CineSavant Column

Tuesday April 2, 2019


Let’s Party like it’s 1636!

Here’s a hot tip — back in the 1970s, the most talked-about un-produced screenplay was Walter Brown Newman’s frequently optioned Harrow Alley, an epic story about the Great Plague of London. The script is so well written, it takes one’s breath away. It is a little ghoulish at times, but it’s also funny, tragic, profound, romantic and even inspiring. The story has a dozen memorable, original characters. On the first page we meet Ratsey, a roughneck thief who thinks he has immunity to the sickness that’s killing everybody not rich enough to flee to the country. He eventually finds atonement and joy by becoming a baker. UCLA professor William Froug told us about Harrow Alley in his book The Screenwriter Looks at The Screenwriter; back in film school it circulated in smeary photocopies. Over the years we pictured various actors as Ratsey — Tim Roth, Bob Hoskins, others. We imagined that it needed to be directed by Roman Polanski.

Further confirmation of the wonders of Harrow Alley can be read in this 2013 article by Robert Elisberg. But the happy surprise is that a .pdf of the entire 178- page screenplay is online; you’ll soon recognize it as a masterpiece. “Ring Around the Rosy, Pocket Full of Poseys” will never sound the same again: “All Fall Down.”

I almost wish the screenplay were secret so that somebody would produce it. Maybe a smart producer (with a good entertainment attorney) can do the right thing and expand it into an eight-hour miniseries. It’s certainly viable now … just tell the producers there’s a zombie in there somewhere … and a big MeToo statement … and something pro-veteran. It already has a cute dog.

Just announced on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber is Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger’s Gone to Earth, combined with its David O. Selznick meddling producer’s recut The Wild Heart, which is a full 25 minutes shorter. The period picture gives Jennifer Jones a good role opposite David Farrar and has been unjustly ignored, compared to other films by The Archers. A Region 2 DVD was a prized possession twenty years ago, and I’m looking forward to the improvement! ┬áThe disc is due on June 25.

And since I’m probably not going to be reviewing it myself, here’s Nathaniel Thompson’s concise & fair Mondo Digital review of the new all-region Blu-ray of Ikarie XB-1.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson