Thursday, 29 June 2017

Review Roundup

 Monsignor Quixote (1987)-   a waste of of talents, prototype ITV comedy drama premiere - Alec Guinness as David Jason. Euston does Graham Greene does Don Quixote, with all the visual dflair of a substandard BA ad. Like El Dorado if made by Euston.

Watching 1980's Humanoids from the Deep. It's okay. But it's too routine, there's none of the quirkiness of a John Sayles script, and the monsters are good, but there's none of the florid colour of your typical Doug McClure fantasy film. i.e. what this film needs is Ron Pember and Keith Barron. It needs a Joe Dante. It is like the Boogens, another well-shot, well-designed horror - with cool monsters but little else.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

My latest article - Fortean Times.

You can read my latest article in the Fortean Times issue out now. I wrote the Les Dawson article. Read it. Danny Baker liked it.

For the time being - focusing my attention on this - george-j-white.tumblr.com/

Find me on twitter @swmtdinnercast

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Bits and bobs


House of Cards (1968) Good-looking but tedious Eurospy thriller, directed by John Gullermin, George Peppard vs fascists Keith Michell and Orson Welles - ends with pre-Way of the Dragon coliseum chase.

Old films don't really excite me unless they're different. I've seen so many identikit horrors, thrillers, etc, that I'm bored by a lot of old films because they seem samey.

The Oscar (1966) - an actual film about the actual Academy Awards, and not the "Awards Presentation Ceremony" featured in The Lonely Lady. Designed as a vehicle for Tony Bennett, this is in the category of "famous singer tries acting and fails". Astonishingly not based on a Robbins novel, but one by pulp writer Richard Sale, and with a script co-written by Harlan Ellison, of all people, it features Belfast's very own Stephen Boyd as someone who desperately wants to win the Best Actor award, but then loses to yer actual Frank Sinatra as himself. Weirdly, set in a world where Sinatra is himself, but Peter Lawford is playing someone else. It also has Bob Hope, Merle Oberon,  and other Hollywood sorts as themselves, Elke "How are your doings?" Sommer, Milton Berle, Joseph Cotten, etc. It's at times mind-numbingly awful, but sometimes, it gets unintentionally brilliant i.e. Bennett's narration. But it is something else.

Been watching a ton of Terence Hill and Bud Spencer movies (which are odd to say the least, syrupy tough-guy comedies. Charleston (1977), a Spencer-only joint is interesting. A Sting knock-off set and shot in 1970s London but with everyone in 1920s costumes to convince us otherwise, starring Herbert Lom, James Coco, and as Spencer's fellow gang members, Geoffrey Bayldon (RIP) and Ronald Lacey and featuring Peter Glaze, and copious amounts of Harp product placement.

I also caught the interesting George C Scott infection folly Rage, and Tippi Hedren-guest starring French ITC-ish TV nonsense Docteur Caraibes (from Telecip, makers of the films of Rene Laloux, 80s Channel 4 French soap Chateauvallon, coproducers of 1978 BBC panto-esque semi-musical period drama the Devil's Crown).

I also watched another French telefantasy, 1960s noirish ORTF series Belphegor - allegedly about a mummy, but as I was watching it unsubtitled, seemed to be an atmospheric but rather empty Maltese Falcon-ish thing. I also saw a 1973 French-Spanish-Italian miniseries of The Mysterious Island, cut for feature release, with threadbare Harry Towers-ish production values, a pseudo-steampunk set design,  lots of moaning in a balloon, an annoying kid dubbed by a man and not much going on, and Omar Sharif clearly looking for a paycheque as Captain Nemo, here portrayed as Verne later saw fit to retcon Nemo, as an Indian prince.

The Greek Tycoon (1978) - Directed by J. Lee Thompson, written and produced by Greek exploitation mogul Nico Mastorakis, Anthony Quinn once again plays a Greek, despite being an Irish-Mexican (basically, to quote Richard Herring, there are four types of race, "black, white, Chinese and those played by Nadim Sawalha", but Quinn could be used as an easy substitute), in this case Theo Tomasis, a Greek tycoon who is NOT Aristotle Onassis despite marrying Jacqueline Bisset as Elizabeth 'Lizzie T" Cassidy, former First Lady, married to the assassinated President James Cassidy (James Franciscus). This film is all kinds of strange. The aforementioned assassination isn't done in Dallas, but on a beach God knows where, possibly the Isle of Wight ()

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Robbins? Robbins!

