“Robin Hood, Robin Hood, is riding through the glen” . . . . Coming soon to a TV set near you: if you have an interest in the early years of television, as I do, Talking Pictures will be showing The Adventures of Robin Hood; of William Tell; Sir Lancelot; and Sir Francis Drake in their teatime (5.30pm) slot!
30 MAY – 5 JUNE 2020
MAN ON THE RUN (1949) Saturday 30 May 5.30-7.15pm Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
We have a tense, neatly packaged, British noir with Derek Farr playing an army deserter accused of murder and trying to clear himself. Later, Mr Farr guest starred in episode 1 of The Saint TV series.
ELLA FITZGERALD: JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS Saturday 30 May 9.30-11.00pm BBC 2
This DOCUMENTARY OF THE WEEK follows her career from its 1934 beginnings through to her peak years with clips, songs and interviews.
MAN OF THE WEST (1958) Saturday 30 May 11.20pm-1.30am Paramount (Channel 31)
In his last role of note, Gary Cooper plays a reformed outlaw who has to confront his ex-mentor, the evil Doc Tobin (Lee J. Cobb). The psychological motivations are deeper and the characters tougher.
WITHNAIL AND I (1986) Sunday 30 May 12.15am-2.05am Channel 4
Hippies Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann visit their outrageous uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths). We showed this black comedy in our first season (1988-89, 71%). Obsessive cleaners avert your eyes!
THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962) Sunday 31 May 6.20-9.00pm Channel 31
John Ford’s final masterpiece stars John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles and Lee Marvin. Back in Shinbone for a funeral, senator Ransom Stoddard reflects on the town’s wild, pioneering days.
THE MAN WHO HAUNTED HIMSELF (1970) Sunday 31 May 10.00-11.50pm Channel 81
Roger Moore made two films between The Saint and The Persuaders and he remained very proud of his work here. After a car accident, a businessman wonders – is he mad, or has he a double?
ANGEL FACE (1952) Monday 1 June 7.50-9.35am Channel 40
Sweet-faced Jean Simmons is planning to kill her father and stepmother; will chauffeur Robert Mitchum escape her clutches? A well-made drama and its reputation is still growing.
HELL BELOW ZERO (1954) Monday 1 June 11.00am-12.50pm Film Four
Helpful Alan Ladd takes to the sea, to uncover why Joan Tetzel’s father was murdered. This was the sort of early fare upon which Bond producer Cubby Broccoli cut his teeth.
THE SOUND OF FURY (1950) Tuesday 2 June 11.00am-12.50pm Film Four
I started the listings for such as this – a small, independent, b/w film about a father who is suckered in to criminal ways. It’s scintillating stuff and the director, Cy Endfield, later made Zulu.
CALL ME MADAM (1953) Tuesday 2 June 2.40-4.30pm BBC 2
Ethel Merman sings hits from her hugely successful Broadway show and Donald O’Connor and Vera-Ellen dance up the sort of storm that few others could manage!
ALONE IN BERLIN (2016) Tuesday 2 June 11.15pm-1.20am Film Four
Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson are grieving parents who distribute anti-Nazi propaganda. We didn’t quite use it (German films have covered similar ground better), but take a look!
CARMEN JONES (1954) Wednesday 3 June 2.50-4.30pm BBC 2
An excellent, all-black cast transfers Bizet’s opera (and the stage show) to the silver screen in exhilarating fashion. Dorothy Dandridge’s Oscar nomination was ground breaking.
ENOUGH SAID (2013) Wednesday 3 June 7.10-9.00pm Film Four
The late James Gandolfini plays an overweight Mr Average, who meets a divorced masseuse at a party. It’s a modest charmer that reminds one of the 1955 classic Marty.
I WALK ALONE (1947) Wednesday 3 June 10.05pm-12.05am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Two ex-bootleggers fight over their spoils. This first teaming of Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas is relatively rare. (I have seen about 50 films of each, but not this one, so my seat is booked!)
