Search - Classic British Thrillers (The Phantom Light / Red Ensign / The Upturned Glass) on DVD

Classic British Thrillers (The Phantom Light / Red Ensign / The Upturned Glass)
Classic British Thrillers
The Phantom Light / Red Ensign / The Upturned Glass
Actor: James Mason
Director: Michael Powell
Genres: Indie & Art House, Television
UR     2008     3hr 29min

he British Cinematograph Films Act of 1927 was passed to give motion pictures made in the United Kingdom an edge over Hollywood imports. However technically crude, these low budget quota quickies provided on-the-job traini...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: James Mason
Director: Michael Powell
Genres: Indie & Art House, Television
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Television
Format: DVD - Black and White,Anamorphic
DVD Release Date: 07/29/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 3hr 29min
Screens: Black and White,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 7
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

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Member Movie Reviews

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Movie Reviews

A lighthouse, a boat, a plummet
Annie Van Auken | Planet Earth | 07/10/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The two Michael Powell directed pictures in CLASSIC BRITISH THRILLERS give good indication of the great work he'd produce later, although they are somewhat hampered by small budgets. The James and Pamela Mason murder mystery is quite engaging.


THE PHANTOM LIGHT-- The lighthouse keeper at a quaint Welsh coast village dies mysteriously, and his lighthouse is now supposedly haunted-- an unexplained light keeps shining on the scene of his death. The story's atmosphere is literal, with lots of blanketing fog, plus a murder mystery that's equally shrouded and obscured. Primarily filmed within a lighthouse, this whodunit has more than its share of ethnic humor.

RED ENSIGN-- Leslie Banks plays a somewhat pushy manager of a shipyard whose revolutionary boat design encounters much opposition and skullduggery from the competition and his own financers.

THE UPTURNED GLASS-- A story told in flashback. Neurosurgeon's affair with a married woman ends with her defenestrated death. Suspecting the woman's sister is involved, the surgeon plots revenge on her. Easily the best of this small collection. Co-written by Pamela Mason.

CLASSIC FILM NOIR, Vol. 3 - 10 Movie Pack (from ST. CLAIR) contains one very fine British-made suspense movie, plus many other unusual stories.

Parenthetical numbers preceding titles are 1 to 10 viewer poll ratings found at a film resource website.

(5.3) The Phantom Light (UK-1935) - Binnie Hale/Gordon Harker/Ian Hunter/Donald Calthrop/Milton Rosmer

(5.8) Red Ensign (UK-1934) - Leslie Banks/Carol Goodner/Frank Vosper/Alfred Drayton/Donald Calthrop

(6.5) The Upturned Glass (UK-1947) - James Mason/Rosamund John/Pamela Mason/Ann Stephens/Morland Gray"
Three Classic Movies Worth Watching
R. Crane | Washington, DC United States | 10/26/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I discovered this DVD in a recent review in the NYT. They highly recommended it, and so do I. The DVD consists of three unrelated films: The Red Ensign (1935), The Phantom Light (1935), and the Upturned Glass (1947). All address different subjects.

The first movie, The Red Ensign, tells the tale of a patriotic British shipbuilder, who intends to use his radical new cargo ship design to bolster the declining British shipbuilding industry. Unable to attract the necessary capitol, he funds the building himself and runs into financial ruin and commercial disasters. It is a highly patriotic story, tracing the shipbuilder's willingness to do anything at any cost to achieve his ends.

The Phantom Light is set in Wales (probably North Wales) and in the first few scenes, has authentic characters dressed in native costumes speaking Welsh. The story centers on the lighthouse and mysterious tales of a second "phantom light" from the mountains that lures ships to the rocks and their destruction. Two lighthouse keepers have died under questionable circumstances, and the arrival of a new lighthouse keeper coincides with two disguised sleuths seeking to solve the mystery. While not profound, it is an interesting look back into that time period.

It is the third movie which makes this DVD worthwhile. In the Upturned Glass, a young James Mason stars as a neuro-surgeon who restores a child's eyesight and falls in love with her mother. The affair ends and the mother mysteriously dies, falling out of a window. The doctor begins his own investigation into the case, seeking revenge against the killer. The movie is gripping, as good as any modern suspense movie, with an unforgettable and startling ending.

