"the quintessence of British Pop culture blogs" - Thierry Attard

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.

INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES:
  • 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
#PHILTD028
BBFC cert: 15
REGION FREE
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.

10TH ANNIVERSARY COMPETITION: Doctor Who books to be won!

Well, readers. It's hard to believe that this blog has been around for ten years. Yes, TEN years. Before we break out the champers and the cake please indulge me as I update you on my latest work. Once we've got that sorted, then we'll properly celebrate with a series of competitions, the first of which is announced below.

Although I've not written anything new specifically for the blog since September 2015 (the review of the Bernard Wilkie book if we're being pedantic) I have been rather busy since my Christmas update.

I've just finished reviewing all 18 episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return for Frame Rated and I'll be doing much the same for Outlander Season 3 over the next few months.

A lovely piece I wrote some time ago about the Doctor Who comic 'The Age of Chaos', published by Marvel back in 1994 and written by none other than Sixie himself, Colin Baker, has recently been published in the third issue of that extraordinary fanzine Vworp, Vworp! It was an honour to feature in this stunning publication and you can purchase it from their site.

I have been publishing on Medium recently and also judging whether to move Cathode Ray Tube over to that platform. A couple of reviews from the archive have been dusted down and re-published over there and you can keep an eye on developments on my Medium page. Please give me a follow there.

There are a couple of projects that I can't talk about at the moment as they are either not confirmed yet or, if they have been agreed in principle, I won't announce anything until the good people I'm working with deem it appropriate to do so.

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The Legal Bit

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