Rotten to the Core (1965)

This crime comedy begins with three small time criminals – Lenny the Dip (Kenneth Griffith), Scapa Flood (James Beckett) and Jelly Knight (Dudley Sutton) – about to be released from Wormwood Scrubs prison. Their gang’s mastermind is Randolph Berkeley-Greene, nicknamed “The Duke” (Anton Rodgers). But he is still on the outside, having provided himself with a cast iron alibi for their last job. Read more …

2021: The Year in Review

It’s the end of another year, and so time for the almost traditional Cinema Essentials annual review.

Records held at the British Museum show that our first annual review took place in 1856, in celebration of the end of the Crimean War. Unfortunately, we were still waiting for someone to invent moving pictures, so there wasn’t that much to write about. Read more …

Classic TV: Red Dwarf VII

The sci-fi comedy series Red Dwarf hit a peak with its new format from the third season onwards. That season saw the series action move from its former base on the mining ship Red Dwarf itself to the smaller shuttle craft Starbug. It retained the three main characters of Rimmer (Chris Barrie), Lister (Craig Charles) and the Cat (Danny John-Jules), but replaced Norman Lovett as the ship’s computer Holly with Hattie Hayridge in the same role, and introduced a significant new crew member in the android Kryten (Robert Llewellyn). While Holly disappeared after Red Dwarf V in 1992, the rest of the cast was unchanged until the seventh season in 1997. Read More …

The Killing (1956)

The Killing is a classic 1950s heist film and the first major film from director Stanley Kubrick. 

The film stars Sterling Hayden as Johnny Clay, the mastermind of a plan to steal $2 million from a racetrack. Among his gang are inside man George Peatty (Elisha Cook Jr.), corrupt and indebted cop Randy Kennan (Ted de Corsia) and Mike O’Reilly (Joe Sawyer), a bartender with a seriously ill wife. 

Clay also hires two men to create diversions at the racetrack. These are gun dealer and crack shot Nikki (Timothy Carey), who is to shoot the favourite horse during the race, and an old friend, wrestler Maurice (Kola Kwariani), to start a fight at the track. 

But the plan is complicated by the unexpected involvement of Peatty’s duplicitous wife Sherry (Marie Windsor), who plots with her lover (Vince Edwards) to get their hands on the cash themselves.  Read more ...

Way Out West (1937)

The comedy Way Out West has a simple plot that sees Laurel and Hardy arrive in the western frontier town of Brushwood Gulch to deliver an inheritance. This is in the form of the deeds to a gold mine, which they are to hand over to Mary Roberts (Rosina Lawrence), the daughter of a late prospector friend.  Read more …

The Amicus Horror Anthologies

Although less well known than its rival Hammer, Amicus Productions left its own mark on the horror genre during the peak years of the British horror film in the 1960s and 1970s. Amicus’s trademark was the anthology or portmanteau film, one comprised of four or five horror tales all linked by a framing story and often concluding with a revelation or surprise pay-off.

In this post I explore all 7 of the Amicus horror anthologies – and a few copycat films too. Read more …

Book Review: Once a Saint – An Actor’s Memoir, by Ian Ogilvy

For a while, Ian Ogilvy was very famous indeed, a household name and recognised just about everywhere he went. That was when he played Simon Templar in the 1970s revival of The Saint on television. For the rest of his acting career, he has mostly been a busy and familiar presence, working steadily in film, theatre and television in a variety of roles and genres, with varying degrees of success. His career has ranged from murder mysteries and Noel Coward plays to farces, sitcoms and horror films. Read more …

Classic TV: Red Dwarf VI

The sixth season of sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf appeared in October 1993 as Red Dwarf VI. A new director was brought in for this series, Andy de Emmony, and this would be the last BBC series based around the established foursome of Rimmer (Chris Barrie), Lister (Craig Charles), Cat (Danny John-Jules) and Kryten (Robert Llewellyn), before a fifth character joined the ship’s crew in series 7. Read more …

The Thirty Nine Steps (1978)

This third film version of The Thirty-Nine Steps stays much closer to the plot of John Buchan’s novel than previous adaptations and moves the story’s setting back to the eve of The First World War.

Colonel Scudder (John Mills) is a British spy who has uncovered a plot to assassinate the Greek premier on his visit to London, something that will spark a crisis in the Balkans and likely lead to war in Europe. When he finds himself pursued by enemy agents determined to kill him and take possession of his evidence against them, Scudder seeks sanctuary in the apartment of a neighbour in his building, Richard Hannay (Robert Powell). Read more …

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