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I think there is something for everyone this week. My Thursday and Friday evenings are already mapped out, anyway, with Harry and Tonto and Death Line. There’s a contrast for you! TP continues to introduce more of the TV series from the 1950s and 1960s. I suspect that Sherlock Holmes will be the Ronald Howard series (I have a few episodes on DVD somewhere). Really interesting, though, will be One Step Beyond, a sci-fi series about psychic phenomena. It was mostly an American series that ran for over 90 episodes, BUT the third season was made in the UK (13 episodes) circa 1961. These episodes featured some of our best actors including Christopher Lee and Peter Wyngarde.
FRIED GREEN TOMATOES AT THE WHISTLE STOP CAFÉ (1991) Saturday 8 May 1.10-3.50pm Ch 31
In its day, Tomatoes was very much a staple of the film society and art house circuit (although we did not show it in Lyme). It is a friendship story-within-a-story, as an elderly Jessica Tandy (nominated for an Oscar) recounts some adventures from the 1920s and 1930s to housewife Kathy Bates.
WHEN WE WERE KINGS (1996) Saturday 8 May 10.00-11.20pm BBC 2
We did, however, open the 1997-98 season with this excellent documentary (audience reaction: 80.5%). It uses interviews and archive footage to look back at the Ali v Foreman championship bout in 1974 (the legendary “Rumble in the Jungle”), and to expound on its wider socio-political significance. Don’t be put off by the subject matter (boxing) – it is very good indeed. Preceded by Muhammad Ali: a Life in Ten Pictures – the full story of the most important sportsman of the 20th-century.
CITY OF TINY LIGHTS (2016) Sunday 9 May 12.05-1.50Am BBC 1
Today, we have a good opportunity to compare two fine actors early in their careers. (More or less – it is now eight years since the release of The Reluctant Fundamentalist.) Now, in 2021 Riz Ahmed is very much the flavour of the month, following his performance in Sound of Metal (2019). In this commendable attempt to transfer an American-style private eye thriller to Britain, Ahmed is the gumshoe tasked with finding a missing prostitute. Before you can shout ‘Raymond Chandler’, he finds himself navigating some very murky waters.
PRICK UP YOUR EARS (1987) Sunday 9 May 10.00pm-12midnight Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Gary Oldman made critics sit up and take notice with his brilliant portrayal of playwright Joe Orton. Not that he was the only one on top form: Stephen Frears directed, Alan Bennett wrote the screenplay and Alfred Molina was also quite exceptional as Kenneth Halliwell. In 2021, Oldman is a lauded veteran who, whilst happy to appear in franchise movies (Harry Potter and Batman), has always taken on challenging roles (JFK, Romeo Is Bleeding, Darkest Hour – and not forgetting his directorial debut Nil By Mouth). Please note that Prick Up Your Ears retains its 18 certificate. It has a repeat showing on Wednesday evening.
RIDE A CROOKED TRAIL (1958) Monday 10 May 12noon-1.55pm Channel 32
The Audie Murphy westerns keep coming thick and fast, courtesy of Paramount Network! Here, he is a bank robber mistaken for a new marshal and we wonder which trail he will take (sort of). It was one I caught up with relatively late in life and I found it to be an enjoyable time-filler, played slightly tongue-in-cheek and with the bonus of an early performance from Walter Matthau as a wily judge.
CAPERNAUM (2018) Monday 10 May 11.40pm-2.15am Film Four P
Thankfully, this Freeview première has saved me from trying to recommend Killer Mermaids. It is a film currently on our radar, being that it has received multiple awards and nominations, and is a sub-titled drama from Lebanon. Young Zain runs away from home and sues his parents for having given birth to him. Capernaum is a moving, affecting story in our best traditions of bringing you some of the finest films in world cinema.
