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The big surprise, this week, is that we are not overwhelmed by films for Easter. Mind you, only Good Friday (and King of Kings) falls in the current week. So it is likely that Easter Parade, Ben-Hur and The Greatest Story Ever Told will be waiting in the wings . . .
DON’T BOTHER TO KNOCK (1952) Saturday 27 March 3.55-5.30pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Knock is an odd thriller that has definite curiosity value and receives a rare showing today. Richard Widmark is an airline pilot attracted to a babysitter who is having psychological problems. She is played by Marilyn Monroe; the actress, later legend, doesn’t quite have the range to carry it off, but you might like to give it the once over.
FOXTROT (2017) Saturday 27 March 11.40pm GMT-2.25am BST BBC 4 P
Do you remember the powerful film Lebanon, set mostly inside a tank, that we showed about ten years ago? Here, its director Samuel Maoz tells the story of a Tel Aviv couple who are told that their son has been killed in action. However, it is another son, not theirs, who has been killed . . .
DREAMBOAT (1952) Sunday 28 March 12.15-2.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Here is a nice little comedy for film buffs: in the early days of television, a silent-movie queen (Ginger Rogers) introduces her old films to viewers of the new medium – much to the chagrin of her former co-star (Clifton Webb).
SINK THE BISMARCK! (1960) Sunday 28 March 5.05-7.10pm Channel 41
The title is self-explanatory and it represents, arguably, the last traditional British war film – b/w, Kenneth More (or similar) in the lead, a safe pair of hands (Lewis Gilbert) directing and a story involving much heroism. There is a nice balance between incidents at sea and strategic planning at HQ and Dana Wynter is quietly effective.
FINDING JACK CHARLTON (2020) Monday 29 March 9.00-10.40pm BBC 2 P
Even if you do not like football, this is an absorbing documentary about one of the great characters in our national game. The focus is on his career as a manager and on his final 18 months before he succumbed to the effects of dementia.
COLLECTIVE (2019) Monday 29 March 9.00-10.45pm BBC 4 P
These occasional clashes can be very annoying – especially as both documentaries have had an exceptional response from critics and the public. This Storyville documentary was nominated for an Oscar. It concerns the diligent exposure of the health scandal that followed a nightclub fire in Bucharest in 2015.
THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES (1941) Tuesday 30 March 4.15-6.00pm Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
The Undercover Boss of its day, I suppose – a millionaire department store owner (Charles Coburn) goes undercover to investigate customer complaints. Jean Arthur is the sassy sales assistant he encounters and it is all droll and very watchable.
MARY MAGDALENE (2017) Tuesday 30 March 11.15pm-1.35am Film Four P
The Biblical epics of yore are long gone, of course, and we are into revisionist territory again. Having said that, the cinematography is excellent, and Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix make a very interesting pairing.
ABOVE US THE WAVES (1955) Wednesday 31 March 2.30-4.30pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
You might have a feeling of déjà vu: b/w, John Mills and John Gregson, and heroism of the first order as, this time, midget submarines set out to sink the Tirpitz. The handling is a little flat (it aims for a documentary feel rather than gung-ho posturing), but all emerge with some credit.
FEAR IS THE KEY (1972) Wednesday 31 March 9.05-11.10pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Adapting Alistair MacLean bestsellers seemed to be in vogue in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Barry Newman was never a major star (although I liked his TV series Petrocelli), but he does well enough as the action hero looking for vengeance and some stolen jewels.
THE THIRD MAN (1949) Thursday 1 April 9.00-10.40pm BBC 4
Here is another, very welcome, run out for a film that polls usually place in the British Top Ten. We have Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles as Harry Lime, evocative cinematography, the zither music and that speech about cuckoo clocks.
BRIGHTON ROCK (2010) Thursday 1 April 10.40pm-12.25am BBC 4
This is not the original, but the update with Sam Riley (as Pinkie Brown) and Andrea Riseborough (as Rose, the waitress). Whilst it cannot match the 1947 version, it remains a powerful story well told and had a good reception in British cinemas (including the Regent, of course).
