Film Review – CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (1948)

Image result for call northside 777Call Northside 777 (1948; USA; B&W; 112m) ***½  d. Henry Hathaway; w. Jerome Cady, Jay Dratler, Leonard Hoffman, Quentin Reynolds; ph. Joseph MacDonald; m. Alfred Newman.  Cast: James Stewart, Richard Conte, Lee J. Cobb, Helen Walker, E.G. Marshall, Kasia Orzazewski, Betty Garde, Moroni Olsen, John McIntire, Paul Harvey, Joanne De Bergh, Howard Smith, Michael Chapin, Samuel S. Hinds, George Pembroke. Chicago reporter P.J. McNeal re-opens a ten-year-old murder case. Documentary-style telling is a little stiff at times and the story is certainly slow to start but it gains significant momentum in its final act. Stewart is as dependable as ever as the hard-nosed reporter and Garde stands out in an interesting supporting cast. The photography is evocative in the film noir style of the day, with contrasting light and shadow making this a technically effective, if dramatically uneven, piece of film-making. First credited film role of McIntire. Based on articles by James P. McGuire. [U]

TV Review – COME HOME (2018)

Image result for come home tv series 2018Come Home (2018; UK; Colour; 3 x 60m) ***  pr. Madonna Baptiste; d. Andrea Harkin; w. Danny Brocklehurst; ph. Joel Devlin; m. Murray Gold.  Cast. Christopher Eccleston,  Paula Malcomson, Kerri Quinn, Anthony Boyle, Lola Petticrew, Darcey McNeeley, Brandon Brownlee, Patrick O’Kane, Brid Brennan, Derbhle Crotty, Rory Keenan.  When mother Marie (Malcolmson) mysteriously leaves the family home, the repercussions are enormous, but when secrets are revealed from the past, both Marie and her husband Greg (Eccleston) realise they can’t just walk away from their lives. At times this often intense drama captures the depths of despair from both sides of the story with its structuring geared around a balanced perspective and a final episode designed to weight the arguments equally, leading to an almost inevitable conclusion. The story is therefore both authentic and ultimately disappointing. Authentic in that it does not go for the big dramatic climax and disappointing in that the climax itself is anticlimactic. Technical values are good, if at times the camerawork is overly self-indulgent. The performances from Eccleston and Malcolmson feel real and honest. In the end, though, you are left with more of a feeling of voyeurism than engagement – as if you’ve been watching real-life without the protagonists permission. This may well have been the intention, but the result is a good drama that somehow misses out on being something with more to say.

Film Review – A TASTE OF HONEY (1961)

Image result for a taste of honey 1961Taste of Honey, A (1961; UK; B&W; 100m) ****  d. Tony Richardson; w. Shelagh Delaney, Tony Richardson; ph. Walter Lassally; m. John Addison.  Cast: Dora Bryan, Rita Tushingham, Robert Stephens, Murray Melvin, Paul Danquah, David Boliver. The moving story of a plain young girl who becomes pregnant by a black sailor, befriends a homosexual, and gradually becomes a woman. A good example of the “kitchen sink” drama with, for the time, daring themes of inter-racial relationships, homosexuality and promiscuity. It’s all splendidly photographed on location in Salford and Blackpool. Bryan scores as the self-centred, but ultimately soft-hearted mother of Tushingham’s rebellious teenager. Richardson directs with a sense of realism and an eye for evocative images. Based on Delaney’s play. [15]

TV Review – HAPPY VALLEY – SERIES 2 (2016)

