TV Review – BLACK NARCISSUS (2020)

Black Narcissus' Gets FX Premiere Date, Trailer And Key Art Released –  DeadlineBLACK NARCISSUS (TV) (2020, UK) ***
Drama
dist. BBC One (UK), FX Network (USA); pr co. DNA Films; d. Charlotte Bruus Christensen; w. Amanda Coe (based on the novel by Rumer Godden); exec pr. Ayela Butt, Amanda Coe, Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich, Lucy Richer; pr. Cahal Bannon; assoc pr. Vivien Kenny; ph. Charlotte Bruus Christensen (Colour. 2.00:1); m. Anne Dudley; ed. Jinx Godfrey; pd. Kave Quinn; ad. Andrea Matheson; cos. Kave Quinn; m/up. Nicole Stafford, Emmy Beech; sd. Ben Barker, Glenn Freemantle (Dolby Digital); sfx. Mark Meddings; vfx. Samantha Townend st. Jamie Edgell; rel. 23 November 2020 (USA), 27 December 2020 (UK); cert: NR; r/t. 165m.

cast: Gemma Arterton (Sister Clodagh), Aisling Franciosi (Sister Ruth), Nila Aalia (Angu Ayah), Patsy Ferran (Sister Blanche), Rosie Cavaliero (Sister Briony), Gianni Gonsalves (Srimati Rai), Soumil Malla (Joseph Anthony), Alessandro Nivola (Mr Dean), Wayne Llewellyn (Sannyasi), Dipika Kunwar (Kanchi), Chaneil Kular (Dilip Rai), Jim Broadbent (Father Roberts), Diana Rigg (Mother Dorothea), Aashish Shrestha (Phuba), Gina McKee (Sister Adela), Prabal Sonam Ghising (Pin), Komal Ghambole (Samya), Kulvinder Ghir (General Toda Rai), Karen Bryson (Sister Philippa).

A group of nuns face challenges in the hostile environment of a remote old Himalayan palace that they wish to make a convent. This adaptation of the 1939 novel by Rumer Godden suffers from being drawn out over three one-hour episodes as there really is no three act structure to contain it. The story relies on a gradual building of tension as the nuns battle with their sexual repression and their environment. The pluses are the excellent production values and photography and Dudley’s baroque score. There are fine performances too from Arterton and Franciosi as well as Cavaliero. The tension builds nicely in the final half hour, but the drama could have been edited down into a two-hour version and delivered a stronger dynamic. Powell and Pressburger’s 1947 movie version therefore remains definitive, despite the valiant attempts to more accurately reflect the source material here.

TV Movie Review – SHAFT: THE KIDNAPPING (1973)

Life Between Frames: Worth Mentioning - The Cat That Won't Cop OutSHAFT: THE KIDNAPPING (TV) (1973, USA) ***
Action, Crime, Drama
net. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); pr co. MGM Television; d. Alexander Singer; w. Allan Balter. William Read Woodfield ; exec pr. Allan Balter; pr. William Read Woodfield; ass pr. Dann Cahn; ph. Michael Hugo (Metrocolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Johnny Pate, theme m. Isaac Hayes; m sup. Harry V Lojewski; ed. George Folsey Jr.; ad. Bill Ross; set d. Richard Friedman; cos. Norman A. Burza, Sylvia Liggett; m/up. Jack Wilson, Billie Jordan; sd. Robert J. Miller, Hal Watkins (Mono); b/cast. 11 December 1973 (USA); BBFC cert: PG; r/t. 74m.

cast: Richard Roundtree (John Shaft), Eddie Barth (Lt. Al Rossi), Paul Burke (Elliot Williamson), Karen Carlson (Nancy Williamson), Nicolas Beauvy (Matthew Potter), Greg Mullavey (Beck), Timothy Scott (Hayden), Victor Brandt (Leo), Frank Marth (Sheriff Bradley), Philip Kenneally (Deputy Walter), Erik Holland (Deputy Daley), Frank Whiteman (Deputy Milton), Stephen Coit (Mr. Tolliver), Jayne Kennedy (Debbie), Richard Stahl (Potter), Joe Petrullo (Cab Driver), Robert Casper (Bank customer), Rudy Doucette (Police Officer (uncredited)).

