b. 1 August, 1914, Bristol, England, UK
d. 30 August, 2002, Sooke, British Columbia, Canada

He directed some of the most famous actors in film history, from Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, and Anthony Quinn, to Shirley MacLaine, Jacqueline Bisset, and Lauren Bacall. An Oscar-nominated filmmaker and winner of three prizes at the Berlin International Film Festival, his movies have also been nominated for multiple British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards as well as the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Working in nearly every conceivable genre, crafting quintessential examples of some while helming unique reworkings of others, he directed unnerving thrillers, riotous comedies, crowd-pleasing adventure films and franchise entries, and probing art-house dramas. And yet, the Bristol-born J. Lee Thompson has seldom been considered among cinema’s great directors. In fact, despite the above and the almost 50 films to his credit, his name has rarely been identified with even his most acclaimed features.

So, why is this? It might have to do with the notable diversity of his filmography. There is no one genre for which Thompson was best known throughout his career, and although directorial signatures are evident in most of his work, he was generally unable to define a tell-tale narrative or formal trend (thematic tendencies, on the other hand, are readily apparent). Or, perhaps it is that the numerous stars who have appeared in his films have simply outweighed his own role in a given movie’s success or critical status. More likely, though, it has to do with the peculiar trajectory of Thompson’s career, which shows him going from ambitious and laudable early efforts to fashionable, well-funded Hollywood productions to superficially crude, B-grade action pictures—with a wide range of subjects and production calibres in between. His latter films in particular, while certainly entertaining, at times stylishly impressive, and sufficiently popular in their day, were derided and dismissed by contemporary reviewers and seemed to tarnish his enduring reputation. This unjust appraisal, based on a handful of movies at the end of an otherwise significant career, has apparently overridden a full, more accurate evaluation of Thompson’s talents and versatility. 

It’s true, J. Lee Thompson didn’t always make films for everyone. But what he did do, he did as well as, if not better, than anyone.     

In the beginning, though, John Lee Thompson had theatrical ambitions. He had penned several plays as a young man and continued to generate work that was produced and presented in London’s West End and, later, on Broadway. Although he also considered an acting career at one point, joining the Nottingham Repertory and making his stage debut in 1931, that desire gradually went by the wayside save for a minor turn in Carol Reed’s Midshipman Easy (1935). Then, soon after he began work in the scriptwriting department at British International Pictures, Thompson’s creative vocation was temporarily stunted by the outbreak of World War II, in which he served the Royal Air Force as a B-29 tail gunner. 

Despite having gone on to author more than seven films from 1937 to 1950, arguably the most important moment in Thompson’s early career was when he was hired as a dialogue coach on Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn (1939). The impact of seeing the already legendary director at work had a profound impact on Thompson as well as his subsequent endeavours. And before long, he was able to put his steadily gleaned filmmaking insights into practice for his first directorial effort, 1950’s Murder Without Crime, a reworking of his play Double Error, which had already served as the source for 1936’s The Price of Folly, directed by Walter Summers and giving Thompson his earliest film credit. Supplied with a know-it-all voiceover narrator, Murder Without Crime is a brisk, cleverly-primed thriller that proceeds from an acidic marital arrangement to a paranoid spiral of intoxicated wrangling and agitated desperation. For a novice film director, Thompson has a firm grasp of cinematic technique, amplifying and to a certain extent opening up his play; the claustrophobia and closed-in tension remain, but Thompson deploys a visually diverse strategy to induce the panic and noirish fatalism that hinges on love, jealousy, and sinister motives.

Murder Without Crime 

Thompson would later contend he only accepted the directing job as a way to subsidize his playwriting, but he was quickly given, and accepted, another assignment. The Yellow Balloon (1952), his first of many collaborations with cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, who routinely enhanced Thompson’s illustrative ingenuity, is the tale of a young boy, an innocent victim of circumstance who suffers a chance change of life brought on by a terrible accident. The boy, played by Andrew Ray (giving the first of several extraordinary child performances in a Thompson film), unwittingly enters an all-too-adult world of criminality and moral degeneracy. But Thompson refuses to sentimentalize the situation, locating the impetus of the plot in a bombed-out building and penetrating the pits of a guilt-ridden child’s psychology. Ray’s beleaguered Frankie becomes in the words of Steve Chibnall, who authored a perceptive text on Thompson’s British films, “a typically entrapped Lee Thompson protagonist.”1 What happens to Frankie could happen to anyone, and while The Yellow Balloon’s preliminary “X” certificate from the British Board of Film Classification hindered its box office potential, that caution only affirmed Thompson’s penchant for unwavering realism and the acute awareness of unscrupulous associations abounding in a morally hazy realm of crime and punishment.

This worldview was again underscored in Thompson’s next picture, the women’s prison film The Weak and the Wicked (1954). Also known as Young and Willing and based on the memoirs of Joan Henry, who had herself served time and became Thompson’s second wife, The Weak and the Wicked is an examination of several female prisoners taking account of their current incarcerated station by flashing back to what led to their arrest. The drama primarily centres on Henry stand-in Jean Raymond (Glynis Johns), appearing as the principal protagonist and recalling her descent from an educated, privileged upbringing to a province of fraud, gambling, and betrayal. Whether they seem the type or not—and most, at least on the surface, do not—Thompson vacillates between women suspectable to temptations and follies from all walks of life. Why they do what they do becomes as much the point as how the women can so quickly get caught up in the sudden repercussions of their deed. Accordingly, Thompson’s mobile camera and swift style suggest just how quickly a life can divert and how a routine livelihood is sullied by scheming and despair. Inside the prison, Thompson presents an efficient summary of emotional responses, brewing animosities, and supportive attachment, and other than a brief tracking shot along the backs of inmates as they bathe, The Weak and the Wicked is far from what a sensationalized “women in prison” film would later promise. But that didn’t stop the film’s publicity from banking on any conceivable salaciousness, nor did it prevent the disapproval of Home Office officials who objected to Thompson’s swaying between dark humour and poignant drama. At the same time, some critics questioned the film’s sanitized depiction of the prison, in this case an experimental facility that is, according to its warden, a place where justice is “tempered with humanity” and where the inmates are granted considerable freedom and flexibility. In other words, as would be the case throughout his career, Thompson couldn’t win. 

