Previously thought of as an abomination, Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom is now, if not rehabilitated, then long been given its due as a masterpiece. Currently, Powell and Emeric Pressburger are even overturning Francois Truffaut’s ruling on British film with their The Red Shoes. It has been deemed worthy of screening at 50+ cinemas in France during the first two months of 2011 alone. But there is one film that remains which though a great example of Powell’s art, is refused entrance into the pantheon by critics and Powell Pressburger fanatics alike. No UK VHS release exists let alone a stand-alone DVD. It even boasts Emeric Pressburger as screenwriter, marking the culmination of their masterful feature film collaboration. The film in question is the routinely maligned They’re A Weird Mob made in Australia in 1966. The struggle to set aside preconceptions is well worth it, the film being richly deserving of a fresh look.
In the 1940s and ’50s, the partnership of Powell and Pressburger produced exquisitely beautiful films. Never in a merely ornamental way, these often deviated wildly from the path favoured in Britain of realism. The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, A Matter of Life and Death, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and Tales of Hoffmann were not in the least about ordinary people. Against such a background, even the title They’re A Weird Mob is so jarring as to dislodge perception. Worse, the rest of this film of the Italian migrant Nino Culotta’s (Walter Chiari) beginning in Australia concerns itself with the down-to-earth fellowship offered between men who get their hands dirty. And yet it is a hilarious, inventive and beautifully played film — one for Powell and Pressburger enthusiasts to be proud of.
They’re A Weird Mob is said to be one of Powell and Pressburger’s worst. The film is commonly spoken of as containing none of Powell’s characteristic visual invention and artistic experiment. These aspects can only be evident, of course, if viewers...
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