Yesterday evening I was lucky enough to be in the audience of a sell-out screening of 1965’s The Hill, a fantastic film at the best of times but made even better by the presence in the cinema of its star, Sir Sean Connery.
The event took place at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse and was the start of a mini-season of Connery movies being shown to mark the publication of his new book, Being a Scot and his appearance at Edinburgh’s famous Book Festival today.
At just after six o’clock in the evening Mark Cousins, film writer, producer and director (and host of the BBC Scene-by-Scene documentary I mentioned in a post on Adventures in Primetime), took to the stage, clearly as excited to be there as the rest of us, to introduce Sir Sean.
With August 25 Connery’s birthday it seemed only right for Cousins to suggest that we welcome him on stage to the tune of Happy Birthday. As the crowd, numbering somewhere in the hundreds, tried to stay in tune, the one and only Sean Connery appeared on stage, waving and smiling as the song ended and the clapping started and continued for a couple of minutes.
As the welcome ended Cousins began to discuss the film, asking why Connery, who was at the time partway through his stint as James Bond, took on such a different role here. Admitting that he was trying to show another side to his acting, Connery went on to praise the script and its powerful message as well as the directorial style of Sydney Lumet.
Connery also acknowledged that he had some problems with the sound of the film – apparently some prints in the USA added subtitles.
Sadly the talk only lasted fifteen minutes or so, but it was enough for the actor’s enthusiasm for a film made over 40 years ago to shine through. Commenting on the great performances from Harry Andrews, Ian Hendry and Roy Kinnear, it was soon time for Connery to be led off stage, again to much applause.
A fine event followed by a stunning film, its intensity leading a friend to comment that it almost felt like you were in the cell with the characters at some points, so intense was the staging. Another friend had sat in the front row and noted that his close proximity to the screen meant the shots of the men going up the hill were even more harrowing – who needs 3D when you’ve got a talented director such as Lumet?
Review by Jonathan Melville