6 Great British Films You May Never Have Heard Of!

The Night my Number Came up (1955) starring Michael Redgrave, Sheila Sim, Alexander Knox and Denholm Elliot. Directed by Leslie Norman.

A senior Royal Air Force officer (Michael Redgrave) is at a dinner party in Hong Kong and a naval Commander played by Michael Hordern, talks about a dream he had in which the Air Marshal and a group of 5 other companions were flying from Bangkok in a Dakota which crashed on a rocky shore. The Air Marshal is due to fly to Tokyo the following day but he is not unduly bothered as many of the details differ from his planned flight including using a different kind of aircraft, a Consolidated Liberator.

When technical issues ground the planned aircraft a Dakota airliner, like the one seen in the dream, is substituted, and a number of other passengers arrive to make the total number of people on board 13, the same number of people as in the dream. As the flight proceeds, other circumstances change so that eventually most of the details correspond to the dream. When the aircraft runs low on fuel due to becoming lost in bad weather the pilot manages to bring the aircraft down in emergency landing in a snowfield in the mountains and all on board survive. The naval commander hears about the missing plane and arrives at the RAF base to direct search parties to the correct area.

The director, father of the film critic Barry Norman, builds the tension in the aircraft as more and more people come to know about the dream and gradually become more and more anxious. It was interesting to find out when I researched the film that it was based on a real incident in the life of British Air Marshal Sir Victor Goddard. All in all, an excellent film with good performances from Michael Redgrave, Alexander Knox and a young Denholm Elliot.

The Dead of Night (1945) starring Mervyn Johns. A series of short stories that combine together. Each instalment had a different director.

This is probably one the great horror movies of the 1950’s, in fact, one of the great movies full stop. It’s a series of short stories all linked together by the central character played by Mervyn Johns. His character architect Walter Craig, arrives at a house in the countryside where he has been consulted on some building work. The house seems all too familiar to him and then he then realises that everything that happens he has already lived through in a dream, a nightmare in fact. As more guests arrive for the weekend he recognises them from the dream and is convinced something terrible is about to happen. When he confides this story to the others, they in turn all relate a supernatural story before the central theme reaches a terrifying climax. Two stories that were particularly good were one in which an unbalanced ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave) believes his dummy is alive and another where a woman played by Googie Withers buys an antique mirror for her husband and finds that the mirror has an hypnotic effect on the man.

An outstanding film and one that was highly rated by director Martin Scorcese and was voted the 35th best horror film of all time by Time Out magazine.

The Intruder (1953) starring Jack Hawkins. Directed by Guy Hamilton.

Another classic 50’s film starring Jack Hawkins. Hawkins plays Colonel Merton, an ex-army officer who returns home one night to find his London flat being burgled by a petty thief. Merton confronts the man played by Michael Medwin, only to find that the intruder is in fact Ginger Edwards, one of the men from his old command. He is shocked to see one of his former soldiers reduced to crime. He tries to talk to Ginger but accidentally knocks over his phone in another room which leads Ginger to think he has called the Police. When there is a knock at the door Ginger bolts and makes a hasty departure. Merton then decides to visit some of his old army comrades – Ginger mentioned he was in touch with one of them – in order to track the man down. Each old comrade tells a story about Ginger which all nicely link together to show how circumstances have worked against their old friend. A lovely film with excellent performances and a number of familiar faces from British film and TV, among them Dennis Price, Dora Bryan and George Cole.

The Long Arm (1956) starring Jack Hawkins and directed by Charles Friend.

