Well, the Wimbledon retrospectives are now in full swing in addition to the football. There is still a decent choice of films, but it’s getting a little harder to find them; in part because some are repeats that have been highlighted in earlier listings. We have noted before how, in recent years, good television has become almost the equal of good cinema; to the extent that some of the film industry’s top talents will readily sign up to a project. This week sees the start of a new nine-part series Mrs America on BBC2 (Wednesday at 9.00pm). It’s the story of stay-at-home Republican housewife Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett) who scuppered the Equal Rights Amendment to the American constitution in the early 1970s.
4 – 10 JULY 2020
THE STRAIGHT STORY (1999) Saturday 4 July 11.00am-1.15pm Film Four
Very much a change of pace for director David Lynch, Richard Farnsworth is superb as the elderly farmer who travels by lawnmower to visit his sick brother. (2000-01 season, 89%.)
STARMAN (1984) Saturday 4 July 6.20-8.30pm Channel 70
A sci-fi parable that plays out as a romantic comedy and road movie – surely not? Yes, and it deserved its many glowing reviews, particularly an Oscar-nominated Jeff Bridges as the visiting alien.
MAD MAX 2 (1981) Saturday 4 July 10.15-112.15am ITV 4 (Channel 24)
Considered to be just an iconic notch below its progenitor; even so, this is an adrenalin-fuelled, blistering action film with some of the best stunts ever put on screen.
THEY RODE WEST (1954) Sunday 5 July 10.15am-12 noon Channel 40
A week after The Bamboo Prison we have another Robert Francis film; in this one, he’s a doctor determined to help the Kiowa. Again, the cast and director try really hard to be a little different.
THE TRUMAN SHOW (1998) Sunday 5 July 2.30-4.35pm Channel 32
I’m far from being a Jim Carrey fan, but this Big Brother-style satire is brilliantly done and it remains, arguably, his best performance to date.
LOCAL HERO (1983) Sunday 5 July 2.35-4.45pm Film Four
Bill Forsyth’s follow up to Gregory’s Girl is a warm, gentle, funny story about a businessman (Burt Lancaster) trying to buy a Scottish village. The gorgeous landscape is a real bonus.
BROKEN ARROW (1950) Sunday 5 July 4.50-6.55pm Channel 40
This, the second ground-breaking James Stewart western of 1950, is usually cited as changing opinions towards Native Americans. He plays the historical character Tom Jeffords, Debra Paget is Sonseeahray and Jeff Chandler earned excellent reviews as Cochise (and played him twice more).
THE OCTOBER MAN (1947) Monday 6 July 3.00-5.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Roy Ward Baker directs an Eric Ambler script; an excellent John Mills tries to prove that he isn’t a murderer (whilst proving, yet again, that he is the most versatile actor Britain has produced).
HELL IS FOR HEROES (1962) Monday 6 July 4.45-6.35pm Film Four
Director Don Siegel and Steve McQueen make an effective partnership for this tense study of a combat unit dealing with a German pillbox, before moving on to even greater acclaim.
CUSTODY (2017) Monday 6 July 11.20pm-1.10am Film Four
Film Four gives a première to our nail-biting French thriller from two seasons ago (2018-19, 82%); Thomas Gioria is amazing as the little boy, you may remember.
WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND (1961) Tuesday 7 July 11.10am-1.10pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This has to be one of the most fondly remembered films of the 1960s. Hayley Mills is wonderful as the child who believes that escaped murderer Alan Bates is Jesus.
FORBIDDEN (1949) Tuesday 7 July 10.00-11.45pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Several films had this title over the years; this British example is the most obscure. Set in Blackpool (but using a lot of stock footage), an ex-serviceman tries to leave his faithless wife.
TIME WITHOUT PITY (1957) Wednesday 8 July 1.25-3.10pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Director Joseph Losey set up in England after being blacklisted – and it was our gain. Michael Redgrave is the father trying to save his son from the hangman’s noose.
