Screengrab: The Brits Are Coming


British directors take precedence in this week’s tv schedules. And one name dominates, according to Richard Lutz


Someone at Channel 4 likes Alfred Hitchcock. Starting on Tuesday, each afternoon has one of his films and they range from good to bad  to blissfully unknown.

On Tuesday we kick off with Rear Window (Tues, Ch4, 12.55) with James Stewart as an injured news photographer laid up with a broken leg. Did he see a crime through his back window or was he just fooling himself and girlfriend Grace Kelly? Great set design of New York apartments and Jimmy Stewart, one of Hitchcock’s favourites, is a bundle of jumbly nerves and screen angst.

Move ahead 24 hours and there’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (Wed, Ch4, 12.5).  Again with Stewart but this time his co star is Doris Day. It’s a re-make from a 1934 Hitchcock film of the same name. But this one, the newer one, got entangled in copyright issues and disappeared until 1984. Doris Day didn’t want to sing the movie’s big song Que Ser Sera and, boy, did she get it wrong. It was her biggest hit.

Let’s struggle forward and North by Northwest (Thu; Ch4, 12.30) is definitely one to record if you don’t know Hitchcock. Cary Grant is entangled in conspiracies; gets chased by that bi plane through cornfields; and, climbs Mount Rushmore (or a movie set imitation anyway). In my book this is Hitchcock’s best. Its co-star was Eva Marie Saint and , like Kelly and Day, was a blonde beauty. Hitch, they say, had a thing for icey blondes.

And then on to the end of the week with Topaz (Fri; Ch412.25). It was one of the director’s last films and didn’t make a splash. No big names. I haven’t seen it but it stars John Forsythe who many will know as Dynasty’s Blake Carrington. Others will find his voice rings bells too: he was the unseen boss in Charlie’s Angels. It is a spy thriller and screenwriter Leon Uris (of Exodus fame) walked off the job- maybe that says something about the movie.

Enough of the bulbous Hitchcock. Keeping in the British tradition, the start of the week gives you Passport to Pimlico ((Mon; Film4 15.15). Plucky Londoners take on bureaucracy and the inanity of international relations in aforesaid bombed out Pimlico. It was filmed in 1949 and all those cheeky  faces plus the idiosyncratic script makes this very watchable.  Yes, it is a bit dated, but it still merrily goes its own inane way in the wreck of the capital after the war.

Still on British soil, you may want to press the record button for Gregory’s Girl (Mon; BBC2 ,midnight)- that great Scottish comedy about a teenaged boy, the girl of his dreams and football.

It is directed with a deft hand by Bill Forsyth  and portrays the whims of growing up not as an arduous affair but simply one to smack a smile on your face.

Now to pure Hollywood: Ben Hur (Mon; Ch4 11,00) is around for those who like Charlton Heston’s muscles and chariot races. On  the same day,  there’s  The Way We Were (Mon; BBC2,13.5) with Barbra Streisand warbling in a real weepie with Robert Redford in his wilderness years when he forgot how to act after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove (Tue; Film4 11.00) still bubbles along. Forget Peter Sellers, Burt Lancaster or Sterling Hayden in this very funny satire about the nuclear threat.  You watch it for Slim Pickens’ role as the cowboy bomber pilot who drops the A bomb.

The more pugnacious of you will enjoy back to back Stallone in a boxing trunks (Thur; ITV4, 21.00/Thur; ITV4, 23.25) when Sly gets in the ring in Rocky and Rocky 2.

On the same night, it’s back to  Scottish whimsy. Dirrector Bill Forsyth againshines when his  Local Hero (Thu; Film4, 18.25) lands in Scotland.  Burt Lancaster learns the best lessons in life from beach bum Fulton Mackay. Once again, a warm hearted film with great shots of the NW Scottish coast that everyone knows is the most beautiful place in Britain (when it’s sunny).