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I tend to award quite high ratings, often to flag up something I think has not had the acclaim it deserves, and reviewers who habitually score low can appear mean spirited. When I score low it's probably because groupthink - a contrarians' favourite rebuke - rates it too highly. Also I usually now resist the temptation to rate something if I'm not inspired to review it. It's not cheating but too many ratings sans review can look misleading. Finally, I do like to be fairly pithy, in most cases 300 words will be enough.
Impressive good/bad ratio
Having ploughed through the so-so Ghost Story/Circle of Fear and the curates egg Tales of the Unexpected I was pleasantly surprised by Thriller. Of the thirty I was able to watch I rate just five below a 6, and none under 4. Only The Twilight Zone has such a favourable good to bad ratio, of course a completely different genre. I'd suggest as a broad generalisation that Britain is better at horror and thrillers while the US is better at science fiction. My favourites, in chronological order:
9 The Eyes Have It. Possibly the most nail bitingly tense episode.
11 Ring Once for Death. Sympathetic performance from Nyree Dawn Porter, and possibly the most coldly evil one from Michael Jayston as her butler and would-be murderer. Though a pity Clare Sutcliffe had to be written out after fifteen minutes.
14 Kiss Me and Die. Not universally admired, reviewers say it's cheesy (well it is the 70s) and even downright bad. I liked it for the attractive, varied settings, and Brian Clemens artfully reprising the details of the village pub from an Avengers episode, described in my episode review.
17 Sign It Death. Scheming, unhinged secretary worms her way into wealthy new boss's affections, aiming to supplant his wife.
18 A Coffin for the Bride. Deservedly most highly rated at the time of writing. I must admit I didn't rumble Angie, unimaginatively believing her to be an undercover policewoman.
40 Death in Deep Water. All due respect to Jenny Agutter and Carol Lynley, but bikini clad Susan Farmer gets an award for most glamorous turn. Early on I assumed Thriller was completely new to me but I did vaguely remember a couple of scenes from this one back in the 70s. Can't imagine why.
As I enjoyed so many it would be churlish to disparage a handful of duds. That said, I don't really get the popularity of I'm the Girl He Wants to Kill.
Being stalked by a creep with a knife is doubtless terrifying, but there wasn't much of a plot, even less dialogue, and no real twist.
Adverts ruined by incessant interruptions of a horror programme
Having nearly finished the excellent Thriller I'm looking for the next anthology, and gave The Dead Man a try as it's an early one with favourable reviews.
Big mistake. The only platform on which it's currently available has allowed it to be butchered by the ceaseless adverts of a well known, somewhat kitsch, entertainment/theme park company. These appeared no fewer than FIFTEEN times in 37 minutes. A particularly cruel refinement of this torture was that sometimes the programme would resume, only to return to the advert after a few seconds.
I'm not opposed to advertising in principle. Indeed, I'd prefer the BBC to be funded by it in place of the collectivist/socialist system where everyone with a television has to pay £159 pa for it whether they watch the BBC or not. But do advertisers really imagine such absurd overkill will endear them even to those who may be attracted to their products?
I refuse to watch any further episodes similarly disfigured. Alfred Hitchcock often made wry remarks about adverts but I doubt his shows had it this bad. Without the ads I'd have probably scored it 6 or 7.
Play for Today: The Country Party (1977)
Sequel to The Saturday Party broadcast two years earlier. Divorced former stockbroker Richard (Peter Barkworth) now runs a restaurant in a well heeled country village. To celebrate his birthday, his daughter arranges a surprise family get together at the restaurant, her ulterior motive being the hope of a parental reconciliation.
The Saturday Party succeeded because it was unmistakably set in 1974, a notably grim year in Britain, not least for stockbrokers. Apart from throwaway references to real ale (then an exciting new phrase) and contemporary trade union leaders, this doesn't feel set in any particular time. Richard still has problems, but staff stealing food and drink is rather small beer compared to losing both his wife and job. Like The Saturday Party, numerous minor characters are introduced, but only Malcolm Terris makes any impression as a loud, obnoxious farmer. Things briefly spring to life when a new waitress clumsily tips food over the kitchen floor and cook tells her to scoop it up and serve it. I expected Richard to burst in and catch them red handed but no, nothing further happened. Imagine what John Cleese would have made of it.
A modicum of padding can be welcome in complex stories, giving us time to collect our thoughts. But you do need some events of consequence to pad out. I'd only watch this if you enjoyed The Saturday Party and have a yen to see the family again.
Thriller: Kiss Me and Die (1974)
Visually impressive, with some curious deja vu
I've recently watched a dozen of the earlier episodes and they are certainly of a high standard. A minority view no doubt but so far I enjoyed this one the most.
Other reviewers have described the characters and story. It is also very easy on the eye, and not only Jenny Agutter, having attractive settings - the pub, Jonathan's mansion, and the masque ball. The others I most liked are The Eyes Have It which is nail bitingly tense, and the harrowing Ring Once for Death, but these dictated more restricted scenery.
Some interesting trivia. It's set in the picturesque village of Aldbury, used in the Murdersville episode of The Avengers. The pub landlord also looked familiar, John Sharp played the same role in Murdersville. It became apparent that Brian Clemens had deliberately reprised the pub details, both landlords having blonde daughters called Jenny and both owned a shotgun. Though sadly the pub no longer had any real ale.
Ghost Story (1972)
Just a few gems
Short lived series, my average score for all episodes is just over 5, the lowest for any anthology where I've been able to watch more than a handful of eps. However I've rated it 7 because of a few good ones I will see again before long.
To be honest I'm not a great fan of ghost stories, which may partly explain my lack of enthusiasm for the series. It's doubtless why my favourite is At the Cradle Foot, the least supernatural and most sci-fi like. Paul Dover (James Franciscus) has premonitions that in the distant future his young daughter will be shot, and he tries to prevent it. The only flaw is the ending which could have been more conclusive. My second pick is The Phantom of Herald Square in which David Soul plays a man rather older than he appears. Again, rather sci-fi cum horror, and despite the title not a ghost in sight.
A number of reviewers decry the dropping of host Sebastian Cabot in the middle of the series. Also I'm puzzled why he was given a stage name and role as a hotel owner. He looks distinguished enough not to need any props.
Unhitch those pedantic quibbles!
Science Fiction often deals with situations that cannot happen in reality. Yet paradoxically the genre attracts critiques of a pedagogic rigour more appropriate to a Latin school teacher. It's said Paul should have ensured his rifle was loaded before trying to kill Hitler, or that his assassination in 1939 wouldn't even have been wise. Also he should have simply removed the pedlar's lantern rather than attempting to unhitch his horses. No doubt all this is logical, but you wouldn't have had a story. That said, I'll allow myself one pedantic observation, the 1945 Japanese policeman's spectacles look more Henry Kissinger than Admiral Tojo.
The latter part where Paul attempts an escape from the 20th century in picturesque 1881 Homeville lift the episode above average. It has notably better dialogue, especially the dinner table confrontation between world weary Paul and the jingoistic Mr Hanford. It mostly concerns the romance with Abby, culminating in the tear jerking scene where a hurt Abby reproaches Paul "we'll leave it at that then" after he's made it clear, without explaining why, that they cannot get together. Call me a soppy romantic but it made me exasperatedly cry: don't be such a clot, you won't find anyone better. Patricia Breslin looks more elegant with hair up in 19th century style than her usual 60s pageboy cut, indeed she's probably never looked nicer.
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962)
A More Even Quality
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour has generated two schools of thought. Some think the longer format allows for more character development while others maintain it results in episodes having to be padded. I would say compared to Alfred Hitchcock Presents, these are of a more even quality. I scored a few 9 or 10 in both series, but AHP had many more boring, even terrible episodes, though to be fair more than twice as many were made.
My ten favourites, in chronological order: 3 Night of the Owl. The story may rather lack believability, but compensated by great performances from Brian Keith (who seems to me like an understated John Wayne) and Patricia Breslin.
8 House Guest. Not entirely dissimilar to the above, decent family taken advantage of by a cunning crook.
23 The Lonely Hours. Obsessive, childless woman steals her landlady's baby, all female cast.
33 Home Away From Home. Atmospheric drama, mental patients imprison staff and take over asylum.
45 The Magic Shop. Much more sci-fi than usual Hitchcock. Half a dozen reviewers compare it to The Twilight Zone's It's a Good Life, for my money this is creepier and has more content.
