Terror By Night
Silly but enjoyable train-bound Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes tale, with our heroes out to identify the dastardly villains seeking to steal a valuable diamond. It’s no The Lady Vanishes (which director Roy William Neill had been slated to helm before the project was passed to Hitchcock), but it is a breezily enjoyable hour.
44 Minutes: The North Hollywood Shootout
One of my go-to ‘based on real events’ TV movie comfort food choices, and still holds up. Not a deep thinking movie, but certainly a well-put together one, with a strong cast.
The Wild Geese
Watchable turd, with thoroughly objectionable, reactionary politics, but strangely likeable performances. Ageing, alcoholic soldier-for-hire Richard Burton is pulled in to do a job in Africa by a dodgy corporation; he pulls together a team that includes Richard Harris, Roger Moore and Hardy Kruger.
Laughable action scenes, cringeworthy encounter between Kruger as an ex-SADF officer and Winston Ntshona as the imprisoned politician they’ve been tasked with installing as a new figurehead, but still plenty of dramatic moments (thanks to Burton and Harris, presumably on the production to pay off bar tabs). Directed by journeyman Andrew V McLagen, whose CV includes knocking off (The Devil’s Brigade) and sequelising (Next Mission) The Dirty Dozen , providing never-asked-for sequels to classics (Breakthrough and Return To The River Kwai), and trying to sustaining Moore with post-Bond action hero status (North Sea Hijack and The Sea Wolves).
The Battle Of Chosin
Interesting documentary about the early stages of the Chinese intervention in the Korean War, with Mao’s People’s Volunteer Army (LOL) being sent in vast numbers to defend against a relentless American advance into the north-east of the peninsula. SPOILER ALERT: Shitloads of people die, and it’s not all over by Christmas.
Cheerily hokey SF nonsense, very much of its time (Watergate, JFK, Vietnam), about a conspiracy to fake a failed mission to Mars. Unfortunately no one cared to tell the astronauts until the day they were due to blast off… Peter Hyams directs, Sam Waterston, OJ Simpson and James Brolin are the rocket jockeys, Elliott Gould is a wisecracking reporter trying to BUST THIS WHOLE THING WIDE OPEN, and Telly Savalas gets a third reel opportunity to steal the show in a cameo as a scenery-chewing crop-duster.
So-so TV movie biopic about the rise and fall of the ‘Teflon Don’ – played by Armand Assante. Solidly cast includes Bill Forsythe as Sammy The Bull, Anthony Quinn as Neil Dellacroce, and Richard C Sarafian as Paul Castellano. Nothing spectacular.
Interesting documentary by Jon Greenhaigh, which serves as a counterpoint to the dramatic feature Foxcatcher, about John du Pont, the rich dude who sponsored the American Olympic wrestling team in the 1990s. Focuses a lot more on Dave Schultz, the guy he ultimately murdered, rather than his younger brother Mark.
Low Winter Sun
Okay, so technically it’s a two-part TV drama, but structurally, thematically, quality-wise, it plays like a movie. We have a cold open into some seriously confusing shit – a drunken argument, a disagreement or something, in a location you can’t quite pin – then a sudden act of violence. And then the ball is sent slowly rolling down the hill.
Directed by Adrian Shergold (who did the good-but-flawed He Kills Coppers adaptation) from a Simon Beautiful Creatures Donald script, with Mark Strong and Brian McCardie (from Line Of Duty) impressive as a pair of Scottish police detectives.
James Cameron’s post-Aliens, pre-T2 earth-bound SF actioner, with estranged couple Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Ed Harris dealing with bad shit deep under the ocean, as hardcore Navy SEAL Michael Biehn loses it.
To Live And Die In L.A.
I have not been able to get Wang Chung out of my brain.
Enjoyably tacky sequel, with plenty of ticks in the plus column: Danny Glover, Bill Paxton, Gary Busey as a Fed, the shoot-outs, the new location, not taking itself too seriously, the slightly-in-the-future setting. Directed by Aussie Stephen Hopkins between a Nightmare On Elm Street sequel and Judgment Night.
The League Of Gentlemen
A bunch of ex-military types led by gruff Jack Hawkins plan a daring heist. Peerless stuff from Basil Dearden, working from a script by Bryan Forbes adapting the novel by John Boland, with a great cast rounded out by Roger Livesey, Dickie Attenborough, Nigel Patrick, Kieron Moore, Terence Alexander, Norman Bird and Forbes himself.
The Blue Lamp
More Basil Dearden, with antisocial young hoodlum Dirk Bogarde going on the lam in post-war Paddington after a robbery goes wrong and kindly beat copper George Dixon (yes, he) (Jack Warner) ends up cold on a slab. Weaves together kitchen sink drama, film noir and police procedural in a very satisfying bundle.