Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Rebecca


1940 - Dir: Alfred Hitchcock
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 28th March, 2009
In 1939 Alfred Hitchcock made what may be thought of as an opportune move to the United States to start a contract with Selznick international. His first job was supposed to be on a film about the sinking of the Titanic - but things changed. Hitchcock had considered producing “Rebecca” at Elstree Studios as a follow up to “The Lady Vanishes”. The asking price for the story was too high and Hitch abandoned the idea. The producer (and Hitch’s new boss) David O Selznick then bought the rights and gave the project a budget far in excess of anything the British Studios could have mustered - and assigned Hitchcock to direct it. Both men were larger than life characters and disagreed with each other on almost every aspect of the film. Shooting started just as war was declared in Europe and the largely British cast and crew struggled to concentrate. At the end of the filming schedule Selznick tried to take the film over but was frustrated by the fact that Hitch had only shot exactly what he needed - there was no way of altering any of the scenes. Both expressed their unhappiness at the final result... but all animosity dissolved when Rebecca pulled in vast audiences and an Oscar for Best Picture.
· Rebecca was shot almost entirely in the studio on 44 specially built sets. Shooting was delayed because they had to wait for “Gone with the Wind” to vacate the only sound stage big enough to accommodate the scenery.
· Although Selznick wanted to be faithful to the novel, the censors demanded that Max could not kill his wife without paying the penalty. Suicide was also frowned upon. After a hard-fought but futile battle, Selznick had to settle for Rebecca being accidentally killed.
· Vivien Leigh wanted the lead in Rebecca and, as she was enjoying an affair with Olivier, thought she would get it. She made her displeasure very clear when Olivia de Haviland’s lesser known sister (Joan Fontaine) got the part.

The Quiller Memorandum

1966 - Dir: Michael Anderson
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 28th February, 2009
Spy movies were very much in vogue in the mid 1960s. The British Bond bandwagon was gathering speed, the Matt Helm series was trying to keep pace on the other side of the Atlantic and Michael Caine’s Harry Palmer was finding his feet in “The Ipcress File”. “The Quiller Memorandum”, though a thriller featuring spies, is a completely different kettle of fish. The film stands out from most of its contemporaries for its dreamlike, ritualistic, almost fairytale atmosphere. This derives largely from the cryptic dialogue by Harold Pinter and the stylish imagery supplied by director Michael Anderson and cinematographer Erwin Hillier.
There’s one other factor that makes this film stand out from the spy films of the time - while they focused on the Cold War between the West (mainly America and Great Britain) and the Communist threat from the East (mainly the Soviet Union), The Quiller Memorandum went back to an old enemy for its villain - the Nazis in Germany. Based on a novel by Trevor Dudley Smith (of Flight Of The Phoenix fame) The Quiller Memorandum takes place in mid-'60s Berlin, where Nazis new and old are attempting to make a comeback two decades after the Third Reich was defeated.
There are splendid performances from George Segal and Alec Guinness (perhaps limbering up for Smiley) and a haunting score from John Barry (who was simultaneously concocting much more energetic stuff for the Bond Movies)
We dedicate this showing of The Quiller Memorandum to the memory of Harold Pinter, who died on Christmas Eve 2008

Jour de Fete

1949 - Dir: Jaques Tati
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 28th February, 2009
There's no one quite like Jacques Tati, a meticulous and innovative comic genius whose work grows from an acute but benevolent observation of humanity. He made only five feature films but as writer, director, and star of each of them he developed new techniques of filmmaking. Tati characterised his humour as "laughter born of a certain fundamental absurdity". “Jour de Fete” was Tati's first feature and is built upon his short “L'ecole des Facteurs”. This is truly international humour, very visual in style, with a minimal plot in which music, sound effects and speech are used only as embellishments. Tati the actor is lanky and awkward with all the skill of the great silent comedians to command the screen. The timing and sheer cleverness of the gags is breathtaking. But, above all, this film is supremely good-natured. We can laugh at the idiocies and embarrassment of Francois and his fellow villagers, but only because we recognise ourselves in them.
TECHNICAL NOTE: This film is shown in colour - as Tati intended. The prologue will explain what happened. You may like to know that the painstaking restoration took six years. We can only suppose that this is what Thomson Color would have looked like but it does appear to be a sort of tinted black and white. Tati was so frustrated by the failure of the original colour shoot that he resorted to hand tinting parts of the black and white negative for a re-release in the 1960s. He died in 1982 and never saw the film in colour - so we can’t be sure that this is what he really wanted.

Bombón el Perro

(Bombón the Dog)
2004 - Dir: Carlos Sorin

Shown in FeckenOdeon 2 on 13th February, 2009
Argentina is a bit of a mystery to most of us. Our thoughts of this vast country (the 8th largest in the world) are inextricably entangled with images of war and the crude "Argie" bashing headlines the Falklands conflict generated. It’s good to be able to present a film that lifts the lid to reveal ordinary people leading ordinary lives - and to note that, despite all else that divides us, Argies and Brits have one thing in common - a weakness for big slobbery dogs.
The film was made in Patagonia, the arid, featureless flatlands of southernmost Argentina - a harsh landscape that reflects both the desolation and the resilience of the principal character. Poverty caused by Argentina’s economic collapse is the source for Juan’s adventures, but the director concentrates on how his characters overcome it rather than dwelling on the depressing side of hardship. It's filmed with a beautiful sense of the Patagonian countryside--expansive deserts, dusty towns, invasive commercial culture. Basically this is a simple series of adventures for a man and his dog as they transform each other's life. Each sequence is inventive and disarmingly entertaining, with big laughs and small insights.
Director Carlos Sorin handles his simple tale with an unashamedly sentimental touch. He’s aided in this by the delightfully simple acting style of his main character - Juan Villegas is an amateur actor and was formerly employed as the studio’s car park attendant - his gentle and genuine performance carries the film. The rest of the charm offensive is in the expert paws of Gregorio who plays Bombón as if he was born to star on the silver screen.
The film has a 15 certificate. You may think this odd for such a charming and inoffensive film. The censor apparently took exception to one scene. You’ll know that scene when you see it - it’s the one where Bombón (ahem!) "comes of age" and proves that this is not so much a shaggy dog story as a.... erm ... doggy sh** story.

Babette's Feast

(Babbette’s Gaestebud)
1987 - Dir: Gabriel Axel

Shown in FeckenOdeon 2 on 14th November, 2008
"Babette's Feast" is about edible art - Art with a capital A - a tour de force for the taste buds laid down before neither gourmets nor gourmands, but a sect of gruel-eating puritans. In this piquant Danish drama, an exiled artist confronts the uneducated palate, awakening interest.... if not applause.
"Babette's Feast," a precise and elegant piece, is adapted from Karen Blixens’s (real name Isak Dinesen) short story by director Gabriel Axel, a fellow Dane who, like Dinesen, found inspiration elsewhere. Axel is uniquely suited to this story of a culinary genius who spends 14 years in Jutland smoking cod. And then one day she stuns the taciturn Jutlanders by preparing a mighty feast.
French actress Stéphane Audran is perfection as the enigmatic Parisian Babette, who flees the Communard uprising in 1871 and is taken in by two sisters, Martina (Birgitte Federspiel) and Philippa (Bodil Kjer), the leaders of a small Danish sect. Her handsome face, her voice like a rich sauce and her strong, healthy stride are set against the prettiness and primness of the older but still angelically beautiful Martina. But like the gifted singer Philippa, Babette possesses a great talent denied. The film is beautifully photographed and paced and there’s something about it that makes one appreciative of the good and gentle things in the world - in these "interesting" times it’s perhaps a useful reminder!

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

2000 - Dir: Joel Cohen
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 31st January, 2009

Our main feature is set in the same period as Little Caesar but there the similarity ends! It’s a product of the talented and remarkable brothers Coen and is resolutely uncategorisable. A combination of musical, comedy and fantasy, it follows a trio of convicts who escape from a chain gang to find some hidden treasure. Things are never quite what they seem. The film is loosely based on Homer’s 'Odyssey' and as such the boys bump into all manner of folk on their quest, from a one-eyed bible salesman to a campaigning mayoral candidate. The whole thing is immaculately designed and photographed (it won an Oscar for this) in a style designed to give a period feel without actually seeming old fashioned and it’s constantly inventive and original. George Clooney acts his hairnet off in a style that owes more than a little to the young Cary Grant. The music’s great too - Yee haww!!
· Tim Blake Nelson is a film director who was only offered a part because he’s a friend of the Coens - he makes the film as the endlessly thick Delmar.
· The prisoners’ musical chant from the beginning of the movie is an old recording of a real chain-gang.
· The film’s official website ran a trivia contest to promote the film and gave winners canisters of Dapper Dan pomade. (No, you can’t buy it - it’s not a real brand).
· The American Humane Association mistook a computer-generated cow in the movie for a real animal and demanded proof before they would allow the use of their famous disclaimer, "No animals were harmed in the making of this motion picture." After seeing a demonstration of how the cow was created, the Humane Association added "Scenes which may appear to place an animal in jeopardy were simulated."

