Screengrab: Friday Night Is For Frightening

Richard Lutz roars through the TV listings to uncloak the film of the week.

Screen GrabOK,OK. Wimbledon is over. Whew.

We have just one more week of El Futbol offered up from Brazil. Whew. The clock is ticking on Yorkshire’s Tour de France. Whew. And,in the American colonies, there is the annual baseball All Star game about to come and go.

So it’s almost time to well and truly clear the sports-clogged schedules and get back to some serious couch potato movie watching.

I have to skip to Friday for a great back to back duo of fine thriller/heavyweights to put some grit into your week end. On ITV4, first there is The Wicker Man (Fri; 21.00). It’s the 1973 original not the Nick Cage piece of garbage. Cop Edward Woodward is sent to a remote pagan Scottish island (as if the Scottish isles aren’t freaky enough with their religion) to find a missing girl. The uptight detective comes across some really weird rites in this hinterland and ends up being…well, I would be telling but what a great iconic ending when Woodward’s straight-laced policeman finally finds out how the islanders treat snoopy outsiders.

The movie is tacky, oddly shot as if for a TV show, and hammy in bits. But still a stunner. The production team used the glorious Galloway area of south-west Scotland for its locations. Actress Britt Ekland called this lovely corner of the world ‘the bleakest place on Earth’ and the movie bosses had to formally apologise to the good denizens of the county. She got her come-uppance by having her voice dubbed by singer Annie Ross.

Good cast includes Christopher Lee (demonic as ever) and Diane Cilento, the real life wife, at the time, of 007 Sean Connery.

Right on the back of this classic is Raging Bull (Fri, 22.55). De Niro got his Oscar for his portrayal of boxer Jake La Motta whose life was an out of control downward spiral who just couldn’t separate the pug ring from real life. Director Martin Scorsese used moody classical music from Peter Mascagni to start a vogue for upmarket tunes to accompany sports events (think World Cup and opera) and ensured the film was in mucho macho moody black and white not only to evince a time of brawn and hard sweat but also to mute the profuse explosion of Hollywood blood in the brutal boxing scenes.

Raging Bull was a milestone in the de Niro/Scorsese partnership and evoked a time before boxing went all mouth and nonsense and guys were paid peanuts to pound the living daylights out of each other. It is a tough movie, a hard movie, a violent but poetic movie.

De Niro was a tour de force. He even put on sixty pounds of flub to portray the older La Motta and made his name with this 1980 flick.

There is solid back up from Joe Pesci and a neat bit of trivia with Nick Colasanto hitting the boards in a supporting role. You might remember him as the cheerfully dimwitted original barman called Coach in Cheers.

And if you feel Raging Bull is a bit grim and heavy duty, there is an upside. In real life, Scorsese was in hospital in the late seventies for cocaine abuse. His life was a wreck. De Niro made him get out of his bed to make the movie to return him back behind the camera. It worked. Scorsese is still around. They’ve been thick as thieves ever since. Awwwwww.

So a real doubleheader treat. But before I leave the suburban neon lit Internet cafe where I bang out this column, a small observation. As you may rightly imagine, I spend a great deal of time of your behalf thrusting my nose through endless TV listings. And I have noticed something, an observation that rivals anything stumbled upon by Copernicus, Kelvin, James Watt or one of those IT techy geniuses.

It is this: have you ever noticed the amount of cowboy B movies that have places names in their titles?

No, I didn’t think you did.

On the main UK channels this week alone we have: Kid From Texas, Gunsmoke In Tucson, Valley of Gwangi (actually a great movie where cowboys fight dinosaurs..yes, they do), Kansas Raiders, Sundown in Abilene and, lastly, The Badlanders which, by way, doesn’t sound half bad because it has Alan Ladd and Ernest Borgnine in it.

There. I’ll leave you with that final profound thought.