WHO now remembers Diana and Me, an ill-fated Australian comedy about a Wollongong girl (Toni Collette) who wins a trip to London to have tea with the Princess of Wales? That was in 1997 and, sadly, the princess died before the film could be released. A similar misfortune befell another Australian comedy — at least I think it was a comedy — called Let’s Get Skase (Monday, 5.30am, Movie Extra), about a kidnap mission to bring our best known corporate scoundrel back to Australia to face his creditors. Christopher Skase ran an outfit called Qintex and defrauded any number of innocent and gullible folk before taking refuge abroad, where he enjoyed an immunity from extradition. In Matthew George’s film, co-written with Lachy Hulme, a conman recruits a bunch of Aussie mercenaries for a Bond-style raid on Skase’s fortified mansion in Majorca. The real Skase was thoughtless enough to die on the eve of the film’s release in 2001, which didn’t help the film’s promotion (or, one assumes, its box office). Inept and silly though it is, Let’s Get Skase has a kind of dated fascination. It’s one of those films I love to hate, and can recommend on those grounds alone.
Two Hands (Saturday, 6.30pm, Starpics) is high on my list of the best Australian comedies, but we don’t hear much of it nowadays.
Heath Ledger is terrific as Jimmy, a would-be hoodlum who botches a job for a Sydney drug dealer (Bryan Brown) and goes on the run with his teenage girlfriend (Rose Byrne, delightful in her first film appearance).
Written and directed by Gregor Jordan, it’s a comedy of bungling and, unlike most Australian comedies, where even the most benevolent audiences are quite likely to be cringing with embarrassment, the best scenes in Two Hands are genuinely, joyously funny.
The one I remember best is the police car chase, in which a commercial radio spotter car goes after Brown’s character, keen to reward him with a lucky number plate prize.
It’s a big week for dog lovers. Red Dog (Saturday, 1.20pm, Starpics), everyone’s favourite Aussie dog movie and the highest grossing Australian film last year, is getting another showing, along with the film it most resembles, the imperishable Lassie Come Home (Sunday, noon, TCM), MGM’s classic tale of canine devotion. Lassie Come Home is followed by its two sequels, Son of Lassie (1.35pm) and Hills of Home (3.20pm). As is now well known, Lassie was actually a male dog, and was played through the years, and in the TV series, by as many as 20 different dogs, though no one spotted the differences and gender issues were well disguised. Lassie Come Home also marked the screen debut of Elizabeth Taylor, but it would be many years before she overtook Lassie in box-office ratings. Monday, 5.30am, Movie Extra
(PG) ★★★★✩ Saturday, 1.20pm, Starpics
(MA15+) ★★★ Saturday, 6.30pm, Starpics
(M) ★★ ✩✩
Bryan Brown in