All the same, he was quickly rising through the ranks of young British filmmakers and with that notoriety came opportunity—and compromise. While the conflict of artistic concession for the sake of gainful employment would be most applicable to his later work, Thompson discovered the give and take nature of studio filmmaking early on as well. He was loaned to the prominent Rank Films studio to direct two comedies, a genre hardly in his wheelhouse to this point. Two additional features followed, also light-hearted fare contrasting with his preceding output but also offering the chance to broaden his commercial appeal and his case for quality. For Better, For Worse (1954), Thompson’s first colour film, tells of the trials and tribulations of a young married couple played by Dirk Bogarde and Susan Stephen. There is a standard arrangement of run-of-the-mill dilemmas involving a new home, a new car, parental approval, and meddlesome neighbours, but with the assorted ups and down of the picture Thompson presents a generally genial lot and a generally aggregable film. It is an unassuming picture and, at the time, was no doubt relatable to the moviegoing masses. As Chibnall argues when discussing these Thompson departures from the norm, the films are historically “rich documents of their day, offering valuable insights into the attitudes and practices of post-war Britain from the perspective of a socially concerned film-maker who believed that cinema has the potential to influence political change.”2

Domestic humour was also the template for As Long as They’re Happy (1955), which features a bevy of quirky personalities enacting a zany scenario involving the unexpected arrival of a popular crooner to a house full of eccentrics. Certainly atypical for Thompson but pleasant all the same, the film has a light comic touch and manages to provide a subtle commentary on contemporary conventions of household normalcy and respectability. The 1955 comedy An Alligator Named Daisy is even more of a screwball lark, this time involving two would-be lovers and a remarkably docile and occasionally mischievous alligator. The picture is cute (a term not often used when discussing Thompson’s oeuvre), charming, and by far his funniest film, and though it scarcely portends the future director of a Death Wish movie, it is, as Chibnall writes, an “unpretentious piece of cinema,”3 which isn’t a bad thing at all. Two years later, the Technicolor, CinemaScope production The Good Companions (1957) gave Thompson the opportunity to try his hand at a full-fledged musical, albeit it one modestly staged compared to Hollywood standards. Following the motley members of an outdated variety troupe, the picture is quaint and sprightly, featuring an affable ensemble that includes, among others, the great Celia Johnson. Music and dance numbers highlight a colourful picture brimming with romance, starry-eyed ambition, boisterous crowds, and a dazzling showstopper finale.

An Alligator Named Daisy

While these forays into comedy may be “easily dismissed as ephemeral box-office fodder which contribute little to Lee Thompson’s reputation,” Chibnall argues the films marked, “at the time, the British film industry’s growing recognition of his significance.”4 Colour, high budgets, and popular performers were all indications that Thompson was proceeding upward within the field. Not only that, Chibnall notes that although “his mid-1950s involvement with music and comedy is best thought of as a deviation from J. Lee Thompson’s main creative trajectory, at least in terms of style and genre, the films do share some of the characteristic thematic concerns of his thrillers.”5 This, he writes, includes themes of entrapment and confinement as well as the pressures of ethical and economic principle. For his part, in a way foreshadowing his ventures decades later, Thompson did not seem opposed to making overtly commercial product. In a December 1956 issue of Kinematograph Weekly, he discussed the disparity between artsy pretension and broad audience appeal, “decrying,” as Chibnall puts it, “‘long-haired high-brows [who] run amok with experimental projects which satisfy their own peculiar tastes while making the average picturegoer sick.’”6 In other words, Thompson didn’t mind the commercial as long as it was still a quality film and he had his independence.

Between An Alligator Named Daisy and The Good Companions, Thompson mostly got what he wished for with the anti-capital punishment drama Yield to the Night (1956), also based on a novel by Joan Henry and starring Diana Dors, who acts very well as a condemned prisoner and very much against the type of her sensationalized tabloid identity. Given the more provocative title Blonde Sinner in America, this critically acclaimed film moves between current scenes of Dors’ Mary Hilton as she awaits her fate in jail and flashback snapshots to the duplicitous relationship that ultimately led to murder and her arrest. Among the many Thompson protagonists guilty of pitiless actions and yet capable of garnering spectator sympathy and understanding, Mary offers a potent reflection on jilted romance, melancholy, and a life divided. She tells her story in a way that is understandably bitter but also incisive and sophisticated, and Yield to the Night’s advance forward is both a tortured ticking clock countdown to Mary’s death and a compellingly subjective take on the issue of capital punishment, which had been a hotly debated subject in England and is one Thompson adeptly explores in a film that, for Chibnall, “achieves its aims without overt didacticism, and with a visual sophistication and unity worthy of Michael Powell.”7

Yield to the Night

A more understated production, less topical but just as powerful, is Thompson’s 1957 film Woman in a Dressing Gown, an intimate melodrama that, to start, presents the fluidly established customs of a happy, if hectic, family of three. But the business as usual is not what it seems and the film’s painfully precise examination of infidelity and its manifest ramifications is frank and raw, and its cluttered primary setting is bolstered by Thompson’s canny utilization of disconcerting camera angles and obscured perspectives to amplify the psychological disorientation. Pulling perhaps from his own romantic discord at the time, the “nervous energy” Thompson released with Woman in a Dressing Gown is, for Chibnall, evident in the picture’s “restless camerawork, insistent directorial style and, most of all, in the high-octane performance which he encouraged from Dressing Gown’s star Yvonne Mitchell.”8 Acting alongside frequent Thompson collaborator Anthony Quayle, Mitchell’s turn as the strained wife is indeed a powerhouse performance, manic and desperate and entirely convincing. 

Thompson had been paying his dues with relatively small-scale productions and had proven himself a masterful stylist and purveyor of complex emotions. Riding high on the critical plaudits of recent work, he had the opportunity to subsequently expand his narrative and formal horizons with the taught World War II film Ice Cold in Alex, starring John Mills and Quayle. Set in North Africa, this 1958 picture tells of a perilous journey involving a medical field unit’s distressed trek across the desert in an ambulance. Thwarted by everything from Nazis and landmines to quicksand, the crew embodies the film’s concentrated pressure. Thompson’s painstaking pacing and shrewd camera placement express the pervasive risk and dutiful obligation that drive the picture forward, and as Chibnall argues, the “transformation of Ice Cold in Alex from a story of endurance into a full-blown thriller may be attributed largely to Lee Thompson, who stretched its moments of tension well beyond their descriptions in the script.”9 Shooting in the sweltering Libyan desert, the inhospitable location only adds to the sweat-stained weariness of all involved, profusely realized as the actors suffer the real-life discomfort of the treacherous terrain. There is a battle to be won, ostensibly relegated to the background, but in the words of Chibnall, rather than “the splendours of victory, [Ice Cold in Alex] presented the war in microcosm as a struggle for survival which tested human resolve and endurance to the limits.”10 While critics recognized the suspense scenes as being exceptionally well-crafted, the film also contained what Chibnall calls “ambiguous representations and ambivalent attitudes,”11 which caused some to question its intentions; this was particularly the case with Thompson’s depiction of an even half-way benevolent German soldier. The picture nevertheless won the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1958 Berlin International Film Festival, but three years later, when it was finally released in America, it was cut down from 130 minutes to a mere 76 and was re-titled Desert Attack.