50 Final Escape. Uncomplicated tale of a prisoner who will take almost any risk to escape. Without doubt the most shocking denouement.
65 Return of Verge Likens. Man plots revenge on local politician who killed his father, undeterred by objections from his easy going brother. Unanimously acclaimed by reviewers thus far.
75 Consider Her Ways. Another episode escaped from The Twilight Zone. A doctor under the influence of a new drug hallucinates about a future earth without men, and determines to prevent it.
84 Death Scene. This is not universally liked by other reviewers. I enjoyed it as a nod, whether intentional or not, to Sunset Boulevard, with private movie theatre, classy old car, and swimming pool.
92 Night Fever. An injured robber falls for his older nurse, but is he just trying to use her? I include this one mainly to question the groupthink of several reviewers who accept the storyline claim that Coleen Dewhurst is plain. She is over 40 but surely better looking than the villain's floozy like girlfriend briefly seen at the end. It's in the eye of the beholder of course, but maybe these guys would say Diana Doors was better looking than Diana Rigg?
Robert Lansing's Ageing Reprise
This is not quite among my favourites but it's easily the most sad and tear jerking of the roughly two thirds of the episodes I'm familiar with. Two reviewers critique Robert Lansing's "pretty bad" make-up. This made me wonder whether, in the circumstances, he would have aged nearly as much as he would have done living an earth bound life. He wouldn't have been worn out by physical labour, indeed he had nothing to do at all except ruminate about his lost love.
It's notable that Lansing also played a scientist in 4D Man aka The Evil Force (1959) in which the unfortunate side effect of his experiments is that he rapidly ages. His make up was superior, though the film is somewhat slow and the acting not as good.
A glimpse of the future, and now of the past
My favourite Star Trek and Twilight Zone episodes usually involve time travel so I was bound to like The Flipside, especially as Caroline Langrishe is in it. Other reviewers have mentioned the special effects aren't up to much, but credibility is achieved by subtle changes in language. In the imagined 2130, to be complaisant means to be content. To be dupe is to be very keen. The word actually has become obsolete, actually. Some things don't change, people drink wine, play scrabble, and take things with a pinch of salt. Dominick's wife works for travel company Tom Cook, they certainly got that bit wrong!
Watching it in 2021, an additional piquancy is that, as time marches on, over a quarter of the period between when the play was made and 2130 has elapsed. So we also observe the changes since 1980. The football pools have been superseded by the National Lottery. Real ale was a trendy new expression. A surly London barman blames the "common market" when Dominick, apparently a dim witted foreigner, fails to understand he has to pay 25p (only 25p!) for his half pint of real ale. These days I doubt even such a mildly politically incorrect observation would get past BBC censorship.
External reviewer Kevin Lyons describes it as, I paraphrase, 'a rare play explicitly telling us that maybe what we have now is actually as good as it might get'. Well said. In fact I would suggest the years 1980-2000 were indeed as good as it got.
Tales of the Unexpected (1979)
Tales of the Hit and Miss
As the two prolific reviewers of individual episodes have mentioned, these tales are hugely variable. Some are excellent, the majority so-so, a few quite abysmal. I also counted ten, mostly early ones, which are re-makes of stories that appeared a couple of decades earlier in Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
It's a minority view but I don't think the most highly rated episode The Flypaper is all that brilliant. It has a shocking twist, but a middle aged man, either sinister or merely foolish, trying to chat up a barely teenaged girl hardly makes for scintillating dialogue. For my money the best one is the currently rated number 2, A Harmless Vanity. It starts slowly but the tension builds steadily towards the shattering denouement. Another attraction is that, with all due respect to Joan Collins, I'd give an award for most glamorous turn to Sheila Gish as a wronged wife.
One other I'd rate a 10 is The Stinker, great performances from Denholm Elliott and Joss Ackland. Then, a good 9, Clerical Error, with two very unlikely looking criminals. Others which I'd rate 8: Neck, Fat Chance, Taste, Vengeance is Mine, I'll be Seeing You, The Eavesdropper, Death Can Add, and Accidental Death. Two episodes, Stranger in Town and The Facts of Life, I liked because they are set in my favourite, beautiful city of Norwich.
