With Ivor Novello, of course. We always like it when the Ivor Novello award for best song goes to something by Girls Aloud or similar, and pundits say “If Ivor was alive today he’d [insert slightly desperate 'amusing' variation on 'turn in his grave']” when as a composer he was largely cobblers, filling the West End with never-to-be-revived revues and whimsical musicals mainly set in some corny cod-medieval fairyland, filled with forgettable songs with titles like Mother, Teach Me How to Live, Bravo Bristol and Goblin Golliwog Trees, and therefore Girls Aloud are exactly the right people to win an award in his name. As a whey-faced, girly-mouthed, rake-thin star of the silent screen, however, he was second to none, and this bit of early Hitchery-cockery is well worth a watch, even if you (like us) don’t normally relish the idea of watching a silent melodrama, as it’s dead atmospheric and that. If nothing else, it’s fun guessing which expressions of female terror were achieved by Hitch waving his willy about on set.
Annual outing for the much-loved prog sci-fi panto. Michael York and Jenny Agutter escape from queasily rendered Radio 1-style age fascist society and shamble arbitrarily from set piece to set piece, ranging from the bizarre (a barrel-scraping deep freeze robot guardian) to the slightly annoying (the bathetic ‘Peter Ustinov’s mad cat recluse bloke’ ending). Of course, it’s a moral tale wrapped in an ethical conundrum – would you rather dress up in a Day-Glo Batman cape and spin around in mid-air until you explode, or have to sit about in some wilderness listening to an avuncular old fruit quote TS Eliot at you forever? The bleakest vision of the future ever committed to celluloid.
TV CREAM SAYS: MASSIVE FUSS MADE OF THE FILM'S DOBLY STEREO SOUND. SEEMED AS FUZZY AS EVER IN OUR LOCAL FLEAPIT
Perhaps Orson Welles isn’t a character who was ever firmly on the rails in the first place, but this peripatetic metropolitan sketch show is an oddball late-period project that stands apart even from all his other oddball late-period projects. Welles hooked up with the nascent Goodies to make a rag-bag of sketches called Orson’s Bag, which was then re-hashed a couple of years later as London – but was still never properly finished. The most famous section involves Tim Brooke-Taylor as a bowler-hatted reporter in perpetual search of Carnaby Street, bumping into assorted Welles characters – flower seller, Norman Evans-style old crone, Jimmy Edwards-esque bobby, slightly dodgy Chinese strip club proprietor, even a Morris dancer – in a fantastic Dick Emery-style tour de force. He even performs Bill Oddie’s One Man Band song. Other bits and pieces are more fragmentary – a beautifully shot scene in a cobwebbed gentleman’s club, with Welles as all four crusty members, has no soundtrack. Even in slivers, it knocks his Don Quixote project into a cocked hat.
TV CREAM SAYS: A-ONE, A-MAN, A-BAND IS COMIN'...
People who think “Lockstock” is a good gangster film? We shit ‘em. Bob Hoskins’ demented turn in, er, “Longgood” is the cornerstone of this proper bloody IRA/mafia caper. Also starring, in descending order of achievement Helen Mirren, Karl “you shouldn’t be scrubbing at your age, auntie!” Howman, Gillian ‘On Safari’ Taylforth, Paul ‘The Brothers MacGregor’ Barber, Brian Hayes, Dexter ‘Gamesmaster’ Fletcher, Brian ‘the barman in Up The Elephant and Round the Castle’ Hall, and Pierce Brosnan. Apparently, there were plans to make a sequel to this, if you can believe that. Producers approached the Blessed John Mackenzie and put the proposal of a follow-up to him. Now, if you’ve seen the film (if not, why not?) you will know that in the final scene Harold Shand – that’s ‘Oskins – is being driven away by Pierce Brosnan and another psycho to be shot. Mackenzie pointed this out to aforementioned producers commenting that Shand is dead. But no, said ingenious film types; the car crashes round the corner and Shand gets away. He isn’t dead at all! Well, said Mackenzie, he’s dead in my fucking head! And that, ladies and gentleman, is one of the very numerous reasons that we like John Mackenzie an awful lot.
