The Day They Robbed the Bank of England (1960) from Warner Archive

Irish nationalists plot to rob the supposedly impenetrable Bank of England at the turn of the last century in the 1960 caper flick The Day They Robbed the Bank of England. The brainchild of a man known only as O’Shea (Hugh Griffith), the robbery is less about the money than the potential political ends; as O’Shea says, “£160,000 is a matter for the police, but one million pounds is a political offensive.” His role in the heist is limited, however, with the break-in itself to be carried out by Irish-American import Charles Norgate (Aldo Ray) and a handful of Irishmen, including the volatile Walsh (Kieron Moore). Walsh is all over the place both intellectually and emotionally, ranting and raving about the impossibility of breaking into what amounts to a Medieval fort, his distrust of Norgate, his disagreement with O’Shea’s plans and, most importantly, his anger over his loss of Iris Muldoon (Elizabeth Sellars) to the American in their midst. Despite the rather misleading title and publicity, John Brophy’s novel on which the film is based is fictional, though inspired by a real life event which never got past the planning stages. The somewhat by-the-numbers plot of The Day They Robbed the Bank of England is faithful to the book, though the standard narrative is broken up by two key elements in the film, both of which make it much more than just a B-movie heist flick. First is the appearance of Captain Monty Fitch, played by Peter O’Toole in an … Continue reading

Night Must Fall (1964)

Dora (Sheila Hancock), maid to the semi-invalid Mrs. Bramson (Mona Washbourne), finds herself pregnant and with a boyfriend reluctant to marry her in the 1964 British psychological horror film Night Must Fall. At the nosy Mrs. Bramson’s insistence, Dora invites her boyfriend Danny (Albert Finney) over, and his boyish ways immediately wins the affections of the tetchy old widow. Less impressed is her daughter Olivia (Susan Hampshire), staying with her mother indefinitely, using her mother’s illness as an excuse to take a break from an unhappy marriage. But soon even Olivia is charmed by Danny’s antics, and there’s the little matter of the heavy police presence just beyond their gates, as hundreds of men look for the body of a missing local woman. Though it should rightly be an ensemble cast film, the movie, made to followup on Finney’s post-Tom Jones fame, is all Finney’s film. He is undeniably the center of this movie, and he gives an incredible performance. It’s perhaps a little too incredible, an intense turn that needs a little breaking up now and then, though with this stage play turned movie, there’s really nowhere else for the movie to go. Everyone in the film gives a fine performance, though special notice should be given Susan Hampshire, who takes what could have been a dull character and makes her complicated and frustrating. With heavy makeup — emphasis on rouge to give him that boyish glow — Danny’s face looks almost like a mask, albeit a porcelain mask, … Continue reading

The Fan (1981): Now out on DVD from Warner Archive

  Poster for The Fan (1981). Be ye warned, gentle readers: there are spoilers ahead!   “What is this ‘bliss’ shit?” shouts Belle Goldman, beleaguered assistant to Broadway star Sally Ross. A series of disturbing letters have been arriving for the aging star, but Belle can’t get Sally to understand how concerning they are. Sally, always dependent on the kindness of her fan club members, thinks Belle is too mean, and lectures her about her allegedly poor attitude, accusing Belle of always wanting a life full of “bliss.” Unfortunately for them all, overzealous fan Douglas Breen also believes that Belle is mean to him, and his behavior escalates. Michael Biehn plays Douglas, the titular fan in the 1981 drama-horror film The Fan. Douglas becomes increasingly hostile in his fan mail, while Belle (Maureen Stapleton) works behind the scenes to try to chase him off. As Sally (Lauren Bacall) rehearses for a new musical and navigates a complicated life with her film director ex-husband (James Garner), she’s unaware that Douglas is never that far from her, no matter where she goes. Soon he begins violently attacking those closest to her, and she realizes he is no ordinary overinvested fan, but someone actively trying to kill her. Rounding out the cast are Hector Elizondo and Anna Maria Horsford, both great in supporting roles as police officers. Also watch for Dwight Schultz and Griffin Dunne in small roles. Promotional photo courtesy Paramount Pictures.   The line between fiction and reality was purposely blurred … Continue reading

We Are the Giant (2014)

We Are the Giant ★★★½ / ★★★★★ Director: Greg Barker Music Box Films (Official Site) 90 Minutes In Theaters Beginning December 12, 2014 (Limited) – Many in Western culture consider political protest to be romantic; others consider it tantamount to treason. This is particularly true in the United States, where protests held by minority groups demanding equal rights are treated to everything from ridicule to violence. Meanwhile, the grade school tales of brave white men during the time of the American Revolution stick with us into adulthood, leading to the kind of naïve notions that may sound wonderful, but come from people who never had to protest for their rights at all. “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion,” said William Faulkner, a man who, as well-intentioned as he was, never had to endure water hoses or rubber bullets for raising his voice. We Are the Giant, the new documentary about the Arab Spring revolutions, evokes the feel of an interconnected world with its frequent use of collage featuring photos of protest and revolution from all over the world, including many from the 1960s civil rights movement in the United States. We’re all in this together, according to the film, its title borrowed from a metaphor noted Bahraini revolutionary Abdulhadi al-Khawaja told his daughters: protests for human rights are a David and Goliath story, but people don’t understand that, when they band together, they are the giant, not oppressive governments, and if people would … Continue reading

Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends: Season Three Now on DVD

Thank you all for your patience during this unintentional hiatus, brought to you by seasonal colds, internet outages and unpleasant traveling for even more unpleasant business. But enough holiday cheer! Things are back and hoppin’ here on SBBN, so let’s get to it. Like all good GenXers, I spent all of my 20s and most of my 30s watching cartoons. Craig McCracken and other cartoonists helped pave the way for the animation renaissance we’re enjoying today — it’s almost impossible to overstate McCracken’s influence, starting with Cartoon Network shorts and “Dexter’s Laboratory” episodes, then his multi-award-winning “The Powerpuff Girls.” His followup project in the mid-2000s was “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends,” a more kid-oriented show than his previous work, with milder humor and some of the most fantastic design and animation to be found on the small screen. Warner Archive is now offering the “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends: The Complete Third Season” on MOD DVD, good news for “Foster’s” fans who were left out in the cold when Turner released only seasons one and two, then stopped altogether in 2007. For those of you used to seeing these on Netflix (which only has season two at the moment) or in syndication, you’ll be pleased to know the full introductions are intact rather than the odd truncated version where the music abruptly changes and you’re left going, “What? Where am I?” “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends” follows the tales of young Mac and his best friend, the imaginary Bloo, a … Continue reading