Courtoom drama is guilty of being a real treat
KEVIN CRYAN stands in for John Gore to pick the best fims coming to TV (from Saturday June 11).
I'll begin by listing films so familiar that all I will do is try to make sure they are still worth viewing.
There's 3:10 to Yuma 1957 (Great Movies Action 18.00 Sun 13 Jun) a suspenseful western adapted from an Elmore Leonard story and directed by Delmer Davis. This can be enjoyed either as a western with thriller tropes or the other way round. Fans of either genre will not be disappointed.
Then, for a real comic horror treat there's Tremors 1989 (Horror Channel 08:00 Sun 13 Jun), directed by Ron Underwood, starring Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward as handymen who lead a small disparate group of desert dwellers against sand-burrowing predators. It's fast and funny and you don't have to be a dyed-in-the-wool horror fan to enjoy this updating of the 1950s' monster-movie.
As a sucker for courtroom dramas, I'll be catching up with one I consider to be the granddaddy of them all, Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men 1957 (Film 4 14.45 Tue 15 Jun), pictured above, in which lone juror (Henry Fonda) holds out for a not guilty verdict when the other 11 rush to judgement. The script by Reginald Rose (from his own TV play) is as intelligent as you could wish, and the cast which includes Lee J. Cobb, E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, and several other faces which would later become familiar on the big and small screens, is matchless. If you have not seen it, you are in for a treat; if you have, this is an opportunity to remind yourself what a treat it was.
As his career wound down, John Huston got the opportunity to direct adaptations of two classic literary works. One was James Joyce's The Dead – gloriously filmed in 1987 - and this, Rudyard Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King 1975 (Film 4 16:20 Wed 16 Jun). Huston had spent much of his cinematic career looking for backing for this film. It's a good thing that he was forced to wait until he could cast Sean Connery and Michael Caine as Daniel Dravot and Peachy Canehan, the two army squaddies who con a remote Afghan tribe into believing that Dravot (Connery) is a king, with tragic consequences. David Thompson in his book Have You Seen, suggests that the film is a “rather minor Huston”. But he adds that if Huston had always wanted to do it, it must have been a relief it turned out so well.
The one film I've put in my viewing diary for the coming week, Bad Time at the El Royal 2018 (Film 4 21.00 Thur 17) I cannot comment on, but it comes highly recommended elsewhere.
Oklahoma 1955 (BBC2 13.15 Sat 12 June) is a fine adaptation of the Rogers and Hammerstein stage show with Gordon MacRae well cast as Curly. He's ably supported by (a pre-Partridge Family) Shirley Jones (making her her film début ) as an appealing Laurey. Few stage shows transfer well to the big screen but Fred Zinnemann's version, although faltering from time to time and a mite over-long, has oodles of charm and will please anyone who likes the American musical. The show is stolen by Gloria Grahame as Laurey's pal Ado Annie, the spirited gal who “can't say no”, and Gene Nelson, playing Annie's beau Will Parker, who has a great dance scene demonstrating all the big-city dances he's learned during his trip to the “up-to-date” Kansas City.
Matilda 1996 (5 Star 16.50 Sat 12 June) is a typically wicked Roald Dahl story about a little girl whose life at home is made miserable by parents and who at school is mistreated by her headmistress, the brutish Miss Trunchbull (Pam Ferris). However, Matilda finds a loving, kindred spirit in her teacher, Miss Honey, who values her pupil's amazing brain power, a power which magically helps her turn the tables on Miss Trunchbull. As both star - playing Matilda's father - and director, Danny DeVito serves Dahl well.
Fourteen Hours 1951 (Talking Pictures 18.35 Sat 12 June) is an American film noir, based loosely on real events and directed by Henry Hathaway. It tells the story of a New York City police officer Patrolman Charlie Dunnigan (Paul Douglas), trying to stop a despondent man Robert Cosick (Richard Basehart) from jumping to his death from the 15th floor of a hotel. Hathaway, who had already had success with his realistic films The House on 92nd Street (1945), Kiss of Death (1947), and Call Northside 777 (1948), directs the whole thing with considerable skill, mixing suspense and human interest in equal measure. He also elicits from Basehart a career-best performance. The supporting cast, which included Barbara Bel Geddes as Cosick's estranged fiancée, Agnes Moorehead, Robert Keith (Cosick's parents), Debra Paget, and Howard Da Silva, cannot be faulted. Indicentally it was the screen début of Grace Kelly and Jeffrey Hunter, in small roles.
Ang Lee's epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2000 (Great Movies 18.35 Sun 13 June) is a martial arts epic set in 19th century Qing Dynasty China. A warrior (Chow Yun-Fat) gives his sword, Green Destiny, to his lover (Michelle Yeoh) to deliver to safe keeping. The sword is stolen, and the chase is on to find it. The search leads to the House of Yu and the third major character, Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi), the beautiful and mysterious daughter of a well-heeled family, all of which sets the story in a whole different direction. Elvis Mitchell of the New York Times called it, “Sense and Sensibility with a body count”. That should give you a good idea about what you get with this visually stunning masterpiece.
Something of a minor gem hiding in full view is The Leisure Seeker 2017 (5 Select 21.00 Fri 18 June) a comedy-drama directed by Paolo Virzì, The film, based on the 2009 novel by American novelist Michael Zadoorian, stars Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland as an American couple who take one last road trip in a vintage Winnebago from Wellesley, Massachusetts, to the Ernest Hemingway house in the Florida Keys, before her cancer and his dementia take their toll.
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian thought it a "soppy bittersweet heart-sinker" but to my mind there is considerable pleasure to be had from watching two veterans going through their (maybe predictable) paces. A little wallow from time to time is no bad thing.
Spotlight 2015 (BBC 4 23.20 Fri 18 June) is the true story of the Boston Globe’s 2002 campaign to investigate a church cover-up of child abuse by Catholic priests. Michael Keaton plays reporter Walter “Robby” Robinson, who, working alongside hot-tempered Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) and Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) expose "Catholic" Boston as a clubbable world in which golfing buddies and other back-scratching insiders collude to maintain silence when corruption in the church threatens to upset the status quo. It takes a new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), an outsider, to reveal this by insisting the team cover the child abuse story properly, and face up to the Globe’s own shortcomings.
The Radio Times' Stephen Carty had this to say: "This extraordinary story from writer/director Tom McCarthy is brought vividly to life in a riveting, serious-minded drama that sticks mindfully to the facts". Sums it up for me.
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