This is a brilliant film, it really is. It’s a sort of CSI London from the 1950’s. Like the present day CSI series, this film shows the crime detection process using the then start of the art technology. Jack Hawkins is a police inspector and is called on to look at a robbery in London. The theft was from a safe manufactured by a company called Rock. There is little to go on and Jack returns to his 1950’s suburban home feeling rather disappointed. Happily his typical 1950’s housewife is there waiting for him, his tea is ready and his evening bottle of beer also all ready too. Hawkins spends a little time with his son before bed time and tells him all about his current case and the lack of clues. Well, says the boy, perhaps the thief is a super thief who has never been caught. This revolutionary thought rings a bell for Hawkins and he goes back down to Scotland Yard straight away for a meeting with the records guy played by Geoffrey Keen. Together they trawl through the card file (no computers back in the 1950’s!) of unsolved cases and find one relevant link. A set of robberies all from  safes manufactured by, yes you’ve guessed it, Rock.

OK next up is a visit to the Rock factory for more investigation but then the robber makes a fatal mistake. While fleeing from the scene of his latest heist the robber runs over and kills a passerby. Later the abandoned murder car is found and 1950’s style forensic technology uncovers various clues. The most interesting one is a rolled up newspaper used to clean the window. A fascinating look at newspapers and how they are produced and distributed follows and the police are soon on the trail of their man. I won’t give away the ending but the film kept me on my toes throughout and Guy Hamilton who directed some of the early Bond films throws in a little action to bring the film to a climax.

No Highway in the Sky (1951) starring James Stewart, Marlene Dietrich, Glynis Johns. Directed by Henry Koster.

James Stewart plays an aircraft technical expert Theodore Honey who is trying to solve the mystery of a crash involving a new aircraft, the Rutland Reindeer, which has crashed in Canada. Honey theorises that the crash was a result of metal fatigue and sets up an experiment which involves the tailplane of the aircraft subjected to continual vibration in a controlled environment. When Mr Honey flies home on another Reindeer he is shocked to find that the aircraft is an early production model and is fast approaching the flight time that he has theorised the tailplane will fail. Mr Honey decides to warn the crew and also a famous film star aboard played by Marlene Dietrich. Consternation reigns in the cockpit but the pilot has no choice but to carry on. On arrival at Gander the pilot consults with experts in London and the aircraft is cleared to fly on. In a desperate act, Honey retracts the undercarriage and wrecks the plane to stop it from flying.

Stewart plays Mr Honey as a slightly eccentric character, very similar to his character in the film Harvey. Marlene Dietrich takes quite a liking to him as does the stewardess and they are both eager to help and support him and his young daughter when his theory is attacked from all sides. Needless to say, he is proved right in the end.

Last Holiday (1950) starring Alec Guinness. Directed by Henry Cass.

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.  Guinness’ performance is excellent and the underlying sense of inevitability is further enhanced by a haunting musical theme that we hear throughout the film.

If I had written this a few years back I might have been tempted to add this to a blog like Unseen TV which was a post about cinema and TV films which rarely get an airing on terrestrial TV. However, I am happy to see that all of the above films can be found on the new freeview channel 81 Talking Pictures.


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Terence Rattigan and my Movie Connections.

terence RattiganIt’s always a good feeling when you watch a movie you have really enjoyed. If you are like me then you will usually take a scan through the credits and look for familiar names. Sometimes you will see one that rings a bell; Hey, that director is the same guy who directed one of your real favourites or, that screen writer is the same writer who wrote another movie you enjoyed. That’s what I call a movie connection.

The Winslow Boy is one of my favourite old movies. It was written by Terence Rattigan and adapted from his own play. The original starred Robert Donat (who hailed from Withington in Manchester) playing the part of Sir Robert Morton and was directed by Antony Asquith. You may be more familiar with the recent version starring Jeremy Northam and Nigel Hawthorne which, all things considered, wasn’t a bad film. Anyway, the first time I saw the original movie I made a mental note of Terence Rattigan for future reference.

Here’s another movie: The VIPs, a film about various characters delayed at London Airport due to weather. It’s a lovely movie with great performances by Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Margaret Rutherford. It was a movie I really enjoyed so I checked the credits and what did I find? Screenplay by Terence Rattigan. Directed by Anthony Asquith. Yes, I thought, that rings a bell.

