Radio Times Guide to Films. Introduction by Barry Norman
BBC Worldwide Limited 1924 pages Large Coffee table format paperback;
ISBN 0-563 53710-8 £19:99
This heavy door-stopper of a book is clearly aimed at the Halliwell Film & Video Guide market.
It boasts guides to 20,000 movies in cinema, video, TV and DVD format releases. Readers
will very soon realise that this is a compendium of the short film reviews published each
week in Radio Times, the UK's premier TV and Radio listing publication.
The films are classified by type: comedy, mystery thriller, western etc. The year of
production is given plus country of origin, running time and whether it is in colour.
Given at the foot of each review are the leading actors plus the name of the director and
writer(s). The composer of the music is not given. Availability in video or DVD formats is
indicated although the entries are not entirely accurate or complete. For instance,
there is no mention that The Talented Mr Ripley is available in DVD format (missed
publication deadline?). Every film is given a star rating from * poor to ***** outstanding
At the end of the book there are some interesting appendices: a Directors' Index -
a distinct asset; an impressively fulsome actor's index; an intriguing appendix of
alternative titles and an appendix of awards.
This last mentioned appendix of awards brings me to my first negative reaction. For
the lover of film music, this book will prove a big disappointment. There is no mention
of music at all in this appendix - the categories covered are just acting, direction and writing.
In other words this book is aimed at a mass general interest audience.
Not only is there scant coverage of film music -- although sometimes a score will be mentioned
in the body of a film review if it is well known enough or has won an Academy Award or nomination
-- but often the remarks are trite or uninformed or inaccurate. I was particularly enraged by
a remark in the review of Portrait of Jenny when the reviewer claimed that Dimitri Tiomkin
had plagiarised Debussy. Nothing of the sort! Tiomkin had adapted Debussy's music to suit
the screenplay and the credits announced this fact. Plagiarisation, an unfortunate choice of words
in this context, implies an underhanded use of other people's art. Distinguished British composer,
John Ireland's music for The Overlanders is not even mentioned.
One guesses that many of the reviewers are somewhat young in the tooth because of the off-target
reviews of some older films.
In conclusion don't throw away your Halliwell. This book may have its uses as an alternative read,
and those directors' and actors' lists are useful.