Ice Cold in Alex

Thompson resumed his work in moderate dramas with No Trees in the Street (1959), which opens with a pre-war flashback to life on and of its central throughfare, an urban segment of poverty, hard work, and hardship. The film’s dominant family, their despondency and abiding kinship, is subjected to a breeding ground for corruption as the dissipation of decency seems all but inevitable; as a gangster says of the picture’s troubled youthful lead, “His life went wrong the day he was born.” The picture’s naturalism and street character are captured with a crisp and unpolished visual strain, but there is, in the end, hope for this hopeless tenement and the promise that its depicted despair can eventually pass. With a commitment to social realism remaining intact, part of the incentive for Thompson’s Tiger Bay (1959) was also the potential appeal of an international marketplace. Hence the casting of German star Horst Buchholz as a Polish soldier who commits a crime of passion and is successively wanted for murder. But the real star of the picture is 12-year-old Hayley Mills, daughter of regular Thompson actor and friend John Mills (who also appears in the film). Changing the child character’s gender and casting Hayley without so much as a screentest proved a phenomenally fruitful decision, as the young actress gives what Chibnall rightly calls “one of the most sensational debuts by a child actor in cinema history.”12 In the unkind and unforgiving world of Tiger Bay, Hayley’s Gillie and Buchholz’s Bronislaw are kindred outcasts connected in stark tragedy. The bond between the two, largely induced by Gillie’s childish thoughts and general naivete, provide transient moments of tender reprieve as a legal net closes in. The devastating film won the Silver Bear at the ninth Berlin International Film Festival and is an exemplary Thompson “study of loyalty, betrayal and belonging,”13 with his uniquely pronounced empathy toward criminals and castaways, a repeated refrain throughout his work and something Chibnall writes is “a tribute to the emotional power of his direction and the compelling performances he coaxes from his actors.”14 

As something of a companion piece to Ice Cold in Alex, Thompson’s next big budget adventure film (his third feature from 1959) relocates the traveling tautness to 1905 India (in reality, Spain). North West Frontier, known as Flame Over India in America, stars Kenneth More and Lauren Bacall as two of several train passengers rushing headlong to safety by outrunning and outgunning rebel tribesman. The film was Thompson’s most accomplished feat yet when it came to the scope and scale of production, impressively mounting vast crowd scenes and sequences of military action. Also like Ice Cold in Alex, the cast and crew had to contend with severe shooting conditions. But while the earlier film owes more than a little to the likes of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1953 The Wages of Fear, North West Frontier recalls John Ford’s 1939 western Stagecoach in its assembly of clustered social types. To the sundry and sometimes opposing mixture of personified notions related to religion and politics, Thompson adds further ruminations on nationalism, duty, and humanity. In what is a pressure cooker scenario with nerve-wracking rigidity and potent scenes of carnage, its conglomeration of ideas and attitudes ruffled a few feathers—as Chibnall argues, North West Passage is an “equivocal film, a picture which, to some extent, wants to have its Imperial cake as well as to eat it.”15 Even more controversial, though, was I Aim at the Stars (1960), Thompson’s film about Dr. Werner von Braun, played by Curd Jürgens. The picture follows the German rocket scientist as he evolves from a precocious and inventive boy with pre-war ingenuity to a man who first forms an uneasy alliance with the Nazis, then an equally uncomfortable cooperation with the United States. Against this sombre backdrop is the thrill of invention and discovery and Thompson delicately handles the plight of a man driven by his own overriding ambition and self-proclaimed obsession, a man caught in middle of warring factions with all the inherent pressure such a position entails. The visually compact picture showcases Thompson’s continued flair for composition and camera mobility and its historical implications ultimately settle on passion above politics: “I prefer to stay alive and continue with my job,” states von Braun in an emblematic line. Nevertheless, while the provocative commission was heavily publicized in the United States, was backed by the U.S. Army, and was screened for American politicians, others were less receptive to the glorifying portrait of von Braun and his backstory.

The United States, and more specifically Hollywood, became even more prominent in Thompson’s career when he was hired to replace Alexander Mackendrick as the director of The Guns of Navarone (1961). A World War II epic about a squad of patchwork experts—“pirates and cutthroats every one of them”—enlisted to penetrate a Nazi-occupied facility housing giant cannons, the film boasts an allied cast that includes David Niven, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, and Quayle. Filmed on location in Greece, The Guns of Navarone is a rousing picture about men with an impossible mission but a mission all the same. As usual with Thompson, there is a just cause and a job to do, and to succeed one needs toughness, adaptability, and intelligence, traits correspondingly applied to the film’s director as he manages the abundant picture with thrilling composure and controlled resilience, always allowing for sporadic levity to break the time-constrained condition of the undertaking. Most notable for its copious action set pieces, The Guns of Navarone was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Thompson for Best Director, and was awarded Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture and Best Director. That year, Thompson continued to make a case for the clear path he was now on as a filmmaker, stating he was primarily “in the business to entertain.” “This does not mean,” he added, “that I never want to try artistic movies again. But I do not think you can sell art on the big movie circuits. Art belongs in the art houses.”16

