Thursday, 19 April 2018

Cartoon telly euro-visions

Watched the Mr. Rossi features - insane, and gleefully unique. Mr. Rossi Looks For Happiness (1976) is the one with mad old people. With a dog-like anthropomorphised broom, yodelling, racist natives with bones in nose, spoofs of Snow White and Pinocchio, a singing tree trunk with duck backing singers coming out through, rocket houses, a Nautilius caravan called the Bickermobile that splits and is bulletproof.  A sun that looks like Ralph Wiggum. Non sequiturs cutting to ants.  Mr. Rossi's Vacation (1978) descends to funny animals in a panto version of AnimalFarm, then adds a fishing trip with the bait being a worm in snorkel, lots of "they always do that in the movies" fourth wall breaking, a  ghost ship/castle at sea.  Rossi and Gastone a proto-Wallace and Gromit.    Dreams of Mr. Rossi (1977), the least of the features is all magic carpets and Merlin-types. Inconsistencies - people think a talking dog is weird unlike the other films where it is a normal occurrence. 

Image result for mr rossi Agaton Sax - 70s cartoon, like a cartoon Edgar Wallace, animation style takes some getting used to, for those familiar with Quentin Blake.  Off-puttingly Scandinavian. CartoonLondon even looks like Stockholm. 
The Snow Queen (1967)  - Attractive Lenfilm musical, with talking  birds, land pirates, cartoon interludes, and a principal boy. Very visually interesting - 2-d cartoon snow monsters instead of the expected stop-motion. Shown by the BBC in 1970 in the usual Tales from Europe slot (narrated by Gary Watson, aka Arthur Terrell, one of the more useless Doctor Who baddies), and released in the US by Paramount.

The Very Same Munchausen (1975) - Mosfilm miniseries about the Baron, shows that Soviet fantasy was at its height in the 60s. By the 70s, it feels somewhat less insane, somewhat ordinary.

Operation Y and Shurik's Other Adventures (1965)/Kidnapping, Caucasian Style (1967)- A Mosfilm series of Soviet comedies, bright, attractively shot, inventive, brash but again they lose something in translation. The gurning and laboured slapstick becomes tired.

The Diamond Arm (1968) - From the director of the Shurik comedies, Leonid Gadai, apparently beloved in Russia, a sunny but not very engrossing heist comedy.

Private Detective or Operation Cooperation (1992) - Very odd comedy, dreamy, but the early 90s crumbling Soviet Union fascinates, gradually more open Western influences. Also by Gadai. Visually interesting, but as usual with Russian comedy, not much to laugh at that's intentional. Here, the hero looks alarmingly like a young Alexander Boris De Pfeffel Johnson.

 There's Good Weather in Deribasovskaya, It's Raining Again in Brighton Beach (1992) - Gadai film, set in the US, like a cross between The Master of Disguise and Les Patterson Saves The World, features a spoof of President Bush, and has footage shot at the Trump Taj Mahal, even thanking the grate man himself in the credits.

Teddy Bear (1980) - TVP Poland-associated film, a comedy involving wicker-like teddy bears, end is set in London with Polish-accented Englishmen.Jolly, but nothing more than a curio outside its own language.

The Seventh Bullet (1972) - An average spaghetti western - except it's Uzbek, by Uzbekfilm/Tajikfilm, and written by Andrei Konchalovsky.

Solaris (1972) - Visually rewarding but too long, and therefore an easy route up its own rectum.

Jan Nemec's Party on the Guests (1968) I found Pythonesque bollocks, while its director, Barrandov blacklisted Jan Nemec's other film Diamonds of the Night I found better, but still rather boring. Like an hour and ninety minutes of the B/W "secret footage" Tim recovered of Hitler in The Tomorrow People. I prefer much of the mainstream Czech cinema of the period to the New Wave (i.e. something great like Tomorrow I Shall Wake Up And Scald Myself With Tea).

Tried watching Walerian Borowczyk's films, and I find them some interesting stuff overshadowed by lots of erotic bollocks (including actual bollocks). Not quite my thing.

Season of Monsters (1987) - Miklos Jancso's Hungarian Robert Altman-alike, set amongst a town with a Nessie-like creature. Doesn't ever feel like it leads to anything. Lots of anger in a field, as a helicopter flies by. Turns into something resembling an Eastern European amdram version of the Bed-Sitting Room. The final shots are nice.
Jancso's films are weird. Some of it looks like a  spoof of Eastern European cinema, while his 1976 Italian coproduction Private Lives, Private Pleasures is a Playboy TV pick that echoes the work of smutmeisters like Tinto Brass, down to Teresa Ann Savoy in the cast. I seem to gravitate towards the more commercial side of Eastern European cinema, which is weird, but it doesn't aim for weird, and that's the best kind of weird - weird cinema that thinks it is normal. Watched a few of these. And my point seems to be proven. The Escape from the Liberty Cinema looked like an ep of Boon. Again, I seem to go for the commercial-weird. The Saragossa Manuscript a bit too Gilliamesque for my liking.

Sweet Movie (1974) - Features a vagina POV shot, a very cheesy, disturbing gameshow (what the show in Game of Danger could have been, but wasn't thankfully) and despite all the visual joy, e.g. the milk bottle, it's just too sleazy. If the Kroftt brothers made porn. Not even John Vernon and George Melly make it worthwhile. Lots of smacking and oiling. A very sticky movie.

