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 My out of date Halliwell's filmgoer's comapnion from 1988 was a help, but I also avoided certain things cos I had a Davros-induced phobia of classic Doctor Who from the age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

November

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. 

Monday, 16 October 2017

What I've been watching in October

Going Bananas (1988) - Dom Deluise deputises for Bud Spencer in a 40s jungle comedy complete with stereotypes (Jimmie Walker as the Mantan Moreland-ish Mozambo), but made in 80s South Africa by Cannon with Herbert Lom as a dictator-ish Captain and Deep Roy essentially playing the Peking Homunculus again.  A dull Disneyesque joint intended as a sequel to the Clint Eastwood and Clyde the Chimp films AND an adaptation of an Israeli Curious George knockoff, and the Needham-esque circus scenes hint at the former, pumped up to ultra-weirdness levels by Cannon. Nice Pino Donaggio soundtrack.

Iron Eagle (1986) - average, very 80s Karate Kid-via-Top Gun, Lou Gossett as mentor. David Suchet livens up proceedings, but too 80s teen movie for its own good, something which has hurt the likes of Night of the Comet and Night of the Creeps.  

Machinegunner (1976) - HTV pilot shot on film, feature-length Leonard Rossiter vehicle. Interesting failure, the tweedy harpschicord soundtrack does not work against urban Bristol. Murkily shot in some scenes, a complicated plot involving Nina Baden-Semper, Colin Welland, Kate O'Mara,  feels overlong at 80  minutes, lots of non-dialogue spying and chasing, 

TRAPPED! (1982) - Blackfaced hillbilly nutter Henry Silva wages war in slasher/vigilante rural terror movie, uninteresting characters against interesting setting. 

Blazing Magnum (1976) - Stuart Whitman, Martin Landau, John Saxon, Gayle Hunnicutt all feature in Italian-Canadian cop thriller with some exciting action scenes - Whitman getting beaten about transvestites on top of a skyscraper, lots of proto-parkour,  an ace car chase, a helicopter assassination climax that seemingly influenced the opening of For Your Eyes Only in camera direction (Remy Julienne worked on both) and a nicely Canadian feel a la the Silent Partner. Stunt director Remy Julienne miscredited as Julienne Remy.

Ruby (1977) - Piper Laurie in  muddled supernaturally gangster drama that also revolves around a haunted drive-in, and features a moon-eyed teenaged daughter for extra Carrie-ness. 

Russian Roulette (1975) - ITC-funded George Segal thriller/travelogue of 70s Vancouver,  Gordon Jackson, Denholm Elliot and Nigel Stock play Canadians, only the latter attempting an accent. Typical tax shelter larks, although good action and an interesting soundtrack, its main theme a high school band performance of Polyushka Polye, its Canadian-ness creating a friendler tone than other Cold War thrillers including Segal's cold Quiller Memorandum.

Three For All (1975) - Early Martin Campbell film, all star disaster of a comedy musical. More interesting behind the scenes story, frankly.


The Dunwich Horror (1970) - A duff episode of Night Gallery that goes on for 90 minutes.
 
The Dove (1974) - True life adventure, Charles "Condorman" Jarrott directing, though with its partly Australian setting, less Disney, more Lost Islands. Teen Joseph Bottoms travels around the world and falls in love with Deborah Raffin.  Features staged Fijian kitten-butchery.

 Ghost Story (1981) - Atmospheric but dull all-star horror. Shock ending at odds with tone of the film. Craig Wasson a rubbish lead.

Watched a few Blake Edwards films, find his stuff self-indulgent, too weighed down to work. Even the Pink Panthers go overlong, even the brilliant Pink Panther Strikes Again. Then watched the likes of Breaking Away and More American Graffiti, like most coming of age stories, pleasing but only occasionally interesting. Although the theme to the TV version of Breaking Away is very close to Mrs. Brown's Biys.

Killer Force (1976) - Val Guest-directed pseudo-blaxploitation actioner with OJ Simpson among a cast of Peter Fonda, Hugh O'Brian, an Afrikaaner-accented Maud Adams, Christopher Lee and Telly Savalas as a character called Harry Webb, the real name of Cliff Richard, whom Guest directed in Expresso Bongo. Fun, very 70s, Fonda with a perm, lots of showcasing for South African-based actors of the era. Double-bill it with the similar, overlong but fun Gold (1974).