ALL THE KING’S MEN (2005) Wednesday 8 July 6.25-9.00pm Channel 32
Sean Penn’s corrupt politician (based on Huey Long) is inferior to Broderick Crawford’s 1949 original, but Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Anthony Hopkins compensate.
OH . . . ROSALINDA!! (1955) Thursday 9 July 11.15am-1.20pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Unlike in the US, large-scale British musicals were comparatively few in number in the 1950s. This is a very clever update of Die Fledermaus from the team of Powell & Pressburger.
DRACULA (1958) Thursday 9 July 11.10pm-12.50am Channel 70
On balance this has to be Hammer’s best film and is certainly Christopher Lee’s definitive portrayal of the count. Hoping it’s the restored print with glorious colour and the fullest ending!
GROUNDHOG DAY (1952) Friday 10 July 6.55-9.00pm Channel 32
Bill Murray is the weatherman who seems to be trapped in the same day over and over again, in this very fine romantic comedy. It was also one of our early successes (1993-94 season, 80%).
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) Friday 10 July 10.00pm-12 midnight Channel 81
One of the all-time cult classics that enjoyed a retrospective showing at the Regent a few years ago; you might remember dressing up for the occasion . . . .
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
Last week, I referenced the film Giant (1956) and it made me think about stars who were keen to make a film that took them away from their studio-nurtured image and fanbase. (One of the stars was Rock Hudson and he was very good – as he was in Seconds ten years later.) It’s a little different now – studio contracts are not prevalent and the star/actor boundaries are blurred, so it’s not surprising to see Charlize Theron in Monster (2003) and Nicole Kidman in Destroyer (2018).
However, if we go back a generation or two, it was a little riskier and not always successful (Dirk Bogarde as a Mexican bandit in The Singer Not the Song (1960) and John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror (1956) come to mind). These I would recommend heartily, though: Farrah Fawcett as a battered housewife in The Burning Bed (1984) and - a little dated now - Elizabeth Taylor as the prostitute in Butterfield 8 (1960); Tony Curtis, superb as The Boston Strangler (1968) with the director, Richard Fleischer, doing another fine job, this time with Richard Attenborough, in 10 Rillington Place (1970). Charles Bronson did Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus (1991) amidst much on-screen mayhem. Robert Mitchum was phenomenal as the psychotic preacher in The Night of the Hunter and Frank Sinatra played a drug addict in The Man with a Golden Arm (1955 was clearly a good year). Sean Connery was impressive in The Hill (1965) during his tenure as James Bond; Olivia de Havilland took on a controversial role in The Snake Pit (1948) and Ray Milland won an Oscar as an alcoholic in The Lost Weekend (1945). Finally, I must save pride of place for Tyrone Power who fought hard to play a ‘can’t-sink-any-lower’ carnival barker in Nightmare Alley (1947). Guillermo del Toro is currently filming a remake and that doubles its ‘street cred’ at a stroke! I can hardly wait!
I do try hard (honestly!) not to include too many westerns each week, but they are a staple of daytime scheduling. And two of this week’s choices are recognised as classics; for me, Fort Apache gives more pleasure with each viewing (and it must be around twenty, now). This week’s pickings are quite slim (mental note: an article on character actors, sometime) and so there are three that have a POW theme. I’m sure, though, you will find something worthy of your time!
FORT APACHE (1948) Saturday 27 June 7.30-10.05am Channel 40
Superb western (the first of John Ford’s loose cavalry trilogy) starring John Wayne and Henry Fonda as the martinet colonel who is out-thought by Cochise, strikingly portrayed by Miguel Inclan.
JIGSAW (1962) Saturday 27 June 7.00-9.05pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This is a very decent murder mystery, with good performances from Jack Warner and Ronald Lewis as the detectives and a very atmospheric use of the Brighton locations.
