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A bit of a revelation
Other barristers as well as judges are, through Rumpole, writer John Mortimer's targets, frequently comically portraying them as rather incompetent to the cost of accused and at the cost of the reputation of legal profession.
Here though the criticism is serious Rumpole is troubled - has he been conned by the performance of his actress client accused of murder? It is though the drunken jolly "circuit" dinner following the trial which is a revelation. Members of the local circuit of judges are in celebratory playful mood - no thoughts of justice only of their profession and their friendly rivalries. Rumpole is disillusioned and ashamed. It was a "Northern" circuit, Rumpoles last line is to the taxi driver's "Where to, Guvnor?" "South!" says Rumpole emphatically. Mortimer's comic mask appears this time to have dropped to reveal a distaste for his profession - in particular how it operates up "North".
The Sleeping Tiger (1954)
Pre-figures director Losey's later "The Servant"
Both starring Dirk Bogarde in a psycho-drama involving role and character reversal. This however deservedly lower rated due to its looser plot, implausibilities, lack of coherence, its cliches and its melodramatic style particularly in the closing stages. "The Servant" in contrast is original, compelling even claustrophobic and very memorable,
Unclear if it was intentional that the most psychologically puzzling character was not the criminal, Bogarde, but the psychiatrist: Alexander Knox. Did the writer believe that the psychiatrist was in control and judgement vindicated, succeeding better than he ever expected in getting to the root of the criminals behavior and reforming him? By being persistently supportive to the extent of perjury himself, the psychiatrist is able to bond with his "patient" and discover the source of the criminal behaviour - childhood conflict with his father - presenting it to him and provoking a break-down of the callous criminal and achieving an extraordinary conversion. Bogarde suddenly becomes considerate, tactful, respectful, empathetic and thoroughly decent. The psychiatrist on the other hand suddenly pulls out the gun conveniently but dangerously sitting in his always unlocked desk draw and chases after Bogarde. Bogarde in his evil and manipulative mode has seduced the psychiatrist's younger wife but, post conversion, becomes the decent honourable character, controlled by his hitherto non-existent conscience. Too late though. It was though one of Bogardes performances.
The similarities to the celebrated 1948 film Brighton Rock could hardly be coincidental - set in that other big seaside holiday town, Blackpool, with the gang of young spivs and hoodlums centered in a funfair rather than horse racing. with a young Kenneth Griffith as a Pinkie figure. Even the same actor playing the identical gang member in both films. But whereas the storyline and script were so tight in Brighton Rock, here in Forbidden they are so sloppy. Mixing Ronald Shiners comic persona with film noir elements is just plain odd. not merely unsuccessful. Whereas the Brighton in Brighton Rock was a very hard place. Forbidden is a strange mixture of sugar and dog's dinner. Douglas Montgomery was an odd actor - half ineffectual sap, half leading man. Here the script perfect;y serves him - half sap, half hero - unfortunately. It is a mess.
Carnival Story (1954)
You know how to whistle? You just put your lips together and blow
The tone of this film is unusual - rather more raw yet more authentic that its Hollywood contemporaries. German screenwriter, director and location and the period, early 1950s is relevant - a broken society before the economic miracle. Willi (Anne Baxter) is a good looking youngish pickpocket who nevertheless is redeemed by retaining a moral compass, she steals to live but yearns for a better life. There must have been many such as her, finding themselves fatherless even orphaned, living however she could. Steve Cochran the handsome heel - and worse= who makes women crave him and casually uses them (the whistling scene makes the passions absolutely clear). Central is the high dive - genuinely scary, the moment at the very top where all is quiet and the lights of other towns can be seen, is memorable - I got a sense of being there. Anne Baxter is particularly good - compare her coyness in All About Eve. Steve Cochran was not so far from playing himself. A memorable film.
Raise the Titanic (1980)
It wasnt an iceberg that sunk this Titanic, it was the script
I wasnt drawn to paying much attention to the film, until the moment not far from the end when the great ship, a vast rust and seaweed encrusted hulk, finally broke through the surface and emerged into daylight after 70 years. It was both awesome and terrifically moving. Mythic as it had remained unseen on the sea bed, enduring tomb to the hundreds unable to escape on lifeboats it; now titanically mythic exhumed from the depths - the sight nobody ever thought they would see. How could you possibly follow this absolute dramatic pinnacle?
