In the autumn of 1913, as the specter of the coming war looms over Europe, Mason, an English nobleman, hosts a weekend shooting party for his wealthy friends. Among the visitors are Fox and Fraser, two men who share a friendly rivalry over their respective shooting abilities. Fox's wife
Campbell is not above an occasional dalliance. Gielgud, in a delightful cameo, is a crusader horrified by the slaughter of pheasants Mason and friends indulge in, and at one point he struts proudly across the shooting fields and the line of fire bearing a sign reading "Thou Shalt Not Kill."
Eventually Fox and Frazer bring their rivalry to a head, with Fox sending off a final shot though the order to cease firing has been given. In doing so, Fox accidentally hits Jackson, a local poacher who has always lent a hand to Mason, with a mortal shot to the head. Mason comforts Jackson, who
finally succumbs just as the doctor arrives. Mason is left numbed by the senseless death of his friend, and the film comes to a close. As Jackson's body is silently carried from the woods, epilog titles reveal how certain characters were to die in the battles of WW I. THE SHOOTING PARTY treads
some of the same ground as Jean Renoir's classic RULES OF THE GAME, though this film more closely resembles an episode of British television's "Masterpiece Theatre" in style and content. The thematic material is only vaguely hinted at, with the senseless slaughter of the birds an all-too-easy
foreshadowing of the coming conflict on European battlefields. Bridges directs each scene with precision but overall the film suffers from an emphasis on form. What is most attractive about THE SHOOTING PARTY is its marvelous cast of seasoned British veterans. Mason, in what was to be his last
film role, brings genuine dignity to his part with a delicate, mannered performance. His scene with the dying Jackson is tender and emotional, while his confrontation with the eccentric Gielgud is a marvel of understated comedy. Mason took over the part after Paul Scofield, the original actor
cast, broke his leg shortly after production began.
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- Released: 1984
- Rating: NR
- Review: In the autumn of 1913, as the specter of the coming war looms over Europe, Mason, an English nobleman, hosts a weekend shooting party for his wealthy friends. Among the visitors are Fox and Fraser, two men who share a friendly rivalry over their respective… (more)