TV Movies and a Serious Case of Deja Vu!

children-403582_1920I don’t know about you but there are certain things I hang on to in life. One of those things are my diaries. The other day, looking through my schoolboy diary from 1973 I noticed that one entry mentions that I watched a film called the Inspector with Stephen Boyd. It was a movie made in 1962 and it’s about a jewish girl trying to get into Palestine. It’s not a classic movie but I’ve always liked Stephen Boyd and he was rather good in movies like Fantastic Voyage where a mini submarine and her crew were shrunk to minute size and then injected into a man’s body. Have you ever seen The Inspector? I doubt very much if you have, in fact I can’t remember ever seeing that movie again on TV. There are plenty of movies I have seen, some of them over and over though, here are a few of them;

The Great Escape. Ok I love it, I really do but I know the script off by heart I’ve seen it that many times!

Great Expectations. David Lean’s cinematic version of Dicken’s novel. Great movie but I’m fed up of seeing it on Film 4!

The Man In The Iron Mask! Seen this so many times with Richard Chamberlain and Patrick McGoohan and of course it was re made in 1998 with Leonardo Di Caprio but what about showing the 1952 version with Louis Hayward? Now that is a movie I’d love to see again.

Goldfinger, or any of the Bond films. As much as I love James Bond 007, most of the films, especially the older ones, I have seen again and again so I need a break from them. Strangely, I have a few of my favourite Bonds on DVD. I don’t think I ever watch them but I’m so familiar with the Bonds that if I come home from work and one is on TV and I’ve missed the first thirty minutes – well, it doesn’t matter!

So who is it at the BBC or Channel 4 or Sky who decides what films we can see and why is it that some are shown over and over and some only get aired rarely? What happens in the world of the TV scheduler? I really hope those guys are reading this blog because there are movies out there I want to see and a whole bunch of ones, like those above that I am fed up of seeing! Anway, here are a few recommendations for any TV schedulers reading!

CBubblesCharlie Bubbles. This is a great film penned by northern writer Shelagh Delaney and it’s about a (surprise) northern writer played by Albert Finney who journeys back up north from London to see his son. It’s a well observed and fascinating film and for a northerner like me it’s great to see the Manchester of the 1960’s up there on the movie screen. Writer Shelagh Delaney shot to fame in the sixties when she wrote her play ‘A Taste Of Honey’ and had it accepted and performed by Joan Littlewood’s theatre workshop. There’s a rather telling line in the movie when a waiter played by Joe Gladwin, (an actor familiar to UK TV audiences of the 70’s), asks Charlie, played by Finney, “are you still working or do you just do the writing?” Somehow I can imagine that line came from Delaney’s personal experience! Interestingly, this movie marked Albert Finney’s debut as a director. Have you seen the movie? I don’t think you have unless maybe you’ve sourced the DVD version.

In my large but slightly redundant VHS video box I’ve a copy of a wonderful film starring Alec Guinness called ‘Last Holiday’. Guinness plays a pleasant mild mannered salesman called George Bird who has no friends or family and finds out he only has a few weeks to live. He decides to spend the time he has left by going to a rather posh residential hotel where the residents find him a sort of enigma. His star rises here as he becomes involved with the residents and staff and people start to wonder about him. Who is he? Is he rich? Lucrative job offers come his way as well as love but only one person knows his secret, a member of staff that he confides in. In the end Mr Bird finds out he was wrongly diagnosed but the film ends on a sad note when he is killed in a car crash. Penned by author J.B.Priestley, it’s another wonderful British picture full of excellent performances with a whiff of sadness and poignancy about it. Have you seen it on TV? Well, not recently because the last time I have noticed it broadcast was in the 1980’s when I taped it with my trusty VHS video recorder. What happens to classic movies like this and why are they rarely seen on British TV? I wish I knew but I’d love to see this movie again.

Pygmalion Movie Poster

Pygmalion. You’ve probably seen the movie ‘My Fair Lady’ with Rex Harrison as Professor Higgins and Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle but I’d be surprised if you’ve seen this, the original, non-musical version, on TV. Leslie Howard plays Higgins and Wendy Hiller plays Eliza. Hiller is much more believable as Eliza, no disrespect to Audrey Hepburn and Howard is a bright, eccentric Higgins. I’ve never seen this version on TV at all, in fact I picked up the movie on one those free newspaper DVDs. What is interesting from researching the film on the internet is that a controversial (at the time) line was included in the film: Eliza saying ‘Not Bloody Likely!’ This made Wendy Hiller the first person ever to swear in a British film. Dear me, how times change!

Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Sounds a bit mad doesn’t it, a sort of 1950’s B picture. In fact this was shot in colour in 1964 and starred an actor called Paul Mantee who appears in many US TV series of the 1970’s and 1980’s. It pretty much follows the original story of Robinson Crusoe only it’s about an astronaut who crash lands on Mars. He thinks he’s had it but finds that certain rocks contain oxygen which is released when they are heated so he is able to replenish his oxygen supplies. He even finds an alien ‘Friday’ on Mars who has escaped from an alien slave camp. Sounds a little far-fetched I know but it was actually a pretty good movie. I remember watching it on TV on a cold weekday afternoon in the early eighties and it certainly warmed me up. Since then I have never seen it on British TV but it’s well worth a search on e-bay for the DVD version. The day they show it again on TV I’ll be parked up on my favourite armchair ready to enjoy! Come on TV schedulers, get your act together!

Which movies would you like to see on the small screen?


If you liked this post, then why not try my book, ‘Floating In Space’? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

My Favourite Movie Director (Part 1)

I’ll come straight to the point; my favourite movie director? Well, it’s complicated because I’ve got more than one; hence the part 1 in the title, but anyway, Woody Allen is probably my very favourite. Now why a working class guy like me brought up in a suburban council estate in Manchester would relate to the Jewish intellectual New York humour of Woody, well, I don’t know but I just love this guy’s films.

My very favourite moment from one of Woody’s film is probably the one from take the Money and Run when he goes into the bank to rob it and hands a note through the window. The note says “Give me the money, I have a gub!”

“Does that say gub?” asks the bank teller.

picture courtesy wikipedia

picture courtesy wikipedia

“No that’s gun! I have a gun!” replies Woody and soon all the staff are discussing the spelling and the robbery is forgotten.  That movie was right at the very start of Woody’s career when he was a stand up funny man turned movie maker and as his movies got gradually more serious and more thoughtful, well, I probably loved them even more.

I love the opening of Manhattan where Woody narrates over the opening sequence;

“Chapter One. He adored New York City. To him it was a metaphor for the decay of contemporary culture. The same lack of individual integrity that caused so many people to take the easy way out was rapidly turning the town of his dreams in… no, it’s gonna be too preachy, I mean, you know, let’s face it, I wanna sell some books here. Chapter One. He was as tough and romantic as the city he loved. Behind his black-rimmed glasses was the coiled sexual power of a jungle cat.”

Another Allen movie that opens with a monologue is Annie Hall. His character, Alvy Singer, says: “There’s an old joke. Two elderly women are at a Catskill restaurant. One of them says, ‘Boy, the food at this place is just terrible.’ The other one says, ‘Yeah I know. And such small portions.’ Well, that’s essentially how I feel about life. Full of misery, loneliness and suffering and unhappiness – and it’s all over much too quickly.”

Apart from Woody himself and his casual comedy chatter I’ve always like the look of Woody’s films from the black and white of Annie Hall, Manhattan and Broadway Danny Rose to the full colour Hannah and her Sisters and the jump cuts of Deconstructing Harry. I like the way the camera moves, or really doesn’t move. In Hannah and her Sisters Woody doesn’t follow Michael Caine when he goes into the bedroom and continues a conversation. Why should we? We all carry on long distance conversations with our partners in the bathroom or dining room when we are in the kitchen. We don’t need to see the other person, just hear them.

Woody’s films have a natural unobtrusive style which enables you to sit back and enjoy his humour and his observations. Another great Allen movie is Crimes and Misdemeanours. It’s a movie with a dark side but with the same flashes of Allen humour to keep you smiling. Martin Landau stars in the film and gives a wonderful performance. No longer the rather wooden actor from the TV series Mission Impossible or that Hitchcock movie North By Northwest. Here, Landau delivers a thoughtful and human performance and there are lots of the usual Woody Allen touches like returning to old homes and discussing morality then flipping to the next scene where Allen and Mia deliver some more comedy as a counterpoint.

I can’t write a blog about Woody Allen without mentioning Bananas. If I need to cheer myself up, this movie works every time, especially the bit at the end where Woody and Louise Lasser’s wedding night becomes a TV sports event with commentators and interviewers.

It’s almost an ‘in’ joke with Woody about how his older movies are funny and the later ones are not but all his movies have a certain something; not always laugh out loud humour, but some well observed human element. I love Woody himself in his movies which is why it’s a little odd that one movie I can watch over and over again is Radio Days. Like it says in the title, the movie is set in those days before TV when people had their ears glued to the great shows and performers of the time. Woody narrates the movie and we see him as a little boy entranced by a crime show, so much so that his parents take him to see the Rabbi. ‘You speak the truth, my faithful Indian companion’ quotes the young Woody much to the dismay of his parents, not to mention the Rabbi. In some ways I can see myself as a young lad, obsessed with the TV shows of my day and this is the crux of Woody’s films because in many ways he is turning the camera round, and the camera is pointing at us, the viewer.

