Cult Movie: Red White And Zero a sharp swinging 60s flick that's well worth the effort

Red White And Zero – Patricia Healey in The White Bus
Ralph McLean

I'VE done it before here but there's no harm in once again doffing a cult aficionado's cap to the good people at Flipside.

For years now that small but perfectly formed sub-section of the BFI have been beavering away making a case for the waifs and strays of British cinema history. They've unearthed long forgotten dramas and presented them in shiny new Blu-ray editions, reassessed familiar films and reclaimed them as unsung cult classics that deserve much better reputations than they've garnered down the decades and sometimes they've even salvaged entire movies from the cultural scrapheap altogether.

While I point you in the direction of all 35 of their previous releases, their latest project might just add up to one of their most culturally significant offerings yet.

Red White and Zero was made by esteemed British film company Woodfall in 1968 and has never seen a full release in the UK until now. In fact, until recently the whole thing was considered a totally lost fragment of the so-called swinging 60s film set.

Thanks to our inventive friends at Flipside it is once again readily available for viewing and those purchasing the beautifully appointed DVD and Blu-ray are in for a rare treat indeed.

A portmanteau film comprising three strange and apparently unconnected short films, it captures a fascinating era of creativity and film-making in pin-sharp focus. Helmed by Peter Brook The Ride Of The Valkyrie stars Zero Mostel (of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum fame) in a madcap mix of silent travelogue and oddly disjointed surrealism as a self-centred opera star who scoots around 60s London to the bombastic sound of Wagner in all his bombastic glory.

Director Lyndsay Anderson gives us The White Bus, probably the best-known segment of the film, and one scripted by the great Shelagh 'A Taste Of Honey' Delaney. It mashes up all kinds of cool New Wave aloofness with serious poetic pomposity as a young woman travels home to the north of England.

Winding up the trio of strange big screen bedfellows is Tony Richardson's modish musical riff Red and Blue that sees Vanessa Redgrave trot around London looking cool and doing very little else, if truth be told.

It's all so detached and self-obsessed it almost veers into a parody of a 'Swinging London' trilogy at times but it looks great and as a time capsule piece it's pretty hard to beat.

It may not have much going for it in terms of storytelling but it's still a great chance to see and appreciate some of the less familiar work of some of British cinema's true pioneers and ground breakers.

As always with a Flipside release, it's all packaged with a real sense of style and there are enough enlightening extras to keep the most intrigued of fans satisfied throughout. Like the people who released it, Red White And Zero is sharp, unique and well worth making the effort for.

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