Film: This Sporting Life 15 rating Year: 1963
This Sporting Life poster

Buy This Sporting Life on DVD

Buy This Sporting Life on DVD

Country: UK Genre: Drama / Sport
Director: Lindsay Anderson
Starring: Richard Harris, Rachel Roberts, Arthur Lowe, Leonard Rossiter

Also check out our Lindsay Anderson director guide, plus our reviews of O Lucky Man and if.... All Lindsay Anderson's films are available in our Lindsay Anderson UK Store & Lindsay Anderson USA Store

This Sporting Life - Trailer

This Sporting Life - Latest News November 2008

On November 3rd 2008, the wonderful Network DVD is releasing a digitally restored version of This Sporting Life on DVD. We here at alt-flix are huge fans of Lindsay Anderson's work, and Network have kindly let us see an advanced copy of the DVD, and we can confirm that the restored print looks absolutely stunning. This version of the film comes from the HD print of the film which gives the restored film its flawless quality, and also, for the first time on DVD, the film is presented in its original cinematic ratio.

This DVD release also includes a number of extras such as the original theatrical trailer (as can be viewed above); an extensive image gallery (we mean extensive, there a huge amount of stills from the film included here); PDF's of promotional material and scripts (some lovely stuff here including posters, scripts, synopsis etc and chock full of information). Also included is a commemorative booklet by film historian and lecturer David Rolinson (booklet not available at time of review).

This superb release provides a fitting tribute to such a landmark of British cinematic history, that will delight both the existing hardened fans of This Sporting Life, and a new generation of viewers who will be able to marvel at this masterpiece in all it's magnificent glory for the first time.

This Sporting Life - Synopsis

Frank Machin is an Irish immigrant coal miner working in Wakefield, Yorkshire. He lodges with a widower - Mrs Hammond, and her two young children. Frank is desperate for Mrs Hammond to leave her husband's memory in the past and to get on with living, but somehow she feels a need to not let herself go or to enjoy herself. Frank holds onto the hope that he can change her mind. He also longs for a chance to get out of the mines and play rugby league. He gets his chance when he is befriended by the local Rugby club's talent scout, who arranges a trial for him. Frank sails through the match and is offered professional terms with the club. With the security of the money he thinks he will be able to win over Mrs Hammond so that they can live together properly. He soon becomes the star player of the team, but this is a tough game in every respect and in gaining lots of unwanted attention from the male owners of the club he starts to make himself unpopular. Unfortunately getting Mrs Hammond interested in him is an altogether more difficult job.

This Sporting Life - Review

This Sporting Life is an absolutely fascinating film. Lindsay Anderson's first foray into feature film making is almost a work of genius, although it includes a strange mix of styles (but no hint yet of the downright weird directions that Anderson would weave into many of his later films). The film could have easily been transplanted from a Wakefield Rugby League team to a New York Baseball team - the soundtrack to the film already sounds like it has been, and Richard Harris in the lead role is so reminiscent of Brando at his menacing best. The story itself is strangely deep with the standard angry young man fleshed out into a complex character frustrated by the love of a woman who wants to remain at arms length. The sub plot which runs through it - of the owners of the club buying this rugby player and their homoerotic fascination with owning this sexually unavailable man is bold and interesting (and ironic given Anderson's interest in casting his leading men for his films). The story is told in a very innovative manner (especially for the times) where the film begins near the end of the narrative story and then moves to the start of the story with use of flashbacks (neatly mirroring Franks' concussion that he suffers at the start of the movie). The Rugby scenes are absolutely convincing and are beautifully choreographed and shot (especially impressive as this was way before steadicam) this is no doubt due to Anderson's years of capturing life as it happened in his early "free cinema" documentaries. The acting of the ensemble cast here is superb, but special mention must go to the leads Richard Harris and the sublime Rachel Roberts who give two perfect performances (for which they deservedly gained Oscar nominations). The cast also includes William Hartnell, Leonard Rossiter and the wonderful Arthur Lowe who would go on to feature in most of Anderson's later films.

The reasons I recommend this film are: 1. An excellent story full of depth, realism and passion . 2. Superb performances by Richard Harris and Rachel Roberts.