week’s best films

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Ed­die Cock­rell

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.

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