Little Caesar

1931 - Dir: Mervyn LeRoy
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on January 31st, 2009
The following is taken from Variety Magazine’s 1931 review of “Little Caesar”: “There are enough killings herein to fill the quota for an old time cowboy-Indian thriller. And one tough mugg, in the title part, who is tough all the way from the start, when he's a bum with ambition, to the finish, when he's a bum again, but a dead one. For a performance as Little Caesar no director could ask for more than Edward G. Robinson's contribution. Here, no matter what he has to say, he's entirely convincing. No new twists to the gunman stuff [from the novel by W.R. Burnett] same formula and all the standard tricks, but Mervyn LeRoy, directing, had a good yarn to start with and gives it plenty of pace besides astute handling.”
This probably says it all - but fails to predict the impact this short film had on the style of crime pictures made over the following decade - this is very much a trend setter. The acting is over stated to say the least but actors had only just learned to cope with the new fangled sound - the style is very much a combination of silent movie exaggeration and theatrical projection (“Can’t hear you at the back, luvvie!”). The gangsters upon whom the film was based were still active - Warner Brothers must have been hoping they didn’t recognise themselves!
· The character of Cesare Enrico Bandello is not, as widely believed, based on 'Al Capone'. Instead, he is based on Salvatore "Sam" Cardinella, a violent Chicago gangster who operated in the early years of Prohibition. The character Diamond Pete Montana was modelled on Big Jim Colisimo, who was murdered by Al Capone; and "The Big Boy" was based on corrupt politician Big Bill Thompson, Mayor of Chicago.
· The underworld banquet sequence was also based on a real event - a notorious party in honour of two gangsters, Dion "Deanie" O'Bannion and Samuel J. "Nails” Morton.

High Society

“My dear boy, this is the sort of day history
tells us is better spent in bed”

1956: Dir.: Charles Walters
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 27th December, 2008
High Society is a remake of the popular 1940 romantic comedy The Philadelphia Story, which starred Cary Grant as C.K. Dexter-Haven, Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord, and James Stewart as Mike Connor. The plot details and character names are the same for both versions, as are some of the lines of dialogue, but there is one critical difference: the addition of nine top-notch musical numbers from Cole Porter. While it's true that some of the character interaction in this film isn't as pointed or witty, the musical component more than makes up for this deficiency. If you’d like to compare the two it’s entirely possible that we may show The Philadelphia Story soon.
· Grace Kelly was no singer as she would have freely admitted, but Cole Porter wrote True Love specifically to accommodate her limited range The song sold a million records - and it was Bing Crosby’s 20th Gold record.
· Katherine Hepburn owned the rights to The Philadelphia Story and didn’t want “her” film re-made. MGM got round this by changing the name and removing the original writer’s credit... though much of his dialogue seems to have crept into High Society.
· Grace Kelly had just become engaged to Prince Rainier of Monaco when this film was in production. She couldn’t resist the chance to show off her real engagement ring on the silver screen.

“That man's gonna wind up a juvenile
delinquent mark my words”

Every Day Except Christmas

1957: Dir.: Lindsay Anderson
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 27th December, 2008
This film was made possible because Lindsay Anderson’s Free Cinema accomplice Karel Reisz was working for the Ford company. Reisz had accepted the job on condition that he would be allowed to produce a series of non-advertising documentaries. He invited Anderson to make the first film. They started looking for a subject, and when the idea of a film about Covent Garden came up, Anderson spent a few nights following workers around the market. A very rough treatment was written, but most of the film was improvised on the spot.
Every Day was the centrepiece of the third Free Cinema programme at the National Film Theatre in May 1957. Reviews of the film were almost unanimous in their praise. It went on to win the Grand Prix at the Venice Festival of Shorts and Documentaries later that year.

The African Queen

“I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating!”
1951 - Dir: John Huston
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 29th November, 2008
The African Queen is the uncomplicated tale of two companions with mismatched, "opposites attract" personalities who develop an implausible love affair as they travel together downriver in Africa around the start of World War I. This quixotic film by director John Huston, based on the 1935 novel of the same name by C. S. Forester, is one of the classics of Hollywood adventure filmmaking, with comedy and romance besides. It was the first colour film for the two leads and for director Huston.
The acting of the two principal actors - Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn - is some of the strongest ever registered on film, although this was their first and only pairing together. This was 44 year-old Hepburn's first screen appearance as a spinster, and marked her transition to more mature roles for the rest of her career. At 52 years of age, Bogart was also past his prime as a handsome, hard-boiled detective. John Mills, David Niven, and Bette Davis were, at one time, considered for the lead roles. Romulus Films took the almost unheard of risk of filming on location in central Africa
· Contemporary articles detail the various perils of shooting on location in Africa, including dysentery, malaria, bacteria-filled drinking water and several close brushes with wild animals and poisonous snakes. Most of the cast and crew were sick for much of the filming.
· To show her disgust with the amount of alcohol that Huston and Bogart consumed during the shoot, Hepburn drank only water - and suffered a severe bout of dysentery as a result. Bogart later said, "All I ate was baked beans, canned asparagus and Scotch whiskey. Whenever a fly bit Huston or me, it dropped dead."
· Scenes in the water were filmed in a tank at Isleworth Studios for “health reasons”.
· John Huston’s next project was “Moulin Rouge” starring Jose Ferrer and Zsa-Zsa Gabor - a very different film to that shown here last month!

Moulin Rouge

“Outside it may be raining, but in here it's entertaining
2001 - Dir: Baz Luhrmann
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 25th October, 2008

This was a huge worldwide popular success but was not as well received by the critics. You’ll either love it or hate it but it’s such and eyeful and earful that you’re hardly likely to remain indifferent to it. It’s certainly a big film that demands a big screen—the sheer visual bravado of it is hardly likely to come across on the telly.
The story is based on one of the oldest operatic warhorses—the one where the heroine, tortured by emotional dilemmas, dies of a nasty cough while singing at the top of her lungs. Alexander Dumas’ “La Dame aux Camellias” is usually blamed for starting the fashion and Verdi used it for “La Traviata”. Puccini’s Mimi (she of the tiny frozen hand) also died of the same plot. Mr Luhrmann adds a chunk of Orpheus in the Underworld and uses it as an excuse to go way over the top. He mixes musical genres, batters us with sweeping camera moves and throws in oddities (like Kylie Minogue’s Absinthe Fairy) without a care. We shall not be serving Absinthe but you may feel in need of a drop when you get home!
· The film was shot entirely in Australia—Paris was created by special effects magic
· Ms Kidman was badly injured during rehearsals and did much of her role from a wheelchair.
· Originally the Green Fairy was to be played by Ozzy Osbourne but Kylie was thought to be a more suitable shape.

The Naked Truth

1957 - Dir.: Mario Zampi
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 27th September, 2008
This is British Comedy from the tail end of the age of whimsy. Things were about to get more gritty and realistic... and then Barbara Windsor’s exploding bra and the truly awful “Confessions of...” series would condemn our local film industry to decades of tawdriness. Here though, the established stars of a more innocent age do their turns and make us smile. There are a couple of digs at the political establishment but, as in the Ealing comedies, Mr Zampi is content merely to prick the bubble of pomposity. The earthy delights of Steptoe & Son were five years away and Alf Garnett hadn’t been invented yet - so relax and wallow in a bygone age where the most racy thing about the film was its title.
Watch out for the young pre-Carry On Joan Sims giving a critically acclaimed performance as “a walking, twitching, comedy of hysteria”.
For an Italian, Mario Zampi had an amazing grasp of the British sense of humour. In the 1950s he made five tremendously enjoyable romps that had something of the Ealing flavour. He died in 1963 after completing the sophisticated Jimmy Edwards picture “Bottoms Up”

Airplane

1980 - Dir: Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker, David Zucker
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 27th September, 2008
It seems improbable but this piece of jolly chaos is a a groundbreaking motion picture milestone - honest! The studios had been churning out increasingly pompous high budget disaster movies - "Airport", "Earthquake", "Towering Inferno", "Jaws", etc - in which vast casts of Hollywood’s fading stars were incinerated, drowned, crushed, eaten or otherwise disposed of amid loud rumblings and lashings of screaming. When "Airplane" appeared it seemed that it was just another dose of the same... and then word got out. It was if, all of a sudden, Hollywood had discovered how to laugh again. It’s a gloriously silly movie - a bit hit and miss if truth be told - but it made us all think that, surely, the terrible things that happen in life are just too terrible to be taken seriously... DON’T CALL ME SHIRLEY!
Four years earlier "The Big Bus" had tried the same sort of thing (a rocket powered Greyhound bus runs out of control) but, although it’s a very funny film, it didn’t succeed at the box office.
Universal threatened to pull out of "Airplane" several times during production because it ridiculed their own disaster pictures. It later overflew all of them at the box office.
The catchy German title for "Airplane" translates as "The Incredible Trip in a Crazy Airplane"... Ho Ho? Is funny - Ja?

