El Conde to Captain Phillips: the seven best films to watch on TV this week

Feted Chilean director Pablo Larraín re-imagines Pinochet as a vampire in a witty new comedy, and Tom Hanks stars in a wonderfully tense pirate thriller

Pick of the week

El Conde

What would you expect of a film by a feted Chilean director about the country’s brutal dictator Augusto Pinochet, 50 years to the week after the coup that brought him to power? Probably not a vampire comedy – but Pablo Larraín has chosen a witty, ironic way of dealing with his horrific legacy. Having faked his death, 250-year-old bloodsucker Pinochet (Jaime Vadell) is holed up on an island contemplating death. His five avaricious children turn up, as does Paula Luchsinger’s exorcist nun/accountant Carmencita. Shot in black-and-white (possibly to save us the excess of red blood) and narrated by Margaret Thatcher (Stella Gonet), it’s clearly very silly but makes its points stylishly. Simon Wardell
Friday 15 September, Netflix


The Lady Vanishes

Michael Redgrave and Margaret Lockwood in The Lady Vanishes.
Hitchcock’s most enjoyable thriller … The Lady Vanishes. Photograph: Cinetext/Gainsborough/Allstar

This 1938 film is one of the most purely enjoyable of Alfred Hitchcock’s many thrillers, with a dash of peril, touches of light comedy and none of the voyeuristic intensity he brought to his later work. Margaret Lockwood’s Iris and Michael Redgrave’s Gilbert are among the travellers on a trans-Europe train when a fellow passenger, elderly governess Miss Froy, goes missing. Everyone else denies ever seeing her, so Iris decides to investigate. It’s a tangled yarn worthy of Agatha Christie, with an interesting pre-war take on English pluck and resolve. SW
Saturday 9 September, 2.45pm, BBC Two


Something in the Dirt

Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson in Something In The Dirt.
A tantalising brain-twister … Something in the Dirt. Photograph: Publicity image

Low-budget sci-fi auteurs Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are back with another brain-twister. This time they also star as ex-con bartender Levi and divorced churchgoer John, LA neighbours who decide to make a documentary when a quartz ashtray in Levi’s flat starts levitating. Theories about maths, aliens, magic and earthquakes fly around but remain tantalisingly out of reach in a film that, ultimately, is more about a friendship forged in extremis than the phenomenon with which they’re obsessed. SW
Sunday 10 September, 11.50am, 6pm, Sky Cinema Premiere


What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Icons … Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Photograph: Aldrich

Golden age film icons Bette Davis and Joan Crawford brought their long-running rivalry to life in Robert Aldrich’s glorious, pugnacious 1962 melodrama. Davis plays Jane, once a child star known as “the Diminutive Dancing Duse from Duluth”; Crawford is Blanche, whose adult Hollywood career surpassed that of her sister – until a suspicious car crash left her in a wheelchair. Years later, the kindly Blanche is stuck upstairs in her house at the mercy of an increasingly delusional and violent Jane, played to the edge and way, way beyond by Davis. SW
Monday 11 September, 11.15pm, BBC Two



Caroline Ward in Host.
Lockdown horror … Caroline Ward in Host. Photograph: Moviestore Collection /Alamy

It’s a cliche that artistic restrictions inspire creativity, but that is certainly the case with Rob Savage’s brilliant lockdown horror. The set-up is simple but effective – six twentysomething friends separated by Covid restrictions meet on a Zoom call for a seance with a professional medium, but inadvertently summon a malevolent spirit. With the characters isolated in their dark, poky flats, the Blair Witch-style unseen terrors and jump scares have maximum impact. SW
Tuesday 12 September, 11.25pm, BBC Three


Captain Phillips

Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips.
Batten down the hatches! … Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips. Photograph: Album/Alamy

Tom Hanks brings his grace-under-pressure actorly qualities to bear on this wonderfully tense fact-based drama. He plays the titular officer in charge of an American container ship en route from Oman to Kenya. However, they must pass through waters threatened by Somali pirates – and one gang in a small speedboat, led by Barkhad Abdi’s Muse, manage to take the vessel. In typically hyperactive fashion, director Paul Greengrass propels the action from oceanic chase to onboard cat-and-mouse game as the crew and the criminals both gain and lose the upper hand. Batten down the hatches … SW
Thursday 14 September, 10.40pm, BBC One


Knock at the Cabin

From left: Abby Quinn, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Dave Bautista and Rupert Grint in Knock at the Cabin.
Outlandish … (from left) Abby Quinn, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Dave Bautista and Rupert Grint in Knock at the Cabin. Photograph: Morgan Smith/© Universal Studios

Despite its outlandish premise, M Night Shyamalan’s latest chiller has a lot to recommend it. Four strangers (including a delightfully mild-mannered Dave Bautista) turn up at the woodland holiday home of couple Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and their daughter, claiming shared visions have told them that one of the three must die to prevent the apocalypse. Are they delusional, scammers or, just maybe, telling the truth? It may be ridiculous but you will keep watching to the end.
Friday 15 September, 12.05pm, 8pm, Sky Cinema Premiere


Simon Wardell

The GuardianTramp

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