The Guns of Navarone

Impressed by Thompson’s directorial management on the set of The Guns of Navarone, Peck suggested he also helm 1962’s Cape Fear, starring Peck, Robert Mitchum, Polly Bergen, and Lori Martin. It is Mitchum who steals the show, however, as the sadistic Max Cady who terrorizes Peck’s lawyer and his family. Just as Thompson’s earlier British dramas were notable for their appeal to average people in extraordinary situations, Cape Fear similarly derives much of its anxiety from what one man can do to an unsuspecting and perfectly normal household by upsetting their deceptively safe and complacent way of life. Cady is smart and defiant, shrewd in the ways of legal knotting and manipulation and relentless in his psychosexual torment; the film’s sexual component was especially audacious in its day, resulting in censorial cuts to the picture, and it remains profoundly disturbing. Bolstered by Bernard Herrmann’s penetrating score, the private invasion and consequential violence of the film fit nicely with key Thompson motifs. “Taken within the broader scope of Lee Thompson’s cinema,” Chibnall writes, “Cape Fear is concerned with the difficulties of acting in a humane way in a world which is frequently brutal and bestial.”17 Furthermore, Chibnall adds that James R. Webb’s script “must have seemed tailor-made for Lee Thompson’s strengths as a director: a taut story with a minimum of characters; a steamy atmospheric setting; a protagonist backed into a metaphorical corner with only one way out; set piece suspense sequences; and a theme of humanism v. savagery.”18 

Cape Fear would, for Chibnall, “distil the essence of Lee Thompson’s cinema, and may therefore be regarded as the culmination of his British film-making trajectory rather than the beginning of his Hollywood career.”19 Still, as Thompson himself remarked, ever since he was a child he “dreamed of Hollywood” and “wanted to be an American film director.”20 And by the early 1960s, he was well on his way. Characteristic of this career transition are two period adventure films starring Yul Brynner—Taras Bulba (1962) and Kings of the Sun (1963)—and two Shirley MacLaine comedies—What a Way to Go! (1964) and John Goldfarb, Please Come Home (1965). For Taras Bulba, Thompson accepted United Artist’s invitation to film in Argentina where he mounted a sweeping tale of 16th century Ukrainian Cossacks. Thompson further established his epic credentials with action-packed vistas teeming with chaos and ferocity. At the same time, the personal story of conquest, the staking out and securing a livelihood, further proved Thompson could be simultaneously adept at individual and even romantic drama within a high-concept housing. Although the picture has a mostly bland palette, the scenic images are textured and the full-frame choreography is often impressive. Kings of the Sun, about quarrelling Mayans and Native Americans, is, by comparison, effusive in its colour and pageantry, predominantly in its crowd scenes, in Thompson’s presentation of decorative detail, and in an intense showdown between the rival factions. Like Taras Bulba, though, there is a concurrent story of progress and cultural advancement, one occasionally stifled by the rich melodramatics that sometimes bog down the spectacle but nevertheless preserve Thompson’s treatment of multifaceted emotions as clashing characters strive for harmony.

Cape Fear

If a semblance of peace prevails in these adventure films, it is lunacy that abounds in the MacLaine films, starting with the black comedy What a Way to Go!. Co-starring a number of A-list icons including Dick Van Dyke, Paul Newman, Mitchum, and Gene Kelly, the film features a madcap MacLaine as a widow routinely overwhelmed by her accidentally departing husbands and her resulting fortune. It is a vibrant picture, glossy and breezy and filled with self-referential gags, a panoply of cinematic gimmicks, and a closet full of Edith Head attire, all encased in an arena of CinemaScope commotion. It is an uncharacteristic Thompson effort but was nevertheless a box office success. Likewise atypical, though not nearly as effective, is John Goldfarb, Please Come Home, where MacLaine (who also sings the film’s theme song) is almost secondary in a riotous film about spies, Middle East upheaval, and, oddly enough, American football. With Richard Crenna as the titular Goldfarb and Peter Ustinov as the bizarre King Fawz, John Goldfarb is overrun by the absurd behaviour of everyone involved and the movie’s obstinately crazy premise (written, also oddly enough, by The Exorcist scribe William Peter Blatty). Again, Thompson still manages the film within its limits, with lavish production design and a curiously imaginative use of props. Only its questionable cultural portrayals are audacious in a shamelessly bad way.

What a Way to Go!

Thompson returned to England, standing in for 1945 Paris, with Return from the Ashes (1965), a far more austere film about concentration camp survivor Dr. Michele Wolf, played by a severe and affecting Ingrid Thulin, who returns home to find her husband (Maximillian Schell) in a twisted relationship with her indignant stepdaughter (Samantha Eggar), both of whom are hatching a covert murder plot. In this film of cross purposes and villainous intentions, Thulin, like Thompson’s direction, is taciturn and hardened. She is shot in penetrating close-ups and the black and white film has a forceful yet detached comportment. But Return from the Ashes also showcases Thompson’s use of style in the service of emotional resonance as he keeps a firm hand on the interior drama while building to a tightly-wound climax. He then stayed in Europe for Eye of the Devil (1967), an occult horror film with young newcomers David Hemmings and Sharon Tate as well as David Niven, Donald Pleasence, and Deborah Kerr, who replaced Kim Novak when she was injured in a riding accident and had all her scenes reshot. Following a bizarre assembly of incongruous images before its opening credits, Eye of the Devil delves into a troubling and mysterious world of instant, palpable dread, occupied by a ceaselessly strange assortment of characters. An oblique and spellbinding film adorned by accented light and shadow play, Eye of the Devil is one of Thompson’s more underrated features, with a winding and unsettling allotment of artful ambiguity, cult rituals, portentous character entrances, and sinister glances and glares. Kerr’s panic and justified perplexity are particularly pervasive as Thompson upholds a securely-constructed emergence of delirious ancestral menace. Citing critic Penelope Houston, who called the film something of “‘an authentic folly,’” Chibnall rightly notes Eye of the Devil “hardly merits the derision it received.”21  

Ever disposed to filmic variety, Thompson again switched tonal gears with Before Winter Comes (1968), set in and around a displaced persons camp in Austria precariously hovering on the border between British and Russian occupation. With Niven, a pre-Fiddler on the Roof Topol, Anna Karina, John Hurt, and Anthony Quayle, this gripping drama, spotted with cogent comedy, is about icy adversities and precarious peacetime confinement. Thompson fosters a steady sense of tenuous stagnation and uneasy cooperation by using the outpost as a staging ground for the development of authority and security, its permanency both undercut by the potential for violence and soothed by momentary flashes of tenderness and humanity, a duality represented in Niven’s dictum that “individuals don’t matter a damn in war.” Having now done two consecutive films with Niven, Thompson reunited with Gregory Peck for the fascinating western Mackenna’s Gold (1969), which boasts another stellar cast of Omar Sharif, Telly Savalas, Edward G. Robinson, Lee J. Cobb, and Eli Wallach. This blistering tale of foreboding greed is balanced by the deceptive beauty of its scenic vistas and Technicolor compositions. Desolate and dangerous, Mackenna’s Gold is every bit as majestic and symbolic as a John Ford Western, every bit as dazzling as a Sergio Leone (with its own array of canted angles, subjective editing, and perpetually grizzled existence), and every bit as psychologically dense as a Sam Peckinpah. Thompson realizes the mesmeric “gold fever” with a merciless commentary on human nature, haunted by dimensions of mystical fervour.

