March 21 – April 2

TWISTED NERVE: BRITISH PSYCHOLOGICAL HORROR OF THE 1960s AND 1970s

Although the British horror genre is often defined by the rich legacies of gothic literature, Shakespeare, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, the ghost stories of M. R. James, the films of Hammer and a range of other influences and precedents, there is also a rich vein of “psychological horror” that emerged in late 1950s British cinema and betrays the impact of Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, the fractured post-war psyche, the reportage of true-crime mass and serial murders, shifts in censorship, and the arrival in the UK’s rapidly changing film industry of European and American directors such as Roman Polanski, Richard Fleischer and Wolf Rilla.

This season focuses on a range of the most provocative, potent and obsessive of these films, exploring the dark and disturbed psychology and psychosis of modern British society. It opens with one of the most notorious and influential works of the subgenre, Michael Powell’s profoundly cinematic, deeply personal and patently disturbed Peeping Tom, a film that met with outrage and derision on its initial release. The film’s portrait of the damaged, murderous and poetic psyche of its lead protagonist, a focus puller working in the British studio system, provides a point of comparison and contrast with the other movies included in this season – such as Nicolas Roeg’s extraordinary Don’t Look Now and Fleischer’s truly chilling portrait of serial killer John Christie, 10 Rillington Place – and its focus on the impact of trauma, environment, sexuality and tradition on an increasingly cracked national consciousness. These films also reflect a deeper tradition of British horror literature, ranging from cryptographer Leo Marks’ original script for Peeping Tom to seminal mid-century writers such as Daphne du Maurier and John Wyndham.

Please note the non-Wednesday screening dates for parts of this season.

March 21

7:00pm – PEEPING TOM
Michael Powell (1960) 101 mins – M

Considered by many to be Powell’s last major work and one of the defining films of British psychological horror, this profoundly cinematic shocker follows the murderous trail of a focus puller (Carl Boehm as Mark) bent on capturing the perfect image of fear. Powell’s deeply personal and fascinatingly self-reflexive movie is based on a disturbing script by cryptographer Leo Marks and presents a cornucopia of the director’s obsessions. A key influence on Scorsese, it also features Moira Shearer, Anna Massey and Powell himself in the creepy role of Mark’s psychologist father (via a disturbing home-movie sequence shot in the director’s home).


8:55pm – 10 RILLINGTON PLACE
Richard Fleischer (1971) 106 mins – M

True-crime study of 1940s and early 1950s serial killer John Christie, played by Richard Attenborough as a mild-mannered psychopath, and the miscarriage of justice that helped to usher in the end of capital punishment in Britain. Fleischer’s third attempt at filming a fictional reconstruction of an actual high-profile murder case – following 1959’s Compulsion and 1968’s The Boston Strangler – takes an observational, almost journalistic approach that was underappreciated at the time but now comes across as strikingly modern. Co-stars John Hurt.

March 27 (Tuesday)

7:00pm VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED
Wolf Rilla (1960) 77 mins – PG

Originally slated as a MGM US production, this film was initially shelved due to objections from religious groups concerning the story’s portrayal of “immaculate conception”. Shifting location to the more appropriate English terrain of John Wyndham’s 1957 source novel (The Midwich Cuckoos), the film tells the terrifying tale of a paranormal incident that leads the women of the town to give birth to a generation of disturbing telepathic children. Rilla’s measured, chilling and serenely unnerving vision of small-town terror is also one of the key works of British sci-fi horror. With George Sanders.

35mm print courtesy of the British Film Institute Archive.

Screens again Wednesday 28 at 7.45pm.

March 28

6.00pm – SYMPTOMS
José Ramón Larraz (1974) 92 mins – M

Catalan director Larraz’s (Vampyres) companion piece to Polanski’s Repulsion is a creepy, finely detailed and compelling modern gothic psychological horror starring the extraordinary Angela Pleasence (daughter of Donald) as a neurotic woman “trapped” in a large country house. Things spiral further out of control and descend into madness when she invites a friend to stay. After being out of circulation for decades, this bracing, claustrophobic and dreamlike film has recently been rediscovered, restored and reassessed as one of the great works of 1970s British horror.

Screening again at 9.15pm.

Courtesy of La Cinémathèque royale de Belgique.


