Thursday 27 October 2016

Yesterday’s Cinema or, The England We All Want Back or, How Mike Turned Into His Mother Re. His Choice of Film

I haven’t done this (blogged) for a while, and can only plead major life changes (marriage, migration) and my sad conviction that nobody has time left over from tweets and Facebook to blog anymore. Still, it’s good to keep my hand in, so here, thinking of a quick and easy way to increase the sum of human happiness, is a round-up of films on youtube which have lately taken my fancy. 

Made in Heaven

An attractive bit of fluff about an attractive bit of fluff from 1952, starring Petula Clark. The plot revolves around the Dunmow Flitch. It hadn't previously registered what a Dunmow Flitch was, despite a listen to the Dick Miles album of the same name, which goes to show that enjoyably lightweight old films can be more educational than folk song narratives. 

Fame Is The Spur

Labour politicians were weasels even back then. Michael Redgrave was an interesting fellow. A natural rebel, and drawn to edgy roles, sometimes to make the world a better place and sometimes for entertainment's sake. I’ve seen him in something else lately. Oh yes, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, but that was a DVD from the library, so outside my remit here. 

I See a Dark Stranger  

A cross between The 39 Steps and Odd Man Out and every bit as good as the description might suggest. Some of the Irish characterisation is a bit quaint, but the young Deborah Kerr is at least as radiant as the young Ingrid Bergman. 

Midnight Episode

With Stanley Holloway as a canny low-lifer who stumbles onto a murder. The story is a cut above your average musty thirties British mystery hokum. The reason why is contained in the credits, and easy to miss in small print: 'Based on a book by George Simenon'.

The October Man

A dark study of small-town alienation. See also Town on Trial – a homegrown Bad Day at Black Rock. I rejoice in anything with John Mills in it. It's possibly a form of homesickness. 

The History of Mr Polly

See above. For all its gentle charm, it seems to me that this adaption of the H.G. Wells book is quite profound about the human condition (albeit the male, lower middle-class, Edwardian branch).

Child in the House

On the same theme as The Fallen Idol – that fateful moment when innocence turns to knowledge, and subsequent disillusionment – and it seems to me the better film. (On the subject of Carol Reed flops, I came to A Kid for Two Farthings – too late and too jaded to be much moved, though the period charm cannot be gainsaid.) 

The Rocking Horse Winner

The supernatural allied to a strong anti-materialist message. Brilliant, just brilliant. All lingering prejudice against Valerie Hobson (mostly to do with Jean Simmons’ disconcerting metamorphosis into V.H. in Great Expectations) has vanished. Also stars John Mills. That’s the gilt-edged guarantee. 

Cash on Demand

As good a Hammer and as good a heist, and as clever a reworking of A Christmas Carol as any I've seen. 

So Long at the Fair

Here’s a plot that is perennially intriguing: ordinary couple do ordinary things –here a brother and sister arrive in Paris for the Exposition Universelle in 1889 – only one party disappears, and everybody is in flat denial that the party ever existed; protagonist doubts sanity, etc. It was used, in another context, in The Phantom Lady, a noir in which Elisha Cook Jnr does a manic Gene Krupa turn, and whose fate oddly mirrors its plot in that no-one has seen it or knows of its existence. Anyway, there’s a satisfyingly plausible explanation for the mystery here (The Phantom Lady has some hokum about a mad criminal genius). Jean Simmons makes a fetching damsel in distress, David Tomlinson is winningly personable (after Made in Heaven, I’m going to be keeping an eye on David Tomlinson), and only Dirk Bogarde’s quiff strikes a jarring note. 

The Kidnappers

I actually remember watching this on some blessed Sunday afternoon of old. It was a gem then, and remains so today. But how easy it is to lapse into Presbyterian cadences after a viewing. The characters talk like that easily and plausibly. I like, "I don't believe grandfather is truly a dog-eater." Truly, this was the movie that raised the bar on naturalism in child actors. But it's the naturalism of all concerned, including the grown-ups, that saves The Kidnappers from sentimentality and turns it into a saving statement of humanity.

The Long Memory *

John Mills as the brooding outsider again, and a convincing candidate for Britain's Jean Gabin. That is, he shouts wronged, misjudged and doomed. The Long Memory shows how romantic angst crossed the channel from fog-bound Quai des Brumes to the unforgiving estuary landscape of Kent. How dreary and magical Northfleet looks; how stark and deserted Gravesend is. Kent natives did go around singing traditional songs in 1953 (a few of the original old-timers were still around then), but how many were effectively avenging angels, I don't know. The stretchers in the plot can be excused by the film's existentialist aims. The Long Memory is the work of Robert Hamer, the gifted director of It Always Rains on Sunday and Kind Hearts and Coronets, who, as an alcoholic homosexual, knew a thing or two about wronged, misjudged and doomed outsiders.

* NB This video has been removed because of copyright infringement.

We would not look upon its like again were it not for the dedication and discernment of youtube provider Dubjax (ten out of the twelve films above are Dubjax revivals). The Dubjax site keeps getting pounced upon by youtube's copyright infringement police, with the films removed and reconsigned to oblivion. So full credit to Dubjax, and catch them while you can. Dubjax has recently downloaded a fresh cache of musty masterpieces...

1 comment:

  1. I updated all the links today. What a transient medium youtube is! And though Dubjax, the original provider of the majority of the films, is routinely raided and his films removed, most of the titles are available through alternative sites. The Long Memory is the exception here, but keep vigilant, for youtube and postings are forever changing. More merit to Dubjax and freedom!


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