2021: The Year in Review

It's the end of another year, and so time for the almost traditional Cinema Essentials annual review.

Records held at the British Museum show that our first annual review took place in 1856, in celebration of the end of the Crimean War. Unfortunately, we were still waiting for someone to invent moving pictures, so there wasn't that much to write about.

Type after me: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy ..."

An Amazing Post You May Have Missed

We attempted to change to a new email subscription service this year, but it didn't quite work out, so we've had to change back again for the time being. As a result, you may have missed the post on Stanley Kubrick's The Killing during the change over, so I'll just mention that now. 


Cinema Essentials took part in three blogathons this year. I wrote about the 1978 film of The Thirty-Nine Steps for the Rule Britannia Blogathon, The Amicus Horror Anthologies for the 3rd Hammer-Amicus Blogathon and chose Six Films from Six Decades.

The Numbers

We do still get some strange search queries, but I'm not going to list them this year. So I won't be embarrassing that person who searched for "Ingrid Bergman film The Seventh Seal".

The number of visitors to the site is up slightly this year and we seem to be getting more traffic from Google. I even found us on page 1 of Google, more than once. It's quite a strange experience, as I was looking something up and then this website appeared, and I thought "Oh, that's me!" I won't tell you what it was, because Google is a fickle beast and I'm quite superstitious. If I say we're on page 1 then we'll probably end up crashing down the results.

It does make a change anyway. For the first year or more traffic was embarrassingly low. There was a time when it was just three people and a dog reading this site. Actually, that's an exaggeration. It was one person and a dog, and even the dog wasn't that interested.

The Most Popular Posts This Year

Based on the number of page views, the most popular posts published on the site this year were:

1. Six Films from Six Decades

2. Is Paris Burning? (1966)

3. The Wildcats of St. Trinian's (1980)

4. The Assassination Bureau Ltd (1968)

5. Coogan's Bluff (1968) 

6. Book Review: Conversations with Wilder by Cameron Crowe

7. The Fourth Protocol (1987)

8. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

9. Power Play (1978)

10. Red Dwarf: The Early Years

Chris Barrie and Jane Horrocks in Red Dwarf V
Chris Barrie and Jane Horrocks in Red Dwarf V

Into the Red

Yeah, so I hope you all like Red Dwarf, because there have been a few posts on it this year. Sorry about that. I watched "The Promised Land" special last year and it made me realise that I hadn't seen some of the newer series. So I watched series 10-12 and the "Back to Earth" special (which was better than I was expecting, if very meta) and re-watched the originals. It turns out I hadn't actually seen the last BBC series Red Dwarf VIII, which surprised me. 

Originally I was going to write one long post, covering the BBC series as well as the later ones on Dave (yes, this is the name of an actual TV channel). But that would have been massive, so I split it into individual series. I did hesitate though, as I knew it would take over the site for a bit, which is why I spaced them out and have only just done series 7 and 8. I also decided to skip the Dave ones - the different seasons are all quite similar anyway. So that will be it for Red Dwarf now, I promise.

You'll Get Square Eyes

I've been watching quite a bit of TV, especially classic and semi-classic BBC series this year. I watched Fawlty Towers for the first time in years and did quite enjoy it. It's very contrived in places and you can't help thinking that Basil's life would be so much easier if he just fessed up to things once in a while. But it's funny and well established as a classic for a reason. 

I also watched Stephen Merchant's new series The Outlaws, which I quite enjoyed, although the ending was an inconclusive let down (I think a second series is on the way), and Mackenzie Crook's comedy Detectorists, which I really like and hope to do a brief post on.

One result of the sad death of Sean Lock is that someone at the BBC obviously realised they had his comedy 15 Storeys High gathering dust somewhere and stuck it on iplayer. It's quite obscure because the first series was on something called BBC Choice (no, me neither) and the second was on the digital channel BBC 3, when hardly anyone had digital TV. Sean stars as a misanthropic (no surprises there) tower block resident who gets a naive new flatmate in Benedict Wong. The whole thing is really gloomily filmed and visually miserablist, with the most dismal settings you could find, but it is pretty funny. 

I'm part way through watching the 1970s WWII drama Secret Army, which is very good. Although the resemblance now to the absurd sitcom 'Allo 'Allo (which was a sort of parody) does take a bit of getting used to. On a similar theme, I recently started watching Enemy at the Door, from the same era, which is set on German-occupied Guernsey during WWII. Surprisingly, this ITV effort is noticeably less expensive and with more limited settings than the Beeb's relatively lavish Secret Army, but it's interesting.

I also made a second attempt to watch the low budget '70s sci-fi Blake's 7. I know people who like this and I do find the costumes and cheap sets amusing, but I just can't get on with it and I bailed out in the second series. Which is exactly what happened last time I tried to watch it. The main problem is that it becomes quite repetitive. Most episodes have the crew go somewhere to get something, then realise it's a trap set by the Federation and escape just in time. I tuned in again for the last three episodes to see how it ended and I wasn't surprised to find that, even at the end, they were still using this same plot. 

Favourite Posts This Year

29 posts were published this year (30 including this one). These are some of my favourites:

Diana Rigg in The Assassination Bureau
Diana Rigg in The Assassination Bureau

The Assassination Bureau Ltd (1968)
This is a fun period black comedy with Oliver Reed and Diana Rigg, the latter transferring her Avengers TV stardom to films. An interesting cast (Curt Jurgens, Telly Savalas, Philippe Noiret and lots of British character actors) and nice sets by writer-producer-designer Michael Relph.

The Fourth Protocol (1987)
Quite an entertaining Cold War spy film, one of several Michael Caine ones that might get confused. This is the one with Pierce Brosnan as a ruthless Soviet spy. Some interesting elements in this and a strong supporting cast. 

Coogan's Bluff (1968)
An early stepping stone away from westerns for Clint Eastwood, and an early teaming for him with his regular director and mentor Don Siegel. Not as good as Dirty Harry but fascinating as a transitional film for its star. 

Starring James Stewart, John Wayne and Lee Marvin, this is a very late John Ford western, but easily one of his most intriguing in terms of its themes and ideas. 

I always quite liked this 1970s version of the story, starring Robert Powell. This shifts the action back to just before WWI and is certainly in the spirit of John Buchan, even if it's not completely faithful to the book.

A curious attempt to re-do Star Trek as a second-rate 2001, for an audience who really wanted it to be the new Star Wars. This is pretty interesting for a number of reasons, although not really a particularly good film.  

A classic screwball comedy that came fairly early in the cycle, this one has a nice leading performance from William Powell and lots of interesting social commentary of the time. 

I'd wanted to do this for a while as a companion piece to the Hammer horror one, but had to re-familiarise myself with the films as there are quite a lot - especially as I included some of the non-Amicus ones. I also wanted to save this for the Hammer-Amicus blogathon, as that was what gave me the idea and it only seemed fair, but it didn't run again until this year. 

William Powell and Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey
William Powell and Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey

Favourite Films This Year

Film watching is down a bit this year. My favourite first-time viewings were probably the screwball comedy My Man Godfrey (1936) and the comedy-thriller Q Planes (1939). The latter stars Ralph Richardson, Laurence Olivier and Valerie Hobson and is also known as "Clouds Over Europe". 

Favourite repeat viewings this year included In Which We Serve (1942), Dead of Night (1945), The Dam Busters (1954), The Killing (1956), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), The Day of the Jackal (1973), The Deer Hunter (1978), Apocalypse Now (1979), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991).

A Word from Our Sponsor 

You may have noticed that adverts have appeared on the site this year. This is because I've totally sold out to The Man. As the earnings from this mount up, I'm planning on buying an Aston Martin DB11, maybe a Bentley Continental and perhaps a helicopter. I'm considering a trip to the Galapagos Islands and a round the world cruise. I'd also like to buy a Georgian rectory in the Cotswolds and a holiday home in Tuscany. Earnings from advertising so far are 89 p, so there's a way to go yet!

See the Film, Read the Book!

I've been reading more this year and that included a few film books. Some new finds I can recommend:

Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke and the Making of a Masterpiece by Michael Benson
This is a detailed examination of the making of probably Stanley Kubrick's best film, and includes just about everything you ever wanted to know about 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Ealing Studios by Charles Barr
An oldie but goodie. This 1970s book is a thematic as well as a chronological exploration of Ealing's films. Quite opinionated, but intelligent and well considered. 

Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War by Mark Harris
This follows the different experiences of five directors who signed up to make films with the US military in WWII - William Wyler, Frank Capra, George Stevens, John Huston and John Ford. This book was reviewed by one of the participants in the World War II blogathon that we did a couple of years ago, which is what put me on to it.

Hollywood England: The British Film Industry in the Sixties by Alexander Walker
The first in Walker's British cinema trilogy. Full review here.

A Mirror for England: British Movies from Austerity to Affluence by Raymond Durgnat
Another oldie. This dates from around 1970 and explores British films of the 1940s to early '60s thematically. Raymond Durgnat's ideas about what were important films of this period haven't dated all that well, but it's a good read with lots of interesting insights for British film fans. 

David Lean by Kevin Brownlow
This is probably the best David Lean book out there. Appropriately enough, it's also a bit of an epic, based on copious interviews with the great man himself.

The Last Word

We probably all need cheering up this year, so don't pay any attention to those killjoys who say that Christmas is all over by Boxing Day. Someone actually asked me on Monday how my Christmas was. On December 27th! The Christmas period traditionally extends well into January (or even February) and there's still plenty of chocs and booze in my house, so it's not over yet. If you need some seasonal inspiration, you can check out my choices for 8 of the Best Christmas Films.

Who knows what next year will bring, but hopefully it will be a lot better than this one. I did get an email this week from a woman who works for the United Nations, who says that I'm owed $10 million, and another from a friendly man in Nigeria who wants to put $20 million into my bank account. So it seems like things are looking up.

Thanks as always to all my regular readers and commenters. I wish you all the best for a healthy and prosperous 2022 and hope to see you next year.


  1. Nice post. You seem to watch a lot of interesting television. I wish I knew any of the shows.

    I've thought about selling out to The Man too. There seems to be a lot of money in it. A new Bentley Continental sounds great. Comes in every color imaginable and costs about as much as a small house.

    For Christmas movies of course I rewatched Die Hard for the umpteenth time. It's a must-see. So heartwarming.

    Let's hope this year will be better.

    1. Ah yes, Die Hard. Trust you to go for the traditional option. I thought about watching that this Christmas, but someone else keeps borrowing it. I've got 1-4 and she asked me recently when I was going to get the fifth one, as she still hasn't seen it. The answer of course is never. That one is terrible and doesn't count.

      On the TV series, you must know Fawlty Towers?


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