It’s my birthday today, the 8th of January. Every year, on this day, I post a review of a film that features someone born on January 8. This year, it’s William Hartnell. Born on January 8, 1908 in London, Hartnell was best-known, in the early decades of his career, for his role as Sergeant Grimshaw from the popular Carry On films. In 1963, however, came a breakthrough that was to immortalize Hartnell on screen: he became the first Doctor Who.
In 1948, however, Hartnell acted in this somewhat unusual film about a fugitive, the girl who helps him, and the police inspector who’s on his trail. Hartnell was not the protagonist; that role went to Rex Harrison—but Hartnell put in a nuanced and restrained performance as a cop who’s not infallible, not hard-bitten and cynical, not incompetent or corrupt. A human being, and a cop.
My mother grew up in a family ruled by the iron hand of her grandfather, a strict disciplinarian who thought dining out, nightlife, and cinema were a waste of time. Not to mention immoral. As a result, while he was alive, about the only films the family went to watch were The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, and Kismet.
Mummy once told me that the first film she happened to watch after the old gentleman (and his controlling ways) had passed on was The Innocents. And that she liked it. When I discovered that it starred Deborah Kerr—a favourite of mine—I was curious. I watched this film shortly after I began blogging, but decided I’d postpone a review (and a rewatch) for after I’d read the story on which this film was based: Henry James’s famous The Turn of the Screw.
What is a country to do if its economy suddenly takes a nosedive? What if the country’s sole source of income is a product that’s suddenly no more in demand? Are economic reforms in order? Or a smart political move?
No; I’m not talking a 1950s tale of courage and enterprise in the face of economic disaster (not in the way one would’ve expected, at any rate). Not when you know that the star of this film—in a triple role, too, one of which is a woman—is the inimitable Peter Sellers. And not when you know that it revolves around a fictitious country, supposedly the smallest in the world, which decides that what its economy needs for a turnaround is to declare war on the United States of America.
People who’ve been frequenting this blog for the past couple of years probably know by now that there’s one annual tradition I follow on Dusted Off: every year, on my birthday—which is today, January 8—I post a review of a film featuring someone born on the same date as me. I’ve reviewed films featuring well-known stars born on January 8: Nanda, Elvis Presley, Fearless Nadia—and some lesser-known but also good ones, like José Ferrer and Kerwin Matthews.
This year, I’m wishing a happy birthday to Ron Moody (born January 8, 1924), the British actor whose first film appearance was back in 1958, and who’s acted all the way up to (according to IMDB) 2010. To celebrate Mr Moody’s 90th birthday, I’ll be reviewing the film that won him a Golden Globe, as well as an Oscar nomination—Oliver!, the musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, aka The Parish Boy’s Progress.
As a young teenager, I went through a phase when I watched a lot of war movies. And when I say ‘a lot’, I mean a lot: everything from Operation Daybreak and Operation Crossbow to The Guns of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare, Escape to Victory, Von Ryan’s Express—and this one. I remember The Night of the Generals as being an offbeat war film, because it didn’t have the drama and high adventure of most of the other war films I saw during that period. Instead, it was an unusual film, in that it was shown from the point of view of the Germans—and it combined suspense with war.
Over the years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve posted tributes to dozens of personalities: directors, actors and actresses, singers, music directors, lyricists, even a writer. This time, therefore, I’m being a little different: I’m posting a tribute to a fictitious character. Ian Fleming’s suave spy, James Bond. Because today is Global James Bond Day, in celebration of fifty years of James Bond, onscreen—because Mr Bond first appeared in Dr No, released in 1962.
Twenty-four Bond films have been made. Bond has been portrayed by seven actors. But this one, starring Sean Connery as the first 007, seemed the appropriate Bond film to watch and review for this occasion.
Yes, Charles Dickens was born exactly 200 years ago today – on February 7, 1812, in Portsea. In his lifetime, he wrote a number of short stories and non-fictional works, besides about a dozen major novels. He was recognised as one of Britain’s greatest writers within his lifetime – and cinema took to his stories like a duck to water. Have a look at his filmography, and you’ll see what I mean. Dozens of adaptations, feature films, short films and TV series, have been made of Dickens’s work.
So, as a tribute to Charles Dickens, here’s one of them: a story of love and hate set against the backdrop of the French Revolution. A Tale of Two Cities.
While I was writing the review of Ek Saal last week, I was reminded of this film. And that for what might seem an obscure reason to some: I S Johar was the man who suggested the story idea for Ek Saal, and he – now as actor, not writer – plays one of the important characters in this superb adventure film.
Despite everything more fashionable cinema viewers may say, I love The Sound of Music. I love the songs, I love the mushy romance, I love the children. I love Julie Andrews. I love Christopher Plummer.
Which is why it’s always bothered me that Christopher Plummer used to refer to the film as The Sound of Mucus. Why, I wondered.
Well, this might just furnish some sort of answer to that question. Plummer stars in Triple Cross as a war-era safe breaker who offers his services to the Nazis as a spy in Britain. It’s not a frightfully demanding role, but it offers a glimpse of what Plummer was capable of. And I can understand why he might have thought of his role as Georg von Trapp as a little too much of a cakewalk.
When I was about 13, an older cousin taught me how to play Battleships. For someone whose favourite genre of film was war, this was a high point in one’s existence. I spent the next few years teaching the game to anybody I could collar (usually my sister) and delighting in doing exciting things like guessing where my opponent’s submarines, battleships, cruisers, destroyers and aircraft carriers were positioned, then firing salvo after judicious salvo and rejoicing when I’d sunk ‘em all.
I don’t play Battleships any more, but I was reminded of the game when I saw this excellent World War II film, based on the real-life story of the famous German battleship, the Bismarck.