The return of the Flipside

Dedicated to rediscovering cult British films that might otherwise be forgotten, the BFI’s Flipside range has returned with films by John Krish and B.S. Johnson. Sam Dunn, the BFI’s Head of DVD, explains why with each new release, a fuller, alternative history of British cinema emerges.

15 April 2013

By Sam Dunn

B.S. Johnson’s Paradigm (1969)

After a short period of inactivity, it gives me great pleasure to say that the BFI’s Flipside is back with two new DVD/Blu-ray editions: John Krish’s 1959 film Captured and a collection of B.S. Johnson’s films, made between 1967 and 1974, entitled You’re Human Like the Rest of Them.

As different from each other as they are from the other titles in the Flipside range (which is now 26 titles strong), both releases exemplify what the Flipside is all about: reclaiming a space for British films and filmmakers who have been forgotten and who would otherwise be in danger of disappearing from our screens forever, irrespective of their genre.

To date, the Flipside collection contains over 80 films across 26 editions. Since all but a handful of these films have never had any life on home video formats (VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, etc) all have been newly transferred to create the masters required for their premiere release, and the majority of the original film materials used (original prints or negatives) have been accessed via the BFI National Archive, where they are held in preservation status.

Taken as a whole, the collection covers many types of film. There are a number of ‘genre films’, such as Pete Walker’s Man of Violence (action-adventure), Gerry O’Hara’s That Kind of Girl (exploitation), Richard Lester’s The Bed Sitting Room and Clive Donner’s Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (both comedies). There are more ‘difficult’ or personal films, including Don Levy’s Herostratus and Chris Monger’s Voice Over, which show signs of having been influenced by a European sensibility.

Man of Violence (1970)

There are films by well-known directors – Lester and Donner have already been mentioned, but to this list we could add Bond director Guy Hamilton, whose The Party’s Over was released after decades of unavailability, albeit with the director’s credit removed, such were his wishes at the time of the film’s original distribution. There are also films by less well-known names, such as David Gladwell (better known for his work as Lindsay Anderson’s editor on If…. and O, Lucky Man!), Joseph Despins and Andy Milligan (the former’s film Duffer and the latter’s Nightbirds having been so rarely seen that the Flipside releases almost constitute world premieres).

With each release, a great deal of effort goes into finding additional short films which relate, either by theme or by director and actor. This has enabled many extraordinary and incredibly rare films to be given a platform that they would otherwise never have had. Included among these gems are James Hill’s nuclear disarmament documentary, A Sunday in September, the Tom Bell/Ann Lynn starrer The Spy’s Wife, Francine Winham’s brutal Careless Love (with Jane Asher), David Gladwell’s exquisite An Untitled Film, and John Krish’s extraordinary H.M.P.

The latter film is one of five Krish titles included on the release of Captured. Also included in the set is a newly-shot 35-minute interview in which the celebrated director gives a great deal of background information on all of the films, including Captured itself, which gets its first public release here after having been stamped ‘restricted’ and screened only to military personnel in the presence of high-ranking officers.

All of which bring us to You’re Human Like the Rest of Them. 2013 would have been the year of B.S. Johnson’s 80th birthday. The occasion has been marked not only with the republication of some of his most acclaimed novels (including House Mother Normal and Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry), but also by a number of events held by the likes of the British Library.

The Flipside edition presents a side of Johnson’s work which is not known to many. Collecting together 10 film and TV works, including his 1969 experimental short, Paradigm, and the BBC TV productions The Unfortunates and Not Counting the Savages, this is the first time that any of the films have been made available since their original screenings.

It’s always an honour to be involved in bringing these films, whatever their particular flavour, out from the shadows of history and back into circulation where they belong. Each and every volume has something unique and exciting to offer to anyone keen to further explore and understand British cinema, and each new batch of releases is always my favourite. Captured and You’re Human Like the Rest of Them are no exception. I hope you’ll find much to enjoy in them too.

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