Orders to Kill

Paul Massie as Gene Summers

A spy movie written by people who’d been actual on-the-ground spies, Orders to Kill is a gripping thriller with an unusual focus on psychology rather than action. It’s set during wartime, in occupied France, where a member of the Resistance is suspected of selling agents down the river to the Nazis. Back in Boston, a war hero’s mother, played by silent movie legend Lilian Gish in scenes that could all be removed, is waiting for her son to return for some R&R. But her son is still in England, where he has been seconded at the last minute to go to France and assassinate the double agent. Paul Massie plays young, naive Gene … Read more


The professor teaches Eliza to speak

Pygmalion was the name of a mythological sculptor who made a statue so beautiful that he begged the gods to bring it to life. Which they did. He called it Galatea. The myth has been worked and reworked over the millennia and still has purchase – Trading Places is a version of the basic idea, so is Damien Chazelle’s breakthrough film Whiplash. In all the best updates there’s a conversation going on in the subtext about appropriate behaviour. When does tough love become abuse? When should the sculptor accept that “his” creation now has a life of its own? It’s all here in this film version from 1938, an adaptation of George Bernard … Read more

The Importance of Being Earnest

Edith Evans in The Importance of Being Earnest

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 25 May Oscar Wilde convicted, 1895 Dead at the age of only 46, with possibly his best years still to come, Oscar Wilde’s life was changed by his conviction for gross indecency with men, on this day in 1895. Wilde had first gone to court after the Marquess of Queensberry, the father of his lover Lord Alfred Douglas, had left his calling card at Wilde’s club, the Albemarle, with the words, “For Oscar Wilde posing somdomite (sic)” written on it. Wilde took this as an attack on his reputation, and sued Queensberry. Queensberry, famous for laying down the rules of modern … Read more

The Importance of Being Earnest

Dame Edith Evans

Fifty years after the making of this quintessentially British comic classic it was remade starring Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Judi Dench and the then almost incandescently famous Reese Witherspoon, to give it a bit of global appeal. That’s a great cast – three Oscar-winners and a scene-stealer par excellence (see Everett in My Best Friend’s Wedding for evidence of that). So no argument there. But they still couldn’t beat the original. That’s because they really, really don’t make them like this any more. No one speaks like Edith “a handbag” Evans. No one resembles Margaret Rutherford’s preposterously dotty, doting Miss Prism. As to direction, what hotshot these days would settle for the approach of … Read more