Damned United on DVD

Monday, 31 August 2009 09:54

There was never a football manager before, or since, like Brian Clough. Someone who put forth an arrogant exterior to the world around him, but like everyone else had to cope with his own personal demons without ever letting go of a steely determination to take on all-comers and win. This is a film about football, rather than a football film, so an interest in the sport is far from essential.

Adapted for the screen by Peter Morgan (“The Queen”, “The Last King of Scotland”, “Frost/Nixon”) from the novel by David Peace, “The Damned United” has at its core what went wrong for the dynamic, outspoken young Clough when he took over as manager at Leeds United, the reigning football league champions, in 1974. 

The Damned Inited on DVD

Don’t get fooled by this summary, though – the film puts Clough’s life prior to this move in context, covering in just the right amount of detail his early career as a footballer, the jump into management in the lower leagues, and transporting what was initially a decidedly average Derby County team up into the first division and on to the league title.

Set in 1960s and 1970s England, this is the confrontational and darkly humorous story of Brian Clough’s 44 day tenure at Leeds United. Previously managed by his bitter rival Don Revie, and on the back of their most successful period ever as a football club, Leeds were perceived by many to represent a new aggressive and cynical style of football - an anathema to the principled yet flamboyant Brian Clough, who had achieved astonishing success as manager of Hartlepool and Derby County, building teams in his own vision with trusted lieutenant Peter Taylor. Taking the Leeds job without Taylor by his side, with a squad full of what in his mind were still ‘Don’s Boys’, would be the ultimate test for Clough and his management style.

Directed by Tom Hooper (“John Adams”, “Longford”, “Elizabeth I”), “The Damned United” stars Michael Sheen (Blair in “The Deal” and “The Queen”, Frost in “Frost/Nixon”) as Clough.  While not an impressionist, Mr Sheen has the ability to nail the character and mannerisms of the real-life people he takes on. You can’t help but like Clough, as was the reality, but you know for a fact he would have been both difficult and incredibly rewarding to be around.

Solid support comes from Timothy Spall (“Secrets and Lies”, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”, “Sweeney Todd”) as Peter Taylor. It’s a sublime performance, and you can sense the genuine warmth between the duo.

Villain of the piece is Star Trek’s very own Colm Meaney (aka Chief O’Brien) playing Clough’s nemesis Don Revie, the previous manager of Leeds United who left the club to take on the England job in one of the most disastrous eras of English International football. This is a mammoth performance from Colm, and should deserve one sort of supporting actor award or another.

Jim Broadbent gets an extended cameo as Derby County’s Chairman Sam Longson, playing, well, Jim Broadbent playing a Chairman.

An honourable mention must go to Stephen Graham (“Doghouse”, “This Is England”) playing Leeds United Captain Billy Bremner. If any family should be upset with how one of their own is portrayed in this film, it is perhaps the Bremners more than the Cloughs who should be sucking lemons. Indeed, there are very few of the footballers of the time who are given any degree of sympathy – they are categorised as either surly or wimps!

DVD and Blu-Ray bonus material is surprisingly bountiful - a commentary with Director Tom Hooper, Michael Sheen and Producer Andy Harries, plus Deleted Scenes which can be viewed either with or without a commentary by Director Tom Hooper, and the following featurettes:

“Pitch Perfect: The Making of The Damned United” – what you see is not exactly how it is nowadays, detailing the problems of doing stuff set 35 years ago;

“Creating Clough: Michael Sheen Takes on Ol’ Big ‘Ead” – extended scenes of interviews with Clough from the film, showing Sheen really getting to grips with playing the character;

“Remembering Brian: Friends and Players Reminisce” – Terrific soundbites of what Clough was really like;

“The Changing Game: Football in the Seventies” – for anyone who doesn’t think ‘The Beautiful Game’ hasn’t changed over the last four decades, this is a trip down Memory Lane for some, a real eye-opener for others.

The film is a terrific memorial to Brian Clough, which goes against the style of the source material from where it came. Clough is often noted to be “The Greatest Manager England Never Had”, referring to the fact that those at the F.A. never had the guts to give him the chance to manage our national team.  Rest assured, it would NOT have been the squad that history records as occupying the shirts; the keys to Clough’s success was that he built teams, not groups of individuals.

This is a tremendous, heart-warming tale that will form a tear in the eye of even the most hardened viewers. Even the summary of what went on after this debacle proved that 44 days in Leeds were not representative of the greatness that was Brian Clough.

Available on Blu-Ray™ High-Def (RRP £24.99) and DVD (RRP £19.99) from 31 August 2009, courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, “The Damned United” has a running time of approx 93 minutes and a ‘15’ certificate. The Blu-Ray version also includes a Bonus Digital Copy of the film.



Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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