Sunday, 17 June 2018

12-ish (14)

Seven Times Seven (1968) - An Italian heist comedy (disturbingly close to "Nutty Hijack") trying to pass itself off as a British heist comedy. The likes of Erika Blanc, Gastone Moschin, Ray Lovelock, a toothbrush-tached Adolfo Celi  and Gordon Mitchell show its true nationality, but it does have a Brit supporting cast, Terry-Thomas, Christopher Benjamin and the very Brit-film choices of Neil McCarthy as prison bruiser and Police Sergeant David Lodge. Lionel "moider" Stander plays one of the leads. It is too long, kind of ponderous, with almost art-film scenes of bare chested cons in a bath discussing. If it were a British film, it'd be a ton shorter.  It has an odd tone, not quite silly enough to be one of those Argoman-type silly capers, though there are silly costume jokes, but it is shot like a drama. Imagine Carry On Matron with the same script, but shot like a hard-hitting political thriller. Not that funny. Didn't even get a UK release.

Viaje Fantastico En Globo (1975)  - Rene Cardona's version of Jules Verne, set in a London portrayed by some rather opulent interiors and a sign on a an arch. Awful, clearly a vessel for stock footage.

I've been watching a lot of Euro-spy tosh.
Apart from the glorious Diabolik, Argoman is along the same scale as the other rival Italian spy-superhero-villain rivals, eg Kriminal – which uses comic strip frames and shows Piccadilly cinemas showing CAST A GIANT SHADOW! before cutting to an Italian house with a policeman plonked house before devolving into the typical Italian superhero mix of parties full of extras in silly outfits, before devolving into sub-Topkapi capers, done in a such boring manner, laboured shots of foreign places and lots of padding. A lot of them try to go Avengers-ish raised “oh, I’m a deliberate cartoon” even without dubbing, e.g. exaggerated facial movements eg the Fantomas movies. Diabolik does all this but does it well, somehow pulling it off.
Even the Italian Mexican wrestler knockoff Goldface devolves into the typical Italian spy knockoff, a rented helicopter, some badly staged fistfights, exposition, some cheesecake and invariably footage of London. Argoman has all this, but it feels jokier, grander, it looks to have a bigger budget than it probably did, the dubbing by Lewis Ciannelli, son of regular Man from Uncle baddie Eduardo is rather fitting, all blustery Scotland Yard men and coquettish American girls. But it's still a mess.

Special Mission Lady Chaplin (1966) – One of the better Eurospy films, but still not a great film. Like with a lot of these films, it has unenthusiastic performances both in front of the camera, and in the dubbing. The plot is hard to follow, star Ken Clark (playing Dick Malloy in his third film) has the look of a provincial waxwork of Roger Moore, I’ve watched numerous Italian spy films, and they’re all the same. Ex-musclemen/cowboys charmlessly beating up stuntmen, driving against back projection, using shite gadgets and wooing overly made up models. This has a few novelties. Ex-Bond girl Daniela Bianchi plays the titular Lady Chaplin, a British fashion designer (hence lots of boring scenes at fashion houses), who is also a spy. She gets up various disguises, but they’re all leaden and directed like a Pink Panther knockoff. The plot, though moving from New York to London to god knows where is ultimately some sort of vague Thunderball do-over with cardboard nukes. It’s hard to tell who is the villain, though it is Kobre Zoltan (ex-Mr. Ginger Rogers Jacques Bergerac, ironically later a Revlon executive). But he has relatively little presence. Directed by Alberto De Martino, who also handled OK Connery (1967). This has a better budget than most of the Eurospy fare (less reliance on stock footage) including the two earlier Dick Malloy films (with Clark labelled as 077 but doing work more akin to a mixture of Harry Palmer and Mike Hammer), but there’s still the inevitable slapping women about (these films make Bond look like a liberal feminist). There is some perhaps accidentally inventive set design (Intelligence HQ is a cramped bedsit with floral wallpaper and space taken up by massive computers). But there seems to be too much focus on location filming than trying to create a good story, a good villain, good cast, etc.

Umberto Lenzi’s 008 – Operation Exterminate (1968)  has sequences in Egypt prefiguring Spy Who Loved Me.

Target for Killing ~(1966) Stewart Granger plays “James Vine” (not Shonteff’s Charles Vine). Watching it, and his boss appears. “That looks like Rupert Davies. It can’t be. It is!”. I didn’t notice the fab credits. I know the BBC Maigret was successful in Europe, hence why all 52 episodes miraculously survive, despite being a BBC series from the 1960s. Also featuring Curd Jurgens AND Adolfo Celi, as well as Klaus Kinski. Most of the stars use their own voices (certainly, Granger and Jurgens do). Despite a band of villainous white-robed monks, it is boring.

