Here we are, another week, and we hope you are all safe and well. It is one of the weakest weeks we have had for a while – there are no premières and on a couple of days it was a struggle to find a film to recommend. My own best picks would be the two films on Saturday, plus All the President’s Men – but they all offer something of interest which is the name of the game, of course!
THE NUN’S STORY (1959) Saturday 16 January 1.15-3.40pm BBC 2
Audrey Hepburn gives a wonderful performance as the nun who questions her faith, whilst dedicating herself to the service of others. It is a wonderful movie, too, but this was the year of Ben-Hur, so its 8 Oscar nominations came to naught (or nought, even).
THE BOSTON STRANGLER (1968) Saturday 16 January 9.35-11.55pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
As you know, I love it when an actor-star steps outside his comfort zone and, as serial killer Albert DeSalvo, Tony Curtis certainly does that here. He is brilliant in a documentary-style thriller that uses split screen to great effect and has sterling work from the likes of Henry Fonda and George Kennedy.
WATERFRONT (1950) Sunday 17 January 11.00am-12.35pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Set in Liverpool during the Depression, Robert Newton is unusually restrained – and very good – as the seaman who likes a drink or three; Kathleen Harrison is his long-suffering wife and Richard Burton shows promise in his third film. Michael Anderson achieves an honest, respectable sense of reality that served him well when directing The Dambusters four years later.
MISSISSIPPI GRIND (2015) Sunday 17 January 10.30pm-12.10am BBC 2
A decent drama that sees Ben Mendelsohn’s gambler, in an attempt to avoid a not-very-nice loan shark, team up with Ryan Reynolds’s poker player. Perhaps a trip to New Orleans will benefit them both?
IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY (1947) Monday 18 January 2.25-4.15pm TP (Channel 81)
The title is a bit of a giveaway: Googie Withers is shocked when her ex-lover turns up, as he is supposed to be in prison. Up to this point, most British films had featured posh people with posh accents, so this uncharacteristic effort from Ealing Studios, set in the East End, was quite a revelation – and a very good one, too.
BOOK CLUB (2018) Monday 18 January 9.00-11.05pm Film Four
If you would like a light, enjoyable change, then this ensemble comedy is for you. The cast includes Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton and Candice Bergen and they are a joy to watch.
ALBERT, RN (1950) Tuesday 19 January 12.30-2.20pm Channel 32
Escaping POW dramas were in vogue for a decade or so and this one (and the same year’s The Wooden Horse) established their credentials and popularity. Anthony Steel appeared in both and his star burned quite brightly for roughly the same period.
VICTORIA & ABDUL (2017) Wednesday 20 January 9.00-10.45pm BBC 4
This evening, you will have to choose between two films scheduled opposite each other (unless you can record): Victoria & Abdul has Judi Dench playing the monarch for a second time (Mrs Brown was on last week), forging an unlikely friendship at the time of her Golden Jubilee.
TRANSSIBERIAN (2008) Wednesday 20 January 9.00-11.15pm Channel 33
Transsiberian is, perhaps, the more intriguing offering: Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer are on their way from China to Moscow; there are some drug smugglers and Ben Kingsley as a Russian cop. The plot doesn’t always make sense, but it is an exciting trip and the contrast between the train’s interior and the spectacular snowscapes of the exterior is done very well.
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976) Thursday 21 January 9.00-11.10pm BBC 4
The Post was popular with members, but All the President’s Men remains the Hollywood political thriller that every other one needs to beat. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman are tremendous as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the journalists who investigated the Watergate break-in (alluded to at the close of The Post, you might recall).
NURSE ON WHEELS (1963) Friday 22 January 11.55am-1.40pm TP (Channel 81)
Following the success of 1962’s Twice Round the Daffodils, the Carry On producer (Peter Rogers) and director (Gerald Thomas) reteamed with Juliet Mills and other cast members. This is the better of the two films – it is all rather charming and the village eccentrics are well-drawn. Indeed, it could almost be taking place in deepest Dorset!
THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT (1974) Friday 22 January 11.10pm-1.30am Film Four
Clint Eastwood let Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter) take the directorial reins for the first time, after he had co-written Magnum Force, and he turned in an impressive film. (Not that you would think so, if you were to believe Rex Reed’s original review in The New York Daily News.) Clint is a retired thief and conman looking for some stolen money; Jeff Bridges (Oscar nominated) is the impressionable young ‘un he takes under his wing. It is a first showing on free-to-air channels for many years, so recommending it is a nice way to end the week.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE?
Almost certainly we all have a film or TV series that we enjoy rather a lot, but wouldn’t include in a serious – dare I say intellectual – discussion. One of mine is the BBC’s Death in Paradise which has been running for 10 years now and started a new 8-part series on 7 January. The regularity and timing are part of its appeal, of course: every January, come what may (including lockdowns), when it is wet, cold and grey, we are transported to a Caribbean island, where the sun sits high in a cloudless sky. Guessing ‘who did it’ can be fun and the cast and guest stars are engaging. (Although, I have to say, I thought it worked less well with Ardal O’Hanlon as the detective and with the changes in the supporting cast during his tenure; this has been rectified.)
It isn’t the first time the word paradise has figured in a title – I mentioned elsewhere the western series Paradise (aka Guns of Paradise) that the BBC ran twenty years ago. Has anyone, though, seen the American ABC-TV series Adventures in Paradise (1959-62)? This was quite an oddity and its star, Gardner McKay, disappeared from the screen soon afterwards. It was based on stories by James Michener and lasted for 91 episodes.
In the cinema, and ignoring the fact that The Admirable Crichton (1957) – an enjoyable comedy – was later re-titled Paradise Lagoon in the US, the word hasn’t brought much luck or good fortune to those who have used it. 1932’s Bird of Paradise, in which Joel McCrea falls in love with ‘native’ girl Dolores Del Rio, was barely average, as was the 1952 remake with Louis Jourdan and Debra Paget. Paradise Canyon (1935) was the weakest of John Wayne’s 16 Lone Star westerns. Paradise Alley (1978), the story of three New York brothers, marked Sylvester Stallone’s debut as a director, but the results were disappointing.
More recently, the balance has been redressed, particularly if we include Cinema Paradiso (95% reaction); you might also have joined us for the Second World War drama Paradise Road (1998-99 season, audience reaction 87%). Highly recommended would be the 2005 release Paradise Now, a gripping drama about two young Palestinians who are recruited for a suicide-bombing mission in Tel Aviv. Incidentally, a new film with the title Birds of Paradise is currently in post-production; in this case the story concerns two young ballet dancers trying to make the grade.
By David Johnson
Chairman of Lyme Regis Film Society
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