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Well, the Wimbledon retrospectives are now in full swing in addition to the football. There is still a decent choice of films, but it’s getting a little harder to find them; in part because some are repeats that have been highlighted in earlier listings. We have noted before how, in recent years, good television has become almost the equal of good cinema; to the extent that some of the film industry’s top talents will readily sign up to a project. This week sees the start of a new nine-part series Mrs America on BBC2 (Wednesday at 9.00pm). It’s the story of stay-at-home Republican housewife Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett) who scuppered the Equal Rights Amendment to the American constitution in the early 1970s.
4 – 10 JULY 2020
THE STRAIGHT STORY (1999) Saturday 4 July 11.00am-1.15pm Film Four
Very much a change of pace for director David Lynch, Richard Farnsworth is superb as the elderly farmer who travels by lawnmower to visit his sick brother. (2000-01 season, 89%.)
STARMAN (1984) Saturday 4 July 6.20-8.30pm Channel 70
A sci-fi parable that plays out as a romantic comedy and road movie – surely not? Yes, and it deserved its many glowing reviews, particularly an Oscar-nominated Jeff Bridges as the visiting alien.
MAD MAX 2 (1981) Saturday 4 July 10.15-112.15am ITV 4 (Channel 24)
Considered to be just an iconic notch below its progenitor; even so, this is an adrenalin-fuelled, blistering action film with some of the best stunts ever put on screen.
THEY RODE WEST (1954) Sunday 5 July 10.15am-12 noon Channel 40
A week after The Bamboo Prison we have another Robert Francis film; in this one, he’s a doctor determined to help the Kiowa. Again, the cast and director try really hard to be a little different.
THE TRUMAN SHOW (1998) Sunday 5 July 2.30-4.35pm Channel 32
I’m far from being a Jim Carrey fan, but this Big Brother-style satire is brilliantly done and it remains, arguably, his best performance to date.
LOCAL HERO (1983) Sunday 5 July 2.35-4.45pm Film Four
Bill Forsyth’s follow up to Gregory’s Girl is a warm, gentle, funny story about a businessman (Burt Lancaster) trying to buy a Scottish village. The gorgeous landscape is a real bonus.
BROKEN ARROW (1950) Sunday 5 July 4.50-6.55pm Channel 40
This, the second ground-breaking James Stewart western of 1950, is usually cited as changing opinions towards Native Americans. He plays the historical character Tom Jeffords, Debra Paget is Sonseeahray and Jeff Chandler earned excellent reviews as Cochise (and played him twice more).
THE OCTOBER MAN (1947) Monday 6 July 3.00-5.00pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Roy Ward Baker directs an Eric Ambler script; an excellent John Mills tries to prove that he isn’t a murderer (whilst proving, yet again, that he is the most versatile actor Britain has produced).
HELL IS FOR HEROES (1962) Monday 6 July 4.45-6.35pm Film Four
Director Don Siegel and Steve McQueen make an effective partnership for this tense study of a combat unit dealing with a German pillbox, before moving on to even greater acclaim.
CUSTODY (2017) Monday 6 July 11.20pm-1.10am Film Four
Film Four gives a première to our nail-biting French thriller from two seasons ago (2018-19, 82%); Thomas Gioria is amazing as the little boy, you may remember.
WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND (1961) Tuesday 7 July 11.10am-1.10pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This has to be one of the most fondly remembered films of the 1960s. Hayley Mills is wonderful as the child who believes that escaped murderer Alan Bates is Jesus.
FORBIDDEN (1949) Tuesday 7 July 10.00-11.45pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Several films had this title over the years; this British example is the most obscure. Set in Blackpool (but using a lot of stock footage), an ex-serviceman tries to leave his faithless wife.
TIME WITHOUT PITY (1957) Wednesday 8 July 1.25-3.10pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Director Joseph Losey set up in England after being blacklisted – and it was our gain. Michael Redgrave is the father trying to save his son from the hangman’s noose.
ALL THE KING’S MEN (2005) Wednesday 8 July 6.25-9.00pm Channel 32
Sean Penn’s corrupt politician (based on Huey Long) is inferior to Broderick Crawford’s 1949 original, but Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Anthony Hopkins compensate.
OH . . . ROSALINDA!! (1955) Thursday 9 July 11.15am-1.20pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
Unlike in the US, large-scale British musicals were comparatively few in number in the 1950s. This is a very clever update of Die Fledermaus from the team of Powell & Pressburger.
DRACULA (1958) Thursday 9 July 11.10pm-12.50am Channel 70
On balance this has to be Hammer’s best film and is certainly Christopher Lee’s definitive portrayal of the count. Hoping it’s the restored print with glorious colour and the fullest ending!
GROUNDHOG DAY (1952) Friday 10 July 6.55-9.00pm Channel 32
Bill Murray is the weatherman who seems to be trapped in the same day over and over again, in this very fine romantic comedy. It was also one of our early successes (1993-94 season, 80%).
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) Friday 10 July 10.00pm-12 midnight Channel 81
One of the all-time cult classics that enjoyed a retrospective showing at the Regent a few years ago; you might remember dressing up for the occasion . . . .
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
Last week, I referenced the film Giant (1956) and it made me think about stars who were keen to make a film that took them away from their studio-nurtured image and fanbase. (One of the stars was Rock Hudson and he was very good – as he was in Seconds ten years later.) It’s a little different now – studio contracts are not prevalent and the star/actor boundaries are blurred, so it’s not surprising to see Charlize Theron in Monster (2003) and Nicole Kidman in Destroyer (2018).
However, if we go back a generation or two, it was a little riskier and not always successful (Dirk Bogarde as a Mexican bandit in The Singer Not the Song (1960) and John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror (1956) come to mind). These I would recommend heartily, though: Farrah Fawcett as a battered housewife in The Burning Bed (1984) and - a little dated now - Elizabeth Taylor as the prostitute in Butterfield 8 (1960); Tony Curtis, superb as The Boston Strangler (1968) with the director, Richard Fleischer, doing another fine job, this time with Richard Attenborough, in 10 Rillington Place (1970). Charles Bronson did Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus (1991) amidst much on-screen mayhem. Robert Mitchum was phenomenal as the psychotic preacher in The Night of the Hunter and Frank Sinatra played a drug addict in The Man with a Golden Arm (1955 was clearly a good year). Sean Connery was impressive in The Hill (1965) during his tenure as James Bond; Olivia de Havilland took on a controversial role in The Snake Pit (1948) and Ray Milland won an Oscar as an alcoholic in The Lost Weekend (1945). Finally, I must save pride of place for Tyrone Power who fought hard to play a ‘can’t-sink-any-lower’ carnival barker in Nightmare Alley (1947). Guillermo del Toro is currently filming a remake and that doubles its ‘street cred’ at a stroke! I can hardly wait!
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