Coplan Saves His Skin (1968) – French effort with Mexican leading man Claudio Brook, better budgeted than the Italian efforts. Kinski plays a pervy sculptor. Weird scenes of hairy near-naked men lying in a bathhouse dressing dolls, and a plastic-faced cat-petting villain. Directed by Yves Boisset (who made arguably the greatest French SF film ever made- Game of Danger), it’s overlong and doesn’t really go anywhere. The sets are just ruins where the cast have camped in. Also saw elements of FX 18 – the Ken Clark Coplan film, which is a lot more dull.

Spy In Your Eye, Jerry Cotton, Roger Browne in Password Kill Agent Gordon, all cheap or empty, with none of the fantastic that Bond brings. The Kommissar X films at least look expensive and vivid, with lots of local colour in Death is Nimble, Death is Quick (1967) and Kiss, Kiss, Kill Kill (1967), but they’re empty vessels with charmless leads. No wonder most of these films went straight to TV, because they’re quite ITC.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Strange Brew (1983)

Finally kind of understand this spinoff of Canada's SCTV. It's kind of cartoonish, but then the dad is voiced by Mel Blanc. Canadian hosers seemed quite similar to a lot of Irish folk. There's something innocent about Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis as Doug and Bob McKenzie. The Elsinore mattes are gorgeous. I seem to latch onto comedies with a sense of visual ambition, and this seems to make up for the cold Canadian atmosphere. Regular UK Rentayank Angus MacInnes plays a brewery guard whom the boys recognise as Jean "Rosie" LaRose, a Quebecois hockey star they admire to the extent  of keeping his trading card in Bob's pocket (there are lots of similarities between hockey culture and GAA culture). The scenes with Max Von Sydow in shadow bossing a computer technician seem to mirror Flash Gordon. Lynne Griffin is appealing as the Hamlet manque, in a role that isn't in a cold, unfriendly slasher (the backbone of Canadian pop cinema). Von Sydow's Swedish-Canadian accent seems exaggerated to almost Swedish Chef levels. A celebrity paradox occurs when Star Wars nut Doug makes a ref to Darth Vader, while in black hockey gear, in front of MacInnes, who of course played an X-Wing pilot. The Canadian eejitry is a bit wearing after a while. Moranis can be a bit too eager. But every time it seems not to work, it knows that it needs to move on, and it does. So you get the McKenzies returning home and meeting their skunk-striped dog Hosehead, that sees them literally are two lumps of raw meat, we get a brief scene of their parents in bed (Blanc dubbing Thomas), and the boys listening to screaming on an LP ("it's a British new wave band!").  There is lots of fourth wall breaking, "ever noticed that people don't look at the road when driving in movies, eh?", or words to that effect. And the intermission - after which, the film seems to take great relish in parodying the overwrought thrillers the Canadian film industry tried to mainstream itself with, with a hefty underwater rescue scene immediately sledgehammered by our heroes feeding "Rosie" some beer in the waterlogged van. It's also visually innvoative - i.e. using the frame of a mugshot to frame a scene. And some lines. "Wanna smoke?" "No, we want our lungs pink when they fry us." It's a bit overlong, but the climax is extraordinary. The inflated Moranis trapped in a tank is a deliriously silly sight. As is the idea of the dog being able to read a road map and then turn into a low-budget Krypto knockoff - flying off to the local Oktoberfest (though a Shmenges cameo would have improved things and also tied things into SCTV) to slurp up enough of the rogue Elsinore beer... Nice effects, eh....
And yes, it's an adaptation of Hamlet.
Sadly, 1984's Going Berserk (1984), with SCTV-ers John Candy, Joe Flaherty and Eugene Levy was shite, but the TV special The Shmenges - The Last Polka in 1985 made up for that. But this, though not perfect, is a gem. Yes, a comedy that made me laugh.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

10 (7. exc. rewatches, 19, 22 inc. refs )

Rewatched Messiah of Evil (1973), and I can see why it has its fans. It's very moody, atmospheric, for the first hour, but nothing happens, and then the last hour is lots of gore and Elisha Cook Jr. doing his Elisha Cook Jr. face.
Same thing with Black Christmas (1974). It is very atmospheric. I can now see it is a great film, but I don't enjoy it. It does move more than Deathdream (1973), which is a post-Vietnam drama with a zombie at the end, a very good Vietnam drama, but not quite my thing. It doesn't excite or intrigue like horror should.
Or something like Communion (1976). It's well-done, well shot, well-designed, well-cast, but it doesn't feel enjoyable. It feels a little too pervy, a little too creepy, and it's way too long. And it's a bit De Palma.
It's like a gear has shifted slightly in my head.
Then again, also tried to watch Terror at Red Wolf Inn (1972), an overlong, half-professional, half-amateurish sort-of-comedy with a one-joke premise more suited  to a short anthology segment. Motel Hell (1980) did it better.

