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5 reasons to see films in the Richard Fleischer retrospective at EIFF 2013

2013 Edinburgh International Film Festival screens film by undervalued American director

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5 reasons to see films in the Richard Fleischer retrospective at EIFF 2013

Soylent Green

1: Not considered an auteur, like, say, Alfred Hitchcock, this great American director has been undervalued by critics and film historians. Like Robert Wise and John Huston, Fleischer was a versatile craftsman who was able to turn his eye to many kinds of films. As a result, he enjoyed a long career spanning six decades during which he consistently combined action and spectacle with storytelling complexity, and mainstream appeal with controversial subject matter: The Narrow Margin, Che!, Soylent Green and The Jazz Singer.

2: Fleischer directed Disney’s best-ever live action film, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (the Jules Verne fantasy starring Kirk Douglas and James Mason), after which he became known for making what would become known as blockbusters, among them The Vikings, Fantastic Voyage and Tora! Tora! Tora!

3: In between making these big budget historical epics, science fiction adventures and panoramic war movies, Fleischer completed a trilogy of serial killer thrillers now widely considered to be classics of the genre: Compulsion starring Orson Welles, The Boston Strangler with Tony Curtis and 10 Rillington Place featuring Richard Attenborough.

4: While the now better-known Hollywood mavericks (Scorsese, Friedkin etc) were busy establishing their reputations, Fleischer made what has been described as the only ever Hollywood studio-funded exploitation film, Mandingo. This ultra-violent southern states-set slavery drama heavily inspired Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.

5: Having cut his teeth directing cartoons produced by his father Max Fleischer (Betty Boop, Popeye, Superman), Fleischer Jnr moved into live action films. Five years later he won an Academy Award for producing the 1947 documentary Design for Death, a look at Japan’s imperial expansion during World War II that was co-written by Theodor Geisel (later known as Dr Seuss). 1947 was the year EIFF was launched as a documentary film festival: kismet!

Fantastic Voyages: The Films of Richard Fleischer is part of Edinburgh International Film Festival, various venues, Sat 22–Sun 30 Jun. The retrospective then continues at Filmhouse, Edinburgh, until Sun 7 Jul.

Soylent Green

  • 1973
  • US
  • 97 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Richard Fleischer
  • Cast: Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young, Edward G Robinson

Film adaptation of Harry Harrison's highly-regarded novel 'Make Room! Make Room!' sets up a plausible vision of a future world teeming with hungry millions. Heston is a tough cop trying to discover exactly what the ingredients of Soylent Green are, a synthetic foodstuff that's been cooked up to help feed the planet. The…

20000 Leagues Under the Sea

  • 3 stars
  • 1954
  • US
  • 127 min
  • U
  • Directed by: Richard Fleischer
  • Cast: Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas, Peter Lorre

Jules Verne goes Disney in this lavish and exciting underwater adventure. Mason is great as the anguished Captain Nemo, but Douglas is a bit too American goodie-goodie.

Follow Me Quietly

  • 1949
  • US
  • 60 min
  • Directed by: Richard Fleischer
  • Cast: William Lundigan, Dorothy Patrick, Jeff Corey

The first of Fleischer's serial killer films, about a murderer who only kills in the rain.

The Narrow Margin

  • 1952
  • 71 min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Richard Fleischer
  • Cast: Charles McGraw, Marie Windsor, Jacqueline White

Fast and furious film noir as detective tries to protect gangster's moll from hitmen. False identities and shock revelations abound in this twisty noir, starring gravel-voiced Charles McGraw. Set mostly on a train beset by assassins, it shows director Fleischer making inventive use of confined space, building tension…

The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing

  • 1955
  • US
  • 109 min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Richard Fleischer
  • Cast: Ray Milland, Joan Collins, Farley Granger

A brilliant account of a case that rocked the United States in the early 20th century: the real-life triangle of famous architect Sanford White; his teenage mistress, Evelyn Nesbit; and her rich, unstable husband, Harry Klaw. One of Fleischer’s best.

Compulsion

  • 1959
  • US
  • 99 min
  • 12
  • Directed by: Richard Fleischer
  • Cast: Orson Welles, Diana Varsi, Dean Stockwell

Two wealthy law students go on trial for murder after attempting the perfect crime. Adaption of the Leopold and Lobe case.

Fantastic Voyage

  • 1966
  • US
  • 100 min
  • U
  • Directed by: Richard Fleischer
  • Cast: Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O'Brien, Donald Pleasence
  • UK release: 14 October 1966

A top Russian scientist is critically wounded after defecting to the West. The only hope of saving him lies in miniaturising a surgical team and injecting them into his bloodstream to operate on his blood clot. A classic of Sixties pop cinema.

The Boston Strangler

  • 1968
  • US
  • 116 min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Richard Fleischer
  • Cast: Tony Curtis, Henry Fonda, George Kennedy

A city under attack by a serial killer-rapist. A true story comes to kaleidoscopic life in a film that vividly captures the atmosphere of terror that pervaded Boston in the 1960s and the desperate attempts by the police to catch an elusive killer. Tony Curtis shatters his iconic pretty-boy image to give a brilliant…

10 Rillington Place

  • 1971
  • UK
  • 111 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Richard Fleischer
  • Cast: Richard Attenborough, Judy Geeson, John Hurt

Attenborough plays serial killer John Christie.

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