Tuesday, 22 May 2018

5 exc/ Carry Ons

All The Marbles (1982) - Robert Aldrich's last film, a flat, TV movie-like tonally-all-over-the-place comdram with Peter Falk and Burt Young struggling to hold the thing together, but the female wrestlers, especially Laurene Landon are kind of flat. Nice exterior cinematography (including a freight train carrying hatchbacks!), but disappointing. Could almost be a pilot.

Killer Elite (1975) - Pretentious Peckinpah action film (i.e. random cuts to a bird's nest during an explosion), despite having Tom Clancy (not the writer, but the Clancy brother) in a good, solid performance as a CIA exec (his accent slips - is his character supposed to be American, Irish-American or educated Ivy League educated Tipperary farm boy) and ninjas. It's overlong, tries to be about something,  spends too much on James Caan trying to walk again. Could barely make an hour into it. Overlong, drab, pretentious and just... arrgh...

Tales That Witness Madness (1973) - Even the strangeness of the stories cannot prevent this pedestrian anthology from going anywhere more than lacklustre. Despite Freddie Francis directing, it feels cheap and telly-like, and it is free of the charm and construction of the Amicus films. It lacks the fun of Asylum.

Nasty Habits (1977) - A deaf-eared Watergate spoof, all shot in England, hence Fair City's Oliver Maguie as the Irish-American cop. Confused farce. Sandy Dennis is fun, a live action Bugs Bunny if there ever was one.

Tried listening to the CBS Mystery Theatre radio adaptation of Dracula from the 1970s. But it is awful. Elderly Mercedes McCambridge as "Menna" Harker, everyone with American accents, "Lucy Westeynre", it's like bad dinner theatre.
See also the Showtime taping of Frank Langella as William Gillette's Sherlock Holmes in 1981. Stephen Collins as a toff, Tom Atkins as a Ron Pember-ish Cockney, Christian Slater as an Australian-accented Billy the Page Boy (ironic as his best role would be as a literal "Junior Watson" in The Name of The Rose), all kinds of awful.

Been doing a Carry On rewatch of the films I either never really saw.
Follow That Camel (1968) - Its weak, partly because it is very similar to the spotty Up the Khyber. Heatherdenn House again. It's like a less good Last Remake of Beau Geste (and not just because it has no granda in it). And Silvers feels completely out of place, completely anachronistic even moreso than the actual regulars. The village stuff looks very ITC, though the desert stuff does look much bigger budget, and the matte of the hotel is glorious. But it's not all that funny, and Bluthal is wasted, yet outshines everyone in his few scenes.
Carry On Cowboy (1966) I never got because the stars feel stifled by their false accents. I am not a westerns fan per se. Ironic that Percy Herbert had just been at the same time doing an actual Western series, Cimarron Strip. Pertwee looks like Pat Ingoldsby (an Irish only ref, there). And his death scene he plays exactly like his regeneration. "Garbage - it's a load of rubbish". But it tries too hard. It might have been better if not a Carry On, made in America or at least Spain, ten years later, when Dale was in America. Angela Douglas' accent is barely there, and the farm sets look more Irish than anything.
Don't Lose Your Head (1966) is an okay Scarlet Pimpernel spoof, but proves that the 'Ons hit their stride when they realise present day settings and resembling films of non-existent ITV sitcoms are the key. The theme tune is fun (by my one-time neighbour Phil Coulter).
Emmannuelle (1978) I just watched recently, beyond the titles, having got the box set. And God! It feels like a bad imitation of all those Euro-sex comedies. Bits of it don't look like a film. The bits where they for padding reasons tell us their sexy encounters, with Ken Connor stripping and having an affair with the Closet Queen of Camden Town and narrating looks like a rude banned ad campaign for a lager. The naked skydiving bit, WTF?

Krakatoa - East of Java (1969) - Notorious because of an inaccurate title, a strange B-list attempt to create an epic with a cast of B-list character faces headed by Maximilian Schell and featuring ageing Joe Meek protege John Leyton as Token Brit inventor type, a confusion of plot ideas, with Barbara Werle as a Maria Von Trapp type, and a strange mood between 50s exotica and 70s disaster movie and featuring non-diagetic musical numbers despite not bing a musical. A slog, though the effects by Eugene Lourie are actually pretty good, in a  Thunderbirds manner. And there's some weird hallucinogenic nightmare sequences that Brian Keith suffers from that turn him rapey. It tries to be about five things at once. Family musical, disaster movie, thriller,  steampunk adventure movie, and melodrama. Apart from Schell, Rossano Brazzi and  Sal Mineo and Brian Keith's John Wayne impression, the film's performances are underpowered, unmemorably hammy, and not in a good way. The likes of Diane Baker fade into the canvas of the artificial Cinecitta surroundings.  No wonder RTE constantly showed this.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Stuff I came up with as a child.

