Free to air
THE death this year of Ernest Borgnine at the age of 95 robbed Hollywood of one of its most versatile stars. With his podgy features, stocky frame and gap-toothed grin, he may have lacked glamour, and was regularly cast in heavy roles until Marty made him a surprise romantic hero in 1955. But despite a career spanning six decades and more than 80 films, there has been little on TV to remember him by. In From Here to Eternity (Saturday, 10.25pm, ABC2), one of his earliest films, he plays sadistic Sergeant Fatso Judson, who gives Frank Sinatra a hard time in the stockade, but in competition with the likes of Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr and Montgomery Clift it hardly rates as one of his leading roles. Based on James Jones’s novel, Fred Zinnemann’s film was nevertheless a Hollywood landmark — ahead of its time with its steamy plot, raw language and on-screen violence, not to mention that love scene on the beach.
Elsewhere in this issue I review Cate Shortland’s new film Lore, which looks at Nazi Germany through the eyes of a child. For admirers of Shortland’s film I would recommend also Margarethe von Trotta’s Rosenstrasse (Sunday, 10.45pm, SBS One), one of the most remarkable films about the Holocaust to come out of Germany. And it’s a true story. For some years the Gestapo maintained a special detention centre in Berlin for Jewish men married to non-Jewish wives. Such men, provided their wives didn’t divorce them, had a fair chance of being spared deportation to the death camps. But in 1943 a group of wives was brave enough to picket the prison (in the Rosenstrasse) and demand their husbands’ release — to which Joseph Goebbels (surprisingly) agreed. We follow the story of Ruth, a New York Jewish woman (Jutta Lampe), who was sheltered as a child by a musician, the wife of a Rosenstrasse survivor. With its complex narrative and intergenerational ties linking past and present, there has been no more moving and powerful film about the plight of the Berlin Jews.
In a choice between Return of the Seven (Sunday, 2pm, 7Two) — Yul Brynner and the magnificent ones save another Mexican village — and The Return of the Musketeers (Tuesday, 2pm, 7Two) — Michael York and the boys remuster for more adventures — I’d go for The Great Escape (Saturday, 2pm, ABC1), for many the greatest of all escape films. An all-star cast of Allied POWs, whom the Germans have thrown together in a special escape-proof camp, set about digging not one escape tunnel but three. This won’t be any old escape but one so big that thousands of German troops will be kept away from the front while they go after the fugitives. A breakthrough role for Steve McQueen and a rousing Elmer Bernstein score, all expertly directed by John Sturges. The only big star missing is Ernest Borgnine.
(M) ★★★★✩ Sunday, 10.45pm, SBS One
(M) ★★★★✩ Saturday, 10.25pm, ABC2
(PG) ★★★★✩ Saturday, 2pm, ABC1