“I Was Angry” – Mike Hodges on his lost movie Black Rainbow, saved after 31 years | Movie

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‘JEIf you make movies that don’t fit into a particular slot machine, distributors and advertisers just don’t know what to do with them, ”says Mike Hodges of his Dorset farm. It is the story of his career. Hodges, who turns 88 this month, has directed two of the best-known British films of all time: the definitive gangster thriller Get Carter and science fiction Flash Gordon. But many of his other films, without fault on his part, have barely seen the light of day. His 1974 sci-fi thriller The Terminal Man was never released in the UK; he was dismissed from Damien: Omen II; Mickey Rourke’s IRA thriller A Prayer for the Dying has been reissued behind his back.And then there is the supernatural thriller Black Rainbow, which Hodges wrote and directed in 1989. It is one of his best films, but its distributors fell into financial difficulties, so it never got out complete at the cinema. “By the time I created Black Rainbow, I got used to it,” said Hodges with a laugh. “I was pretty angry of course, but here we are. One of these things. ”

Black Rainbow, which has just been restored and released on Blu-Ray, highlights some of the dominant themes in Hodges’ career. Its central figure is a medium named Martha (Rosanna Arquette) who travels the American biblical belt with her alcoholic father (Jason Robards), offering his audience a sunny glimpse of the afterlife and supposedly in communion with their deceased loved ones. . One night, she contacts a man on the “other side” who, according to his wife, is still alive. Not for much longer, it turns out. The man is murdered exactly as Martha predicted. The murder is linked to a scandal at the local chemical plant, which Martha is now witnessing. The intrigue skillfully links many aspects: exploitation of workers, corruption of companies and government, destruction of the environment, religious fundamentalism. For a story about prophecy, it is strangely prophetic.

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“When I wrote it over 30 years ago, it seemed to me that the company was in a very dubious position,” says Hodges. “We were building a very vulnerable building and people were not paying attention to it.” In the United States in particular, Black Rainbow’s warnings seem to have passed. “The worst aspect of America has been the way Christianity and capitalism go hand in hand. The reason they have Trump as president is because of the fundamentalist clerics who support him, regardless of the fact that he is a totally immoral man. He managed to gather around him a cohort of really dangerous people. ”

Hodges was raised a Catholic, but lost faith at a young age, he says. He claims that his boarding school in Bath, run by the Irish Christian Brothers, was a place of corporal punishment and sexual abuse. “I was trafficked, but not in any serious way,” he says. When her parents found out what was going on, the school investigated. “But they came back and said, ‘No, that’s not true. It is a childish fantasy. And our parents sent us away. It was horrible. ”

After school, he spent two revealing years doing his national service on the lower deck of a navy minesweeper, visiting “all the disgusting fishing harbors in the UK”. “My parents were conservative, but what I experienced on the lower deck changed all that forever. I had lost my Catholicism, then I lost my conservatism. Beginning at the bottom of television, he graduated from the World in Action news series before moving on to fiction and film.







“One of the most beautiful memories of my career” … Clive Owen at Croupier. Photography: Simon Mein / Film Four

In retrospect, a similar set of concerns runs through many of Hodges’ films: religious fanaticism, loneliness, corruption, corporate greed and a certain fatalistic view of progress, especially the American variety. Hodges even suggests Flash Gordon as a substitute for American foreign policy: a dark-bulb jock falling on cultures he doesn’t understand. Compared to Hodges’ usual bad experiences, Flash Gordon was a breeze. Drafted by the Italian magnate Dino De Laurentiis to replace the outgoing director Nicolas Roeg, Hodges essentially succeeded in doing it progressively. “I had no idea what I was going to do when I took over,” he laughs. “I think that is part of the success of the film. It’s like a breath. We managed to put all the right ingredients in it and it sort of increased, in a mysterious way. ”

In many ways, Flash Gordon, who marks his 40th birthday this year, was a pioneer in the genre of modern superheroes. “Except it was a comedy,” says Hodges. “The story was ridiculous! Looking at the rushes every day, you could barely keep a straight face. De Laurentiis has never seen the joke, says Hodges. He had to tell the crew to stifle their laughter when he was in the room. Hodges doesn’t watch modern superhero movies, however. “I never liked them being honest with you. They’re pretty dark, I think, aren’t they?

A shot of good fortune in Hodges career came with 1998 Croupier – a tense, typically fatalistic game thriller directed by Clive Owen. When it came out in the UK, it didn’t make a big impression and Hodges wondered if he would ever work again. But surprisingly, it became a cult success in the United States, which led to a reissue in Britain and a final success. Hodges describes it as one of the best memories of his career.

He has no plans to return to the movies, he says. He is very happy in his vegetable patch and in black fiction writing. But now that most of its releases are available (The Terminal Man is slated for a Blu-Ray reissue next year), it may not be too late for a career reassessment. He deserves his own place.

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