Archive for December, 2023

The Signalman – A Ghostly Story with Denholm Elliott

We saw this famous Charles Dickeens Story done as a stage play a few months ago at the Lincoln Theatre Royal. Brilliantly done with special sound effects and smoke to add to the atmosphere as we sat in the stalls and could almost see the train speeding towards us – all illusion of course but how good it was.

This adaptation on Talking picture starred Denholm Elliott in the main role as the Signalman evertually telling his story to the stranger – and what a story it was. I think that it was originally a BBC Production.

BELOW: The Signalman does his job – day in and day out.

BELOW: The Stranger arrives

This was a perfect adaptation of a ghost story. The location is right – actually at Bewdley on the Severn Valley Railway and the performances beautifully measured – and the atmosphere engulfs the viewer

The adaptation stays loyal to the story.

Denholm Elliott standing at the mouth of the tunnel as smoke billows out behind him after the collision and the night shot of the stranger returning to the inn are quite remarkable.

An extremely good version of a great and ghostly story leaving us shivering just a little.

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Echo of Diana

For some reason I had it in my head that this was a Francis Durbridge story adapted from a TV serial – they usually ran over six weeks – but I was wrong and it was not one of his at all. I must admit the title s like one of hios and watching the film, it seemed to move along in that style.

I was wrong though.

Nevertheless it was an absorbing and intriguing storyline where we never know quite what was going on as we were transported scene to scene in and around London and the Home Counties

A plane crash sets the story in motion, where a man is killed – or is he ?

ABOVE – Joan Scott ( Betty McDouwall) hears that her husband has been killed in the plane crash and here is comforted by her friend Pam Jennings ( Clare Owen)

ABOVE and BELOW: Bill Vernon ( Vincent Ball ) chats with Pam and Joan

Joan is devastated and just cannot believe that her husband has gone – and strange things then start to happen

ABOVE : Col Justin ( Geoffrey Toone) is now involved and a crashed car leads to more developments. Bill Vernon assists him.

Bill Vernon chats with Pam/

All in all a very entertaining film

Betty McDowell was a n Australian actress who cam to England and had quite a success in films like this one, and on the West End Stage but I was intrigued to see that she also played Laura Archer on Radio in ‘The Archers’

Vincent Ball was another Australian who came here and was in quite a number of films and Television dramas. He did go back to Australia and is still alive at the age of 100. He did play a part in Australia as recently as 2014 when he was a mere 91

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The Last Frontier 1955 – Victor Mature

I liked this film which was shown a few days ago on one of the many TV Film Channels.

Well, it starred Victor Mature who, as readers of this Blog will have come to realise is a favourite of mine – as he was of my father – and he gives another good performance

Victor Mature’s diverse career included starring in a number of historical epics – Samson and Delilah (1949), The Robe (1953), Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954), and The Egyptian (1954).

These big-budget films were interspersed with lighter fare such as Wabash Avenue (1950) with Betty Grable and Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) with Esther Williams.

He also starred in numerous Westerns, including Fury at Furnace Creek (1948), Chief Crazy Horse (1955), and this one – The Last Frontier (1955).

This is an enjoyable Western. The scenery Is fantastic. The soundtrack Is in stereo- which is quite something for a Western In 1955

Most of the scenes are Inside a military fort or shot on location.

Victor Mature plays a trapper turned military scout trying to prevent a glory-mad Colonel from attacking the Indians as It would mean a massacre of the whole fort.

Robert Preston plays the colonel who Is constantly at loggerheads with Victor Mature.

The final battle with the Indians is very well staged and goes on for quite a while – the action taking place in a forest – beautifully filmed

The film fared pretty well at the Box Office – as most Victor Mature films did

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White Christmas 1954

The biggest hit of the year ‘White Christmas’ swelled Paramount’s Bank balance by 12 million dollars from the American release alone – and pretty much the same again from the rest of the World

Such stars – and talents – as Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye along with Irving Berlin certainly did the trick – ably assisted by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. The story was nothing special but was about a couple of entertainers assisted by their girl friends who put on a show at a Winter Resort Hotel to make it a success for their old Army Officer.

The production was in Technicolor and VistaVision – the first film to be released using this process which was Paramount’s answer to Cinemascope.