A banker’s wife is kidnapped, and the kidnappers insist that Shaft deliver the ransom. But complications arise when, on the way to the drop point, Shaft is stopped by an overzealous deputy who won’t listen to a word he says. This was the first shot episode (broadcast fourth) of the Shaft TV Movie series and it is little more than standard TV fare. However, its individual  elements lift it above other more modest entries in the TV series and it is a pretty good introduction for TV audiences to a more family friendly John Shaft. TV at the time was not ready for the Shaft seen on the big screen, so compromises were made with the character’s abrasiveness, salty language, violent approach to detection and his wooing of the opposite sex. These elements were dialled down. To compensate the producers extracted footage from the chase finale in SHAFT’S BIG SCORE! and repurposed it here to introduce Shaft to a TV audience. This provides a dynamic opening , which a TV budget could not match for the rest of the story. Shaft’s shootout with the bad guys at the story’s conclusion is low-scale compared to the imported opening. Nevertheless, Roundtree shows glimpses of his big screen persona and has an athletic presence throughout.

TV Movie Review – McCLOUD: ENCOUNTER WITH ARIES (1971)

McCloud : Encounter with Aries (1971) - Russ Mayberry | Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related | AllMovieMcCLOUD: ENCOUNTER WITH ARIES (TV) (1971, USA) ***½
Crime, Drama, Mystery
Network: NATIONAL BROADCASTING COMPANY (NBC) (USA); production company: UNIVERSAL TELEVISION; director: RUSS MAYBERRY; writer: PETER ALLAN FIELDS; producer: DEAN HARGROVE; associate producer: PETER ALLAN FIELDS; director of photography: WILLIAM MARGULIES (Technicolor | 35mm | Spherical | 1.37:1); music: DICK DEBENEDICTIS; film editor: BYRON ‘BUZZ’ BRANDT; art director: WILLIAM H. TUNTKE; set decorator: JOSEPH J. STONE; costumes: GRADY HUNT; sound: EDWIN S. HALL (Mono); broadcast date: 22 SEPTEMBER 1971 (USA); BBFC cert: PG; running time: 76 MINS.
Cast: DENNIS WEAVER (Sam McCloud), J.D. CANNON (Peter B. Clifford), SEBASTIAN CABOT (Sidney Cantrell), PETER HASKELL (Richard Stevens), SUSAN STRASBERG (Lorraine), LOUISE LATHAM (Emily Cantrell), ALAN OPPENHEIMER (Mervin Simmons), TERRY CARTER (Det. Joe Broadhurst), ROBERT HOGAN (Detective Finnegan), JILL JARESS (Gloria), BOOTH COLMAN (Hines), WOODROW PARFREY (Elmer), ELISHA COOK JR. (Mr. Rafer), FORREST LEWIS (Old Man), FRED HOLLIDAY (Intern), ELIZABETH LANE (Nurse), ATHENA LORDE (Floor Nurse), NANCY JERIS (Marie), JAMES GAVIN (Policeman).
The kidnapping of a woman (Latham) who is married to a wealthy astrologer (Cabot) — and the appearance of her kidnapper (Haskell), who claims she is being held in a room with a ticking time bomb — spur the woman’s husband to bash in the kidnapper’s head with a vase. This leaves McCloud (Weaver) with a limited time to determine where the woman is and who is really behind the kidnapping. This was the first episode following the transition of McCloud from its one-hour slot as part of the Four-in-One wheel to a regular rotation as part of the NBC Mystery Movie series. The story is a strong one with elements of mystery and humour. By now the role of McCloud fits the charming Weaver as well as his cowboy boots and his sparring with Cannon is always a joy to watch. A good script by Fields, tight direction from Mayberry and the casting of Cabot as the astrologer also help make this an above average mystery movie.

