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Watched Last Night

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  • The Battle of the Sexes (1959). A highly enjoyable sub-Ealing black comedy directed by Charles Crichton, very well cast and with evocative location photography by Freddie Francis and excellent authentic art direction and set decoration. Loud American efficiency expert Angela Barrows is brought in to shake up the centuries old House of Macpherson tweed emporium in Edinburgh, newly inherited by Robert of that ilk. But the ancient retainers led by chief accountant Mr. Martin are resistant to the radical changes she has planned and it seems the only way to stop them going ahead is for him to bump her off . . .
    A goodly gaggle of expert Scottish performers including Roddy McMillan, Jameson Clark, Moultrie Kelsall and Alex Mackenzie support Peter Sellers in fine form as the traditional Mr. Martin, Constance Cummings as the annoying Angela Barrows and Robert Morley as the blundering Robert Macpherson, plus there are lovely cameos from Ernest Thesiger, Donald Pleasence and, as one of the ancient accountants, Abe Barker. The well-staged "bump her off" sequence is particularly hilarious, especially the business with an egg whisk. Delightful fun.

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    • Variety Jubilee (1943). Another butchers at another of Butcher's tributes to music hall, mostly shown in flashback and valuably recording what the public found entertaining at the time, including appearances from George Robey and Charles Coborn and others playing Marie Lloyd, Florrie Forde, et al. The interludes with Reginald Purdell, Lesley Brook and Ellis Irving are somewhat stilted info dump updates to link the set pieces by the veterans plus Wilson & Keppel - there's no sign of Betty, despite what the credits say - and ramshackle performances by obscure acts. An exercise in sentimental nostalgia on a low budget.
      Last edited by Gerald Lovell; 1st September 2017, 08:11 PM.

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      • Last week's BBC 1980 Horror Double Bill recreation was all American with The Beast with Five Fingers (1947), a good film with a silly ending and Chamber of Horrors (1966), an entertaining film, silly throughout and with BritRep Wilfrid Hyde-White.
        This week's starts with the American The Mad Ghoul (1943) - is there a sane one? - a PRC/Monogram type plot made by Universal with BritReps Evelyn Ankers, George Zucco and Gibson Gowland. Then, at last, another British film:
        Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965). The first of the Amicus anthology horrors is a mixed hand of tarot cards dealt by creepy Peter Cushing. The best stories for me are the Werewolf, Disembodied Hand and Vampire yarns with Neil McCallum, Christopher Lee and Donald Sutherland respectively. The Creeping Vine and Voodoo episodes are weaker due to Alan Freeman's non-acting in the first and the all-out comedy in the second. Also in the cast are Roy Castle, Bernard Lee, Jeremy Kemp, Michael Gough, Ursula Howells, Max Adrian and Jennifer Jayne.
        Overall, Freddie Francis's direction is pretty routine, but there's effective lighting from Alan Hume and Elisabeth Lutyens supplies a strong chamber orchestra score.

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        • Another double bill:

          The Return of Bulldog Drummond (1934). A watered-down adaptation of Sapper's "The Black Gang" which thankfully removes much of the fascist elements but the second and third acts stick fairly closely to the book. Top-billed is Ann Todd as Mr. Bulldog and Ralph Richardson, who gets watered-down himself in one of the dastardly schemes of the villains, does pretty well as Mr. Bulldog. Francis L. Sullivan is the heavy heavy and Claud Allister the goofy Algy.

          and

          Calling Bulldog Drummond (1951). A lively addition to the series, with raids on stores organised with military precision, not unlike The League of Gentlemen, and Scotland Yard have no option but to do what the film's title says. Sadly, it's the stiff Walter Pidgeon who's the Bulldog called in here, whereas Margaret Leighton, Robert Beatty and Bernard Lee in support do far better jobs in their roles. Peggy Evans is back as a moll, but a more enterprising one this time, and it's the turn of David Tomlinson to play Algy, and he is not quite a goofy as usual.

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          • Footsteps in the Fog (1955). Following the death of his wife, self-made widower Stephen Lowry finds that his devious maid Lily knows what he did and blackmails him into becoming his housekeeper, and getting other, er, perks. Both get deeper into an unusual if one-sided relationship in which both scheme to outmanoeuvre the other, in Stephen's case, murderously.
            Twists and turns aplenty in this Victorian gothic melodrama from a story by W. W. Jacobs, shot in rich Technicolor by Christopher Challis with splendidly lush settings by Wilfred Shingleton and creative direction by Arthur Lubin, on leave from Abbott and Costello and Francis the Talking Mule projects. Stewart Granger is excellent as the cold and arrogant Lowry with real life wife Jean Simmons as Lily, who truly loves him, but knows what she's up against. Bill Travers plays the barrister who is suspicious of Lowry, initially because they both are after Belinda Lee, with Ronald Squire playing her father. Finlay Currie is the inspector, thankfully not using the American accent he adopted in several films of his I've watched recently, while William Hartnell is up to a spot of blackmail himself. All good murderous fun.

