Last weekend was a sad one for film lovers. The black actor Earl Cameron passed away, one month short of his 103rd birthday. He was a true pioneer popular with, and respected by, his peers. Key films he made include Sapphire (1959), Flame in the Streets (1961), Thunderball (1965) and Inception (2010). He also worked extensively in television (Doctor Who, Danger Man and Kavanagh QC, to name but three). The legendary film composer Ennio Morricone also passed away. A strong claim could be made that he was the best in his field, with films such as The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West (and in America) and Cinema Paradiso. His TV work included a superb score for The Life and Times of David Lloyd George.
DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS (1954) Saturday 11 July 11.00am-12.55pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This, one of the worst films ever made, is for those members who give the likes of Shoplifters one star! The titular heroine spends time at the Bonnie Prince Charlie Inn looking for a mate - as you would, of course. “While we’re still alive, we might as well have a cup of tea.” Priceless!
THE 39 STEPS (1935) Saturday 11 July 1.15-2.40pm BBC 2
This is as good now as it was on the day of release, with Robert Donat as Richard Hannay, Hitchcock at the helm and Madeleine Carroll as the ice blonde par excellence.
TITANIC (1953) Sunday 12 July 4.50-6.55pm Channel 40
It’s less well known than, and not as good as, A Night to Remember (1958), or the 1997 blockbuster (probably!), but you might like to check it out. Barbara Stanwyck heads the cast.
CHURCHILL (2016) Sunday 12 July 9.00-11.00pm Channel 54
Gary Oldman and Finest Hour had all the awards and audience attention, but Brian Cox, with a decided lack of prosthetic make-up, is very good. The focus is narrower, but effective nonetheless.
NO ROOM AT THE INN (1948) Sunday 12 July 10.00-11.40pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Freda Jackson is excellent as the cruel alcoholic who is put in charge of evacuee children; transferred from a successful play. Dylan Thomas co-wrote the screenplay.
THE BODY SNATCHER (1945) Monday 13 July 9.30-11.05am Channel 40
This mini-masterpiece from Val Lewton’s B-picture unit at RKO, with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, is directed by Robert Wise much more imaginatively than The Sound of Music 20 years later!
JOAN OF ARC (1948) Monday 13 July 2.55-5.15pm BBC 2
A splendid failure, I suppose. Victor Fleming had directed GWTW, Ingrid Bergman stars, the colour cinematography is good; it just wasn’t anywhere near the best film of 1948.
MACBETH (2015) Monday 13 July 11.10pm-1.25am Film Four
This is a much better historical drama than Joan of Arc, although we didn’t quite programme it ourselves. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard make a very good partnership.
CROSSFIRE (1947) Tuesday 14 July 7.40-9.20am Channel 40
Roberts Young, Mitchum and Ryan head the cast in this still topical story of a murdered Jewish GI. RKO did some brilliant A-pictures as well, in amongst the misfires!
THE MAN WHO FINALLY DIED (1962) Tuesday 14 July 7.00-9.00pm Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
This is an OK cold war thriller in which Stanley Baker travels to Bavaria to find out about his father. The stalwart cast includes Peter Cushing and Mai Zetterling.
BOUND (1996) Tuesday 14 July 10.50pm-12.55am Channel 70
Bound is a provocative thriller, with a strong critical reputation, in which two lesbian lovers plot to steal money from the Mob. It is powerful stuff – and certificate 18.
GALLIPOLI (1981) Wednesday 15 July 4.20-6.35pm Film Four
Director Peter Weir (Picnic at Hanging Rock) does an excellent job with this moving drama about the terrible waste of young lives lost in war. Mel Gibson features prominently in an early role.
HOME OF THE BRAVE (1949) Wednesday 15 July 10.05-11.50pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Producer Stanley Kramer switched the play’s theme of anti-Semitism to one of a black GI fighting both prejudice and the Japanese. This is a very rare showing and well worth a look.
COMANCHE STATION (1960) Thursday 16 July 2.55-4.30pm Film Four
Randolph Scott’s penultimate western, nicely filmed in Cinemascope, in which he rescues a woman captive, but has others wanting the reward. It ties with Ride Lonesome in the Boetticher canon!
