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Due for release by Indicator on 19 April 2021, this limited edition Blu-Ray of Ken Loach's Fatherland(1986) features my new essay on the film in the booklet that accompanies the first pressing.

Loach's film, which was released after a period in the late 1970s and early 1980s where he found it difficult to get work commissioned and financed, is all the more intriguing in that it was his only collaboration, to date, with the much admired writer Trevor Griffiths. Griffiths a successful theatre playwright had, like Loach, moved from television and into cinema. Both had a formidable creative and political sensibility running throughout their work and my essay, 'Third Man', chronicles their interweaving, parallel careers through to the development and writing of Fatherland.

My own interest in Loach's and Griffiths' work has grown since I first watched Fatherland on Channel 4 (who had co-funded the film) in the late 1980s. I was happy to revisit their careers to fulfil the essay brief to contextualise their work and its political drive. With a particular focus on Griffiths, the essay discusses each of Fatherland's collaborators, their shared politics of the left, their work for theatre, television and cinema and the way each has developed their own voice through their respective techniques in directing and writing. It also underlines their differences, coming into sharp relief in the many compromises that both had to make during the making of Fatherland. Each had something to say in the film, often from different perspectives, about media, culture and history, Europe and political struggle in a decade where the left was in retreat, particularly in Britain.

As this essay was researched and written last summer, during the lockdown in May and June 2020, it was a challenge to complete it while voluntarily shielding and on furlough. The impact of the coronavirus also prevented me from looking through Loach's and Griffiths' papers held at the BFI national archive. This was particularly upsetting as it would have been very rewarding to look more closely at the development of Fatherland's script and the correspondence between Loach and Griffiths. Fortunately, David Archibald's article on Loach's approach to acting, written for The Drouth in 2018, offered some of those insights from the archive.

I also had some familiarity with Griffiths' television work when I had first researched and reviewed his superb political drama Bill Brand, made for Thames in 1976 and released on DVD in 2011. The material gathered for that review was then extended through a deep read of several texts on Griffiths and Loach as well as newspaper and magazine research (thanks to the access provided by Manchester Central Library's online newspaper archives and to Film Comment's invaluable online archive during the first lockdown) to uncover contemporary interviews with Loach and Griffiths when Fatherland was released in 1986. 

I am particularly indebted to the work, published since the 1980s, of Graham Fuller, Stanton B. Garner, John Hill, Stephen Lacey, Jacob Leigh and John Tulloch whose chapters and books on the work of Loach, Griffiths and producer Tony Garnett were extremely helpful in the writing of the essay. 

The initial draft originally came in at 3600 words and through about three further drafts this came down to 3185 (still over the word count) in the final edit. Although a large chunk of about 145 words was cut without too much consequence during that last edit, the loss of an extended section on Barry Hines' two-part television play The Price of Coal (1977) was somewhat unfortunate. It was a pleasure writing this essay while re-visiting the politically prescient Fatherland, a somewhat neglected Loach film. I hope it offers the relevant context to those who may be unfamiliar with much of Griffiths' work in theatre, television and film prior to his collaboration with Loach.


  • High Definition remaster
  • Original mono audio
  • Language Barriers (2021): new interview with editor Jonathan Morris
  • Talk About Work (1971): Ken Loach’s documentary for the Central Office of Information, photographed by Chris Menges, interviewing young people about their work
  • Right to Work March (1972): documentary film of a five-week protest march from Glasgow to London that saw the participation of a number of cultural figures, including Loach and other filmmakers
  • Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by Frank Collins, an archival interview with Ken Loach, an extract from Loach on Loach, an overview of contemporary critical responses, new writing on the short films, and film credits
  • UK premiere on Blu-ray
  • Limited edition of 3,000 copies

BBFC cert: 15
EAN: 5060697920192

It's good to see some of Loach's less regarded work on Blu-ray with Indicator's release of Fatherland alongside their limited edition of Loach's Carla's Song (1996) in April 2021. Both are available to pre-order from their website.

BIRDY: Limited Edition Blu-Ray - Notes on an essay

Due for release on 28 October 2019 by Indicator, this limited edition Blu-Ray of Alan Parker's film Birdy (1984) features my new essay on the film in the booklet that accompanies the first pressing.

Birdy remains one of my favourite films of the 1980s and the commission to write the new essay from Powerhouse was an opportunity to not only revisit a film I had seen on release and revisited on VHS and DVD but also to return to the original novel by William Wharton.

The essay, ‘In a dream, I'm trying to decide what I am’, attempts to track the development of the script prior to Parker's involvement and how Wharton's strange, often abstract, narrative about the transformation of two friends in the aftermath of the Second World War (it was altered to the Vietnam conflict for the film) was brought to the screen by Parker.

