Friday, June 15, 2018

The Bells of Astercote ( 1980 )

Penelope Lively's ghostly children's novel "Astercote" ( 1970 ) was brought to the small screen in 1980 as a one-hour television movie that aired the evening of December 23, following in the BBC tradition of airing ghost stories for the Yuletide season.

The Bells of Astercote, as it was renamed, was memorable to many of the little Brits who stayed up to watch it that night because of its unusual subject matter ( the Black Death ) and because it simply was an excellent production.

In the 1970s, many British childrens-based television productions were aimed towards mature youngsters, those of the 10-15 year-old age group, most of them being of the mystery, sci-fi, or "horror" genre. Unlike The Children of the Stones, the excellent 1977 mini-series that approached such diverse matter as black holes, occultism, time-loops, and energy-exuding rocks, The Bells of Astercote had a much simpler plot and yet still managed to pack in a fair amount of eeriness in its brief 50-minute run-time. It could have been an even more chilling and engrossing production had it been stretched to mini-series length like The Children of the Stones, but that did not happen. 
The Bells of Astercote tells the story of two children, Mair and Peter, who discover a simpleton named Goacher in a mysterious patch of woods. He guards a chalice that he believes protects the villagers from the Black Death, the plague. The children, who are fairly new residents of the village, are skeptical that the infamous plague of the 14th-century could return to modern-day England when so many antibiotics abound, but they soon come to realize that most of the villagers believe, like Goacher, that their health is safeguarded by that chalice. When the mysterious cup vanishes one day, Mair and Peter are as anxious as the villagers to discover its whereabouts and return the chalice to its rightful place in the forest.
The children who portrayed the lead characters, Siobhan Brooks and Ifor Williams, were quite convincing actors, as are all of the adults. Even though it is a television production and the budget was obviously limited, it is more entertaining than many of the feature films that were released that same year.  

Also in the cast is John Branwell ( The Return of the Antelope ), Davyd Harries, Kristine Howarth, and Janis Winters. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Impossibly Difficult Name That Movie Game


A pretty woman seated at a desk...doing something quite unusual. She is obviously sending a message, but to whom ( or is it who? ) Clues abound in this scene and if you put your detective skills to work you may just uncover the title to this month's Impossibly Difficult screenshot!

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!


GAME OVER. 

Congratulations on DKoren for correctly guessing "Dr. No" ( 1962 )! This classic action film starring Sean Connery launched the James Bond film franchise. This scene occurs within the first five minutes, where in a secluded island house this young woman gets murdered for sending out a secret message via radio. 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Skippy and the Intruders ( 1969 )

It's Lassie Down Under! ....

....only he jumps... and clucks! Some may say that a dog is a man's best friend, but Skippy the kangaroo can best a dog any day - especially in a boxing match. Skippy premiered as a television series in March 1968, in Australia, and quickly became one of the country's top children's television programs, rivaling the popularity of Lassie here in the States. Since it was such a hit, the producers of the series thought that a feature film would do equally well so, prior to filming the second season, the cast assembled for this adventurous 96-minute feature film entitled Skippy and the Intruders.

Little Sonny ( Garry Pankhurst ) and his marsupial pal Skippy live with his father, Matt Hammond ( Ed Devereaux ), and his brother Mark ( Ken James ) near the Waratah National Park, where his father works as the chief park ranger. One day a pair of divers come by for a permit to dive for abalone in the waters off Mallacoota and, while they seem to be legitimate divers, they are really in the area diving for a sunken treasure of gold bullion... a treasure that rightfully belongs to the Navy.

Sonny, Skippy, and their friend Clancy ( Lisa Goddard ) accidentally stumble upon this operation, forcing the treasure hunters to keep the children as hostages until they can carry off their diving operation and abscond with the stolen gold. 
While the plot to Skippy and the Intruders isn't entirely original, the film itself packs in a lot of excitement and is highly entertaining - especially considering it is geared towards children. It features beautiful location scenery throughout the Sydney coast, some great underwater diving footage, and criminals who aren't bumbling or stupid. To add a little romance to the film there is Meg ( Jeanie Drynan ), a young woman who works at the seaside pub. She is the girlfriend of one of the "kidnappers" and looks after the children while they are in hiding. Also in the cast is Ron Graham, Kevin Miles, and Jack Hume. 

