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The Oscar nominations were announced earlier this week. Had my local betting shop been open, I might just have gone for the following: Nomadland for Best Film (just ahead of Judas and the Black Messiah and Mank); Chadwick Boseman to receive a posthumous award for Best Actor; Chloé Zhao for Best Director; Glenn Close to finally receive an award for Best Supporting Actress.
Thursday evening at 10.00pm, I shall be watching Discovering Westerns on Film on Sky Arts! They are doing a countdown of 25 landmark films since Stagecoach in 1939. I am intrigued to see how they will manage with such a small number – I hope I can contain myself. Speaking of westerns, a little bird (it should be a vulture circling overhead as the thirsty hero attacks a barrel-head cactus with a pitifully small knife) tells me that TP will soon bring back Champion the Wonder Horse to our screens.
A BELL FOR ADANO (1945) Saturday 20 March 3.20-5.30pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
We welcome back to Freeview an unusual, sincere and rewarding wartime film. John Hodiak’s US Army unit has occupied an Italian village. Seeking to engage with the locals, he attempts to find a new bell for the villagers, as their old one had been recycled for Italy’s war effort. Gene Tierney and William Bendix are both very good, too.
CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (1948) Saturday 20 March 8.00-10.15pm TP (Channel 81)
Please see Monday’s notes.
LAND OF MINE (2015) Saturday 20 March 9.00-10.35pm BBC 4 P
The BBC continues with its excellent run of subtitled films that should appeal to film society members. The Second World War has just ended and young German POWs are being used to clear landmines from the Danish coast. For the audience this means a tense, and moving, drama unfolds.
THE SHOP AT SLY CORNER (1946) Sunday 21 March 12.05-2.00pm Channel 55
5 Select seems happy to use its Sunday lunchtime slot for interesting, little-known, post-war dramas with dependable character actors. Oscar Homolka is an antiques dealer and fugitive; Muriel Pavlow his daughter; Kenneth Griffiths a thoroughly slimy blackmailer; Derek Farr and Kathleen Harrison feature too.
THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND (2018) Sunday 21 March 10.00-11.45pm BBC 2 P
I was ever so keen to book this for LRFS, but the UK rights were snapped up by Netflix. Based on a true story, Will (Maxwell Simba) is a young boy who tries to help his family and community during a famine. Chiwetel Ejofor wrote the script, directs and stars – and does a fantastic job.
20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957) Monday 22 March 1.00-3.00pm Channel 68
When a spaceship crashes on its return from Venus (!), a Venusian monster (‘the Ymir’) escapes, grows and grows – and begins to cause the Italian authorities a few problems. It all sounds silly, but it received favourable reviews (especially the climax in the Colosseum) and, like me, you might just want to enjoy the special effects work of Ray Harryhausen.
CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (1948) Monday 22 March 3.40-6.00pm TP (Channel 81)
Between 1945 and 1951, director Henry Hathaway averaged one documentary-style thriller a year for 20th-Century Fox; they were all good, but this was the pick of them. James Stewart is the reporter trying to prove a man, sitting on Death Row, is innocent. Fifty years later, Clint Eastwood updated the idea in True Crime, but was unable to match the original.
THE BLACK ARROW (1948) Tuesday 23 March 12.40-2.15pm Film Four
As neither Errol Flynn nor Tyrone Power is to be seen, The Black Arrow doesn’t often feature in discussions of superior swashbucklers. It is a shame because Louis Hayward cut quite a dash in costume dramas (The Son of Monte Cristo, 1940, is also good). George Macready always made a great villain and there is a fine climax. Director Gordon Douglas could be erratic, but he made a decent step up from B-movies with this one.
THE LAST COMMAND (1955) Tuesday 23 March 2.15-4.25pm Film Four
If you are settling down to watch this as well, did you remember lunch? It is likely that studio boss Herbert J Yates gave this historical drama the green light, in response to John Wayne leaving Republic after Yates refused to properly finance his cherished project The Alamo. He hired an Oscar-winning director (Frank Lloyd), a decent set of actors including Sterling Hayden, Ernest Borgnine and a passably authentic Arthur Hunnicutt as Davy Crockett, and authorised a bigger budget. The end result, whilst not as spectacular as The Alamo (1960), is a creditable one.
THE SECRET TUNNEL (1948) Wednesday 24 March 4.40-5.30pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Wednesday is quite a challenge this week! Actually, this is a rather entertaining children’s film, from a bygone era, that features enthusiastic child actors, hidden passageways and a final race to catch the crooks.
