Michael Walker was a film critic who wrote with intelligence
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Michael Walker was a film critic who wrote with intelligence

My friend Michael Walker, who has died aged 80, was a film critic who wrote with intelligence and analytical rigour for magazines such as Movie and CineAction, and in a number of remarkable books.

He was born in Hull, East Yorkshire, to Annie (nee Rippon) and Peter Walker, both teachers, and attended Hymers college in the city. He developed his love of cinema while studying physics at University College, Oxford.

The influence of the critic Robin Wood (the author of a pioneering study on Alfred Hitchcock) shaped his outlook on film. It was with Wood that he co-wrote his first book, on the French New Wave film-maker Claude Chabrol, published in 1970. Meanwhile he began to write for Movie, a British magazine dedicated to close analysis of films and affirming the creative role of the director.

For Movie, for the Canadian magazine CineAction, and as a contributor to The Movie Book of Film Noir (1992) and The Movie Book of the Western (1996), Mike produced numerous illuminating essays, some on film genre (melodrama was a particular enthusiasm), others championing neglected directors such as Delmer Daves and Robert Siodmak. While he drew on psychoanalytic theory, he was interested above all in the detail of the films, and his writing, though erudite and complex, avoided jargon.

In the 1970s, Mike became one of the first teachers of film studies at A-level. His dedication to his students at Hounslow Borough College (now West Thames College), coupled with the unavailability of research leave in further education, meant that he wrote no more books before retirement. Afterwards, he made up for lost time. His 2005 study Hitchcock’s Motifs took an original approach within the crowded field of Hitchcock scholarship.

Later, his lifetime’s film viewing informed two books of impressive scope – Modern Ghost Melodramas: “What Lies Beneath” (2017) and Endings in the Cinema: Thresholds, Water and the Beach (2020). These books ranged across world cinema – his ghosts haunted American, Spanish, Japanese and South Korean film; he explored endings stretching from Fellini and the French New Wave to such famous Hollywood movies as Jaws and The Shawshank Redemption.

These late projects were accomplished in the face of a serious pulmonary illness. When he died from complications of Covid-19, two major projects remained unfinished: one on female agents in modern cinema, the other on the “persecuted wives” cycle of films in 1940s and 50s Hollywood.

He was a stimulating conversationalist, generous mentor and devoted friend.

Mike is survived by three sisters and a brother.

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