How can the charge be robbing a bank? We haven't robbed it yet!

 

50
Paths of Glory
Creamguide (films) has never been a Kubrick fan, it is fair to say. Quite what all the fuss is about is rather beyond us. Does this make us artistic troglodytes? Probably, but there’s only so much allegory and symbolism we can take between monkeys eating their dinner and Nicole Kidman counting the cracks in the ceiling. Exceptions are Lolita because, because of Peter Sellers, The Shining, because of Scatman Crothers and Philip Stone and this masterful piece starring Kirk ‘snails’ Douglas. Of course, there’s always Spartacus as well, but by now we know that was pretty much Douglas’ show anyhow. This black and white number concerns Douglas and his attempts to come to grips with the slaughter of the trenches of the Great War, it’s sadistic commanders and their cruel actions not as an American but as a Frenchman. Atmospheric, bleak, stark, appalling and many other adjectives too numerous to mention make it a very great film, from a very great star and, okay, quite a good director.
49
Night of the Demon
Directed by Jacques Tourneur with input from Ken 'too many monitors' Adam, this might have a none-too-great lead in Dana 'confirmed alcoholic' Andrews but it's still one of the best of those atmospheric black and white supernatural thrillers of the fifties. As we say, the top of the bill might not be anything special but there's plenty of help from the likes of Maurice 'four legs good' Denham, and Brian 'Wyatt's Watchdogs' Wilde. We had been hoping for The Devil Rides Out, to be honest, but this more than makes up for that.
48
Went The Day Well?
A fantastic (ie well written, brilliantly made, and surprisingly level-headed) piece of wartime propaganda (which we always thought was courtesy The Archers, but it's actually an Alberto 'Dead of Night' Cavalcanti by way of Graeme Greene) with undercover Nazis invading the quiet village of Bramley End, and the locals (including, among many others, Thora Hird, Patricia Hayes and Arnold Ridley) slowly wising up and fighting back. Far more objective and vicious than you'd expect, and so far better than it has any right to be. And any film that starts with one of the characters doing an introductory monologue to camera is always going to be top rate.
47
The League of Gentlemen
It is almost forgotten now what a massive star Jack Hawkins was. Perhaps the only British film star worthy of the term who didn’t seem to decamp wholesale to Hollywood to confirm his status, as the likes of David Niven and that Micklewhite character did. So it’s always worth recalling just how good he was and we can’t do much better than point in the direction of this superlative British film directed by Basil Dearden and from the stable of J Arthur Rank. Some think it should have a lighter ending, but then some think that if their grannies had wheels they’d be handcarts. Leaving deranged wishful thinkers behind the end as it is suits Hawkins perfectly; brave, desperate, tragic, bold. Hawkins turns up in Theatre of Blood (see below) but only for no more than a cameo and clearly very ill. Think of him like this.
46
The Omen
So, what’s the scariest thing about this legendary horror? David ‘That is all!’ Warner having his head sliced off? The young nanny hanging herself? The night attack by Billie Whitelaw? Patrick ‘children’s programme Doctor Who?’ Troughton’s death? Patrick Troughton? It’s all a matter of personal taste of course, but the very fact that there are so many stark images, which continue to linger in the popular conscious, to choose from is a testament to how great this top flight bobbins really is. As is usually the case with these things, it’s the mingling of the supernatural with the everyday that creates the pervading sense of creepiness and everyone plays along exceptionally well, from Gregory Peck and Lee Remick to Leo McKern. We suppose it must always have been on the cards that a series would spring from this and that they would get progressively worse. Damien: Omen II wasn’t bad but by Omen III: The Final Conflict the franchise was showing signs of fatigue as it both ran out of ideas and decent character actors (the most useful having been dispatched in the first two). We shan’t go into the fourth one as the idiots who perpetrated that atrocity deserve to be done over by those spooky knives. These can’t dim the one great original though, which continues to last superbly well. On a final note, we would just like to comment that at the end of Omen III when Sam Neil, having been stabbed, says, “Nazarene, you have won nothing,” we think you’ll find that it’s game, set and match to the man in the dressing gown. We suppose sour grapes must be an inevitable part of the character of the antichrist.
45
The Sting
One of those films beloved of everybody's Dad but a genuine classic which just drips class. The Redford/Newman partnership comes up trumps again and the supporting cast is second to none in Hollywood terms with Eileen Brennan, Ray Walston and the man so good he even brought class to Rollerboys, Charles Durning. But one thing we still need to know about Robert Shaw's baddie character: Doyle Lonnegan, Lonnie Donnegan – there must be a connection, but what is it?
44
Time Bandits
This is how children's fantasy should be - genuinely fantastic, avoiding (or, where possible, upturning) all the sword and sorcery cliches, and with a black, mean streak running through it, as kids themselves have. All second nature to one T Gilliam, of course, and the brilliance with which he pulls off the many spectacles herein is offset by a refreshing lack of "and do you know what, children?" sentimentality. If JK Rowling is the well-meaning but rather patronising relative who produces sixpences from behind your ear with monotonous predictability, El Tel is the "odd" uncle who nicks your Curly Wurly and scares you half to death with tales of the Toilet Monster. Social services be damned, we know who we prefer.
43
The Hill
Not many films can make the viewer seethe with fury at injustice as much as this one can. The great Harry Andrews is a right bastard in charge of a WWII military prison in Africa whose prisoners include Seen 'Sean Connery' Canary and Roy 'Juggernaut' Kinnear and whose principal punishment is running up and down the titular hill in full kit in the sweltering heat. Andrews' sergeant disgusts his fellow guard portrayed by one of the unsung greats of film acting, the late Ian Bannen. After the death and debilitation of prisoners Bannen tries to have something done but only the ineffectual camp doctor, Michael Redgrave, has a go but fails. It's pretty gritty and there aren't many laughs involved but, hey, that's life.
42
Quatermass and the Pit
It may be frowned upon by devotees of the original, brilliantly claustrophobic ten-bob BBC productions of Nigel Kneale's phone book-monickered prof, but we rate this Hammerisation of arguably the strongest entry in the Quates canon. Let out of the murky black and white domain into pin-sharp Technicolour, the design department does (for the most part) sterling work in creating the tube station excavations and decaying Martian beetles, and if anything the story's cracking pace is lifted by compressing it into ninety minutes. Maybe the ending overreaches itself, but in the many set pieces - the first "disturbances" on site, Quates' battles with the dismissive army, the churchyard haunting - it's textbook old school creepy sci-fi.
41
Oh, Mr. Porter!
One of Gainsborough's best – and that is saying something indeed – this is really a reworking of Arnold 'Godfrey' Ridley's The Ghost Train, but importantly with Will Hay and not Arthur Askey, a substitution we're well in favour of. Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt are in tow of course lending their own particular light to shine off of the great comedian-astronomer who remains the star of the piece in any case. Not particularly long it manages however to pack every minute with laughs and surprises that bear up to constant repeat viewing. When you hear about the latest comedy sensation concocted by the newest groundbreaking team of wunderkind and what amazing work they are doing, look back on the likes of this and realise that it was all done nearly seventy years before and with greater panache and style than anyone in recent times has ever mustered.

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