RICHARD LUTZ dips into the TV schedules to come up gasping for breath with twin movie offers.
Yes, I give you two for the price of one today. Simply because you can double your Personalised Viewing Situational Capacity on two separate nights with two very separate movies that sum up a culture and a crazed dream.
I begin with The Blues Brothers (Tues, 22.00, ITV4). Now, last week, if you brains had not yet rusted to porridge, you may remember I highlighted Animal House with John Belushi, that great Chicago comedian with the shape of a bowling ball and the face of an unshaven prune. He died too soon, from drugs and a charmingly persuasive lack of discipline.
Two years after that film came the movie that really formed his cinematic personae. He and Dan Ackroyd are the comic cartoon larger than life Blues Brothers, Elwood and Jake, recently shoved out of prison with a mission from God. And that mission is to produce a knock ’em dead one night revue of R&B greats to save the orphanage from which they had sprung, seemingly fully formed
Needless to say, the plot is a shambles. But the music from the likes of Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Ray Charles, a host of solid session men and a dozen other el classico entertainers (along with Belushi and Ackroyd) is alive and vibrant.
Carrie Fisher (Princess Laia to many of us) gets a small part as a former wife equipped with a flamethrower (yes, a flamethrower) and Chicago gets a five star marketing promo as the city to head for when it comes to music. The 1980 film, directed with energy-packed drive by John Landis, immediately grabbed a gold medal for Immediate Iconic Status. Every jerk with a a deadpan face and shades wanted in.
No town, it seemed, worth its weight in Pall Malls and bourbon has not had a Blues Brothers tribute band roar through and packed out a usually half empty hall. I remember going to a Christmas works bash where the boss and his deputy took to the stage for a Blues Brothers effort. It was appalling but summed up a feeling that anyone…everyone…could get up in front of a mic, wear a shabby black suit with a skinny tie and sing Shake A Tail Feather.
Well, almost anyone.
Two nights later, comes a film that summed up another era – that strange, half-cocked but sparky feeling of the late sixties when Things Had To Change.
The film, called If…(Thurs, Film4, 12.50 am..ok,ok, really Friday AM), is a fable. Malcolm McDowell is a sixth former holed up in a rich kids’ private school who decides to shoot first and ask questions never to take over the boarding institution. It is a sharp crazed funny look inside the mind of a bored young fantasist enraged with… well, you’re never really sure.
The allegorical fantasy is directed by Lindsay Anderson, who successfully showed its British eccentricity in such brilliant vignettes (a schoolboy bayonetting the school chaplain?) that it moved over the States with great success: “Hey not only has Merrie Olde Englande given us the Beatles but kids go around stabbing teachers…”, America seemed to say.
Anderson did a nice job. Rumour has it that US director Nichlas Ray (Rebel Without A Cause) was initially offered the film. But he had a nervous breakdown before shooting could start.
‘summing up maybe not an age…but a dream…’
The movie gained stature when it was given an X rating. Lord knows why. Maybe the government was jittery come the May 1968 riots in Paris. Maybe censors were worried the sight of a naked body would reduce mankind to dribbling idiots.
Watch out for Arthur Lowe (aka Capt Mainwaring in Dad’s Army) as a spineless teacher as McDowell and his rebellious posh friends figure out how “…one man can change the world with a bullet in the right place..”
Like The Blues Brothers, it summed up, maybe not an age, but a dream of what a whacko world we could live in. Belushi was a man without portfolio or a governing cap. McDowell – a teenager burdened with privileged anger, a rich daddy and a weird self-deluding imagination.
McDowell was noticed by film makers for his role. He went on to make Clockwork Orange and O Lucky Man. Lindsay Anderson, enfant terrible of British filmmaking, had a great career creating such movies as This Sporting Life, Look Back In Anger (T V) and The Whales of August.