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Here we are with another selection of classics and premières. Just occasionally, I am tempted to focus on films at the other end of the spectrum. A case in point would have been Sunday’s George Montgomery western Indian Uprising (1951). This was so low budget they didn’t reshoot a fight scene, when an actor fell through a backdrop! Composer Neil Brand, who has enhanced silent films so much with his playing, turns his attention to TV in a new series (Friday 4 December, BBC 4). Now, there’s an idea – I feel a list of classic TV themes coming on . . . .
HIGH SOCIETY (1956) Saturday 28 November 11.30am-1.30pm BBC 2
Also showing Thursday evening, BBC 4 (see later notes).
THE SPIDER AND THE FLY (1949) Saturday 28 November 3.30-5.30pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Eric Portman and Guy Rolfe are trying to obtain top secret German plans in this rare, highly regarded thriller. If it’s as good as Corridor of Mirrors (1948) was, then it is well worth your time.
EARTH: ONE AMAZING DAY (2017) Saturday 28 November 8.30-10.00pm BBC 2
You have another opportunity to see the superbly photographed documentary that was a sequel to Earth (2007). Robert Redford narrates.
MONSOON (2019) Saturday 28 November 10.00-11.20pm BBC 2 P
In the now regular first-view slot, Monsoon is the story of Kit, a young man travelling to Saigon with his parents’ ashes, who forms a romantic attachment to a backpacker whose father fought there.
FOREVER AND A DAY (1943) Sunday 29 November 12 noon-2.10pm Channel 55
All-star portmanteau films were in vogue during the war years, when industry personnel were keen to contribute to the war effort. This one charts the history of a London house from 1804 to the Blitz; the tremendous cast includes Anna Neagle, Ray Milland, Charles Laughton and Buster Keaton.
BALLOON (2018) Sunday 29 November 10.00pm-12.05am BBC 4 P
It looks like, following on from Amundsen last Sunday, we now have a regular slot for good subtitled films. Two East German families build a balloon in secret to escape to the West – and, incredibly, it is based on true events.
CARVE HER NAME WITH PRIDE (1958) Monday 30 November 1.35-4.15pm TP (Channel 81)
Virginia McKenna is very good as Violette Szabo who parachuted into France, as a spy, in the Second World War. Michael Caine has a tiny role - see Random Glimpses, below!
LOCKED IN: BREAKING THE SILENCE (2020) Monday 30 November 10.00-11.15pm BBC 4 P
Do you remember the very moving The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2008-09 season, 86%)? This Storyville documentary follows film-maker Xavier Alford, as he comes to terms with “locked-in” syndrome.
BAD BLOOD (1982) Tuesday 1 December 6.00-8.15am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
The time slot seems a little odd for such a dramatic story, set in New Zealand, about a farmer who refused to give up his weapons during the Second World War and the subsequent manhunt. Race for the Yankee Zephyr (1981), with an imported George Peppard, was a much more anodyne product of that time. Mike Newell’s direction helped make the difference, pre-Four Weddings and a Funeral.
SPARE A COPPER (1940) Tuesday 1 December 1.45-3.20pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
George Formby is the special constable who outwits a gang of Nazi saboteurs. Although inferior to Trouble Brewing (1939), it was still very popular and passes a pleasant 90 minutes or so.
EMA (2019) Wednesday 2 December 1.20-3.35am Film Four P
A quite shattering emotional drama in which Ema, a dancer, tries to regain custody of the child she gave up for adoption. Both Pablo Larraín’s Jackie and No had a mixed reception with members; nevertheless, we need these cutting-edge directors!
THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM (1966) Wednesday 2 December 10.00pm-12.10am TP (Ch 81)
Mostly, we would think of George Segal’s light-comedy years in the 1970s; here, he’s an undercover agent trying to crack a neo-Nazi network. He’s fine, there’s a strong cast around him and a clever script by Harold Pinter.
