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Occasionally, I neglect to include a film that, whilst it does not have much of a reputation, might be of more interest to us. One such film is the vintage drama Guilt Is My Shadow (1950) which had location filming in Devon. Some scenes were shot in Ashburton, others at a country fair and there are some nice coastal shots that seem to include the railway line at Teignmouth. I suspect that it is ripe for re-appraisal and will keep you informed! On the TV front, the latest series to pop up on TP is Interpol Calling (weekdays from 6pm Monday, 15 March). Charles Korvin starred in the 39 episodes and it was first shown in 1959.
BILLIE (2019) Saturday 13 March 9.45-11.20pm BBC 2 P
The BBC is unveiling another excellent documentary tonight. It gives us a full and fascinating look at the legendary singer – her addictions, sexuality, friends, co-workers and the gorgeous, seductive voice that has endured like few others.
PETERLOO (2018) Saturday 13 March 10.00pm-12.55am Channel 4 P
Peterloo is long and has a very late finish, so it might be the one to record if you can. Given a bigger budget than usual, Mike Leigh weaves deftly the massacre itself with the nascent political and social upheaval of the early 19th-century. Surprisingly, not all the reviews were rave ones, but I enjoyed it a lot when I saw it at the Radway.
WHIPLASH (2014) Saturday 13 March 11.20pm-1.00am BBC 2 P
Again, if you don’t want to stay up late, then it will be on BBC iPlayer for about a month. We showed Whiplash in our 2015-16 season; it did very well, with a reaction of 86%, but I thought it was even better than that. The story concerns a young jazz drummer who is pushed to the very brink by a mentor/tutor after perfection. The director, Damien Chazelle, followed it with La La Land, but give me this one any day of the week. Then again, I would choose Cabaret over The Sound of Music.
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952) Sunday 14 March 2.35-4.15pm BBC 2
We will stay with musicals a little longer, as this is still the best of them all. It’s not just the title number, the dances or Donald O’Connor’s stunning “Make ‘Em Laugh” showstopper, but the sublime depiction – with maximum comic value, too – of Hollywood’s transition from silent cinema to sound.
I GOT LIFE! (2017) Sunday 14 March 10.00-11.25pm BBC 4 P
Not an exceptional film, but this French comedy drama is certainly one of the more interesting offerings for Mother’s Day. Aurore is 50-years-old, a grandmother, divorced and about to lose her job. Will meeting an old flame bring some vigour into her life?
DUAL ALIBI (1946) Monday 15 March 7.50-9.30am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Courtesy of TP, we have another interesting, low-budget, British drama. It is good to see one of our favourite character actors, Herbert Lom, leading the cast. He plays twin brothers who win big on the lottery, only to see their prize, and future prosperity, threatened by lowlifes Terence de Marney and Phyllis Dixey (yes, that Phyllis Dixey).
THE GIANT CLAW (1957) Monday 15 March 1.00-2.30pm Channel 68
Right, here is a proper challenge for you – one of the poorest films I have ever seen even by bargain bin sci-fi standards. Watch a giant bird in conflict with fighter jets! Marvel at how much better Mara Corday was in Tarantula (1955)! Be astounded by the special effects! I dare you to return to viewing after the first ad break . . .
A MAN ALONE (1955) Tuesday 16 March 11.00am-12.55pm Film Four
One of the attractions of working at a minor studio such as Republic, for a major actor like Ray Milland, was that you could then direct as well. He proved to be more than capable in both capacities. Here, he is the gunman who actually knows who robbed the town’s bank. Ward Bond, Raymond Burr and Lee Van Cleef lend sterling support.
AT GUNPOINT (1955) Tuesday 16 March 5.05-6.50pm Film Four
This time the studio is Allied Artists. Fred MacMurray is very good as the peaceful storekeeper who kills a bank robber with a lucky shot and who is then shunned by the townspeople when the outlaw gang returns. Dorothy Malone and Walter Brennan (as the town doctor) also do well. On release, the film would have been a pleasing addition to a double bill. For, MacMurray adapted well to the genre when his best years were behind him and the five modest westerns that Alfred Werker directed at the end of his career (1953-56), have held up well over the years.
MISERY (1990) Wednesday 17 March 9.00-11.10pm Film Four
Well, yes, we dared to show Misery in our 1992-93 season – prefaced by a LRFS health warning, of course (the sledgehammer scene). It was one of those rare occasions where everyone gripped their seats and could not move – and the reaction slips came to 85%. An adaptation of a Stephen King story, James Caan is the writer held prisoner by his ‘Number One Fan’ – an absolutely terrifying Kathy Bates. Certificate 18.
