What's on this week or so


Television

Ice Cold in Alex (1958)

Small group of Brits get separated from the army during the desert campaign and have to make their way through the desert to Alexandria. In their midst is Anthony Quayle who claims to be South African but might be working for the Germans. Leading the group is John Mills, fighting to keep off the bottle and giving one of his best performances. Classic war film that ages well.

Poster for Ice Cold in Alex

4.20 pm Film4 Wed 12 Dec, 1.50 pm Film4 Mon 17 Dec

Windbag the Sailor (1936)

A pub bore, who's navigated nothing more challenging than the local canal, is tricked into taking charge of a rusty old ship so that its owner can scuttle it for the insurance.

Windbag the Sailor is a pleasant comedy which passes the time easily enough, but its real significance is that this is the first film featuring British comedy's dream team: Will Hay, Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt.

10.00 am Talking Pictures TV Thur 13 Dec, 10.10 am Talking Pictures TV Sun 16 Dec

The 39 Steps (1959)

This might be more fondly remembered if it wasn't for the original which, despite its studio-bound scenes, beats this remake hands down. Kenneth More is the hero who gets himself chained to Taina Elg.

11.00 am Film4 Sat 15 Dec, 2.50 pm Film4 Tues 18 Dec

The Magic Box (1951)

How William Friese-Greene pioneered the moving picture.

This all-star bio-pic was made by the film industry as part of its contribution to the Festival of Britain. It features just about every well-known actor of the period.

6.30 am BBC2 Sun 16 Dec

Carry on Spying (1964)

Barbara Windsor's first Carry On and she fits right in. It's a parody of James Bond and The Third Man and is one of the finest.

 2.45 pm Film4 Sun 16 Dec

Devil Girl from Mars (1954)

An alien spaceship lands near a remote Scottish inn and its occupant terrorises the locals.

Classic, low-budget, so-bad-it's-good B movie.

6.00 pm Talking Pictures TV Tues 18 Dec

Moulin Rouge (1952)

Jose Ferrer gets on his knees to play Toulouse-Lautrec in this brilliant recreation of 1890s Paris. The drama at the foreground isn't up to much, but the background is stunning.

Poster for Moulin Rouge

1.20 pm Talking Pictures TV Wed 19 Dec

Last Holiday (1950)

Minor Alec Guinness in which he plays a dying man who decides to have one last fling at a seaside resort. Written by J.B. Priestley (a rare original film script), this is pleasant enough film but with an unnecessary twist ending.

6.00 pm Talking Pictures TV Thur 20 Dec

Here Come the Huggetts (1948)

Tarty cousin Diana Dors disrupts the life of archetypal British family - the Huggetts.

After the success of Holiday Camp the Huggetts get their own (short-lived) film series.

Still from Here Come the HuggettsPressbook for Here Come the Huggetts

2.40 pm Talking Pictures TV Fri 21 Dec

Carry On Cleo (164)

With a bunch of sets and props lying around from Cleopatra, it was natural that the budget-conscious producers of the series would want to use them. It's a smashing spoof which contains the classic "Infamy, infamy . . ." possibly the most quoted line in British cinema. Amanda Barrie gives the screen's definitive Cleopatra and if Sid James isn't quite how Marc Antony would have been, that's tough on Marc Antony.

12.45 pm More4 Sat 22 Dec

Brief Encounter (1945)

Some find it silly, but for those who are willing to give themselves up to it this is cinema's most masterly exploration of middle-class repression.

2.45 pm ITV3 Sun 23 Dec, 6.50 am ITV3 Sat 29 Dec

A Night to Remember (1958)

Titanic movie which more than holds its own against the modern blockbuster.

Poster for A Night to RememberPoster for A Night to Remember

6.30 pm Talking Pictures TV Sun 23 Dec

Scrooge (1951)

A Christmas Carol must be Dickens' most adapted work. It's been parodied and animated and plagiarised many times and is now an inseparable part of the holiday season. Alastair Sim gives the definitive performance in the title role.

