Shepperton Babylon by Matthew Sweet

Synopsis

This is a wonderful secret history of British movies that includes the scandals, the suicides, the immolations and the contract killings – the product of thousands of conversations with veteran film-makers. Here you’ll meet, among many others, the 20s film idols snorting cocaine from an illuminated glass dance floor on the bank of the Thames, the model who escaped Soho’s gangsters to become the queen of the nudie flicks and the genteel Scottish comedienne who, at the age of fifty-five, reinvented herself as a star of exploitation cinema, and fondly remembers ‘the one where I drilled in people’s heads and ate their brains’. Welcome to the lost worlds of British cinema.

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My thoughts

Long ridiculed as being insignificant by the rest of the film making world, Matthew Sweets investigates this history of British film, the majority of which very few remain and the silent stars, unlike some of their American counterparts are sadly completely forgotten.

Shepperton Babylon, unlike Hollywood Babylon (Kenneth Anger) is not full of over blown and made up scandal, of course there is scandal but it is dealt with in a matter of fact and responsible way.

Sweet talked to those who were still living that remembered those days or when they were no longer living, their descendent.

It is an interesting look at British cinema from the early days to the early 80s sexplotation industry that took over from the film making of the 50s.

Today British film is stronger than it has ever been and it is a shame that many of these films are lost and the stars forgotten.

Although very interesting the book is very dense and sweet skips over perhaps one of the most famous British Actresses – Diana Dors, but focuses mainly on the male stars, which is a shame and bemusing as she was the glamour movie star of 50s Britain.

Interesting read but the definitive book on British Cinema has yet to be written

I gave this 3 out of 5*

 

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