Duke Box #52: Our Guide to the Best Films on TV

Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be quite the film journey this week! From Hollywood classics like All About Eve to recent documentary My Rembrandt, from the thrilling tension of The Terminator to the intimate charm of My Feral Heart, from stories set in Switzerland (Clouds of Sils Maria) to Argentinian Wild Tales, and with scintillating performances like Misery's Kathy Bates and Whiplash's J.K. Simmons...well, there's just a lot for you to dip into. Hope you 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. You can find comments on films mentioned in the 'Another chance to see' section in our previous Duke Box blogs or just head to IMDB for a quick summary!) 

Saturday 13

The Black Swan (1942) – Talking Pictures TV, 1.45pm (repeated later in the week)
The Flight of the Navigator – Film4, 2.45pm
My Life as a Courgette (2016) – BBC Alba, 6pm (should be on iPlayer afterwards)
Starman (1984) – The Horror Channel, 6.35pm
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) – C4, 6.50pm
The Magnificent Seven (1960) – ITV4, 8pm
All About Eve (1950) – Talking Pictures TV, 8.20pm (repeated later in the week)
Highlander (1986) – BBC Scotland, 9.30pm
Peterloo (2018) – C4, 10pm
A Fistful of Dynamite (1971) – ITV4, 10.40pm (repeated later in the week)
Thelma and Louise (1991) – 5Star, 11pm (repeated later in the week)
Whiplash (2014) – BBC2, 11.20pm
They Live (1988) – Film4, 1.20am
Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) – BBC2, 2am

Another chance to see: The Boxtrolls (ITV2, 2.30pm), Oliver! (C5, 3.30pm), Red River (ITV4, 4pm), Bridge to Terabithia (Sony Movies, 5pm), Jurassic Park (ITV2, 6.25pm), The Way We Were (Sony Classic, 9pm), Blue Thunder (Sony Action, 11.20pm)

There are so many excellent, exciting and eclectic films to dip into this Saturday, a day that’s positively bursting with adventure, powerful storytelling and striking performances. Tyrone Power and Maureen O’Hara star in the gorgeous, Oscar-winning Technicolor swashbuckler The Black Swan and a young boy finds himself travelling through time in charming live-action Disney sci-fi Flight of the Navigator in the afternoon, before the evening sees Bilbo Baggins journey on through Middle Earth in The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug (encountering a few familiar faces…) and Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery as immortal swordsmen battling throughout Scotland and New York in cult ‘80s fantasy fare Highlander. There are two spins on the Western in an ITV4 double-bill too, with Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and more starring as gunfighters hired to liberate oppressed villagers in John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven, a riff on Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai, and Rod Steiger and Magnificent Seven star James Coburn as a low-life bandit and explosives expert who rebel against the government in A Fistful of Dynamite, Sergio Leone’s final spaghetti western. There’s also a chance for a double dose of John Carpenter during the day, from the sweet and tender sci-fi romance Starman, starring Jeff Bridges as an alien who assumes the form of widow Karen Allen’s dead husband, to the sci-fi action and biting satire of cult hit They Live!, which sees drifter Roddy Piper as the only person who can a bunch of aliens on earth thanks to his special sunglasses. It’s not all about the fast-paced or otherworldly though: the truly unique, devastating and beautiful animation My Life as a Courgette, written by Portrait of a Lady filmmaker Céline Sciamma, follows a young boy as he joins a foster home after the death of his mother, while Mike Leigh’s Peterloo, starring Rory Kinnear and Maxine Peake, offers a considered and powerful account of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre in Manchester. For a change of tempo, check out Damien Chazell’s blistering Whiplash, a pounding story of a talented young drummer (Miles Teller) and the ferocious mentor (an Oscar-winning J.K. Simmons) determined to get the best out of him. Last but certainly not least, it’s all about women in the remaining trio of films – beginning with All About Eve. Adapted and written for the screen by Joseph L. Mankiewicz from Mary Orr’s story, this slick, sophisticated classic slides in with some bite, following young ingenue Eve (Anne Baxter) as she manoeuvres herself under the wing of Broadway legend Margo Channing, devastatingly played by a killer Bette Davis. It’s dialogue to die for, with a supporting cast that includes George Sanders, Thelma Ritter and a young Marilyn Monroe. Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis team up as best friends on the run from the law after a trip takes a terrible turn in Ridley Scott’s exhilarating Thelma & Louise, bouncing off each other brilliantly in this fresh spin on the buddy-road-movie, while Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart star in Oliver Assayas’ rich, intimate, psychological drama Clouds of Sils Maria, the story of a film star who begins to reflect on herself and her life while starring in a revival of the play that launched her career.