Watched The Other (1972) in German, and think I might have liked it more than if it had been in English. The thing is Robert Mulligan directs it like he directed To Kill A Mockingbird. It feels like a family drama. It has a great Goldsmith soundtrack. And it being in German somehow dilutes the cheesiness of the silly dress-up the kids do. Once it goes more horror, it gets a bit silly. I can see why these films work, but I don't enjoy them. US horror of the 70s can be very good at building dread, but god it can be po-faced.

Watched The Stepford Wives (1974) again in a  decent print, and it's not good. Patrick O'Neal gives good sinister, but it feels very TV-movie ish, a bit Clemens, not surprising considering he and Forbes had worked together before, and O'Neal was in a Thriller, but it feels bland, and an idea more suited to a thirty minute anthology.

Burnt Offerings (1976) - It's a routine TV movie-level horror with a good cast in routine parts, Oliver Reed, Karen Black, Bette Davis - except this is Burgess Meredith's show. I think I read somewhere that a good villain needs to act like the hero in their own film. A lot of slashers e.g. Michael Myers I find useless because you don't understand why they do what they do. That's why I prefer Halloween III. As Conal Cochran is mad, but he thinks he is doing right - fighting for the name of Ireland, and besides he's of the generation when babies were regularly murdered by priests. Here, you understand why Burgess Meredith wants to put these people in trouble. It's all for his mother. But even he and Eileen Heckart are not in it enough.

The Legend of Hell House (1973) - I want to like it more than I do. The cast is great (Roddy McDowall is very Doctorish), the idea isn't as strong, but it feels too serious, and too hard to be like The Haunting. If it had a larger cast, beyond the four, to even things out, and stop things being samey, it might have worked.

I Start Counting (1969) - A little pervy, a little aimless, fable-like, Jenny Agutter looks even younger than she was. 16, but could pass for 12. It doesn't really go anywhere. An overlong public information film.

City Of The Dead (1960) - Atmospheric (and good B/W photography - not in that naturalistic, "we're not horror" manner of Seance on a Wet Afternoon/Bunny Lake Is Missing), but the fauxmericana robs it of something. The accents ruin it. It looks better than the typical US cheapie of the same era.

Midnight Lace (1960) - A well-cast (bar John Gavin's strange accent, giving a hint at what he'd have been like as Bond) if fairly standard gaslighting thriller, the highlight being its gloriously tacky backlot London. Rex Harrison has the dubious honour of playing a horrible villain character that is still probably a better person than Harrison himself.  Gavin sounds like he's doing a Stephen Boyd impression.

Freak Orlando (1981) Agitprop farce nonsense. Eddie Constantine and Delphine Seyrig pop up somewhere. Couldn't quite finish.

Child's Play (1972) - Similar to Unman, Wittering and Zigo - even less exciting, with a bunch of Logan Pauls. The lads a bit too old, like in Zigo. Couldn't finish it. Felt like "what the heroes of a sex comedy do when there's no girls..."

No Way To Treat A Lady (1968) - Rod Steiger's Irish accent is odd, it comes and goes, but it isn't bad. It's a bit convincingly Culchie, and his rapey, tickley tum is astonishing. Overlong and a bit typical predictable US comdram of the period (They Might Be Giants etc), but when Steiger appears, it's another film, a better, stranger film. His various characters from camp wig salesman Dorian Smith to a local cop to a South African-Cockney to the titular female alter ego (where he murders another female impersonator).  Captures late 60s New York, including a trail through various Cunard ships. Michael Dunn almost steals the show as a campaigning midget (his term, not mine) who thinks he's the killer. The climax is almost pedestrian, but Steiger hams it up. Better than The Illustrated Man (1968), an innately forgettable film.

SAS á San Salvador (1982) - Miles O'Keeffe as Malko Linge, a French pulp spy/Austrian prince,  intended to start a Bond-esque franchise. Featuring a topical plot about the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, O'Keeffe resembles the lovechild of Sam Jones and Oliver Tobias. Sybil Danning and Anton Diffring (wearing a "Don't Shoot" t-shirt) pop up.  It feels exactly like Never Say Never Again despite being on about a thirtieth of the budget. And there is no action. Very disappointing. Eurospy films never changed. Was hoping for another Duncan Jax, but alas not. Also featuring in a smaller role, Robert Etcheverry - the Flashing Blade himself.

Metalstorm - The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983) - Like Drew McWeeny on 80sallover, I don't care for Charles Band. This is nonsense, like a bad American Blake's 7 fanfilm. Why did Universal buy this piece of cynical junk, out of all of the other Band cynical junk...

Dr. M (1990) - More proof Claude Chabrol is the rich man's Jess Franco. Is Alan Bates trying to do a Patrick Magee?

