Saturday, 21 July 2018

Telly roundup

Italian TV

There are two main sets of channels - RAI, akin to the BBC, and then the rivals - Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset channels.

Uova Fatali (1977) - RAI CSO-heavy giant reptiles and toads fun with a white-bearded Gastone "Don Homer" Moschin walking in colour against B/W stock footage. Sort of like Italian Doctor Who, but visually unique Soviet setting. The red eggs hatching is an especially demonic image. And the jowelly giant lizard puppet is a lovely shite effect that even makes the Skarasen in Terror of the Zygons look like it was created by Harryhausen. Also saw the first part of La Traccia Verde - a B/W 1975 VT serial from RAI about the US space programme. Not as fun, despite a lead character called Steptoe.

The Maharaja's Daughter (1994) - Bruce Boxleitner falls in love in Canada with Indian doctor Hunter Tylo (who is not Indian, well she's not from India, but she is apparently has Cherokee blood),  massive hair and a bindi transforming her into a secretive maharani with an American accent.  Burt Young plays a thankfully phony Indian mystic (considering other Italian actors play Indians, I wasn't so sure).  A strange cross between imperialist adventure and erotic thriller.

The Seventh Scroll (1999) Silvio Berlusconi-produced Wilbur Smith adaptation. Begins with Art Malik narrating  about his Pharaoh Edmund Purdom (typecast 45 years on). The Ancient Egyptian bits are very tacky.  Written by director Kevin Connor, Alan "Bullshot" Shearman, and Italian vet Sergio Donati.  There's a backwards baseball capped idiot archaeologist.  Villainous Roy Scheider and his dubbed blonde lady sidekick  joke about videogames, while a giant CGI snake eats a peasant.  Don Warrington is a mad Colonel. Eventually, something about Art Malik being an immortal wizard and lots of bad CGI allegedly done in Dublin by one Lightstream Ltd. Also features an Egyptian orphan named Hapi, played by Jeffrey Licon - star of Nickelodeon Latino dramedy The Brothers Garcia. A special kind of terrible.

Murder In The Convent (1998) - Modern day Cadfael with Mario Adorf. A twat's version of Umberto Eco via Quiet As A Nun. Includes a  badly CGIed burning nun.

Blood Ties (1986) - OTT Mafia melodrama with Brad Davis, Joe Spinell, Michael V. Gazzo and Maria Conchita Alonso. I previously tried to watch The Octopus (1984), the RAI crime opus that people rave about, but I found that staid. This isn't good, but there's a very Italian camp charm to it. Gazzo is allowed to be this huge grotesque.

L'Ombra Nera Del Vesuvio (1987) - RAI/Steno Camorra saga - cheap, lacks the gloss of later Italian miniseries. Watched half, then gave up. Gangster sagas the bread and butter of Italian TV.

Vendetta - Secrets Of A Mafia Bride (1991) - Berlusconi/Mediaset Mafia saga with Eric Roberts, Burt Young, Nick Mancuso, Victor Argo, Antonio Sabato, Billy Barty and Eli Wallach. Begins with a young girl's communion (I think, she's in the white dress - but she looks more suited to making her confirmation - she's closer to thirteen than eight) ruined when her father is killed by a bunch of gangsters firing machine guns from a yellow cab. One of these thugs is Eric Roberts, with a ponytail.  He then goes to visit a boxing trainer played by Burt Young (typecasting ahoy). Billy Barty plays a compere. Some black chanteuse sings the theme to Mondo Cane,  then there's a a massacre.    Time passes, and little Nancy is now Sports Illustrated model Carol Alt, Eric has a mullet, and it becomes somewhere between the Godfather Part III (which is really just an Italian miniseries) and a romance novel. Alt isn't a good actress. She's attractive, a bit gawky, but that adds to her charm, but she is kind of awkward. She's quite tall and lanky, and she's supposed to be this ethereal tragic victim, but she's not exactly graceful. There's a bit where she dresses up in a ginger wig, and there's something of the Barbara Knox about her. And then there's a ridiculous striptease assassination with a dog. There's a wedding party with a Busby Berkeley dance sequence, Egyptian servants serving a giant pot of pasta and then after the wedding, Nancy becomes a nun and sees her daughter.  A sequel followed in 1993. Wallach, Young and Alt returning, with shooting in Canada, Michael Ontkean joining, and Lisa Jakub from Mrs. Doubtfire as the daughter. It's unmemorable, but clearly the convent use hair dye. Alt's now ginger.

Excellent Cadavers (1999) - HBO-coproduced Italian TV movie with Andy Luotto, Pierfrancesco Favino and F. Murray Abraham - like a lot of old school Italian crime films, lots of tall men with moustaches in little cars solving not very engrossing murders.

Il Tesoro di Damasco (1998) - Franco Nero and Ben Gazzara in a Raiders-ish political thriller about a mystical black tablet found in the Middle East. Sensationalist Bullshit that doesn't excite.

Seagull Island (1981) - ITC-RAI giallo with Jeremy Brett, Prunella Ransome, Nicky Henson and Pamela Salem.  Music by Tony Hatch rather than the De Angelis Brothers. Brett plays a cad. Very mediocre.  Also featuring Eurocult regulars Peter Boom, Paul Mueller, Sherry Buchanan  and Gabriele Tinti.

Marco Polo (1982) feels rather too in thrall to capturing the mood and feel of Shogun, but it has yellowfaced Leonard Nimoy and Patrick Mower as a monk, and some dodgy dubbing. And Denholm Elliott with a topknot. From what I have seen.

Christopher Columbus (1985) -RAI-Lorimar  nonsense with Gabriel Byrne, Oliver Reed and some tribesmen who look like they come from a cannibal film (the Riz Ortolani soundtrack doesn't help). Byrne looks either like an elderly Dublin widow or a disgraced bishop. And sometimes Jim Dale. Jack Watson (who seems to have done a lot of these RAI stuff - presumably a break from HTV or Granada) plays a craggy monk.

Deserto di Fuoco (1997) - Mediaset/Titanus coproduction with Anthony "yes, my dad's Alain" Delon as an orphan found in the middle of a helicopter crash (cameo from Franco Nero as the dad), and found by sheik  Giuliano Gemma.  Peopled with other ageing Euro-stars - Claudia Cardinale, Vittorio Gassman, Jean Sorel,, Fabio Testi, Virna Lisi, and helmed by good old Enzo G. Castellari, it's preposterous - it's seemingly pre-20th century Arab world located in the present day, in a hi-tech 90s of satellite TV and sports cars. Makes no sense, and is wearing - endless cliched melodrama told so earnestly - but fascinating. The Italians seem obsessed with exotic desert landscape, Arabs and Indians - in portrayals that are romanticised and could be considered by some as dated. And yes, they are, which makes these productions even more astonishing.

Mia liebe meines lebens (1998) - Irish-Italian soaper with some bird of Fair City as an Irish supermodel, Claudia Cardinale as her mammy (less convincingly Irish than she was in Once Upon A Time in The West),  Kevin "Herman the violent butler" Flood as Daddy (named Torton),  and John Savage. Lots of lilting Oirish music.

Azzuro Profondo (1993) Franco Nero again in a mostly boring but at times melodramatic Big Blue/Free Willy cash-in.

Beyond Justice (1992) - Rutger Hauer in a Trimark cutdown of a Mediaset Arab fantasy where he is hired by Carol Alt to rescue her son who has been kidnapped by sheik grandad Omar Sharif. Full of men in fezzes, casual racism and Elliott Gould with a moustache, plus Kabir Bedi, and a Morricone soundtrack. Written by Luigi Montefiori, alias video nasty hard man George Eastman.  An American private school full of supposedly WASPy boys who look like they grew up in a pizza parlour in Naples sets the scene. Operatic wailing soundtracks every scene, regardless of tone. It's a mess going from Arab spectacle to arguing with Elliott Gould in an Italian designer's idea of an American office - a huge Bogie poster over a wall. A tonal mess.

Mysteries of the Dark Jungle (1991) - Like Sandokan and Secret of the Sahara, adapted from stories by Emilio Salgari. Featuring Gabrielle Anwar as the daughter of British military bod Stacy Keach (doing a credible RP), mechanical toys, an Indian fantasyland full of spiked helmeted soldiers, brought to you by RAI-TF1-TVE-ORF-ZDF, with John Rhys-Davies, Virna Lisi, Anthony Calf, Kabir Bedi, regular Bollywood WASP/muscular Leonard Rossiter-alike Bob Christo playing an albino thuggee, Bollywood actor Mac Mohan and Derrick "Gupte/Father Fernandez" Branche. The hero is Eldorado/Playdays star Amerjit Deu. There is adventure, but much of it is painfully slow traveloguery. Frank Middlemass and John Sharp turn up, uncredited.

Scarlett (1994) - Its credits have bad drawings of the cast, including Joanne Whalley-Kilmer and Tim Dalton as Scarlett and Rhett, Stephen "paedo" Collins, Sean Bean, Gary Raymond (of Jason and the Argonauts AND stints in series as varied as The Rat Patrol, Omega Factor and Coronation Street), Jean Smart, Tina "Sharon" Kellegher,  Rosaleen Linehan, Ronald Pickup, Dorothy Tutin, Sara Crowe, Holby City's Rakie Ayola, Peter Eyre "and Ann-Margrock" (sorry, it's a cartoon version of Ann-Margret - so it's Ann-Margrock). It's tripe, but it was filmed mostly near where I live, and Berlusconi coproduced it with Hallmark and Sky, and ORF. It's an Irish-British-American-Italian-German -Austrian-Spanish-French coproduction. Also, Tina Kellegher looks like he walked off the set of the Snapper. It's basically the Time-Travelling Adventures of Sharon Curley/Rabbitte, and the theme is Love Hurts recorded by Nazareth with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.  Sadly, John Fraser, Charles Gray, Mark "Majorca - one of my favourite places - Times Square, the Statue of Liberty" Lambert (I'm referencing an Irish ad campaign), Ruth McCabe (alongside Colm Meaney and Kellegher, another member of the Curley clan), and and Donald Pickering, despite getting prominent end credits  don't get cartoon credits. And neither does David Kelly, despite having one of the most caricturable faces, with lots of spirit in there.  He is fourth-last billed in his episode, below Mick Lally, Owen Roe (now in Fair City) and Rudolph Walker, who plays a slave. I'm pretty sure they shoot at Glencree, same locations as the Manions of America.  Gielgud also appears, because the old knight would do anything by this stage of his career. Over ninety and willing to do it for free.  An expensive backlot set built in front of Kilruddery.  Anita Reeves plays a character called "Maureen O'Hara".  Bruce Boa and Garrick Hagon appear in the first part, billed over Hollywood's leading African American stuntman, Bob Minor.