My love affair with the movies encompasses many genres but when I want to smile it’s usually the Woody Allen DVD I pull down from the shelf.


Hope you enjoyed this post. Click the links at the top of the page to find out more about my novel ‘Floating In Space.’

 

Time Travelling and old Movies

imga0043It may be that you are totally assimilated into the DVD age but it also may be that you are, like me, still with one foot in the VHS video age and also, like me, you may have a huge stack of VHS tapes in big boxes gathering dust and no idea what to do with them.

When I stay at my Mum’s house I’ve got an old TV and VHS player in my bedroom and I sometimes go through my box of VHS tapes and find something to watch.

Here’s one example, take the movie Charlie Bubbles for instance. That may not ring a bell to you as I taped it from channel four way back in the eighties and I’m pretty certain I’ve never seen the film broadcast again, which is a pity as it’s a great movie.

It stars Albert Finney who also makes his directing debut in the film and co-stars Billie Whitelaw, Colin Blakely, and has an unlikely appearance by Liza Minnelli. It’s written by playwright Shelagh Delaney who wrote the play ‘A taste of Honey’, which was also made into a wonderful movie.

Charlie Bubbles is a writer, played by Finney who has a sort of gloomy and despondent view of the world and he returns to Manchester to see his son. It’s great for a Mancunian like me to see Manchester as I remember it growing up. The film goes on to show the clash between Charlie’s working class background and his new life as a writer. In one of my favourite parts of the film Charlie meets a friend of his father who asks “are you still working or just doing the writing?”

Charlie replies thoughtfully that he is ‘just’ doing the writing.

Pixabay.com

Pixabay.com

Another great movie I have on VHS and not often seen on TV is ‘Seven Days In May’. Burt Lancaster plays an army officer who attempts to overthrow the US government in a coup d’état. Kirk Douglas sees that something strange is going on and alerts the President played by that fine former silent movie actor Frederic March. Interestingly, part of the movie was filmed at the Kennedy White House. Perhaps President Kennedy wanted to send a message to his Generals!

What’s quite interesting is that there seem to be movies that are shown time after time on TV, films like Die Hard for instance. (Hey, I love that film but I don’t need to see it every other week! ) Show me some movies I haven’t seen for a while! Some great films I’ve got on VHS are Saturday Night and Sunday Morning again starring Albert Finney, and A Kind Of Loving both films looking at working class life in the sixties (they used to call them kitchen sink dramas.)

Another great movie, just perfect for a wet and windy Saturday afternoon is one I found in that box at my Mum’s the other day, it’s ‘Angels with Dirty faces’ starring James Cagney.

angels-with-dirty-faces-poster2I remember watching this years ago on a Saturday afternoon. I was watching it with my Dad and strangely me and my Dad were brought up on the same movies only I saw them first on TV and he saw them originally on the cinema screen. Like all great movies my Dad was pulled into the film, totally reliving it and right at the end he said:

“Cagney’s going to cry in the gas chamber, they’re going to ask him to cry!”

Yes, my Dad blew the ending of that movie for me but something else I found on a tape was sadly ruined by a complete technology foul up.

Time Tunnel

Lee Meriwether in the Time Tunnel control room. (Picture courtesy Wikipedia)

I found an episode of the Time Tunnel, a sixties sci fi show that I’d not seen for years. It was re run back in the eighties when I was at the height of my TV recording passion. I stopped the tape, nipped downstairs to make a cuppa, got myself settled again and pressed play. I time travelled right back to my childhood watching ‘two American scientists trapped in the swirling maze of past and future ages’ as the TV voice over used to say. James Darren and Robert Colbert were the scientists and Lee Meriwether was the lady back at the control room trying to get the guys back home.

Half an hour later the screen went blank. I’d run out of tape!

Wonder if the Time Tunnel is on DVD?


If you liked this post, why not try my book, ‘Floating In Space’. Click the links at the top of the page or the icon below to go straight to Amazon.

Elvis, Charlie Chaplin, and Justin Beiber.

Elvis, Charlie Chaplinand Justin BeiberAs I’ve mentioned many times before, I write because I’m a writer. That’s what I do, I write and I’ve been writing since I was a school kid. Something else that comes hand in hand with writing is the idea that one day; one fine distant day, I might just get somewhere and get my book published and actually become an actual fully fledged, bona fide writer. Of course, when that happens it will bring a degree of fame which I can imagine being pretty nice. You know what I mean, going into a restaurant and the staff know me and say stuff like ‘the manager would like you to have this bottle of expensive wine on the house’, and ‘could you sign this menu’ and people asking you for an autograph and maybe being interviewed on TV about my latest book (whoa, steady on there!) Anyway, stuff like that.

