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Don't Forget the Driver

'Bugger Bognor!' King George Vth's last words..........................
Well,he might not have done,but Mr T.Jones is making a pretty good of it so far.... 'D.F.T.D.' is funny like a broken leg. Yes,it's a pretty accurate portrait of 2019 England - and that's absolutely nothing to laugh about. All the issues currently concerning 'Guardian' readers are none -too- subtly presented by an excellent cast and one almost forgets that it's Remain propaganda. It's very cleverly done,the BBC are by now very good at this sort of thing. I admired it,but it is mis - sold as a comedy. Mutti Merkel will love it.

A Very English Scandal

Whitehall Farce.........................
....complete with Mack Sennett - type music and savagely chewed scenery as the players compete in a positive orgy of over - acting. Mr Grant merely swaps one sort of stereotype for another,moving from 'Anyone for tennis?' to 'Anyone for murder?'. He tries so hard to be ruthless but only succeeds in being desperate. He lacks Thorpe's overweening vanity,the quality that caused Wilde's downfall when he failed to recognise that whilst he may have been jolly popular at the Café de Paris not many ordinary folks actually cared for him. His Thorpe is virtually a posh John Gotti.Leader of the Liberal Party at a point when British politics was at its most corrupt(and that's saying an awful lot)he jumped on any bandwagon going to draw attention to himself and as a result made many enemies even within his own ranks. When an earlier troublesome homosexual affair threatened to blow him out of the water - to coin a phrase -he arranged to have the unfortunate former lover eliminated. This is not really his sort of thing,you understand but,as he says,needs must. A Public School man through and through,he lies and prevaricates,as one must,but in a very middle -class out of his depth manner he bollixes the whole thing up. When the Old Bill come calling it takes a bent judge to "do the right thing" by this pathetic excuse for a man get him off with a summing - up that has to be heard to be believed.And the jury believed it. In a strange manner 'A very English Scandal' is quite fun to watch as Mr Grant frowns and growls for England and Ben Wishaw - as his erstwhile victim- piles on the camp. But in real life,the 'collateral damage to Thorpe's family and Jeremy Scott was not fun at all.


"It seems to me I've heard that song before"..........
Over - familiar faces,over - familiar plot,dialogue written as if filtered through endless other "I wuz framed"dramas,"Innocent" is reliant on viewers having short memories and a high tolerance of clichés. The amiable Mr Lee Ingleby plays a man jailed for murdering his wife. Did the police tailor the evidence to fit their theory? Did witnesses stitch him up? Did family members conspire to put him away? What were the motives for all this skullduggery? My boredom quotient was soon reached once the "shock" revelation that the D.I. charged with re - investigating the case was in a cosy relationship with the old school copper who screwed up(in one way or another) the first one. In an office full of coppers nobody knew?Nobody would say"Hang on a minute? And the judge assuring the defendant he can't be charged twice for the same offence after being acquitted? Oh yes he can. Mr Ingleby does "anguish" very well.He alone has some depth. Otherwise it's the same old same old. And we'll keep on getting it until TV companies eventually realise that this particular ship has not only sailed but sunk without trace.

The Split

All men are beasts.Girls on top.I would expect no less.
This is a BBC Drama production.Consequently the Sisterhood Rools O.K.? Husbands,lovers,clients are all put down ruthlessly or depicted as dickheads of the worst order.Some particularly unfortunate ones get both treatments. The girls get to power dress,bond, and "you and me against the world" is the watchword. It's all a bit 1980s actually and a "homage" to countless USTV dramas set in Law Offices with stockinged legs gleaming like workplace sanctuary never happened. Miss N.Walker ,as is her wont,rises above the clichés,but even she is stymied with some of the dialogue she is supposed to take seriously. That awfully nice bloke from the coffee ads back in the day plays her father who deserted her and her mother and siblings thirty eight years earlier. It's all his fault apparently.Stephen Thompkinson plays out of his comfort zone as a multi - millionaire sports goods manufacturer (based,one wonders,on whom?) and he gives the best performance. He and the remarkably consistent Miss Walker are head and shoulders above the rest of the cast who otherwise do their own familiar thing and it is this familiarity plus Miss Walker's acknowledged pulling power(second only to Miss S.Lancaster I would guess) that will keep "The Split" going the distance. Love the hair colour,Nichola,but ditch the jacket - it's so not you.