Recently watched a few Harold Robbins adaps.

The ludicrous Stiletto (1969), where Alex "Archangel from Airwolf" Cord plays a Mafia assassin playboy who shags Britt Ekland and constantly visits an "Italy", i.e. Puerto Rico with a few Fiats, an Italian flag and a sign  saying "Italian poste", while chased by Patrick O'Neal and Roy Scheider. Features a character called "Hannibal Smith", not played by George Peppard, who alas, did appear in Robbins' Howard Hughes roman รก clef The Carpetbaggers - "aka the one with the Money Programme theme, chandelier-dancing and a dying Alan Ladd as Nevada Smith". Smith, a half-Indian cowboy-turned-film star (and name inspiration for Indiana Jones) was played in the prequel by Steve McQueen, aged 35 playing 16, and people think he was old in the Blob...

Not as ludicrous as 1969's the Adventurers, intended to launch Yugoslavian Bekim Fehmiu as an international star, about a fictional Cinecitta-realised South American state of "Cortequay", where we see a skinny-dippying Ernest Borgnine seemingly cosplaying a Mexican Ted Bovis.  Quickly transforming from a childhood romance to a spaghetti western, and we see that director Lewis Gilbert, who hated directing this film for he lost out on Oliver! seems to forget where exactly Corteguay is, and introduces us to a who's who of Europudding vets, Fernando Rey, Rossano Brazzi, Charles Aznavour, Ferdy Mayne, etc. Overlong and seemingly about five films in one, you have to marinate in its weirdness.

Mayne also is in the Harold Robbins miniseries The Pirate (1978), "my favourite", according to Mrs. Hamilton in Fawlty Towers. In Robbins' view of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Franco Nero as an Israeli sold at birth by his dad Eli Wallach to Sheikh Christopher Lee, to an Arabia where Ian McShane and Armand Assante are natives. Features Olivia Hussey as Leila the terrorist and James Franciscus as "Dick Carriage",  and Hollywood doubling as Monte Carlo, Geneva, Israel, etc. Typical 70s network trash, punchily directed by Ken Annakin.

The Betsy (1978) is Robbins' view of the car industry, Featuring a confused chronology, 70-year-old Lord Olivier playing a dirty old car mogul, Loren "Number One" Hardeman from the age of forty to ninety, Robert Duvall as his grandson, Kathleen Beller as the titular Betsy, the great-granddaughter with a car named after,  Tommy Lee Jones romancing Lesley Anne Down as the wife of a race-driving Lord, a John Barry soundtrack and feels like a driving instruction video padded out by soap opera.

Monday, 3 April 2017

My problem with Brazil.

Okay, here is a confession. Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits has been one of my favourite films since I was eleven. But I tried watching his followup, Brazil years ago, and found it alienating. So I tried again...
BRAZIL I find an overblown mess. It's a film where visually it's glorious but there's no substance. There's no real likeable characters in it. You can tell Gilliam began in animation and was influenced by Mad magazine, but it becomes tiring, all this beautiful detail stuck onto a story which is frustrating, an incredible cast which is lost in the mass of detail and silly plotting. It's a place you want to go, but Sam Lowry's story is so meaningless. I can see why Universal wanted the film re-shot. The thing is Time Bandits is one of my favourite films, and that is a film where it is basically split into chunks, each chunk different to the other, different design, different cast, different atmosphere, and it works, with Brazil, everything's clashing, It'd make a great videogame, hours of exploring all that detail, but as a film, it stinks.


