Hooray! An ’80s TV version of Victor Herbert’s whimsical Yuletide operetta, just what we wanted! The version you’re thinking of starred Laurel and Hardy, but here they’re replaced with Keanu Reeves and Drew Barrymore. Not literally, we might add, although that is a tempting image. Leslie “Santa Claus: the Movie” Bricusse provides new and unwanted songs. Kat Bjelland might have been a better bet.
B is for…
Bob Hope comedy with one hell of a contrived plot. Hope’s a bachelor (of the non-confirmed variety) who makes a living writing books about, er, being a bachelor. Then when he needs money fast, he decides to write about living in suburbia, and, er, moves to suburbia. Cue many flirtations with the married likes of Lana Turner, and chaste bed-hopping antics aplenty.
TV CREAM SAYS: SOAP!
Don’t listen to the naysayers, this is still a cracking film and we like it much more than Part III ‘cos this at least doesn’t have Mary ‘quivery voice’ Steenburgen in it. There’s a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to be sure but that’s hardly a problem, just pay attention! If people had such a problem with improbable time travel cobblers would they be wetting their knickers so much over T3? We think not. Always remember that this is the film that gave to the world endless comedy potential of the Hoverboard. It’s miles better than the bloody wild west/ZZ Top one, anyway, and Biff gets much more to do than just dive about and get covered in shit. ‘Great Scot!’ indeed.
TV CREAM SAYS: WE'LL TAKE THIS 'DELIGHTFULLY CONTRARY' OPINION WITH US, IF YOU DON'T MIND
The original ‘evil eight-year-old’ chiller adapted from the eponymous play, which has inspired Nick ‘Yea verily, I did see an ass with six heads, cobber’ Cave, countless ‘dark’ comedy writers, and the MPPC to change the ending to a morally-rigid ‘crime doesn’t pay’ punchline, complete with a bizarre round of post-credits corporal punishment. Top that, League of Gentlemen!
TV CREAM SAYS: YOU HAVEN'T LIVED TILL YOU'VE HEARD THE CAT FROM OUTER SPACE'S EARNEST ERNIE SAY 'WELL I'LL BE A MIDDLE AGED MONGOLOID FROM MEMPHIS!'
In a nutshell: Theresa Russell takes an overdose. She’s been shagging Art Garfunkel behind Denholm Elliot’s back. Elliot finds out, and doesn’t much care. Art finds out about Elliot and does. Cue shouting and thrown bottles aplenty. Russell takes an overdose, Art turns up and phones an ambulance, but not before shagging her as she lies about, half-dead. Or does he? Or did she? Or will they? Harvey Keitel to the rescue… Nic Roeg’s usual temporal trickery slices and dices this ripe bit of noir like so much boiled Haslet for the butcher’s window, and the necro undertones so curdled the Rank top brass’s Horlicks they denounced the thing as the product of sick minds and ensured this last hurrah for the company came without the customary gong-bashing muscleman up the front end.
TV CREAM SAYS: ART GARFUNKEL - WHY?
Jack ‘The Sky’s the Limit’ Buchanan plays a thinly-disguised Jose ‘Cockleshell Heroes’ Ferrer, lousing up Astaire and Charisse’s fun musical with pretentious balletic trappings. Final ‘Girl Hunt’ dance praised to the rafters by all, and rightly so, though we do always register a sigh of disappointment whenever we see this film billed and realise it isn’t The Band Waggon, with Arthur Askey and Stinker Murdoch in a haunted castle. Imagine what they would have got up to with Cyd Charisse!
TV CREAM SAYS: WISH WE COULD DO THAT 'SLANTY WALKING' TRICK
A sort-of sequel to caper flick extraordinaire The Hot Rock, directed by Hollywood choreographer Gower Champion, which sounds like an oddball appointment until you recall the balletic (or at the very least burlesque) nature of these high-concept bank-robbing schemes. George C Scott and pals take advantage of the temporary rehousing of a bank in a mobile home, by stealing the bank, and robbing it in a safe, out-of-the-way location. It’s a knowingly daft premise, but not the film’s only joker up the sleeve – Scott escapes from prison on a bulldozer, tailed by a police officer on a golf cart, and another chase scene is played out in reverse, for the sheer hell of it. And the film offers two stock ’70s bloated redneck character actors – Clifton ‘Live and Let Die’ James and Sorrell ‘Boss Hogg’ Booke – for the price of one.
TV CREAM SAYS: IT'S A MESS, BUT A FIRMLY ENJOYABLE ONE
If you look closely about two-thirds of the way through this film, just around the bit where Anita Pallenberg (with the voice of Joan ‘Girls On Top’ Greenwood, of course) is showing Our Babs the Essence of Man bloke-bong room, we swear you can see the erstwhile Cat Ballou thinking “there must be more to my career than this – where did I put John Pilger’s phone number?” In the meantime, savour – yet again – friend of Creamguide (films) Milo ‘Me Mammy’ O’Shea’s fearsome Excessive Machine and even more fearsome excessive eyebrows, John Phillip Law’s wooden blind angel, and Swinging David Hemmings as, ahem, Dildano.