SAPPHIRE (1959) Thursday 4 June 9.25-11.10pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This very watchable detective drama, with a social conscience, was a Bafta winner; Nigel Patrick and Michael Craig try to solve the puzzle of a young model’s murder.
THE NAKED JUNGLE (1954) Friday 5 June 4.55-6.50pm Film Four
The producer-director team of The War of the Worlds re-united for this adventure in which Charlton Heston battles an army of soldier ants.
HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM (1959) Friday 5 June 10.00-11.40 Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
Here we have a luridly colourful cult shocker – infamous in its day – in which a novelist kills to boost readership interest. Arthur Crabtree also directed Fiend Without a Face – enough said!
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
FROM WEEK 7
Prison break dramas have always been popular. I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932) remains one of the great Warner Brothers films; King of Alcatraz (1938) was a lightning fast B film and Clint Eastwood was trying to escape from the same institution 30 years later. White Heat (1949) had James Cagney at the top of his game and Burt Lancaster’s Brute Force (1947) was almost as good. Whilst it is very good, with two fine actors, it has always staggered me that The Shawshank Redemption often makes the ‘best ever’ lists; it strikes me that it was a film promoted by social media before social media was invented. I shall watch it again though! Breaking back in again is rarer, but the plot device was used in Cahill United States Marshal (1973) and the pilot for the TV series Alias Smith and Jones - and at least one further episode!
Welcome to the new week! BBC 2 is doing us proud this week with several classics – including half-a-dozen from RKO Radio, starting with Citizen Kane on Saturday. (Not included below, as it is one of the most famous films of all time.) The studio was a strange mixture – some all-time classics in the 1930s and 1940s, a great B picture unit and some really poor features, especially after it was sold to Howard Hughes. By the late 1950s it was in terminal decline and the studio facilities were sold off to Desilu, the television production company set up by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
23-29 MAY 2020
TWO WAY STRETCH (1960) Saturday 23 May 5.15-7.00pm Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
Peter Sellers heads a great cast that includes Bernard Cribbins and Lionel Jeffries. He’s hoping to accomplish the perfect crime by breaking out of prison – and then breaking back in again.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1946) Sunday 24 May 10.35am-12.35pm BBC 2
Just about the best transfer of Dickens to the silver screen in movie history, has John Mills as Pip, Finlay Currie as Magwitch and award-winning cinematography.
SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949) Sunday 24 May 3.35-5.15pm BBC 2
The Duke would have been 113 on 26 May, so here he is in one of his greatest roles trying to maintain peace on the frontier. The Oscar-winning Technicolor is superb. (1992-93 season, 75%.)
TOP HAT (1935) Monday 25 May 2.50-4.30pm BBC 2
For many this vies with Singin’ in the Rain (1952) for best musical. It has Fred and Ginger, Irving Berlin songs and amazing Art-Deco sets. Seeing it at the Regent was memorable (1990-91, 89%).
SUBURBICON (2017) Monday 25 May 10.00-11.40pm BBC 2
This is an interesting black comedy, directed by George Clooney, in which an African American family moves into a white suburb. The year is 1959 and sparks will fly!
THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942) Tuesday 26 May 3.05-4.30pm BBC 2
A family refuses to engage with a rapidly industrialising America. Orson Welles’s next after Citizen Kane was butchered by RKO, but has remained a technical masterpiece to critics around the world.
THE SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS (1941) Tuesday 26 May 6.55-9.00pm Channel 40
Hollywood has always had a fascination with rural (moonshine) dramas. This was John Wayne’s first in lovely Technicolor; it and some charming moments compensate for some strange Americana.
ARRIVAL (2016) Tuesday 26 May 9.00-11.20pm Film Four
We very nearly booked this, as it is absorbing, thought-provoking science-fiction with an excellent Amy Adams ably supported by Jeremy Renner. She is a linguist asked, by the nations of the world, to decode an alien language before it’s too late.
