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Compulsion (Size 9 productions for ITV, 2009)

It is debatable whether Compulsion should properly be described as an “adaptation” of Thomas Middleton and William Rowley’s 1622 play The Changeling. There are numerous parallels between the original Jacobean drama and the film’s tale of obsession and murder in contemporary London. On the other hand, the film is credited solely to its writer Joshua St Johnston and carries no acknowledgement to its inspiration. “Loosely based on…” is perhaps the best description of the relationship between the polished and powerful modern melodrama and its source. As a consequence, Compulsion probably does not even belong in the Screen Plays canon, but I am posting about it today since it is the final presentation in the ‘Classics on TV: Jacobean tragedy on the small screen’ season at BFI Southbank. Continue reading

‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore (BBC, 1980)

Roland Joffé’s film adaptation of John Ford’s play ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, produced for BBC Television, is rare in a number of ways. This is the only British television production of the Caroline tragedy, and indeed the medium’s only presentation of a drama by the playwright. Filmed by director of photography Nat Crosby, ‘Tis Pity… is one of a small number of television adaptations of classic theatre plays to be shot on 16mm film on location. And since its first transmission on 7 May 1980, it has been exceptionally hard to see, with no repeat showing, no VHS or DVD release and not even any fragments on YouTube. Tonight’s (sold out) presentation at BFI Southbank as part of the ‘Classics on TV: Jacobean Tragedy on the Small Screen’ season, organised with Screen Plays, is a rare opportunity to see it. Continue reading

Stage 2: The Duchess of Malfi (BBC, 1972)

Shooting on videotape on location at Chastleton House, James MacTaggart achieves a fluid and compelling production of John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi that is entirely credible – which is far from easy through the second-half bloodbath. Among its strengths are a vibrant performance by Eileen Atkins as the Duchess and some truly remarkable chiaroscuro camera work. Continue reading

Emitron camera at Alexandra Palace