4.20 pm Channel 5 Christmas Eve

Carry On Regardless (1960)

The Helping Hands agency is run by Sid James. The agency will do anything for anyone. So Williams gets to walk the chimp and Hawtrey gets to enter the boxing ring. This is the most bitty of all the Carry Ons with no attempt at a plot. Still, if you don't like one sequence, there's always another along in a minute. It only falls apart at the end with a slapstick house decorating/wrecking scene.

2.10 am Channel 4 Boxing Day Morning

Carry on Cruising (1962)

The first in colour, and Sid James is the captain of a cruise ship who desperately wants to get transferred to a better boat.  The regulars work well but Esma Cannon steals every scene she's in with some of the most outrageous overacting ever committed to celluloid.

8.35 am ITV3 Christmas Day, 3.00 pm ITV3 Boxing Day

Carry On Abroad (1972)

A package holiday to Spain is ruined when the hotel is only partly-built. This is the Carry On that divides fans and is either a last gasp of greatness or evidence of the series' decline depending on your fancy

10.25 am ITV3 Christmas Day, 1.20 pm ITV3 Boxing Day

Carry On Up the Jungle (1970)

A parody of all those dreadful jungle epics. An expedition goes in search of a lost child brought up by apes. And who better to portray the rugged heroism and animal sexuality of the Tarzan-like figure than Terry Scott!

12.10 pm ITV3 Christmas Day, 8.10 am ITV3 Boxing Day

Carry On Follow That Camel (1967)

This Foreign Legion tale only got the Carry On label in order to drum up trade. It has most of the series regulars but stars Phil Silvers. 

1.50 pm ITV3 Christmas Day, 6.25 am ITV3 Boxing Day

Carry On Screaming (1966)

"Frying tonight!", "Do you mind if I smoke?" and many other rotten gags fill this glorious spoof of the Hammer films by the Carry On team.

3.50 pm ITV3 Christmas Day

Carry On Matron (1972)

Not one of the best, but put the gang in a hospital setting and you can't really go wrong. Sid's a crook trying to nick the hospital's supply of contraceptive pills. Son Kenneth Cope has to drag up as a nurse to get in. Hattie Jacques gets the title role at last, but it's not worth having.

6.45 pm ITV3 Christmas Day, 9.50 am ITV3 Boxing Day

Carry On Camping (1969)

This is the one that contains one of the most seminal of all British film moments when Barbara Windsor finally loses her bikini top. Most of the gang are present and it also contains Round the Horne's Betty Marsden's best film role as the nagging wife from hell. 

7.30 pm ITV3 Christmas Day, 11.05 am ITV3 Fri 28 Dec

Carry On Up the Khyber (1968)

Probably the team's finest hour. When Charles Hawtrey gives the game away to Indian natives that the feared Devils in Skirts actually wear underwear, the British army's tenuous grip on India begins to loosen.

9.15 pm ITV3 Christmas Day

Carry On Girls (1973)

Feminism hits the Carry Ons with Sid trying to put on a beauty contest to promote a fading seaside town. June Whitfield is the counsellor leading the feminist protest. As a film it's a perfect compendium of seventies sexism but you still have to side with Sid.

11.00 pm ITV3 Christmas Day, 11.35 am ITV3 Boxing Day

Carry On Nurse (1959)

Sergeant was the first, but this is the one that really established the Carry Ons. The regulars are beginning to assemble: Hattie Jacques gets to play matron, and Joan Sims gets to do something rude with a daffodil. It's fun all the way, though without the outrageous camp of the later ones.

9.50 am More4 Thur 27 Dec

The Holly and the Ivy (1952)

A family's secrets come out when it gathers for Christmas.

It's a touch too much of a filmed play to hit the heights, but with this cast (Ralph Richardson, Celia Johnson, John Gregson, Margaret Leighton, Denholm Elliott) you can't really go wrong.

3.15 pm Talking Pictures TV Sun 30 Dec

Genevieve (1953)

Friends Kenneth More and John Gregson become rivals when they take part in the London to Brighton vintage car rally. With Kay Kendall and Dinah Sheridan along for the ride this is a delightful mix of the childish and sophisticated. When it was first released it was a massive, and unexpected, success and has now aged as beautifully as the old cars.