SALOON BAR (1940) Thursday 16 July 4.35-6.20pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Ealing didn’t just make classic comedies. This is a nice little whodunit, made on a low budget, with Gordon Harker as a bookie turned detective.
THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES (1976) Friday 17 July 9.00-11.35pm ITV 4 Channel 24
An ex-Confederate guerrilla leads a disparate group into the wilderness. Clint’s second-best (American) western after Unforgiven. The difference: this is classic Clint; Unforgiven is a classic.
20TH CENTURY WOMEN (2016) Friday 17 July 11.20pm-1.10am BBC 2
Mike Mills, the director of Beginners (2012-13 season), made this as a tribute to the women he had known, or who had raised him, and it’s a very enjoyable comedy drama.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
So, everyone is on the move again! We can put behind us (just) the self-isolation of Robinson Crusoe, the first episode of The Twilight Zone, ‘Where is Everybody?’ (in which a pilot – Earl Holliman – finds himself in a town without people), and Bruce Dern’s space cruiser in Silent Running (1971). But, we still have social distancing, of course. Leaving aside Leslie Nielsen’s hysterically funny take on the use of barrier contraception in The Naked Gun (1988), the example we all ought to follow is in The Quiet Man (1952). Matchmaker Michaeleen Flynn has obtained ‘Red’ Will’s permission for Sean Thornton to court his sister. Off they go in the pony and trap, seated back to back, for, as the little man instructed: “no patty fingers and proprieties to be observed at all times.” Clearly, the film was 70 years ahead of its time!
Well, the Wimbledon retrospectives are now in full swing in addition to the football. There is still a decent choice of films, but it’s getting a little harder to find them; in part because some are repeats that have been highlighted in earlier listings. We have noted before how, in recent years, good television has become almost the equal of good cinema; to the extent that some of the film industry’s top talents will readily sign up to a project. This week sees the start of a new nine-part series Mrs America on BBC2 (Wednesday at 9.00pm). It’s the story of stay-at-home Republican housewife Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett) who scuppered the Equal Rights Amendment to the American constitution in the early 1970s.
4 – 10 JULY 2020
THE STRAIGHT STORY (1999) Saturday 4 July 11.00am-1.15pm Film Four
Very much a change of pace for director David Lynch, Richard Farnsworth is superb as the elderly farmer who travels by lawnmower to visit his sick brother. (2000-01 season, 89%.)
STARMAN (1984) Saturday 4 July 6.20-8.30pm Channel 70
A sci-fi parable that plays out as a romantic comedy and road movie – surely not? Yes, and it deserved its many glowing reviews, particularly an Oscar-nominated Jeff Bridges as the visiting alien.
MAD MAX 2 (1981) Saturday 4 July 10.15-112.15am ITV 4 (Channel 24)
Considered to be just an iconic notch below its progenitor; even so, this is an adrenalin-fuelled, blistering action film with some of the best stunts ever put on screen.
THEY RODE WEST (1954) Sunday 5 July 10.15am-12 noon Channel 40
A week after The Bamboo Prison we have another Robert Francis film; in this one, he’s a doctor determined to help the Kiowa. Again, the cast and director try really hard to be a little different.
THE TRUMAN SHOW (1998) Sunday 5 July 2.30-4.35pm Channel 32
I’m far from being a Jim Carrey fan, but this Big Brother-style satire is brilliantly done and it remains, arguably, his best performance to date.
LOCAL HERO (1983) Sunday 5 July 2.35-4.45pm Film Four
Bill Forsyth’s follow up to Gregory’s Girl is a warm, gentle, funny story about a businessman (Burt Lancaster) trying to buy a Scottish village. The gorgeous landscape is a real bonus.
BROKEN ARROW (1950) Sunday 5 July 4.50-6.55pm Channel 40
This, the second ground-breaking James Stewart western of 1950, is usually cited as changing opinions towards Native Americans. He plays the historical character Tom Jeffords, Debra Paget is Sonseeahray and Jeff Chandler earned excellent reviews as Cochise (and played him twice more).
THE OCTOBER MAN (1947) Monday 6 July 3.00-5.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Roy Ward Baker directs an Eric Ambler script; an excellent John Mills tries to prove that he isn’t a murderer (whilst proving, yet again, that he is the most versatile actor Britain has produced).
