At last – we have a film worthy of the name coming to the Radway! Following on from two preview shows, Ridley Scott’s Napoleon started what is likely to be a two-week run on Friday 24 November. This isn’t the first big-screen incarnation, of course. Abel Gance’s 5-hour masterpiece was released in 1927 and there had been two versions (much shorter!) as early as 1909. Gance remade his own film in 1971; one year after Rod Steiger had played the emperor in Waterloo. The 1955 Napoleon consisted of a series of light-hearted vignettes (with a 3-hour running time) that had two actors playing him (Daniel Gélin and Raymond Pellegrin). And we mustn’t forget Marlon Brando’s slightly bored interpretation in Désirée (1954). There have also been several TV mini-series – you might remember that Ian Holm was very good in Napoleon and Love (1974).
Trivia footnote: Napoleon Whiting played Silas the butler in 35 episodes of The Big Valley in the 1960s.
3 FACES (2018) Saturday 25 November 10.40pm-12.20am BBC 4 P
Starting a little later than normal, whilst BBC 4 concludes the rather good Australian 4-parter Scrublands, tonight’s subtitled offering is from Iran. A girl who is being frustrated in her efforts to become an actress contacts a director (played by this film’s director Jafar Panahi), who then travels to her village to meet her. Reality meets film meets art!
REAP THE WILD WIND (1942) Wednesday 29 November 12.45-3.10pm Legend (Ch 41)
This seafaring adventure showcases to a T the best and worst of Cecil B. DeMille. It has a strong cast (Ray Milland, John Wayne, Paulette Goddard, Robert Preston and Susan Hayward), bright Technicolor and some special effects that still impress. It also has risible dialogue (“I’ll bring you a rainbow fish for breakfast”) and a simplistic, Sunday school view of events. In terms of having queues at the box office, DeMille was the Spielberg of his day but, as a director, he wasn’t in the same league.
JUST MERCY (2019) Wednesday 29 November 10.40pm-12.50am BBC 1 P
Just Mercy boasts some fine actors (Michael B. Jordan, Brie Larson and Jamie Foxx) and, whilst the story is familiar (Jordan is a lawyer trying to save an innocent man on death row), it is well structured and holds the attention. In short, whilst not a classic, it is a good watch!
DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) Thursday 30 November 8.15-10.00pm BBC 4
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP (1943) 11.00pm-1.35am BBC 4
There are two bona fide classics this evening, however. Double Indemnity is just about the best film noir ever made – Barbara Stanwyck, in particular, gives a stunning performance. Colonel Blimp, filmed vividly in colour, is one of Powell and Pressburger’s finest films. Roger Livesey is wonderful and Deborah Kerr, who plays three roles, would soon be off to Hollywood on the strength of her work in this and Black Narcissus.
Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer debuts on streaming platforms this week and it made me think of films with a nuclear theme. Everyone knows Dr Strangelove (if not, seek it out immediately), but what else is worth a look? Here is another little list I carry in my head:
Fail-Safe (1964). How the US responds after an accidental missile launch. It was remade in 2000 as a live TV drama utilising two WB sound stages.
Threads (1984). The devastating BBC drama that horrified a nation.
The Day After (1983). The American equivalent is a superb TVM that won two Emmys and looks at the aftermath of a nuclear strike on Eastern Kansas.
On the Beach (1959). An excellent adaptation of Nevil Shute’s novel that was also remade in 2000.
By Dawn’s Early Light (1990). Powers Boothe stars in another very good TVM. How do you stop a nuclear bomber, on its way to Moscow, after it has passed the point of no return?
Panic in Year Zero! (1962). Ray Milland directs and stars in this low-budget drama that follows a family trying to survive what follows. The sound is iffy, but it helps the atmosphere.
Above and Beyond (1952). Robert Taylor stars as Paul Tibbets. He was never nominated for an Oscar, but many felt he should have been for his work here. Remade as Enola Gay in 1980.
The War Game (1965). Commissioned by the BBC, Peter Watkins’ drama was so powerful, the Beeb couldn’t transmit it. It then won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature!
