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I do try hard (honestly!) not to include too many westerns each week, but they are a staple of daytime scheduling. And two of this week’s choices are recognised as classics; for me, Fort Apache gives more pleasure with each viewing (and it must be around twenty, now). This week’s pickings are quite slim (mental note: an article on character actors, sometime) and so there are three that have a POW theme. I’m sure, though, you will find something worthy of your time!
FORT APACHE (1948) Saturday 27 June 7.30-10.05am Channel 40
Superb western (the first of John Ford’s loose cavalry trilogy) starring John Wayne and Henry Fonda as the martinet colonel who is out-thought by Cochise, strikingly portrayed by Miguel Inclan.
JIGSAW (1962) Saturday 27 June 7.00-9.05pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This is a very decent murder mystery, with good performances from Jack Warner and Ronald Lewis as the detectives and a very atmospheric use of the Brighton locations.
COME BACK TO THE 5 & DIME JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN (2014) Saturday 27 June 9.05-11.20pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Some 20 years after the filming of Giant, a group of fan club friends (including Sandy Dennis, Cher and Karen Black) reconvenes to commemorate the death of their idol, James Dean.
HARD TIMES (1975) Saturday 27 June 11.20pm-1.10am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
I first saw this under its UK title The Streetfighter. Charles Bronson, in one of his best roles, is the bare-knuckle fighter and James Coburn his manager, trying to scrape a living during the Depression.
WENT THE DAY WELL? (1942) Sunday 28 June 12.10-2.10pm Channel 54
We showed this at the Regent for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The story – Nazi soldiers seize an English village – is still powerful, tense and believable.
OLIVER TWIST (1948) Sunday 28 June 6.10-8.30pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Another David Lean master class, from the workhouse opening to the rooftop chase of Robert Newton’s Bill Sykes; the only controversy was over Alec Guinness’s interpretation of Fagin.
NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1957) Sunday 28 June 11.55pm-1.55am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This splendid adaptation of MR James’s ‘Casting of the Runes’ is a favourite of mine. The atmosphere builds unnervingly as scientist Dana Andrews seeks to debunk Niall MacGinnis’s ‘fake’ sorcery.
THE ENEMY BELOW (1957) Monday 29 June 4.40pm-6.40pm Film Four
This is an almost perfect example of how to squeeze maximum suspense out of a war setting, without huge set pieces. Robert Mitchum is the destroyer captain hunting Curt Jurgens’s U-boat.
MAD MAX (1979) Monday 29 June 10.00-11.55pm ITV 4 (Channel 24)
I first saw this on a double bill with Easy Rider (those were the days!). We have a bleak, violent, dystopian future and one heroic cop in black leather; a new star (Mel Gibson) and a new visual style that is still influential today.
THE CAMP ON BLOOD ISLAND (1958) Monday 29 June 11.00pm-12.40am Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
This experimental departure for Hammer (British POWs fear a massacre as World War II ends) was hugely controversial on initial release.
FAIR WIND TO JAVA (1953) Tuesday 30 June 11.00-12.50am Film Four
We’re coming up short today, me hearties! Republic brought in Fred MacMurray to hunt for treasure, but we are still lumbered with Vera Ralston (wife of the studio head) and in-house director Joe Kane. Best watched whilst ironing, is my recommendation!
KING RAT (1965) Tuesday 30 June 4.25-7.15pm Channel 40
Adapted from James Clavell’s novel, George Segal heads a fine, mostly British, cast as the chief finagler in a Japanese POW camp. It makes an interesting companion piece to Blood Island.
THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (1963) Wednesday 1 July 4.00-6.00pm Channel 70
I’ve always found this an enjoyable watch; it’s just a shame that it isn’t a better film. Even so, Howard Keel and Janette Scott are fine, the story grips and there are some very strong moments.
THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US (2017) Wednesday 1 July 9.00-11.15pm Channel 47
Kate Winslet and Idris Elba charter a plane only to then crash in some very inhospitable terrain. Again, it isn’t a great film but passes the time amiably enough.
WINCHESTER ‘73 (1950) Thursday 2 July 5.05-6.55pm Film Four
James Stewart and Stephen McNally fight over the ‘one in a thousand’ of the title. This was a landmark production for Stewart, director Anthony Mann and the western.
QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1967) Thursday 2 July 11.05pm-1.05am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Workers unearth a Martian spaceship in a London Tube station. This is the most astutely balanced of the trilogy: good design work and effects, good performances and dialogue, and quite scary.
THE LAWLESS BREED (1952) Friday 3 July 12.25-2.10pm Channel 31
It was only a co-feature that played fast and loose with the real John Wesley Hardin, but if you’d like to catch the film that made Rock Hudson a star . . . .
THE BAMBOO PRISON (1954) Friday 3 July 5.25-7.05pm Channel 40.
I watched this modest production (who’s the informer in a North Korean POW camp?) for the first time in April. It stars Robert Francis, who works really hard to give his character some shading – as he did in the other three films he made, before his death in a plane crash aged 25.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
As I mentioned last week, Saturday 27 June is Global Pride Day. The film terrain is quite different now, of course. Many festivals such as Flare here in the UK are well established and popular and films with gay themes can be made openly in most countries – although, sadly, not in all of them. But could anything be done (or made) back in the day? Well, yes, there were film makers who did what they could and, in 1995, there was an excellent documentary on the subject, The Celluloid Closet. So, some random memories from me, thinking back over several decades of watching films: the gay subtext in Ben-Hur (1959) – interestingly, Rock Hudson had been one of the actors connected to the project – and the famous bathing scene in Spartacus (1960) with Tony Curtis and Laurence Olivier. Mädchen in Uniform (1931) was a ground-breaking German film – remade in 1958 – and, the year before Marlene Dietrich had created a sensation, dressed as a man, in Morocco. The Lillian Hellman play The Children’s Hour was filmed as These Three in 1936 (directed by William Wyler) and then filmed again in 1961, with Audrey Hepburn, under its original title. The same year saw the release of Victim which had a brilliant performance from Dirk Bogarde. Much has been made of the performance of Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946) but it might be argued that the truly fascinating aspect of the love triangle is the relationship between Glenn Ford and George Macready. 1953 saw the release of Ed Wood, Jr.’s Glen or Glenda (not a good film!) and two key works of the 1960s were The Fox (1967) and The Killing of Sister George (1968). Also, I have rather fond memories of a gentle film, Desert Hearts, released in 1985. The importance of film comedians should not be underestimated, too. Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle was very graceful and carried out some outrageous flirtations when dressed as a woman and there is an intriguing (and provocative) book on Laurel and Hardy by Jonathan Sanders, entitled ‘Another Fine Dress.’
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