TV CREAM SAYS: PREPARE TO INSERT NOURISHMENT!
Confusion may reign here. This US TV special from 1986 is a straight retelling of the legendary ringmaster’s career, as portrayed by Burt ‘ulcer’ Lancaster, and is not to be mistaken for the BBC TV special from 1986, which was, of course, an all-singing, all-dancing retelling of the legendary ringmaster’s career, as portrayed by Michael ‘Knack’ Crawford. That one was called Barnum! With an exclamation mark, see? So we can’t launch into any pre-prepared anecdotes about when Peter Duncan took over from Crawford in the stage version and seemed to be doing numbers from the show on Blue Peter every week. But we can tell you that this Barnum features… hang on a minute… oh yes! A certain Rob Roy, better known as, erm, the voice of Pat off of David the Gnome.
TV CREAM SAYS: NO 'SONGS FROM THE SHOWS' MEDLEY ON HOLIDAY ON ICE WITH THIS ONE
Bedridden dog nut Jennifer ‘I might invite you up sometime, if you bring your oxygen mask” Jones falls in love with poet Bill Travers, but nasty old John Gielgud’s having none of it. Viginia McKenna (funnily enough) and Leslie Phillips top out this redoubtable Victorian warhorse.
TV CREAM SAYS: MORE OF A LOGICAL POSITIVIST DOGATHON, THIS ONE
We don’t care how many technical feats were achieved with the camera lenses and lighting, this is Kubrick Does Period Drama Starring Ryan O’Neal, and anyone excited by that prospect may want to consider donating their eyes to someone who’ll appreciate them more. For Leonard Rossiter completists only.
TV CREAM SAYS: WE'D RATHER HAVE SEEN KUBRICK'S 'BARRY TOOK'
The evil communist Chinese (led by a yellowed-up Martin ‘Vogon captain’ Benson) dig tunnels all the way to the US, in which to plant nuclear bombs. Fortunately the likes of Ed ‘UFO’ Bishop and “expert on volcanic passages” Vivienne ‘Guide to Social Climbing’ Ventura are on hand to stop them. This prime slice of schlock is a bit unpalatable for its xenophobia, but there are many more innocent pleasures here – Peter ‘Danger Within’ Arne’s cracked ear-to-ground panic in the opening “listening disturbance” scene, China’s steamroller-like underground tanks with colour co-ordinated overalls, the army making everyone in America shut up at the same time so they can hear the tunnelling, operations rooms with illuminated maps, human-carrying pneumatic tubes, computers with unspooling tape reels, torches doubling as lasers, and a climax where our heroes escape a nuclear blast by pegging it down the road.
TV CREAM SAYS: A REYNOLDS-VETTER PRODUCTION! SOUNDS LIKE A DODGY FOOTBALL POOLS FIRM TO US
Cheap and cheerful post-’Wars space romp from the Roger Corman 2-a-day stable, with Robert Vaughn – who gets one of the best lines in any film ever; when someone asks him where he’s from, he answers without a stroke of irony “I was born in space” – George Peppard, Richard ‘Jon Boy’ Thomas and those funny grey blokes gathered around an occasional table making white blobs come out of the end of bits of hairdryers.
TV CREAM SAYS: SPACE STATION MODEL ORIGINALLY USED TO GROW PLANTS IN. THRIFT AT WORK!
We’ve had a statistician in this morning to help us plot the goodness of the Apes films on a little PowerPoint graph for our forthcoming “What’s Wrong with Films, TV and, While We’re About It, Everything Else” lecture tour of women’s institutes, and it bears an uncanny correlation to those FTSE charts they flash up behind Michael Buerk to signify “trouble in the markets today”. So, while the first is clearly top dollar, the second interestingly bizarre, the third a tad wearying after the first half-hour and the fourth a directionless curio seemingly filmed in Milton Keynes, this one is, well, a bunch of blokes fighting a bunch of monkeys, with a back-covering “epilogue” with John Huston at the end. And! Is the statue of Caesar crying tears of joyful hope, or despair? Or just plain embarrassment?
TV CREAM SAYS: ALSO, WHAT SORT OF A NAME FOR A CITY IS 'APE CITY', IF YOU'RE ALL APES ANYWAY?
If you’re ‘mad as hell’ that the Academy couldn’t be arsed to give Peter Finch the Oscar until after he died, you’ll go for this Archers-helmed first of two WWII Finch films this week. Here he captains the Graf Spee, on the run from Anthony ‘veal’ Quayle’s HMS Ajax. They who also served – Bernard ‘M’ Lee, Patrick Macnee, Roger ”le Maitre’ Delgado, Christopher Lee, John Schlesinger, John Le Mesurier, Barry ‘der Valk’ Foster and a mercifully microphone-free Anthony ‘Merkin’ Newley.
