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Small comfort in these trying times, perhaps, but one positive has been the greater number of films new to Freeview that are being shown more regularly. There are nine premières this week (four on the BBC and five on other channels). I have included four of them in the list below (marked P). Hopefully, it isn’t only because savings have been made in other areas (a number of major sporting events having been postponed) and more will be shown in the coming weeks. Many of them are ‘small’ films that would have had a very limited release, so it is pleasing to see them reach – potentially – a wider audience more quickly.
AN APOLOGY: In the notes for Beware, My Lovely last week I should have written Ida Lupino ‘merely’ co-stars, not ‘also’ co-stars. (The director was Harry Horner and this was probably the best of the few films he directed.) I am also having a recurring nightmare that “old men should stop wars” should have been attributed to Nathan Brittles, not Pony-That-Walks, the week before. I shall check this and let you know!
GREEN FINGERS (1947) Saturday 31 October 12.40-2.15pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Not many dramas feature an osteopath as the hero – especially one that used to be a fisherman! Robert Beatty does well and locations include Whitby and Scarborough if you have holidayed there.
THE BAND WAGON (1953) Saturday 31 October 2.30-4.15pm BBC 2
Also showing Thursday evening, BBC 4 (see later notes).
MAKE UP (2019) Saturday 31 October 9.45-11.10pm BBC 2 P
We’re off to the seaside again (St Ives, this time) in the company of Ruth who is meeting her boyfriend, prior to starting a new job in an off-season caravan park . . . .
OUR LITTLE SISTER (2015) Sunday 1 November 1.00-3.00am BBC 2
It’s a shame subtitled films are often relegated to ungodly hours. This is an earlier award-winner from the director of Shoplifters in which, at their father’s funeral, three sisters discover they have a half sister.
NO NAME ON THE BULLET (1959) Sunday 1 November 3.25-5.05pm Channel 31
This is a modest western, directed by Jack Arnold, with an unusual twist. Audie Murphy, in one of his best performances, is the gun-for-hire who rides into town. He’s been hired to kill someone – but no-one knows who has been targeted. Two more Audie Murphy films follow.
FEAR STRIKES OUT (1957) Sunday 1 November 10.00pm-12.05am Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
The film tells the story of baseball player Jim Piersall who struggled against mental illness. Forget the baseball – it’s a superb character study of a sensitive son and a domineering father. Anthony Perkins and Karl Malden are exceptional and it’s hats off again to Talking Pictures TV.
HAPPY END (2017) Sunday 1 November 10.20pm-12.05am BBC 4 P
Michael Haneke (Hidden, 2006-07 season, 65% and those chickens) is the director, so we know that it will be a different kind of French drama and that the crises that beset a well-to-do family will not be the usual ones.
THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1947) Monday 2 November 9.35-11.20am Channel 40
Anything involving Orson Welles was always an event; here he directs and co-stars with Rita Hayworth as two sides of a romantic triangle. It’s very stylish; just don’t expect simple plotting! The climactic scene in the hall of mirrors has become a cinema legend. The yacht you see actually belonged to Errol Flynn and he was on board but unseen.
THE CHILDREN ACT (2017) Monday 2 November 9.00-10.45pm BBC 2 P
Not without its dramatic flaws, but you’ll find it a rewarding watch nevertheless. Emma Thompson is the judge asked to deliver a verdict in a case where a teenager, who is also a Jehovah’s Witness, has refused a blood transfusion.
THE DETECTIVE (1954) Tuesday 3 November 9.35- 11.20am Channel 40
Don’t be fooled – I reckon this is the American print and title of Father Brown. As well as Alec Guinness in the title role, Peter Finch is excellent as the villain, Flambeau, and you can compare notes with the BBC series that is proving to be very popular.
MUTINY (1952) Tuesday 3 November 4.20-6.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Do you remember the scene in Trumbo, where the screenwriter’s only way to get a job was with the bargain-basement King Brothers? Well, here’s one of their films, set during the War of 1812. It’s not ever so good, but does have Angela Lansbury and direction by Edward Dmytryk.
MY PURE LAND (2017) Wednesday 4 November 2.10-3.50am Channel 4 P
This was interesting enough to catch my eye a couple of years ago, but it got away from us. It’s a sort of Urdu western, where a young woman has to defend the family farm.
NOTES ON BLINDNESS (2016) Wednesday 4 November 11.30pm-12.50am BBC 4
After John Hull, a professor of religion, went blind in 1980, he began to record on tape his thoughts and feelings. It makes for an absorbing documentary that is highly regarded.
BUILD MY GALLOWS HIGH (1947) Thursday 5 November 9.10-11.05am Channel 41
Gallows sits comfortably in the Top Five film noir. All the ingredients are here: a corkscrew plot, a cynical private eye (Robert Mitchum), a gangster (Kirk Douglas) and his mistress/femme fatale (Jane Greer) who seduces . . . well, you know the routine. The US title was Out of the Past.
THE BAND WAGON (1953) Thursday 5 November 8.00-10.00pm BBC 4
If asked to name the greatest Hollywood musical, most of us would start with Top Hat, Singin’ in the Rain or Gigi (the winner of 9 Oscars in 1958). However, aficionados would say that The Band Wagon is up there with the best. The plot is thin (a dancer is attempting a comeback), but Fred Astaire partners Cyd Charisse, Vincent Minnelli directs and the legendary Michael Kidd works with Oliver Smith on the choreography. It is also wittily scripted and looks sumptuous; all-in-all, then, it is another jewel in the MGM crown.
HELLER IN PINK TIGHTS (1960) Friday 6 November 5.55-8.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
I can’t remember when this was last on. Sophia Loren and Anthony Quinn (reteaming after The Black Orchid) play the manager and leading lady of a theatrical troupe out west. Director George Cukor wanted a romantic comedy with vivid characterisations and, by and large, he succeeded.
THE HOMESMAN (2014) Friday 6 November 11.30pm-1.25am BBC 1
Certainly not a romantic comedy – Tommy Lee Jones writes, directs and stars as a tough westerner accompanying Hilary Swank and three other women across the plains to Iowa. With 77%, it was appreciated by members more than Birdman in our 2015-16 season.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
SOME FILM GIMMICKS
When writing last week’s notes, I was reminded of the film industry’s occasional penchant for luring patrons by ‘enhancing’ our cinema-going experience. The biggest gimmick is, of course, 3D – first in the 1950s, then with a brief resurgence in the 1980s and then, most successfully, with the advent of digital projection about 10 years ago. (Two projectors are no longer a requirement with the process so there are fewer problems.) In the mid-1970s, first with Earthquake and then with Rollercoaster, Universal treated us to Sensurround: vibrations that were felt by the audience. In the previous decade, Michael Todd Jnr tried “Smell-o-vision” but it only lasted for one film (Scent of Mystery, in 1960) and Chamber of Horrors (1966) had both a “Horror Horn” and a “Fear Flasher”. I recall also that our very own Regent made a judicious use of extra speakers at the back of the auditorium, when showing The Silence of the Lambs!
Undoubtedly though, as you are now aware if you watched 13 Ghosts last Sunday, the King of the Gimmicks was William Castle (1914-1977). Emergo made use of a 12-foot plastic skeleton suspended above the audience; for Macabre (1958) he insured audiences with Lloyds in case they died of fright; for The Tingler (1959) he had selected seats wired to deliver a mild electric shock!
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