Our Man in Havana

1959 - Dir: Carol Reed
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 26th April, 2008
Our Man in Havana was conceived by Graham Greene as an 'entertainment' picture - all of Greene's familiar ingredients are here - sly wit, intricately plotted melodrama and social squalor lightly topped with a sprinkling of holy water. A snug arrangement between Columbia and Kingsmead, a company Reed had formed himself, provided for financing and distribution. The fall in 1959 of the US puppet dictator Batista proved to be a blessing for Reed and his associates, who were able to secure permission from the victorious rebels to shoot their movie in Havana. Exterior shots were completed over a five week period, with Cubans gawping raptly at the famous Anglo faces and Ernie Kovacs reportedly smoking twenty-five Cuban cigars everyday. Back in England, at Shepperton Studios,about eleven weeks went into interior shots.
· The casting is interesting - Guinness is obviously ideal as the straight man/anti-hero but Burl Ives as a German?..and Maureen O’Hara? Both were obviously imposed as part of the deal with Columbia. Ives gets away with it and plays the doctor sympathetically - but O’Hara seems out of her depth. Her “British” screen credits include “How Green was my Valley” (where she used an Irish accent to pass for Welsh) and “Lady Godiva of Coventry” (where her accent didn’t disappoint as much as the concealing length of her hair did). The inspired casting is that of Noel Coward as an unlikely head of a cell of spies - he gets all the best one liners and is obviously having a whale of a time.
· The film had a big enough budget for the hire of CinemaScope lenses but there wasn’t enough cash to pay for colour film - so it’s wide and wonderful but monochrome!
· The script had to be submitted to Cuba's Minister of the Interior, where it was insisted that 39 changes be made to make it appear that life during the Batista regime was more unfavourable. The hated President Batista, incidentally, retired to the Algarve and became an estate agent - perhaps you bought a time-share from him?
Graham Greene later wrote: “Alas, the film did me little good with the new rulers in Havana. In poking fun at the British Secret Service, I had minimised the terror of Batista's rule. I had not wanted too black a background for a light-hearted comedy, but those who suffered during the years of dictatorship could hardly be expected to appreciate that my real subject was the absurdity of the British agent and not the justice of a revolution”

The Cameraman

1928 - Dir: Edward Sedgewick
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 26th April, 2008
“The Cameraman” is known as the film that marked the beginning of the end for Buster Keaton (he had signed a contract with MGM that gave creative control to them), but looking at the final product, it is hard to see any signs of trouble. MGM had promised that he could keep his old team and enjoy as much artistic freedom as he had as an independent. They lied. That state of affairs lasted only as long as it took to get this first movie in the can - his team were then assigned to other producers and Keaton was never again able to control his own films. The suits and control freaks ensured that one of the greatest comic talents of the 20th century never achieved his full potential. Here, however, Buster is still on top of the game but there are signs of things to come - this is the first film where Keaton is not credited as director... and the talkies were just around the corner..... A tragi-comedy really.

Topsy Turvey

“A paradox! A paradox! A curious case of paradox!”
1999 - Dir: Mike Leigh
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 29th March, 2008
This appears to be a strange project for Mike Leigh. The master of improvised realism tackles a costumed, backstage semi-biopic? It’s hardly “Vera Drake” or “Secrets and Lies”! There are those of us here tonight who have first hand experience of Mr Leigh’s deadly serious approach to life - particularly where there’s comedy involved. It’s therefore somewhat of a relief to be able to write that he seems to have rediscovered a lightness of touch rarely seen since early TV films like “Nuts in May” (edited by our own Oliver White). “Topsy-Turvy” is the work of a man helplessly in love with the theatre. In a gloriously entertaining period piece, he tells the story of the genesis, preparation and presentation of a comic opera - Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado" - celebrating all the dreaming and hard work, personality conflict and team spirit, inspiration and mundane detail, involved in every theatrical “birth”. The film fairly skips along and one can imagine its gnome like director grinning at every frame!
“Ballad songs and snatches”
The director’s method of building a script through research and improvisation with the cast has not been abandoned but here Mr Leigh has been constrained by historical fact and period detail - and the film is better for it. One of the faults evident in many films depicting stage performances is that directors rarely resist the temptation to apply a little cinematic gloss. Here the performances are patently stage performances - not dubbed by virtuosi - the actors sing their own songs and the result is undoubtedly the most accurate representation of 19th century musical theatre you’re ever likely to experience on the big screen. The music is supervised by Leigh’s long standing/suffering musical director Sir Carl Davis.
“Here’s a curious thing, here’s a how’d you do!”
Most modern recordings and performances of the Mikado's solo, "A More Humane Mikado" feature a bloodthirsty laugh between the verses. This touch was added by Darrel Fancourt, a D'Oyly Carte performer from 1920-1953, and has been copied ever since - which is why the laugh is not performed in the film. The third verse of the song also contained a reference to the lady who “pinches her figger, is blacked like a nigger with permanent walnut juice” - this was not amended until the 1940s but thankfully doesn’t appear in the film.

The Importance of being Earnest

“The good end happily, and the bad unhappily.
That is what fiction means”
1952: Dir.: Anthony Asquith
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 27th December, 2007
You all know the story - young buck falls for delightful young woman. Autocratic aunt of young woman is all in favour until she discovers that the young man is a foundling - and, even worse, that the foundling was found in a handbag. Much confusion, comedy, hysterics and mistaken identity before the mystery is cleared up and everyone lives happily ever after.
Oscar Wilde’s comedy of manners has been filmed no less than eight times. No matter how illustrious the cast or glossy the production the fact still remains that the version we are to enjoy tonight is the definitive version. It’s overplayed, stagey and ludicrous but it somehow manages to drive home Wilde’s barbs with deadly force. Director Anthony Asquith had the good sense to realise that this is a play written for the theatre and that to take it out of its own proscenium framed setting would dilute its impact. Never have the upper classes seemed so trapped by conventions of their own making. Edith Evans as Lady Bracknell had played the part on the stage since 1939 and she plays it as only an assured old fashioned professional can. The diction is crystal clear, the movements are precise and the timing... well, nobody can milk a line better than Dame Edith!
· Oscar Wilde was imprisoned in 1895 for “gross indecency”. The prosecution was brought by the then Home Secretary, Herbert Asquith. It’s ironic that this film was directed by Herbert Asquith’s son.
· This is Dorothy Tutin’s first film. She was 22.
· John Guilgud was to play the role of Jack Worthing. He’d played the part opposite Edith Evans on the stage. He eventually turned it down because he found filming tedious.
“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on a train”

The Ghost Train

1941: Dir.: Walter Forde
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 27th December, 2007
There was a time when Arthur Askey and Richard “Stinker” Murdoch were the most famous and well loved comedy duo in Britain. In the worrying few years before war broke out their vividly realised fantasy world reassured people that things weren’t all black if it was still possible for programmes as daft as this to be made. In “Bandwagon” (broadcast on the BBC Light Programme) they inhabited a rooftop flat at Broadcasting House along with Lewis the goat, and pigeons named Basil, Lucy, Ronald and Sarah. Other regular characters included Mrs Bagwash the char and her daughter Nausea, both of whom were often referred to but never heard. Arthur was courting Nausea but he never seemed to be getting anywhere - In 1938 the BBC had a strict code of conduct about such things.
“The Ghost Train” was a stage play written by Arnold Ridley (Private Godfrey in “Dad’s Army”). It was first performed in 1923 and never a year has gone by since without a revival. There have been two film versions - the first, made in 1931, starred Jack Hulbert - sadly only fragments have survived. This version was made 11 years later as a vehicle for its two stars - despite this much of the original dialogue survives and Mr Ridley was reported to have enjoyed the adaptation. This is the only surviving theatrical copy of the film - our projectionist will be working very carefully!
The plot bears an uncanny resemblance to the 1937 Will Hay picture “Oh Mr Porter” - it’s impossible to not surmise that the producers must have at least seen the stage play

The Italian Job

1969 - Dir: Peter Collinson
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 23rd February, 2008
Since the FeckenOdeon opened its doors people have been asking to see the original 1969 version of “The Italian Job”. The film distributors refused our booking requests because they were keen to promote the newer version (2003). The remake predictably turned out to be an Americanised damp squib and now the older film is available again. So here it is - complete with the young Michael Caine, the old Noel Coward and those amazing minis (cars and skirts!). If you’ve seen it on the telly you haven’t really seen it - it’s a film that needs the big CinemaScope screen for its maximum impact. Tonight’s print was made for a 1999 re-issue which was scuppered by news of the planned re-make.
“The Italian Job” has a timeless quality. It's fun and it's clever and it's well made. What was considered nothing more than a comic caper when it came out has grown in reputation and stature ever since. It’s well regarded on both sides of the Atlantic but we Brits of a “certain age” probably get more out of it as we recognise a whole army of character actors and remember Swinging England. Pass the rose tinted bifocals please!
· The studio originally wanted Robert Redford to play Charlie Croker
· BMC (British Motor Corporation), the owners of Mini, refused to donate any cars to the film. The boss of Fiat Motors offered to donate all the cars they needed including Fiat 500s in place of the Minis. The director however decided that as it was a very British film, it should be British Minis.
· Noël Coward was not in good health and had a hard time learning lines for the movie, so his partner (Graham Payn) had a cameo role as Bridger's assistant so he could be on hand to help with any problems.
· The film’s director was Noël Coward’s godson. The part of Mr Bridger was in part given to him as a recognition of the role he played in giving the director, who had grown up unhappy in an orphanage, his start in the film business.
· Michael Caine couldn’t drive at the time the movie was made - he is never seen driving a car.