The Woman in White

Form is temporary - Class is permanent.The BBC Drama Dept redeems itself.
Mr Collins' Victorian Gothic Novel is given the same respect afforded to "Bleak House" in 2005 which itself was an essay on middle - class manners , morals and hypocrisy. It is apparent that our national broadcaster is still able to pull out a plum just at the time our admiration for it might have been slightly declining due to a number of sub - standard offerings of late. "The woman in white" has all the hallmarks of classic costume drama. It is carefully cast,mixing the familiar faces with the rather less so. An atmosphere of slight menace prevails even in the lightest moments,the beautiful house and its grounds,the beach,even the sea seem to contain some unspecified threat. The interior lighting conceals more than it reveals.Mr C.Dance's study is a fine example of hidden mystery. All the performances are spot on,but I might single out mesdames Buckley and Scanlan in particular for bringing more to their characters that even,fine actors that they are,might have been expected. Does "The woman in white" signal a return to form for BBC Drama? I hope so,but form is temporary - class is permanent.

Ordeal by Innocence

No more Mr NIghy's guy.........
A less kind reviewer might say it's a one - note performance from a one - note actor but I prefer to think that Mr Nighy has simply reached the bottom of of this particular barrel and his slightly put - upon meek Englishman schtick has come to the end of its natural life. It's been a good living for him for years and why not?But now surely he can put this particular character back in its box? Disturbingly,he is the only actor steadfastly refusing to chew the scenery in this expensive BBC production. A family of lunatics loses its matriarch and turns on itself feverishly reviving old hatreds and grudges. It could have been a 90 minute play but this all fur coat and no knickers adaptation drags on over three hourly episodes tricked out with flashbacks,secrets revealed at the last moment(a.k.a. cheating the viewer) and self - indulgent directorial flimflammery that irritates intensely. There is no sense of period. Photographing a few old cars doesn't cut it I' m afraid or "Which twin has the Toni?" hairstyles. All the body language and attitudes are defiantly 21st century. "Ordeal by innocence" is an object lesson on how not to make a Country House Mystery. Perhaps it's time to leave the works of Miss Christie to the makers of the rather camp "Hercule Poirot Mysteries" where the most fun is to be had watching the metamorphosis of his moustache. In short,there is very little in "Ordeal by Innocence" to keep the little grey cells buzzing.

The Demi-Paradise

Russian Engineer meets girl.Russian Engineer loses girl but gains propellor.....
What a shame that the Russian engineer should turn out to be so handsome and charming and,frankly,British in all but name and accent. He doesn't talk,he speechifies,whether it's taking afternoon tea or launching a ship. Actors are never happier than when hiding behind accents. Sir Laurence particularly favoured them - a bit like Meryl Streep. The difference was he couldn't quite pull them off as often as not. His Russian is all on one note. "Demi Paradise" is of course wartime propaganda when Russia was supposed to be our chum despite the Nazi - Soviet non- aggression pact which is conveniently forgotten . When one barking mad dictator double - crossed another barking mad dictator we were forced to make Hobson's Choice and cosy up to dear old Uncle Joe who subsequently turned out to have been Summa Cum Laude in the pantheon of murdering psychopaths. To ease our path through this moral maze "Demi - paradise" is somehow on a par with Fred Kite's "All them cornfields and singing in the evening". A selection of stereotyped Brits all fall for Larry's easy charm including the very posh heroine who joins the Wrens rather like lovelorn chaps once joined the Foreign Legion. 75 years on all this doesn't hold up too well,then again I doubt the makers ever expected to make a timeless masterpiece;just a journeyman quickie with a better cast than most. As Russian troops raped and looted their way round Berlin and Eastern Europe I would like to think Anatol de Grunwald might have been given food for thought.