La Nouvelle Malles Des Indes (1982) - A much more exciting Indian adventure, a German-French-Italian saga from Christian Jaque (the Legend of Frenchie King). Initially begins in fake England before moving through Europe and eventually to India. Bob Christo pops up again. The likes of Umberto Raho, Paul Muller, Franco Ressel and Geoffrey Copleston turn up. It takes a bit to go,   Nice soundtrack too. Has men in knotted handkerchiefs warning people, lovely location footage, and in the end our heroes find a new trade route.  The series is light hearted but isn't played too OTT.  There's a KKK-type cult, "Teenage Emanuelle" Annie Belle, escapes through Spanish snowcaps and Venice and then meetings with comedy Arabs and dragging up in burqas in Egypt. It's a big tasty Europudding.

French-German TV

Deux Ans de Vacances (1974) - Another Jules Verne-type Technisonor production. Set supposedly in New Zealand, 1882, but actually Romania. Lost Islands-type peril with deep-voiced twinky schoolboys.  Features European "that guy" Werner Pochath. Has a random trigger-happy cowboy. Some of the same cast appear in Les Galapiats (1970), which also has a cowboy character, but is set in present day. Unconvincing.

Zora un ihre Bande (1979)  - Jolly German-financed Eastern European Tripods-via-Two Ronnies period adventure serial for kids, lots of skinny dipping kds. Features a twelve year old girl in a swimsuit, shot pervily. Only stomached the first episode.

Lockruf des Goldes (1975) - German Jack London adap. Not really into Klondike stories. Unconvincing Romanian doubling. Ferdy Mayne as a whiskery prospector type. Interesting Romanian locations. Christine Kaufmann, Mrs. Tony Curtis at the time plays a "squaw".

The Adventures of David Balfour (1977) - The German version of HTV's Kidnapped - a German coproduction, hence the heavy amount of Teutonic faces amongst the likes of David McCallum, Patrick Magee, John Carson and Chris Biggins.  Resulting in a series that feels far more European despite its setting and majority of cast. And probably works better in German. From a German view of Scotland scored by Vladimir Cosma to...

Les Roses de Dublin (1981) - Finally been able to watch this, an unusual series - a French-Luxembourgish series, an RTL-FR2-Technisonor series made in association with RTE, and therefore one of the few Irish TV shows to get a DVD release, though in German. Begins with Jean-Claude Bouillon as Christoph, a French photographer who kepts beaten up at a rugby match by Irish rugby fans Pat Layde and Emmet "Dick" Bergin, clad in flat caps and shamrock scarves. He realises their sister/daughterSpring Kavanaugh (sic ) he had a one night stand with, leaving them with another child to raise. Somehow, they kept their daughter Spring, rather than sending her off to a Magdalene home. They leave Christoph with roses from Dublin, even though they're supposed to be from Kerry. On an Aer Lingus flight, Emmet and his da drink with Tom Jordan, looking the exact same as he does as Charlie in Fair City. Christoph bumbles through a fashion show, with a page boy and Dana-alike bride showing off. He recognises the bride as Spring. This is a flashback, and he meets Spring in the present day. There's a raunchy (for Ireland in 1981) sex scene, in mysterious fog. This turns out to be another flashback. John "Pa Riordan" Cowley plays a hotel worker. The Kavanaughs' home life is strange. They all play rugby, and arm wrestle each other. One of the brothers is a staggeringly young Colm Meaney. Anthony, the ten year old son of Spring and Christoph wears a big white bobble hat and sweater. The Kavanaughs' red Morris Minor falls off a cliff ITC-style, thanks to Gerry Johnston. There is lots of fog. Episode one, and this may be the worst thing I've ever seen. I'm surprised no one in Ireland remembers it. It was the Redwater of its day.  More Irish faces crop up. Johnny "Joey the Lips" Murphy shows up.

Jo Gaillard (1975) - Watched a few undynamic episodes of this TF1 naval drama. Unmemorable.

La Poupee Sanglanate (1976) - French homunculus miniseries with Edith Scob and Sacha Pitoeff. Slow. Couldn't finish.

Brigades Des Malefices (1970) - French supernatural detective  series, has a funky theme tune, and an unusual protagonist in its geriatric kaftan-wearing Inspector. It's kind of ITC-ish, but it has a strange, languid French style, even though it is sadly quite pedestrian. The mermaid one is the only one to strike as odd. Pierre "Eyes without a Face" Brasseur is a special guest baddie.

A vous de jouer Milord (1974) - Needless to say, I was excited when the first face to appear on screen was Vernon "he's everywhere" Dobtcheff, thus giving this series a link to both Doctor Who and Father Ted. But this is sadly, quite a goofy, silly French Eurospy-type thing, almost a French Lindsay Shonteff. Also by Christian-Jaque, and with La Nouvelle Malle Des Indes' Patrick Prejean.

Also watched elements of It Can't Always Be Caviar  (1977), a supposed true-life story of a German spy in WW2, played by the ubiquitous Siegfried Rauch, but rather goofy considering its roots. And also The Mohicans of Paris (1973), a French Dumas adap's first ep - very similar to the likes of the Flashing Blade, i.e. good soundtrack, little else - even the same lead, Robert Etcheverry.

La Cloche Tibetaine (1973) - A very attractive series to watch, but I can never be sure of the tone. With Wolfgang Preiss, famed French comic Coluche, and notoriously,  Roger "the Master" Delgado, who died in a car crash while making this series. For us Doctor Who fans, this series became almost mythic. Initially reported as a "comedy film called the Bell of Tibet". It's not that, I'm not sure what it is.  Delgado is billed below Robert Lee (of Mind Your Language), but over Carl Otto Alberty, scar-faced Nazi in many things.

L'Alphomega (1973) - God knows. Fascists, eejits, Howard Vernon, gypsies, Arabs, nuns, British bobbies, Salvation Army, magic wigs, French comedy. Like a secret service version of Hall's Pictorial Weekly.

Studio Telerop 2009 (1974) - A sort of odd German TV spoof, nowhere near as good as any of the Sheckley adaps. Almost like Rutland Weekend Television. ARD  seem to have used the sets from their UFO-alike from 1972, Alpha Alpha, which looks a bit too future-silly.

Fleisch (1979) - Boring, oddly erotic ZDF  Teutonic Duel knockoff.

Der Schwarze Bumerang (1982) - International coproduction, filmed in Australia, directed by George T. Miller (the other one),Featuring Allan Cuthbertson (in a rare role in his native Australia), Paul Spurrier (the wet child actor of his generation, Wild Geese, Tales of the Unexpected) and John Van Dreelan.  Patrik Pacard-esque espionage. Dolls buried in permafrost of Switzerland,   yellow peril, cheap videotape... Couldn't finish. German-Australian tripe that didn't even make it to Down Under.

Napoleon (2001) - Montreal plays the South Atlantic.  A flabby thing that takes too much space, which one could also say of its star - Gerard Depardieu!

Mussolini - The  Untold Story (1985)- Not Italian, but an American-Yugoslavian coproduction with a heavily British cast, but somehow feels more Italian than the rival RAI-HBO venture the same year, Mussolini and I, starring Bob Hoskins, Susan Sarandon and Anthony Hopkins, which is rather respectful, but obviously it's an Italian subject, so I suppose it has to be. Mussolini - The Untold Story has the likes of Philip Madoc, Milton Johns and Eileen Way, David Suchet with an American  accent as an Italian, George C. Scott as Il Duce, Raul Julia as the son in law, and a teenage Robert Downey Junior riding a toy biplane. It also has Michael Aldridge playing Matteoti, despite being twenty five years too old, just before he became Holmfirth's resident inventor genius Seymour Utterthwaite, also doing some kind of Mid-Atlantic twang, and a theme that sounds vaguely like the soundtrack to Star Trek II - The Wrath of Khan. Gabriel Byrne struggles to convince as Italian, and seems to be doing a Robert De Niro impression, and he is way too old for the role of the future Cinecitta/Hal Roach associate.  Downey marries Gina "Groovy Gang" Bellman, but then crashes and dies. His funeral consists of colourised stock footage. Milton Johns' German Ambassador steals the scene from Secret Army's Gunnar Moller (as Hitler). Scott spends his days merrily bonking Virginia Madsen, as she brushes his bald pate. Lee Grant does angry wife. Vernon Dobtcheff of course turns up as the secretary of state,  Kenneth Colley is the King, Madoc as Police Chief Bocchini (again doing a weird Italian-American-Welsh accent, like he's playing a gangster in a panto). Endlessly padded with newsreels and dreadful Mussolini family singalongs. Wolf Kahler appears dressed exactly as he is in Raiders.

More Italian stuff I couldn't quite finish

Orzowei (1977) - Watched an episode of this Ski-Boy ish Italian  RAI Boy Tarzan series. The last work of Stanley Baker.  Slow wanderings about a suspiciously forest-like jungle staring at intercut stock footage.  Star Peter Marshall is British, his other credits include Take Me High, When The Boat Cooooomes Innnnn, and Byker Grove. He seems to have been a Geordie. He looks like he could be one, anyway.

