Saturday, 22 September 2018

55/52 inc. Westworld - Freaks, Christmas, North Sea Hijack, Canadian SF, Twilight's Last Gleaming, Visitor, Wise Blood, 12 Chairs, Breaker Morant, Blunden, 60s comedy, Euro-action, 70s horror, Sammy Going South

Tried watching NFB pirate films, but they're all the same.

Live Wire (-1992) - Pierce "Peter" Brosnan fights terrorists using unwitting suicide bombers. A lot of pre-9/11 stuff made about how the US has never had a terrorist incident.  Ben Cross does "the Rickman" role. Dareisay it, I'm not the biggest fan of Mr. Brosnan. He's to Roger Moore what Big Tom is to Johnny Cash. Clement von Franckenstein plays a mad scientist with his unique "I want to be Herbert Lom" acting style. Only lasted 15 minutes.

Scrooged (1988) - The faux-shows are good, but I found it at the same time, sentimental and obnoxious, and a bit too 80s comedy "wacky". The Elfman score doesn't help.

Tried watching A Christmas Story (1983), and I understand why it's unknown here. It's that very American sentimentality. But there's bits of weird humour that kind of gel with me, the lamp. Darren McGavin's great. It works in bits, but other times, the more kiddy stuff doesn't quite do with me. Some of the vignettes are great, but it's bitty.

Freaks (1932)  - It feels incomplete, for obvious reasons. It's not a good film. It's almost a proto-reality show. But it is fascinating.

North Sea Hijack (1979) - I want to like this film much more than I do,because Moore clearly relishes the role, but he's rather too unlikeable. Ffolkes is not a comic monster, he's just a ridiculous grotesque. And the hostage situation is rather boring, "Norway" is clearly Galway, Anthony Perkins is a good solid villain, but it almost feels too small. Something with the scale of Raise The Titanic may have suited, rather than the hostage of Jack Watson with a hurdy-gurdy accent. "Both my parents died in childbirth".

Norman's Awesome Experience (1989) - Canadian attempt by the makers of Lexx to do a bland if sometimes attractive Canadian Bill and Ted-via-Asterix. See also Terminal City Ricochet (1990), a similar Canadian video-sci-fi "comedy" that doesn't work.

Twilight's Last Gleaming (1976) - Probably Aldrich's best film, shot like a cinematic comic book, excellent use of split-screens, a incredible cast even though it is overlong.

The Visitor (1979) - It is way too overlong, but it is so extraordinary. John Huston as a Polish-named Time Lord sent by Franco Nero as Space Jesus to rescue a female devilchild, from Mel Ferrer as a corporate representative of Satine. Shelley Winters as a good Mrs. Baylock. Glenn Ford and Sam Peckinpah appearing. Lots of nonsense involving birds. Lance Henriksen as a stepfather. Kareem Abdul Jabaar as himself. The epoch of Italian exploitation.

Wise Blood (1979) - More Huston. Not quite my film. It feels a bit tonally awkward. The setting seems to be  an afterthought. It feels like it should be the 50s, but the budget wasn't there.

The 12 Chairs (1970) - Early Mel Brooks comedy, forgotten. It's odd. Frank Langella and Dom Deluise try to help/hinder Ron Moody in finding a diamond sewn into one of the titular seats. Very Jewish, with lots of Benny Hill-like spedup chases. It's a bit too Fiddler on the Roof for my tastes. Moody and Langella's styles don't quite gel. Nicholas "Rumbold" Smith pops up. It's an oddity. Not that funny. But it is an interesting folly. The finale includes some Brooks madness.

Amazing Mr. Blunden (1972)-  "you skinny slut!" Seen by the previous generation as a classic. It's almost.  It's overwhelmingly charming (the end credits!) but sometimes it's a little too genteel. Diana Dors is a little too hammy. She's not a convincing threat (plus Madeleine Smith is too likeable, and Dave Lodge is wasted). Bette Davis was considered for Wickens. And I think she would have been more convicingly monstrous, especially if she had done her "posh voice". Dors is a little panto, a bit Grotbags. The plot's a little clumsy too, the whole grave and potion stuff padded. The time travel stuff doesn't make sense. Lawrence Naismith is so brilliant, though, as is Graham Crowden.  I remember it being considerably darker. If they had gone for the darkness that colours the exciting and rather creepy climax, rather than slapstick...  Garry Miller plays a time-traveller called Jamie, having done so in the titular role in a blatant Doctor Who knockoff the year before.