Found a load of old stuff I wrote as a child.  Student astronauts sent on a deadly mission to catch a giant rampaging Rupert Bear on a space station. Involves lightspeed engine fuel, and the silly McDay and Alexander the Disco Glitter Sock saving Ecologist Edwina Fawshimer from the station breaking apart.

Prof. Douglas and starship JSOCX1 have to journey into Rupert with ropes, pulling themselves into him to stop A MAGNETISED COMET creatures from the planet Nutty, chicken monster in carbonite shells that shout, "You're a darn nutcase!" 

The morbid, dark-suited yet fat Alice thought she was dead, and proud of it. "I'm dead" Long live myself.

McDay says, "How are you my sock? We are going to swing down!"

Ends with a mention of the underground tombs of the planet Selinop, where they worship Boney M...

Another - The Scottish cleaner at the tourist office saw a wonderful picture of a penguin and decided to put on a silly high-pitched voice to imitate a penguin. A gigglesome child was curious, and asked Bernie, "Is it cold in the Arctic?" "It is to you, but not to me!"

"I'm haunted!" an afraid woman cries. "You've been shamed!" cries the man."You've been shamed!" cries the man.

Another - Miss Marple in London warned by the St. Mary Mead prophet newspaper that voodoo blood clouds cause zombies. 

Characters speak like. "I'm 20. My dad is 59." 

Greg Preston (yes, name from Survivors) is a rehumanised zombie, who drives a tractor. Normal human blood kills zombies. Zombies stomp pumpkins and withstand stinging nettles, ride rollercoasters, and visit sci-fi TV exhibitions in Blackpool.  Marple defeats the zombies by removing the brain of the radioactive pulsating, Blackpool Tower-dwelling Head Zombie. The zombies die. She goes back to Mary Mead. 

Sandra Montserrat, daughter of the cricketer leaves.

Another page long glorified synopsis - The Queen Elizabeth II Mysteries, her Maj being a consulting 'tec at Scotland Yard, saving Prince Harry from a shark in his pool.

Philip calls her Betty. "I only felt that he was a nice meal." the shark says. 

"He's third in line." adds HM. 

"Anne'd be a nice queen. Pity she's not in line." the shark adds. 

"Have you digested Harry?" asks Philip.

"I have his spotty freckles, his persona, and his hair. I'm Harry the shark.

Prince Charles and his crusty face is disappointed as he can't find a golden limited edition television plug. The shark then eats Charles and Camilla.

The Queen asks why. The end. 

Also found a story - barely started, the Man in the Mirror - an attempt at Tales of the Unexpected. An old gold frame, and a shining mirror that reflected the world around it. It was glistening. It was very old. A face carved into the top of the  gold, like a mask, owned by a cowboy-mad pub landlord called Hank, who runs a "Cowboy Saloon". He died in a state of grit and grim and grot, in a local cinema, watching a Clint Eastwood film, murdered by the tall, slim man behind the projector. The man would inherit the mirror, and then have pressure on him to sell it, except he doesn't, so he gets a sculptor to make the mirror. 

"Uh oh, a squalid shopping quarter in Yorkshire is where we are." said the stranded Canadian astronaut. 

His girlfriend saw a cow. "I'm allergic to pork."

"I don't know. Just put on my helmet to be safe."

The cow headbutted both astronauts and broke down the doors of the barn, as the ship, which had crashed through the roof, blew up.

Another routine.

"Today, we shall interview Jesus Christ." said the smiling vicar cum TV presenter. A glowing man, in an armchair, with long, unwashed hair spoke with an amount of power. 
"I did create the Earth, but Earth's people evolved from apes."

"No, they didn't. You're not Jesus Christ."

"I am Jesus Christ. From Sheffield." 

Only Fools and Horses even got the treatment with the episode idea Hookie Street Nightmare - where Del Trotter's death is prophesised by a vicar. Raquel tells Del, "I heards a vicar predicted your death." "Me dead, no, for I am indestructible. Rodney, so is..."   Del uses the interweb and finds a secret society of monks with a branch in Peckham, using a computer to predict the future, and Del joins them to make his future secure. Rodney doesn't want to join the Freemasons, but Del tells him they're "astrologists with computers. You know computers. We should join."  Boycie arrives and jokes that Marlene's in a secret society - the Peckham Housewives Guild, and wants them not to be in this superstitious nonsense. They're based at the Nag's Head, as Mike the Landlord thinks they're bachelors. And they use a giant calculator, programmed with knowledge from both present and past to give out knowledge. The Societ turn up with rifles, trying to ensure that Del dies, but turns out they've got the date wrong by two years. A rival pub, the Nun's Habit turn out to be behind it. 

