Saturday, 9 October 2010
Roy Ward Baker, R.I.P
Roy Ward Baker, who has died at the age of 93, may not have been an auteur, but he was a great professional who directed a dozen or so of my favourite films, as well as episodes of most of my favourite vintage TV series, so he more than deserves a decent send-off.
Roy did more or less every job there was in his chosen profession, and worked with pretty much everybody. Starting out at Gainsborough Studios (where he made the tea), he quickly progressed through the ranks, working with Hitchcock on his penultimate British film 'The Lady Vanishes', before joining the army at the outbreak of World War Two.
Further honing his skills on documentaries produced by the Army Kinematograph, Roy directed his first film in 1947 and was constantly employed at home and abroad for the next 45 years (he spent three years in Hollywood, and worked with Robert Ryan, Marilyn Monroe and Richard Widmark).
His film and TV resume reads like the inside of my head: he worked for ITC on 'Department S', 'The Persuaders', 'The Protectors' and 'Jason King', for Hammer on 'The Anniversary', 'Moon Zero Two', 'The Vampire Lovers' and 'The Legend of The Seven Golden Vampires' and with Amicus on 'And Now the Screaming Starts', 'The Vault Of Horror' and 'Asylum'. Incredibly, these examples are not exhaustive. His seventies CV alone gives me palpitations of excitement.
So, Roy Ward Baker may not have been a maverick or a ground-breaker. He may not have used the camera as a pen, scrawling his unique and individual signature across every frame of celluloid - but he had a long, busy, notable career and was respected as one of the best and most reliable directors in the business, and, when you take into account that he also directed the superb Hammer adaptation of 'Quatermass & The Pit', I'm sure you'll want to raise a glass with me to see the old boy off.
Here's a clip from the aforementioned, where Roy uses slightly overlapping takes as the credits roll to create a jarring, disorienting experience that reflects the traumatic events those protagonists left alive have just gone through. Or, conversely, he just didn't have a long enough single take so stuck a few together. Either way, it's a great solution, memorably executed by a seasoned and eminently practical director.