Pigs (1972) - More not-conventionally-good-or-bad indie horror weirdness. Marc Lawrence in a bad ginger wig feeding victims to pigs. Kind of fun. Prototypical hillbilly cannibal nonsense. Lawrence lifts the material, but then he also directed it, and features his daughter. Dreamlike.

The House Where Evil Dwells (1982) - Badly-accented Susan George and Edward Albert move to Japan, she has an affair with Doug McClure, cool kabuki-samurai ghosts appear, but otherwise routine haunter. Boring, bad child acting, too.

Figures in a Landscape (1970) - routine Defiant Ones-ish adventure with Malcolm McDowell and Robert Shaw chased through South America by Henry Woolf.  Ends on a shootout against the military. And perks up. And then continues into the snowy mountains. Overlong. Feels like a Beckettian travelogue. Final image arresting, of bloodied Shaw alone on the mountain. 

Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun (1969) - Bonkers, incredibly confusing, lovely sets and design, slightly warmer than UFO, but hard to follow.

 Lisa and the Devil (1974) - The original, moody, atmospheric, slow cut not the House of Exorcism piece. Like a lot of Italian horror from this era, like most Euro-genres merges into one, and I can't take early 70s Elke Sommer seriously cos of Carry On Behind, interesting supposed-to-be-a-twist ending with If-era Telly.

Runestone (1991) - Interesting, watchable, not great Viking-themed Highlander knock-off with some interesting character comedy bits.

Crescendo (1970) - I'm not a big fan of Hammer's psychodramas. A lot of them blend into one, but this impressed me, nice  jazzy score, and the sunny photography keeps it above TV movie level,  similar to And Soon The Darkness. The old mad twin-brother gambit, with James Olson (who I presumed for years to be a Yank in the UK along the lines of Ed Bishop, only to realise he was a solid non-star Hollywood character lead). Steanie Powers plays along cliches, wheelchairs, missing luggage, crazy maids, orphans, it does devolve into a Brian Clemens-ish mess, but the exterior stuff is lovely.  Joss Ackland rocks many an all-black ensemble.

Daughters of Darkness (1971) - Confusing but interesting, nicely shot lesbian vampire horror.

Malpertuis (1971)- Nice design, maybe it's Welles, but it reminds me sort of what Jodorowsky's Dune may have looked like it, completely different setting, but in terms of fat Orson in Euro-weirdness.

Daughter of Darkness (1948)- Siobhan Mackenna in weird Irish horror-noir. Shows that the Brits always had trouble spelling Irish names. Frightfully young Honor Blackman. Atmosphere, kind of lags, I'm not a noir guy, really, but the  Irish angle is interesting. Not the 1970s vampire movie Daughters of Darkness, or the very interesting Stuart Gordon TVM, set in Romania, but filmed in Hungary. 

Watched Jean Paul Belmondo's That Man from Rio and The Burglars - which are nice time-wasting visual treats, watched them in French/Italian, but it didn't matter, cos they are visual films, with all his stunts, better than Italian stuff of the same era.
Also watched intriguing but rather cliched and stilted Martin Sheen-Sam Neill spy thriller Enigma (1982), very clearly shot entirely in France by Jeannot Szwarc with a dubbed Michael Lonsdale, dubbed by Marc Smith doing a Lonsdale impression with an American accent.

The Silent Partner - Christopher Plummer as Santa - two icons of Christmas in one being. And then he's in drag. He's doing panto. Superman tin. Robertson's jam. Away in a manger. John Candy with a kipper tie. Plummer wears eyeliner even out of drag, and a blond syrup. Lomez's head cut along the fishtank. Gould's realistic reaction - almost vomiting as Plummer laughs. The nearly headless corpse rolled up in carpet. Little touches in Plummer's performance. The way he touches his hair constantly, sauntering down. His hairy chest in the Chanel blouse. 


