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.
As excitement builds over the release of Now and Then, the new (and final) single from The Beatles, it seemed an opportune moment to reflect on their film work, both individually and collectively. They were fortunate to start out with director Richard Lester who crafted two mini-masterpieces with A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965). Yellow Submarine (1968) was a unique enterprise and the farewell documentary Let It Be (1970) won an Oscar for Best Score. John Lennon had already appeared in How I Won the War (1967) and, later, made a handful of shorts. Ringo Starr involved himself in some unusual projects (to put it mildly): two of these were The Magic Christian (1969) and the 1971 western Blindman. Paul McCartney went on to write arguably the best Bond song for Live and Let Die (1973). However, it is George Harrison’s work as an executive producer, helping to give the green light to films such as Mona Lisa and Withnail and I (which we showed) that is the most significant contribution.
A KISS BEFORE DYING (1956) Sunday 4 November 10.05pm-12midnight TP (Ch 82)
Robert Wagner was seldom able to stretch himself in dramatic roles unlike Tony Curtis, for example. He does so here, though, as a psychopathic killer who needs to get rid of his girlfriend (played by Joanne Woodward). Filmed in CinemaScope.
HIT THE ROAD (2021) Tuesday 7 November 11.25pm-1.20am Film Four P
We haven’t always fared well with our ventures into Iranian cinema and road movies can sometimes divide audience opinion. (I was never overly fond of 1971’s Two-Lane Blacktop although Warren Oates is superb and it deserves its cult status.) This film combines the two (an Iranian family is driving across a wild landscape as events unfold), but we like to recommend directorial debuts and Panah Panahi does a very good job.
PATHS OF GLORY (1957) Friday 10 November 5.10-7.05pm Great Action (Ch 42)
Great Action rarely shows anything this good! One of my formative viewing experiences (aged about nine, as I recall) was discovering this masterpiece, late at night when I was supposed to be asleep. Kirk Douglas is ordered to take the Ant Hill – whatever the cost to his men – whilst the generals wine and dine in a French château. It was banned in France for many years. When asked, I say still that it is the best (anti) war film I have seen.
PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006) Friday 10 November 11.05pm-12.55am BBC 2
It did well enough in our 2007/2008 season (81%), but it is one of the best films LRFS has ever shown and should have had 10 to 14% more. It has such a rich tapestry: stunning visually; adroit as a political allegory; thought-provoking in its depiction of the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath. Then, to top it all, Guillermo del Toro interweaves a breathtaking fantasy anchored by a young innocent. Pan’s Labyrinth is what cinema is all about – Spiderman, please don’t bother to come home.
By David Johnson
Chairman of Lyme Regis Film Society
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