Saturday, 13 January 2018

Animation Roundup

Been watching a lot of animation, mainly foreign stuff.

First with the US stuff.
The 1930s work of Disney collaborator-turned-rival Ub Iwerks, like another ex-Disney hand, David Hand's Animaland try to be too Disney, lovely but dull. Flip the Frog is halfway between a Mickey and a Bugs, trying to be mischievous but quite annoying, similar to Terrytoons like Heckle and Jeckle and even Mighty Mouse who always seemed out of place in his rural Funny Animal world. The John K-Ralph Bakshi series felt more tuned to the superheroic element. 
UPA's stuff is fascinating if not always appealing, their surrealistic style seems to be constructed to hide lack of budget. The Tell-Tale Heart works, almost Eastern European, and with James Mason to boot.  But for example with Gerald McBoing-Boing, there are sign of laziness - clothes are the same colour as skin AND the wall, and it changes, because it is actually transparent skin. Some neat scenes, though - i.e. Gerald in the radio room in a cowboy outfit doing gun noises. I never understand why he can't just impersonate human speech.

I've been delving into the output of National Film Board of Canada. I don't know how. I think their shorts were shown on RTE when I was little, but I have no memory of the shorts themselves, just the logo and the name. Obivously, they have done lots of live action documentaries from the fascinating crazed daredevil profile The Devil At Your Heels (1981) to the disturbing Not A Love Story (1981), and live action fiction - e.g. The Railrodder (1965) - possibly my favourite Buster Keaton, because it is him as an old man, on a final madcap journey through the great white North.
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The Owl Who Married A Goose (1974) shows the range of the NFB. Lovely inky black animation, similar to the later Sniffing Bear. Although by the 80s, the likes of Special Delivery, the piano-themed Getting Started (1979, with unusual 3D-like painted backgrounds), the fun fire educational short Hot Stuff (1971), the snaggle-toothed couples' argument The Big Snit (1985) and the Cat Came Back (1989) showed that the NFB were mainly making wobbly Dilbert-esque animations about people or animals in social situations backed by a harmonica score. Still in vogue by the time of 2006’s At Home with Mrs. Hen. The Big Snit's animator, Richard Condie also put his style to effect in the fun John Law and the Mississippi Bubble (1979), about the history of paper money, the medieval-themed Apprentice (1991), the early rough draft short Oh Sure and the early CGI ugliness of La Salla.
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Although this style was in the NFB as early as What on Earth (hence why it looks newer than it is) and the witty Spinnolio (1977), where a little puppet gets his wish – of becoming Onslow from Keeping Up Appearances, after the cricket gets eaten.

Also in that often-scratchy Cat Came Back style the lovely geriatric love story George and Rosemary and the biscuit ad-esque Tale of Cinderella Penguin, the UNICEF-sponsored Every Child, which becomes its own making of, and the overlong educational Les Drew’s Every Dog’s Guide to Home Safety, with voices by Cagney and Lacey’s Harvey Atkin, although the 1991 short Every Dog’s Guide to the Playground is more traditionally animated, more sitcommy, with its typewriting blue-furred protagonist. Drew's pollution-themed Dickens spin The Energy Carol (1975) with a blue pig as Marley is also recommended.

The NFB always are attractive, or were, pre-CGI, nothing as grotesquely rudimentary as the Steadman-esque ugliness of British animator Geoff Dunbar’s Ubu (1978), with the voice of  Canadian trailer narrator Bill Mitchell. The NFB always have a soul, like a lot of inventive foreign stop-motion cartoons, there’s no soulless weirdness for the sake of it like the Brothers Quay or even the slightly too pleased for yourself charming but not captivating spirit of the Animated Tales of the World or the Fool and the Flying Ship. A lot of foreign cartoons have this soul, something like the astonishing man-rat love story One Day A Man Bought By House, made by Pjotr Sapegin in Norway, who made for the NFB, the evil Filmfair-like Aria and the Moomins-styled Moms’ Cat.

S.P.L.A.S.H. (1980) has a nice Cosgrove Hall feel.

Also sampled were the Milky Way ad-meets-Tex Avery living comic strip The Persistent Peddler (1988), Disney-esque Get A Job (1985), with the grotesque Carmen Miranda frog-businessman, the natural-themed animation of Sand Castle (1977), Garden of Ecos (1997 )and Bydlo (2012) – all about moving nature and the arty, trying to be poignant Subservience (2007), the more recent Skeleton Girl and Uncle Bob’s Hospital Visit, which has the traditional NFB harmonica soundtrack, the uncanny valley Ryan, which with its CGI was a modern break from the norm. One thing about the National Film Board is that there can be shorts from 1966 that look like they are from 1986, and shorts from 2006 that could easily come from 1976, or 1952's the Jay Ward-esque Romance of Transportation in Canada or the early-CGI of 1974's Hunger, both of which could easily come from fifteen years later. They are ageless.
2011’s the Big Drive – a mix of photo-collage, off-model CGI and Clasky-Csupo/Mike Judge esque characters doing their own National Lampoon’s vacation, becoming increasingly freakish and uncomfortable, with added harmonica, then introduces cutesy cats riding the car, and earlier stuff as the surreal documentary-mixed-in-with-metaphorical psychedelic freakout animation of Man – The Polluter (1973) and the Underground Movie where a Scots-accented narration and chunky Noah and Nelly-types experiment on a dog Clockwork Orange style, while the drilling ship they’re all in digs through the various layers of the Earth (1972), as we are taught about limestone and sedimentary layers. That was by Les Drew, who also did the strange Dingles from 1988, about a loving depiction of a possibly-crazy-but-actually-nice cat lady.
Also watched the historical montage of 1990’s Mirrors of Time – which pleasingly feels like a 90s educational videogame, with weird cel-shaded animation, and Asterix-type Romans. Propaganda Message – which has scratchy hand-drawn, hand-shaded animation and French dialogue with comic strip dialogue bubbles as subtitles, to explain the differences between the Canadians and their neighbours.
Mindscape (1976) is very nice and appealingly gothy. It reminded me of the titles to  the BBC's Late Night Story.
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A favourite is the witty detachable-eared ex-actor Roger Rabbit-esque yuppie dog in a live action office, Buck Boom of John Weldon’s Real Inside (1984), a former Disney star (“I was in Snow White”) with an obsession for having sex with live action girls, arguing with his live-action prospective boss, familiar character actor Colin Fox.
Bretislaw Pojar’s egg-headed story of caution, To See or Not To See (1969) has cutesy egg-head men turned into spiral ghosts and disturbing human whirlwinds to show us which way is right, Pojar did various shorts for the NFB including the satirical E, featuring bowler-hatted arguments and resembling an educational study on the letter E until a violent denouement.
Also saw the 1995, rather Jim Henson/Cadillacs and Dinosaurs-esque How Dinosaurs Learnt to Fly. Almost every NFB short is at least fun vignette. The quality astounds me. Very few boring adaptations of Pushkin among the gold, like you’d get with Soyuzmultfilm.
Another of the recent ones is the stunning railway dance sequence of Runaway, which reminded me a lot of Belleville Rendezvous, same composer and all. Then, 2012’s Wild Life is stunning, but feels like a Honda ad. Its moving painting style needs narration by Garrison Keillor.

Blackfly (1991) is a Canadian folk story with a nice wobbly style a sequel to the earlier Log Driver's Waltz (1979). Very Canadian, by the McGarrigle Sisters too – Rufus Wainwright’s mum and aunt. Another folk story short the NFB did is the Alberto Frog-esque Frog Went A-Courting. They also did a version of An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly – similar in style to the Cat Came Back (1989).
Cosmic Zoom (1966) is extraordinary. Exactly what the title says.
The Sweater (q980) has that painterly style – like leaky paint, common as the aforementoned style.

Overdose (1994) is poignant – about a happy young boy’s day told in appealing broad-strokes and large head style – then he overworks himself and it all goes wrong.

Yes, that is Peter Ustinov promoting one of the NFB's few cartoon franchises, the limited animation of Peep and the Big Wide World. 

Also been watching the Soviet animations of Soyuzmultfilm, the leading animation company of the Cold War.
Cheburashka – a Monchhichi-esque stop motion character – like a Soviet Rankin/Bass. Apparently, he's a Mickey Mouse figure in Russia, like Soyuzmultfilm's Soviet adaptation of Winnie the Pooh.

Moy zelenyy krokodil – Duncan the Dragon-esque blue crocodile and Babycham cow fall in love, then crocodile turns suicidal and turns into a leaf.

Yuriy Norstein – Tale of Tales (1979)- oddly apocalyptic, painterly photomontage, Gilliamesque mix of figures, autobiographical not unlike Raymond Briggs.

The wondrous Hedgehog in the Fog is like an MR James cartoon – disturbing Soviet hauntologia.

Lisa i zayats – has a bear in floral crown – something woodcut-like, folklorish, and also gets meta, with lots of screens, characters jumping from screen to screen.

Seasons – moving, like a serious cartoon of the Morecambe and Wise Doctor Zhivago Sketch.

Also saw the shorts Choonya – fat pig’s adventures, and Antoshka – with an androgynous Wickie-esque caveboy.

Grey Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood, from 1990, feels more like 1970, but nicely surreal - with the 3 Little Pigs, Musketeers and Red fighting a big bad Wolf. Their later films often feel trapped in an earlier era, as in their 2-D Russian folk village tale Laughter and Grief by the White Sea (1987).