A WINDOW IN LONDON (1939) Thursday 3 December 2.30-4.05pm TP (Channel 81)
Here we have a very brisk, satisfying mystery thriller in which Michael Redgrave thinks he has seen a murder from a train window. Deanna Durbin’s Lady on a Train (1945) has a similar plot and is also very good.
HIGH SOCIETY (1956) Thursday 3 December 8.00-9.45pm BBC 4
This week’s Film Club offering is the remake of The Philadelphia Story (1940). The original was better (and funnier), but this version does have the songs (including Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?) and Louis Armstrong. Bing and Frank Sinatra are fine too and Grace Kelly would soon be saying “I take this man” for real.
THE DAM BUSTERS (1954) Friday 4 December 11.00am-1.35pm Film Four
An all-time classic that still looked good on its recent cinema re-release. Richard Todd is Guy Gibson and Michael Redgrave the inventor Barnes Wallis – and Eric Coates gave us the immortal theme.
HANG ‘EM HIGH (1968) Friday 4 December 9.00pm-11.30pm Channel 5
This was tailor-made for Eastwood’s formal entry into major American distribution. His newly-formed company, Malpaso, co-produced; Ted Post, who had directed some of the Rawhide episodes that had showcased best the young actor’s talents, was at the helm – and his salary had increased tenfold as befitted his new status. The supporting cast was chosen carefully with several well-known faces that included Pat Hingle, Ben Johnson and Bruce Dern. The story: Jed Cooper is a rancher, left for dead by vigilantes, who becomes a deputy and hunts down his assailants. So (again) it’s classic Clint rather than an outright classic, but was popular enough to still be on double bills in the 1970s and is now, perhaps, one of those guilty pleasures.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
It’s pretty rare that a new star is up-and-running from their very first film although Gregory Peck managed it with Days of Glory (1944) and so did Marlon Brando with The Men (1950). Most actors serve some kind of apprenticeship before achieving that all-important breakthrough; I was reminded of this when I caught the end credits of an episode of The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes from 1991 and Jude Law was second from bottom of the cast list. I’m sure we have all had one of those ‘hey, isn’t that . . .’ moments. Here’s a selection from my files:
STANLEY BAKER – as we all know - had an uncredited appearance in All Over the Town.
CLINT EASTWOOD made his debut in Revenge of the Creature (1955) as a lab technician who misplaces some white mice.
JUDI DENCH made an appearance in a 1963 episode of Z Cars.
DANIEL CRAIG was interviewed on Newsroom South East in 1989.
SIGOURNEY WEAVER – if you watched the film Annie Hall (1977) with us, she was on screen for about six seconds, outside a theatre, as Woody Allen’s date.
BEN AFFLECK and MATT DAMON both appeared as extras in Field of Dreams (1990-91 season, 77%)
JAMIE LEE CURTIS was billed as ‘Woman in Changing Room’ in an episode of Quincy M.E. entitled ‘Visitors in Paradise’.
BURT REYNOLDS was the villain in a 1960 episode of Johnny Ringo called ‘The Stranger’. His bullying ways were ended by a karate expert – an unusual touch in a TV western of the period!
MICHAEL CAINE - had a small role (sporting black hair!) in an episode of The Adventures of William Tell called ‘The Prisoner’.
CAROLYN JONES – much of her screen time in the 1953 War of the Worlds was cut, but she can be glimpsed in the kitchen during a party scene (with blond hair).
NICHOLAS PARSONS was cast as Sir Walter of the Glen in ‘Trial by Battle’, an episode of The Adventures of Robin Hood that was directed by Terence Fisher. He put in a lot of appearances over the years and was also very good at voice-over work (this included Tex Tucker in Gerry Anderson’s Four Feather Falls). I reckon his is the voice emanating from a TV set in a 1961 episode of No Hiding Place called ‘The Widower’, very much in Sale of the Century mode, but this is not in the databases to the best of my knowledge. Just think, last season we might have seen a future star/award-winning actor – and been blissfully unaware!
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