Tried Breaker Morant (1980) again, and it's not quite my film. It's well-acted, well-made, but slow as hell. It's a war film, an unusual one, but still a war film.

Manchu Eagle Murder Caper Mystery (1975) - Altmanesque comedy rubbish with Gabriel Dell, quite well-preserved for his age and Barbara Harris.

Roaring Fire (1982) - Early vehicle for Hiroyuki Sanada as a cowboy warrior.  Very odd. Good action but contains Frat comedy,  Japanese Nazis, Sonny Chiba and a ventriloquist's dummy clearly voiced by a woman.

Cancel My Reservation (1972) - Interesting for the wrong reasons, Bob Hope's final starring vehicle, pushing seventy,  a throwback old dark house vehicle with added preachy subplot about Indian land rights. Odd tone. Cameos from Bing, John Wayne and Johnny Carson, all looking adrift in the very low budget, sub-TV surroundings. Typical 60s/early 70s comedy programmer, TV-ish production values, ageing star, jokes that don't quite land.

Law and Disorder (1974) Low-key, low-laugh, plotless wanders. Wambaugh-ish cop comedy with Carroll O'Connor and Ernest Borgnine, weirdly produced by Michael Medwin and Albert Finney.

The Food of the Gods (1976) - Most of Bert I Gordon's stuff I'm not a fan of, but this although quite dreary has an attractive, unusual Canadian setting and British Columbia locations, though the silliness of the giant chickens does tonally crack that. It is better than Gordon's silly Joan Collins Floridian ant-camp Empire of the Ants (1977) and the TV movie-ish faux-Gordon cowpoke drudgery of Kingdom of the Spiders (-1977).

Perils of Pauline (1967) - Terminally camp, overwrought pilot, theatrically released, Terry-Thomas in Dick Dastardly mode, Pat Boone as the hero, white jungle tribesmen and more in excruciating "comedy".

Pyro - The Thing Without A Face (1964) - Partly British-shot Spanish horror with Barry Sullivan, sub-Bava lighting with Eurospy turgid action and a House of Wax aesthetic. Climax similar to Horrors of the Black Museum.

Le Gentleman of Cocody (1965) - Bland but attractive Jean Marais actioner. Some neat stunts, but sub-Bond hijinks.

The Steagle (1971) - Baffling countercultural com with Richard Benjamin changing identity and blowing up a western town. The PD print doesn't help either.

The Ski-Bum (1971) - Charlotte Rambling in countercultural snow-dung.

The Deadly Trap (1971) - Bland, nonsensical almost-giallo by Rene Clement, with Faye Dunaway and Frank Langella.

And Hope To Die (1972) - Jean Louis Trintignant, Robert Ryan and Aldo Ray in Rene Clement heist in Canada. Too slow to make an impact.

Rider on the Rain (1970) - A third Clement. Charles Bronson in a more serious film than usual. Not quite my thing. Star Marlene Jobert is Eva Green's mammy.

End of the Game (1975) - Jon Voight and Maximillian Schell in the latter's vanity project. Giallo-ish. But forgettable. Even the end car flip and the assassination on an airport conveyor belt fail to register. Perhaps hard-done by the grainy print and lack of English version.

Le Marginal (1983) - Belmondo and Henry Silva in half-hearted French actioner.

The Master Touch (1973) - Kirk Douglas in Typical Eurocrime. Good chases but little else.

Hard Contract (1969) - James Coburn in bland Eurothriller. Like a lot of these thrillers, dated.

CIA contro KGB (1978) - Dreary but attractively shot suspense gubbins with Dennis Hopper, Joseph Cotten, Bruno Cremer, et al. Sudden ending.

Fuzz (1972) - It looks good, but it's tonally all over the place, being an Ed McBain adap.

Last Embrace (1979) - Jonathan Demme's slavishness to Hitchcock ends up with something rather boring indeed, a sort of De Palma photocopy.  The climax is interesting, but with a confused antagonist, it just looks a bit silly.

The Hospital (1971) - Altmanesque in some ways, Diana Rigg and George C. Scott fail to liven up a script.

7 Women (1966) - John Ford's Tenko. A little stagey, not quite my sort of film. And some of the yellowface is laughable. And there's a shoehorned in cutesy music number. But it is unfairly neglected. Anne Bancroft as a feminist action heroine is something. The end with her dressed as a geisha is both laughable and oddly striking.

