Films of My Life – The Thirsk Film Festival August 2017

The Thirsk Film Festival ran over the August Bank Holiday weekend (25-28 August) 2017. The theme for the festival was “Yorkshire”, with each movie being either made or set or both, in Yorkshire. In this edition of my “Films of my life” blog, I will review each of the 13 movies scheduled to be shown at the festival.

Friday evening

It_Shouldn't_Happen_to_a_Vet_UK_posterThe festival opened, appropriately enough, with “It Shouldn’t Happen To a Vet” (1976) based on the life and books of local vet, James Herriot. So, what better way to kick off the festival, than with a film set in Thirsk?

I vaguely remember going to see this movie in the spring / summer of 1976 and at the time Herriot was one of the biggest selling authors in the UK (and very popular in the US). I spent a lot of that summer staying with my aunt, uncle and cousins at their caravan near Thirsk. It was a very hot summer (the year of the drought) and as I read some of Heriot’s books and played in the sun, I fell in love with the North Yorkshire countryside he described. It is so different to Tyneside. It was no surprise to me that I eventually settled here

We could only see a digital copy of the VHS source (as the rights-holder has died) because the Ritz is a non-profit organisation. Even though the presentation was not up to 4K standards of 2017, the charm of the movie shone through.

Rating:      Movie (3/5) – Charming. Old fashioned but funny

Yorkshireness (5/5) – Stunning Dales locations and “real” North Yorkshire  farmer characterisation

Saturday

The first full day of the festival kicked off with a childhood favourite of my wife, Gill (and many others) The Railway Children (1970). I remembered it mostly as the one 70s movie where Jenny Agutter keeps her clothes on!

Movie: 4/5 – A children’s classic, but very much a child’s perspective

Yorkshireness: 7/10 – Beautiful West Yorkshire locations and supporting characters

My summer of loveNext was My Summer of Love (2004)

I saw this movie on its release and I remember it well. Emily Blunt is excellent in one of her first movies in this coming-of-age film, but newcomer Helen Cross really stands out, There relationship feel genuine and the Calderdale locations remind me of the 7 years we lived there.

Movie: 4/5 -An affecting coming of age movie

Yorkshireness: 5/10 – Wonderful Yorkshire locations but the characters could come from anywhere.

This was followed by the classic Kes (1969), which was shown in a beautiful, restored presentation.

Movie: 5/5 –  Melancholic story. The school scenes are a vivid reminder of the time

Yorkshireness: 10/10 – Authentic people in a real, but now gone (mining), community.

Next was perennial favourite (recently produced as a stage play) Calendar Girls (2004). . The first half about making the calendar is excellent, but the second half about promoting it in Hollywood may be true but feels like it is there to attract an American audience.

Movie: 3/5 – Funny and moving, especially in the first half

Yorkshireness: 7/10 – Beautiful Skipton locations but we only really see the WI and their husbands

“God’s Own Country” is the perfect companion to “It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet”, covering the same people but in a very different way.

God's_Own_Country_(2017_film)Lastly, there was a première – God’s Own Country (2017) – yet to go on general release. I really enjoyed this moving film about the loneliness of being a Hill farmer. The performances are superb and the locations are both bleak and beautiful, but this film feels incredibly authentic. Definitely a film of the year for me, and one I would like to see again when it goes on general release.”God’s Own Country” is the perfect companion to “It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet”, covering the same people but in a very different way. They bookend the same situations, but the is when’re the similarity ends

Movie: 5/5 – Affecting, realistic depiction of hill farming life in Yorkshire. Great performances.

Yorkshireness: 10/10 – Grim and beautiful, the (North?) Yorkshire locations are superb and the characters are genuine Yorkshire – good and bad attitudes

Sunday

Billy Liar (1963) kicked off the third day of the festival. At the risk of heresy, I think this movie is overrated. Imaginative and funny in parts certainly, but the character arc of Billy is poor, so there is little justification for his actions. Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian shares my disappointment for the same reasons.

Movie: 2/5 – Imaginative but unsatisfying

Yorkshireness: 10/10 – This is a Northern kitchen-sink drama set around Leeds. However, the characters come across as proper Yorkshire

Next we had Brassed Off (1996) another film I haven’t seen in a long time, but one that represents its time and place perfectly – 1990s Yorkshire and the death throes of the mining industry.