TV Movie Review – COLUMBO: ANY OLD PORT IN A STORM (1973)

Adrian CarsiniCOLUMBO: ANY OLD PORT IN A STORM (TV) (1973, USA) ****
Crime, Drama, Mystery
dist. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. Leo Penn; w. Stanley Ralph Ross (based on a story by Larry Cohen); pr. Robert F. O’Neill; ph. Harry L. Wolf (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Dick DeBenedictis; m sup. Hal Mooney; ed. Larry Lester, Buddy Small; ad. Archie J. Bacon; set d. John M. Dwyer; cos. Grady Hunt; sd. David H. Moriarty (Mono); rel. 7 October 1973 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 96m.

cast: Peter Falk (Columbo), Donald Pleasence (Adrian Carsini), Joyce Jillson (Joan Stacey), Gary Conway (Enrico Guiseppe Carsini), Dana Elcar (Falcon), Julie Harris (Karen Fielding), Vito Scotti (Maitre d’), Robert Donner (The Drunk), Robert Ellenstein (Stein), Robert Walden (Billy Fine), Regis Cordic (Lewis), Reid Smith (Andy Stevens), John McCann (Officer), George Gaynes (Frenchman), Monte Landis (Steward), Walker Edmiston (Auctioneer), Pamela Campbell (Cassie Marlowe).

Adrian Carsini (Pleasence) runs a California winery owned by his younger half-brother (Conway) who reveals he’s about to sell it. This enrages the older wine connoisseur who knocks the young playboy out cold and ties him up in the wine cellar. Soon Carsini has committed a murder and makes it look like a scuba diving accident. The rumpled Lt. Columbo (Falk) is on the case and is willing to harass everyone – even Carsini’s cold but devoted secretary (Harris) – until he’s discovered the truth. One of the most entertaining of the Columbo mystery movies and one of the few where the rumpled detective has a liking for the killer. The winery setting and Pleasence’s delightfully snobbish performance give this episode a playfully novel feel. Whilst the murder is hardly perfect, the way Falk unravels the case is sublime. The finale in the expensive restaurant and on the cliffs overlooking the sea are neatly staged and the final scene where the detective and the murderer share a last bottle is nicely played. The production values are standard for 1970s TV, but the light, humorous touch and the lead performances make this well worth a look.

TV Review – STRIKE: LETHAL WHITE (2020)

What is Strike: Lethal White on BBC One tonight and how many episodes are  there?STRIKE: LETHAL WHITE (2020, UK) ***½
Crime, Drama. Mystery
net. British Broadcasting Corportation (BBC); pr co. Bronte Film and TV; d. Susan Tully; w. Tom Edge (based on the novel by J.K. Rowling (as Robert Galbraith)); exec pr. Neil Blair, Tommy Bulfin, Tom Edge, Ruth Kenley-Letts, J.K. Rowling; pr. Jackie Larkin; ph. Tomasz Naumiuk (Colour. 1.78:1); m. Adrian Johnston; m sup. Phil Canning; ed. Steve Singleton; pd. Alison Riva; ad. Abbie Bellwood; set d. Sophia Millar; cos. Henrietta Nieper; m/up. Caroline Greenough, Karen Scott; sd. John Rodda (Dolby Digital); st. Crispin Layfield; tr. 30 August – 13 September 2020; r/t. 4 x 60m.

cast: Tom Burke (Cormoran Strike), Holliday Grainger (Robin Ellacott), Kerr Logan (Matthew Cunliffe), Nick Blood (Jimmy Knight), Robert Glenister (Jasper Chiswell), Joseph Quinn (Billy Knight), Sophie Winkleman (Kinvara Chiswell), Christina Cole (Izzy Chiswell), Adam Long (Raff Chiswell), Natalie Gumede (Lorelei Bevan), Saffron Coomber (Flick Purdue), Danny Ashok (Aamir Malik), Robert Pugh (Geraint Ifon Winn), Jack Greenlees (Sam Barclay), Natasha O’Keeffe (Charlotte Campbell), Ann Akin (Vanessa Ekwensi), Anna Cannings (Della Winn), Robyn Holdaway (Hayley), Kathleen Cranham (Shanice), Bronagh Waugh (Dawn Clancy), Silas Carson (Henry Drummond), Sophie Colquhoun (Sarah Shadlock), Suzanne Burden (Linda Ellacott), Paul Butterworth (Michael Ellacott), Joe Johnsey (Martin Ellacott), Nicholas Agnew (Tom Turvey), Judi Kenley (Robin’s Aunt), Suzanne Toase (Denise), James Mellish (Freddie), Jamie Ankrah (Alfie), Joel Gillman (Digby), Ruth Lass (Dr. Elspeth Curtis-Lacey), Jacqueline Boatswain (Claire Morbury), Julie Morgan Price (Georgina).