Mackenna’s Gold 

He then stayed with Peck for the espionage thriller The Chairman (1969), an international coproduction about the vital and competing Thompson themes of collaboration and conflict. Its cloak and dagger set-up concentrates on the seemingly innocuous implications of an experimental enzyme, thus establishing an intriguing fusion of science, technology, and political jeopardy, all deftly handled by Thompson as he crafts a structurally resourceful narrative and captures the uniquely incendiary milieu of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. With Pinewood studios replicating Chinese interiors and Taiwan standing in for its outdoor locations, The Chairman communicates a climate of contagious furore, revolt, and fear, a volatility evinced by Thompson’s choreography of the fitful masses and when Peck’s straightlaced American scientist plays ping pong with Mao Zedong (The Chairman, as he is discreetly called in the picture). Through it all, Peck persuasively enacts the bold tête-à-tête with his adversary and remains unflappable until the end—“Things are getting a little bit tight,” he temperately declares. Until, that is, the sustained strain of his escape is augmented by the threat of a bomb implanted in his head. 

The 1970s started off with a personal project for Thompson, who returned to the UK for Brotherly Love (1970), based on novel he had admired and purchased the rights to years prior, written by James Kennaway. Also known as Country Dance and starring Peter O’Toole and Susannah York as an anomalous brother and sister in the Scottish countryside, the film can be a bit sluggish, but its decadent rustic rapport and perhaps the most unorthodox couple in Thompson’s filmography are fuelled by O’Toole’s idiosyncratic performance, which is boozy and, consequently, utterly unpredictable. The antagonistic relationship between he and York is at once disconnected and strained yet peculiarly loving and tolerant, and Thompson increasingly supports the arrival of an inexorable breaking point. 

Another property Thompson had been interested in was the 1968 adaptation of Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes (La Planète des singes). He was attached to the first film in what became a five-picture series but had to step away and turn down the first two sequels. But he was on board for the fourth and fifth films of the franchise, 1972’s Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and 1973’s Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Thompson was chiefly attracted to the racial symbolism of the series and was keen to impart an increased dose of political allegory. In Conquest, where the beleaguered apes are used as laborers but are more akin to slaves, mankind’s cruelty is on full display in a film motivated by recurrent Thompson preoccupations of prosecution and paranoia, ultimately swaying the irreversible tide of sympathies from humans to apes and charting the course for rebellion. Told with notable expediency, Conquest climaxes in a fascist standoff that was so incendiary Thompson had to revise his intended conclusion to make it more palatable. After that, Fox instructed him to “make a ‘kids’ picture”22 with the follow-up, and while Battle keeps things comparatively mild as far as being a social review, it is nonetheless prototypical J. Lee Thompson with its inevitable internal violence, its thwarting of solidarity and kinship, and its rather bleak picture of anguish in the fractured aftermath of its immediate precursor. As expected with Thompson as director, Battle, like Conquest, also amps up the satisfactorily executed action quotient of the series with heightened sporadic skirmishes and a concluding assault on the ape community.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

Between the Apes films Thompson directed A Great American Tragedy (1972), a television movie with George Kennedy and Vera Miles. Although certainly relevant—then and now—the film’s depiction of a man who loses his job and with it his sense of self and purpose is rather basic and clichéd. At first, Kennedy’s fraught protagonist takes the slight in stride, but his mounting frustration with bureaucratic nonsense leads to a progressively crumbling lifestyle. The scathing inditement of “the system” is surely discriminating, though, and one can easily see how the situation would inform Thompson’s later work with Charles Bronson, who similarly expresses an aversion to the stymied standard operating procedure of (in)justice. Another unusual entry in Thompson’s largely unusual 1970s output is Huckleberry Finn, a 1974 “musical adaptation” of the beloved Mark Twain text. Starring Jeff East and Paul Winfield, with cinematography by László Kovács, the film is a beautifully pastoral rendition of the classic tale and airs Thompson’s natural penchant for outdoor photography. It is a heartening film about friendship and vulnerability and a time capsule portrait of assorted adventures and characters, all treated by Thompson with a perhaps surprising sensitivity. The moody, supernatural thriller The Reincarnation of Peter Proud followed in 1975, with Michael Sarrazin as Peter, a young man overcome by repeated nightmares resulting in genuine physical ailments. His visions portend an enigmatic psychological puzzle and Peter is consumed by a debilitating fixation. The unremittingly wired film is carried by Sarrazin, who loses himself along a riveting path of discovery, a path suggestively executed by Thompson’s chilly and skewed perspective of existential anguish. Creatively shot and energetically edited, the picture builds to a culmination of disconcerting revelations and a quasi-incestuous entanglement.

After directing the pilot episode of the cop show The Blue Knight (1975) and the television movie Widow (1976), Thompson embarked on the most fruitful collaboration of his career, directing for the first of nine times Charles Bronson in 1976’s St. Ives. Bronson’s downtrodden crime reporter and failed novelist bides his time, and supplements his income, by acting as an amateur go-between for whoever has the money to pay. With a journalistic exposition, gritty cinematography by Lucien Ballard, and an operative score by Lalo Schifrin, the film showcases Bronson’s confident swagger and Thompson’s ability to populate his crime films with serviceably animated character types. Co-starring John Houseman and Jacqueline Bisset, St. Ives also represents Thompson’s recurring ability to harness a cynical oscillation between casually, even comedic action bravado and edgy atmospheric detail. Wise cracks and danger are at every turn in this visceral and vibrant film, which shows just how comfortable Thompson was and would continue to be in the lower rungs of society. But first, he was next back with Bronson for the nonconformist The White Buffalo (1977), an evocative and fascinating film about “Wild Bill” Hickok (Bronson) and Crazy Horse (Will Sampson) and their dual, and duelling, quest to track down and kill the mysterious beast of the film’s title. Bronson’s Hickok is a man consumed by a “deadly dream eating his soul” in this horror-western hybrid that makes a formidable monster out of untamed nature. Ominous and at times almost apocalyptic, the unexpected take on the myths of two iconic figures is embellished by moments of coarse dynamism, piercing trepidation, and an amalgam of the supernatural and historical. 

