It saddens me to say it, but the days of the BBC showing a James Cagney or Humphrey Bogart season, or a season of classic westerns, at Christmas time, are long gone. As is being able to wallow, mince pie in hand, in a couple of dozen (free) exciting offerings during the festive break. Do we want the 1961 King of Kings at Easter and Christmas? Why not be daring and, at least, show the 1927 version (155m print, please).
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) Monday 26 December 5.30-7.30pm BBC 2
Seven is still probably the best western for those that can take or leave them: a great cast, splendid locations in De Luxe colour, several scenes to treasure and one of the best scores of any American film you care to name.
GOODFELLAS (1990) Monday 26 December 10.15pm-12.35am BBC 2
Confession time – certain films just seem to have escaped me over the years. I only caught up with De Palma’s The Untouchables a couple of years ago and I have yet to see The Usual Suspects. Ditto Goodfellas, Scorcese’s gangster classic starring De Niro, Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci. So, without adverts or cuts, tonight seems to be the right time!
1917 (2019) Tuesday 27 December 9.00-10.50pm BBC 1 P
Remember Russian Ark? Technically very accomplished – it is constructed as though Sam Mendes shot it in one long take – 1917 has a strong British cast and will grip you throughout. In the final instance, it cannot measure up to Paths of Glory (1957) or All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), but then few films can.
NO TIME TO DIE (2020) Sunday 1 January 8.00-11.05pm ITV 1 (Ch 3) P
ITV has pulled off a coup in the Christmas ratings battle, by unveiling Daniel Craig’s swansong as James Bond so soon after its cinema release. You know what the ride entails – just climb aboard!
THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS (1955) Monday 2 January 12.40-2.20pm BBC 2
This is the original to Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen’s Operation Mincemeat (2022). It is based on the true story of a scheme devised to convince the Germans that the Allies were about to invade Greece and not Sicily. Dramatically, there is not a lot of difference between the two versions – they both do what you would expect them to in their respective years of production.
FIEND WITHOUT A FACE (1957) Thursday 5 January 1.00-2.30pm Legend (Ch 41)
Now we are talking! Marshall Thompson investigates strange goings-on (in b/w, of course) at an atomic research station in Canada. The director, Arthur Crabtree, works wonders on a tiny budget and, even today, it is still quite scary!
MANHUNTER (1986) Friday 6 January 11.05pm-1.00am BBC 2
The Silence of the Lambs (1991) attracted all the publicity and the Oscars, but Michael Mann’s thriller is also very good. Brian Cox commands attention as Hannibal Lecktor. To sum up: whilst not as flashy, or frightening, as Silence, it is superior to its direct remake, Red Dragon (2002).
By David Johnson
Chairman of Lyme Regis Film Society
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