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I was pleased to include Sky Arts in the listing last week, for the first time. It is also a good place to go to for programmes on actors and directors. Based on those I have seen so far, you don’t learn a great deal beyond the superficial, but the ‘talking heads’ are knowledgeable and many actors are covered. The BBC’s Reggie Yates in Hollywood documentary was both timely and very good – wherever he goes in the world, the results are invariably impressive, if rarely film related. The BBC’s Talking Pictures series, made up of archive interviews sometimes going back 60 years and narrated by Sylvia Syms, can also be illuminating – but don’t take everything you hear as gospel!
SPRINGTIME IN THE SIERRAS (1947) Saturday 17 October 1.55-3.30pm TP (Channel 81)
Well, bless my soul – it’s Roy Rogers and Trigger (but no Dale Evans, here replaced by Jane Frazee)! The plot is slim – a dastardly gang is killing game out of season – but there are several points of interest. The main villain is a woman (refreshingly, not completely unknown in B-westerns of this period) and action specialist William Witney, handed the director’s chores to toughen up Roy’s image, gives the enterprise some vigour. (Also showing Tuesday 7.55am.)
ISLANDS IN THE STREAM (1976) Saturday 17 October 8.00-10.10pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Director Franklin J. Schaffner and star George C. Scott (both from Patton, 1970) reteamed to film Hemingway’s posthumous novel about a grizzled sculptor/fisherman in the Bahamas. It flags in the final third, but Scott is excellent and this is a rare showing.
IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1967) Sunday 18 October 12.10-1.55am BBC 2
Winner of five Oscars, this superb drama about a white sheriff and a black detective working a case in the Deep South remains highly relevant. Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger are magnificent; I should imagine the scene in which Poitier slaps a white patriarch stunned audiences – where it was shown.
SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949) Sunday 18 October 2.35-4.15pm BBC 2
Also Thursday evening, BBC 4 (see later notes) and followed today by a Talking Pictures special.
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) Sunday 18 October 5.20-6.50pm Channel 70
An inspiration for The Shape of Water (and for a great Dave Edmunds song), Creature still entertains and fascinates. AND it’s double bill time again! Hammer’s The Abominable Snowman (1957), with Forrest Tucker and Peter Cushing, follows at 6.50pm. Despite some use of studio sets, it is still atmospheric and rather watchable – and had a fair number of positive reviews on release.
DETROIT (2017) Sunday 18 October 10.00pm-12.15am BBC 2
Set during the city’s summer riots of 1967, this is a very fine film courtesy of director Kathryn Bigelow, writer/producer Mark Boal (they worked together on The Hurt Locker) and a cast led by John Boyega. It grips, it horrifies and I’d like to say that it beggars belief that it’s true, except that – sadly – it doesn’t. Indeed, fifty years on, and here we are again.
THE MAN UPSTAIRS (1958) Monday 19 October 7.45-9.30am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This is quite a curio, but worth a look. Richard Attenborough is ‘losing it’ upstairs, whilst the police attempt to negotiate with him from downstairs. It’s really an indirect remake of the 1939 French classic Le Jour Se Lève (1992-93 season, 74%). The Long Night (1947) was a more literal remake.
FENCES (2016) Monday 19 October 9.00-11.45pm Film Four
Denzel Washington, one of the best of the current generation of American actors, directs and stars as the head of a 1950s working-class family. It’s good enough to have been made in the mid-50s.
THE FIVE PENNIES (1959) Tuesday 20 October 6.40-9.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
As last week, there are two contrasting musicals the same evening; this is the traditional biopic. Danny Kaye plays jazz cornettist Red Nichols and there is some magical work by Louis Armstrong.
BEEN SO LONG (2018) Tuesday 20 October 9.00-11.05pm Film Four
Very different to the above, we have an adaptation of a Young Vic stage production that centres on a single mum (Michaela Coel, one of our most exciting new talents). It could be summed up as a musical/fantasy/urban drama with attitude!
CONE OF SILENCE (1960) Wednesday 21 October 9.10-11.00am Channel 40
This is a film that definitely falls into the ‘little seen but rewarding’ category. A plane has crashed in India and Michael Craig, Peter Cushing, Bernard Lee and others hope to find out how and why.
THE DEADLY AFFAIR (1966) Wednesday 21 October 10.00pm-12.10am TP (Channel 81)
Taken from John Le Carré’s Call for the Dead, James Mason is the controller convinced that a diplomat’s death wasn’t suicide. The British press was fulsome in its praise.
BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ (1962) Thursday 22 October 10.10am-1.15pm Channel 40
I was hugely impressed when I first saw this biography of lifer Robert Stroud, who became an expert on birdlife, and my memories remain fond ones. Burt Lancaster heads a formidable cast.
SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949) Thursday 22 October 8.00-9.40pm BBC 4
Film Club is giving us a third western in a row – oh, joy! The elderly Captain Nathan Brittles is due to retire and his final mission looks doomed to failure. There are many who think that this is John Wayne’s finest performance (it’s certainly in his top five) and the Ford Stock Company gives splendid support. It’s the middle one of John Ford’s loose cavalry trilogy and the only one in colour – and Winton C. Hoch’s award-winning work here is fantastic. A commonly-held view is that the three films are an idealised tribute to the US cavalry; however, I would proffer the view that they are as much a tribute to the army of 1946 as to the one of 1876. The director had served in World War II and wanted more than “a cold page in the history books to mark their passing”. And of the three, Ribbon is the only one that could be described as a pacifist western. (Pony-That-Walks says “old men should stop wars” – and he should know, actor Chief Big Tree was 84 at the time and lived to be 102.) I think, too, that Ford was astute enough to realise that the baton was being passed to a younger generation, but he was doing it with the warning – in the film and in real life – that “young men do not listen” (Pony-That-Walks again). And perhaps he realised also that, very shortly, this would happen in his own fiefdom, Hollywood.
THE CAPTIVE CITY (1952) Friday 23 October 9.15-11.10am Channel 40
These modest, interesting films directed by Robert Wise (West Side Story) keep popping up. This one stars John Forsythe (later in Dynasty on TV) as a newspaper editor who uncovers a Mafia takeover. Cinematographer Lee Garmes was a favourite of Marlene Dietrich.
BLUE NOTE RECORDS: BEYOND THE NOTES (2018) Friday 23 October 10.20-11.45pm BBC 4
An essential watch for jazz lovers: it’s a look behind-the-scenes at the legendary record label, with contributions from key musicians and staff.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES - A FILM CALENDAR
Last week, when running through the films we have listed so far, I noticed that three of the titles contain months of the year. This has been quite a popular option over the years (or so it seems), but how easy would it be, I wondered, to think of a calendar for the full 12 months?
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