Offbeat (revised & Updated): British Cinemas Curiosities, Obscurities and Forgotten Gems
Julian Upton (Editor)
Back in the days of full lockdown I spent an awful lot of time digging out obscure movies from the depths of the internet. I was out of the UK without any real access to paid-for, premium platforms and the postage system meant ordering hard copies on DVD or Blu-ray was impossibly expensive or things would just never arrive. So, after finishing Netflix and VPNing my way through the BBC iplayer I was regularly deep diving youtube or the myriad youtube type sites that hold old movies that are either out of copyright or too obscure and forgotten for any rights holders to be bothered to issue takedown requests. Maybe there was a hint of homesickness in the fact that 90% of what I watched was British films from the 50s to the 70s taking in quota quickies, sitcom feature spin offs, every British horror movie I could find and every single sleazy 70s crime thriller with men driving Jags and smoking fags. Four films a day for weeks on end. Some gems, some straight up classics and plenty of total crocks that I instantly forgot. I followed bit part actors through their entire careers and wondered why certain character actors just never made an impression on the mainstream even when their undeniable charisma obviously warranted wider success. It was a hit and miss way of planning double/triple/quadruple bills set, so very often, in the rundown London streets I remembered.
OFFBEAT, subtitled “British Cinema’s Curiosities, Obscurities and Forgotten Gems”, the newly revised doorstop of a film guide from Headpress, would’ve made a perfect companion for my one man cinema club. I’m old enough to remember, pre-internet, the cult film and horror movie fanzine scene where xeroxed pamphlets would rate and review movies you might stumble on as a pirated VHS or catch at a one off cinema screening, if you were lucky enough to live near a good rep cinema like the Scala in Kings Cross. OFFBEAT recalls that kind of effusive fandom in its coverage of stacks of overlooked British movies. It’s almost 600 pages of reviews and short features with fairly basic, but functional, illustrations including photographs reprinted at a quality that recalls those old photocopied zines. Amongst the reviews are essays on Ken Russell, the Asylum in British horror, CIA funded British cartoons and stacks more. Much respect to editor Julian Upton for corralling the wild west of Brit pics into such an easily accessible tome (and to Headpress for indexing it properly).
Of course there’s now a stack of movies on my updated “to watch” list but as a test when I first picked it up I checked if some of my favourites from the covid days were here. And they were. As a taster here’s the trailers for 5 top picks. All covered in this very entertaining volume.
The Squeeze 1977
Cash On Demand 1963
Goodbye Gemini 1970
The Penthouse 1967
Kirk Lake is a writer, musician and filmmaker. His published books include Mickey The Mimic (2015) and The Last Night of the Leamington Licker (2018). His films include the feature films Piercing Brightness (2014) and The World We Knew (2020) and a number of award winning shorts.
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