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This week we have another birthday – James Bond is 90! Sean Connery was born on 25 August 1930 and the BBC is repeating Sean Connery: in His Own Words on BBC 2, 8pm Saturday. The film Entrapment follows. It’s too weak to be a fitting tribute; The Wind and the Lion, showing Friday on Channel 40, is better. On the TV front, and following in the footsteps of such popular series as A Family at War, Enemy at the Door, set in the Channel Islands, starts its run on Talking Pictures next month (Sunday 6 September at 9.00pm).
HUE AND CRY (1947) Saturday 22 August 3.50-5.30pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This, the first of the Ealing comedies (with a script by T.E.B. Clarke), is well worth a look. Alastair Sim and some unruly young ‘uns take on a gang of crooks.
GRAVITY (2013) Saturday 22 August 8.35-10.00pm BBC1
It’s quite unusual, these days, for BBC 1 to show a film at peak time. Gravity, a drama about two astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, both excellent) stranded in orbit, was one of the best of its year.
BOYZ N THE HOOD (1991) Saturday 22 August (and Weds 26th) 9.00-11.10pm Channel 32
Unquestionably one of the key films of the 1990s, Boyz is an electrifying drama about what it was (and still is) to be black in inner-city America.
FIVE CARD STUD (1968) Sunday 23 August 6.55-9.00pm Channel 31
If you ever wondered how Agatha Christie would fare out west . . . it’s good fun and entertaining. Dean Martin and Robert Mitchum head a strong cast; genre specialist Henry Hathaway is at the helm and Marguerite Roberts writes the screenplay. A year later, both were working on True Grit.
THE BOOK THIEF (2014) Sunday 23 August 10.00pm-12.30am Channel 4
The Book Thief, the story of a young girl discovering the joys of reading as the Nazis burn ‘inappropriate’ literature, was popular – and successful – both in print and on film.
CONVICTED (1950) Monday 24 August 8.00-9.50am Channel 40
Glenn Ford was a prolific leading man, always consistent, but some of his work between 1948 and 1955 is obscure. This, in which he’s an ex-GI who pays for an incident in a nightclub, is such a film, but it doesn’t outstay its welcome and remains watchable.
MANHUNTER (1986) Monday 24 August 9.00-11.20pm ITV 4 (Channel 24)
This account of Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox, here) predates The Silence of the Lambs. The success of the latter was huge, so Manhunter is often forgotten – a shame, as some close followers of the character and novel think it’s the better film.
COME BACK, LITTLE SHEBA (1952) Monday 24 August 11.00pm-1.00am Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
By 1952, some of the new kids on the Hollywood block were taking the studios into new dramatic territory. Burt Lancaster was great as the failed doctor, but Shirley Booth’s debut won the Oscar.
FALSE COLORS (1943) Tuesday 25 August 7.40-9.00am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Yes! The range was a little more threadbare after Hopalong Cassidy left Paramount for UA, but who cares? We have a crooked banker, coveted water rights, Jimmy Rogers (son of Will) making his series debut as the young sidekick, Roy Barcroft as the sheriff (!) and William Boyd besting a young Bob Mitchum in the obligatory brawl!! The Saturday matinee is back, pardner.
NIGHT WITHOUT STARS (1951) Tuesday 25 August 5.05-6.50pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
I always thought that David Farrar did better in a secondary role, but he is good here as the partially-blind lawyer tangling with various villains on the Riviera. Winston Graham adapted his own novel.
THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE (1974) Tuesday 25 August 10.45pm-12.50am Channel 40
The original is still the best: Robert Shaw holds the passengers on a New York subway train for ransom; Walter Matthau is brilliant as the transport cop trying to outwit him.
MARY AND THE WITCH’S FLOWER (2017) Wednesday 26 August 12.45-2.55pm Film Four
Family adventure in which a young girl is taken to a land populated by witches. The Japanese animation is imaginative and there is good voice work from Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent.
THE BIG OPERATOR (1959) Wednesday 26 August 10.05-11.55pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Not the best film of the week, but perhaps the most interesting. Mickey Rooney cuts loose as a hood on a violent rampage. Shot in Cinemascope and later retitled Anatomy of a Syndicate, it’s another rarity from Talking Pictures in the Wednesday 10pm slot. Say thank you, film fans!
