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.
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. 

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).

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.

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 ()

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Robbins? Robbins!

Recently watched a few Harold Robbins adaps.

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

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

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

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

Monday, 3 April 2017

My problem with Brazil.

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


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

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

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Journey to the Centre of the Earth 1989

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