Movie: 4/5 – realistic characters, but the anti-Thatcher politics may upset some

Yorkshireness: 10/10 – from the small mindedness to the sense of community, this is another authentic portrayal of a Northern mining town

A Private Function (1984) also captures a sense of time and place – this time it is post-war austerity Yorkshire. The portrayal of class prejudice and social ambition may be of its time (1947), but there are also some genuine people to be found amongst the pigs.

Movie: 4/5 – Very funny in parts, with Liz Smith in a career making role

Yorkshireness: 5/10 – Apart from the accents, I’m sure that this story could have been set anywhere in post-war Britain

Inbred only represents real Yorkshire if the the pub (The Slaughtered Lamb) in “An American Werewolf In London” was an accurate description of Yorkshire folk! It is? Ok…

Inbred-2011-Movie-Poster-version1

Inbred (2011) was certainly something different. Professionally made but on a low budget, it was a funny, gross, gory tale of North Yorkshire folk in the Vale of York. The scenery was beautiful, even if the gore was not. The visual effects were top notch.

Movie: 3/5 – Good if you like body horror. Think “The (Cleveland) Hills Have Eyes” meets Deliverance near Sutton Bank.

Yorkshireness: 1/5 – Inbred only represents real Yorkshire if the the pub (The Slaughtered Lamb) in “An American Werewolf In London” was an accurate description of Yorkshire folk! It is? OK then perhaps 4/5 is a fairer score.

Monday

Monday started with Leon The Pig Farmer (1992), a film I’d not seen before, but had heard great things about.  It may have been acceptable when it was made, but 25 years on it seems to treat the Jewish community in a most stereotypical (almost racist) way. I felt quite uncomfortable.

Movie: 2/5

Yorkshireness: 5/10 – Leon’s “biological” father is played by  Brian Glover, and he has a pig farm in Yorkshire. That’s about it.

2012-10-3WutheringUKDVDCoverThe Full Monty (1997) didn’t happen due to technical problems, but the Festival ended on a real high with Andrea Arnold’s raw take on the Emily Brontë classic, Wuthering Heights (2011) . For me, this is the best adaptation of the story I have seen, capturing the bleak beauty of the Yorkshire Moors (Swaledale standing in for Haworth) but the emotional essence of the tragic love affair shines through.

Movie: 5/5 – Emotionally raw, cinematically bleak

Yorkshireness: 10/10 – Gives a real sense of how difficult life must have been living on the Yorkshire moors at that time.

 

So there you have it, three days of mostly excellent Yorkshire themed movies. The highlights for me were:

  • God’s Own Country
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Kes

A great festival.

 

 

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Films of my life – War Movies

The recent release of the excellent Dunkirk prompted me to think about which war films would I choose for my Top Ten? Would Dunkirk make that list?

It’s interesting, but I usually think of myself as a “sci-fi” movie fan, but actually I’m first and foremost a “movie’ fan. I love sci-fi, but I also enjoy other genres. Reflecting on what films to put in this list, I realised that many of my favourite movies are war films. In fact, I’ve already identified 2 of the movies on this list as my favourite film for the year they came out (The Great Escape (1963) and A Bridge Too Far (1977)). Another was one of my picks from 1979 (Apocalypse Now) and there is even one of my favourite (non Christmas) Christmas Movies (Where Eagles Dare)!

 

So, what else would I choose as my favourite (so not necessarily the best) war movies?

I would have to include Dunkirk on my list as it is not only one of the best movies of 2017, but a superlative example of how to make epic events relatable

Dunkirk

In no particular order, I would have all of the above, plus:

  1. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – I remember Gill and I going to see the re-released “Director’s Cut” at Marble Arch in 1989. This was the first time I got to see this movie on a BIG screen and its the only way to really appreciate it. I did once see it on a National Express Coach, on a 12 inch screen which was located at the front of the coach. I was sat halfway back and I might as well have been listening to a radio play!
  2. Saving Private Ryan (1998) – the combination of brutal battle scenes (D-Day), state of the art sound realisation (That TANK arriving from behind you) and a human story makes this on of Spielberg’s classics
  3. Das Boot(1985) – This excellent movie showed for the first time not only how boring submarine life was, but also a more balanced German perspective. Released in cinemas from an original German TV series (1981), 30 years before HBO.
  4. Platoon (1986) – made a massive impression on me when I first saw it (in Reading with friend and house mate George Marshall ). It still has the power to shock
  5. Black Hawk Down (2001) – conveys the confusion and fear of war like no other movie. I’ve seen this movie so many times, and I still can’t tell who is who
  6. The Deer Hunter (1978) – another movie that shows the price communities pay when their men (and women) go to war. The relationships portrayed have that hallmark authenticity of Michael Cimino and 70s cinema
  7. Zulu (1964) – was in my list of 1964 favourites. The contrast of fighting styles and the sheer scale of the battles, coupled with the heroism on display, mask the uncomfortable colonial past of the British Empire. Actually, both sides come out with some honour
  8. Paths of Glory (1957) – I chose this movie over “Full Metal Jacket”, as I think it is Kubrick’s better war movie. I chose it over “All Quiet on the Western Front” as it is an even more powerful anti-war statement than that classic. An under rated movie
  9. La Grande Illusion (1937) – like “Paths of Glory”, this is a potent anti-war movie, all the more powerful because it was made 2 years before the fall of France and was banned by the Nazi’s
  10.  Dunkirk (2017) – I would have to include Dunkirk on my list as it is not only one of the best movies of 2017, but a superlative example of how to make epic events relatable. I love Director Christopher Nolan’s call back to another famous war film – The Battle of Britain with Michael Caine providing the voice of the unseen Squadron Leader (a role he played in TBoB)

So there you have it, my ten-ish (ok, 14) favourite War Films.

But which of these would you have on your list?

Films of my life – 1979

Films of my life – 1979

The recent release of the latest Alien movie (Alien: Covenant) prompted me to reflect on the year that the series started – 1979. So, here is the latest (increasingly irregular) instalment of my blog reviewing the films that helped to shape and define my life.

By 1979, I was 15, going on 16 (sounds like a line from a song in “The Sound of Music), but had already seen my first “X” certificate (now “18”) movie (“Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978”). As my journey from school (St Cuthbert’s RC Grammar, Benwell) to home (Sunderland Road, Gateshead) involved changing buses in central Newcastle, I regularly (at least once a week) took the opportunity to see a tea time showing of a movie in one of the town cinemas. So, what were my favourite movies of 1979? Here are the top 10 Hollywood movies of the year:

  1. Kramer vs Kramer
  2. Apocalypse Now
  3. Rocky II
  4. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
  5. Alien
  6. 10
  7. The Jerk
  8. Moonraker
  9. The Muppet Movie

Of the above list, I saw 2,4,5,and 8 at the cinema and caught up with the rest in the early 1980s as home video rental arrived.

Apocalypse Now remains one of my favourite movies. Coppola’s version of Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” is a visually stunning depiction of madness in the Vietnam War. Moonraker was the “Bond in space” that was most notable for depicting the Space Shuttle in a movie before the real thing actually launched.

I’ve mentioned previously how my best friend, Dave Webster, was able to get us into the ABC Haymarket ahead of the queues thanks to family friend Sandy. However, Sandy surpassed himself when he got Dave and I into the press screening of Start Trek: The Motion Picture, which took place at 1000 on a school day. I still love the epic nature of that story, even if the rest of the movie does not stand up well.

Other  movies I loved in this year include;

  • The Warriors (bonkers gang warfare movie that has not held up well, but deemed violent at the time)
  • Mad Max (the original is ok and nothing like any other entry in the series)
  • Life of Brian (“He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy” – very controversial satire at the time)
  • Being There ( I saw this on my 16th birthday, one of Peter Sellar’s best roles, and one of his last and scary in the current climate)
  • Quadrophenia (great realisation of mod-era England with a superb Who soundtrack)

Alien

Alien is easily my favourite movie of 1979. It is impossible to underestimate the “anti” Star Wars impact of this film: aimed at adults not children, with grimy, industrial space ships and real blue collar characters speaking real dialogue. In the end it is a “haunted house” film, but Ridley Scott’s movie set the template for space movies for the next 20 years (along side his other classic, Blade Runner). The film made a star of Sigourney Weaver and an iconic image of John Hurt. I know a lot of people rate Aliens as the better movie, but I can’t choose. I just love both of them.

What are your memories and favourite movies of 1979?

