I do try hard (honestly!) not to include too many westerns each week, but they are a staple of daytime scheduling. And two of this week’s choices are recognised as classics; for me, Fort Apache gives more pleasure with each viewing (and it must be around twenty, now). This week’s pickings are quite slim (mental note: an article on character actors, sometime) and so there are three that have a POW theme. I’m sure, though, you will find something worthy of your time!
FORT APACHE (1948) Saturday 27 June 7.30-10.05am Channel 40
Superb western (the first of John Ford’s loose cavalry trilogy) starring John Wayne and Henry Fonda as the martinet colonel who is out-thought by Cochise, strikingly portrayed by Miguel Inclan.
JIGSAW (1962) Saturday 27 June 7.00-9.05pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This is a very decent murder mystery, with good performances from Jack Warner and Ronald Lewis as the detectives and a very atmospheric use of the Brighton locations.
COME BACK TO THE 5 & DIME JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN (2014) Saturday 27 June 9.05-11.20pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Some 20 years after the filming of Giant, a group of fan club friends (including Sandy Dennis, Cher and Karen Black) reconvenes to commemorate the death of their idol, James Dean.
HARD TIMES (1975) Saturday 27 June 11.20pm-1.10am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
I first saw this under its UK title The Streetfighter. Charles Bronson, in one of his best roles, is the bare-knuckle fighter and James Coburn his manager, trying to scrape a living during the Depression.
WENT THE DAY WELL? (1942) Sunday 28 June 12.10-2.10pm Channel 54
We showed this at the Regent for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The story – Nazi soldiers seize an English village – is still powerful, tense and believable.
OLIVER TWIST (1948) Sunday 28 June 6.10-8.30pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Another David Lean master class, from the workhouse opening to the rooftop chase of Robert Newton’s Bill Sykes; the only controversy was over Alec Guinness’s interpretation of Fagin.
NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1957) Sunday 28 June 11.55pm-1.55am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This splendid adaptation of MR James’s ‘Casting of the Runes’ is a favourite of mine. The atmosphere builds unnervingly as scientist Dana Andrews seeks to debunk Niall MacGinnis’s ‘fake’ sorcery.
THE ENEMY BELOW (1957) Monday 29 June 4.40pm-6.40pm Film Four
This is an almost perfect example of how to squeeze maximum suspense out of a war setting, without huge set pieces. Robert Mitchum is the destroyer captain hunting Curt Jurgens’s U-boat.
MAD MAX (1979) Monday 29 June 10.00-11.55pm ITV 4 (Channel 24)
I first saw this on a double bill with Easy Rider (those were the days!). We have a bleak, violent, dystopian future and one heroic cop in black leather; a new star (Mel Gibson) and a new visual style that is still influential today.
THE CAMP ON BLOOD ISLAND (1958) Monday 29 June 11.00pm-12.40am Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
This experimental departure for Hammer (British POWs fear a massacre as World War II ends) was hugely controversial on initial release.
FAIR WIND TO JAVA (1953) Tuesday 30 June 11.00-12.50am Film Four
We’re coming up short today, me hearties! Republic brought in Fred MacMurray to hunt for treasure, but we are still lumbered with Vera Ralston (wife of the studio head) and in-house director Joe Kane. Best watched whilst ironing, is my recommendation!
KING RAT (1965) Tuesday 30 June 4.25-7.15pm Channel 40
Adapted from James Clavell’s novel, George Segal heads a fine, mostly British, cast as the chief finagler in a Japanese POW camp. It makes an interesting companion piece to Blood Island.
THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (1963) Wednesday 1 July 4.00-6.00pm Channel 70
I’ve always found this an enjoyable watch; it’s just a shame that it isn’t a better film. Even so, Howard Keel and Janette Scott are fine, the story grips and there are some very strong moments.
THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US (2017) Wednesday 1 July 9.00-11.15pm Channel 47
Kate Winslet and Idris Elba charter a plane only to then crash in some very inhospitable terrain. Again, it isn’t a great film but passes the time amiably enough.
