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Welcome to a new week. For a little while now, the quiet days have been Mondays and Tuesdays and, on occasion, a Wednesday. I suppose it shouldn’t be too surprising that there is a mid-week lull and, usually, I will find something to avoid a blank day with only a marginal relaxation of standards! Having said that, tastes vary, moods change and, from the outset, a key element has been to highlight modest films that wouldn’t normally draw your attention.
EASTER PARADE (1948) Saturday 14 November 3.15-4.55pm BBC 2
Also showing Thursday evening, BBC 4 (see later notes).
JOURNEY’S END (2017) Saturday 14 November 9.00-10.40pm BBC 2 P
First filmed by James Whale in 1930, RC Sheriff’s renowned play of an officer’s life in the trenches still resonates. Sam Claflin takes on the role originally played by Colin Clive.
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962) Sunday 15 November 12.10-2.15am BBC 2
We did pretty well with the Denzel Washington remake (2005-06 season, 71%), but the original is even better. Laurence Harvey is the brainwashed Korean War veteran, Frank Sinatra his superior officer and Angela Lansbury his not-so-sweet mother.
SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING (1960) Sunday 15 November 12.10-2.00pm Ch 55
Karel Reisz (The French Lieutenant’s Woman) directs one of the best of the British New Wave films; Albert Finney is the factory worker, Shirley Anne Field his girlfriend and Rachel Roberts the married woman he seduces. They are all superb (as is Hylda Baker in a telling supporting role).
DOCTOR AT SEA (1955) Sunday 15 November 6.00-8.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Dirk Bogarde wasn’t especially fond of his matinee idol years, but he was very good as Dr Simon Sparrow and the Doctor series was ever so popular. The bonus here is Brigitte Bardot just before she became a worldwide sensation. The film was at the Regent for an entire week from Monday October 3rd 1955 (“a wonderful entertainment” - the Sunday Chronicle) with The Great Adventure in support.
TWO THOUSAND WOMEN (1944) Monday 16 November 3.05-4.55pm Film Four
In essence it’s a propaganda piece, but the writing and cast (including Phyllis Calvert and Flora Robson) lift it a notch or two. The imprisoned women try and help three RAF airmen to escape.
SHOPLIFTERS (2018) Monday 16 November 11.10pm-1.30am Film Four
If you missed it with us last season (reaction: 79%), now is your chance to see why this unusual family created such a stir amongst the critics.
THE WOMAN ON THE BEACH (1947) Tuesday 17 November 7.20-8.45am Channel 41
Critical opinion is divided on Jean Renoir’s last Hollywood venture: poor concept and dialogue or a clever film noir where the triangle consists of femme fatale, blind husband and a coastguard suffering from PTS.
GOODBYE, COLUMBUS (1969) Tuesday 17 November 10.pm-12.05am Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
This adaptation of Philip Roth’s comic novel (set in a 1950’s Jewish community in New York) introduced two engaging new stars in Ali MacGraw and Richard Benjamin. It had a post-The Graduate smartness and sexual openness that was still new in Hollywood pictures.
HAPPY AS LAZZARO (2018) Wednesday 18 November 2.05-4.15am Channel 4
Here we have an entertaining fantasy drama centred on a naive young Italian peasant with a good heart. It was a near miss for us, so you might like to give it a whirl.
SEX & DRUGS & ROCK & ROLL (2009) Wednesday 18 November 10.00-11.50pm BBC 4
Let’s dust off the rhythm sticks and complete a different kind of Wednesday with this biopic of Ian Dury. Andy Serkis is perfectly cast as the punk pioneer.
THE DAY WILL DAWN (1942) Thursday 19 November 2.25-4.25pm Film Four
An interesting contemporary-to-events companion to The 12th Man: a journalist (Hugh Williams) works with the Norwegian Resistance (Deborah Kerr) to destroy a U-boat base. It’s effective, and moving at times, but don’t expect the nail-biting tension of last season!
EASTER PARADE (1948) Thursday 19 November 8.00-9.40pm BBC 4
Film Club brings us another classic musical: a dancer (Fred Astaire) loses his regular partner (Ann Miller) so decides to make a chorus girl into a new star – who just happens to be Judy Garland. The songs are by Irving Berlin and the score won an Oscar. Originally, Gene Kelly was slated to play the lead; he broke an ankle and the rest, as they say, is history.
THE MILLION POUND NOTE (1954) Friday 20 November 12.50-2.40pm Film Four
As part of a wager between two gamblers, Gregory Peck is given the note, but must avoid spending it for one month. Edwardian London is welcoming and it is particularly well-scripted by Jill Craigie, documentary film-maker and wife of Michael Foot. I can remember, vaguely, Stuart Damon doing a TVM version, although the records show that this was a 4-part BBC serial in 1968.
THE ARRIVAL (1996) Friday 20 November 9.00-11.15pm Channel 68
This sci-fi thriller is really a B-movie with top-dressing in the form of some decent effects, but it’s not half-bad. Charlie Sheen is the astronomer who stumbles across an alien plot to change the world’s climate. The truth will out eventually, I suppose . . . .
