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Brief Encounter | DVD | (26/09/2008)
from £14.98 | Saving you £1.01 (6.30%) | RRP
Expanded from a one-act stage play by Noel Coward, Brief Encounter is without doubt one of the true masterpieces of British film history. The story seems slight--a respectable suburban housewife has a chance meeting with a handsome married doctor, their friendship becomes romance, but they feel the pressures of convention pulling their relationship apart--but the writing, acting and direction are sublime, turning what might have been just another melodrama into a memorable and heartbreaking story of impossible love. David Lean went on to make much bigger films than this, but few of those epics packed the emotional punch of this picture, set in a mundane world of railway stations, semi-detached houses and inexpensive cafes. Trevor Howard is perfectly cast as Alec, the doctor, but the film belongs above all to Celia Johnson, as the heroine Laura. It's easy to mock her clipped ultra-English accent, but she gives one of the greatest screen performances imaginable, brilliantly evoking how an ordinary life can be turned upside down by unexpected passion. Throw in the superb use of Rachmaninov's swooning Second Piano Concerto, shrewd supporting acting from Cyril Raymond, Joyce Carey and Everley Gregg, and some of the best black-and-white photography of its era, and the result is irresistible. Anyone who isn't besotted with Brief Encounter has either never been in love, or doesn't deserve to be. --Andy Medhurst
A Town Like Alice | DVD | (12/11/2001)
from £14.99 | Saving you £-1.99 (-12.40%) | RRP
Although made in 1956, A Town Like Alice has remained enduringly effective and affecting. Based on Nevil Shute's novel the story revolves around a romance set against the unlikely backdrop of a forced march through the jungles of Malaysia by British prisoners--mostly women and children--captured by the invading forces of Japan. The title is a reference to the homesick yearnings of Australian soldier Joe Harman, played by Peter Finch. He forms a bond with one of the female prisoners, Jean Paget (Virginia McKenna), and their travails are depicted with a remarkable subtlety and commendable lack of corniness. It's a minor classic. On the DVD: The black-and-white picture is presented in 4:3 format, with English subtitles if required. Extra features include a 25-minute "making of" documentary, a collection of behind-the-scenes photographs, potted biographies of the cast and crew and the original trailer. --Andrew Mueller
Spartacus | DVD | (27/11/2000)
from £4.25 | Saving you £0.00 (0.00%) | RRP
Stanley Kubrick was only 31 years old when Kirk Douglas (star of Kubrick's classic Paths of Glory) recruited the young director to pilot this epic saga, in which the rebellious slave Spartacus (played by Douglas) leads a freedom revolt against the ailing Roman Republic and its generals. Kubrick would later disown the film because it was not a personal project--he was merely a director-for-hire--but Spartacus remains one of the best of Hollywood's grand historical epics. With an intelligent screenplay by then-blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo (from a novel by Howard Fast), its liberal message of freedom and civil rights, highly relevant in early-1960s USA, is still quite powerful and the all-star cast (including Charles Laughton in full toga) is full of entertaining surprises.Restored in 1991 to include scenes deleted from the original 1960 release, the full-length Spartacus is a grand-scale cinematic marvel, offering some of the most awesome battles ever filmed and a central performance by Douglas that's as sensitively emotional as it is intensely heroic. Jean Simmons plays the slave woman who becomes Spartacus's wife, and Peter Ustinov steals the show with his frequently hilarious, Oscar-winning performance as a slave trader who shamelessly curries favour with his Roman superiors. The restored version also includes a formerly deleted bathhouse scene in which Laurence Olivier's patrician Crassus (with restored dialogue dubbed by Anthony Hopkins) gets hot and bothered over a slave servant played by Tony Curtis. These and other restored scenes expand the film to just over three hours in length. Despite some forgivable lulls, this is a rousing and substantial drama that grabs and holds your attention. Breaking tradition with sophisticated themes and a downbeat (yet eminently noble) conclusion, Spartacus is a thinking person's epic, rising above mere spectacle with a story as impressive as its widescreen action and Oscar-winning sets. --Jeff Shannon
The Thunderbirds (Box Set with Five Toy Rockets) | DVD | (15/11/2004)
from £14.09 | Saving you £9.74 (39.00%) | RRP
Thunderbirds are GO! International Rescue run in secret by the Tracy family and led by Jeff (Bill Paxton) is permamently on standby to offer assistance when accidents and incidents threaten lives across the world. However when the villainous Hood (Ben Kingsley) infiltrates the Tracy's clandestine island base and imprisons most of the family who will rescue the rescuers? It's left to teenage Alan (Brady Corbet) and his similarly young friends to save the day!