Most TVMs have the same bland dullness, even the likes of Cast A Deadly  Spell (1991)/WitchHunt (1994), Fatherland (1994), various ones starring the likes of Anthony Hopkins and Alan Arkin. HBO original films, as all these films are a mixed match, from the theatrically released likes of The Hitcher (1986) and Three Amigos (1987) to the straight-to-cable likes of Cold Room (1984) which resembles  an episode of Quantum Leap where Sam is played by Amanda Pays in a school uniform who has to leap into a girl who suffers incest from her Nazi butcher father played by Warren Clarke. The Cold Room features George Segal, who also appears in the Tales of the Unexpected-y HBO-BBC coproduction The Deadly Game (1982), where Trevor Howard and Robert Morley lead a cadre of elderly judges who try to put Segal on a fake trial in Switzerland. I've been watching a few. A few too grand to be boring, but not exciting enough like Alan Rickman's Rasputin (1996) or the Christopher Lloyd/John Heard-starring one about the Exxon Valdez disaster, directed by Paul "the Graff Vynda-K" Seed who started his career as a director, playing one in the swinging 60s "Blue Marigold" Tales of the Unexpected episode.
Hence the likes of:
"Sword of Gideon" (1986), a slow but engrossing Canadian CTV/HBO TVM based on the same book as Spielberg's Munich where Rod Steiger and Michael York (unconvincingly cast as a Belgian) and Lino Ventura hunt Black September from Paris to London (actual location footage) .
Mom and Dad Save The World (1992) where Teri Garr and Jeffrey Jones on their wedding anniversary are kidnapped by aliens and go to a planet where all the females are bipedal fish and the men bipedal dogs (as if to get known nonce Jones to get turned on by child-fish creatures as if bestilaity is better than paedophilia). Somewhere between daft and stupid. Colorful, inventive design but too silly for adults, despite Eric Idle appearing.
David Lynch's Hotel Room - bundle of incomprehensible weirdness - features Freddie Jones vs Harry Dean Stanton, and Crispin Glover romancing Alicia Witt (who I weirdly mistook as Bernadette Peters).
Citizen X - Stephen Rea, Max Von Sydow and Donald Sutherland try to pin down Soviet killer Andrei Chikatilo. Best thing is Rea's brilliant Ulster-Israeli-Russian-Chicago accent. Also features Imelda Staunton and Joss Ackland.
A Dangerous Life - coproduction with the Aussie ABC about the assassination of Filipino politician/First Man Ninoy Aquino, shot in the Philippines, starring Gary Busey, Filipino staples like Vic Diaz and being Aussie, Mr. Udagawa from Neighbours. Bland and soppy.
Even Joe Dante's The Second Civil War, despite that cast doesn't quite feel like a Dante movie, despite a strange portrayal of Pakistan.

Today, watched soppy, not as interesting as it sounds Burl Ives-guest starring Japanese-Bermudan Rankin/Bass giant turtle-themed tragic romance  the Bermuda Depths, bonkers but stretched-out Bette Davis as Lord Summerisle "witchy town" miniseries The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978) which should have been thirty minutes not three hours, interesting  1996 BBC-HBO true story Deadly Voyage (Sweaty Joss Ackland and a wonderfully seedy David Suchet play sadistic ship's crew who bump off African stowaways).

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Journey to the Centre of the Earth 1989

Watching Albert Pyun/Cannon's South African venture Journey to the Centre of the Earth 1988 - it begins in London full of fake snow and people in pith helmets, at "Nannies R US". Nicola Cowper (of TV's Dangerfield, ultra-gritty CBBC domestic abuse thriller Break In The Sun, Dennis Potter's Dreamchild and real-life sister of The Wicker Man's Gerry Cowper)  is sent off to a very white Hawaii with Table Mountain in the back, and discovers she's looking after a dog for a punk rocker. She teams up with two brothers to find something, and this disjointed mess results in armies of sub-Hensonian Rasta-Yetis, a micro-cameo from shrill-voiced American comedian and Bob Monkhouse favourite Emo Phillips wandering about in a Bet Lynch cast-off leopard skin coat and a sudden crossover with fellow Cannon junkyard hidden world movie Alien from L.A., also directed by Albert Pyun. A troubled production - and it shows, as it literally makes no sense. One scene, we're firing laser guns at rasta-yetis,  the next we're in a sort of Blade Runner-ish neon, sort of cyberpunk world(which turns out to be Atlantis) run by vampirish alien-obsessed Afrikaner albinos not unlike the Family in the Omega Man. Is either a sequel to or a prequel to Alien from L.A.  (lampooned on Mystery Science Theatre 3000), shot on the same sets and featuring a brief appearance by Kathy Ireland in her role from that film, but sadly unlike Alien from L.A., there is no Deep Roy. Apparently, original director Rusty Lemorande was fired, Pyun took over and then he himself got fired. it shows.    
Astonishingly not produced by Harry Alan Towers. We end with a sort of televised Atlantean Eurovision Song Contest that we never see.
Not to be confused with the 1993 TV pilot of the same name where F Murray Abraham dies at the beginning, and John Neville plays a fake-English countryside resident Doctor-type with a Holly/AOL woman-type floating hologram head in a bubble who leads an expedition to a hidden world full of Yetis called Dallas and becomes a ripoff of At The Earth's Core, even with similar monster makeup.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Hennessy (1975)