Sunday 14

Cast a Dark Shadow (1955) – 5Select, 10.10am
Sudden Fear (1952) – 5Select, 12pm
Legally Blonde
(2001) – C5, 1.10pm
Window in London (1940) – Talking Pictures TV, 1.50pm
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997):  – ITV2, 4.05pm
Battle of Britain (1969) - C5, 5.30pm
The Plank (1967) - BBC4, 7.10pm
National Theatre: Jane Eyre (2015) – Sky Arts, 9pm (repeated later in week)
I Got Life! (2017) - BBC4, 10pm
And When Did You Last See Your Father? (2007) - Film4, 1.30am

Another chance to see: Singin’ in the Rain (BBC2, 2.35pm), Red River (ITV4, 2.10pm), Earthquake (Paramount, 3.55pm), Paddington (Film4, 5.05pm), Hidden Figures (Film4, 9pm), Papillon (ITV4, 9pm), Let Me In (The Horror Channel, 9pm), In the Heat of the Night (Sony Classic, 11.15pm)

There’s a great selection of noirs and thrills on Sunday, including a tasty double bill on 5Select. Dirk Bogarde’s caddish fortune-hunter looks to off his latest wife (a BAFTA-nommed Margaret Lockwood) to inherit her wealth in British noir Cast a Dark Shadow, which is followed by Joan Crawford, Jack Palance and Gloria Grahame in full femme fatale mode in Sudden Fear. Crime thriller A Window in London meanwhile has a touch of the Hitchcock about it, following a passerby (Michael Redgrave) who witnesses a murder through a passing train. If you’re after some lighter fare to cut through the tension, there’s a delightful performance from Reece Witherspoon in Legally Blonde, a film that smartly pulls the rug out from under what could have been a stereotypical premise, as well as Jeff Goldblum outrunning dinosaurs in Steven Spileberg’s flawed-but-fun sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park. A truly impressive cast, including Michael Caine, Laurence Olivier and Christopher Plummer, assemble for WWII epic Battle of Britain, while dialogue-free, slapstick comedy short The Plank sees Tommy Cooper and Eric Sykes (who wrote & directed) as two builders on the hunt for a missing floorboard. Then later in the evening there’s a chance to enjoy the striking staging of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, French comedy-drama I Got Life!, which follows a recently divorced and unemployed woman who runs into a lover from her youth, and biographical adaptation And When Did You Last See Your Father?, starring Colin Firth as writer Blake Morrison and the conflicting memories he has of his dying father (Jim Broadbent). The very fine cast also includes Juliet Stevenson, Gina McKee and Sarah Lancashire.


