Friday, 31 May 2013

Rotherham on celluloid

I'm a big fan of British New Wave cinema, although I have to admit my interest is somewhat geographical: I'll feast on anything filmed or set in the north, but can't seem to work up the same enthusiasm for London. That means I haven't seen the New Wave canonical Up The Junction, but I have seen the almost-forgotten 1958 noir thriller, Tread Softly Stranger.

Starring Diana Dors and set in a fictionalised Rotherham ("Rawborough"), with some scenes at a racecourse in what I assume must be Doncaster, Tread Softly Stranger is a noir-ish thriller that adopts a very kitchen sink approach to setting. We see sweeping, stylised long shots of the savage industrial sublime: cramped rows of back-to-back houses, smoke rising over the satanic mill. Although a lot of people (including myself) love the kitchen-sink genre for its realism, at the time that most of the films were released, before the late '60s completion of the M1 motorway, the northern, working class panoramas on screen were, for many English viewers, incredibly exotic.


Incidentally, if you're interested in the M1 motorway* (or the "London-Yorkshire Motorway" as it was then called), I recommend the excellent BBC Radio Ballad "Song of a Road", which tells the stories of the 19,000 men that built it. You can read the full transcript here, but of course it's better to buy it on CD so you can listen to the music.

*And who isn't?

Picture credits go to Movies Gone Mouldy.