Duke Box #54: Our Guide to the Best Films on TV

Are we running behind a little on finishing this week's Duke Box?...Maybe...

Is it a good week for films?...Definitely! (Ok, so that could have been the answer for both.) 

So while the blog will be a little bit work-in-progress over the next day or so, here are our picks for Saturday - Tuesday, complete with the knowledge that films like The Third Man, Tangerine and Colette are all making an appearance later on. Whether it's checking out a classic or taking the opportunity to enjoy the wealth of releases from recent years, we hope there's something that takes your fancy. And, as we always say, when in doubt, Hunt for the Wilderpeople

EDIT: We now have a complete blog! What a concept. 

(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 27

Dead of Night (1945) – Talking Pictures TV, 1.50pm
The Cruel Sea (1953) – BBC2, 3.55pm
Song of the Sea (2014) – BBC Alba, 6pm
Fatal Attraction (1987) – BBC1, 10.20pm
Foxtrot (2017) – BBC4, 11.40pm
Climax (2018) – Film4, 2.15am

Another chance to see: Dirty Dancing (5Star, 11.35am), WarGames (Film4, 4.05pm), A Bridge Too Far (Paramount, 6.30pm), Moulin Rouge! (Sony Movies, 8pm), Creed (Paramount, 9pm), Murder on the Orient Express (Film4, 9pm), Move Over, Darling (Sony Classic, 9pm)

Oh, there’s a variety of thrills for this Saturday, beginning with a bit of portmanteau horror in Dead of Night, which sees an architect slowly spiral into madness as his guests share bizarre stories with him. There two nautical tales later in the day, although markedly different in their sea-dwelling stories. Starring Jack Hawkins and Denholm Elliott, British war film The Cruel Sea’s depiction of the Battle of the Atlantic was a Box Office triumph, while Irish animation Song of the Sea is a beautiful story of a young boy who discovers that his mute sister is a selkie. It’s a gorgeous, moving film from Cartoon Studio (Wolfwalkers) and I’m hoping that its appearance on BBC ALBA suggests it’ll be available on iPlayer too. From the delicate and mythical to the unabashedly abrasive, as infidelity thriller Fatal Attraction pops up in the evening. I can’t say that it’s aged particularly well, but as a piece of pop culture it’s undeniably fascinating and Glenn Close is magnetic as ever as a woman cruelly rejected by her married lover. Feels like someone in the programming department was having a little laugh by selecting the bunny boiler film so close to Easter. Award-winning Israeli drama Foxtrot is a much more bruising, affecting and at times surprisingly humorous affair, telling a family’s story of grief through a sociopolitical, genre-splicing lens. Gaspar Noe’s middle-of-the-night oddity Climax also likes to blur the boundaries, with the surreal horror-dance-thriller sending characters and viewers on quite the trip, as it follows a group of dancers who descend into a wild, violent, paranoid, hallucinatory nightmare after their punch is spiked.


Sunday 28

Hans Christian Andersen (1952) – 5Select, 12.30pm
A Star is Born
(1954) – BBC2, 1.40pm
Nanny McPhee (2005) – ITV2, 1.55pm
The Dead Zone (1983) – The Horror Channel, 9pm
10 Rillington Place (1971) – Sony Classic, 9pm (on again later in the week)
God’s Own Country (2017) – Film4, 11.40pm
Border (2018) – Film4, 1.50am

Another chance to see: The Gunfighter (Paramount, 3.50pm), Sweet Charity (Sony Classic, 3.50pm), Ice Age (C4, 4.30pm), Sink the Bismarck! (Sony Action, 5.05pm), Wonder Woman (ITV2, 6.15pm), Our Man in Havana (Sony Classic, 6.45pm), The Equaliser (Film4, 9pm), Hud (Talking Pictures TV, 10pm)