1969’s Bremen Town Musicians – weird half-trad half-surrealist style, James Last-esque score, Soviet’s view of Western music, very odd. Funny animals played seriously. Soyuzmultfilm Boring Pushkin adaps.

Soyuzmultfilm is so strange – because their stuff feels quite basic, in some respects, sometimes they’re stunning, like Hedgehog in the Fog, and other times, they’re basic kidvid, but because they’re Soviet, they can get weird like the baseball-hatted medieval donkey of Bremen Town, but they’re always well-animated, there’s no Hanna-Barbera cheap cuts, there’s always something organic especially Murun Buchstansangur-esque Fru-89. Their views of the world are especially alien - weird views on what little they have seen of American cinema as 1967's Spy Passion, the supposed Godfather spoof Robbery on... (1978) (which has an MGM spoof) and the pale face-people's movie studio-themed Film, Film, Film (1968) (which uses photos of Marilyn Monroe, Buster Keaton,etc), the caveman-themed time-travelling love story of I Shall Give You A  Star,, and the Donald Sutherland-as-Frank Spencer cartoon the Adventures of Vasi Kurolesov (1981). про сидорова вову (1985) is odd, very cutesy, little boy in the army, couldn't tell if it was a comedy or a parable. тайна третьей планеты (1981) and 1953's A Flight to the Moon are very interesting Soviet space operas, the former a fantasy with dustbin-robots and a Goldblum-esque hero and lots of nice designed aliens and worlds including a six-armed Sontaran-type thing, while the latter is an educational "what if?".
Soyuzmultfilm - the Soviet Disney, Hanna-Barbera and NFB all rolled into one. 

As for Soyuzmultfilm rivals, there were Ekran - who then spawned Pilot - makers of Mike, Lu and Og for Cartoon Network and otherwise often disturbing, weird, feel-bad shorts like the b/w Andrei Svislotskiy and the bestiality-themed John Carpenter/Cronenberg-like Hen, My Wife. In contrast, I watched Ekran's considerably jollier Plasticine Crow - like the 2-D stop-motion of the Moomins, its shape-shifter a bit like the tongue twisters in RTE's Bosco. Ekran's Relatives (1993),  about two brothers is especially Csupo-like, but their Soldier's Tale (1983) is much more solemn and painterly.
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Remember Mike, Lu and Og - "I can't believe it's not Klasky-Csupo!"
 Although Pilot's Igor Kovalyov would work for Csupo.

Also watched 1935's the New Gulliver, the stop-motion Soviet Jonathan Swift reimagining - which has a weird newsreel-like feel, and nicely grotesque animated characters. Better than the actually quite interestingly designed-though-slightly too Disneyesque Fleischer version of Gulliver's Travels (1939 - where, like its stablemate, Hoppity Goes to Town, every character seems lifted from a character in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves - though some end up looking like Elmer Fudd's inbred family - which clashes with the heavily rotoscoped Gulliver). New Gulliver is by Alexander Ptushko, the maker of such MST3K-friendly Mosfilm/Corman Viking fantasies as the brownface-heavy Arabian/Indian adventure of Sadko, the Sword and the Dragon and Sampo - which often seem to feature pixellation. Ptushko also worked on 1967's  Viy, a "fairytale" which is actually the same story that Bava adapted in 1960's Black Sunday, told in the style of the Singing, Ringing Tree (hence how it get away with being the first Soviet horror film), with flying broomstick scenes and scary gargoyle-goblins and stop-frame teleporting-ageing scenes. Therefore, it might be better than Bava.

I find British animation best from when it comes from between the 60s  and 80s. As a kid, I was kind of disturbed by cartoons where all the voices were done by one middle-aged narrator, even though I liked the series enough., which is I think why I avoided watching much of the 70s Paddington on reruns, and prefered the 1997 Canadian version, although while Michael Hordern voiced the 70s one, the 90s one only had Cyril Shaps!
Because you can never have enough Cyril Shaps.

In terms of British animation, the 50s and beforehand is too quaint, and the 90s post-Aardman, post-Snowman seems to be trying to be very quaint, and aimed at doing specials for C4 that I watched as a kid, but wouldn't watch now. Even in the late 1980s, there is invention like 1988's Rarg, by Tony Collingwood, whose stuff became quite quaint, but there's a Gilliam-esque (not in terms of animation, but in terms of design) approach in the masses of giant babies gathered around a cartoon Michael Gough in a strange clockpunk techno-dream city, similar but darker than their series Oscar's Orchestra. 
The Goffster

I wonder if Cosgrove Hall is to blame. I watched their stuff constantly as a kid. Their stuff is endlessly high quality. Chorlton and the Wheelies from what I've seen of it is fun and it has Joe Lynch doing voices and sneaking in jokes about Dun Laoghaire (and pronouncing it the RTE way too), DangerMouse is fun, the Wind in the Willows is sweet, but I think their trend of sweetness is to blame. dd since their BFG (1989) is one of the best Roald Dahl adaptations,  miles better than what Spielydrawers and his Globe Theatre-running "pantomime dame of legitimate theatre" pal Mark Rylance did. But their stuff does go for either cutesy or in the case of their 1990 short the Fool and the Flying Ship, that nice "you'll like this" (but you'd rather watch Diamonds Are Forever) well-animated but rather static prestige animation based on a folk tale your parents sit you down to watch a la the Animated Tales of the World or the Animated Shakespeare (though IIRC, my mum thought they were too frightening for me).
Though I must watch more Alias the Jester, because Richard Briers as an alien time-travelling Flash-cosplaying dwarf in the time of King Arthur may be the best concept for a television series ever. Fantomcat is rubbish. A British attempt to do a Batman The Animated Series, but with Robert Powell as a feline Adam Adamant. Yes, really.

Watching Bob Godfrey's stuff - which I find a bit nudge nudge wink wink, a bit men's magazine editorial cartoon - though I like that his "Know Your Europeans" list of British heroes includes Virgil Tracy, John Steed, Arfur Daley, Des O'Connor, Roger Moore, Alan Bennett, Custard the Cat, John Cleese, Sid James, etc. 

Also been watching Halas and Batchelor's shorts such as Automania 2000 and The History of Cinema, Flow Diagram, and they are beautifully done, charming, but they are nowhere near as joyous as the NFB. They feel a little "Make Learning Fun" at times, and sometimes as if they are trying to pass themselves off as Canadian, or in the case of 1967's the Question and the Foo Foo stuff, as UPA films.

Also been watching several shorts by Oscar-nominated Dane animator Borge Ring (e.g. the Bruno Bozzetto-referencing Anna and Bella, Run of the Mill, O My Darling, all quite like the NFB - little snippets of life), the grotesque work of Ukraine's Studio Borisfen (makers of BBC's 64 Zoo Lane), and Tallinnfilm's junk-filled portrait of marriage The Triangle from 1982, all weird, colorful, unique, although Borisfen's Bluebeard is nonsensical.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Discoveries of 2016

I made this list for Rupert Pupkin Speaks, but somehow it never got published last year.
So here it is. And yes, my writing style has changed. But this was written for a slightly different market.

Discoveries of the Year

Fedora (1978)
Bonkers Europudding potboiler with obligatory bad dubbing and Munich doubling as England and California. Directed by Billy Wilder, it resembles a cross between his own Sunset Boulevard and an episode of Tales of the Unexpected (complete with José Ferrer). William Holden plays a Hollywood producer who investigates the apparent suicide of his ex-lover, the titular ageless Garbo-esque movie queen (Marthe Keller) who he tried to rescue from a life of being cooped up in a castle in Crete with Ferrer's mad scientist with a gold earring, Frances Sternhagen's Stephanie Cole-esque maid and a mad old wheelchair-bound countess in a black veil. Then discovers that the mad Countess is an old, disfigured Fedora - played by Hildegard "the Lost Continent" Knef, driven mad by Ferrer's injections of animal semen, and that the seemingly ever-young Fedora is her daughter. And from here on it gets rough. Henry Fonda and Michael York appear as themselves, the latter becoming an object of infatuation with "Fedora" keeping Logan's Run pinups hidden behind the wallpaper. With Ferdy "Grace Brothers' Ten Pound Perfume" Mayne and Stephen "Gold Monkey" Collins as a Hollywood director and young Holden respectively, and Mario "Don Camillo" Adorf and Gottfried "the mad Soviet in Goldeneye" John appear as Greeks to please the German co-producers.

11 Harrowhouse (1975)
Interesting if not very good heist movie with Charles Grodin and Candice Bergen as idiotic Americans taking the mick of British society while embroiled in a heist with English lord Trevor Howard and dying banker James Mason with the help of a cockroach. Proper bloody British cast including Johnny Sconny Gielgud, Peter Vaughan, Jacks Watson and Watling, Clive "always the Governor" Morton, Glynn "Dave the Winchester" Edwards and Cyril Shaps. With 70s easy-listening theme par excellence by Peters and Lee.

Jacqueline Susann's Once is Not Enough (1975)
Turgid bonkbuster. Hollywood producer Kirk Douglas marries richest woman in the world Alexis Smith, while she shags Garbo-esque movie queen Melina Mercouri. Kirk's daughter Deborah Raffin is lured into an incestuous relationship with her cousin George Hamilton only to fall for sugar daddy David Janssen in a dry run for her later screen romance with Charles Bronson in Death Wish III. Highlight of the film is a bizarre appearance early on of BBC TV variety host/"Doctor Who" Time Lord president Leonard Sachs as a Swiss doctor with an outrageous accent coupled with his Good Old Days word-precision, presumably only appearing either as a favour to British director Guy Green or for a free holiday in Geneva.

