Duke Box #43: Our Guide to the Best Films on TV

Hi everyone,  

There are a couple of big-hitters each from Hitchcock and Powell & Pressburger that stand out this week, with two of the Master of Suspense's most tense titles - Psycho and Shadow of a Doubt - lining up alongside the latter's sumptuous Black Narcissus and excellent I Know Where I'm Going!. A couple of old recommendations and new ones then, which sets the tone for this week's Duke Box. With reminders of films that might have passed you by, or that you just didn't get round to, and new suggestions, there should be a little something for everyone to enjoy. 

(Please note that this list isn't exhaustive – these are just some titles that I've selected as ones to try out or revisit, hopefully at the best times. Some films may also change if channels decide to alter their listings.) 

Find last week's here: Duke Box 42 

Saturday 9

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) – ITV4, 11.05am
Black Narcissus (1947) – BBC2, 1.15pm
The Admirable Crichton (1957) – Sony Classic, 2.25pm
Contraband (1940) – Talking Pictures TV, 2.25pm
Hombre (1967) – Talking Pictures TV, 6.15pm
Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom (1984) – C4, 6.45pm
Diamonds are Forever (1971) – ITV4, 8.20pm
Psycho (1960) – Sony Classic, 9pm
Reds (1981) – Talking Pictures TV, 9pm
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011) – BBC2, 9.30pm
Dead Man’s Shoes (2004) – Film4, 11.05pm
The Big Short (2015) – BBC2, 11.30pm
Mr Dennings Drives North (1951) – Talking Pictures TV, 12.30am
End of Watch (2012) – BBC1, 12.40am
Apprentice (2016) – BBC2, 1.35am
Tender Mercies (1983) – Talking Pictures TV, 2.15am

Another chance to see: Born Free (Sony Classic, 12.30pm), The Karate Kid (Sony Movies, 2pm), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (ITV4, 4pm), Shrek (ITV2, 5.30pm), Romancing the Stone (ITV4, 6.15pm), Seraphim Falls (Sony Action, 9pm), The Hunger Games (5Star, 9pm), Kill Bill Vol. 1 (5Star, 11.05pm)

Franchise sequels, fantastic ensembles and, oh, just a few bonafide classics hitting the small screen this Saturday. Powell & Pressburger’s Black Narcissus and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is almost too much brilliance to handle in one day, but there we go. The former, no doubt scheduled off the back of the BBC’s Christmas TV adaptation, sees Deborah Kerr (brilliant, as always) lead a group of nuns in their new home in the Himalayan mountains, a stunning, unforgiving location that seems to facilitate changes in their minds. It’s a masterpiece: beautifully shot, boldly acted (Kathleen Byron is the other stand out) and haunting. Mind you, the same could be said for Psycho, Hitchcock’s hugely influential horror. Janet Leigh makes a memorable appearance as a secretary on the run with a bag load of stolen money and looking for a place to stay – enter the unusual, unnerving Norman Bates, his mother and his motel.

There’s a whole lot of choice in and around the two too. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter have another totally excellent adventure in hit sequel Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (which takes great inspiration from Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal!), Sean Connery’s 007 hits Vegas and meets another fine Shirley Bassey Bond theme in Diamonds are Forever and Harrison Ford dons his fedora and cracks his whip in wild adventure sequel-but-technically-a-prequel Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom (some plot points have not aged particularly well, but the mine cart chase is one of the franchise’s best set-pieces). Peter Pan writer J.M. Barrie skewers the class system in comedy The Admirable Crichton, about an Edwardian Lord and his family who find themselves shipwrecked, there’s another from Black Narcissus director Michael Powell in WWII espionage thriller Contraband and Paul Newman stars as a white man, raised by Native Americans and disdained because of it, who has to protect a stagecoach from bandits in Hombre. Warren Beatty directs himself, Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson in the gripping romantic and political epic Reds, about a revolutionary journalist determined to fight for what he believes in, while Tomas Alfredson’s sublime adaptation of John le Carrè’s Cold War spy thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy unites Gary Oldman (as George Smiley), Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, John Hurt and many more in a story of a espionage veteran trying to root out a mole within M16. Paddy Considine stars as a soldier looking to get even with the gang who tormented his vulnerable younger brother in Shane Meadows’ dark, brutal and emotional revenge thriller Dead Man’s Shoes, and Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Steve Carrell and a whole load more have a blast in Adam McKay’s sharp, scathing and detailed account of a bunch of corrupt Wall Street opportunists looking to take advantage of the 2008 financial collapse. Then, after midnight, John Mills tries to cover up a tragic accident in thriller Mr Dennings Drives North, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña star as two L.A. cops on patrol in a dangerous neighbourhood in David Ayer’s kinetic, docu-style-shot End of Watch, brutal Malaysian prison drama Apprentice follows a young correctional officer working under the executioner who killed his father and Tender Mercies sees Robert Duvall on Oscar-winning form as an alcoholic country star looking to make amends.

