The Films That Inspired Last Night In Soho
Edgar Wright’s Last Night In Soho is out now and here’s his pick of his 25 favourite films that influenced his new film, courtesy of our friends at IndieWire…
These are 25 films from the 1960s that either somewhat inspired the seed of the idea for “Last Night in Soho” or that I watched during the development and writing of the movie. They cover dramas, horrors, psychological thrillers, and some documentaries (faked or otherwise) that I watched or re-watched as to immerse myself in the period of the time. Believe it or not, this is still an incomplete list, as I watched many, many more, but these 25 films comprise some that I shared with the cast and the crew, if they needed any further inspiration beyond the script in terms of color, costume and hair, performance style, or just the glorious time capsule photography of London as it was back then.
Beat Girl (1960)
A personal favourite of mine, this exposé of 1960s Soho and the nocturnal world of beatnik coffee shops and illicit strip joints is filled with famous faces: Christopher Lee, David Farrar, real-life pop idol Adam Faith, brunette dreamboat Shirley Ann Field, a very young Oliver Reed, as well as a would-be Bardot Gillian Hills (herself a Zelig-like figure of many a ’60s and ’70s cult movie). Most gloriously, John Barry’s first score is genuinely brilliant and much-sampled to this day.
Peeping Tom (1960)
Never has Eastmancolor felt so woozily, vividly hypnotic than in Michael Powell’s controversial shocker. It’s as easy to be seduced by the luscious visuals as the poor victims of Carl Boehm’s psychopath are drawn into their deadly photoshoots. Dark as it is in subject matter, the blazing primary colours of Soho and Fitzrovia depicted on screen are a delight. It sadly hastened the end of Powell’s career, which is a shame as it would have been fascinating to see him wander further down this dark alley.
The Innocents (1961)
Jack Clayton’s supernatural chiller, based on “The Turn Of The Screw,” is the model of elegance in horror. So many have taken a cue from its quietly terrifying moments. A simple long shot of the ghost of a woman glimpsed in the reeds by a lake has more scary power than a million boo-shocks. Oft imitated, rarely equalled.
A Taste of Honey (1961)
A classic of “kitchen sink” realism (named after painter John Bratby’s portraits of the mundanity of working class life), Tony Richardson’s groundbreaking adaptation of Shelagh Delaney’s play was shockingly bold and progressive for the time, dealing with teen pregnancy, single mothers, homosexuality, and interracial relationships. An 18-year-old Rita Tushingham is unforgettable in her screen debut. I cast her in “Last Night In Soho” as I thought it would be great to have her play the grandmother of 18-year-old Thomasin McKenzie. It was a privilege to have her.
The Frightened City (1961)
A just pre-Bond Sean Connery shows the rugged chops that would soon make him a superstar in this Brit noir gangster film. Great location work including a POV shot of Piccadilly Circus and Shaftesbury Avenue that we used for reference. The film also stars the swooningly gorgeous Yvonne Romain and Herbert Lom, who is always the MVP of any Brit crime film of the era.
West End Jungle (1961)
This is the first of a series of ripped-from-the-headlines tabloid documentaries made by Stanley Long and Arnold Miller, which exposed the titillating, but more often tawdry, secrets of the oldest profession. Despite much of it being faked for the camera, it’s still a spyglass back in time to the nightlife of the early 1960s. Of particular note is the Café De Paris sequence, where idiotic rich businessmen are fleeced by a succession of hostesses, overpriced drinks, and waitresses selling teddy bears. The very famous London location was lovingly recreated in all its early ’60s glamour as a set in “Last Night in Soho.”
The L-Shaped Room (1962)
Bryan Forbes’ second film is a beautifully human “kitchen sink” drama that captures a corner of London perhaps not previously thought worthy of the screen. The story is about a young French woman, played by Leslie Caron, who comes to live alone in a run-down boarding house. She stays in the titular L-shaped room and finds herself among the other social outsiders in the building. The film is especially notable for depicting onscreen the post-war, run down, multi-cultural Notting Hill area long before it was the more gentrified neighborhood of Roger Michell and Richard Curtis’ later rom-com.
Bitter Harvest (1963)
This film takes the centerpiece of Patrick Hamilton’s masterful trilogy of London novels, “20,000 Streets Under the Sky,” and updates it to the early ’60s and then rattles it through the turbulent events in a perhaps too-efficient 100 minutes. This simplification of the novels in exchange for maximum melodrama steers the film towards luridness, but it still has some queasily effective moments as it swan-dives into the stylings and attitudes of the period.
