This month’s picks from the ancient archives of cinema
THE POPE MUST DIE (1991)
Robbie Coltrane, who sadly passed this month, was a huge, cuddly, loveable man. He filled the screen both physically and metaphorically, and even when he was playing criminals or sleaze-bags, he was charming. It was always a delight to find he was in a film, and he made even the worst pictures worth watching.
He will be remembered for Harry Potter and James Bond, though it was the likes of this obscure comedy from 1991 where Coltrane’s talents shone. Coltrane plays Dave Albinizi, a priest at a struggling orphanage who (thanks to a spelling error) unintentionally derails a mafia conspiracy and gets elected Pope. A tad misnamed (there isn’t much assassinating going on), this is a perfect Sunday afternoon movie.
THE PROUD VALLEY (1940)
Paul Robeson plays David Goliath, an African-American sailor who finds work and comradeship in a South Wales mining community. For 1940, this film was extraordinarily progressive, and even today (despite a couple of moments) it is amazingly watchable and miles ahead of anything that would come out in the following forty years. This is one of the earliest British or American films (maybe the earliest) to depict a black person as a real character, as a human being, rather than as a stereotype or a caricature. There is some fabulous singing as well.
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)
Beware the moon! Two backpackers walking on the Yorkshire Moors (actually the Brecon Beacons) are attacked. One of them is killed, forced to walk the earth as ‘the undead.’ The other…Fresh off The Blues Brothers, director John Landis was on top form with this bleak horror-comedy. Not for the squeamish, though – the prosthetics are still disgusting all these years later.
HELP! I’M A FISH (2000)
When his sister drinks a mad scientist’s concoction and is turned into a starfish, Fly accidentally throws her into the sea and must drink the same concoction in order to go rescue her. This Danish animation, accompanied by a bangin’ europop soundtrack, is a perfect antidote to the winter blues – wrap yourself in a blanket, grab a pizza, and enjoy. The highlight is Alan Rickman’s Joe, a jumped up Pilot fish infected by the concoction. You can tell Rickman was in his element with this one.
If I don’t start hearing ‘I’m a Little Yellow Fish’ in the clubs, I’m gonna get mad.