Grizzly (1976) - It feels like a family mountain adventure movie, and not a good one, with shoehorned violence. All rather hopeless.

Prophecy (1979) - Flawed, slow and dull, Grizzly with a bigger budget and an ecological element. Robert Foxworth tries his best, Talia Shire looks like Anita Harris, Armand Assante is grossly miscast, and the difference between studio and British Columbia is obvious. The baby mutant bear is a neat visual, but it's so forgettable otherwise.

Orca (1977) -  Rewatching it. How stupid is Richard Harris' character? The character does seem authentically Irish (most of which I imagine was down to Harris), but he's such an eejit, that it becomes tiring. It's not that he's a top o'the morning stereotype. No, he is exactly the sort of person you avoid in a village, because you know they'll put you in trouble and always blame you. He's like a proto-Rubberbandit, Sillybilly Boathouse. How does he think he has a chance with Charlotte Rampling? Some of the lighting is very gialloesque. The soundtrack is great, but it just needed a rewrite. It's slightly too serious for its own good.

Rewatching Westworld (1973). I've never really felt for it. I always found it kind of cold. The Medievalworld and Romanworld I slightly prefer, but they feel chintzy. I know it's an amusement park, but it feels too chintzy. Even the Medieval robots have American accents. James Brolin is annoying.

History of the World Part 1 (1980) - The prehistory stuff is nonsense. The Roman stuff and the Spanish Inquisition musical number are great, the French Revolution is not good until Milligan turns up being silly. The Universal Little Europe lot is especially obvious in the Roman scenes. There's 19th century-style buildings in Rome! Still, Jews  in space.

Fiend (1980) - Typical Don Dohler dreck, bar the interesting Readybrek glow effect.

Dark Echo  (1977) - Eastern European horror with Karin Dor and Department S' Joel Fabiani. Dreary, with synth-soundtracked ski footage shoehorned in, as are a skull-faced captain, gypsies, fishing, Satanists and yet it is still boring. 

 Screams Of A Winter Night (1979) - Was this shot on local TV news videotape?   

Night of Bloody Horror (1970) - Typical amateurish US independent horror dreck.

Dr. Heckel and Mr. Hype (1980) - Oliver Reed in bemusing Cannon answer to Love at First Bite, about a monstrous Noo Yawk-accented scientist who turns into an English gent. Prolific small actor Tony Cox makes an early appearance as a leather-jacketed pint-sized tough.  Jackie Coogan is a cop.  Being a Cannon film, Yehuda Efroni is shoehorned in.

Shadow of Chikara (1977) - Joe Don Baker in a rather dull western posing as a horror.

The Pack (1977) - Joe Don Baker versus dogs. Better than the same year's David McCallum film Dogs.  Features a creepy treehouse. Still ridiculous, and rather dull, but attractively shot. Directed by Robert Clouse, who seems lost.  The end shot of slow-motion canines climbing stairs and getting burnt alive almost as ridiculous as anything in Night of the Lepus. Somehow, they kill the other dogs but merely tie up their own dog, which is cured unlike the others. Soppy end theme.

Nocturna - Granddaughter Of Dracula (1979) - A strange oddity, "Armenian"/French-Vietnamese belly dancer Nai Bonet's vanity project casts herself as John Carradine's reluctant grandchild. She is terrible, moreso than bland, supposedly straight but  very camp gay Aussie stud Anthony Hamilton, somewhere between Joe Longthorne and Barry McKenzie. Yvonne De Carlo plays Dracula's ex-wife, which means she's technically Lily Munster's mother.  Sponsored by Sunkist, ironically. Gloria Gaynor allegedly conned into doing the theme. The Bonet family crop up in the credits a lot, alongside future director Robert Harmon and  future composer Joel "son of Jerry" Goldsmith.

Frankenstein all'italiana (1975) - Comedy with Aldo Maccione. Ropey, has a curly-haired doctor and a monster makeup not unlike Peter Boyle's, showing an attempt to remake Brooks. An American flag shoehorned in raises a single laugh, as does an out-of-tone Hallelujah. But these aren't intentional titters.

Man With the Transplanted Brain (1972) - Dry, forgettable French ripoff of Seconds with Jean Pierre Aumont.

Don't Look In The Basement (1973) - All the worse, all the more stupid considering it's set in a mental home.

Blood And Lace (1971) - Gloria Grahame in forgettable, bloody proto-slasher set in a home for the world's oldest orphans.