TV CREAM SAYS: ACTUALLY FILMED ON ACTUAL SHIPS, RATHER THAN TWO ACRES OF WHITEWASHED HARDBOARD. CHECK THE FLUTTERY HAIRPIECES FOR PROOF.
A gand-as-they-come Ealing rip-off from the very short-lived Prometheus FIlms (with Ealing’s Charles Crichton calling the shots), containing lots of good bits without quite troubling the best of the the Peter Sellers canon, and neither is it odd enough on its own terms to really stand out, like Hoffman or The Optimists. The story is pure, almost distilled, Ealing – Ernest Thesiger, old man proprietor of an ancient Edinburgh tweed firm carks it, and his idiot son (Robert Morley) hires fast-talking Yank businesswoman Constance Cummings to revamp the fusty old company into a go-ahead modern concern with a factory and adding machines and abstract objets d’art and all. Sellers, as the fustiest of a fusty crew that includes the sainted Roddy McMillan, sets about to thwart the plans, leading inevitably to a murder attempt. All straight off the Britcom production line, then. (There’s an argument that the Ealing Style had become just as formulaic, at its worst, as the ‘romcom with swearing’ format of every single British comedy film made this century.) What really lifts it: the brilliantly pokey accounts room, with random filing system, frail old Mr Meekie and ‘it’s not a chair, it’s a pair of steps’; Robert Morley being as annoyingly fruity as ever (a plus, you fools, a plus!); the elegantly choreographed murder scene, with knifeplay, secreted scotch bottles and invisible cats present and correct; and of course, one of those understated Sellers performances that got all too rare as his career progressed. The scene where he breaks into the company at night and screws with the files is top drawer silent clowning by anyone’s yardstick, yet it’s all – including the bit where mild-mannered Martin allows himself a triumphant parry at a statue with his umbrella – entirely in character. If Being There was worth an Oscar, this deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s all good stuff, don’t get us wrong. But the ending! Oh, how terrible! With Cummings vanquished and all back to normal, an odd little coda has Sellers spotting her on the street, now convinced she’s mentally unstable, then walking cautiously up behind her to give her a carnation, presumably as some kind of daft peace offering, then bottling it and scurrying off. Not the best ending to a film, granted – it’s very much a case of ‘yes, we see what you we’re *trying* to do there…’ – but presumably deciding that wasn’t ham-fisted enough on its own, the producers stick an American voice-over chuntering on about ‘Mr Martin may have won the battle, but has he lost the war?’ Hellfire, man! That’s no way to end a 1950s British comedy! Anyway, there it is, buggered. So in summary, Battle of the Sexes – it’s just as much of a curate’s egg as you always thought it was. But well worth your time nonetheless.
TV CREAM SAYS: HELAS
Benedict, Hatch and Greene get searching for that shining planet. Also featuring Wilfrid Hyde-White, Jane Seymour, Ray Milland, the voice of Patrick Macnee and, if we recall correctly, the words “fuck off” written on one of the spaceships.
TV CREAM SAYS: MOFFIT STILL GIVES US NIGHTMARES, YOU KNOW. THERE WAS A MONKEY INSIDE THAT THING.
Tony Richardson and John Osborne may have gathered the glory with their ’60s version of Henry Fielding’s monstrous six-volume picaresque epic, but Cliff ‘That Riviera Touch’ Owen and Jeremy ‘Allo Allo’ Lloyd made a suprisingly good fist of things thirteen years on, with Nicky Henson in the lead, Trevor Howard as a fantastic drunken, spank-happy narrator, Arthur Lowe and Terry-Thomas in Tom Baker wigs as Henson’s teachers Thwackum and Square, and a cameoing Joan Collins as pantomime highwaygirl Black Bess. What’s more, it’s a musical, with the requisite gloriously tortuous lyrical contrivance present and correct in the songs. The hapless squire who discovers the infant Tom dumped in his bed opines ‘How can I possibly explain it/That I’ve found a baby in my bed?/If nobody will claim it, on who shall I blame it?/Eloise, Mary-Anne, Hector, Jeremy or Fred?’ The sub-Gilbert and Sullivan fun continues when Lowe and T-T perform Modus Operandi, a duet that initially resembles Flanders and Swann’s ‘I’m a Gnu’ (“To survive (diddle-dee-dee)/To stay alive (diddle-dee-dee)/You must/Have a modus/Operandi”), brought to a close in the only manner possible – Lowe accidentally treads in some cow shit and Terry-Thomas grimaces in disgust. And it all looks wonderful too – no gloopy browns, faded greens, underlit interiors and telly aerials looming into shot as you’d get with Carry On Dick. Veteran lensman Douglas Slocombe ensures exteriors beam with ruddy colour, and interiors exhibit chiaroscuro candlepower to match anything Kubrick got in the over-fussy Barry Lyndon. And all this for a throwaway slap-and-tickle comedy!