Some fantasy cobblers about the Erdin and the unfortunately-named  Fani, in a land called Mezin, ruled over by BaNoor/Servant King Bernard. Built over six days in the year 10.02 1/2, when the seas rose. A princess called Mondserl, a dragon's flames spreading through the town. Elf-knight Crestor against the Wizard Army of the Universe, from Wizard Land. Clawberd and Lord Deathstorm and a banker named Pentil fight over seven scrolls predicting peace and love. Then a gate of dimensions leads to a white-mackintoshed  soap opera-living scientist from the USA, Johnny Chicago, He gives our hero Dynamite stones/grenades and arrows on a bell bow, There's lots of gore, and a search for the Mythical Science that will enable the world's greatest wizard. They think the Earth is flat, and the gates built to stop mythical creatures leaking in. 

A few cobblers about ungrateful men using coconuts to rebuild a shipwrecked boat. An old man named Albert who steals beer and hides it in a shed to share with his mate Ivor, away from his sister Vi.  And Clarence and Margery, an old couple holiday in Holland in 1916, and help form the Wounded Soldiers' Band. 

Mrs. Ticking, a woman stealing from a casket smoked her final cigarette. "I've lit the fuse." Inside the casket, a million pounds are  there , left by Fat Janet but created by the forger Thin Betty, who are actually Tiberius and FJ Thomas, two male criminals in knitted jumpers, hairnets, Elastoplast-framed glasses, ball gown, dangly earrings and furcoats. Yes, it's a heist thing.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

27 complete (inc. Mouse on the Moon, Charly I glimpsed, 37 inc. refs, 39 inc. cartoons)

Tried watching Alan Rudolph's Equinox (1992) but though I like some of the cinematographic elements, I find it rather up its arse.

Masquerade (1965) - Interchangeable UK spy comedy. Cliff Robertson stars and William Goldman writes, as they were preparing Charly (a film I never really was interested in because I knew I'd find it silly, I've tried to watch it several times but Robertson's performance though good goes from restrained to Frank Spencer). Here, Charles Gray appears with black hair opposite his future vent-act Jack Hawkins,  and Roger Delgado pops up as a sheik. A Eurospy Carry On Follow That Camel, with a plot no different from any ITC desert jaunt. Not much humour, though.

Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977) - Joe D'Amato was a godawful director, even in his early stuff like Death Smiles on a Murderer (1973).  Couldn't make it through this. Worst kind of bad Italian exploitation. Everything is stilted, except the groovy soundtrack.

The China Syndrome (1979) - An interesting film, but an average conspiracy thriller, slightly too scholarly and too dry for its own good. Would probably be forgotten if it weren't for Three Mile Island.  Tries too hard to be Network.  It ends up feeling too much like a documentary

My Dog Tulip (2010) is a joy, compared to the moping Film4 dramedy of We Think The World of You (1988). Shows how a story can be made engaging in animation, as opposed to grey, grainy realistic Film on Four. Plummer's voiceover is full of joy, compared to the sobbing teddy boy of Gary Oldman and refined, self-loathing bachelor of Alan Bates. Then again, I'm not a fan of Pinteresque moping about boarding houses unless there's an engaging story to hold it together.

Tried watching Cruising (1980). It feels such an ugly film, and quite offensive. Not all gays are swishy genderqueers in leather.

Tried watching the Walking Tall films again. The 70s ones, that is. They feel like TV - a cop show crossed with the Waltons, being made by Bing Crosby productions whose films all felt like TV, Willard (1971) and Ben (1972), especially. They feel bland.

Rewatch - Inside Out (1975) - The sort of heist film that TVCream parodied as  "Nutty Hijack", a more cheerier, almost Children's Film Foundation-like heist-orientated Wild Geese II with James Mason, Telly Savalas, Robert Culp, Aldo Ray (before he got removed from SAG for appearing in barrel-scraping nonsense) and Gunter Meisner playing Hitler again, in some weird staged hallucination. And a character who is supposed to be a transsexual but is a rather effeminate Kraut Bowie in a sheepskin jacket. Confused but very odd, and very German.

Doctor Jekyll Likes Them Hot (1979) - Very odd Italian sex comedy with Paolo Villaggio, after his fame as Italian comedy favourite Fantozzi and Edwige Fenech. Heavily shot in London. They play God Save the Queen and characters silently sing the theme, as if they forgot to put in their singing voices. The Queen is a character, and there is a plan explained by a model railway. Pictures of Fredric March's Jekyll used for the ancestor. A Madame Fanny/Young Mr. Grace bedbound old mad scientist explodes. A chase around Buck House and the Albert Hall. Something about a serum that turns people into blonde cherubs.  Well-made for a piece of Italian schlock. Ends at Glastonbury or the Isle of Wight. So strange and energised that it entertains.

