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Mr. R. D. M. Kirby "Dick Kirby" (Suffolk, UK)
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A Copper at the Yard: Inside the Real Sweeney
A Copper at the Yard: Inside the Real Sweeney
by Roy Ramm
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.09

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True Grit, 19 Feb 2013
Take the reminiscences of a 1960s detective from London's East-end, add a dash of Flying Squad, give it a shake, tell the story with lightness and humour and a very presentable book will emerge - the more so, because the policing that the public received then, shows no comparison with what they receive today.

But - and it's a big `but' - where this book differs is because twelve years into what looked like a very promising career, the author was diagnosed with terminal cancer and to all intents and purposes, was told to go home and quietly die. The story of how the skill of the surgeons, the love and support of his family and colleagues and above all, the sheer determination and courage of John Woodhouse turned this hopeless scenario right around makes compelling reading.

The proof of the pudding is displayed, firstly, by having beaten cancer, Woodhouse returned to work and made a massive contribution to the world of criminal intelligence at Scotland Yard; secondly, he completed thirty-one years' service with the police and lastly, thirty-five years after the initial gloomy diagnosis was able to write this compelling, page-turning memoir.

A must-have.


The 39 Steps [DVD][1939 version starring Robert Donat]
The 39 Steps [DVD][1939 version starring Robert Donat]
Dvd ~ Robert Donat
Price: 4.22

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars British cinema magic, 11 Jan 2013
One of the early Hitchcock oeuvres where the plot would be repeated again and again; handsome hero pursued by totally inept police for a murder he didn't commit, glamorous leading lady, suave villainous spymaster, some very dodgy backdrops and a cracking good story which had very little in common with Buchan's equally successful novel of the same name.

Some very telling moments in this piece of cinema history: the short-lived foreign spy Annabella Smith (Lucie Mannheim) giving Hannay (Robert Donat) the fright of his life when she staggers into his room in the middle of the night with a knife imbedded in her back - "Clear out, Hannay" - cough! - "Zey get you next!" There's the comic interlude with the disbelieving milkman, plus Gus McNaughton and Jerry Verno, the travelling salesmen. The charwoman's scream which is encapsulated into the train's whistle and the rather unhappy crofter's wife (a very young Peggy Ashcroft) who, as another reviewer pointed out, got a slap for her pains for giving her husband's - an iniquitous-looking John Laurie - Sunday-best overcoat to Hannay, together with his life-saving hymn book; it makes you think, `I wonder what happened to her ...?'

Personally, my favourite scene is where Hannay, mistaken for a parliamentary candidate is obliged to give a thrilling, completely impromptu speech at a Scottish by-election - I wish I could do things like that! And of course, Hannay being handcuffed to the delicious Pamela (Madeleine Carroll), the flight across the moors, the very annoying tune that Hannay can't get out of his head and the climatic arrival at one of Hitchcock's `well-known places' - on this occasion, the London Palladium.

Don't bother with the other versions of this film, all of which share the same blithe disregard for Buchan's book - see this one. It's vintage Hitchcock and one of his best.


The Iron Lady [DVD]
The Iron Lady [DVD]
Dvd ~ Meryl Streep
Price: 3.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Handbagged, 10 Jan 2013
This review is from: The Iron Lady [DVD] (DVD)
Margaret Thatcher is a Marmite sort of person - either loved or loathed. Personally, I think she was the best Prime Minister since Churchill but that, as I say is purely a personal observation, nor do I expect everyone to agree with it.

So does this film do the lady justice? Well ... no, I don't think it does. Not that I'm knocking Meryl Streep or Jim Broadbent who are magnificent actors. No, I believe the film is too fragmented, jumping to and from one situation after another. It dwells too much on the failing health of the subject and is that aspect of her life dealt with sympathetically? Once again, no, I don't think so. And much of her political life was skirted over; the Falkland's, the Miners' Strikes, the explosion at the Grand Hotel, the Poll Tax riots, could (and I think should) have been given more prominence and her infirmities limited to being briefly portrayed at the beginning and the end of the film.