MY FAVORITE WIFE (1940) Wednesday 27 May 3.05-4.30pm BBC 2
It should be safe for Cary Grant to remarry (Irene Dunne having been lost at sea 7 years before), but don’t count on it. Another exemplary romantic comedy made when Mr Grant was at his peak.
RIDE LONESOME (1959) Thursday 28 May 1.10-2.40pm Film Four
The second best Randolph Scott/Budd Boetticher western is lean, mean and handsome. Scott is a bounty hunter determined to bring a killer to justice.
PASSPORT TO SHAME (1958) Thursday 28 May 9.30-11.20pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
By the late 1950s, British cinema had discovered sex – but not too overtly! A young French woman is tricked into ‘working’ for Herbert Lom; a young Michael Caine has a bit part as a bridegroom.
THE IMPOSTER (2012) Thursday 28 May 10.05-11.55 pm Channel 4
In 1994 a 13-year-boy disappeared from his Texas home. He re-appeared in 1997, with a French accent, and was welcomed home. DOCUMENTARY OF THE WEEK.
KING KONG (1933) Friday 29 May 2.50-4.30pm BBC 2
The original is still the best monster movie ever made. A couple of years ago, I drove up to Clifton to watch it in a 35mm print on the big screen and had a great afternoon!
TRUMBO (2015) Friday 29 May 11.20pm-1.20am BBC 2
This tells the story of Hollywood scriptwriter Dalton Trumbo (Spartacus) who was jailed after refusing to testify against fellow communists. Our members loved it! (2016-17, 94%)
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
FROM WEEK 6 (and week 7)
Both Suddenly last week and Suburbicon this, have ‘home invasion’ as a central strand to their stories. So, too, does the year’s biggest critical success, Parasite, which was the last film I saw in a cinema before we went into lockdown. And, yes, it deserved all the plaudits; it’s an excellent film. Not that the concept is a new one. You might remember the French classic Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932) which was better than the American remake Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986). Likewise, the 1955 film The Desperate Hours which had Humphrey Bogart menacing Frederic March’s family, was better than the 1990 remake with Mickey Rourke and Anthony Hopkins. The Keeping Room (2014), set during the American Civil War, didn’t really work either, but has a good cast and curiosity value. Definitely worth a view is the 1951 western drama Rawhide, in which two convicts (Jack Elam is on fine form!) invade Tyrone Power’s way station.
First of all, I owe everyone an apology. I settled down to watch Identity Unknown (for the first time) last Tuesday – and it wasn’t the one I had described! It turns out that there is an even less well-known British film from 1960 with the same title. The opening wasn’t too promising – two journalists trundling around in a Triumph Herald – but it picked up and became an ‘okay for a B’ watch. However, I am suitably chastened!
16-22 MAY 2020
LONELY ARE THE BRAVE (1962) Saturday 16 May 2.05-4.20pm ITV 4 (Channel 24)
Kirk Douglas’ personal favourite of his own films is brilliantly done. He’s a modern cowboy trying to keep to the old ways and keep out of jail. Walter Matthau and George Kennedy are excellent, too.
CLOAK AND DAGGER (1946) Saturday 16 May 6.50-9.00pm Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
Give yourself ONE minute to accept Gary Cooper as a nuclear scientist, and then join him on a trip to Europe for spies and intrigue. Lilli Palmer is very good and the great Fritz Lang directs.
ATTACK THE BLOCK (2010) Saturday 16 May 11.05pm-12.50am Film Four
I remember a Sunday audience of four for this at the Regent – a damn shame. Youths (including John Boyega and Jodie Whittaker) fight alien invaders on a London council estate and it’s very good.
HOBSON’S CHOICE (1953) Sunday 17 May 6.50-9.00pm Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
Even if it can’t take you back to your Lancashire roots, this classic comedy, with a wonderful Charles Laughton as the bootmaker, is delightful entertainment. Look for Jack Howarth (Albert Tatlock)!