There is also keen competition for worst episode. Sometimes something appears to be poorly rated partly because the main character is obnoxious, outrageous or absurd, although well delineated and the dialogue has some merit. I feel Have a Nice Death, with Simon Cadell as an outspoken misogynist author, comes into this category. It's not great but doesn't deserve to be, at the time of writing, the second worst rated. Currently more highly rated but considerably worse are A Glowing Future, Run Rabbit Run, Sauce for the Goose, The Open Window, and Scrimshaw. In my view the pre-eminent abysmal episode is The Best Policy, about a put upon bank clerk, physically unappealing and with the most horrible high pitched whining voice. Half an hour of housework would be more rewarding.
Occasionally an anthology episode appears to be poorly rated partly because the main character is outrageous or absurd, although well delineated, and the dialogue may have some merit. Have a Nice Death, with Simon Cadell playing an outspoken misogynist author, is a possible example.
The Best Policy does not fall into this category. I've recently watched all 112 episodes, and this the most abysmal, beating some keen competition. Harry Flock (Gary Burghoff) is a bank clerk, physically unappealing and with most horrible high pitched whining voice. The entire story is just one long moan from Harry, who feels the world does not sufficiently appreciate him. "My books are impeccable", "why am I being subjected to this", "someone's trying to sabotage me" wails the hapless Harry. Indeed, he even makes his namesake Prince Harry look happy by comparison.
I can't recall why but near the end Harry's boss exclaims "I've just been through the most gruelling experience". Anyone sitting through this dire episode will sympathise.
Not Such a Backwater
This is clearly not one of the best episodes, but nor is it one of the worst. As a reviewer points out, the beginning drags, a good ten minutes elapse before anything of consequence happens. The heart warming, if somewhat tame, moral of the story is that nice guys don't always come off worst.
That said, I quite like it because of a geographical interest, and I must cavil at the Storyline claim that Nicholas (Benedict Taylor) has led a "sheltered rural existence". In fact his family reside in Norfolk's capital city Norwich, which is alluded to more than once. It's a university city so it does get lively weekend nights. I strongly suspect it was filmed entirely in Norwich, I assume to save money. For example after spending the night with Zoe, Nicholas arrives by taxi at his supposed London hotel. I immediately recognised this as Stracey Road behind Norwich railway station, which has a number of hotels.
I've had innumerable holidays in Norwich, the attraction being the excellent real ale and cider pubs, and prefer the nightlife there to London and, it goes without saying, my city of Birmingham. Though sad to relate in none of them did I win hundreds of pounds at roulette and been bedded by an attractive young woman!
Deja Vu Once Again
I wouldn't quite agree with the only other reviewer so far and also the consensus rating that this episode is the worst of all, though it is certainly dull. I've seen about half of them and The Best Policy is surely worse than this.
Be that as it may, after a few minutes I got a distinct feeling of deja vu, as I did with a number of other episodes. So I looked through my anthology lists, ah yes here it is. The same story with the same title appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, in 1956. If you really want to see it, the Hitchcock version is clearly better. It stars Cedric Hardwicke and John Williams, who outgun the cast here.
Puts Most Episodes in the Shadow
When The Twilight Zone was on UK TV circa 1990 I recorded them on video and then taped over the episodes I didn't think so good. I ended up with about a third of them, and since buying a computer last year I've seen another third, including this episode. I must have missed it back in the 90s as it's one of only a handful I'd unhesitatingly score 10. The others, since you ask, are Long Live Walter Jameson, No Time Like the Past, Walking Distance, and for the dialogue A Kind of a Stopwatch.
I always read the reviews before watching, fortunately with TZ there aren't too many. They work best when there is a good range of high, low, and middling scores - many views make a world as they say. But I am puzzled why anyone would continue watching a lengthy anthology which they clearly found unrewarding. It is said this episode doesn't have enough content for the run-time. Well, it has gadgets that can disassemble and reassemble matter at will. It has mystery, a hotel which is claimed to be full but there are never any guests about. It has a trio of sinister town elders who control everything. Last but not least some romance with a beautiful woman. In fact just about everything a good SF story could possibly have!
Marriage of a Middle Aged Stockbroker
Alone among countless BBC Play for Todays I saw in the 1970s I never forgot this one for reasons I'll come to anon. Set in the benighted Britain of December 1974, the stock market, battered by chronic inflation, strikes, and oil price hikes, had fallen nearly three quarters in two and a half years. Even the US, with the additional trauma of Watergate, had done better by comparison.
