At our AGM, I made the point that it is getting more and more difficult to find and programme quality films: either because they are picked up by the streaming platforms or because their potential sales are not strong enough to justify a DVD release in the UK. In conversations with members, I have also suggested that quality cinema, at commercial sites, is now dead. Indirectly, Peter Lord (the genius behind Aardman Animations) seemed to concur in a Radio Times interview last week. He said, “it’s the most maddening and stupid thing that, after years of hard work, a movie’s ‘success’ is judged on an opening weekend somewhere on the East Coast of America. On a streamer, it can live for ever . . .” Oh dear! Mind you, this is a very quiet week on the telly and it has been a struggle to find something fresh and above average.
BAILOUT AT 43,000 (1957) Sunday 10 December 6.40-8.25pm TP (Ch 82)
John Payne (not a typo) plays an Air Force pilot wracked by guilt and self-doubt. It’s a film of limited interest that won’t spoil your day if you choose to watch it. Payne was a versatile actor (musicals, thrillers, westerns and the classic Miracle on 34th Street); by 1957 his leading man days were almost over, and he would soon move into TV work with the series The Restless Gun.
THE LAST BUS (2021) Tuesday 12 December 11.15pm-12.40am BBC 2 P
At least we have one premiere this week; it stars Timothy Spall – always good value – as a pensioner who is determined to return his wife’s ashes to the place they thought of as home. It wasn’t strong enough for us to programme, but it is enjoyable and quite touching. Gillies MacKinnon is the director and we have shown two of his films over the years: The Playboys (1992) and Regeneration (1997) each of which scored 89% with members.
21 BRIDGES (2019) Friday 15 December 10.00-11.35pm BBC 3
The late Chadwick Boseman never had the chance to turn his considerable promise into a substantial career, and the loss is ours. After some police colleagues are killed, he orders the closure of the titular bridges to trap the killers. It’s a relatively short thriller that doesn’t invite much discussion afterwards, but there are some well-staged and exciting set pieces.
This weekend we have the showpiece of our season – Beggars of Life (1928) accompanied by live music from Sonic Silents. I love silent cinema, but seeing a film on television has become a rare occurrence. (TP did show Buster Keaton’s Go West in November.) There are revivals: festivals are held in Italy and San Francisco, showings in Bristol, and the BFI has programmed Chaplin’s A Woman of Paris for later this month. Unfortunately, many people live away from these major population centres. I saw Chaplin’s film and others such as The Wind and The Crowd some twenty years ago because the BBC and Channel Four and this is what is lacking now. The brilliant TV series Hollywood (narrated by James Mason) hasn’t been transmitted for ages; I suspect because the rights to show most of the clips will have lapsed. Some of the episodes might be on YouTube still – as is a lot of the early cinema that survives, if you are willing to browse.
BEACHHEAD (1954) Saturday 2 December 5.30-7.15pm; Tues 5 Dec 2.20pm TP (Ch 82)
Tony Curtis films are televised often; I must have seen approximately forty-five of them – but not this one. It doesn’t come with a great reputation (it would be another couple of years before he would be taken seriously as an actor), but there is a good supporting cast and Hawaiian locations. Mr Curtis plays a US marine operating behind enemy lines.
THE FATHER (2020) Saturday 2 December 9.25-11.25pm Channel 4 P
Was it only last week when I commented that films we have shown do arrive eventually on Freeview? Well, here is our opener from last season – with a tour-de-force performance from Anthony Hopkins as an elderly man suffering from dementia. It is gratifying to see that the Radio Times has given it a 5-star rating (as did 43 members!).
BAGDAD CAFE (1987) Sunday 3 December 10.35pm-12.45am TP (Ch 82)
Bagdad Cafe was very popular on the art house/film society circuits as we were preparing our first season. It’s a whimsical drama about a German tourist who, stranded in the middle of nowhere, makes herself at home in a roadside diner amongst the flotsam and jetsam that frequent it.
THE KILLER IS LOOSE (1956) Monday 4 December 8.30-10.00pm TP (Ch 82)
Budd Boetticher’s considerable reputation as a cult director rests mostly on the series of westerns he made with Randolph Scott in the 1950s. The Killer is Loose is a much rarer offering, so catch it if you can. Joseph Cotten is top billed, but the acting honours go to Wendell Corey as an ex-clerk who escapes from prison looking for revenge.
At last – we have a film worthy of the name coming to the Radway! Following on from two preview shows, Ridley Scott’s Napoleon started what is likely to be a two-week run on Friday 24 November. This isn’t the first big-screen incarnation, of course. Abel Gance’s 5-hour masterpiece was released in 1927 and there had been two versions (much shorter!) as early as 1909. Gance remade his own film in 1971; one year after Rod Steiger had played the emperor in Waterloo. The 1955 Napoleon consisted of a series of light-hearted vignettes (with a 3-hour running time) that had two actors playing him (Daniel Gélin and Raymond Pellegrin). And we mustn’t forget Marlon Brando’s slightly bored interpretation in Désirée (1954). There have also been several TV mini-series – you might remember that Ian Holm was very good in Napoleon and Love (1974).
Trivia footnote: Napoleon Whiting played Silas the butler in 35 episodes of The Big Valley in the 1960s.
3 FACES (2018) Saturday 25 November 10.40pm-12.20am BBC 4 P
Starting a little later than normal, whilst BBC 4 concludes the rather good Australian 4-parter Scrublands, tonight’s subtitled offering is from Iran. A girl who is being frustrated in her efforts to become an actress contacts a director (played by this film’s director Jafar Panahi), who then travels to her village to meet her. Reality meets film meets art!
REAP THE WILD WIND (1942) Wednesday 29 November 12.45-3.10pm Legend (Ch 41)
This seafaring adventure showcases to a T the best and worst of Cecil B. DeMille. It has a strong cast (Ray Milland, John Wayne, Paulette Goddard, Robert Preston and Susan Hayward), bright Technicolor and some special effects that still impress. It also has risible dialogue (“I’ll bring you a rainbow fish for breakfast”) and a simplistic, Sunday school view of events. In terms of having queues at the box office, DeMille was the Spielberg of his day but, as a director, he wasn’t in the same league.
JUST MERCY (2019) Wednesday 29 November 10.40pm-12.50am BBC 1 P
Just Mercy boasts some fine actors (Michael B. Jordan, Brie Larson and Jamie Foxx) and, whilst the story is familiar (Jordan is a lawyer trying to save an innocent man on death row), it is well structured and holds the attention. In short, whilst not a classic, it is a good watch!
DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) Thursday 30 November 8.15-10.00pm BBC 4
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP (1943) 11.00pm-1.35am BBC 4
There are two bona fide classics this evening, however. Double Indemnity is just about the best film noir ever made – Barbara Stanwyck, in particular, gives a stunning performance. Colonel Blimp, filmed vividly in colour, is one of Powell and Pressburger’s finest films. Roger Livesey is wonderful and Deborah Kerr, who plays three roles, would soon be off to Hollywood on the strength of her work in this and Black Narcissus.
By David Johnson
Chairman of Lyme Regis Film Society
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