COME BACK TO THE 5 & DIME JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN (2014) Saturday 27 June 9.05-11.20pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Some 20 years after the filming of Giant, a group of fan club friends (including Sandy Dennis, Cher and Karen Black) reconvenes to commemorate the death of their idol, James Dean.
HARD TIMES (1975) Saturday 27 June 11.20pm-1.10am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
I first saw this under its UK title The Streetfighter. Charles Bronson, in one of his best roles, is the bare-knuckle fighter and James Coburn his manager, trying to scrape a living during the Depression.
WENT THE DAY WELL? (1942) Sunday 28 June 12.10-2.10pm Channel 54
We showed this at the Regent for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The story – Nazi soldiers seize an English village – is still powerful, tense and believable.
OLIVER TWIST (1948) Sunday 28 June 6.10-8.30pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Another David Lean master class, from the workhouse opening to the rooftop chase of Robert Newton’s Bill Sykes; the only controversy was over Alec Guinness’s interpretation of Fagin.
NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1957) Sunday 28 June 11.55pm-1.55am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This splendid adaptation of MR James’s ‘Casting of the Runes’ is a favourite of mine. The atmosphere builds unnervingly as scientist Dana Andrews seeks to debunk Niall MacGinnis’s ‘fake’ sorcery.
THE ENEMY BELOW (1957) Monday 29 June 4.40pm-6.40pm Film Four
This is an almost perfect example of how to squeeze maximum suspense out of a war setting, without huge set pieces. Robert Mitchum is the destroyer captain hunting Curt Jurgens’s U-boat.
MAD MAX (1979) Monday 29 June 10.00-11.55pm ITV 4 (Channel 24)
I first saw this on a double bill with Easy Rider (those were the days!). We have a bleak, violent, dystopian future and one heroic cop in black leather; a new star (Mel Gibson) and a new visual style that is still influential today.
THE CAMP ON BLOOD ISLAND (1958) Monday 29 June 11.00pm-12.40am Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
This experimental departure for Hammer (British POWs fear a massacre as World War II ends) was hugely controversial on initial release.
FAIR WIND TO JAVA (1953) Tuesday 30 June 11.00-12.50am Film Four
We’re coming up short today, me hearties! Republic brought in Fred MacMurray to hunt for treasure, but we are still lumbered with Vera Ralston (wife of the studio head) and in-house director Joe Kane. Best watched whilst ironing, is my recommendation!
KING RAT (1965) Tuesday 30 June 4.25-7.15pm Channel 40
Adapted from James Clavell’s novel, George Segal heads a fine, mostly British, cast as the chief finagler in a Japanese POW camp. It makes an interesting companion piece to Blood Island.
THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (1963) Wednesday 1 July 4.00-6.00pm Channel 70
I’ve always found this an enjoyable watch; it’s just a shame that it isn’t a better film. Even so, Howard Keel and Janette Scott are fine, the story grips and there are some very strong moments.
THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US (2017) Wednesday 1 July 9.00-11.15pm Channel 47
Kate Winslet and Idris Elba charter a plane only to then crash in some very inhospitable terrain. Again, it isn’t a great film but passes the time amiably enough.
WINCHESTER ‘73 (1950) Thursday 2 July 5.05-6.55pm Film Four
James Stewart and Stephen McNally fight over the ‘one in a thousand’ of the title. This was a landmark production for Stewart, director Anthony Mann and the western.
QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1967) Thursday 2 July 11.05pm-1.05am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Workers unearth a Martian spaceship in a London Tube station. This is the most astutely balanced of the trilogy: good design work and effects, good performances and dialogue, and quite scary.
THE LAWLESS BREED (1952) Friday 3 July 12.25-2.10pm Channel 31
It was only a co-feature that played fast and loose with the real John Wesley Hardin, but if you’d like to catch the film that made Rock Hudson a star . . . .
THE BAMBOO PRISON (1954) Friday 3 July 5.25-7.05pm Channel 40.