Stockbroker Richard Elkinson (Peter Barkworth), aged 43, is in a loveless marriage with Jane (Sheila Gish) who is good looking but ice cold and snooty. The three children go to public schools, and the family finances have seen better days. Richard's boss Philip is played by John Welsh, ancient and patrician, he looks like a character out of The Forsyte Saga, which is unsurprising as he was.
Shortly before the Elkinson's time honoured Christmas party Philip calls on them to impart bad news. To save costs their firm is to merge with a larger one which will lose three of its fourteen partners, while their firm loses one out of five. The worse news is that Richard is the one. Trying to put a brave face on it they go ahead with their drink sodden party. The younger son David, old enough to understand things but too young for booze and birds, mopes alone in his bedroom. Richard tries to coax him downstairs, only to be woundingly told that if he'd been good enough they'd have kept him on. I won't reveal any more save that things go even further downhill for poor Richard.
Barkworth is perfectly cast as a certain type of English stockbroker. Middle class but not quite posh, agreeable but with a ruefulness born of the realisation that he is not the all knowing guru his more impressionable clients imagine. Of necessity the central premise of the story is unlikely. In reality Richard would almost certainly have been kept on, the cost cutting mostly made from culling the underpaid, unappreciated clerks toiling away in the back office. I know this because I was one of them, a mini Richard made a victim of the great mid 70s bear market. My only serious caveat is that the party dragged on too long, with a surfeit of bit part caricatures: lothario, chippy trade unionist, upper class oaf. But all in all a good play about bad times.
Churchill's War (1989)
Good In Parts
I've watched Churchill's War numerous times, it's mostly quite gripping, though a bit of a curates egg. The most stirring bit is the introduction where Churchill, accompanied by sombre music, prophetically warns that Hitler will confront Europe with a series of outrageous events, and ever growing military might.
Unfortunately it suffers from trying to cram a long and eventful period into such a short film, resulting in simplification and tendentiousness. A problem not helped by having to include the Eastern Front where Churchill was not much involved but being of such importance it would not have been proper to leave out. It could have done with at least another half hour.
The Luftwaffe's switch from bombing airfields to cities is attributed to Goering deciding to "change targets", presumably on a whim. As is well known, it was the result of an escalating tit-for-tat after a German aircraft missed its military target and bombed civilians. Less forgivable is the claim that the allied bombing of Germany was of "negligible military utility". In fact it resulted in enormous numbers of men and equipment being tied down in defence which otherwise could have been deployed on the Eastern Front. Hitler's armaments minister Albert Speer, who was in a position to know, subsequently described the bombing campaign as our Second Front.
If I may end on a personal note, my father served in the "forgotten" 14th Army in Burma, so I was pleased that General Slim rated a brief mention.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955)
A Completest's Confession
I only discovered AHP four months ago and have watched 264 episodes, a shame it couldn't have been more but three weren't available. Seeing them in rating descending order gave a good feel for which are over or underrated, though the final 70 mostly unexceptional ones became a bit of a chore.
On this page alexanderdavies names many of the famous stars who appeared. I also enjoyed recognising dozens of actors who weren't household names, and trying to recall where I'd seen them. Before watching each one I noted the reviews, especially the most erudite and prolific contributors - dougdoepke who I most see eye-to-eye with, Hitchcoc, and MartinHafer.
AHP is often compared to The Twilight Zone. There is a much broader subject and style here, therefore a more variable likeability. As a SF dilettante I prefer TZ as a whole, while those who have no time for TZ ought to find at least some of AHP to their liking. This makes it rather difficult to judge which is superior. As for my own tastes, I can do without excessive violence but I do like something substantial to happen. Little White Frock and Door Without a Key, to name but two, I found lame and tame, however distinguished the leading actors. On the other hand Six People no Music, with a strong claim to be worst episode, was more absurdly far fetched than anything in TZ.
My favourites may reflect a partiality to my British fellow countrymen, but for what it's worth: best actor performance - Laurence Harvey in Arthur, best actress performance - Betty Field in A Very Moral Theft, best comedy - The Schartz-Metterklume Method, best financial story - Mail Order Prophet, best Hitchcockian twist - The Glass Eye, best horror - The Silk Petticoat, best John Williams - The Long Shot, best looking actress - Hazel Court and close second Patricia Breslin, best science fiction - Design for Loving, best overall - Arthur.