A great Sunday afternoon film is The Yellow Rolls Royce. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it but it is three separate stories, all connected by the Yellow Rolls Royce. My favourite episode is one starring Shirley Maclaine. She is involved with gangster George C Scott and they are on holiday in Italy. When her gangster lover has to return to New York to sort out ‘some business,’ Shirley is left alone with young Italian Alain Delon. She falls in love with him but realises that when George returns, her new lover’s life expectancy will be very short. So, she tells him she doesn’t love him at all and returns to the USA with gangster George. Although he doesn’t realise it, Shirley has saved Alain’s life. As I watched the credits pass by, there were those names again, Anthony Asquith and Terence Rattigan.

rattiganAsquith was the son of the British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith. He was a great friend of Terence Rattigan and they collaborated on 10 films together but it’s Rattigan I want to write about here. Who who was he? Well, he was a playwright who wrote a number of west end hits, many of which were made into films. You may recognise some from this list; The Way to the Stars,  The Winslow Boy, The Browning Version, The Deep Blue Sea, The Price and the Showgirl, Separate Tables, The Sound Barrier and the Yellow Rolls Royce.
Wikipedia says Rattigan was a ‘troubled homosexual, who saw himself as an outsider, and that his plays ‘confronted issues of sexual frustration, failed relationships and adultery.’

He was born in 1911, had quite a privileged upbringing and was educated at Harrow. His first play was ‘French Without Tears’ about a crammer where English students go to learn French. Rattigan joined the Royal Air force at the outbreak of the Second World War and became an air gunner. He used his experiences to write a play called ‘Flare Path’ which eventually became the movie ‘The Way to the Stars’, also directed by Asquith, the DVD version of which resides happily on my DVD shelf.

Terrance RattiganRobert Donat relished the role of Sir Robert Morton in the Winslow Boy. Morton is an MP cum barrister who takes the British Admiralty to court over the sacking of Cadet Winslow. In my favourite scene, Sir Robert Morton questions Ronnie Winslow about the incident in question, that of the theft of a postal order. The questioning goes fairly gently until Sir Robert ups the ante when Ronnie, the Winslow Boy himself, mentions talking to another boy;

RONNIE I said, “Come down to the Post Office with me. I’m going to
cash a postal order.”

SIR ROBERT ‘Cash’ a postal order?

RONNIE I mean ‘get’.

SIR ROBERT You said ‘cash’. Why did you say ‘cash’ if you meant ‘get’?

RONNIE I don’t know.

SIR ROBERT I suggest ‘cash’ was the truth.

RONNIE No, no. It wasn’t, really. You’re muddling me.

SIR ROBERT You seem easily muddled. How many other lies have you told?

RONNIE None. Really, I haven’t.

SIR ROBERT I suggest your whole testimony is a lie.

RONNIE No, it’s the truth.

SIR ROBERT I suggest there is barely one single word of truth in anything you’ve said either to me or to the Judge Advocate or to the Commander. I suggest that you broke into Elliot’s locker, that you stole the postal order for five shillings belonging to Elliot, that you cashed it by means of forging his name.

RONNIE I didn’t. I didn’t.

SIR ROBERT
I suggest that by continuing to deny your guilt you’re causing great hardship to your own family and considerable annoyance to high and important persons in this country.

CATHERINE
That is a disgraceful thing to say.

SIR ROBERT
I suggest that the time has at last come for you to undo some of the misery you have caused by confessing to us all now that you are a forger, a liar, and a thief!

CATHERINE
How dare you!

RONNIE
I’m not. I’m not. I didn’t do it.

It looks like everything is all over then Sir Robert asks for all the available papers to be sent to him. ‘Is that necessary now?’ asks someone.

‘Of course’, replies Morton. ‘The boy is plainly innocent. I accept the brief.’