The most authentic pub fight I 've ever seen.....
...coupled with splendid performances from Mr K.Grifith and Mr T.Bell take attention away from an appallingly miscast lead and the somewhat clichéd storyline. This is 1961.The head villain has a Hillman Minx. He is posh. But ruthless mind you. He plans a Wages Robbery(the crime du jour in 1961)but it all goes pear - shaped when a guard is shot and all the robbers face being hanged,that being the penalty for "murder in the furtherance of theft" at that time. The gang falls out,unsurprisingly. Mr K.Griffith dies miserably in a dark alley.(ditto). Just previously he has been thrown out of a pub after being involved in a brawl that is brilliantly realistic in that it is brief and all the offenders are ejected rather brutally by the regulars. That's how it was in 1961 - nobody is shot or glassed,no acid is thrown,just a few dozen punches. The femme fatale(French,bien sur)double crosses the gang leader and is in turn double - crossed. When the police rather belatedly arrive they are wearing trench macs and Homburgs.Surely time was about to be called on such attire. Vastly - experienced director Mr S Hayers does miracles with such potentially slim pickings. When people started to get paid by cheque the whole Wages Blag industry was re - invented as Having One Across The Pavement and cash deliveries to banks became the target. Eventually the Old Bill got fed up and started shooting a few Faces and low - risk crimes like drugs began to proliferate. "Payroll" is a film that - in effect - records the beginning of the end for little Firms who would do "one big job" and the beginning of the Big Firms who were run by men with plans. Personally I suspect all the gang shown in this film would be quickly shown the door by dear old Reg and Ron.

The Great Sioux Massacre

Written by Fred C.Dobbs?He shoulda stuck to treasure hunting.....
Here in England in 2018 we're still having this rubbish inflicted on us by Freeview on a gloomy March afternoon when I should have been gardening. "The Great Sioux Massacre" is certainly one of the worst Westerns I have seen in seventy years of devoted fandom. It looks as if it has been cobbled together from clips of the director's tv cowboy films interspersed with embarrassingly bad sub - sub Fordian scenes of Cavalry life in barracks including one excruciating moment at an Officers' dance where Mr J.Cotten gives the worse "drunk" performance I have ever seen whilst the rest of the cast watch almost open - mouthed. Mr P. Carey looks like a fat bloke with a syrup as Colonel/General Custer, a man who goes from hero to zero on being offered a possible Presidential nomination. Even Donald Trump gave the matter a bit more thought. Mr D.McGavin looks distraught throughout,as if he still can't believe he agreed to take the part,but by golly he'll give it the old College Try. The women get even shorter shrift,being shown as arm candy for those bad boys in blue. Easy to see why director Salkow chose to write this trash under a pseudonym. From somewhere in the Sierra Madre Mr Fred C.Dobbs should be consulting his lawyers.

Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?

Mr Newley was aiming for "Citizen Kane"but hit "Myra Breckenridge"
The greatest stage performance I ever saw was Mr Newley in 1962 in his tour - de - force "Stop the world - I want to get off". Seven years later his star was so far in the ascendant that he was given the keys to Hollywood and told "Help Yourself". An offer he took very seriously. The result was what can only be described as extraordinary . Now whether this is a good "extraordinary" or a bad one is very subjective. What is certain,however,is the warts and all portrait of the artist that is revealed. He is by turns crude,witty,self - relevatory,secretive,charming and unpleasant. And so is the film. Fifty years ago it might have shocked a pre Harvey Milk America. Today it merely represents the overindulgence of a huge ego. But it's a "Big" film with a big budget and big themes already explored by cleverer reviewers than me. I still admire Mr Newley's work and can indulge his childish ambition to make a T and A picture dressed up as "Art". The film's main saving grace is that in parts it is very funny. As a satire on the so - called "Permissive" society and its pernicious after - effects it is unmatched.


Looks like the clippings from the cutting - room floor....
...running just over the hour if you cut out the ads(and this is freeview with ads about every ten minutes),this travesty was shown the other afternoon as a "feature "film and made absolutely no sense. There was no background for the characters,no explanation of the Poldark/Warleggan feud,clearly huge lumps had been chopped out making the whole thing pointless. We arrived at a point where the story had obviously been running for some time and left so abruptly it was almost rude- in the middle of Clowance stomping off in high dudgeon with obviously a lot to be done before the end of the story. It was as if I was watching one episode from a tv series at about the halfway point in it's run. It was an insult to both viewers and performers. The Independent Television Authority needs to look hard at what is being used under it's auspices to sell funeral insurance and stairlifts. A lot of it's audience may be old - but it's not stupid.

