Archive for October 22nd, 2008

by Allan Fish  

I can well remember my first Film Guide.  It was the Halliwell’s, 6th edition, from around 1987.  Harold Lloyd was on the cover, his hands sticking out in front of him to stop that flying girder in his classic short Never Weaken.  My acquaintance with that guide, at the age of fifteen in late 1988, came less than 12 months before Leslie Halliwell’s premature death in his 60th year in early 1989.  He’d spent over two decades updating the ‘Filmgoer’s Companion’ and, latterly from the mid 70s, the ‘Halliwell’s Film Guide’.  The third reference book he wrote, the ‘Television Companion’ died with him, the last edition going out in 1986, and a fair proportion of that work had, in the immediately preceding years, been done by Philip Purser.  Besides, Britain in 1989 was the cusp of satellite television, of Sky and BSB before they merged, and the time when cable TV really started coming into its own in the US.  (more…)

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The next one in the series, no 20…

by Allan Fish

(UK 1935 85m) DVD1/2

A whole flock of detectives

p  Ivor Montagu  d  Alfred Hitchcock  w  Charles Bennett, Ian Hay, Alma Reville  novel  John Buchan  ph  Bernard Knowles  ed  Derek Twist  md  Louis Levy  m  Hubert Bath, Jack Beaver  art  Otto Wendorff, Albert Juillon

Robert Donat (Richard Hannay), Madeleine Carroll (Pamela), Godfrey Tearle (Professor Jordan), Peggy Ashcroft (Margaret, crofter’s wife), John Laurie (John, the crofter), Lucie Mannheim (Annabella Smith), Helen Haye (Mrs Jordan), Wylie Watson (Mr Memory), Frank Cellier (Sheriff Watson), Peggy Simpson (young maid), Jerry Verno, Gus McNaughton, Ivor Barnard, Miles Malleson,

For me The 39 Steps is Alfred Hitchcock’s most purely enjoyable film, the film at the beginning of the road that lead to North by Northwest, a film of immense wit, not a little thrills and too numerous iconic moments to count.  It is also Hitch’s first unquestionable masterpiece, a film that took all the best elements of his earlier classics from Blackmail to The Man Who Knew Too Much, added a touch more humour and created the first truly great spy yarn of the talkie era (and probably the best made till that point, period) and one of the great British films of the thirties.  For those only familiar with either of the remakes in 1959 and 1978, prepare to see the real deal, a film which may owe considerably less to Buchan, but a great deal more to cinematic imagination.  (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

Richard Strauss is among the top five greatest composers of opera, although the other four, Mozart, Wagner, Verdi and Puccini rate above him in artistic accomplishment and overall popularity.  Of Strauss’ prolific output, three of his works are warhorses in the repetory year in and year out, while three others are performed with reasonable regularity.  In the former category are the charming Der Rosenskavalier, and the two shorter operas set in ancient and Biblical times, Electra and Salome.    

Written in 1905, Salome was Strauss’ breakthrough work, and with it’s “companion piece” Electra projected a musical intensity, reliant on sensuousness and tension to usher in a new kind of music that broke drastically with the romantics.      (more…)

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another in the series of TV milestones

by Allan Fish

(USA 1951-1957 4,475m) DVD1 

Gobloots from a Bloo-Shoo Bird

p  Desi Arnaz, Jess Oppenheimer, Al Simon, Jack Aldworth  d  Ralph Levy, Marc Daniels, William Asher, James V.Kern  w  Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Davis, Bob Carroll, Bob Schiller, Bob Weiskopf  ph  Karl Fruend, Sid Hickox, Robert de Grasse  ed  Budd Molin, Dan Cahn  m  Eliot Daniel, Wilbur Hatch

Lucille Ball (Lucy Ricardo), Desi Arnaz (Ricky Ricardo), Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz), William Frawley (Fred Mertz), Frank Nelson, Elizabeth Patterson, Doris Singleton, Charles Lane, Allen Jenkins,

Where would American small screen comedy be without Lucille Ball?  It was the first great television comedy show, about that there can be no doubt, coming several years before You’ll Never Get Rich and The Honeymooners in the US and Hancock’s Half Hour in the UK.   As I boy I remember the endless repeats of the show in the afternoons before quiz hour, and even now many of the episodes reduce you to fits of laughter. (more…)

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next up in the best of the 1930s, no 21…

by Allan Fish

(France/Spain 1930 63m) DVD1/2

Golden Buñuel

p  le Vicomte de Noailles  d  Luis Buñuel  w  Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dali  ph  Albert Dubergen  ed  Luis Buñuel  m  Richard Wagner, Felix Mendelssohn, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Claude Debussy

Lya Lys (Woman), Gaston Modot (Man), Max Ernst (Bandit Chief), Pierre Prévert (Bandit), Caridad de Laberdesque, Lionel Salem, Jose Artigas,

Following the critical success of his scandalous debut short Un Chien Andalou, Buñuel decided to make a film of feature length that held to his purest surrealist ideals, those shared by his writing partner, the incomparable Salvador Dali.  Like its predecessor, it is not a film possessing a linear narrative, beginning with a seemingly disposable sequence about scorpions and their antisocial behaviour.  We cut to a man on a cliff top (with an uncanny resemblance to Robert Newton) looking down on several bishops chanting Latin to themselves on the shore.  After an inconsequential sequence in a seaside hideout, we return to the beach with a throng of people, to find the bishops dead and turned to skeletons and a youngish couple trying feverishly to consummate their passion on the muddiest part of the beach.  They are pried apart by the crowds most reluctantly and spend the rest of the film trying to get it on, with one pathetic failure after another. (more…)

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