Fawlty Towers: The Germans (1975)
Don't mention it's not the best episode
I've noticed that the top rated episode of many a series - comedy, drama, horror, science fiction - often appear to owe their positions to featuring a much loved actor or including a scene that became famous. This can count for more than the quality of the script. Sorry, but I do think The Germans is the weakest one, it's popularity probably due to Basil goose stepping in front of his German guests.
Fawlty Towers is by a country mile my favourite comedy series, and my lack of enthusiasm for this episode has nothing to do with political correctness. Indeed, Basil's most hilarious trait is rudeness to guests, and there is no reason why Germans (or Krauts as Major Gowen would say) should be exempt. Needless to say it has some good laughs. However in most episodes (for my money The Psychiatrist is the best) different strands and characters intertwine to make a coherent whole. The plot of The Germans is essentially four largely unrelated sketches cobbled together: Sybil's toenail operation, the fire alarm drill, Basil's head injury (would he have been noticeably less manic without it?) and the offended Germans.
Nothing is more guaranteed to provoke lots of not helpful votes than criticism, even if nuanced, of a popular film or episode. C'est la vie, as the Frogs say.
Do You Have The Money?
AHP episodes about financial duplicity, such as DON'T COME BACK ALIVE, can be far fetched and so lack credibility. This stories' comparative simplicity makes it eminently believable. Helen's increasingly desperate entreaties - "Do you have the money?" - build the tension until the heart-rending denouement. It's virtually impossible to have sympathy for outright criminals but you can't help rooting for Helen, a decent person who does wrong for unselfish reasons. Having clocked up two hundred episodes this year (how sad is that?) I'm amazed this one is, at the time of writing, two thirds of the way down the popularity ratings. Indeed, it's one of only three that inspired me to do such an effusive review. The others, since you ask, are ARTHUR and MAIL ORDER PROPHET. To declare an interest, in my financial services career decades ago it was widely assumed that anyone claiming never to have forged ("fudged" being the euphemism) a client's signature just to save time was either a saint or being economical with the truth. Enough said.
Duplicate Story Duplicated
A reviewer makes the point that this episode would have been more suited to The Twilight Zone. In fact the same idea was used in The Outer Limits episode The Duplicate Man, albeit in a much more sombre way. A scientist has a duplicate made to find and kill a dangerous alien creature, but the duplicate, by being more attentive, soon gains the wifes affections. The Duplicate Man was filmed six years later but was based on a story published in 1951. Design for Loving was based on a story published in 1949. So if there was any plagiarism (or a 'nod' as they say more gently in the art world) the jury is probably out.
Doubtless it's pedantic to pick holes in what is just an amusing short story. That said, Lydia does appear completely lacking in curiosity, never going in the basement or wondering why her duplicate husband abruptly walks out of the room when summoned by the real one. And when she got close to him she would be bound to hear the machinery in his chest. Though as it's the straight laced 1950s they probably slept in separate beds.
Un chien andalou (1929)
A Dalinian Dichotomy
Fascinating surrealist film, so short that if it's not to your liking you havn't wasted much time. Superior to the hour long L'Age d'Or which rather outstays it's welcome, deserving 7 at best. Things happen in no logical order, making it a good memory test - after seeing it try writing down everything you remember.
A comparison of reviewers who rate it 9 or 10 with those giving only 1 to 4 reveals an interesting dichotomy. Most of the high raters credit most of the input to Bunuel while the unimpressed are more likely to attribute it, or rather blame it, on Dali. The former are probably right as films were a sideline for Dali.
Doubtless some dislike Dali because of his exhibitionism, financial greed, and Nationalist leanings in the Spanish civil war. However some criticism is on shakier ground. On reviewer claims he's a "con artist" and his followers ignorant. Well, Dali detractors should search engine "Dali Still Life 1918", painted when aged only 14, it wouldn't look out of place in a Vermeer exhibition. Or "The Ecumenical Council 1960", an intricate religious work not much to my taste, but how many artists of the last hundred years could have produced a passible copy? Almost certainly not the art establishments great painter Picasso. Dali's great gift to art was his surrealist decade 1929-38, my favourites being The Lugubrious Game, The Birth of Liquid Desires, and Sleep. But then great art, like great films, is to an extent a matter of opinion.