THE TERMINATOR (1984) Wednesday 24 March 9.00-11.15pm Channel 31
I have always felt that the 80s was a poor decade for cinema, but there were exceptions and The Terminator deserves its 5-star status. If you are unfamiliar with the story, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a cyborg who travels back in time to change history; Linda Hamilton is excellent as the mom out to protect her boy. It is well paced and very exciting although the concept isn’t entirely original – Michael Rennie had starred in Cyborg 2087 in 1966.
FLAME OF THE BARBARY COAST (1945) Thursday 25 March 2.55-4.45pm Film Four
This was Republic’s tenth anniversary production, so they used their top star (John Wayne), cast Ann Dvorak instead of Vera Ralston and . . . upped the budget! The Duke is a rancher fleeced by cardsharps in San Francisco who returns for more of same; unfortunately, it is 1906 and disaster is about to strike. Howard and Theodore Lydecker were the studio’s special effects gurus and, although they could not match MGM’s earthquake in San Francisco (1936), they did a fine job with far fewer resources.
BLACK POWER (2021) Thursday 25 March 9.00-10.30pm BBC 2 P
This excellent documentary takes a look at the rise of the Black Power movement in the UK rather than in the United States. New interviews are combined with archive footage and it is a fascinating – and timely – story.
CROSS-ROADS (1955) Friday 26 March 8.35-9.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
We have the opportunity to set up a different kind of Friday evening with a double bill. First up is a two-reel short: a ghost story with Christopher Lee out to avenge the death of his sister.
ENEMY MINE (1985) Friday 26 March 9.00-11.15pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Director Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot, Air Force One) was an apt choice for the subject matter here: a citizen of Planet Earth (Dennis Quaid) and an alien lizard (Louis Gossett Jr with superb make-up effects) crash-land on a barren world and have to co-operate. As with the excellent Alien Nation, you can enjoy the sci-fi element whilst contemplating the racial elements of the story. The fact that at least three Star Trek episodes in the franchise have trodden similar ground does not lessen its impact.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
THREE LESSER LIGHTS
From time to time, I use Chairman’s Corner to pay a modest tribute to an actor, director or technician whose praises might otherwise be left unsung. Here are three more:
Between 1937 and 1967, he made about forty films and almost half of them are worthy of our attention. Born in Halifax in 1901, he was particularly good at using accents and was sometimes asked to play a German officer, as in 49th Parallel (1941). We could divide his career, roughly, into three categories: war films (such as The Colditz Story); bringing something extra to roles in support of A-list stars (Gary Cooper, Sidney Poitier); taking the lead in a b/w film noir such as Wanted for Murder and Corridor of Mirrors. For my money it is the latter that represents his most interesting work.
TERENCE DE MARNEY (1908-1971)
Now his is a most interesting, and at times downright bizarre, life and career. He was writing plays from an early age; indeed, it was one of his plays upon which the film Wanted for Murder was based. He had a pivotal, and good, role in last week’s Dual Alibi; played the lead in the occasional B-film such as No Way Back (1949, as a boxer); then decamped to Hollywood. By the end of his career, he had amassed over 100 film and TV credits. These ranged from uncredited appearances in huge productions (The Ten Commandments and Spartacus), to low-budget fare such as Pharaoh’s Curse (1957). With regard to his TV work, one could be forgiven for thinking that he was working both sides of the Atlantic at the same time. He appeared in about a dozen western series including a recurring role in Johnny Ringo as Karen Sharpe’s father (he often played an older character). In the UK, his credits included Doctor Who, Maigret and Z Cars. Quite often, whilst he was clearly there physically on screen, his inner self seemed to be elsewhere and I think this is even noticeable in some still photographs. He died after falling under a train at a London tube station. Incidentally, his brother was Derrick de Marney who enjoyed modest success in British films of the 1940s.
FRED F. SEARS (1913-1957)
The Massachusetts-born Sears was only in Hollywood for about ten years, but in that time he directed over fifty films and acted in about seventy. Eventually, he succumbed to a heart attack, but not before earning the sobriquet ‘King of the B-movies’. So, excluding last week’s The Giant Claw, of course, and late entries in Charles Starrett’s Durango Kid series, were any of them any good? There were a handful of entertaining westerns that moved at a fast clip: Ambush at Tomahawk Gap (in colour), Massacre Canyon and Fury at Gunsight Pass (both with a splendid sandstorm sequence); Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, which had some good early effects work by Ray Harryhausen; prior to that one, most surprisingly, he had been asked to direct the ground-breaking Rock Around the Clock.
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