 

Films of my life – the best Christmas movies

Films of my life – the best Christmas movies

I’m writing this blog on Boxing day 2016 – at 0448 to be very precise. Over the Christmas holiday, I’ve viewed most of my favourite Christmas movies. This is a traditional event for me, and over the last decade or so a list has evolved of what I consider to be the “best” Christmas movies. Well, they are my favourites anyway. Some are very traditional and focused on Christmas itself; others are included because they have a winter setting. This has allowed me to include a variety of genres, from science fiction / horror and action to family favourites.

Here is my list of essential Christmas movies:

Where Eagle’s Dare (1968) – The quintessential “boys own” WWII movie, with Richard Burton in possibly his last great role (ooh, controvertial). The winter setting, the twisty plot and THAT theme music (Ron Goodwin) make this essential viewing every December.

a-christmas-carolA Christmas Carol (2009) – I love the Charles Dickens classic story so much that it appears twice in my list. This version, the most recent, features state of the art digital animation / motion capture and stars Jim Carrey as Scrooge and ALL 3 Christmas ghosts. It was released in 3D so there is a lot of gratuitous flying and swooping, but I like that it captures the spirit of this most traditional of Christmas tales. The film is directed by one of my favourite artists – Robert Zemeckis, who loves to push the creative and technological envelope. A lot of people don’t like the “uncanny valley” of motion capture / CGI but this film is one that gets away with it by making the whole film animated.

ohmss

courtesy of ImdB

OHMSS (1969) – Not only the “winter” Bond, but in my opinion the best Bond movie. It also has its own Christmas song (“Do you know how Christmas Trees are made?”) and multiple endings. The skiing sequences alone make this one of the most exciting Bond movies, and even if Lazenby doesn’t convince in the acting stakes, his physicality more than compensates.

 

 

 

 

the-thing

The Thing (1982 / 2011) – a bit of a cheat here – two movies for the price of one! The 1982 John Carpenter (another favourite director) remake of the the 1950s original is one of my all time favourite sci-fi/horror movies. OK, so some of the plot doesn’t really hang together, but this claustrophobic remake of Agatha Christie’s “And then there were none” is so tense and atmospheric (and, yes, gory as hell) that I love watching it at least once a year. A special mention for the 2011 reboot / prequel which does a magnificent job of filling in the events before the 1982 movie. The real joy in the second movie is seeing how cleverly the makers have worked back from what is shown in the Carpenter movie – genius!

OHMSS (1969) – Not only the “Winter” Bond, but the best Bond movie. It also has it’s own Christmas Song “Do you know where Christmas Trees are made?”

gremlins

courtesy of Flickr

Gremlins (1984) – This was the top Christmas movie of 1984, and another I went to see with my best man, David Webster. There are so many sight gags in this movie, coupled with a wicked sense of humour (you don’t know whether to laugh or recoil in horror) in scenes such as the blender or Phoebe Cates describing why she hates Christmas. Simply, a classic from a top year for popcorn movies (Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, Star Trek III)

die-hardDie Hard (1988) – This movie re-wrote the action genre. You can also include  Die Hard 2 (1990), as both are the very best action movies set at Christmas. After this, the franchise went in a different direction and it hasn’t been the same since. Bruce Willis was an unlikely acton hero in 1988, having come to public notice playing light comedy in the TV show “Moonlighting”. He subsequently made this his genre and alongside Schwarzenegger and Stallone was one of the biggest action stars of the 80s/90s. Another breakout star from this movie was Alan Rickman, who sadly passed away earlier this year.

 

loveactually

courtesy of Flickr

Love Actually (2003) – I have some real problems with this flawed movie from Richard Curtis; the lack of an overtly gay relationship (it was edited out for time purposes) and the sinister storyline involving Andrew Lincoln (stalking?). That said, the rest of it is genuinely funny and heartwarming and, more importantly, it is the one Christmas movie on this list that the whole family will watch !

miracle-on-34th-street

Miracle of 34th Street (1947) – The 1994 Richard Attenborough remake is ok, but the original in black and white (so my kids refuse to watch it) is brilliant. This movie captures the extremes of christmas – what children believe and want and what the commercial interests push. Heart warming and very clever. The court scenes in particular are memorable as Kris Kringle has to show that Santa is real.

muppet-christmas-carolThe Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) – in spite of Michael Caine’s appalling singing voice, this remains the best adaptation of this story. The songs are catchy and fun, as is the blend of human and muppet characters (all of the favourites from the TV series make an appearance) and the film benefits from Miss Piggy having the least screen time of any of her appearances. Genuinely funny and spine tingling in equal measures and a must see every Christmas Eve.

