FREE- TO- AIR FILMS
JOHN Ford considered it his masterpiece and, while I would respectfully dissent from that opinion and award the title to The Searchers or The Grapes of Wrath , The Fugitive ( Tuesday, 1.30am, ABC1) is one of Ford’s finest, a haunting passion play set in a fictional country somewhere south of the border. It boasts one of Henry Fonda’s greatest performances as a priest hunted by revolutionaries bent on stamping out Catholicism and, presumably, World Youth Day. Fonda’s saintly character hides out in a village and secretly performs priestly rites, including the baptism of a bastard child borne by a local woman ( Dolores del Rio). The overtones are all deeply Catholic ( Graham Greene’s novel, The Power and the Glory , was one of the sources), and in some ways it’s like a Bergman film, full of lofty symbolism and resonant spirituality, beautifully photographed in black and white by Gabriel Figueroa. Greene also wrote the screenplay of 21 Days ( Thursday, 12.30am, ABC1) — how I love these effortless transitions! — an adaptation of a John Galsworthy play, in which Laurence Olivier’s character accidentally kills the estranged husband of Vivien Leigh’s character and endures agonies of Greenean guilt when an innocent person is charged with murder. The film spent three years on the shelf before its release in 1937, by which time Larry and Viv were man and wife, a happy ending if ever there were one. Otherwise there’s not a lot to choose from. The Eye ( Wednesday, 10.30pm, SBS) is an intriguingly scary film from Hong Kong about a Chinese girl, Mun ( Angelica Lee), blind from the age of two, who discovers she can see the future after her sight is restored. I reviewed the Hollywood remake with Jessica Alba a few weeks ago and can assure you the original is more lyrical and delicate, its shocks more subtly chilling. The dialogue is in Mandarin, so Kevin Rudd can watch without reading the subtitles. SBS viewers yearning for old episodes of Inspector Rex can try the next best thing: K- 9: P. I. ( Sunday, 3pm, Ten), a straight- to- video sequel to K- 9, the James Belushi comedy about a narcotics cop and his canine partner, who is, of course, smarter than his handler and never touches ham rolls. Shadow of the Vampire ( Sunday, midnight, Nine, except South Australia, Victoria) is the one in which Willem Dafoe plays Max Schreck, the German actor who starred as the vampire in F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu and who was ( according to the premise of this strange, often witty, film) a real vampire in his spare time. Coincidence of the week: Nine is screening two films with Frances O’Connor, who ranks, in this column’s opinion,
with the blessed Cate Blanchett as one of the more charismatic Aussie actors to make a name in Hollywood. She’s a lovely Gwendolen in Oliver Parker’s The Importance of Being Earnest ( Monday, noon, Seven, except Queensland, Victoria), a tediously eccentric version of Oscar Wilde’s play, and is easily the best thing going in Bedazzled ( Tuesday, noon, Nine, except Qld), in which a nerdish loser sells his soul to the devil in return for the granting of seven wishes. The film is a remake of the 1967 original with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Brendan Fraser is the office deadbeat whose wishes are granted: one minute he’s a Colombian drug baron, the next he’s a gay Lothario.