Film on Four 

2 November 2022


Cover of Television & Radio 1984

From Television & Radio 1984

Channel 4’s commitment to funding or co-funding twenty feature-length films a year under the generic title of Film on Four has been one of the most widely welcomed aspects of its programming. The channel was praised as a major force in sustaining the revival of the British film industry, yielding, in the judgement of Oscar-winning producer David Puttnam, ‘a clutch of films, the best of which I for one had almost given up hope of ever seeing in the English language’.

After completing and transmitting those first twenty in two seasons, Channel 4 is maintaining both the quantity and quality of its films with a new season starting in its anniversary week. Not only would few of these films have been made without the impetus of Channel 4, but, as is normal with cinema films none of them would have been available to the viewer at home within some three years of release.

Channel 4 transmits its films soon after completion but it is also keen to support cinema screenings of them and several of the titles in the first year achieved critical and commercial success in the cinema – for example, Angel (The Motion Picture Company of Ireland Ltd.), Moonlighting (Michael White Ltd.) and The Draughtsman’s Contract (BFI). The Draughtsman’s Contract, a unique, beautiful and mesmerising mixture of whodunit, sexual intrigue and metaphysics, proved a surprising hit and rated as the top box-office attraction in London tor several weeks.

Film on Four was launched on Channel 4’s opening night with Walter (Central), the harrowing film about a mentally-handicapped man, with an award-winning performance from Ian McKellen. That film and its sequel Walter and June were subsequently repeated in an omnibus version on ITV.



The second night P’tang, Yang, Kipperbang (Enigma for Goldcrest) launched the first of an occasional series of witty and sensitive studies of First Love, with David Puttnam as executive producer. There were further contrasts through the season between Barney Platts-Mills’ heroic efforts to recreate Celtic legend with young Glaswegians in Hero (Maya); and Jack Gold’s glossy, sophisticated thriller Praying Mantis (Portman).


Three people talking

Praying Mantis. Carmen du Sautoy (left), Pinkas Braun and Cherie Lunghi.


The second season of Film on Four includes two films that have had successful cinema releases earlier in the year. The Ploughman’s Lunch (Greenpoint/ Goldcrest) was hailed as the most important film about contemporary Britain since Room at the Top, and won enthusiastic audiences for its sharply-observed view of contemporary English life through the story of one amoral radio news journalist. Another Time, Another Place (Umbrella Films) was also praised as a sensitive study of the growing but ultimately doomed relationship between an unfulfilled crofter’s wife and an Italian prisoner of war in a rural community in wartime Scotland.


Two men in rugby shirts

Good and Bad at Games. Dominic Jephcott (left) and Martyn Stanbridge.


Among other titles Good and Bad at Games (Quintet) shows how the tensions and juvenile hatreds of school-days are revisited a decade later in adulthood – and savage earnest – on a cricket pitch, in a script by prize-winning young novelist William Boyd, directed by Jack Gold. And there are further First Love films including Those Glory, Glory Days (Enigma for Goldcrest), directed by Philip Saville, who made Boys from the Blackstuff and written by The Observer sports journalist Julie Welch. The film delves back two decades in the life of a woman sports journalist to an adolescence obsessed by Tottenham Hotspur in general and their then captain Danny Blanchflower in particular.


A man looks through a viewfinder

The Draughtsman’s Contract. Anthony Higgins.


Film on Four has given an opportunity to many talented writers and film-makers, both new and established, to make films that range from the solidly entertaining to the daringly experimental, such as The Bad Sister (Moving Picture Company Ltd.), shot entirely on video to facilitate its hallucinatory special effects.


Three people talking

The Ploughman’s Lunch. Jonathan Pryce (left), Charlie Dore and Tim Curry.


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