One has to start somewhere and dual Academy Award-winning scriptwriter Alvin Sargent (Julia, Ordinary People) did with a 1966 crime caper, Gambit, starring Michael Caine (Cockney thief) and Shirley MacLaine (Eurasian showgirl). False identities, a priceless Chinese statue and exotic locations make for a middling pleasure, one of the many such films from the mid-1960s. Many screenwriters have dreamed of remaking it, including Joel and Ethan Coen, who worked with prospective directors Mike Nichols, Alexander Payne and Robert Altman, before the task was finally handed to Michael Hoffman (Some Girls). The results are so lacklustre – despite a cast including Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz and Alan Rickman – the film wasn't even released theatrically in America. Firth must have feared the worst because three years before making the film he denied any involvement with an emphatic, "No! It's a complete lie." He should have stuck to his first instinct. Who knows, the original may pop up soon. SM


Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970)

9Gem, 8.30pm

Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine in Gambit.

There are many who put director Budd Boetticher up there with John Ford and Anthony Mann as supreme masters of the American Western. One of Boetticher's dream projects was that of a former soldier who saves a woman from being raped and takes her with him on a mission to help Mexican revolutionaries attack a French garrison. Boetticher wanted Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr, but never got to make the film. But Don Siegel did, with his Coogan's Bluff star Clint Eastwood, and Shirley MacLaine, who has great fun alternating between nun and prostitute. Siegel gets little attention for his Westerns (The Shootist is worth seeking out) and much more for his hard-edged actioners like Dirty Harry. You get both cinematic styles here, along with a laconic pace and humour, and a hint of sentimentality. It may seem underwhelming at times, but have faith and you may find yourself beguiled. SM


Grace Beside Me.


Surviving Harvey: Animals After the Storm

Discovery Science, 8.30pm

When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas last year, the storm and the flooding it brought forced tens of thousands of people out of their homes and affected millions of animals – pets, livestock and wildlife. This moderately heart-warming special comprises a grab-bag of stories selected for their happy endings and arresting video footage. Things get off to an adorable start with a lovely old dog thought to be lost in the storm trudging home days later, carrying a big bag of dry dog food in his jaws. Then there's a fireman leading a horse out of floodwaters using a bridle he fashioned from a piece of nylon rope; a hawk taking refuge in a taxi; and the removal of alligators washed into residential areas. Some more facts and figures about things like livestock losses would have been interesting, but it is what it is. BN

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