Fantozzi (1975) - Very Italian comedy, told in a series of vignettes, coated with bits of grotesque imagery (i.e. the lead's daughter is played by a gurning bloke in drag who looks oddly convincing), not much of it especially hilarious, but some of it quite visually inventive - i.e. a tennis match in fog and people falling into barrels of egg at a Japanese restaurant and a crucifixion gag.

The Second Tragic Fantozzi (1976) - More of the same, bar some interesting parodies of silent films, i.e. an adult baby version of Battleship Potemkin. Lots of clowns smacking each other.

Watched a That's Carry On best of the various Fantozzi films. Some extraordinary sequences including (from 1986's Superfantozzi - Italy's answer to History of the World Part 1) where a red double decker bus of Scottish football hooligans comes face to face with the Italian fans' coach, both transforming into pirate ships with flags and cannons and rifles blasting through the windows, while kilted warriors have fights on the gangplanks.

Fraachia Contro Dracula (1985) - Another franchise for Villaggio . Begins with our hero watching Return of the Living Dead. Has a Romanian village stuck in the 19th Century, full of busty maidens in dirndls, a barely used Edmund Purdom as Dracula. It looks all very melodramaticatmospheric. But it is sub-Shiver and Shake. The Karloffian Frankenstein's monster makeup is fun. The sets look expensive. But it is sub-Shiver and Shake.

The Strange Affair (1968) - Sleazy, unlikeable, porn-related ecumenical matters cop drama with Michael York and underage Susan George. The sort of Yewtree-y film I dislike, but interesting to see George A. Cooper third-billed. Lost interest in it, gradually. Felt like a bad Euston thing ten years early.

Danny The Champion of The World (1990) - Also ignored this as a kid for some reason. Feels like an episode of All Creatures Great And Small. It's a late period CFF production. Something lacking about it. Lacks the darkness/weirdness of most Dahl. Basically a Cusack-Irons family vanity project.

Some May Live (1967) - Godawful Peter Cushing/Joseph Cotten Vietnam war quota quickie. Set in he world of a military camp for budget reasons. Has a theme by Vince Hill. Couldn't maintain interest.

Tried watching the Mouse that Roared (1958) and The Mouse on the Moon (1963). Prototypes of all those stodgy epic comedies. There's not much actual laughs, just a parade of faces and situations. Then again, I prefer the later Carry On's to the rather too gentle Ealing-esque ones.

Also watched daft cartoons Quark the Dragonslayer (1987, a John Cleese-narrated Danish 40s throwback) and the Dutch Superted Sebastian Starbear (1991). But some cartoons

Tried watching Wonder Women (1973), but I have a low tolerance for Filipino schlock. A lot of it is samey. Manila, jungles, mad scientists with little innovation, some badly staged action.

Island In The Sun (1957) - Like Boy On  A Dolphin (1957), an attractive piece of Cinemascope wallpaper that doesn't really need a plot. Just an excuse for lovely scenery and lovely Harry Belafonte singing.

Fearless Frank (1967) - Dull, almost afraid to be silly Philip Kaufman superhero-arthouse comedy starring Jon Voight.

Work Is A Four Letter Word (1968) - Peter Hall's silly fantasy comedy a la Morgan (1966), with David Warner and the even more awful on film than telly Cilla "Stella" Black, almost a UK version of the above.Young Elizabeth Spriggs is quite attractive.

The Radioland Murders (1994) - George Lucas' attempt to make a Coen Brothers-ish nu-screwball comedy, in the hands of director Mel Smith. Yes, really. It does feel like a parody by him and Griff of the Coens, except it's not actually funny. The soundtrack really does sound like it's by Stanley Rogers, though.

 Where The Heart Is (1990) - Like a more teen-orientated, more wacky, less joyously daft The Freshman, feels like a 55-year-old John Boorman's idea of a young person's film. Everyone's line readings are off. It feels like Boorman is trying to do John Waters.

There Goes The Bride (1980) - One of the stranger British comedies of the late  70s, early 1980s. Starring Tom Smothers, Twiggy, Martin Balsam, Sylvia Syms, Graham Stark, Hermione Baddeley, Phil Silvers, Jim Backus and Broderick Crawford. Despite being shot mostly in Florida, still feels like a slice of British nonsense. It doesn't look like a film. It's all washed out. You expect Alan Whicker to pop up, sipping a nice cold beverage.     Based on a Ray Cooney farce, directed by Terry Marcel.

Great Smokey Roadblock (1977) - Henry Fonda plays a trucker who welcomes the titles by running slow motion in a nightie. A strange mix of sentiment and sleaze. Unsure if it is a weepie or trucksploitation rubbish.