With so much talent in the film it could have been so much better - and wasn't.


Counting One's Blessings: Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
Counting One's Blessings: Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
by Elizabeth, Queen, consort of George VI, King of Great Britain
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine tribute to a great lady, 9 Jan 2013
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I think it's us, the British people who can count our blessings at having such a blessed Queen and later, a Queen mother.

William Shawcross really has performed an excellent job of assembling and editing these extremely entertaining letters, so very well written and filled with humour and wisdom and stretching over such an immense period.

The last letter, published in this very readable book, to the Queen Mother's Grandson, Prince Charles, was written just after her 101st birthday and reveals that she had lost none of her mental faculties. It is a book that can be opened at any page, to be dipped into and whatever letter it discloses can be thoroughly enjoyed; it is also a treasure of a book and one that is a lasting testament to a very great lady.


Secondhand Lions [DVD] [2003]
Secondhand Lions [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Haley Joel Osment
Price: 4.75

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good, old-fashioned family entertainment, 8 Jan 2013
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A very charming film: Young Walter (Haley Joel Osment) is sent to live with two elderly, eccentric uncles, Garth (Michael Caine - not my favourite actor but good in this) and Hub (Robert Duval - very good) by his trailer-trash mother, Mae (really excellently portrayed by Kyra Sedgwick) so that she can go and enjoy herself. She has a hidden agenda; the two uncles are allegedly millionaires and sleazy Mae (and her equally appalling boyfriend) want to get their hands on some of the loot and she wants Walter to find out where it's stashed.

But that's the framework of the plot; in-between times, the uncles have their own dynamic way of dealing with annoying travelling salesmen, seedy relatives and obstreperous young tearaways. And then there's very clever flashbacks of their exciting lives during and after the First World War in the Middle East which involves the sinister Sheikh (a suitably sneering Adam Ozturk) plus Princess Jasmine (glamorous Emmanuelle Vaugier) - and Jasmine just happens to be the name bestowed on the secondhand lion.

And there's lots of dogs, lots of laughs and lots of homespun philosophy - a well-acted, thoroughly enjoyable film for just about everybody.


The Hunchback of Notre Dame [DVD]
The Hunchback of Notre Dame [DVD]
Dvd ~ Charles Laughton
Offered by MagicoClassicMovies
Price: 10.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Over 70 years old and timeless, 6 Jan 2013
One of my favourite films of all time, for a number of reasons.

First, the direction by William Dieterle which is superb. Next, the music by Alfred Newman is great; he very cleverly mixes the ecclesiastical music of medieval France with his own to bring a thrilling score to the film. And lastly, the actors: Charles Laughton was not always my favourite actor, but he was in this. He's supported by Maureen O'Hara, cleverly under-playing the gypsy girl, Esmeralda and Sir Cedric Hardwick as the sexually repressed, murdering Frollo who ruthlessly stamps down on anything he considers to be reformative.

The scene in which Quasimodo rescues Esmeralda - falsely accused of murder - is terrific; the tension builds as the crowd kneels outside Notre Dame where her execution is due to take place - and then as Quasimodo miraculously snatches her to safety there's Newman's tremendous chorus of `Hallelujah' and general rejoicing from the multitude although rather less so from the deeply unpleasant Frollo.

And in the closing sequence as Esmeralda finds happiness, the pitiful Quasimodo beseeches the Notre Dame gargoyle, `Why was I not made of stone, like thee?"

Not a dry eye in the house - well, not in my house, where I'm known to be a serial blubber!

Rush out and buy this timeless DVD - you won't be sorry.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / The Girl who Played with Fire / The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest  (Extended Versions) [DVD]
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / The Girl who Played with Fire / The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Extended Versions) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Noomi Rapace
Price: 13.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Drama, 4 Jan 2013
I'm no connoisseur of Swedish films; my knowledge of them is confined to Ingmar Bergman's often gloomy films of the 1950s & 60s. However, Niels Arden Oplev's trilogy of Stieg Larsson's `The Girl' books is a stunner.

