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Mr and Mrs Smith (1941)

Mr and Mrs Smith is a forgettable Hitchcock. I know this because I’d forgotten I’d seen it moderately recently. It’s possibly not just a forgettable Hitchcock but forgettable as a Hitchcock.

Mr and Mrs Smith (1941)

The opening sequence is a hoot and sets up the relationship between Mr and Mrs Smith perfectly. Carole Lombard is wonderful here and in most of the rest of the film. And when the film loses its way - which it does so completely in the last third - at least there is Carole! Robert Montgomery is also pretty good for most of the film and Jack Carson is fun in his little role. The rest of the cast are forgettable.

Mr and Mrs Smith (1941)

It’s all pretty standard screwball fare, and like all screwballs it probably helps not to think too hard about things and just let the set-peices do their stuff. The opneing sequence; the first date; Ann and Jeff getting stuck on the parachute ride.

But then, the final third and the film becomes unbearable and with that it opens up the holes in the story so they’re harder to turn a blind eye to. And then I start forgetting again - my memories of the last third of the film are mostly just wishing it would end.

Hopefully I’ll remember how forgettable this is and not bother to watch it again.

Source: DVD
Rating: 3/10
Hitchcock Zone: Mr and Mrs Smith (1941)

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Arabian Adventure

I’m sort of surprised I hadn’t seen, or even heard of, Arabian Adventure until it popped up on Talking Pictures last week. It’s absolutely the sort of film I should have known about. I love a bit of mythic fantasy, and I love the British take on it. But I approached it with a bit of trepidation.

Mostly for three reasons:

  1. Arabian Adventure has to be the least imaginitive film title ever - it’s like what they wrote on the boxes and cans during production and just never got around to giving it a proper name!

  2. It arrived in the wake of Star Wars which set a high-bar for excitement and effects.

  3. It was on Talking Pictures TV - which is no guarantee of quality (and often is the exact opposite!) - now I adore Talking Pictures TV because it’s showing so much obscure British cinema but it must be said that a lot of it is obscure for a good reason! According to my records I’ve watched 246 films on the channel - and the average rating is just over 5!

But Arabian Adventure bumped up the average… but only just! Here’s why.

The cast was (mostly) fine - although our male lead Oliver Tobias wasn’t really - he seemed to have none of the humour and sparkle that the film really needed. Christopher Lee can always be counted on and our young hero Puneet Sira managed cute and sassy pretty well.

The effects were sometimes great - I enjoyed the steampunk volcano monsters (and Mickey Rooney’s cameo controlling them) - and sometimes awful - but that’s how things rolled in the immediately post-Star Wars years.

The story was a basic rip of The Thief of Baghdad which is a good thing to be ripping off.

It wasn’t a great film but was a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining romp if you weren’t expecting anything better than that.

Watched: 2019-08-16
Rating : 6/10

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Foreign Correspondent (1940)

In my head Foreign Correspondent is up there with those British films I love. And it has a lot of that British film signalling that is the reason it’s like that in my head:

  • It opens with a model shot - although a long, long way shy of Young and Innocent model quality.
  • It has a charming leading couple in Joel McCrae and Laraine Day - not quite Donat/Carroll levels of charm but still enough.
  • It has some stunning set pieces.
  • It has some genuinely funny dialogue

Add to this:

  • It has a villian engendering wonderfully ambiguous feelings.
  • It has George Sanders being a good guy!

But, in reality, it still falls quite a long way shy of the best of British.

All of the above doesn’t seem to hold together quite so well and watching it last night it seemed to be missing something in reality that my head seemed to be expecting. Maybe it’s the way that our leading man gets rather usurped by George Sanders when the confrontation occurs. Maybe it’s the way the pace drops off between those great set pieces. Or maybe it’s just that with Young and Innocent, The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes, Hitch had set the bar too high!

Source: DVD
Rating: 6/10
Hitchcock Zone: Foreign Correspondent (1940)

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Galaxie 500 - Subterania - 1990-06-27

So… at, I’d guess about 22:30 on 27th June 1990 this happened which pretty much changed the course of my life … as follows:

1990: I was working in the film stores at the BBC - not a great job but the pay wasn’t too bad (with some overtime) and enabled me to get out and see gigs

22:30 1990-06-27 - Galaxie 500 returned to the stage for an encore after a brilliant main set - they were joined by Kramer and played Ceremony, followed by Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste. I was mesmerised.

1994: I’d been messing around with the internet from pretty early on and towards the end of 1994 I acquired some free web space. But what to do? So I built a Galaxie 500 page. Because I still remembered that feeling from four years before.

1999: I’d managed to get a job working on a European digitisation project, I shared an office with BBC I&A’s first media mmanagers who were asked to help work on developing an intranet site - Research Central - I found myself roped in as the only person who had any experience developing for the web (becuase of Galaxie 500). I ended up doing quite a lot of the work on it.

Research Gateway in 2005

Research Central changed over the years, it became research.gateway, and then Research Gateway - the job changed, the site changed - as people learned the web they needed less help and more tools - we gave them that.

200?: Actually I’m not sure of when they decided that my skills (because of Galaxie 500) would be put to better use not as part of the archives but as part of the wider BBC intranet. Unfortunately over the following few years a variety of managers came and went and none of them had a clue what to do with us

2013: After too many years of doing nothing and not getting anywhere I decicded to look for another job. I applied for, and got, the job of webmaster at The National Archives because of, you know… Galaxie 500.

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Ray Harryhausen working with Medusa

I love Ray Harryhausen and his work but I understand why Clash of the Titans was when he decided to hang up his puppets. In the wake of Star Wars things changed and while a lot of the effects in this film are brilliant their integration into the film seems clumsy by more modern methods - it was time to let the new guys take his work and run with it.

I’ll say however that the fight with Medusa is still better than any CGI we’ve seen so far!

The leads are charming enough and the supporting cast is amazing, even if they are rather sleepwalking through it. But the story isn’t great so Ray’s sequences are the real joy of the film.

Clash of the Titans (1981)

Watched: 2019-06-16
Rating : 5/10