By Richard Lutz
Wimbledon, Euro Cup (sans England), the grinding inevitability of the London Olympic bunfight…what you need is a good movie on the box to get you away from well endowed men and women doing sports
And Alfred Hitchcock is there to save the week. The Hitch abides.
Two classicos this week- both about imminent evil in small towns.
First up is the film that Hitchcock said was his favourite: Shadow of a Doubt (Thurs; Ch4, 13.05). Uncle Charlie disembarks from a train (symbolically spewing black smoke) to stay awhile with his estranged family. Only his young niece suspects this long lost relative is definitely a child of Hitchcockville- a dangerous killer.
Slowly everyone in the audience agrees with the little girl- except the rest of the family.
Joseph Cotton gets it right. It is sleazy, oily evil in a smalltown, smalltime humdrum world. Cotton is evil. I spell that e-v-i-l.
Then comes…what for it, line up the pulsing violins…. Bloody well Psycho (Sat; ITV1, 3.05)
Mention just the name alone and the timid tremble, the frightened pop behind the sofa and responsible parents hide their children.
Produced a dozen years after the Cotton vehicle, it too is in black and white (it was Hitchcock’s last monochrome film).
Ah, the plot. In a small town, strange evil doings in a …you get it. Hitchcock, the Cockney, had a thing about smalltime America where evil lurks behind the curtains.
Of course, there is ultimate shock horror involved and Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates (the owner of the hotel) gets the creepy Oscar for his creepy role. Janet Leigh (Hitchcock’s usual totemic blonde) gets wet and bloody in a shower and the director cranks up the suspense to no end.
Whew. What a film for 3 am.
Elsewhere in tv-land, Hitch aside, how about a real romance about a myth? We all know and love the Richard Greene tv version of the Robin Hood legend when our Nottingham Forest hero (with the corset grabbing- gut) battled the phalanxes of baddies to await Richard the First- this country’s real ruler (who, by the way, only spoke French)
But in Robin and Marian ( Tues, Ch4, 13.10) Sean Connery takes first prize for his role which supposes an aging Robin coming back after years in the Crusades to find villains still abound, there are followers in the green forest and Marian is a (gorgeous) nun.
Cue an slightly grumpy Connery, safe from 007 duties, bedding down with Marian (Audrey Hepburn), Little John (a galumphing Nicol Williamson) and Friar Tuck ( Ronne bloody Barker, innit) to take on the evil Sheriff (boo) . It’s Robert Shaw as the Sheriff of Nottingham that almost steals the show.
From the Errol Flynn version up to the present Robin Hood creations, I will wager this just might be one of the best . It is sad, funny, wistful and bittersweet and I watch it everytime it hits the box.
Other gems worth recording: Neverland ( Wed; Sky Movies Family, 1.30) with Johnny Depp playing the man who wrote Peter Pan; a minor Hitchcock from the war years, Saboteur (Wed; Ch4, 13.00) and the director’s cut of The Last Picture Show (Thur; Sky Movies Indie; 13.45) which is Peter Bogdanovich’s first movie about a dying Texan town. Cybil Sheppard is the ingénue and, notably, Jeff Bridges is the young lion who is a graphic foil to the old lion (Ben Johnson, who many will know from countless John Ford cowboy films.)
Listen to Johnson’s voice alone and you’ll hear the western movie.