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It was announced last weekend that Cineworld are to close, temporarily, all their cinemas in the UK and US. With Covid-19 restrictions set to continue for some time it is understandable and, it would seem, a second postponement of the new James Bond film (to April 2021) was the final decider. On to the Monday morning, Radio 5, and a young presenter is musing on how strange it is that people should want to gather in a dark place and watch what is, effectively, ‘a very big TV screen’. Eegah!! [1963, one of the worst films ever made] So, where do we start . . .
QUEEN OF KATWE (2016) Saturday 10 October 1.15-3.15pm BBC 2
Katwe is the story of a young chess prodigy who, against all odds, earns the right to compete in an international tournament. Beautifully shot and a big success with members (2017-18 season, 88%).
THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962) Saturday 10 October 4.00-6.35pm Channel 31
Ford’s last masterpiece is the one where he famously re-examines and dissects the mythological west that he, more than any other director, had helped to create and invigorate.
BLUEPRINT FOR ROBBERY (1961) Saturday 10 October 7.05-9.05pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This is a very modest production, virtually unknown, which is why I’m selecting it! It’s a heist drama starring two very familiar supporting players (J. Pat O’Malley and Robert Wilke) enjoying the extra responsibility; the director is Jerry Hopper, who gave us The Atomic City.
RAGING BULL (1980) Saturday 10 October 11pm-1.20am ITV 1
Superbly shot and edited (in b/w), it tells the story of the rise and fall of boxer Jake La Motta. Often cited as the best film of the 80s – and one of the best ever – Robert de Niro won the Oscar for Best Actor, but Scorsese and the film itself lost out to Robert Redford and Ordinary People.
RIO BRAVO (1959) Sunday 11 October 2.00-4.15pm BBC 2
Also Thursday evening, BBC 4 (see later notes) and preceded today by a Talking Pictures special.
FRANKENSTEIN (1931) Sunday 11 October 5.40-7.05pm Channel 70
The most influential horror movie ever made – and it remains one of the best. Boris Karloff, aided immeasurably by Jack Pierce’s make-up, is staggeringly good (pun intended). AND it’s double bill time! The Wolf Man, with Lon Chaney Jr in his signature role (Pierce again), follows at 7.05pm.
THE GUARDIANS (2017) Sunday 11 October 10.30pm-12.40am BBC 4
When I first saw The Guardians, I thought it was one of the best films of the year, so was very sad that it didn’t secure enough member votes. The settings are realised perfectly and the characters are extremely well-drawn; every frame carries meaning and it makes a wonderful tribute to the French women who had to endure a different war, 1914-1918.
SORRY, WRONG NUMBER (1948) Monday 12 October 2.50-4.40pm Film Four
Long before the invention of mobile phones, a bedridden heiress (Barbara Stanwyck) makes a landline call and overhears her murder being planned. The tension mounts admirably.
THE CONSTANT HUSBAND (1955) Monday 12 October 6.55-9.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This is a less well-known Rex Harrison comedy in which he plays an amnesiac Casanova who appears to be married. Kay Kendall and Cecil Parker are good and the Technicolor is lovely.
THE RUNNING MAN (1963) Tuesday 13 October 9.10-11.15am Channel 40
In lesser hands, this story of a dogged insurance investigator on the trail of a conman, would be run-of-the-mill. However, director Carol Reed, cinematographer Robert Krasker (both worked on The Third Man), writer John Mortimer and actors Laurence Harvey, Lee Remick and Alan Bates lift it several notches.
LAST TRAIN FROM GUN HILL (1959) Tuesday 13 October 1.05-2.55pm Film Four
Sheriff Kirk Douglas is determined to leave town with the man who killed his wife; the complication is that he is the son of a friend (Anthony Quinn). John Sturges also made Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
THE SWIMMER (1968) Wednesday 14 October 9.10-11.05am Channel 40
A troubled businessman swims home using all the neighbourhood pools en route. It’s a metaphor for alienation and an incisive look at the rigidity of suburban mores; typically late ‘60s, but still fascinating – and Burt Lancaster is such a commanding presence it works, the odd confusion aside.
HARD TARGET (1993) Wednesday 14 October 9.00-11.00pm Channel 31
I wouldn’t normally suggest a Jean-Claude Van Damme film, but as it’s quite an exciting update of The Most Dangerous Game . . . Hong Kong action specialist John Woo, making his American debut, ensures that it is one of Van Damme’s three best films.
TIGER BAY (1959) Thursday 15 October 2.40-4.50pm Film Four
Making her debut, aged 12, Hayley Mills is astonishingly assured as the girl who helps a sailor (Horst Buchholz), on the run for murder, elude Cardiff’s police force. J Lee Thompson deserves much credit.
RIO BRAVO (1959) Thursday 15 October 8.00-10.15pm BBC 4
Growing up, I was hesitant as to how good Rio Bravo was – its construction seemed over-elaborate, mannered even, and the actors unusually relaxed. Later, I realised that these were strengths – Howard Hawks was inviting us to be a part of his group dynamic (a favourite theme), to be comfortable in their company and to enjoy the film’s many incidental pleasures. So, from its stunning Mac the Knife-style opening to its explosive ending, it’s Top Ten all the way. John Wayne is the sheriff, Dean Martin his drunken deputy (so keen was he to do it, he hired a plane after a Vegas show to go and do a screen test); Walter Brennan is as peerless as always, and Angie Dickinson an essential part of the mix. For all the participants, both before and behind the camera, it ranks with their very best work.
SUMMER HOLIDAY (1962) Friday 16 October 8.00-9.50pm BBC 4
This Friday is Musical Day! Option 1: mix a drink, open that box of chocolates and sing along in celebration of Cliff Richard’s 80th birthday. Nostalgia alert – these were the days when you could board a double-decker bus without a face mask.
WHITE RIOT (2019) Friday 16 October 10.00-11.45pm Sky Arts (Channel 11)
Option 2: in cinemas only a month ago, this is a perceptive and fascinating documentary about how punk helped to create the Rock Against Racism movement. I’m certain we have members who will watch either film – or both!
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES - (NOT SO) RANDOM FILMS
After six months of writing about films that, hopefully, have been of interest, I have decided that it is a good time to look back. So, eschewing the great classics (such as Casablanca) that we all know and love, here is a selection of the modest productions; the ones where I take extra pleasure in saying, out of the 300 or so commented on so far, ‘so pleased that I included that one’. I have limited myself to 20 titles and not used film society bookings. In alphabetical order:
GREAT SHORT FILM: THE BESPOKE OVERCOAT
TWO VERY GOOD DOCUMENTARIES: I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO and LEE MILLER: A LIFE AT THE FRONT LINE. (The latter was fascinating and instructional for me; I didn’t know her work.)
Interestingly, only five of the twenty were filmed in colour. If you missed them first time round, they will be on again – indeed, some of them have been already!
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