THE TWO-HEADED SPY (1958) Tuesday 11 May 5.15-7.10pm Channel 41
This could be a world exclusive – two films featuring Gia Scala in just over 24 hours! Here, she co-stars with Jack Hawkins (rather than Audie Murphy) in the true story of a British spy operating in Berlin under the very noses of senior Nazis. It is a suspenseful, entirely believable account, well-told by a committed cast of good actors and the director, André de Toth. Michael Caine also has a small role.
SECRET IN THEIR EYES (2015) Tuesday 11 May 11.05pm-1.25am Channel 31
In my opinion, the Argentinean original (released in 2009) is one of the best films LRFS has shown. This is the American remake and the story is transposed to Los Angeles and the FBI. It isn’t as good, obviously, but Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman are quality actors who are always worth watching.
PALE RIDER (1985) Wednesday 12 May 9.00-11.20pm Channel 25
A number of critics dismissed Pale Rider as being an inferior rehash of Shane and with some justification. Even so, it was one of the few westerns of the 1980s that merited analysis and discussion and also enjoyed success at the box office. Clint Eastwood is the mysterious preacher, handy with both gun and axe handle, who rides into the valley and helps some struggling miners and their families. There is an ecological message (and questioning of big business) in there, combined with the mythological (Biblical) effect that Clint, as director, wanted. Interestingly, Dean Riesner wrote the Season 5 episode of Rawhide Incident of the Pale Rider and also worked on High Plains Drifter which shares some common traits with tonight’s film.
THERE IS ANOTHER SUN (1951) Wednesday 12 May 11.05pm-1.00am TP (Channel 81)
This is an above-average, b/w drama about the unseemly goings on at a funfair, as two workers plot to rob their boss. Maxwell Reed is the nominal star, but it was Laurence Harvey who grabbed the attention, and went on to build a major career (as did director Lewis Gilbert). Look out for comedy stalwarts Leslie Dwyer (Mr Partridge in Hi-di-Hi) and Arthur Mullard (here willing to box Mr Harvey for a purse of £1!!).
WHEN HARRY MET SALLY . . . (1989) Thursday 13 May 9.00-10.30pm BBC 4
The two best films of the day clash this evening, although it helps that Sally will be on iPlayer for another week or so. Arguably the best Woody Allen comedy that wasn’t made by Woody Allen, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan are the acquaintances who beg to differ on how friendship and romance may, or may not, intermingle successfully.
HARRY AND TONTO (1974) Thursday 13 May 9.00-11.20pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Question: Who won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1974? Answer: Art Carney for this role – and his fellow nominees were Albert Finney, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino! He plays a widower, evicted from his New York apartment, who takes his cat, Tonto, on a journey across America.
DEATH LINE (1972) Friday 14 May 9.00-10.55pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Well, this is a turn up for the books! For once Donald Pleasence is the good guy, a police inspector investigating some disappearances in the London Underground. Little does he realise, but a group of cannibals, living in the tunnels since Victorian times, is responsible. Personally, I am delighted to see that the film’s reputation is undimmed amongst horror aficionados, as it was a key element in my formative viewing years. As well as catching the likes of GWTW and Ben-Hur on re-release (unusual for a teenager in the early 1970s), I must now confess to seeking out X-rated fare, when not quite of age. If I remember correctly, this required a bus journey to the Unit Four cinema in Brierfield and it was the support feature. All these years later, I can still remember key moments and scenes. I am pretty certain that the main feature was a psychological horror called Night Hair Child which teamed Britt Ekland with Mark Lester (!). If this ever turns up on Freeview (uncut), I would, as the phrase goes, be absolutely gobsmacked!
LONG SHOT (2019) Friday 14 May 10.45pm-12.40am BBC 1 P
Back to earth with a bump! We finish the week with a ‘modern’ romantic comedy (cue swearing, sex scenes, etc.), as a journalist (Seth Rogen) is hired by his former babysitter (Charlize Theron) as a speechwriter for her presidential candidature. As you would of course.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
FILM OR SONG?