The Love Butcher (1975) - Quite odd split-personality horror, attractively shot, but so ridiculous and inept in other respects, it resembles a vaudeville giallo.

The Hearse (1980) - Bar one dream sequence, this solo vehicle for Trish Van Devere fails to deliver.

Sammy Going South (1963) - It's beautifully shot, the kid's a bit hard taking used to, the story takes it time, Edward G. Robinson doesn't appear until over an hour in, though he is great, Harry H. Corbett's basically doing Air Ace Harold Steptoe.  Though the whole hunting subtext is a little unfortunate.  It's a mess. And the story of a boy and his newfound father figure is kind of lost within.  But it's a beautiful mess.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

2 TV - 37 + 8 refs = 45 - Red Dawn, Creeping Flesh, Kusturica, King Kong, La Boum, Lassiter, Amityville, late 80s British genre stufff, Leo the Last, Weird Mob, Caprice, Tower of Evil, The Big Fix, UHF, Happy Mother's Day, Love George, UHF, Separate Tables, Bergman, Cape Fear, Tarzan, Danny Kaye, Road Games, Road to... The Fan, Eyewitness, Madigan, Eye of the Cat, major studio thrillers

St. Helen's (-1981) - A made for  HBO (with some odd money from the BBC) disaster movie starring Art Carney with a bombastic score by Goblin coupled with a bunch of country songs with lyrics "Here's to you, Harry Truman, you show the pride of a great human!". Tim Thomerson has a moustache. Endlessly padded, the final ten minutes are all second unit with voiceover. It's bland as hell. Features dialogue like "you know the bulge is growing".

The Big Freeze (-1993) - Bob Hoskins, Eric Sykes, Donald Pleasence John Mills, Spike Milligan as Hitler in some Finnish coproduction that feels like an episode of Chucklevision.  Bland. Peter Skellern cameos.

The Love Child (1988) - Peter Capaldi does his godawful Cockney accent, in a insubstantial play.

The Creeping Flesh (1973) - One of the last Lee/Cushing teamups. From Tigon, sadly it's a mess. It's basically a serious version of the Oddbod subplot from Carry On Screaming with bits from Horror Express and a Hands of the Ripper-type female antagonist. Nothing really fits. It's slow, and doesn't quite make sense. Like The Asphyx (1972), a botched attempt at doing a tragedy, when it is otherwise so silly.

Red Dawn (1984) - It's a mess. Milius adds some intelligence, but bar Swayze, the cast are interchangeable. Nice to see Vladek Sheybal turn up. It kind of halts. It's a good half hour too long. A good cast is wasted in small roles.

Black Cat, White Cat (1998) - Emir Kusturica makes the same film again. Features Yugoslavian Colin Blakely (with hair curlers) and Jimmy Nail. Casablanca refs. Same tacky quirkiness.

King Kong vs Godzilla (1962) - Padded out, apart from a few accidentally comical bits - mainly the smoking, brownfaced Japanese Skull Island natives and the impressive squid attack, typical Toho nonsense.

The Amityville Horror (1979) - It's hokey as hell, hard to follow, very TV movie-like, Margot Kidder even though she is playing the mum of three kids is put in very jail bait-y outfits and pigtails, it's overlong, it's almost saved by Rod Steiger's over-acting. And of course it's all based on a lie.

La Boum (1980) - Syrupy. soundtracked by Vladimir Cosma. Baby Sophie Marceau in a sort of fully French Little Romance. A BIT PROBLEMATIC. With a voyeuristic nana. The mother works as an artist for Pif comics (a French comic that included such characters as Corto Maltese and the previously covered-on-here Docteur Justice).It just goes on and on. Now, just want to see teen Marceau as her character from The World Is Not Enough, Star Cops-era David Calder as her henpecked da trying to handle his terrorist teen kid, and "Bobby Carlyle", as he was in The Bill.

Lassiter (1984) - Tom Selleck, Bob Hoskins, Warren Clarke in very televisual Golden Harvest wartime heist caper. A bit of a Nutty Hijack. Begins with Harry Towb as some sort of Cockney-American-Jew bedding Belinda Mayne, who gets promptly sexually asaulted/pickpocketed by our hero. Jane Seymour appears in her second British-based heist movie with a moustachioed American lead.  Nicholas Bond-Owen pops up somewhere.