The White Buffalo

To round out the decade, Thompson briefly broke from Bronson to direct two films with Anthony Quinn. The first, The Greek Tycoon (1978), is a thinly-disguised interpretation of the rocky romance between Jackie and Aristotle Onassis. A far cry from the territory he would soon stake out with Bronson, the representation of wealth and privilege and high-stakes influence is a comparatively insipid mingling of business, politics, and unsound romance. Essentially cast aside to favour the charismatic and boisterous Quinn, little of Thompson’s aesthetic is noticeable, though the film’s banal veneer does suit the shallowness and turbulent cruelty of its jet set backdrop. In stark contrast is the daunting World War II film The Passage (1979), with a notably gruff Quinn, a clumsily mild James Mason, and an outrageously nasty Malcolm McDowell. Banking on the intensity of a clandestine undertaking as well as period authenticity and the era’s palpable gravity, Thompson employs an abundant handheld camera to effectively interpret the shaky apprehension of an unsettled film consistently on the edge. Shot in the Pyrenees and in a Nice studio, The Passage is an otherwise visually drab and despairing film about perseverance and unyielding evil, and the downcast context is completed by dreadful imagery and sequences of jaw-dropping brutality to befit its alarming subject matter. “Thematically,” writes Chibnall, “The Passage is a classic J. Lee Thompson movie: The Guns of Navarone meets Cape Fear filmed in the style of Before Winter Comes.”23

Thompson began his next and final decade of filmmaking by getting back to Bronson for the uneven Cabo Blanco (1980), set in a remote fishing village off the coast of Peru—the “edge of the world,” according to an opening voiceover. A subtitle adds the setting is “where legends are born …,” and this 1948 period piece features a cast that includes not only Bronson, but Jason Robards, Dominique Sanda, and Fernando Rey, all of whom, with Thompson, seem to revel in the scenic exoticism and all manner of shadiness. But Bronson’s unwitting involvement in the manoeuvrings of multiple parties, entwined to varying degrees with varying aims (think a much cruder Casablanca), reveals just enough decency to see past the malignant location that exists as an escape to and from political and criminal enterprise. Before helming another episode of a television series—Code Red, a fire department drama in 1981—Thompson got in relatively early on the slasher trend with the Canadian Happy Birthday to Me, also released in 1981, which demonstrated his suitability to the horror genre by applying several of the stylistic traits he had honed elsewhere. Starting with the instantly menacing black gloved killer, glistening straight razor at the ready, Thompson exploits the many slasher tropes, including a band of raucous, randy, and reckless teens and nicely applied vantages of the stalking killer’s point of view. Adding to the anxiety is the past trauma that besieges Melissa Sue Anderson’s Virginia Wainwright, providing a singularly personal motivation to complement the broader bloodshed. Gruesome murders and the standard killer who is always just out of view are par for the course, but such commonplace motifs are never ineffective in Thompson’s hands. 

Two more Bronson features followed, beginning with the down and dirty 10 to Midnight (1983), with Bronson as a typically jaded and admirably driven Los Angeles detective. A hard-edged picture, 10 to Midnight is noteworthy for, among other reasons, its startling delineation of psychopathic behaviour, embodied by killer Warren Stacy, who is played, especially early on and near the end, with unsettling effectiveness by Gene Davis. The film is a graphic mélange of sex and violence, but in his hunt for the sexual predator, Bronson yields a subtle sympathy, a trace of humanity left in the estranged father and widower. It is also an effective police procedural with Bronson’s (and Thompson’s) customary impatience with a legal system that attempts to function in world that otherwise operates along blurred lines of justice—as Chibnall points out, the “question of the emotional and intellectual defence of deadly force is at the root of so much of Lee Thompson’s cinema.”24 Again, Thompson competently applies a subjective camera as the film wallows in its tawdry excesses, which makes the picture emblematic of his late career bold strokes and his uncouth, though surely impactful, delivery. See, too, The Evil That Men Do (1984), another obvious showcase for the Bronson star persona and a proportionately brazen, brash, and frequently hostile tale of revenge and immorality. Bronson is a professional killer out of the game but brought back in to avenge the death of a friend. He is thus skilled, knowledgeable, and self-possessed, balancing the cold and the compassionate in an archetypal Bronson—and by this point archetypal Thompson—exhibition. Shot in Mexico and set in South America, The Evil That Men Do (a title that could apply to any number of Thompson’s films) is shrewdly disturbing, with its most graphic scene coming when Bronson listens to brutal torture testimony expressed only by talking heads on television. As Thompson deliberately conveys the film’s harshly realistic distinction with his typically propulsive momentum, he exposes the seedy side of a world where one can get box seats to a cock fight and where a gun to a child’s head is sure to get a reaction.

10 to Midnight

Also released in 1984 was The Ambassador, starring Robert Mitchum as an American representative to Israel resolved to a mission of peace in the Middle East. His plight, like the film, is admirable though somewhat overconfident in a land defined by religious and political turmoil. The film is ambitious and, compared to the overblown films that came immediately before and after it, benefits from the real-world weight of its ageless conflict and the essential tension Thompson amplifies by dispersing numerous combustible exploits. Continually muddled by the ulterior motives of those around him, the downcast Mitchum (often shot in hangdog close-ups) maintains his ideals and, somehow, maintains his marriage to an amorous Ellen Burstyn. Also starring Rock Hudson, The Ambassador’s intersection of blackmail and political conspiracy is captivating, though its conclusion remains awkwardly hokey, if commendably optimistic. 

As serious-minded as The Ambassador is, 1985’s King Solomon’s Mines, an Indiana Jones knockoff shot in Zimbabwe and starring Richard Chamberlain, is a wildly hyperbolic adventure. Set in 1910 and following fortune tracker Allan Quatermain (Chamberlain, accompanied by a young Sharon Stone), the film is rife with cardboard baddies and comic book antics, but Thompson has an undeniable flair for the fabricated exotic and the appeal of earnest heroism. With a buoyant score and frenzied stunts, King Solomon’s Mines suggests what Thompson could have achieved had larger budgets and more opportunity come his way; his enduring feel for scale and his action instincts are apparent, as is an appreciation for a hero who is nonchalantly courageous in a film of almost constant motion and persistent peril. Likewise filled with immoderate hazards and obstacles is Thompson’s Chuck Norris vehicle Firewalker (1986). Paired with Louis Gossett Jr., Norris is a treasure hunter in Central America and the film’s rollicking good-humour proves largely serviceable for an expedition that banks on the value of breezy escapism tinged with more than its fair share of ridiculousness; there are some vague Native American legends at play, the equally equivocal magic of ancient artifacts, and a frivolous Melody Anderson thrown in for extra comedic effect and some minor romance. But again, Thompson is well-suited to adventure, even if it is a little foolish. Showcasing Norris’s obligatory martial arts skill in scenes that are nonetheless effectively shot and edited, and including a humorous scene of the film’s trio dressed as two priests and a nun, Firewalker is a silly but innocent picture of joyful jeopardy and mystical mumbo jumbo.


