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Billy Liar - Criterion Collection
Billy Liar - Criterion Collection
Actors: Tom Courtenay, Julie Christie, Wilfred Pickles, Mona Washbourne, Ethel Griffies
Director: John Schlesinger
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
UR     2001     1hr 38min

The web of lies and fantasy that Billy has woven to help him escape from the tedium of his life catches up to him one tragi-comic Saturday. Genre: Feature Film-Drama Rating: UN Release Date: 10-JUL-2001 Media Type: DVD


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Movie Details

Actors: Tom Courtenay, Julie Christie, Wilfred Pickles, Mona Washbourne, Ethel Griffies
Director: John Schlesinger
Creators: Denys N. Coop, Roger Cherrill, Jack Rix, Joseph Janni, Keith Waterhouse, Willis Hall
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Romantic Comedies, Classic Comedies, Love & Romance, Classics
Studio: Criterion
Format: DVD - Black and White,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 07/10/2001
Original Release Date: 12/16/1963
Theatrical Release Date: 12/16/1963
Release Year: 2001
Run Time: 1hr 38min
Screens: Black and White,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 16
Edition: Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Sadly funny comedy
David Bonesteel | Fresno, CA United States | 11/15/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Billy Fisher (Tom Courtney) is a bored young man living in a drab, working class English community. He dreams of doing great things but is incapable of handling the everyday reality of jobs and relationships, instead finding refuge in a world of fantasy.

Courtney is great in the title role. His ability to complete transfigure his face with a change of expression is sometimes quite startling. There are many funny moments in this excellent film, but under it all is a deep sense of hopelessness at Billy's inability to face the world. The end of the film is honest and revealing. Julie Christie makes her debut, sparkling in the role of the one person who offers Billy a way out of his self-constructed trap.
Billy Liar
John Farr | 06/27/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Melding British kitchen-sink realism with fanciful sequences that dramatize Billy's reveries, director Schlesinger got his name on the map with this brilliant satire, partly inspired by James Thurber's classic story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." Courtenay is a marvel as Billy, the blue-collar drudge whose reliance on his inner life earns him a reputation as an unreliable dreamer. Mona Washbourne also excels as Alice, Billy's daffy, sympathetic mother."
For Julie Christie fans
Kona | Emerald City | 01/21/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Tom Courtenay stars as Billy, an unhappy clerk who still lives at home with his impatient family. To escape the drudgery of his life, Billy passes the time telling outrageous lies and fantasizing about his very own country where he is the beloved ruler and war hero.

I must admit I didn't know this movie was considered a comedy until I read some reviews. While the fantasy sequences are certainly amusing, Billy's day-to-day existence is lonely, unfulfilling, and depressing. I found Tom Courtenay to be adequate but dull and unsympathetic. On the other hand, Julie Christie is remarkably confident, mature, and charismatic and the screen really lights up during her few scenes. The black and white movie was one of the first in the sixties to feature the working class in all it's gritty glory. (I wish the DVD had had subtitles to help me with the thick north-of-England accents.)

The movie is similar to Danny Kaye's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but the humor is much more subtle. I thought the dramatic scenes lacked heart-felt pathos and I never liked or felt sorry for Billy. Watch it for its place in British film history and for the screen debut of the lovely Miss Christie."
I'd be lying if I said I didn't like it...
Andrew Ellington | I'm kind of everywhere | 12/15/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"It's a little immature and it seems to go no where for a while, but in the end `Billy Liar' proves itself well worth the journey; that's for sure. Thanks in part to a very engaging performance by Tom Courtenay and a ravishing supporting role by a young and beautiful (and very charming) Julie Christie, `Billy Liar' is funny and just plain fun.

William Fisher is a dreamer, a big dreamer. He wants to be a famous screenwriter, but at times his aspirations tend to get ahead of him, so much so that he can't help but fudge things a little bit in order to at least make it look like he isn't all talk. So, with that said, Billy has a bit of a problem. He has two fiancés who know nothing of the other, a fictitious job awaiting him in London and a dream world in his head where he is King and all know and respect him. Billy's parents Geoffrey and Alice don't know what to do with their son. He seems defiant and set in his ways despite all they say and do. Rita and Barbara (his two ladies) are fed up with Billy's procrastinating and just want to be married, but Billy prefers to drift off into his head where responsibilities are non-existent and everything is as it should be.

The film, like I said, can seem to be running in circles for a spell. It doesn't have a clear target for a good portion of the running time, but merely watching Billy talk himself in and out of various predicaments, but as the film draws to a close and Billy is reunited with the spitfire Liz everything starts to fall into place and we see just where Billy is headed.

Tom Courtenay is flawless as Billy, giving his character enough naivety to make his immaturity tolerable, never absurd. Funny note; he sounds a lot like Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow. His two loves, played by Gwendolyn Watts and Helen Fraser, are a tad annoying, but Julie Christie more than makes up for their lack of charm. She portrays Liz with this undeniable endearing quality. I only wish there was more of her in the film. She has a small scene in the center of the film and then doesn't show up again until the near end, but her performance is the biggest and brightest in the film.

As the film draws to a close the subject of responsibility and honesty begin to make their mark, and the entirety of `Billy Liar' makes more sense. This is a funny and witty and in the end intelligent film. It could have used a little more direction in the center of the film, but it works quite well in the end, and is definitely one that should not be missed."