The Castle

1997 - Dir: Rob Sitch
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 23rd February, 2008
This is a funny little thing. Some of us saw it on the telly, tucked away on an obscure channel in the wee small hours and we thought it deserved better. When we did a bit of research we discovered that it’s the biggest box office hit in the history of the Australian cinema. It’s a strangely charming piece of work that celebrates the quirkiness and humour of Australian life every bit as well as the Ealing comedies celebrated Britishness. It's about characters who have a rock-solid view of the universe and their place in it, and gaze out upon the world from the high vantage point of the home that is their castle.
The film was made on a shoe-string by the team responsible for “Frontline” - a popular Aussie TV show that satirises current-affairs programs. Its uncompromisingly Aussie take on life was difficult for the big American distributors to cope with and it was given a lacklustre release in the US and the UK. The acclaimed Chicago film critic Roger Ebert screened it at his “Overlooked Film Festival” and wrote: “The Castle is one of those comic treasures like "The Full Monty" and "Waking Ned" that shows its characters in full bloom of glorious eccentricity”. Director Rob Sitch went on to produce “The Dish” (shown here in January 2005).

The Aviator

2004 - Dir: Martin Scorsese
Scheduled to play on 26th January, 2008 - three days before the show it was discovered that all the UK prints had been scrapped. We still hope to show it sometime in the future.
In his last two decades squillionaire Howard Hughes sealed himself away from the world. It’s this recluse that most people think of when they hear his name - yet Hughes started out as a rich young man from Texas, the heir to his father's fortune, he made movies, bought airlines, was a playboy who dated Hollywood's famous beauties. If he’d died in one of the plane crashes he survived, he would have been remembered as a golden boy. “The Aviator” concentrates on this gloriously positive period of his life.
It’s a stylish and exciting glimpse behind the scenes at Hollywood in the 1930s with a bit of adventure and a splash or two of romance. It’s a BIG film made in the old style by veteran director Martin Scorsese. Hughes is played by the versatile Leonardo DiCaprio whose fascination with the man was largely the reason the film was made. For DiCaprio, the allure of Hughes was not only his remarkable ambitious drive but also his lifelong battle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The actor got so immersed in the role that he admits that he developed a fear of walking on cracks in the pavement.
For many the appeal will be the spectacular reconstructions of many of Hollywood’s most daring stunts - this time in colour and widescreen. For others “The Aviator” will provide a much needed shot of glamour with portrayals of the young Kate Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) and Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale). The film certainly expresses Scorsese's zest for finding excitement in a period setting, re-creating the kind of glamour he heard about when he was growing up.
This film stops short of chronicling Howard Hughes’ descent into madness but the spectre is always present at the feast. In a plane, he's fearless, but he's terrified of germs, and eventually his phobia makes him a voluntary prisoner. We see it coming, but more poignantly, he sees it coming just as clearly. The more we know of what eventually happened to him the more we appreciate the desperation behind Hughes’ apparent zest for the good life. Despite the behind the scenes traumas it has to be appreciated that the chances of a present day Howard Hughes coming along in these over-regulated and political constricted times is as remote as pigs flying - unless Hughes had the pigs under contract. The man's towering achievements and deep neuroses make for a fascinating, fantastic and far reaching film. If it weren't based on a real person, no-one would dare write such a character for fear of being locked up.
· The director designed each year in the film to look just the way a colour film from that time period would look. Achieved mainly through digitally enhanced post-production, Scorsese recreated the look of Cinecolor and two-strip Technicolor. As Hughes ages throughout the film, the colour gets more sophisticated and full-bodied.
· Scorcese originally wanted to shoot the film in Academy ratio, 1.33:1, the same screen shape as films of the period and indeed all films up until about 1956. Unfortunately, he found that modern cinemas are generally not properly equipped to show anything but WideScreen 1.85:1 or CinemaScope 2.35:1 films. The FeckenOdeon is proud to boast that we are equipped to show all films in their original format.
· Shooting of the film was delayed by the destruction of sets by massive forest fires sweeping California in 2003.
· As a matter of historical fact: Kathryn Hepburn didn’t leave Howard Hughes for Spencer Tracy. They broke up long before she met Tracy
· In the 1928 section of the film, Hughes orders "10 chocolate chip cookies" - which were not invented until 1933 (not may people know that!)

High Spirits

“You're a ghost, I'm an American. It would never work out”
1988 - Dir: Neil Jordan

Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 24th November, 2004
Have another drink (and probably another one) and settle down for a large dollop of Anglo-Irish-American whimsy. It must be said that this tale of Irish ghostliness divides audiences into those who love it or those who absolutely hate it. To the latter we’d simply say that if you’re looking for great art then you’re watching the wrong movie. If you, like many of us, enjoy a bit of silliness - and a lot of good performances - you’re probably in for a treat.
Neil Jordan made this film after critical success with “Mona Lisa” - so it must have been a bit of a shock to the arty crowd when he made a supernatural movie containing a bit of rudery and a lot of corn. Peter O’Toole’s obviously having a whale of a time in what is, when all’s said and done, a high tech multinational Carry On film. It’s said that the Studio took the film to bits once Jordan was off the production - which might explain its uneven pace.
· Neil Jordan’s father, a university professor, would never let him read comic books, but read them himself so he knew what children would be interested in.

Good Night and Good Luck

2005 - Dir: George Clooney
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 24th November, 2007
There now follows a short history lesson for those of you too young (or too old) to remember Senator McCarthy’s activities: In the USA in the 1950’s the fear of an internal communist threat was exploited by a small time Republican senator who made allegations (later proved to be false) of communist infiltration, particularly in the media. He rose to be chairman of the investigating committee and turned the investigation into a witch-hunt. The fear of the committee’s power forced media bosses to blacklist whole swathes of their best talent. Some, like Paul Robeson, Larry Adler and Joseph Losey fled to Britain. Others had promising careers prematurely ended. Some committed suicide......
“Good Night and Good Luck” chronicles TV presenter Ed Murrow’s stand against the odious Senator. It’s a gripping film made with a terrific appreciation of the atmosphere and mood of the time. For George Clooney it was a labour of love. He directs, produces, writes and appears in it - it’s probably not insignificant that his father was a television newscaster in the 1950s.
· The film was shot in colour but was converted into black and white to give a better period feel.
· At test screenings, audience members felt that the McCarthy character was overacting a bit, not realizing that it was archive footage of the real Senator McCarthy.
· The entire set was built on one floor. The elevator interior was built on a turntable, so it could be rotated to a new "floor" during unbroken shots.
· The band playing throughout the movie is Matt Catingub's band and Matt Catingub did all the arrangements. Matt Catingub produced Rosemary Clooney's last album and George Clooney was so impressed, he asked Matt to do the music for this film. Rosemary Clooney was George’s aunt.

Casablanca

1942 - Dir: Michael Curtiz
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 27th October, 2007
Unrequited love, some of the most quoted dialogue ever written, and Dooley Wilson's* ultra cool jazz piano - Casablanca simply has it all. A straightforward romance, about Ingrid Bergman fleeing Nazis and arriving in Casablanca only to find ex-boyfriend Bogart, is elevated to greatness by a cracking cast. The making of the film was fraught with problems. No-one knew what their role was, what their lines were for the day, or even where to stand for their shots. The blind panic that ensued from day one of shooting makes this perfect film all the more miraculous in its execution. Unlike many films that later became classics, Casablanca was popular in its day, although officials at Warner Brothers were convinced that it would be a box-office failure. The movie earned 8 Academy Award nominations, leading to three Oscars (Best Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture). Ironically the best-known bit of dialogue from Casablanca, "Play it again, Sam," isn't even in the movie. Like Captain Kirk's "Beam me up, Scotty," it's an apocryphal line. The closest the movie gets is either "Play it" or "Play 'As Time Goes By.'"
· The production couldn’t afford a full sized aircraft for the final scene so they used a model and surrounded it with a crew of midgets.
· Dooley Wilson* (Sam) was a professional drummer who faked playing the piano. As the music was recorded at the same time as the film, the piano playing was actually a recording of a performance by Elliot Carter who was hidden behind a curtain.
· The letters of transit that motivate so many characters in the film did not exist in Vichy-controlled France - they are purely a plot device invented by the screenwriters.
· Rick's Cafe was one of the few original sets built for the film, the rest were all recycled from other Warner Brothers productions due to wartime restrictions on building supplies.

Mrs Henderson Presents

2005 - Dir.: Stephen Frears
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 29th September, 2007
"Mrs. Henderson Presents" is a delight of a film, sentimental and fond, full of beautifully acted British resolve, copious undraped British bosoms - and, mercifully briefly - certain parts of Bob Hoskins in medium shot. There wouldn't be a British film industry without performers of a certain age getting their kit off for a laugh.
Director Stephen Frears is nothing if not versatile. Twenty years ago he made one of the best films about multi ethnic London ("My Beautiful Laundrette"), and soon after made the dark and sharp "The Grifters" as well as one of the best of his generation's costume pictures ("Dangerous Liaisons"). More recently he scored with "Dirty Pretty Things," which has very little in common with a charmer like "Mrs. Henderson Presents."
· The censorship officer charged with inspecting the Windmill’s tableaux was a Mr George Titman.
· Pauline Collins made her big screen debut playing a fallen Windmill girl in the tawdry “Secrets of a Windmill Girl” (1966). We assume that Ms Collins would rather not be reminded of the experience.
· The leader of the Windmill’s nude chorus was one Pamela Cushla le Poer Davidson - the daughter of the de-frocked Vicar of Skiffkey (who was later mauled to death by a lion at a circus).
· “To think that this jolly entertainment goes on all day from 2 o'clock onward, and that you can slip in and out as you wish, certain of being amused or charmed!” Variety Magazine

Fires Were Started

(Original title: “I WAS A FIREMAN”)
1942 - Dir.: Humphrey Jennings

Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 29th September, 2007
Humphrey Jennings (1907-50) was perhaps the most gifted filmmaker of the British documentary movement. Involved in the Mass Observation project of the 1930s, Jennings' talent lay in picturing ordinary life in ways that were inventive yet authentic. Fires Were Started (1942) is his major achievement.
This film is a dramatised tribute to the men and women of the Auxiliary Fire Service made by the Crown Film Unit during W.W.II. It is no gung-ho propaganda piece: it simply records the everyday lives and acts of courage of seven fire-fighters and their new recruit over a fictional 24-hour period. This may be a work of “faction” but the actors are real firemen - and it was real firemen like these that kept the real Mrs Henderson’s real show open (See: Mrs Henderson Presents.

