Monday, April 18, 2011

Shane Briant week on The Agitation of the Mind

Robert Kenchington, the man behind the Shane Briant Tribute Site, recently provided me with review copies of his pictorial biographies ‘Shane Briant: a Talent for Terror’ and ‘Shane Briant: the Hammer Years’. The latter gave me a yen to revisit the four (very different) films Briant made for Hammer between 1972 and 1974.

Actually, scratch “revisit”. Two nights ago I watched ‘Straight on Till Morning’ for the first time. It’s one of those films that’s been on my radar for a while but which, for reasons I can’t even fathom, I’d never got round to seeing. All I can say is I’m glad I made the effort: a disturbing and multi-faceted film, I’ll be posting a review tomorrow.

In addition to the Hammer productions, I’ll be rounding off Shane Briant week with a look at his appearance in the ‘Sweeney’ episode “Chalk and Cheese” (he’s on the subject of one of Inspector Regan’s most memorable arrests).

First up, though, Robert Kenchington’s biographical volumes. These glossy, lavishly illustrated volumes (available online here), provide an excellent introduction to Briant’s career for the newcomer as well as offering a wealth of archive material – including many stills from the actor’s own collection – sure to be of interest to the seasoned Briant fan.

It’s perhaps some marker of how critically overlooked Briant remains amongst his contemporaries (although the hero’s welcome he regularly receives at events tells a different story!) that Kenchington’s books together form the first biographical overview of his life and work.

‘A Talent for Terror’ succinctly guides the reader from Briant’s early triumphs onstage (his Hamlet was compared to Gielgud’s and Redgraves) to his iconic work at Hammer, a big-screen proving ground that gave him the springboard to appearances in big Hollywood productions. His small screen work in timeless ’tec shows ‘The Sweeney’ and ‘Van Der Valk’ is also considered.

‘The Hammer Years’ does exactly what it says on the cover and considers ‘Straight on Till Morning’, ‘Demons of the Mind’, ‘Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter’ and ‘Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell’. As such, the stills on offer in this volume capture Briant at his most iconic (and, sometimes, demonic); better still, Kenchington’s informed analyses of the films are peppered with witty and evocative recollections from Briant himself.

Tomorrow: Briant excels in the dark fairy tale/psychological drama ‘Straight on Till Morning’

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