I think I’ve been a fan of John Ford films longer than I’ve known who John Ford was. Basically, if you watched any of John Wayne’s Western output that is head and shoulders better than most, you probably seen a John Ford directed Wayne flick. While The Searchers will always be my favourite Ford Western, a few years ago in the (now) sadly missed Laser Video shop on George’s Street, I rented a movie that had two things that I’d never seen on a case before: ‘Starring Henry Fonda’ and ‘Directed by John Ford’. I’m a huge Fonda fan and John Ford is onto a God in my eyes so I paid my money and took a gander by my nickelodeon. Now, Arrow Film are back with a wonderful restoration of the film. Too liberal with the truth to be a biopic, too truthful to be fiction, the story of Old American West legend Wyatt Earp as only John Ford can tell it: My Darling Clementine.
When the credits on The Long Good Friday open you know this will be different. Moody, stark and without any explanation, the film invites you in but won’t answer any questions until it’s good and ready. It’s a film that begs multiple viewings if only to figure out if you can spot a tell or a glance a character makes and see if there was something there that you missed earlier. In a surprising move it’s a film that refuses to glorify the criminals it’s depicting despite them being our only lead characters. Harry Shand is a ruthless, cruel and vindictive man. His men are all loyal and do whatever he asks. They don’t have any trouble in the dawning days of Thatcher’s Britain getting whatever they want because really, who is going to stop them? After ten years of settling scores and consolidating power in London, Harry’s just finalised a deal with some American “investors” to redevelop the docklands in London with some help with local councillors, the businesses that are allied to Harry and his own organisation. On the eve of Good Friday, a car bomb goes off killing one of Harry’s men and one of Harry’s oldest friends is brutally murdered. Now everything he has worked for is about to come down on him unless he can figure who is trying to destroy his plans.
A warning to anyone going into it hoping for more Joe Shishido madness, á la Branded to Kill, Massacre Gun is instead a more slow-burning crime drama that has more in common with an older genre of films than the then current crop of wild, explosive Japanese films. Altogether, it was an amazing ride but have a read as to the how and why.
Beneath is never going to win any awards for best story. It’s a haunted house spook-fest mixed with a slasher picture. It has an implausible setup. It has Jeff Fahey in it. It’s never going to be treated like Shakespeare. It doesn’t matter because it was quite the ride.