Screengrab: Weird and Whacky Britain (and a sequel) Comes to a TV Near You

Britain makes great creepy movies, says RICHARD LUTZ.  And none comes creepier and weirder than a great film from 1973.

This week there’s  a The Wicker Man lovefest on the box… two for the price of..well, your tv licence actually.

That’s because on successive nights, you can watch the original  (from 1973) and the inevitable second rate re-make (with the inevitable Nicholas Cage in one of his most angsty roles).

But first the recap: A cop goes to a hippie dippy Scottish island to investigate a missing girl. The locals say no such girl  existed and then the policeman uncovers  strange rituals linked with whacko pagan rites.


It all ends with a giant Wicker Man statue and the cop being…well, no spoilers here. Watch the film.

In the original (Tues, Sky Movies Indie, 11.05), Edward Woodward is the starchy upright policeman. Britt Eklund is the other worldly lass (whose voice was so bad that the director overdubbed her with the voice of jazz singer Annie Ross) and the great Christopher Lee is the pagan overlord. Lee, by the way, worked for free on this classic film and said he considered his work on the movie some of his best.

The sequel in 2006 (Mon; Ch5, 23.00) was universally panned. Cage becomes a Seattle  cop to placate Americans who probably don’t know where the UK is on a map. His over the top ‘serious’ acting is ludicrous and all the off the wall British weirdness that is rooted in this Hebridean island’s mystical/magical setting  is lost.

Watch both and tell us which you like best. And if it is the Cage rendition, you are banned from accessing this website for eternity.

Let’s move on. You can’t miss a Bogart film. And when it comes to The Big Sleep (Tues; TCM, 18.50), you probably can’t understand it either. Bogie said he had no idea what the plot was about. It is noir at its best- something the Hollywood always did well. Record it for a late night.

Clint is back. Rather Clint has really never left.  Unforgiven (Wed; ITV1, 22.35) not only has him as star but also as director. Gene Hackman is the bad guy and I always felt it is one of Eastwood’s best cowboy movies- hauntingly stark, muddy and filled with righteous vengeance. Hackman is pure smiling evil. Has he ever made a bad film?

Now back to those bonkers Brits again. Whew, they are a bunch. If they’re not filming nutcases on a spooky isle, they’re making great old fashioned comedies. While Hollywood had screwball, the Brits had Ealing. One of the directors on those classics was Charles Crichton and he was given another shot of fame in his dotage in 1988 with A Fish Called Wanda (Thur; BBC1, 23.45). It was a bullseye and he hadn’t lose his touch.

John Cleese, Michael Palin, Jamie Lee Curtis and a completed crazed Kevin Kline give it the full welly and if you like scenes where actors swallow goldfish, you’re on a winner.

And following that a small and terrific film the next day with Odd Man Out (Fri; BBC2, 11.35). Carol Reed has  James Mason’s Irishman running around Belfast on the lam from the authorities, He is implicitly IRA and the scenes are shot in postwar bleak Belfast. I stumbled across it and it is one of my favourite black and white movies. Reed, of course, went on to make the incomparable Third Man. Mason called it his best role ever.

One last thought. It is not exclusively about movies on tv. But if you love horse operas, how about a love-in for all you cowboys and cowgirls out there. On Wednesday, TCM has more than 9 hours straight of westerns; some of it tv series and some it movies: Maverick, Rawhide, Comanche…you get the idea.

Round ’em up. Git ’em out.