Skippy himself gets to relax through most of the movie and only steps into fighting-mode at the climax, but his presence is certainly one of the highlights of the movie. Perhaps Australians may have found a pet kangaroo commonplace, but for American audiences, he is quite a novel hero, bouncing around here and there to save his pal, Sonny. 
In Australia, Skippy and the Intruders was just a moderate success at the box office but it became popular overseas when it was later sold to the Children's Film Foundation ( CFF ) and aired on television in the UK as an edited 60-minute film. If you enjoy this film then it is well worth checking out the original television series - Skippy the Bush Kangaroo - which ran for three seasons ( 1968-1970 ). 

Skippy and the Intruders is available on DVD and by streaming through Kanopy or Youtube

Friday, June 1, 2018

Sea Bird II at The Derby ( 1965 )

Tomorrow will take place the 234th running of The Derby at Epsom Downs and to help you get into the mood for enjoying that race we have unearthed here a clip from the 1965 Derby ( pronounced "Darby" ) in which "Sea Bird II" made his historic victory run. 
"Sea Bird II" was a chestnut colored French thoroughbred who many consider to be the greatest racehorse of the 20th century. In this particular race, he gives a magnificent performance easily passing "I Say" - the favorite to win - by two lengths. Pat Glennon, an Australian, was Sea Bird's jockey for this race. 

This 6-minutes long British Pathé clip gives us a glimpse of the atmosphere at the race and also shows Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Princess Margaret, and other royal personages in attendance.

Ready to see them charge? Simply click on the link below. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pHi8SZFwzw

Other similar British Pathé clips: 

The Derby ( 1959 ) - 3:49 min

The Derby ( 1962 ) - 6:06 min

The Derby ( 1968 ) - 4:01 min

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

From the Archives: Bowery to Broadway ( 1944 )


Handsome Turhan Bey and pretty Susanna Foster are performing at the piano in this scene from RKO's 1944 production Bowery to Broadway. Ms. Foster was born Suzanne Larson but took the name Susanna after the song "Oh, Susanna" and Foster from the song's writer, Stephen Foster.

From the Archives is a 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

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Walt Disney's Ballerina ( 1966 )

"When you no longer have the ballet, what have you?"

Ballerina Mette Hønningen stars as Mette Sorensen, a young woman who spent years training to become a ballerina for the Royal Danish Ballet only to find her sparkling dream tarnished by her mother's desire to have her quit ballet, wed boyfriend Sven, and raise a family. Her mother ( Astrid Villaume ) simply wants Mette to enjoy her youth like other girls her age instead of spending hours constantly in ballet training. But she fails to realize that for Mette, ballet is her enjoyment. It is her life. 

Mette's father ( Poul Reichhardt ), a musician, supports her in her dream, as does Mette's idol, the famous ballerina Kirsten Holm ( Kirsten Simone ). Kirsten sees great potential in Mette and is saddened to see her despondent and slacking in her training. In fear of losing this talented pupil she convinces the director of the ballet company to give Mette a solo performance in the company's upcoming production of "Swan Lake" by making a typical prima-donna demand:

"I might dance Swan Lake next week....or I might not. I'm very tired from my recent tour. If I dance Swan Lake, so will Mette Sorensen."

The mentorship and encouragement that Kirsten gives her, helps Mette to convince her mother that the beauty of ballet danced to perfection - no matter how difficult the work involved - is worth the effort. Mette, in turn, also offers little Ingrid ( Jenny Agutter ), one of the star-struck students at the ballet, the same encouragement and support that she received in order to help Ingrid becoming a better dancer. 
Shortly after Walt Disney Studios entered television in the mid-1950s with the Disneyland series, the studio began producing full-length made-for-television movies. The Wonderful World of Color offered an excellent opportunity for up-and-coming directors to learn the ropes before they progressed to feature films and also provided the studio with a training ground for actors. 

