week’s best films
OFTEN cited as Buster Keaton’s best film, the 1926 Civil War action comedy The General (Monday, 1.50am, ABC1) is a sterling example of a film now considered a classic that didn’t do well at the box office on release. Keaton plays engineer Johnnie, rejected by the Confederate army, who thwarts a surprise Union attack in his efforts to reclaim his beloved locomotive, the General. The budget, huge for the day, can be seen in the broad canvas on which co-directors Keaton and Clyde Bruckman work. As usual, Keaton’s stunt work is spectacular.
The first of five collaborations between star Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel, the brawny 1968 action film Coogan’s Bluff (Sunday, 1.15am, ABC1) also marks a template of sorts for Dirty Harry, made two years later. Clint is an Arizona lawman sent to New York City to escort a psychopathic bad guy (Don Stroud) back for trial. Siegel and Eastwood became fast friends and in the next 11 years worked together on Two Mules for Sister Sara, The Beguiled, Dirty Harry, and Escape from Alcatraz.
The best of the screen adaptations of Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel (Thursday, 3.55am, ABC1), this 1934 version from producer Alexander Korda stars Leslie Howard as Sir Percy Blakeney, with fine support from Merle Oberon, Raymond Massey and Nigel Bruce. As the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror rages around him, an English nobleman saves French aristocrats. Howard would meet a sad fate in 1943 when the plane on which he was flying from England to Portugal was shot down by German fighters.
‘‘ Just because I drive a truck doesn’t make me a truck driver,’’ says truckie Pat Quid (Stacy Keach) in Melbourne-born director Richard Franklin’s fine 1981 action thriller Roadgames (Wednesday, 12.15am, ABC1). Made on the heels of Franklin’s cult horror film Patrick, the film is a pleasing mash-up of Rear Window, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Mad Max in its story of Quid trucking a load of meat to Perth and playing cat-and-mouse with a supposed serial killer along the way. Jamie Lee Curtis plays a character named Hitch, and though it is meant to signify her status as a hitchhiker, it could also serve as a tribute to her mother Janet Leigh, star of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Franklin, who died in 2007, had befriended the British director and, on the strength of Roadgames, relocated to Los Angeles and directed Psycho II in 1983.
All films correct at time of printing.