Unfortunately in Raise the Titanic, 10 minutes where this magnificent ruin was reduced to serving as a backdrop to very very average Cold War hokum. Really the screenwriter and perhaps the author should have gone down with the film.
There have been so many excellent films based on the sinking of the Titanic - why was raising it such a downer?
The Terror of the Tongs (1961)
Intense and quite effective
As another reviewer has said, this is unusual Hammer fare - instead definitely action movie. The X certificate was not out of place at the time of its release - it is fairly graphic quite sadistic. One of Christopher Lee better roles as the much feared traditional head of a Chinese criminal cult operating in British ruled Hong Kong. But Geoffrey Toone (Captain Sale)is the brave and undaunted hero around whom the action revolves. The film assumes that the audience will empathise with Sale and admire his great bravery. It's evident that quite a few reviewers were indifferent even finding it funny. I once saw director Anthony Bushell waiting for a bus in Oxford and had a short conversation about his career as I then knew it (Col Breen in Quatermass and the Pit). In WW2 he'd been a tank commander I read later
A History of Scotland (2008)
Ber-Ludd, dripping Ber-Ludd, actual great pools of Ber-Ludd
On other Neil Oliver programmes I thought I noticed and found it rather irritating and distracting that he seemed to have a verbal predeliction for blood, relishing and embellishing its pronunciation extending it to two distinct syllables - Ber-Ludd.
Here, he adds visuals, graphic visuals of blood, pools of blood, even super slow motion of a gobbet of blood falling into pool of blood and raising the familiar crown which collapses back into the pool. I looked away and cut the sound. Resuming watching 10 minutes later again more pools of dripping blood.
I am not squeamish, I can watch any operation on TV. Its a matter of style and emphasis. I am guessing that his fan base likes his Penny Dreadful - sensational graphic lurid illustrated 19th C adult crime comics - verbal and visual style. Obviously he's a fairly serious historian talking about a violent hence bloody age. He is, in his relish for this one topic, without equal or even competitor.
Great Scientists (2004)
Rather good - fun but 100% educational
Unusually, presenter Allan Chapman happily plays up his white haired "mad professor" appearance and the programmes feature quirky Monty Python style animations as well as jokey illustrative historic re-enactments. But these as with the conventional demonstrations, historic locations, illustrations, books, objects. and explanations, the programmes are very well crafted and entirely to purpose. With the best lecturers and teachers, their spoken words are carefully chosen, memorable and well worth remembering.
Miscast and misfiring
This attempts to combine something of the cool swinging style of "Blow Up" with a James Coburn comedy-heist movie which are anything but cool and stylish. Providing undeserved gravitas is the inimitable James Mason. Its a combination that just doesnt gel, The lovely Susanna York had an innate dignity and class as an actress such as had no place here. It is at least attractively shot in colourful sunny locations. Perhaps the cast regarded it as a holiday rather than something that would advance their reputations
The Last Man to Hang (1956)
Victor Madden: a British Henry Fonda?
As reviewer John Howard Reid has pointed out, there is a section in the film too close for coincidence with the entirely famous and superior 1957 "12 Angry Men! where one juror holds out against the rest
This is a film of two halves, so different in quality as to be quite mystifying. The first half features the rather wooden Tom Conway who is really not up to interpreting his rather poorly scripted role but fairly essential viewing to understand the second half, the murder trial at the Old Bailey. This is well done by nearly all concerned - far better written, acted and directed. This is the engrossing part, the first half just a make weight. Quite a good cast including an impressive young Anthony Newley
Frankly, my Dear, I dont give a damn
This, one of the most famous lines in cinema history, occurs when one character has exhausted the other by a repeated mixture of emotional demands and exploitation. In Gone with the Wind, this was between just two characters.
Here there four: Lizabeth Scott, Barbara Stanwick, Kirk Douglas and Van Heflin - all stars in their own rights. But it is the director who is the guilty party. Reaching for a gun in the top drawer of the desk - once is enough. Twice is done for effect, comic or otherwise. Here it appears to be lazy indifference. The scene where a couple blaze away at each other verbally, revealing things never revealed before, going from anger to understanding to lurve, is fair enough in any film but never ever repeated both with different pairings and even the same pairing - again if not for (comic) effect.
