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David Stratton's Great Britain Retro Film Festival

Film & TV

A selection of classic British films – including some ‘golden oldies’ rarely seen on the big screen – are showing in Adelaide as part of this touring festival.

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David Stratton fans would have been disappointed if they hoped to catch a glimpse of the man himself at the Adelaide opening of the retrospective film festival that bears his name.

The popular film critic, best known for his 36 years on our television screens, was nowhere to be seen in the small crowd at Palace Nova last night, but the event did serve up a treat in the form of the 1955 crime comedy The Ladykillers.

This is the second such festival of classic British films, many of which are rarely seen today on the big screen. Some have been given a facelift for modern viewing, with colour retouching, digital re-mastering, and big 4K film restoration.

'Our Man in Havana', screening at the Retro Film Festival.

‘Our Man in Havana’, screening at the Retro Film Festival.

Not that they are all “golden oldies”.  The festival includes more recent titles such as the 1997 Judi Dench film Her Majesty Mrs Brown and 1985’s A Passage to India, directed by David Lean.  Films by Lean and fellow director Carol Reed are featured throughout the program.

And it includes two of my all-time favourite Brit films: the delightful Blithe Spirit and the stylish Our Man in Havana.

The festival also showcases four classic comedies from the legendary Ealing Studios, including The Man in the White Suit, Whisky Galore, The Lavender Hill Mob, and The Ladykillers.

The Ladykillers (about five criminals who pretend to be classical musicians while plotting a bank robbery) is a gentle gem of a film with superb performances from Alec Guinness as the criminal mastermind and Katie Johnson as the little old lady who comes between the gang and their ill-gotten gains.  The cast includes other cinema greats such as Peter Sellers, Cecil Parker and Herbert Lom working a script that still feels fresh and funny.

David Stratton’s Great Britain Retro Film Festival includes 16 titles and runs until June 1 at Palace Nova in Rundle Street.  (And if you’ve never read Stratton’s 2008 autobiography, colourfully titled I Peed on Fellini, it is highly recommended!)

 The full list of films in this year’s festival:

A Passage to India (1985)
Blithe Spirit (1945)
Chariots of Fire (1981)
Dr Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1963)
Her Majesty Mrs Brown (1997)
Hobson’s Choice (1954)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Odd Man Out (1947)
Our Man in Havana (1959)
The Ladykillers (1953)
The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
The Man in the White Suit (1951)
The Third Man (1949)
Travels with my Aunt (1972)
Whisky Galore (1949)

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