“Tam Lin” (1970)
Running Time: 106 minutes
Written by: William Spier
Directed by: Roddy McDowall
Featuring: Ava Gardner, Ian McShane, Richard Wattis, Cyril Cusack and Stephanie Beacham
“O I forbid ye, maidens a’,
That wear gowd on your hair,
To come, and gae by Carterhaugh,
For young Tom-lin is there.” – Robbie Burns
“The Ballad of Tam Lin,” is a psychedelic drama that takes place in Scotland during the late 1960s. The story follows a young woman named Janet who falls in love with a mysterious man named Tom Lynn (played by Ian McShane), who is believed to be a modern-day version of the legendary Tam Lin. As their relationship develops, Janet discovers that Tom is a member of a cult led by a charismatic but dangerous figure named Michael (played by Cyril Cusack).
The film explores themes of love, obsession, and the clash between traditional and modern values. The cinematography and soundtrack are notable for their dreamlike quality and use of psychedelic imagery and music. The Ballad of Tam Lin received mixed reviews upon its release, with some critics praising its visual style and others criticizing its narrative coherence. The Ballad of Tam Lin is a unique and somewhat obscure film that may appeal to fans of psychedelic cinema and folklore-inspired stories. However, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and it deviates significantly from the traditional ballad that inspired it.
Despite its departures from the original ballad, The Ballad of Tam Lin has some interesting elements that make it worth watching for those interested in experimental cinema. The film’s dreamlike sequences, its use of psychedelic music, and its exploration of counterculture themes can all be seen as reflections of the late 1960s cultural zeitgeist. However, the film’s narrative can be confusing and disjointed, with some scenes feeling disconnected from the larger story. Additionally, the performances can be uneven, with some actors struggling to deliver convincing performances.
It’s worth noting that The Ballad of Tam Lin has gained a cult following over the years, with some viewers appreciating its unconventional approach to storytelling and visual style. However, it is not a film that will appeal to everyone, and those looking for a faithful adaptation of the Tam Lin ballad may be disappointed by its deviations. The Ballad of Tam Lin is a unique and somewhat experimental film that may be of interest to fans of psychedelic cinema and folkloric stories. However, it may not be the definitive adaptation of the Tam Lin ballad that some viewers are looking for.
In terms of the film’s direction, Roddy McDowall’s work on The Ballad of Tam Lin can be seen as both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand, McDowall’s use of vivid colors, unusual camera angles, and innovative visual effects create a memorable and distinctive atmosphere. On the other hand, some viewers may find the film’s visual style to be overly stylized and distracting, which could detract from their ability to engage with the story.
The performances in The Ballad of Tam Lin are also worth considering. While Ian McShane delivers a compelling and enigmatic portrayal of Tom Lynn, some of the supporting actors struggle to bring their characters to life. Additionally, the film’s dialogue can be stilted and unnatural at times, which may make it difficult for viewers to connect with the characters and their motivations.
Despite its flaws, The Ballad of Tam Lin is an interesting and unusual film that is worth checking out for fans of experimental cinema and folklore-inspired stories. However, those looking for a faithful adaptation of the Tam Lin ballad or a more traditional narrative structure may find it lacking. Overall, the film’s strengths and weaknesses make it a divisive and challenging work that will likely continue to inspire debate and discussion among viewers.
Another aspect of The Ballad of Tam Lin that may be of interest to viewers is its use of music. The film features a soundtrack that incorporates elements of folk, rock, and psychedelic music, which helps to create a distinct atmosphere that reflects the counterculture of the late 1960s. Some viewers may find the music to be an appealing aspect of the film, while others may find it to be too jarring or distracting. It’s also worth noting that The Ballad of Tam Lin is a relatively obscure film that may be difficult to find for some viewers. However, it has gained a certain degree of cult status over the years, which has helped to keep it in circulation through various home video releases and screenings at film festivals and revival houses.
Overall, The Ballad of Tam Lin is a unique and challenging film that is likely to appeal to a select group of viewers. While it deviates significantly from the traditional ballad that inspired it, it offers an interesting exploration of themes related to love, obsession, and the clash between tradition and modernity. Its strengths in terms of direction and visual style may be offset by its weaknesses in terms of narrative coherence and uneven performances, but those willing to engage with the film on its own terms may find it to be a rewarding and memorable experience.
The Ballad of Tam Lin was shot in 35mm with anamorphic lenses, and the Blu-ray is in the intended ratio of 2.35:1. The transfer is based on Paramount’s HD master. Given that I hadn’t seen the film before, the colours look fine though there are occasional speckles and spots, if nothing too distracting. Grain is natural and filmlike.
The sound is the original mono, rendered as LPCM 2.0. It’s clear and well-balanced, if mixed a little low: I had to turn it up to hear some of the dialogue clearly, but fear not – the score and sound effects aren’t deafening as a result. English subtitles are available for the hard of hearing for the main feature but not the extras.
- Commentary by Vic Pratt and William Fowler
- Interview with Ian McShane (11:04)
- Interview with Stephanie Beecham (10:00)
- Interview with David Del Valle (11:45)
- Interview with Jacqui McShee (27:15)
- Interview with Madeline Smith (32:07)
- Interview with Hans Zimmer (19:30)
- Interview with Roddy McDowall (17:33)
- Red Red? Red (33:49)
- Border Country shorts