Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Recent tv choices...

Apart from the great new series MAD MEN and GLEE, some choice old movies have re-appeared, thanks to TCM UK.

BUNNY O'HARE - this Bette Davis film from 1971 was just a memory of catching it once and disbelieving how bad it was, now here it is again, and it seems even worse seeing Bette and Ernest Borgnine (a long way from their THE CATERED AFFAIR back in '56) as the elderly bank robbers dressed as hippies robbing banks throughout the American southwest. It just looks very cheap and tatty, and Jack Cassidy is quite unpleasant as the sleazy police chief. Bette and Borg rob banks in retaliation for the banks' foreclosing on her, and provide funds for her grasping children. Unfortunately her final expletive is here downgraded to a less offensive one. Not as bad though as LESBIAN VAMPIRE KILLERS, but then what is? Bette's worst film. (I saw her in person at London's National Film Theatre the next year (in '72) when she got a great reception and brought the house down, at least she was back in good company by the time of DEATH ON THE NILE IN '78!).

WHITE MISCHIEF. Michael Radford's 1988 drama passed me by but was an engrossing experience to see now, with that great cast and the unsolved murder mystery of what really happened back in the '30s among that dissolute community of rich folk out in Kenya among the colonial expatriates. Its handsomely mounted showing the casual racism and promiscuity as newcomers Joss Ackland and his pretty new wife Greta Sacchi set temperatures rising. Local rake Charles Dance and Greta fall in love to the chagrin of Ackland (great to see him in a leading role here), and Sarah Miles who had considered Dance her own. Geraldine Chaplin, Susan Fleetwood, John Hurt, Murray Head and a young Hugh Grant are also involved, as well as Trevor Howard in one of his last roles. Sarah Miles has a great scene at the morgue as she leaves her very special imprint on the corpse, and I loved her greeting at the dawn of another beautiful day! Greta impresses as the very '40s vamp, as carnal and lovely as a young Lana Turner.

THE LOUDEST WHISPER or THE CHILDREN'S HOUR. This 1961 Wyler film has been long unseen here, but now that TCM UK has acquired some United Artists titles its been shown a few times. Its of course the famous Lillian Hellman play (first done by Wyler in the '30s) about the 2 school teachers accused by a spiteful deceitful child of being lesbians. This of course means the closure of their school and they are regarded as outsiders. Its hokum now but well mounted by Wyler with Audrey Hepburn and Shirley McLaine as the leads, James Garner as Hepburn's bewildered beau, Miriam Hopkins back as McLaine's silly aunt and best of all, Fay Bainter (who was in Wyler's JEZEBEL) who is monumental as the child's aunt and who causes the downfall of the school, and then when she finds out the real truth has to come to apologise... the lynchpin of the story is that Martha (McLaine) realises she really does love Audrey Hepburn that way, so there is only one solution for her. [Shirely later did recant about this in the documentary THE CELLULOID CLOSET, but it must have seemed par for the course back then].

Good though to see some United Artists titles being dusted down, like a batch of Woody Allens [ANOTHER WOMAN, ALICE, SEPTEMBER], Billy Wilders [I won't though be watching IRMA LA DEUCE], and do I really want to see YENTL or THE WHALES OF AUGUST again (painful enough seeing the decline into old age of Lindsay Anderson, Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, Vincent Prince, Ann Sothern just the once...).

MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS - Charles Jarrot's 1971 film looks well mounted, but is really the kind of historical film I do not care for, being one of those dull, reverential, ploddingly directed costume dramas with no cinematic flair whatsoever as lots of thespians stand around mouthing reams of dialogue, more a pageant than a film. They may use real settings but it just looks wrong: very overlit, and the costumes look brand new, as though they arrived that morning. Scenes are like tableaus with no dramatic progression. The cast do what they can - Glenda Jackson had a huge hit in the BBC series ELIZABETH I over six hours, but her Virgin Queen is a caricature here, Vanessa Redgrave as Mary is tremelous and lovely as she deals with Patrick McGoohan, Timothy Dalton, Nigel Davenport, Ian Holm. Trevor Howard is Cecil, Elizabeth's advisor. Interesting to see again but just dull dull dull.

THE VIRGIN AND THE GYPSY. 1970 - a pleasant reminder of when England had a film industry - this, a kind of follow-up to WOMEN IN LOVE, was the kind of movie that played at local cinemas, usually as part of a double feature. Interesting to see how well made it was with great period detail of the 20s as lackluste Joanna Shimkus [sort of a lesser Jacqueline Bisset] returns to her family's vicarage somewhere in the North of England - this is D H Lawrence country. Father is stuffy vicar Maurice Denham and Kay Walsh is as ever splendid as the spinster sister Cissy, forever at odds with the young people, and Fay Compton is the spiteful old granny. Bored Yvette (Joanna) spots the virile gypsy - Franco Nero, attractive as ever here (with his bare chest and waistcoat), who with his woman (Imogen Hassall) and baby have their caravan nearby. Local youths express interest in Yvette but she has no time for them. Honor Blackman and Mark Burns are the scandalous unmarried couple who befriend her, and nature soon take care of things as a flash flood sweeps through the countryside sweeping decorum away as Yvette and gypsy finally get together. As directed by Christopher Miles [Sarah's brother] its all very enjoyable and engrossing, rather like those other films of the era like THE TRIPLE ECHO or those Ken Russell or John Schlesinger films.

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