The List of Adrian Messenger

A rather cold but clever English Country House mystery set in Ireland...
This film has the trappings of Doyle but the aura of Christie,all wrapped up in a blanket of Hustonian braggadacio. One of the medium's most idiosyncratic directors and hammiest actors(in a good way),Mr Huston apparently lost interest in many of his projects almost as soon as they started to bear fruit. This is not detectable on screen during "The List of Adrian Messenger" except in the denouement involving his "hidden stars" which proceeds with a haste that is almost rude. Whether or not it was his idea in the first place I don't know,but clearly he was anxious to get it over with before it could be revealed as a Maguffin to rival any of Hitchcock's. The story is intriguing despite Mr Scott's English accent which may have ben a template for Mr van Dyke's efforts a little later that year. Sitting in the three and nines in the "Odeon" in Brighton's West St, I pencilled in my diary the parts I thought were being played by the Big Stars. The first name I wrote was Kirk Douglas playing George C.Scott's role. In my defence there did seem to be a close similarity. Apart from Mr Lancaster who clearly was not playing the Hunt Follower,the others were easy. Mr Scott - later to play Sherlock Holme - ,was cool and dogged,trying hard to take the rather convoluted plot seriously. The icily beautiful Miss D.Wynter was perfectly cast,the locations well - chosen and the whole thing crisply shot in startling black and white. The English aristos are everything you might expect a man who owned Estates in Ireland to sincerely believe. None of this stops "The List" from being an atypical Huston film for that stage of his career. He lifts his foot from the testosterone pedal despite a predominantly male cast and lets his cinematographer's imagination predominate. The Hunt scenes - regardless of your taste or otherwise for Foxhunting,are bravura film - making. Best seen I'm afraid,on the big screen where the interiors and exteriors may distract you from the unlikeliness of it all. Overall great fun and a worthy example of a Film Craftsman's oeuvre.


Very poor indeed - don't watch it if you're feeling suicidal............
This travesty was on Freeview last night - divided into two 2 hour segments. It was so bad I can only think - in it's defence that it had been cut to ribbons in order to fit in ads for Old Persons' Funeral Insurance and ambulance chasing lawyers. I am not an admirer of Miss Steele's oeuvre but she surely didn't deserve this barbarity. Countess Zoya seemed to have lost a child somewhere along the line between commercials; random characters turned up and disappeared again,accents changed at will,noone seemed to age except in the last reel when huge amounts of make - up were splashed on Miss Gilbert's face and she gamely tried to walk like an old lady. Miss Diana Rigg and Mr David Warner were awful and he vanished with a speed that was almost rude - for which I was grateful. The print was faded and scratchy,the soundtrack - thankfully - muffled. I don't know why I watched it. Oh yes I do ...there was even worse rubbish on the other 105 channels.


Sweet but rather lightweight tale of a bright but slightly odd young woman.
Part of the post- war Irish Diaspora were large numbers of young women many of whom headed for New York where,as the contemporary song has it "Every street's a boulevard". Mrs Keogh's brownstone was home for half a dozen such girls who seem to spend most of their time bitching at one another. Ellis is one such tenant. She is played by Miss S.Ronan as bright but naïve. She meets and,in secret,marries a young Italian plumber before returning to Ireland in response to a family crisis. Subsequently she finds herself on the horns of a dilemma. How she resolves it is the real let - down of this slight film. In fact she seems paralysed by her situation and merely marking time when a solution is thrust upon her. Miss Ronan is fine as Ellis within the limits set by the writer. She is a bit detached and a trifle smug,neither particularly likeable attributes. Mr Broadbent is lovely as Father Flood - everybody's dream priest and fellow Brit Miss Walters sometimes staggers on the brink of Stage Oirishness but always manages to right herself at the last moment. Opinions on "Brooklyn" vary widely,but I believe it's not as good as it's proponents say,nor as bad as it's detractors. The highpoint for me was the down and outs' Christmas dinner. "These are the men that dug the tunnels and built the bridges" says Jim Broadbent - the most memorable line in the film.

Suite Française

"Ve have vays of making you yawn".........
A film with nothing new to say about love,war or anything else unfortunately. Cliché watchers will have a field day as conflicted Nazi officer falls in lust with lonely, put - upon Frenchwoman. He is a composer who left home to join the Wehrmacht and is somehow surprised that his fellow soldiers are not all gentlemen looking for a "good" war but frankly barbarians almost to a man. "Mein Gott,what am I doing here?"he must have thought. Too late,pal;get on with the job of killing Jews,Frenchmen,Russians,gypsies, the mentally ill, the disabled and other such "untermenschen". He has written a sub - sub Debussy piano piece and plays it.He makes the piano talk -it says "Take your hands off me!" His easily - impressed French mistress - seemingly in a semi - catatonic state throughout their "affair" spends hours fingering his music lovingly. Read into that what you will. Eventually they both remember there's a war on and they're on opposites sides of it. She tries to smuggle a wanted man to Paris,and is stopped at a sentry post . Two soldiers end up getting shot. The officer rides up on his motor bike (the things German composers can do,eh?) and after an unconsciably long time staring at each other open - mouthed lets her drive off. By this time my eyes were blurred not with tears but with sleep. Mis K.Scott - Thomas at her ball - breaking best is worth the five stars . Otherwise if there's a documentary about sugar cane production in China on another channel - watch it.

