Within 48 hours of the Bafta ceremony, the organisers found themselves in hot water: for not including Bernard Cribbins in the In Memoriam segment and because all the eventual winners were white, despite a strong ethnic mix in the nominations. All Quiet on the Western Front was the big winner and it will be interesting to see if this is duplicated at the Oscars.
THE MACALUSO SISTERS (2020) Saturday 25 February 9.00-10.25pm BBC 4 P
Moving Italian drama in which five young sisters, who still live together, have to deal with an unexpected, and tragic, accident.
THE GAMMA PEOPLE (1956) Monday 27 February 9.00-10.35pm TP (Channel 82)
This week’s rarity is a very strange British film indeed – the only other one I can recall that comes close is 1935’s Once in a New Moon. A fable of sorts, the essential part of the plot has children bombarded with gamma rays as part of a secretive nation’s scheme to control the population. It was made by Warwick Film Productions a company that Cubby Broccoli had set up with Irving Allen.
SEX ON SCREEN (2022) Tuesday 28 February 10.00-11.25pm BBC 4 P
A worthwhile Storyville documentary if (like me) you are interested in the mechanics of film-making as much as the end product. It takes a serious, and concerned, look at how sex scenes are filmed and how they have impacted upon the actors.
THE DEVIL COMMANDS (1941) Friday 3 March 11.00pm-12.20am TP (Channel 82)
Ha – for me, this is a true blast from the past – one of my first ‘late night with Boris Karloff’ when I was a teenager. The legend was under contract to Columbia at the time and, whilst low-budget (of course), The Devil Commands was one of a batch of six films (now on a splendid Blu-ray release from Eureka) that tried hard to be atmospheric and a little different. Here, he is a scientist trying to communicate with the dead – and we just know it will not end well! Despite a future blacklisting, Edward Dmytryk became a director of some note.
It is the awards season again and the 2023 Bafta Film Awards, hosted by Richard E Grant, are on BBC 1 Sunday evening. Other than that, it is a quiet week; the four films I have chosen have a westerns connection, albeit a loose one.
HOW THE WEST WAS WON (1962) Saturday 18 February 2.00-4.25pm BBC 2
Filmed in Cinerama, this is an epic that has it all: breathtaking vistas, excitement, a superb score and 13 A-list stars (plus a supporting cast that is almost as impressive). It couldn’t be made in the same way today, of course – ‘How the West was Lost’ wasn’t a prominent part of the story – but the spectacle hasn’t diminished one iota. I always feel a tinge of sadness as the film ends, but now that might be for the passing of the principle cast; only Carroll Baker is still with us. The Blu-ray, by the way, has a ‘curved letter box’ option that imitates how the Cinerama print would have looked. Alternatively, you could look out for the next showing at the Bradford widescreen festival!
CONVICT STAGE (1965) Saturday 18 February 7.30-9.00pm TP (Channel 82)
Well, not only have I not seen this western, I didn’t know what it was – the shame has been unbearable. Quickly, I reasoned that this would mean its entire budget wouldn’t have paid for one cast member of the above and a little research would appear to bear this out. The director is the prolific Lesley Selander – his entire output hardly ever exceeded a running time of 70 minutes – and the cast includes Donald ‘Red’ Barry, a popular B-western star in the 1940s.
THE MULE (2018) Sunday 19 February 10.00-11.50pm BBC2
Cowboy icon Clint Eastwood will be 93 in May, so it is likely that The Mule will be his last film of real note. Based on actual events, he directs and stars as an octogenarian who takes a driving job and – too late – realises he is carrying drugs.
THEATRE OF BLOOD (1973) Tuesday 21 February 11.35pm-1.45am TP (Channel 82)
Not quite my first X-rated film – it did the rounds with a support called Hammer – it was a brilliant introduction to films for grown-ups! Vincent Price made only three westerns (The Baron of Arizona, 1950, is the most interesting); here, though, he is in more familiar guise as Edward Lionheart, an actor who takes umbrage against his critics. It is a quite delicious offering and Diana Rigg leads a great supporting cast.
One day, perhaps, we will do a newsletter article on man’s best friend – I found myself contemplating this as rumours reached me of a possible biopic on the legendary Rin Tin Tin. Coincidentally, the first film listed this week uses the ‘man bitten by rabid dog’ scenario. Even in 1966, the idea wasn’t new and it had been used in an episode of both Highway Patrol and Wanted Dead or Alive in the late 1950s. Later, there were some variations on the theme. In The Big Valley episode Night of the Wolf the culprit was indeed a wolf and in the 1974 TVM A Cry in the Wilderness it was a rabid skunk! George Kennedy, bless him, chained himself in the barn to protect his family – shame about the impending flood . . . .
RAGE (1966) Saturday 11 February 9.30-11.35pm Talking Pictures (Ch 82)
TP does it again – this time with one of Glenn Ford’s least-known, and least-seen, films. He is a doctor working in an isolated part of Mexico who is bitten by a rabid dog and has two days to find help. The reviews were average at best and, as noted in the introduction, the idea wasn’t entirely original, but you might want to give it a whirl.
KURSK: THE LAST MISSION (2018) Sunday 12 February 10.00-11.50pm BBC 2 P
A much more recent drama that also comes in at the 3-star level, but not every film can acquire classic status and its credentials are sound enough. Thomas Vinterberg (Far from the Madding Crowd and our success in 2013, The Hunt) directs and the strong cast includes Colin Firth as the British commodore who is keen to help with the seabed rescue mission.
DARK WATERS (2019) Tuesday 14 February 11.15pm-1.15am BBC2 P
Dark Waters was under consideration a year or so ago, but it was too close to other exposés that we had shown. The story of the Du Pont chemical scandal, it is very good and you will find yourselves asking: ‘How could such things happen?’ There is a second showing Thursday 16 February, 9pm on BBC 4.
HEREDITARY (2018) Wednesday 15 February 9.00-11.355pm Film Four P
We don’t do well with our occasional forays into the horror genre, so recommending Hereditary is a gamble! However, it was reviewed at the 5-star level and Toni Collette is such a good actor. She and her family find that their home is no longer a safe haven; comparisons to The Exorcist were not, in this instance, hyperbole.
By David Johnson
Chairman of Lyme Regis Film Society
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