Electric Dreams (1984) - Bland, MTV-influenced romcom, faux-American setting hence the likes of Don Fellows, Miriam Margolyes and Patsy Smart. Produced by Virgin.Steve Barron directs.

Forbidden Sun (1989) - Steve Barron's mum and Robin Hardy's Greek minotaur-ish nonsense.

Perfect Murder (1988) - Stellan Skarsgard and Naseeruddin Shah in a tonally all over the place, blandly put together Merchant-Ivory action thriller. Madhur Jaffrey costars.

Consuming Passions (1988) - Palin/Jones anthology play remade for TV.  It has the feeling of an ad. Weird seeing a tarted up Prunella Scales as the secretary of Freddie Jones, Tyler Butterworth trying to be like his father. The trouble is the chocolates look cheap, the plot is far-fetched beyond belief (wouldn't there be cloth in the sweets?) Clearly padded beyond belief. The bits with Vanessa Redgrave are sub-Confessions. Everything's a little too broad. Redgrave is godawful. There is no real call for her character to be there. Pryce is a little too OTT.

Dream Lover (1986) - Depressing dream-thriller with Kristy McNichol.

The Grotesque (1995) - Alan Bates and Mr. Sting pop up in baffling old dark house thriller. Lost in whimsy.

Leo the Last (1970) - Boorman tries to make a Red Triangle film, erotic surrealist shite. Ram John Holder turns up.  Elements of the Barry McKenzie film and Bed Sitting Room.

They're A Weird Mob  (1966) - Michael Powell-directed Australian comedy.  Not funny. Lead Walter Chiari is a vacuum. Cast includes John Meillon, Chips Rafferty, Anne "Helen Daniels" Haddy and Skippy stars Ed Devereaux and Tony Bonner.

The Trygon Factor(1966) - Stewart Granger and Susan Hampshire in Avengers-ish krimi. Due to the heavy Brit content and director Cyril Frankel, an Avengers/ITC vet, there's a definite ITV on-film adventure series vibe, rather than a German vibe.

Caprice (1967) - Doris Day is mutton dressed up as lamb in this spy vehicle. Richard Harris plays an eejit in Backlot Paris, with a hairstyle that makes him look like his fellow Bull, Niall Toibin. Dated, sexist mod nonsense. Features Batman product placement. Edward Mulhare plays the toff boss/secret big bad, his sidekick/cover being chemist Ray Walston, who it turns out is a transvestite who dresses up like Old Mother Riley, and was in love with Day's dad. Because trans = murderous psychopath.

Tower of Evil (1972) - All-ageing star horror. Robin Askwith does American. Resembles an ITC TV series with blood and nudity. Derek Fowlds does Roddy McDowall. It's an 80s slasher but made in the style of the Persuaders. A mess, especially with the revelation it is some sort of Lovecraftian cult.

Tried watching 1989's The Tall Guy and 1992's The Favour, the Watch and the Very Big Fish - both bland, post-A Fish Called Wanda farces with Jeff Goldblum. Couldn't make it quite through either.

The Card (1952) - Typical 1950s period comedy. Alec Guinness looking freakishly youthful.

Drop Dead Darling/Arrivederci, Baby (1966) - Forgettable Bluebeard-goes-mod comedy with Tony Curtis. Tony Curtis plays himself as a child, a wife-killer.  Noel Purcell turns up. Warren Mitchell AND Lionel Jeffries.

The Big Fix (1978) - Tonally all over the place Richard Deyfuss movie. Universal add a TV movie quality offset by Jeremy Kagan's Altmanesque New Hollywood aspirations. It doesn't know if it is a comedy, a relationships drama or a mystery.

Happy Mother's Day, Love George (1973) - Ron Howard mopes about Nova Scotia/New England in bland TVM-like thriller with Patricia Neal and her real life daughter Tessa Dahl. Gets quite bloody, as Dahl stalks about in a school uniform.  Cloris Leachman pops up.  Bobby Darin pops up, of all people (sadly not played by Kevin Spacey pretending to be a teenager in a bad wig, but you can't have everything...)

UHF (1989) - It feels firmly in the Ernest/Peewee Herman mould, with Weird Al's lead in a similar role, though he isn't called Weird Al. Caught between this and a Kentucky Fried Movie-type thing. Gormless sidekick Trinidad Silva,who died during filming reminds me of Olivier, in his mannerisms.  Some gems - the Dire Strait/Beverly Hillbillies parody, but it's hit and miss like every anthology. Maybe it is because I am Irish, and the UHF scene seems exotic, but the more filmic parodies seem to work better.

