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  1. #1
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    This is a genuine under-rated classic, an outstanding and evocative film that left a strong impression on me when I first saw it in a (mostly empty) Boston theatre when it was first released here in 1985, and still moves me each time I have seen it since.



    It takes place in the autumn of 1913, at an English country house; however, this is not another Country House Weekend story intended to produce easy nostalgia for the Brits and Anglophile longings for those of us on on the outside. The film is based on the book by Isobel Colgate, which is a small classic in itself and well worth reading.



    All of the action is played out against the backdrop of the coming war, and its presence is felt throughout; this is a daring and challenging idea for both the author and the creators of the film for the obvious reason that we know what is coming and the characters do not. But in both cases, the challenge is met.



    In too many eve-of-1914 war stories, the characters are either mocked and condescended to or romanticized and idealized. Here, they are quite human, and acted by a group that will not be available again any time soon:



    James Mason as the discerning landowner who senses the end of an era is coming and is quietly preparing for it; Dorothy Tutin as his shrewdly perceptive and likeable wife; Robert Hardy, Cheryl Cambell, Edward Fox, Ruper Frazer, Aharon Ipal�, John Geilgud as an eccentric pacifist and a very, very beautiful actress named Judi Bowker. I can't recall seeing her in anything else. She is so dazzling that I find it hard to believe she just disappeared.



    There is not a great deal of action; the closest comparison is probably with Chekov, although the characters are a good deal more robust and self-confident than those of The Cherry Orchard or The Three Sisters � perhaps the difference between pre-war England and Russia?



    The final sequence does involve the shooting party of the title, but the symbolism never become melodramatic, and the last moments � set against a darkening sky, with John Scott's beautiful score playing and an understated written coda describing the fate of each character, are among the outstanding experiences I have had watching a film.



    That final sequence seems to me a living illustration of these lines from John Masefield's poem August, 1914. I have no idea if this was intentional:



    How still this quiet cornfield is to-night!

    By an intenser glow the evening falls,

    Bringing, not darkness, but a deeper light;

    Among the stooks a partridge covey calls.



    The windows glitter on the distant hill;

    Beyond the hedge the sheep-bells in the fold

    Stumble on sudden music and are still;

    The forlorn pinewoods droop above the wold.



    An endless quiet valley reaches out

    Pat the blue hills into the evening sky;

    Over the stubble, cawing, goes a rout

    Of rooks from harvest, flagging as they fly.



    So beautiful it is, I never saw

    So great a beauty on these English fields,

    Touched by the twilight's coming into awe,

    Ripe to the soul and rich with summer's yields.






    If you have not seen it, I hope you have the chance to.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Country: Wales David Challinor's Avatar
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    the very beautiful Judi Bowker was in several other productions, and I was lucky enough to see her on stage in a play in about Helen Keller in the early 1990s. Her beauty remains.

    Ms Bowker is most well-known as the lead in UK TV drama the Adventures of Black Beauty, but was also in a hippy film before that, Brother Sun, Sister Moon.

    She appeared in a sword and sandals flick not long before the Shooting Party, but was, and is, sadly rarely seen.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Challinor
    the very beautiful Judi Bowker was in several other productions, and I was lucky enough to see her on stage in a play in about Helen Keller in the early 1990s. Her beauty remains.

    Ms Bowker is most well-known as the lead in UK TV drama the Adventures of Black Beauty, but was also in a hippy film before that, Brother Sun, Sister Moon.

    She appeared in a sword and sandals flick not long before the Shooting Party, but was, and is, sadly rarely seen.
    Thanks for the update David. I saw - and liked - Brother Sun, Sister Moon, although I know I am in a very small minority there.



    In The Shooting Party she played a woman who is so beautiful that every man is dazzled by her, but virtuous as well, so she is not aware of the effect she is having. It's a difficult role to play, but she brought it off beautifully.



    Was the play you saw The Miracle Worker?

  4. #4
    Senior Member Country: Wales David Challinor's Avatar
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    Yes it was - I saw during 1996 heatwave ....the audience was tiny. So tiny in fact were all invited to sit in the boxes after the interval...I had only bought the tickets to see Ms Bowker, so, initially thinking they were going to say 'at the end you can all go back stage', my heart skipped a beat...dreams eh?!

    Judi was so right for the shooting party, set in an elegant Edwardian age I like very much. Shame she didn't play more roles

  5. #5
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    I well remember seeing this onthe big screen when it first came out and was wowed by it. I immediately bought and read the novel on which it is based. Must confess that one (or is that two?) of the appeals of the film was the scene in which Miss Campbell reveals her charms.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cymro glan
    I well remember seeing this onthe big screen when it first came out and was wowed by it. I immediately bought and read the novel on which it is based. Must confess that one (or is that two?) of the appeals of the film was the scene in which Miss Campbell reveals her charms.
    That's very nice to hear. It seems that this is a very under-rated film, and I was also "wowed" by it.



    I also found the novel as a result.



    I agree about Cheryl Campbell. I never thought of her as being especially attractive, but she looked great in this. (Of course, her acting was just fine as well.)

  7. #7
    Senior Member Country: England jaycad's Avatar
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    i watched 'the shooting party' last week,i bought the dvd (bargain) after catching the last 30mins or so of the recent BBC4 showing. i really enjoyed this film-just my cup of tea and if anyone can recommend any other british films in the same vein then i would be grateful!
    Last edited by Nick Dando; 22-02-11 at 06:12 PM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jaycad View Post
    i watched 'the shooting party' last week,i bought the dvd (bargain) after catching the last 30mins or so of the recent BBC4 showing. i really enjoyed this film-just my cup of tea and if anyone can recommend any other british films in the same vein then i would be grateful!
    One of the very best of all British films, IMHO - and a neglected gem.

