Monday, 27 May 2013

Films and Filming magazine

During the second half of 2012, I obsessively collected issues of British film magazine Films and Filming which ran in its original incarnation from 1954-1980. The bulk of my collection is composed of a near unbroken run of Films and Filming from the 70's, a dozen or so issues from the 60's and a prized copy of Films and Filming #1 from October 1954 (pictured left). The magazine was pitched somewhere between the Hollywood glamour of Picturegoer (1913-1960) and the more scholarly Sight and Sound (1934-) and contained an eclectic mix of reviews, articles and interviews (Ken Russell was a favorite it seems),with excellent coverage on World Cinema (Eastern European Cinema especially), film festival screenings and a regular column about films playing on the London club circuit (did you know that Fando & Lis played in London as Tar Babies?). Interestingly the magazine had something of a gay bent (no pun intended) - in the early years the magazine's classifieds section functioned as a meeting point for the closeted gay community. It also ran gay-interest adverts, gave coverage to Gay Cinema (more about that later) and featured plentiful male nudity among its pages and occasionally on the cover. The following is my own humble tribute to this very unique magazine which I hope will give a flavor of what the magazine was like to read - right away I must add a disclaimer about the screenshots below, taken quick and dirty with my camera so any distortions, warping and skewed angles are down to my amateur fumblings...

One of Films and Filming's primary features was the preview section of forthcoming or new releases, usually a double-page spread of stills from a particular film. Given the magazine's penchant for nudity, quite a lot of cult and exploitation films were given exposure, like Jacopetti and Prosperi's slave trade mondo Farewell Uncle Tom from the September 1970 issue



Films and Filming had an official star-rated film review section in addition to capsule reviews found in the Documentary and Club columns. What's most valuable about the reviews is their lack of cultural baggage that comes with reviewing vintage films today. The Exorcist was famously panned, The Devils received a shrug of the shoulders while lavish praise was bestowed upon Performance. A good example of this is the December 1970 review of Night of the Living Dead which imparts some of the experience of seeing Romero's film with virgin eyes back in the day.



One of the pleasures of browsing through the magazine are the vintage film advertisements. From the July 1971 issue a rare ABC Cinema ad for The Baby Maker, a late sixties time capsule starring Barbara Hershey as a free spirited surrogate mother, coupled however unlikely with Dario Argento's early masterpiece The Cat O'Nine Tails. I could be wrong but I haven't seen this unusual ad reproduced in the various Argento books.


Among the more well known contributors to Films and Filming were the great film historian Kevin Brownlow (who wrote articles on the silent Ben Hur, and the films of Abel Gance), as well as regular staffers like House of Whipcord and Frightmare writer David McGillivray, and Michael Armstrong, director of David Bowie short The Image and more famously Mark of the Devil. Among Armstrong's best work for the magazine was a three part series which ran from March/April/May 1971 entitled Some Like It Chilled which examined some of the major motifs in Horror films.



Films and Filming's Letters page makes for especially insightful reading. Anyone with an interest in the film-going habits and attitudes of the British public during the 70's would find the views and opinions of readers quite fascinating. The tide of increasingly violent films that swept through cinemas during the tenure of British censor Stephen Murphy saw much debate in the Letters page. Films such as The Devils, Straw Dogs, Clockwork Orange, Soldier Blue generated a considerable amount of commentary which raged on and off for two years. The two letters below from the May 1972 issue are typical of the passions these films aroused.


From its inception Films and Filming catered to a gay readership in the absence of any dedicated gay magazines. The magazine was a champion of the Basil Dearden and Dirk Bogarde film Victim and as the 60's gave way to the 70's the magazine became increasingly brazen in its choice of covers - the September 1968 cover featured a male interracial kiss (from the film Two Gentlemen Sharing), and covers showing men in various states of undress would be a regular fixtures throughout the 70's. Inside the magazine there was coverage of Underground Gay Cinema, with retrospectives on Warhol and the magazine gave exposure to obscure gay films like Pink Narcissus and the films of Derek Jarman who scored covers with Sebastiane (November 1976 issue) and Jubilee (March 1978) 


Other marginal film makers who appeared in the magazine included David Cronenberg, interviewed in the October 1982 issue whilst promoting Scanners, the June 1974 issue featured a Norman McLaren career overview, and below, from the August 1971 issue, a report on American Underground film makers Curtis Harrington, director of the avant-garde Horror film Night Tide, and Conrad Rooks who made the psychedelic experimental film Chappaqua.



Further Reading

Memories of Films and Filming
A decade by decade gallery of Films and Filming covers
Films and Filming for sale at eBay

8 comments:

  1. This is fantastic. I've thought of picking some of these up on ebay over the years, though I guess my brain keeps hoping I'll somehow stumble upon some in a used bookstore one day.

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  2. Many thanks Alex. Funnily enough it was a used bookstore where I bagged my first few issues of F&F, so keep your eyes peeled, you never know what you might find in amongst all those used National Geographics. This was in the late '90s and evidently someone had sold his entire collection of the magazine, maybe a hundred issues and the bookstore was charging 4 Irish pounds a pop, so I only managed to pick up a few, much to my regret. Flash forward to 2012 and I hooked up with a UK eBay dealer who sold me most of his stash for 2 Euro a mag, and when you adjust for inflation and so on, it worked out pretty well.

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  3. Sounds like a good investment, Wes. I only ever had one copy of the magazine, which I think featured an interview with director Ron Peck on Nighthawks. I see what you mean about the Night of the Living Dead review -saying 'humanity wins out in the end' is an interesting take on it.

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  4. Thanks Jon, and great to hear from you! Y'know I've been thinking a lot about Night of the Living Dead recently - a few books back I read Better Day Coming: Blacks and Equality 1890-2000, an excellent account of the struggle of Black Americans to acheive civil rights and as I read about the shocking levels of discrimiation and violence meted out to Blacks, there was this recurring image in my mind of Duane Jones striking Karl Hardman and asserting his authority over the farmhouse. This must have been quite provactive in some of more...traditional...Southern towns the film played in and my admiration for the film, George Romero and Duane Jones has only increased. Romero on the commentary track for Night of the Living Dead insists there was no political agenda behind the casting, the character was originally written as a nondescript truck driver and Jones was simply the best actor on the day - but I can't believe the conversation never came up...

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  5. yeah, I think Jones was very concerned about having to strike a white woman in the film and how people might react to him personally afterwards, that the film might put him in personal danger.I think Romero now regrets not taking up the civil rights agenda more directly in the film. Even outside the southern states (including York, Pennsylvania - 200 miles from Pittsburgh where Romero lived)) there were towns where in 1960s blacks were routinely brutalised by police and vigilante gangs, which led to rioting later in the decade. When it's that close to home, you can see where Romero was coming from.

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  6. Yep, I absolutely agree, dangerous days indeed. That particular scene where Duane Jones slaps Judith O'Dea's face goes far beyond Sidney Poitier slapping actor Larry Gates in In the Heat of the Night, especially considering Jones was not a movie star and the film did not have the clout of a big studio picture. I'm not sure if I would have the courage to go thru with that scene...

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  7. Bit cheeky I know, but any chance of getting a scan of page 30-31 of the Dec 75 issue? I believe that is an original review of Black Christmas - I am currently researching the film for a magazine article and that would be a great help! Happy to send you payment for it.

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  8. Hey Simon, apologies for the late reply... of the 4 or 5 issues I'm missing from the 70's the December 75 issue (with Barry Lyndon cover) is one of them I'm afraid. If anyone reading can supply a snap shot of the Black Christmas review please leave a comment... It's not much help but there's a cheap copy currently going at eBay

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