Separate Tables (1958) - Not my sort of film. It's well-made and well-acted, but it's like a noir Fawlty Towers without the jokes. Lancaster's accent is odd. Plus Niven doesn't look like Niven.

The Serpent's Egg (1977) - Bergman does concentration camp sexploitation. It feels sleazy. It feels dirty. The 20s setting feels more like Nazi Germany. Dino de Laurentiis' involvement makes it into a pure exploitative nonsense.

Cape Fear (1962) - I'm sorry, but I realise this kind of US-based thriller or noir just doesn't appeal.

Tarzan And His Mate (1934)/Tarzan Finds A Son (1939) - I'm not a Tarzan fan. Weissmuller's idiotic galute is a travesty of Burroughs' intelligent he-man. There is some fun stuntwork, but it's too hoary, plus it takes ages for Tarzan to appear. And Maureen O'Sullivan leaping about screaming - she does sound like her awful daughter, but more of a West Brit. Some obvious doubling for Cheeta.

Just been watching Danny Kaye's Knock On Wood (1954 - where he suddenly transmogrifies into Jon Pertwee in long shots when the film stock changes and we go from the lot to real locations that look nothing like the master shot). Kind of a hard tonal thing. Everything's serious, then he jokes, then he does a comedy musical number, then things serious again. If everything was a little OTT, it'd work. On The Double (1961) has 1950s cars in WW2-era London, and is a bit cliched. I'm not a fan of military humour. Margaret Rutherford does a strained Scottish accent. Diana Dors is a baddie. It gets a bit silly. Though the Dietrich-drag Nazi cabaret artiste bit clearly influenced the Simpsons' backstory for Grampa. It's a Sunday afternoon timewaster, but it's a bit slapdash.

Road to Morocco (1942) - I'm not a big fan of Crosby and Hope. 30s/40s musical numbers bore me. The patter gets tired quickly. I like the more off the wall stuff, all the stuff with the camel, and the slapstick, but its not quite my thing.  The talking camels are fun. And so is the ending.

Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) - Rather simplistic and childish EC comics-type stories told in a jokey, insubstantial fashion. The odd LE-centred cast including Roy Castle, Alan Freeman and Kenny Lynch help with this. A tone more suited to It's Trad, Dad than flesh-creeping terror. Includes a poster for itself. The voodoo subplot with Roy Castle is nonsense, just a few musical numbers held together by a vague revenge subplot.  The whole chimp artist in dungarees joke is a bit ridiculous, too. Amicus have not quite gotten into the horror groove yet. Torture Garden (1967) is more successful.

The Fan (-1981) - Sub-De Palma larks. Michael Biehn is obsessed with Lauren Bacall, and tries to kill her. James Garner is trying to get back with her. Score by Pino Donaggio, but the in-film musical is written by Marvin Hamlisch and Sir Tim Rice. Dick Bush is the DOP. It feels lusher than other horrors of the period. Soundtrack also weirdly features the Specials and the Selecter. Yes, Biehn is a Two Tone fan. Features a Strawbs album in a shop. Biehn does very good "shocked face", as Pauline Black sings. It does capture the upper-crust New York, and such sights as casual-fonted shopfronts. Kt then gets increasingly sleazy, and unlikeably De Palma-ish. Features Biehn cruising in a gay bar. Basically, this is the dark side of stanning.  Then, other sides, it is very classy and romantic. It's a mess. And a not very good one. The musical looks terrible. It's all disco catsuits and rhinestones, and backdrops that belong in a made for TV variety special and not actual sets. It doesn't seem to have anything resembling a plot. The influence of producer Robert Stigwood is abundant.

Eyewitness (1981) - Bland neo-noir thriller with William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver. Not even Christopher Plummer and young Morgan Freeman, when he was still America's Derek Griffiths lighten this up. The only weird thing about is its obsession with horse stunts.

Madigan (1968)- Despite Richard Widmark and Henry Fonda, this New York-set thriller feels like a TV movie. It did spawn a series with Widmark, even though he dies at the end. But hey, it didn't stop George Dixon, did it?  Maybe, Madigan, like Dixon went to the police-heaven of Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes. After all, in the TV series, he is partnered with George Cole. Michael Dunn pops up. It's offputtingly cheap.  The locations don't feel authentic. Dozens of similar films of this era, mostly with George Peppard, i.e. 1969's Pendulum.