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)/The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1961) - What was revolutionary in 1933 is old hat and routine and ordinary in the Krimi-laced landscape of 1961.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983) - A difficult film.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

8 (7 refs = 15, 26 inc. Grapes of Death)

Stardust (1974) - Perfectly reasonable portrait of the rise and fall of British pop stardom. But the fact that David Essex, Paul Nicholas, Adam Faith and Larry Hagman all became jokes, icons of tack does colour it a bit as something camper and sillier than the grim parable it is. And seeing Keith Moon, Dave Edmunds, Karl Howman, Peter Duncan and Essex as sort of faux-Beatles is a little odd. And "Dea Sancta et Gloria" brings to mind Essex's real life attempt at a self-penned musical, Mutiny!  It's a pity they kill off Essex's Jim Maclaine (though the final scenes are astonishingly well directed by Michael Apted) as we could have had a TV movie sequel c.1990 - where Maclaine is reduced to starring in a bland TV sitcom playing a gypsy who lives on a canal boat, after bringing down the Rank Organisation with a film about motorcycles...

Paranoiac (1963) - Never a fan of these sort of Hammer psycho-thrillers, like Brian Clemens' Thrillers, they always feel stagnant, a bit ropey. A bit soapy, in this case. Brat Farrar via Psycho. Complertely unsatisfying, with everyone dying in a fire. 

Attempted sub ITC rubbish Battle Beneath The Earth (1968) - dubbed into Russian.

Bronco Billy (1980) - It's a nothingy romcom with Clint.

Howard The Duck (1986)  Who thought this was a good idea? It feels cheap, it feels like there is no plot, yes it was a waste of money.

Tried watching Lost Horizon (1937), but I find Shang-Ri-La a really uninteresting place. Why would you want to stay there? It's like a Magdalene laundry via Butlin's.

Expulsion of the Devil (1973) - French horror from ITC-alikes Telecip and Juan Bunuel, son of Luis. Some creepy shadowy lady and poltergeist activity bits amongst a familial comedy drama. Features a certain Gerard Depardieu as part of a TV crew. Quirky but tonally odd - the kids' play in the middle of it is very strange. And it goes a bit arty and into the plotless nonsense genre.

Been reading Jonathan Rigby's Euro Gothic. Most of the films in it are shite. I've tried A Bell from Hell  (1973), Anima Persa (1976 - arty gothic with Vittorio Gassman), the Blood Splattered Bride (1972), Michel Piccoli in Le Trio Infernal (1973), Parapsycho (1976 - German killer nonsense with Leon Askin from Hogan's Heroes) - all forgettable, arty, afraid of their horror roots or trashy cobblers.

Have I lost a sense of humour? Being Arsenic and Old Lace (1944). I find it too stagey, too overplayed - everything's been a bit overdone. I know it's a play, but it feels like it only comes to life with an audience.

Also attempted Mansion of the Doomed (1976), but even in his first film, Charles Band had the power to make sunny but utterly soulless and unattractive films.

The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953) - At the same time, very odd but very anodyne Dr. Seuss-written musical.

Wild Goose Chase (1975) - Broad and silly French comedy starring Pierre Richard (fresh from the baffling Tall Blond Man... films) and Jane Birkin, involving a costume party on a train. Forgettable, loses in translation, some weird Milligan-esque stuff involving a bath and a sink on stilts.

Tried to watch Rollin's Grapes of Death (1978), but god, it's a slow, arty hack, like its helmer. Could only get a few minutes in.

Les Adventuriers (1967) - A colourful, quirky but cluttered and ultimately characterless series of vignettes held together by Lio Ventura and Alain Delon in an increasingly miserable tale.

La Cage Aux Folles (1978) - I find Albin/Zaza slightly too drama queen-ish to be believable. Michel Serrault's performance is very Honky Tonk. Maybe, it's being brought up with the idea of drag queens as being brassy, confident wisecrackers. But Tognazzi and Serrault look more like the cast of a European remake of the Persuaders than lovers (ironically, ITC's Adventurer, Gene Barry played Georges).

Dracula and Son (1976) - Again, by Edouard Molinaro, Christopher Lee dubs himself in French as a curiously ponytailed Count, teaching his idiot son. Features a Communist vampire defeated by a Hammer and Sickle. Wearing, confused, slow, not very funny - some of the stalking scenes are well done. An interesting idea that Dracula becomes a horror star is wasted.

Tender Dracula (1974) - Confused musical-horror-comedy-fantasy with Peter Cushing as a Scottish horror star who may be Dracula. Pictures of Cushing as Grimsdyke are seen. It tries to give Cushing a Targets, but it seems utterly confused as to what it is, even though Madhouse (which even appears as a photograph) kind of did that, and it even has Alida Valli in a similar role to Adrienne Corri in that film. Cushing's Scottish accent comes and goes.

Le Charlots Contre Dracula (1980) - Forgettable-to-horrible Monkees-style French comedy with Greek theater director Andreas Voutsinas (Carmen Ghia in the Producers) as a bearded Drac, with a Cleopatra bob. He's a very silly Drac, bless, no real gravitas, all drag queen-like prowling the stage.

