The television

Cinema (movies if you like) was always a popular form of entertainment. It was inexpensive, readily accessible, you didn’t need to dress up, you didn’t need to be quiet or concentrate (you could eat, snog, talk whatever)… But cinema had competition. In the 1950s and early 1960s, television became a real threat.

TV has something else. It was in your own comfortable home, not only did you not need to dress up you did not need to dress at all, you could come and go as you pleased, watch with your family and it was free. Well, of course it wasn’t free. In some countries you pay a tv tax (a licence fee) but mostly there are the annoying adverts, with companies passing on their costs through the items you buy.

There’s nothing quite like watching a film on the big screen. But sales were definitely affected by tv, and Hollywood and all cinema had to react.

So we get big screen formats and widescreen films. Some had been around a while, others were newly invented. VistaVision, Superscope, Ultra Panavision, Techniscope and even the fantastic Cinerama, initially a three camera harking back to Abel Gance, 70mm and so on. The list is long, and today we have IMAX, OMNIMAX and more.

There were epic films, often Bible-based. David Lean contributed a couple of big screen treats, and we must never forget “Around the World in 80 Days” or “How The West Was Won” (this in Cinerama).

But there were plenty of other, er gimmicks, to get the punters in. 3D came back, and there were many cheap films, there were also some genuine classics designed especially for the 3D process, such as Hitchcock’s “Dial M For Murder” or George Sidney’s “Kiss Me Kate”.

3D makes the odd come back every so often. There have been some great 3D films. And dross.

But let’s also not forget Smellovision. Or the Tingler.

Nowadays, of course, we rarely get to see a proper film at the cinema. Very few directors are still using genuine film. It’s just a dvd projected onto a big screen, at a higher level.

“12 Angry Men”

It started as a tv play from American tv in the early 1950s, and has been re-made many times and is a favourite for theatre groups even now, but the film version of “12 Angry Men” from 1957 is still the best.

The film was directed by Sidney Lumet and has a very strong all-male cast, including Lee J Cobb and Henry Fonda.

The plot is very simple: a group of jurors consider the case of a young boy accused of stabbing his father to death. They weigh the evidence and decide a verdict.

Nothing much happens other than in the jury room, and the sense of heat and claustrophobia is very strong.

You can understand why it is a theatre favourite. Apart from a simple set with a big table, it’s just talking.

So much has been written about this film and its hidden meanings, but you can make of it what you will. Some of the arguments presented are apparently not correct, and there is a point where something happens that in reality would cause a mis-trial, but don’t worry about that.

I recently found it on bluray, and suggest you track down this version.

Other films for your consideration V

The 1950s was a golden age for science fiction, good and bad.

Here are three goodies:

“The Thing From Another World” aka “The Thing”.

A group of scientists find an alien frozen in the ice at the North Pole. (1951) Don’t go for the re-make.

“The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers”

Mysterious pods appear from space and grow duplicate humans. (1956) Don’t go for the re-make.

“Forbidden Planet”

A group of astronauts visit the planet Altair IV to find out what has happened to the previous expedition to the planet. (1956)

This is a curiously sterile film, but looks great on the big screen.