Miner Frank Machin (Richard Harris) lodges with a widow, Mrs. Hammond (Rachel Roberts). His competitive nature and powerful physique lead him to join the local rugby team and, as his career progresses, so too his brutal nature distances him from those around him. Success - and perhaps a new sense of insecurity - seems to make Frank harsher and cruder...
Superb 'angry young man' drama
- This Sporting Life review by RP
From the novel of the same name by David Storey with the author writing the screenplay for the film and directed by Lindsay Anderson, this is superb example of the 'British New Wave' / 'angry young man' / 'kitchen sink' dramas of the late 1950s / early 1960s. Set in Wakefield, it tells the tale of a working class man (Frank Machin, a miner, played by Richard Harris) who makes the transition to a well paid (for the day) rugby league player. Frank lodges with a recently widowed woman (Mrs Hammond, played by Rachel Roberts) who received minimal compensation when her husband was killed in an industrial accident at an engineering company owned by Gerald Weaver, who is also the chairman of the rugby league club. Frank falls in love with his landlady but she is still grieving for her husband and is unable to return his clumsy affections. The film ends with the death in hospital of Mrs Hammond and Frank Machin doomed to remain as 'a great ape on a football field'. So far, so bleak. What lifts this film above its gritty backdrop is the quality of the acting. Both Rachel Roberts and Richard Harris earned Oscar nominations, and Rachel Roberts won a BAFTA for Best Actress. The other characters in the film are played by an excellent cast of well-known British actors including Arthur Lowe, William Hartnell (who went on the become the first Doctor Who), Leonard Rossiter, Alan Badel, Colin Blakely, George Sewell to name but a few. If I have a slight criticism it's about the accents – Rachel Roberts is Welsh, Richard Harris Irish – not many Yorkshire accents here :) But that's a minor point - the film is always included in any list of 'best British films' and with good reason. Excellent stuff – highly recommended. 5/5 stars.
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Great film, but why 4:3 version?
- This Sporting Life review by MP
Regularly listed as one of the best ever British films this was the film that made Richard Harris a star. It's a powerful film, unflinching in it's portrayal of the problems that can hit young men with too much money.
But why do Cinema Paradiso send out a 4:3 version? The film was shot in 5:3 (1.66:1) and (newer) r2 DVDs are available with this ratio so why are getting palmed off with crap older ones that spoil e original composition of the image?