Saturday, May 18, 2024

Counter-Attack (1960)

A little-known fact of World War II history is that the German forces occupied the Channel Islands for five long years. We all know that stalwart English citizens such as Professor Emelius Brown and Eglantine Price helped to stave off coastal attacks from German troops, but how many of us know that nearly 20,000 Germans were parked only 80 miles from England's shore?


Whether this is news to you or not, you are sure to enjoy Counter-Attack, a wonderful seven-part children's miniseries that showed how three youths - Terry, Cliff, and Carol - reacted to the Nazi occupation of their homeland in 1940. 

Like most Brits, they instinctively knew to spit in the eyes of the Nazis. However, Terry (14-year-old Jeremy Bulloch) the eldest of the main characters, feels that tripping soldiers and throwing mud in their face isn't quite enough and so he decides to turn the children's club - the Argos - into a counter-attack unit of resistance. 

Hidden away in an old mill and armed with a crude radio set, the children plan out their attacks and then relay messages to British forces on the mainland. The British officers receiving these messages do not realize that the mysterious "Argo" are a group of children and so they tell them to be on the lookout for an agent that they will be sneaking onto the island at midnight. Their task is to hide him from the Nazis and aid him in destroying the German's ammunition dump. How exciting! Things get really hot to handle when Major Wolf (Joseph Furst) of the German army and his junior officer Kurt billets the house where the children are staying.

Counter-Attack was released on television in the U.K. in January of 1960...just twenty years after the occupation of the Channel Islands, so many viewers vividly remembered the experiences and feelings the characters were going through. While the series was aimed at children, it is entertaining for all ages. Cliff and Carol's older sister Jean (Etain O'Dell) has a slight romance with the agent (Oliver Neville) the children are hiding out and there is enough wartime excitement to keep the adults hooked. 

ITV producer Sidney Newman announced in a TV Times interview that "..if [the series] is one tenth as fantastic as the truth about the wartime occupation of the Channel Islands, I will be happy!" Well, he had much to be pleased about with Peter Ling's script even though Ling knew that the teatime adventure series would be "on the cautious side". Mary Field, the programme advisor, drew on her own experiences of growing up on the Channel Islands during the occupation and Ling wove these reminiscences into his script. 

All of the child actors do a good job with their parts, especially Jeremy Bulloch who did a number of children's series in the early 1960s but is probably best known for playing Boba Fett in the Star Wars franchise. Young Cliff (Murray Yeo) could be a handful at times, but that was what created most of the drama for the episodes' cliffhangers. Children aren't always as cautious as their parents would hope. 

Counter-Attack has not yet been released on DVD but is available for viewing online. 

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Film Albums: Nelson Riddle Plays TV Themes

Nelson Riddle's name seems to be synonymous with Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, but this talented arranger/composer cut a pile of albums bearing his own name. "Route 66 Theme and Other Great TV Themes" and "More Hit TV Themes" are two albums that feature Riddle's sizzling arrangements for television themes... and some of them are very imaginative! 

This is the first LP we've ever come across that had a reinterpretation of the famous Andy Griffith Show theme and Riddle's cha-cha rendition of My Three Sons is so catchy it should have been swapped with Frank DeVol's original version.  Riddle also included a lot of brassy versions of the famous detective and legal drama themes of the day, including The Untouchables, The Defenders and Sam Benedict. Among the western shows, Bonanza and Have Gun Will Travel are included, but - my personal favorite - is the not-often-heard Lucy Show theme. 

Click here to listen to both albums on Youtube.


Route 66 and Other TV Themes

Side One:

Route 66

The Alvin Show

The Andy Griffith Show

Ben Casey

My Three Sons

The Untouchables


Side Two:

Naked City

Sing Along

The Defenders

Sam Benedict

Dr. Kildare

This Could Be the Start of Something Big



More Hit TV Themes

Side One:

The Beverly Hillbillies

Bonanza

Moon River

Stoney Burke

McHale's Navy

The Dickens and Fenster March

Side Two:

Supercar

Have Gun, Will Travel

The Lucy Show

The Lawrence Welk Show

The New Naked City

The Dick Van Dyke Show

Top Picks: The Andy Griffith Show, This Could Be the Start of Something, Lucy Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show

Thursday, May 9, 2024

From the Archives: Another Time, Another Place (1958)

Glynis Johns had a whale-of-a-tale to tell about how she caught that fish... although I suspect it was the gentleman who really snagged this shark. This was taken on the coast of England in Polperro during the making of Another Time, Another Place (1958).

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store: http://stores.ebay.com/Silverbanks-Pictures

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

PBS Retro - A New TV Channel

Last year I was feeling nostalgic and wanted to watch some older episodes of Mister Rogers Neighborhood but sadly, I couldn't find any free episodes on any of the streaming services on Roku. Every episode since the beginning of Mister Rogers Neighborhood was available on Amazon Prime for $1.99 an episode, but shucks.... none for free! Luckily, I discovered misterrogers.org and this site offers six episodes of the show rotated twice a month, so that fed my desire temporarily. 

However, patience is always rewarded. This morning, I discovered PBS Retro, a new channel available on Live Roku and - surprise! - 1970s and 1980s-era episodes of Mister Rogers Neighborhood play every morning from 10am-12pm EST (also at other times during the day).