Heaven's Above!

1963 - Dir: John & Roy Boulting
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 28th April, 2007
After spending some time in the U.S., Peter Sellers returned to Britain for what he termed a 'regional comedy' - in other words a richly British vehicle that doesn't concern itself with broadening the palette for international consumption. "Heavens Above" remains after 44 years a biting satire of religion, small town society, and the various prejudices that keep the ‘wrong kind’ of people in their 'proper' places. What "I'm All Right Jack" did for unions and management, "Heavens Above" does for clerics and lay people.
Sellers as the naive Rev. Smallwood turns in one of his most appealing performances. Instead of playing the part as the classic charicature of a clergyman, Sellers really gets inside the character of Smallwood. In fact he made this film in between working on films directed by the great Stanley Kubrick (“Lolita” and “Dr Strangelove”) - perhaps Kubrick made some suggestions? As far as the rest of the cast is concerned, it’s an ABC of British character actors - from the obvious (Eric Sykes, Irene Handl) to the slightly obscure (John Louis Mansi - Herr Flick’s sidekick in “Allo Allo”) and the downright odd (Malcolm Muggeridge and Ludovic Kennedy). It’s all beautifully photographed by Max Green (his final film) and the music is by the versatile Richard Rodney Bennett.

Radio Days

1987 - Dir: Woody Allen
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 28th April, 2007
“Television shows happened in the TV set,
but radio shows happened in my head”
Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times)
For millions of people living in ordinary homes in ordinary neighbourhoods in the 1940s, the radio brought images of beings who lived in a shimmering world of penthouses and night-clubs, in dressing rooms and boudoirs. It was both a vehicle of escapism and a glimpse of hope... and it was ALWAYS on!“Radio Days” is a small treasure, at once the story of a gloriously cluttered Jewish family and a tribute to the Golden Age of Radio told without one shred of Woody Allen’s trademark angst. It is also one of his few films in which he doesn’t appear - instead tells the tale through a delightfully wry voiceover narration and the eyes of a ten-year old boy named Joey. In a brilliantly witty script Allen has written lines which are exactly those which people who have been married for years would say - the snappy remarks, the little digs and the unstated comments. We genuinely feel that these characters have reality, feelings and honest desires - just like the rest of us. If you add the vital ingredient of music from the big-band era, the result is an evocative celebration of a world without TV.

Master and Commander

THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD
2003 - Dir: Peter Weir

Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 31st March, 2007
It’s April, 1805. Pint-sized French fascist Napoleon is "master of Europe", but Britain is still scrapping on the high seas. The ship HMS Surprise is defending the Empire on "the far side of the world", chasing a French frigate along the coast of Brazil. Now watch on....
Russell Crowe, playing sea-dog Captain Jack Aubrey, climbs the rigging of his fighting ship, his eyes gleaming like the fanatic he is. The world of Jack Aubrey has been rendered in vivid historical detail by director Peter Weir, the captain of films as diverse as Gallipoli, Witness, Dead Poets Society and The Truman Show. In adapting two of the twenty novels that Patrick O'Brian wrote about Captain Jack, Weir and co-screenwriter John Collee are faithful down to the splinters in the ship's wood.
· The movie combines two novels - "Master and Commander" and "The Far Side of the World". Both deal with chasing down a privateer, and the movie combines the long chase of the latter with the furious climactic battle of the former.
· Although the book upon which this film is based is set in 1812, the movie is set 7 years earlier. This afforded the writers the chance to make the enemy of the piece not the United States but France, England at the time having declared war against Napoleon. Some new form of political correcteness?!
· The production used two ships. One was a replica of HMS Rose (built in 1970), dressed up to be the HMS Surprise, which could be put to sea within 45 minutes at any time. The other was a replica of the replica, built on a gimbal in the giant tank at the Baja Studios, Mexico. Construction of the replica took approximately three and a half months.
· To create an authentic sense of camaraderie among the cast, they were all housed in special quarters, away from the rest of the crew. Designed like a gentleman's club, there was no TV, and no crew member was allowed in without being invited.


One must always choose the lesser of two weevils

Dead of Night

None of us exist at all..........
1945 - Dir: Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Chrighton, Basil Deardon & Robert Hamer

Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 24th February, 2007
Best remembered for their classic British comedies, Ealing Studios broke all the rules with this psychological thriller, their first post-war release. Five stories by four different directors capture a brooding menace that's quite at odds with the middle-class world of the stiff-upper-lipped characters. Wartime films had been designed to comfort - this one was unsettling - the Daily Mail called for it to be banned despite its popularity (some things don’t change!). It’s a film that is enduringly frightening. After all the acres of gore, screeching music and ethereal mists of more recent scary pictures it’s a pleasure to see a finely crafted film that does without all the trappings and yet will still have you looking nervously behind you as you walk home tonight.
· Cosmologists Fred Hoyle, Thomas Gold and Hermann Bondi, developed the Steady State theory of the universe, an alternative to the Big Bang, after seeing "Dead of Night". They said that the circular nature of the plot inspired the theory.
· Despite its success, Dead of Night was a dead-end for Ealing Studios, which never really dabbled in horror again; the genre largely went back underground until the Hammer films of the late fifties.
· With typical disregard for quality, US distributors thought the film was too long and cut the golfing sequence and the Christmas ghost tale, confusing audiences, who couldn’t understand what was happening in the linking story.

The Card

1952 - Dir: Ronald Neame
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 24th February, 2007

One of Alec Guinness' most satisfying roles early in his long career. As Denry Machin, son of a washerwoman and the "card" of the title, Guinness brings to life one of the much loved stories about the "five towns" (Stoke-on-Trent) by Arnold Bennett. The old-fashioned and very English word "card" had to be translated into "The Promoter" for the American market. Not so much a “belly-laugh” comedy but more a feel-good movie - made years before that particular cliché had been invented. The Americans didn’t appreciate this and put it down to the (seemingly exclusive) British disease of subtlety.
The script for this film was adapted from Bennett’s novel by best selling author Eric Ambler. Mr Ambler was responsible for the screenplays of such movie milestones as “The Yangtse Incident”, “The Cruel Sea” and “Topkapi”. This is one of his only excursions away from the world of action and adventure.
Director Ronald Neame was probably better known as a cameraman. The memorable imagery in “Blithe Spirit” and “This Happy Breed” was his handiwork but his most popular films were less sophisticated - he was George Formby’s favourites cameraman. “Turned out nice again Ronald”
· A musical version of The Card was staged in 1973 with songs by Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent. Perhaps predictably it flopped.
· Petula Clark was 20 when she played Nellie. She’d been a music hall star since the age of 11. Her transformation into a pop singer only started when her fame had abated and she found herself working as a secretary in a French rubber factory.
· The original publicity for the film was headlined “Here's That Man Again in a Gay New Misadventure!” How times change!

Catch Me if You Can

The true story of a real fake.
2002 - Dir: Stephen Spielberg
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 27th January, 2007
Has it come to this? The director of “Star Wars”, “Close Encounters” and “Schindler’s List” is reduced to a light comedy about a con-man... And the con-man is played by one of Hollywood’s pretty boy clothes horses! True! But cast your doubts aside! Stephen Spielberg shows he’s a real pro as he injects the vital spark of life into something that could have been just plain dull. Leonard DiCaprio, despite having no formal acting training reveals himself as an accomplished thesp as Spielberg pushes him into characterisations he could never have dreamed up for himself. It’s all tied together by a solidly inspired performance by the consistently reliable Tom Hanks. For the record there really was a Frank Abagnale Jnr and he’s out of jail and is now a multi-millionaire through his fully legal fraud detection and avoidance consulting business - that’s him on the left. But who cares about real life...except that, if the story was pure fiction, we probably wouldn’t believe it!
“Catch Me If You Can” oozes with craft and style. The opening titles alone are riveting. John Williams’ jazz score is surprisingly nimble and exciting, perhaps the best work we have heard from him in years. The film’s recreation of the ‘60’s is intoxicating, from costumes to settings, cars and dialogue. And Spielberg always makes this simple story visually enticing, whether through his subtle use of lighting and camera angles to his more obvious stylistic choices involving reflections, editing and energetic camera movements.
· Leonardo DiCaprio was born Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio. Martin Sheen began life as Gerard Antonio Estevez. Christopher Walken’s real first name is Ron and Tom Hanks was originally known as... Tom Hanks.
· When Stephen Spielberg was a child, he sneaked onto the lot of Universal Studios during a tour and befriended a film editor who showed him a few things about filmmaking. Tonight’s projectionist is a film editor. Budding Spielbergs may feel free to befriend him and ply him with beer in the interests of their future careers.