I watched this modest production (who’s the informer in a North Korean POW camp?) for the first time in April. It stars Robert Francis, who works really hard to give his character some shading – as he did in the other three films he made, before his death in a plane crash aged 25.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
As I mentioned last week, Saturday 27 June is Global Pride Day. The film terrain is quite different now, of course. Many festivals such as Flare here in the UK are well established and popular and films with gay themes can be made openly in most countries – although, sadly, not in all of them. But could anything be done (or made) back in the day? Well, yes, there were film makers who did what they could and, in 1995, there was an excellent documentary on the subject, The Celluloid Closet. So, some random memories from me, thinking back over several decades of watching films: the gay subtext in Ben-Hur (1959) – interestingly, Rock Hudson had been one of the actors connected to the project – and the famous bathing scene in Spartacus (1960) with Tony Curtis and Laurence Olivier. Mädchen in Uniform (1931) was a ground-breaking German film – remade in 1958 – and, the year before Marlene Dietrich had created a sensation, dressed as a man, in Morocco. The Lillian Hellman play The Children’s Hour was filmed as These Three in 1936 (directed by William Wyler) and then filmed again in 1961, with Audrey Hepburn, under its original title. The same year saw the release of Victim which had a brilliant performance from Dirk Bogarde. Much has been made of the performance of Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946) but it might be argued that the truly fascinating aspect of the love triangle is the relationship between Glenn Ford and George Macready. 1953 saw the release of Ed Wood, Jr.’s Glen or Glenda (not a good film!) and two key works of the 1960s were The Fox (1967) and The Killing of Sister George (1968). Also, I have rather fond memories of a gentle film, Desert Hearts, released in 1985. The importance of film comedians should not be underestimated, too. Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle was very graceful and carried out some outrageous flirtations when dressed as a woman and there is an intriguing (and provocative) book on Laurel and Hardy by Jonathan Sanders, entitled ‘Another Fine Dress.’
At last we have some good news – football is back! Even so, there is a full list of films for you again this week, in case you are not that way inclined. This is a week, too, when some of the films on offer reflect current events – and controversies – involving Black Lives Matter and LGBT+ rights. (You might recall that we discussed films such as Gone With the Wind in our newsletter, concurrent with our the showing of BlackkKlansman.) Regarding the latter, there has just been a very important ruling by the US Supreme Court, and also we celebrate Global Pride Day, Saturday 27 June.
THE FOUR FEATHERS (1939) Saturday 20 June 3.00-5.15pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Possibly Alexander Korda’s finest film remains a splendid adventure in gorgeous early Technicolor. The acting and location shooting are both top notch and some footage was used in later versions.
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO (2016) Saturday 20 June 9.00-10.30pm BBC 2
This is an excellent documentary on racial oppression that makes a particularly telling use of the writings of James Baldwin. Bonus – a 3-part series on Black Hollywood follows the transmission.
KAJAKI: THE TRUE STORY (2014) Sunday 21 June 12.35am-2.15am BBC 1
The story concerns a British army patrol that inadvertently stumbled into an old Russian minefield. It is an intense, brilliantly constructed drama, but is not for the faint hearted!
THE GREEN MAN (1956) Sunday 21 June 10.30am-12.05pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
That comic genius Alastair Sim is on imperious form, as the assassin determined to overcome all obstacles in his pursuit of a politician.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) Sunday 21 June 2.00-4.00pm BBC 2
This is probably the best western of all, for those who don’t particularly care for the genre. The legendary status of both the cast and Elmer Bernstein’s score is assured. Quiz time – name all seven!
UNEARTHLY STRANGER (1963) Monday 22 June 7.10-9.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Low-budget, b/w (when most films were in colour), no stars - but John Neville is very good as a scientist who begins to believe that his wife is, well, different . . . .
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (2017) Monday 22 June 9.00-11.40pm Film Four
Both Armie Hammer and the new acting sensation Timothée Chalamet excel, as the American tutor and summer pupil who have an affair during a hot Italian summer.
