Richard Lutz points to the films to watch this week on the box.
That crystal screen lodged where book cases used to hang has a secret store of old-fashioned films coming up. Both are on the same channel, deep in the schedules and both serve up two old fashioned iconic male heroes with fatal flaws.
Kirk Douglas, he of the cleft chin and gritted teeth, is a cynical nasty news reporter working his drunken way down the ladder of success in Ace in the Hole (Wednesday, 9.35am, Sky Cinema Select).
He runs across a dramatic story when a man gets stuck in a New Mexico mineshaft and Kirk engineers the rescue bid to stretch out the story and get better cover in the big city newspapers he so desperately wants to be re-employed by.
This 1951 noir movie shows the young Kirk really at his best. There is not a good string of DNA in his character’s poisonous soul and he drags down the trapped victims’s wife too, as he manipulates the story. He could always play tough guys, moral guys, good guys, and in this film, deeply dubious guys. Kirk also produced a lot of stuff including that movie of movies, The Vikings. And he gave a second breath of life to blacklisted writers all but killed off by the Hollywood witch hunts. Two cheers for straight as a razor Kirk.
Ace in the Hole was written and directed by that maestro of maestros, Billy Wilder and still hits a mark some six decades later as we grapple with the double-edged sword of social media while it both illuminates and poisons our world.
There is an Ace in the Hole script somewhere about our modern digital-media and I think TV and Hollywood should peek into this black and white unironic story about news values before knocking out a first draft about Facebook, Twitter Instagram and the rest.
Let’s move on. Later, on the same channel…another iconic movie face. Harrison Ford is a cop on the run in Witness (Wednesday, 10pm, Sky Cinema Select). It was the Old Scowler’s first starring role outside of sci fi and Harrison does a fine job as the policeman on a murder hunt who becomes the hunted.
His detective has to hole up in Amish country to protect a child witness and, of course, he falls for Amish babe Kelly McGillis. But he’s being chased by evil cop Danny Glover. It all ends badly in a grain silo, by the way.
Ford snarls his way through the plot, playing the city boy playing hide and seek in bucolic Pennsylvania with a bunch of clannish folks who have funny unironic beards and don’t trust modern folk with their new-fangled things such as cars, phones, electricity, dental floss and late night chat shows.
But like most old fashioned class A Hollywood hunks, Ford really never loses his Harrison Fordness, unlike Kirk who really played with the different personae chucked at him by studios. That’s the difference right there between the two.
By the way, if your remote gets all tangled up and you can’t remove yourself from the Sky Cinema Select channel, there’s also a small cult gem stuck in the station’s listings. It’s called Inherent Vice and it’s a little beauty about a 1970’s LA private eye who smokes too much pot.
There you go, and as a footnote to independent impartiality, the boys and girls at the above channel can send their cheque to me via Post Restante, c/o Bali’s central post office. No questions asked, I’m just doing my job, ma’am. I gotta make a buck.