Sunday 10

The Man Who Never Was (1956) – Sony Action, 12pm
Stranger Than Fiction (2006) – Sony Movies, 1pm
Zathura: a Space Adventure (2005) – Film 4, 3pm
The Towering Inferno (1974) – ITV4, 3.30pm
Dances with Wolves (1990) – Sony Classic, 3.50pm
The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008) – C4, 3.55pm
The Rainmaker (1997) – 5Select, 9pm
In the Heat of the Night (1967) – Sony Classic, 9pm
The Big Heat (1953) – Sony Classic, 11.25pm
The Dressmaker (2015) – C4, 11.40pm

Another chance to see: Turbo (ITV2, 2.10pm), Wonder Woman (ITV2, 6.20pm), Dr. No (ITV4, 6.45pm), Die Hard 2: Die Harder (ITV4, 9pm), Kill Bill Vol 2. (5Star, 11.05pm), Cast Away (Film4, 11.10pm)

Gloria Grahame bookends the day (well, as good as), with appearances in BAFTA-winning undercover ops wartime drama The Man Who Never Was and Friz Lang’s The Big Heat, a story of a cop taking on corruption and one of the most classic, influential film noirs. There’s romance, turmoil and family adventures in between the two, beginning with the lovely, uplifting, whimsical comedy-drama Stranger Than Fiction, which sees Will Ferrell at his best as a dull IRS worker who hears a voice (Emma Thompson) narrating his life – and predicting his death. A group of kids (including a young Kristen Stewart) accidentally shoot their house into space when they play a board game with mystical powers in Zathura: a Space Adventure, directed by Jon Favreau (The Jungle Book, Iron Man), while charming fantasy adaptation The Spiderwick Chronicles sees a troublesome boy (Freddie Highmore) encounter magical creatures and find an important guide to the fantastical. If you’re looking to not budge for an afternoon, there are a couple of lengthy films to indulge in, including disaster epic The Towering Inferno, starring Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Fred Astaire and Faye Dunaway. Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves, meanwhile, is a beautiful Western epic, from its delicate and nuanced performances (including an Oscar-nominated Costner, Mary McDonnell and Graham Greene and the excellent Tantoo Cardinal), mixture of English and Lakota language, stunning cinematography and one of John Barry’s best scores. In the evening, Matt Damon stars as a rising attorney taking on a corrupt insurance company in Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of John Grisham’s The Rainmaker, the great Sidney Poitier teams up with Rod Steiger’s bigoted sheriff to investigate a murder in a racist town in In the Heat of the Night and The Dressmaker boldly merges a myriad of genres, stunning design and a cast that includes Kate Winslet, Judy Davis and Hugo Weaving.      

Monday 11

Dracula (1931) – The Horror Channel, 1pm
Enter the Dragon (1973) – ITV4, 11.25pm
A Most Wanted Man (2014) – Film4, 11.45pm
The Scouting Book for Boys (2009) – Film4, 2.10am

Another chance to see: Cash on Demand (Sony Action, 11.30am), Funny Girl (Sony Classic, 6.05pm), Stranger Than Fiction (Sony Movies, 6.45pm), From Russia with Love (ITV4, 9pm), Logan (Film4, 9pm), The Admirable Crichton (Sony Classic, 10pm)

Bela Lugosi is iconic as the titular Dracula in Tod Browning’s classic Universal Horror picture, while another of cinema and popular culture’s most recognisable and influential figures, Bruce Lee, displays his martial arts skills and on-screen charisma in his final completed film Enter the Dragon. Anton Corbijn’s stylish take on John le Carré’s espionage thriller sees the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman in his final leading role, playing a German agent looking to recruit informers to terrorist organisations and cells. Co-starring Robin Wright, Willem Dafoe and Rachel McAdams, the Hamburg-set film is a far cry from the small, caravan park setting of British drama The Scouting Book for Boys. Written by Jack Thorne (His Dark Materials), it sees This is England’s Thomas Turgoose star as a teenager who helps hide his friend (Holliday Grainger) in a cave so she doesn’t have to live with her dad…only for secrets and jealousy to come into the light.