TV CREAM SAYS: DISOWNED BY GEORGE 'HANDMADE' HARRISON, THE OAF
And to accompany it, here’s The Longest Film. Lots of star turns here but we can’t help feeling that it’s all a little pointless. By the time all the characters are introduced you settle down to watch them do something and then…that’s it. Finito. Robert Mitchum is the best on show here and there are some genuinely disturbing parts regarding the landing themselves, particularly as the landing craft drop their doors and the bullets fly in, that don’t need Private Ryan splatter-tactics to get their point across.
TV CREAM SAYS: RECORD IT, THEN TAPE CEEFAX OVER IT BY MISTAKE. IT'S TRADITION IN OUR HOUSE!
“If Looks Could Kill!” “A confused and ineffective modification of a theme handled in The Stepford Wives, done with neither flair nor imagination” it says here. We quite like it though. Albert Finney and James Coburn star in a tale of models having had plastic surgery then turning up dead all over the place. Nasty corporate shenanigans and a character called ‘Moustache Man’ make it worth a ‘looker’ (do you see?), always putting it on in the middle of the night doesn’t.
TV CREAM SAYS: NUTZOID PLOT IDEAS! CRICHTON HE TAKES THEM AND HE COVERS THEM IN BULLSHIT
This is the Hollywood number of the epic Borders tale, which is a shame because if it had been the telly one which starred Clive Owen and went out on New Year’s Day 1991 then you could have strained your eyes trying to spot one of the Creamguide (films) team’s sister who played a dirty scabby child in that…without make-up! No, but seriously, this an enjoyable enough time passer with Richard ‘Ian Symes’ Greene as hero John Ridd and Barbara ‘Della – not Stella – Street’ Hale as yer actual Lorna Doone.
TV CREAM SAYS: SHIRTLESS MALE BONDAGE!
We bet you thought this was brilliant when it was first out. It hasn’t really worn that well, though, as we discovered when we found it on video a while ago. Frankly, there is nothing even vaguely threatening about Kiefer Sutherland even with comedy teeth and it’s difficult to maintain a mood of terror and fear amid constant shouts from viewing companions of ‘That’s him from Bill and Ted!’ and ‘Is Corey Feldman actually related to Marty Feldman, then?’ Also the female interest is called Star, for heaven’s sake, and her little vampire brother really should have been topped early on, if only for wearing a Sergeant Pepper jacket. Still, Edward ‘Overboard’ Hermann is quite scary at the end and Barnard ‘Tron’ Hughes is the scariest, and he’s not even a vampire.
TV CREAM SAYS: THE BREAKFAST CLUB PLUS FANGS
The cheap and cheerful George Hamilton vampire spoof, exactly midway between Young Frankenstein and Leslie Nielsen: Typecast and Lumping It in laughability terms, we reckon – no bad thing. And it features Dick “That’s my little Joe!” Shawn, who it seems almost nobody in the world can stand but we can’t get enough of. Although everyone says you had to see his live act (he died of a heart attack on stage almost three years to the day after Tommy Cooper, and as with Thommo they took a while to twig) he was still the best thing in iffy stuff like Water, Moon Zero Two-alike cold war moonbase farce Way Way Out (even though Jerry Lewis is the star) or shrill advertising industry satire (is there any other kind?) Beer, playing a Phil Donahue-style capering chat show host. Actually, now we’ve looked it up, that last also starred Rip Torn and Kenneth “You vill please be unconscious!” Mars.
TV CREAM SAYS: NO WONDER WE USED TO HAVE NIGHTMARES
Dracula spoof with George Hamilton as the caped nibbler relocated to ’70s New York, chasing after Susan ‘Kate and Allie’ Saint James and chased after by Dick ‘LSD’ Shawn. Now, one of the reasons we like this so much is that when we first had a video recorder (a bloody great Ferguson number, top loading – natch – and with a counter on the front that flipped round and round like the scores on Give Us A Clue) we used to go to a video shop that was miles from our house because it was almost the only one there was. One wall was VHS, one was Beta and a carousel in the middle had those Video 2000 things. Anyway, you couldn’t really get new films and, apart from The Smurfs and the Magic Flute and a bizarre Manga effort called Spaceship Yamato, this is the only film we ever remember getting from there.