THE KIDNAPPERS (1953) Thursday 27 August 9.30-11.30am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Here’s a great little film in which two young boys steal a baby, when their grandfather refuses to let them have a dog. The child actors Jon Whiteley and Vincent Winter were awarded special Oscars.
WONDER (2017) Thursday 27 August 2.30-4.45pm Film Four
A much more recent release that features an impressive performance from a child actor (Jacob Tremblay, also in Room). It’s the absorbing, and moving, story of a boy with a facial disfigurement.
BRIDESHEAD REVISITED (2008) Thursday 27 August 9.00-11.05pm BBC 4
Whilst it isn’t quite good enough to challenge the memories of a remarkable TV series, a strong cast still does the novel justice. A further, brilliant touch from the BBC: immediately afterwards, they are showing a 1960 Face to Face with Evelyn Waugh.
COVER GIRL KILLER (1959) Friday 28 August 8.45-10.30am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Terry Bishop, who had been working on several ITC adventure series, was given the chance to direct this British B-picture and he does well. Harry H. Corbett, wearing glasses that would be the envy of Cosmo Smallpiece, is the serial killer working his way through a magazine’s pin-ups.
THE WIND AND THE LION (1975) Friday 28 August 3.00-5.25pm Channel 40
Sean Connery is the Berber chieftain (don’t worry, you’ll adjust to the Scottish burr!) who kidnaps Candice Bergen and her children, much to the annoyance of US President Teddy Roosevelt.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
Staying with Maureen O’Hara, from last week, I watched The Long Gray Line (1955) and, courtesy of BBC iplayer, The Spanish Main (1945). It must be thirty years since I saw the latter, but it was pretty much as I remembered it – good Technicolor, Ms O’Hara fine but underused, too much filmed on studio sets and Paul Henreid too colourless for an action hero (and, therefore, confirming the comparisons I was making last week). Having said that, he had a good stab (sorry!) at the main duelling sequence, to my surprise. After ‘The End’ had appeared on screen, I did then turn my thoughts to some favourite swashbucklers. Douglas Fairbanks was the first to catch the eye, and films such as The Black Pirate (1926) hold up very well. He had already played Zorro in 1920 (and some say it was his best film) and Tyrone Power followed suit in 1940; this and The Black Swan (1942) certainly established his credentials. (Guy Williams also enjoyed a lot of success as TV’s Zorro in the late 1950s; some episodes were edited together and released to cinemas.) These films always seemed better with a good villain and the best was probably Basil Rathbone. This shouldn’t surprise us, as he was actually a good fencer – apparently, his enthusiasm for the sport began when he was at Repton School. However, Cornel Wilde could top that – he was a champion fencer with the US Olympic team, before switching to acting. It’s a shame, then, that he made relatively few contributions to the genre and none that are considered classics. Not that you had to be a top fencer to convince in such a role, especially if you had been practising with trainers like the great Fred Cavens. Derring-do made Tony Curtis a star and Stewart Granger’s version of Scaramouche (1952) has one of the greatest of all duelling sequences. Even so, for my money, the no. 1 swashbuckler remains Errol Flynn, with three outright classics and another half-dozen good ones over twenty years. I’ll resist the temptation to discuss the popular TV shows here, but there were several, including Roger Moore as Ivanhoe (‘shout and cheer, adventure is here’ as the song went) and Robert Shaw in The Buccaneers. What is particularly interesting about the latter is that when Robert Shaw did similar work on the big screen, Swashbuckler (1976) was considered to be one of the worst films of the decade. Perhaps things were different once there was no need to protect a fair maiden, although fans of today’s cinema would, no doubt, say that Johnny Depp is the best! And, coming full circle, it is a shame that the likes of Maureen O’Hara, Binnie Barnes (who played the pirate Anne Bonney in The Spanish Main) and Jean Peters (who plays Bonney with considerable gusto in Anne of the Indies, 1951) were rarely asked to do more of the same. When Geena Davis, a good actor, played such a role in CutThroat Island (1995), again, the film bombed.
PS. Sorry about the lack of foreign language films here, but Fanfan la Tulipe (1952) is splendid!
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