Connecting Rooms - Connecting Rooms(Blu Ray) [Powerhouse - 2022]
From the early 1970s Connecting Rooms is an unpredictable and often compelling drama/ character study featuring two acting legends in their later years- Bette Davis and Michael Redgrave. The film is set in and around a London boarding house, focusing on the lives of its occupants. Here from Powerhouse Films is a Blu Ray release of the film- taking in a new 4k scan of the picture, an inlay booklet with new writing on the film, and a selection of interesting archive extras.
Connecting Rooms was released in the year 1970. It was directed by Llandudno North Wales born Franklin Gollings, who has only one other credit to his name 1952 documentary short The Way to Wimbledon, which I’m guessing is about tennis. It was written for the screen by Gollings, taken from a play called The Cellist by Marion Hart. The film is competently made and of course, wonderfully acted- though the most rewarding thing is its tonal shifts- going from sentimental and tragic, playful and farcical, to subtle unsettling and dubious with a veneer of coal-black humour
The film kicks off with a well-spoken, but rather nervous and smartly bedraggled James Wallraven (Michael Redgrave) turning up at the London boarding house of Mrs Brent(Kay Walsh). She questions him about his occupation- he says he’s a teacher, down from the country to do study at the British museum- but there seems something rather shady and a little off about him. She leads him up to the pokey and grey top room, where the net curtains blow in the London night air. Soon he meets his neighbour Wanda Fleming(Bette Davis) due to an interconnecting door blowing open between the apartments. She is a well dressed and seemingly kindly middle age lady, who plays the cello at one of the big London venues.
Slowly but surely the pair become slightly awkward friends- though Ms Fleming still remains suspicious of her neighbour. Added into the mix we have tricky, ducking ‘n’ diving, twenty-something songwriter/ wideboy Mickey Hollister(Alexis Kanne) who has rather homed in on the lonely Ms Fleming, promising love.
The film comes in at the one hour and forty-three-minute mark, and really is pulled along with by both the great performances and the mystery of who/ what exactly is the shady Dr/ prof Wallraven. The drama shifts, at times fairly jarringly between the lives of the three key characters- as we find out they may not be quite what they initially seem to be. The film largely takes place in the shabby, if cared for boarding house- Walsh is most effective as the noisy often going into tenants' rooms landlady, and she plays it just right with a sprinkle of humour. From time to time we step out of the confines of the building, and its occupant's apartments- with visits to swanky clubs, springtime parkland, luxurious-if- rather cold hotel rooms, and even at one point a recording studio.
Though-out both Davis and Redgrave really show off their acting talent, largely disappearing into their characters- telling their rather tragic and troubling stories. Kanne works well as the third, if slightly smaller cog in the films unfold- and his acting is also very much on point, as he often sleazily and manipulative ducks and dives. The supporting cast is also well selected & largely believable, and we get a few recognisable faces like Brian Wilde(Porridge and Last Of The Summers Wine) as the owner of an employment agency.
Moving onto this new region B Blu Ray, the 4k scan looks very good- full and crisp in its colours and flow. On the extras side, we only get archive stuff- but it’s an interesting selection of things- there’s a 1971 audio interview with Davis, this runs thirty-two minutes. Two short documentaries from Gollings- Spotlight at the Fair, from 1951- this runs nineteen minutes and follows travelling fairs across the UK. And The Way to Wimbledon, from 1952- this runs seventeen minutes and focuses on preparation for the Wimbledon tennis championships. With the disc finished off with an original theatrical trailer, image gallery featuring promotional and publicity material, Bette Davis eulogy: transcript of a speech by Gollings, originally broadcast on Clyde Radio, Scotland, following the actor’s death in 1989.
The finished release comes with a thirty-six-page inlay booklet- this features a new essay by Laura Mayne, extracts from the film’s press kit, archival interviews with Bette Davis and Franklin Gollings, an overview of contemporary critical responses, new writing on Spotlight at the Fair and The Way to Wimbledon, and film credits.
Connecting Rooms is a wonderfully acted, and often unpredictable ’70s drama, which is also a great character study- highlighting that people are sometimes not what you think, though equally exactly what you think/expect. As with all Powerhouse films, this can be directly purchased from here.Roger Batty