True Identity (1991) - Lenny Henry in America. Doesn't feel like a proper film. It feels like something like Only Fools - Miami Twice. Ironic that he has since played Othello. He does look effectively awkward.

Black Joy (1977) - Weird that future Eastenders father and son "and Oscar James and introducing Paul Medford" are billed together. Again, feels like a documentary, in a better way. An innocent, incredibly sheltered Caribbean eejit travels to London, faces harassment from the racist authority,  and befriends Norman Beaton, and Floella Benjamin. Captures 70s London very well. I'm not that much of a fan of reggae (well, I don't really like lover's rock, which is predominant here), but there is a great soundtrack, and the sort of 70s black British humour I don't quite get, but this is an odd film. It's somewhere between The Monkey Hustle and a Play For Today.

Murders At The Zoo (1932) - Strange film caught between 1930s noir potboiler and something more primal and exploitative. Lionel Atwill stirs the pot amidst all the tonal oddness.

The Hunter (1980) - A dying Steve McQueen feels slightly out of place in this rather stagey, TV movie-level actioner.  There is a good setpiece involving a combine harvester and an astonishing rail-line stunt, but that's all.  The ending is very sentimental, but quite poignant, considering it involves a birth, while its star was near death. Feels sort of Belmondo-ish, too.

Peur sur la Ville (1974) - A rote, rather grim cop vs. killer thriller enlivened by sone ace Belmondo stuntwork.

The Angry Man (1979) - Canadian tax shelter potboiler with Lino Ventura and Angie Dickinson. Nice cinematography of the Montreal region and soundtrack by Claude Bolling. Very nothingy, even the scene in a Montreal honkytonk doesn't generate much excitement. The likes of Chris Wiggins and Vlasta Vrana and Walter Massey appear, to certify Concan, while the likes of Georg Mihalka and Bob Presner worked behind the scenes.

Le Ruffian (1983) - Another Canadian Ventura vehicle, descends into a series of nonsensical comic vignettes mixed in with a conspiracy, i.e. the talent of rollerskating with snooker cues being a trigger for flashbacks. Nice Morricone soundtrack more suited to a Spencer and Hill comedy western, and nice cinematography of British Columbia. By the end, it is a Gallic Wilderness Family knockoff.

Monday, 7 May 2018

14 (these numbers are the list of the films given an opinion on - I did a list - about 920 films which can't be right...) 26

Cry the Beloved Country (1995) - One of Harry Alan Towers' attempts at mainstream success, lushly shot, with a bigger budget than the usual Towers of London production. This is an adaptation of Alan Paton's novel, with James Earl Jones, Charles S. Dutton and Richard Harris. It is also, refreshingly a South African film that is open about its setting and proud of its identity, made shortly after Mandela's election. It is all rather staid and HBO movie-like. Richard Harris' African accent sounds more West Brit than anything, which ties into the theme being sung by Enya. John Barry's soundtrack is good, but the main theme is a reversioning of his theme from Zulu. Not a self-plagiarising like Starcrash/Out of Africa, but the actual theme from Zulu. It actually works, slowed down and played for poignancy rather than storming epic adventure.   In another sign of Towers, some of the acting is Nigerian soap-standard (they may be solid actors but pair them up against James Earl Jones and they flounder).

Lady Oscar (1979) - Jacques Demy film, full of British faces, but kind of dry despite the design. No wonder it never got a release in Europe.

De Sade (1969) - Ropey melodrama that thinks it is Barry Lyndon, but closer to  Jess Franco.

Captive (1986) - Dull, interminable barely-a-film with Oliver Reed as a blowhard. Score by Sinead O'Connor and U2.

Forced Vengeance (1982) - Chuck Norris vehicle in Hong Kong. A bloody dud that fails to get the most out of Hong Kong, set in a Hong Kong where there are casinos.

Yesterday's Hero (1979) - Couldn't make this through, despite Alan Lake as an American who sounds more Geordie than anything. Grim Jackie Collins tale with Ian McShane, Adam Faith, Paul Nicholas doing his staid rocker thing and Suzanne Somers in a council estate and a 2nd division football club.

Les Tribulation D'un Chinois En Chine (1965) - Jean-Paul Belmondo is annoying in his wig disguise - a little too Wisdomesque. Some good stunts but it loses something in translation. Also watched Le Guaglione (1980), an unfunny, action-starved Sting knockoff with Jean-Paul.

https://letterboxd.com/Madeleymade/films/ I was on Letterboxd, but it's hard to tell what films you've seen. I've included films I've attempted but couldn't finish (two star vehicles in more cases),  but sometimes a particularly bad film may only register because you once saw the trailer, and that was enough to make an impression. Something like Klute I put on, because I thought I saw it, but when I did watch it, either it was unmemorable. I've probably seen about 3000 films, 2700 according to the 'boxd.  Found Docteur Justice (1975) a dud, Money Moners (1978) TV movie-like and Sssssss (1973) TV movie-like, lethargic and like a bad Columbo with mad science. Though some films I marked a dislike despite never seeing them in full. One can see from a minute of Pretty Baby (1978) that it is fucking awful. Decided to quit the thing because I feel like it forces you to watch films. I'm not a completist.

