It’s A Wonderful Life

(dir. Frank Capra) (1946) Utopian dreamer George Bailey (James Stewart) receives a Dickensian gift as he prepares to jump off a bridge; a glimpse at local conditions if he’d never been born. Full of sentiment but not sentimental, TVC challenges you not to be reaching for your hankie by the conclusion.    

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The Browning Version

(Terence Rattigan) Rattigan liked to focus on the pitiless pitied; still, he had a great (though now out of fashion) talent for structure, style, character and conventional exposition. It is what makes his plays so enjoyable. Andrew Crocker-Harris is Mr Chipping without the charm, Mr Kotter without the humour and Miss Brodie without the balls. He has been played by Eric Portman, Michael Redgrave, Albert Finney and others but few have got his essential character entirely right (NB the Varnished Culture never saw Portman in the role). After all, the impression he gives is that of only mild surprise at…

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The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

November 17, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classic Film, Drama Film, FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(dir. Martin Ritt) (1965) Agent Alec Leamas returns from Berlin, defeated and discouraged, and Control gives him a project: go back and set up his adversary for a big fall.  So far, so good, but nothing is what it seems in grand espionage… Great, grey, grim, cold war nasty. Dick Burton, et al, play for keeps with nary a hint of glamour.

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The Lost One – A life of Peter Lorre

(Stephen Youngkin) Standard, almost obsessively detailed reference book on the whispering menace. Peter (born: Lazlo Loewenstein) was perfect in the film roles of the 1930s and 1940s, the smartest person in the room but always with a touch of sadness. Peter gets to stroll the green lanes of Paradise for his work in M, Mad Love, Crime and Punishment, Strange Cargo, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca  The Beast with Five Fingers, The Mask of Dimitrios, and Beat the Devil. He gets censured for taking work away from actors of certain nations and ethnicities, e.g., Japanese (the Mr Moto films), Chinese (They…

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Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

(dir. M Nicholls) (1966) Fortify yourself before attending a party at George and Mildreds’. More Albee-inspired drink and depravity with great overheated performances (a big tick in particular for Sandy Dennis).

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