Irish Film Institute -Quare Fellow and Meet the Quare Fellow, The

Quare Fellow and Meet the Quare Fellow, The

Meet the Quare Fella -Brendan Behan Interviewed by Eamonn Andrews March 9 (6.30)
The playwright Brendan Behan (1923-1964) came from a noted and highly talented working-class family who were actively involved in the Republican movement. Behan himself joined the youth wing of the movement at an early age and in 1939, while still a teenager, he was arrested in Liverpool for taking part in an IRA bombing campaign. It was while serving his sentence in a British borstal that he made his first literary excursions. He was released and deported to Ireland in 1941, where he was soon arrested for the attempted murder of a detective, a crime for which he served five years. Throughout the 1950s, Behan’s work was critically acclaimed. He produced verse in the Irish language, a series of well-received plays, including The Quare Fellow (1956) and The Hostage (1958), as well as dabbling in journalism.
The interview Meet the Quare Fellow, conducted by Eamonn Andrews, is believed to have been recorded between 1959 and 1962. The documentary provides a candid glimpse into the thoughts and personality of this colourful literary figure. Obviously at ease with his interviewer, Behan discusses his writing, fame, religion, his time in borstal, the work of other writers and his connections with the clandestine IRA amongst other more general issues.

Black and white. 35 mins.

Brendan Behan’s prison play The Quare Fellow, a passionate polemic against the death penalty, premiered in Ireland in 1954 and established his name abroad. Two years later it was brought to the screen by German-born American director Arthur Dreifuss. Directing from his own screenplay, Dreifuss shot the film in stark black and white almost entirely on location inside Dublin’s historic Kilmainham Gaol, with some exterior scenes filmed around Mountjoy Prison, where Behan’s play was set. Dreifuss’ adaptation of the Behan text is a fillet of the original that tones down much of the playwright’s salty dialogue and shifts the balance of the ensemble acting to focus on two of the prison staffÑa na•ve young warder new to the job, and a senior warder who has seen it all and had enough.
Patrick McGoohan stars as the young officer Crimmin, who arrives in Dublin from Inisbofin to begin his new job in the city prison at a time when two executions are imminent. Crimmin quickly impresses the prison governor (Philip O’Flynn) and appals the senior warder Regan (Walter Macken) with his enthusiasm for capital punishment. Crimmin soon reconsiders his position when faced with the realities of taking a man’s life in retribution for murder.

U.K., 1962.
Black and white.
86 mins.

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