• The Later Career of Richard Lester

    By David Cairns

    Director Richard Lester is best remembered for his delightfully mod films of the sixties, including the Beatles classics A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965) as well as The Knack . . . and How to Get It (1965) and Petulia (1967). In the following video essay, the final part of a supplement titled Picturewise that begins on Criterion’s new special edition of A Hard Day’s Night, critic David Cairns looks at the filmmaker’s neglected work of the seventies, including The Three Musketeers (1973), Juggernaut (1974), and Robin and Marian (1976), as well as his foray into big-budget superhero movies in the eighties. Like the earlier segments, this part features new audio interviews with Lester.

15 comments

  • By Ted Haycraft
    July 07, 2014
    08:04 PM

    ...fantastic - an insightful (& needed) sequel to my favorite special feature on the A HARD DAY'S NIGHT release by you guys!!!
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  • By Aleksi
    July 07, 2014
    10:40 PM

    I'm saddened, but not surprised, to see Lester's glorious comedy The Ritz completely ignored. The Ritz, first and foremost, is one of the funniest movies ever made. It's also one of the only truly successful bedroom farces in English. It was revolutionary in its easy acceptance of gay sexuality, applying gay stereotypes in a wholesome way for hilarious situational humor that was not in any way derogatory, prurient or condemning. (Farce, after all, requires broad caricature for its humor.) It featured greatly talented actors at the beginning of their careers (F. Murray Abraham; Treat Williams), brilliant comic character actors (Jack Weston, Kaye Ballard), and a host of top-level stage actors from Broadway and London. The RItz was a tremendously successful transposition of a very theatrical play to film, largely due to Lester's brilliance with editing and mise-en-scene. I hope one day The Ritz gets rediscovered as the important and brilliant comic gem it is, and it deserves to be considered one of Lester's best movies.
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  • By Craig J. Clark
    July 08, 2014
    09:13 AM

    Juggernaut and Cuba would both make for excellent additions to the Collection.
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    • By The Narrator Returns
      July 08, 2014
      10:45 AM

      Actually, Juggernaut and (most likely) Cuba will be released by Kino on Blu-Ray. Hey, it's better than nothing.
  • By David Cairns
    July 08, 2014
    12:08 PM

    Aleksi, I like The Ritz a lot and did cover it, but to make the piece a cofortable length we ended up deleting it. In a way, this focuses the video usefully on Lester's treatment of heroism. I've kept the cut scene and hope to post it separately on my blog, because Lester's analysis of the difficulties of adapting farce is very interesting. Petulia and The Three Musketeers would be my nominations for Criterion...
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    • By Aleksi
      July 08, 2014
      12:37 PM

      Mr Cairns, thank you for your reply.

      I figured there was a reason for its omission, and your thematic focus makes sense given the constraints of time. But, if I may say so, such a focus does a disservice to Lester's ouevre by lopsiding it away from his profoundly comic sensibility and may give the casual viewer an unbalanced view of his aesthetic. It's a shame that when people discuss Lester they are often unaware of such brilliant comedies as The Bed-Sitting Room and The Ritz. And I, for one, would be very interested to hear Lester's thoughts about farce, since that is a genre of particular interest to me.

      All this said, I'm still grateful for your video essay. And I agree with you that The Three Musketeers deserves a Criterion treatment -- it's easily one of the best action period pieces of all time, and arguably Lester's masterpiece. (Don't know that I agree with you about Petulia, though;however, an argument could be made for The Bed Sitting Room...)

    • By hagenda
      July 09, 2014
      07:45 PM

      I second Mr. Cairns nomination for a complete Three Musketeers blu-ray release.
  • By David Cairns
    July 08, 2014
    02:23 PM

    The other danger with Lester is that he gets typed as the comedy guy.He was interested in making all kinds of films -- another deleted sequence talks about his projected film of Joseph Conrad's Victory, scripted by Harold Pinter. While comedy, particularly visual comedy, was a major weapon in his armory, he's a well-rounded filmmaker whose interests take him into other areas too. No ten minute piece could encapsulate all that, but hopefully in conjunction with the twenty-seven minute profile on the blu-ray, I've scratched the surface.
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    • By Aleksi
      July 08, 2014
      10:16 PM

      One only need watch The Three Musketeers to apprehend that Lester is more than "the comedy guy", but a filmmaker of genuine talent and ambition who wants to do more than merely entertain.

      I didn't know about the plan to shoot Conrad's Victory scripted by Pinter -- that's a fascainting prospect. Lester and Pinter... that's a most intriguing pairing! I bet they would have worked synergistically together: Pinter's laconic & barbed dialogue would have worked beautifully with Lester's approach to editing.

      I look forward to seeing your blog post wherein Lester discusses farce. Would you please the url to your blog?

    • By Aleksi
      July 08, 2014
      10:17 PM

      Would you please "share" the url to your blog?
  • By David Cairns
    July 09, 2014
    03:46 AM

    dcairns.wordpress.com
    Reply
  • By Adam Jerome
    July 10, 2014
    01:12 PM

    Petulia richly deserves the Criterion treatment.
    Reply
  • By David Kelly
    July 10, 2014
    08:32 PM

    I'd love a decent release of "How I Won the War!", also. It is John Lennon's only non-Beatles feature film.
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    • By Craig J. Clark
      July 11, 2014
      01:55 PM

      I'll second this.
  • By D Cairns
    July 15, 2014
    04:21 PM

    The current DVD of HIWTW seems to have slight focus problems on one side, but at least it gets the tinting right: for years, the movie has tended to show in prints where the color tinting of the war footage was reduced to a perlescent sheen, which actually renders incoherent the gag of the "replacement" soldiers, tinted the colors of the battles their predecessors died in.
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