WINCHESTER ‘73 (1950) Thursday 2 July 5.05-6.55pm Film Four
James Stewart and Stephen McNally fight over the ‘one in a thousand’ of the title. This was a landmark production for Stewart, director Anthony Mann and the western.
QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1967) Thursday 2 July 11.05pm-1.05am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Workers unearth a Martian spaceship in a London Tube station. This is the most astutely balanced of the trilogy: good design work and effects, good performances and dialogue, and quite scary.
THE LAWLESS BREED (1952) Friday 3 July 12.25-2.10pm Channel 31
It was only a co-feature that played fast and loose with the real John Wesley Hardin, but if you’d like to catch the film that made Rock Hudson a star . . . .
THE BAMBOO PRISON (1954) Friday 3 July 5.25-7.05pm Channel 40.
I watched this modest production (who’s the informer in a North Korean POW camp?) for the first time in April. It stars Robert Francis, who works really hard to give his character some shading – as he did in the other three films he made, before his death in a plane crash aged 25.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
As I mentioned last week, Saturday 27 June is Global Pride Day. The film terrain is quite different now, of course. Many festivals such as Flare here in the UK are well established and popular and films with gay themes can be made openly in most countries – although, sadly, not in all of them. But could anything be done (or made) back in the day? Well, yes, there were film makers who did what they could and, in 1995, there was an excellent documentary on the subject, The Celluloid Closet. So, some random memories from me, thinking back over several decades of watching films: the gay subtext in Ben-Hur (1959) – interestingly, Rock Hudson had been one of the actors connected to the project – and the famous bathing scene in Spartacus (1960) with Tony Curtis and Laurence Olivier. Mädchen in Uniform (1931) was a ground-breaking German film – remade in 1958 – and, the year before Marlene Dietrich had created a sensation, dressed as a man, in Morocco. The Lillian Hellman play The Children’s Hour was filmed as These Three in 1936 (directed by William Wyler) and then filmed again in 1961, with Audrey Hepburn, under its original title. The same year saw the release of Victim which had a brilliant performance from Dirk Bogarde. Much has been made of the performance of Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946) but it might be argued that the truly fascinating aspect of the love triangle is the relationship between Glenn Ford and George Macready. 1953 saw the release of Ed Wood, Jr.’s Glen or Glenda (not a good film!) and two key works of the 1960s were The Fox (1967) and The Killing of Sister George (1968). Also, I have rather fond memories of a gentle film, Desert Hearts, released in 1985. The importance of film comedians should not be underestimated, too. Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle was very graceful and carried out some outrageous flirtations when dressed as a woman and there is an intriguing (and provocative) book on Laurel and Hardy by Jonathan Sanders, entitled ‘Another Fine Dress.’
At last we have some good news – football is back! Even so, there is a full list of films for you again this week, in case you are not that way inclined. This is a week, too, when some of the films on offer reflect current events – and controversies – involving Black Lives Matter and LGBT+ rights. (You might recall that we discussed films such as Gone With the Wind in our newsletter, concurrent with our the showing of BlackkKlansman.) Regarding the latter, there has just been a very important ruling by the US Supreme Court, and also we celebrate Global Pride Day, Saturday 27 June.
THE FOUR FEATHERS (1939) Saturday 20 June 3.00-5.15pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Possibly Alexander Korda’s finest film remains a splendid adventure in gorgeous early Technicolor. The acting and location shooting are both top notch and some footage was used in later versions.
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO (2016) Saturday 20 June 9.00-10.30pm BBC 2
This is an excellent documentary on racial oppression that makes a particularly telling use of the writings of James Baldwin. Bonus – a 3-part series on Black Hollywood follows the transmission.
KAJAKI: THE TRUE STORY (2014) Sunday 21 June 12.35am-2.15am BBC 1
The story concerns a British army patrol that inadvertently stumbled into an old Russian minefield. It is an intense, brilliantly constructed drama, but is not for the faint hearted!