TV CREAM SAYS: YOU NEARLY STEPPED ON MY DINNER!
War reporter William Holden shacks up with Jennifer ‘Barratts of Wimpole Street’ Jones in Hong Kong, to much of-its-time interracial hoo-hah. As well as the title tune providing hours of punning fun for I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue regulars, this was, bizarrely, rehashed as a long-running soap opera set in San Francisco. Waste not want not, as US TV executives say…
TV CREAM SAYS: WE SHALL NOW HAVE TEA AND SPEAK OF ABSURDITIES
More Doris Day, more Broadway biopicage, as she takes the lead role for the story of singer and “taxi dancer” (no, us neither) Ruth Etting, with James ‘for the record, I actually said “that dirty, double crossin’ rat,” you silly impressionists!’ Cagney as the seedy gangster who propelled her to stardom.
TV CREAM SAYS: I'M NOT DOING THE TIME STEP SOUTH OF THE RIVER AT THIS TIME OF NIGHT
Elvis’ second movie – surprisingly good, it has to be said – is basically an embellished account of the King’s own rise to the top to that date, complete with hard-nosed ruthless manager, obviously supposed to be Col. Parker. Since it features a cracking performance of Teddy Bear – always one of our favourites – how could it go wrong? Actually, our favourite Elvis film-related story concerns the aforementioned Col. Parker who was approached by the studio as they wanted Elvis to make Love Me Tender, his first film. Parker asked for a price. $20, 000 they said. “Great,” says Parker, “that’s just the figure I had in mind. Now, what are you going to pay Elvis?”
TV CREAM SAYS: MADE PRIMARILY TO 'FILL IN' WHILE ELV WAS IN THE ARMY. WHAT WAS CLAMBAKE'S EXCUSE?
We prefer Henry Morgan’s pre-colonel portrayal of General MacArthur in M*A*S*H to be honest, since he plays him as a complete loon – which he undoubtedly was – but as long as we’re here…Pretty standard stuff as far as this sort of thing goes, focusing much on the General’s time running Japan and stuffed with the kind of American actor you only get to see in this kind of film, like Dan O’Herlihy and Ward Costello.
TV CREAM SAYS: BIOPIC PURGATORY ALLEVIATED BY GLIMPSE OF DR ALBRECHT OFF OF ARTEMIS 81
Our regular chance to have a pop at Bryan Forbes always casting Nanette Newman in his films, here as a folk singer in an adaptation of a weird “fanciful comedy” French stage play, wherein out-of-it aristo Katharine Hepburn defends historic Paris from a bunch of oil prospectors. Yul ‘King’ Brynner, Richard ‘Kildare’ Chamberlain, Edith ‘gorn orf terribly’ Evans and Donald ‘perfectly’ Pleasence act oddly.
TV CREAM SAYS: HE NEVER MADE A FILM OF YES YES NANETTE, SADLY
A GREAT big, sprawling, ill-disciplined countercultural satire adapted by Terry Southern and Joe McGrath from Southern’s own novel, this is possibly the prime exponent of that genre’s disjointed vignette approach to storytelling. The high concept is got over in the opening minutes – cynical millionaire Guy Grand (Peter Sellers) and his young cohort (Ringo Starr) set out to mock various areas of society by using Grand’s vast wealth to bribe individuals into willfully belittling their own roles in life. And that’s it. Thus the film wavers between sketches on this slender theme which deliver (an on-train board meeting with Dennis Price, the amputation of the nose from a priceless painting as a mortified John Cleese looks on) and those that don‘t (the phrase ‘Laurence Harvey strips while reciting Hamlet’ is about as entertaining as the sketch it describes). By the time Yul Brynner and Christopher Lee are wheeled on for arbitrary cameos aboard a luxury liner that symbolises Britain (somehow) the air of self-importance is stifling. Nearly all the big, sprawling countercultural satires of the ’60s (see also Candy, How I Won the War, If…) punched above their weight to some degree, but The Magic Christian‘s episodic pomp, coupled with the predictability of its disparate scenes and its tendency to coast along on a wave of borrowed countercultural trappings, make it an easy film to watch, but a hard film to like.
