Hitch #9: The Manxman (1929)

The first time I saw The Manxman was as the archive premier at the 2012 London Film Festival it was on the huge screen and spacious surrounds of the Empire Leicester Square, it was a beautifully restored print, it had a lovely score played by a small folk ensemble, there was a small bar of Green & Blacks chocolate on every seat (and there were seats without people so … bonus choc) and the film was a sweet and sad tale of love – all of this and Hitch’s long, lingering close-ups of Anny Ondra, conspired to make me love the film to pieces.

Sitting in my living room, on a DVD (that was actually not bad a print), and without chocolate and the shine was slightly burnished. The story, that had been charming and sad, seemed a little (actually quite a lot) insubstantial. I still rather liked the film but the lovely shots (both of the Cornish (not Manx) coutryside) and the aforementioned Ms Ondra, were not enough to make this seem any more than a half-hearted and slightly laboured yarn.

Sweet Anny
Surprised Anny
Enraptured Anny
Heartbroken Anny
Accused Anny

… you get the idea with that.

Far from classic Hitch, and one I’m not in a hurry to watch again… and besides … we get long, lingering shots of Anny Ondra in the next one too!

Watched: 2015-08
Source: DVD
Rating: 6/10

Hitch #8: Champagne (1928)

Oh poor, long-neglected, Everything’s Swirling – time to breathe a little life into you.

I haven’t checked but can’t believe that no one has reviewed Hitch’s 1928 comedy Champagne by comparing it to it’s alcoholic namesake. But I’ll do it all the same. It’s light, and fizzy (in places) but ultimately unsatisfying. We first watched it when it was streamed over the Internet back in 2012 (so long ago – I remember being quite excited by getting to see a Hitch rarity streamed online).

I enjoyed the film a bit more this time. The story is pretty awful, but Betty is charming and Gordon Harker as her father is a treat – Hazel thinks his casting “seems particularly daft” but I thought he pulled it off rather well – the man can use that same face in any role from farmhand to Wall Street executive.

Champagne at The Hitchcock Zone
Champagne at BFI Screenonline

Watched: 2015-07-04
Source: DVD
Rating: 5/10

Hitch #7: The Farmer’s Wife

The Farmer’s Wife is a gently paced and sweetly realised comedy. Hitch takes a play and turns it into a perfectly passable silent film. There is no twist, when the widowed farmer draws up a list of prospective wives near the start of the film and leaves off his long-serving and long-suffering maid (Lillian Hall Davis), it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this is an oversight that will ultimately be rectified. The comedy that happens along the way is predictable but fun.

The Farmer’s Wife at The Hitchcock Zone
The Farmer’s Wife at BFI Screenonline

Watched: 2015-03-28
Source: DVD
Rating: 6/10

Good evening… we’re Seam from… Chicago, Illinois…

… we’re gonna play some songs for you… this first one’s called Decatur

The rather brilliant Headsparks LP by Seam #seam #headsparks #lp #notahfow

This is a recording I made of Seam when they were over in London in 1992. They supported Yo La Tengo at The Borderline. I’d been listening to the brilliant Headsparks all week but didn’t realise they were on the bill until we arrived at the venue. A short but splendid set.

The evening still rates as one of my favourites. Seam were a brilliant treat and this was my first Yo La Tengo show, around the time of May I Sing With Me, and was also sensational.

Download: Complete show in FLAC (via Mediafire) (202 MB)

MP3: Decatur by Seam

MP3: Kernel by Seam

MP3: Grain by Seam

MP3: Pins and Needles by Seam

MP3: Atari by Seam

MP3: Sweet Pea by Seam

MP3: Sky City by Seam

MP3: Granny 9x by Seam

Another 50 albums: 1979 – One Step Beyond… by Madness

Madness - One Step Beyond
When One Step Beyond… came out in 1979 I was at the very height of an aversion to pop music, I was aware of two-tone and the ska revival because it was all around me. Cobham was full of these new skinheads, my friends and family dressed in smart black and white togs and pork pie hats. My reaction against this was extreme.

Over the following years I grew to appreciate a lot of the music and bands of that time (The Specials, The Selector particularly) but Madness appeared to be the quirky, syrupy, twee nonsense that I couldn’t stomach. They seemed too much of a “comedy band” and not serious about their music and this has meant that they are the band from that movement that I have continued to resist to the present day. Madness are one of the few bands that still have me reaching for the off switch.

But… they’re a London band with very London sensibilities and I’ve decided that for this reason they deserve a serious reassessment.

First shock is just how well I know this album, not only because of the singles but tracks like Land of Hope and Glory, In The Middle of the Night, and Bed and Breakfast Man. I guess growing up surrounded by this music meant that it reached me despite my resistance. It still wanders far too close to comedy too often (and Suggs’s vocal sometimes still rubs against me), but the good songs are surprisingly good and the arrangements and production are wonderfully rich.

I guess I’ll have to concede that my prejudice against Madness was a little unfounded – and, given the familiarity of this album, it has possibly been festering and growing when I really ought to have been ready to open up and embrace it. I’m ready now.

My Girl… is a treat:

Here’s Mike Barson talking about it: