I was excited to see that the BBC would be showing a new adaptation of John Wyndham’s novel The Day of the the Triffids over the holidays. I own DVDs of both the cinema and previous TV versions, as well as the classic Village of the Damned (based on the The Midwich Cuckoos). Wyndham’s books made a deep impression on me as a boy and he seems to have enjoyed a return to popularity in recent years.

The new drama was something of a disappointment, but at least they didn’t stray too far away from the book (the storyline was linked to global warming and the triffids no longer had anything to do with the Russians). Using modern technology, the triffids themselves were much more convincing (once you accepted the premise of carnivorous, walking plants, that is!). They did look too much like hoodies, though. Because I wanted very much to like it, I have to give the BBC “A” for effort, while acknowledging that their drama standards have plummeted since the 80s.

I like the 1981 version of the book, though many people don’t. It was perhaps a little too earnest, but as someone who grew up in the 50s and 60s I can relate to the tone of it very well.

The Cranford Christmas Special was delightful, if not of the same quality as the series. It was little more than a soap, but a soap elevated to a higher level by the production values and the talented actors involved. What a cast!

I was interested to see what the BBC would do with The Turn of the Screw, based on the Henry James´ novella. it was only this year that I saw the 1961 movie version, The Innocents, for the first time. The movie is outstanding but the new TV version seemed somewhat muddled. I suspect the creators were in two minds as to whether to go for a straightforward ghost story or a psychological drama, and ended up falling between two stools.

I found the much-publicized animation The Gruffalo quite disappointing. The story was very simple and I found the the “adventure” tame. I wasn’t expecting – or hoping for – Disney or Pixar, but last year’s Wallace and Gromit was much more to my taste.

I found the last episodes of David Tennant as Doctor Who heavy going. Tennant has been a refreshing Doctor, but I suspect the creative team may be taking themselves a little too seriously. Did I imagine the Hamlet subtext? (Tennant was widely acclaimed for his performance in the play this year) Either way,  they tried to cram too much into the final episode and I could have done without the sentimental visits to the other main characters who have been involved with the most  recent incarnation of the Doctor. One John Simm is usually one too many for me, never mind six billion, while the marvelous Timothy Dalton (whom I loved as James Bond) was given far too little to do.

All in all, a mixed bag and not a lot to get excited about this year. Luckily, I was able to fall back on old John Peel Christmas radio shows (and even Morecambe and Wise with Glenda Jackson, a real treat!). I also enjoyed Aled Jones’ visit to the Holy Land with carols sung on location there.

I was left with a great desire to revisit Wyndham’s novels this year, which cannot be a bad thing.

I love the Noir of the Week website. This week they turn the spotlight on the Glass Key, based on a Dashiell Hammett story.

the-glass-key“All of the key components of noir are present in this film: a very definite crisis of patriarchy, strong willed femme fatales and a plot centered around an expose of a political nature. And in regards to the surreal aesthetics attributed to noir film, what else could so gloriously conjure the ghost of Andre Breton like the shots of a somber black umbrella parade through the rain at Taylor Henry’s funeral?”

Check it out.

I’m not a great horror fan but Swedish movie Let the right one in (Låt den rätte komma in, 2008) is an exceptional offering. The film has so many themes – including social alienation, the trials of puberty and adolescence, love, revenge and pedophilia – that you’ll be thinking about it long after you finish watching it.

Set in Stockholm in 1982, the two first-time actors who play the main characters – a 12-year-old boy and a 12-year-old vampire who strike up a friendship – give remarkable performances.


I always enjoy the cinematography of movies set in Sweden and in this case the bleak, white winter landscape and pallid faces are contrasted with the scarlet of clothes and other objects – including blood.

I  can’t recommend this film too highly. It is one of the best new movies I’ve seen in a long time.  There is so much to get your teeth into…

These are the damned

This movie shows how you don’t need a big budget to produce exciting, thought-provoking cinema. It was quite subversive for its time, but then it was directed by Joseph Losey.  Senator McCarthy did Britain a favor by forcing Losey to emigrate.

If the movie was very much rooted in its time, it still speaks to us today. Britain’s sci-fi literature of the 50s and 60s was always challenging; the story of These are the Damned fits right in with the post-apocalyptic themes of the novels of John Wyndham. At the time the film was made we had just weathered the Cuban missile crisis. For days, the world had waited with baited breath to see if the human race was about to destroy itself.

The movie makes a fairly obvious comparison between the petty criminals who like to mug and hurt people, and the ruthlessness of the Establishment, intent on ensuring survival at all costs. Oliver Reed is at his brooding, violent best but is gradually won over by the children.

Well worth watching if you get the chance to see it.



I was too young to see these films at the cinema when they were first released and don’t remember ever having seen them until now. The reviews I read on Cinebeats piqued my interest and I was not disappointed.


I stumbled across a terrific film blog. Kimberley, the lady responsible, is a devotee of 60s and 70s cinema. You can find Cinebeats here.

I read an article about Sam Peckinpah, one of my favorite filmmakers, in today’s Independent (you can read it here).  London’s BFI is holding a season of his movies this month and a new documentary is also in the pipeline.


His films are certainly not for the squeamish – his style has been described as  “visceral” – but if you can get past the violence they can be truly lyrical.

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