Killer's Moon (1978) is awful. It's the sort of film you've seen before, forget, then the weird bits you remember, but it's 75% forgettable. It's quite unlikeably sleazy. Some of the schoolgirls do actually look quite young. It really does feel like a dream, an awful dream.

The Spy With A Cold Nose (1966) - A title I remember from Halliwell, a spy farce with Eric Sykes, Laurence Harvey and Lionel Jeffries that I once presumed was a Harry Alan Towers production but no, it's by Galton and Simpson - with June Whitfield as  Mrs. Jeffries, and Bernard Archard billed over future Nocturna - Granddaughter of Dracula Nai Bonet.  My copy broke at 50 minutes in, and from what I saw, despite  a script from Galton and Simpson wasn't promising. It's not about a spy dog per se. As a kid, I imagined something more knockabout, with a helpless dog driving a car and so on, doing Bond stuff, but not anthropomorphic in any way.

The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980) - A strange film, the patronising Anglo-Irish narration telling us of the small and dainty tribespeople, An interesting portrayal of the real South Africa, but it wears out its welcome.

Signpost to Murder (1964) - MGM thriller set in b/w MGM backlot England. Stuart Whitman sounds Aussie, while Joanne Woodward doesn't even attempt an accent. Like a bad US TV episode deluded that it is a Hammer psychothriller. The English hospital looks like something from a Sam Fuller film.

Foxbat (1978) - Only saw lengthy clips of it, but realised that having long admired the soundtrack by Roy Budd, that this is just a subpar Hong Kong actioner with an eye on America.

Monday, 4 June 2018

24 (38 inc. refs)

Jungle Warriors (1984) - Crummy if sporadically entertaining action vehicle for (of all people) Nina "and Frederik" Van Pallandt, costarring Sybil Danning, Alex Cord, Woody Strode, Marjoe Gortner, John Glover and Paul L. Smith (using his real voice - not a tough growl, but an average, amiable Jewish American nebbish voice).
Tried to watch its companion piece - Red Heat (1985) - dreary Cold war women in prison nonsense.

Watched Gideon's Day (1958) and The Blue Lamp (1950) - not a fan of procedurals, even if like Gideon, have John Ford shoehorning in the likes of Dublin panto goddess Maureen Potter and Cyril Cusack into his vision of London (complete with crap TARDIS - and this was made in Borehamwood).

Moon Man (2013) - Lovely Irish animation, with Pat "Mustard" Laffan as the scientist, based on Tomi Ungerer's novel, weirdly has a PG-rated sex scene to a Korgis cover band, and use of Iron Butterfly on the soundtrack.

Iguana (1988) - Monte Hellman chronicles a rather tepid story of Everett McGill with a lizard face moping about the Galapagos. A ponderous Latino Mandingo.

The Bees (1978) - Splinter-like bees attacking showjumpers to the sound of comedy music. Mexican looking Indian and Ugandan ambassadors, Like the Swarm, has a comedy interlude with kids that ends in turmoil.  Features Indian-themed ads for Royal Jelly perfume. Gerald Ford appears in footage of the Pasadena Rose Parade, where killer bees are accidentally lured in by giant cartoon bee floats. 1950s stock footage used unironically. In the words of the film's British delegate, "completely raging bonkers". The ending has the UN make a peace deal with the bees.

A Night To Remember (1958) - I'm not a fan of 50s melodramas as such, but on a technical level, unsurpassed. The Irish bits are cringy, that sort of wistful paddywhackery old people who read Ireland's Own wallow in nostalgically, but younger folk find excruciating. Kenneth More is most definitely not stiff here. He for one is suited to his character.
Titanic (1953) is rather stiff. It is more melodramatic, less documentary like. It doesn't put you in the place the way A Night To Remember does. Then again, it focuses more on the before than the after. The ending is a punch.

In the Year 2889 (1968) - Larry Buchanan's the worst.

Hyper Sapien (1986) - The other Mac and Me, produced by Jack Schwartzman and Talia Shire's Taliafilm, the poor man's Eon/American Zoetrope/Amblin who went from making Never Say Never Again to a series of flop family films that ended up as cable filler. Holby City's Rosie Marcel and Sydney "young Meggie in the Thorn Birds" Penny as the alien children who have come to see MTV. Jeremy "Virgil Tracey" Wilkin as the alien da. Keenan Wynn plays cards with a three-armed Manxman Alf. Typical regional kidvid, shot in Canada. Directed by Bond vet Peter Hunt, but utterly styleless runaround with little plot. Forgettable.

Ship Of Fools (1965) - Epic but overlong all-star drama. José Ferrer looks very like his son, moreso than usual. It's nicely shot, but it's very samey - Michael Dunn is great, but it's repetitive.

Le Rapace (1968) - Mexican Lino Ventura film, nice travelogue but rather bland.