Many of the films made for television covered a wide variety of topics that may have had minimal box-office appeal and would not have been worth producing had they been released directly in theatres. Almost Angels ( showcasing the Vienna Boys Choir ), The Magnificent Rebel ( the life of Ludwig Beethoven ), The Tattooed Police Horse ( harness racing ) and Ballerina ( the Royal Danish Ballet ), are just some of these films. 
Ballerina is a particularly entertaining picture and one of the rare films to focus entirely on ballet. It is also unusual in that it features actual ballet artists from the Royal Danish Ballet in the lead parts. Because of this, their acting is not up to par with theatre-trained actors, but it is quite good considering they are primarily dancers who are accustomed to acting without the use of their voice. 

The storyline is engaging and Ballerina features quite a number of excellent ballet dance sequences from Coppelia, a lovely Scottish number ( which I don't know the name to ) and naturally, the famous Swan Lake. Henning Kronstam of the Royal Danish Ballet is also given a large role as one of the principal dancers. 
Ballerina was filmed on location in Denmark. In one scene, the audience is given a tour of the beautiful Tivoli Gardens which was the park that inspired Walt Disney to create Disneyland. 

Unfortunately, Ballerina is not yet available on DVD or online for streaming...but some kindly soul has posted a VHS transfer of the film on Youtube which can be viewed here. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Das Doppelte Lottchen ( 1950 ) - The Original Parent Trap

If you ever read the credits to Walt Disney's The Parent Trap ( 1961 )  you would have noticed that the film was based upon a book by the popular German author Erich Kastner entitled "Das Doppelte Lottchen" which was written in 1949. As famous as The Parent Trap was in the States, few children or adults can claim to have read the book....ourselves included. But last week, we did see the original German film that Disney based The Parent Trap on, and it is absolutely delightful. 

Like the Americanized version, Das Doppelte Lottchen tells the story of twin sisters who were separated at birth by their parents, with the father and the mother each taking one of the girls. The children meet up by accident at a summer camp and, once they realize they are sisters, they decide to switch places so that they can have the opportunity of meeting the parent they never knew. Of course, they know that their parents will notice the switch in due time but that is a part of their scheme, too, because their parents will then have to reunite to un-switch them. Clever gals! 

Erich Kastner wrote the screenplay to and narrated this entertaining adaptation of his novel, which was directed by Josef von Báky, a Hungarian filmmaker best known for directing Munchausen ( 1943 ). Lotte and Luise, the twins, are portrayed by two real-life twins, actresses Jutta and Isa Gunther, and while they are not quite as appealing or as natural as Hayley Mills doubled-up, their performances are very good....and quite different.  
Hayley's Susan and Sharon got easily frustrated with their parents ( especially their father's plans to remarry ), but Lotte and Luise take things with a calmer and sadder attitude, which seems a bit more true-to-life. This makes their parents' separation all the more heartbreaking because the two gals lack the independent spunk needed to offset their single-parent upbringing. Each one is especially close to the parent who raised them and, once they meet the father and mother they never knew, they come to love them, too. However, they have no scheme in mind for foiling their father's plan to remarry, which is an interesting change to note. In American films, children are often shown outwitting their parents, or cleverly manipulating them for their own benefit, because this appeals to younger audiences but, in Germany, one doesn't often find that kind of plot line in films. 

The twins' father, Papa Ludwig ( Peter Mosbacher ) is a youthful good-natured man with a passion for music. He is a composer and conductor of opera and resides with Louise and their housekeeper in a large apartment in Vienna, Austria. Their mother, portrayed by Antje Weisgerber, works at a newspaper office. She is less formal, enjoys nature, and lives in a smaller apartment with Lotte in Munich. The differences between the children's upbringing are not as great as the screenwriters made it out to be in the 1961 Disney version, and so they are able to pull off the "switch" with greater ease. In fact, the parents have no inkling that their daughter is not the same girl who they dropped off at summer camp. 
Das Doppelte Lottchen lacks the beautiful setting ( especially that fabulous California ranch that Mitch Brennan owned ) and the humor of Walt Disney's remake but more than makes up for it in heart. The affection that the parents show their children is wonderful to see and Erich Kastner's commentary throughout the film is enjoyable to listen to as well - rarely do authors narrate a film based on their own book! 
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