. Truly a magnificent big-screen experience.
Director: Piers Haggard.
Starring: Patrick Wymark, Linda Hayden, Michele Dotrice. UK 1971. 97 mins.
It’s rural 18th-century Britain and a furry, one-eyed skull found in a field leads to all manner of evil mayhem, starting with a local toff amputating his own hand – which has turned into a claw – after his fiancée goes bonkers in the attic. Things get considerably worse as the local teens, led by Angel Blake (Hayden), engage in unspeakable satanic rituals. Something of a companion piece to better-known British horrors such as The Wicker Man and Witchfinder General, this previously neglected example of what’s recently been dubbed the folk-horror genre does not disappoint. Familiar British thesp faces include Michele Dotrice, Doctor Who alumni Wendy Padbury and Anthony Ainley, and Patrick Wymark as the perplexed judge who is the film’s nearest thing to a hero.
Director: Jacques Tourneur.
Starring: Dana Andrews, Niall MacGinnis, Peggy Cummins. UK 1957. 91 mins.
Legendary for such 1940s fantasy/horror thrillers as I Walked With A Zombie and Cat People, French-born director Jacques Tourneur returned to form in the mid-1950s with this eerie tale based on M. R. James’s story Casting The Runes. In London for a paranormal symposium, sceptical American psychologist John Holden (Hollywood heart-throb Andrews) aims to debunk the supernatural claims of cult leader Julian Karswell (MacGinnis). While perhaps unwisely staying at the agreeably urbane Karswell’s estate – along with Joanna Harrington (Cummins), the niece of one of Karswell’s inner circle – Holden gradually experiences all the unsettling signs of being subject to a deadly curse. Tourneur’s skill with unnervingly suggestive imagery ramps up the fear factor.