Cormoran Strike (Burke) and Robin Ellacott (Grainger) are back, and at odds following Robin’s wedding to Matthew (Logan). But there is no time to mull on the new distance within their professional relationship, as a frightening visit from a potential client puts a new case on the table – and Robin and Strike set to work looking into reports of a strangled child. With the detective agency thriving, the duo is also recruited to investigate the blackmail of a Government Minister (Glenister) and Robin is tasked with going undercover in the House of Commons. Rowling’s fourth hefty Cormoran Strike novel (written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith) is faithfully adapted in this long and complex mystery. Technical credits are top class and the performances of the cast are uniformly excellent. Burke and Grainger have established a great rapport as the lead detectives. This is ultimately a well-written and traditional mystery thriller with continuing personal arcs from earlier stories, which casual viewers may find difficult to follow. However, fans of the books and demanding mysteries will not be disappointed.

TV Review – THE VIRGINIAN: BELOVED OUTLAW (1966)

Sara Lane in “Beloved Outlaw” (5:11) – The Virginian WeblogTHE VIRGINIAN: BELOVED OUTLAW (1966, USA) ***
Western
net. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. William Witney; w. True Boardman; exec pr. Frank Price; pr. Winston Miller; ph. Enzo A. Martinelli (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Jack Hayes, Leo Shuken; m sup. Stanley Wilson; th. Percy Faith; ed. Edward A. Biery; ad. George Patrick; set d. Claire P. Brown, John McCarthy Jr.; cos. Vincent Dee; m/up. Bud Westmore, Larry Germain; sd. Bill Ford (Mono); tr. 23 November 1966; r/t. 75m.

cast: James Drury (The Virginian), Charles Bickford (John Grainger), Doug McClure (Trampas), Don Quine (Stacey Grainger), Sara Lane (Elizabeth Grainger), John Bryant (Dr. Spaulding), James McCallion (Hostler), Bing Russell (Gabe Sloan), John Archer (Paul Nelson), James Beck (Peters), Don Wilbanks (Jenkins), John Harmon (Auctioneer).

(s. 5 ep. 11) A wild white stallion draws the attention of Elizabeth (Lane) who convinces her grandfather (Bickford) to buy it. Against his wishes, she tames and breaks the stallion when Trampas (McClure) is unable to. Her and the stallion become inseparable, but a problem occurs. The standard story of girl falls in love with wild horse and only she can tame him. All the stock story development is used in this tale, but it is done without becoming cloyingly sentimental and Lane delivers a genuinely charming and engaging performance.

TV Review – GUNSMOKE: P.S. MURRY CHRISTMAS (1971)

Gunsmoke: P.S. Murry Christmas - 1971 - Miss Kitty and Marshall Dillon  (With images) | Miss kitty, Gunsmoke, James arnessGUNSMOKE: P.S. MURRY CHRISTMAS (1971, USA) ***
Western
net. CBS Television Network; pr co. CBS Television Network; d. Herb Wallerstein; w. William Kelley; exec pr. John Mantley; pr. Leonard Katzman; ass pr. Ron Honthaner; ph. Monroe P. Askins (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Richard Shores; th. Rex Koury (uncredited); ed. Thomas J. McCarthy; ad. William Craig Smith; set d. Herman N. Schoenbrun; cos. Alexander Velcoff; m/up. Glen Alden, Irving Pringle, Esperanza Corona, Gertrude Wheeler; sd. Andrew Gilmore, Jerry Rosenthal (Mono); tr. 27 December 1971; r/t. 50m.