Alf's Button Afloat (1937)
Wonderfully odd British comedy, basically a cinematic panto, complete with bare, traditionally panto-esque weird hybrid Chinese/Arabic generic "Eastern" setting in the opening. Alastair Sim is the camp, extremely un-Arabic genie who grants wishes based upon the misunderstandings of the British comedy troupe the Crazy Gang. "Well, stripe me pink!" 

The French Atlantic Affair (1979)
Technically a miniseries, but my first Warner Archive purchase, and what can I say, the Love Boat goes to Jonestown was how I described to fellow site contributors William Bibbiani and Witney Seibold, and I guess that'd be a sufficient comparison. Produced by Aaron Spelling like LB, it's set on a French ocean liner, the SS Festivale (played by the real life SS Festivale cruise ship, the difference is in size and scale and is obvious so they use the Queen Mary for bits too, I believe). It begins grey stock footage of New York Pier and a model cruise liner in full color pasted over, and from there, a crazed terrorist/UFO cult leader, Fr. Craig Dunleavy of the Church of the Cosmic Path (Telly Savalas, doing the same religious terrorist schtick he did in Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, the Equalizer, even the Dirty Dozen to an extent) has gathered a hundred and something members of his cult as his undercover passengers to hold the ship hostage  (they are described at one point as ""paranoid primadonnas" disguised as inspectors to sell the ship to Texans to turn it into a floating Texan bordello) and with an army of creepily-permed henchmen including John Rubinstein's computer expert who has a Julia McKenzie lookalike wife (Rebecca "the Boogens" Balding) and believes that his computer has pointed to Telly being God, presumably due to his giant medallion. On board is Chad Everett as fellow medallion man Harold Columbine, a Harold Robbins roman a clef who has written a Sybil Fawlty-aimed bonkbuster about the Cosmic Path, which Dunleavy believes is his new bible or something. Michelle Philips of the Mamas and the Papas plays the cruise director love interest, Shelley Winters does her Poseidon schtick wearing the same hat she does in Tentacles, while her fellow Poseidon Adventurer Stella Stevens plays another cultist who dies while Savalas makes out with her and then drops her overboard. Carolyn "Morticia" Jones plays a middle-aged tourist dressed like one of the Rubettes, Louis Jourdan the captain, and meanwhile in France (mostly genuine shooting in Paris with a few ropey studio interiors), Jose "he can play any nationality" Ferrer is the President, and Donald Pleasence is the head of the French Atlantic line whose VP James Coco leaves due to fat jibes. French import Marie France Pisier (after her failed Hollywood career in The Other Side of Midnight) plays villainous ransom-taker Richard Jordan's hooker floozy, while Jean Pierre Aumont of the Surete and criminal computer expert John Houseman and his sidekick Ted Danson (yes, Ted Danson!) try to find a solution, which is solved by  the Disney-esque subplot thirteen year old Tristram Fourmile-alike son's proficiency with ham radio and his ham radio girlfriend played by Dana "Audrey Griswold II" Hill and her dog MacMutt. It's filled with nonsensical subplots to fill out the six hour runtime. Michelle and Chad are disguised in a niqab and french foreign legion outfit/st. Bernard costume - mistaken as Stella/BoPeep's lost lamb at the masquerade party. We get Dana Hill's home life including GW Bailey from Police Academy as a Texan cowpoke stereotype, who says, "Texas, where the girls are prettier than the cows". Pisier shares an apartment with a dingy M. Emmett Walsh (reunited with Jordan in Raise the Titanic the next year). To emphasise this is France, someone actually says 'allo 'allo! A bomb timer appears on screen William Castle-style. Kraut cowboy Horst "which one was he again?" Buchholz, the key to being a pub quiz champ, as a French doctor tries to help Jourdan turn off the bomb. There's a trip to the imaginary African city of Libwana, Brazaka, which is really a Californian desert airfield. And there's an astonishing scene where unmarried couples are rounded up for a photograph and are brutally gunned down on a veranda, all Dutch shots.

SPOILERS! The end is a double gut-punch. The ship explodes, with Mama Michelle still on board, seemingly, and then Shelley shoots Telly. THen, it turns out all on board the ship escaped in lifeboats, the Captain staying on board, and it ends with Michelle and Chad a couple at the funeral with an awful oil painting of Jourdan hung above, and the son finally meeting his girlfriend for the first time.

The List of Adrian Messenger (1963)
ade in Ireland, and aside from the star cameos, it's a good cast, a mix of Hollywood-based British talent, a few Irish stars e.g. the living embodiment of Dublin that was Noel Purcell, and even an appearance from British TV regular Bernard Archard in a rare US role. Seeing not-Sinatra as a gypsy entertained me, and the usage of Huston's beloved Ireland intrigued me, as I live relatively nearby from Cabinteely and Powerscourt, where they shot part of the film. And the sub-Children's Film Foundation end fox chase was a surprise. 

The Name of the Rose (1986)
Yes, I'd never seen this. Watched it and loved it. The intricate mystery, Christian Slater's accent, the roundup of international character talent (Vernon Dobtcheff! Yay!) and the weird Uncle Fester-y gay priest character who apparently was once in an episode of CBBC's Silas, it's all good. 

Britannia Hospital (1982)
I never much liked Lindsay Anderson. If? Iffy. Oh Lucky Man's confused, and so is this, but Graham Crowden's performance, possibly the only time he gets above the title billing (alongside Leonard Rossiter, and in a cast full of stars, no less) is possibly one of the most refreshing I've seen. It's a pity this didn't lead to a career as a modern horror icon, the Lionel Atwill of the 80s, playing mad scientists in various movies. And it has the most ridiculously stellar cast of British/Irish actors. Aside from the two supposed leads we have -  Joan Plowright! TP Mckenna! Malcolm McDowell as Mick Travis! John Gordon Sinclair as Gregory! Richard Griffiths as Jimmy Savile! Peter Jeffrey again! Alan Bates as a corpse! Fulton Mackay! Vivian Pickles! Robbie Coltrane! Robin Askwith! Arthur Lowe! Frank Grimes! (yes, Simpsons fans, there's an actual actor called that, Irish too) Roland Culver! Liz Smith! Betty Marsden! Dandy Nichols! Tony Haygarth! Brian Glover! Valentine Dyall! And an appearance by a certain Mark Hamill. And the ending is just barking. 

The Hard Way (1979)
I love ITC. I love films made in my home of Bray. Why did I wait so long to see the film in the middle of the venn diagram? There aren't many Irish action films. The Hard Way (1979) is the nearest 1970s cinema got to a proper hard-boiled action thriller that Ireland can call its own. Made by Lew Grade's ITC in 1979, produced by the head of the lower budget end of Grade's film output, Jack Gill and his subsidiary Chips Productions, it was directed by John Boorman's regular second unit director Michael Dryhurst, and Boorman is credited as executive producer. It begins in a London underground station that looks like a redressed Dublin rail outlet, and then quickly moves to the unfortunately named Irish mercenary John Connor, played by Patrick McGoohan (remember, he was raised in Leitrim) dreaming of his wife (writer Edna O'Brien in a rare acting role) as he lies on the Sealink to Dun Laoghaire, handling Bank of Ireland cheques. He then visits O'Brien in their terraced house at Carlisle Terrace, Bray. Then cut to Lee Van Cleef as an American mercenary, McNeal arriving in Dublin airport before a meeting with he and McGoohan's fellow boss in the Shelbourne Hotel. Seeing Van Cleef wandering around Wicklow being cool alongside McGoohan, drinking in the same pub in Newtownmountkennedy and wandering around Luggala/Roundwood is worth the film itself. Seeing such icons walking about in the area where this writer grew up is surreal and adds something, so it'd be hard to be critical on the film, but it is a well-paced programmer, though never theatrically released. McGoohan's accent is a little slipshod at times, but he has enough presence, especially opposite Irish stalwarts such as Donal McCann, John Cowley, Kevin Flood (once again playing a Frenchman in 1979 Paris the same year as his role in the Doctor Who story "City of Death")and Joe Lynch. It is also unconventionally framed, narrated by O'Brien, pontificating on her husband's exploits. It also features Ireland doubling for Paris, as well as a tense Entebbe-esque attack amongst Dublin Airport. It's quite innovative and twisty,especially the funhouse-themed Van Cleef vs McGoohan ending, not unlike "The Prisoner" series that McGoohan had helped change television with. It is a lost gem of Irish cinema and television. 

Midnight Express (1978)
Another one I'd tried to watch, lost interest, but watched it again and loved it. Yes, it's Alan Parker, who bar the Commitments and the nostalgic filter of Bugsy Malone, tends to be quite insufferable, even though I find him quite an interesting interviewee. And yes, it doesn't promise to be the strange mix of action and intrigue in the dirty world of Turkish prison corruption the initial moments promise, but there are diamonds amongst the rough. And it has a fab cast, Brad Davis, Bo Hopkins, John Hurt, Peter Jeffrey as a mad Turkish paedophile, Kevork Malikyan around the time Mind Your Language started, Randy Quaid before he became a fugitive himself... Great soundtrack.

Also runners-up - Silver Streak (1976), A Kid For Two Farthings (1955), 

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

January Part 1

Kings and Desperate Men (1981) - Canadian tax shelter reunion for Prisoner stars Patrick McGoohan and Alexis Kanner, who also directs. Plot confused by the very similar Margaret Trudeau and Andrea Marcovicci cast opposite each other. Similar atmosphere to The Silent Partner. McGoohan is good, but it's basically a bland Canadian Die Hard with a confusing surrealistic ending.

