John Boorman on the BBC


This major British filmmaker got several hours of coverage on BBC 4 on Sunday night. This included one of his best films, Point Blank (Warner Bros. 1967). Unfortunately it was shown in a cropped version, 16.9, which is not even a film ratio. To add insult to injury the BBC 4 logo was visible throughout the screening, and given the use of chiarascuro it was noticeable. Then over the end credits, actually in the right ratio (the Panavision format), we got an announcer’s voice. Something similar happened the other week with Whisky Galore (Ealing, 1949), but at least that film was screened in the right ratio.

The film was followed by a documentary Me and Me Dad (Colorframe, 2012) by his daughter Katrine. This was a personal and family portrait, composed rather like a series of snapshots. However the film clips, including Point Blank, were all shown in the right ratio. Every now and then John Boorman commented on his film work and also occasionally added directions for the filming. Both were illuminating.

I would like to suggest a season of Boorman’s films on television, but if they are treated like the one film was the other night – probably do not bother.


  1. Roy Stafford

    I share your anger about this presentation. I sometimes wonder if BBC4 is so cash-strapped that there is nobody to notice that the logo is still on or that the ratio is incorrect. Just one minor point, ‘Panavision’ is not an aspect ratio as such. The innovation of the Panavision technology was to introduce an anamorphic lens that could be manually adjusted to produce different ratios according to the degree of ‘squeeze’. It was the flexibility that this gave which enabled Panavision to replace CinemaScope as lens technology. A film announced as ‘filmed in Panavision’ could legitimately be screened in a range of aspect ratios. Virtually all Hollywood mainstream features used Panavision from the early 1960s and many were in the ‘modern widescreen’ ratio of 1.85:1. Point Blank, however, was intended to be in 2.35:1 as you indicated. Wikipedia illustrates the flexibility by pointing out that the Panavision logo incorporated the three standard US aspect ratios into its design.


  2. keith1942

    Roy is quite right to make the point regarding Panavision.
    However, I think the format provides for 2.35:1 and 1.85:1: possibly also 1.66:1.
    The BBC were using 16:9. This seems to be about 1.78:1, though it also seems to vary an inch / a cm either way. So it is not really a standard cinema format.
    Even 1.85:1 films seem to be cropped slightly a lot of the time. I tried recording The Conversation several times then gave up.
    Moreover, some 1.37:1 films, i.e. sound period, are cropped to 1.33:1, the silent period ratio.
    Imagine Goya’s 5th of May truncated in this way? Or indeeed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with a reduced string section!


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