Screengrab: American twinset

Richard Lutz returns to the tube and checks out this week’s top movies on the box.


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Watch out for Friday – you get two for the price of one. So set the hard drive for the heart of the sun and all that and sit back.

First there is On the Town (23.40, BBC4), a confection that we all know if only for that end-of-the-party crooners’ classic New York, New York. The plot is negligible but Sinatra and Kelly dance, sing and clown their way through a 1949 NYC.

My favourite role is played by the third member of the sailors on leave team, Jules Munshin. He plays the jelly faced oaf the other two stars dump on and his buffoonish mug is made for laughs. And he can dance too. But he was afraid of heights. So, director Stanley Donan had to tie him to a railing when he did his bit of singing on a city rooftop. Also, Frankie was so thin his suits had to be padded out. Old Blue Eyes needed fattening up, I guess.

There is fine support from Anne Miller and Vera Ellen as the lasses that the boys from the boat eternally chase. On The Town is also the first film musical shot on location. And, if anything, this movie, now 66 years old, is a great documentary of how good old NYC looks back in ’49.

So a sunny breezy film for a Friday night. But a darker American picture emerges on the other side. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (12.10, CH4) is a taut modern noir crime story. Two brothers plot to rob their parents’ jewellery shop in New Jersey. And of course it gets messy, violent and goes wrong, wrong and wrong again. Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke menacingly dance around each other as the brothers in a tough movie that reflects the seamier side of America..and, tellingly,  also the nasty side of fraternal bonds. Whoever wrote this had a sibling, I tell you that.

The 2007 film is the last directed by Sidney Lumet and he finishes his career (Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, The Pawnbroker) with style and panache. So, there you go, Friday night is American twin set night, a Janus-faced evening of dark and light.