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Last week was a quiet one and the selection was not particularly exciting. Helped by the Easter weekend, we think that you will find this week’s choices more appealing. I am already ‘buzzing’ – after 50 years I have managed to see the 1927 John Ford film Mother Machree. More or less, anyway, since only three reels have survived. Patience is a virtue, then! Happy Easter everyone.
REAP THE WILD WIND (1942) Saturday 3 April 10.05am-12.35pm Channel 41
Cecil B. DeMille’s films were not noted for their subtlety, but drew huge crowds in all respects (the world première in Los Angeles attracted 3,000 onlookers). So, whilst some of the dialogue might make you wince, this seafaring saga of 19th-century sailors and wreckers, has Technicolor, a great cast (Ray Milland, John Wayne, Paulette Goddard and Susan Hayward), a ripe piece of villainy (Raymond Massey) and sideburns galore. And the giant squid at the climax fully deserved its Oscar!
BLACK KkKLANSMAN (2018) Saturday 3 April 9.00-11.40pm Channel 4 P
Spike Lee’s audacious thriller enjoys its Freeview première tonight. John David Washington and Adam Driver are splendid as the undercover cops who infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan (not easy as one of the officers is black) and it was 3rd= in our final season before lockdown (90%).
RED JOAN (2019) Sunday 4 April 10.00-11.35pm BBC 2 P
Members’ favourite Judi Dench is on good form, although the film itself disappoints. (Director Trevor Nunn’s best work has been in the theatre.) Ms Dench plays a pensioner arrested for spying; Sophie Cookson is her younger self who, as a Cambridge student in the late 1930s, fell in love with a ‘red under the bed’.
THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THE BIGFOOT (2018) Sunday 4 April 11.45pm-1.40am Film Four P
Admit it – the title intrigues you! I saw the film a couple of years ago and rather enjoyed it – but I am a fan of Sam Elliott. Here, he is a secretive ‘special-ops’ adventurer who is (and was) employed to carry out those missions.
SAHARA (1943) Monday 5 April 1.30-3.35pm Channel 41
Humphrey Bogart swopped his fedora for helmet and goggles, for this excellent tale of a group of army stragglers – plus tank – trying to make their way to safety. The likes of J Carrol Naish and Dan Duryea are in support and Zoltan Korda directs a very talented crew. Little harm is done when you share or re-use a good idea with some skill in the telling, so I would also recommend the British equivalent Nine Men (1943) and the western Last of the Comanches (1952). The tank film I would really like to catch again is Treasure of Kalifa (1953, aka The Steel Lady). I have seen it just the once (about 44 years ago) and it absolutely was NOT the “searing Sahara-hot adventure” that the taglines claimed! Clearly, even then, I was attracted to the low-budget obscurities.
ALPHA (2017) Monday 5 April 2.55-4.45pm Film Four P
Whilst it does not quite have the tension and thrills of our early Lapp success Pathfinder (1989-1990 season, audience reaction 82%), this is still a beautifully photographed and commendable effort. Kodi Smit-McPhee is the young prehistoric warrior surviving various trials and tribulations – and the wolf deserves a pat on the back, too.
THE QUICK AND THE DEAD (1987) Tuesday 6 April 1.00-2.55pm Channel 41
Not the cinema release with Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman, but an earlier, superior, TVM that paired Sam Elliott and Kate Capshaw. He is the seasoned westerner helping a family of greenhorns (Tom Conti is the husband) against an outlaw gang. It is well-scripted and a satisfying watch.
LIFEBOAT (1944) Tuesday 6 April 3.55-6.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
The setting taxed even Alfred Hitchcock’s ingenuity: after a liner is torpedoed, some survivors make it to a lifeboat; how they fare is totally engrossing, especially after they take a Nazi aboard. The director’s regular cameo is rather a clever one!
STIFF UPPER LIPS (1997) Wednesday 7 April 9.05-11.05pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This looks quite interesting – a parody of the lace bonnet/Jane Austen/Helen Mirren period dramas that so delight our Silver Screeners. Prunella Scales is the aristocratic Aunt Agnes, whose family embarks upon a Grand Tour of far-away places. By all accounts, it is rather witty!
POOR COW (1967) Wednesday 7 April 11.05pm-1.05am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This is where it all began for one of our favourite directors, Ken Loach. His cinema debut concerns teenager Carol White’s attempts to make a go of things; Terence Stamp co-stars, but it is Queenie Watts, as a prostitute, who walks off with the acting honours (and is a very different aunt to the one in Stiff Upper Lips!). It is not Ken Loach’s best (and we listed it last year), but is a fascinating foretaste of what was to come.