The 39 Steps (1978) - Fun, elegantly paced adaptation - better than the Hitchcock, though then again, I also prefer the Hammer Lady Vanishes to the original. It has more energy. . John Mills should have been a sidekick. Just kill someone else off. He's too likeable to play the sacrificial lamb. David Warner is weirdly mediocre. He's role as a guarded Edwardian means he can't do the full-on David Warner we know and love.

The 39 Steps (1959) - It's nicely shot, has a great cast (Sid James and Harry Towb as a comedy duo of truckers, James Hayter and Leslie Dwyer), but it's one of these films where some of the little cameo is infinitely more likeable than the rather stiff Kenneth More and Taina Elg. And the Scottish stuff is a bit wearing. More is no Robert Powell, or Donat.

The 39 Steps (1935 )- I'm not a big Hitchcock fan (my favourites are Torn Curtain and Frenzy), it's a case of being exposed too young. And I find his 39 Steps somewhat stagnant.  The action bits are exciting, and some of the sets charm. I.e. John Laurie's farm with the back projected sky. It's weird how young Laurie is, even though he looks ancient for 38. But he still looks completely different to how he did when he was old. In fact, he looks healthier in 1975, than in 1935, less gaunt, certainly.At least, Peggy Ashcroft looks young and healthy.  Interesting how th 1935 and the 1959 scene for scene remake both change Scudder to a female victim. Also the music hall scenes show the change in variety. Then again, I also prefer the Hammer Lady Vanishes to the original. It has more energy.

Foreign Correspondent (1940) - Most Hitchcock films are samey, aren't they? And are those windmills supposed to be directly outside London?

Hammerhead (1968) - One of those spy movies hampered by having a square bland American in the lead (Vince Edwards is out-acted by a photo of Harpo Marx in one shot) and being too many things at once. Peter Vaughan is a good villain, but as with a lot of films, it's stupid not daft. There's a girl put inside a giant burger, Michael Bates, Judy Geeson, William Mervyn, Patrick Cargill, but it also tries to be basically Thunderball. Not even Diana Dors can save it. It feels a bit ITC, and the ending's the same genre as that of Carry On Camping. The plot gets lost amongst the supposed comedy.

The Most Dangerous Game (1932) - Nice design, but still in the mould of when cinema was  an artificial entertainment, still rooted to the stage and to carnival. Though interesting to have African-American Noble Johnson in whiteface. Only towards the end does it gain the energy its companion piece King Kong has. with the climactic chase.  Leslie Banks gives good stare.

Secret of the Blue Room (1935) - Stagey faux-German Universal melodrama. Halfhearted Teutonic atmosphere but nice sets.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935) - Confused and rather slow Universal Dickens adap. What happens when you adapt an unfinished book. Good Rains, but the Universal backlot obvious as always.

Dracula's Daughter (1936) - It tries to be its own thing, but it feels almost like Trail of the Pink Panther, trying to cover for Lugosi without resorting to use him. Edward Van Sloan plays "Von Helsing", but Gloria Holden is a little too matronly in the lead. And her death is unspectacular. It feels more like a ripoff like the Vampire Bat (1932), than a sequel.

House of Dracula (1945) - Not much Dracula or Frankenstein, an unmemorable mad science cheapie. Bar female hunchback.
House of Frankenstein (1944) has a fun atmosphere, Carradine has more to do as Dracula than any Frankenstein link involved, but it becomes as confused an audience pleasing mess as Ghost of Frankenstein or Son of Dracula. Karloff's death scene is interesting. Like the MCU, it's fair to see the Universal Classic Monsters cycle as a series of continuity-ignorant TV episodes. The Whale/Browning era the first series when it was good, the 40s stuff the shark jump.

The Cat and Canary (1927) feels like a peepshow reel, the 1939 Bob Hope remake is an amiable if not particularly funny comedy and the 70s remake forgettable, while the more supernatural Ghost Breakers (1940) is basically a 40s Scooby Doo is a freakishly young and slim Trigger-esque Anthony Quinn.

Also watched the unmemorable The Wrong Man (1956), Notorious (1946), Saboteur (1941 - which comes alive in the climax), Suspicion (1941 - a melodrama in a fake English village in 2-D), Stage Fright (1950 - it has Alastair Sim in it so it can't be all bad, but Jane Wyman's very out of place), the Paradine Case (1947), Shadow of A Doubt (1943 - which is basically Charley Says but with Joseph Cotten) - a lot of Hitchcock films, they kind of merge into one. I misremembered Strangers On A Train (1951) being in colour. Lifeboat (1954) is an intriguing experiment. I like the setup and design of Rear Window, but I can't take it seriously - because of the Simpsons spoof. "Grace, there's a creepy looking kid here!".  Grace Kelly I find a bit soppy. It feels overstretched.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

More German and French fantasy - 14

Spermula (1976) - Foggy French space-softcore-porn, 1930s themed, like an erotic melding of Star Maidens and Flambards. The English dub is a sci-fi comedy, but the original French version is an arty, up its arse, baffling bit of erotic art, all soft focus pans of girls. Udo Kier pops up. There's a dancing dwarf and a priest.

