Films on TV round-up: prisons and prisons

Ed Williamson

25th March 2012

My complacency has led me to write this right at the last minute, so I wouldn't expect the Earth, just simple binary statements on either side of an issue. So, prison bad, escape/miracles good. Stephen King rich.

Commencing: Monday 26th March 2012

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Wednesday, ITV2, 9pm

A friend of mine at university was a big Stephen King fan. I always associated his work only with horror, which I was never too interested in reading, but he introduced me to The Shawshank Redemption and it changed my perception of King altogether. Not enough to make me read anything, obviously, but it did make me realise what a master storyteller the guy is.

There are God-knows-how-many film adaptations of his work: as well as the horror ones, there's Misery, The Lawnmower Man, Stand by Me, The Running Man, but as I understand it the two films on this week (both written for the screen and directed by Frank Darabont) are two of the most faithful adaptations, being more or less direct, unabridged copies of the books.

Currently number one on the IMDb Top 250, where it's been for years, The Shawshank Redemption barely made a dent in the box office charts on its theatrical release, but went on to enjoy huge success on TV and home video, making it probably the greatest sleeper hit of all time. I say that as if it's quantifiable somehow.

You've seen it, right? Guy goes to prison, didn't deserve to, meets Morgan Freeman in there, and yet somehow decides he wants to escape, rather than doing what any man in his right mind would do, which is take the opportunity to stay there and talk to Morgan Freeman every day for the rest of your life. That's what I'd do. Wouldn't care much for all the bumming, but I'd put up with it.
The Green Mile (1999) Friday, ITV3, 11.05pm

Five years later, Darabont went back to the well for more King material, and came up with The Green Mile, a story about a giant death row prisoner in the 30s who can perform miraculous healings, and a prison guard's struggle with having to execute him.

You'd imagine that, knowing comparisons were inevitable, he decided upon using the only 100% scientifically proven method known to man for making a film more awesome: put Tom Hanks in it. It's the classic Hanksian character: an ordinary guy trying to do the right thing under extraordinary circumstances, and there's no one better suited to it.

At more than three hours long, The Green Mile should feel like it, but you barely glance at your watch. I'd be hard-pressed to think of any fat to trim if someone wanted me to cut it down to two hours. I probably wouldn't take the job on, in fact. I'd probably just say I was entirely underqualified for such a role, and why didn't they ask a professional film editor rather than me? I mean, I've got a copy of Windows Movie Maker but that's about it. And they'd probably say, Yes, we know it's an awkward position to put you in, but you have to remember that this is a problem entirely of your own making, because you've invented this scenario and indeed us as characters as a way of padding out the last paragraph of a round-up of the week's films for your TV blog, just so you can fill enough space to justifiably go to bed.

At which point I'd probably agree and go to bed.
Also on this week

For Your Eyes Only Monday, ITV4, 3.20pm
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves Monday, C5, 9pm
Storyville: Tabloid - Sex in Chains Monday, BBC4, 9pm (also Sunday, 12.05am)
Octopussy Monday, ITV4, 9pm (also Tuesday, 4.20pm)
Sleeping with the Enemy Monday, Film4, 9pm
Fight Club Monday, Film4, 11pm
The Transporter Tuesday, 5USA, 9pm (also Saturday, 9pm)
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life Tuesday, ITV4, 10.30pm (also Thursday, 12.15am)
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy Wednesday, BBC3, 10pm (also Saturday, 9pm)
Alien 3 Wednesday, Film4, 10pm
Poltergeist Wednesday, BBC1, 11.45pm
Mission: Impossible III Thursday, Film4, 9pm
Chaos Thursday, C5, 10pm
American Gangster Thursday, ITV4, 10.35pm
The Matrix Thursday, ITV2, 11.15pm
Antichrist Thursday, Film4, 11.20pm
The Quest Friday, ITV4, 9pm
X2 Friday, 5*, 9pm
Independence Day Friday, E4, 9pm
The Bourne Identity Friday, ITV2, 10pm
Black Snake Moan Friday, Film4, 11.30pm
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial Saturday, ITV2, 5.45pm
Avatar Saturday, C4, 6.50pm
Full Metal Jacket Saturday, ITV4, 10.10pm
Forgetting Sarah Marshall Saturday, ITV1, 10.35pm

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