No film adaptations of best-selling books will ever match their literary counterparts - they can't, because they run out of time - but this comes close. All of the cast is excellent but Lena Endre playing Erika Berger, Michael Nyqvist as Mikael Blomkvist and especially, Noomi Rapace's portrayal of the deeply disturbed Lisbeth Salander are terrific.

Oplev knows a thing or two about directing; he never lets up on the pace of the film and as racing commentators used to say to illustrate the best of the drivers, `it's all ten-tenths motoring'. A marvellous trio of films.


No Title Available

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jingoism at its best, 31 Dec 2012
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A faithful rendition of the British Army's greatest - and most glorious - blunder? Of course it isn't! So put that unworthy thought out of your mind, kick your shoes off, sit back and enjoy Hollywood (especially the work of director Michael Curtiz) at its finest.

The storyline - two brothers (Errol Flynn & Patric Knowles) serving in Victorian India with the army, both in love with the delicious Olivia de Havilland - is fairly thin. Apart from the fact that Flynn really should have clipped Knowles round the ear at an early stage of the proceedings to stop that nonsense, it matters little. What does matter is the build up to the action, with beastly Surat Khan indulging himself with wholesale slaughter and - with a little help from his Russian chum - a healthy dose of treachery.

Note, in the ballroom sequence how, with the arrival of Surat Khan and his entourage, Max Steiner cleverly introduces a rather sinister Indian theme into the eight-some reel and in the lead-up to the charge, those unfortunate horses are sweating, their heads nervously jerking from too many rehearsals, which prompts a word of warning: a fearsome device known as `The Running W' was used by the stunt coordinators during the filming. The stuntmen knew when the horse was going to fall - the horse didn't, and the resultant acrobatics of the horses in the charge is pretty wince-making.
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I see from the DVD's cover that Jack Sullivan won an Oscar for Best Assistant Director; I can only say, I'm not surprised. When it comes down to it, this is a couple of hours of stiff upper-lipped jingoism at its best with Errol Flynn displaying his considerable acting talents which, in other productions were sadly not always used to their best advantage.


Tchaikovsky: Symphonies 1-6; Ballet music, etc
Tchaikovsky: Symphonies 1-6; Ballet music, etc
Price: 22.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Joy to listen to, 31 Dec 2012
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Poor old Pyotr - what a confused and often unhappy lifestyle he must have led; and how fortunate we are for him to have channelled his emotions into such wonderful music. Whenever a box set is produced, there'll always be people who'll say, `Oh, why didn't they include ..?' and I suppose I'm one of them; but I'd be hard-pressed to do so on this occasion.

I'd really forgotten how good the first and especially the third symphonies are; and they're played to perfection with Riccardo Muti wielding his baton with precision and élan. The Manfred symphony was a joy to listen to, the 1812 Overture had me nervously ducking the cannon balls and the inclusion of Hamlet was a welcome addition.

Boxed and priced attractively, this set is a `must-have' for any Tchaikovsky devotee - as I am.


Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure
Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure
by Artemis Cooper
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 17.00

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally captivating, 28 Dec 2012
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I've long been an admirer of Paddy Leigh Fermor and I eagerly awaited publication of this book.

I was not disappointed; I would not wished to have read a sanitised nor a hagiographic account of his life and Artemis Cooper has researched far and wide in this `warts & all' biography. It certainly opened my eyes; that PLF was an adventurer, a war hero, linguist and a brilliant writer - that, I already knew. I was not aware that for much of his life, he smoked like a chimney, drank like a fish and sponged and bonked his way around the world. And whilst it's invidious to wonder what might or might not have happened ... if World War Two had not intervened, would PLF have achieved his enormous standing that really commenced with the abduction of General Kreipe, in Crete? Well, probably not and it's also quite possible that his travel books might never have been published. So it's thanks to an otherwise obscure German general that the man who might well have been relegated to the status of a literary pre-war cad became a national treasure, decorated and honoured by his Sovereign.

And it's thanks, too, to Artemis Cooper for such a terrifically well-written book; one of the finest biographies I've read in a long time.


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