There is also a rather subtle flirtation between Catherine, Ronnie Winslow’s elder sister and Sir Robert. Catherine comments ‘how little you know about women’ to Sir Robert after an exchange between the two. He later replies to her when she doubts she will see him again, ‘How little you know about men, Miss Winslow!’

The Winslow Boy is a delightful film which captures perfectly that ‘upstairs, downstairs’ life in the early part of the twentieth century. Look out for excellent supporting performances from Jack Watling and Kathleen Harrison as well as those of the feature players, Robert Donat and Margaret Leighton. You may have to search ebay for the DVD version as the movie is not one of those we see often on terrestrial TV.

Remember, don’t forget to check the credits on a film. You may find a lot of familiar names on the movies you love!


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100 Great Movies you Must See!

I really do love movies. Well, my movies, my own personal favourite movies and I don’t always care for other people’s movies. I tend to like classic movies rather than modern ones, not that I’m denigrating modern film. Anyway, I started off trying to work out my top 10 and ended up with, well, a hundred!

Yes, I can also tell you that because of the list maniac that I am, I decided to make the list into a spreadsheet which is great because I can sort the data and throw certain things back at myself, or in this case, at you, the reader. Here are a few examples; A Number of directors had multiple entries, people like Oliver Stone, Michael Curtiz, Martin Scorcese, John Ford, and David Lean (all with three entries.) My top two directors came out as Woody Allen and Stanley Kubrick each with five entries. Woody Allen, Robert Redford and Humphrey Bogart were my favourite leading men and Liz Taylor and Mia Farrow my favourite leading ladies. My favourite years for movies appears to be 1946 with four favourite films and 1956 with five. Anyway, the complete list is below, in no particular order:

A Kind of Loving
A Taste of Honey
Alfie
Blithe Spirit
Broadway Danny Rose
Casablanca
Charlie Bubbles
Dead of Night
It’s a Wonderful Life
Lost Horizon
On the Waterfront
Radio days
Rebecca
Saturday night and Sunday Morning
Serpico
Seven days in May
Spartacus
Sunset Boulevarde
Sweet Smell of Success
The Bad and the Beautiful
The French Connection
The Last Picture Show
The Long Arm
The Maltese falcon
The Man in the White Suit
The Quiet man
The Searchers
The spy who came in from the cold
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
The VIP’s
2001 A Space Odyessy
A Hard Days Night
A Man for all Seasons
A Matter of Life and Death
Alien
All the President’s men
Angels One Five
Angels with dirty faces
Annie Hall
Around the world in eighty days
Awakenings
Back to the Future
Billy Liar
Bullitt
Citizen Kane
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Dances with Wolves
Desperately Seeking Susan
Dog Day Afternoon
Fail Safe
Fatal Attraction
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Get Carter
Get Shorty
Giant
Gladiator
Goodfellas
Great Expectations
Green for Danger
Gregorys Girl
Hannah and Her Sisters
JFK
Kes
Lawrence of Arabia
Little Man Tate
Lost in Translation
night Of The Demon
North by Northwest
On Her Majestys Secret Service
One Flew over the Cuckoos nest
Paths Of Glory
Platoon
Pulp Fiction
Rocky
Shane
Smokey and the Bandit
Snow White and the Seven dwarfs
Some Like it Hot
Taxi Driver
The Adventures of Robin Hood
The Big Sleep
The Candidate
The Cincinatti Kid
The Cruel Sea
The Dambusters
The day the Earth stood still
The Godfather
The Graduate
The Great gatsby
The Ipcress File
The King of Comedy
The man who shot Liberty Valance
The Misfits
The Shining
The Silence of the Lambs
The Thief of Bagdad
The Third Man
The Wizard of Oz
Three days of the Condor
To Catch a Thief
Viva Zapata
Wall Street
Whats new Pussycat?
Whats up Doc?
When Harry met sally

Hope you enjoyed the list. What are your personal favourites?

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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!)


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