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This Sporting Life

This Sporting Life

Director: Lindsay Anderson

Cast: Richard Harris, Rachel Roberts, Alan Badel

Lindsay Anderson was among the most intelligent and provocative British filmmakers to emerge in the last half of the 20th Century, but the DVD era hasn't been especially kind to him, with most of his work unavailable in the digital format (and barely extant on home video at all). Thankfully, that's began to change; If . . . and O Lucky Man! finally made


Lindsay Anderson was among the most intelligent and provocative British filmmakers to emerge in the last half of the 20th Century, but the DVD era hasn't been especially kind to him, with most of his work unavailable in the digital format (and barely extant on home video at all). Thankfully, that's began to change; If . . . and O Lucky Man! finally made their way to North American DVD in 2007, and in early 2008 the Criterion Collection released a superb edition of Anderson's debut feature, 1963's This Sporting Life. Arguably the boldest, most singular films to come from the British "Angry Young Man" school of the early Sixties, This Sporting Life has been given a superb widescreen transfer letterboxed at 1.66:1, and enhanced for anamorphic play on widescreen monitors. The rich, gritty details of Denys Coop's black and white camerawork are beautifully rendered, and the images look every bit as good here as they did on the big screen. The audio has been mastered in Dolby Digital Stereo and sounds full and crisp, with the imaginative sound mix sounding quite impressive in this release. The dialogue is in English, with optional English subtitles for the hard of hearing but no multiple language options. Disc one of this set contains the feature, with an optional audio commentary track featuring film critic Paul Ryan (who has edited a book of Anderson's writings) talking about the picture with assistance from David Storey, who wrote the film's screenplay as well as the novel upon which it was based. A second disc includes a number of bonus items, including Is That All There Is?, a 1993 documentary by Anderson in which he looks back at his life and career over the course of a seemingly ordinary day (it would prove to be the last film he completed in his lifetime), as well as two early documentary shorts, 1948's Meet The Pioneers and 1952's Wakefield Express. Lois Sutcliffe Smith, a close friend of Anderson's, helped produce Meet The Pioneers and got him the job making the film; she appears in an on-camera interview sharing her memories of making the movie and Anderson's earliest days as a director. And finally, Lindsay Anderson: Lucky Man? is a profile produced for BBC Scotland that offers a fond but unsentimental look at Anderson's life in the arts. Criterion's edition of This Sporting Life not only offers an excellent presentation of a landmark film, but paints a fascinating portrait of a gifted and uncompromising artist, and is strongly recommended to anyone with an interest in British cinema.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Michael Costello
The breakthrough film for both director Lindsay Anderson and star Richard Harris, this grim portrait of a tormented rugby player features what is likely the actor's finest performance and remains one of the few to explore the dark side of an athlete's life. Frank Machin (Harris) emerges from the coal mines of Yorkshire to wage war in the rugby scrum on his way to wealth and stardom. But the brutality that has taken him to the top corrodes all of his relationships, especially that with married paramour Rachel Roberts. In many ways a precursor to Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull (1980), Anderson records the relentless pounding of the scrum with a gritty immediacy, drawing a direct line from that bloody battle to the athletes' destructive off-the-field behavior. Along with Albert Finney, Harris was one of the first British actors to be influenced by the work of Marlon Brando and the techniques developed by the Actors Studio, and it would not be wrong to think of the character of Frank as a descendant of Stanley Kowalski. Like many of their contemporaries in the era of the Angry Young Man, both Anderson and Harris were also steeped in Italian neorealism, another strong influence on the film's style and tone. While Anderson would go on to produce more cerebral and explicit critiques of British society, none of his other films approach this one in terms of raw emotional power.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
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[B&W, Wide Screen]
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Special Features

Disc One: The Film:; New restored high-definition digital transfer; Audio commentary featuring Paul Ryan, editor of Never Apologise: The Collected Writings of Lindsay Anderson, and David Storey, screenwriter and author of This Sporting Life; Theatrical trailer; ; Disc Two: The Supplements:; Lindsay Anderson: Lucky Man? (2004), a short documentary from BBC Scotland featuring interviews with many of the director's friends and collaborators; New video interview with Anderson's first producer and close friend Lois Sutcliffe Smith; Meet the Pioneers (1948), Anderson's first film, a documentary short about a mining engineering firm; Wakefield Express (1952), an early documentary by Anderson about the town that later served as the setting for This Sporting Life; Is That All There Is? (1993), Anderson's autobiographical final film; ; Plus: A booklet featuring a new essay by film scholar Neil Sinyard and an article by Anderson from 1963

