THE CROWN and other reviews

The Crown [Series 3] ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I was saving this one up for the dank days between Christmas and New Year when the schedulers have given up and padded out the listings with pap, dreck, drivel, twaddle and rot – and repeats of the aforesaid pap, dreck, drivel, twaddle and rot.

As soon as this series went live, I said to myself, I’ll just watch the one episode and save the rest. Well, that’s like saying: ‘OK, I’ll come out, but just for the one pint’, isn’t it?

So now I find myself at the halfway point. Five episodes in and five to go. It is utterly compelling. I have certain reservations but they do not diminish the vision of the whole: the settings, the plotting, and the acting are all first rate as one might expect from the stellar cast. As we move into times that some of us lived through, the significance of party politics is accentuated and so the whole feels more politicised. Another result of moving into the chronology of lived experience is that the sense of fiction is foregrounded at times. I found myself thinking: ‘I’m sure it can’t have happened quite like that.’ However, I’m not naive enough to think we are watching documentary and fully acknowledge the cleverness of the teleplay.

The Queen was a beautiful young woman and Claire Foy was perfectly cast in the first two series. Olivia Colman, brilliant actress though she is, seems to me to be a little too old for the 1960s. She seems to play Elizabeth as a bit of a frump and the Queen, though often stern, is not that. I remember that smiles were on view more frequently than Colman allows. I don’t have much time for Helena Bonham Carter and the troupe of luvvies she belongs to but as Princess Margaret Rose she was perfect: spoiled, capricious and self-indulgent. Jason Watkins was also spot on as Harold Wilson, sometimes shrewd, often wily, clever but slippery. I loved Erin Doherty as Princess Anne with her ‘naff orf” attitude but I have to say that Charles Dance as Mountbatten was just flawless – you thought you were looking at the man.

I will try to save the remaining episodes till Christmas. The next one begins in Cambridge. Prince Charles was in a revue at the Dryden Theatre in Trinity and later in St Michael’s Hall across the road – in 1969, I think. I was a stagehand for that production.

I wonder who will be playing me.

The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (sic) [1962] 💩💩💩💩💩

The title should have given it away, shouldn’t it? Quite conceivably the worst gothic horror I have ever seen. The fact that it involved necrophilia was the least shocking thing about it.

  • ATROCIOUS screenplay, even allowing for dismal dubbing from the overwrought Italian.
  • EXECRABLE acting from the Emotionally Incontinent School of Drama.
  • WOEFUL score with violins in hysterical mode throughout.
  • DIABOLICAL lighting plot with more extreme weather than even the Met Office could conjure up. Thunder and Lightning from the Greta Thunberg School of Hyperbole.
  • LAMENTABLE plot with every cliché plundered from Poe, Dickens and the Brontes including portraits, crypts, beds on fire and a black cat.

          HILARIOUS!

His Dark Materials [BBC One] ⭐️⭐️

What a bore.

I gave up on the book too. Years ago. Title from Milton – cool. Ambivalent characters – promising. Internal mythologies – excellent. Mrs Coulter and Azriel- intriguing.

But I found that it seemed to be taking aeons to go nowhere. The Golden Compass was a big disappointment; this is worse. I find I can’t give a fig for Lyra’s welfare and the disneyfied spirit animals get on my wick.

I would like to own Mrs Coulter’s Art Deco apartment, however.

Song for a Raggy Boy [Prime] ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Hard-hitting and almost impossible to watch sometimes. It features the attempt by a lay teacher to bring literacy and a measure of decency and humanity to a reformatory run by catholic brothers in Ireland before the outbreak of war in 1939. Aidan Quinn is superb in the role of the teacher, as is Iain Glen as the terrifyingly sadistic Prefect (Brother in charge of discipline). It is based on a true story which makes it all the more harrowing. The rape of one of the boys and the beatings are unsparingly nasty. Odd that the film was released as a (15).


There is redemptive stuff here. There are moments where the boys recite poetry which stretches credibilty a little, but in my view these moments are well earned. There is none of the big budget schmaltz that makes Dead Poets’ Society so sticky.

The performances by the boys, especially John Travers as Mercier, and Chris Newlan as Delaney are astonishing – on a par with those in Au Revoir Les Enfants, a classic and an all-time favourite. I am surprised that this film is not better known. It is wisely written and stunningly (if bleakly) filmed. My only criticism would be that the the jarring colouration of the Spanish Civil War cutaways adds nothing.

There is a silly Guardian review of the film by Peter Bradshaw from 2004 which you can find online. .

Disregard it. It’s nonsense.