Heidi (1993) - Watched the first hour of this, feels like the same five minutes repeated - Jason Robards as Grandfather. The product of Disney and Berlusconi together.

Quo Vadis (1985) - It's attractive but it doesn't really know what it is.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

47 (inc. 4 refs, 46 exc. Afrika)

Bons Basiers De Hong Kong (1975) - Begins with the most astonishing blatant copy of the Bond opening, even using the theme - and Lois Maxwell and Bernard Lee as Moneypenny and M, though only briefly (a prematurely aged David Tomlinson deputises as a British authority figure in Hong Kong), this French spoof coproduced by the Shaw brothers makes Operation Kid Brother look original. It actually manages to look like a Bond film  same film stock and all. Clifton James pops up, not as Sheriff Pepper. Mickey Rooney in a turban too, but the stars are Les Charlots - an irritating French foursome dressed as schoolboys. The Queen appears, played by a lookalike named Huguette Funfrock. Not a good film at all, and its initial curiosity value wears thin.

McQ (1974) - John Wayne tries to be Dirty Harry/Popeye Doyle/Bullitt. Some good action, but it's basically your grandad failing to show that he still has it.

Escape from Angola (1972) - Awful African-set tedium from Ivan Tors.     

Eagle In A Cage (1972) - Stagey TVM adap shot in Yugoslavia. Bland. Kenneth Haigh is rather too comical as Napoleon. Not a period drama fan, but this is very odd.

The Golden Arrow (1962) - Attractive if rather empty Italian fantasy - an incongruously dubbed Tab Hunter as a prince, some nice sequences involving flaming men and a trip to Egypt. Atypical pepla.  With added genies on magic carpets fighting a battle by throwing pots from the air. Unusually imaginative. One of Antonio Margheriti's best.

Sogni mostruosamente proibiti (1982) - Only made it through half of this typical Paolio Villaggio vehicle. He's not Fantozzi, but Paolo, a comics translator who dreams he is Tarzan and Superman. Also has Janet Agren as his creation.

Luci Iontane (1987)  - Ponderously dull Tomas Milian-starring Mediaset nonsense about aliens. 

Ciao Marziano (1980) - Italian comedy with Avanti!'s Pippo Franco. Silly alien comedy, with one novelty- a scene where Pope John Paul II stares at a newsreader's tits. Features scenes of Italian crimes and sub-Pumaman flying scenes. He ca also turn his and others' skins different colours. Features a blacked-up Zulu-themed pop band (not the Irish band the Zulus, but something like that if much funkier).

Brother from Space (1988) -Religious Italian E.T. knock-off. One of those films you presume is set in Italy - Martin Balsam plays a priest, until you see US Army and US Sheriffs appear. The alien wears the spacesuit for most of the runtime, and dies to give a blind woman glasses to see. Dire.

Animali Metropolitani (1987)-  Very strange Italian comedy from Steno, begins with stock footage of The Last Starfighter, then some Planet of the Apes-type civilised monkey-men introduce us to a series of baffling vignettes with a pith helmeted Donald Pleasence explaining Italian life, or something a la Fantozzi. Director Mario Gariazzo also did with Balsam, the Yorkshire-set Eyes Behind The Stars (1977), which is worse.

Li chiamavano i tre moschettieri... invece erano quattro (1973) -Ettore Manni and Tony Kendall in Italian 3 Musketeers knockoff, a shambolic swashbuckler that tries and fails to out-Richard Lester Richard Lester. Very silly, childish, with an (I think...) D'Artagnan who looks like Eric Idle.

Sharks' Cave (1978) -Italian Jaws/Bermuda Triangle hybrid. Typical Italian tedium. Also features a cockfight amongst a mondo-ish love montage.  Genuine shark footage mixed with hippie-folk mysticism and men who look like Rita Tushingham.  Nice Stelvio Cipriani soundtrack, and nicely shot - and there's a wondrous stunt where a man holding onto a wheelchair is shot into the sea from his boat, and he dives in, drowning, holding onto his chair.  In the end, a school project model of a lost city and pyramid and a volcano signalled by a humanoid figure in a wall of light occurs, and the sharks wreak havoc, while ghosts scream. The End. Interesting but not very good and makes no real sense, like so many Italian films of this era.

Encounter in the Deep (1979) - Like the above, another Tonino Ricci UFO/Bermuda Triangle cash-in, featuring Gabriele Ferzetti, Bond's father in law himself. A weird hybrid between Sunn Classics-scenes of recreations with badly-synced dialogue in cheap sets and the typical Roman actioner - goes from missing sailors to a bar room brawl. Gianni Garko plays a mariner with an on-board pet Alsatian. The film retreats into bland day-for-night fogbound limbo, with Adidas product placement and lengthy diving scenes with an all-male, middle-aged crew. Eventually, they find a flat-headed statue in an island cave, and a recreation of the final minutes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind happen in reverse. Everyone is reunited and blasted off in space, while a seadog narrates the story to the Alsatian. At times astonishing, other times boring Italian nonsense. Better than the insane but boring Bermuda Triangle (1979) with John Huston. Another discovery.

Rocambole (1963)  - Charmless and anachronistic (60s stock footage of London fills the thing) European period pulp. Not really entertaining, a bit ITC but without the charm, ironically distributed by the company for US TV. Its bland American hero is magician and one-time Crackerjack! guest Channing Pollock.

Blonde in the Blue Movie (1971) - Idiotic sexcom with Lando Buzzanca and Ferdy Mayne. Also from Steno.

Riusciranno i nostri eroi a ritrovare l'amico misteriosamente scomparso in Africa? (1968) - Alberto Sordi-Nino Manfredi comedy based on Heart Of Darkness. Nice soundtrack by Armando Trovajoli, nice photography of Angola, and at least one joke - i.e. an African taking photo of an Italian in white hunter gear taking photos of the Africans. The title is brilliant - Will our heroes find their friend who mysteriously disappeared in Africa?.  At two hours it is is overlong, and padded with mondo-style documentary travelogue footage that are possibly the highlight of the film. There's even a spaghetti eating contest-type bit. There's also unfortunate blacking up and a top-knot African outfit.

H2S (1969) -Nonsensical arty but stylish dystopia with a nice Morricone end credits, a bare chested Lionel Stander and then-poor man's Dennis Waterman Denis Gilmore,  as an idiotic London schoolboy. Somewhat Sid and Marty Krofft-ish, but about a student riot.  Has a baffling array of scenes including a St. Bernard in a snow, a woman being bathed with orange substances by Gilmore in a tin bath, and then has sex with a machine.

Tuareg (1984) - Arab-set action nonsense by Enzo G. Castellari, with a miscast Mark Harmon. The Arab-Israeli-type conflict is interesting, but it's a dressup of WW2 movies from ten years earlier. The music sounds vaguely like the Onedin Line theme.

il seme dell'uomo (1969) - Arty Marco Ferreri apocalyptica - lots of montages.

Fantabulous Inc (1968) -Richard Harrison and Adolfo Celi in a supposed superhero-spy film that uses a montage of the Fantastic Four, Captain America, Batman, Captain Marvel Jnr, the Phantom anmong others, probably without permission. Cheap, ambitious but rubbish. Similar to the better-made, artier Mr. Freedom (1969).

Fenomenal and the Treasure of Tutankhamun (1968) - Early venture from Ruggero Deodato. It's not great, it has some youthful enthusiasm, but it lacks the interesting way Italian crews shoot British industrial landscapes in the likes of Special Mission Lady Chaplin, Kriminal and Argoman.

White Hunter (1988) - Klaus Kinski hunts for panther that killed his wife, in unexciting flashback-filled Italian adventure. Kinski is frozen and found in the ice by Harvey Keitel.

Lone Runner (1986) - Godawful Italian nonsense set either in the 1900s or 1990s, with Miles O'Keeffe as an Arab Mad Max/Indiana Jones-type. Ronald Lacey pops up, dubbed. Directed by Ruggero Deodato.

Marrakech Express (1989) - Two bland yuppies go to the desert, and try to be Hill and Spencer. From Gabrielle Salvatores, of Irish secondary school favourite I'm Not Scared.

Zambo (1972) - Haplessly meandering Italian Tarzan with Brad Harris, filmed in Africa, but one doesn't realise it's meant to be period until a female character appears.

Zwei Teufelskerle auf dem Weg ins Kloster (1975) - One of the 3 Superboys series, a separate entity from the 3 Supermen series. 3 idiots bathe in oil in the jungle and flirt with nuns, not a superhero film, but a sort of Hill/Spencer cash in from German producer Ernst Hofbauer.

Superstooges versus the Wonder Women (1974) - More superpowered Italian slapstick, from Shaw Brothers, Ovidio Assonitis, AIP and Alfonso Brescia. Tedious late-period sword and sandal Amazons mixed with tedious slapstick.  Descends into a mess of fire, horses and burqas. The Bowie-gone-wrong disco soundtrack is jolly.

questa volta ti faccio ricco (1974) - Starring Antonio Sabato Sr. and Brad Harris (billed as Robin McDavid to pass him off as Scottish), an unmemorable Shaw Brothers coproduced Gianfranco Parolini-directed Hill/Spencer takeoff.

Kommissar X - Gangsters Per Un Massacro (1968)  - Might be the best Kommissar X film, mostly the same old cliches, but features jetpacks at a rodeo. Has a strong Country and German vibe.  More Brad Harris.

Simbad e il califfo di Bagdad (1973) - Colourful if action free Harryhausensploitation from Titanus and Pietro Francisci, the man who launched Steve Reeves, begins with the crossbow assassination of a dancer.

Boulevard du Rhum (1971) - Lino Ventura and Brigitte Bardot plus Bill Travers in baffling Mexican-set caper. Clive Revill turns up as a pirate. Also seems to be set somewhere between 1930 and 1970.