Tuesday 12

Angel Face (1953) – Sony Action, 9.20am
Exhibition on Screen: Vincent Van Gogh: A New Way of Seeing – Sky Arts, 12pm
The Importance of Being Earnest (1952) – Talking Pictures TV, 12.05pm
Destry Rides Again (1939) – Film4, 2.30pm
Blue Thunder (1983) – Sony Action, 11.25pm
Pili (2017) – Film4, 2.20am

Another chance to see: Born Free (Sony Classic, 12.25pm), The Man Who Would Be King (Film4, 4.20pm), Footsteps in the Fog (Sony Classic, 4.50pm), Hombre (Talking Pictures TV, 6.45pm), Goldfinger (ITV4, 9pm), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (5Star, 9pm)

Robert Mitchum stars as an ambulance driver who finds himself entangled with Jean Simmons’ femme fatale in Otto Preminger’s film noir Angel Face in the morning, while James Stewart’s sheriff arrives to tame a wild town, which includes Marlene Dietrich’s saloon girl Frenchy, in light-hearted Western Destry Rides In. In between the two, at noon, there’s an Exhibition on Screen offering with Vincent Van Gogh: A New Way of Seeing, as well as a 1950s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s comedy of forged identity, The Importance of Being Earnest. There are conspiracy theories, corruption, OTT action and the always watchable Roy Scheider in Blue Thunder, before a middle of the night screening of Tanzanian drama Pili, a gripping look at one single mother’s attempts to pull her and her children out of poverty and the risk she has to take for the chance of a new life. 

Wednesday 13

Shadow of a Doubt (1943) – Sony Action, 9.15am
The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism – Sky Arts, 12pm
Super 8 (2011) – Film4, 6.45pm
Mrs Brown (1997) – BBCFour, 9pm
The Exorcist III (1990) – The Horror Channel, 9pm
Mystic Pizza (1988) – 5Star, 9pm

Another chance to see: This Gun for Hire (Sony Action, 11.25am), Reds (Talking Pictures TV, 9.05pm), Thunderball (ITV4, 10pm), Seraphim Falls (Sony Movies, 12.50am)

If it’s some early morning suspense you’re after, you’re in luck – Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (the director’s own favourite of his works) is there with its story of a young girl who comes to suspect her favourite uncle of being a wanted killer. At lunchtime, The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism takes the viewer on a journey through studios, gardens and iconic locations in this Exhibition on Screen slice of art history. In the early evening there’s a fun, Spielberg-esque sci-fi adventure, courtesy of J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, which follows a group of teens who decide to investigate the mysterious, unexplained events happening in their small town. 9pm sees a wildly different trio of treats, from Judi Dench and Billy Connolly’s delicate relationship as Queen Victoria and her trusted servant in Mrs Brown, to the sharp frights of the genuinely great The Exorcist III, and the cheesy and charming Mystic Pizza, a cult coming-of-age story that’s an early vehicle for Julia Roberts alongside Annabeth Gish and Lili Taylor.

Thursday 14

All the King’s Men (1943) – Sony Classic, 10.20am
The Conquest of Everest (1953) – Talking Pictures TV, 12.25pm
The Colditz Story (1955) – Film4, 4.40pm
Julie & Julia (2009) – Sony Movies, 4.45pm
Dead Reckoning (1947) – Sony Classic, 4.50pm
The African Queen (1951) – Sony Classic, 9pm
Gladiator (2000) – C5, 10pm
Whisky Galore! (1949) – BBCFour, 10pm
Making Waves: the Art of Cinematic Sound (2019) – Sky Arts, 10pm  
The East (2013) – Film4, 1.25am
The Two Faces of January (2014) – C4, 1.50am

Another chance to see: Double Indemnity (Sony Action, 10.45am), Ice Cold in Alex (Sony Action, 4.35pm), Inglourious Basterds (Sony Movies, 9pm), You Only Live Twice (ITV4, 9pm), In the Heat of the Night (Sony Classic, 11.10pm), Enter the Dragon (ITV4, 11.35pm), The Big Heat (Sony Classic, 1.30am)