THE GREEN MAN (1956) Sunday 21 June 10.30am-12.05pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
That comic genius Alastair Sim is on imperious form, as the assassin determined to overcome all obstacles in his pursuit of a politician.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) Sunday 21 June 2.00-4.00pm BBC 2
This is probably the best western of all, for those who don’t particularly care for the genre. The legendary status of both the cast and Elmer Bernstein’s score is assured. Quiz time – name all seven!
UNEARTHLY STRANGER (1963) Monday 22 June 7.10-9.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Low-budget, b/w (when most films were in colour), no stars - but John Neville is very good as a scientist who begins to believe that his wife is, well, different . . . .
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (2017) Monday 22 June 9.00-11.40pm Film Four
Both Armie Hammer and the new acting sensation Timothée Chalamet excel, as the American tutor and summer pupil who have an affair during a hot Italian summer.
SING STREET (2015) Monday 22 June 11.40pm-1.50am Film Four
If you missed it with us (2016-17, 83%) catch this enjoyable musical romp, about some bored Dublin teenagers forming a band, now!
WAKE OF THE RED WITCH (1948) Tuesday 23 June 11.50am-2.05pm Paramount (Channel 31)
A mainstay of the BBC’s Wayne in Action seasons of the early 1970s, this seafaring saga was his second (and last) film co-starring Gail Russell, an actress whose talent burned all too briefly. It brings back many happy memories of my formative (viewing) years – thank you dad.
THE FICTION MAKERS (1968) Tuesday 23 June 2.55-5.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Roger Moore made two feature-length Saint adventures at the end of his tenure. Almost impossible to see until fairly recently this one, in which he and a thriller writer are imprisoned for nefarious purposes, is marginally the better of the two. (Vendetta for the Saint is the other.)
CAROL (2015) Tuesday 23 June 11.15pm-1.35am Film Four
This romantic, emotionally intense drama that kicks off in the rather staid surroundings of a New York department store has two splendid performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.
PIMPERNEL SMITH (1941) Wednesday 24 June 3.50-6.15pm Film Four
This update of The Scarlet Pimpernel (1935) to Nazi Germany works ever so well. Leslie Howard is perfect in the role and it is both thoughtful and entertaining.
ON CHESIL BEACH (2017) Wednesday 24 June 9.00-10.45pm BBC 2
Enjoying its free-to-air première tonight, this adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel didn’t find universal acceptance, but is an exciting event for us nevertheless!
RAWHIDE (1951) Thursday 25 June 2.50-4.35pm Film Four
I referred to this in passing recently and here it is! Tyrone Power and Susan Hayward desperately try and outwit some nasty outlaws at a way station. Jack Elam was a proper screen villain!
THE HAPPIEST DAYS OF YOUR LIFE (1950) Thursday 25 June 5.30-7.10pm Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
Well, this represents the best way of returning to school this week! A boys’ school (Alastair Sim) and a girls’ school (Margaret Rutherford) are billeted together just as an inspection is due. What a sublime acting duo – and this comedy is as good as it gets.
THE CONQUEST OF EVEREST (1953) Friday 26 June 7.15pm-8.50am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Contemporaneous with the actual event, this is an excellent documentary record (in colour) of all but the final ascent. The narrator is character actor Meredith Edwards.
THE SCARS OF DRACULA (1970) Friday 26 June 10.00-12 midnight Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
Fans regard this as being the best of Christopher Lee’s later entries in the series; Roy Ward Baker at the helm helped, undoubtedly. Dennis Waterman and Jenny Hanley are the obligatory young couple this time. If you would like to make it a double bill, Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) follows and, in similar vein, its supporters feel that it was the best of the Hammer Frankenstein films. Terence Fisher and Peter Cushing were both still on board and the writing seemed fresher.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES FROM WEEK 10
Last week’s North West Frontier reminded me how popular points of the compass have been in film titles (Way Down East, North to Alaska, but we’ll pass over South of Heaven, West of Hell very quickly). Limiting our deliberations specifically to northern climes, North Dallas Forty and Northern Lights, both released in 1979, have considerable reputations, but are not shown very often. North by North West (1959) is, of course, quintessential Hitchcock. Northwest Passage (1940) is an excellent (at times brutal) outdoor adventure with Spencer Tracy and a much better film than Cecil B. DeMille’s North West Mounted Police (also 1940) which has so many odd moments as to be ridiculous. There was also a TV series Northwest Passage that ran for one season (from September 1958 in the US) and starred Keith Larsen, in the Tracy role of Robert Rogers, and Buddy Ebsen. I haven’t seen it for some years now but I suspect that it used some of the movie’s footage (both were in colour). My memory is that it was rather good; certainly, it was received well enough to edit three features from the episodes for release in European cinemas: Fury River (1958), Frontier Rangers (1959) and Mission of Danger (1959).
