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Watching Old Movies (With a teenager!)

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King _Kong _poster -3

The extended lockdown period has provided ample opportunity to catch up on all those films and TV programmes you never quite found an excuse to watch when things were “Normal”

Having exhausted all the new offerings on streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime you and your family could do worse than try re-watching some old classics on BBC i-player (or, if you have younger family members introducing them to the magic of old black and white films, some of which remain surprisingly contemporary.

Here are a few that we’ve sampled and some choice comments supplied the youngest person we could find in the circumstances (my 13 year old daughter).

King Kong

What BBC iPlayer has to say about King Kong:

Hollywood's most famous monster movie in which Kong, the giant gorilla, is taken from his prehistoric island home to be exhibited in the music halls of Manhattan. The brilliantly executed tale of beauty and the beast set new standards in film-making and provided some of cinema's most powerful and lasting images.

What I thought about King King:

I think King Kong still has a sense of occasion about it.  I remember seeing it several times as a child and thought it was quite scary - and it’s retained some of that

Although increasing the special effects are looking charmingly creaky there is a lot of charm and craftsmanship to them, and there are some very innovative uses of rear screen projection and switching from real actors to miniatures along with Fritz Lang’s Metropolis this stands out as one of this periods special effects epics!

Whilst all of this must have been really impressive to the 1930's audience King Kong wouldn’t have lasted the distance if there wasn’t something that resonated in the story (this aspect was sadly lacking in Metropolis which, on some levels, doesn’t make much sense!)

It has, obviously, dated in it's appearance but thematically it's still very strong with more than a hint of Frankenstein about it, where by the end your sympathies are pretty resolutely with the "monster" and not so much with the self interested human beings!

The teenager's thoughts on King Kong:

The special effects were very funny, but it was quite violent when he was killing all the people and animals.

Despite that I felt sorry for King Kong at the end

Citizen Kane

What BBC iPlayer has to say about Citizen Kane:

Frequently voted one of the best films ever made, Orson Welles's masterpiece tells the story of newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane in a series of flashbacks. A reporter is intrigued by the dying Kane's last word - rosebud - and sets out to find a new angle on the life of one of the most powerful men in America. Nine Oscar nominations resulted in only one award for the outspoken Welles - Best Screenplay

What I thought about Citizen Kane:

My memories of this film were that it looked fantastic but the story never really grabbed me - there were lots of old film that were less highly regarded which I found more entertaining (pick pretty much any of Alfred Hitchcocks from the 30’s and 40’s)

Watching it again, now I'm slightly older, the story itself held my interest more (the idea of reaching a certain age and feeling as though you haven’t achieved much resonates!) but it's still the visuals that are the king of the show!

This film really must have completely blown people away at the time - it's not really like anything else from the period.  Film aficionados will go on about the deep focus and the innovative use of matte paintings and miniatures but it basically looks like a modern Batman movie done in 1942.

It is and incredible technical achievement but (a bit like 2001 a space odyssey) some might find it a trifle dull in the story department.

The teenager's thoughts on Citizen Kane:

Rich man misses his sleigh and dies.

Boo hoo.

Vivacious Lady

What BBC iPlayer has to say about Vivacious Lady:

Entertaining comedy in which a young professor impulsively marries a wild New York nightclub singer but begins to regret the decision when he returns to his small-town home to face another kind of music - the reaction of his conservative parents.

What I thought about Citizen Kane:

This rom-com starring Ginger Rogers and James Stewart is one I don't think I'd ever seen but I thought it might provide a little light relief following the two previous weighty movies.

I'm used to seeing Ginger Rogers paired up with Fred Astaire so it made a welcome change to see her sassy nightclub singer bouncing off James Stewarts' slightly bumbling university professor.

Vivacious Lady is essentially a by the numbers rom-com what's most surprising is how little the formula has changed in almost a century!

Acts 1 and 2 both rip along at a good pace, providing several moments which made the 13 year old laugh out loud - but it does drag a bit in the third act and I had to keep poking her to stay focused.

The teenager's thoughts on King Kong:

The funniest part was when the two girls had a fight - that was really good.

There were some pretty old fashioned ideas about how boys and girls should be though.

Is there anything we should’ve mentioned?

Do you have any thoughts, comments or views on Classic old movies?

Is there anything you think we should have mentioned?

If there is get in touch and let us know – you can also do it on Facebook or Twitter.

By Alastair Baker at 2 Jul 2020, 00:00 AM