CARRY ON COWBOY (1965) Friday 2 April 10.45am-12.45pm Channel 10
It was only a matter of time before the Carry On team headed Out West and it became a favourite of the director Gerald Thomas. Sid James is The Rumpo Kid, Kenneth Williams Judge Burke, Jim Dale Marshall P. Knutt – and Charles Hawtrey has a ball as Chief Big Heap.
COLETTE (2018) Friday 2 April 10.00-11.45pm BBC 2 P
When I saw Colette on release, I could not agree with the reviewer for the Financial Times that it is “inspiring and empowering” and I still cannot. What it is is a very good drama, well-suited to members, where the set design looks of the period (belle époque Paris). Keira Knightley is ideal casting as the writer who broke the glass ceiling for her contemporaries – for her increasingly confident sexuality, as much as for her novels.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
Last Sunday, Talking Pictures scheduled Episode 3 of The Champions (Stuart Damon, Alexandra Bastedo and William Gaunt), so it seemed an appropriate moment to shine a light on threesomes on television and in the cinema. Such a grouping is relatively rare – usually the hero works alone (James Bond); has a partner (Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg in The Avengers); has a sidekick (Roy Rogers and George ‘Gabby’ Hayes) – or there is an ensemble cast (Hill Street Blues).
Most of the stories in the original Star Trek TV series pivot on three characters – Kirk, Spock and ‘Bones’ McCoy – although there were important subsidiary characters on the bridge as well. Red Dwarf operated on a similar dynamic even though one of the major characters was a hologram. Kookie, the car valet played by Edd Byrnes in 77 Sunset Strip, was so popular (especially with teenagers) that the two private detectives became three and a song entered the US charts: “Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)”; the series lasted for over 200 episodes between 1958 and 1964. Hawaiian Eye, on the other hand, kept it at two detectives during its four year run although Connie Stevens, as a nightclub singer, also appeared in most of the episodes. This series, too, was from the Warner Brothers stable; the lead actor was Poncie Ponce whose main claim to fame this was, his film roles being virtually non-existent (he was, however, in Speedway with Elvis Presley).
Of the dozens of western TV series that frequented channels on both sides of the Atlantic between 1958 and 1968, only three (as it happens) would really qualify: Stagecoach West (1960-61), Laredo (1965-67) and a minor series called The Rough Riders (1958-59). Regarding the ITV series Department S (1969-1970), most of us would only remember Jason King (a flamboyant characterisation by Peter Wyngarde). In the 1970s proper, however, there was a popular sitcom Man About the House (and its American imitator Three’s Company), The New Avengers (with Joanna Lumley as Purdey) and, in the 1980s, the series C.A.T.S. Eyes about an all-woman detective agency working for the Home Office. The first 13 episodes, in particular, were of a high standard.
C.A.T.S. Eyes might not have existed without the hugely successful Charlie’s Angels which preceded it. It was fun, introduced Farrah Fawcett to the world, but was also pretty lame. More recently, in 2000, it transferred to the big screen, but the results (since including the sequel and the reboot) have again been very poor – except financially. In fact, having a team of three hasn’t been at all common in the cinema. The Three Stooges, who made some 200 shorts for Columbia, must surely be the best known. Other than that, the concept was only popular in B-westerns between 1935 and 1945. Hopalong Cassidy had two pardners (and there were 66 films in all). Second in both popularity and longevity would be The Three Mesquiteers series at Republic, based on characters created by William Colt MacDonald. There were 51 films between 1936 and 1943, with several changes of personnel; those starring John Wayne, Ray (“Crash”) Corrigan and Max Terhune are generally considered to be the best. A good idea rarely escaped the attention of the smaller Poverty Row studios, so Monogram had ‘The Rough Riders’ (the series was cut short when Buck Jones was killed in the Coconut Grove nightclub fire); ‘The Range Busters’ (theirs included the ‘classic’ Texas to Bataan – don’t ask!) and ‘The Trail Blazers’. The latter series starred old timers Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson and Bob Steele. Many sagebrush fans said that Steele was the best of the B-western stars and his later career as a character actor lasted into the 1970s (and included a part in the TV series F Troop as well as many small roles in major releases of the day).
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