its-a-wonderful-life

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)  – This is my favourite Christmas movie. I shed a tear every single time that I watch this Frank Capra classic. James Stewart never made a better film, and only a person with a heart of stone could fail to be moved by the uplifting ending. The movie emphasises the small acts of kindness that each of us is capable of, and the huge impact they can have on the people around us. It also reminds us what Christmas is about, and I watch this movie any time I want to feel better and restore my faith in human nature. The essential Christmas movie, and one I always watch before everyone else gets up on Christmas Day.

What are your favourite Christmas movies?

Films of my life – 1977

Films of my life 1977

061132:Odeon cinema Pilgrim Street Newcastle upon Tyne Malcolm Maybury 1995

The Odeon, Pilgrim Street, Newcastle

By 1977, my cinema visiting routine was well established. I was living in Gateshead, but my school was in the west end of Newcastle (St Cuthbert’s Grammar). This meant that I travelled through the centre of Newcastle every evening of the working week, usually via the number 39 bus. At least once a week I would go to see a movie, preferably with a friend, but often on my own.

There was plenty of choice amongst cinemas in Newcastle in 1977. There was the Odeon on Pilgrim Street, which had 3 (later 4) screens, two ABC cinemas (Haymarket and Westgate Road), the Studios 1-4, and the Queen’s Theatre (70mm, curved screen). There were no affordable video players, and video rentals didn’t arrive until the 1980s, so if you wanted to see a movie, you had to go to the cinema, or wait FIVE years to see it on TV!

Star_Wars_Episode_IV-A_New_Hope_Theatrical_Release_PosterProbably because I was 13 for most of  1977, it is one of my favourite movie years. There are several movies from 1977 that are now regarded as classics:

  • Star Wars – just Star Wars, not Episode IV, not “A New Hope”, just Star Wars, which I think Dave Webster and I went to see at the very first showing at Christmas. A school acquaintance (Terry Hawthorn) allowed us to join him and his mum and jump the queue
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind – another favourite, though
    Spielberg has re-edited it several times, and generally not for the better. It was superb in 70mm at the Queen’s.(Update: on checking, this movie was released in 1978 in the UK)
  • The Spy Who Loved Me – one of the better Roger Moore Bond movies
  • Annie Hall – a film I love that I discovered in the 1980s when I was old enough to appreciate it!
  • Saturday Night Fever – I was annoyed that my younger sister, Rose,  got to see this at 12 years old (it was an X / 18) but I had to wait 2 years before I could get in
  • Eraserhead – David Lynch’s oddity, which I eventually saw in my 20s.

My favourite film of 1977 is not regarded as a classic, but it is my favourite war movie (as in one featuring battles, I have others, such as Schindler’s List that are set in the war, but are not war movies). It was one of the top 10 earners of 1977, though.

A Bridge Too Far Original Half-SheetSo why does it have such a special place in my heart? Well, it was one of the last movies that really had an ALL-STAR cast – Connery, Caan, Olivier, Redford, Gould, Hackman, Bogarde, Caine to name but a few. Sean Connery was, and probably still is, my favourite movie star and he is excellent in this film.

Another reason that I have fond memories of this movie were the circumstances of seeing it. Our family holiday that summer was in North Wales, and we spent it with my Uncle David, Aunty Margaret and my 4 year old cousin, Andrew. We saw the movie in Llandudno, in hot, stuffy, packed cinema. The movie is about 3 hours long, and had a interval. Sometime after stuffing our faces on ice-creams at the break, Andrew, decided to bring it back for public viewing. This resulted in Margaret getting a mop and bucket and cleaning it up. It did make the hospital scenes more realistic for the audience, as the cinema stank of bleach for the rest of the showing.

015507:Percy Street Newcastle upon Tyne 1966

ABC Haymarket

The success of Star Wars, Close Encounters and a few minor blockbuster movies reflected the changes going on in movie releases. The success of Jaws in 1975, plus the big hitters of this year set the pattern that we still see today – with studios putting more emphasis on making and marketing blockbusters. This would get even bigger with the introduction of multiplexes, video (then DVD and Blu-Ray) rental and sales starting in the 1980s. Unfortunately, the move to the US model of cinema chains spelled the ned for many older theatres in city centres like Newcastle. Within a decade many of the cinemas mentioned would close. The Odeon was the last to go, eventually closing in 2002.

