Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Random Film Review: The Pleasure Garden

Dir: James Broughton | UK | 1953 | 37min

This short, black and white 'poetic ode to desire' is a real curio, filmed entirely in the terraces of Crystal Palace Park by American filmmaker and poet James Broughton. The film itself is a light souffle and very dated, interesting for featuring Hattie Jacques, John Le Mesurier and Lindsay Anderson, who would later direct the classic If... (1968) starring Malcolm McDowell. The Pleasure Garden has Le Mesurier as Colonel Pall K. Gargoyle enforcing his strict moral code, banning any kind of fun in the park by placing signs all around. Pleasure is eventually restored by Mrs Albion, a fairy godmother of sorts, played by Hattie Jacques, who banishes the Colonel from the park.

The real interest in the film, for me, lies in the location of the film: the terraces of Crystal Palace Park in 1953 is overgrown and littered with abandoned statues, many of which have now vanished from the park. Of the 77 original sculptures now only a handful remain, most of which are headless. Of the original dozen sphinxes, now only six remain, and they are in a state of dilapidation. Also, various fountains, urns, plinths, the Crystal Colonnade and the bandstand have either been demolished, lost, stolen or sold. In 1957 lots of the statues were auctioned off. It's a real shame; many of the statues and features survived the Crystal Palace fire and can clearly be seen in good condition in the 1953 film, some hundred years after the disaster, but in the years since the park has fallen into disrepair and neglect.

Fantastic research here of the original statues.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Deep excavations
London through its charity shops #25: Crystal Palace
The dinosaurs of Crystal Palace

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