cast: James Arness (Matt Dillon), Milburn Stone (Doc), Amanda Blake (Kitty), Ken Curtis (Festus), Buck Taylor (Newly), Jeanette Nolan (Emma Grundy), Patti Cohoon-Friedman (Mary (as Patti Cohoon)), Jodie Foster (Patricia), Erin Moran (Jenny), Josh Albee (Michael), Brian Morrison (Owen), Willie Aames (Tom), Todd Lookinland (Jake), Jack Elam (Titus Spangler), Glenn Strange (Sam Noonan), Jack Collins (J. Stedman Edgecomb), Ted Jordan (Nathan Burke), Herb Vigran (Judge Brooker), Sarah Selby (Ma Smalley), Maudie Prickett (Mrs. Pretch), Rudy Doucette (Barfly (uncredited)), Jimmy Noel (Barfly (uncredited)), Max Wagner (Barfly (uncredited)).

(s. 17 ep. 15) Handyman Titus Spangler (Elam) rescues seven orphans from an overly stern headmistress, Emma Grundy (Nolan), and winds up in Dodge City at Christmas time. This seasonal episode has all the warmth needed to deliver its typically moralistic story. It is helped by a strong guest cast including Elam as the good-hearted rogue and Nolan as the hard and embittered headmistress of the orphanage. Redemption is the keyword here and rest assured all ends happily ever after on Christmas Day in The Long Branch saloon. The peck on the cheek that Kitty gives to Matt in this episode is as close as the two came to an on- air kiss in the twenty years of Gunsmoke on television.

TV Review – GUNSMOKE: CHATO (1970)

GUNSMOKE: CHATO (1970, USA) ****½
Western
net. CBS Television Network; pr co. CBS Television Network; d. Vincent McEveety; w. Paul F. Edwards; exec pr. John Mantley; pr. Joseph Dackow; ph. Monroe P. Askins (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. John Carl Parker; th. Rex Koury (uncredited); ed. Gerard Wilson; ad. Joseph R. Jennings; set d. Herman N. Schoenbrun; cos. Alexander Velcoff; m/up. Glen Alden, Irving Pringle, Cherie Banks; sd. Andrew Gilmore, Jerry Rosenthal (Mono); tr. 14 September 1970; r/t. 50m.

cast: James Arness (Matt Dillon), Ricardo Montalban (Chato), Miriam Colon (Mora), Peggy McCay (Beth Cooter), William Bryant (Marshal Dan Cooter), Rodolfo Hoyos Jr. (Juanito), Robert Knapp (Surgeon), Pedro Regas (Old Man), Jim Sheppard (Deputy Case).

(s. 16 ep. 1) Chato (Montalban) is a mixed-race Native American with a serious grudge against lawmen. He also has a remarkable athletic ability: he can run and jump over mountain ledges while keeping up a steady fire with his rifle. After an exciting duel, he kills a friend of Matt Dillon’s who was tracking him. Matt (Arness) comes to New Mexico and engages him in a duel of wits with Chato to catch him. Chato’s one soft spot is his common-law wife (Colon). She is shot and severely injured by a group of renegade tribesmen who were also gunning for Chato. Chato calls a truce with Matt so the group can escape and get her to a doctor – but it’s only a truce. Arness declared this episode his favourite of the 635 he starred in. It is easy to see why. This is an intelligent and tense story with fully formed characters and motivations. Montalban is excellent as the proud Indian waging a one-man war against the white man who slaughtered his people. Arness delivers one of his best performances as he hunts down Montalban and then forms a temporary alliance as they both fend off the threat from a renegade tribe. McEveety’s direction is also a great example of how a story can be elevated by the way it is presented. The all-location shoot gives the production the feel of a big-screen feature and Parker’s score perfectly underlines the drama. A real winner of an episode that showcased the series at its best – remarkable considering it was into its sixteenth season. Writer Paul F. Edwards won a Western Writers of America Golden Spur Award for this episode.

