Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Murphy's Lore - RIP Michael J. Murphy, 22 September 1951 - 10 April 2015

First, an introduction to the director in the 1980's from this vintage BBC studio interview:

BBC TV Interview. Vintage 1980
Posted by Michael Murphy on Thursday, 13 November 2014

Michael J. Murphy is the most prolific feature film maker I have ever met during my FilmRaker series or anywhere else. We (Evil C and I) conducted our interview at his home in North End, Portsmouth, on 18th March 2015 from 2 O'Clock in the afternoon.

It was a pleasant day, the sun was out. For the first part of the interview Mike was flanked by long-time collaborator friends Patrick Olliver and Phil Lyndon (one half of the MURLYN Film partnership formed relatively recently which superceded Mike's own Murlin Films). Everyone was relaxed and in good spirits, recounting career anecdotes both on- and off- camera.

The second part of the interview, we talked to Mike alone - and for a guy who said he didn't like being interviewed he interviews very very well - so much so that it's going to be difficult editing down the sixty-plus minutes to a FilmRaker bite-size. More on that later.

So who is Michael J. Murphy? He's made over 25 films between 1968 and 2015 (Note: nowhere on-line is his filmography complete at time of writing). I first met him a few weeks before the interview, again at his home, at a private screening of his latest - and to be last - film, The Return of Alan Strange. He said he wanted me to know what kind of film Alan Strange was before we did the interview.

Having done some research on his work prior to meeting him, turning up stuff like full movie rips of Death Run, Bloodstream, and Avalon on YouTube along with fascinating trailers for the likes of Atlantis, Invitation to Hell, The Rite of Spring, and Skare (incidentally related to Chris Jupp's Beast which is a remake of sorts) - it was a wise move on his part. Alan Strange is not a gore-fest loaded with practical effects, but rather a more mature and personal drama that wouldn't have seemed out of place on BBC2 as I was growing up (that is to say, perhaps too mature for the big kid inside of me wanting to see some blood spatter!).

MURLYN FILMS LATEST PRODUCTION. 'The return of ALAN STRANGE' Available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Posted by Michael Murphy on Thursday, 19 March 2015

Though Alan Strange lacks entrails and dribbling mutants, it remains a well constructed comedy-drama. Once I realised this I wasn't afraid to laugh. All the performances are solid and the narrative carries along at an engaging pace.

When I explained that FilmRaker would be a great way to softly promote Alan Strange on-line he seemed to recoil at the idea - he would much rather talk about his next film Pornophobia.

Throughout our conversation that day around the screening (I was the only one there, he'd scheduled it especially for me after I couldn't make it to any of the previous screenings) - I came to recognise in Mike a somewhat kindred spirit, an affinity. We seem to share a filmmaking philosophy which he describes as the 'ready, steady, cook!' approach - that is to say, see what ingredients you have to hand and go and make something - and perhaps more importantly - finish it. So although I could never claim to be more than an acquaintance, I was somewhat moved to hear of his passing away last Friday.

By request, yesterday I reviewed/logged the interview footage with a view to assembling some highlights as part of his remembrance in the coming days. Watching it back he is clearly a man who lived a full life, enjoyed every minute of his filmmaking and very eloquently articulates what amounts to an autobiographical account of his career in film.

With that in mind, Deer Studios tentatively announce that they (in other words me) will be producing a feature length documentary on Michael J. Murphy using the interview as a (already very strong) backbone. Working title: Murphy's Lore. To be released probably in the 2016/17 timeframe. My hope is that FilmRaker and Deer Studios can bring a little more recognition to Mike and his regulars (and Portsmouth filmmaking in general), and a new generation can discover and be inspired by his work.

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