Attack of the Beast With Two Backs

on May 22, 2008 by Steve Simels
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And speaking as we were yesterday of unlikely remakes, see if this plot rings any bells: At an all-night musicians party/jam session in London's SoHo, an ambitious jazz drummer spreads rumors that his black bandleader's beautiful white wife has been unfaithful, part of a scheme to coax the wife -- a famous retired jazz singer -- into joining him in his own band.

Sound familiar? Well, the film is Basil Dearden's 1962 cult fave All Night Long and as you may have guessed it's based on William Shakespeare's rather better known 1603 play Othello.

patrick mcgoohan.jpg

Dearden's adaptation isn't great by any stretch, but the plot, obviously, is a strong one, and the whole thing is quite entertaining in a sort of neo-film noir way. Plus the casting is brilliant -- Secret Agent star (and my personal hero) Patrick McGoohan as the scheming Iago-ish drummer, the young Richard Attenborough as the voice of reason, plus a bevy of real-life jazz greats as themselves, including Johnny Dankworth, Dave Brubeck, and the incredible Charles Mingus in a rare film appearance. In one of several interesting ironies, Dankworth -- then one of the best known bandleaders in England -- was married to Cleo Laine, a beautiful black jazz singer, at a time when interracial couples were, shall we say, somewhat rarer than today. In another, McGoohan himself went on to direct a rock musical remake of Othello, the equally diverting Catch My Soul, in 1974.

In any case, ANL is an interesting period piece and definitely worth seeing. You can order the DVD here; it's region 2 only, alas, but somebody you know probably has a compatible player.

Tags: All Night Long, Basil Dearden, William Shakespeare, Secret Agent, Catch My Soul
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