I Even Met Happy Gypsies (1967) - A staid but rather truthful look at modern Romanis in Yugoslavia. Launched the career of Bekim Fehmiu, star of Harold Robbins' The Adventurers. Has a  pipe-smoking aul wan.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Black Lizard (1978) -  Kinji Fukusaku's strange drag queen criminal mastermind caper. For most of it, it's badly lit.  A sort of distaff Japanese Diabolik (played by famed drag queen Akihiro Miwa), and tonally all over the place.

Watched the Taviani Brothers' Kaos (1984), in tribute to Vittorio Taviani's recent passing. They're nice films, beautifully done, see also Night of the Shooting Stars and Padre Padrone, but they could almost be the other lives of people in wine/olive oil ads (many of which I believe stole from these kinds of films). Not quite my thing, maybe because I was exposed to too many such ads as a youth.
I call it the "Cinema Paradiso" Paradox.

Harry and Walter Go To Work (1976) - Gould, Caan, Caine, Keaton and Durning in very 70s, very glossy but empty caper. See also the Fortune (1975).

Assignment to Kill (1968) - Eurospy-ish thriller with Patrick O'Neal in Switzerland, very TV movie-level, sort of ITC-ish, reminiscent of early US TV movies like Istanbul Express or the Scorpio Letters or the Spy Killer or the theatrically released but similarly dull Feature Film Corp films like the Bamboo Saucer or Panic in the City. Joan Hackett an interesting choice as female lead, Gielgud and Herbert Lom make appearances. O'Neal not a good fit as hero.

Les Sedecteurs (1980) - Odd, otherwise nothingy Europudding anthology with Ugo Tognazzi, Gene Wilder (directing alongside Bryan Forbes, Dino Risi and Edouard Molinaro),  with video-burned credits and a rollerskating Wilder. The  Roger Moore/Forbes segment is set in a middle-class dream of Concorde, private castles, American heiresses and Tate and Lyle, To quote Simon Underwood, Do you think anyone ever told Bryan Forbes he was a massively heavy-handed, not particularly good filmmaker? Like the Naked Face (also by Forbes), one of Moore's more forgettable films. A lot of these nothingy pan-national romcoms were about at the time - A Touch of Class (1973), That Lucky Touch (1973), etc.

Shock Corridor (1962)- It's well-made, but Fuller's stuff doesn't really get me, apart from White Dog (1982). It's a sort of Southern noir, and that doesn't do me. And why is there random colour footage of mondo-style tribal footage? Some of the performances are hammy, but it feels like an episode of the Twilight Zone.

Verboten (1959)- Like Fuller directing an episode of Combat, or some other 60s war show. Tries to be realistic, despite the backlot sets.

Querelle (1982) - I admire the effort, it's a leather-bar melodrama shot like a 1950s musical. Lots of attractive sailors and strange artificial sets, buildings on coastlines that look like boats against boats.  I like the look but not the film.

Death Valley (1982) - Begins like a Cassavettes drama set in New York, then becomes a sub-Duel film. Wilford Brimley is sheriff. Little Peter Billingsley wears a cowboy hat. It's very TV movie, but then it was a mid-budget Universal release.

Cannonball (1976) - Very strange. I like Death Race 2000 in a sort of 70s Doctor Who way, and I like Private Parts (1972), but Paul Bartel I usually prefer as an actor.  This is no exception. It's almost as up its arse as The Cannonball Run, but lacks Roger Moore, and isn't as polished as that or the similar but better-constructed Gumball Rally.

Liquid Sky (1982)- Like Forbidden Zone, garishly ugly arty bollocks.

The Siege of Firebase Gloria (1989) - Though well directed by Brian Trenchard Smith, very rote Vietnam War fare beloved by dads.

Because of the Cats (1973) - Picturesque Dutch locations, an interesting but rather irritating Dutch giallo with Byran Marshall as Van Der Valk, a group of posho youths (including Mollie Sugden's boy Christopher Blake) wreaking havoc. Glam rock soundtrack by Hans van Hemert, the Dutch Shay Healy. Includes Sylvia Kristel and George Baker and Edward Judd!

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Watching the Picture of Dorian Gray (1945). Donna Reed doesn't bother with the accent. Weird to see people doing the Diddy Dick and Dom/Reeves and Mortimer Marvin and Otis heads on puppet bodies thing. As it goes into the present, it feels more American. Angela Lansbury (with a relatively undiluted accent) and George Sanders give it all they got, while Hurd Hatfield is convincingly British (then again, he was a bit of a West Brit).

The Nightcomers (1972) - Weird Winner touches (e.g. the kids acting younger despite being played by an early and a late teenager respectively), it looks very expensive, like a typical period drama so the kink is out of place. Brando channels his inner Richard Harris, and proves very capable in his performance as the typical Irish village idiot. The kite bit is very Children's Film Foundaation. What could have been a period plodder is well served by Winner's sensationalism. It feels like a dirty version of the Amazing Mr. Blunden, with Stephanie Beacham having sweet love with Marlon.  Seeing Brando pelted with arrows in an English bog is something. Is it a good film? It's well shot, and has a nice score, but it makes no sense. It's a bad idea, but it's so absurd, it entertains. And Thora Hird's in it.