6.00 pm Talking Pictures TV New Year's Day, 10.15 pm Talking Pictures TV Thur 3 jan

The Titfield Thunderbolt (1952)

This cosiest of Ealing comedies concerns the closure by BR of a branch line and some villagers determination to keep it open. It was something of a disappointment at the time and it's not got the bite of the best of Ealing, but it benefits from the nostalgia factor and from having one of the most memorable trains in cinema history.

Poster for The Titfield Thunderbolt

9.40 am BBC2 Wed 2 Jan

Angels One Five (1952)

John Gregson is the enthusiastic volunteer reserve pilot waiting for his big break but coming up against Jack Hawkins' more careful approach to regulations. It was a popular WWII film in its day but looks nothing special now.

Still from Angels One Five

8.05 am BBC2 Thur 3 Jan

The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950)

Two boarding schools are billeted together thanks to a Ministry blunder. Worse - one is a boys' school, the other a girls' school. Even worse - the headmaster and headmistress are Alastair Sim and Margaret Rutherford, and in the evenly matched contest for supremacy neither is going to give an inch.

Few comedies are as funny as this one, but then few are blessed with both Rutherford and Sim in top form and a scene-stealing Joyce Grenfell at her most "jolly-hockeysticks"

Still from The Happiest Days of Your LifeStill from The Happiest Days of Your Life

9.40 am BBC2 Thur 3 Jan

Great Expectations (1946)

Probably the best Dickens adaptation in cinema. Like the book the first third is the best but the rest is still pretty good.

Still from Great ExpectationsPoster for Great Expectations

7.45 am BBC2 Fri 4 Jan

The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)

Mild-mannered bank clerk Alec Guinness and novelty gift manufacturer Stanley Holloway plan a gold bullion robbery and to sneak the loot out of the country disguised as Eiffel Towers. One of Ealing's most joyous comedies, with an Oscar-winning script and perfect performances. Watch out for Audrey Hepburn's bit part.

On the set of The Lavender Hill MobStill from The Lavender Hill Mob

9.40 am BBC2 Fri 4 Jan

NFT

The Belles of St Trinian's (1954)

Alastair Sim gives British cinema's classic drag performance as headmistress of the world's worst girls' school. Ronald Searle's cartoons are brought triumphantly to life by Launder and Gilliat.

18.15 NFT3 Mon 17 Dec

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

Ealing comedy without the cosiness and sentimentality  - this is black, sophisticated and witty. Alec Guinness plays eight members of a family bumped off by Dennis Price's black sheep in his rise to a dukedom. Valerie Hobson plays good but dull; Joan Greenwood plays bad but fun.    

15.40 NFT3 Sun 23 Dec

The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)

The marital problems of Britian's most married king.

Glorious biopic that put Britain back on the cinematic map. 

18.30 NFT2 Tues 1 Jan, 18.20 NFT2 Fri 4 Jan

The Ghost Goes West (1935)

When a Scottish castle is exported to America, its ghost goes with it.

Lovely fantasy.

20.40 NFT2 Tues 1 Jan

Things to Come (1936)

H.G. Wells' tale of life in the future is by turns dull, silly and virtually plotless. It's also fascinating, prophetic and the most remarkable sci-fi film of the thirties. Essential viewing for any film buff.

Still from Things to ComeStill from Things to ComePoster for Things to Come

20.30 NFT3 Thur 3 Jan

The Thief of Bagdad (1940)

Three credited directors, another three uncredited and production shifted to Hollywood to avoid the blitz - it should have been a recipe for disaster. Somehow it worked - and worked brilliantly. This is largely due to William Cameron Menzies' imaginative production design, a witty script from Lajos Biro and Miles Malleson and near perfect casting. Was there ever a vizier as wicked as Conrad Veidt or a princess as beautiful as June Duprez? Several generations of children have come out of the cinema pretending to be Sabu. Altogether now: "I want to be a sailor, sailing out to sea . . .".

13.30 NFT2 Sat 5 Jan