A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964) Sunday 17 May 9.00-11.05pm ITV 4 (Channel 24)
Celebrate Clint’s birthday two weeks early! A new international star and a new style of film making were launched here. James Coburn was too expensive and Charles Bronson said no, otherwise....
SUDDENLY (1954) Monday 18 May 5.30-7.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Assassin Frank Sinatra holds a family hostage, as he waits for the President to pass by.... a cracking thriller, subsequently unseen for some years, after Sinatra was devastated by the death of JFK.
THE WARRIOR (2001) Monday 18 May 11.15pm-1.00am Film Four
This is a beautifully filmed Anglo-Indian drama, in which the late Irfan Khan (The Lunch Box) ‘retires’ as head of a warlord’s army, to seek inner peace, but is then pursued by his enforcer.
THREE FACES WEST (1940) Tuesday 19 May 11.00am-12.40pm Film Four
Okay: it’s a poor man’s The Grapes of Wrath, but we have John Wayne leading the Dust Bowl farmers, a doctor from Vienna, a child who needs an operation, a Nazi, a romance and a happy ending. All filmed in less than a month on a $100,000 budget. Sums up Republic studios perfectly!
THE PROFESSIONALS (1916) Wednesday 20 May 11.00am-1.25pm Film Four
This superb adventure film has Lancaster, Marvin, Robert Ryan and Woody Strode heading to Mexico to rescue a kidnapped Claudia Cardinale from Jack Palance. And it looks spectacular.
HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941) Wednesday 20 May 1.25-3.55pm Film Four
We programmed this all-time great John Ford version at the Marine last year. If you ever wondered why Citizen Kane didn’t get the Oscar for Best Film, this was it. Hollywood’s Welsh village is a marvel.
VIVACIOUS LADY (1938) Wednesday 20 May 3.00-4.30pm BBC2
James Stewart (born 20 May 1908) co-stars with Ginger Rogers in this enjoyable screwball comedy. He’s a professor who marries a nightclub singer, on impulse, then takes her home to meet father.
SPRING AND PORT WINE (1969) Thursday 21 May 6.55-9.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
James Mason is the domineering father who works ‘down at mill’; Susan George is the daughter who refuses to eat a fried herring at high tea. It was generally well reviewed and has many familiar faces.
THE SMALL VOICE (1948) Friday 22 May 5.30-7.10pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
A convict menaces a family in his bid to escape. This modest UK thriller was Howard (billed as Harold) Keel’s debut; his career trajectory was soon on a much glossier path – for a few years.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
FROM WEEK 5
A slight cheat from week 5 – Wednesday 13 May I caught one of the repeats of The High Chaparral TV series. It happened to be one of my favourites and one of the very best episodes, entitled ‘The Buffalo Soldiers’. The buffalo appears in hundreds, if not thousands, of westerns but I’d like to share just a few memories that the word triggers. ‘Incident of the Buffalo Smokehouse’ was a good, early episode of Rawhide (the link to the above being that Leif Erickson was in both); at about the same time, John Ford was working on Sergeant Rutledge (1960) and I recall that the song ‘Captain Buffalo’ was composed to go with the opening credits. (Ford often used the painter Frederick Remington’s work for visual inspiration and, in 1886, Remington had spent some time with the Tenth Cavalry – the legendary buffalo soldiers.) Ward Bond played a character called Buffalo in Hondo (1953) and, yes, he was grizzled and somewhat unkempt! There is a splendid stampede – in Cinerama – in How the West Was Won. Such was John Wayne’s hatred of the Indians in The Searchers (1956) he killed the majestic beasts so that they would starve, whereas in The Last Hunt (also 1956) Robert Taylor killed them for profit. The brilliant ending of the latter has stayed with me since childhood, but I won’t reveal it here. Perhaps, one day, you’ll have a chance to watch the film yourself!
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