Rewatching Hands of the Ripper (1971). It's weird. It's played almost too seriously for such a schlocky idea, but no, they do it as a tragic romance. The soft-focus and the stolen sets from Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Lynda Baron belongs in a different version of the same film. The ending is great, though. Still better than Demons of the Mind, and the vampire lesbian films of the era. However, it is almost a perfect translation of 1970s girls' comics in Britain, which were either about cursed young girls or Victorian waifs going through endless tragedy.

Scorpio (1973) - Better than I remembered. A slog at times, but the action is great. Almost a glimpse into what a Bond directed by Winner would have been like. The usual slack thriller tropes somehow feel energised with Winner.  One of the better Eurospy ventures. Realised that Winner perhaps should have directed Capricorn One. That film is too Altmanesque for my liking. Firepower (1979) doesn't hit anywhere, and I feel with Capricorn, an Englishman's eye on the Americana pomp may have helped.
Winner does get his sense of place, which is why I prefer Death Wish to the French Connection, Pelham 123, etc. Even if it has supposedly live TV footage shot on 35 mm film, and not videotape. But it has a small person manning a giant newsagent booth.

The Seven-Ups (1973) - The thing with 70s cop movies. I don't find the characters or plot interesting. But I like the locations. I like 70s New York in passing, because when there are films set within it, where it's centre stage, where people work, when it is in close-up, it loses its mystique, and it feels false. In car chases, e..g. in the French Connection, you see that New York, with real people, not staged extras. Though a lot of this footage gets samey, this is no exception. But I never feel for the characters. I wish that Alligator (1980) had at least shot in Chicago rather than faking it in New York, because it would have added character to the generic cop stuff.

Three The Hard Way (1976) - Jay Robinson's villain is wasted in this blaxploitation plodder. Yes, his plan is bigger than most blaxploitation - but instead of just killing all the blacks with a rare poison only African people are allergic to (which makes no sense  - what about light-skinned mixed race people), he should have turned them into literal brown sugar or something with a death ray.  The action is by Hal Needham, though, but it's TV movie-level lethargic.

Klondike Fever (1980) - Only an anachronistic studded cowboy hat worn by Rod Steiger and a few suspect food products some of the few (actually many) clues this is a Harry Alan Towers production, well that and the Moulin Rouge-themed club in Alaska. Relatively grand for a Towers of London "epic", with Lorne Greene (dressed as the First Doctor, astrakhan hat and all), Rod Steiger and Angie Dickinson supporting one-time Superboy Jeff East as Jack London. An early Vancouver movie (the future BC-shot genre TV regulars Michael Hogan and Blu "Jim in Huckleberry Finn" Mankuma" are among the actors alongside more familiar 70s Cancon regulars Gordon "Babar" Pinsent and Lisa Langlois as a teenage prostitute named Diamond Tooth Gertie). Rather dull despite some surprises.

The Looking Glass War (1969) - All-star spy thriller that literally wanders into the middle of nowhere. Cyril Shaps weirdly billed over Timothy West. Scorpio is better. Christopher Jones a dull lead. No wonder his career sank after it turned out post-Ryan's Daughter, he wasn't actually British, and had to be dubbed by Julian Holloway. Peter Finch was intended for the role of Leiser, Jones' character, who in the book is much older. The character of George Smiley is edited out of the script, but appears in the original LeCarre novel.

Golden Needles (1974) - Robert Clouse's post-Enter the Dragon vehicle, again with Jim Kelly and Roy Chiao, but added Joe Don Baker. Features mystical nonsense about accupuncture needles that renew youth and sexual vigour - features a house mysteriously torched down by figures in hazmat suits wielding flamethrowers. Elizabeth Ashley is annoying, plus she looks disconcertingly like an angry Lorraine Chase. But it's meandering and boring, even when it's "Darius Jedburgh in Hong Kong". He even drinks  Jameson. But the film takes too long, even when Ann Sothern as a madam gets finger-torture. Meredith is fun, but the film is too mainstream for its own good. The climax, a proto-parkour footchase is pretty epic, but it takes too long to get there. The ending is a bit of a cop-out, though. Remade a year later as the trashier but badly-constructed Cirio Santiago film Bamboo Gods and Iron Men, also by AIP.

Birdy (1984) - Tonally all over the place, at points Parker thinks he's directing Midnight Express again. A lot of moping about. I like some of the photographic composition, but then again I liked the look and feel of Angel Heart (1987), even though the film is DTV-level erotic nonsense behind the gloss.

We're No Angels (1989) - Despite being set and shot in Canada and the US, and with an almost all-American cast, it still feels like a Terrible Irish Film, what with Jordan directing, Ray McAnally, "Catholic humour",

Highway To Hell (1991) - Feels like it should have had a better budget, as the desert world of Hell feels too similar to the desert in the real world. Features Patrick Bergin as the Devil, the entire Stiller family (Ben as Atilla), Gilbert Gottfried as Hitler. It has some fun with the concept, and some intriguing visuals, but there's that 90s goofiness that permeates it and Chad Lowe's a feeble hero. Switch it with Kristy Swanson as the heroine, and it'd have been better. It feels a bit like a darker Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey. And someone calling himself Troy Tempest.