Deserto Di Fuoco (1971) - Shonky Sahara adventure-melodrama with Edwige Fenech as a native and Taiwanese George Wang as an Arab,  and a score by Bixio that sounds as if it is going to burst into the theme from The Killing of Sister George. Forgettable even when watching it.

Il Sorriso Del Ragno (1971) - Bland crime-film set in Greece with Thomas Hunter (lead goon in The Cassandra Crossing) and Gabriele Tinti.

Riuscirà il nostro eroe a ritrovare il più grande diamante del mondo? (1971) - Diamond theft goofiness with American Ray Danton as a British spy named Jimmy Logan. Couldn't stick it.

Quickly Spari e Baci a Colazione (1971) - Cheap and nasty Pakistani Eurospy starring Crossplot's Claudie Lange, by Alberto Cavallone, with weird cartoon interludes. Thinks Pakistan is full of Arabs. Tried watching Cavallone's Afrika (1973), his transgender film, but it was awful. So gave up on that.

Don't Turn The Other Cheek (1971) - Eli Wallach does his Jewish Mexican, Franco Nero does his Russian and his sister-in-law Lynn Redgrave plays an Irishwoman (well, she did live in Howth). Though set in the Mexican Revolution, Redgrave is a feminist journalist  and there are 70s Mariachi bands. Goofy sub-Trinity antics. Staring at bums and stuff.

Le Sauvage (1975) - Wearing romcom in foreign climes with Yves Montand and Catherine Deneuve, plus Vernon Dobtcheff, Dana Wynter and Tony Roberts.

Unbelievable Adventures of Italians in Russia  (1974) - A genuine discovery, one of several pre-Glasnost coproductions between Dino de Laurentiis and Mosfilm - a fun, exciting action-comedy about a bunch of Italian treasure hunters in the USSR. A nice time capsule of Soviet Russia, but even more so - with some innovative stunts - including cars flipping off a container truck, and a scene where a lion bashes through a tower full of giant nest dolls. Better than the usual Italian comedies of this era.

Safari Rally (1978) - Joe Dallesandro in a cheap racing melodrama, not worth it.

Africa Express (1975) - Typical De Angelis-scored Italian family comedy with authentic African scenery  - starring Giuliano Gemma, Jack Palance and Ursula Andress and a chimp. It looks expensive, and the dynamic is changed by having four leads, if you count the chimp. There is a bizarre sketch where an African chief is dragged by a dental floss attached to a truck to get a tooth out. Also, two very Italian fat aristocrat ladies with parasols suddenly appear, and are revealed to be arse-shaking cabaret dancers who literally bring the floor down.  A pleasant time-killer.  Like Unbelievable Adventures, one of the more fun Italian adventures.

Safari Express (1976) - Begins with a chimp bride marrying a human, in a church with an Ulsterman priest. Turns out to be a chimp's dream. Sadly, the rest of the film isn't this weird. With Jack Palance, Giuliano Gemma and Ursula Andress (dubbing herself, for once - with her awful voice) as an amnesiac nun, a different role to the one she played in the previous film, Africa Express, Has the chimp drinking whiskey, and a silly-ass RAF type.

L'Aventure, c'est L'Aventure (1972) - Lino Ventura vehicle. Features the kidnap of Johnny Hallyday, directed by Claude Lelouch. There is some impressive stunts, and lots of baffling French humour. Overlong at two hours, rather too leisurely - even has a golf break. Works better as a trailer.

Hotel Colonial (1987) Steamy but unmemorable Italian erotic thriller with John Savage, Rachel Ward and a slumming Robert Duvall.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

21 (4 refs = 25 - 22, really Nightmare in Wax only counts, 25 if Where the Bullets Fly counts )

The Mafu Cage (1978) - Carol Kane and Lee Grant play sisters (though with a massive age gap). Not really a horror, more one of those annoying mad-people psychodramas like Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly  or Spider Baby (1968)). But it avoids some of the cliches of that. Perhaps being directed by a woman, Karen Arthur helps. Even though the performances are good, with Will Geer riffing of his Grandfather Walton role and Kane escorting an orangutan around. It's a strange, oddly likeable film. It should be an annoying New Hollywood thing, but there's lots of weirdness including the very odd climax where Kane dons blackface, as if unable to see herself as anything but a product of her father's African fantasyland. It does go on a  bit, may have been better as an anthology segment, but it is really very odd.

Tourist Trap (1979) - An insanely good performance by Chuck Connors, a good soundtrack by Pino Donaggio,  and a creepy setting make this probably the best Charles Band production. Connors' folksy charm hiding  a streak of backwater malevolence is something that people have tried to copy - most notably Rob Zombie, but none have captured the familiarity that Connors brought from the Rifleman and ads for toys. The thing about horrors I often find is that they need a good villain, hence why I find a faceless slasher kind of redundant in a lot of cases. The victims aren't annoying. It manages to hone Band's obsessions into something that isn't jokey crud. Though there were precedents like Tobe Hooper's Death Trap and the godawful Nightmare in Wax (1969), this adds things like the necrophiliac tomb of Connors' waxen wife. It is a little stretched, but the setting is so interesting and Connors so good (apparently, he hoped this would launch him as the Karloff of the 80s - but horror went a different way). He's not a caricature like "Captain Spalding" in Zombie's films or even Rory Calhoun in Motel Hell.  The "handsome" brother is an interesting touch. As is the whole split-personality ventriloquism. It may be one of the best American horror films of the 1970s, if ever.

Silent Scream (1980) - Yvonne De Carlo keeps daughter/prom queen Barbara Steele (barely used) locked in attic. Avery "who is this fat chap on the Muppet Show, mam?" Schreiber and Cameron Mitchell are cops who add filler. Suspense-free nonsense with unendearing characters.

Fade To Black (1980) - Also from Compass, an interesting failure. Dennis Christopher is a weirdo who falls in love with an Aussie Marilyn lookalike/ex-Blankety Blanks model. Not sure if it is a horror or fish out of water drama, never really succeeds in either.  Weirdly has B/W footage of Horror of Dracula, instead of Tod Browning's Dracula. Film star and not pop star Mickey Rourke appears. It's not a cinematic themed Theatre of Blood either, as Christopher's fanboy massacres are so hopeless, although  a murder based on the Prince and the Showgirl is interesting. It's an interesting film, not bad, but it seems to be aiming too high, especially with the intercut scenes of B/W classics.

Homebodies (1974) - Slow, strange Avco Embassy geriatric black comedy - the "Blind Alleys" Tales from The Crypt segment as a  ninety minute film, an oddity, not great, not sure what it is. Takes too long to get where it is. Some interesting deaths, and a game cast including the ubiquitous Ian Wolfe, but very strange.

Time Walker (1982) - An interesting Egyptian ancient astronaut preamble gives away to a slasher with Erich von Daniken trappings. There are a few interesting touches, i.e. the cars going wild, and the mummy effects are interesting until he reveals himself as a goggle-eyed thing in a black jumpsuit.

Dead and Buried (1981) - It creates a world, The images of people taking photos of deaths are creepy. Jack Albertson is great as the villain. And the cosmetics sequence is interesting. But it is slow. There is a blandness that comes through the soft-focus nature. The whole film feels like a flashback. Mendocino is a great location. It does perk up forty minutes in, but the thing is the tone is slightly too serious. It perhaps needed someone like Joe Dante. The whole idea is this grim joke. The ending's great, with Melody Anderson being shot constantly and trying to understand why until she realises she is dead. It's quite similar to Halloween III, but I think it needed some of that black humour. A Larry Cohen or a Joe Dante may have added something to it. Gary Sherman is very serious, It's very well-made, but it needed a little excitement, a little fizz. Plus Joe Renzetti's score is a little too sombre. Clearly, the script had more humour that the crew phased out.

Alone In the Dark (1982) - Well-shot, but a mess, an enjoyable mess, but flawed. Donald Pleasence as a doctor who is also a murderous chef, with a very unconvincing accent. Landau, Palance and Pleasence are very good, but it can't tell if it is a slasher or a black comedy. Interesting to see Dwight Schultz playing the sane one for a change. Horror lost something by 1983. There was something in the early 80s, when it was still 70s enough before the VHS revolution hit, and everything became a bit rubbish.

Wild Beasts (1983) - Hard to make out Italian nonsense.

A Story Of Love (1977) - Ion Popescu Gopo's Romanian space-fantasy via Tales from Europe- with a spaceman and a cartoon crow in a fairytale kingdom. Pretty but twee.

House of Seven Corpses (1972) - Meta-horror set in a film set. John Carradine turns up. Quite colourfully garish, but unmemorable nonsense.

Mission Stardust (1968) - Italian SF, sub-Barbarella nonsense based on the Perry Rhodan novels. Mostly Eurospy awfulness set in Africa.

Captain Kidd (1945) - Not one of Laughton's best. Not a fan of pirate movies, really.

I Walked With A Zombie (1943) -  I find the drama bits kind of bland, the real power in the stuff with the voodoo. The sequel, Zombies on Broadway (1945), with added Bela Lugosi and a monkey is an interesting embarrassment.

Basket Case 2 (1990) - With an elevated budget and a Glickenhaus sheen, and professional actors, much of the charm is lost, the grotesqueness elevated. And Annie Ross is there to give sausages for the boys. That sort of not-great mix of jokes and prosthetics, rather than just a lovably rubbish puppet. Saw it before, couldn't understand it. I like Henenlotter, but this is kind of caught between two stools, and feels almost like a Sid and Marty Krofft-type kids' show with sex.

End Play (1976) - Dragging Australian giallo, with Charles "Bud" Tingwell and Paul Hogan stooge Delvene Delaney,  very Clemens-esque, with a ridiculous hippie disguise,  and a story  that goes in circles. Basically says that being a wheelchair makes you murderous.

Devil and Daniel Webster (1941) - Some 1940s anachronisms slip into the 1840s  setting. I find it's the sort of Twilight Zone-y story I don't gravitate to. Kind of complicated, slightly overlong. The climax is rather haunting, but everything building it up doesn't quite appeal. The highlight possibly the way Walter Huston devours a pie.

Invaders Of The Lost Gold (1982) - Filipino-Italian Dick Randall nonsense, involving Stuart Whitman, Glynis Barber (with her Blake's 7 hair) and Woody Strode finding gold in the Filipino jungle.  Scenes of sailors in a Tokyo bar chatting up lingerie-wearing dancers. Laura Gemser appears. Some kind of murderer on the loose. Incomprehensible nonsense.

Licensed to Kill (1965) - Not a good film, so cheap it makes an ITC TV series episode look like Cleopatra. Lindsay Shonteff didn't improve with age. The Shonteff-less sequel Where The Bullets Fly has Sid James and Wilfrid Brambell and Michael Ripper as the baddie, but from what I've seen, is just as bad. Just lots of talk and half-baked gun chases through parks.

Kong Island (1968) - Jungle adventure with snarling tortured chumps in gorilla suits, also from Dick Randall. Incomprehensible, with nude slow-motion girls dancing through the jungle.

Son of Hitler (1978) - An alleged comedy made by some German industrialists, with four ASSISTANT EDITORS, and Peter Cushing, Anton Diffring and Bud Cort as the titular illiterate offspring. With a $5 million budget, it looks expensive, but doesn't  work. It is jawdropping,   makes no sense, and runs out of plot.

Diamonds for Breakfast (1968) - Silly post-imperialist heist by Christopher Morahan, an Italian coproduction, theme sung by Mastroianni in an Italo-Russian accent. Feels very cheap. Rita Tushingham turns up. I'm not one for heists. Watched it simply to make a note.

Friday, 13 July 2018

29/41 (inc. 12 refs, 13 inc. Oliver)

Putney Swope (1969) - Robert Downey Sr's arty something - it's not quite a  film but an angry and unlikeable and not particularly funny satire, a sort of self-aggrandising proto-Kentucky Fried Movie.

The Nickel Ride (1974)  Well shot, John Hillerman is good in it, but it's the sort of New Hollywood crime movie I never got into. The sort of film I'd like to make, but not watch. It ends kind of positively, from what I saw. Because it's by Robert Mulligan, it feels sentimental.

Ivan Vasilievich Changes Professions (1973) - Attractive if not very funny comedy - basically "what if Ivan the Terrible was in a Soviet kitchen of the 1970s"? Some funny bits, but a bit repetitive. Reliant on sped-up footage - the sign of a failing comedy.

A Feast At Midnight (1996) - Christopher Lee in a film that you try to like, but its boy's school antics reek of a tax dodge. Michael Gove proves that if it were not for politics, he could have been this generation's Ronald Lacey. It feels a little twee. Even if it were a kids' TV show, it'd be more manic.

The Undertaker And His Pals (1966) - Ted V. Mikels produced attempt at a HG Lewis imitation. But nowhere near as sensationalist. In fact, the gore seems to be an afterthought. It's only an hour, because it was edited.

The Devil's Nightmare (1971) - A typically nonsensical Italian-Belgian coproduction, Nazi count has a succubus daughter. Atmospheric, and Daniel Emilfork an interesting Devil, but very typical Eurohorror nonsense. Like a lot of these films, the soundtrack's the best thing.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) - Prettily shot but aimless mystery, recently remade as a miniseries that vows to be clearer and explain everything, rather than be merely eighty minutes of annoying posh girls in white dresses. The trouble about a lot of Aussie films from this era - they can be slooooowww.

Agnes Browne (1999) - Based on the novels by Brendan FUCKING O'Carroll, based on the radio serial where his matriarch originated. It's spelt Brown in the godawful videos/sitcom to differentiate from this typically confused and sentimental Irish nonsense. Produced by Greg Smith, who thought he had another Confessions... on his hand, but Anjelica Huston, directing and starring makes it more of a dramedy. She is still a more convincing Dubliner than O'Carroll, despite the obvious.

It's Trad, Dad (1962) - Music clips from both sides of the Atlantic united via a British clubland/radio framing story. Arguably the first anthology from Amicus. More of historical worth than anything.

Riddle of the Sands (1979) - Rewatch - Atmospherically shot, tonally confused adventure, intended as a family film, based on a  book by Erskine Childers Sr. (and no, his son, the one-time Irish President. Top toffery with Michael York, Simon "which one is he again?" McCorkindale and Jenny Agutter, Michael Sheard in his largest film role. However, it's not quite as fun as the 39 Steps or  The Lady Vanishes (1978).

Every You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (1972)- I like Woody Allen's dummy/rattle, but he still annoys. The medieval bits remind me of the Medievalworld bits from Westworld. There seems to be this thing common from the 70s onward that black actors. I'm sure the Gene Wilding ("in farmer's parlance") sketch is something common in Ireland. There's a few jokes, i.e. the scouts, but it feels all a bit vulgar, a typical shoddy 70s comedy anthology with a better cast and production value.

The Indian Tomb/Tiger of Eschnapur (1959) - Fritz Lang's German-Indian subcontinental odyssey, rather stagnant performances from brownedup Krauts. The last twenty minutes are great, and clearly an influence on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but the rest of the two films are just not that exciting. Plus nobody really convinces as Indian, and Luciana Paluzzi in brownface looks more like Ruth Madoc.

She (1935) - I know Vincey has to be stiff, but Randolph Scott is too old and too American, and Vincey is unlikeable. Nigel Bruce is good, and like a lot of 30s lost world adventures, the world feels stagey and not thought through. The climax sets are marvellous, and there's an interesting dance interlude (30s films still rooted to vaudeville). Nigel Bruce looks like Peter Glaze. The ending, unlike the1965 Hammer has Vincey return home with Major Holly and sparky brunette Tanya, rather than becoming immortal himself. A Razzie favourite, beloved by Harryhausen.

L'Atlantide (1932) - GW Pabst's film, arguably the first Europudding - similar to She, but much more visually exciting. Watched the French version, Brigitte Helm in all three.

Siren of Atlantis (1949) - Nice sets, but another vehicle for the incomprehensible Maria Montez. Even Jean Pierre Aumont looks drunk, at one stage. Atlantis feels empty.

The People That Time Forgot (1977) - Of the four Amicus/Doug fMcClure adventures, I find Warlords of Atlantis (1978) the most fun. This takes a while to start, and is quite surprisingly downbeat (unlike the novel - it kills off characters rather than marrying them), but it looks increasingly epic - with the hordes of albino samurai. Patrick Wayne takes over as hero, while McClure does the whole haunted survivor thing. It goes into more sword and sorcery territory, but with a joy that later films don't - mainly because they don't have Thorley Walters as a mad professor with a sword.

Island of Terror (1966) - Like Gorgo (1960),  I try to have a fondness for this serviceable Peter Cushing programmer. Because it is set on an Irish island, but filmed in Black Park. Because it's basically an Irish Doctor Who story, I try to like it more than I do. But it's  interesting to have Sam Kydd as a Garda with his actual Norn Iron accent.  Half of the cast forget it is supposed to be Ireland. The trouble is that it is not vey exciting. It's a remake of Fiend Without A Face (1959), which has lesser performances but a better monster, plus it calls Gardai police,  event he station has police written on it, but the insignia is a Garda one. The silicates, organic Daleks are interesting, but not interesting enough. This kind of horror I enjoyed as a kid, but it is very samey. It's rather  too talky for its own good,  and while the ending is fun - with the silicates infesting the island,  and Niall McGinnis leading a gang of farmers with guns, but it's an idea suited to a TV anthology. A curio as it stands, it might have had more charm if actually filmed in Ireland. Still better than Night Of The Big Heat (1967).

Charley's Aunt (1941) - It's frenetic but the sort of Mid-Atlantic clash between Oxbridge farce and Jack Benny's quick-talking vaudeville - it kind of feels a bit dinner theatre. Or when an American star does panto. It's all very mannered, except Jack Benny, obviously. It is interesting, I suppose.

Charley's Big-Hearted Aunt (1940) - Considerably less mannered, working-class modernised version. Felix Aylmer looks as old as he ever was. Arthur Askey much more  of a dame. Again not ribtickling, but more charming in its ramshackle nature.

The Rebel (1961) - I'm not that big a Hancock fan. The stuff about the statue is fun if a little overlong. Some jokes are fun - the hitchhiking on a railway car bit,  Features Oliver Reed doing a French accent. Plus a lot of "the funny art bits" he does aren't funny. He's just being Jackson Pollock. And it feels somewhere between a sitcom movie and a proper film - because then you have George Sanders turn up. The "hairy birds" line is fun, but the film outstays its welcome, and the suicide subplot is very odd. It feels a lot like the Morecambe and Wise films. British comedy and that sort of glamour don't mix. It's an interesting oddity, but it doesn't know what it is.

Crack In  The World (1965) - Attractive but humourless disaster, let down by tedious melodrama involving Kieron Moore, Janette "Thora Jnr" Scott and an ageing Dana Andrews, and aside from the leads, a semi-amateurish Spanish-based cast. And the confined Tanzanian (actually Spanish) settings robs up of international spectacle. Similar to When Worlds Collide (1951) - an interesting idea told slightly too prosaically. I suppose it'd fill an afternoon.

The Satan Bug (1965) - Another Dana dud. Richard Basehart is an interesting villain, but the film is a talky, uninteresting, unoriginal thriller. If it had retained the Alistair Maclean novel's original UK setting, it might have been more memorable. Only in the last five minutes do we get out of the desert. It's all a bit too humourless and cerebral - a bit Andromeda Strain (1971).

Flight From Ashiya (1964) - Not to be confused with the more fun Escape From Zahrain (1962), also with Yul Brynner. Badly lit in some cases, the Japanese coproduction makes it feel like a kaiju movie, despite Widmark and Brynner. But it's very bitty. Some mumpsy about air rescues across Asia. One of Michael Anderson's variable films, a la his Kiwi God-com Second Time Lucky (1984).