The Glove (1979)- decent TV-ish Canadian-funded LA-shot thriller - Rosey Grier has a studded metal glove. John Saxon is in narrator mode as the bounty hunter out to get him. On DVD with similarly average Vietnam-revenge-in-Toronto thriller Search and Destroy (1979), starring Perry King, Tisa Farrow being a waxwork of her sister essentially and George Kennedy.

The Snake-Woman (1961) - Sidney J. Furie b/w horror, an atmospheric but not very good colonial Victoriana with a sub-par cast, seemingly an influence on Hammer's the Reptile.   Double-billed with Furie's more fun Dr. Blood's Coffin.

The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (1977) - Larry Cohen's all-star CIA expose, almost an anthology of US political vignettes,  entertaining in its almost-Churchill's People sense of cramming it all in.

I Was A Teenage Frankenstein (1958) -  Threadbare average AIP B-monster fluff. Titular creature a well-spoken disfigured lad. It and I Was A Teenage Werewolf were united in semi-meta sequel How To Make A Monster the next year, with Gary Conway once again in makeup as the Frankenstein's Monster, again a normal kid with horrible makeup, but much better than that film. Michael Landon alas is nowhere to be seen.

 Also watched the fun Truck Turner (1974), though I'm not a big blaxploitation guy (Larry Cohen's efforts in the genre are occasionally enlivened by his trademark guerilla action work, but are otherwise well-done but token blax-gangster fare), it has an interesting cast, Isaac Hayes as the lead, Nichelle Nichols as a madam with a hooker called Colonel Sanders cos she's "finger-lickin' good", Scatman Crothers as a pimp and Yaphet Kotto being weird with a client named Joe Dante, a deliberate reference, as this was directed by Jonathan Kaplan, another Corman alumnus. Also saw JD's Revenge (1976), a fun gangster film masquerading as a horror, though the period stuff is ragged. May have been more interesting with a racist white gangster possessing the black lead.

 Watching Fog Island, the ultimate Old Dark House quickie, plus the similar Horror Island, the repetitive Gorilla Woman films, the surprisingly atmospheric Terror is a Man - which spawned a series of colourful but ultimately worthless colour Blood Island films, keeping its monster little-seen and mysterious unlike its sequels.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

More reviews -not all British but I'm not that loyal.

Been watching a couple of 70s horror indies, the slow, deliberate and kind of dated sorts of I Drink Your Blood (which has a fun twist ending), Messiah of Evil, and Let's Scare Jessica to Death, all in the same 70s style, though the latter two feel more like art dramas disguised as horrors. Then again, I'm not really a slow horror guy, I respect those sort of films, but they're not for me. I'm more excitement, gothic, creating a world, etc.
Also tried watching paedophile scumshit Victor Silva/Salva's Clownhouse - initially nice style, but too much leering on the young boys' bodies.
 Skullduggery (1970)- weirdo melodrama about missing links, the Tropis headed by Pat Suzuki as a  sort of cheesecake innocent female progeny of Dr. Zaius discovered by Burt Reynolds and sidekick Roger C. Carmel doing a Swedish Chef accent, in New Guinea, and Canadian-trying-to-be-English archaeologist Susan Clark.  Interesting plot. Are the Tropis human?   William "Blacula" Marshall plays a Papuan barrister. Chips Rafferty adds some Australian credibility as the old Ocker minister who tries to baptise the Tropis.  Eventually, Motown exec/actor Booker Bradshaw comes in as a stereotyped Black Panther who argues the Tropis are prototype-Caucasians as they have pink skin/straight hair (but are headed by a Japanese actress), then  touches Suzuki's doll/surrogate child, she goes mad and gets squashed by a bookshelf, leaving Welsh Hollywood vet Rhys Williams as the judge to mull whether they can be classified as human until we classify ourselves as human.  Tonally all over the place, very preachy, with a feel akin to the Ron Ely Tarzan or a Disney adventure, i.e. Reynolds mugging and taking mick of Papuan chiefs' jewellery clashing with subplots about rape and trying to sell Papuan tribeswomen into prostitution.

