The Mouse That Roared (1959)

What is a country to do if its economy suddenly takes a nosedive? What if the country’s sole source of income is a product that’s suddenly no more in demand? Are economic reforms in order? Or a smart political move?

No; I’m not talking a 1950s tale of courage and enterprise in the face of economic disaster (not in the way one would’ve expected, at any rate). Not when you know that the star of this film—in a triple role, too, one of which is a woman—is the inimitable Peter Sellers. And not when you know that it revolves around a fictitious country, supposedly the smallest in the world, which decides that what its economy needs for a turnaround is to declare war on the United States of America.

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Oliver! (1968)

People who’ve been frequenting this blog for the past couple of years probably know by now that there’s one annual tradition I follow on Dusted Off: every year, on my birthday—which is today, January 8—I post a review of a film featuring someone born on the same date as me. I’ve reviewed films featuring well-known stars born on January 8: Nanda, Elvis Presley, Fearless Nadia—and some lesser-known but also good ones, like José Ferrer and Kerwin Matthews.

This year, I’m wishing a happy birthday to Ron Moody (born January 8, 1924), the British actor whose first film appearance was back in 1958, and who’s acted all the way up to (according to IMDB) 2010. To celebrate Mr Moody’s 90th birthday, I’ll be reviewing the film that won him a Golden Globe, as well as an Oscar nomination—Oliver!, the musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, aka The Parish Boy’s Progress.

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The Night of the Generals (1967)

As a young teenager, I went through a phase when I watched a lot of war movies. And when I say ‘a lot’, I mean a lot: everything from Operation Daybreak and Operation Crossbow to The Guns of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare, Escape to Victory, Von Ryan’s Express—and this one.  I remember The Night of the Generals as being an offbeat war film, because it didn’t have the drama and high adventure of most of the other war films I saw during that period. Instead, it was an unusual film, in that it was shown from the point of view of the Germans—and it combined suspense with war.

The three generals

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I Accuse! (1958)

One tradition I’ve upheld on this blog ever since I began is that every year, on my birthday, I dedicate a post to someone from the world of cinema who shares my birthday.

This year, therefore, a post in honour of José Ferrer, the Puerto Rican actor who was born on January 8, 1912, and became the first Hispanic actor to win an Oscar for Best Actor (for Cyrano de Bergerac).  I confess I haven’t seen too many of Mr Ferrer’s films, but Moulin Rouge (in which he played the tormented artist, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec) impressed me immensely. As did this one, a thought-provoking tale of an unforgivable miscarriage of justice.

José Ferrer in I Accuse!

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Dr No (1962)

Over the years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve posted tributes to dozens of personalities: directors, actors and actresses, singers, music directors, lyricists, even a writer. This time, therefore, I’m being a little different: I’m posting a tribute to a fictitious character. Ian Fleming’s suave spy, James Bond. Because today is Global James Bond Day, in celebration of fifty years of James Bond, onscreen—because Mr Bond first appeared in Dr No, released in 1962.

Twenty-four Bond films have been made. Bond has been portrayed by seven actors. But this one, starring Sean Connery as the first 007, seemed the appropriate Bond film to watch and review for this occasion.

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Zulu (1964)

While this blog is all about old films—and the bulk of my film-watching is old films—that doesn’t mean I don’t watch new films. I do; lots of them. But the odd thing is that invariably, new films that I watch end up having some connection (even if in a roundabout way) to an old film.
Last weekend, I watched two new films. One, of course, was the latest big release: The Dark Knight Rises. The other was the 2011 Michael Fassbender-starrer, Centurion. Both films reminded me of one old film, Zulu. Like The Dark Knight Rises, Zulu has Michael Caine in its cast (it was one of his first major film roles). And, like Centurion, Zulu too is about conquered versus conquerors.

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A Tale of Two Cities (1958)

Happy birthday, Mr Dickens!

Yes, Charles Dickens was born exactly 200 years ago today – on February 7, 1812, in Portsea. In his lifetime, he wrote a number of short stories and non-fictional works, besides about a dozen major novels. He was recognised as one of Britain’s greatest writers within his lifetime – and cinema took to his stories like a duck to water. Have a look at his filmography, and you’ll see what I mean. Dozens of adaptations, feature films, short films and TV series, have been made of Dickens’s work.

So, as a tribute to Charles Dickens, here’s one of them: a story of love and hate set against the backdrop of the French Revolution. A Tale of Two Cities.


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The Lady Vanishes (1938)

It’s been a long time since I reviewed a film by one of my favourite directors, so I decided this one merited a rewatch. Like The 39 Steps and Young and Innocent, The Lady Vanishes is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s early British suspense films. I saw it first when I was about 12 years old; but in the years since, I’ve never forgotten the story – I still remember almost every twist and turn of this film. And I still think that it’s one of the best train journey films ever made.


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North-West Frontier (1959)

While I was writing the review of Ek Saal last week, I was reminded of this film. And that for what might seem an obscure reason to some: I S Johar was the man who suggested the story idea for Ek Saal, and he – now as actor, not writer – plays one of the important characters in this superb adventure film.

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Triple Cross (1966)

Despite everything more fashionable cinema viewers may say, I love The Sound of Music. I love the songs, I love the mushy romance, I love the children. I love Julie Andrews. I love Christopher Plummer.
Which is why it’s always bothered me that Christopher Plummer used to refer to the film as The Sound of Mucus. Why, I wondered.

Well, this might just furnish some sort of answer to that question. Plummer stars in Triple Cross as a war-era safe breaker who offers his services to the Nazis as a spy in Britain. It’s not a frightfully demanding role, but it offers a glimpse of what Plummer was capable of. And I can understand why he might have thought of his role as Georg von Trapp as a little too much of a cakewalk.

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