Been watching films like the flat Prizzi's Honor (1985 - it's not even beautifully shot like The Dead), Hoffa (great matte-work, and very artificial interior-exteriors too) - which I don't enjoy or am really interested in, but I watch them for the cinematography not the plot, and Oliver Stone's JFK (1991) and Nixon (1995). Just trying to seep in cinematography. The incessant flashbacks clutter up too much. They feel overlong and laborious, but they are ambitious.

And overlong but attractive pieces, namely  the 1981 double-bill Reds (not a big fan -the documentary bits muddy the waters) and the much richer Ragtime (RIP Milos Forman), which looks almost Fellini-esque at times. And it has the "million girls" song from the Simpsons "Princess Kashmir" episode. And Richard Griffiths as an American. And Jimmy Cagney in "young age" makup.  Bruce Boa billed over Jeff Daniels and Samuel L. Jackson. 

Tried Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), what the fuck are they going for? No wonder De Palma never appeals.

Sisters (1973) - Feels bland, like a lesser cover version of Paul Bartel's Private Parts. It feels kind of empty, halfway between exploitation rubbish and a nothingy Hollywood thriller. Points for a character called Milius. The faux-Canadian ending with a cow and a tractor at a railway station, and Charles Durning in callipers tied to a pylon with binoculars - at least that's not forgettable, unlike most of the film.The split-screen just confuses matters.

Cannery Row (1982) - Too alienating in its artifice, rather dry, feels like it's a hard-hitting drama set in Toytown. Audra Lindley (the American Yootha Joyce) is quite fun, though.

Private Benjamin (1980) - Almost TV movie-level in its backlot phoniness at times. Not much to say. Good for the genre it is in, but not my kind of comedy.

Tried watching Slaughter's Big Ripoff (1973), and bar the opening biplane assassination, it is nothing special. All the beats and humour segments - all almost identical. Slot in scenes, change actor or gender - and you'll get the likes of Hammer, Bucktown, Foxy Brown or Coffy, or Cleopatra Jones. And unless, shot in New York, a lot of them don't look particularly visually astonishing. Though Foxy Brown (1974) has a nice title sequence featuring Swindon's finest (Yes, Pam Grier was raised in England, being a USAF brat), and a nice castration punchline.

Watching the Hudsucker Proxy (1994). The design and the mattes fascinate me, and Roger Deakins' cinematography is lovely, but I find Tim Robbins annoying, because he's a bit Michael Crawford-ish in it.  It's basically Crimewave II - This Time, It's Better. The Raimi influence is visible.  Probably the Coens' best looking film. Barton Fink and Miller's Crossing look good, but this looks different.

The Freshman (1990) - Bits of it sparkle, and Broderick is relatively appealing for someone who once killed two ladies in Fermanagh, although Brando is almost too good that it hurts it - because he's not like the Godfather. He IS THE Godfather. Maximillian Schell, Jon Polito, Paul Benedict and Bruno Kirby are all good. It's a rather generic comedy that goes very strange towards the end, but it works. It goes from sweet generic teen romance to komodo dragon smugglers,  and Jon Polito (I miss Jon Polito) and Richard Gant as undercover agents. The idea of an expensive feast of endangered animals is brilliant -almost Roald Dahl level genius.  One of the few US mainstream comedies I've seen that hits my sweet spot, maybe as it's about film students. They even have a Gwendoline poster on the wall. More engaging than My Cousin Vinny (I'm not a fan of courtroom stuff per se - I find it viusally unstimulating, even though I like Witness for the Prosecution but that's Laughton!). 
And something like Throw Momma From The Train (1987), it's alright, but it's a little sweetened, though the storybook ending is ironic.

Was going to check out the other weird comedy Brando did - Free Money (1999), a Canadian thing by Yves Simoneau whose films I've seen (Pouvoir Intime, In The Eyes of The Dragon and the Robbie Coltrane vehicle Perfectly Normal) and were kind of forgettable. But it looks like an erotic thriller from the time.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Deadly Sweet (1967) - Murder in a London of dancing businessmen, Lon Chaney Jr posters on hip pad walls, and beautiful continental people.  Tinto Brass' truly schizophrenic giallo, impossible to understand, follow and really enjoy, despite cameos from Janet Street Porter and Dave Prowse (yes, really). Cuts from stock footage of Israel and Korea to swinging London doesn't work. The soundtrack is great, though. Saw this years ago and the tune still stuck.

Are the Groove Tube and Tunnel Vision too tatty to be funny.... I love Amazon Women on the Moon and like Kentucky Fried Movie, but the others feel amateurish, almost like college jokes.

Over The Edge (1979) - Youth on the rampage movie, though excellently directed by Jonathan Kaplan, the way it goes from Disney kids into The Warriors does take some use to. The characters are annoying, but that may be deliberate. It feels almost post-apocalyptic, so convincingly barren is the new town of New Grenada. A well-made film, though. And the ending packs a punch.

The Man Who Laughs (1928) - Universal silent, the silent horror seems almost more inclined to panto than anything we know as horror (because the first modern horror was Dracula in 1931, obviously).  Things like the 1920 Golem feel almost like magic shows. The Man Who Laughs is this big slice of ham, admirable, and enjoyable. Everyone looks washed out. And lots of silly wigs, which is always a good thing. Conrad Veidt is great.

