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Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.

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The Ashbrittle Film Show
Ashbrittle, Somerset. 25th November 2004

I'm just back from another session at the Ashbrittle film club.

Charles Doble now screens films (mainly P&P films) at his own cinema in the lovely Somerset village of Ashbrittle. These are always properly projected films, not just a video or DVD - it makes all the difference.

A lovely drive down to Somerset, especially when I got to the far side (west) of Salisbury Plain. As it starts to dip down into the various villages, with the sub setting ahead of me and a gentle mist rising off the woods - it really is "The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness".

This event was also a Thanksgiving feast organised by Charles' American wife, Susan. So many thanks to both of them. Columba came down for it as well which was most appropriate as the film being screen last night was Peeping Tom!

Charles started the show with the Cyd Charisse segment from Black Tights (1960) [aka 1-2-3-4 ou Les Collants noirs]. Another segment of that same film has Moira dancing Cyrano de Bergerac but the one with Cyd is probably the best segment in it. The whole film is divided into 4 segments, each is a ballet choreographed and danced by Roland Petit et Les Ballets de Champs Elysees. The female lead role is taken by Zizi Jeanmarie in 2 segments (Carmen & La croqueuse de diamants). Cyd's segments is Deuil en 24 heures where she plays a very merry widow. Maurice Chevalier does a good job as narrator. None of them are pure classical ballet, they show the directions dance was moving in away from the strictly classical dance into the more modern styles. Very interesting.

That was just a light hearted warm up to the main event, Peeping Tom. Many of the audience were a little bit nervous about seeing it having read some of the recent reviews (not the 1960 reviews). But afterwards they all seems to agree that it was a very interesting film. Certainly not a gore-fest and they were all intrigued at the way the film made them feel great sympathy for and understanding of Mark, whilst at the same time condemning what he was doing.

I told them about the 1960 reviews and they just couldn't understand how those reviewers had written them, even given the different moral attitudes prevalent at the time. And bear in mind that this was the first time most of them had seen the film.

Columba told them that to him it was just an afternoon of having fun while his Daddy filmed him. He also assured them that the experience hadn't scarred him for life. He said he probably was scarred but that was due to other things :)

I noticed that in the final scene when Mark is showing Helen how the house is fully wired for sound, we hear Tony, the other lodger, with a girl in his room. That does sound like Moira's voice to my ear. That would make sense given the low budget. They wouldn't hire another actress just to say a few words & not be seen.

This morning Charles, Columba & I (& Columba's border collie, Ellie) went for a walk around the farm to see the new-born Highland calf - aww, very sweet. At that young age their coat is more woolly than shaggy hair. Then we went on a bit of a round-up to retrieve the ram that had got amongst the sheep. He gave us a bit of a runaround but (guided by the chaps who work there) we managed it.

Steve gives the new calf a hug
That's its aunt in the lower field

And that's the proud mother

No, you can't have my tea

The calf is curious about Charles
(the photographer)
Columba stood some way off so that the Highlanders didn't get upset by Ellie

Remember that, according to Thelma, one of Micky's ambitions was to retire to Scotland and raise Highland cattle. When he went to visit Charles at Ashbrittle they spent most of their time talking about cattle farming rather than films.


A diversion on the way home to the village of Downton in Wiltshire (on the Bournemouth road south of Salisbury) where my ancestors used to live 4 and more generations ago. I've known about it for a while but had never visited it before. No sign of any of them in the graveyard (my G-G-G-Grandparents and other ancestors might be buried there) but that would be in the 1850s so its not too surprising that the headstones aren't still there. I had a word with the Vicar and he told me that all the parish records are now in Trowbridge so that'll be the next port of call.


Other P&P trips