Thompson’s Murphy’s Law, also released in 1986, has Bronson as a cop in search of his wife’s killer. But as seen in the opening credits, when he has his car stolen, only to have it crashed and temporarily lose the culprit, he is a classic hard luck case. Unhappily joined by the cheeky and hilariously foul-mouthed Arabella McGee (Kathleen Wilhoite), Bronson’s plight is defined by sudden bursts of ferocious violence, shot by Thompson with all the subtlety of a strip club or a bullet to the face. Forgiving the political incorrectness of its time, Murphy’s Law highlights much of what Thompson was doing best at this point in his career, including a virtuosity with the camera that is arguably better than these films would advocate. For example, his always functional use of the subjective POV to indicate spying and prowling characters is not smooth like Alfred Hitchcock or Brain De Palma, but rather has a handheld combustibility that lends the picture its ubiquitous volatility.  

By now a mainstay director for the Cannon Group, Inc, Thompson made three more Charles Bronson thrillers to round out his career. First was the fourth film in the Death Wish franchise, 1987’s Death Wish 4: The Crackdown. Where rampant crime plagues unsuspecting victims and drug abuse abounds, Bronson’s Paul Kersey—“the vigilante”—moves headlong once more as an efficient righter of wrongs. Shoddy special effects aside, the film benefits from Thompson’s polish and the collective glee as Kersey gives a not-so-gentle nudge to induce a turf war between drug traffickers. Sequences like an oil field shootout are typical of the series, but it is the opening of the film that is possibly the most profound sequence in any Death Wish movie. Thompson acutely gets to the point of the franchise by beginning as Kersey emerges from nowhere to prevent an attack on a woman. He announces himself as “Death” and proceeds to shoot and kill the three assailants. But when he rolls one over, it is he himself lying on the ground. Waking up from the nightmare, it is clear Kersey must now reckon with his past while allowing the gentle family man to survive. As the film proceeds, Kersey (just like Thompson could do so well) turns from compassion to merciless stoicism with the cold flip of switch. Bronson is again operating outside the law as crusading reporter Garret Smith in 1988’s Messenger of Death. Only here, he is doing so with considerably more decency and restraint. Investigating a conspiracy and massacre in a cloistered Mormon community, Smith is driven not only by justice, but empathy and the preservation of peace; in what must be a first for Bronson, his character at one point requests shooters hold their fire while waving a white apron. Thompson likewise goes light on the visual and personified baseness and adopts a more sedate style, but he neatly transfers his concerns about criminal corruption into the sphere of big business and the swanky circles of high-class society.

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown

“I realized these films were not going to enhance my reputation,” Thompson once recalled, referencing the last few films of his career. “I had to live with that. You’re not going to be offered the great films at a certain age.”25 All the same, at 75 Thompson directed what would be his final feature, 1989’s Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects. Here, Bronson is a police lieutenant in the unsavoury underworld of underage prostitution, an illicit enterprise with an international reach, testifying to the wayward ways of a wayward world. The callousness of the film and its characters are epitomized in a scene when three men take turns assaulting a young girl as passive women, drugged in the next room, sit idly by, letting the rape unfold without so much as blinking an eye. The film is a quite explicit and unpleasant bit of business, about ugly people in an ugly setting with Bronson ardently campaigning to take down the predators (doing so, it must be said, with an unhealthy dose of xenophobia). The acting in Kinjite leaves much to be desired and the film is marred by corrosive stereotypes, but it is textbook Thompson in its unflinching examination of innocence corrupted in a culture seeping with sleaze.

Thompson attempted to remain as active as possible well into the 1990s, but nothing of substance ever came to fruition. Ultimately, he became best known for the his most recent completed work, which forever swayed the overall perception of his career. But, as noted, this isn’t remotely accurate. Even if his latter films were as inept as some would claim (which they are not), his filmography is much more diverse, accomplished, and rewarding that this inference suggests. As an excerpt from a British Film Institute Screenonline article concisely observes:

“[Thompson] accepted the reality that as a feature director he worked within a commercial framework, and throughout his career serious films are interspersed with entertainments… His versatility gave rise to criticism, yet he was remarkably consistent in the way he made his films… His films explore how people respond to and can be shaped by their environment…Characters, trapped by their situations, are forced to actions that normally they would never contemplate… Thompson shows the world as a complex place, where people are often confronted with difficult choices and the innocent get hurt.”26 

Chibnall states that while Thompson was encouraged by “both his desire to stay in regular employment and his enthusiasm for new challenges,” he “scattered his talents around epic adventures, comedies, westerns, musicals, and fantasy films, losing in the process some of the intensity he had previously brought to his thrillers and intimate dramas.” It is highly debatable that Thompson ever lost his intensity, nor is it the case, as Chibnall continues, that his “versatility began to erode his reputation, just as the imprint of his individual style became fainter as his career progressed.”27 Directing comedies, social dramas, action films, and historical spectacles, Thompson’s work in a multiplicity of genres should be seem as a plus, not a minus, and there are ample instances of stylistic consistency, to say nothing of the even more pronounced thematic uniformity throughout his career. 

