If you ever wondered what the breaking of a human soul looked like on film? then this is the perfect place to view such a devastating blow.
That moment when a scaving remark is delivered with such utter venom, resulting in a visual much similar to the work of scientists splitting the atom on the Manhattan Project. To go from a warm, emotional, heartbreaking scene with a sweet moment of clarity to an instant smash down with a demolition sized ball of destruction. It truly knocked me right of my feet.
Science teacher, Frank Hunter (Nigel Patrick) magnificently appalled and flabbergasted, stunned face, mirrored mine exactly. So sucker punched in the kisser, I had to pause the telly for a second to catch my breath. Who could of dropped such a bone crunching blow?
This is the story of an elderly public school English master Andrew Crocker-Harris (Michael Redgrave), who after a brush with increasing ill health is pushed into retiring from his teaching post. Crocker-Harris isn’t one for fun, smiles or enjoyment whilst educating his young class of boys in the fundamentals of the Latin and Greek languages. A stickler for prompt timekeeping, silence and obedience. Still, with his wealth of knowledge and experience he is a competent teacher, just one that has lost his passion and fight other the years.
Old Crock not only has to put up with the arrival of his replacement and the realisation of losing his classroom, even knowing the pupils despise him. He also has to deal with the bumbling uncaring Headmaster (Wilfrid Hyde-White) and his controlling and probably cheating, younger wife Millie (Jean Kent).
Could a young inspired pupil by the name of Taplow (Brian Smith) push through the emotional stubbornness of his teacher and shine some spirited life into this broken exhausted man. Or will Crocker-Harris live up to his nickname of “the Himmler of the lower 5th”.
This film caught me off guard, I admit to have never heard of it or even having knowledge of the director Anthony Asquith. I’d spied the high reviews but went in with my usual non judgement, viewing attitude. Before I knew it, the film was wrapping up, realising, apart from that moment of pause mentioned above, I had been completely and utterly transfixed with all the performances in this stunning drama. A true emotional powerhouse of a movie. Very recommended indeed.
A few things I’ve learnt
- The film is based on a successful 1948 play by screenwriter and playwright Terence Rattigan.
- The Browning Version has numerous television plays and film adaptations. In 1985 Ian Holm, Judi Dench and Michael Kitchen took on the drama in a TV movie. With Director Mike Figgis tackling the story in 1994 with Albert Finney, Greta Scacchi and Matthew Modine.
- If you fancy a different filming approach to British schooling life on film then check my post on the superb drama thriller starring David Hemmings called Unman, Wittering and Zigo (1971)
Thanks for popping on by Mikey’s hairy film blog page. Feel free to let me know if you’ve seen this one or one of the other versions.