The Black Hole (1979) - Disney had the wrong idea. Great soundtrack by Barry, great design (even if V.I.N. Cent. and Old B.O.B. are very cartoony) and Maximilian Schell is a good villain, but it's a talky TV movie-level plot, unsure as to what it is. Haunted house movie, Captain Nemo in space,  disaster movie, space opera? Robert Forster (in his last major studio film for another twenty years) is good, but Yvette Mimieux reminds me of Dr. Pulaski in Star Trek - The Next Generation. The robot death scene of OLD B.O.B. is quite poignant. It actually should be remade.

Warriors of the Year 2072 (1984) - Flickery, garishly ugly Fulci mess.

The Deadly Affair (1966) - Unlikeably dark and grim. I find that Le Carre isn't quite my thing.

Roma (1972) - Not so much a film as an anthology of moving pictures. Beautifully done but not really a film. Like a constant reel of postcard-like vignettes. I'm not really a Fellini fan (neorealism isn't quite my thing), but some of his more plotless wonders can at least visually intrigue.

Ordeal By Innocence (1984) - Lifeless, dull TV movie-like Agatha Christie plodder from Cannon. Boon and Lovejoy costar (Elphick and McShane shortly before taking on their iconic TV roles). The Dave Brubeck score annoys. For tax reasons, a few forest scenes with Plummer and Sutherland and an invisible rabbit were shot in New Jersey. The trees look look convincingly English. Realised I hadn't seen it while scanning my old HBO film guide, full of interminable films like Sunburn (1979).

King of the Gypsies (1979) - Dino De Laurentiis' attempt to do the Godfather for the travelling community. Except it feels rushed. It isn't a long saga of emigration. It feels cheap. Lots of funny moustaches and fedoras. But almost no caravans. Eric Roberts looks slightly older than his mun Susan Sarandon. Judd Hirsch falls off a roof. Brooke Shields gets thrown away so Roberts can do his vigilante bit. Shelley Winters, dolled up as Maria Ousenskaya has nothing to do. Sterling Hayden is unconvincing as a Romani. In fact, no one really convinces as Romani. It's a very strange, dog-eared film that doesn't know what it is.

Attempted to watch Bloody Mama (1970), but realised it's hicksploitation, End of the World (1977) and Inserts (1975), which were bad enough to make me forget if I had seen them before. Operation Daybreak, Endgame (1983), Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry and the Prize... - 8 forgettable films including the memorable but shoddily done Sugar Hill (1974).

Thursday, 3 May 2018

14 - 20-ish inc. references

The Appointment (1981) - Edward Woodward horror-drama. Some atmospheric suburban visuals but  mostly uneventful. Shot like a Public information film.

Five Days from Home (1979) - Despite being a theatrical release from Universal, this George Pepper (yes, I know, blame Grandad) vehicle feels like a pilot for a Fugitive-type series, but then, it becomes a schmaltzy regional family tearjerker, with a proper "You have been watching" end credits.. Got on the cover of Films Illustrated, despite not even getting a VHS release. No wonder. Nice theme but couldn't finish it. Directed and funded by Peppard, to break stereotyping.

The End (1978) - Burt Reynolds comedy. Kind of odd tone. Sporadically entertaining, i.e. Robby Benson as a priest younger than even me, looking like a 1970s US Father Dougal. It takes about an hour to kick in the actual plot. I know it's weird but if this was a Bud Spencer and Terence Hill vehicle, it'd have been better.  Deluise is miscast. From a certain light, he looks threatening, but ACTION! and he's a talkative smart-ass. He looks soft. The character is supposed to be this murderer, and the most dangerous that he comes across is a slightly annoying uncle.

American Pop (1981) - The performances are all stiff, even in animation. Thus is the flaw of rotoscope. Feels like a point and click videogame. Not a big Bakshi fan. Exposed too young to find most of it silly. Though I like the cartoon Lord of the Rings. At least it's not nine hours long.