Light-footed and light-humoured Danny Kaye stars as Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen in Charles Vidor’s completely imagined, fairytale account of the great storyteller, merging fictitious biography with the infamous fairytales and lavish ballet. There’s more fairytale inspiration throughout the day too, from Emma Thompson’s fabulous family favourite Nanny McPhee (featuring a delightful ensemble), to the unusual semi-Gothic fairytale of late-night film Border, a fascinating Swedish combination of fantasy, Scandi-noir, social realism and touching romance that is best viewed knowing only that. A Star Is Born is something of a reflective fairytale too, particularly in how many times it has been revisited on screen. BBC2 are screening the second iteration today, with James Mason and Judy Garland starring as a fading actor and ingenue who fall in love, the latter giving arguably her greatest ever performance. If you’re looking to be unnerved, you’re in luck with the films that are on at 9pm. David Cronenberg’s chilling adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone smartly fuses emotional drama, political tension and the supernatural in its story of a man who awakens from a coma with psychic ability. Christopher Walken excels in the lead, with Brooke Allan, Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lohm and a sublime Martin Sheen in support. 10 Rillington Place, meanwhile, offers a more uncomfortably familiar and realistic horror, with the late Sir Richard Attenborough starring as British serial killer John Christie and John Hurt in BAFTA-winning support as his neighbour Timothy Evans. The final film picked for today is simply one of our favourites from the past few years, with Ammonite director Francis Lee’s stunning God’s Own Country – a beautiful bit of filmmaking set in the heart of Yorkshire that sees Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu star as a sheep farmer and immigrant who find a surprising romance.


Monday 29

The Blob (1958) – The Horror Channel, 1pm
Road to Perdition (2002) – Sony Movies, 9pm
Finding Jack Charlton (2020) – BBC2, 9pm
Storyville: Collective: Unravelling a Scandal (2019) – BBC4, 9pm
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) – Film4, 11.20pm
The Damned United (2009) – BBC2, 12.10am

Another chance to see: Cat Ballou (Sony Action, 10.55am), The Spiderwick Chronicles (Film4, 5.05pm), Waterloo (Sony Classic, 9pm), The Exorcist III (The Horror Channel, 9pm), 21 Grams (Sony Movies, 11.20pm), Suddenly, Last Summer (Sony Classic, 11.45pm)

The Monday 1pm slot on The Horror Channel is no stranger to throwing in a classic and today is no exception, with the original 1950s B-movie classic The Blob making an appearance. Unbelievably second-billed in a double-feature when it was released, it’s since proven influential, particularly the classic horror trope of teens taking on the big bad. It also stars Steve McQueen who, let’s be honest, looks a little past the teen years at this point, which is why I love that the film makes a cameo at the drive-in in Grease, another teen hit where ID feels redundant. It’s all really about the evening here though, where it’s nice to see Sam Mendes’ beautifully crafted and strangely often forgotten Road to Perdition. A movie as much about fathers and sons as it is about Depression-era gangsters, its impressive cast includes Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Daniel Craig, Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Stanley Tucci, plus a rather wonderful score from Thomas Newman. There are a couple of documentaries on offer too: Storyville’s latest Collective demonstrates the power of investigative journalism as a tragic story of a nightclub fire is revealed to have much wider, sinister and shocking implications for a country’s political system, while Finding Jack Charlton is a portrait of the English World Cup winning legend who went on to become an Irish hero. The beautiful game is at the heart of the action later too in The Damned United, with acting chameleon Michael Sheen delivering another uncanny turn as the iconic and acerbic Brian Clough during his ill-fated tenure at Leeds United. And what a joy it is, as always, to see the magnificent Hunt for the Wilderpeople appear in the listings – particularly as it suits my agenda to get as many people to watch as possible! Directed by Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, What We Do in the Shadows), it’s a firm favourite of ours, really because it’s so funny, charming, inventive, uplifting and moving. Sam Neill and Julian Dennison make for a fabulous double act as the reluctant foster uncle and juvenile on the run through the New Zealand outback after a misunderstanding, creating comedy gold and a series of inspired quotes – it’s a must-see.


