Screengrab: From Jack Nicholson And Into The Abyss With Mad Max

Richard Lutz looks at the week ahead on the box for movies

Screengrab comes to you this week from Scotland. And it’s indeed a pleasure to report that along with heather and tartan, this place also has television.

So, it is a complete and unalloyed pleasure to go through the listings and send you my top of the film picks via Haggis-wire.

No doubt something to press the record button for is a double header of Jack Nicholson in his prime. Remember when the star with the rictus smile and pot belly was a damn fine actor? If you don’t, here’s two reasons why you should check in to Movieland this week..

The Last Detail (Tues;Film4,22.55) has tough guy hero Nicholson escorting a military prisoner (an innocent Randy Quaid) across the US to start his jail term. Nicholson, all tats and bravado, is just doing another dopey job for the Navy. But slowly he gets to like his charge as they travel to Quaid’s incarceration.

Director Hal Ashby (who also made the excellent Shampoo with Warren Beatty ) catches the hopelessness of Quaid’s last trip as Nicholson slowly softens and gives the prisoner a good time. It is a funny, bleak and wise film about friendship and boneheaded duty.

Next there’s The King of Marvin Gardens (Wed; Film4, 23.00) which has Nicholson in fine form as one of two clashing brothers (the other is Bruce Dern) who learn what it means to have differing values than a sibling. It is simply Nicholson’s best film as a man who has to contend with family and history. And yes it is better than Five Easy Pieces which Bob Rafelson also directed a year earlier.

It’s pity that Nicholson under performed after these fine films which encapsulated the shallow side of the American Dream. They summon up people who live in worlds of quiet angst, always unsettled and, as Woody Allen put it, ‘…at two with themselves…’

There is no peace of mind in these roles. As there was no piece of mind in the US of the 70’s when these classics were produced.

One other film to get into the hard drive: The Lavender Hill Mob (Thurs, Ch4, 13.35). I mean, what can you say when spineless bank clerk Alec Guinness comes up with a genius bullion robbery with self delusional Stanley Holloway? Guiness is a superb film comedian. Good part too for a young Sid James (was he ever young?)

The rest of the week is run of the mill. But if you are a masochist, watch the actor who is definitely not a racist nor an anti- semite, Mel Gibson, in back to back Mad Max films (I’m not going to tell you where or when this trash is. You’ll have to find them yourselves).

Stick to Nicholson and Guinness.