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My spot checks on last week’s TV transmissions confirmed what I outlined in Random Memories. For example, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Plenty and The Bridge on the River Kwai were all shown correctly in widescreen letterbox, but The Bridge at Remagen (apart from the opening and end credits) was not – and the five minute CinemaScope short Rollercoaster was shown with black bars to the top, bottom and sides, so the desired effect was lost somewhat! Never mind, we won’t let it interfere with this week’s selection . . .
THE RED SHOES (1948) Saturday 12 September 11.00am-1.10pm BBC 2
This story of a ballerina torn between two men, (part-fairy tale, part-tragedy, in sumptuous colour), has become, deservedly, a cinema legend. It is said to be Martin Scorsese’s favourite film.
TROUBLE IN STORE (1953) Saturday 12 September 6.00pm-7.45pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
I’ve never been a fan of Norman Wisdom (although his two-hander with Bruce Forsyth in a Sunday Night at the London Palladium show was brilliant), but maybe I’ll take another look at his first hit.
MEMENTO (2000) Saturday 12 September 9.45-11.35pm BBC 2
This stunning thriller, about a man with short-term memory loss determined to avenge his wife’s death, instantly made Christopher Nolan a director to watch. He still is.
AFTER THE STORM (2016) Sunday 13 September 12.35-2.30am BBC 2
Another very good piece of work from Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda (Shoplifters); here a private detective finds it difficult to reconnect with his estranged family.
CASABLANCA (1942) Sunday 13 September 4.20-6.00pm BBC 2
A timeless classic that a lot of people would say is the best film that Hollywood ever produced. For sure, it is a perfect amalgam of happy accidents that wouldn’t have been the same with Ronald Reagan and Ann Sheridan. Avoid the Charles Bronson update Caboblanco (1980)!
THREE SISTERS (1970) Sunday 13 September 10.00pm-1.10am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Periodically, in the 1960s and 1970s, cameras would film a stage production for posterity. Here it is Olivier’s National Theatre production with Joan Plowright, Derek Jacobi and Alan Bates.
I WAS A FIREMAN (US title, 1943) Monday 14 September 12.25pm-2.00pm Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
There are two good documentaries showing today. This, contemporary to events, is a fine tribute to the Auxiliary Fire Service. It was directed by the great Humphrey Jennings.
SPITFIRE (2018) Monday 14 September 9.00-10.30pm BBC 2
Looking back with the combined benefits of new and archive footage, and interviews, this documentary was good enough to be considered for bookings by southwest film societies.
BRASSED OFF (1996) Monday 14 September 11.30pm-1.40am Film Four
It’s over 20 years (1997-98 season, 92%) since we programmed this entertaining, moving story about a colliery brass band, but it is as delightful as ever.
THE SPY IN BLACK (1939) Tuesday 15 September 11.00am-12.45pm Film Four
This first Powell and Pressburger collaboration stars Conrad Veidt as a German spy, active in Scotland, who is determined to help scupper the British fleet in the First World War.
BREAKER MORANT (1979) Tuesday 15 September 5.00-7.10pm Channel 40
In plot terms, Morant is a predecessor of The Paths of Glory (1957) – three soldiers are selected for a trumped-up court martial in the Boer War. It won several Australian film awards.
CAT BALLOU (1965) Wednesday 16 September 1.00-3.05pm Channel 40
The comedy western that won Lee Marvin his Oscar; Jane Fonda is good, too. I must confess that it isn’t a personal favourite – probably because it lacks both subtlety and respect for the genre.
THE EVACUEES (1975) Wednesday 16 September 10.00-11.15pm BBC 4
Not a film as such, but a nice tribute to the late Alan Parker. Written by Jack Rosenthal, it’s about the evacuation of two Jewish boys to Blackpool. A Face to Face interview, with the director, follows.
THE BLACK ROSE (1950) Thursday 17 September 6.40-9.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Tyrone Power made two historical epics (Prince of Foxes, 1949, was the other) almost back to back; here, he’s a Saxon adventurer in the Far East. Orson Welles was the villain in both and each had a good director, and cinematographer (Jack Cardiff, working in colour, in this case). Ultimately, the scripts let them down, and so they are considered to be average, but – go on – indulge yourself!
BAIT (2019) Thursday 17 September 11.20pm-1.05am Film Four
The British critical success of last year had a good response on our members’ questionnaire, but then Covid intervened. Do watch it and, when we all meet again, tell us what you think! New to Freeview.
POOL OF LONDON (1950) Friday 18 September 6.45-8.30pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This is a very interesting, groundbreaking, drama from Ealing Studios. The late Earl Cameron is a black docker, with a white girlfriend, who becomes involved with smugglers. It might not be a classic, but deserves 10/10 for effort!
GALAXY QUEST (1999) Friday 18 September 9.00-11.10pm Channel 30
Possibly the most fun we ever had from our Christmas films! The cast of a sci-fi TV show become the unlikely saviours of an alien race. It is done sublimely – the acting is great, it’s funny and – the clever bit – it mocks gently everything from thespian posturing to nerdy fandom, whilst respecting both source material and genre conventions (cf. Support Your Local Sheriff! ).
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
Last week’s showing of The Smallest Show on Earth has had me thinking about films set in cinemas. There are several that involve arriving, leaving or a brief view of the interior. In Footlight Parade (1933) James Cagney watches, briefly, the B-western The Telegraph Trail; the gangster John Dillinger was famously shot dead after going to see Manhattan Melodrama (1934), an event depicted in Dillinger (1973); in The Seven Year Itch (1955), Marilyn Monroe famously sympathised with The Creature From the Black Lagoon. And on television, such plot devices have been used to lend authenticity to the week’s storyline: in ‘The Townie’ from season 1 of The Waltons, John-Boy goes to see Forbidden Heaven, a 1935 Charles Farrell film; there is a partial view of the star and title above the cinema entrance and a brief clip.
However, whilst some major films have had key moments, or scenes, in cinemas (one thinks of Brief Encounter, The Purple Rose of Cairo and, more recently Mr Holmes and The Shape of Water, for example), those where the cinema itself is effectively a character, are fewer in number. Skipping quickly over Movie House Massacre (1984), I would recommend Targets (1969). The climax makes brilliant use of a drive-in theatre, as an elderly Boris Karloff tackles the new horror that is a rampaging shooter. Sherlock Junior (1924), in which projectionist Buster Keaton dreams his way into the movie, is pure genius. Alfred Hitchcock (of course) reworked Joseph Conrad’s novel The Secret Agent, so that the terrorist operates a small London cinema (Sabotage, 1936). In the wonderful The Last Picture Show (1971), the cinema (still showing Red River) is the perfect metaphor for a small, declining town in Texas in the early 1950s. The best of them all, however, is surely Cinema Paradiso (1988) which twice has had a rapturous reception from our members.
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