In this 1935 Michael Powell quota quickie "the place is haun
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 01/08/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The movie is The Phantom Light. The benefit of Classic British Thrillers is that it gives us two Powell quota quickies. We can see some of the elements that later made Powell one of the great film directors and, with his partner Emeric Pressburger, co-creators in the Forties of some of the greatest British films ever made.

Phantom Light, The (1935):
Michael Powell made about 15 quota quickies in seven years during the Thirties. These quota quickies meant two things: First, a lot of second-rate British movies were made. Second, a lot of British filmmakers, like Michael Powell, learned their craft making these things.

Poor Sam Higgins (Gordon Harker, a fine, funny character actor who specialized in blokes). He arrives in the tiny Welsh coastal village of Tan-y-bwlch to take charge of the North Stack lighthouse. He gets more than he wanted. Harker learns from the villagers that two previous light keepers disappeared and the man he's going to replace at the lighthouse is still out there, gone barmy. Sam also hears about the ships that have gone up on the rocks...when the light goes out...and a phantom light on the cliffs goes on.

By the time Sam gets out to the lighthouse it's pitch black with heavy fog. The mad man he replaced has had to stay put because he's too sick to be moved. It's not long before there are more people in the lighthouse than Sam wants, and not all of them he knows about.

The Phantom Light is funny, dark and dangerous, with a wonderful performance by Gordon Harker, all working class shrewdness and exasperation. The movie is stuffed full of the things Michael Powell loved in a movie...a wild countryside with beautifully photographed cliffs, rocky shores and heavy waves; the mysteries of mechanisms; extra time spent with quirkiness; lilting speech; and characters he makes amusing without looking down on them. If you admire Powell & Pressburger's mature films, you might enjoy having this example of Powell's earlier steps. Said Powell much later, "'I said `yes' to this one right away, and never regretted it. I enjoyed every minute." I did, too.

Red Ensign (1934):
There are some good elements to this Powell quota quickie, but on the whole it's just a bit of earnest flag waving.

We're in the middle of an utterly serious patriotic paean to British shipbuilding and British determination. David Barr (Leslie Banks) is the managing director, board member and ship designer of Burns MacKinnon, builder of British ships. We're also the middle of the Depression, with British ships idled and rusting away, the great British shipbuilding companies barely alive and thousands of men out of work. Barr is positive he's designed a new kind of freighter, so fast and efficient it will not only put Burns MacKinnon back on its feet, it will be the salvation of British shipping. He is willing to go to just about any lengths to face down his timid board and deal with dangerous competitors. Barr is single-minded, dead serious, humorless and articulate...the kind of man you might want to lead a charge but also the kind of man you'd hate to have lead your church. He makes one mistake and it seems he may lose everything. But he doesn't. His ship is launched. British shipping has hope. The Red Ensign, flown on all British shipping, will fly the seas with pride again.

Powell gives us some masterful scenes where the work of the shipyards is featured.

Upturned Glass, The (1947):
This one was directed by Lawrence Huntington, co-produced by the star, James Mason, and co-written and also starred Mason's wife at the time, Pamela Kellino. It's a psychological study of murder and starts promisingly with a clever set-up. It then leads us on with flashbacks and moody, first person narration. Unfortunately, it ends with the clear impression that the writers created a clever plot but forgot to make the lead sympathetic.

We're in a medical school lecture hall and students are crowding in to hear a tall, dark man who looks like James Mason give a lecture on The Psychology of Crime. "Now we come to that much more interesting phenomenon," he tells the students, "the sane criminal...the man who is prepared to pursue his own ethical convictions to the point of murder." He proposes to tell the story of a preeminent surgeon, so dedicated he has no friends and little social life, a cool customer, indeed. The lecturer gives this man a fictitious name, Michael Joyce. And as he speaks, the flashback starts...

...with Michael Joyce examining the young daughter of a woman whose husband we never meet. Michael Joyce looks just like the lecturer. Is the lecturer telling us his own story? It would be a neat twist if he were. In this tale of irony and obsession, Joyce saves the eyesight of the child and he and the mother, equally lonely, start a relationship that can only lead to her divorcing her husband. Instead, it leads to murder, one of which is carefully planned. "This was a murder conceived in perfect sanity and faultlessly carried out," the lecturer tells his students. But now we realize this all might be a flashback...or a clever man's flash-forward...or perhaps nothing more than a lecture. Pamela Kellino gives a remarkable portrait of a woman who is smart, coquettish, selfish and thoroughly unlikable. She nearly steals the picture from Mason."