Jubilee Review

In the year 1578, Queen Elizabeth I asks her court magician, Dr. John Dee, to give her a vision of "the shadow of her time." Dee invokes the angel Ariel, who transports the Queen and Dee to the England of the future--a post-punk post Thatcherian wasteland where civilization has come to a halt.

by Kim Newman |
Published on
Release Date:

01 Jan 1977

Running Time:

100 minutes



Original Title:


The closest a British film could come to the John Waters of Pink Flamingoes, Derek Jarman’s Jubilee combines a safety‑pin and barbed wire vision of 1977 London in ruins (all burning prams and castrated policemen), a meditation on English mysticism guided by the immensely regal Jenny Runacre and a wild 'n' crazy account of the rampages of a gang of personality punk psychos.

There are surprisingly lyrical stretches (the only songs sung all the way through are ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘My Love is Like a Red Red Rose’) and, though future pop stars Toyah Wilcox and Adam Ant are embarassingly amateurish as rebel street angels, some of the one‑note maniacal performances, especially Lex Luthor lookalike Orlando as mad media tycoon Borgia Ginz, are relishable.

Among the people you've forgotten are in it are Ian Charleson of Chariots of Fire, celebrity shop assistant Jordan (as narrator Amyl Nitrate), Richard O'Brien and Little Nell of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the Lindsay Kemp Dance Troupe and Adolf Hitler of World War II.  Even as the haircuts and music have receded into cultural history, its acid-look vision of the worst of England remains horribly sound.

The soundtrack features Adam and the Ants (‘Deutscher Girls’), Wayne County and the Electric Chairs (‘Paranoia Paradise’), Chelsea (‘Right to Work’), Suzi Pinns (a thrash punk ‘Rule Britannia’ best appreciated by those with the aural range of a fox terrier), Siouxie and the Banshees (‘Love in a Void’), Amilcar (‘Wargasm in Pornotopia’), the Slits and Brian Eno (‘Slow Water’, ‘Dover Beach’).  In the 21st Century, the creative team are either dead or doing pantomime – which is so appropriate irony doesn’t even come into it.

The ideas are good enough for you to allow for some risible performances
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