Jonathan (1970) - West German folk horror take on Dracula, similarly sombre and static a la Nosferatu the Vampyre even in nude scenes, visually interesting (the crucifix-wielding crowd versus the bathing vampires climax is memorable) but directed in a staid, arty style by Germany's leading soap writer. Also stars the star of the short-lived German Fawlty Towers.

The Magus (1968) - Couldn't stand it - like the Prisoner in Corfu.

The Cay (1974) - Made for TV life raft in the Caribbean story. A Nicholas Bond Owen-esque schoolboy is stuck with a blonde-afroed James Earl Jones, doing a racist-sounding Jim Davidson as Chalky voice. Nice photography, typical US equivalent of Children's Film Foundation.

CHUD (1984)  - Like a less odd Larry Cohen film, almost TV movie-like, like the 1988 The Blob, it is forgettable despite its monsters.  It has the typical 80s post-Corman New World blandness, but unlike Cohen's The Stuff, doesn't have the joy or wit or imagination to fight against that style.

Fragment Of Fear (1970) - Like the Internecine Project, one of those British giallos that despite a good cast and some winning dialogue (a neat cameo from Mary Wimbush on a train, Arthur Lowe namechecking Boris Karloff), it is just bobbins, more psychedelic sub-Prisoner fluff.  The end is nicely Hammer House of Horror - David Hemmings haunted in his own mind by Glynn Edwards. But then it goes all psychedelic for the sake of it, and he becomes a pensioner or something. It is not slow but oddly engrossing a la Vampyres and Symptoms, it's too fast and just loses one. It's as if you're on drugs.

Spirits of the Dead (1968) - First two stories boring period dramas, while Toby Dammit begins as a typically interesting, beautifully designed Fellini piece - like most of the more creative Fellini - like a live action cartoon, but gets lost, both overwhelmed by the style and trying too hard to find a substance.

Amarcord (1973) - Watched this and Bertolucci's 1900 (1976), and both are living paintings, but while 1900 is a vaguely realistic attempt to capture its setting, Amarcord is a nostalgic cartoon, powered on visual punch. These are not films, but moving paintings in live action. 

King, Queen, Knave (1972) - unfunny Anglo-Germanic oversexed schoolboy comedy with David Niven and John Moulder Brown unconvincingly cast as nerd. Directed by Jerzy Skolimowski. whose films, even the strange German attempt at a 30s gangster hostage drama, The Lightship (1985) have a weird, hungover quality. 

Help (1965) - I find the Beatles' films insufferable, and this is no seception. It's not the brownface, in fact Leo McKern and John Bluthal are actually quite fun, it's the way the Children's Film Foundation-ish plot stops for music videos.

The Legacy (1978) - Dull Omen knock-off with Sam Elliot, Katharine Ross, Charles Gray, Roger Daltrey and a theme by Kiki Dee - halfway between British horrors of the 70s and US studio snoozers like the occasionally creepy cobblers The Mephisto Waltz and The Other.

Death Wish (1974) - Had only seen extensive clips before, and the sequels. Wow. Much better, than the too-brutal Death Wish 2, the hilarious 3, and the routine 4 and 5. Winner's view of New York as full of traffic jams and rape. Do son in laws constantly refer to their father in laws as Dad? Winner gives it lots of interesting diversions, i.e. the Wild West show bit.  More original than the identikit likes of St. Ives and Mr. Majestyk and even Winner's swift and stylish the Stone Killer (which has a great Roy Budd soundtrack and a weird interlude in a hippie carnival).

The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968) - Confused sub-Produces Broadway nonsense, notable for being the supposed American break for Norman Wisdom. It's weird to see Sir Norman in a period 30s Noo Yawk setting, and not going about, screaming, "O, Mr. Grimsdale!" Britt Ekland plays Amish, semi-convincingly, semi because while she gets the alienation right, she's too Swedish.

The Boys In The Band (1970) - Two unlikeable queens being catty filtered through the hard-to-relate-to cinematic vision of William Friedkin (one of those directors like De Palma, Ashby, Altman, Peckinpah, etc that I can't warm to - New Hollywood mostly leaves me cold.I prefer the dying embers of the old straggling along, trying to survive, thanks to producers like Irwin Allen, Lew Grade and Jennings Lang.).

See China And Die (1981) - Larry Cohen's pilot for a detective show - fronted by Esther Rolle as "Momma", an intelligent, sixty-odd crime novel fan, maid/cook and amateur detective who gets involved in a conspiracy involving tax shelters, culture clashes with the upper class New York art world, stolen Chinese statues and a pigtailed, mutton dressed as lamb Jean Marsh. Despite showing promise, especially being a genre show with a black female lead (something still very rare - drama-wise, there wouldn't be a black female lead fronting a weekly drama series on American primetime television between Get Christie Love in 1974 and Scandal in 2012), it was not picked up. And that's a shame, especially as Cohen's quirky New York-centric vision comes through.

Element of Crime (1984)- Lars Von Trier's first film, with an odd, futuristic setting, initially appears to be lighting not unlike Richard Stanley's Hardware but it is actually a sort of coffee-spill copper sepia tint. Saved by the bizarre casting of Michael Elphick in the lead, alongside Esmond Knight and Me Me Lai "being fucked back to the stone age".  A noirish mess.

Bloodsuckers (1970) - Rather ITC-ish vampire caper, set in Greece, despite an interesting cast - Peter Cushing, Patrick Macnee, Patrick Mower, Edward Woodward, Johnny Sekka as a rare black lead in a British horror, and genuine Greek and Cypriot locations, it doesn't go anywhere, and becomes a daft travelogue. Woodward is good as a vampire expert, though.

Cry of the Banshee (1970) - Not Irish, not about a Banshee unless you count the mad old cow played by Elizabeth Bergner (who is called Oona, so possibly), with Blackadder-esque music to increase the Elizabethan mood in a setting less convincing than Carry On Henry, a young Michael Elphick fondling maidens,  Patrick Mower as the actual "banshee", a  male were-minstrel and much occasionally laughable, mostly boring cobblers, like a lot of the B-list period horrors of the era. Like the Shoes of the Fisherman and Lolly-Madonna XXX (not as exciting as the title or poster promise), a film that can be seen by watching its trailer.

Horrors of the Black Museum (1959) - Fun British horror. Michael Gough has lots to do, electrifying police inspectors with huge 50s sci-fi computers, dumping bodies into acid baths, all in the name of inspiration for his Edgar Lustgarten-esque crime writings. And apart from Geoffrey Keen, the other cast isn't particularly great, especially young Shirley Anne Field who clearly got acting lessons after this. But it has some good setpieces, and an interesting fairground sacrifice climax.

The Pit (1981) - TV's Tom Sawyer, Sammy Snyders plays a slightly backward kid  who feeds stuff including people and a cow to pit-dwelling vermin-monsters whom he calls Trologs and are instructed by his teddy bear. Slow, and Snyders' performance is strange, written for someone slightly younger. Some fun moments are included, including tossing down a wheelchair-bound old lady  as "we all have to go somewhere". He then rides off in the wheelchair.  Ends with the Pit bulldozed, and Snyders being packed off to his cousins, who also keep Trologs in their own pit and feed Snyders. It's too slow, but it has that nice Canadian atmosphere and a nicely dramatic orchestral score.  And it looks good, the production is stable, the monsters look cool. It is certainly as good as the likes of Bloody Birthday and better than the cutprice A for effort, but even more dull and amateurish likes of The Orphan (1979) and The Child (1977) and even Bert I. Gordon's Necromancy (a lot of those Nightmare USA regional exploitation efforts on grainy film I find sometimes interesting but often dull, A for effort, but a lot of them feel nightmarish for all the wrong reasons).

Also watched the shortlived almost-but-not-quite-steampunk series QED from 1982 with Sam Waterston as an American scientific genius in Edwardian England, directed by the likes of Don Sharp and Roy Ward Baker, and lots of top British crew, but. it's weird. It's tonally a mishmash, going for more Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines comedic swashbucklery than Talons-ish gothic, and being written by John Hawkesworth, is more lightly comedic period drama than adventure, with George Innes and Caroline Langrishe (replacing Sarah Berger as a different but similarly star-billed character in the pilot). And despite having Julian Glover as lead villain, and the likes of George A. Cooper as a Northern inventor and George Baker as a Northern newspaperman, and the likes of John Abineri, Ron Pember, Tony Caunter, Jean Anderson and Cyril Luckham (both given their own separate billings in the end credits) doing the best as he can as a butler with exposition, Pauline Quirke, a German-speaking Frederick Jaeger as the Kaiser, all wasted. It needed to be more gothic, less whimsical. Waterston also seems somewhat miscast. He doesn't seem like a 19th century gent, and the script doesn't call for him to be an anachronism, so he just tries his best and gets lost, and the diddly-daddy "Victorian" music doesn't work. The last epsiode is a diet Doctor Who and the Talons of Weng Chiang, but lacks atmosphere, yet actually casts all Chinese with Sarah "Adventure Game" Lam and for once, Burt Kwouk given proper opening titles "special guest star" status (he being a British actor who Americans would actually recognise, Ian Ogilvy, Glover, Elizabeth Shepherd and Paul Freeman the only others to do so for same reasons) while murders go on, Timothy Bateson plays a predatory comic relief Jewish tailor, and Peter Cellier is Kwouk's MI5 narcotics boss. Though Edwardian set, and made in UK, maybe the NTSC film helps make it look American, one of those duff US attempts at Victoriana. Everything's too jolly for their own good.

