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Mr. R. D. M. Kirby "Dick Kirby" (Suffolk, UK)

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The League Of Gentlemen - Special Edition [1960] [DVD]
The League Of Gentlemen - Special Edition [1960] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jack Hawkins
Price: £4.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous!, 11 May 2014
Did Basil Dearden ever make any rubbish films? Well, if he did, this wasn’t one of them - it’s one of the many terrific British films of the 1960s.

The plot is simple - and brilliant. Take one disenfranchised British Army Colonel, named Hyde - superbly played by Jack Hawkins (who, incidentally held the same rank during World War II) who decides to carry out a daring bank raid using guns and explosives - and remember, this was a time when bank robbers seldom used anything more lethal than pickaxe handles. To assist him, Hyde recruits seven distinctly dodgy former army officers, all of whom can provide the necessary expertise for such a venture.

The result is a mixture of thrills and comedy, with every character in the film, perfectly cast - plus a lovely little cameo part of Bunny Warren, really well-played by Robert Coote - with Philip Green’s music possessing just the right amount of patriotism - not too much, just enough!

And by the time the film reaches its climax, I suspect every viewer will be praying for the gang to get away with it. Get hold of a copy of this DVD to see if they do. Unmissable.

The Dam Busters [DVD] [1955]
The Dam Busters [DVD] [1955]
Dvd ~ Richard Todd
Offered by The Happy Zombie
Price: £3.59

5.0 out of 5 stars An Unashamed Flag-waver, 11 May 2014
This review is from: The Dam Busters [DVD] [1955] (DVD)
There’s a story - apocryphal, I’m sure - that Eric Coates had just finished composing a march, put the final touches to it and with a sigh, placed the score in a drawer. Just then, the telephone rang and film director Michael Anderson said, “Eric, we’re going to make a film called The Dam Busters - can you compose a stirring march for it?” and Coates, re-opening the drawer replied, “Well, I just might have something here ...!”

True or not, the music makes the film, a terrific story about terrific people which, upon seeing it makes you glad to be British. Having served in the armed forces during World War II, Richard Todd, playing Wing Commander Guy Gibson knew just how to bring a senior officer’s authority which was needed to the film and Michael Redgrave was perfect as the sometimes bumbling, but eventually triumphant Barnes Wallis.

I saw the film when it was first released, almost 60 years ago and I thought then that the special effects were a bit creaky but they become pretty unimportant compared to the acting and direction which really is first-rate.

I see a remake is planned but when compared with a film of this brilliance, the old homily of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ comes to mind - unless the overpowering reason for doing so is for the sake of political correctness in order to rename Gibson's dog, 'Digger'.

Anderson's film is an unashamed flag-waver - and one not to be missed.

Cary Grant: A Biography
Cary Grant: A Biography
by Marc Eliot
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Falls short of the mark, 13 April 2014
Cary Grant was not the greatest actor in the world but he was a terrific screen presence and he stayed at the top of his profession for many years, quitting when it was just right to do so.

So does Marc Eliot’s biography do Cary Grant justice? Several reviewers have mentioned a number of inaccuracies in the book; as to that, I don’t know. Certainly, Mr. Eliot has carried out a great deal of research and has crammed every available piece of information into its 434 pages and commendable though that might initially appear, it’s not necessarily a good idea.

The book isn’t especially well-written and Mr. Eliot does tend to bang on interminably regarding Grant’s alleged bi-sexual relationship with Randolph Scott. As to whether it’s true or not, I couldn’t care less; whatever the circumstances of his private life, my admiration for Cary Grant rests with his abilities to entertain on the screen.

Mr. Eliot should not have attempted to turn the book into a psychoanalytical exercise; something he’s not qualified to do. Perhaps one of the many other biographies about Cary Grant will reveal a clearer insight into the man who, without doubt was a very complex character.

Tales from the Special Forces Club: The Untold Stories of Britain's Elite WWII Warriors
Tales from the Special Forces Club: The Untold Stories of Britain's Elite WWII Warriors
by Sean Rayment
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking, 10 April 2014
I'm surprised that no-one had thought of writing a book based on the memoirs of members of the Special Forces Club, before now - I wish I had!

Sean Rayment has brought together a series of sizzling stories from the old and the bold who inhabited the clandestine world of Special Forces during World War Two and has been clever enough to give the widest possible range to those units. The Special Air Service, the Commandos, the Jedburghs, the Chindits and the Special Operations Executive are all well-represented in Mr. Rayment's very good style of writing. And furthermore, the author's very talented, too; I knew some of the names mentioned in the book and getting any of them to open up regarding their past exploits would have been as difficult as getting an intelligent conversation from a deaf & dumb oyster, immersed in a tank of chloroform.