Tuesday 30

Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017) – Film4, 11am
Stage on Screen: Lights Up Festival: Pale Sister (2021) – BBC4, 11pm
Mary Magdalene (2018) – Film4, 11.15pm

Another chance to see: Serenity (The Horror Channel, 9pm), Scream 2 (5Star, 11pm), The Guest (Sony Movies, 11.20pm), Drive (Sony Movies, 1.25am)

Tuesday is a tale of two Marys (although technically three, I suppose), with some Stage on Screen in between. There’s bright, family-friendly fun in the morning with Mary and the Witch’s Flower, a spellbinding animated adventure based on British author Mary Stewart’s The Magic Broomstick and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (When Marnie Was Here and Arietty). The other Mary goes on a journey of her own, as Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix star in Mary Magdalene, a reverent and poetic drama from Garth Davis (Lion) that split critics on its release. Pale Sister, meanwhile, marks the first of the BBC’s specially curated series of plays filmed for viewers to watch at home. Written by Colm Tóibín, directed by Sir Trevor Nunn and starring Lisa Dwan, it reimagines Sophocles’ Antigone from Ismene’s point of view.

Wednesday 31

Four Weddings & a Funeral (1994) – Film4, 9pm
10 Rillington Place (1971) – Sony Classic, 9pm
Murder in Soho: Who Killed Freddie Mills (2018) – BBC4, 9pm
Cop Land (1997) – ITV4, 10.10pm
Sense & Sensibility (1995) – C5, 10.25pm
Stage on Screen: Lights Up Festival: Sadie (2021) – BBC4, 10.30pm
Tangerine (2015) – Film4, 11.20pm
Black Power: A British Story of Resistance (2021) – BBC2, 11.30pm
The American Friend (1977) – Film4, 1.05am

Another chance to see: Cash on Demand (Sony Classic, 1.15pm), King Rat (Sony Action, 3.05pm), Zathura (Film4, 4.40pm), Our Man in Havana (Sony Classic, 6.45pm), Highlander (The Horror Channel, 9pm)

Grime and crime, a fair bit of mystery and hard-hitting stories take up the majority of this evening’s line-up – although you wouldn’t think it from British rom-com classic Four Weddings & a Funeral sitting pretty at the top of the list. The ensemble, led by a charming Hugh Grant and nearly stolen by a sardonic Kristin Scott Thomas (both BAFTA winners), are still a joy to watch all these years later. (Grant also appears in the Emma Thompson-penned, Ang Lee-directed Sense & Sensibility, but that’s on repeat on Bank Holiday Monday, which feels much more Jane Austeny). Comedy also comes folded in with the drama of Tangerine, the bright, bold and dynamic breakthrough hit from Sean Baker (The Florida Project) about a sex worker tearing through Tinseltown on the hunt for cheating lover. The other features, meanwhile, are a couple of stylish neo-noirs. James Mangold’s fantastic Cop Land sees a small-town sheriff tasked with uncovering the corruption of NYPD officers, with Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro at the top of a stacked ensemble, while Wim Wenders’ The American Friend stars Dennis Hopper as Tom Ripley, a career criminal trying to convince picture framer Bruno Ganz to be an assassin, in this slow-burn adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s excellent Ripley’s Game. And yes, amazingly, that does mean that the talented Mr Ripley has been played on screen by Dennis Hopper, Alain Delon, Matt Damon, Barry Pepper and John Malkovich – eclectic doesn’t quite cover it.  For some fact over fiction, there are two powerful documentaries on offer. Murder in Soho: Who Killed Freddie Mills? takes a close look at the murder-mystery of one of Britain’s first sporting icons, delving into the world of organised crime, while Black Power: A Story of Resistance explores the key individuals and circumstances at the centre of the UK’s Black Power movement of the 1960s. Finally, continuing the BBC’s step into stage on screen, Sadie, written by David Ireland, follows a sharp-tongued Belfast cleaner trying to reckon with incidents and memories from her past.  