Also been trying to watch Brian Clemens' Thriller (1973-1976), but it's too mundane, hopelessy padded, with thriller ideas that are very stupid, rather than daft. I have a love-hate relationship with Clemens. I think as a kid, I worshipped  people like Clemens, Ray Bradbury, mainly because a. you're a kid, and the difference between what's stupid and what's daft hasn't come clear, but also that whole thing, when I'm older, I'll be like these guys, I'll have a big writing room full of tat like Bradbury.  I admired their work ethic, and I read their synopses of their work, but didn't see much of their actual work, and when I did, I was bored by it. I'm not into the Avengers or much of the ITC shows, and re:Thriller, I think they should have gone more OTT horror/fantasy, more like Dan Curtis’ stuff. The Poe-themed costume party comes too late in the episode Kiss Me and Die comes too late, George Chakiris dressed as Davy Crockett,too much romance between Agutter and Chakiris, Anton Diffring a solid villain, Russell Hunter fun as a West Country “old fashioned rat”-fancier. But Death to Sister Mary – its opening between Jennie Linden in a fake convent set, revealed to be a sub-Crossroads soap, doesn’t really work, as Thriller has the same production values. As I said, things come too late. Troughton isn't in enough of the episode Nurse Will Make It Better, which despite Diana Dors as the Devil and an appealing lead in Andrea Marcovicci, feels like a soap with not enough barmy fantasy nonsense. It is The Omen if it were an episode of Emmerdale Farm.
As for Clemens' other work, I like Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter (1974), but it's a pilot, and is a bit more pedestrian than people give it credit for, and Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) feels like a made for  US TV musical with most of the songs cut out (bar that very 70s-sounding street singer's ballad), there's too much supposedly charming but actually rather grating comedy,  and not enough Philip Madoc. And you could have easily cut out Burke and Hare, and just either made Madoc Hare, or cut Burke and Hare out entirely, and give it all to Madoc.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017


I, Madman (1989) - stylishly shot, neat idea but not quite pulpy enough, not enough focus on the monster, and with not quite a strong enough cast. But I just realised my problem with a lot of post-80s horror. Prosthetic monsters being witty, often coupled with an unattractive NTSC smear. Post-Freddy, post-Fango, Chucky, Crypt Keeper, various Charles Band beasties, most post-80s telefantasy (Friday the 13th: the series, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Tales from the Darkside/Monsters, Babylon 5, Amazing Stories, Tales from the Crypt), neither scary or funny - more uncanny valley Shiver and Shake than anything. And it continues - NuWho's characters like Strax the Sontaran butler.

The Salamander (1981) - From a book by Morris West, whose adaptations (The Shoes of the Fisherman, the 1977 John Mills Devil's Advocate) can be watched by simply seeing their trailers. This is a confused mess from the dying days of Lew Grade's ITC. Basically a faux-polizioteschi film with Franco Nero travelling the world, shagging Sybil Danning, versus Anthony Quinn, Christopher Lee, Eli Wallach, Cleavon Little, a bunch of cameos strung together by a vaugely interesting plot failed by its makers - a typical ripe Europudding.

Trial by Combat - A Dirty Knight's Work (1976) - Ropey CFF-type medieval-themed capers with Barbara Hershey, David Birney, John Mills, Donald Pleasence and Peter Cushing in blue-tinted stock footage, and the villain turns out to be John Savident. Bernard Hill pops up. Brian Glover does Cockney. Margaret Leighton does Dame Edna.

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea (1976) - slow, but oddly compelling tale of posh, unlikeable killer schoolboys and their leader versus the lad's mother Sarah Miles and her new man Kris Kristofferson in his full 70s prime. Seeing Kris (my dad's hero) potting about small towns in the British Isles isn't as weird a sight as it seems. Like a lot of US country stars, he has been known to tour the small, country-mad towns of Ireland.

Agatha (1979) - Dull, without the spark of the Christie adaptations. Like one of the duller TV adaptations, than the camper films.

Zeppelin (1970) - Confused early Michael York vehicle, WW1 caper with Elke Sommer, the inevitable Anton Diffring, Marius Goring playing a steampunky scientist, cool model work, aerial shots of the Irish countryside per usual for a WW1 film of this era. Directed by Etienne Perier, whose short English language career (this and When Eight Bells Toll) encapsulates the British film industry of the early 70s, of not entirely worthless but unremarkable films designed to fill Sunday afternoons, the not terrible, reasonably solid but only intermittingly fun likes of Innocent Bystanders, the Mandela-esque Wilby Conspiracy (despite being written by RTE's Peter Driscoll, and with an interesting focus on Indian immigrants in Africa), the overlong Michael Winner's Scorpio, Figures in a Landscape, the overrated Gumshoe, various United Artists war movies shot in Ireland, the fun if you are in a drunk/unexpected state of mind Paper Tiger, Kidnapped, the Chairman, 11 Harrowhouse, The Day of the Jackal (though The Odessa File is actually decent and effective), The Black Windmill, the overlong Michael Winner's Scorpio, A Dandy in Aspic, Otley, various Eurospy joints that failed to capture that Bond magic,  The Human Factor, Perfect Friday, Permission To Kill, the not-as-fun-as-it-should-be Avalanche Express (The Cassandra Crossing shot in Dublin, and with added Cyril Shaps and Robert Shaw is the less of its parts), The Looking Glass War, Fragment of Fear, The Marseille Contract, A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square, Mr. Moses, Callan!, most of Sky Riders, the stuff in Puppet on a Chain that isn't that chase scene, the Persuaders-esque You Can't Win 'Em All, Inside Out, Penny Gold, File of the Golden Goose, Midas Run, Play Dirty, Only When I Larf, Man Friday, Riddle of the Sands, worthy but overlong flops like the Royal Hunt of the Sun, the Long Duel (which inspired Carry On Up The Khyber) and the Last Valley, the lesser Richard Lester canon and that's the decent budget stuff, not the actually not very good Harry Alan Towers stuff or Medusa with George Hamilton. But at least, they're not the 80s equivalents, the even more boring likes of The Disappearance, Eye of the Needle, all those Michael Caine films funded by dodgy Arabs. Although I actually like The Mackintosh Man a little more, because my grandad's in it. Hennessy is for an Irishman, too unintentionally funny, and while Brannigan does go into these areas, the sheer novelty of John Wayne in a British action film lifts it. And most of them do have the Spatz effect, as The Sitcom Club podcast describes it, they entertain because they encapsulate the era in which they were made. Dark Of The Sun seems like it is going to be one of these, but is actually brilliant.

Farewell To The King (1988) - I admire John Milius. The Wind and the Lion is slow, but once it gets going, it is epic fun, which is something quire rare. Conan's good for what it is. But I'm not a surfer. I'm not a westerns guy. I'm not really a cop movie guy. Red Dawn I should like, but the "young" cast annoy me. And unless it creates a convincing enough world (like the lovingly sleazy Thailand of the much underrated Milius-produced Uncommon Valor) or is fun in an adventure movie sense, war movies don't usually grab me. This is Nick Nolte as the Man Called Horse/Man from Deep River versus World War Two, and Nigel Havers and James Fox pop up too. And it's not very good. It's got that Return from the River Kwai "nothing else on satellite TV feel. Unless they're different or adventurous or international themed, the typical, usually domestic American-based "tough guy" movies don't quite appeal to me. I appreciate good action here and there, but a lot of those films are forgettable fare made to be rewound and fast-forwarded and then forgotten. They are films you can watch simply by seeing the trailer.

The Black Stallion (1979) - Saw bits as a kid, but then learnt about the opening, which has a ship at sea exploding, like my script. And it is one of the most gorgeously shot films ever, by Caleb Deschanel who later directed the similar and much underrated The Escape Artist (although I would have loved to have seen Paul Daniels in the Gabriel Dell role of that, but I'm going off topic). I'm not a sports movie guy, but it's lovely. The sequel, The Black Stallion Returns (1982) is more of an adventure film, with our hero, the likeable Kelly Reno returning, only to find his horse taken by its original owner, a sheik played by Ferdy Mayne and his browned up granddaughter, so Reno goes off and stows away in a seaplane to Casablanca/Italy and then it becomes an Arab movie with Joisey-accented Berbers, less the Wind and the Lion and more like dire ITC Terence Hill vehicle March Or Die (again proving why Hill never broke out of "last video on the shelf" in the English speaking market), but the opening stuff is great.

The Last Run (1971) - George  C. Scott drives through "Portugal"  into "France" (actually it's all Spain) with his two wives and whatshisface from Bird with the Crystal Plumage, while a great Roy Budd-esque Goldsmith score plays.  Featuring Ski-Boy/Chopper Squad's Robert Coleby as a randy British hitchhiker. Caught up between being a relationship drama, and an action film, and doesn't quite gel,yet that adds something - conflict! And the race stuff is great - especially a drive directly from desert into snowy foothills. Aldo Sambrell dubbed by Robert Rietty.  Richard Fleischer directing after John Huston quit.Huston was in the middle of doing a run of films that ranged from the boring Reflections of the Golden Eye to the nice western The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (from that 70s "slow western" boom of Wild West tales about nothing much, the likes of Oklahoma Crude and Another Man, Another Chance) to the incomprehensible messes of Casino Royale and the Kremlin Letter.

The Producers (1968) - I'd give it three stars. The beatnik Hitler doesn't really work, Mostel and Wilder have charm, the best bits probably the stuff with Christopher Hewett and William Hickey. There's an infectious joy, but you can see Brooks is building.