Our Man in Havana (1959) - One thing you have to say about it is it is the most perfect document of Havana as it fell. And a supreme cast - Alec Guinness (who I can take in small doses - I'm not an Ealing fan, really), Bird's Eye, Maureen O'Hara, Rich Ralphardson AND Maurice Denham, Noel Coward, amongst others. Better than Lester's Cuba. A fun epilogue involving robots. The plot is hideously complicated, being a spy film of a certain era.

The Fallen Idol (1968) - It's a nice idea, but it's a bit stretched. It's slightly too sentimental. I know Carol Reed did good sentiment, Oliver!, the lovely A Kid For Two Farthings (1955), but still. The kid's a bit Emile Janders.

Dillinger and Capone (1995) - With the casting of a too-old Martin Sheen and F. Murray Abraham (not bulky enough, and overusing the black hair dye), and an initially sweeping theme that turns out to be a fake-out for stock jazz, and a decent "that guy"  cast, clearly intended as a prestige piece.  but blandly TV-movie like, down to using California to play various locations and use of sepia stock footage for scenes of railways. At times, it looks more like an FMV video game. There's a dodgy accented butler, and a Larry Buchanan-ish end title caption that claims Dillinger, under the name John Dalton died in 1976. A young Jeffrey Dean Morgan pops up as a tough. Better period detail than previous Corman gangster shows. Not a gangster fan, though. But an interesting folly.

TOPPER (1937) - I'm not a fan of screwball comedies. This is decent, but despite the ghosts, not the sort of stuff that tickles me. Roland Young is good.

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) - Bar Blazing Saddles, I find western comedies not my cuppa. This feels interesting, but it feels like a mannered stage play. Laughton's great, but...

Sunday, 8 July 2018

51 + 2 = 55.

3 Supermen in the Jungle (1970) - With a theme tune that sounds vaguely like the theme to the Price is Right,  goofy if attractively shot in a cartoonish Arabian Nights-style Turkey followed by a trip into Carry On Up the Jungle territory. Lots of nonsensical comedy fighting. Has Africans in toques preparing a meal for the white female tribe, and comic-style scenes of a bone instrument band.

Villain (1971) - It's wonderfully shot, but Burton's Cockney accent is astonishing. Sometimes, it's reasonable, but then he goes a bit gruff, and it's ridiculous. It just doesn't suit him. It really ruins the film. It's too good to be a camp classic, and yet it's too ridiculous to be a dark, lean, mean crime film. Ian McShane as the doe-eyed love interest. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics somewhat brilliantly retcon his character to be a literal Young Lovejoy, sometime  after his oggy-raiding.

Sitting Target (1972) - A grim, mean partly Irish shot crime thriller with Oliver Reed. Jill St. John's accent is too posh, too Mid-Atlantic for a gangster's wife. Ian McShane and Edward Woodward costar. Again well-made but not really a film I enjoy. It's a film about a nutter who wants to kill his wife.

The Incident (1968) - One of the last b/w studio films, like the latter, well-made but difficult to like.

Beast of the Yellow Night (1970) - Weirdly Christian Filipino horror, tries to be atmospheric but badly lit, badly made.

The Trip (1967)  - Literally made on drugs, so of course it's nonsense.

Colour Me Blood Red (1967) - It can be rubbish in parts, but H.G. Lewis was no Wes Craven. Yes, he could bore the audience at times, but this has plenty of zap to make up for the amateurishness.

Wizard of Gore (1970) - Same as above. H.G. Lewis always made his films attractive though. The ending is mental.

Last Tango In Paris (1972) - Pretentious, unwatchable crud.

Sleeper (1973) - I admire the conceit, but it seems underplayed. Aping the clinical SF of its era too much for its own good.

Performance (1970) - Oh, fuck off.

Love Camp 7 (1970) - Using the war for seedy titillation.

Seconds (1966) - It's nicely shot, but it doesn't go much above a Twilight Zone. Also overlong.

Voices (1973) - David Hemmings "horror", a film so cheap and nasty I feel it might be shot on video.

Cool Hand Luke (1967) - I find prison movies wearing. No exception, this. Quite homoerotic.

They Came To Rob Las Vegas (1968)- Attractive potboiler, but makes little of setting, being an Italo-Spanish coproduction. Mostly shot in the Spanish desert. A basic heist film.

The Strangler (1964)-  Victor Buono obviously is great, but this film is otherwise a routine crime thriller. It also seems to be shot on video. Feels very TV-like. Like the similarly noirish but slightly more exciting/experimental procedural The Boston Strangler (1968), it's based on the DeSalvo case. I'm not one for true crime, with few exceptions (10 Rillington Place (1970), to an extent).

World of Henry Orient (1964) - Supposedly charming but actually quite pervy dramedy. Sellers is very smarmy.

Sands of the Kalahari (1965) - Nicely photographed. Stanley Baker channelling his inner Talfryn Thomas. Lots of funny accents and over-acting. No one's really likeable.  I can see why it flopped.

The Secret War of Harry Frigg (1968) - Paul Newman in a confused wartime caper. Begins in a Universal backlot recreation of Twickenham. Almost an American production trying to pass off as Italian, down to the Carlo Rustichelli score, but TV-level production values reveal its true nature. Too goofy for its own good.

The Big Bird Cage(1971)/The Big Doll House (1970) - Women's prison movies are always the same. You've seen one. You don't need any more.

A Countess from Hong Kong (1967) - What is Chaplin going for here? Stagey farce or romanticism? God knows.

Faster Pussycat Kill Kill (1964) - I'm not a Russ Meyer fan. Put it that way. Big breasted women in the desert. Couldn't quite maintain my attention.

Targets (1968) - An interesting thriller, but not my sort of film. You can see it is a bridging point between the gothic and the American nightmare, but it isn't my sort of film.

The Pirates of Blood River (1962) - As a kid, I imagined this to be a gory adventure. It's nothing like that. Hammer, yes, but it could easily been from ten years prior.
Devil-Ship Pirates (1964) - Another routine pirate film from Hammer. A time-waster, nothing more.

Caboblanco (1980) - Attractive if nonsensical all-star would-be Casablanca with Charles Bronson. Narrated by Simon McCorkindale, clearly in post-production hell. Scenes deleted, cast missing. Produced by one of the lesser members of the De Laurentiis clan. Riding on the fact it is a romance, yet tries to shoehorn a carelessly inserted British imperial conspiracy and then becomes briefly a sort of Most Dangerous Game-type thriller with slasher-type murders. Also full of funny Latinos. Bronson wears a dressing gown. Difficult to love, but hard to dislike. It becomes quite nasty when it's supposed to be a romp -clearly that Italian influence. The sets look like the bar from the flashbacks in Airplane! The final scenes are really nicely shot, as if J. Lee Thompson has become interested. Though he tries to make a jukebox scary.

Get to Know Your Rabbit (1972) - Smothers/Welles/De Palma hodgepodge, a mesh of tones, not as interesting as it should be.  Less stagey/sketchy/amateurish than Greetings (1968 - which I barely started) and Hi, Mom (1970), but still voyeuristic.

The Fiend (1972) - Horror, not very good, featuring Patrick Magee, Tony Beckley and in an astonishingly cut musical number/murder scene, future Stars In Their Eyes champ Maxine Barrie. Remember her? Shirley Bassey impersonator? Yes, she was a professional. Also, Dave Lodge pops up as a copper, being a British film of a certain era. Ann Todd looks as if she is wearing old age makeup, even though she was in her sixties. Then again, she played "young girls" while in her fifties. Interesting to see Beckley in a lead, but it is so unexciting, bar when Maxine sings. It looks cheap, like an episode of Catweazle. It's not a fun film. Couldn't quite finish.

Operation Crossbow (1965) - Nonsensical 60s spy movie with WW2 backing. The 1940s setting is non-existent. Sophia Loren appears for a few seconds. Seems to not know what type of war move it is. Patrick Wymark as Churchill is shot in a Blofeld-style obscurist manner as if they realised the ageing makeup is rubbish, even though we barely see it. Feels like an Italian film, thanks to Carlo Ponti. Despite a mostly British cast and shooting at MGM British, it could easily be Cinecitta. Clearly an influence on the even more preposterous Eagles Over London (1969). There's a shell of a fun movie in there, but it tries to be too big. The blitz scenes are well-done. Tom Courtenay appears when he as still trying to be a film star, see also his turn in the interesting but overlong Night of the Generals (1965 - where Omar Sharif plays a Nazi) which has an interesting plot, but is twice as long as it needs to be, and feels basically like a two hour prologue to an interesting twenty minute climax set in the then-present.

Deadtime Stories (1986) - Amateurish Tales from the Darkside-type anthology with interesting effects, but otherwise unwatchable.

Parasite (1982) - More Band shite. Decently shot, but it doesn't look like there's been an apocalypse. Demi Moore pops up.

Rentadick (1972) - David Frost-produced sex farce, a rare lead for Richard Briers and introducing Richard Beckinsale. Featuring Spike Milligan.  Titles present the film as a comic strip. Full of un-PC caricatures (Peruvian Michael Bentine in a fez as an Arab). Ronald Fraser plays the same sort of M role he did in Fathom. Almost feels like a Lindsay Shonteff effort, except written by various handles including a certain Cleese and Chapman. The fictional Arab state is a marshy airfield with Ishaq Bux sat atop a roof.

Tarzan's Greatest Adventure (1960) - Attractively shot, but more of the same jungle antics. Sean Conroy pops up.

The Gate (1986) - Basically an episode of Goosebumps.

The 1000 Plane Raid (1970) - Backlot bound TV movie esque wartime claptrap.

Under Milk Wood (1972) - A strange, not successful but atmospheric oddity, so Welsh, but such an incomprehensible load of bollocks but startling.