That Kind of Girl (1963)
Another fascinating time capsule of 1960s London, Gerry O’Hara’s directorial debut is a moral drama about a continental au pair who finds herself caught in a triangle of affections from three very different suitors. One of many cautionary tales of the time, where the newly permissive generation is warned that freedom comes at a price.
The Servant (1963)
The Servant is a dark jewel of 1960s British cinema with the perfect alchemy of collaborators in director Joseph Losey, screenwriter Harold Pinter, cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, and stars Dirk Bogarde and James Fox. It’s cold as ice, perfectly precise, and chillingly effective. Clearly an influence on Bong Joon-Ho’s later class war masterpiece “Parasite,” this is an absolutely wicked classic from top to bottom.
The Small World of Sammy Lee (1963)
Musical phenomenon and Bowie-influencing crooner Anthony Newley stars in the “Uncut Gems” of early 1960s Brit cinema. He’s great as a motormouth nightclub MC whose gambling debts are going to result in two broken legs. Thus we see Sammy run through his complicated life and loves to raise the money. A funny, gritty time capsule of ’60s London, the film’s shots of Newley running along Wardour Street in 1963 are worth the price of admission alone.
West 11 (1963)
The legendary, nay, infamous Michael Winner (who, in addition to being a hugely successful director in the 1970s, was also a newspaper columnist, restaurant critic, and all-around celebrity) was never highly thought of in critical circles. But while it’s easy to find fault with many of Winner’s problematic hits, such as “Death Wish,” there are some good films in his filmography, not least in his early day in British cinemas. I’d stick up for “The System,” “I’ll Never Forget Whathisname,” and this nicely gritty crime story set in West London. “West 11” captures the shabby squalor and peeling wallpaper of the rented flats of the time, creating a convincingly desperate landscape for a noir-ish revenge tale.
The World Ten Times Over (1963)
A lesser known gem, this melancholy drama from Wolf Rilla is about two nightclub hostesses, beautifully played by Sylvia Syms and June Ritchie, who share a flat and deal with romantic entanglements and tensions with disapproving fathers. It was a small influence on the character of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) in “Last Night In Soho,” as it poignantly captures the deep sadness of working a life of late nights that can creep up on you in the small hours of the morning. The schlocky U.S. title, “Pussycat Alley,” does it a disservice.
Blood and Black Lace (1964)
Not the first giallo ever made, but perhaps the first Italian super shocker to really singe your retinas in eye-popping Eastmancolor. Mario Bava takes the vivid, painterly color schemes of Douglas Sirk’s melodramas and applies them lavishly to this fashion house–set shocker. The inherent misogyny of the premise (“Six Women For The Killer” is the translation of the Italian title) is subverted by some cake-and-eat-it twists as well as the sly commentary of making every scene of carnage feel like it could be ripped from the pages of Vogue Italia. Hugely influential, you can see its DNA in the work of Scorsese, Almodóvar, Lynch, and many more.
Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)
Bryan Forbes gained a reputation as a somewhat stuffy director, but that is not the case when you watch this excellent, brutally dark kidnapping thriller. A mentally unstable clairvoyant (Oscar-nominated Kim Stanley) convinces her henpecked husband (a cowed and cowardly Richard Attenborough) to kidnap a child so she herself can help the police solve the crime and achieve nationwide fame for her psychic powers. It…doesn’t end well. Highly recommended.
This enigmatic thriller is something of a cinematic equivalent of a Magic Eye pattern, where you can stare at it forever in the hopes of it making sense. But the joy of Antonioni’s Swinging ’60s pop art classic is that it is both more and less than meets the eye. That it’s content to end with a question mark has left fans obsessed for more than five decades.
The Collector (1965)
Of course a British psychological thriller starring Terence Stamp was going to feature on here, but not so much for themes of the film, based on the controversial novel by John Fowles. I wanted “Last Night in Soho” to have the same vivid Technicolor photography of William Wyler’s film, as I find the contrast of the darkness of the plot to the eye-popping palette fascinating. Stamp and Samantha Eggar are both great and won acting awards at Cannes for their work in this. Terence was full of William Wyler stories on the set of my film, and I was always happy to receive them.
One of my many inspirations for Sandie in “Last Night in Soho” was the incandescent star quality of Julie Christie, who always seemed she could take or leave her growing fame, even though she was the eye of the cultural storm herself. Released in the very middle of the 1960s, this John Schlesinger film also feels like the very epicentre of the scene. Christie’s Diana Scott seems like the girl who has it all, but being the life of the party isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Just as the ’60s were about to hit full swing, this sharp satire reveals the paper-thin reality of cover-story perfection.
