Likable American actor Dean Jones, who died a fortnight or so ago, is recalled by those of a certain age as the gangly, grinning star of a series of 10 live-action Walt Disney movies in the 1960s and 70s. The first, and arguably best, of those is the 1965 comedy thriller That Darn Cat! (Saturday, 12.05pm, Disney Movies).
Jones plays an FBI agent assigned to follow the title feline to solve a bank robbery and kidnapping. Nothing else really looks or sounds like a 60s Disney live-action film: everyone is clean, prosperous, non-threatening and more than a little goofy. Skilled character co-stars include Frank Gorshin, Elsa Lanchester, William Demarest and Ed Wynn. Jones went on to star in the even more popular The Love Bug before becoming a born-again Christian in the early 70s. He had cameos in the 1997 remakes of both films.
Thirteen years later, American screen comedy had taken a sharp left turn in the form of the raucous and immensely successful National Lampoon’s Animal House (Tuesday, 6.35pm, Comedy Movies). The saga of a rogue college fraternity and their off-colour misadventures, the film was a proving ground of future talent, costarring John Belushi, Kevin Bacon and Peter Riegert. (Director John Landis and co-producer Ivan Reitman had substantial careers as well.)
During his long and storied career, actor Richard Gere has starred in many memorable films. A particularly good year for him was 1990, with Pretty Woman opening in March and becoming a smash hit. Yet some movie tragics don’t even think that was his best film of the year: they prefer director Mike Figgis’s January release, the propulsive crime thriller, set in Los Angeles, Internal Affairs (Thursday, 6.30pm, Thriller).
Gere stars as the corrupt and probably sociopathic police patrol officer Dennis Peck, who butts heads with Andy Garcia as the administrator investigating his misdeeds. Gere has rarely been as gleefully cold-blooded in a role, and Figgis proves adept at genre pacing and atmosphere.
It was called Duck, You Sucker in the US and Once Upon a Time … The Revolution in some territories, but under any title one of Italian director Sergio Leone’s most unjustly neglected films — and the last western he’d make — is the rousing and action-packed 1971 adventure A Fistful of Dynamite (Tuesday, 8.35pm, Fox Classics).
Rod Steiger and James Coburn, both of them never better, play a Mexican bandit and Irish explosives expert, respectively, who team up to play havoc with the Mexican Revolution. Leone considered this the second part of a trilogy that began with Once Upon a Time in the West and concluded with Once Upon a Time in America.
Comedian John Belushi stars in National Lampoon’s Animal House