 Also realised the pervading horror styles of 1980-81,  One Dark Night (and its identikit brethren Mausoleum, though not the confusing slow-as-death itself slasher pair of Mortuary and Funeral Home), Fear No Evil, the Albert Salmi two-fer of Superstition and Burned at the Stake (he was also in Dragonslayer, which also features witch/virgin sacrifice), Evilspeak, Jaws of Satan - all similarly shot,  witchcraft, priests, demons, fire at night, and though Fear no Evil is rather excitingly shot, and there are elements of atmosphere to all, they are all one-time watches, all forgettable entertainments that try to go for weird for weird's sake Jodorowsky-style but are too pedestrian in other ways to be fully off-the-cinematic wall. Though not quite to the level of the nuts Oliver Reed vs giant snakes film Spasms, Fritz Weaver elevates Jaws of Satan, and it features a subplot about how the snake-related druid cult originated in Sligo. No, really.
I wonder with the likes of Canadian spooker Ghostkeeper (1981), does watching on NTSC VHS print contribute to the dullness. Though it maybe the slowness. Even Ghost Story (1981) had this problem, and that was a major release. And Class of 1984 had it, I think it is common in action films of the period, especially Canadian ones.
 Frightmare (1983)- not the Pete Walker classic, but Norman Thaddeus Vane's rather  Ferdy Mayne is good, but at odds with the 80s slasher aesthetic.

Highpoint (1982) - Awful action-comedy, not quite saved by the wonder of Richard Harris' Scouse accent.

Nikita (1990) - Crazy French "teen", resembling a sexy and mental Jimmy Krankie goes on warpath. Didn't quite capture my interest, because I found the titular French heroine annoying. 

The Yakuza (1974) - Slightly too dry Robert Mitchum goes to Japan thriller, needed Michael Winner to perk it up.  Then again I'm not really a man for private eye thrillers.

The Osterman Weekend (1984) - almost good but becomes impossible to follow conspiracy thriller, perhaps needed more international elements to keep it from being a boring LA news thriller, Ludlum/Peckinpah crossover. Lancaster and John Hurt good, Rutger Hauer his Rutgerish self. 
Also saw the to be avoided likes of Gallery of Horrors (1967, Lon Chaney, John Carradine, and 1960s USA posing as Victorian England and Scotland, with literally no changes to sets, accents, etc).

Wavelength (1983) - Boring conspiracy thriller. Robert Carradine saves alien kids from being holed up in a bunker. As exciting as it sounds.

Knife for the Ladies (1973) - Low budget late-era Bonanza-quality western with a Jack the Ripper-ish killer thrown in. Just a below-average 70s western with some gore.

The Baby (1973) - Like Knife, features Ruth Roman. Feels like an episode of Columbo when it isn't featuring a wet bloke dancing around in a romper with child's screeches dubbed over. Odd and oddly sweet ending. 

Blood Link (1982) - Forgettable Canadian-Italian telepathic twin nonsense with Michael Moriarty, Greystoner Geraldine Fitzgerald, and a nice soundtrack from Morricone.

Beyond Evil (1980) - John Saxon in "exotic" but rather pedestrian almost TV movie-level horror, like one of those boring Filipino tourist shockers like The Thirsty Dead or Daughters of Satan, without the actually exotic-looking locales.

Non-horror, watched Melvin and Howard (1980), which is a nice but rather unexciting rural comedy which isn't really about Jason Robards as a wild and crazy Howard Hughes, sadly, as that is just a cameo.

The Savage Innocents (1960) - ridiculous and not very funny (it's not supposed to be, but it is slightly unintentionally hilarious) Eskimo epic - yellowed-up Anthony Quinn discovers rock and roll and starts clicking along with his buck teeth.

These Are the Damned (1963) - Interesting Hammer SF, nice plot, but the protagonists are rather unlikeable, though Oliver Reed is menacing as the rocker gang leader.

13 Frightened Girls (1961) - William Castle does Disney, teen girl thriller, not very good, only interesting because of the rather odd fact the teen lead is in love with middle-aged father figure Murray "Mayor of Amity" Hamilton.

