Michael Powell

Sog.: dalla pièce The Haunted Light (1933) di Evadne Price e Joan Roy Byford. Scen.: Ralph Smart. F.: Roy Kellino. M.: Derek N. Twist. Scgf.: Alex Vetchinsky. Mus.: Louis Levy. Int.: Binnie Hale (Alice Bright), Gordon Harker (Sam Higgins), Donald Calthrop (David Owen), Milton Rosmer (dottor Carey), Ian Hunter (Jim Pearce), Herbert Lomas (Claff Owen), Reginald Tate (Tom Evans), Barry O’Neill (capitano Pearce), Mickey Brantford (Bob Peters), Alice O’Day (Mrs. Owen). Prod.: Michael Balcon, Jerry Jackson per Gaumont-British. 35mm. D.: 76’. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Powell’s fourth and final production for Balcon’s Gaumont-British company was arguably his most accomplished film to date. Produced as a first feature, not a Quickie B film, The Phantom Light was a clear bid for box-office success and the greater independence that would bring, for Powell already had his eyes fixed on the cherished “St Kilda film’ that would eventually become The Edge of the World.
In fact, in its use of rugged coastal locations (Hartland Point on the coast of Devon, standing in for the film’s Welsh setting), The Phantom Light anticipates that breakthrough, as well as such later Pressburger collaborations as I Know Where I’m Going! and The Spy in Black. And in its themes of mysticism, and its portent-laden, other-worldly atmosphere, it might be said to foreshadow the likes of A Canterbury Tale and Black Narcissus.
Here, the evocative use of location is married to a creaky but nevertheless highly enjoyable story about a gang of shipwreckers who attempt to distract attention from their scheme by spreadin the legend of a “phantom lighthouse”. The myth has worked on locals, but newly installed keeper Sam Higgins (Gordon Harker) scoffs at such fears, and arrives undeterred.
Anticipating the harmonious collaboration that was the hallmark of the Archers, Powell worked effectively with cinematographer Roy Kellino and editor Derek Twist to bring Ralph Smart’s stageplay adaptation to the screen with a real atmosphere and comic flair. He was fortunate too to have Harker in the lead role. As he wrote in A Life in Movies: “Gordon Harker was one of those naturals that every country has – a face to remember: in France Fernandel, in Mexico Cantinflas, in Italy Alberto Sordi, in America Humphrey Bogart, in Ireland Victor McLaglen, in Germany Conrad Veidt, and in England Gordon Harker… He had one of those flat, disillusioned Cockney faces, half-fish, half Simian, with an eye like a dead mackerel… close-ups were made for him, and we both took full advantage of it.”

James Bell

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