Films of my life – 1984

“So, what is my favourite movie of 1984?  I’ve chosen possibly the greatest concert movie of all time -Jonathan Demme’s  film of Talking Heads in concert – “Stop Making Sense”.

Welcome to my blog, where I reflect on different years of my life through the films released in that year.

Having previously covered the first 2 years of my life, this post looks at 1984 – one of my favourite “film” years and a significant year in my life, as it was when I first met my wife, Gill.

In researching this year, it was immediately apparent that by the 1980s far more films were in production. That said, 1984 was an especially bumper year and some great movies were released. Here are a few that stand out:

  • Ghostbusters
  • Gremlins
  • Amadeus
  • Dune
  • Splash
  • This is Spinal Tap
  • Purple Rain
  • The Terminator
  • A Passage to India
  • The Killing Fields
  • Karate Kid
  • Romancing the Stone
  • Once Upon a Time in America
  • Beverley Hills Cop
  • Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • Tightrope
  • 1984

GhostbustersPhew! What a list. Many of those fils are favourites of mine; Comedies like Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Spinal Tap and Beverley Hills Cop; Adventure movies such as Temple of Doom and the Indiana Jones-light “Romancing the Stone” and Karate Kid; “Once Upon a Time in America” – Sergio Leone’s last and possible greatest movie, doing for the gangster movie what he did for the Western with “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. The post-Vietnam war movie “The Killing fields” was a very affecting watch.

“Amadeus” has a special mention, as on the evening all of our student house went to see it we discovered a tiny kitten upon our return. We called it “Amadeus” (of course) but that only lasted a few weeks before we re-named him after one of our best friends – “George”. George went on to live with Gill and I, my family and eventually, Gill’s brother , Nigel.

stopmakingsense-1080x675So, what is my favourite movie of 1984?  I’ve chosen possibly the greatest concert movie of all time -Jonathan Demme’s  film of Talking Heads in concert – “Stop Making Sense”.

What I like about this movie is the concert itself is centre stage. The filming is very straight forward, because the amazing set and stage settings carry the film. This is a band at the peak of it’s powers, delivering their greatest hits in an unjust way – no shots of the audience, just the band, their music, David suits and great lighting.

Favourite scene

The concert and movie opens with David Byrne walking out to a empty stage, placing a ghetto blaster on the floor and playing an acoustic version of “Psycho Killer” whilst the stage is set around him.

Check it out

 

 

Films of My Life – 1964

clapperboardThis blog charts my life through the films I love. Each post focuses on one year of my life and I choose my favourite film from that year.

In this post we are looking at 1964 – my first full year of life and probably best remembered for Beatlemania. In fact my mother always said that my first word was “Yeah” after the Beatle hit “She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah)”. The Beatles capped this year of mega popularity with a movie of their own – “A Hard Day’s Night”. It’s a good movie, but not my favourite for that year.

“There were some absolute crackers released in 1964, and I found it hard to choose a favourite”

Again, I have to say that, of course, I was too young to remember seeing any movies in 1964 – my film memories of that year are based on movies I have seen subsequently, some may years after their release.

There were some absolute crackers released in 1964, and I found it hard to choose a favourite. Here are some of the other contenders; all great movies and anyone could have been my movie of the year;

  • Dr Strangelove – Kubrick’s satire on nuclear war, with outstanding performances (3) from Peter Sellers.
  • Fail-Safe – Dr Strangelove without the laughs. Truly terrifying
  • Marnie – Probably Hitchcock’s last great movie
  • Zulu – another bank holiday favourite
  • Mary Poppins – Probably my all time favourite Disney movie, with memorable songs and dodgy accents
  • A Shot In The Dark – more Pink Panther frolics, this time written by the man who would go on to write The Exorcist (William Peter Blatty)
  • A Fistful of Dollars – The first of the Leone “Man With No Name” trilogy

GoldfingerMy favourite movie of 1964 is “Goldfinger”. The third of the Bond series set the template for the next 30 years, until Daniel Craig took the role. Humour, gadgets (the (souped up Aston Martin DB5), great sets (Ken Adam imagining what the inside of Fort Knox might look like), a megalomaniac villain with a bonkers plan  (played by Gert Froebe, but dubbed throughout) and best of all – an outstanding score by John Barry and THAT title song, sung by Shirley Bassey.