    The same elegiac theme is found in the 1977 televsion production of Shaw's Heartbreak House and in parts of Upstairs Downstairs(. I don't know of many films that are as powerful on that subject.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Country: England jaycad's Avatar
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    cheers tim! i see that 'heartbreak house' is available on region1 import so i've put it on my amazon wishlist.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Country: UK didi-5's Avatar
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    I love The Shooting Party (and Heartbreak House - which can be found in the Bernard Shaw set in Region 2 if you want all the plays in that set, as I did). Understated period drama, beautifully shot and cast.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Country: UK
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    and another great performance by the late Gordon Jackson

  12. #12
    Senior Member Country: UK wellendcanons's Avatar
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    I love this film. It is excellent. I believe it's the finest thing Gordon Jackson ever did. His acting near the end of the film is some of the best acting I've ever seen. I felt for him in those final scenes, though it's hard to relate to some of the characters in the film. They are so absorbed in their blood sports and their cruel pursuits. I admired John Gielgud's character. Tim R described this film as a genuine under-rated classic in the opening post and IMHO that's exactly what it is.

    There are some lovely location shots of Knebworth House too.

    wec

  13. #13
    Senior Member Country: England sanndevil's Avatar
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    A great film, and one of my favourites, not least because it was James Mason's last and a fitting memory to his talents. I do a James Mason impersonation. Badly.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    Very nice to read of so many who have seen and liked it.

    I agree entirely regarding the great Gordon Jackson - the scene between him and James Mason towards the end is beautifully done.

    Another favorite moment is James Mason's response to questions about the end of an age, and the expression on his face.

    I know that Dorothy Tutin is one of the great names on Britain's stage, and has played here as well, but I have seen very few films with her - I'm sorry she did not make more.

    And Judi Bowker - come back!

    The score is an exact, perfect fit for the film. I cannot imagine the The Shooting Party without that music. It is used very sparingly until the end, and is all the more effective for it.

    Quote Originally Posted by wellendcanons View Post
    There are some lovely location shots of Knebworth House too.

    wec
    Thanks for the information - yes, it is very beautiful, especially in autumn.
    Last edited by TimR; 23-02-11 at 10:35 PM.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Country: Aaland dremble wedge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sanndevil View Post
    A great film, and one of my favourites, not least because it was James Mason's last and a fitting memory to his talents. I do a James Mason impersonation. Badly.
    James Mason was a replacement for Paul Scofield, who broke his leg on the first day of filming in a carriage accident.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Country: UK
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    I won't divert the thread but wasn't Dorothy Tutin in the original TV "South Riding" ?

  17. #17
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    I am giving this thread a new lease on life as this is one of the two British films that I have seen that were made since the 70s that I believe are undiscovered classics and well worth seeing. I know that may not be true in Britain, but it is definitely true here. The other film is The Duelists. Both are beautifully designed and photographed in addition to their other strengths.

    Also, this is our first autumn back in New England in many years and I know the seasonal patterns so well. It's a beautiful season here. I was trying to think of a film made in Britain in autumn - and I thought of this one.

  18. #18
    Super Moderator Country: Great Britain
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    You need to watch (or re-watch) Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry to see New England in its autumn glory. Absolutely stunning colours. And a very fine film to boot.

    The Trouble with Harry (1955) - Filming locations

    Nick

  19. #19
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dremble wedge View Post
    James Mason was a replacement for Paul Scofield, who broke his leg on the first day of filming in a carriage accident.
    Paul Scofield is a favorite of mine and I would usually prefer him to James Mason, but here I could easily see either actor in the role. They both had the quality of refined melancholy that is necessary.



    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Dando View Post
    You need to watch (or re-watch) Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry to see New England in its autumn glory. Absolutely stunning colours. And a very fine film to boot.

    The Trouble with Harry (1955) - Filming locations

    Nick
    Yes, it is a showcase for N.E. in autumn. My favorite along that line is The Europeans, filmed in Mass, with the wonderful Lee Remick.

    In The Shooting Party the season has symbolic significance as well. I found that it was filmed in Hertfordshire. I was curious because the autumn colors - mostly subdued golds and browns - are far closer to the foliage of the mid-Atlantic seaboard here in late October and November than to New England. Also, the light is softer and misted, and doesn't have the bright clarity of the Boston area at that time of year. I assume that the trees and other foliage are similar as well.

    It's probably an unusual area of interest, but I am especially interested in how the seasons are filmed. I have been to Britain in each of the other three seasons but never in autumn. The foliage and the landscape as well as the architecture are part of so many British films, but film makers understandably film mostly in the spring and summer.
    Last edited by TimR; 15-09-11 at 01:40 AM.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    I will give another boost to this marvelous film, one of the very best in my humble opinion. One never knows who may be wandering through these threads - including many who have not joined the forum and may not know this film.

    I will also give a boost to the Isobel Colgate novel that was the basis for this film. It is a small-scale gem.

    The film's cast includes James Mason, Dorothy Tutin, John Gielgud, Cheryl Campbell, Edward Fox, Sarah Badel, the under-rated Robert Hardy and the exquisite Judi Bowker.

    It should not be missed by anyone who cares about British film. Or anyone who cares about film at all.

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