Flame In The Streets (1961/VCI DVD)/The Help (2011/Disney Blu-ray w/DVD)
& C Sound: C+/B- & C+ Extras: C- Films: B-/C-
ever wonder why Civil Rights are not progressing like they should, don’t just
blame Right Wing interests who continue to stoke the problem, make it worse in
some ways and find clever and obvious ways to continue the hate, also blame
those on the Left who want Stalin-style Political Correctness for us to forget
the problem, thereby enabling the opposition group and ignorantly throw out
history in general. It is an
embarrassing situation, but some changes have taken hold for the better. Now for two films that show us how far we
have and have not come.
Roy Ward Baker directed the still-bold drama Flame In The Streets (1961) and its portrait of racism and racial
division in England
remain shocking for their language and brutal honesty of a situation that was
soon to explode unbeknownst to anyone involved.
Based on the play Hot Summer Night, Ted Willis turned
his work into this very solid screenplay about a white British family is about
to become unsettled by their daughter (Sylvia Syms) starts dating a Jamaican
teacher (Johnny Sekka) as her father (John Mills) is fighting for minority
rights in his union (including a new foreman played by Earl Cameron) and mother
(Brenda de Banzie) is uncomfortable about the whole thing.
acted and fearless in dealing with racial intolerances all around then, the
Rank Studios set this up as a prestige film for the year and now more than ever
deserves to be rediscovered. Baker does
a fine job here and the supporting cast is fine all around. This was ahead of its time, even by Hollywood standards (it is often noted it was years ahead
of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner) and
deserves to be rediscovered. A Photo
Gallery including some poster art is the only extra, though sadly we get a
terrible 1.33 X 1/4 X 3 version that butchers everything.
years later, we get a film after the social changes that is seemingly innocent,
but shockingly regressive overall and amazingly manipulative: Tate Taylor’s The Help (2011). This goofy film boasts a fine cast and is set
in the south just before the Civil Rights Movement, but makes it seem “not all
that bad” as it starts as a drama, then goes all over the place not knowing
what it wants to do or really be about, including comedy and one moment that is
supposed to be funny but ruins all credibility for this mess and it never
Viola Davis plays a maid in the
opening shot telling the secret story of oppression and racism in The South in
what turns out to be a risky expose for a major magazine that turns into much
more. It is being told to Skeeter (Emma
Stone) who wants to be a journalist, just having taken a local newspaper advice
job on cleaning and this leads to her first contact with the maids in
general. Bryce Dallas Howard is
housewife who hates anyone in her way including Celia (Jessica Chastain) who is
suddenly an outsider thanks to her, Octavia Spencer is the most outspoken of
the maids (as Minny Jackson) who is abused and is about to misdirect that abuse
in a way that would have gotten her hanged or killed at the time in real life,
Allison Janney plays another oppressed 1950s/1960s housewife (ala Hairspray) that she is so good at doing
and the twists and turns land up dangerously trivializing anything good here.
could have worked and did some business during an economic box office downturn,
but like the Tyler Perry film For
Colored Girls (2010, reviewed elsewhere on this site) is under the false
belief that throwing a bunch of good actresses together in any film that is
pseudo-therapeutic is good filmmaking and storytelling, but comes across as a
bad cinematic Tupperware party. The fact
that both have male directors at a time when we have so few female directors
speaks volumes of the additional problems.
See it at your own risk.
include a Mary J. Blige Music Video, Deleted Scenes (especially on the Blu-ray)
and two Blu-ray-exclusive featurettes. Sissy
Spacek and Mary Steenburgen also star.
anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Streets
comes from a good print, but the CinemaScope film with Rank Color is just too
soft here throughout. However, the
cinematography by Director of Photography Christopher Challis, B.S.C., shows a
solid command of the scope frame early on in ways we still do not see today
lifting it from a mere stage (or staged) drama look or low-budget gritty
drama. Yet he manages to keep it gritty
and that is impressive when you consider he has lensed such smooth A-level
product like Arabesque, A Shot In The Dark, The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes, The Mirror Crack’d, Evil Under The Sun and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition
image on Help is softer than expected throughout and its anamorphically
enhanced DVD is shockingly as soft as the film from 50 years earlier.
DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Help is towards the front
speakers, but this is recorded well enough if not spectacularly so. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD
version is weaker still. The Dolby
Digital 2.0 Mono on Streets is the most-aged of all of course, yet it is nicely
cleaned up and has some moments that put it on par with The Help DVD. Hope VCI does
a Streets Blu-ray sometime.
- Nicholas Sheffo