The Big Sleep

1946 - Dir: Howard Hawkes
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 25th November, 2006
This has to be one of the all time classics - they don’t make ‘em like this any more... but how we wish they would!
“The Big Sleep” is memorable for many things but the main thing that comes sizzling out of the screen is the chemistry between its stars - Bogart and Bacall on cracking form in a Raymond Chandler tale that’ll have you so far on the edge of your seat you’ll practically levitate. No couple in the history of the silver screen has possessed the mystique enjoyed by Bogart and Bacall. Their romance began on the set of “To Have and Have Not” then continued through three other movies (The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and Key Largo) and on into real life. Both were stars of great magnitude, with Bogart eclipsing every other male lead of that era. He was 44. She was 19. He was married to an alcoholic. She wasn’t. She was nervous. He found a way to make her less nervous.... and it’s all happening behind the scenes in “The Big Sleep”!
· Howard Hawks and Humphrey Bogart got into an argument as to whether one of the characters was murdered or committed suicide. They sent a wire to author Raymond Chandler asking him to settle the issue, but he replied that he didn't know either.
· Bogart was shorter than Bacall. He wore platform shoes and she stood in a trench for face to face scenes.
· Bacall was 20 when she made this film. It was only her third picture. She’s still working and her latest film (Paul Schrader’s “The Walker”) opens next year.
· The plot of “The Big Sleep” is often thought to be confusing. Perhaps not surprising when its director often said “As long as you make good scenes you have a good picture - it doesn't matter if it isn't much of a story.”
. The film was shot and completed in 1945 but its release was delayed while Warner Brothers issued dozens of action films to co-incide with the end of World War 2

West Side Story

1961: Dir.: Jerome Robbins & Robert Wise
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 27th December, 2006
The most lauded movie musical ever made. Winner of no fewer than ELEVEN Oscars! Only two films (“Ben Hur” and “Titanic”) have ever equalled that score.
This film's unprecedented integration of song, dance and narrative ushered the movie musical into the modern era. The artistry with which “West Side Story” combined elements of drama, opera and ballet - not just to stylise William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," but more importantly, to evoke the mood of the classic tragedy in a modern setting - raised the standards by which musicals are judged. Its success doesn't rest with the talent of its performers (though they are talented), but rather, comes from the construction of the film -- its use of sights, sounds, songs, steps, settings and the relentless energy of its ensemble cast to drive the plot forward through its emotional highs and lows.
The film was based on the successful Broadway hit - a staged musical play (opening in 1957) by writer Arthur Laurents and directed/choreographed by Jerome Robbins. The show was adapted for the screen by Ernest Lehman, and the film retained the beautiful and electrifying musical score, songs and lyrics of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.
It was co-directed by two clashing individuals - veteran director Robert Wise and choreographer Jerome Robbins. Both are credited - although Robbins was removed after a few months due to schedule delays and disagreements over the film's degree of faithfulness to the stage production - as well as Robbins' expensive and obsessive demands for perfection.

The Hitchiker's Guide to the Gallaxy

2005 - Dir Garth Jennings
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 5th May, 2007 (Charity Peformance)
This all started on Radio 4. A seemingly unlikely place for something so outrageously wacky. It was a twelve part series written by Doctor Who script editor Douglas Adams. BBC bosses were at first reluctant and, like many other slightly unusual projects, it hit the airwaves in 1978 at a less than popular time of day.... and became a runaway success. It was almost immediately repeated and Adams quickly converted it into an equally popular trilogy of five books. There was a less than satisfactory cheap and cheerful TV mini series but it was always hoped that Hitch-hiker’s would find its way onto the giant cinema screen. Several attempts to mount the project foundered on the sheer improbability of the thing - until Mickey Mouse came to the rescue
HItch-hiker’s seems an unlikely candidate for the attentions of the Walt Disney empire (Touchstone is a Disney company) - but, to their very great credit, they allowed Adams to supervise the project until his untimely death in 2001. Purists may find fault - but there is much to enjoy in this large scale re-envisioning of something that previously had been thought best left in the imagination. SHARE & ENJOY!
The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy offers the following words of comfort for space travellers:
· It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.
· Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.
· Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.
· You will need to know the difference between Friday and a fried egg. It's quite a simple difference, but an important one. Friday comes at the end of the week, whereas a fried egg comes out of a chicken.

DON'T PANIC!

Amadeus

Director's Cut
1984 (Revised 2002) - Dir: Milos Forman

Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 26th October, 2006
This film is nothing like the dreary educational portraits we're used to seeing about the Great Composers, who come across as cobwebbed profundities weighed down with the burden of genius. This is Mozart as an eighteenth-century Bruce Springsteen, and yet (here’s the genius of this film) there is nothing cheap or unworthy about the approach. "Amadeus" is not only about as much fun as you're likely to have with a movie, it also is disturbingly true. The truth enters in the character of Salieri, who tells the story. He is not a great composer, but he is a good enough composer to know greatness when he hears it, and that is why the music of Mozart breaks his heart. He knows how good it is, he sees how easily Mozart seems to compose it, and he knows that his own work looks pale and silly beside it.
Peter Schaffer worked with the director to re-write his original stage play. It can be said that some of the thrust and theatrical effect has been lost (particularly in its attitude to freemasonry) but, where the stage work relied on a claustrophobic evocation of Salieri's inner world, Forman opens it out and uses the Panavision screen to accuse the whole of the Austro-Hungarian empire of complicity in the destruction of a musical genius. The casting of F.Murray Abraham (Salieri) and Tom Hulse (Mozart) caused some controversy - the play was by an English writer and had been performed by such English stage luminaries as Paul Scholfield and Keith Michell. The young Kenneth Brannagh had originally been cast. In the event the performances are so good that accents are forgotten (not to mention the fact that, to be strictly accurate, the film should have been made in German). There's no controversy surrounding the (British!) musical performances which are expertly supervised by Sir Neville Marriner with the marvellous voices of John Tomlinson, Willard White, Suzanne Murphy and Richard Stillwell (amongst others). A feast for the eye and ear alike!
· The concept for Mozart's annoying laugh was taken from references in letters written about him. One described his laugh as "an infectious giddy" while another described it as "like metal scraping glass".
· Many of the interior theatre scenes were filmed in the Estates Theatre in Prague. This was the theatre where Mozart conducted the opening performances of Don Giovanni. The building is still in use as an opera house and has been magnificently restored. In 1984, after years of communist neglect, the wooden theatre was still lit by gas lights. Forman had 40 firemen standing by as he filmed but the only incident involved Don Giovanni accidentally setting his hat on fire.
· The film was shot entirely by natural light. Reflectors and diffusers were used to great effect and high speed film stocks allowed night interiors to be filmed by candle light.
· Only four sets needed to be built: Salieri's hospital room, Mozart's apartment, a staircase, and the vaudeville theatre. All other locations were found in Prague.

Kinky Boots

2005 - Dir.: Jullian Jarrold
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 30th September, 2006
Every now and then a film slips in and out of mainstream cinemas almost unoticed - “Kinky Boots” is one such “failure”. Its subject matter may have made it difficult to promote, its lack of BIG stars may have counted against it and its unglamorous setting of a boot works in Northampton may not have caught the imagination. Whatever the cause it does seem a shame that such a well acted and good hearted piece of work should have been almost ignored. It's no surprise to learn that “Kinky Boots” is from the same team who gave us “Calendar Girls” - it’s a lively bit of fun which Ealing Studios would have been proud of. In common with “Calendar Girls” the fim was inspired by a true story - a traditional English men's footwear factory in Northamptonshire did actually turn to the production of kinky boots for transvestites in order to save the ailing family business and safeguard the jobs of the local community.
Australian actor Joel Edgerton is an odd but effective choice to play the modest heir to the Prices Shoes empire - but the film really belongs to the remarkable Chiwetel Ejiofor as drag queen Lola. Mr Ejiofor is one of the busiest actors in the business and had the strange distinction of having three films, including this one, released in the same week.

Hue and Cry

1947 - Dir.: Charles Crighton
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 30th September, 2006
“Hue and Cry” became the first of what were later known as the Ealing comedies, although at the time it was not realised that it represented the beginning of a genre. The writer was T.E.B (Tibby) Clarke, a former journalist and policeman, who had also found time to be a purser on a tramp steamer and the editor of an Australian girl's weekly paper. He had persuaded the studio to allow him to write additional dialogue for a comedy section in “Dead of Night” (showing here in February 2007) and now, with Henry Cornelius as associate producer and Charles Crichton as director, was given the job of fashioning a story around the mysterious freemasonry of boys. “Hue and Cry” was billed with the slogan "The Ealing film that begs to differ", a line that was later adopted as a sort of unofficial motto for the Studios themselves. It was another two years before the genre of the Ealing comedy came to full flower, and in 1947 “Hue and Cry” seemed an eccentric element in the studio's output. Nevertheless, it was a great success and was praised by the critics. The film was, commented the Monthly Film Bulletin, 'English to the backbone'

Gigi

1958 - Dir.: Vincente Minelli
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 27th December, 2005

This has to be one of the grandest of all the grand musicals made by MGM - and, sadly, it proved to be the last. After “Gigi” the accountants moved in and showmanship moved out. The company bounced from flop to fiasco and is now a shadow of its former self. But what a way to end an era! Based on the novel by Colette, “Gigi” tells the story of a young girl (Leslie Caron) who is reared by her grandmother and great aunt to follow family tradition by becoming a courtesan. The family is scandalised, however, when the handsome and eligible Gaston Lachaille (Louis Jordan) proposes marriage to her.
Despite the delightful performances of Caron and Jordan, the film is almost stolen by Hermione Gingold and Maurice Chevalier, who perform the classic and touching "I remember it well" - just one musical highlight in a film containing many.
Gigi is a stylish triumph from start to finish, magnificently photographed in Metrocolor and CinemaScope by Joseph Ruttenberg to highlight the sumptuous costumes and sets (by Cecil Beaton). But the real praise deserves to go to the team of director Vincente Minelli and producer Arthur Freed. Some of the film was photographed in Paris, in locations (like Maxim's) redressed by Beaton, their Belle Époque interiors meticulously restored. MGM's tight budget demanded all of the Parisian locations be filmed in a month. Despite the rush the result earned “Gigi” no less than nine Oscars including “Best Picture”. “Gigi” may be a product of its time - it’s hard to think of a producer who would tackle this story in the same way today - but as a great big opulent example of showbiz glamour it’s hard to beat.