The film boasted 15 Irving Berlin songs including ‘Count Your Blessing’ , ‘The Best Things Happen when you’re Dancing’ ‘Sisters’ and old ones like ‘Blue Skies’ and ‘Heatwave’

The script and story, makes this almost a remake of Holiday Inn.

Then we have the performances, with Bing Crosby his usual charming self as Bob, and Danny Kaye is superb as Phil. His dance routine with Vera Ellen, who looked gorgeous here, was a knockout.

Rosemary Clooney is terrific as Betty, with a calm and subdued performance. The choreography was excellent – clever, fast-paced and energetic.

All in all – a perfect film for Christmas

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Delta 8-3 The Vulcan Bomber at Waddington

This was a short film but in full Colour shot at Waddington in Lincolnshire about the Vulcan Bomber and really about the legendary aircraft and it’s crew a film narrated by Peter Dimmock

The introduction of the Vulcans at Scampton – where they were based – in the fifties called for the main A15 road to be re-routed and instead of the normal straight Roman Road as it was, the runway extension meant that just North of Lincoln the road has quite a curve around the runway end

We see shots of the Officer’s mess with beer being consumed

I am surprised that this film is being billed as at Waddington as I do know the Vulcans were stationed at nearby Scampton – former home of the Dam Busters Squadron

Quite a few years ago in the Seventies, I had business with someone living and with a business in the charming village of Aisthorpe Nr Lincoln very close to Scampton. On a number of occasions, I was with him in his office when two or three of the Vulcans took off low over the village which although not visible is not too far from the Western end of the runway, and as they were at very low level and climbing the noise was just incredible and this person started to curse at them as it was impossible to hear anything on the phone.

Vulcan over Lincoln Cathedral

On another occasion my wife and I were motoring towards Lincoln not too far from the village of Aisthorpe when suddenly a Vulcan appeared above us very low, very noisy climbing and the sight of it was so impressive = I wish they were there now at

This is such an impressive shot of the Twelve Vulcans on the Runway at Scampton.

I sometimes would stop as close to the runway as was possible and watch as probably six of the aircraft practiced take off, circling and landing on a regular basis. It certainly was a thrilling sight as they hurtled past – the ground seemed to shake below where you were standing

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Raising The Standard – 1948 Bonnie Prince Charlie

Raising the Standard

Just over a year s I watched and listened to the coverage of The Death of the Queen, I was filled, as I have been with great sadness and was listening to a discussion about the Royal Standard being raised at Buckingham Palace and other palaces in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

I try to relate items from such events to this Blog and to the film world of the relevant era.

The Still from the Film ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ 1948 shows the Prince played by David Niven raising the Standard at Glenfinnan.

What a beautiful place it is and what a wonderful and iconic scene

Bonnie Prince Charlie
David Niven (1910-1983), British actor, in costume, with a tartan sash, standing before a drystone wall in a publicity still issued for the film, ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’, United Kingdom, 1948, directed by Anthony Kimmins (1901–1964) and Alexander Korda (1893-1956), starred Niven as The Prince

Alexander Korda put a lot of effort and money into this, but it did not fare too well at the Box Office. It does look an expensive film when you are watching it and it is spectacular in Technicolor with wonderful shots of the Scottish Highlands.

David Niven with Margaret Leighton

In my view David Niven just did not look the part and my own view is that he was mis-cast in this. I have always liked Margaret Leighton – she was with David Niven again in The Elusive Pimpernel in 1951 but again that was not successful although again it have a quite lavish budget and again was in Technicolor.

Mind you, sandwiched between these two films, David Niven was back in Hollywood and made ‘Enchantment’ for Sam Goldwyn which I enjoyed

Margaert Leighton had a leading role a year later in ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ – a film I love – very English in it’s style but a great story from a stage play

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The Buccaneer 1958

Sadly the greatest success of Cecil B De Mille’s career ‘The Ten Commandments’ 1956 was followed by this film – a disastrous flop and a month after the film’s release he died aged 77.

I have read the he had intended to make this as a Musical Version which really surprised me, but in the end that did not happen.

This film had a very large budget at 5 million US Dollars and had VistaVision, Technicolor and a large cast of actors and extras and yet it still missed the mark. Who can say why.

I remember at the time speculation that seeing Yul Brynner with hair didn’t help but that can’t have been the only factor

The film starred Yul Brynner, Charlton Heston, Charles Boyer and Claire Bloom

Yul Brynner makes as dashing a Jean Lafitte as Fredric March did in the 1938 film. Charlton Heston repeats his Andrew Jackson role from The President’s Lady which he made earlier in the Fifties.