The Pleasure Girls (1965)
A most entertaining example of the “young girl moves to the big city” genre that was so common in 1960s British cinema. This one is a little more wholesome and affectionate than its racy title and poster suggest, but as a snapshot of mid-’60s London just before the scene explodes, it’s truly fascinating. It features a cast of very fresh famous faces such as Francesca Annis, Ian McShane, a pre-“Doctor Who” Anneke Wills, Hammer glamourpuss Suzanna Leigh, and the darkly charismatic (when is he not?) Klaus Kinski.
Primitive London (1965)
Another Stanley Long and Arnold Miller exposé of the “real” London, now with a Mondo Cane flavor that leaves you with whiplash as you veer from naughty glimpses of burlesque shows to mods and rockers to “wife-swappers” and back again, all topped off with a very entertaining anthropological voiceover. A highly amusing peek into a Soho lost to the mists of time. The melody of the main theme by Basil Kirchin is surprisingly close to Bernard Herrmann’s later “Taxi Driver” score and makes an appearance in “Last Night in Soho.” See also the companion film, the equally entertaining “London in the Raw” (1964).
This is a quintessential psychological thriller and one cannot make a film about a female character’s descent into insanity without acknowledging it. That it’s still just as bracing and shocking as it was 55 years ago is a testament to its power. Seeing a mundane London flat morph into a rabbit hole of hallucinations is unforgettable, but it’s Catherine Deneuve’s near silent performance that makes the film work. A classic.
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s “Inferno” (2009)
Secrets of a Windmill Girl (1966)
This is not a great film, perhaps, but it is a valuable time capsule of the lower rung of the showbiz ladder in mid-’60s London. The British national treasure Pauline Collins (later known and beloved as Shirley Valentine) stars as the titular girl who is seduced by the bright lights of the West End and then mired in a sensationalistic expose of the Soho club scene. The type of B-film that was promoted with the tagline “ripped from the headlines,” it gave myself and “Last Night in Soho” costume designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux some great ideas for the tackier end of the clothes of the time. This is a zero budget film, so the costumes on display are all likely off the rack and therefore authentic in all their tawdry glory.
Poor Cow (1967)
I showed Matt Smith, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Thomasin McKenzie the feature film debut of Ken Loach for a number of reasons. For Smith, it was to study the performance of Terence Stamp’s charming but mercurial criminal Dave, and for Taylor-Joy and McKenzie to watch Carol White, who plays the 18-year-old single mother and part-time photographic model. White’s performance in the film is heartbreakingly real and made all the more poignant by the actress’ sad death at the age of 48 after alcoholism and drug abuse derailed her career. Loach’s documentary realism also makes it a more accurate “as it was” snapshot of late ’60s London than most other movies ever have.
Deep End (1970)
Jerzy Skolimowski’s darkly comic drama qualifies as a ’60s film for me as it was likely shot in 1969 and manages, in one memorable extended setpiece, to capture Soho at night in all its grubby glory. The film, about a teenager (John Moulder Brown) working in a swimming baths who pines over his older and more sexually advanced co-worker (Jane Asher), feels like it has some of the black comic energy of the later “Harold & Maude” and “Rushmore” in a way, not least because Cat Stevens also features on the soundtrack. I also took some fashion inspiration from Miss Asher’s plastic mac, which is just glorious. It’s a cult film that more people should be obsessed with.
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno (2009)
Perhaps a cheat, but this is more a tantalizing taste of what could have been. There’s two films from the mid-’60s that were never released but also strangely inspired Last Night in Soho. One is Hitchcock’s un-made “Kaleidoscope,” which promised to be a mod-ish psycho thriller. The other was Clouzot’s “Inferno,” which started filming but was never completed as the director suffered a heart attack and was hospitalised. What remains is some fascinating and hallucinatory footage, not least a number of heart-stopping, gorgeous camera tests involving Romy Schneider that were intended for a psychedelic climax to the movie. DP Chung Chung-hoon and I tried to do a 21st-century update of some of these techniques, which you can see throughout the film.
The Films That Inspired Last Night In Soho Edgar Wright’s Last Night In Soho is out now and here’s his pick of his 25 favourite films that influenced his new film, courtesy of our friends at IndieWire… These are 25 films from the 1960s that either somewhat inspired the seed of the idea for “Last
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