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Well, the summer is almost over and it looks as though schools will be open again. So, any time now, Film Four should be reducing their holiday programming and giving us better options again. In the meantime, what we do have this week, are some interesting foreign language titles, but – a note of caution – two are definitely outside even the art house ‘norms’!
THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (1992) Saturday 29 August 9.00-11.15pm Channel 31
This is the best version of a classic adventure story – with the possible exception of Maurice Tourneur’s in 1920. It has thrills, excitement, a memorable score – and Daniel Day-Lewis.
GUNN (1967) Saturday 29 August 10.00pm-12 midnight Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This has definite curiosity value: creator-director Blake Edwards revisits his successful TV series (1958-60, 114 episodes) about a big city private eye.
THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY (2014) Sunday 30 August 1.05-3.20am Film Four
The central plot strand – an S & M relationship – might be off-putting (and is cert. 18), but the film has humour and is very well made; indeed, some critics believe it is a modern classic. S/T
RANSOM FOR A DEAD MAN (1971) Sunday 30 August 3.55-5.55pm Channel 21
This was the TVM that set up properly the iconic detective Columbo (there had been a stage production, and then Prescription Murder in 1968). I recall it having a UK theatrical release at the time and that the character and modus operandi were already fully formed.
MOVIE STRUCK (aka Pick a Star, 1937) Sunday 30 August 6.00-7.10pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
The film (a young innocent arrives in Hollywood) is quite charming, but not a good one; however, it does have two priceless scenes with Mr Laurel and Mr Hardy.
THE UNFORGIVEN (1960) Sunday 30 August 8.00-9.50am Channel 40
Its credentials are impressive: John Huston directs Burt Lancaster, Audrey Hepburn and Audie Murphy from an Alan LeMay novel, and both the music and photography are splendid. Hepburn is a Kiowa claimed by both races who is unsure as to where she belongs.
BORDER (2018) Monday 31 August 12.55-2.45am Channel 4
This, the second of the week’s off-the-wall art house films (with s/t), is a very unusual psychological drama about a customs officer who forma a very strange friendship with a traveller.
PASSPORT TO PIMLICO (1949) Monday 31 August 2.30pm-4.10pm Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
The inimitable Margaret Rutherford plays Professor Hatton-Jones, who confirms that paperwork stating that Pimlico is part of Burgundy is genuine. It remains a comedy classic.
THE COLDITZ STORY (1954) Monday 31 August 4.10-6.20pm Channel 40
Surely this is the film about prisoners-of-war who are determined to escape and who come up with ingenious ways of doing so. Later, it would be a successful BBC TV series (with Robert Wagner).
MOLLY’S GAME (2017) Monday 31 August 10.00pm-12.10am BBC 2
Jessica Chastain (you might remember how good she was in Miss Sloane) is an ex-skier who builds an illegal poker-playing empire. Idris Elba and Kevin Costner lend good support. Based on a true story.
FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953) Tuesday 1 September 4.50-7.10pm Channel 40
Adapted from the weighty bestseller by James Jones, and directed by Fred Zinnemann (High Noon), all six of the main cast do some of their best ever work – a quite remarkable feat that helps to explain its 8 Oscars. As does the legendary ‘clinch in the surf’ scene!
THE COMEDY MAN (1964) Wednesday 2 September 10.05-11.55pm Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
It’s a desperately quiet day today, but TP does offer us another, not-so-well-known drama in its 10pm slot. Kenneth More plays a struggling, middle-aged actor; the observations are well judged and there is a strong supporting cast.
THE LAST HURRAH (1958) Thursday 3 September 9.00-11.20am Channel 40
A touch too sentimental, perhaps, but this story of a politician with too little service left to give, is also very moving. John Ford elicits excellent performances from Spencer Tracy and his cast.
ANNE OF THE INDIES (1951) Thursday 3 September 4.25-6.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
How lucky is this? After referencing Jean Peter’s pirate movie last week, we get the chance to take a look (with tea and cake). Shiver my timbers!
PILI (2017) Friday 4 September 12.35-2.15am Film Four
The third of this week’s subtitled films is a much gentler affair. It’s the story of a young Tanzanian woman, who has HIV, trying to raise the money for a market stall. TV première.
THE YOUNG MR PITT (1942) Friday 4 September 12.00 noon-2.00pm Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
Made, in part, to boost wartime morale, this account of an earlier triumph over tyranny is very good, particularly the settings and period detail. Robert Donat was always a most subtle actor.
THE GUNS OF FORT PETTICOAT (1957) Friday 4 September 3.00-4.40pm Film Four
By 1957, Audie Murphy was trying for greater independence and quality of product and, in George Marshall’s capable hands, he succeeds here. He’s a cavalry officer who must quickly mould a group of defenceless women into a fighting force.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
Last week’s listing of The Taking of Pelham 123 and The Kidnappers gives me the opportunity to shine a light on the two directors, Joseph Sargent and Philip Leacock. They are relatively unknown, having occupied that netherworld ‘twixt film and television, where you produce very good work in both mediums, but are never asked to take on a really big film project. Joseph Sargent (1925-2014), an American of Italian ancestry, worked on The Man from Uncle, directed one of the best Star Trek episodes (‘The Corbomite Manouever’), the pilot for Longstreet, and The Marcus-Nelson Murders which gave the green light to Kojak (and earned Sargent an Emmy). His early TV movies, such as The Soldier who Declared Peace and Sunshine (a moving drama about a young woman who is dying of bone cancer), are well thought of. His 1996 miniseries Streets of Laredo (the third of the Lonesome Dove sagas) is superb and, in my opinion, contains the best performance ever given by an actress in a television western, courtesy of Sissy Spacek. His cinema work was less frequent, and more variable in quality, but, in addition to Pelham, he directed The Man (1972) and Gregory Peck as MacArthur (1977).
Conversely, Philip Leacock’s TV movies such as The Birdmen (1971), Baffled! (1973) and Dying Room Only (no. 102 on my 1975- viewing list), whilst offering unusual and intriguing subject matter, were not of the same quality. However, his track record with TV series was quite impressive: as a producer on Gunsmoke, Cimarron Strip and Hawaii Five-O, but also directing episodes of Route 66, Marcus Welby MD and some of the best episodes of The Waltons. Here he showed a particular affinity with the younger cast members and this was his greatest attribute throughout his career. From the age of 18, he was an assistant director on documentaries, acquiring both good technique and a concern for social issues that he then brought into his feature films. The standouts, in this regard, are: The Brave Don’t Cry (1952, a mining disaster), Innocent Sinners (1958, neglect of the young) and, in particular, Take a Giant Step (1959, racial prejudice) and Hand in Hand (1960, religious bigotry). The latter, endorsed by Eleanor Roosevelt, is a delight and should be a part of any school’s teaching of tolerance and understanding.
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