Monday 15

Suddenly (1954) – Talking Pictures TV, 10.30am
I Was a Fireman (1943) – Talking Pictures TV, 12.25pm
Fright Night (1985) – The Horror Channel, 9pm
National Theatre: Jane Eyre (2015) – Sky Arts, 1am
August: Osage County (2013) – Film4, 1.35am

Another chance to see: Born Free (Sony Classic, 11.05am), Funny Girl (Sony Classic, 2.20pm), How Green Was My Valley (Film4, 4.45pm), Get Low (Sony Movies, 4.50pm), Upgrade (Film4, 9pm), The Matrix Revolutions (ITV4, 9pm), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Film4, 11pm), Awakenings (Sony Classic, 11.05pm), The Guest (Sony Movies, 1.10am)

Frank Sinatra is on menacing form as a ruthless mercenary with hostage-taking and presidential assassination on the mind in the grimy film noir Suddenly, followed on Talking Pictures TV by I Was a Fireman, a documentary-style film about the lives of British firefighters through the Blitz (starring real firefighters instead of actors). Roddy MacDowell makes his film debut in John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley (see the repeats) before popping up years later for a bit of fangtastic fun in vampire horror comedy Fright Night, teaming up with a teen who wants to take down his bloodsucking next-door-neighbour. Finally, there’s a big screen adaptation of Tracy Letts’ fiery, bleak tragicomic play August: Osage County, which follows a dysfunctional Oklahoman family who convene after the patriarch disappears. The ensemble cast is exceptional, including Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor and an Oscar-nominated Meryl Streep (her best since Doubt).



Tuesday 16

They Won’t Believe Me (1947) – Sony Action, 11.05am
Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957) – Talking Pictures TV, 6.30pm
The Day of the Triffids (1963) – Talking Pictures TV, 8.20pm
High Plains Drifter (1973) – ITV4, 9pm
My Rembrandt (2019) – Sky Arts, 9pm
Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan (2020) – BBC4, 10pm
A Fistful of Dynamite (1971) – ITV4, 11.15pm
Nosferatu, the Vampyre (1979) – Talking Pictures TV, 12.05am

Another chance to see: It Should Happen to You (Sony Classic, 10.20am), Detective Story (Film4, 12.55pm), The Caine Mutiny (Sony Classic, 9pm), The Rainmaker (5Star, 11pm)

Tuesday morning sees Robert Young and Susan Hayward star in film noir They Won’t Believe Me, which sees man accused of murder recall the events that led to his lover’s death. A mood-shifting double-bill on Talking Pictures TV in the evening sees a lonely woman’s world threaten to fall apart after her husband has an affair in the progressive, award-winning kitchen sink drama Woman in a Dressing Gown and a the literal world begin to fall apart thanks to some carnivorous, blindness-inducing plants in the post-apocalyptic The Day of the Triffids. Clint Eastwood plays a grizzled gunfighting stranger hired to hold off outlaws in High Plains Drifter, while there’s a chance to dive deep into the worlds of Old Masters and art obsession in doc My Rembrandt and a glimpse at the chaotic life and creativity of The Pogues’ frontman in Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan. Finally, just after midnight, there’s Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre, a beautiful and unsettling remake of F.W. Murnau’s classic silent and cheeky, unauthorised adaptation of Dracula. 


Wednesday 17

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) – Sony Action, 1.05pm
Misery (1990) – Film4, 9pm
Deadpool (2016) – E4, 9pm
All About Eve (1950) – Talking Pictures TV, 9.05pm
Girls Trip (2017) – Film4, 11.10pm
Scream (1996) – 5Star, 11.40pm
Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013) – C4, 12.55am
Wild Tales (2014) – Film4, 1.35am

Another chance to see: Georgy Girl (Sony Classic, 10am), Ride Lonesome (Film4, 1.05pm), Roxanne (Sony Classic, 2pm), Joe (Sony Movies, 9pm), Blue Thunder (Sony Action, 12.50am)