TV Review – ALL CREATURES GREAT & SMALL: YOU’VE GOT TO DREAM (2020)

You've Got to Dream” : All Creatures Great and Small — Season 1, Episode 1  | Full Episodes | by All Creatures Great and Small 1x01 | Aug, 2020 | MediumALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL: YOU’VE GOT TO DREAM (2020, UK) ***½
Drama
net. Channel 5 UK; pr co. Playground Entertainment; d. Brian Percival; w. Ben Vanstone (based on the books by James Herriot); exec pr. Colin Callender, Melissa Gallant, Ben Vanstone, Louise Pedersen, Rebecca Eaton, Susanne Simpson, Caroline Cooper Charles, Hugo Heppell; pr. Richard Burrell; ph. Erik Molberg Hansen (Colour. 1.78:1); m. Alexandra Harwood; ed. John Wilson; pd. Jacqueline Smith; ad. Thomas Goodwin; set d. Kaye Kent; cos. Ros Little; m/up. Jackie Sweeney; sd. Jonathan Wyatt (Dolby Digital); sfx. Scott MacIntyre; vfx. Sam Biddle, Catriona Falla; tr. 1 September 2020; r/t. 50m.

cast: Nicholas Ralph (James Herriot), Samuel West (Siegfried Farnon), Rachel Shenton (Helen Alderson), Anna Madeley (Mrs. Hall), Drew Cain (James Herriot Senior), Gabriel Quigley (Hannah Herriot), Mark Noble (Henry Dinsdale), Imogen Clawson (Jenny Alderson), Alexis Platt (Dick Rudd), Steve Jackson (Jeremy Sharpe), Nigel Betts (Dennis Handshaw), Naomi Radcliffe (Mrs. Dinsdale), Laura Lindsay (Mrs. Rudd).

(s. 1 ep. 1) The numerous adventures of friendly staff at a country veterinarian practice in 1930s to 1940s Yorkshire. It is a remake of the 1978-1990 series and the 1974 feature film taken from the autobiographical books by James Herriot. In this debut episode, James (Ralph) travels from his home in Glasgow to start a career as an assistant vet with the eccentric Siegfried Farnon (West doing well following in the footsteps of Robert Hardy). Vanstone adapts the source material well drawing on the charm and humour of the books to create a feeling akin to that of the original classic series. This new version is aimed at creating a new generation of animal lovers and judging by this first episode it has successfully captured the essence that made the original series so enjoyable, whilst creating its own identity.

TV Review – THE VIRGINIAN: HIGH STAKES (1966)

The Virginian 5x10 High Stakes - ShareTVTHE VIRGINIAN: HIGH STAKES (1966, USA) ***
Western
net. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. Thomas Carr; w. Mark Rodgers, True Boardman (based on a story by Mark Rodgers); exec pr. Frank Price; pr. Winston Miller; ph. Enzo A. Martinelli (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m sup. Stanley Wilson; th. Percy Faith; ed. John Elias; ad. George Patrick; set d. Claire P. Brown, John McCarthy Jr.; cos. Vincent Dee; m/up. Bud Westmore, Larry Germain; sd. Edwin J. Somers Jr. (Mono); tr. 16 November 1966; r/t. 77m.

cast: James Drury (The Virginian), Jack Lord (Roy Dallman), Michael Ansara (Paul Dallman), Terry Moore (Alma Wilson), Dirk Rambo (Wesley Hedges), Harry Hickox (Charley Kane), Mark Tapscott (Sheriff Adams), William Fawcett (Hostler), Jon Locke (Red Rennick), Walter Reed (Caleb), Robert Carson (Elias Duke), William Vaughn (Ben).

(s. 5 ep. 10) When a friend (Rambo) of The Virginian (Drury) is killed and the posse won’t follow the killer out of the county, The Virginian goes alone. He tracks the killer (Lord) and a woman (Moore) involved to a remote outlaw controlled town but can he get them back to the law? The slow-paced episode is notable for the appearances of Lord and Ansara as outlaw brothers. Unfortunately, the script does not make the most of their talent and the set-up and denouement are disappointing. Drury is at his laconic best and Moore gives a sympathetic performance as escaped prisoner Ansara’s ex-wife.