Friday, July 13, 2007

Does Everybody Need a Happy Ending?

One thing I miss most on television, apart from a sustained output of decent UK drama, is the loosely themed film seasons that BBC2 used to screen. Growing up there would be seasons that introduced me to the old science fiction movies like Them, This Island Earth, Invaders From Mars and Forbidden Planet, or the series of Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.

Later on, around the time I was just about done with The Esteemed School of Art, came Moviedrome on Sunday evenings. With each film introduced by film director Alex Cox, the annual series offered up a typically eclectic selection of “cult” movies like John Milius’ Big Wednesday, Bill Wilder’s marvellously acidic Ace in the Hole, Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia and both the 1946 adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers, directed by Robert Siodmak, and Don Siegel’s 1964 version starring Lee Marvin.

The late 1980s also saw The Film Club on Saturday, which introduced me to a good selection of Preston Sturges films like Sullivan’s Travels, The Lady Eve and The Palm Beach Story.

Then there were more genre specific film seasons. Here my memory gets a little hazy over the season umbrella titles, but some concentrated on the marvellous offbeat cop/LA Noir films from the late 1960s and early 70s. Which meant the likes of The Parallax View, Peckinpah’s The Killer Elite, Freebie and the Bean, the marvellous Hickey & Boggs and The Conversation.

It may already be apparent that I’m not exactly a happy ending kind of guy. A miserable old bastard at times, certainly, but not really a pessimist, unless it can be defined as an optimist with experience. It’s not that I don’t really care for the neat and tidy resolutions that leave people walking off into the sunsets. I just figure that to get where you want to be a price has to be exacted.

These films undoubtedly featured dissolute and disillusioned, down-at-heel characters who usually have little grasp of the wider implications of the events happening around them. None more so than Gene Hackman’s Harry Moseby in Arthur Penn’s Night Moves who literally finds himself lost at sea.

Pessimistic and occasionally nihilistic, they undoubtedly reflected the unease and disenchantment of the times they were made in. Which makes them perfect material to watch again today.

Film seasons like this aren’t around anymore. Film Four shuffles a few films together, but they never seem to be more than ten or fifteen years old. Almost all these great, off-beat films haven’t been seen since the first time I saw them and hardly any are available on DVD.

At least the BBC are going some way to rectify the situation. A month or so ago Freebie and The Bean appeared in the schedules. Tomorrow night there’s a welcome repeat showing of Michael Ritchie’s Prime Cut.

Here we have Lee Marvin as a Chicago mob enforcer pressured into collecting a debt from Gene Hackman’s depraved Mary Ann, a dope dealer and slave trader who works out of a meat-packing factory and sent the first man who came looking for the money back to Chicago as a string of sausages.

Of course the film is being shown at one o’clock in the morning, directly opposite John Huston’s Wise Blood on BBC2, but at least it’s getting a showing. Wouldn't it be better if the channels made a concerted attempt to show all these near-forgotten movies that aren't easily accessible on DVD?


At 8:36 pm, Blogger English Dave said...

I miss those too. Is it TCM or Flm Four about to do a series on Great Adaptations.

I lost interest when Gone With The Wind and the non Disney Treasure Island were trailed.

At 9:33 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

TCM have the not so great Great Adaptations series. It's a pretty piss-poor list of films that seem to have been on again and again.

But yeah, it's like a whole selection of really interesting films have just disappeared. One I forgot to mention was The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

I know it sounds pretty goulish, but if an actor or director died there always used to be a decent selection of their films, either over Christmas if not before. Now we get films that can be picked in the HMV sale.

At 10:14 pm, Blogger English Dave said...

I don't think it's any coincidence they are in the sale. Take a look in Blockbusters sales and then peruse the sky classics channel.

Great movies have to be pushed. I see no one pushing them. No one I trust that is.

Film 2007 is too populist, I can't get on board with a comic book geek who hates Kevin Smith. Newsnight review can be too eletist for couples deciding if they want to spend their 20 quid on a night at the movies.

At 10:43 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

I really would like to know what Wossie has against Kevin Smith.

Wossie's taste in film is shit. Then again, listen to his wadio show or watch the hour on TV set aside for him to virtually sexually harass guests and you realise that his taste in music is in the toilet as well.


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