Image result for happy valley series 2Happy Valley – Series 2 (TV) (2016; UK; Colour; 6 x 60m) *****  pr. Juliet Charlesworth; d. Sally Wainwright, Neasa Hardiman; w. Sally Wainwright; ph. Ivan Strasburg; m. Ben Foster.  Cast: Sarah Lancashire, Siobhan Finneran, Charlie Murphy, James Norton, Con O’Neill, Katherine Kelly, George Costigan, Shirley Henderson, Kevin Doyle, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Matthew Lewis, Amelia Bullmore, Angela Pleasence.  Sarah Lancashire returns in the acclaimed BBC thriller written by Sally Wainwright. No-nonsense police sergeant Catherine Cawood is back heading up her team of dedicated police officers in the Calder Valley in West Yorkshire. While on duty, she makes a gruesome discovery – a body. The victim’s injuries bear a striking similarity to a string of other murders over the previous few months, suggesting a serial killer is on the loose. But the case becomes even more shocking when it emerges that Catherine knows the victim – something that could have serious repercussions for both herself and her family. Wainwright manages to match the extraordinary success of the first series with an equally absorbing follow-up that puts Lancashire’s police sergeant through the emotional wringer. This exceptional piece of TV works as a psychological thriller, a mystery and a gritty drama, but feels natural because of the humour that is deftly mixed with the darkness. Wainwright’s characters are well drawn and real – enhanced by superb performances from a very strong cast. The location work adds to the authenticity and the visuals are underpinned by a resonant score from Foster. [15]

TV Review – HAPPY VALLEY (2014)

Image result for happy valley blu-rayHappy Valley (TV) (2014; UK; Colour; 6 x 60m) *****  pr. Karen Lewis; d. Euros Lyn, Sally Wainwright, Tim Fywell; w. Sally Wainwright; ph. Ivan Strasburg; m. Ben Foster.  Cast:  Sarah Lancashire, Steve Pemberton, Siobhan Finneran, George Costigan, Joe Armstrong, James Norton, Adam Long, Charlie Murphy, Karl Davies, Jill Baker, Rhys Connah. Catherine Cawood (Lancashire) is a strong-willed police sergeant in West Yorkshire, still coming to terms with the suicide of her teenage daughter, Becky, eight years earlier. Cawood is now divorced from her husband and living with her sister, Clare (Finneran), a recovering alcoholic and heroin addict, who is helping her bring up Becky’s young son, Ryan (Connah), the product of rape. Neither Catherine’s ex-husband nor their adult son, Daniel, want anything to do with Ryan. Catherine hears that Tommy Lee Royce (Norton), the man responsible for the brutal rape that impregnated Becky and drove her to suicide shortly after Ryan was born, is out of prison after serving eight years for drug charges. Catherine soon becomes obsessed with finding Royce, unaware that he is involved in the kidnapping of Ann Gallagher (Murphy), a plot instigated by Kevin Weatherill (Pemberton) and orchestrated by Ashley Cowgill (Armstrong). Things quickly take a dark turn as the abductors scramble to keep the kidnapping secret, although Catherine is onto them. This is crime TV writing of the highest order, enhanced by a dynamite cast – including Lancashire as the world-on-her shoulders police officer and Norton as the dangerously psychotic ex-con. Well-paced and stylishly directed throughout – despite the use of three directors. Wainwright sealed her reputation as one of the best writers on TV with this series, which deftly mixes in elements of domestic drama along with a dry wit to complement a riveting crime thriller plot. A must see TV experience. [15]

Film Review – DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)

Image result for double indemnityDouble Indemnity (1944; USA; B&W; 107m) *****  d. Billy Wilder; w. Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler; ph. John F. Seitz; m. Miklós Rózsa.  Cast: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Porter Hall, Jean Heather, Tom Powers, Gig Young, Richard Gaines, Fortunio Bonanova, Edmund Cobb, Byron Barr, John Philliber, Clarence Muse, Bess Flowers, Sam McDaniel. An insurance rep lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigator’s suspicions. Classic and highly influential film noir with a tight script, hardboiled and witty dialogue and first-rate performances. Stanwyck is the deceptive, but alluring, femme fatale and MacMurray the smitten salesman. Robinson is superb as the eccentric investigator. Based on the novel by James M. Cain. Remade as a TV Movie in 1973. [PG]

Film Review – WHIRLPOOL (1949)

