Five things to watch this weekend – 11-13 October

The Phantom Thread precursor you’ve never seen, or a journey to the dawn of time… take your pick.

Samuel Wigley

Journey to the Beginning of Time (1955)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray

Journey to the Beginning of Time (1955)

Journey to the Beginning of Time (1955)

Nothing rewires your understanding of the general flow of film history like one of the invaluable rediscoveries by Second Run DVD. For us poor fools who believed that it was Ray Harryhausen who really revolutionised the depiction of dinosaurs on screen in the late 50s and early 60s (building on the innovations of the 1933 King Kong), this Czech excursion into prehistory from 1955 knocks a whole new notch into the evolutionary timeline.

Where Hollywood would mine dinosaurs for terror, however, Karel Zeman’s film goes for a kind of didactic wonder, as four boys discover a cave where a river flows back to the dawn of time. As they row their way back through the epochs, going deeper and deeper into the past, their adventure becomes a stop-motion dino-spotting safari – albeit one that treats our reptile ancestors with much more respect and curiosity than your average monster movie can muster. It’s a magical conceit, and the film’s charms are now preserved in amber in Second Run’s spanking 4K restoration.

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

Where’s it on? Film 4, Saturday, 12:35pm

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

The boys’ spirit of adventure in Zeman’s film is inspired by reading Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and by happy chance Film4 are screening the definitive film adaptation of that book, and perhaps the most fun of all big-screen Verne outings, 20th Century Fox’s CinemaScope extravaganza from 1959. James Mason plays the Scottish geologist who travels to Iceland in order to descend into the Earth via an active volcano. With crooner Pat Boone and pet duck Gertrude among the unlikely travelling companions, the explorers come across giant mushrooms, dinosaurs, a subterranean ocean and even the lost city of Atlantis. It’s all tremendous fun, with the Carlsbad caves in New Mexico standing in for the Earth’s core and with a typically rousing score from Bernard Herrmann.

Beanpole (2019)

Where’s it on? Mubi

Fresh from its UK premiere at the London Film Festival (and, before that, Cannes), the second feature from rising Russian auteur Kantemir Balagov arrives for streaming on Mubi. ‘Beanpole’ is the nickname given to towering Iya (Viktoria Miroshnichenko), a nurse in Leningrad in 1945. When her PTSD-related fits bring about a tragic event, she must rebuild her relationship with friend Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina) amid the physical and psychological wreckage left by the war. Balagov’s film is undeniably bleak and challenging viewing, but rewards with surprising narrative turns and vividly inhabited performances. Moreover, the visual textures he creates with his 25-year-old cinematographer Kseniya Sereda (Balagov himself being only 28) are nothing short of extraordinary, with the pervasive chilliness of tone offset with a velvet palette of warm greens and reds.

And Soon the Darkness (1970)

Where’s it on? Talking Pictures TV, Saturday, 2:30am

And Soon the Darkness (1970)

And Soon the Darkness (1970)

Anything from the screenwriting pen of Brian Clemens is generally worth a watch (though Highlander II: The Quickening maybe less so), and having spent the 60s being the guiding dark wit on TV’s The Avengers he turned in this disturbing thriller about two teenage girls in peril during a cycling holiday in the French countryside. Pamela Franklin and Michele Dotrice are the two Nottingham nurses whose blissful rural getaway turns into a nightmare when they become prey for a local sex maniac. Remade in 2010, the far superior original is directed by Robert Fuest (The Abominable Dr. Phibes), who gets surprising mileage out of one lonely stretch of road, mining each layby and roadside café for paranoid terror. Set the recorder for a dead-of-night broadcast on Talking Pictures TV, or wait for a new restoration on Blu-ray from StudioCanal from 14 October.

Girl with Green Eyes (1964)

Where’s it on? Talking Pictures TV, Sunday, 10pm

Girl with Green Eyes (1964)

Girl with Green Eyes (1964)

Can Paul Thomas Anderson have seen Girl with Green Eyes when he was making Phantom Thread? Like PTA’s sublime fashion-world romance, this 1964 drama focuses on the relationship between a worldly sophisticate and a young, working-class woman who is drawn into his gilded life. Yet until its reissue as part of our celebrations of Woodfall Films last year, Desmond Davies’ film was a relatively forgotten about title – certainly in comparison to Woodfall’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning or The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. If PTA saw it, he was one of the few. Regardless, it’s a film that’s stood up remarkably well. We may not see the eponymous green eyes in black and white, but rarely have the quivering gambles of first love been portrayed as affectingly as in Rita Tushingham’s expressive performance.

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