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directed by James Broughton
UK 1953


Filmed among the ruins of The Crystal Palace Terraces, 'The Pleasure Garden' is a playful and poetic ode to desire, and winner of the Prix de Fantasie Poetique at Canne in 1954. Made by the American poet James Broughton, the film features Hattie Jacques and Lindsay Anderson, with John le Mesurier as the bureaucrat determined to stamp out any form of free expression.

Lovers of the history Crystal Palace will find much to treasure in this 1950s time capsule of a fim, which shows the Crystal Colonnade and the bandstand (both later demolished), the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Memorial, and much of the statuary which was to be auctioned off in 1957.

Excerpt of review from BFI located HERE

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DVD Review: BFI - Region 2 - PAL

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Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 36:34

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.47 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English (LPCM 2.0)
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: BFI

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• 'The Phoenix Tower' a short documentary charting the construction of the BBC's Crystal Palace Television Tower (39:06)
• Fully illustrated booklet with film notes, an original review and a history of the Crystal Palace

DVD Release Date: November 2nd, 2009
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Chapters 8



Released last year as a Moviemail exclusive, James Broughton's "The Pleasure Garden" will receive a wide release from the BFI on February 15th of this year. The short film tells the story of a group of eccentrics gathered together in the remnants of the Crystal Palace (though the location isn't of consequence in the film). They live a seemingly idyllic life, doing as they please. One man runs races, a woman rides her bike, another mimics the poses of the surrounding statues. They live their lives freely in pursuit of their desires until an ominous figure named Col. Pall K. Gargoyle and his accomplice, Aunt Minerva, arrive on the scene to enforce their rigid moral code. Signs are posted throughout the park to prohibit fun and individuals get thrown into captivity if they break the rules. Harmony is ultimately restored by freewheeling Mrs. Ablion who makes the Garden's inhabitants remember their passions and expel the Col. and his Aunt. Yes, the film is as odd as it sounds, but running just a little over 36 minutes, its unique brand of quirky and eccentric characters never wear out their welcome.

The image on the disc is relatively strong, although I did detect a few instances of damage (mostly in the form of a vertical line appearing and then disappearing from the screen). The contrast between the blacks and whites on the screen is quite high, with the grays showing quite a bit of complexity.

The audio is mastered in LPCM 2.0 and sounds acceptable. Unfortunately there was a series of cracks in the background that can be heard on my player when the volume was sufficiently high, but at lower volumes the soundtrack sounded fine. Other than that, I found no difficulty with the sound. The disc also comes with optional English subtitles that were unobtrusive and easily read.

The disc comes with two main extras. First, there is a 17 page illustrated booklet with an essay on the film, a short review from its initial release, a paragraph on the Phoenix Tower, and a fascinating history of the Crystal Palace (which I had shamefully never heard of before reading about the release). Second, there's a recently unearthed documentary on the Phoenix Tower, a BBC broadcast tower at the ruins of the Crystal Palace. The nearly 40 minute documentary is a remarkable historical document, but unfortunately only survived on a rough betamax dub. While there is a good deal of distortion on it, its still worth watching.

Overall, I'm quite glad to have gotten the chance to see this film. It's certainly a unique and inventive project (the type the the BFI seems to be releasing more and more of lately), even if I'm afraid that some of the whimsy was lost on me. For those interested in the description (not to mention catching a young Lindsey Anderson in an acting role!), I'd certainly recommend giving it a go.

 - Brian Montgomery


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