All of the stories are fascinating but none more so - in my opinion - than that of John Campbell who, when serving with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders was unjustly accused of cowardice by a very cowardly corporal. The news spread like wildfire and unfortunately, it was universally accepted as the truth; this cloud hung over Campbell for years to come. It has finally been dispersed in this book; Campbell went on to serve with the very tough Popski's Private Army. Of the 21 gallantry awards to the unit, Campbell was the only one to receive an MC & Bar.

Many books about Special Forces can be bogged down with a lot of unnecessary data; this one isn't. It's there to be read and enjoyed as much as any book of fiction; except that it's all true.

Q Planes [DVD]
Q Planes [DVD]
Dvd ~ Laurence Olivier
Offered by silvertiplibrary
Price: £5.48

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lovely piece of nostalgia, 7 April 2014
This review is from: Q Planes [DVD] (DVD)
The newest aeroplanes keep vanishing from all over the world; a series of accidents? Not likely, says Major Charles Hammond (Ralph Richardson) of the Air Ministry and gets to work to solve the mystery. In his quest, he’s helped - or hindered - by his press reporter sister, Kay Lawrence (Valerie Hobson), and also test pilot Tony McVane (Laurence Olivier).

The key to it all is Jenkins (George Curzon), a rather unsavoury character who works at the same company which employs McVane and it transpires that the aeroplane’s engines are being neutralised by a secret ray, used by an unnamed government who all speak with German accents.

It’s a glorious bit of hokum - the love interest, McVane and Lawrence, spark nicely off each other with some very witty lines, as do Hammond and his valet Blenkinsop (‘a perfect swine!’), very amusingly portrayed by Gus McNaughton. Major Hammond’s own despairing love interest, Daphne, is nicely played by Sandra Storme (aka Irene Needham) whose cut-glass accent is wondrous to behold - hardly surprising that in real life, she married into the aristocracy.

Muir Mathieson is credited as musical director, although I feel sure that the score was written by Miklos Rózsa (a Korda favourite) and Tim Whelan’s direction keeps the action racing and Ian Dalrymple’s screenplay, the gags flowing.

A lovely piece of nostalgia, released in 1939 - just in time to alert the British public that whatever aeroplanes they possessed had better stay up in the air.

Kindergarten Cop [1990] [DVD] [1991]
Kindergarten Cop [1990] [DVD] [1991]
Dvd ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger
Price: £4.30

5.0 out of 5 stars Zhere iss no bartroom!, 23 Mar 2014
Detective John Kimble (Arnie) is, naturally, a tough cop, having set his sights on nailing deeply unpleasant drugs-dealer Cullen Crisp (Richard Tyson). But when Kimble’s star witness is murdered via an overdose of drugs by Crisp’s mother (Carroll Baker), he has to track down Crisp’s wife (who, with their son now has assumed a different identity) who can provide the necessary evidence to convict her husband of drugs dealing.

Discovering the name of the school which Crisp Jr. is attending, Kimble and partner Detective Phoebe O’Hara (Pamela Reed) set off to find mother and son; but when O’Hara - who is supposed to masquerade as a teacher - comes down with a stomach-bug, it’s Kimble who has to become the teacher.

It’s a scenario which shouldn’t work but thanks to Arnie’s flair for comedy and Ivan Reitman’s skilful direction, it does, and the way in which Arnie deals with the children (and vice versa) is hilarious. The younger Mrs. Crisp (Penelope Ann Miller) becomes Arnie’s love interest and the whole enjoyable film is well-supported with an excellent cast; but I think acting honours really go to Arnie's sidekick and Cullen Crisp's dreadful mother.

One of those rare films which really is suitable for all the family.

Peacemaker, The [DVD] [1997]
Peacemaker, The [DVD] [1997]
Dvd ~ George Clooney
Offered by Jasuli
Price: £6.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Crackerjack!, 24 Feb 2014
This review is from: Peacemaker, The [DVD] [1997] (DVD)
This really is a crackerjack of a film – basically, the plot revolves around 10 nuclear warheads which have been stolen in Russia by a rogue general, for onward transmission to a terrorist/freedom fighter group. Dr. Julia Kelly (Nichole Kidman) is the US boffin assigned to the case, since she has the know-how on how to neutralise an atomic warhead; Lt. Col. Tom Devoe (George Clooney) is the US Ranger officer conscripted into the investigation because although he possesses no scientific experience, he has the hands-on experience and the contacts ‘to get things done’ and the way in which they spark-off each other is very cleverly directed by Mimi Leder. Dussan Gavrich (Marcel Iures) is the idealistic terrorist, obliged by tragic family circumstances to effect a ‘spectacular’ and Armin Mueller-Stahl is Devoe’s chum, the cunning Dimitri Vertikoff, who helps him ‘get things done’.

And there are spectacular (and believable) car chases, some clever gun battles and the dodgy director of a transport company realises it might have been prudent to have accepted Devoe’s bribe, after his nose is introduced to the top of a coffee table. The stunts are coordinated by G.A. Aguila who makes a very fine job of them.