It’s comforting that the country’s situation has improved these last few days. Quite when cinemas will re-open is an unknown, of course, and it is alarming to hear that 40% of China’s cinemas might not. So, we’ll continue with our weekly list – and hope that you weren’t put off by some of last week’s unusual suggestions! Incidentally, we don’t know HOW the films will be shown – that is to say, in the correct aspect ratio or not. For example, The Alamo (1960) is likely to be transmitted full frame this weekend, whereas it was filmed in Todd-AO and should be letterboxed.
13 – 19 JUNE 2020
TUNES OF GLORY (1960) Saturday 13 June 11.10am-1.25pm Paramount (Ch 31)
Alec Guinness and John Mills spar superbly as two dyed-in-the-wool army officers (although it was Mills who won Best Actor at Venice). It reminds one a little of Olivier and Michael Caine in Sleuth.
NORTH WEST FRONTIER (1959) Saturday 13 June 6.25-9.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
In 1959, British cinema still had the confidence – and money – to team Kenneth More and Lauren Bacall and film in colour and widescreen. He’s a soldier tasked with protecting a young prince.
COP LAND (1997) Saturday 13 June 11.55pm-2.00am ITV 4 (Channel 24)
With de Niro, Keitel and Ray Liotta also appearing, Sylvester Stallone had to up his game as an out-of-shape New Jersey cop fighting corruption. He succeeded and gave his best performance to date.
DEAD END (1937) Sunday 14 June 12.15-2.05pm Channel 54
This is classic, golden age WB: Joel McCrea sets the good example, Humphrey Bogart the bad, to the kids trapped in tenement hell. Both the sets and the direction by William Wyler are superb.
THE BIG COUNTRY (1958) Sunday 14 June 1.40-4.25pm BBC 2
This saga of two feuding ranchers is as much a majestic soap opera (somewhere between Giant and the TV series Dallas) as a western. Wyler (next up: Ben-Hur) had a great cast to work with (Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker and Heston) and Jerome Moross composed a truly memorable score.
SUDDEN FEAR (1952) Sunday 14 June 6.00-8.10pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Playwright Joan Crawford is in quite a fix – her husband is planning to kill her. Well, if you marry Jack Palance . . . .
TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (2014) Monday 15 June 12.35am-2.05am BBC 2
This well-made French drama from the Dardenne brothers stars Marion Cotillard as a factory worker fighting to save her job with little support from her colleagues.
ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (1947) Monday 15 June 1.45-4.00pm Paramount (Channel 31)
By 1946, John Wayne had enough clout at Republic to become a producer and this is an unusual, noble first effort. He’s the badman and Gail Russell the Quaker who reforms him.
A KIND OF LOVING (1962) Monday 15 June 11.00pm-1.15am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
An essential, quite brilliant, kitchen-sink drama with Alan Bates and June Ritchie portraying the young couple whose ‘mistake’ forces them to marry. Thora Hird is equally memorable as the mother.
THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN’S CREEK (1943) Tuesday 16 June 12.40-2.45pm Film Four
This priceless comedy is one of the best of the 1940s. Pregnant Betty Hutton tries to figure out which GI is the father; the real miracle is how Preston Sturges circumvented the censors!