When the Wind Blows (1986). This animated feature, with voice work by Peggy Ashcroft and John Mills, was one of our early successes.
No Blade of Grass (1970). Directed by Cornel Wilde, this is an eco-drama rather than a nuclear one. It makes a very interesting addition to the list, however.
RIDERS OF JUSTICE (2020) Wednesday 22 November 9.00-11.20pm Film Four P
Tonight’s schedule has the Freeview premiere of one of last season’s selections, if you were unable to attend that evening. Mads Mikkelsen is excellent as the soldier who thinks a biker gang is responsible for his wife’s death. The Radio Times calls it a “nuanced delight” and it offers a very clever spin on the nature (and worthiness) of violence and revenge.
FINAL CUT (2022) Thursday 23 November 10.05-11.55pm BBC 4 P
The credentials of Final Cut are most interesting. It is directed by Michel (The Artist) Hazanavicius and is a French remake of a Japanese cult classic. Problems occur when real zombies invade the set of a low-budget zombie movie. Well, it makes me happy!
PETITE MAMAN (2021) Friday 24 November 12.55-2.20am Film Four P
Despite its short running time, Petite Maman is too profound to be considered slight and it saddens me still that we didn’t programme it. An 8-year-old girl makes friends with another young girl she meets in the woods, and who might well be her mother’s younger self. It has already placed =225 in the Sight & Sound Greatest Film poll and sits alongside The Crowd, Star Wars, Intolerance and the 1927 Napoleon! Such a shame that it is on during the night.
As I remarked before our showing of She Said, members do enjoy films with a political or newsroom/conspiracy background and two of the very best are on BBC 2 this week. All the President’s Men is on Sunday evening (and repeated Thursday evening on BBC 4), and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation is on late Monday evening. Also starting Monday on BBC 4, timed perfectly, is documentary maker Norma Percy’s 1998 6-parter The Fifty Years War. However, my main focus this week is on some of the film premieres – there are more than usual and so, for once, the older releases will have to take a back seat.
BLACK BOX (2021) Saturday 11 November 9.00-11.00pm BBC 4 P
Black Box is a French conspiracy thriller of more recent vintage: a forensic expert is asked to look into the events surrounding an air crash.
LET IT SNOW (2020) Saturday 11 November 11.50pm-1.15am BBC 2 P
I know members don’t like horror films, but I hope to catch this interesting drama from Georgia. Mia would have to stray onto a restricted slope when snowboarding – will youngsters never learn . . .?
DOUBLE CONFESSION (1950) Sunday 12 November 10.45am-12.25pm TP (Ch 82)
Just the one oldie for this week if only because it is a film I do not know and its credentials intrigue me. Set in ‘Seagate’ (which could easily be Lyme Regis), there is a lot of work to be done when two bodies are washed ashore. Ken Annakin had a much smaller budget than he would have for his contribution to The Longest Day (1962); the real interest for me, though, will be seeing William Hartnell and the great Peter Lorre sharing screen time.
DRIVE MY CAR (2021) Wednesday 15 November 10.50pm-2.25am Film Four P
Drive My Car enjoyed splendid reviews on release and Radio Times awards it 5 stars; unfortunately, we couldn’t programme it because of its long running time. A theatre director is on his way to Hiroshima; on the way, he begins to build a relationship with the woman assigned as his driver.
WHEEL OF FORTUNE AND FANTASY (2021) Friday 17 November 1.10-3.40am Film Four P
A Haruki Murakami short story formed the basis of Drive My Car. Here, three of them make up this anthology (and use the same director, Ryusuke Hamaguchi). Anthology films are not a new idea, of course (there was a spate of them in the 1940s/early 1950s, and they served the horror genre well in the 1970s), but this is a rather good example.
WORDS ON BEDROOM WALLS (2020) Friday 17 November 9.00-10.45pm BBC 3 P
And so to our final premiere of the week! Lean on Pete didn’t do particularly well when we showed it in our 2018/2019 season, but Charlie Plummer was very good – and he is here, too. He plays a student who is diagnosed with schizophrenia and who then falls in love with a fellow student.
By David Johnson
Chairman of Lyme Regis Film Society
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