As should be evident from the multiple stars he worked with, several of them many times over, Thompson was also well-regarded among his contemporaries. As John Mills puts it in his forward to Chibnall’s book, “I have always thought that my great friend, J. Lee Thompson, has always been a very under-rated director. He is technically brilliant.” Furthermore, despite his unnecessarily effusive criticism of Thompson’s American work, Chibnall notes that his training in acting, editing, and scriptwriting made Thompson “a complete, all-round, film-maker,”28 with key, recurring refrains of ethical confusion, the complexities of law and order, and the epidemic of social repression. “Pre-eminently,” Chibnall writes, “Lee Thompson’s is the cinema of moral dilemma.”29 

Yes, Thompson will admit, there was a time when he “wanted to become like a second Hitchcock and only do thrillers.” But, he adds, “that went by the board … if you are under contract you are pressured to do other films.”30 “Having gone to Hollywood,” he stated, “I wanted to stay there,”31 and he supposes this was, in the end, perhaps not the best career move. He also confesses to certain regrets, commenting, “I would rather have stuck to making films like Yield to the Night which had some integrity and importance. But the British film industry caved in. I shouldn’t denigrate myself too much because I have enjoyed making my films but I suppose I sort of sold out.”32 That is a harsh judgement, though. It is easy to lose one’s individuality in Hollywood, which Thompson admits, especially when it comes to sacrificing freedom for box office potential and continued engagement. “I took a lot of films I shouldn’t have taken and I didn’t shoot them so originally as I did in Britain,” but, he pointedly adds, he looked upon his Hollywood films as “being successful in Hollywood terms.”33

Chibnall wonders if part of the neglect of Thompson’s career (his early career, at least) comes down to a general lack of appreciation for British film history, thus providing a larger impetus for disregard despite Thompson’s “remarkable ability to adapt his style to suit the material [which made] him perhaps the most versatile director ever produced by Britain.”34 Crucially, Chibnall also cites Margaret Hinxman, who, as early as 1969, argued that some of the blame for Thompson’s belittled status should be placed on the critics who failed to “sufficiently praise” his “honest” films,35 subsequently driving him toward prosaic commercial fare and relegating even his exceptional features to the unwritten pages of film history. But one also then wonders if Thompson’s own pessimistic view of his career was not partly clouded by the negative critical reactions. Had he been predisposed to merely repeat what he had been told or had read about his work? Did he really feel as he stated when it came to his American films or was it a self-aware cover to uphold his artistic dignity? 

In any case, J. Lee Thompson carved out an admirable body of work, probing the often-troubling depths of human nature and using the camera as a blunt instrument, making films that burst forth with punctuations of stylistic flourish—a clever angle here, an interesting movement there. And one can still respect his diversity and longevity no matter the reason he made what he did. Did he allow concessions to his creative aspirations? Yes, sure. How many directors haven’t? But did this always result in poor films and filmmaking? Hardly. Faced with the desire to simply make movies, Thompson pursued what he could, as often as he could, and cinema is the better for it. He worked in a way that recalls Bronson’s last lines of Death Wish 4: “Do whatever you have to.” 

Select Filmography

  • Murder Without Crime (1950), also writer
  • The Yellow Balloon (1953), also writer
  • The Weak and the Wicked (1954), also writer
  • For Better, For Worse (1954), also writer
  • As Long as They’re Happy (1955)
  • An Alligator Named Daisy (1955)
  • Yield to the Night (1956)
  • The Good Companions (1957), also producer
  • Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957)
  • Ice Cold in Alex (1958)
  • No Trees in the Street (1959), also producer
  • Tiger Bay (1959)
  • North West Frontier (1959)
  • I Aim at the Stars (1960)
  • The Guns of Navarone (1961)
  • Cape Fear (1962)
  • Taras Bulba (1962)
  • Kings of the Sun (1963)
  • What a Way to Go! (1964)
  • John Goldfarb, Please Come Home! (1965), also producer
  • Return from the Ashes (1965), also producer
  • Eye of the Devil (1966)
  • Before Winter Comes (1968)
  • Mackenna’s Gold (1969)
  • The Chairman (1969)
  • Brotherly Love (1970)
  • Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
  • A Great American Tragedy (television movie, 1972)
  • Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)
  • Huckleberry Finn (1974)
  • The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975)
  • The Blue Knight (television episode, 1975)
  • Widow (television movie, 1976)
  • St. Ives (1976)
  • The White Buffalo (1977)
  • The Greek Tycoon (1978)
  • The Passage (1979)
  • Cabo Blanco (1980)
  • Happy Birthday to Me (1981)
  • Code Red (television episode, 1981)
  • 10 to Midnight (1983)
  • The Evil That Men Do (1984)
  • The Ambassador (1984)
  • King Solomon’s Mines (1985)
  • Murphy’s Law (1986)
  • Firewalker (1986)
  • Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)
  • Messenger of Death (1988)
  • Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects (1989)

Select Bibliography

  • Chibnall, Steve, J. Lee Thompson: British Film Makers (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2000).


  1. Chibnall, Steve, J. Lee Thompson: British Film Makers (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2000), p. 47
  2. Chibnall, p. 8
  3. Chibnall, p. 125
  4. Chibnall, p. 111
  5. Chibnall, p. 134
  6. Chibnall, p. 141
  7. Chibnall, p. 83
  8. Chibnall, p. 143
  9. Chibnall, p. 191
  10. Chibnall, p. 184
  11. Chibnall, p. 199
  12. Chibnall, p. 4
  13. Chibnall, p. 239
  14. Chibnall, p. 245
  15. Chibnall, p. 210
  16. Schumach, Murray, “J. Lee Thompson Discusses Career: ‘Guns of Navarone’ Director Took Devious Path to Films,” The New York Times, p. 18
  17. Chibnall, p. 291
  18. Chibnall, p. 282
  19. Chibnall, p. 282
  20. Chibnall, p. 278
  21. Chibnall, p. 310
  22. Chibnall, p. 323
  23. Chibnall, p. 225
  24. Chibnall, p. 223
  25. Reid, Michael D., “A life on the set,” Times–Colonist. Victoria, B.C., p. C5
  26. Linda Wood, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors, BFI Screenonline, screenonline.org.uk/people/id/463923/index.html
  27. Chibnall, p. 5
  28. Chibnall, p. 2
  29. Chibnall, p. 8
  30. Chibnall, p. 57
  31. Chibnall, p. 295
  32. Turner, Adrian, “When Fear is remade as a family affair: Adrian Turner reckons that Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear isn’t a patch on J Lee Thompson’s. He talks to the British director of the original movie,” The Guardian, p. 26
  33. Chibnall, p. 328
  34. Chibnall, p. 2
  35. Chibnall, p. 329

About The Author

Jeremy Carr is a faculty associate at Arizona State University and a visiting research fellow with the ASU Center for Film, Media and Popular Culture. He has written for Cineaste, Film International, CineAction, Cinema Retro, MUBI’s Notebook, Vague Visages, Movie Mezzanine, Cut Print Film, Bright Lights Film Journal, and The Moving Image.

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