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
RANDOM GIFTS FOR CHRISTMAS
All the main distributors release films to DVD and Blu-ray. You might need to check that they will play on your machine (i.e. are Region 2 or Region B, as Region 1 or Region A – US and Canada – might not work in the UK). And remember, a DVD will play on both a DVD player and a Blu-ray player, but a Blu-ray disc won’t be read by a DVD player! There are some very good specialist labels: the BFI (who also have an online shop), Criterion, Eureka/Masters of Cinema and Vintage World Cinema to name just a few. Studio Canal and Renown put out lots of British classics and minor or ‘lost’ films. All of these labels almost always do restored new transfers from the best available materials often with really good extras. The only downside is that they tend to hold their price, but you might find a special offer or two. The bargain labels are useful if you want to catch a Gene Autry western (like me) or an obscure film that is in the public domain, but the transfers are usually of poor picture quality (print defects intact) and without extras.
Here is a selection of films that have been reviewed in 2020, in quality magazines such as Sight & Sound, and that reflect, I hope, what we have been highlighting in the weekly listings (or random memories). Mostly, the focus is on the Blu-ray release; it is highly likely that they are also on DVD, but the DVD would not include the same range of extras.
BLACK ANGEL (1946) ARROW BLU-RAY
This film noir from Universal is a real treasure: rare, top-notch cast and a director (Roy William Neill) who’d been sharpening his skills on the studio’s Sherlock Holmes series with Basil Rathbone.
EXTRAS INCLUDE: a commentary that, apparently, is ‘to die for’!
CLOAK AND DAGGER (1946) MASTERS OF CINEMA BLU-RAY
We highlighted this Fritz Lang/Gary Cooper thriller in our listings. It’s a very good transfer.
EXTRAS INCLUDE: adaptations done for American radio networks.
CYRANO DE BERGERAC (1990) BFI BLU-RAY
Gérard Depardieu is superb in one of our early hits (1991-92 season, reaction: 91%). This is a top-of-the range 4K transfer.
EXTRAS INCLUDE: a commentary track and interviews.
DANCE, GIRL, DANCE (1940) CRITERION BLU-RAY
On the surface, this is a RKO programmer with Maureen O’Hara and Lucille Ball both on fine form. However, think back to when we listed Beware, My Lovely starring Ida Lupino (also distributed by RKO) when I bemoaned the lack of women directors in Hollywood. Well, Dorothy Arzner directed this one and there is a welcome feminist tract at its heart.
A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE (1971) MASTERS OF CINEMA BLU-RAY
This was Sergio Leone’s final western with Rod Steiger and James Coburn.
EXTRAS INCLUDE: (of course) a commentary by spaghetti western expert Sir Christopher Frayling.
THE HALFWAY HOUSE (1944) STUDIO CANAL BLU-RAY
Here is a very unusual fantasy/wartime drama with Devon and Somerset passing for Wales!
EXTRAS INCLUDE: a commentary by British cinema expert Matthew Sweet.
HIROSHIMA (1953) ARROW BLU-RAY
A rare Japanese feature that became possible only after the American occupation had ended.
EXTRAS INCLUDE: a 2011 documentary.
PICKUP ALLEY (1957) ARROW BLU-RAY
An ultra-rare British narcotics thriller made by Warwick Films with Victor Mature and Trevor Howard. John Gilling, who did some good work at Hammer, directs.
EXTRAS INCLUDE: a video essay.
RAGTIME (1946) ARTE BLU-RAY & DVD
James Cagney’s last cinema release, directed by Milos Forman, is a very special treat: Arte is a French company, so the booklet and interviews are in French or have French subtitles. Alors, si tu veux essayer le français . . . .
EXTRAS INCLUDE: a booklet and interviews.
RAINING IN THE MOUNTAIN (1979) MASTERS OF CINEMA BLU-RAY & DVD
Restored by the Taiwan Film Institute, this is a comedy/adventure set in a Buddhist monastery. Reminder: I must try and find my copy of Dragon Inn (1967) during lockdown.
EXTRAS INCLUDE: a commentary and booklet.
SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY (1971) BFI BLU-RAY
Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch are two sides of a bisexual love triangle.
EXTRAS INCLUDE: a commentary and a 1981 blood donor appeal by Ms Jackson and Ernie Wise!!
TOTO LE HERO (1991) ARROW BLU-RAY
In the early 1990s, this was a popular option on the film society circuit, but we chose not to book it in Lyme. It is inventive, funny and worth catching up with now.
EXTRAS INCLUDE: an essay booklet
TRAPPED (1949) FLICKER ALLEY REGION FREE BLU-RAY & DVD
I thought this was a cracking little thriller even on my poor ‘three forgotten films on one disc’ copy, so this sparkling new edition should be great! Made by the short-lived Eagle-Lion studio and coming in at a lean 78 minutes, Lloyd Bridges plays a counterfeiter used by Treasury agents to catch a bigger fish. Director Richard Fleischer is often underrated – he made, in my estimation, some 20 films that are well worth your time.
EXTRAS INCLUDE: a booklet and two documentaries.
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