Hans Zimmer’s music is very good, although I did seem to recognise bits of Prokofiev’s 2nd. Piano Concerto in the score and I did notice at least one soldier, initially murdered on a train who makes a miraculous recovery to appear, yet again as a soldier, later on.

But the action is never-ending and the dialogue is both witty and compelling. The film was made getting on for 20 years ago but the plot is as up-to-date as today.

Well worth watching.

A Fair Cop
A Fair Cop
by Michael Bunting
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling, 19 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A Fair Cop (Paperback)
I wanted to review this book for two reasons; first, because I felt a great deal of empathy with the author since over 45 years ago, as a young constable I too found myself in the dock, falsely accused of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. I had arrested a man who had assaulted another officer and during the violent struggle which ensued, the man’s thumb was broken. The fact that the case was chucked out was due to (a) two other officers were with me and we all gave a truthful account of what happened, (b) the whole incident was witnessed by a member of the public who was able to corroborate our story and (c) the arrested person gave a false name, refused to have his fingerprints taken and a gutless sergeant let him get away with it and bailed him. It transpired that he had previously escaped from prison and at the time of his arrest, he was on bail for other serious offences and the magistrate had no hesitation in convicting him and freeing me.

But that’s the luck of the draw; I got very little backing from my contemporaries who saw this as an ideal opportunity to either gloat over my predicament or treat me as a social pariah. However, I knew I was innocent, just as Michael Bunting knows he was. Unlike Mr. Bunting, I was able to get on with my career in the Metropolitan Police and make a success of it. Consequently, I have very strong feelings about police officers who are crooked and also those who are wrongly accused and unjustly convicted.

I didn’t expect this book to be so well written; but it is, very much so. I’ve known several police officers who were sent to prison but they – quite understandably, perhaps – were not forthcoming about their experiences. It took a great deal of courage for Michael Bunting to commit his very raw emotions to paper.

The book makes reference to this case being referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission. Has it been successful? I hope so; seldom have I heard about so blatant a miscarriage of justice.

You must forgive me for banging on about my own experiences; I did so to show the reviewers the very thin line between innocence and guilt, commendation and condemnation.

I can say without hesitation that this is an enthralling book and I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in British justice; whether it is correctly administered or not.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 29, 2014 11:51 AM BST

Pimpernel Smith (1941)
Pimpernel Smith (1941)
Offered by rdowns33
Price: £22.89

5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific, 19 Feb 2014
This review is from: Pimpernel Smith (1941) (VHS Tape)
This was an unashamed, patriotic flag-waver for the war effort and as such, it succeeded magnificently. As well as starring in the film, Leslie Howard produced and directed it, too. The story is an updated account of a Scarlet Pimpernel character, who rescues 28 scientists, statesmen and musicians from the clutches of the Nazis. This is Professor Horatio Smith, who’d have us believe he’s a bumbling, absent-minded and rather misogynistic Cambridge Don, dreamily in love with a Greek statue; of course, not a bit of it because the next moment, he’s in Nazi-ruled Germany with a group of his students, spiriting even more oppressed academics out of the repressed regime.

It’s a good, clever story. True, there’s some rather creaky sets, and Hugh McDermott (a Scot with an extremely contrived and unconvincing American accent) is really irritating. But that matters little; Francis Sullivan is good as the chocolate-guzzling, over the top General von Graum and the rest of the Nazis are all portrayed, as you’d imagine, as a bunch of dim-wits. Mary Morris very nicely plays Ludmilla Koslowski, who replaces the professor’s odd infatuation with the statue and there’s a very charming performance of a salesgirl, played by the extremely attractive Suzanne Claire, real name Charlotte Cunningham who unfortunately appears to have had a very short-lived film career.

But it’s Leslie Howard’s film, all the way through. His quotation from Rupert Brooks is marvellous and right at the end of the film, when he gives his, "You are doomed, Captain of Murderers" speech, it's enough to make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.


David Niven: The Man Behind the Balloon
David Niven: The Man Behind the Balloon
by Michael Munn
Edition: Paperback

1.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable, 18 Feb 2014
I admired David Niven as being a great screen presence and when he wrote `The Moon's a Balloon' I thought it was terrific. He was one of those people - and there's not many of them - who successfully made the transition from raconteur to author.

Graham Lord wrote a very good account of Niven's life, as well, as did Sheridan Morley but Michael Munn, in my opinion, has not.

Quite frankly, it is unbelievable, with the most salacious comments reserved for people who are now dead. Having read this book, I was astonished that the author had not entitled it `Me and my mate, Dave'. Much of the alleged conversations were between author and subject; there's a perpetual `I said', `He said', the vast majority of which simply does not ring true and the theological passages were so nauseating, they made me want to throw up.

I started by saying that Niven was a great screen presence and it's true - he was also a very interesting man, with a man's failings. Let's remember him from those other books - not this one.

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