Sharky's Machine (1981)  - A serviceable Dirty Harry knockoff with Burt Reynolds. It's nothing special, but the atmosphere is very dark and grim for a Burt film. A bit De Palma-ish. Henry Silva plays a Mafia man, after years of doing it in Italian films. His Italian accent isn't bad, but then again he was practically a naturalised resident by this stage. Rachel Ward looks awfully young as Burt's love interest. The playground end sequence looks more like a father and daughter bonding than two lovers. Nice theme by Randy "No, she's not a bloke!" Crawford,  but I've long tired of this film. Only the Georgia setting feels fresh, that and this era Burt being surrounded by lashings of sex and violence.

Been reading and enjoying John Willis' Screen World annuals, especially the 1981-1982 lot. A lot of weird films in there I'd forgotten about that I attempted but never finished, The Hand (forgettable Michael Caine Hands of Orlac job. Windwalker (Trevor Howard plays an Indian chief spouting mystic mumbo-jumbo in subtitled Cheyenne), the Godawful Incredible Shrinking Woman, Young Doctors In Love and Coup De Torchon (with Philippe Noiret as an oversexed arse patrolling Africa in an all-star Gallic sex farce that feels like it is a cinema verite Dennis Potter a la France).

Murder By Phone (1982) - Bland Canadian thriller, like an even less effective Telefon (1977). Richard Chamberlain in another valiant attempt to break out of telly.

Tried watching What's New, Pussycat? (1965), but it's just Sellers, O'Toole and Allen indulging in nonsense.

Ugly, Dirty and Bad (1976) - Carlo Ponti-produced account of a grotesque family. The trouble is the family aren't quite grotesque enough. Yes, Nino Manfredi has a wonky eye, and he dreams of transvestites on mattresses, but it feels just ugly, and not in a surreal or exaggerated matter. It's too ugly and non screen-ugly. It's too convincingly dirty. Their home looks like the Bucket house from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, if it were in the real world. The commedia all'italiana is a bemusing genre. It's a farce that doesn't translate well. It feels very stagey - even the house has a very unconvincing sitcom-type photographic backdrop of the Rome skyline sticking out of the window. Why are Italians obsessed with fat women? Do they think it's funny or sexy? It's how I imagine the sitcom "What A-Mistake To Make-A". For those not aware, I once used footage of the similar Laurence Olivier Presents staging of the play "Saturday, Sunday, Monday" to enact a world where Olivier made his only sitcom for Granada in 1976-77, playing an exaggerated Italian patriarch. Because the play was shot on video by Granada, it kind of worked.

US TV would show anything though, even the least horrific horror of all - the oddly compelling Dean Jagger vehicle So Sad About Gloria (1975 - the end involves a Phantom Stranger-type dragging a coffin onto a railway platform) and its director's Pepsi cola ad-esque sci-fi non-weirdness The Day It Came to Earth (1979).
The Evil (1978)- decent haunted house horror with Richard Crenna and Victor Buono as the Devil. Steals from the Sentinel and Legend of Hell House. The ending is great, the house erupts into a white void - Hell presided by Buono dressed as Ricardo Montalban.   Includs haunted quicksand. 
ITV showed 1974's Symptoms - Less a horror, but a psychodrama. Slow but good performances  and nice Sunday afternoon atmosphere.  Made by Spaniard Jose Larraz and Spirou publishers Dupuis. Mike "Barry!" Grady turns up. Peter Vaughan and Angela Pleasence the stars.

Tried to watch White Hunter, Black Heart (1990), but Clint's performance is awful.He's trying too hard to channel John Huston. Every line is... forced... and over-stressed... to such a point... that it... becomes... ridiculous. They make a point of the character not being John Huston, when Clint plays it in such a way that it obviously is. And it feels cheap. It feels like a Screen Two, and unexciting in the way that a lot of those Screen Twos are.

Monday, 30 April 2018


King Kong (1976) - Yes, I like this movie. It's well-directed. It actually engages in a way the Toho movies do not. Everyone is energetic and has guts in their performance. Even Jessica Lange isn't bad. Yes, I know she got acting lessons afterwards which helped to make her the universally beloved actress she is today, but she's likeable. She's better than the average doe-eyed ingenue you expect from such a role. Grodin and Rene Auberjonois ham it up, but it's Lorenzo Semple writing, so it's good solid camp. And it's daft, not stupid, which the Toho films frequently are. People give out about it because it's not the 1933 original, but it couldn't be. Yes, it's not stop motion, but Rick Baker gives probably the best kaiju suit performance. He's not a stuntman going mad like the Toho films do. It's a real movie not the sub-Gerry Anderson/Eurospy/Irwin Allen teleseries nonsense of King Kong Escapes, with soulless dubbed overcooked performances and only the odd piece of impressive modelwork to lift it.  Then again, King Kong Escapes is based on a Rankin/Bass TV show. Unlike most of the Toho films, with De Laurentiis, there's no half-assing. Some of it is hard to follow, as a lot was cut (the wrong bits - some of it is quite stretched especially on the voyage home and it could easily be ninety minutes), but it's entertaining. I think it's because you had people who actually tried, with the Toho films, you get the impression it was a TV series essentially, churning out endless identikit films.  And it mentions Rudolf  Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn. And the idea that the Kong travelling show is presented as basically what the film was presented as (read the Creation of King Kong - it shows the effort they put into this thing) - this huge epic spectacle - a giant ape in a giant petrol pump. The climax is a bit long, and Kong swimming is ludicrous, but John Barry's score makes you believe in it.
It's better than Orca (1977  - RIP Michael Anderson) anyway, which needed Semple. Orca is played too seriously. It's played as a drama and not an adventure.
King Kong Lives (1986) on the other hand is cheaply made gash. The suits are ugly (future Glam Metal Detective/TV Burp/Comic Strip Presents semi-regular George Yiasoumi as Lady Kong), the plot uneventful  and the scenery unexciting. It's like a worse version of Baby - Secret of the Lost Legend.