Lust for Life (1956)
Stands The Test Of Time
For my money the best Kirk Douglas films are Ace in The Hole, Paths of Glory, and especially Seven Days in May. I also have much affection for Lust for Life as it was my favourite when barely a teenager in the late1960s, and I still find it enjoyable. One or two reviewers cavil that the Douglas intensity is laid on with a trowel. No matter, the paintings and scenery are really the main attractions.
It's a shame there isn't a biopic of Salvador Dali, whose luxuriant moustache became as much a trademark as Van Gogh's missing ear. Dali's north east corner of Catalonia is also very photogenic, and in view of his financial greed and libidinous nature it could have been called A Life for Lust.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Arthur (1959)
Superb, but too posh for some?
The late fifties/early sixties are a bit before my time so AHP is new to me. I'm watching them in declining order of ratings and have clocked up the hundred most popular episodes. Half a dozen are about a man either killing his wife, plotting to kill her, or is suspected of doing so. HOOKED is very good but some others are humdrum and forgettable.
ARTHUR concerns Arthur's relationship with flighty ex girlfriend Helen (Hazel Court), so can be included in this well explored theme. At the time of writing it languishes a third of the way down the list at 93, far lower than it deserves. It's excellence is mainly due to the superbly misanthropic performance of Laurence Harvey. I wonder if the indifferent ranking is due to prejudice against the rather refined English accents of the three main characters?
One detail didn't quite ring true. Would such a well groomed beauty as Helen be slovenly enough to leave the washing up to the next day? And given her compensating attributes, wouldn't Arthur have found it in his somewhat frigid heart to put up with it? Perhaps not.
The Avengers: Murdersville (1967)
Come On Mrs Peel!
Diana Rigg, in her Emma Peel role, was my earliest adolescent crush. I would cry "come on Mrs Peel" as she fought countless villains, and sigh "beautiful Mrs Peel" in quieter moments. Over fifty years later I still do. The pre and post Peel eras lacked, how can I put it, appeal. I was too young to remember Honor Blackman, and while Linda Thorson was good looking, by then The Avengers had run out of ideas.
Some episodes are clearly tongue in cheek, with outlandish eccentrics and Busby Berkeley style regimented knitting, nannies, and umbrella wielding gentlemen. Murdersville has always been my favourite for several reasons. Except for the last few minutes it is deadly serious, on a British TV showing five years ago the unpleasant scene where Mrs Peel is ducked in the pond was partly cut. Steed is mostly absent, which happily results in Mrs Peel being on screen almost the whole time. A great performance from Colin Blakely as a rough, truculent yokel. The picturesque village setting with a West Country ambience, in fact Aldbury in Hertfordshire. Incidentally, recent photographs show the pond still there, which could come in handy should the locals feel a newcomer doesn't really fit in.
My second favourite is Dead Man's Treasure, a fast paced car race cum treasure hunt. For once Mrs Peel is upstaged, by groovy dolly bird Valerie Van Ost, if you'll excuse the 1960s lingo.
My favourite so far
Other things I've reviewed such as Twilight Zone and Hammer House of Horror I was already familiar with. Only recently did I discover AHP, and with 268 episodes I'll be occupied for quite some time. I'm watching them in rating descending order, which risks boredom with later below par episodes, although my favourites are seldom the most popular.
At the time of writing I've chalked up thirty, and enjoyed this one the most, for two reasons. I'm hopeless as guessing whodunit or anticipating a Hitchcockian twist, but with a financial services background I did twig why the prophet's predictions turned a (ahem) profit. It was clever to cast against type. Lugubrious looking Jack Klugman is good at playing desperate losers so you expect him to be the one suckered into a scam. But it's E G Marshall, usually a hard-headed sobersides, who is taken in.
Also very memorable: HOOKED - man plots to get rid of older wife and marry young girlfriend, with a trademark twist. THE GLASS EYE - aging spinster falls for handsome ventriloquist, maybe a bit slow but a startling denouement. ARTHUR - some way down the ratings but I couldn't delay seeing the lovely Hazel Court playing a flighty foil to a superbly sardonic Laurence Harvey.
That's 30 episodes down, 238 to go, so watch this space...