Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Big War Movie Themes - 3) The Guns Of Navarone (1961)

Theme tune: The Guns Of Navarone by Dimitri Tiomkin. Also features a number of traditional Greek tunes arranged my Tiomkin.

Year: 1961

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Length: 2h30m

Format: DVD bought off eBay for £2.20

Synopsis: In order to allow the evacuation of 2000 allied troops a mis-matched group of commandos (played by Gregory Peck, Anthonys Quinn & Quayle and David Niven amongst others) are sent to destroy a pair of German super guns on a (fictional) Greek Island.  It's based on the book of the same name by Alistair MacLean (1957).

For more go here

Historical Accuracy: Well it's a fictional story, so in a way this is not that important. However, since it's set in the 2nd World War some degree of accuracy is required.  Although they get most of the weapons right (a relief for me) they had a complete fail with the tanks and trucks (one of which is clearly marked "Dodge").  Also, a modern film would consult real soldiers for key scenes and there's none of that going on here, with artillery and tanks simply lined up along the coast at one point supposed waiting for an invasion.  Completely unforgivable, for me, is the scene when a soldier is using a metal detector to look for explosives, swinging it over metal rails without a beep!

Anthony Quinn pops up again playing another swarthy foreigner, although I note this film preceded Lawrence so perhaps this is what got him that role.  Actually it's interesting watching the films in this order that certain actors pop up more than once (Alec Guinness in Kwai and Lawrence, Anthonys Quinn & Quayle (playing another english officer, so again perhaps it swung him a role in Lawrence) in Lawrence and Navarone).  The languages spoken are all authentic though, with no subtitles, which works well for me. - 6/10

Is it a good film?: It's a pretty good watch, but it perhaps lacks the true "epic blockbuster" feel of Kwai or Lawrence.  It feels more like a solid 60s adventure picture, but perhaps that's fine.  It starts with quite a jarring sequence of real newsreel footage and a voiceover, which is very much not something you'd see in a true classic.  Some say it's the best of the Alistair MacLean adaptions, but I'll reserve judgement until I've watched Where Eagles Dare again.

The action sequences are key to this kind of film and they are a mixed bag.  The scenes in the boat are pretty good (and interestingly played out with just sound FX - no music, which is something modern films could learn from), but the final battle scenes are a bit TV movie compared with the current hyper-realism.  They just about get away with it, and for the 60s it was probably state-of-the-art.  Nice to see the women in the film portrayed in fighting roles and also being more flawed than is usually allowed.

PS The Extras on the DVD made for interesting watching, partly as it made it clear the actors chose the director, not other way around, and also for the way the whole island of Crete turned out to watch the filming.

Overall: 6/10

Up next: BATTLE OF BRITAIN (1969)

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

The Very Best Of The Light Programme

The Albion Radiophonic Corporation is, reasonably, proud to present the Best of The Light Programme 1898. When we say "Best of" we mean "most tolerated" and by "most tolerated" we mean "received the least complaints".   If you've not listened yet to any episodes of the ARC Light Programme then this is a great place to start, or at the very least it's "a" place to start.  You could, naturally enough, start with the first episode and work your way up, but hey, we're not ones for expecting anyone to act in a conventional way.  Heaven forbid.

Now this particular compilation from the first season contains a letter from Mrs. Twomble, folk songs collated by Dame Dilemna-Spaniels, Lady Boudicca & Lord Hercules of Cheam doing something or other and Mayor Flange of Treacle Dripping.  Quite how we managed to attract such and eclectic bunch of contributors is anyone's guess. 

All the music has been specially composed by Charlotte Savigar and the New Albion Synthetic Orchestra.  Apparently the style is what one might refer to as "steampunk" whatever that is.

To contact the team who put the show together send a SAE to

Otherwise click here for The Very Best Of Tales Of New Albion

Big War Movie Themes - 2) Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)

Theme tune: Theme from Lawrence of Arabia by Maurice Jarre (who also wrote the score for Dr. Zhivago) - the soundtrack won an Oscar.  One of the most interesting features of the film is that there are no images over the opening music of both halves of the film, just a black screen for 5 minutes.  This must have been particularly evocative in the movie theatre.

Year: 1962

Director: David Lean

Length: 3h38m

Format: DVD bought off eBay for 99p

Synopsis: An Englishman with vivid blue eyes  (Peter O'Toole) goes out into the desert more or less against his will and ends up leading the Arab revolt against the Turks (and others).

For more go here

Historical Accuracy: It's a bit of a mixed bag, the first half being more accurate, it seems, than the second.  Various scenes and characters have been conflated, and some of it was just made up.  Overall the Arabs don't seem to come out of it too well.  It also gives the impression that TE Lawrence led the Arab Revolt practically singlehanded, but this was not the case.  The overwhelming impression is that the Bedouin tribes made up the bulk of his army, but in fact it was regular soldier.  Again it's about a 5/10.

Is it a good film?: Well yes certainly it is, especially the first half where the desert is the real star (I'd be surprised if it wasn't a big influence on Star Wars) although it must have been hell to film there.  Quite how they got the camels to do all the things they did, is a feat in itself.  Again they shoe-horned in various americans to ensure it got good coverage in the States, and surely they could have found someone more suitable than Alec Guinness to play Prince Faisal?  Despite all the noted actors, it's actually Omar Sharif who steals pretty much every scene, and as an Egyptian is the most authentic character of the lot.  The only women in the film are dead ones.  It definitely loses it's way in the second half (there is a proper interval, thank goodness) with some bizarre homoerotic / messianic type scenes when Lawrence is captured by the Turks.  It's not a very strong ending to an epic film in my opinion.

Overall: 6.5/10

Up next: THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (1961)