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  All Night Long Welcome To Jazz Club
Year: 1961
Director: Basil Dearden
Stars: Patrick McGoohan, Keith Michell, Betsy Blair, Paul Harris, Marti Stevens, Richard Attenborough, Bernard Braden, Harry Towb, María Velasco, Dave Brubeck, John Dankworth, Charles Mingus, Bert Courtley, Keith Christie, Ray Dempsey, Allan Ganley, Tubby Hayes
Genre: Drama, Thriller, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Tonight there will be a celebration, no matter that the storm clouds are gathering up above. It is being held to commemorate the first wedding anniversary of jazz musicians Rex (Paul Harris) and Delia (Marti Stevens), although she gave up performing as a singer once she was married, and no amount of coaxing will have her agree to return. However, at the party, which hipster Rod (Richard Attenborough) has arranged in his Thames-side warehouse home, there is a drummer, Johnny (Patrick McGoohan), and he has made a deal regarding Delia...

William Shakespeare's work has proven a rich source of storytelling ever since it was written, but not every adapter for the film medium stuck slavishly to his every word, indeed many opted for the loose adaptation where they could take the framework and selected incidents of his plays and create their own interpretations. In Britain, we had already had Joe Macbeth (based on... guess what?) but a few short years later they tried again with a version of Othello, the racially-charged tale of jealousy and murder, here transplanted to the modern day jazz world.

To make it more authentic, a group of actual jazz musicians of the era were hired for the musical interludes, and also a convincing atmosphere which here was very neatly developed by director Basil Dearden for its late night qualities. Such was the strength of this early hours ambience that it was possible to overlook how contrived the rest of it was, for a while anyway, as the Iago substitute Johnny schemes his way into getting Othello substitute Rex to reject his Desdemona-esque wife because he's been fooled into thinking she is having an affair with Cassio stand-in, er, Cass (Keith Michell, playing a mean saxophone).

Johnny is doing this to persuade Delia back to the nightclub stage for a tour - with his band, natch, which will make him quite a bit of dough while guaranteeing that he can stay in business. All the way through she insists that she's through with singing, except that later on as an anniversary treat she does croon a couple of tunes, having the unfortunate effect of making you think Johnny had a point, she was crazy to give up the profession with a voice like that. Not something you would have found in the Shakespeare original, as Othello's corrosive envy was meant to be the fatal flaw in his character, not his "stay at home, woman!" sexism.

Nevertheless, there was much to appreciate here, not least a collection of tunes played by some of the best jazz men of their day from both sides of the Atlantic, including John Dankworth, Dave Brubeck and Tubby Hayes, meaning this was an invaluable record for jazz fans of this vintage - they even get a few lines each. One thing, though, it does see them witnesses to the upcoming crime, which you expect to be murder if you know the source, and as these were real people interacting with fictional ones it does make for a curious drama. But most enjoyable outside of the music was McGoohan's manic plotter; he played the drums in a couple of scenes with some intensity (or mimed convincingly to them at any rate), smokes pot which signals his moral decay, and emerges as an editing whizz when he makes a tape supposed to fool Rex into accepting that Cass has the hots for his missus. If it was all too manufactured to have much meaningful to say about its implications, it was absorbing in its claustrophobic fashion.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Basil Dearden  (1911 - 1971)

Dependable British director who began his film career working on Will Hay comedies like My Learned Friend, then moved onto a range of drama and comedy: a segment of classic horror Dead of Night, important crime film The Blue Lamp, The Smallest Show on Earth, excellent heist story The League of Gentlemen, social issues film Victim, action spectaculars Khartoum and The Assassination Bureau and quirky horror The Man Who Haunted Himself. Sadly, Dearden died in a car crash.

 
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