Eye Of The Cat (1968) - Bland, stretched Universal backlot horror. Again televisual. Clemensesque nonsense involving Eleanor Parker's lungs and Laurence Naismith as her doctor. Sitar-plucking hippies thrown in to keep it fresh. The cat hardly appears.

Doppio Delitto (1977) - Never realised that Italian comedy vet Steno (who might be their Gerald Thomas) directed a giallo starring Marcello Mastroianni, Ursula Andress and Peter Ustinov. Indeed, the funky Riz Ortolani soundtrack and upbeat opening feel more suited to a comedy. It feels rather too light and breezy and inconsequential. No wonder it's forgotten.

American Dreamer (1984) - Another flop Tom Conti comedy. Maybe, as I watched it on a French VHS, but deathly dull.

Also tried the Getaway, but half an hour in, gave up. Peckinpah is so cold and alienating.

Sacco and Vanzetti (1971) - Italian docudrama set in the US, shot in Ireland, interesting soundtrack, not my kind of film, despite Cyril and Milo turning up. And Edward Jewesbury from Crown Court, in a courtroom.

Roadgames (1981) - I'd probably like this film a lot less if it were American. The Australian setting is that little more relatable and unusual. It's got a great lead in Stacy Keach, a daft sense of humour ("there's a man with balls"), even though it is not a comedy per se. It's a sterling mix of horror and thriller and adventure (the soundtrack by Brian May going towards the latter). The killer's modus operandi is grotesque, in a good way. Incredibly tricksy (the whole cliff-trick), though it does slow a bit once Jamie Lee Curtis appears. But the climax is great (though a little murky at shot, needed more neon in the streets). Even though the resolution is a lot left to be desired. But the first half is great. And the ending...

Comfort and Joy (1984) - It took me a long time to get this Bill Forsyth film. Because it takes a while to get going, but ultimately this tale of DJ Bill Paterson fighting rival ice cream families is worth it. Especially once you've been to Glasgow.

Hit List (1989) - Bill Lustig-directed  Mafia boredom with Lance Henriksen, a Blessed-esque Rip Torn and a drunk Jan Michael Vincent. Realised I'm not quite the right man for 80s/90s action films.

City of Blood (1987) - South African murder mystery, sixtysomething lead Joe Stewardson has a younger girlfriend. Quite bland, even though the performances are all good. John Carson plays the safari-suited Prime Minister, having recently moved to South Africa at this point. Interesting but rather too arty for its own good.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

47/49 (50 inc. Moon44) 151 for august - Shake Hands, Dream Demon, Spencer and Hill, the Seducers, Where's Poppa, Nighthawks, Warlock, I Vampiri, I Bury The Living, Lewton, Raimi, gore, The Bible, Neil Simon, Solar Crisis, Mountains of the Moon, Castle, gialli, A Little Romance, DTV action, Perfect Crime, Goodbye Gemini, Hammer, Brewster, Ritz, Night Visitor, Delicatessen, Man who would be King

Shake Hands with the Devil (1959) - An all-star cast - Jimmy Cagney as an Oirish priest, Glynis Johns as an Irish barmaid, Cyril Cusack, Richard Harris, William Hartnell as a Sergeant, Ray McAnally, Niall MacGinnis, Noel Purcell, Allan Cuthbertson as a colonel and Robert "M" Brown his sidekick, Harry H. Corbett and special guest stars Michael Redgrave and Sybil Thorndike, and my grandad somewhere. Attractively made, but this sort of "Iyerish" IRA-rallying nonsense makes me cringe.

Dream Demon (1988) - 80s British horror blandness. Jemma Redgrave as a Sloane named Diana, haunted by journalists Jimmy Nail and Timothy Spall, as it looms to her wedding day  to Mark Greenstreet (in a rare lead). Kathleen "Pepper Ann" Wilhoite plays an American, who may be her sister. Weird flashbacks have Annabelle Lanyon (who is older than Wilhoite and looks it) as the younger Jenny, although this may be to add some weird uncanny valley thing.

The Changeling (1980) - It's better made than a lot of other slow horrors, and the Canadian locations and soundtrack add atmosphere. It does everything right that Ghost Story (also with Melvyn Douglas) did wrong. At least it eventually moves, unlike the Legend of Hell House - which looks into itself far too much. The cast is great, and the plot relatively interests.  Combining the elements of haunted house and conspiracy thriller helps. But it is very slow. It might have worked better at 75 minutes, in a TV movie format. And Trish Van Devere is kind of cold. It's the haunted house action that doesn't grab me.

