Our showing of Belfast went down very well, as we thought it would (audience reaction 91%). In which case, you might be pleased to know that BBC 4 is repeating the 1987 seven-part drama Fortunes of War. Set on the eve of the Second World War, it co-starred Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson. So often we moan about repeats, but the presentations scheduled during the BBC’s anniversary year have been tremendous! It begins Wednesday 1 February at 10.00pm.
MASTER CHENG (2019) Saturday 28 January 9.00-10.55pm BBC 4 P
Quirky Finnish-Chinese hybrid from Mika Kaurismaki in which a chef, Cheng, finds himself working in a somewhat different setting just as his visa is about to expire. Not as good as the legendary Babette’s Feast, but worth a look.
THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962) Tuesday 31 January 3.30-6.15pm Film Four
As a clip was used in Belfast, it was perfect timing for inclusion! John Ford’s final masterpiece is a marvellous meditation on what the American West was – or wasn’t. As the famous quote from the film goes, “when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” And speaking of legends – John Wayne, James Stewart and Lee Marvin sharing screen time – ye gods, the pleasure of it!
CASA SUSANNA (2022) Tuesday 31 January 11.30pm BBC 4 P
This week’s Storyville documentary is about a secret retreat at the foot of the Catskills that, in the 1960s, was a haven for cross-dressers. No, I hadn’t heard of it either – and that is what intrigues me!
JOHNNY NOBODY (1961) Friday 3 February 12.40-2.30pm Talking Pictures (Ch 82)
Very much a B-film but there are several points of interest, not least the story: Johnny Nobody (Aldo Ray) is a God-fearing man who is on trial for killing an atheist. It is set, and filmed, in Ireland; Nigel Patrick directs and stars, and the cast also includes Yvonne Mitchell and William Bendix (plus Bernie Winters as a photographer).
I have long held the opinion that Ken Burns is the best documentary filmmaker working. BBC 4 is showing his latest, The US and the Holocaust, in three parts on Monday evenings. (Part 2 is 16 January). The combination of photographs, archive footage and revelations is totally absorbing. I had forgotten that Henry Ford was rabidly anti-Semitic, but Part 1 brought it home with a vengeance.
A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA (1965) Saturday 14 January 4.55-7.00pm TP (Ch 82)
Alexander Mackendrick didn’t make many films, but he was a brilliant director. No surprise, then, that he helmed this unusual, and literate, pirate picture in which Anthony Quinn and James Coburn are saddled with a group of children.
THE LAST ANGRY MAN (1959) Sunday 15 January 2.55-5.00pm TP (Channel 82)
During the 1930s, Paul Muni was the Robert De Niro of his day and gave some superb performances – the WB classic I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) is a particular favourite of mine. This was his final film and he plays an elderly doctor whose life story has been optioned for television.
BOMBSHELL (2019) Thursday 19 January 9.00-11.15pm Film Four P
Bombshell is a very good drama with a satirical edge that deals with the sexual harassment relating to Fox News honcho Roger Ailes. Margot Robbie, Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman head an excellent cast.
DREAMLAND (2019) Friday 20 January 9.00-11.05pm Film Four P
We recommend a second Margot Robbie premiere in 24 hours – and why not? This time, in the best traditions of a role-reversal Bonnie and Clyde, she leads an impressionable young man into a life of crime. However, please do not assume that the slant given to the story is entirely a new idea. Dorothy Provine starred in The Bonnie Parker Story in 1958 – and Clyde was nowhere to be seen!
So, the Avatar sequel has already passed the $1 billion threshold. Just as well since, apparently, James Cameron has said that it needs to take $2 billion to turn a profit! It reminded me of a conversation with Alec Orme a few years ago, when I suggested that, eventually, the norm would be blockbusters plus live events and little else. I think that day has come a little closer.
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (2018) Sunday 8 January 10.00-11.55pm BBC 2
I saw this at the Radway, when we could still catch medium budget films that tell a decent story based on events of significance. Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie do well enough, but at the time I felt that some of the modernist trappings were unnecessary. Even so, you will enjoy it – as long as you don’t compare it to Glenda Jackson and Vanessa Redgrave’s work in the early 1970s.
BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL (1965) Monday 9 January 12.35-2.30pm TP (Channel 82)
This is one of Steve McQueen’s least-known films, which is a shame. He gives a sincere, affecting performance as an ex-con returning to a small Texas town; Lee Remick is also very good as his wife and the small-town milieu is well presented.
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951) Friday 13 January 6.40-8.30pm TP (Ch 82)
Probably the best sci-fi film of the 1950s – and certainly light years ahead of its 2008 update – has Michael Rennie’s messenger trying to dissuade Planet Earth from hitting the self-destruct button. As I have alluded to in previous postings, it still annoys me when Robert Wise is thought of, first and foremost, as the director of The Sound of Music! And, remember, in case fiction should ever become fact: Klaatu barada nikto!
By David Johnson
Chairman of Lyme Regis Film Society
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