STATION WEST (1948) Thursday 8 April 7.45-9.35am Channel 41
Station West has a cast (Dick Powell, Jane Greer and Steve Brodie) that we would expect to see in a sleazy urban thriller of the same vintage and this is essentially what we have – film noir in a western setting. Powell is an undercover military officer trying to solve a series of gold robberies. The dialogue is pitter-patter sharp and it all works rather well – including the obligatory bout of fisticuffs, this time with Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams on the receiving end (eventually).
GET CARTER (1971) Thursday 8 April 11.15pm-1.35am Channel 25
Surprisingly, director Mike Hodges made only another nine films in the next 30 years after this classic – and he never came close to equalling it. It is a brilliant piece of work that has Michael Caine’s London enforcer returning to Newcastle to find out – in uncompromising style – who killed his brother. It remains one of Mr Caine’s best films, too.
KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (1949) Friday 9 April 10.20am-12.30pm TP (Channel 81)
This peerless black comedy is, arguably, Ealing’s best: Alec Guinness gives an astonishing performance as all eight members of the D’Ascoynes family; Dennis Price is great, too, as the overlooked family member determined to bump them off. Twenty years later, an episode of The Persuaders entitled ‘A Death in the Family’ paid a modest tribute to it, although Roger Moore only had enough screen time to play three characters.
SUFFRAGETTE (2015) Friday 9 April 6.50-9.00pm Film Four
It is nice to end the week with two British offerings; this more recent one has the cast, the period detail and the incidents that one would expect in an account of the fight for the right to vote. It is all done with care and commitment; it just does not have the extra creative inspiration that Coronets has. To be fair, though, few films do.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
(NOT SO) RANDOM FILMS 2
After another six months of writing about films that, hopefully, have been of interest, it is time to look back. So, once again I shall ignore the great classics (such as Singin’ in the Rain) that we all know and love, and select instead the more modest productions, this time from October to the end of March. As before, I have limited myself to 20 titles and have not used film society bookings. In alphabetical order:
1. ALIEN NATION (great fun yet thought-provoking; exciting and well-paced)
2. AMAZING GRACE (my, Aretha Franklin could sing with power, passion and conviction)
3. BALLOON (members would have loved this audacious escape movie)
4. BEEN SO LONG (a streets-of-London musical with attitude and a vivid palette – loved it!)
5. BLUEPRINT FOR ROBBERY (good B-movie about a perfect heist – WE know they never are!)
6. THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND (would have been a huge success with members)
7. ENEMY MINE (intelligent sci-fi that makes a pre-fashionable plea for inclusion)
8. FEAR STRIKES OUT (not many 1950s films focussed on mental illness more than baseball)
9. THE GANGSTER, THE COP, THE DEVIL (one of my films of the year so far)
10. GIFTED (this story of a gifted child had the right tone, approach and conclusion)
11. THE GUARDIANS (superb French drama – classic film society fare)
12. HAND IN HAND (Philip Leacock coaxes marvellous performances from his child actors)
13. HELL DRIVERS (high-octane thrills with Stanley Baker, Patrick McGoohan and Sean Connery)
14. THE HILL (a great performance from Sean Connery)
15. LAND OF MINE ( tense, involving and moving drama from Denmark)
16. LOVE, SIMON (a pertinent, heartfelt teenage romance with a difference.)
17. LOVING (a touch manipulative, but still very good story of a mixed race marriage)
18. THE SCARLET AND THE BLACK (a top TVM set in wartime Rome; a lot of talented personnel)
19. A WINDOW IN LONDON (a neat little thriller; Michael Redgrave is such a convincing actor)
20. WITCHFINDER GENERAL (Vincent Price as Matthew Hopkins; a favourite cult classic)
EMBARRASSED TO SAY I OVERLOOKED IT: LADY OF DECEIT (1947). Robert Wise again shows his versatility; every frame drips sleaze, fear and double-crosses; the audience hopes fervently that both Lawrence Tierney and Claire Trevor will get their just desserts!
SHORT FILM: MISS GRANT GOES TO THE DOOR (1940). That will teach those nasty Nazis to burst in on genteel English ladies!
A VERY GOOD DOCUMENTARY: BILLIE. This documentary on Billie Holiday includes a stunning rendition of the song Strange Fruit. Just as interesting is the back-story of journalist Linda Lipnack Kuehl, who amassed a huge amount of research in the 1970s. If the writer really did commit suicide, I am a Dutch uncle!
Would you believe it? Fifteen of the twenty films are in colour this time – I must be undergoing some kind of modernisation.
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