It’s a real treat to see Rob Reiner’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery in a prime evening slot tonight. Pick of the bunch for today, the tense, unnerving thriller sees an author (James Caan) rescued from a car crash by a superfan who happens to be a nurse…only to realise that his stay in her remote home is less recuperation, more captivity. Kathy Bates picked up an Oscar for Best Actress for her role as the unforgettable Annie Wilkes, delivering some shattering cinema moments that continue to endure. Away from there’s such an array of genres and styles to fall into: John Wayne stars in John Ford’s western She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Ryan Reynolds embraces fast-talking, filthy-mouthed meta jokes in offbeat superhero film Deadpool and a group of old college friends’ plans to reconnect at a New Orleans music festival go awry in raucous comedy Girls Trip. Horror maestro Wes Craven has fun with the genre in jumpy, referential slasher classic Scream, while there are two late night screenings of the emotionally charged, Palme d’Or winning French love story Blue is the Warmest Colour and darkly comic, Palme d’Or nominated Wild Tales, an Argentinian anthology film following six standalone stories about people driven to madness and enjoying losing control.

Thursday 18

The Bedford Incident (1965) – Sony Classic, 11.30am
My Feral Heart (2016) – BBC4, 9pm
Thelma & Louise (1991) – 5Star, 12.05am
Dance with a Stranger (1985) – Film4, 1.20am

Another chance to see: Tora! Tora! Tora! (Film4, 11am), The Comancheros (Paramount, 12pm), The Tall T (Sony Action, 1.20pm), The Caine Mutiny (Sony Classic, 6.30pm), In the Heat of the Night (Sony Classic, 9pm)

Sidney Poitier plays a reporter who finds himself caught up in a U.S. Navy Captain’s Moby Dick-esque pursuit of a Soviet submarine in Cold War drama The Bedford Incident in the morning. The evening meanwhile brings with it British drama My Feral Heart, which follows a young man with Down’s Syndrome who finds a life-changing friendship in the wild of the countryside, and Dance With a Stranger, the story of Ruth Ellis – the last woman to be hanged in Britain. Directed by Mike Newell and written by Shelagh Delaney, the film helped launch the film careers of both Miranda Richardson and Rupert Everett.


Friday 19

The Black Swan (1942) – Talking Pictures TV, 1.35pm
Hue & Cry (1947) – Talking Pictures TV, 3.20pm
The Plank (1967) - Talking Pictures TV, 8.15pm
The Terminator (1984) – 5Star, 9pm
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) – The Horror Channel, 9pm
Come Back, Little Sheba (1952) – Talking Pictures TV, 11.10pm
Maps to the Stars (2014) – BBC2, 11.20pm
Blade of the Immortal (2017) – Film4, 11.25pm

Another chance to see: How Green Was My Valley (Film4, 11am), The Admirable Crichton (Sony Classic, 5.10pm), The Way Way Back (Film4, 6.55pm), Drive (Sony Movies, 11.15pm)

It’s pretty much all about the Friday evening this week, although there is a bit of early Ealing in the afternoon with Hue & Cry, ­a sort of crime adventure for kids which sees Alistair Sim as a dastardly crook foiled by a gang of street boys. 9pm sees a starmaking turn from Arnold Schwarzenegger in James Cameron’s The Terminator, a sci-fi and action classic about an iconic cyborg killing machine sent from a post-apocalyptic future to execute an unsuspecting waitress whose unborn son is key to humanity’s survival. “I’ll be back” might have been expert foreshadowing, considering all the sequels and spin offs to come, but the original is the most uncannily unnerving. Also on at the same time is Francis Ford Coppola’s take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which is positively bursting with sumptuous production design and style, Gothic camp and a fun cast, including Gary Oldman (and some excellent wardrobe choices) in the lead role. Elsewhere in the evening, Come Back, Little Sheba sees Burt Lancaster and Best Actress winner Shirley Booth deliver great performances as an alcoholic and emotionally battered wife whose marriage faces added turmoil after the arrival of a lodger, there’s some salty satire about Hollywood and pursuit of fame in Cronenberg’s Map to the Stars (starring Julianne Moore and Robert Pattinson) and some balletic, bloody violence and beautiful visuals in Miike’s Blade of the Immortal, the story of an immortal samurai in feudal Japan who promises to help a young woman avenge the death of her parents.