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Another week of films to look forward to; incredibly, it is now six months since we began the weekly listings. Other organisations, including Sight & Sound magazine, have done similar things, but I think ours are a little more detailed (and eccentric). As we continue to endure restrictions on our lifestyles, we’ll try and keep going for, at least, the foreseeable future!
ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT IS MISSING (1942) Saturday 3 October 3.25-5.30pm TP (Ch 81)
A good example of a wartime drama that has a documentary feel to it (there isn’t a score) as, with the help of Googie Withers and others, Godfrey Tearle tries to get his crew back to Blighty.
THE DAY OF THE LOCUST (1975) Saturday 3 October 9.05-11.55pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This is not the John Schlesinger film that springs most readily to mind, but it is only a notch below his very best work. It is an excellent exposé of Hollywood’s 1930s underbelly – so, best not to expect any Fred Astaire joie de vivre!
A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (1964) Sunday 4 October 12.20-1.45am BBC 2 (also Thursday, 7.30pm BBC 4)
Richard Lester’s imaginative direction ensured that The Beatles’ transfer to the big screen would be successful. John Lennon would have been 80 on the 9 October and his early death still resonates.
THE SEARCHERS (1956) Sunday 4 October 4.05-6.00pm BBC 2
Also Thursday evening, BBC 4 (see later notes) and preceded today by a Talking Pictures special.
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017) Sunday 4 October 8.00-10.15pm Channel 4
This Freeview première, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot, should be a very pleasant way to spend the evening. The all-star suspects include Johnny Depp and Judi Dench.
THE GHOSTS OF BERKELEY SQUARE (1947) Monday 5 October 4.20-6.00pm Talking Pictures (Ch 81)
If you are feeling properly nostalgic today, this droll comedy had a three-day run at the Regent from Monday 20 September 1948. Two ghosts (Robert Morley and Felix Aylmer) are doomed to haunt a house until it is visited by royalty.
HANNA (2011) Monday 5 October 9.00-11.15pm Channel 32
This helped to establish both director Joe Wright and star Saoirse Ronan, who plays a teenage assassin on a revenge mission. The settings are well-realised and the quota of thrills is high.
SALLY SALLIES FORTH (1928) Tuesday 6 October 6.00-6.35am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
TP is showing a very rare comedy short – the UK’s first “all-woman” film production – in which young Sally becomes a maid for the day.
THE NOVEMBER MAN (2014) Tuesday 6 October 9.00-11.15pm Channel 32
Sorry, we need to clutch at straws a little this evening: to wit, a reasonable spy thriller with Pierce Brosnan revisiting his Bond-style heyday. It’s slick and enjoyable enough, but don’t dally over the plot contrivances!
DEAD RECKONING (1947) Wednesday 7 October 8.05-10.05am Channel 40
Bogie plays an ex-paratrooper who hopes to track down his buddy’s killers, helped by Lisabeth Scott. John Cromwell was one of his trusted directors and the end product is an above-average thriller.
THIS HAPPY BREED (1944) Wednesday 7 October 12.50-3.05pm Film Four
David Lean, working in colour for the first time, adapts Noel Coward’s play quite superbly. We follow the ups and downs of a family in the interwar years, 1919-1939.
THE NAKED TRUTH (1957) Thursday 8 October 12.55-2.45pm Film Four
Dennis Price is the editor of a dubious magazine who blackmails celebrities; the worms, led by Peter Sellers, Peggy Mount and Terry-Thomas, decide to turn. The result is a very funny, topical comedy.
THE SEARCHERS (1956) Thursday 8 October 8.00-9.55pm BBC 4
Welcome back to the BBC, no. 1 western! It’s Hollywood, the mid-1950s, and we have a film from a major studio where the protagonist is a racist consumed by hate, an ex-Confederate of dubious morals and an outlaw. He disrespects kith and kin, coverts his brother’s wife, is unchristian, kills the buffalo because they are a source of food, shoots the eyes out of a dead Comanche so that he cannot travel to the spirit world and is on a mission to kill his niece. And John Wayne makes Ethan Edwards a sympathetic character; it’s a truly iconic performance and remains an influential film.
THE WILD ONE (1953) Friday 9 October 7.40-9.15am Channel 40
Banned in Britain for many years, this original biker movie seems rather quaint now. It features an iconic performance (and, later, poster) from Marlon Brando as the gang’s leader and good support from Mary Murphy and Lee Marvin (even though he, like Brando, was too old).
HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940) Friday 9 October 12.10-2.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This remake of The Front Page (1931) is still the fastest comedy ever made. Buried amongst the scintillating dialogue are Cary Grant as the editor and Rosalind Russell as his star reporter. Genius!
CARRIE (1976) Friday 9 October 11.10pm-1.20am Film Four
Brilliant horror film starring Sissy Spacek as the teenager bullied in school and at home (by a splendid Piper Laurie), who unleashes her telekinetic powers on her tormentors. The Untouchables isn’t Brian De Palma’s best film, this is. In one of the quieter domestic scenes, the film showing on television is Duel at Diablo.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
I was watching the opening credits to North by Northwest and spotted the name Robert Boyle; he was the production designer on the film. When declaring that a film is a classic, we look to praise first the director, then the editor, writer, cinematographer and even the composer. However, there are those who maintain, with justification, that the most underrated of cinema artists is the production designer/art director. He, or she, is responsible for the film’s visual quality and, therefore, whether it is atmospheric and the scenes believable. It is a complex and demanding job that requires an ability to select suitable natural locations or build them in the studio – with a good team, of course. (In North by Northwest, this included a replica of Mount Rushmore.) The designer also needs to know architectural styles, graphics, costumes, lighting and camera angles and be able to visualise the bigger picture and meld everything together. Check out, for example, the award-winning work of Allan Starski and Ewa Braun on Schindler’s List (1993).
The doyen of art directors would be Cedric Gibbons who has a screen credit on some 1,500 MGM films and earned 11 Oscars and 37 nominations in the process - and designed the statuette itself. (Although it was William Cameron Menzies who worked on GWTW.) At Warner Bros, Anton Grot designed the amazing temple set for Noah’s Ark (1928) and worked on The Sea Hawk (1940), receiving a special technical award for inventing a wave illusion machine. In this country, Vincent Korda did some equally impressive work, especially on The Thief of Bagdad (1940).
Returning to Robert Boyle (1909-2010), whilst his CV might not be quite as impressive, his work was diverse and very good, even on more modest productions such as It Came From Outer Space (1953) and Buchanan Rides Alone (1958). He worked several times for Hitchcock (including on The Birds) and on Fiddler on the Roof (1971). I adore his work on The Shootist (1976) – his use of the Carson City locations and the 1901 period detail in the boarding house, Doc Hostetler’s surgery and the Metropole saloon, are exemplary.
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