El Paso

Lawyer decides to take the law into his own hands...................
When all else fails out come the Colts and Winchesters. Fine upstanding ex - Confederate officer Mr John Payne tries to Clean Up The Town by lawful means but has to resort to violence in the face of endemic corruption. The end justifies the means,eh,John? If "El Paso" has a moral message that appears to be it. Aided,if that's the word by Gabby Hayes and Gail Russel,hindered by the great Henry Hull,with heavyweight "help" such as Sterling Hayden,Mr Payne finds that friends in need are friends indeed. Mind you,nobody said either he or Haynes was clever judging from the ease with which " Stagecoach Nellie" parts then from their wallets before they arrive in town. I watched a horrible orange and grey print of this on Freeview the other night and it is a tribute to the performers that stayed to the end. The odd Fordian touch kept me from grabbing the remote but overall it's potboiling stuff all round I'm afraid.

Young Man with a Horn

Michael Curtiz's "Amadeus".........................
......the story of an "ubermensch" musician,a man with no peers in his field,young,gifted and misunderstood. Unfortunately because he is played by Mr K.Douglas with his rictus grin,rictus scowl and rictus every - bloody thing,he evokes very little sympathy; in me at any rate. More Bunny Berigan then Bix Beiderbecke,Mr Douglas is one hell of a trumpet player.Like in countless movies before and since he wants to play "his" music and refuses to "sell out". But jazzers who don't "sell out"quite often starve. A later echo might be seen in "New York,New York" where Mr De Niro ends up on the coat tails of Miss Minnelli until he can no longer live with himself. No such quibbles for Kirk who burbles away behind Doris Day in the end. Before then he takes to the demon drink,enters unsuitable relationships and does all the jazz - ish things Hollywood producers fondly imagine creative musicians like to do. Doris Day seems more comfortable in her role than Lauren Bacall whose more complex character eludes her. Nice rather than amazing trumpet playing by Harry James complements the movie which is directed by Michael Curtiz with his customary panache and professionalism. A better film about a jazz trumpet player is "Pete Kelly's Blues" which is actually set in the Beiderbecke era. But "Young man with a horn" from a somewhat florid novel by Dorothy Baker is well worth watching for all that.

Street Corner

A fascinating portrait of post - war London.
When I joined the Met a few years later I found that in fact there was an average of 3 WPCs posted to every station (one for each shift) and,as shown in "Street Corner",they were mainly used to deal with children,toms(as sex workers were unhelpfully termed at that time),shoplifters (who were reckoned to be mainly women anyway) and women prisoners. They were referred to by supervising officers as "Miss" regardless of their marital status and never "dear" or "darling" as so many subsequent films and tv shows. Frankly most women officers were happy with their role. Those who weren't simply moved to CID where their options were much broader. In "Street Corner" we see a sincere attempt to realistically portray the work of women police in post - war London. A sort of distaff "Blue Lamp" minus the testerone. Miss Betty Box handles sensitive subjects with exreme skill, injecting much - needed humour from time to time. There is no attempt to ennoble these women,simply to record them as doing a difficult job as best they can. The spirit of the old - time Met is cleverly captured;this may not be e recruiting film but it won't have harmed recruitment. There is not an excess scene in the film. It is an exercise in how to make a straightforward effective and involving picture on a budget that wouldn't cover the frothy coffee bill for a modern tv cop show. Well -chosen exteriors give us a glimpse of a lost world that nobody under 50 will ever know once existed underneath our gentrified boroughs. A simpler world where everybody knew where they belonged - even the villains.