Today sees dual Best Picture/Best Actor winners All the King’s Men, a pertinent drama following the rise and fall of an ambitious, ruthless politician in the American South, and Ridley Scott’s swords-and-sandals epic Gladiator, featuring Russell Crowe as a former Roman general turned slave who’s on a mission of vengeance against Joaquin Phoenix’s malicious Emperor. There’s another Best Actor winner in Humphrey Bogart, who won his only statue for his turn in John Huston’s classic wartime adventure-romance The African Queen, alongside a fiery Katherine Hepburn. Bogart appears earlier in the day too in film noir Dead Reckoning, starring as a soldier who goes hunting for his missing pal and (obviously) gets more than he bargained for. In fact, there’s plenty of tension and thrills peppering the day in all sorts of forms, whether it’s the vintage documentary footage of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s ground-breaking expedition in The Conquest of Everest, John Mills’ British Officer trying to break out of an impenetrable POW camp in The Colditz Story, Brit Marling teaming up with The OA director Zal Batmanglij for The East’s story of a woman tasked with infiltrating an anarchist group targeting criminal corporations, or the sleek, suspense of Patricia Highsmith adaptation The Two Faces of January, starring Viggo Mortensen and Oscar Isaac as con men whose paths cross in Greece. If it’s lighter fare you’re after though, Nora Ephron’s loving and funny Julie and Julia, starring Meryl Streep as beloved and influential chef Julia Child and Amy Adams as the modern-day blogger who tried to pay homage to her. There’s also raucous, razor-sharp Ealing comedy Whiskey Galore! about Scottish islanders trying to keep hold of a stranded ship’s cargo of whisky during WWII, and documentary Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound, an in-depth exploration of the magic, technique, artistry and history of sound designers in film – from how some of cinema’s most iconic sounds are made, to interviews with some of the field’s and Hollywood’s biggest names.

Friday 15

I Know Where I’m Going! (1945) – Talking Pictures TV, 10.30am
It Should Happen to You (1954) – Sony Classic, 11.15am
Ministry of Fear (1944) – Film4, 1.15pm
To Hell & Back (1955) – Film4, 4.50pm
Night of the Eagle (1962) – Talking Pictures TV, 8.10pm
Blade Runner 2049 (2017) – Sony Movies, 9pm
The Woman in Black (2012) – 5Star, 10.50pm
Young Adult (2011) – BBC1, 11.30pm 

Another chance to see: Stranger Than Fiction (Sony Movies, 4.45pm), The Man Who Never Was (Sony Action, 5pm), Psycho (Sony Movies, 9pm), Diamonds are Forever (ITV4, 9pm), Drive (Sony Movies, 12.15am)

There are tough choices to be made mid-morning between Powell & Pressburger’s delightful romance I Know Where I’m Going!, about a woman who starts to have second thoughts about her fiancée after the pair are separated by a storm in the Hebrides, and George Cukor’s charming rom-com It Should Happen To You, starring Judy Holliday as an ambitious small-town model/actress who takes the initiative to advertise herself on a billboard, much to the consternation of her boyfriend (debut Jack Lemmon). For forays into the mysterious, both thrilling and camp, there’s Fritz Lang’s noir-thriller Ministry of Fear, starring Ray Milland as a former mental institution patient who stumbles upon a deadly Nazi plot at a carnival, black-and-white horror Night of the Eagle (written by The Twilight Zone’s Charles Beaumont & I Am Legend’s Richard Matheson) about a Professor’s less-than-sensible handling of some items of the occult, and the most recent adaptation of Susan Hill’s chilling ghost story The Woman in Black, featuring Daniel Radcliffe as a grieving, young lawyer who finds himself at the mercy of a vengeful spirit in a remote coastal house. Elsewhere, real-life war hero Audie Murphy stars in To Hell & Back, a big screen adaptation of his own account of his life and time during WWII, where he became the most distinguished soldier in US history; Harrison Ford is back as Rick Deckard – this time alongside Ryan Gosling – in Denis Villeneuve’s beautiful sequel Blade Runner 2049; and Juno writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman reunite for black comedy-drama Young Adult, which sees Charlize Theron as a woman who puts morals aside to try and win her old boyfriend back.