Last night I watched one of my favourite films, a classic Agatha Christie movie called ‘Murder at the Gallop’. Murder at the Gallop stars Margaret Rutherford as the tenacious Miss Marple as she uncovers the truth behind a reclusive millionaire who was apparently scared to death by a cat and his family who were all eager for their inheritance. Were any of them greedy enough to kill him?
It’s a classic movie that’s nearly fifty years old, being made in 1963. This is 17 years before I was even born, but it still entertains me despite the lack of bare boobs, explosions and laser-gun toting aliens. By today’s standards the characters were a little on the politically incorrect stereotype side and the special effects were…well not at all special. The obviously fake cat jumping out of the cupboard is my favourite, but none of that matters because it’s a watchable and entertaining murder mystery film.
It got me thinking about all my favourite classic films which I remember being forced to watch as a child. Hours and hours worth of classic films such as Topper Returns, Oscar Wilde’s Blithe Spirit, the ‘Road to…’ films with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, the Ealing comedies; so many movies that are rarely played on TV if ever.
I watched Murder at the Gallop on TCM ‘Turner Classic Movies’ so thankfully there are still channels I can watch some of them on, and you can still buy them as DVD’s, but for how long? You cannot buy films from the silent era any more with the exception of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin which are to be out on DVD. I expect that soon the films I remembered enjoying as a child will just disappear.
The more I thought about it the more old films popped into my head, not just the murder mysteries but thrillers, comedies, horrors with all those scenes forever scrawled on my brain, the ‘I love you…’ line spoken by Audrey Hepburn in Charade (who incidentally is still one of the most elegant and beautiful actresses of all time.) or the ‘Flagon with the Dragon’ bit from ‘The Court Jester’, below…
Oh yes you did see that right, the woman on the king’s left was Glynis Johns who was the mother in Mary Poppins and the right is a very young Angela Lansbury. I bet you didn’t realise they were both pretty foxy as young gals.
Anyway, it’s films like this that over time will slowly start to disappear from TV schedules and DVD stores. It’s inevitable; we can’t hope to keep creating new films without older films falling to the wayside. Unfortunately the attitude that people, specifically the younger generations have towards black and white or classic films is often ‘new=good, old=bad’. This could be from a variety of reasons, lack of connection to the subject, dated special effects or simply because the film pre-dated colour. Not liking a film because of the technology would be akin to not liking Mozart because he didn’t use synthesisers or electric guitars.
If technology was all that was required for a film to be good, it wouldn’t explain why so many remakes of classic films have been rated much more poorly than the originals; The Italian Job, The Ladykillers, Alfie, Poseidon, Godzilla plus a lot more are all consider terrible in comparison to the original. I’m not saying that there haven’t been good remakes, there have been but there are enough poor ones to reason technology is of relatively low importance to the success of most films.
I’m not judging I had exactly this attitude when I was younger, but my mum used to like watching these films while we ate so it was a case of watch them or starve. It wasn’t long before I started to enjoy these movies though I would never have admitted that to my mum then, of course.
So what can be done?
Nothing I’m afraid as I said before, it’s inevitable. Old films will eventually stop being shown on TV or sold in stores. There will always be the next ‘blockbuster boob-exploding, action film’, or Pixar’s latest ‘Animal National Stereotype’ film being made (I’m waiting for Aborigine Badger, or the Geisha Muskrat) to take their place, but don’t ignore a movie just because of the year it was made in or the technology that was available, give it a chance. So what if it’s a World War II film with James Stewart, or a Rogers and Hammerstein musical? Try it. Discriminating anything by its age or colour is wrong and films are certainly no different. Give old movies a chance, these classic films won’t be around forever. It won’t be long before you find your own favorite classic movie.