The Happiest Days of Your Life

A gem from the time before glottal stops and dropped "Haitches".........
........and when precision of thought and speech was not considered a social handicap. The script is witty and erudite,the performances universally polished. Probably not a single character in the film has any currency in 2018. That is this century's tragedy. In another world,almost an alternative universe,"The Happiest Days of Your Life"was merely one of a number of British comedy films whose quality and bloodline we took for granted. There would be,it seemed,an endless conveyor belt of such productions stretching into the infinitely distant sixties. Sadly it was not to be. As time passed,subtlety disappeared,the funny bone moved rather lower down the anatomy and innocence became a quality to be mocked at every opportunity. There are lovely people in this film - long dead - who deserve you indulgence. Their like,and the like of "The Happiest Days of Your Life" will not occur again. That,also,to the lover of British Cinema,is also this century's tragedy.

Battle of Britain

From "Mein Kampf" to "Kanalkampf".
One marks the virtual beginning of the Third Reich and one its virtual end. When Hitler was forced to abandon his plan to invade Britain he concentrated on Russia,thus sowing the seeds of his Country' downfall. And whatever revisionist historians may say,the main reason he did so was the inability of the Luftwaffe to gain air superiority,let alone the air supremacy required for a successful campaign. "The Battle of Britain" recounts the epic air war between Dowding's young pilots and Goering's. It's aerial photography is legendary,some of it shot over Essex where I was lving at the time. The Unit used a Liberator which would swoop low over the fields and we would wave to the pilot as he flew majestically past,followed by a gaggle of Spitfires in "Finger Four" formation. Tragically one of the cameramen was killed when he fell out of the aircraft. Both the Luftwaffe and the RAF are portrayed positively in an era when Germans were often thought of as psychopathic murderers. The actors are secondary to the machinery and tend to soft pedal except Mr R.Shaw who was incapable of keeping his charisma under wraps and the great Mr K.More who plays his usual humane officer role to perfection. There is nothing more than a "For Christ's sake" from Mr Shaw to offend those who are determined to take offence at something and nothing more tittilating than Miss York 's suspenders to tittilate those who are determined to be tittilated. This is as much an historic document as a wart film.

Call Me Bwana

Miss E. went from "La Dolce vita" to this.Presumably she had a sense of humour.
She certainly seems to be enjoying herself to be fair. Mr Hope,taking a page from R.Hudson's superior "Man's Favourite sport", is an "expert" waiting to be found out. He pretends what we Brits back in the day called "An old Africa hand" on the strength of a memoir written by his uncle,and is tasked to recover a NASA satellite that has gone off piste and landed in the African jungle. The Russians are also looking for it,this time a foretaste of a R.Hudson film 20 - odd years later. But the Russians are genuine experts. So much for plot. Like most of Mr Hope's films,"Call me Bwana" is merely a vehicle for his gagging routines. That will either encourage you or turn you off. It has a lot of 1963 mildly political jokes (remember "The First Family" record Album?) that may mistify anyone coming across it today. Miss Eckberg doesn't have much trouble stealing the film,Mr Hope looks a little bit tired of it all. The Africans pretty much outsmart everybody which was novel for its time. I saw this at the "Odeon" Kemp Town before it became a more niche venue. Nowhere near so bad is it's made out to be without challenging "Some like it hot" in the 60's comedy stakes.

The Expendables

Barney and Biggles - two guys saving the world with a flying boat.........
Of course Flying Officert/Major/Captain/Inspector Bigglesworth(depending on which stage of his career you find him at) was meant to be a hero to British schoolboys especially those who would be tasked with keeping The Empire running later in life. Presumably this is not so with Mr Stallone's Barney Ross(named after the boxer - biopic "Monkey on my back"?) . Although to be fair to him ,in the opening scene he displays the patience of a saint in dealing with a psycho pirate. But,once he goes..he goes. And whilst Biggles can rely on his chums Algy,Ginger and Bertie,Barney has really only Jason Statham to help him annihilate a dictator's private army. Wearing only jeans and a tee shirt Mr Statham finds an endless supply of throwing knives which hit their target unerringly during their first encounter with the enemy. Biggles thought knives were the province of the slightly shady "foreigner" and,to the best of my knowledge of the canon never resorted to their use. There is a plot - beloved of movie makers for the last thirty five years - involving ex - CIA men who Barney has promised current CIA man(Bruce Willis) terminate with extreme prejudice. Just so you know you've not been transported back to 1985 there's a waterboarding scene. "The Expendables" is an action movie.That is its raison d'etre. The one character that had remotely any depth was Mr Mickey Rourke,much maligned and misunderstood in my opinion. I was pleased to see him.However briefly. I loved the "Tom and Jerry" violence,the satisfying explosions,the total lack of logic.....it's a bloke thing. Half the population are too smart to fall for it,I guess.