Knight Moves (1992) - Lacklustre Christopher Lambert neo-giallo from the assistant director of the Legend of Tim Tyler. Should be more international-flavoured than it is, though.

Black Christmas (1974) - Doesn't really get going until the last 15 minutes,  Bob Clark tries hard as director, the atmosphere is suitably Canadian, cold, nervous, but stilted - then Wham - towards the end, it improves. I've a weird relationship with Canadian film. I find the majority of Canadian exploitation from the tax shelter era, the likes of Death Weekend and a lot of the slashers boring, most of Cronenberg's oeuvre bland bar the entertaining The Brood, I like the Silent Partner and Murder By Decree (Bob Clark's best film), think The Amateur (1981) is an entertaining Cold War programmer, find Guy Maddin's stuff baffling, Rituals is so underrated, Death Ship is fun, can't find a full copy of John Paizs' Crime Wave but found what I saw appealing, unlike the likes of Big Eater and Pink Chiquitas, the other 50s-80s spoofs, and found The Changeling interesting (even though I am not big on haunted house movies). And their comedies are mostly awful, even Cannibal Girls.  I like bits of SCTV, but can't quite understand Strange Brew. The other SCTV spinoff The Shmenges - The Last Polka is so much better (maybe because chintzy European music loved by grannies is a more universal subject - James Last, for example). The weirder stuff is the better. The National Film Board stuff on the other hand is almost always great, though.

Screamtime (1983) - Rather fun compilation of British shorts by Stanley Long disguised as an anthology. Best story is Robin Bailey as crazed Punch and Judy man killing the likes of Bosco Hogan and Adrian off Bread.

The Cabinet of Caligari(1962) - Cash-in on the 1920 original. Depsite Cinemascope, still like a dull episode of a TV anthology.

The Brain (1962) - Freddie Francis-directed, Kenneth Kendall-guesting suspenser. Nicely shot, nice cast (Cecil Parker, Miles Malleson, Bernard Lee) but nothing special, like the dozens of similarly gothy British b/w psychothrillers churned out by Hammer, Merton Park, etc, with titles like House in Marsh Road and The Snorkel. And overlong. An idea better suited to a 30-minute anthology.

The Head (1959) - Fun, routine but nicely gothy-in-a-modern-setting German horror, similar to the Brain that Wouldn't Die with Horst "the Baron from Tim Tyler" Frank and the head of Michel "Boudu" Simon. In the same mould as similar era films as the Mask, the Maze, etc.

Theatre of Death (1966) - Nonsensical 1960s horror, in the same barrel of poverty row nonsense like The Vulture (1967), The Projected Man (1967), The Black Torment (1964), the Frozen Dead (1966), the Hand of Night (1968) and Devils of Darkness (1965) and the better made but still slightly overrated likes of Night of the Eagle (1962) and the "fun when you're 12" Sorcerers (1967). Christopher Lee and Julian Glover in what appears to be an episode of a rubbish ITC series hijacked by a giallo. 

Cuba (1979)-  Tonally muddled Richard Lester film, can't quite tell if it is a tragic romance, a romp, a documentary-style exploration of pre-revolution Cuba or a chance for Connery to make a film in Spain. A slog, beautifully shot but a slog. Has Hammer regular Wolfe Morris as Batista, watching Horror of Dracula and a dubbed  Roger Lloyd Pack playing Latino, a la his role in the Professionals.

I've been watching the Tales from the Crypt series, and despite interesting casts and directors, unlike the Amicus movies, they never end up more than padding to neat imagery, the crutch-using  ghouls, and shoes haunting undertaker Moses Gunn, the Don Rickles foetal-dummy,  the dead M Emmett Walsh, John Astin's Hamlet, Whoopi Goldberg holding a head of James Remar in a Caribbean island plantation,  Zelda Rubinstein torturing David Warner with her disfigured skull-faced daughter. There's a reason why they work best as comics. They're still images, good as comics, but probably better as trading cards. And the heightened performances, multicoloured yet bland style and NTSC smear detract. Then again, I'm not that mad on 50s US B-Movies or even the US gothics. I appreciate the Corman-Poe stuff, but it always felt a little like a dodgy US TV series of the period, especially the supporting performances. Once AIP moves that sort of thing to Britain with Masque of the Red Death, it gets better. As mundane as something like The Oblong Box is, I'd still watch it over, say The Fall of The House of Usher, because at least it has numerous solid character actors to support Price rather than just say a brief performance from Karloff or Lorre or Rathbone or a dubbed Barbara Steele. They are stylish films, but like their Italian brethren, style isn't everything.

Also watched the 1934 Black Cat. The thing is I am not an expressionist fan, but I don't hate them. Karloff is nicely camp. I see a lot of classic films as paintings. They are nice to look at, and you can admire them for what they are, but you don't have to like them. But you can't really hate them. What I like in black and white photography is the clear, sunny style you see in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Night of the Iguana, Hush Hush, Sweet Charlotte, etc, something which very few master.

Nightmare Alley (1947) - Again not a noir man, but I found the setting interesting and the concept something. Solid.  Although more should have been made of the carnival.

Dinosaurus (1960) - Really beautifully shot dinosaur movie that used to show up on C4 back in the day. Unoriginal, uninspired, but the Virgin Islands locations lift it. And some stop motion. Feels like I've seen it before, and my mum turned it off halfway through cos she thought it silly. And some pontificating on why a caveman should die.

The Cellar (1989) - Unoriginal but nicely shot, Raimiesque, passable desert Native American-themed demon-hog monster horror, by Kevin Tenney.

The Caller (1987) - Charles Band film, as with all Empire-era Band films, well-shot, with good solid production value in Italy,  Slow duologue,  Malcolm McDowell as a strange person who doesn't understand certain phrases, and talks with a weird Mid-Atlantic accent between Yorkshire and Calgary. Good performances, but it's a stretched out Tales from the Darkside. The ending is neat (it's all a game), and the effects on McDowell are interesting.

The Bat People (1974) - nicely shot in Carlsbad Caverns, nice atmosphere, but its slow, dull, with dull monsters, not great acting. From the director of Raise the Titanic.

Invasion of the Blood Farmers (1972)- cult sacrifice, homemade 1972 horror. Diverting but rubbish at the least, godawful at the most. 

Sky Pirates (1986) -  John Hargreaves a solid Aussie Indiana Jones-alike, even if his chemistry-free love interest is wooden,  but the too on-the nose named Dakota Harris is an interesting character in his own right, a sort of Antipodean Biggles in this rather odd, fun little Australian Raiders knockoff. Assigned by US general Alex Scott (the frog-masked bloke in the Abominable Dr. Phibes) to fly a plane to Washington, only to be re-routed to French Polynesia. Strikingly shot by Colin Eggleston (director of 1979's eco-horror Long Weekend), and with an interesting time loop plot, and intriguing imagery - floating Easter Island heads,and location shooting on the island itself. Good dialogue. "Fancy taking my chances on a mirage." With many of the cast of George Miller's miniseries The Dismissal (Hargreaves, Bill Hunter, Max Phipps as the blond-flattopped villain). And a plot that doesn't quite go the way you think it would (our heroes are rescued, then thrown into military  prison, then Dirty Dozen-style, Hargreaves steals a plane from RAAF ally-turned-enemy Max Phipps find the missing Reverend). Also features Nigel Bradshaw, the English actor who played a Yorkshireman on Prisoner Cell Block H simply because Yorkshire TV were the only ITV region showing the series, and thought that some local appeal was needed. An interesting little pulp pleasure. Brian May's soundtrack is serviceable, but not his best, and a little too indebted to Williams.

Shatter (1974) - Not very good Hammer-Shaw actioner, Stuart Whitman as assassin, sort of whitesploitation feel, a middle-aged white Conservative take on similar Blaxploitation efforts like That Man Bolt. Peter Cushing and Anton Diffring turn up. 

The Amsterdam Kill (1977) - Basically the same as Shatter, but actually with some standout action sequences, and Robert Mitchum and Leslie Nielsen, and for Golden Harvest rather than Shaw Brothers. It begins with Mitchum (no stranger to foreign weirdness, having starred in confused Swedish TV spy spinoff Foreign Intrigue, arguably the first true Eurospy film) undercover in Wandsworth, and watching a badly-accented TV football commentator over some clearly American stock footage of "the Rangers",  which then cuts mid-match to a flash news bulletin of an Amsterdam drugs raid that no British station would ever do. Mitchum wears a flat cap well, probably why Lean cast him in Ryan's Daughter. Since it was directed by Robert "Enter the Dragon" Clouse, who was deaf, you can watch it without sound and still follow. Has fun scenes of Chinese goons basically getting trapped in the title sequence of the Adventures of Black Beauty.  And Mitchum gleefully crashes a bulldozer through a greenhouse.

