Alan Clarke’s Elephant (1989) is a short film made for television and produced by Danny Boyle and BBC Northern Ireland. Set amid the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the short presents 18 matter-of-fact murders with a coldly observational approach, providing limited dialogue and utilizing the predatory look of steadicam follow shots. The film takes its title from Irish writer Bernard MacLaverty’s description of the Troubles as “the elephant in our living room,” and it served as an inspiration to Gus Van Sant’s Elephant (2003), a film that likewise attended to the broader social problems that underlie American school-shootings and gun violence.
Clarke’s short is overdetermined in its intentions, being full of intense men and purposeful walks, yet it is also disturbing empty. Despite its apparent single-mindedness, there are no explanations of the hows and whys of its killings and there are nearly no sounds of surprise or panic, yet there is always the banality of violence and death, a lifeless body in a drab room and a getaway that rarely strays from the same purposeful walk. For more on Elephant and the psychology it embodies (or withholds) in its particular cinematography, MMC! offers Jordan Schonig’s impressive and insightful video essay, The Follow Shot: A Tale of Two Elephants (2018). Schonig’s essay provides a concise exploration of what may be contemporary cinema’s most ubiquitous and conspicuous shot and perfectly unpacks the themes and tensions at work in Clarke and Van Sant’s respective films.
THE GREATEST VAMPIRE WESTERN-MUSICAL EVER MADE ABOUT SNOOKER!
Set within a twilight labyrinth of concrete corridors and bunker-like rooms, director Alan Clarke plays out a musical grudge match between conflicting generations of master snooker players. On one side is Billy the Kid (Phil Daniels), a cocky young cockney decked out as an Old West outlaw. On the other is seven-time world champion Maxwell Randall (Alun Armstrong as the Green Baize Vampire), a bloodsucking traditionalist resentful of his young challenger. Manipulated by his manager T.O. (Bruce Payne as “The One”) and a scheming loan shark called the Wednesday Man (Don Henderson), Billy agrees to a seventeen-frame snooker match against Randall where the loser will put down his cue forever. Can Billy vanquish his foe or does the Wednesday Man have some more tricks up his sleeve?
Featuring music by celebrated composer George Fenton and inspired by the rivalry between true-life snooker players Ray Reardon and Jimmy White, Alan Clarke’s Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire is an uncharacteristic foray into fantasy by a British master of gritty realism. The result is an astonishingly strange and captivating work that resembles a musical adaptation of The Hustler if remade by Ken Russell.
- New high definition transfers of the film in its 93-minute and 121-minute versions
- High-Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD Presentation
- Original 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Surround Options
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Making BTK – Extensive interviews on the film’s making with cinematographer Clive Tickner, composer George Fenton, production designer Jamie Leonard, costume designer Tudor George, and editor Steve Singleton
- Shooting from the Hip, a brand new interview with Phil Daniels made especially for this release
- Biting Back, a new interview with Alun Armstrong made especially for this release
- Being #1, a brand new interview with Bruce Payne
- Sullivan Reporting, a new interview with Louise Gold
- Bride of the Green Baize Vampire, a brand new interview with Eve Ferret
- Sports Life Stories: Jimmy White, an ITV documentary on Jimmy White, the inspiration for Billy the Kid
- Archival interview with Ray “Dracula” Reardon, the inspiration for Maxwell Randall, on the eve of the 1981 World Snooker Championship
- Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Michael Brooke