Phantom of the Rue Morgue (1954) - Karl Malden in strange adaptation of Poe, a colour cash-in on House of Wax, again in 3-D. Looks good, but the same old tosh. Though the trampoline-using climax in a zoo is well-staged.

The Magician (2916) - Like the Golem, featuring Paul Wegener (but directed by Irishman Rex Ingram, with assistance by a 21 year old Michael Powell), a US production shot in Paris., based on a Maugham roman a clef of Aleister Crowley. Something of a sentimental melodrama in occultist drag. Nice lab sets, though.

The Unholy Three (1930) feels more like vaudeville than anything, even when it leaves the circus (Chaney really reminds me of Stanley Baxter).

Bluebeard (1972) - Utterly confused as to what it is, is it a Dr. Phibes knockoff, a sweeping period epic a la Nicholas and Alexandra, or some sort of quasi-steampunk period romp, or is it a sex comedy? It feels lacking, it's not daft enough. It's ludicrous, but it doesn't feel grounded. It's overlong, goes from place to place, and the death scenes make it look particularly like the cheap Euro-horror it really is, despite all the gloss. Plus the structure forces it to be very bitty.  It feels quite similar to Paul Morrissey's two Andy Warhol-sponsored horror pics, more opulent than the typical Euro-horror, but beneath all the glitz, still the same old tosh. Burton tries his best.

A lot of 70s animated shorts, Crunch Bird, the nonsensical Further Adventures of Uncle Sam and 2000 Year Old Man and some later Chuck Jones feel and look like Schoolhouse Rock. Somehow, the similarly handdrawn likes of the NFB's intriguing dragonfuel parable Blowhard manage to avoid thus style and actually be unique, a lot less scratchy.

The Bronswik Affair (1978) - A partly animated documentary about television.

Summer Legend (1986) - Prime NFB edutainment, based on First Nations myth. See also the similarly worthy but rather unmemorable Lucretia, Blackberry Subway Jam and The Eskimo Legends series, though the latter were by the talented puppeteer Co Hoedeman, behind the  the impressive variety act of Marianne's Theatre, the Ludovic Bear shorts, 55 Socks and the cutesy La Boite. .

Paradise (1984) - Basically a NFB-sponsored music video for the Lonely Shepherd by James Last. Lots of nature and birds.

The Necktie (2008) - Very French-Canadian short, reminiscent of the work of Adam Elliot. Accordion animation is fun.

The Balgonie Birdman (1991) - NFB true story, about early flying, voiced by a man who sounds like Angela Lansbury.

Invasion of the Space Lobsters (2005) - Interesting design (fried egg-flying saucers!) but marred by being made on Flash, see also the poignant Uncle Bob's Hospital Visit (2008).

The Wanderer (1988) - A weird painted b/w western - more art than plot. Lots of shapeshifting.

Watched the Tex Avery-esque NFB Emergency Numbers (1984), the Oirish Hudden and Dudden and Donald O'Neary (1978, narrated by prolific Canuck cartoon voice Walter Massey) and the uncanny valley 1991 enterprise The Lump (see also the similarly disconcerting Madame Tutli-Putli and the CGI blur-heavy stop motion of the Hungry Squid). Most of these are part of the NFB series Canada Vignettes alongside the Log Driver's Waltz, Logger, Spence's Republic, the fun little Catapult Canada and the historical caricatures Fort Prince of Wales and Lady Frances Simpson (about the transport of a piano through the Atlantic), and a mix of documentaries and Jackanory-type stories (e.g. Port Royal and Onions and Garlic) and profiles covering such topics as the Welsh-esque mining choirs of Cape Breton.

Watched the tragic Ryan Larkin's wonderful montage Walking (1968), the beautiful morphing of Street Morphing (1972) and the troll-like nude of  1966's Syrinx.

Shyness (1996) - Probably the best alternative Frankenstein thing I've seen - a spoof from the NFB where a shy monster named Trevor is created, and the doctor and his sidekick try to communicate via sock puppets. He falls in love, but his creators ensure he may come back - his batteries only last a month. Similar to the NFB's Spinnolio - where the puppet is well-behaved, because he never moves, so he fails PE, but is rewarded for his cool head.

Taa Tam (1995) - Visually interesting but rather lacking thing about dreadlocked blue tribespeople. More suited to a title sequence. 

Bossa Bop (1974) - NFB proto music-video, with dancing, painted figures with no faces.

Boy and the Snow Goose (1984) - Charley Says-meets-anime style story about a boy who nurses a snow goose. Like a nicer cartoon adaptation of Kes.

Pies (1984) - A homely, almost fuzzy-felt style NFB short about prejudice. Kind of preachy, but a nice twist (they'e both immigrants!).

The Reluctant Deckhand (1969) - Very Vancouver animation that is very wholesome but kind of Uncanny Valley, like a more realistic Charley Says style.
Brain Donors (1992) - there's a good cast (though Bob Nelson's speaking Harpo is a bit annoying). Initially it seems unsure how close should it follow the Marx Brothers. How did John Savident get into this? Though Mel Smith and John Turturro singing Alfie - well that's something. The duck hunt scene too. But the Will Vinton titles and end credits are so good - a stop-motion version may have worked better. But then I realised the version I was watching was mostly Russian. So I watched the English version. "No dogs! I used to be a chef in a Korean restaurant!"  "She's twice the man you are!" "We're their twin brothers! You'll never see us together! We're the same women!" "Jackson Pollock Jr, Son of Roy Litchenstein!". Lots of good lines. But I can see why it flopped.

