Sakini is the audience's guide and master of ceremonies (he beckons the audience into the film by way of a direct address to the camera) in this sharp and funny comedy about American imperialism after the end of World War II. Sakini is the interpreter for the pompous American commander Colonel Purdy (played by Paul Ford, recreating his Broadway performance, a role he would later hone to perfection as the iconic Colonel Hall in Sgt. Bilko), a windbag idiot who makes declarations like, "I'm going to teach these natives the meaning of democracy if I have to shoot every one of them" (Donald Rumsfeld couldn't have said it better). Purdy orders the bumbling Captain Fisby (Glenn Ford, in a fine comic turn, channeling Charlie Ruggles) to lord it over a small Okinawan village and give the villagers a taste of benevolent American democratic dictatorship by making the villagers build a school and organize a "Ladies League For Democratic Action." Sakini goes along with him.
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Watch carefully and you'll find Harry's origins written all over Escape to Witch Mountain. Young Tia and Tony (Harry Potter) find themselves orphaned and without memory of their parents. When their foster parents die, they're sent to an orphanage, where an evil capitalist named Deranian (Voldemort) tries to subvert their budding magical powers -- levitation, telepathy, animal communication, and more -- for his own whims. They escape and head for the mythical Witch Mountain (Hogwarts), where they're sure they'll be accepted. They get there thanks to an old map (lightning bolt scar) that Tia has, reminding her of her past. Helping them along the way is a crotchety but folksy camper (Hagrid) and a pet cat (owl), not to mention various other obstacles and helping hands -- including a magic harmonica (wand).
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Wyler (who died in 1981) was a master of hybrid movie-making, transforming one masterpiece novel and one serious play after another, into stylized, highly cinematic pictures that made audiences forget they were watching adaptations. His Wuthering Heights may not be true Bronte, but audiences in 1939 cried over Heathcliff and Kathy as if they were Romeo and Juliet; in These Three, he fashioned Lillian Hellman's play The Children's Hour in ways that made a lesbian couple acceptable on screen in 1936; and any one who's seen The Heiress, his version of Washington Square by Henry James, will never forget Olivia de Havilland's haunting portrayal of the lonely, angry, ugly-duckling daughter of a rich and powerful physician. Then there's always Ben-Hur.
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Roman Holiday is one of the most beloved of both Hepburn's and Peck's films, a lovely little romance, full of fun and playfulness, stellar performances (Hepburn won an Oscar and Albert was nominated), and all set against the beauty of Rome. Many of its scenes are nothing short of priceless: the ad-libbed moment when Peck sticks his hand into the mouth of a statue and pretends it's been bitten off (sending Hepburn into hysterics) is absolutely unforgettable.
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The BBC drama starring Aidan Turner returns to BBC One on September 4th.