Films on TV round-up: ITV's fiendish masterplan

Ed Williamson

24th July 2011

Someone at ITV's had a Eureka moment. "I've got it! We must start showing great films! But then we must show their increasingly poor sequels throughout the same week so that people's memory of the original is steadily soured! Start with a good idea then pump enough cheap, tacky shit into it that it becomes an artless, unrelenting cash-cow! For is that not the ITV way?"

Commencing: Monday 25th July 2011

First Blood (1982) Monday, ITV4, 10pm
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) Tuesday, ITV4, 12am/11pm
Rambo III (1988) Wednesday, ITV4, 1am/10pm

First Blood's really quite a good film, you know. Unfortunately its star chose to go on to make a multi-million-dollar knucklehead franchise out of it, turning a tense and affecting psychological thriller into an idiotic, jingoistic shoot-fest and creating the public idea that the original is just as terrible. It really isn't though, I promise.

Stallone is John Rambo, turning up in a small town to visit a Vietnam War buddy only to find that no one wants him there. His harsh treatment by the local police leads him to snap and, suffering flashbacks from the war, he goes gun-crazy in the mountains while the police and army try to catch him.

This first film of the series actually had some social commentary going on, too: a lot of men who fought in Vietnam had trouble re-entering a society that was polarised by the war and many found themselves unemployed and ostracised. Many, of course, had lost their legs and sank into alcoholism, their redemption coming only when they teamed up with endearingly simple-minded table-tennis-playing shrimp boat captains and made their fortunes, often going on to have titanium steel alloy prosthetic legs attached.

Red Dragon (2002) Tuesday, ITV2, 11pm

Here's another thing that had sequels; that is to say, it's a prequel of a film that then had a couple of sequels (one of which was a prequel to them both), but also it's a remake of that film's prequel, although the original prequel wasn't really a prequel because it was made before the first film I mentioned, making that film a sequel of the original prequel.

I'll come in again. This is a prequel to The Silence of the Lambs, or more accurately another rendering for the screen of Thomas Harris's book, Red Dragon, which had been made before as Manhunter. Anthony Hopkins is back again as Hannibal Lecter, and why wouldn't he be? He won an Oscar for playing him before, and he was only on screen for about twenty minutes in total. You don't get that sort of hourly rate anywhere else.

It's about FBI profiler Will Graham (an unaccountably blonde Edward Norton), who caught Lecter in the first place, and now needs his help catching a serial killer called the Tooth Fairy (Ralph Fiennes). Same plot as Silence of the Lambs, more or less, but it avoids mere rehash mainly through the performances of Norton and especially Fiennes, who manages to garner a lot of sympathy for a murderous character. Watch out too for Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his best-ever minor cinemasshole roles as a gutter journalist.

Plus, Hannbal's on later in the week. That's the sequel of the film that this is a prequel to. Then after that there was another sequel but that was kind of a prequel to the whole thing and ...
Also on this week

Mission: Impossible III Monday, Film4, 9pm
Stuck on You Monday, Film4, 11.20pm
The Sixth Sense Tuesday, Film4, 9pm
Mona Lisa Tuesday, Film4, 11.05pm
Gomorrah Wednesday, BBC2, 12.20am
Panic Room Wednesday, C5, 10pm
Alien 3 Thursday, Film4, 9pm
Dogma Friday, E4, 12.10am
The Happening Friday, Film4, 9pm
Lost in Translation Friday, Film4, 10.45pm
Tin Cup Saturday, ITV3, 12.35am
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Saturday, ITV1, 5.40pm
Hannibal Saturday, ITV2, 11.25pm
There's Something about Mary Saturday, E4, 10pm

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