Film: Video Watch

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The Independent Culture
Love and Death on Long Island (15) available to rent now

The 20th century is a mystery to Giles De'Ath (John Hurt). The fogeyish British writer shudders at the thought of a typewriter and can just about grasp the necessity of owning a VCR to watch a video, but does one really require a television set as well? But then De'Ath wanders into the cinema to see a EM Forster adaptation and mistakenly blunders into Hotpants College II. The widowed writer is about to leave when the heavenly vision of Ronnie Bostock (Jason Priestley), the teen-throb star, roots him to the spot. He decides he must meet his love at Bostock's Long Island home...

Gilbert Adair couldn't have hoped for a better adaptation. While the director, Richard Kwietniowski, lets De'Ath's epiphany set a gentle pace, he sends up Bostock's teensploitation shlock superbly and catches wickedly the incongruity of De'Ath's secret passion. An understated gem.

Johnny Guitar (PG) available to buy, pounds 5.99

Nicholas Ray tears up every convention in this gripping 1954 Western. For starters, Johnny Guitar (Sterling Hayden) is a pawn in a feud between the entrepreneur Joan Crawford and the landowner Mercedes McCambridge, and in a neat twist, it's not the parochial cowboys we're asked to root for, but the thoroughly modern matriarch.

Which is to say nothing of the cross-dressing. Crawford is rarely seen out of her jeans, and you're left in no doubt as to who wears the trousers. Not a scene goes by without a bitchy set-to, but it's the men who get really catty: Guitar and a rival (Scott Brady) argue incessantly over Crawford, while the women's conflict, itself tainted by sexual jealousy, is much darker. All this, and a Martin Scorsese introduction to boot.