Critics of this type of show are quick to point out how "unrealistic" it was. After all no episode dealt with drug addiction, teen pregnancy,dropping out of school, or any of the other "relevant" topics that pass for entertainment today. Instead this program concentrated on the, now passe, issues of family love, warmth, charity, and decency. I challenge any parent, of whatever generation, to contrast an episode of this show with any "Married with Children" or the majority of today's teen oriented sitcoms and decide which world view they would wish for their children. Perhaps this show and others of its era (e.g. Andy Griffith) was overly hopeful in its portrayal of family and community, but isn't it better to aspire to the values of Father Knows Best than succumb to the spirit of the age we live in?
Zulu Dawn (1979)A black day for British colonialism depicted in a very good film
13 January 1999
The events leading up to and culminating with the 1879 battle of Ishandlwana are depicted very well in this exciting film. Although made some 15 years after the 1964 flim "Zulu", this film is actually the "prequel" to the other and should be viewed first in order for a better understanding of these two events in the British invasion of Zululand. The cast contains too many splendid actors and performances to single any out. Some historical errors do creep in but, on the whole, the film conveys the look and feel of the real thing. Very much worth the price of admission.
The Shooting Party (1985)A Quiet, Excellent Film
12 November 1998
This film is set on a great English estate during the last days before the outbreak of World War I. A superb cast including James Mason (in his last role), Robert Hardy, Edward Fox and Gordon Jackson combine their talents to produce a wonderful, if gloomy, peek at the comfortable world of Queen Victoria and King Edward VII that was about to come tumbling down. The plot foreshadows the social and moral upheavals that will be faced but does so with a grace and subtlety that makes this a film worth seeing.
Zulu (1964)FUN BUT FLAWED
9 November 1998
Stanley Baker is supposed to have wanted to make this movie so badly that he used his own money for the production.This is not surprising since the the story of the defense of Rorke's Drift was a staple of British schoolboy lore (in pre-"Cool Brittania" days) . The 1879 battle pitting some 100 or so soldiers of the South Wales Borderers against some 4,000 Zulu is the stuff of Victorian legend and resulted in the award of 11 Victoria Cross' to the defenders. Given these facts it's a wonder that Baker chose to distort the historical record to the extent he did. The film is a rousing good story and many of its major distractions, qua film, arise from the historical departures. The clearest example is the ridiculous inclusion of Jack Hawkins and Ulla Jacobson as the Rev. Otto Witt and his daughter. Neither of the persons were present at the battle and their portrayal in the film is a gross distraction fom the building tension of the approach of the Zulu impi. The characterization of Private Henry Hook as a malingerer and tippler goes beyond goes beyond historical license into the realm of slander. Hook was nothing like the film portrayal and was one of the heroes of the battle. The gratuitous inclusion of some trendy anti-war allusions by Surgeon Reynolds and by Bromhead and Charde only adds to the feeling that that historical record is being tortured. "Zulu" is a decent depiction of the battle proper but the cautious viewer should not be fooled into believing that this is good history.
Priest (1994)Tiresome and Bigoted
6 November 1998
This tiresome bit of propaganda is strictly for those who like their drama with one-note predicability and and a glaring bit of anti-Catholic bigotry to boot. It is inconceivable that bigotry of this sort could be made substituting any other racial or religious group for the Catholic Church. This is one for anyone who isn't a bigot to avoid.
Becket (1964)A good adaption from stage to screen
5 November 1998
The story of the friendship turned to conflict between Henry II and Thomas Beckett was successfully transferred to the screen in this film. Peter O'Toole seems rather consistently overwrought in his performance while Richard Burton is convincing as Beckett the jaded courtier but somewhat less so as the saintly Archbishop of Canterbury. In any event it remains a very good story and a good opportunity to see these two famous drinking buddies perform together at the height of their careers.
Khartoum (1966)Decent film, Bad History
3 November 1998
Most films based upon historical fact seem to suffer from some screenwriter's idea that he can improve on reality. In most cases, tampering with the facts is a waste of time if not a positive detriment. "Khartoum" is no exception to the rule. The story of the siege of Khartoum and the death of Major General Charles George Gordon C.B.("Chinese Gordon")is a great Victorian melodrama that requires no embellishment from Hollywood types. The film suffers from numerous historical errors (most glaring of which are the face to face encounters between Gordon and his adversary ,the Mahdi, a moslem fanatic played with obvious fun by the late Lord Olivier). The choice of Charlton Heston to play the role of Gordon is a pure bow to the box office and something of a shock considering that Gordon was quite short and an eccentric. In any event, the film has some good action scenes as well as supporting performances by Sir Ralph Richardson and Richard Johnson.
The Four Feathers (1939)Another First-Rate Zoltan Korda tribute to the British Empire
2 November 1998
A first rate adventure set in 1898 against the backdrop of Lord Kitchener's re-conquest of the Sudan culminating with the battle of Omdurman. The somewhat improbable story involves an officer and gentleman who, for some vague moral reasons, refuses to leave with his regiment for the campaign. He is given four white feathers by his friends and fiance as symbols of his cowardice. He redeems himself and his honour by disguising himself as a Sudanese and infiltrating the enemy capital. The rest is, as they say,history. Terrific supporting performances by Sir Ralph Richardson and C. Aubrey Smith. Director Zoltan Korda employed many Hadendoa tribesman(Kipling's "Fuzzy-Wuzzies") who had fought at the actual battle as extras. On the whole this is an excellent period piece capturing the flavor of a bygone colonial era.
The Drum (1938)The last days of the Raj and a lot of fun
31 October 1998
Unabashedly pro-Raj, the story of a young Indian Prince and his friendship with some British army types. The release of this film was reported to have sparked anti-British riots in India. Sabu outdoes himself as the spunky and, ultimately, obsequious Prince who lines up with his friend/occupiers to battle the deliciously evil Raymond Massey. Very politically incorrect by today's standards the film is a good adventure yarn as well as a Korda tribute to the the rapidly vanishing British Empire. The plot borrows elements from the real life killing of Sir Louis Cavagnari and his party years earlier in Afghanistan. In reality British and colonial forces were actively engaged in military operations in Waziristan at the time of the making of the film.
The Uninvited (1944)Outstanding atmosphere Piece with Fine Cast
30 October 1998
A superb cast makes this mystery/ghost story a premier example of the genre. The film reminds us that gore and high tech special effects are no substitute for fine acting and a good story. Shot in black and white, the film is highly atmospheric and can be chilling at times. Lead players Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey and Gail Russell deftly handle the material and the transitions from light banter to dead earnestness. An excellent score featuring the still popular "Stella by Starlight" adds to the mix. Fine supporting performances by Academy Award winner Donald Crisp (How Green Was My Valley) and Cornelia Otis Skinner. Interestingly, Gail Russell was to play Cornelia Otis Skinner in the film version of "Our Hearts Were Young and Gay". Definitely worth seeing and a good choice for Halloween.