Another reviewer has pointed to the films stageyness - action repeatedly occurs in the same or similar settings - with similar camera angles
The mood is so variable that the viewer is never clear whether the party with a gun (all at different times) intend to sleep with, slug or shoot the other.
Frankly, after an hour, I couldnt give a damn
Gideon's Way: Fall High Fall Hard (1965)
A very nasty business indeed
It's an unusual feature of this detective series, fronted by the always likeable John Gregson as Chief Superintendent Gideon, that individual episodes, vary so much in tone. One episode starring Eric Barker reflected the latter's trademark gentle humour
This episode however, deftly directed by Leslie Norman (father of the late Barry) is uncompromisingly nasty, dealing with high level crookery in a largish construction company. Excellent cast including a brace of Hustons, Victor Madden and Gordon Gostelow. I remember the latter as an amusing character actor. Here he displays considerable versatility to an almost terrifying extent. The final scene in the hospital gripping. Corruption in the construction industry was a popular theme in the 1950s (Hell Drivers) and 1960s crime dramas, perhaps fictionalised exposes of true stories,. Not though in recent decades for some reason.
Gideons Way has been a really excellent find by Talking Pictures TV - consistently good, sometime as in this case, impressive.
"You aint heard nothing yet"
This was produced just a year after those famous words - the first words in the first talking picture. What is amazing is how creative it was with sound - techniques that rarely appeared in theatre and some that were entirely new.
First there is the overlaying of the sound of the prisoners "choir" over sound and pictures inside the governors house cutting with continuity to pictures of the prisoners singing - all in sync. And, entirely novel the sound of the governors voice as he looks in the mirror - we are hearing the voices in his head. The sound of drums in sync with the guarding soldier's walk.
It was not until after WW2 that magnetic tape recording - with multitracks was available. I can only guess that this film was all done with gramophone discs.
I was for a while a videotape editor in the earliest days so appreciate how revolutionary and sophisticated was the use of sound just one year after it started. Had radio pioneered this or was it entirely the work of the new talkie movies?
Seen on Talking Pictures TV - yet another overlooked historic film with exceptional qualities.
The Greed of William Hart (1948)
A generous slice of ham horror
Surprising to find this was filmed in 1948, it has that same very slow pacing of the pre-war classic horrors such as the incomparable Dracula in 1936. It is very much in the tradition of Victorian stage melodrama and there was no greater exponent and resurrectionist of the genre than Todd Slaughter, florid theatrical actor-manager and famous ham who here makes his last film outing. Surrounded by some excellent character actors - Henry Oscar and Aubrey Woods, the normally OTT Slaughter is more confined but perhaps more effective. In a way this is a film noir - for reasons perhaps of economy, exteriors are all studio bound at night but in portraying the dingy canyon like lanes of Edinburgh works very well. The production is rather stagey - but stage melodrama was Slaughter's speciality. The plot is wordy but quite involving and genuinely grim
Not exactly a must-see but for those interested in the more curious British films certainly well worth watching. Thanks yet again to Talking Pictures TV for screening it
Better than average B feature with strong points. Series being shown on Talking Pictures TV
Strongest is unchallenged master of menace, Patrick McGee as a racing gang boss. The film seems an unflattering but knowledgable portrait of British horse racing, here portraying a jockey menaced to win by one crooked bookmaker but menaced to lose by a rival outfit. The appearance is typical budget B but the plot and dialogue rise above the average. Its more inventive and harder hitting than than expected for a British B. Jack Headley, still with us, didnt convey the gritty qualities of a former Marine who insists in persisting after a receiving a warning beating and a credible death threat.
The ending was a bit of a let down - the Patrick McGee character turns out to be a bit of an old softie.
I think this is strong enough to be remade now. Perhaps set in those times, the early 1960s.
Excellent intriguing and even entertaining documentary
An exceptional documentary driven at a fast consistent pace which nevertheless was thorough, probing and with prime interviewees. Even the novel short illustrative clips from various B&W crime films blended seamlessly. It managed to respect the subject, grieve for the injustice to Ruth Ellis yet be entertaining
The only criticism was the the film-makers imposition of a mistaken notion of '50s British morality as 19th C and Ruth Ellis as a "modern woman"..For obvious reasons men in general had a less judgemental view of night-club hostesses..It was wives who for understandable valid reasons saw such women (available willing and sexually skilled) as a real threat to marriages.(As happened in India when young English women went there as wives and promptly ended the previous regime of racial boundary-free relationships) However equally the murder was a crime of passion - Ruth Ellis shot the man who done her wrong and many women felt sympathetic.to her.
Apart from this it is an exceptional documentary which did justice to the story in a way neither earlier documentaries or the film had done. A rare thing - a documentary worth repeated viewings.
Christmas Under Fire (1940)
Made with a great deal of thought and fine judgement it brings together explicit messages with artful combinations of images, words and music. It manages a great deal of emotional punch but never for a moment lanouring a point. It is so well done it is a pleasure to be manipulated by it. I checked if it had received an award and the Oscar nomination is not a surprise.
Kirstie's Handmade Christmas (2014)
Pay attention Class! A seriously good Christmas craft series
I find its difficult not to remember a comedy sketch with actress/impressionist Deborah Stevenson as a pitch-perfect Kirstie Allsop intervening in a fire-brigade rescue from a burning house. "Kirstie"'s urgent intervention was to contribute a hand-crafted leaded glass window panel with, in large red letters, "Fire!". in the centre. The joke was how seriously Kirstie takes craft and how oblivious she is to doubters or smirkers.
But seriously, what a delightful seasonal and educational tv series which reflects her real enthusiasm and refusal to accept second best anywhere. The contributors are very well chosen - both for their creativity and skills as well as their engaging personalities. The atmosphere is relaxed and happy, entirely missing thankfully is the extreme reality TV tension and agonising delays in announcing winners and losers. The diverse contributors appear relaxed and proud both demonstrating and talking about their very different crafts, It's beautifully set both internally and externally apparently in Blenheim Palace.. KIrstie confesses how much she enjoys Christmas and she contributes greatly to our enjoyment too.
Forbidden Cargo (1954)
Somewhere at the back of my mind was the memory of a film where a speeding car attempts to cross Tower Bridge just as it was opening - and fails. And here it is. It's quite a spectacular scene, making best use of one of London's best known landmarks. That the car is a Rolls Royce adds to the thrills (budgets in 1954 didn't run to crashing a modern Rolls Royce though). It forms the climax of an exciting car chase - and the demise of the villain. The inspiration may well have been the true life story not of a car jumping the bridge but on the 30th December 1952 a red bus full of passengers. By sheer good luck the other side opened more slowly and thus was slightly lower causing the bus to drop some feet but at least get across.
Like IMDb reviews, critics have very mixed opinions on this film. Halliwell, the one time doyenne critic and ITV film buyer dismissed it as "typical British thick-ear". but writer, film critic and author of "A Guide to the Best in Cinema Thrills", John Howard Reid is very complimentary about it in nearly all departments (assuming that the IMDb reviewer above is one and the same person?). I agree with but defer to his much more expert and detailed judgement. Jack Warner again has a good role as a detective - quite different to his ageing avuncular flatfoot PC George Dixon on TV.
A 6.5 out of 10
Yes Minister: Party Games (1984)
Last episode of Yes Minister before start of Yes Prime Minister
The plot summary appears to refer to another episode.
This is the last episode 8/8 of Yes Minister before the new series Yes Prime Minister and tells the very interesting story of how hapless Jim Hacker became Prime Minister.
Central to it is the role of the Chief Whip as holder of the Party's secrets concerning MPs, in particular its dirty secrets.
Constitutional logic decrees that Jim Hacker is the only MP who can be shown these confidential files and in this case it is his job to inform the erring MPs concerned that not only is the party aware of their misdeeds but that additionally they can no longer be considered for senior government positions.
As these MPs were the two candidates most likely succeed the current Prime Minister should he/she step down, their elimination thus would make way for the third ranking candidate - someone whose selection is described by his aide as resembling an April 1st joke. Who might this aide be referring to?
The Worst Week of My Life (2004)
Remember never to carry a baby's rattle in your pocket
I'd not seen the series at the time of its transmission and only caught it by accident 10 years later.