Bunny Lake is Missing (1965) - As a kid, I imagined this as an ultra-sensationalist weirdo mystery like an even schlockier Hammer psycho-thriller or a better spin on something like the soap opera-ish shenanigans of Picture Mommy Dead (1967), but it is a nicely made thriller, though Carol Lynley is slightly annoying.

The Liquidator (1966) - I've realised that I don't like 1960s spy movies much, even Connery's Bonds leave me cold bar Diamonds Are Forever.  Even though this has Eric Sykes and Shirley Bassey, and Rod Taylor as a British secret agent with a bad American accent.

Candy (1968)/Skidoo (1968) - the thing about these 1960s square celebrities-go-apeshit movies is that they are terrible movies that instead become works of art, pieces of social history, less films, but ultra-expensive embarrassing home videos-cum-variety shows. Though the Magic Christian (1969), like Candy featuring Ringo Starr, is unlikeable in its self-indulgence, no matter how many stars, and fun little vignettes it throws. And possibly Manson family aside, another reason why Roman Polanski stopped dating mature women, in the fear they'd all be Yul Brynner.

To Catch A Spy (1971)/Otley (1968) - Dick Clement can't direct spy films, because he doesn't know should he go full Clement and Le Frenais or full spy glamour. 

Also Permission to Kill (1975), promising but rather dull Euro-strollaround with Timothy Dalton, Dirk Bogarde and a post-Doctor Who pre-convention anecdote snorer John "Sgt. Benton" Levene, almost exactly like fellow Bogarde Euro-boreathon The Serpent (1973).

Loophole (1981) - Sheen and Finney in dull "can't believe it's not Euston" heist flick.

Also watched various episodes of 80s anthologies such as the late 80s Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Ray Bradbury Presents, Darkroom, the Hitchhiker, Tales from the Darkside, all with the same sort of "video-edited cable filler" feel, even those that don't have "tits" still feel like they are filler for softcore action, no matter how many good actors you throw. And even the Bradburies, no matter how many interesting ideas they throw, there's always an air of twee charming smugness. And 1970s mid-Atlantic anthology Anthony Quayle's The Evil Touch (1974) seems to be the same schtick of US "name" finding that Aussie people are either eccentric, murderous or just plain odd. 

Secret Ceremony (1968) - That awful Taylor woman who was married to Richard Burton and Mia Farrow were lesbian sort of adopted mother and daughter figures who go around England/Holland, in arty bobbins. "Mean" Robert Mitchum appears with a sort of British accent.

If its Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium (1969) - tedious "all-star" supposed comedy from when Hollywood thought they could make Ian McShane the next Michael Caine fails to raise a laugh, bar a joke where US tourists travelling through London gawp at US-themed casinos, Safeway and Woolworths and comment about how exotic they are despite having all three back home. An almost unrecognisably slim and youthful Dame Pat Routledge.  Produced by David Wolper and directed by Mel Stuart and the feel is astonishingly similar, the bus scenes one long version of the boat scenes, but with annoying sitcom level dialogue and  despite a parade of cameos, it lacks the madness.

Deathtrap (1982) - pleasing but rather overlong Caine vs Reeve Sleuth-alike, may have worked better as an one hour anthology play. Neat ending.

Also saw trailers for the too-OTT-for-its-own-good 99 and 44/100% Dead and Deadfall (1968 heist movie with Michael Caine, seems to be a prototype for all his boring pedestrian Sunday afternoon thrillers in the 80s, funded by dodgy Middle Easterner). 

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Review Roundup

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

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

The Unseen (1981) - Barbara Bach (before she became Barbara Bachhkkkeeeee (said in Scouse accent)) meets baby-monster. 80s slasher, sort of like a more evil, more straightforward The Baby (1973) if done as an episode of Brian Clemens' Thriller, with annoying eccentrics a la the Avengers, and a nice Michael J. Lewis score, which belongs to a better film. It features the Danish colony of Solvang, which is an interesting location, and sadly not enough is made of it. But it does have a bizarre chicken-used-as-a-torture weapon scene.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

My latest article - Fortean Times.

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

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

Find me on twitter @swmtdinnercast

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Bits and bobs


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

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

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

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

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

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

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