Spasms (1983) with Oliver Reed and Peter Fonda indulging in ESP with snakes seems promising, the port stuff and the initial daytime roaming about Canadian mansions is attractive, better shot than a lot of Canadian stuff, the locations are picturesque unlike the typical brutalist architecture of Montreal, but then it kind of loses something despite UNIT-like chaos with soldiers and stuff. It doesn't know what it is. It seems that the budget was cut. The much-hyped Dick Smith effects are barely seen.

Celia (1989) - Weird, arty, unsettling possibly for other reasons - like a kids' TV version of the Company of Wolves (with creepy monsters) via Blue Remembered Hills (with actual kids and not Colin Welland, Poldark, Helen Mirren, Michael Elphick, Character Actor Colin Jeavons, Janine Duvitski and one of the Johns running about being stupid). A bit too arty and ponderous for its own good.

Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959) - Gary Cooper, Charlton Heston and Richard Harris appear in this rather hokey Mid-Atlantic maritime potboiler, lots of tilting and boring courtroom stuff, why Hitchcock turned it down. Harris' Northern accent goes from Lancashire to Limerick to Limehouse. Despite being an MGM British production, for coproduction reasons, partly shot on the MGM Hollywood backlot, even though most of it shot in Britain to claim Eady money.

Morgiana (1972) - Attractive but melodramatically nonsensical gothic horror from Morgiana - Czech and Eastern European period horror of the 70s seems so much more refreshingly different than British period horror of the era. It doesn't feel stagey or tired, like most of the post-Hammer stuff. This is Gainsborough stuff, but it's shot with fish-eye lens and over-stylised designs, and the Bulgarian beach locations look appealingly apocalyptic. but then it goes even stranger than your typical giallo - with weird 3-D blue and red tints.  Luboš Fišer's score's nice. It does feel quite similar to some of the Italian stuff, It then goes a bit nun-centric. RIP director Juraj Herz. Also behind the Cremator (1969), a quite haunting if almost incomprehensibly darkly-lit version of Beauty and The Beast (1978), and the wonderfully weird carnival fantasy Devate Srdce/Ninth Heart (1978) - about a wizard stealing hearts of children. The Ninth Heart is quite atmospheric and charming, a la Vampire Circus via Silas via the Amazing Mr. Blunden plus melting villains.
Czech kids' films seem to be free of schmaltz, and often have surrealistic animated title sequences. They're not Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre, which due to their tendency to cast the likes of Peter MacNicol and Mary Steenburgen as children, feel like they are secretly being orchestrated by Dennis Potter. Plus they often feel like they want to please the parents more - though Francis Ford Coppola's shot on video/CSO Rip Van Winkle seems to be a sort of homage to Jackanory Playhouse). And despite Lee AND Price, The Boy Who Left Home To Find Out About The Shivers is not as good as the Storyteller's version - Fearnot, even though Henson's series could be a bit soft, the effects were brilliant and the performances solid (unlike the rubbish Greek Myths followup). Peter MacNicol was by now out of his Dragonslayer phase,  while Reece Dinsdale still was kind of boyish without being disturbing. Plus, The Storyteller (despite French and Saunders' performances) wasn't as jokey. Faerie Tale Theatre is basically American panto via off-Broadway.

The Last Unicorn (1982) - The anime styles of Topcraft are impressive but cutesy. Mia Farrow and Alan Arkin's performances are kind of flat. Arkin is clearly trying to play the role as seriously as he can. Tammy Grimes sounds like Glynis Johns.

Watched some NFB. Despite a promising idea, 1963's The Great Toy Robbery is not a proto Toy Story but an animated western with added Santa, while three year old me would have loved the diggercentric 1967 construction themed short What On Earth... Now... To watch more Bob Godfrey..

Godfrey's stuff, yes, some of it is great (Small Talk is one of the most London things I've ever seen), and some of it is unfunny sex nonsense, but it's better crafted than the aggressively ugly likes of Stressed Eric, Crapston Villas, Bromwell High, Monkey Dust, Mr. Hell, aggressively ugly, and not in a Kricfalusi way, more a stained underwear Robin Askwith way. Godfrey's work still has that sexcom feel, that grim knickers vibe. You can see that he influenced Gilliam. Wicked Willie is rather obnoxious, but he is a cock.

From penises to Pele Pelican - the Sterling Holloway-voiced Winnie the Pooh-like peg-legged host of Hanna-Barbera's 1982 special We Think the World is Round - with anthropomorphic ships and a camp, lisping sea serpent - an interesting educational musical with Cesar Romero in voice and in likeness as the Santa Maria, one of Columbus' ships.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice (1980) - Vincent Price-narrated Canadian short - pretty folk adaptation, if a bit staid. Very Canadian, in its educational status and ligne claire-type animation.

The Fly (1968) Kafka-type short involving a man facing a giant fly that crashes through a wall, as the universe expands. Attractive if incomprehensible, from Zagreb film.

Mr. E from Tau Ceti - a Soviet Astro Boy from the 50s - cutesy but very strange, dubbed by Americans. Educational too, so random cuts to a naked man screaming on a planet.

