Piece of “Hi

There aren’t many British directors who can take theatricality and turn it into a cinematic event; but then lien Russell has always been in a class of his own. From his early television drama-doc portraits of composers, through the eccentrically staged spectacles of Tommy and Cothlc, to the dirty old man accusations that came with Crimes Of Passion and Where, he’s shown an unrepentant disregard for convention that has enlivened even his ropiest work.

it shouldn’t come as a surprise,

therefore, that when Russell turned his hand to Stevenson’s treasure Island, the result was a panto-styie romp of inspired cheesiness for all the family. the story of young Jim Hawkins and Co heading off for buried treasure is more or less intact. However, in come long Jane Silver (imagine Marilyn Monroe in pirate garb) and her seven buccaneer accomplices (not dwarfs) with names (and character traits) like Sleazy, Scurvy and Poncey. Shot on Hi-B, it has an almost ‘live’ immediacy and is filled with so many idiosyncrasies and skilfully amateurish routines that it’s borderline genius. (Alan Morrison) Ken Russell’s lieasure Island Is on Sun 24 Dec at 7. 30pm on Channel 4.

Burger king

A documentary which sets out to consider Elvis Presley and the role of food in his downfall has comic potential, and sure enough the Arena special ‘The Burger and the King' opens with a group of Elvis-a-likes chowing down on double whoppers in a scene vaguely reminiscent of the Last Supper.

But with the obviousjoke out ofthe way early. director James Marsh takes us back to Presley’s depression- wracked birthplace of Tupelo where folks were so poor that fried squirrel was regarded as a dinner treat. The

Presleys frequently went hungry, remembers a family friend. and Elvis spent most of his afterschool hours driving a delivery truck to earn extra cash. The whereabouts of the next meal was a constant concern. and when Elvis started earning money from his music he made up for the lost calories in his youth.

In his later years. the troubled king of rock ‘n' roll withdrew from public life and sought solace from babyish food like fn'ed peanut butter and banana sandwiches fixed for him by a succession of housekeepers. For a film starting from such a seemingly flippant premise. ‘The Burger and the King‘ ends up being almost unbearably sad. (Eddie Gibb)

Arena: The Burger and the King is on I Jan on BBC2.

Erotic thriller

The adventures of Heidi - another Hollywood tale of family values? Hardly, when the Heidi in question is a flamboyant Beverly Hills madam. I . Studio executives love stories about " ' - I Hollywood hookers and sleaze j scandals, but not when they ; themselves are starring in cameo t roles. When Heidi Fleiss was arrested in June 1993 on charges of /, prostitution, drugs supplying and I money laundering, shockwaves went through the film industry. Here was one woman with a little black book i that wasn’t likely to be optioned for e

| screen adaptation. Her subsequent

) trial didn’t capture public attention on

3 an OJ. scale, but it certainly gave a

; few celebrities uneasy nights.

i Held] Flelss, Hollywood Madam is the latest documentary by flick

I Broomfield based on a strong central

3 female subiect (so his last three films

3 have now been about a whore, a serial

. killer and, elln, Margaret Thatcher).

. More and more, the london-born

j filmmaker has been threatening to

i become the star of his own vehicles,

* intruding into the frame and into the

action, throwing away all pretence of

3 objectivity. Sometimes he’s annoying;

at other times he manages to use this

9 direct approach as a catalyst for

I revealing reactions. (Alan Morrison) lleldl Flelss - Hollywood Madam Is on

I Wed 27 Dec at 9.45pm on 8802.

Dahl moment

Only Julie Walters could get away with playing Little Red Riding Hood and grannie in this off-beat television version of Roald Dahl's take on the famous fairy tale. The idea for the film came out of an orchestral adaptation of Dahl's writing for children which was first performed in 1992. With a supporting cast of anthropomorphic pigs, sheep and cows. Ian Holm narrates this darkly funny film which has perfectly captured Dahl‘s Grimm sense of humour.

Walter‘s Riding Hood is a voluptuously-cleavaged vamp who

doesn't buy any ofthat ‘all the better for seeing you with’ nonsense. while grannie proves to be a particularly tough old bird. The big bad wolf is a pot-bellied, itch-scratching, loud- farting. low-slung kind ofa beast whose animal grunts and wise-cracking asides are voiced by American comic actor Danny de Vito.

While kids will probably delight in the visual gags and the bright, stylised look of the film, there are plenty ofjokes aimed at adults. particularly the Dirty Harry-style ending. By allowing a little horror to seep into the story. this fairy tale fulfills its proper function of showing the darker side of life which is often air-brushed out of anything aimed at children. (Eddie Gibb)

Omnibus: Roald Dahl '3 Little Red Riding Hood is on 1 Jan on BBC I .



There are 35 million turkeys reared in Britain every year. and it's fair to say none of them will be voting for Christmas. In a Yuletide Undercover special (18 Dec) for Channel 4's anirnal- themed Beustly Xmas season. secretly shot footage exposes the intensive farming methods used to rear the birds. two-thirds of which will not be bringing in the New Year. The documentary is being transmitted a week before Christmas day to allow our squeamishness to die down a little before we sit down to face one of these fowl. accessorised with dinky little bacon rolls and chipolatas.

On the day. however. former French screen starlet-tumed-animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot will be pricking the carnivorous conscience with her Alternative Christmas Message (Christmas Day) for those who can't face HM The Queen talking about her annus even more horribilus. Bardot. whose films included Roger Vadim's And God Created Woman. will be arguing that animals. from baby seals to pit bull terriers. are God's creatures too. This year Bardot. who professes to prefer cats to people. was a high-profile supporter of the veal calf protests around English ports. attending the funeral of Jill Phipps who died under the wheels of a Ion-y during one of the protests.

Balancing all this rampant vegetarianism is the bluntly named Sophie’s Meat Course (21 Dec). strangely excluded from Beastlv X mas. which finishes its six-week run just before Christmas with a look at the delights of venison, for those who like their Christmas dinner well hung. Now we know who killed Bambi. (Eddie Gibb)

The List l5 Dec l995-Il Jan I996 97