Richard Lutz picks the flix you gotta see on the crystal box this week.
TV usually spews out brainless junk during the summer- shiny floor crap about cheesy contests or jacked up weirdo unreal reality games. That kind of stuff.
But hidden in the depths of the sagging schedules this week are three movie gems. All are iconic, all are groundbreaking and, most important, all have great bad guys.
Let’s start with tonight’s offering of Pulp Fiction (Tuesday, TCM, 23.25). Quentin Tarentino’s noir take on seedy Los Angeles is a series of interconnecting stories laden with big names and sharp as a knife chitchat.
Villains John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson (above without that crazy wig) entwine themselves in and out of the strands, their two-way schtick some of the funniest around. Tarentino was dying to use Harvey Keitel so he created the Mr Wolf fixer role to entice him as an added bad guy. Keitel has paid his mortgage with it ever since, presently fronting an ad for insurance giant Directline using his Pulp Fiction bad boy persona.
Pulp Fiction was such a hit and decked out with such black humour that its eight million dollar budget brought home $107 million. Tarentino never looked back. And the film created a neo-noir Hollywood cyclone that included gems such as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, LA Confidential and the surreal Mulholland Drive.
Let’s quick pan to Wednesday and twenty years before Pulp Fiction hit the screens, there was Chinatown ((Film4, 12.55…yeah, yeah actually Thursday but who’s counting?). Here we have Jack Nicholson in his finest role as detective JJ Gittes acting his heart out even with a bandage across his nose. And Faye Dunaway does her Veronica Lake thing to perfection.
But cue the baddies, because John Huston portrays nefarious Noah Cross and he creates a villain who smokes, breathes and pisses undiluted menace.
Huston really belongs in this film because he directed movieland’s greatest black & white gumshoe film, The Maltese Falcon, with Bogart. Noir is in his gut and his Noah Cross is a uber-nasty who dabbles in murder, fraud, incest and paedophilia. It’s a portrayal of a beast and Nicholson’s Gittes doesn’t come close to touching him in this gripping tale about immorality and crime.
Basically, it’s a compelling but twisty story about who will own the water rights to pre-war LA. Nicholson gets sliced up by two bit crooks and knocked around by Huston’s thugs as he gets to the bottom of this classy tribute to noir. In fact, the Robert Towne story is so good that it’s used in film schools to show how to bang out the perfect script. Towne won an Oscar for it.
Over to Thursday and (cue Shirley Bassey yodelling her lungs out) we have Goldfinger (ITV4, 21.00). The villain in this third of the Bond films from 1964 is the eponymous Auric Goldfinger, played with smirking aplomb by actor Gerde Frobe. Originally the producers wanted Orson Welles. He roared that he deserved his weight in cash to play the baddie. Seeing how he scaled in at about 20 million pounds by this time, they dropped the idea and went for the urbane evil of the red-haired Frobe.
He nastily and fatally painted one of his henchwomen in gold paint and, as he is about to slice Our Sean in two with a laser, has that immortal two-way with the be-wigged Mr Connery:
Bond (tied to a table as the red beam heads towards his groin): “Do you really expect me to talk, Goldfinger?”
Goldie: “No, Mr Bond. I expect you to die.”
Oh, throw in Oddjob with his lovable steel-rimmed killer bowler hat and this film is crammed with baddies. Three nights, three films and a snake pit of evil, starting tonight.