Watched a lot of these on Jerry Beck's recommended youtube page - full of rarities, from Hayley Mills-hosted poetry readings by the likes of June Foray to Joop Geesink's Phillips Dollywood stop-motion shorts and the rather odd sort-of-trying to be hip Czech-made Gene Deitch Nudnik shorts to Chuck Jones' dance sequence The Tool Box, which is just stop-motion animations of dancing pencil compasses and the barely animated Wacky World of Numbers, and the fun How To Live With A Neurotic Dog (a more refined UPA-style Deitch-drawn public information film about dogs narrated by Arthur Treacher). Also the work of Filmation/Belvision director Paul Fennell's 30s Minitoons (which look like cartoons, but then turn out to be ads for the likes of Shell!), and various obscrutieis from every studio - Van Beuren's adap of the Little King, Terrytoons' Elephants, some Felix the Cat, the Universal Pooch the Pup, Private Snafu, and Van Beuren's Jolson spoofing Croon Crazy.

 Mr. Winkle Returns (1954) - General Mills ad, nicely animated with some ill-fitting deep voices for cutesy characters.

Beauty Shoppe (1954)  - English monkey and his grandsons put makeup on animals. Charming Ub Iwerks short.

The Itch (1965) - Paramount Modern Madcap, voiced by Hermione Gingold and Deputy Dawg. Set in a weird version of London with green buses (actually correct - if you've seen On The Buses, you'll know this). It is about a henpecked Richard Bucket-type with wings, has a very strange view of UK TV, is pleasingly odd. The Ringading Kid, another ModernMadcap is a more typical jokey cowboy thing.  However, this era of Paramount also gave us the minimalist the Trip (1967) which is very NFB-ish and about big whirry computers, andthe  UPA-ish all-white humans (white clothes, white fingers, white nose, white hair, everything) of Swifty and Shorty.

Three Bears (1939) -  Terrytoons, a wobbly, zany spin on Goldilocks with an added hunter. Not as good as Tex Avery's spins, but with its own weird charm. Not to be confused with the Chuck Jones version.

The Cask of Amontillado (1978) - A Poe reading for Encylopaedia Britannica, illustrated by still drawings. Nice drawings but very much edutainment.

Also saw  UPA's very strange, deliberately unattractive The Unenchanted Princess, weird amateur efforts like The Good, the Bad and the Furry (a spaghetti western with bigfoot), Hanna-Barbera's Les Kaluza's Potpurri (a 55 second pen drawing) and Saul Bass/Disney associate Evind Earle's Bass-esque western Death and Sunrise A lot of Ub Iwerks, like MGM/Iwerks' Willie Whopper - a weirdly annoying Archie-type kid, with lots of weird visual gags - and one scene with Poseidon rising out in front of a ship that surely influenced Harryhausen.   Some, like Terrytoons' Popcorn look like every other 30s cartoon, lots of skeletons, hippos, ghosts and weird unspecified vaguely mouse-like animals.   Columbia's Scrappy character of the late 30s/early 40s has the feel of an Our Gang short with added child violence (they get weird - Holidayland is Gullivers Travels with an added baby factory and a dog being turned into a hose feature).
Republic Pictures' cartoons seem to trade in racial stereotypes with their Jerky Journeys though The Three Minutes look like a living western paperback cover.
The Cuckoo IQ from Columbia is educational, teaching us trivia that the peanut is not a nut, while their Carpenters is a typical slapstick exercise involving three idiots. Columbia's Pickled Puss on the other hand is the more barefaced 40s Tom and Jerry knockoff imaginable.

Terrytoon's Dead End Cats (1947) seems to be a typical Tom and Jerry knockoff until Mighty Mouse appears. Terrytoons are very funny animal-heavy, and I find funny animals on their own annoying. You need jokes or genius to make them work. Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck work because they are characters, not animals. 60s Terrytoons like Flebus or Gadmouse seem to be trying to create new characters, who just don't register. Then again, some characters who annoy have huge fanbases - look at Woody Woodpecker. But their more experimental Terrytoons like the Karloff-narrated minimalist monastery Juggler of Our Lady are very experimental - almost on a  National Film Boardf Canada level, and they're in Cinemascope, so they are very minimalist and wide-shot.

Gag and Baggage (1952) is a Harveytoon (I haven't seen much Harveytoons bar the odd Casper, obviously)   it's very subDisney, singing trains and funny animals. Famous/Harveytoons from what I know are sub-par, anyway, an attempt to fill the gap left by Fleischer.

Marty the Monk (1931) - an ultra-obscure storybook monkey character. Mixes some live-action artists a la Gertie the Dinosaur. Music by a pseudonymous Carl Stalling, of Looney Tunes fame. Very one-note.

Petroushka(1956) - Paul Frees-narrated Stravinsky ballet short/proto music video, a passable imitation of UPA by UPA's own John Wilson, who did the animation for Grease, despite being based in Lancashire.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Anguish (1986) - A  stylish but confusing slasher (WTF is Michael Lerner doing in this?)  - a grim slasher with a meta-subplot. Demons (1985) is a sloppier but more fun spin on the same idea (Rambo kid!).   Directed by Bigas Luna, whose Reborn (1981) is similar, an interesting Catholic thing made uninteresting with flat direction and trying to be a straight drama, despite Michael Moriarty and Dennis Hopper as a televangelist.