Mother Lode (1982) and Death Hunt (1981) - Two serviceable faux-Canadian actioners. Mother Lode is a muddle, but it has the Two Ronnies Christmas Special 1987's Charlton Heston as two Scottish brothers named Silas and Ian, who have a Scrooge McDuck-like obsession with gold, while one lusts after Kim Basinger, who's searching for her husband. Nonsensical, and confusing. Death Hunt has RCMP men Lee Marvin and Carl Weathers hunt for mad trapper Charles Bronson, in a Golden Harvest production based on a true story. Nicely shot adventures, both, though Death Hunt is the better film. Both better than the various mountain men/Great North movies of the same period, the High Country, the Wilderness Family, Surfacing, Challenge to be Free, etc.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

The Return of Captain Invincible (1983)

The Return of Captain Invincible (1983) - A shambles. Philippe Mora is a director whose work is very strange, from Ozploitation ventures as the rather silly Australian western Mad Dog Morgan (1976) to the Sullivans-esque GIs in Australia murder conspiracy of Death Of A Soldier (1986) to US ventures as dire Howling II: Stirba Werewolf Bitch (1985) and The Beast Within (1982), a film which has an interesting cast, concept and setting and does everything that it sets out to do, but is still quite icky and unfocused, and nasty. The fact that his best film might be the insane Howling III - The Marsupials (1987) may say it all. He's a director who specialises in the daft. But Captain Invincible isn't quite daft enough. Written by future US action specialist Steven E. De Souza, the Australian setting feels tacked on, as if to please the Australian producers and also Actors' Equity to keep a mainly Aussie cast. Alan Arkin is decent as Captain Invincible, an Christopher Lee is perfect as his nemesis, Mr. Midnight. But the  film is confused. Arkin, then pushing 50 plays a Second World War veteran superhero who surely is pushing 80, but then again he is beyond human, who somehow has spent the last few years in Sydney, but still thinks it is NYC. The US President (Australian-born western vet Michael Pate, who would reprise the role in Howling III) is handily in Australia, when a hypno-ray is stolen, and the alcoholic Cap, taken in by an unlikeable female cop/journalist (the script is hazy), has to stop Midnight and his goblin sidekick Julius from wiping the ethnic minorities of New York (i.e. a few stereotyped Arabs and Jews, and ex-Laugh In star Chelsea Brown, the only African-American woman living in Australia at the time in a cameo). It is also a musical, featuring a few songs written by Richard O'Brien, and a few not by the Rocky Horror creator/future Crystal Maze host. An interesting joke is ignored - that Invincible's singing style is rooted in the 1940s, but then the soundtrack resorts to using old standards and the Peter Gunn theme. A lot of goofy comedy emerges, a lot of repeated training routines and magnetism jokes, endless flashbacks, endless in-your-face Americana to distract you from the barrage of Aussie faces (Blankety Blanks host Graham Kennedy, his regular panellist Noel Ferrier, Bill Hunter, David Argue, Chris Haywood, Arthur Dignam, Bruce Spence) and some of these are baffling (a bizarre few seconds of interlude with a female supervillain distributing dog excrement from robot doghouses there to give Australian drag act Mr. Tracey Lee some screentime), while one, a foodfight involving the legendary John Bluthal, one of the finest comic actors of his generation as a "Jewish deli owner" who isn't Jewish or a deli owner, and has a fish-shaped rifle instead makes one think what Bluthal would have been like as Captain Invincible. If the film did have Bluthal as a more unorthodox hero, the film less glossy (the high-quality second unit shots of 42nd Street in the climax jar with the obvious sets where we see the main cast),  perhaps with a more heightened sense of reality and artifice, and either the songs written by one unit, or dropped entirely altogether, it might have worked. Perhaps with the plot changed too. Instead of Captain Invincible being an alcoholic, he could have been a deli owner whose life is no longer interesting, because he is now afraid. In all, a tepid mess.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Thank you, TVC.

It's a few months late, but I realised the debt that TV Cream influenced me. They celebrated their 20th anniversary a few months back, and having been a longtime fan, I was recently sent a beloved Friend of TV Cream badge as a thanks for doing bits of research and general nice fandom.  I discovered them when I was 11, after becoming a fan of BBC Cult. However, by the time I happened upon BBC Cult, it was dead. I remember counting down to the days it closed, only to realise it said June 2005 and not 2006, as I thought. Through a link in their defunct news page, I found TV Cream. And I was hooked. You see, this was in the era of dial-up internet, and the internet was rationed in our house. You could only use it at night, or on weekends, or else it was too expensive. So it was hard to find stuff about old TV. My out of date Halliwell's filmgoer's comapnion from 1988 was a help, but I also avoided certain things cos I had a Davros-induced phobia of classic Doctor Who from the age of 5 to 10 (just after when you become afraid of things you were too young to previously understand). I also observed my school library's shelves for it contained books that tied into TV shows I didn't know, Educating Marmalade, the Bagthorpe Saga, the 1977 version of Treasure Island, the Famous Five. In my school, kids were being exposed to series by chance. I had to get mum to buy a VHS of the old Southern Famous 5 for my friend Cerin. But also, I was getting into Who fandom by this stage. And I found TVC a vat of fact. It explained in-jokes, introduced me to shows I hadn't heard of - and through their choice of photos - misinformed me. For years, I thought the BBC's Borgias was an Italian-coproduced Addams Family knockoff with Adolfo Celi cast as a spoof of his character in Thunderball. But by the time I was in my teens, I was recommending Coronation STreet fan teachers their 50 Great Things About Coronation Street podcast, and eventually commenting. My enthusastic "no introductions" Asperger's-y style alienated a few. For instance, Tim Worthington and Chris Diamond, two of Cream's most distinctive voices (Worthington the encycloapedic mind of children's TV, rare music and certain cult film genres, Diamond the embodiment of the avuncular video shop employee recommending rare  tat that turned out to be solid cinematic gold) both blocked/muted me. I understand for I was a bit too pally and thus came across as an arse, like that twat  from the local burger bar, but if it wasn't for them, I think my writing style would be different, and my knowledge not as varied. I read their books constantly in secondary school, almost distracting from my rough days in Kilcoole, but still I owe them so much, so thank you TVC.
And to Tim and Chris, sorry.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017


Matchless(1967) - almost sub- Danger Diabolik, with a better Europsy cast thank to DDL, Patrick O'Neal, Donald Pleasence, Henry Silva, Boss Hogg, written bizarrely by Jack Pulman. But still falls into the traps of Eurospy fare. Watchable cast, but full of nonsensical interludes and attempts at humour, perhaps something was lost in translation from English to Italian to English, again.

Night of the Following Day (1968) - grim home invasion/hostage Richard Boone/Pamela Franklin/Marlon Brando nonsense -weird dream/time loop plot. Would work better as an anthology i.e. an episode of Thriller, Pamela  Franklin and all. It would work better on claustrophobic VT.

The Cheap Detective (1978) - Disappointing follow-up to Murder by Death, with Peter Falk and Eileen Brennan not playing the same characters, just very similar characters, even though it is written by Neil Simon, directed by Robert Moore and produced by Rastar like its predecessor. A lot of the cast from MBD appear (James Coco, James Cromwell as well), plus the likes of John Houseman, Paul Williams, Ann-Margret, Stockard Channing in elderly teen mode again, Brooks imports Dom DeLuise and Madeline Kahn as a woman of many names (and gets to do a Chinatown-ish "my husband, my father!" routine), Louise Fletcher as Ingrid Bergman, Nicol Williamson as a US-based Nazi, Sid Caesar in old age makeup, etc, and while there are good jokes (the opening caption, Brennan leading a singalong of "la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la vi en rose!"), and some very Crackerjack!-ish jokes about a Chinese waiter whose name is either Huang Jin Sling or Brandy, it's a muddle and not deliberately so a la MBD. It seems to be every Bogie film at once, and feels especially sub-Mel Brooks, although that said, post-Brooks spoofs are always more polished than say, post-Airplane! spoofs.

Mad Mission 3 (1983)- Crazed, madcap, inventive but not especially funny Tsui Hark spy spoof in the visually pleasing but always peculiarly dubbed and not very funny Hong Kong spy/adventure series - with peter Graves, Neil Connery, Richard Kiel and bad lookalikes of Sean Connery, the Queen and Ronald Reagan. Competent, reasonably inventive but unremarkable stunts, one of those films where everything's in the trailer, and a few interesting cultural quirks may be seen in the full film, but nothing else that hasn't been seen before.

Cellar Dweller (1988) - Another interesting but not-very good Charles Band film, with its anachronistic 40s comic artist-created monster, and appearances by Yvonne De Carlo, feels more like an over-extended episode of Tales from the Darkside, but more visually attractive. The thing with Band's films is they make great trailers, but even at 70 minutes, they're overlong.

The President's Analyst (1967)-  Muddled, overlong but memorable satirical spy spoof, James Coburn not as Flint and Godfrey Cambridge not in whiteface, featuring Aquacars, Liverpudlian spies, imagery later cribbed for the Spanish short La Cabina, and a nice cast. Passable Sunday afternoon waster.

The Shark Hunter (1978) -  Enzo Castellari directed turgid actioner with Franco Nero as blond-dyed hero fighting something involving treasure and a conspiracy is less a Jaws imitation and more like all those bad treasure hunt movies that came out both before and after the Deep, the likes of Evil in the Deep, the Treasure Seekers with Rod Taylor, Sharks' Treasure, etc, and despite mondo-ish footage , a great jazzy theme tune by the De Angelis brothers, a few explosions and a few fractured flashbacks, these elements do not make a good film.  More fun that the late 80s knockoffs like the Rai Uno-funded Night of the Sharks with a "what the hell is he doing in a SOV-looking Italian C-movie" Treat Williams (this is what Italian licence fee money went into in the 80s!) and the Killer Crocodile films, though.  End credits weirdly has cast credited with first name as initial only.

Pretty Maids All in A Row (1971) - Weird all-star tonally-odd Roger Vadim-directed Gene Roddenberry-written Rock Hudson killer teacher nosh. Has the tone of an all-star caper comedy, but is actually a murder mystery about teenage girls being slaughtered. Odd. Not as good as the flawed Barbarella (too much in long shot!), and the intriguing, colourful modern lesbian vampire story Blood and Roses (1960).

