The Birds, The Firm, The Wicker Man: films on TV today

Hitch ruffles his feathers, Tom Cruise gets a dream job, Edward Woodward has a mystery to solve: the RadioTimes team’s pick of free-to-air films on TV today

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ANDREW COLLINS:  FILM OF THE DAY
The Birds ★★★★★
11.50pm-2.10am Film4

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I remember The Birds showing on TV when I was at school, and those allowed to stay up late to watch it (myself not included) raved the next day about the scene where the crows attack a playground. The sequence still terrifies today. Liberally adapted by Evan Hunter from Daphne du Maurier’s short story, The Birds concerns an increasingly nasty series of unexplained avian attacks in California’s Bodega Bay, which seems almost to have been triggered by the arrival of socialite Tippi Hedren. Her nascent courtship by Rod Taylor’s local is quickly overshadowed by the apocalyptic behaviour of gulls, crows and sparrows. Director Alfred Hitchcock’s skilful blend of models, animation, real birds and a synthesised soundtrack produces anything but a conventional horror.


The Firm ★★★★
10.55pm-2.00am Movie Mix

Tom Cruise plays to his strengths as a cocky guy on the rise in an adaptation of John Grisham’s legal thriller, which has great supporting turns from Gene Hackman, Holly Hunter, Ed Harris and lots more. The pacing may lag at times, but a movie that is more conspiracy than action maybe should be a tad shorter than the 150 minutes that director Sydney Pollack delivers.


The Wicker Man ★★★★
11.20pm-1.10am ITV4

Strait-laced and devoutly Christian policeman Edward Woodward has his faith put to the test by the bizarre goings-on on a remote Hebridean island in this disturbing British horror/mystery classic. Lured to the island by reports of a missing girl, Woodward discovers a seemingly innocent rural community that follows the old ways to help fulfil the promise of the vital fruit harvest. Neil LaBute’s 2006 remake was roundly panned by all.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ★★★★
5.45-9.00pm Film4

Brad Pitt has always picked a good mix of blockbusters and smaller, more interesting movies, though this one ticks both boxes. The story describes a life lived backwards, and sees Pitt’s involvement with Cate Blanchett while she is growing older and he is getting younger. The difficulties of making the plot work had foiled film-makers since the mid-1980s, but with director David Fincher in charge and a healthy dose of CGI to help out, the movie came in to land with healthy reviews and a tidy profit, not to mention 13 Oscar nominations (and three wins).


Dr Terror’s House of Horrors ★★★
9.00-10.55pm Horror Channel

Five train passengers are told their grim fortunes by a sinister Peter Cushing in this anthology that is a mix of entertaining shocks and dated vignettes. Among the cast, Cushing, Christopher Lee and Michael Gough push the right buttons, though Roy Castle and Alan Freeman really should have stuck to breaking records and playing them, respectively. Overall, it’s a lightweight collection, but director Freddie Francis is helped by cinematographer Alan Hume’s atmospheric work.


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