Ubit Drakona (1988) - Arthurian Mosfilm coproduction. A pseudo-modern apocalyptic setting - somewhat Gilliamesque dystopia, complete with tatty revue show. Features a scene where a bloke is stabbed with a fork up his penis, and then kissed by his torturer (Oleg Yankovsky, Stapleton in the Soviet Hound of the Baskervilles, and the baddie in Mute Witness). The dragon is a sort of plane - steaming, covered with fur. The  hero (a mix of B.A. Robertson, Michael Palin and Bryan Brown) fights it in a hot air balloon. Overlong but visually appealing. these Russian films can be enjoyable once you get past the inevitable alienating quality. Featuring cast from the Soviet Ten Little Indians and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Traumstadt (1973) - Overlong Teutonic arthouse dystopian grotesquery with To The Devil A Daughter's Eva Maria Meineke as "Mrs. Lampenbogen".  Lots of flannel-slapping. Agitprop nonsense.

Perinbaba (1985) - Czech-Italian-German fairytale coproduced by RAI and ZDF. If one has ever wanted to see Giulietta Masina bouncing on a feather trampoline as a fairy godmother, then here. Expensive but twee, caught between two schools - the post-Neverending Story school of Euro-fantasy and the older Tales from Europe model.

Frau Holle (1961) - Colourful yet anodyne European fairytale, made by people who worked more in TV.

Hercules In The Haunted World (1961)  - It's a piece of rubbish but it may be Bava's best looking film - even frame is pulp magazine cover painting gorgeousness. And Christopher Lee is not dubbed.

And now onto the French stuff...

Gwen Le Livre de Sable (1985) - Gaumont-produced animated surrealism - attractive but slow, even at an hour, doesn't go anywhere, desert and suburbia collide but it at times looks a bit Bleep and Booster, i.e. not very animated.

Bunker Palace Hotel (1989) - Grim and rainy dystopia, directed by Enki Bilal, the master of grim and rainy dystopian comics. It feels too literally adapted from a comic source. Humourless, gruff, and samey, in its sometimes stunning but at the same time, curiously bland industrial imagery. Features Jean Louis Trintignant, Carole Bouquet, and Mira Furlan, off Babylon 5.

The Suns of Easter Island (1966) - Directed by Pierre Kast and starring Alexandra Stewart and Mario Bava starlet-turned-Brazilian telenovela actress Norma Bengell, a dull documentary-like take on Easter Island. A last minute jaunt into surrealism fails to save it.

The Time to Die (1969) - French video-thriller with Anna Karina, Jean Rochefort and Bruno "the one true Maigret" Cremer. An artsy but rather basic thriller - revolving around the exciting and dangerous possibilities of videotape. It's a bit Brian Clemens' Thriller. And it seemingly references the Prisoner, by having Rover appear at the end. It's that sort of nonsense.

Chronopolis (1984) - Not really a film, an hour of animated robots doing things. Michael Lonsdale supplies the sporadic narration.

The Aquanauts (1979) - Soviet undersea adventure from Gorky Film Studio. Nice soundtrack and sets, but it feels a little dull, considering its plot about a telepathic manta ray.

The Big Bang (1987) - Released by Entertainment video in the UK, blessed with one of the last scores by the great Roy Budd,  an at times visually appealing but mostly horribly ugly and grotesquely ribald sex-cartoon, when this sort of thing was rare. Even at an hour, it wears you down.

Automat na prání (1968) - CFF-esque Czech kids' film, kids in a spaceship making wishes essentially, a pleasingly Eastern Bloc retro-futurist-tastic, but the story gets nonsensical involving a wish to go to prison or something, and a skeleton prosecutor.

Looking through lists of German fantasy films, and they're all either New German Cinema pretention, the odd ZDF coproduction like 1987's Malian myth Yeelen or Tales from Europe-type fairytale/family packages. French sci-fi is almost ashamed of being sci-fi.,1990-12-31&genres=sci_fi&countries=fr&page=2&ref_=adv_nxt

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

14 - German SF roundup

Hu-Man (1975)- Arty mystic Terence Stamp film about Tel wandering about various landscapes, long-lost. Should have stayed lost.

Zoo Zero (1979) - Blue-tinted/darkly lit nonsense involving a future nightclub and a zoo and Klaus Kinski.

France Societe Anonyme (1974) - Arty nonsense featruing Santa with a gun, subliminal messages and bondage. Zydeco soundtrack. Debut of Alain Corneau, before he began making Depardieu movies.

Tranches De Vie (1985) - Unfunny anthology comedy with Jean-Pierre Cassel, also rips off the end of Moonraker, except it doesn't - but it does have Achille Aubergine.