The best role in the film was Charles Boyer as Dominic You, Lafitte’s cynical second in command. A former artillery officer in Napoleon’s army, he left there and took up piracy out of disillusionment with how the French Revolution turned out.

Charles Boyer has some good and wise lines which he delivers well

Cecil B DeMille’s film is pretty much the same as the 1938 version.

In the film the two female leads are played by Claire Bloom as a fiery type who seems to cross between Love and Hate for Lafitte, whereas Inger Stevens is really attractive as his true love – she is also the daughter of the governor

This film had one additional thing going for it.

Singer Johnny Horton had a big hit record with ‘The Battle of New Orleans’ at the same time the film came out. In England we had another great version from Lonnie Donegan which I preferred

The film was directed by Anthony Quinn who was the Son-in-Law of Cecil B De Mille at the time. Generally he did a good job but the film’s dismal showing at the Box Office probably contributed to the fact that he never directed another film. I have read that the final cut was done by Cecil B DeMille and he had hacked it about quite a bit – maybe that also was a contributory factor.

ABOVE – Anthony Quinn chats with Yul Brynner on the Set
ABOVE – Anthony Quinn the Director discusses a scene with Claire Bloom

Anthony Quinn poses for an Advertisement on the Film Set

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Manhunt in the Jungle 1958

This has the sort of title that would really pull me in with the prospect of excitement up the Amazon searching for a missing person and the fabled Lost City of Gold – what a story line

The film is based on the expedition by George M Dyott to seach for the facts surrounding the Disappearance of Colonel Percy H. Fawcett in the jungles of Matto Grosso*, Brazil in 1925.

At the time, the story of the fearless and obsessive explorer, looking for a lost city in one of the most remote areas on the planet, was followed by newspapers around the world.

Photo of boat on river
 Vincenzo Petrullo on the Kuluene River, Matto Grosso Expedition, Brazil, 1931. Photograph by Arthur P. Rossi. PM image 141482.

Fawcett, born in 1867 in Devon, England, led seven successful expeditions to the Amazon between 1906 and 1924. Initially these were funded by the Royal Geographical Society, but later trips were sponsored by newspapers and other businesses. Fawcett’s drive, stamina, and imperviousness to sickness were legendary. Newspaper dispatches followed Fawcett’s fantastic journeys leaving readers enthralled, and later, stunned by his disappearance.

Fawcett was known for his respect for native people.

He was also a Spiritualist who had come to imagine an advanced urban civilization deep in the Amazon jungle, possibly with ties to Atlantis.

His last trip was made with his eldest son and his son’s best friend, to discover the Lost City. However, after one last message on May 29, 1925, in which Fawcett told of preparing to enter uncharted territory, they disappeared without a trace

Robin Hughes ABOVE played George M Dyott with James Wilson as Dyott

It was filmed in WarnerColor

There is a 16 mm print available for sale and I am considering buying it

I did read this review :

An adventure that makes the blood race romance, mystery — and peril! So promised the North American Newspaper Alliance in 1928 when they sponsored an Amazon expedition to determine the fate of a famous explorer who hadnt been seen in three years. Led by George M. Dyott (Robin Hughes), a commander in the British Naval Reserve, the team ventured deep into the jungle in search of P. H. Fawcett (James Wilson), a British colonel who disappeared in Brazils Mato Grosso region in 1925.

Following a trail left by the colonel, Dyott braves hostile natives, giant reptiles, raging rapids and more as he tries to retrace Fawcetts steps before he vanished without a trace. Shot entirely in Amazon country, Manhunt in the Jungle was based on a 1930 book written by Dyott, his exploits also inspiring the 1933 film Savage Gold, an action-adventure made by and starring the commander himself.

Another Review:

Led by George M. Dyott (Robin Hughes), a commander in the British Naval Reserve, an Amazon expedition venturs deep into the jungle in search of a British colonel who disappeared in Brazil’s Mato Grosso region. Following a trail left by the colonel, Dyott braves hostile natives, giant reptiles, raging rapids and more as he tries to retrace the colonel’s steps before he vanished without a trace.

PICTURES BELOW from the film give us a good look at the impressive Colour film making on Location

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