SING STREET (2015) Monday 22 June 11.40pm-1.50am Film Four
If you missed it with us (2016-17, 83%) catch this enjoyable musical romp, about some bored Dublin teenagers forming a band, now!
WAKE OF THE RED WITCH (1948) Tuesday 23 June 11.50am-2.05pm Paramount (Channel 31)
A mainstay of the BBC’s Wayne in Action seasons of the early 1970s, this seafaring saga was his second (and last) film co-starring Gail Russell, an actress whose talent burned all too briefly. It brings back many happy memories of my formative (viewing) years – thank you dad.
THE FICTION MAKERS (1968) Tuesday 23 June 2.55-5.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Roger Moore made two feature-length Saint adventures at the end of his tenure. Almost impossible to see until fairly recently this one, in which he and a thriller writer are imprisoned for nefarious purposes, is marginally the better of the two. (Vendetta for the Saint is the other.)
CAROL (2015) Tuesday 23 June 11.15pm-1.35am Film Four
This romantic, emotionally intense drama that kicks off in the rather staid surroundings of a New York department store has two splendid performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.
PIMPERNEL SMITH (1941) Wednesday 24 June 3.50-6.15pm Film Four
This update of The Scarlet Pimpernel (1935) to Nazi Germany works ever so well. Leslie Howard is perfect in the role and it is both thoughtful and entertaining.
ON CHESIL BEACH (2017) Wednesday 24 June 9.00-10.45pm BBC 2
Enjoying its free-to-air première tonight, this adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel didn’t find universal acceptance, but is an exciting event for us nevertheless!
RAWHIDE (1951) Thursday 25 June 2.50-4.35pm Film Four
I referred to this in passing recently and here it is! Tyrone Power and Susan Hayward desperately try and outwit some nasty outlaws at a way station. Jack Elam was a proper screen villain!
THE HAPPIEST DAYS OF YOUR LIFE (1950) Thursday 25 June 5.30-7.10pm Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
Well, this represents the best way of returning to school this week! A boys’ school (Alastair Sim) and a girls’ school (Margaret Rutherford) are billeted together just as an inspection is due. What a sublime acting duo – and this comedy is as good as it gets.
THE CONQUEST OF EVEREST (1953) Friday 26 June 7.15pm-8.50am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Contemporaneous with the actual event, this is an excellent documentary record (in colour) of all but the final ascent. The narrator is character actor Meredith Edwards.
THE SCARS OF DRACULA (1970) Friday 26 June 10.00-12 midnight Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
Fans regard this as being the best of Christopher Lee’s later entries in the series; Roy Ward Baker at the helm helped, undoubtedly. Dennis Waterman and Jenny Hanley are the obligatory young couple this time. If you would like to make it a double bill, Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) follows and, in similar vein, its supporters feel that it was the best of the Hammer Frankenstein films. Terence Fisher and Peter Cushing were both still on board and the writing seemed fresher.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES FROM WEEK 10
Last week’s North West Frontier reminded me how popular points of the compass have been in film titles (Way Down East, North to Alaska, but we’ll pass over South of Heaven, West of Hell very quickly). Limiting our deliberations specifically to northern climes, North Dallas Forty and Northern Lights, both released in 1979, have considerable reputations, but are not shown very often. North by North West (1959) is, of course, quintessential Hitchcock. Northwest Passage (1940) is an excellent (at times brutal) outdoor adventure with Spencer Tracy and a much better film than Cecil B. DeMille’s North West Mounted Police (also 1940) which has so many odd moments as to be ridiculous. There was also a TV series Northwest Passage that ran for one season (from September 1958 in the US) and starred Keith Larsen, in the Tracy role of Robert Rogers, and Buddy Ebsen. I haven’t seen it for some years now but I suspect that it used some of the movie’s footage (both were in colour). My memory is that it was rather good; certainly, it was received well enough to edit three features from the episodes for release in European cinemas: Fury River (1958), Frontier Rangers (1959) and Mission of Danger (1959).
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