The latest in the Manchester University Press series British Film Makers is the best so far. The first in the series, on Lance Comfort, described its subject as "the most unjustly neglected director in British film history" but Steve Chibnall makes a fair case for bestowing that title on J. Lee Thompson.
Because this series is about British film makers, Chibnall is able to virtually ignore the last thirty years of Thompson's career which was largely spent making low-budget action films in Hollywood. Instead he concentrates on the years from 1950 to the early sixties in which Thompson made some of the most interesting films of the period.
With over 300 pages to play with, Chibnall has plenty of room to produce a detailed examination of Thompson's work. The films are grouped together by subject matter which helps tease out the themes which dominated his films. They are discussed from initial inception to press reception with clarity and sympathy.
Chibnall maintains a sense of humour throughout the book. For instance Dennis Price's performance in Murder Without Crime is described as being "as authentic as an ormolu telephone", and What a Way to Go "is chiefly remembered for the seventy-two outfits worn by [Shirley] MacLaine". He also manages to deal with the negative side of Thompson's character without dwelling too much on the sordid.
This is an excellent book, and possibly the best tribute a minor-league figure in British Cinema has ever had.
Pub: Manchester University Press
ISBN: 0 - 7190 - 6011 - 7
Price: £12.99J. Lee Thompson available at Amazon US