HELL IS FOR HEROES (1962) Monday 6 July 4.45-6.35pm Film Four
Director Don Siegel and Steve McQueen make an effective partnership for this tense study of a combat unit dealing with a German pillbox, before moving on to even greater acclaim.
CUSTODY (2017) Monday 6 July 11.20pm-1.10am Film Four
Film Four gives a première to our nail-biting French thriller from two seasons ago (2018-19, 82%); Thomas Gioria is amazing as the little boy, you may remember.
WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND (1961) Tuesday 7 July 11.10am-1.10pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This has to be one of the most fondly remembered films of the 1960s. Hayley Mills is wonderful as the child who believes that escaped murderer Alan Bates is Jesus.
FORBIDDEN (1949) Tuesday 7 July 10.00-11.45pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Several films had this title over the years; this British example is the most obscure. Set in Blackpool (but using a lot of stock footage), an ex-serviceman tries to leave his faithless wife.
TIME WITHOUT PITY (1957) Wednesday 8 July 1.25-3.10pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Director Joseph Losey set up in England after being blacklisted – and it was our gain. Michael Redgrave is the father trying to save his son from the hangman’s noose.
ALL THE KING’S MEN (2005) Wednesday 8 July 6.25-9.00pm Channel 32
Sean Penn’s corrupt politician (based on Huey Long) is inferior to Broderick Crawford’s 1949 original, but Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Anthony Hopkins compensate.
OH . . . ROSALINDA!! (1955) Thursday 9 July 11.15am-1.20pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Unlike in the US, large-scale British musicals were comparatively few in number in the 1950s. This is a very clever update of Die Fledermaus from the team of Powell & Pressburger.
DRACULA (1958) Thursday 9 July 11.10pm-12.50am Channel 70
On balance this has to be Hammer’s best film and is certainly Christopher Lee’s definitive portrayal of the count. Hoping it’s the restored print with glorious colour and the fullest ending!
GROUNDHOG DAY (1952) Friday 10 July 6.55-9.00pm Channel 32
Bill Murray is the weatherman who seems to be trapped in the same day over and over again, in this very fine romantic comedy. It was also one of our early successes (1993-94 season, 80%).
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) Friday 10 July 10.00pm-12 midnight Channel 81
One of the all-time cult classics that enjoyed a retrospective showing at the Regent a few years ago; you might remember dressing up for the occasion . . . .
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
Last week, I referenced the film Giant (1956) and it made me think about stars who were keen to make a film that took them away from their studio-nurtured image and fanbase. (One of the stars was Rock Hudson and he was very good – as he was in Seconds ten years later.) It’s a little different now – studio contracts are not prevalent and the star/actor boundaries are blurred, so it’s not surprising to see Charlize Theron in Monster (2003) and Nicole Kidman in Destroyer (2018).
However, if we go back a generation or two, it was a little riskier and not always successful (Dirk Bogarde as a Mexican bandit in The Singer Not the Song (1960) and John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror (1956) come to mind). These I would recommend heartily, though: Farrah Fawcett as a battered housewife in The Burning Bed (1984) and - a little dated now - Elizabeth Taylor as the prostitute in Butterfield 8 (1960); Tony Curtis, superb as The Boston Strangler (1968) with the director, Richard Fleischer, doing another fine job, this time with Richard Attenborough, in 10 Rillington Place (1970). Charles Bronson did Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus (1991) amidst much on-screen mayhem. Robert Mitchum was phenomenal as the psychotic preacher in The Night of the Hunter and Frank Sinatra played a drug addict in The Man with a Golden Arm (1955 was clearly a good year). Sean Connery was impressive in The Hill (1965) during his tenure as James Bond; Olivia de Havilland took on a controversial role in The Snake Pit (1948) and Ray Milland won an Oscar as an alcoholic in The Lost Weekend (1945). Finally, I must save pride of place for Tyrone Power who fought hard to play a ‘can’t-sink-any-lower’ carnival barker in Nightmare Alley (1947). Guillermo del Toro is currently filming a remake and that doubles its ‘street cred’ at a stroke! I can hardly wait!
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