Of course fame in some ways can be something of a prison. I don’t think life was that great for Elvis Presley for instance. Elvis turned his whole life upside down to escape the pressures of fame. He slept all day and came awake at night. He would hire a whole cinema to run the latest movie for him and his friends. He hired bowling alleys and fairgrounds to open up, during the night, just so he could enjoy life away from the attention of his fans.

picture from flickr

picture from flickr

Another famous man and probably the most famous man there ever was, was Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin had a fame almost a hundred years ago that perhaps no one will ever realise again because Chaplin’s movies went all around the globe. People anywhere could understand Chaplin because his movies were silent. All you needed to understand them was the universal language of laughter. People in Russia, Japan, China, the Ukraine and countless places across the globe laughed and cried with Charlie, as well as moviegoers from the USA and Europe.

Chaplin became a rich man and he hung on to his riches by building his own studio and producing and directing all his films. He did one other thing as well. In an age when a movie had a shelf life of a few months at the most, when no one thought about saving or preserving films for another age of moviegoers, Charlie did just that, he secured the rights to the negatives of all his movies and ensured they lived on into the age of TV, video, DVD, and the modern digital age.

I do love the Golden age of Hollywood and do think sometimes about visiting America to see Chasens’, Romanovs, The Brown Derby, Schwab’s drugstore, Pickfair, The Goldwyn Studios, and even Chaplin’s old studio that he built for himself on the corner of La Brea and Sunset in Hollywood in 1917.

The thing is, out of the above list only one remains. Chaplin’s studios, now owned by Jim Henson and complete with a statue of Kermit the frog on the front gate, in Chaplin’s tramp costume of course.

Who today has the fame that Chaplin enjoyed? Well, out of interest I did a quick search on google and the results were these; Number 1 is Michael Jackson even though he is no longer with us, followed by Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber and Jennifer Aniston. Completing the top ten are Eminem, Johnny Depp, Will Smith, Katy Perry, Beyoncé and Leonardo DiCaprio. Not a completely inspiring list is it? I wonder which of those celebrities, if any, will be fondly remembered in 2114?


If you liked this post why not try my book? Click on the links at the top of the page for more information, extracts from the book and videos by the author!

Marlon Brando, Texts, and Extraordinary Behaviour

quotescover-JPG-83My brother sent me a text a few days ago, it read simply ‘You don’t remember me do you?’ Probably a little confusing to the man on the street but I knew exactly what he meant. I responded with; ‘I remembered you the moment I saw you!’ My brother texted  back straight away; ‘By the nose huh?’ The thing is, my brother and I are movie buffs, or to be more accurate, classic movie buffs and we sometimes text in movie dialogue.

Here’s another text; ‘Meatballs!’

I replied with ‘Definitely!’

Picked up on the movie yet? Well that it’s one of the great motion pictures of all time. It starred Marlon Brando in an Oscar winning performance, much better, much more exciting and above all, much more human than his other Oscar winning role in the Godfather. Here are  some more text clues;

My Brother: ‘What did that man mean just now?’

Me: ‘Oh don’t pay no attention, he’s drunk, falling down . .’

My Brother: ‘He’s just a juice head that’s hangs round the neighbourhood, don’t pay no attention.’

Another text read ‘Some people have faces that stick in your mind.’ And some movies have dialogue that can stick in your mind too, especially if you like your movies in black and white and served with a large helping of classic.

image courtesy wikipedia

image courtesy wikipedia

The movie was ‘On the Waterfront’ and it’s probably famous for the double act of Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger playing brothers but there are plenty of other wonderful performances and scenes. My personal favourite is when Brando and Eva Marie Saint walk together in the park and Eva drops a glove which Brando picks up but keeps hold of and eventually pulls onto his own hand and we know that Eva wants it back but, well watch the movie, believe me it’s a great scene.

My brother and I do text each other a lot but we also chat on the phone too. The thing is though; we tend to talk on the phone with East European accents. We starting doing it one day then began a sort of unspoken contract to carry it on. Sometimes I’ll get a call and he might say, in his best Hungarian accent ‘ Gut Evenink my friend.’

‘Gut evenink to you also my friend’ I tend to replyIt’s fun but sometimes I get odd looks, especially if I’m in Sainsburys or at the bar of my local pub. Which brings me finally to another text he sometimes sends; ‘Extraordinary behaviour!’

(In case you didn’t get that one, remember the 1955 movie ‘The Colditz Story’ ? Eric Portman says the line towards the end of the film!)


I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did and want to read more of my work, why not try my book. Click here to go to my Floating In Space page.