THE KILLING (1956) Tuesday 16 June 2.45-4.25pm Film Four
For most people, Kubrick means Dr Strangelove and The Shining, but it is this film that announced a striking new talent. The planning of a racetrack robbery is meticulous – what can possible go wrong?
A FAREWELL TO ARMS (1932) Wednesday 17 June 7.10-9.00am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This version of the Hemingway classic is a little creaky in places, but Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes are very moving, the cinematography is excellent and there’s an outstanding montage sequence.
THE STARS LOOK DOWN (1939) Wednesday 17 June 3.00-5.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Still one of the best British films – Michael Redgrave is the miner looking to get on; Margaret Lockwood the woman he marries. It is rich in detail, evocative and deeply satisfying.
THE FALLEN IDOL (1948) Thursday 18 June 2.45-5.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Carol Reed directs again (see previous entry) and Graham Greene contributes to the script, from his original story. A young boy idolises a servant suspected of murder.
THE WINSLOW BOY (1948) Thursday 18 June 5.30-8.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
The late 1940s was an excellent time for British cinema. Here, an immaculate Robert Donat is the barrister who defends a naval cadet charged with theft.
ST. VINCENT (2014) Thursday 18 June 11.45pm-1.50am Film Four
Bill Murray is on fine comedic form as the rude, cantankerous neighbour of single mum Melissa McCarthy and her son. Incidentally, the film clip on his TV is from Abbott & Costello’s Africa Screams.
THE TIN STAR (1957) Friday 19 June 2.50-4.40pm Film Four
This Anthony Mann western gets better with each viewing. Bounty hunter Henry Fonda reluctantly helps inexperienced young sheriff Anthony Perkins. It is up there with the best of the genre.
NIGHT MAIL (1936) Friday 19 June 4.35-5.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Showing here is the legendary documentary short about the Euston to Glasgow Travelling Post Office, set to Britten’s music and the verse of W H Auden.
THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951) Friday 19 June 5.00-7.10pm Channel 40
This is still as good as prime Hollywood films get. Oscar-winner Humphrey Bogart’s old soak takes missionary Katharine Hepburn down river to take on a German gunboat.
SELMA (2014) Friday 19 June 11.20pm-1.20am
This is a timely showing for a very good recreation of the 1965 marches to advance civil rights. If Martin Luther King’s speeches are not entirely as you remember them, some changes were necessary for reasons of copyright.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES FROM WEEK 9
THE HILLS ARE ALIVE . . . .
I hope that someone out there enjoyed the majestic Alpine scenery in The Trollenberg Terror (well, okay, it was studio sets and library footage in this instance). Films set in such locations have long been popular, if not prolific. Broadly speaking, they fall into two categories: where the environment is an integral part of the drama, and where the scenery is more of an exploitative backdrop. Almost 100 years ago, in 1924, the famous cycle of German “mountain films” was under way with Mountains of Destiny, soon to be followed by The Holy Mountain (1926) and the stunning The White Hell of Pitz Palü (1929). Leni Riefenstahl, who had appeared in it, went on to make The Blue Light in 1932 and it was this film that brought her to the attention of Adolf Hitler. (She had a photo of herself, from this film, hanging on her bedroom wall until she died.) Fast forward to 2014 and Force Majeure was garnering an equivalent amount of critical praise. In between, Robert Newton searched for Nazi gold in Snowbound (1948), Glenn Ford climbed The White Tower (1950) and Spencer Tracy The Mountain (1956), and Clint Eastwood made The Eiger Sanction (1975). In the exploitative corner, we have The Snow Creature (1956) in which the Yeti is stuck in customs (an early form of quarantine to safeguard one’s borders, I suppose), Hammer’s The Abominable Snowman (1957, ‘set’ in the Himalayas, with Peter Cushing and Forrest Tucker) and Roger Corman’s Ski Troop Attack (1960). The TVM Snowbeast (1977) had Clint Walker, but little else of interest; whereas A Cold Night’s Death (1973) was rather good. However, since it is set in an Arctic research station, I cannot really make a case for it here!
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