Image result for whirlpool 1949Whirlpool (1949; USA; B&W; 97m) ***  d. Otto Preminger; w. Ben Hecht, Andrew Solt; ph. Arthur Miller; m. David Raksin.  Cast: Gene Tierney, Richard Conte, José Ferrer, Charles Bickford, Richard Conte, Barbara O’Neil, Constance Collier, Fortunio Bonanova, Eduard Franz. A woman secretly suffering from kleptomania is hypnotized in an effort to cure her condition. Soon afterwards, she is found at the scene of a murder with no memory of how she got there and seemingly no way to prove her innocence. Film noir is interesting for its premise and Ferrer’s sinister performance as the hypnotist. But after a promising start the plot descends into melodrama and loses its sense of logic in a weak finale that too neatly wraps up the story. Evocative score by Raskin. Based on the novel “Methinks the Lady” by Guy Endore. [PG]

TV Review – COLLATERAL (2017)

Collateral (BBC) [DVD]Collateral (TV) (2017; UK; Colour; 4 x 60m) ***½  pr. Elizabeth Binns; d. S.J. Clarkson; w. David Hare; ph. Balazs Bolygo; m. Ruth Barrett. Cast:  Carey Mulligan, Jeany Spark, Nicola Walker, Nathaniel Martello-White, John Simm, Ahd, Billie Piper, Kae Alexander, Hayley Squires, July Namir, Ben Miles, Orla Brady, Rob Jarvis.  An employee of a pizza delivery service is gunned down on the street in a south London suburb after delivering a pizza to the ex-wife of the Shadow Minister for Transport. DI Kip Glaspie (Mulligan) is assigned to investigate the case leading her to uncovering an elaborate people smuggling operation. An impressive cast and a dark and witty script from Hare lift this above the average TV spy/detective fare. Mulligan delivers a very natural and believable performance, whilst Simm, as the MP the opposition party would rather forget, is excellent at conveying the positive side of a deeply flawed character, drawing the viewer’s sympathies and delivering some of the Hare’s best lines. Piper is biting as his ex-partner. Spark also scores as a soldier tainted by what she has witnessed on tour in Iraq. The spy business is put across less successfully and feels a little overplayed at times and the story lacks a clear resolution, but on the whole this is a well-acted and directed drama that offers up much to recommend, despite ultimately failing to fulfil expectations. [15]

Film Review – HELL DRIVERS (1957)

Image result for hell drivers blu-ray reviewHell Drivers (1957; UK; B&W; 108m) **** d. Cy Endfield; w. John Kruse, Cy Endfield; ph. Geoffrey Unsworth; m. Hubert Clifford.  Cast: Stanley Baker, Herbert Lom, Peggy Cummins, Patrick McGoohan, William Hartnell, Wilfrid Lawson, Sidney James, Jill Ireland, Alfie Bass, Gordon Jackson, David McCallum, Sean Connery, Wensley Pithey, George Murcell, Marjorie Rhodes. Ex-convict takes a dodgy job driving loads of gravel through winding British roads, and realises that sneaky boss has rigged a scam with the brutal foreman, which inevitably leads to human wastage. Memorable and gritty drama with many future stars and character actors making early appearances. Baker and McGoohan are the standouts as warring truck drivers. Well-directed by Endfield and complemented by moody photography from Unsworth. Tough and uncompromising. [PG]

Film Review – SERPICO (1973)

Image result for serpico 1973Serpico (1973; USA; Technicolor; 130m) ****½  d. Sidney Lumet; w. Waldo Salt, Norman Wexler; ph. Arthur J. Ornitz; m. Mikis Theodorakis.  Cast: Al Pacino, John Randolph, Jack Kehoe, Biff McGuire, Tony Roberts, M. Emmet Walsh, F. Murray Abraham, Cornelia Sharpe, John Medici, Allan Rich, Barbara Eda-Young, Norman Ornellas, Edward Grover, Albert Henderson, Damien Leake. The true story about an honest New York cop who blew the whistle on rampant corruption in the force only to have his comrades turn against him. Pacino delivers an excellent portrayal of Frank Serpico, expertly capturing the frustrations of a cop isolated within the system. Lumet delivers an engrossing and realistic account spread over five years. Extensive New York City location work and a cast of relatively unknown actors add to the authenticity. Based on the book by Peter Maas. Followed by a TV pilot, SERPICO: THE DEADLY GAME, and series in 1976. [18]