Like many I greatly admire Alison Steadman, here though she doesn't an opportunity for the grand grotesques with which she has graced the large and small screens, and on radio (in the form of the very obliging Mrs Naughtie). Here she is well meaning, motherly and tolerant of her sour, sarcastic and humourless husband - played by an actor who has honed this type of role to withering perfection - Geoffrey Whitehead.
Lovely comic actress Sarah Alexander once again plays to her strengths.
The format and some of the laughs are quite familiar - faux pas and foul-ups committed by new husband and soon to be new father played by Ben Miller. One comic situation was unfamiliar - in warmly hugging his mother in law to comfort her, a baby's rattle comes between them. Of all the nightmare misunderstandings, this must rate as one of the worst. So unspeakable that quite believably the Alison Steadman character runs away and locks herself in her bedroom - preventing her from hearing the innocent explanation until some while later. Had this been a big screen version, the Geoffrey Whitehead character would have reacted. This TV production would have benefited from some honing.
The Grand Junction Case (1961)
"The police continued their legwork" The best episode of the series?
This is one of the most memorable episodes in this very tidy true crime series from the 1950s with the emphasis on truth rather than fiction, introduced by the ever-sepulchral criminologist, Edgar Lustgarten. It is from the outset grisly - the discovery of a dismembered leg in a canal.Very neat character vignettes which advance and add interest to the plot from a master-tattooist, a man with a missing wife - and Albert Steptoe (Wilfred Brambell) as a pathologist.
Only one limb was found in the canal so the search resumed. Lustgarten intoned: "The police continued their legwork" I'm sure he didn't intend the pun, he very much left it to others to do any humour in this series.
Another worthy series choice by Talking Pictures TV 6.5 out of 10
The Avengers: The Undertakers (1963)
The last of Honour Blackman and Steed before he became knightly
I've not seen more than perhaps 20 episodes of the Avengers over the years and this one from 1963 was a reminder how the series evolved, the things it gained and the things it lost. The series was a long slow roller coaster, This episode was shot on video with soft smudgy film inserts. It has the look of a live production or was only minimally edited (perhaps for reasons of cost) as cues are not crisp, a camera staggers - running over a cable? - as it tracks in and a profusely sweating Steed concludes the episode.
Steed had not yet reached the assured sophisticated persona which became his and the series' hallmark.Here the beauty and self-assurance of Honour Blackman out-shone him.Her departure for film indeed Goldfinger perhaps was a blessing in disguise for the series.
The arrival of Diana Rigg contributed to The Avengers golden age allowing Steed to be redefined as a 20th Century knight - chivalry but with a brolly a stand-in for a sword and bowler in place of a helmet. It was an amusing idea which served Patrick McKnee and the series very well. It also allowed a new dignified but ambiguous relationship with his new female co-star. Surprising to see in this episode that Steed appears needy in looking for Honour Blackman to return his feelings and attentions. With Diana Rigg the relationship was conducted by verbal fencing between the two - something which allowed the best dialogue and most entertaining scenes. The relationship's ambiguity allowed it to be infinitely extended as it never would be consummated nor end.
This episode has the quirky story line which remained a constant over the entire run but the clunky video production and the undeveloped Steed character marked it as a project in progress rather than a classic.
More than Pointless
Less here is more: One presenter, smaller set, fewer but celebrity, indeed top-flight, fun and interesting contestants.
The broad-brush bland-urbanity of charmer Alexander Armstrong somehow always made Richard Osmands interjections awkward - he never engaged with them, merely paused then passed on. It made RO's presence seem rather inexplicable if not actually pointless. Some might even suspect a Gatling-Fenn gambit or two. I recognise one at least.
Here though surprisingly RO blossoms as the sole presenter, the participants too seem to be very comfortable. The format is simpler but more engaging, faster moving and more fun - for participants and viewer.
Documentary puts quota quickies and many feature films to shame
Within the limitations of a documentary with no professional cast and minimal speech this does its subject - Edinburgh and its people - proud, so too its director Eldridge. Very atmospheric, much is shot at night with subtle lighting. Centered around a railway station in the age of steam and apparently shot in Autumn/Winter where human breath leaves a vaporous trail, it makes the very most of these opportunities. The camera-work and lighting is always inventive and very pleasing. Pioneering too with the sound editing which leads the sound from the next scene. It smoothly inter-cuts between small stories, scenes and events.
Either well-resourced or a driven very hard-working director, this is an impressive piece of work