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Richard Harris Frank Machin
Rachel Roberts Mrs. Hammond
Alan Badel Weaver
William Hartnell Johnson
Colin Blakely Maurice Braithwaite
Vanda Godsell Mrs. Weaver
Arthur Lowe Slomer
Anne Cunningham Judith
Jack Watson Len Miller
Katherine Parr Mrs. Farrer
Peter Duguid Doctor
Wallas Eaton Waiter
Anthony Woodruff Head Waiter
Frank Windsor Dentist
John Gill Cameron
Glenda Jackson Actor
Harry Markham Wade
George Sewell Jeff
Leonard Rossiter Phillips
Michael Logan Riley
Murray Evans Hooker
Tom Clegg Gower
Lois Sutcliffe Smith Interviewee

Technical Credits
Lindsay Anderson Director
Miriam Brickman Casting
Denys Coop Cinematographer
Sophie Devine Costumes/Costume Designer
Roberto Gerhard Score Composer
John Harris Camera Operator
Peter Lamont Set Decoration/Design
Bob Lawrence Makeup
Gordon K. McCallum Sound/Sound Designer
John W. Mitchell Sound/Sound Designer
Karel Reisz Producer
Ted Sturgis Asst. Director
Peter Taylor Editor
Alan Withy Art Director

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- This Sporting Life
1. Opening Credits [2:07]
2. "He's Just a Bit Dazed" [5:08]
3. The Dentist [3:24]
4. "A Thumping" [5:49]
5. "A Blinder" [8:17]
6. Tea With Mrs. Hammond [8:08]
7. "Property of the City" [8:11]
8. "She Gives Me Nothing" [4:39]
9. Weaver's Party [4:47]
10. Day in the Country [4:38]
11. Champion [4:33]
12. "Here in My Heart" [5:01]
13. Home Late [6:53]
14. Trade Secrets [:22]
15. Mrs. Weaver [4:41]
16. "Social Informalities" [5:50]
17. "Just for Christmas" [7:48]
18. A Night Out [5:49]
19. Wedding Day [8:46]
20. "Great Ape" [4:02]
21. Flophouse [8:15]
22. Hemorrhage [3:55]
23. Empty House [6:54]
1. Beginnings [2:07]
2. Sport and Art [5:08]
3. Free Cinema [3:24]
4. Characters [5:49]
5. Medieval Patronage [8:17]
6. Emotional Response [8:08]
7. Objects of Affection [8:11]
8. Rachel Roberts [4:39]
9. Brando [4:47]
10. Epic Quality [4:38]
11. A Lively Character [4:33]
12. Humphrey Jennings [5:01]
13. Relationships [6:53]
14. Castmates [:22]
15. Opportunism [4:41]
16. Class System [5:50]
17. Camera Work [7:48]
18. Lindsay's Direction [5:49]
19. Sadism and Masochism [8:46]
20. Lyrical [4:02]
21. Tragic End [8:15]
22. Influences [3:55]
23. Relationships [6:54]
Disc #2 -- This Sporting Life: The Supplements
1. If.... [5:10]
2. Respectful Rebel [3:00]
3. This Sporting Life [5:07]
4. Private Pain [6:27]
5. A Man Apart [9:14]
1. "The Prime Source" [5:51]
2. Past, Present, Parts [4:19]
3. Man and Machine [8:57]
4. Sutcliffe's Far-Reaching Vision [13:58]
1. Portraits of the People [5:38]
2. A History of the Express [4:34]
3. Traditions [10:43]
4. Inner Workings [11:22]
1. Every Day [12:43]
2. At Home: Visitors [10:23]
3. Cleaning Lady [2:54]
4. Secretarial [3:45]
5. About John Ford [3:07]
6. Writing About Films [3:10]
7. Project - Film [3:22]
8. At Your Age [1:51]
9. Project - Theatre [2:54]
10. My Brother [2:22]
11. Envoi [4:04]
12. Closing Credits [1:36]

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