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            • My Cousin Rachel (2017)

              Daphne de Maurier's 'did she/didn't she?' yarn gets the reboot treatment with Rachel Weisz, in the title role, playing a distinctly sympathetic Rachel. I was never a fan of Richard Burton in the original, feeling he was miscast, and Sam Claflin doesn't quite nail it for me either. Maybe it's the character that doesn't ring true or myabe I am just fussy, but I struggle to believe that Claflin (and Burton before him) is that naive and obsessed to act so foolishly, he seems to strong, assured and worldly. Rachel at one point describes him as a wet nosed puppy following her around but that doesn't come across. A young Freddy Redmayne would have been terrific.

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              • Don't Look Now (1973)

                another film i remember watching when it first came out and wondering what all the fuss was about. Seeing through older eyes, it's a wonderfully atmospheric thriller, superbly acted by the leads and beautifully shot and directed. It isn't quite a masterpiece but it comes pretty close; one of Nic Roeg's best films.

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                • Three Hats for Lisa on London Live. I've often caught part (usually the end) of it before but this time I caught the whole film.

                  Starring Joe Brown (without his Bruvvers), Sid James, Una Stubbs, Peter Bowles, and Sophie Hardy as Lisa.

                  Italian film star Lisa flies in to London, Joe, Una and the others take the day off to show Lisa around London in Sid's cab in the swinging sixties. Lisa tells the gang that she wants to get three hats - but not to buy them, she must steal them

                  A fun fun musical where luckily every time they go into a song & dance number, everyone around them knows the tune, the words & all of the dance steps

                  Steve

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                  • Piccadilly Third Stop (1960)

                    Terence Morgan was particularly adept as smarmy small time crooks and con men and here he is again in this Wolf Rilla directed crime drama.
                    Tel is all fake charm as he chats up Yoko Tani, the daughter of a foreign ambassador, who just happens to have a small fortune stuffed in his safe.
                    Enlisting big Yank John Crawford (In typical bluster and shout mode, as he was in Hell is a City) and elderly safecracker William Hartnell, the job is on!
                    Rather less than gripping stuff (My partner fell asleep 20 minutes in), despite some good scenes on the Underground at the finale.

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                    • The Green Man (1956). A marvellous cast of farceurs led by the incomparable Alastair Sim are in good, if not quite top, form in this Launder and Gilliat black comedy in which Sim is a murderer who specialises in hits by bombs and his latest target is pompous Sir Gregory Upshott, played by Raymond Huntley. A film of two distinct parts, we only get to the Green Man hotel of the title for the last (hectic) 30 minutes as before then we have some body moving between houses to do with George Cole, Jill Adams, Colin Gordon and John Chandos. Terry-Thomas and Dora Bryan join in for the hotel scenes. Also involved are Avril Angers, Eileen Moore, Richard Wattis and Cyril Chamberlain plus a creaky musical trio of Marie Burke, Lucy Griffiths and Vivien Wood. Although it's still considerable fun, there's something, maybe the subject matter, which results in the end result not being the total joy its credentials promise.

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                      • The Last Night of the Proms an annual cry-fest that I always enjoy

                        Steve

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                        • A Woman Alone (1936). Well, not quite, as the US title is Two Who Dared, but it's a sub-Anna Karenina soppy tale of Imperial Russia in which an officer marries for position while loving a peasant girl who becomes the fiancée of one of his soldiers. You can guess the rest of the soapy yarn involving honour, court martials and much frenzied Cossack dancing and singing in that carefree Tsarist regime. Anna Sten, Sam Goldwyn's new Garbo who wasn't, is the star with the wooden Henry Wilcoxon as the officer and his rival in timber John Garrick as the soldier. Francis L. Sullivan, Esme Percy, Guy Middleton and Peter Gawthorne all squeeze into military uniform, pretty tightly in Mr. Sullivan's case, and the whole thing is highly-forgettable fluff. From a story by Miss Sten's first husband Fedor Otzep and produced and directed by his replacement in her marital bed, Eugene Franke.

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                          • Fast-forwarded through The Big Sleep (1978), looking for London locations...

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                            • The Morals of Marcus (1935), actually watched today. Lupe Velez escapes from a Syrian harem and stows away on a ship bound for England causing much embarrassment for upright and stuffy old Ian Hunter. The storyline is wafer thin and the outcome you know from the start, but Lupe does have a certain verve that keeps you watching, especially her oriental dance near the end! Noel Madison, Adrianne Allen and those initial boys Roberts, J.H., Maltby, H. F. and Williams, D. J. appear also. A little bit more effort seems to have been put into this Real Art Julius Hagen comedy, directed by actor Miles Mander, and with some brief London location scenes.

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                              • Cat and Mouse (1958)

                                Tried to sit through this thriller with Lee Patterson doing his James Dean bit and Ann Sears about animated as a shop window dummy.
                                Gave up about half way through, too much talk and both lead characters were pretty unlikeable.
                                Interesting to see Victor Maddern as the Detective. Just to make sure we knew he was plod, they gave him a Maigret style mackintosh and pipe...

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