I have this image, this dream, this singular tableau. It’s of TV schedulers working. Or rather not working.
I mean what the heck do they do except draw rings around interesting movies or shows and say: ‘Yes, that’ll do. Put it on at 09.00 at night because there are breasts in it.’?
Or, shockeroo: ‘Hey make sure our news is on at the same time as everyone’s else’s news. I’m not sure why, but if they put it on at 10, then it must be right.’
And then they’re down to the wine bar or out to Ikea for some more Billy shelves for little Chloe or cute little Hugo.
Well this week, I can’t complain – the schedulers must have had a sober week or they ran out of Columbian marching powder because they actually put their thinking caps on, knuckled down to working and have come up with a week of damn fine films. So fingers on the hard drive buttons; rather than pick out one movie, I’m going to put pedal to metal and zoom through the week. Let’s start with…
SUNDAY: Two classics, one Brit, t’other Yank. The Man In The White Suit (19.00, BBC4) is an Ealing classic, though less remembered than others. Alec Guinness is a young man (hey, it was made in ’51) who invents a material that never gets dirty and lasts forever. Well, bosses, unions, rivals all hate it. Guinness is superb as usual and Joan Greenwood helps him out. Alex Mackendrick (he of Whisky Galore fame) is behind the camera (I just love that phrase). Later in the night is the magnificently taut Heat (22.30, Ch4). When it was made in ’95, it was headline news because de Niro and Pacino face off as cop and bad guy. Both are great and the line between crime and law is wonderfully blurred.
MONDAY: The big day off begins early with Letter from an Unknown Woman. (7.05, BBC2), It’s an over the top but well scripted Max Orphuls number from 1948. Joan Fontaine is the woman spurned by pianist Louis Jordan. It’s all flashbacks and mood about love unrequited. But what the heck is it doing on before the coffee is ready? I mean, 7.05 in the AM? Jeez. Snakes on a Plane is lighter funnier fare (21.00, E4). Morgan Freeman is the cop who has to contend with..let’s see…what was it now? Oh yeah, snakes on a plane. Hilariuous, tacky and fun. Supposedly the star almost walked off the set because this great C movie was initially called Flight 793 or near enough. Freeman said something akin to: “It’s snakes on a plane for Christ’s sake and that’s its name.” The title changed. Finally, it’s Easter Monday so let’s tell a story about a Jewish guy. Ben Hur (13.20, Ch5) has lots of muscle, lots of Romans and Laurence Olivier and Tony Curtis in the same scene. Curtis acts him off the screen. But watch out; at almost the same time is Gone With The Wind (14.00 5USA). Need I say more?
TUESDAY: A double bill of classics: The Searchers (16.10, Film4) has The Dook looking for his kidnapped niece. Racism, anger, a John Ford liberal ending? John Wayne’s final scene as he peers into the unknowable West framed by the front door is iconic.Then comes LA Confidential (22.30, ITV4). An all star cast (Kim Basinger, Russell Crowe, Danny de Vito) mix it up in a neo-noir Hollywood crime drama that is as good- or better- than the 1940s stuff.
WEDNESDAY: Admittedly a slack day. This must have been when the tv schedulers got a free pass to some booze-up and forgot to turn on their screens. But, check out 40 Guns to Apache Pass (17.00, Film4). Why? Well, I’m not too sure. But there has got to be a good guy, a baddie with three days’ stubble selling rifles to the Apaches and a babe. And there are too. Audie Murphy, a grade A kind of B movie hero, is the man who must sort it all out. If anything, the scenery is good: filming took place up the canyons behind Hollywood including one intriguing location called Lovejoy Buttes (no kidding).
THURSDAY: The day kicks off with a great 1946 horse opera: Duel in The Sun (10.55, BBC2). An all star case (Jennifer Jobes, Joseph Cotton, Gregory Peck, Lionel Barrymore), it’s the love story of a native American who falls for two guys, one bad, the other good (get it? duel/dual…in the sun)) Directed by King Vidor who was not only a top guiding force but had a great name.Tuck up tight in the evening for Tremors (22.30, ITV4): A modern western with modern baddies: giant worms. Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward play it for laughs and have to battle the weird monsters who erupt from under the desert. It is a funny script and great crappy fx. It bombed at the box office 24 years ago. But made a bomb in video and dvd rentals since then proving it is a late night classic. Earlier there is more earnest stuff with Saving Private Ryan (21.00, Film4) where Matt Damon is the only band of brothers left alive in WW2. Some say this is the best war film ever.
FRIDAY: Yes, it is Friday and therefore a nod to Scotland before it goes and votes itself off the planet. Braveheart (22.25, More4) is absolute nonsense and great fun with Mel ‘Whacko’ Gibson painting his face blue (why?) and running around with a sword. I sincerely believe that 4% of that nation will vote for independence because of this movie. Ahhh well, grab that oil before it’s banned in the rest of what will be left of the UK. Earlier, there is Quantum of Solace (21.00, ITV2) with Danny Boy doing his Bond thing as well as anyone. And before that, there is the unassailable mayhem of The Producers (15.25, Film4). Well, Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel take the biscuit. Might be the funniest movie ever. Just might.