Help – are we starting a new week already? We do have some good films for you, although the selection has been getting a little tougher – it’s the height of summer, of course, and we are now seeing earlier choices repeated in the schedules. However, because several major sports events are absent from these same schedules, several channels are treating us to reruns of some TV classics. This week’s prime choice has to be Season 1 of The Bridge (the first four episodes Saturday, BBC 4), the Scandinavian series which is unquestionably one of the best of the decade.
I’M ALL RIGHT JACK (1959) Saturday 15 August 6.00-8.05 pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Jack is one of the best by the Boulting Brothers’ team – Ian Carmichael and Terry-Thomas are both great, but the standout performance comes from Peter Sellers as shop steward Fred Kite.
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974) Sunday 16 August 12.15-2.00am BBC1
Blazing Saddles notwithstanding, this brilliant spoof of the horror genre is Mel Brooks’s best film. It’s more tightly controlled and better cast, with all the characters (monster, hunchback, bride and blind hermit) present and correct.
The FAR COUNTRY (1955) Sunday 16 August 11.25am-1.30pm ITV 4 (Channel 24)
It’s not the best of the Anthony Mann-James Stewart westerns, but is still better than most. The location shooting is excellent and Walter Brennan is faultless although he is almost upstaged by John McIntire’s colourful villain, who rules the town of Skagway.
TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH (1949) Sunday 16 August 6.15-9.00pm Channel 40
This is a taut, absorbing account of US flyers in England and the intolerable pressures on those who command; Gregory Peck and Dean Jagger are both superb. MGM’s Command Decision (1948) was good also (and Clark Gable served in the war), but this has the edge dramatically.
THE FIGHTING LADY (1944) Monday 17 August 7.50-9.10am Channel 40
Some 60,000 feet of film were shot on board the Essex-class carrier Fighting Lady for this doc. It won an Oscar and the narrator, Lt. Robert Taylor, U.S.N., was always proud of his involvement.
THE GO-BETWEEN (1971) Monday 17 August 11.00pm-1.20am Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
Julie Christie was just about at the peak of her career, when she worked with Alan Bates in this splendid adaptation of the LP Hartley novel.
ONCE UPON A TEXAS TRAIN (1988) Tuesday 18 August 1.10-3.05pm Channel 40
Burt Kennedy was never a top director, but he did a nice line in comedy westerns. The pleasure here comes from watching a veteran cast, with over 1,000 credits between them, go through their paces.
BELLE (2013) Tuesday 18 August 6.55-9.00pm Film Four
Gugu Mbatha-Raw is excellent as Dido Belle, the first mixed-race aristocrat in Britain. Not surprisingly, it did rather well as a Silver Screen presentation at the Regent!
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST (1952) Wednesday 19 August 7.05-9.00pm Channel 81
This is still regarded as the best version of Oscar Wilde’s comedy of manners; at least in part because it stars Michael Redgrave and the inimitable Edith Evans.
DISTRICT 9 (2009) Wednesday 19 August 9.00-11.20pm Channel 32
District 9 was one of the best, most intriguing sci-fi parables in a long time. Aliens have landed, only to be confined to slums on the outskirts of Johannesburg.
THE BEDFORD INCIDENT (1965) Thursday 20 August 2.55-5.05pm Channel 40
Probably one of the last major features to be made in b/w, which suits the subject matter as Sidney Poitier’s journalist watches captain Richard Widmark’s nuclear war games get out of hand.
THE LOOKING GLASS WAR (1969) Thursday 20 August 9.00-11.10pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
For those of you who really like John Le Carré’s novels, this is a good chance to catch an early adaptation. Christopher Jones is the refugee on a mission in East Germany.
HOUNDS OF LOVE (2016) Thursday 20 August 11.15pm-1.25am Film Four
Here we have a nerve-shredding Australian thriller in which a serial-killer couple’s latest victim turns the tables. WARNING – it’s brutal at times and is deservedly certificate 18! Freeview première.
LADY BIRD (2017) Friday 21 August 9.00-10.30pm BBC 2
There are two premières tonight; this, the story of a Californian teenager trying to leave home to study in New York, is the easier watch. (2018-19 season, 76%.)
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS (2016) Friday 21 August 10.00pm-12.20am Channel 32
This is the more difficult watch: a psycho-thriller in which a top-notch cast plays out a series of obsessions that might be fact or fiction.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
A few evenings ago, I was thinking about which DVD to put on. Jean de Florette was in pole position, but then I had a sudden urge to watch Rio Grande again. The next day, I became aware that we were approaching the 100th anniversary of Maureen O’Hara’s birth: 17 August 1920 (just before midnight, she says in her memoir ‘Tis Herself). So, it seems timely to reflect on her career. Often referred to as the Queen of Technicolor, she was undoubtedly a star and one who could hold her own, physically, with the toughest of leading men. In her sixty or so features, she made half-a-dozen classics including The Hunchback of Notre Dame, How Green Was My Valley and The Quiet Man. And, whilst her perceived persona is one of a feisty, spit-in-your-eye Irish colleen, she could play a scene with considerable delicacy. (In Rio Grande, Ford ‘stops’ the film as she is being serenaded by the Sons of the Pioneers, so that the audience can think about what was, is and can be for her character; she carries off the moment quite beautifully.) Yet, none of her performances brought her even close to a major acting award. Why? In part, perhaps, because she was too much the all-rounder who worked too often with weaker directors (Richard Wallace or George Sherman, say, rather than William Wyler). Also, whilst she spent some time, productively, at Fox, I don’t think she was seen as being valuable enough to deserve the big build up and be given the top assignments, unlike Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland. Whilst most of us might say these also happened to be better actors, it was easier for them to dominate a scene, in some of their most acclaimed films, when working opposite Paul Henreid, Mark Stevens or Gary Merrill than with Charles Laughton, Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda or John Wayne, as Ms. O’Hara had to.
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By David Johnson
Chairman of Lyme Regis Film Society
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