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Is it a new week already – where does the time go? In my case, some of it is spent watching a few films, of course. I still get a thrill out of seeing something I haven’t seen before (17 and counting, this month, including shorts). Well, as they say, someone has to . . . .
BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945) Saturday 21 November 4.50-6.15pm BBC 2
Also showing Thursday evening, BBC 4 (see later notes) and preceded by two Talking Pictures on David Lean and Noel Coward
LYNN + LUCY (2019) Saturday 21 November 10.55pm-12.20am BBC 2 P
Lynn and Lucy have been best friends since childhood and now both will be mothers. However, the depth of their friendship is to be sorely tested. It’s another welcome première that showcases potential new British talent.
A TASTE OF HONEY (1961) Sunday 22 November 9.55am-12 noon Channel 55
There are two British classics showing back-to-back today and Tony Richardson directed both. A Taste is superb: Rita Tushingham (fantastic debut) is made pregnant by a black sailor, leaves her mum (and mum’s ‘fancy man’) and sets up ‘home’ with her homosexual friend – in 1961 and with the Leeds-Liverpool canal as a backdrop! It’s followed immediately by THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER (1962) in which Tom Courtney (another fantastic debut) is a borstal boy who tries to get one over the system that is suffocating him.
THE APARTMENT (1960) Sunday 22 November 3.10-5.10pm BBC 2
There are those that say this super Billy Wilder comedy is better than Some Like It Hot (1959) and it certainly grabbed the Oscars (five, including Best Film). Jack Lemmon is the lowly clerk who lets the bosses use his pad for ‘entertaining’. Shirley MacLaine co-stars and the film is preceded, and followed, by a Talking Pictures on each actor.
AMUNDSEN (2019) Sunday 22 November 10.00pm-12 midnight BBC 4 P
Another Norwegian treat for our members: Pal Sverre Hagen is the legendary explorer, Roald Amundsen, who is determined to be the first man to reach the South Pole.
MAN IN THE SADDLE (1951) Monday 23 November 3.15-5.00pm Film Four
Although the opinion isn’t unanimous, some critics do regard this Randolph Scott western as a cut above. He’s lost his gal to rancher Alexander Knox, John (Lawman) Russell is effective in an early role and source-novelist Ernest Haycox had provided the story for Stagecoach (1939).
THE HIJACKER WHO VANISHED (2020) Monday 23 November 9.00-10.25pm BBC 4 P
This documentary in the Storyville strand is most intriguing. You might remember the 1971 event: “DB Cooper” claimed to have a bomb, was paid $200,000, parachuted from the airliner and was never seen again. To date, the crime is unsolved.
THE MAN FROM LARAMIE (1955) Tuesday 24 November 4.50-6.55pm Film Four
This is possibly (by the breadth of a hair) the best of the Anthony Mann-James Stewart westerns. Here, he’s after the villains who caused his brother’s death. The one scene with a sadistic edge was shocking in its day, but is quite tame now.
‘71 (2014) Tuesday 24 November 11.10pm-1.15am Film four
We put ’71 on our questionnaire after its cinema release, but members were not keen. A shame – Jack O’Connell, as the soldier separated from his patrol during a tour of duty in Belfast, is quite striking and deserved the praise he received.
THE NAKED KISS (1964) Wednesday 25 November 12.05-1.55am TP (Channel 81)
As directed by Samuel Fuller, this is in the cult classic plus category. Constance Towers (in a brave role) is the prostitute who wants to be a nurse; the pretty town is riddled with corruption; attempts at romance are decidedly off-kilter; luridly sharp images jar. Wonderful!
FISH TANK (2009) Wednesday 25 November 11.00pm-1.00am BBC 4
Fish Tank, directed by Andrea Arnold, helps to make this the second unusual Wednesday in a row! Mia is a lonely and troubled teenager, excluded from school, who feels drawn towards her mother’s new boyfriend. Another film we nearly booked – it won the Jury Prize at Cannes – but it was a likely audience splitter, so . . . all the more reason to catch it now!
PORK CHOP HILL (1959) Thursday 26 November 12.10-2.10pm Channel 32
Lewis Milestone could never quite match All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), but he came close with A Walk in the Sun (1945) and this film, set in the Korean War. The cast is a nicely balanced mix of experience (Gregory Peck and cowboy star Bob Steele) and newcomers (George Peppard and Martin Landau).
BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945) Thursday 26 November 8.30-10.00pm BBC 4
Can a modestly-made love story, directed by David Lean early in his career, bear comparison with his mighty epic Lawrence of Arabia? Yes it can, because perfection is, well, perfection. Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard deliver immaculate performances; the script, music and settings (including Carnforth station, of course) are spot on. Not a moment is wasted and it remains – and always will remain – one of the great achievements of British cinema.
WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954) Friday 27 November 4.30-6.50pm Film Four
Heck, surely it’s too early, but if this is a film that jingles your bells . . . Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen do well enough and Michael Curtiz (Casablanca) directs. Personally, I’d rather watch White Heat, but enjoy!