TV CREAM SAYS: ALSO: HURRAH FOR BADFINGER!
‘Coming Of Age’ dramas about young men seeking their identity in the dying days of the sexual revolution were pretty much ten a penny (or, if you will, ‘dime’) during the late sixties, especially if they were in turn based on a ‘Best-Selling Novel’. This one, though, was a bit different, and for the right reasons (which, of course, are the wrong reasons as far as MGM would have been concerned, but that’s by the by). A frighteningly young Don Johnson stars as Stanley Sweetheart, a film student who is frustrated by the prudishness of his female classmates and unwanted attention from that ever so slightly dodgy standby of sixties American cinema, the Respectable Older Male Whose Clean Lifestyle Harbours Clandestine ‘Gay’ Ambitions, until he stumbles across free love courtesy of a dowdy blonde flatmate, and throws himself into a life of full-throttle partying, drug-taking, ‘chick’-having and, erm, beard-growing, ending the film happily installed in a menage a trois with two Trade Descriptions Act-defying ‘lesbians’. Never did “there is no moral, it’s just a bunch of stuff that happened” seem like a more apt summation. And what’s the soundtrack to all of his far-out experiences? Only unhinged easy listening standard-in-waiting Sweet Gingerbread Man, that’s what. They really, really don’t make them like this any more.
TV CREAM SAYS: AND IF THAT WASN'T ENOUGH, HIS NEXT FILM WAS MORE OR LESS THE SAME, ONLY IN THE WILD WEST
Look out chaps, it’s one of those portmanteau comedy jobbies – commissioned by a studio executive wanting something vague featuring “lots of comedians and saucy girls”, a rag-bag of loosely-connected sketches from disparate writers, with the lack of plot papered over with one of those all-star casts that always signal turkeydom, and directed by… Graham ‘the second banana’s second banana’ Stark? Yes, and it’s a good’un, too.
Not all the seven segments come up trumps. Two that never provoke more than gentle grins are Gluttony and Envy, respectively featuring Leslie Phillips as a compulsive eater and Harry Secombe as a property hunting pools winner (just how many films featured Secombe as a pools winner, exactly? He seemed to be claiming once a year in the flicks). The final Wrath segment, with Arthur ‘Whack-O!’ Howard and Ronald Fraser being annoyed by Stephen Lewis’s park keeper, is not too bad, but it’s just more Blakey shtick on the big screen, and if we want that we’ll watch Holiday on the Buses, ta.
The rest, though, are rather good. Standouts include lusty batchelor Harry H Corbett using all means necessary to get a date, only to be cruelly humiliated via the medium of the payphone; chauffeur Bruce Forsyth searching London’s sewers for his avaricious boss’ mislaid 50p piece, attracting a line of penny-chasing followers along the way including Bernard Bresslaw, Roy Hudd and Joan Sims; and Spike Milligan’s demented silent film homage to Sloth (“I’d like to save you but I can’t let go of my walnuts!”) with Ronnie Barker, Marty Feldman, Madeline Smith and Melvyn Hayes variously not being arsed in black and white.
The best segment of all, ironically enough for a sketch show on film, comes straight off the telly, as Galton and Simpson rework a forgotten Comedy Playhouse entry to illustrate Pride, with Ian Carmichael’s regal Bentley and Alfie Bass’ clapped out Morris meeting halfway down a narrow country lane and each resolutely refusing to back up for the other. When the AA and RAC turn up (the former in the guise of Robert Gillespie), taking the sides you’d expect, a measuring tape-fuelled class war ensues. Throw in Bob Godfrey’s droll animated links and you’ve got a film tailor made for a lost TV afternoon.