Written by: Christopher O’Neill on June 3rd, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: UK, July, 1964
Director: Arnold Louis Miller
Writer: Arnold Louis Miller
Cast: David Gell (narrator), No Further Credits Listed
DVD released: May 25th, 2009
Approximate running time: 74 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1:33:1 Fullscreen
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: English (Hard of Hearing)
DVD Release: BFI Flipside
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £17.99
In the early sixties British filmmakers found that by using a documentary or educational pretext they could get titillating material passed by the national censor for cinema release. Director Arnold Louis Miller and producer and cinematographer Stanley Long cut their teeth on a number of fluffy ‘factual’ nudie cutie pictures such as NUDES OF THE WORLD and TAKE YOUR CLOTHES OFF AND LIVE! before embarking on the Mondo-influenced LONDON IN THE RAW. While it is incredibly mild when compared to the work of the genre’s forerunners Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi, the filmmakers still conveyed much that was otherwise deemed ‘unacceptable’ to be on British screens at the time. Its hodgepodge of material – a mixture of captured and (mostly) re-enacted events – is both frustrating and fascinating. The once-shocking occasional flash of skin is now faintly amusing and rather quaint by today’s standards, while much of the footage, particularly the Jewish amateur theater performances, are little more than tedious filler necessary for a feature-length running time. But what makes the film essential viewing is its documentation of London nightlife of the period, and ultimately the depiction of the country still recovering from the post-war 1950s. It should also be noted that followers of low-budget exploitation cinema will enjoy some of the obviously faked footage such as the prostitution scene, the beatniks taking nude photos and eating tins of cat food, and the occasional vox-pop re-enactment heard in voice-over (“I’m young and I wanna enjoy everything – and I mean all men!”).
Flipside is the British Film Institute’s alternative DVD label that specializes in “rescuing weird and wonderful British films from obscurity and presenting them in new high-quality editions”. Framed at its correct 1:33:1 ratio, LONDON IN THE RAW has been mastered in high definition from the original 35mm negative. The picture has been restored to the highest possible standard, with most instances of damage repaired and a healthy amount of film grain. Colors are strong, with the velvety reds of the nightclub interiors shimmering brightly. No expense has been spared in this presentation and the image quality is simply a delight.
Likewise, the audio is equally pleasing. Presented in Mono, there are no noticeable instances of damage or hiss and the sound is overall excellent.
The disc also includes a fine selection of extra features. Relating specifically to the main film is an alternative abbreviated cut of LONDON IN THE RAW is an abbreviated version running 45 minutes that contains footage not found in the main feature. Along with the film’s original theatrical trailer also included on the DVD are three short documentaries also shot around London in the sixties: PUB (15 minutes, director Peter Davis), CHELSEA BRIDGE BOYS (30 minutes, directors Peter Davis and Staffan Lamm) and STRIP (25 minutes, directors Peter Davis, Staffan Lamm and Don Defina). Each of the films – which are, unlike the main feature, actually sincere rather than salacious pieces – are priceless insights into Britain during the decade and are a very welcome addition to this set. Finally, but certainly not least, there is a 34 page booklet extensively illustrated and featuring a variety of liner notes including an essay on the main film by Stewart Home, differences between the two versions featured on the disc, a reprint of the Monthly Film Bulletin review, biographies on Arnold Louis Miller and Stanley Long, and notes on the three short films by their filmmakers.
This reviewer cannot praise the BFI enough for the work that they have put into this disc and along with the other initial releases by Flipside – PRIMITIVE LONDON and THE BED SITTING ROOM – this DVD must rank as one of the highlights of the year so far.
Note: LONDON IN THE RAW has also been released in Blu-Ray (PAL Region 0).