Thursday 1

The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (2004) – Film4, 12.35pm
Baby Boom (1987) – Film4, 2.20pm
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – ITV4, 4.55pm
The Third Man (1949) – BBC4, 9pm
Prometheus (2012) – Sony Movies, 9pm
Four Lions (2010) – Film4, 11.15pm

Another chance to see: Ship of Fools (Sony Classic, 9pm), The Nice Guys (Film4, 9pm), Only God Forgives (Sony Movies, 12.45am)

It’s pretty wonderful to see Carol Reed’s brilliant noir The Third Man given a prime evening slot. The film follows a pulp novelist who finds himself investigating the mysterious death of his friend in post-war Vienna, with Graham Greene’s sharp script delivered with aplomb by the excellent cast and sublimely shot, making it a firm staple of its genre an cinema history. The rest of the picks are pretty eclectic, whether it’s the charmingly silly The Spongebob Squarepants Movie for kids (or nostalgic millennials), Diane Keaton’s delightful performance as a busy yuppie who find herself literally holding the baby in screwballish comedy Baby Boom or George Lazenby’s Bond falling for Diana Rigg’s Countess and facing off with Telly Savalas’ Blofeld in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, all appearing in the daytime. Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel Prometheus is a bit divisive, but there’s still a good deal to enjoy among the questionable choices, particularly if you enjoy body horror, philosophical sci-fi and Michael Fassbender playing an android who takes inspiration from Peter O’Toole. Finally, there’s some smart, pitch-black satire courtesy of Brass Eye creator Chris Morris and co-writers & Peep Show creators Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, with Four Lions – the story of four incompetent British terrorists bumbling their way through training to carry out a bomb plot. The film, led by Riz Ahmed, a rising star at the time, went on to win a BAFTA for Outstanding Debut.  


Friday 2 (Good Friday)

King of Kings (1961) – BBC2, 2pm
Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) – ITV2, 2.55pm
The Sound of Music (1965) – BBC1, 5.45pm
Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets (2002) – ITV2, 5.55pm
Signs (2002) – Sony Movies, 6.55pm
Carry On Screaming (1966) – ITV3, 8pm
Unbreakable (2000) – Sony Movies, 9pm
Bridesmaids (2011) – ITV2, 9pm
Colette (2018) – BBC2, 10pm

Another chance to see: The Karate Kid (Sony Movies, 10.10am), The Deadly Affair (Sony Classic, 1.05pm), Miss Potter (5Select, 1.10pm), The Happiest Days of Your Life (Talking Pictures TV, 2.45pm), Tremors (The Horror Channel, 4pm), Sink the Bismarck! (Sony Action, 4.45pm)

Unsurprising for Good Friday and Bank Holiday Weekend viewing, there are a lot of familiar films on the box today. Biblical epic King of Kings is the film most directly related to the brief, but the surprise direction of Nicholas Ray (better known for films like In a Lonely Place and Rebel Without a Cause) adds a different twist to this story of Jesus Christ. The hills are alive with The Sound of Music for Julie Andrews’ nun-turned-governess in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s soaring and sublime Alpine spectacular – particularly when she’s paired with the late, great Christopher Plummer’s reserved Captain Von Trapp. It’s a film that always takes me back to being a child and growing up with the songs and characters; I think tissues will be even more essential when watching it this time round. The magical first two adventures of the infamous boy wizard appear back to back in a double bill of Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets, while Hammer Horror gets the parody treatment in Carry On Screaming (arguably the best of the franchise). That comes in between an M. Night Shyamalan double bill on Sony Movies, with eerie crop circles sci-fi thriller Signs followed by the twisty Unbreakable, an alternate, cerebral take on a superhero film which sees the filmmaker reunite with The Sixth Sense star Bruce Willis. Paul Feig’s fun and filthy ensemble comedy Bridesmaids, starring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne and an Oscar-nominated Melissa McCarthy, also appears in the evening, along with a freeview premiere of Colette, a lively and beautiful biopic starring Keira Knightley on top form as the French author who ghost-wrote for her husband before smashing societal constraints and norms.