They All Laughed (1980) - A difficult picture, as it is a love letter to the immediately deceased Dorothy Statten. Also Gazzara and Hepburn's relationship had petered out. It's just an odd film.

Lady From Shanghai (1947) - Not a noir man, but worth it because of the sheer weirdness of Irish Welles. Sounds like he's trying to be Richard Harris twenty years early when he's not doing a Robert Newton. The end is ace, but I find the accent the most enjoyable. He sounds like someone doing an Orson Welles voice in an Irish accent, so close to parody it is almost Maurice Lamarche.

Burke and Hare (1972) - Yootha Joyce is good in this unfunny sex farce. Interesting to see Glynn Edwards in a lead.  Unfunny sex farce with unusually good production values.

Kidnapped (1971) - A handsome production marred by strange accents from Caine, plus an elderly-looking Davie Balfour (yes, he's been in Still Game, being a Scottish character actor of a certain age).

Dougal And The Blue Cat (1972) - Utterly wondrous adaptation of the Magic Roundabout. Buxton is a delightfully sinister villain, in his quest to be king of the world, even Bognor and Crewe.

Robinson in Space (1997) - A weird full motion videogame crossed with Telly Savalas Looks at Birmingham-type semi-educational bafflement. Like a too-long Look Around You sketch.

Wings Of Fame (1990) - Colin Firth and Peter O'Toole in dreary but imaginative europudding set in a bland afterlife hotel.  Confused.

Apartment Zero (1988) - Despite an interesting setting, a stylish but irritating Argentinian malady. Colin Firth does Strangers With A Train, while Dora Bryan and Liz Smith turn up. Feels a bit "late night cable", an erotic thriller with delusions of grandeur.

House of Dark Shadows (1970) - By compacting years' worth of storylines, it moves at a pace, plus I've never been a fan of moping romantic vampires, and some of the acting from the younger actors is a bit rough. Grayson Hall and Thayer David are great. But it is a hodgepodge. Something giddy is lost in the transfer from garish VT to grainy film, and the curious mix of 70s Americana and Mid-Atlantic gothic doesn't quite work. The ending makes no sense.

Night of Dark Shadows (1972) - Less fun than the previous film, a mess, seeing the old cast in new roles doesn't work. Dreary, like many 70s US horrors.

Land of the Minotaur (1976) - Amateurish Greek horror with Donald Pleasance as an Irish-Somerset priest fighting a devil-cult headed by Peter Cushing. Dreary antics involve a van called Australia.

Murder With Mirrors (1985) - Trite, sentimental Helen Hayes-as-Canadian-voiced-Miss Marple US TVM, with shoehorned in US juveniles amongst a teen Tim Roth. John Woodvine is the victim. Bette Davis looks ancient, John Mills is himself, Anton Rodgers doesn't use his Anton Rodgers voice, Frances de la Tour is wasted.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

18 plus 12 refs equals 31,33 (inc. the System) pos.34,39 inc. Zuckers - c.1150-1200

Andromeda Nebula (1967) - Soviet Dovzhenko film, very Things to Come and rather staid. Some of the most, almost deliberately stylised yet unconvincing sets. Yet somewhat Bavaesque.

Gentleman, I Have Killed Einstein (1968) - Another Barrandov time-travel comedy, nowhere near as funny or well-designed as Tomorrow, I Shall Wake Up And Scald Myself With Tea. Very mod mix of 60s futura (with selfie sticks) and period drama. By Oldrich Lipsky. Watched Lipsky's Srdecny pozdrav ze zeměkoule (1982), which despite the inventive idea of using Dilbert-ish line animation for aliens, is an unfunny comedy about two sinister bearded men being silly.

hanno cambiato faccia (1971) - An Italian modernist version of Dracula. Arty, atmospheric, but hell it's head is up its arse. Adolfo Celi is a good Dracula, but it is not an enjoyable film. Prefigures The Cars That Ate Paris (1974).

Target - Eagle (1982) - Another late-period Eurospy, a Spanish/Mexican film that despite an interesting cast - George Peppard, Maud Adams, Max Von Sydow as a Swedish-Irish-Mexican spymaster and Chuck Connors, is entirely unmemorable routine cop dreck with added skydiving and a nice Baccara-esque theme tune.
Goma-2 (1984) - Ropey trucksploitation with Lee Van Cleef as a French gangster.  From the makers of the above.

Shout at The Devil (1976) - One of those films that might have been more enjoyable for the cast and crew. Moore and Marvin enjoy themselves, Ian Holm is miscast as a mute Algerian (I know he was known for playing Frenchmen, but still...), and it feels like a cutdown of a miniseries. It's a mire of good stuntwork, but it doesn't hold together. A folly. You get lost in it. And the tone is all over - from comedy scrapes to a baby getting topped in a bonfire. As Andrew Male says, "it's half-Carry On Up The Khyber, half-Soldier Blue".

Parents (1989) - It's a hard film to categorise. Bob Balaban's direction is very flat and TV-like, goes from arty to bland. I feel it needed a Joe Dante. It feels too serious. And the kid a bit useless. It's an overlong MTV sketch.

Bimini Code (1983) - A dreadful hourlong "bikini babes educate children about marine life"  thing, imagine a G-rated Andy Sidaris film.

Mystery Mansion (1983) - A cheap family film, about kids finding gold in a house. A sort of US Children's Film Foundation thing with none of the charm. A videotape of this appears in Argento's Opera, apparently.

You Must Be Joking (1965) - Endearing, attractively shot if not exactly hilarious all-star Michael Winner vehicle. A bit too much of a chase, cramming in too many faces. Gets lost in itself.

The Jokers (1967) - More of the above from Winner. But he manages to get on my nerves with Michael Crawford and young Edward Fox together. It does serve as a nice time capsule of 1960s London, though. But it is a bit Children's Film Foundation/Nutty Hijack.

Tried to watch the System (1964), but it's not my kind of film.

Watching the Police Squad! TV series of 1982. Never quite a fan of the Naked Gun films, preferred Airplane and Top Secret! The trouble is there are laugh out loud moments, but they get lost in amidst regular 70s cop show mediocrity, and obviously there weren't enough jokes for six episodes, as it was intended as a one-off IIRC.

Jack the Giant Killer (1962) - Despite some good if rather too cartoony stop motion work from Jim Danforth and usage of Harryhausen's regular director Nathan Juran and stars Kerwin Matthews and Torin Thatcher, its stagebound Hollywood "fairytale-land" setting and semi-musical atmosphere is rather silly. Anna Lee, 8th billed despite having a few years earlier been 2nd lead in John Ford films. It's on a similar level to the lesser Harryhausen stuff - 3 Worlds of Gulliver and Harryhausen's early films (Harryhausen was always helped by the fact his Golden Age was based in the UK, and hence could get the cream of character actors), and some of the Dark Princess bits have a pleasingly Tales from Europe quality. Don Beddoe as the Leprechaun is particularly annoying (imagine what a Patrick Troughton would have done).

Tried to watch The Creature From Black Lake (1977). but regional 70s monster movies are almost always dire, sadly. This, with its mix of dodgy photography to avoid glimpses of a bad ape suit, bad country songs always sung by the director, and redneck bromance,   See also the Crater Lake Monster (1977), a similar film about a plesiosaur that wreaks bloody havoc. Has a nice stop-motion creature by David Allen,  but the film around from wht I could sit through was godawful, as bad actors dressed as policemen mourn over their dead friends, like these films always end.

Captain Sindbad (1963) - Another similarly barefaced attempt at Harryhausenploitation, and with a varied cast - Guy Williams at the titular hero in between Zorro and Lost In Space, Starsky and Hutch's Captain Doby, Bernie Hamilton in the Woody Strode role,  Abraham Sofaer (an actual Middle Easterner) as the Magician,  Pedro Armendariz, the unfortunately named Rolf Wanka, Harryhausen vet John Crawford and Geoffrey Toone - the effects are more stylised i.e. dancers in funny suits, and the Bavarian studio locale adds a more European texture. It looks lovely, but it's somewhat lacking.

Mysterious Island (1961) - The opening scenes are really badly lit, as if to hide that they're in a suburban street in England and not in Virginia. The gruff Fauxmericana is a bit grating, and Percy Herbert's Deep Southern accent sounds Yorkshire/Cockney. Michael Craig is a strong lead, and his accent's convincing enough. But it takes too long, 75 minutes in to get to Herbert Lom as Nemo. The stop-motion work is sterling as always for Harryhausen (in one case, bringing back  a dead crab to life).  It's a solid entertaining three star adventure. But it seems too indebted to Swiss Family Robinson survival tactics.  Joan Greenwood is a bit too irritatingly posh, but her character is not a fawning damsel, but a do-all suffragette who does more than some of the men. Gary Merrill is convincingly beaten-down as a journalist. Also has refreshingly apart from Nemo, no deaths. Everyone who arrives on the island lives. Other films would kill off Percy Herbert as Pencroff for being a fool, or have Dan Jackson as Neb (a rare heroic black character in such films) die a noble death. Not here.

Captain Nemo and the Underwater City (1969)  - Robert Ryan as a Windjammer captain-type Nemo, Chuck Connors in a bad wig, Nanette Newman in a bad wig, and Kenneth Connor and Bill Fraser as comedy folk, also in a bad wig. All I remember from this film was that there was an organ. Clearly trying to do more of the sort of epic steampunk comedy of Around the World in 80 Days than the pure albeit light adventure of 20,000 Leagues, with heavy underwater footage. The titular underwater city looks like a Victorian leisure centre. But then again it is written by Pip and Jane Baker. Mysterious Island is entertaining and captivating. This isn't. Even the Irwin Allen miniseries is better. Nemo should be this mysterious but regal figure. Ryan is like a salty seadog who now runs a novelty seafood restaurant. Then again, his titular settlement is basically a holiday camp.

s a furat o bomba (1961) - Romanian cross between The Plank and Dr. Mabuse. Quite noirish but lost in translation.