Birdy is another iteration of Wharton's personality, one forged through his participation in the War, his relatively poor background and his childhood obsessions.Tracing the numerous avatars of Wharton involved a close re-reading of the novel Birdy and Wharton's posthumous war biography Shrapnel, tracing Wharton's double life - as abstract painter and author - through numerous interviews, in documents on Parker's own website, and then trying to tie those in with a delve through Parker's papers, donated to the BFI archives.

The papers at the BFI provided a fascinating insight into how Parker shaped Sandy Kroopf and Jack Behr’s script and attempted to retain as much of the ‘the “one person” schizophrenia of the book’ and remain true to the author's identity or identities.

Thanks to Nigel Good and Carolyne Bevan of the BFI Special Collections team I was able to access the draft scripts, Parker's letters and memos about the script, the notes on use of Garrett Brown's Skycam to shoot some of the flying sequences, technical notes about canaries, and his correspondence with Michael Reidenback. Reidenback, hoping to secure a role in the film, eventually provided Parker with a lot of research into army psychiatric units and their treatments of mental patients in the post-Vietnam era. This material left the impression that Parker clearly wanted to get the details right about what we eventually saw on screen. It also shed some further light on Wharton's own elusive personality and reclusive life.

The original draft of the essay was approximately 4600 words by November 2017. By the time I delivered the final draft, in December 2017, this had been reshaped and edited to approximately 3000 words. Finally, this release of Birdy has been a little while coming but it is heartening to know that this was not only down to Indicator's desire to secure Parker for a commentary and produce a number of relevant special features but also to go the extra mile and commission a new 2K remaster of the film.

But here it is at last. Enjoy.

  • New 2K remaster supervised and approved by director Alan Parker
  • Original stereo audio
  • New and exclusive audio commentary with director Alan Parker and the BFI’s Justin Johnson
  • Learning to Fly (2019): new and exclusive interview with screenwriters Jack Behr and Sandy Kroopf
  • Keith Gordon on William Wharton (2019): the actor and filmmaker shares his experiences of adapting Wharton for the screen
  • No Hard Feelings (1974): Alan Parker’s early film is an unsentimental view of wartime London through the eyes of a troubled young man
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
  • New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Limited edition exclusive booklet with a new essay by Frank Collins, an overview of contemporary critical responses, archival articles, and film credits
  • Limited Edition of 5,000 copies
  • All extras subject to change
BBFC cert: 15
EAN: 5037899071083

Purchase directly from the Powerhouse website.

THE BLACK ARCHIVE #31: WARRIORS' GATE - Publication Announcement

I know, it's been a long time since I posted here. However, that's with good reason.

For about eighteen months I've been busy on two writing projects.

In November 2017, one of those took me to the BFI National Archives in Berkhamsted on the trail of a British director's archived papers. However, I can't say more at this point as the results are awaiting publication. You'll have to wait and see.

However, I had to juggle this in the middle of research for another project. This started with a pitch to Obverse Books in August 2017 for a volume in their ongoing book-length studies of single Doctor Who stories. It was a proposal to write a book about Stephen Gallagher's season 18 story, Warriors' Gate. With interesting stories about its production and a narrative and visual presentation ripe for interpretation, Gallagher's four-part serial offered something of a challenge. Obverse were willing to let me take that on.

R.U.R ©BBC 1938
Originally posted on the original Moviemail website (now sadly revamped and no longer providing the same opportunity to write such pieces), this was a series of blogs tracing the apocalyptic themes of British science fiction television. It was published between August and December 2014 to tie in with the BFI’s major retrospective and celebration of the science fiction genre Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder.

These are the longer, uncut versions of the original posts with minor additions and corrections.

It's the end, but the moment has been prepared for. Yes, it's the last of our 10th Anniversary competitions celebrating a decade of blogging and, generally, babbling to ourselves here at Cathode Ray Tube.  

Those lovely people at BBC Books and Penguin Random House have provided us with a great giveaway for this week's competition in the form of Simon Guerrier's very entertaining Doctor Who: The Book of Whoiversal Records

This is a fact-packed, fully illustrated celebration of the best, biggest and most impossible moments from the world of Doctor Who.

The Doctor Who Book of Whoniversal Records is a celebration of the greatest – and strangest – achievements from the brilliant, impossible world of Doctor Who. Bursting with firsts and bests both human and alien – from the biggest explosion in the universe to the first human to time-travel; from the longest fall through space to the shortest life-form that ever lived – this book will answer all of your burning questions about the last of the Time Lords and his adventures through time and space. 

These are feats literally impossible to try at home – but Whoniversal Records has the photographs to prove they happened! Packed with astounding facts, figures, and fun, The Book of Whoniversal Records is the ultimate must-have for Doctor Who fans everywhere (and every-when!). 

Continuing our 10th Anniversary celebrations, we've got more Doctor Who books to giveaway. This week we have a paperback edition of James Goss' novelisation of Douglas Adams' celebrated story City of Death. Bundled with this is a hardback copy of Myths & Legends: Epic Tales from Alien Worlds by Richard Dinnick.

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