“The National Film Theatre of Chiswick”

Image above: Lady Kulukundis CBE, Susan Hampshire at Chiswick Cinema

Susan Hampshire talks to Phillip Bergson about Night Must Fall as part of the Karel Reisz retrospective season

Susan Hampshire put in an appearance at Chiswick Cinema on Sunday – or Lady Kulukundis CBE, as she is also known – talking about Night Must Fall, (1964) a film from very early on in her career, being shown as part of the Karel Reisz retrospective season.

This was only the third film she had made, she told the audience and she had been “completely ignorant” of film making and its language.

“Karel [director Karel Reisz] would ask me to do something and I didn’t understand what it was he wanted from me” she said. “I was clueless”.

Image above: Susan Hampshire and Albert Finney in Night Must Fall; photograph Metro Goldwyn Mayer

Night Must Fall is a very creepy Black & White thriller about a psychopath (Albert Finney) preying on three women, including Susan’s character. The role was an unusal one for the three time Emmy award winning actress, who has appeared in over 50 films and television series as well as theatre productions.

If the 1964 film Wonderful Life had not taken her in a different direction, she said, she might have liked to do more of the heavily dramatic roles, but the success she had in the musical with Cliff Richard, Una Stubbs and the Shadows set her on a path to playing lighter roles.

She was very much present in people’s living rooms throughout the 1970s and ’80s in television period dramas such as The Forsyte Saga (1970), The First Churchills (1969), The Pallisers (1974) and The Barchester Chronicles (1982).

Her last TV series was Monarch of the Glen (2000 – 2005). She gave up acting after 2009 to look after her husband, theatre impresario Eddie Kulukundis, who developed dementia and died in 2021.

She did not tend to watch her work, she said, as she could always see how she could have done it better, but it was interesting to rewatch Night Must Fall after all these years.

There is a scene in which she is battling to change a tyre on her car in the dark, in a storm, with rain chucking it down so she is soaked. “It took me a long time to get that right” she said “but finally I did it to Karel’s satisfaction.”

Image above: Sheila Hancock and Albert Finney in Night Must Fall; photograph Metro Goldwyn Mayer

When she worked on Night Must Fall, Reisz and his leading man Albert Finney were both riding the crest of their fame following their first collaboration, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, which won Best Film for Karel Reisz, Best British Actress for Rachel Roberts and Most Promising Newcomer for Albert Finney in the 1961 British Academy Film Awards.

The two were absorbed in an intense debate throughout the filming, about how the film should be, said Susan, which she was not a part of, but they were none the less warm and welcoming to her and she learned a tremendous amount working with them.

Several of those who worked on the cinematography and lighting went on to have stellar careers, as did Sheila Hancock, who plays Albert Finney’s character’s girlfriend.

Susan was talking to arts critic Phillip Bergson, who has dubbed Chiswick Cinema “the National Film Theatre of Chiswick” for its success in attracting top industry speakers to come and talk about classic films.

Next weekend (Sunday 26 March) director Stephen Frears (My Beautiful Laundrette, Dangerous Liasons, A Very English Scandal, The Queen) will be talking about the next in the series of films being screened for the Karel Reisz retrospective – Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment.

Image above: Mona Washbourne and Albert Finney in Night Must Fall; photograph Metro Goldwyn Mayer


Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Melvyn Bragg introduces the Karel Reisz retrospective at Chiswick Cinema

See also: Finite – The Climate of Change documentary, review

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