Besuch Bei Van Gogh (1985)  - If you ever wanted to know what 1980s Doctor Who would look like if made in East Germany, this DEFA flick shows.  Seemingly shot on video, feels like Mapp and Lucia.

Ghost Chase (1987) - A sort of sub-Ghostbusters with teens crafted by Roland Emmerich, with a mixed German and American cast, and unlike Joey, here, he casts a mix of cast members of Night of the Creeps (Jason Lively and Jill Whitlow) and British veterans (Rumpole of the Bailey's Julian Curry and bizarrely, Python/Milligan/Rising Damp director Ian MacNaughton, the latter a Munich resident). Its theme "Imagination", by Belouis Some (a UK No. 17 hit) was recently used in an Irish Lotto campaign. The teen characters are annoying, and its faux Californian attitude and setting makes it feels like a Fanta ad. Features a puppety Yoda ghost that looks like it comes from the same sort of sub-Henson stable as The Neverending Story. In all, rather tacky, less visually impressive than the slavishly Spielbergian Joey, but a more typical US low-budget family fantasy.

Decoder (1984) - Cyberpunk nonsense, all on monitor screens, shoddy VT. Genesis P-Orridge in it somewhere, apparently.

Der Unsichtbare (1987) - Invisible "comedy", empty gloss with Nena. Couldn't maintain interest.

Chobotnice z druhého patra/Veselé Vánoce přejí chobotnice (1987) - Cheerful Czech kids' fantasy by Jindrich Polak, a TV series compilation that does feel at times bitty and the first half is quite slow, but is quite amiable, about two claymation octopuses. Appropriately features a telly cut in two. A bit Children's Film Foundation. The octopuses are fun, an astonishing effect of them waddling along a river, as well as one driving, hung onto a steering wheel.  In the end, they get smashed and are remoulded into birds. The difference between the toy birds used in live action shots and the stop motion effects is very much apparent.

Die Hamburger Krankheit (1979) - Nothing to do with Ian and Janette Tough restaging Bergerac, but you do kind of expect them to appear the way the story goes. Clinical, surrealist plague thriller - goes from surrealism (written by Roland Topor) to comedy to Inspector Derrick and back. Towards the end, it becomes quite well directed. A tank goes mad at one point.  Helmut Griem stars, a world away from Cabaret, but not cabaret.

Bodo (1987)- German boy genius comedy featuring British child actors Alec Christie (of The Children of Green Knowe) and Jake Wood, years before being Max Branning in Eastenders (Wood also did The Gentle Touch and Only Fools and Horses - the Jolly Boys' Outing around this time). Has a creepy robot orangutan. Soppy and precocious. Very Children's Film Foundation, specifically Egghead's Robot.

Spukschloss im Spessart (1967) - Aside from some fun Banshee in Darby O'Gill-esque ghost effects,  a broad, occasionally quite sparky and likeable if wearing Rentaghost-ish thing from Constantin Film. With invisible ghosts to save on the costly effects. Invisible dancing scenes ahoy. There's a bluefaced woman alongside a lot of castrato brownfaced Arabs. And a random cowboy, and stealing of dummies' clothing from a shop window. The ghosts also deface walls, revealing the swastikas beneath.

Herrliche Zeiten Im Spessart (1967) - From Constantin Film, rather silly time travel comedy sequel to a popular German comedy, features a presidential banquet, and time-travelling spacemen in giant Things to Come-ish helmets - an influence on both Les Visiteurs and Tomorrow, I Shall Wake Up and Scald Myself With Tea? Very broad,  has the look of various historical Carry Ons. Musical sequences. Attractive but obviously loses something. The future sports stuff is quite silly, all multicoloured wigs predating 'Allo 'Allo, although here it is mostly blokes, as it predicts a genderless trans-feminine culture. All a bit Galloping Galaxies.

Also saw trailers for CBS video's arty German horror, Loft,  Udo Kier sur-realism Pankow '95, RTL's Alexander Kluge's arty rubbish The Big Mess (1971), and  Ein großer graublauer Vogel (1971), an actually quite exciting-looking thing scored by Can, and featuring Robert Siodmak.  need to watch the John Huston-ArminMueller Stahl-Mario Adorf version of Momo, and animations Cat City and finish Rene Laloux's Time Masters.

Momo (1986) - The initial cash in on The Neverending Story, like that - an adaptation of a Michael Ende story. Lavished with a starry cast (John Huston, Armin Mueller Stahl, Mario Adorf). I remember RTE showing a German-Italian cartoon of this. Ende, unlike Neverending was directly involved in this. About a little girl lost when time goes wrong. Mueller Stahl shows that he would have made an interesting Blofeld, as here the Grey Men are bald sorts in grey Nehru shirts who can't eat - they only smoke, while in the cartoon, they were literally grey. There's a creepy doll called Bibi-girl, and a pet tortoise. Not as good as The Neverending Story.