Review: ‘Shepperton Studios: A Visual Celebration’

Prohibitive tax laws can't take away the British film industry's illustrious past, captured in this lavish, nostalgia-filled coffee table tome. It celebrates, with dazzling photos and affectionate testimonials, the birthplace to the esteemed likes of "The Third Man," "Dr. Strangelove," "Alien," "Gladiator" and the first three installments of "Harry Potter."

Prohibitive tax laws can’t take away the British film industry’s illustrious past, captured in this lavish, nostalgia-filled coffee table tome. Published to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Shepperton Studios, it celebrates, with dazzling photos and affectionate testimonials, the birthplace to the esteemed likes of “The Third Man,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “Alien,” “Gladiator” and the first three installments of “Harry Potter.”

Currently owned by director siblings Ridley and Tony Scott, Shepperton began with a mandate to create national cinema. Alongside Pinewood (which receives a companion volume to this book later this year), Shepperton represents the forefront of the U.K.’s film production capabilities. (Indeed, both studios merged in 2000, generating a combined total of 38 stages).

Bright crafts a well-written history of the facility in chapters devoted to its genre-dominated eras — gritty realism of the late ’50s/early ’60s, forays into horror to the early ’70s — mixed with detailed profiles of notable contributors, such as Peter Sellers, Brit-hit production outfit Working Title and, dutifully, its current bosses.

There’s a suitable array of star contributions — Ridley Scott and the late Sir John Mills provide introductions, while Richard Attenborough and Kenneth Branagh offer delightful recollections of their Shepperton-based endeavors.

Testimonials from less celebrated staffers prove most potent of all. These testimonies, which span all levels across the studio’s eight decades, provide a compelling oral history that threads through the book, imbuing it with an intoxicating air of romance and cheerful creativity.

A stunning array of 300-plus photos (many previously unpublished) bolsters the memories.

Also included: an accompanying DVD comprising 12 trailers of British productions including “Billy Liar” and “The Wicker Man.”

Shepperton Studios: A Visual Celebration

Southbank Publishing; 384 Pgs.; $65

Production

Morris Bright
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