Proof of the Man (1977). I am fascinated by when people try to imitate other cultures' films, and try to disguise them as other countries, and the levels. From Kadokawa, makers of the astonishing Virus (1980 - which like this, stars George Kennedy), this is a Japanese attempt to do an American cop movie with Japanese elements, and almost feels aimed more at the US than Japan, with its Japanese cop karate-chopping assailants, but there's a very un-American nihilistic element resulting in a confused mess that perhaps could have been something very special, if the Japanese had been subtitled. A mess relating to the murder of an African-American in Japan brings two cops together, a young Japanese and a gruff vet played by Kennedy in70s B-movie action hero movie. The American is unconvincingly played by Caribbean-Japanese reggae star Joe Yamanaka, who is badly dubbed, struggles to play a jiving stereotype, and looks nothing like his darker skinned parents, Robert "yes, he's James' dad" Earl Jones, and Theresa Merritt, star of US sitcom That's My Mama, ironic considering Yamanaka's 70s J-ballad theme is called "Mama, do you remember?" and the tagline was "Kiss me, mammy", an unfortunate statement that while in the US perhaps results in cringes relating to African-American female caricatures, in Ireland, sounds exactly like the title of an episode of Mrs. Brown's Boys. Centres on the revelation that Kennedy murdered his partner's da in World War Two and urinated on him. 

Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street-(1974) strange Fuller-directed episode of German TV staple Tatort, complete with crew and cast in bizarre Are You Being Served-esque "you have been watching" style credits, in fancy dress. A weird mix of dubbed late night ITV import and more sureal elements - lots of cameras focusing on tellies including a videophone, US import Glenn Corbett speaks English while select characters speak German, Anton Diffring pops up inevitably,  and basically the Profumo-esque plot gives up and becomes an unfunny spoof of awful German cop shows or things like the then-contemporaneous "Assignment - Vienna" (also starring Diffring) by an American trying to find work. Watchable but weird.

Shark (1969) - Burt Reynolds in Sam Fuller directed Mexican-shot Arab shark hunting movie. Feels like a ropey Spanish cheapie and not a ropey Mexican cheapie.  Burt's tache-free Conneryesque appearance suggests a Eurospy feel.

Invaders From Mars (1986) - Cannon/Tobe Hooper do-over. The filmmaking style is very reminiscent of Michael Laughlin's for Strange Behaviour and Strange Invaders, which also feature Louise Fletcher. An interesting failure that meanders.

Watching 80s Granada anthology Shades of Darkness. My problem with all Granada and a lot of period spooky stuff in general is they all try to be sinister and still look like Catherine Cookson adaps (in this case The Mallens), so I don't get terrified by them. This is the same with a fair few of the Brett Sherlock Holmes episodes (the later ones, everything before the Hound of the Baskervilles is at least watchable, even the Devil's Foot's crap video effects have a charm. The fact he's so unwell in later ones also just makes you feel sorry for the pain he's suffering.)
And Granada's Philip Pullman adap How to be Cool has dated badly, offputtingly yoof TV. The fact it has Gary Glitter in it is the least of its worries. He's actually very camp and sinister, but annoying. That's the trouble. Even as a baddie in Super Gran, he was never a likeable screen presence. And he says "Shbielberg".

Freaked (1993) - Rather fun freakshow horror with  a reunited post-Bill and Ted Alex Winter (who also directs) and an uncredited Keanu Reeves as a dogboy, as Winter's ex-child-star journeys to Randy Quaid's South American carnival to find the weird chemical he's been using, and meets the likes of Mr. T as a bearded lady, a faux-British aristocrat worm-man, a literal Cow-Boy, a giant-nosed guy, a female Pinhead, Bobcat Goldthwait as Sockhead, and a few other weird cameos including Brooke Shields, former Crackerjack! star/Jack Douglas' comedy partner-turned-regular Hanna-Barbera voice Joe Baker and Pamela Mant, who began as Christine Archers in the BBC radio soap, then moved to Ireland, played one of the token Protestants in RTE's proto-Emmerdale  Farm The Riordans, then moved to the US after a time in the UK, and appeared in US soap Santa Barbara as the Queen, then in Leprechaun. Inventive, given a big budget yet screwed by Fox. Worth a watch.

Frankenstein Island (1981)- a bunch of middle-aged male balloonists crash on a desert island, are rescued by blonde cave girls, then brought to a castle occupied by Sheila Frankenstein-Von Helsing (sic) trying to revive the spirit of John Carradine in her comatose husband,  who keep prisoner a Poe-quoting Cameron Mitchell and army of shades-wearing, black-jumper and bobble-hatted goons. A monster breaks out. Our heroes escape in a raft, and then return to rescue the cave-girls, but then they realise they were in a time-warp. Awful but astonishing that former Mexican footage importer Jerry Warren was making stuff like earnestly in 1981.

Covert Action (1978) - David Janssen in Eurospy fare 70s style, Corinne Clery as doomed girlfriend, features an odd scene in an amphitheater full of suspicious nuts, feels built around location shooting in Greece, went straight to TV in the US and feels like other glamorous but vacuous Euro semi-TVM joints of the same era, Golden Rendezvous, S+H+E - Security Hazards Expert, and various BBC thrillers in the mould of Michael J. Bird's work, (you know the type, the Treachery Game, the Assassination Run, Kessler, almost endearingly trying to be glamorous, constructing  a nonsensical plot around quickly-shot interludes in foreign territories alongside usual videotaped shenanigans with various British actors doing funny accents or no accent at all).

The Boys in Company C (1978) - One of the better Vietnam pics,  shot atmospherically in the jungles of the Philippines, feels like a real place, unlike the M*A*S*H* esque TV movierama of Go Tell the Spartans, which also features Craig Wasson, Apocalypse Now's Wagnerian hell or Full Metal Jacket's Home Counties Hue, a film which pilfers a lot from Company C, including R. Lee Ermey.

Prime Cut (1972)  A rural comedy with thriller elements, or a rural thriller with comedy... Dad film legends Lee Marvin and Gene Hackman (playing a meat mogul called Mary Ann) battle each other in something a lot darker and sardonic than the later rural actioners in the Burt Reynolds mould. It is  muddled and oddly entertaining, similar to the Richard Harris film 99 & 44/100 Dead. Sleazy, enjoyable, but erratic in both tone and plot. Sissy Spacek turns up as orphan hooker. Memorable moment involving a combine harvester.

Scarecrow (1973) - Al Pacino over-does his schtick, while Gene Hackman looks bemused in a flat cap. Tries itself to be a "charming story" of two idiots roaming America. Similar to Midnight Cowboy, another one of these New Hollywood stories about eejits about town.

Night Moves (1975) - Hackman again. I'm not really into private eye stories, but this is interesting for what it is. Kind of odd seeing Kenneth Mars in serious mode, and name-dropping Alex Karras (whose future wife Susan Clark appears - in further non-Mel Brooks-related CELEBRITY PARADOX!, and yes, I know he was a football player, but I'm Irish, he's Mongo).Goes tonally from freewheeling loveliness about Melanie Griffith being mysterious yet outgoing, and then - wham! she's dead. Tonally, it seems to be a mess, until the twist that everything just gets worse. And timely in the age of the Hollywood conspiracy. It has all the flaws of New Hollywood thrillers, but it's slow because it's not the mystery it seems to be, it's the story of a man. That nothing is what it seems. But it is not as sinister as it should be, though it may not have worked as well as a trad-mystery. Might have been a bit too Chinatown.

Games (1967) - Similar in tone to Rosemary's Baby, caught between gothic and the modern, James Caan and Katharine Ross as sadistic socialites, while Simone Signoret does psycho-biddy. Similarly muddled but more metropolitan than sitcom-gone-wrong suburban shockers a la the irritatingly Disneyesque I Saw What You Did, The Mad Room and What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice, even though director Curtis Harrington is often better in TV movie mould, the Cat Creature and the Dead Don't Die more fun than the likes of Night Tide or the Killing Kind.

What's The Matter With Helen (1971) - Harrington again, but more fun. Exquisite period setting. Psycho-biddy schlock involving Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters rowing over a stage school, Dennis Weaver is nominal lead, and Irish theatrical titan Micheal Mac Liammoir (the connection between Orson Welles and showbands), in a scene-stealing turn as theatrical agent. Timothy Carey is memorably creepy as a tramp. Still relevant satire on child stars, here a mix of sexualised adult impersonators and Shirley Temple types in the 1930s. Harry Dean Stanton pops up. Agnes Moorehead excels as a sort of Aimee Semple McPherson-type evangelist, crooning the Volkswagen Changes theme, but the shock ending is spoiled on the poster. Double-billed on DVD with Winters/Harrington's pleasing but confused UK-made Who Slew Auntie Roo, its weird semi-family film tone making me wonder did co-star Lionel Jeffries "help" in direction.

The Horror of It All (1964) - disjointed, sometimes fun Terence Fisher-directed  semi-musical Old Dark House knockoff (based on the same script as Castle's remake) with Pat Boone, a few inventive vignettes involving relatives "inventing" electricity, Confusing ending seemingly changed, to avoid similarity with the Old Dark House remake, where the blonde love interest turns out to be killer, now involving Dennis Price. Similarly threadbare  to the other Lippert productions in UK, with almost-ITC feel.  Also watched colorful but not great UK horrors Amicus' the Psychopath and the not great Devils of Darkness, despite a nice performance from Eddie Byrne.