Great Expectations

1946 - Dir: David Lean
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 25th February, 2006
“Not only one of the finest literally adaptations ever made, but one of the best British films of all time”
“Great Expectations” was made by David Lean at the top of his early form. He was a film editor for seven years before directing his first film, and his career stands as an argument for the theory that editors make better directors than cinematographers do; the cinematographer is seduced by the look of a film, while the editor is faced with the task of making sense out of it as a story (you may choose to take this with a pinch of salt - these notes are written by a film editor). It is a fact that scenes from this film are used as examples of the film editors art in text books and at film schools the world over.
This film does what few movies based on great books can do: Creates pictures on the screen that do not clash with the images already existing in our minds. Lean brings Dickens' classic set-pieces to life as if he'd been reading over our shoulder: Pip's encounter with the convict Magwitch in the churchyard, Pip's first meeting with the mad Miss Havisham, and the ghoulish atmosphere in the law offices of Mr. Jaggers, whose walls are decorated with the death masks of clients he has lost to the gallows. Splendidly atmospheric and with superb performances from a marvellous cast, Great Expectations won two Oscars and was nominated for Best Picture. The Screenplay is largely the work of Ronald Neame who went on to direct “The Million Pound Note” (seen here last November).

  • Lean was not a particularly well-read man, and only became aware of the power of Charles Dickens' story when his wife Kay Walsh dragged him along to a theatrical production of "Great Expectations" in 1939. Incidentally, playing Herbert Pocket in this production, was a young Alec Guinness, whom Lean subsequently cast in the same role in the film version.
  • This was Guinness’ first film but his abiding memory of it was that his wig didn’t fit.
  • This was the first film directed by David Lean that hadn't been written by Noel Coward (not a lot of people know that).

The Chorus

2004 - Dir: Christophe Barratier
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 28th January, 2006
Starting with Jean Vigo's “Zéro de Conduite” in 1933, there has been a succession of French movies set in appalling schools run by insensitive teachers. An enormous hit in France, “The Chorus” sticks to the familiar songsheet: the one where a kindly teacher (musician Gerard Jugnot) slowly but very surely wins over his urchin pupils. Based on the 1945 film “La Cage au Rossignoles” this is one to warm your cockles in a big way. Writer/director Christophe Barratier's nimble touch lightens what could have been an over sugary pudding, and he certainly doesn't waste his trump card: the Petits Chanteurs de Saint Marc choir, who supply the on-screen boys' angelic vocals. The film was made on location, at a French castle in the province of Puy-de-Dôme, and both its interior and exterior scenes ooze with atmosphere.
Actor, co-producer Gerard Jugnot mortgaged his Paris apartment to help finance the film. The bet paid off and he ended up making over 5 million euros from "Les Choristes", earning him the title of highest-paid French actor in 2004. And it’s well deserved - considerable credit must go to Jugnot for his measured performance as the patient Mathieu. He carries this film on his shoulders and sets the tone for those around him.

Hear My Song

1991 - Dir: Peter Chelsom
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 26th November, 2005
“Hear My Song” enjoyed excellent reviews and full houses after its release fourteen years ago. It was therefore somewhat surprising to find that it had all but disappeared from catalogues and, it seemed, from memory in most cases. Eventually we managed to track down the one remaining copy in a despatch warehouse... and even more eventually we found out who owned it - and here it is tonight!
It’s a film of no little charm concerning the celebrated Irish tenor Josef Locke. Mr Locke was a real Irish tenor who enjoyed great success after the Second World War, to the extent that, in 1948, he was earning approximately £2,000 a week. Then in the 1950s the taxman became interested in his earnings and Locke simply disappeared. Around about the same time, a new singer of similar build and vocal style called Mr X started appearing in clubs and everyone started to believe that this was in fact Locke under a new guise.... now watch on!
“Hear My Song” cost less than £2 million to make and was shot in Ireland in under 6 weeks. Then first time director Peter Chelsom and co-writer/ star Adrian Dunbar took it to the Cannes Film Festival in search of a buyer. Miramax bought the rights and were rewarded with success at the American and UK box office, and a Golden Globe nomination for Ned Beatty. The voice you hear singing Locke’s repertoire is that of Vernon Midgeley, a well known light tenor who regularly appeared with his sister Marrietta on such shows as “Friday Night is Music Night”.... and as for the man himself,? Well now - didn’t he have the cheek to turn up to the premier of this film AND to burst into song on the pavement in front of Princess Di? He certainly did!

The Million Pound Note

1953 - Dir: Ronald Neame
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 25th November, 2005
Now this is a curiosity! A British film with an American star based on an American story and with a screenplay written by the wife of a former leader of the Labour Party. Quite why Gregory Peck ventured across the Atlantic to take part in this bit of British whimsy isn’t clear - though there are suggestions that his reasons might not be dissimilar to those that prompted Joseph Locke’s flights (see below). Apart from Mr Peck it’s spot the British character actor - there are hundreds of them. Familiar faces abound - amongst them a young Joan Hickson and the future boss of EMI Films Bryan Forbes is to be spotted in the hotel lobby. The story is by Mark Twain and was adapted for the screen by Jill Craigie - wife of Michael Foot.The film was edited by Clive Donner who went on to direct such trendy ‘60s delights as “What’s New Pussycat” and “Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush”.

Rebel Without a Cause

1955 - Dir:Nicholas Ray
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 29th October, 2005
“Rebel Without a Cause” was released in 1955 (a year after “Animal Farm”) and shook up one of America's most bountiful times with a sultry, restless story of youth going to hell in a handbasket. Where “Animal Farm” was rigidly “on Message” this film kicks the message out with the bathwater and soils the nest at the same time. “Rebel Without a Cause'' boldly went where almost no Hollywood film had gone before. It needled family values in the mid-1950s, when America had healed itself after war, and the proud, rich, muscular nation had honeymooned and borne an unprecedented number of children to fill up burgeoning tracts of homes. The movie came along like a slap, saying something was dangerously wrong. Tragedy was inevitable. These were rich white kids, stalked by trouble, by violence, by a sense of being trapped in a universe that could blow up at any time. The studio wanted to cast Tab Hunter and Jayne Mansfield but Nicholas Ray stuck to his guns and introduced James Dean and Natalie Wood. His tenacity bore fruit - Dean was so cool in the film that guys ached to be him and spent hours training their hair into messy pompadours - and Wood’s realistic performance is breathtaking.
The film started shooting in black and white. When studio executives saw the first rushes they realised that this was going to be a bigger picture than they anticipated and ordered that the project be restarted in colour and in the giant CinemaScope format. It has been said that this is the greatest black and white movie to be made in colour.

The restored print shown at The FeckenOdeon was made to celebrate the films 50th anniversary - and the 50th anniversary of the death of its star. Dean starred in only three films. This is the second. He never saw this film or “Giant” which he was working on at the time of his death at the age of 24.

Animal Farm

1954 - Dir: John Halas & Joy Batchelor
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 29th October, 2005
“Animal Farm” was promoted as the “first British animated feature film”. It was certainly made in Britain by British producers and technicians... but the story of how the film came to be made has Orwellian overtones in its own right. The original novel was intended by George Orwell as an allegory of the Russian revolution and subsequent events. It protested the rightness of socialist ideals but highlighted their vulnerability to corruption. This ideal was too left leaning for the United States (at the time in the throes of the McCarthy witch hunts) and the CIA ordered that the film rights should be bought for Uncle Sam. Orwell’s widow was approached by members of the Psychological Warfare Department and passed the rights to them after a promise of a meeting with her hero Clark Gable. The CIA decided that the story, if reworked, could serve as an anti- communist propaganda tool and decreed that it should be made for the big screen. Paramount Pictures were selected to do the job but, given the prevailing climate of suspicion, it was felt that Hollywood crews couldn’t be trusted to stay on message. The contract was given to the small British studio run by John Halas and Joy Batchelor. Halas and Batchelor had been making a name for themselves with original and inventive cartoon shorts but during the war years had produced a great number of propaganda films. The script was vetted by CIA agents and the downbeat ending altered. There is evidence that Joy Batchelor was far from happy with the distortion of the story and the redirecting of the “message” - but it was the biggest commission the studio had ever had (or would ever have). “Animal Farm” was released to great critical and popular acclaim though the box office dropped off once the public realised that this cartoon wasn’t a cute Disney kiddie pleaser. Despite all of this “Animal Farm” is a remarkable technical achievement and the imposed upbeat ending probably rescues us from becoming terminally depressed!