Zeder/Return Of The Dead (1982) - Attractively produced alt-zombies set in a holiday camp, by Pupi Avati whose House With the Laughing Windows is hailed as one of the best gialli because it's a period piece a little more classy but still as nonsensical as your typical Euroschlock. This feels like an episode of Chateauvallon. The zombies aren't gut-munchers, just videotaped footage of dead middle-aged blokes doing a Max Headroom, in most cases.

Mad  Adventures of Rabbi Jacob (1974) - Set in  a very strange version of 70s New York full of French urchins playing baseball... Quite madcap, people falling into baskets, comedy car chases,  men whacking fish with umbrellas, while on a car phone in the rain, in a river. Culture-clash comedy involving an identity swap where a gangster takes on the identity of a New York rabbi. Possibly the most gunge-heavy film I have ever seen. Quite silly, and broad, but that's the French for you. It might lose something in translation. Director Gerard Oury behind Ace of Aces and The Brain, has the action of the former, and the silliness of the latter.
Le gendarme et les extra-terrestres (1979) - Again, like Rabbi Jacob, more Louis De Funès. The popular French comedy series adds a Mork-like alien. Quite pleasing, well-made and joyfully silly, but again one wonders what it loses in translation. The end resembles an episode of It's A Knockout, with a parade against a fake floating flying saucer used as bait at a quay. Has Lambert Wilson as an alien. Has lots of doppelgangers, androids with banging metal noises and a water fight. It's that kind of live action cartoon. De Funès also appeared in the similar Cabbage Soup a year later - featuring aliens from the planet Oxo. After a while, French slapstick can get wearing.

La Grande Vadrouille (1966)- More Oury/De Funes, attractive but to an English audience, despite Terry-Thomas, utterly nonsenscal wartime farce.

Island of Lost Souls (1932). I usually find 1930s films samey, but because it has a different structure unlike any other Moreau adap, which maybe why it is the best, and Charles Laughton is... well Charles Laughton. And the sets are extraordinary. And the Beast-Men, even Lugosi do feel like real creatures, almost like sideshow freaks that Tod Browning turned down for being too strange. Using a set rather than some  attractive but not grotesque enough island helps.  In a lot of cases, Early cinema is so much different from later post-1950s cinema. Reminds me a lot of early television, it's still quite a stagey, it's almost a different medium. Lost Souls is somewhere between mondo documentary and pantomime. It feels primal, like a circus freakshow. It would have lost something in colour. Then, it would have felt like some stagey fantasy like Dr. Cyclops or The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T, and felt a different kind of kids' TV show weird.

Lady In A Cage (1964) - An effective idea Olivia De Havilland trapped in a lift in her house so there's no shaft and she just sees James Caan wrecking the place. But for most part, it feels very TV - the characters are unconvincing juvenile delinquents and it's all surprisingly grim with a shocking ending that you probably couldn't achieve if it were  an episode of Hitchcock Presents, with all the extras and cars.

Frankenstein 1970 (1958) - A nicely produced opening turns out to be a swizz - it's a film - better produced than most quickies of the period - still fairly routine - Frankenstein with Karloff now as the Baron and lots of big computers with reels going one way and then turning back another. The monster as usual doesn't get out until the final five minutes, and is entirely bandaged - so a Number One in the Prisoner ending can be used, also to save on makeup or bothering to do something that isn't the Karloffian design. "Hey, we can't use the old Universal design. Well, let's just have him look like Karloff then!"

Dr. Renault's Secret (1942) - Routine gothic nonsense with George Zucco, handsomely mounted. George Zucco a convincing depiction of a monkey man rather hilariously named Noel, but it is all rather padded. Paired with the excellently shot if rather old hat The Undying Monster (1942) on original release.

The Last of Sheila (1973) - Nice, agreeable mystery, more like watching people at a dinner party on the Continent, or Lovejoy - the Early Years. Reminds me of Sleuth (1972), a film I feel I should like more, but find the characters awful.
Watching And Then There Were None (1945)again - Fitzgerald  is Fine Gael incarnate - predates so many Irish politicians - hiding villainy behind his typical leprechaunish role (which spawned Oirishness in the same way that costar Richard Haydn spawned a host of copycat butlers - his voice is imitated in dozens of US cartoons), the idea it's all a front - like a lot of these refined bodycount thrillers, unlike perhaps slashers, you became so wrapped up in the party going on, you lose track who's actually dead or alive. Apart from the Old Dark House, all other Old Dark House-lite films pale into comparison.

Gorlla at Large (1954) - Colourful if derivative Kong/Rue Morgue hybrid with Cameron Mitchell (with dyed golden hair), Anne Bancroft, Raymond Burr, Lee Marvin and Lee J.Cobb. Lots of circus act padding. The gorilla stuff is fun, but it's a pretty routine 50s "colour crime movie" (it's the sort of film Steven Penny wanted to make in Crime Wave).

Watched Werewolves on Wheels (1971 - duff biker nonsense), Slap Shot (1977 - I like the setting but it feels a bit sad seeing Paul Newman in such an uncouth comedy - it feels more expensive and glossier than it should be), noir/western hybrid Thunder Road (1958 - not my type of film, but interesting).