Hennessy (1975), one of the early last-ditch attempts by AIP to make a mainstream film, and one of their last UK productions is weird. Rod Steiger is the lead, as an IRA man with a not-very-good accent, but he's quieter than he usually was at this time, which isn't saying much. 1970s London, as rundown as it is looks too recognisable to be Belfast in most shots, though the terraced streets look right. Its when they show high street areas that it looks very London-ish, especially when the film moves to London playing itself (though the genuine shots of second unit Belfast could almost be London if not for the mountains peeking out behind). Eric Porter and Lee Remick's accents are a bit too Southern-inflected, though Eric Porter almost gets it. Ian Hogg is too Scottish. Patrick Stewart  appears as an IRA man. He has hair, but not much of it. He's balding, but still not quite the pure slaphead the world knows and love. His accent's terrible, but it was his first film. Stanley Lebor appears as an IRA man in the same sort of sweater he'd wear in Ever Decreasing Circles (and weirdly, Peter Egan appears too, though they share no scenes). David Collings is literally a leprechaun cabbie. Some of the funeral mourners sing God Save Ireland  out of tune. Basically, Steiger is a reformed IRA man whose wife and child (7 year old Patsy Kensit) are shot by Christopher "That's My Boy" Blake, as a British soldier. An interesting film, because it is so odd. A British film with a dissident IRA hero trying to blow up the Queen on her visit to the Houses of Parliament. Rod Steiger is Niall Hennessy (yes, they say it right), a former WW2 vet who served with Montgomery, then joined the IRA and now, fuelled by the accidental murder of his family by Mollie Sugden's boy, goes off to London, smuggled in by John Hallam (who was born in Ulster, but simply because his family were evacuated, he is one of two Irish actors in it - the other being  Fair City's Oliver Maguire) and Patrick Stewart (with a bizarre West Country-Yorkshire accent, but it was his first film), where he hides with his dead mate's non-love interest widow, the possibly Catholic-but-with-a-Protestant-name Kate Brooke, played by Lee Remick (sounding a bit Oirish and being far too Hollywood glam for a downtrodden Provo widow from East Belfast) . Eric Porter and the lads learn of Hennessy's plan, and realise that blowing up the Queen is a greater risk to Ireland, and chase him, while  Trevor Howard, Richard Johnson and Peter Egan of the Yard investigate, Johnson literally haunted by his time in Belfast as an RUC 'tec. Hennessy sits in Remick's house, where the BBC are somehow showing footage of the funeral of Mrs. Hennessy nationally, and not just on BBC Northern Ireland. Hennessy then decides to take on the identity of a popular Corbynesque MP who protests about the city outside the Albert Hall., trapping the real MP in his vest and underwear. Remick is killed by Porter and the lads.  On Hennessy's way, we begin to see the film's other controversial element - genuine footage of the Queen, her family (even the Duke of Kent), Archbishop Robert Runcie and the Paedo PM himself, Ted Heath from an old newsreel,  intercut with shots of a newsstand selling the Sun and the Daily Mail on Westminster Bridge. The film because of this use of footage got pulled from UK release, and yet the final scenes are the best bit. They are reminiscent of the similar VIP bloodbath of the Medusa Touch (also with Remick), and is efficiently shot by director Don Sharp. Johnson manages to foil the plan, and chases Hennessy out the door, before Hogg shoots Hennessy instead, and is carted away by coppers. However, Hennessy gets up, pleading, only for Johnson to shoot him again, and he blows up, a mushroom cloud descending over Westminster. Johnson wakes up, as God Save the Queen plays. A really interesting  film. Not for all the right reasons. It's laughable, especially if you're Irish, but has a weird sense of morbid charm.  And John Scott's score is nice. It feels similar to other Brit-actioners of the period, like The Black Windmill (1974) or Brannigan (1975). It feels similar to Day of the Jackal, but at least it has more energy than that film, and dare I say it, Steiger and the various bungling IRA men are more captivating protagonists than Edward Fox in a cravat turning his nose up at Paris.  but then again, I am Irish.