Enjoy but please remember:
“Four legs good, two legs bad”

The Wrong Arm of The Law

1963 - Dir.: Cliff Owen
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 24th September, 2005
Twenty four years is all that separates “The Wrong Arm of the Law” from “Ask a Policeman”. The plot is subtly different but the cops are all bumblers, the crooks are all loveable rogues and the film ends in a chase - it’s a tried and tested formula that’s still in use today!
1963 was a busy year for Peter Sellers - he also made “Dr Strangelove”, “Heavens Above” and “The Pink Panther” in that year (the French accent in this film is surely related to Clouseau’s). This marks a sort of half way stage in Seller’s transition from British ensemble player to Hollywood superstar.
The film has its roots firmly in the 1930’s of Will Hay, picks up a touch of whimsy from Ealing Studios and adds a lacquering of “Swinging ‘60s” with a jazzy score by Richard Rodney Bennett and classy titles. The script is largely the work of Ray Galton and Alan Simpson of “Steptoe and Son” fame
Look out for the young Michael Caine and the (not so young) Dick Emery in un-credited bit parts

Ask a Policeman

1939 - Dir.: Marcel Varnel
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 24th September, 2005
Will Hay bears some responsibility for the creation of the FeckenOdeon. In 1999 the second “Night at The Pictures” staged by Feckenham Entertainments Committee featured “Oh Mr Porter” (1937). The audience reacted to the 62 year old film as if it been a recent release - there were gasps and guffaws and wild applause at the end. It set some of us thinking that classic films deserved to be seen more often on the big screen.... and the rest is history!
Music hall star Will Hay became a major screen comedian in the late 1930s in partnership with veteran character actor Moore Marriott and the young Graham Moffatt. Together they bumbled, fumbled and fiddled their way through a dozen pictures before Hay went solo at Ealing Studios in 1941. Tonight’s caper is typical - good British incompetence mixed with a pinch of slapstick and a large helping of daftness as the three good for nothing policemen find themselves out of their depths in a smuggling racket.
“When the tide runs low in the smugglers’ cove, And the ‘eadless ‘orsman rides above,
He drives along with his wild hallo,
and that’s the time that the smugglers go in their little boats to the schooner, and bring back the kegs of brandy and rum and put them all in the Devil’s Cove below!”

Son of The Sheik

Dir: George Fitzmaurice - 1926
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 23rd February, 2001
Live piano accompaniment was supplied by Jonathon Hill
“A charming adventure comedy of playful sex and violence” “An eye feast of virile action with colorful settings and glowing climaxes”. “The very picture for which the world’s wife, mother and daughter have been waiting” - The quotes are from contemporary reviews of the smash hit of 1926. The plot concerns the son of the Sheik of the title who is in love with a half French dancer.... but that trivial detail had little to do with the frenzy - this was the latest and greatest appearance of the first international male sex symbol in the form of Rudolph Valentino. Valentino plays both the Sheik and the Son.
Born as Rodolfo Alfonzo Raffaelo Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguolla in Castellaneta, Italy, the young Rudolph had worked as landscape gardener, dishwasher, waiter, gigolo and exotic dancer. He was spotted by screen writer June Mathis and shot to stardom in “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” in 1921. “The Sheik” (one of the five pictures he made in 1921) established his image as an erotic lover and this follow up, five years later, was the peak of a career that seemed to be set to run and run. Sadly, on 23rd August 1926 Valentino died of a perforated ulcer. He was as successful in death as he had been alive - 80,000 mourners caused a near riot at his New York funeral so a second funeral was staged in California.
Valentino's co-star was the Hungarian Vilma Bánky. She had starred in a series of Hungarian and German films until Samuel Goldwyn brought her to Hollywood. Ms Bánky spoke no English so Goldwyn taught her a phrase to use whenever she spoke to reporters - “Lamp chops and pineapple”. We have no record of her reaction when she found out the deception but she was known as a “strong character”. She made her last film in 1931 but continued to play a mean round of golf until her death at the age of 93 in 1991.

A Private Function

Dir: Malcolm Mowbray - 1985
Shown at The FeckenOdeon in early 2001
You’ll never be able to look a pork scratching in the same light after this piece of British whimsy. The world of Alan Bennett could hardly be further away from the highly charged atmosphere of a Hitchcock film - but there is tension here. “Will he or won’t he?” is the question throughout the film. Maggie Smith powers her way through all obstacles, Michael Palin proves that he can act, Liz Smith charms us with yet another dotty old lady - BUT it’s the pig that matters. “It’s not just pork, it’s power!!” Three porcine thespians were used to play “Betty” and, even on a good day, it took upwards of 15 takes to get the animals to do what was required of them. Human actors would rehearse with a stuffed pig and then hope that the real thing would be just as co-operative.
Bennett had written much for the small screen but this was his first effort for the movies. More recently he’s adapted Joe Orton’s biography “Prick up Your Ears” and his own stage play “The Madness of King George”.

The Boyfriend

Dir: Ken Russell - 1971
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 29th December, 2001
A tuneful, glittering and downright daft movie! Sandy Wilson’s flapper musical “The Boy Friend” has long been a stalwart of the amateur operatic society circuit. Ken Russell gives it a kick and a shove and proves how very good the old war-horse can be. His version is colourful, lively, touching and hilarious - and owes a good deal to the spectacular ideas of Busby Berkeley. Casting Twiggy in the lead was bound to be a calculated risk but her inexperience in the acting field pays dividends and makes her portrayal of the nervous and naive Polly totally believable. Playing opposite her is Christopher Gable - his only big screen appearance - who went on to found the renowned Northern Ballet Theatre. The rest of the cast is made up of a galaxy of British character actors - Max Adrian, Georgina Hale, and Barbara Windsor among them. Glenda Jackson makes an uncredited appearance as the big star who can’t go on because of a little accident involving a tram. A superb orchestration and gutsy performance of Wilson’s music by Peter Maxwell-Davies makes this one of the few truly memorable British big screen musicals.

Les Vacances de M. Hulot

M. Hulot's Holiday
Dir: Jaques Tati 1953

Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 24th November, 2001
Jaques Tati (or Tatischeff to give him his real name) learnt his craft on the music-hall circuit in the 1930s. He was often seen this side of the channel with his famous tennis-player act (part of which is shown in tonight’s film). Tati always insisted on being in full charge of his material and performance and, though his output is relatively modest (6 features and 10 shorts), he is regarded as one of the master craftsmen of the silver screen.
This film is Tati’s second feature. It took over two years to make and stars almost the entire population of the seaside resort of Saint-Marc-sur-Mere. The director preferred using “real people” rather than actors for most of the supporting roles. The hotel was a real hotel - an artificial entrance was constructed for the filming and caused endless confusion amongst hotel guests and staff alike.
This is the first appearance of Tati’s chaotic and bumbling Monsieur Hulot. Tati’s acute observation and immaculate timing make him at once hilarious and sympathetic. The character enjoyed another three outings and earned his creator an Oscar in 1959.
Oddly for a film without words, there was great praise for the use of sound in “M.Hulot’s Holiday” - one critic called it “the greatest event in the history of sound film”

Carry On Spying

Dir: Gerald Thomas 1964
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 20th October, 2001
"Carry On Spying" (1964) is regarded as one of the funniest in the series. The music is intentionally reminiscent of the zither theme from "The Third Man" and there are many references made to this film - hardly surprising when you learn that director Gerald Thomas had been Assistant Editor on Reed's classic. The film also alludes to the sixties smash hit series of Bond films.
Barbara Windsor makes her Carry On debut as Daphne Honeybutt whose talents include a photographic memory, a complete imperviousness to pain… and a large chest. Barbara came direct from Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop and had appeared in TV’s “The Rag Trade”. Bernard Breslaw is reputed to have been struck by “plastic bullets” during the filming and vowed never to appear in another Carry On - a vow destined to be broken time and time again.
The usual Carry On crew (minus Hattie Jaques on this occasion) play with a freshness that is lacking in the later films (this was the ninth) and the film rattles through a catalogue of quick fire gags and clever visuals like a dose of salts (Ooh Matron!!).

The Third Man

Dir: Carol Reed 1949
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on October 20th, 2001
It's unlikely that there has ever been a film where the music more perfectly suited the action than Carol Reeds "The Third Man". Anton Karas was discovered by Trevor Howard in a Vienna bar. The haunting chords of Karas' "Harry Lime Theme" draw us into the unreal, shattered world of post war Vienna. A city divided into French, Russian, American and British zones. Joseph Cotton as Holly Martin arrives in Vienna to meet his college friend Harry Lime - but Harry is dead…. or is he?
"The Third Man" was made by men who knew the devastation of Europe at first hand. Carol Reed worked for the British Army's wartime documentary unit and the screenplay was by Graham Greene, who not only wrote about spies but occasionally acted as one. The film was shot entirely on location in Vienna amid the mountains of rubble and the gaping bomb craters. It's a world where even the truth is false and trust is a dream no-one dares hope for.