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966) Friday 27 November 9.00pm-12.40am Channel 5
For many film fans, the director’s cut is Sergio Leone’s masterpiece although to decide, I’d need to watch it (again) back-to-back with Once Upon a Time in the West, using an intermission with tea for dissection and discussions. I was half way there a couple of years ago with my film buff friend Andy as, assisted by several glasses of Venezuelan rum, we discussed (until 2am) the revelatory moment where Clint takes up the poncho, thereby suggesting that it is the first film in the trilogy not the last. Two things are pretty well cut-and-dried: the Civil War section is the best sequence that Leone ever filmed, and Ennio Morricone’s iconic score would be recognised anywhere in the world.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
A RANDOM TOP 20!
As I was writing last week’s notes on the 2020 Blu-ray releases – more specifically, those concerning the film Trapped – the thought came to me ‘hmm, films that share their title with a song’. Not the obvious connection between film and song, such as Yellow Submarine and Nine to Five (although it hurt to ignore Kevin the Gerbil covering Summer Holiday in 1984), but something more coincidental or that became an inspiration for a song years later. So, here we are pop pickers - this week’s Top 20 countdown for film and music buffs, as fond memories of Alan “Fluff” Freeman and, currently, Paul Gambaccini invade my thought processes:
Sitting outside the Top 20 this week is the German group Propaganda who charted in 1984 with the song ‘Dr Mabuse’; Dr Mabuse the Gambler (1922) was, of course, the first in Fritz Lang’s legendary trilogy. The arch-criminal had surfaced again!
20. ‘Rasputin’ by Boney M in 1978; the 1996 film starred Alan Rickman and was an Emmy winner.
19. ‘The Magnificent Seven’ was a Clash song in 1981; the 1960 western was hugely entertaining.
18. ‘Platinum Blonde’ was a mild success for Prelude in 1980; it had been a bigger one for Jean Harlow in 1931.
17. ‘Runaway Train’ arrived courtesy of Eric Clapton in 1992; Jon Voight was on board in 1985.
16. ‘Message in a Bottle’ was delivered by The Police in 1979 and by Kevin Costner in 1998.
15. ‘Photograph’ was taken by Ringo Starr in 1973. Ritesh Batra’s 2019 film was on our list for this season, until the corona virus intervened.
14. We’ll have a double ‘A’ side with Squeeze’s ‘Up the Junction’ (1978) and ‘Annie get Your Gun’ (1982); the films (from 1967 and 1950) were markedly different, of course.
13. ‘Fire’ was done beautifully by The Pointer Sisters in 1979. There was a groundbreaking Indian film in 1996 and the more traditional TVM Fire! from Irwin Allen in 1977.
12. The Dave Clark Five floated ‘The Red Balloon’ in 1968, but I should think it is the 1956 French classic that most of us remember.
11. Blondie performed ‘Rapture’ in 1981. If you haven’t seen the 1965 film with Melvyn Douglas and Dean Stockwell, don’t worry – I haven’t either!
10. Iggy Pop could give us a very interesting EP containing the songs ‘Candy’ (1990), ‘Lust for Life’ (1996) and ‘The Passenger’; the films came out in 1968, 1956 and 1975.
9. A-Ha reached no. 5 with ‘Cry Wolf’ in 1986; the 1947 film with Barbara Stanwyck and Errol Flynn was a disappointment, though.
8. Tunnel of Love starred Doris Day and Richard Widmark in 1958; the song and album charted in 1987 and Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love Express hit these shores in ’88. I still have my ticket!
7. Kenny did a song called ‘Fancy Pants’ in 1975 and it had been a Bob Hope comedy western in 1950.
6. The Julian Cope song ‘China Doll’ lasted for two weeks in 1989; sad to say, the 1958 film didn’t make much impression either, despite direction by Frank Borzage.
5. ‘Dynamite’ was a Top 20 entry for The Shadows in 1959. Cecil B. DeMille’s 1929 film offered brief glimpses of both Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott. Mind you, The Shadows could give us an album’s worth: ‘Apache’, ‘The Savage’ and ‘On the Beach’ were all films in the 1950s.
4. John Lee Hooker took ‘Dimples’ to no. 23 in 1964; the 1936 film helped to make Shirley Temple the most popular star in the world.
3. Trapped (1949) is a very good B-movie; the song didn’t chart for Jimmy Cliff, but has since become a live classic performed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
2. I’m chuffed about this one! UB 40 reached no. 10 with ‘The Earth Dies Screaming’ 40 years ago this month. The film (late night viewing, a long time ago) was a 1964 ‘B’ (directed by Terence Fisher) that starred Willard Parker. He was known best for the TV series Tales of the Texas Rangers. I don’t think it has been shown on British television; however, bizarrely, the original radio series (with Joel McCrea) was transmitted on Radio 5 in 1992.
1. Thunder Road (1958) was a moonshiner cult classic starring Robert Mitchum who also sang the title song (and rather well, too). It inspired Bruce Springsteen to write his song ‘Thunder Road’ which is regarded by some as the best rock song of all. It has my vote; hence its lofty position!
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