7.45pm – VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED
Wolf Rilla (1960) 77 mins – PG

Originally slated as a MGM US production, this film was initially shelved due to objections from religious groups concerning the story’s portrayal of “immaculate conception”. Shifting location to the more appropriate English terrain of John Wyndham’s 1957 source novel (The Midwich Cuckoos), the film tells the terrifying tale of a paranormal incident that leads the women of the town to give birth to a generation of disturbing telepathic children. Rilla’s measured, chilling and serenely unnerving vision of small-town terror is also one of the key works of British sci-fi horror. With George Sanders.

35mm print courtesy of the British Film Institute Archive.

NOTE: Repeat Screening. Previous screening Tuesday March 27.


9.15pm SYMPTOMS
José Ramón Larraz (1974) 92 mins – M

Catalan director Larraz’s (Vampyres) companion piece to Polanski’s Repulsion is a creepy, finely detailed and compelling modern gothic psychological horror starring the extraordinary Angela Pleasence (daughter of Donald) as a neurotic woman “trapped” in a large country house. Things spiral further out of control and descend into madness when she invites a friend to stay. After being out of circulation for decades, this bracing, claustrophobic and dreamlike film has recently been rediscovered, restored and reassessed as one of the great works of 1970s British horror.

NOTE: Repeat Screening. Previous screening at 6.00pm.

Courtesy of La Cinémathèque royale de Belgique.

April 2 (Monday)

7:00pm – DON’T LOOK NOW
Nicolas Roeg (1973) 110 mins M

Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie mesmerise as a married couple who take an extended trip to Venice following a family tragedy. While in the elegantly decaying city, they have a series of inexplicable, terrifying and increasingly dangerous experiences. Adapted from a chilling story by Daphne du Maurier, this landmark, visionary horror retains its power and mystery thanks to Roeg’s mastery of what Hitchcock famously called “pure cinema”, manifest in his visual sleight of hand and, above all, his refusal to be bound by the conventions of classical narrative and chronology. 


9:00pm – REPULSION
Roman Polanski (1965) 105 mins M

Polanski’s Grand Guignol-style psychological shocker, the first in his “apartment trilogy” (Rosemary’s Baby and The Tenant), depicts the mental deterioration of a sexually repressed manicurist left alone in her sister’s apartment for several days. Catherine Deneuve is astonishing as the jealously sadistic schizophrenic in this truly fractured modern classic that will leave you uneasy for days afterwards. A major influence on a whole swag of movies from Barton Fink to Black Swan, it features a great jazz-inflected score by Chico Hamilton.

35mm print courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive, Australia

February 7–21
JEANNE MOREAU: THE FACE OF THE NOUVELLE VAGUE

February 28 – March 14
“I AM HERE AND I DON’T KNOW WHY”: THE FREE-FORM FILMMAKING OF JOHN CASSAVETES

March 21 – April 2
TWISTED NERVE: BRITISH PSYCHOLOGICAL HORROR OF THE 1960s AND 1970s

April 9 – April 25
FRANÇOIS TRUFFAUT, CHILD OF THE CINEMA

May 2
GIRLS IN UNIFORM: LANDMARKS OF LESBIAN CINEMA

May 9
COLONIAL LEGACIES – THE VIEW FROM THERE. A COLLABORATION WITH THE HUMAN RIGHTS ARTS & FILM FESTIVAL.

May 16 – May 23
WITHOUT COMPROMISE: THOM ANDERSEN’S AMERICA

May 30 – June 13
PLAYING SOLO: THE SADLY BEAUTIFUL CAREER OF MONTGOMERY CLIFT

June 20 – July 4
THE STORY OF WOMEN: THE EXTRAORDINARY CAREER OF KINUYO TANAKA

July 11 – July 25
THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES: GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM AFTER CALIGARI

August 22 – September 5
BEYOND LEONE: THE RADICAL LAWLESSNESS OF THE SPAGHETTI WESTERN

September 12 – September 26
ORIGINAL SINS: RESISTANCE AND FEMINISM IN THE AVANT-GARDE CINEMA OF VĚRA CHYTILOVÁ

October 3
CONTESTING HISTORY: BICENTENNIAL LEGACIES

October 10 – October 31
ON DANGEROUS GROUND: IDA LUPINO, TRAILBLAZER

November 7 – November 21
ECHOES FROM TAIWAN: THE MAJOR WORKS OF EDWARD YANG

November 28 – December 5
ON BODY AND SOUL: THE PASSION ACCORDING TO AMIEL COURTIN-WILSON

December 12 – December 19
ANARCHY AND ECSTASY: THE INTERMEDIATE CINEMA OF DUŠAN MAKAVEJEV