Usually, as I type up the weekly notes, I click onto BBC Sounds and play the Bob Harris Country Show (or similar). Two weeks ago, he played a track by Poco following the death of founder member Rusty Young, aged 75. A day or so later, as ‘The Essential Collection’ played on the car stereo, I began to mentally sift through some titles that are common to film and song.
1. ROSE OF CIMARRON. The 1952 film is a poor, low-budget western with spotty colour starring Jack Buetel, who had been in Howard Hughes’ notorious The Outlaw alongside Jane Russell, and Mala Powers. The song, however, is one of Poco’s best, melodic and with good instrumentation; undoubtedly, it helped to make the album probably their most popular UK release.
2. MULLHOLLAND DRIVE. The song is on the 2012 album Handwritten by The Gaslight Anthem. Not a bad one, either, but the 2001 David Lynch film had many critics quite beside themselves, as they placed it in the masterpiece category.
3. THE ENTERTAINER – the final track to complete a rather nice KT Tunstall album Tiger Suit. It was also the title of a 1960 drama in which Laurence Olivier had one of the best roles (music-hall song-and-dance man Archie Rice) of his distinguished career. He had also played him on stage and director Tony Richardson gave us a valuable record of Olivier at the peak of his powers.
4. WALK ON THE WILD SIDE. The 1962 film has several pluses – an Elmer Bernstein score, titles by the great Saul Bass and a cast that includes Jane Fonda, Anne Baxter and Barbara Stanwyck - but the film per se doesn’t quite work. Probably because it was five years too early to shed the mantle of MPPA censorship. The song, however, is a Lou Reed classic. Also on the Transformer album is perhaps his best-known song, Perfect Day, which happens to be the title of a 1929 Laurel and Hardy short.
5. A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS and NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH. Al Stewart is a respected, and popular, singer-songwriter (who grew up in Dorset) and these are two of his songs. Good though they are, Night Train to Munich (1940) has Rex Harrison as a spy in a fast-moving and witty escapade and A Man for All Seasons (1966) won six Oscars, including Best Picture, Actor and Director.
6. STRANGERS ON A TRAIN – is the last track on the Travis album Everything at Once. The film is the one where two strangers agree to swop murders and would be placed – easily – in Hitchcock’s Top Ten.
7. COLD TURKEY. A Dick Van Dyke film made in 1969, but not released until 1971, tells its own story. It was the last film of the great character actor Edward Everett Horton (Top Hat etc.) as well. It is also the title of a John Lennon song (as a solo artist) – so, in this instance, the song has it.
8. THE MULE – is track no. 5 on the Deep Purple album Fireball which, I think, was released 50 years ago in 1971 (good grief – feeling old!). The film is the most recent acting success of Clint Eastwood; if, post-Covid-19, he decides to retire, then it would be a fitting end to his career.
9. NEW FRONTIER. The song, written by Adam Duritz, is on the Counting Crows album Hard Candy and it is a shame that the band isn’t better known. The film (aka Frontier Horizon) is a 1939 Three Mesquiteers B-western. It is the last of the batch of eight that starred John Wayne (rather than Robert Livingston and others) and is the weakest of the set. It does, however, have Phylis Isley as the female lead and she was paid $75 for the privilege. Not long after, she changed her name to Jennifer Jones, won an Oscar for The Song of Bernadette (1943) and married producer David O. Selznick in 1949.
10. DESPERADO. In 1995, Robert Rodriguez effectively remade El Mariachi on a bigger budget. It turned out well enough, but the song (and the album) is one of the best from The Eagles. Glenn Frey plays the evocative piano and Don Henley’s vocals are superb. I was surprised to read somewhere that he wasn’t happy with the original recording and felt that he could have sung it better, had they had more recording time. If that is true, then perhaps any roughness makes the song just right – it is a good way to drift off and bring to mind innumerable portrayals on the silver screen. Later on, the song led to a series of four TVM starring Alex MacArthur, the first being Desperado (1987). They popped up on late night TV in the UK beginning in the first week of December 1990 here in the southwest. I would quite like to see them again – wonder if they are on region 2 DVD . . .
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