Jabberwocky (1977) - A good cast including Palin as lead and a great monster - but it's too shambolic, too silly, too Pythonesque. If played a little more straight - it might have been great. Deborah Fallender is a bit Connie Booth-esque. Gilliam I have a love-hate relationship. Harry H Corbett's bit is fun, but it's very bitty.

Playtime (1967) - I don't get Tati. It's all very mannered, and though I appreciate the effort, the city sets look identical to the airport.

Ticket To Heaven (1981) - Canadian drama, the cult is annoying (feels more like a bland Christian summer camp than anything), the opening is nicely shot, but Nick Mancuso is an unappealing lead. It's a little preachy, ironic as that is what stands against.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978) - An outstretched idea that would have played better as a sketch. It does have a gleeful charm that the slicker 80s sequels do not. The Stuff does it better.

Def-Con 4 (1985) - Quite dull post-apocalyptic adventure. Not even Maury Chaykin saves it. The savages all have perms and taches that make them look like Scousers.

Threshold (1981) - Bland Canadian thriller with Donald Sutherland.Like a lot of films from that era made in Canada, e.g. Ticket to Heaven, bleached in a soft-focus glare.

The In-Laws (1978) - It doesn't know what it is - if it's an adventure comedy or a New York comedy of manners with a diversion to Mexico. Plus Arkin doing his "crazy man" grates. It doesn't feel like a thriller with jokes. The theme suggests a Pink Panther knockoff, but it's not frenetic enough.

The Red Tent (1969) - A visually impressive but rather staid and overlong Soviet epic about Amundsen and the crash of the Italia airship that has the peculiar novelty of being the first coproduction with the West, thus Peter Finch, Sean Connery in bad age makeup and the likes of Claudia Cardinale, Hardy Kruger and Mario Adorf are thrusted into this otherwise Mosfilm epic. It feels very strange - halfway betweena Soviet epic and an Italian adventure like Fraulein Doktor. A clash of two filmic styles that doesn't work. Unmemorable Morricone score. But the alternate Soviet soundtrack is better, even though it itself apes Morricone.

Seven (1979) - Andy Sidaris "action comedy", not much action, not much comedy, a lot of stuff that tries to be either. It just feels sleazy.

Blackout (1978) - Padded out Canadian-French nonsense. A few minutes of NYC footage, then some badly staged action and a dog picking out cards from a bucket. Ray Milland plays a grumpy old tyrant. Jim Mitchum tries to be a hero, while Robert Carradine overacts. It's full of dull melodrama. It's also badly shot. The music sounds a bit like the theme to Wogan.

Every Home Should Have One (1970) - Starring Marty Feldman and written by some of those people (Feldman, plus Barry Took and Denis Norden) - the animation by Richard Williams is lovely. It's very odd - basically a series of fake ads with a storyline. It's almost a proto-Kentucky Fried Movie. And devolves into sex jokes. Not especially funny. But the ending is very odd - as it seems to echo the ending that John Sullivan wanted for the last Only Fools And Horses, i.e. the family turn into cartoons as they walk off into the sunset. Has a Nazi Penelope Keith.

Beware! The Blob (1972) - Larry Hagman-directed comedy sequel. Features a jaunty electronic title sequence accompanied by a bat while screaming plays. With the likes of Godfrey Cambridge and Dick Van Patten hamming it up as a henpecked husband and a scoutmaster respectively, it feels like a bad ensemble comedy with added nonsense like Gerrit Graham in an ape suit, plus a Christian hippie folk singer and a streaker. It's almost sub-Disney comedy. Though the speechification at the end may not be a parody.  Like the above, features Shelley Berman.

Not a fan of disco movies - the music's good, but there's often too much garish tack, not enough ideas or humour, or soul.