ALL ABOUT EVE (1950) Wednesday 17 March 9.05-11.50pm Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
Unfortunately clashing with the above, Eve remains one of the Hollywood greats and won six Oscars including Best Picture. Bette Davis is the ageing star on the way down, Anne Baxter is after her crown, Marilyn Monroe gets herself noticed and the script is razor sharp.
CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OLYMPICS (1937) Thursday 18 March 8.00-9.30am Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
I am thinking that Mr Chan will have dated a little, but is likely still to be enjoyable at the **1/2 level. Swedish-born Warner Oland was the first to make his mark as the Honolulu detective who solved crimes aided by his “Number One Son” and the occasional aphorism. This one was Oland’s penultimate venture (he died in 1938) before Sidney Toler continued the role. Here his son, who is on the American swimming team, is kidnapped by spies – and, yes, it incorporates footage from the Berlin Olympics.
MY FERAL HEART (2016) Thursday 18 March 9.00-10.15pm BBC 4 P
This is the simple, but very effective, story of Luke, an adult with Down’s syndrome who has to move into a care facility. Steven Brandon gives a very touching performance and the film would make a fine companion piece to The Peanut Butter Falcon from last season’s questionnaire.
THE BLACK SWAN (1942) Friday 19 March 1.35-3.20pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
I referenced this film when writing about Maureen O’Hara last year. It is a superior swashbuckler with Tyrone Power as a reformed pirate, gorgeous Technicolor and sets (footage was still being used ten years later) and a rousing score.
BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL (2017) Friday 19 March 11.25pm-2.15am Film Four P
Damn! At the end of a working week, I won’t have the energy to stay up for Japanese director Takashi Miike’s 100th feature. His speciality is the samurai film – in this example, a young girl asks an immortal warrior to exact her revenge. He is a brilliant film-maker (the climax to 13 Assassins was an astounding 45-minute battle sequence), but be warned – the blood will flow. Certificate 18.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
A SELECTION OF EYEPATCHES
A couple of weeks ago, when writing about Valkyrie (2008), I mentioned the fact that Tom Cruise sported an eyepatch for his role. Ignoring the hundreds of pirate films where wearing one might be considered de rigueur, and recalling that Robert Duvall had also worn one when playing a German officer in The Eagle Has Landed (1976), I thought it might be a good test of the memory.
You might recall yourselves that Rosamund Pike needed to wear one for the role of Marie Colvin in A Private War which was our penultimate – and very successful - film in the 2019-2020 season (audience reaction: 92%). The patch covered her left eye, as it did with Bette Davis when she came to the UK to make The Anniversary (1968) for Hammer and with Richard Widmark in the Civil War western Alvarez Kelly (1966). George Montgomery had opted for the right eye in an earlier western Black Patch (1957); an interesting little film that was written by one of the supporting cast, Leo Gordon. There was an offbeat science-fiction film, No Blade of Grass, released in 1970; the actor in this case was Nigel Davenport. Ten years later and the actor was Kurt Russell in his celebrated role of Snake Plissken. The film was Escape from New York (1981) and he was persuaded to make a follow-up, Escape from L.A. (1996), although I couldn’t tell you if it was the same eyepatch.
The most famous character to have one has to be Rooster Cogburn. John Wayne played him twice in True Grit (1969) and Rooster Cogburn (1975); he opted for the left eye, as did Warren Oates in the TVM True Grit – a Further Adventure (1978). In the 2010 version, however, Jeff Bridges cunningly switched the patch to his right eye. There was an amusing scene in The Sons of Katie Elder (1965), where Dean Martin contrived to wear it on neither eye – it was part of a con scheme to auction his ‘glass eye’. George Kennedy was not amused!
As for actors on television, that becomes a little trickier. Boris Karloff wore one over his left eye in Colonel March of Scotland Yard as the man in charge of the Department of Queer Complaints. I can also recall an episode of The Saint entitled ‘Queen’s Ransom’ (series 5, episode 1) in which the actor Peter Madden wore both an eyepatch and a fez. By the conventions of 1960s television, you knew immediately that he was unlikely to be around as the end credits rolled!
You wonder, too, how they all remembered to say their lines and hit their marks whilst wearing one. I suspect that there was a small hole in the patch that wouldn’t be picked up by the camera – so they had full vision, after all!
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