I managed to see all of the Bond movies in the cinema. Bond movies didn’t make it onto TV until the late 1970s. Throughout the 1970s, they were often re-released as double headers, sometimes for only 3 or 4 days, which meant that some weeks I could see 4 Bond movies at the Classic cinema in Low Fell, or the Studios in Newcastle!

The first time I saw “Goldfinger”, I persuaded my cousin, Nigel Filby, to take me one Sunday afternoon, when his family were visiting us. The deal was that he kept the money we were given for sweets (which he used to buy fags). I didn’t care, I just wanted to see the movies!

1964_Corgi_Aston_Martin_DB5My other abiding memory of “Goldfinger” was having the Corgi replica of the Aston Martin (I think every young lad, and many lasses, had that car, with its working ejector seat). I had the car for so long before I got to see the movie, I remember that when  I did see it, I was amazed that it was silver -not gold like the toy!

In my opinion Goldfinger is not the best Bond (O.H.M.S.S. and Casino Royale are better) but it is the most famous. Connery was never better and the film was the top grossing movie of 1964. It also led to a plethora of copycat productions, from “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and “Mission: Impossible” on TV to “Our Man Flint” in cinemas

Yes, 1964 was a great year for Britain – it started with Beatlemania and ended with Bondmania.

 

 

Films of my life – 1963

 

“I say attend, actually I didn’t see the movie, as my mother was pregnant with me and she went to see it!”

clapperboardWelcome to my blog! Each week I will be reviewing the movies released in a particular year of my life and identifying my favourite movie from that year.

It makes sense to start this journey with the year of my birth. My first cinema experience, and one that may explain my love of movies, was “attending” a showing of the Bond movie “From Russia With Love”. I say attend, actually I didn’t see the movie, as my mother was pregnant with me and she went to see it!

“From Russia With Love” is a favourite movie and one of the best Bond’s, but it is not my film of the year. Other contenders (obviously all seen later in life) include the following classics;

  • The Birds (Hitchcock classic)
  • Jason & the Argonauts (Iconic sword & sandals from Ray Harryhausen )
  • Its A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (the very definition of madcap)
  • The Pink Panther (introducing Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau)
  • 81/2 (Fellini classic that I only saw for the first time in 2015)
  • Disney’s The Incredible Journey (household pets are lost and trying to get back home)
  • The Nutty Professor (as a child, I thought it was funny)
  • Move Over Darling (Doris Day and Rock Hudson (!) in a romantic comedy which is far funnier than I thought as a child)

Great EscapeNo,  my choice for 1963 is “The Great Escape”, a perennial bank holiday movie from my youth with a great true(ish) story, superb cast (Steve McQueen – “Cooler King”; Dicky Attenborough, James Garner, Donald Pleasence to name but a few) and one of the most familiar and iconic themes. I actually played the theme (badly) as part of my brief flirtation with the clarinet, playing in the St Cuthbert’s Grammar School Band in 1975-76.

I actually played the theme (badly) as part of my brief flirtation with the clarinet,

Why did I choose this movie over the others I mentioned? It is probably one of the best war movies and I was born at the tale end of the post-war baby boomer era (apparently it ended in 1964). As such,  we  grew up nourished on stories from the second world war, both those told by our families (Uncle Billy worked as a translator, possibly for British Intelligence during the war) and in the plethora of movies on the TV. Remember, this was in the era before video or DVD, when movies could only be seen by live transmission – at the cinema or on TV. So, I grew up on the heroism of WWII, playing “Japs and English” (I know, not PC).

Directed by John Sturges, The Great Escape is similar in tone and style to his previous movie “The Magnificent Seven”. It also includes 3 stars from that movie; McQueen, Charles Bronson and James Coburn. The contrast between the stiff upper lip and formality of the Brits and the more laid-back approach of the Yanks (James Garner as Hendley “The Scrounger” is particularly good fun).

Although it is remembered as light hearted, the ending of the film is bitter-sweet, as not everyone gets out. That said, the various storylines are beautifully played.

All in all, the perfect movie for a wet bank holiday.

Best Scene

Steve McQueen on a motorbike! Apparently it was not based on a real event, but was added in at the actor’s request!

What do you think of “The Great Escape”?