FREE- TO- AIR FILMS
AS Hamlet observes, listing the offences of his uncle Claudius, he’s ‘‘ popped in between the election and my hopes’’: a sentiment bound to be echoed sometime this weekend by John Howard or Kevin Rudd. As the swelling prologue to that great event, the ABC is showing Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet ( Saturday, 1.30pm), a tale suitably rich in thwarted ambition and psychological power plays, in which Shakespeare shows us what a dab hand he would have been at writing negative attack ads (‘‘ lecherous, treacherous, kindless villain’’; ‘‘ incestuous, murderous, damned Dane’’, and so on). I still love the film immoderately — it was the deep- focus tracking shots through Elsinore’s corridors that got me in as a teenager — but those wishing to vent their anger at the election result may prefer Scream 3 ( Sunday, midnight, Nine), the last of Wes Craven’s slasher trilogy, of which no synopsis is necessary. The ABC’s other Shakespearean offering is Renato Castellani’s 1954 Romeo and Juliet ( 12.30am, Wednesday), of all film versions the most faithful to the text and the rapturous quality of the love story. Laurence Harvey and Susan Shentall are the lovers, both largely unknown at the time. For years I treasured a vinyl LP of John Gielgud and Claire Bloom doing the speeches, but Castellani’s cast outdid them both, and the film owed much to the ravishing camerawork of Australian Robert Krasker, who shot the exteriors in Italy. 42 Up ( Sunday, 9.30pm, SBS) was one of the midlife instalments of Michael Apted’s documentary project about ordinary and not- so- ordinary English lives, the characters’ sixth appearance since the series began on British television in 1964. The familiar faces ( those we remember) are back for a fresh updating, and fate seems to have been kind to them. Even Neil, the neurotic dropout hiding from the world seven years earlier, has struggled into a collar and tie to become a member of London’s Hackney Council. But would the characters have turned out this way if the filmmakers weren’t turning them into minor celebrities? And do we ever see people as they really are? That’s a question raised by Shallow Hal ( Sunday, 9.30pm, Seven), a rather shallow comedy by Bobby and Peter Farrelly ( There’s Something about Mary ), in which Jack Black plays the ultimate shallow guy, persuaded by a lifestyle guru to look beyond outward appearances and see people’s inner beauty. Naturally he falls for the inner beauty of the obese and awkward Rosemary, whom we only see in the person of Gwyneth Paltrow. It’s a formula that allows the Farrellys to get away with old- style fatty
slapstick jokes that wouldn’t be tolerated under prevailing PC codes, as when the slender Paltrow crashes through chairs or dives into a pool and engulfs other swimmers in waves of spray. But Paltrow fans will love it. And for James Mason fans there’s The Seventh Veil ( Thursday, 4.30am, ABC), a superior 1940s melodrama from the days when Mason was making a name as a sexy brute. He took a riding crop to Margaret Lockwood in The Man in Grey, and in The Seventh Veil he cracks his cane across the fingers of Ann Todd, a concert pianist who suffers from depression. Herbert Lom is the psychiatrist and Australian pianist Eileen Joyce supplied the soundtrack for Todd, who went on to star in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Paradine Case.