The Wicked Lady

Seriously?...I mean seriously...the woman's as mad as a sack of weasels.
Surely that must be apparent to even the most Pre - Freudian student of humanity in 1680. James Mason's smiling psychopathic criminal is another one. All the men are dazzled by Miss Lockwood's assets,the women just hope she'll leave their men alone. A burst of "Jolene" on the soundtrack would give them a hint. I lost track frankly of who was married to who,but found none of them very simpatico. I mean,Griffith Jones?Nice - but - dim doesn't even get near to covering it. Ditto Michael Rennie. A splendid hanging scene is the highlight with Mr Mason as insouciant as a man who knows.....well,I won't spoil it for you. A splendid breathless performance from Miss Lockwood holds this amusing trifle together. I wasn't allowed to see it in 1948 but my mum thought it was great. A reccomendation indeed.

Just My Luck

The laughs accumulate as Norman takes on the Bookies.......
Having perfected his schtick on the Variety Halls and TV Mr Wisdom's natural progression was into low - budget films for a few years before becoming the biggest name in English Comedy for a brief candle. Like many comedians of the time he didn't tell jokes,even in his stage act . He did character comedy. His persona was the just about functioning idiot;but an idiot with a kind heart. The sort who would show an old lady across the road whether she wanted to go there or not. He sang,he played the drums,he was light on his feet,small and vulnerable. He was - in a word - cute.....and yet....... Somewhere in him lurked a devil that sometimes took control so that just when you thought you knew where he was going he took off on a wild tangent. Like breaking into the Holiday Money jar to get a pound to put on a horse - a most un-Norman like act. As was always the case,a pretty girl was behind it all. A window - dresser from the shop opposite the jewellers where Norman worked. In his desire to buy her a pendant he discovers that it is possible to win a lot of money using the Accumulator system in Horse Racing. He doesn't grasp till rather late on that you can lose all your stake and winnings unless all your horses win. Will Norman beat the odds and get the money and the girl? Support from the likes of Bill Fraser,Sam Kydd and Edward Chapman at work and Marjorie Rhodes and Joan Sims at home means that it is fun to stay and find out. Not a film for sophisticates,"Just my luck" filled the cinemas with ordinary people who - back in 1957 - where still in need of a belly - laugh rather than wasting five minutes trying to work out what some Oxbridge prat was going on about.

The Scarlet and the Black

"Roight,so" Vs "Ach,so"is what this boils down to as shown on Freeview......
Last night.I can only imagine from reading other reviews, that the full - length version has rather more substance. Nothing about Col.Kappler gave any indication that he was anything more than a typical Nazi thug. Well,he liked Puccini,but the film world is crowded with opera - loving Nazi officers. He would clearly have loved to have taken the Pope (Sir John Gielgud at his most unctuous and sanctimonious) and smacked him around in the S.S prison in Rome.The Pontiff appeared to be the sort of man who would wash his hands before going to the bathroom,whose nose was permanently beset by a bad smell. I must say I felt a twinge of sympathy for Kappler in this instance. Mr C.Plummer gave his Freeview version of Kappler no humanity until he is absolutely trumped by Mr T.P.Mckenna as Reichsfuhrer Himmler. Mr G.Peck is Monsignor O'Flaherty who is the thickness of a cigarette paper away from being a Stage Oirishman. However most of the time he holds himself in check and is still damnably handsome,although in a scene right at the end just before he is blessed by Sir John we can see that in fact that we are looking at an elderly man whose stunt double had certainly earned his corn. I suspect about half an hour has been cut from the original in order to fit in adverts for incontinence pads and O.A.P.s holidays. Despite that,the remnants of a good movie are visible. The scene in the Colliseum between Kappler and O'Flaherty is very tense with Mr Peck giving his one - man audience a Hellfire and Brimstone sermon and Mr Plummer rather movingly pleading with him to save his family as Rome falls. In the end of course there was no Battle of Rome any more than there was a Battle of Paris. A deal was struck ,the German Army withdrew and the Holy City was spared. The closing titles revealed the fate of both protagonists which would make seeking out a full version of "The Scarlet and The Black" rather pointless. I just wish I'd seen it back in 1983.

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