La vie est un long fleuve tranquille (1988) - This film I first came to know from David Thomson's Cinema: Year by Year, about a child switched at birth. The stills looked awesome, to an eight year old. A silly, broad family comedy. It is that in points, but it also weirdly feels a bit noirish at times. It's a tonal cluster. The middle-class bits are bland, the working class bits are delightfully uncouth a la Flodder or Carla Lane's Bread. Daniel Gelin (the French bloke who dresses up as an Arab and gets shot in the Man Who Knew Too Much) plays the doctor. The thing is the wealthy family, the Le Quesnoys whose daughter is actually the daughter of the working-class Groiselle/Gooseberry clan - who have the Le Quesnoys' son. In the end, neither care much about their birth families and return home. Features a giant poster of the Pope in a Catholic classroom. A lot more sentimental than I thought. The kids get lost in the plot.

Other films I remember from that book were Outrageous (1977), an amateurish sub-John Waters Canadian thing, Le Grande Bouffe (1973 - two hours of four dirty old international stars eating and having it off), and from the same director, Marco Ferreri - Bye Bye Monkey (1978) - where Gerard Depardieu raises the baby son of King Kong, but is actually a dull dramedy not a knockoff sequel despite some interesting visuals, and The 4th Man (1983), which I find kind of sleazy and voyeuristic, and also Jeroen Krabbé always seems rather gormless. . It also gave me glimpses of Dr. Phibes, The Fury, Body Double, Phase IV, The Story of O, Emmanuelle, Last Tango in Paris, The Beast, Billy Jack, and my first glimpses of female nudity.

Jonas Who Will Be 25 in the year 2000 (1976)  An arty kitchen sink semi-futuro-nonsense by Alain Tanner. The sequel, Light Years (1981) is much better, not just as it is shot in Dublin.

Blue Christmas (1978) - A Toho alien invasion film. Using the idea of people who can see UFOs and get blue blood as a result as a Holocaust metaphor, featuring lots of attempts at international appeal - including shooting in the US, though no professional actors, and a strange English-language attempt an American pop band called the Humanoids. It's two hours twelve minutes, but could easily be ninety. Features seemingly authentic TF1 news bulletins. It is flawed, but there is a gem in  there. A Japanese Quatermass Conclusion. The climax is astonishing in its sudden shock - scenes of people enjoying golf, telly, cycling, all being shot - blue blood splattering all over the place, even nuns getting slaughtered.

Intervista (1987) - Indulgent, empty, yet somewhat joyous tour of Cinecitta by Fellini - but almost too artificial, like a full-motion video game directed by Fellini.

And The Ship Sails On (1984) - Weird seeing Freddie Jones not just in a lead, but in a lead in a Fellini film. Also the likes of Peter Cellier and Philip Locke pop up. Again, it feels a bit like an educational videogame, especially as Freddie Jones is the sort of name a cheap British video game company could have afford. The visual world is stunning.  The glass harmonica scene is fun. And it is wonderfully artificial. But it is wearing. The end is spectacular.

Cambodia Express (1982) - Dick Randall's Thai-shot attempt to get on the Italian Namsploitation bandwagon - an intriguing "find my wife" storyline with Robert Walker as an unusually and realistically dorky vet/hero tracing former love Nancy Kwan, while being trained by commando Woody Strode (playing himself essentially and looking impressively ripped at 67, but also disconcertingly like my late uncle - if he were black) to fight Kurtz-alike Christopher George. Impressively photographed, but nothingy. Typically tragic ending has Kwan die in Walker's arms without him noticing. Walker thus shouts, "Why her?" Film ends. To quote my mum when watching On Her Majesty's Secret Service, "She's just tired, son." Typical depressing Italian war shite beloved my dads.

The House in Nightmare Park (1973) - I find Frankie Howerd okay in small doses,  but when he's the star, well, in this case, a tonal mess. The direction by Hammer vet Peter Sykes is effective, but it's a dull retread of 1930s old dark comedies. With little zap. The plot is interesting enough, but it doesn't fit. It gets lost in a stream of schtick. It starts too slow. Kicks too late in. The puppet and dentist sequences belong in a better film. Kenneth Griffith dressed as a golliwog, Rosalie Crutchley as a doll, Hugh Griffith as a soldier boy and Ray Milland as a sailor boy are creepy.  But it feels heavily padded. John Bennett is rather respectful in his turn as an Indian servant.  It gets better as it goes to the end, but it remains merely an interesting oddity with an ever more confusing plot. No wonder Al Adamson and Sam Sherman liked it enough to release it.  Milland is quite convincingly menacing. The killer being the elderly mother and not a man in drag is an interesting twist.  In fact, it seems at times that Howerd is the one miscast. The soundtrack by Harry Robinson is rather too straight, and the final helicopter zoom-out shot is too good for such a cheapie.

The Extraordinary Seaman (1969) - Barely attempted this bizarre mix of B/W stock footage  with some comedy bits where ghostly David Niven faces off with Mickey Rooney, Alan Alda and Faye Dunaway. The worst kind of countercultural flop.

Mission Stardust, Crack in the World, Night Caller, Wild in the Streets    kalai asri kapoor

Monday, 25 June 2018

My brush with fame.

Image result for dustin's daily news

As hard as it may once seem, I once had a whiff of TV notoriety in my homeland. When I was 11. I wasn't a child star. And to be honest, it was a hickory stench. But I have the dubious honour of having been one of the main elements in a RTE children's TV serial plotline on RTE's The Den. For those who don't know, The Den was RTE's answer to CITV and CBBC's the Broom Cupboard. It ran for twenty four years from 1986 to 2010, where it was overhauled by a sixty-odd head of kids' TV and renamed "TRTE" and RTE Jr, and no one's sure what the T stands for. But it'd already been almost dead. For context, the Den began as Dempsey's Den. Hosted by affable disc jockey Ian Dempsey with the aid of two puppet aliens, Zig and Zag, it was initially a series of links to a mix of cartoons, reruns of old ITV serials, Commonwealth filler and US teen sitcoms, as well as the odd native series such as Rimini Riddle or The Morbegs. But the spark of puppeteers Ciaran Morrison and Mick O'Hara turned the Den into some bizarre soap opera, with running storylines, introducing Podge, a ventriloquist's dummy, and later Dustin the Turkey - an illegitimate, streetwise half-vulture from Sallynoggin. When Zig and Zag moved to the UK, on the Big Breakfast, Dustin took over, aided by an infantile sock-haired dog-thing called Soky the Sock Monster, though weirdly the two aliens from Zogs' pet Zuppy remained a regular. By this time, Dempsey had left. And was replaced by Ray D'Arcy. D'Arcy has since gone onto a mystifyingly successful career as a radio DJ and talk show host, yet he was only ever good for kids' TV. He had a magic there that he lacks now. I remember D'Arcy, and then his replacements Damien McCaul (who always seemed to be a poor relation - esp. as it was now "Den II"), and the sadly short-lasting Francis Boylan Jr. Then, in 2005ish, the Den got overhauled. Dustin was moved into his own show and the host segments were hosted by Kathryn McKiernan - a joyously untamed flame-haired youth, though Soky was still hosting the pre-school segments. Dustin's Daily News was the result - a strange hybrid of news satire, celebrity interview (when I say celebrity - the most famous people they got on it were Dewey from Malcolm in the Middle, writer Michael Carroll - who I now know quite well and lots of Irish talent show sorts who have of course vanished, a few GAA players and some prominent children's writers of the time.) and kids' gameshow. Dustin was aided by the lovely Sinead Ni Churnain, as well as Snotser, another Den carryover, a falsetto-voiced pig in a blonde wig.
However, they realised they needed a running plot. Such plots were regular in the Den, from Podge coming to life and the regular appearances of Aunty Monica (played by a male actor in drag - who the actor was I have no idea, but he had great comic timing). But they decided to somehow do a spoof of the Max Headroom Broadcasting Hijack.
Image result for max headroom broadcasting hijack
For those not in the know, Chicago, November 22, 1986, a PBS channel and WGN were hijacked by a bloke in a Max Headroom mask, the PBS showing during a showing of the Doctor Who story "Horror of Fang Rock". "Max" ranted on about Coke, Clutch Cargo and WGN. Dustin's Daily News gave us Martin Duck, a camp, cravatted duck in a blue coat who wanted to run Duck Daily News. He was quite sinister in his arch nature, his blank ping-pong eyes staring at the camera.

This was in January 2006, I was ten, glued to this strange figure who distributed wanted posters. The set for DDN had a TV behind Dustin, but Martin would appear periodically, only to disappear when Dustin looked. And so I emailed in to tell them to look back on the recordings and locate Martin. Thus, they did. Alas, my recording of my appearance is not on, but I did appear - in a voice-only capacity, phoned in,told them, and then the storyline continued. Martin dragged up as "contestant Deirdre Drake" for the not-at-all-the-same-as-Mastermind-but-for-thick-Culchies "Masterbrain game", flirting with Dustin, then kidnapped Sinead and took her place, only for Martin to be tracked down from a secret location, via cryptic clues. A shed in Blackpool, Co. Cork. Then, Limerick. Then, he turned out to be a huge fan. But came back the next year, hijacking the RTE newsroom and was chased through Phoenix Park or something.

I remember speaking to Sinead on the phone, and watching the TV - with the mute button on, as the soundtrack'd be on the phone. I was excited, and got a free pen and T-shirt, which I kept, along with the T-shirt and pen I got from an earlier write-in to Den 2, a part of a best friends photo compilation with my pal Kwesi.

To be honest, I have clearer memories of when Dustin dragged up in Irish dancing frock and wig, or this astonishingly awful country song from Dustin - (backing band footage from Pat "the Deal" Campbell's RTE show Country Star Time), considering he had a series of actual hits in Ireland. And then his Eurovision, but that's another story.
But I still feel proud to be involved such a momentous piece of Irish TV.