A quick search online told me that PBS Retro is only a few weeks old. This channel is one of six free PBS channels available to stream, including PBS Food, PBS Antiques Road Show, Antiques Road Trip, PBS Nature, and the Julia Child channel. 

In addition to airing episodes of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, PBS Retro also includes 1970s, 80s, and 90s classics like Kratts' Creatures, Thomas and Friends, Reading Rainbow, and Zoboomafoo. Unfortunately, no Wishbone, Electric Company, or NOVA, but I haven't checked out the channel at all times during the day, so perhaps they will pull out on occasion some rarities from their archives. Anyone remember 3-2-1 Contact? But right now, I am pleased that they are offering this - and the commercials are few. If you are looking for episodes of Painting with Bob Ross, old episodes of Fireman Sam, or This Old House there already are channels devoted to these shows on Roku. 

Happy days are here again!

Saturday, April 27, 2024

April in Paris (1952)

S. Wintrop Putnam made a terrible mistake. As Assistant Secretary to the Assistant to the Undersecretary of State, his task was to send an invitation to Ethel Barrymore asking her to visit Paris as a personal representative of the American theater at the International Festival of Arts. Instead, he addressed the invitation to Ethel "Dynamite" Jackson, a New York City chorus girl(!).

His faux-pas turns out to be "a stroke of genius!" and S.Wintrop (Ray Bolger) is sent to accompany the well-built Miss Jackson (Doris Day) on her ocean voyage to Paris - and naturally falls in love with her en route. 

April in Paris was one of the many comedy-musicals that Doris Day made in the early 1950s. It does not rank as one of her best, but it has its funny moments, especially during the shipboard scenes. Director David Butler, always a reliable professional, seems to have done his best with the material he had but the material he had was not substantial to begin with. Jack Rose's script needed more broader humor to support its thin plot or else a stronger - and sillier - leading man, such as Danny Kaye. 

As it is, the film feels like it was rushed into production and the script was hastily written while shooting began. Gay ooh-la-la Paree deserved better. 

French actor Claude Dauphin was given a large supporting role as a friend of both Ethel and Wintrop, but even this part needed a man with a more vibrant personality, like Fernandel. Fortunately, both Doris Day and Ray Bolger had plenty of opportunity to sing and dance and they were best in their numbers together. The "I'm Gonna Ring the Bell Tonight" performance is especially fun. Other songs included the titular "April in Paris" by Yip Harberg, and "That's What Makes Paris Paree", where Doris Day showed off one of the many beautiful Leah Rhodes costumes for the film.

The supporting cast of April in Paris included Eve Miller as Winthrop's betrothed, Paul Harvey and George Givot. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

 

Good heavens! Just when you think these games couldn't get any harder, you see a scene like this....blurry men walking blurry dogs. It just happens to be a lousy screenshot, because the film is quite clear - in fact, it has been released several times on DVD in various restored editions.

As always, if you need to know the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Who Done It? (1956)

Benny Hill done it, that's who! Before the famed English comedian made a name for himself on television as the star of The Benny Hill Show, he made this fast-moving farce playing a detective who sets out to capture enemy agents bent on destroying England with a weather-making machine. 

Hill stars as Hugo Dill, an ice sweeper at a skating rink who long dreamed of becoming a private detective. When he wins £100 and a bloodhound in a contest, he feels he is ready to embark on his new career. Within one day of opening his office doors, he gets embroiled in a scheme by a ruthless Iron Curtain gang to control England by using Professor Stumpf's newly-invented weather-making machine. Can you imagine what havoc the enemy could wreak if they caused rain to fall on England on a daily basis? 

Benny Hill had a natural flair for comedy and he is highly entertaining in Who Done It?, his first starring film and the last. Later on, Hill had roles in Skywatch (1960) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1970) and guest appearances in a few other films, but he never got a picture entirely to himself again... which is a shame, since he could carry a film better than many of his comedic peers. 

The script, by T.E.B. Clarke, was written especially for Hill and has some amusing moments, especially during the finale where Hill appears in drag (of course!) but, at the theaters, the movie did not bring in the tickets expected and Ealing Studios decided not to make another Benny Hill film. In fact, after many years of outputting fine comedies, this comedy was Ealing Studios' last. Hill made a number of suggestions to improve the script prior to filming, but director Basil Dearden rejected them all. Too bad...audiences would probably have come in droves to see Hill's unique and cheeky humor on display in full force. 

Co-starring with Hill is the delightful Belinda Lee who was a busy up-and-rising star at the time. She made a number of British films before moving to Rome to focus on Italian pictures. Unfortunately, her life was cut short when she died in a car accident at the age of 25. 

Also in the cast is David Kossoff as the ringleader of the Iron Curtain group. Kossoff later appeared in one of our favorite Disney spy films The London Connection as Professor Buchinski. What makes Who Done It? so fun to watch is all of the familiar character actors who make brief appearances. These characters include Thorley Walters, Ernest Thesinger, Irene Handl, Arthur Lowe, Terence Alexander, Glyn Houston, and the always entertaining Nicholas Phipps, who was wasted in such a small part. 

While Who Done It? may not appeal to some due to its broad humor, it's a pleasant way to spend a rainy afternoon and get a few laughs. And, if you are one of the many Benny Hill fans, you'd be pleased to see him in his first screen appearance.