Mr. Billion (1977) - Hollywood's attempt to do something with Terence Hill. Directed by ex-Corman hand Jonathan Kaplan,  has a weird semi-Hal Needham vibe (Jackie Gleason plays the antagonist) and a weird style that isn't quite Hollywood. It's as if a bunch of Americans are trying to recreate a strange Italian comedy.  It feels at times like a duff Italian ripoff of Silver Streak. There's even the weird tonal shifts  common in such Italian romps. There's a long, sweeping scene of a town being destroyed.  It doesn't know what  it is, and plus Hill and Valerie Perrine have no chemistry.

All The Way Boys (1972) - Cyril Cusack plus Spencer and Hill. One of the jungle films they did, as opposed to the Miami ones. 

I'm For the Hippopotamus (1979) - Another  rewatch of another Spencer/Hill thingy. Featuring SABC Newsreader Hugh Rouse, boxer Joe Bugner and Wakefield-born wrestler Malcolm "King Kong" Kirk (whose death in a bout against Big Daddy arguably ended the Golden Age of wrestling in the British Isles), more mystifying hi-jinks.

Go For It (1983) - More of the same tired stuff from Spencer and Hill.  Another influence on Miami Twice. At the end, it becomes a Bond knockoff,. David Huddleston is the boss.

The Seducers (1969) - Europiffle with the music from the last ep of the Prisoner.

Where's Poppa (1970) - Found George Segal rather hateful. Like a bad US version of Sorry!

Nighthawks (1981) - Previously saw this. It has an international element that appeals. Rutger Hauer, in a beard buys some Yardley Gold, gazes at an ad for Daily Mirror, then uses a bomb in a backpack to blow up a chemist's. It feels almost like an Italian film, with the Keith Emerson score and the international scale. Robert Pugh plays the IRA snitch, with a convincing Norn Iron twang. Third-string Carry On-er Brian Osborne and Frederick Treves play the Yard.  At least, it puts you in the place unlike the French Connection. Joe Spinell looks weird when clean-shaven. Hauer is great. The chase through the underground construction works is epic. The subway scene is always how I imagined the Taking of Pelham One Two Three to be.  It moves, and has a good cast.

I Vampiri (1957) - Dull, tedious scenes enlivened by almost neo-realistic  photography.

I Bury The Living (1958) - Apart from Theodore Bikel as a Scot, this didn't do it for me. I suppose the reason people like it is it is a noir, really.

Warlock (1989) - The most nothingy horror-adventure ever made. Styleless, miscast and forgettable as amnesia.

Cat People (1942) - I'm sorry, but I'm with John Carpenter. Lewton is overrated. They're too much style over substance. And hardly anything happens.

Perfect Crime (1978) - Begins with the assassination of some British toff (Kenneth Benda - uncredited), Joseph Cotten, Adolfo Celi, Anthony Steel and Alida Valli star in a British-set attempt to cash in on Agatha Christie. Features a lot of Soho sleaze, a fox hunt, but it is a mess. Features Dagger of the Mind-type intercutting between 70s London grime to what is clearly a Roman quarry. Has that thing of having Union Jack tourist tat as set dressing.   

Dominique (1978) - Like a shite giallo, but British would be a vulgar but accurate description of this all-star post-Amicus vehicle. The likes of Ron Moody have nohing to do but get slaughtered. Even Leslie Dwyer gets more to do. Judy Geeson looks bald. Needless to say, Jenny Agutter did it. David Tomlinson looks very old. Michael Jayston's seen all this before (in Craze (1974)) Some bits look a bit sub-Argento, but it's cobblers.

St. Ives (1976) - Bronson in rather flat all-star thriller directed by J. Lee Thompson. Feels like a TVM down to the credit - "guest star Maximillian Schell".  Almost what if Bronson was Columbo. John Houseman looks like Mick Miller, in a distracting ginger toup.

Day of the Dead (1985)  - It feels bland. It feels grey. Romero makes the same film again. At least it has a good Irish character (Jarlath Conroy, who I have since discovered is the uncle of Ruaidhri Conroy, Tayto from Into the West)

The Evil Dead (1981) - Never quite been a fan. It's a tremendous amount of effort and work for a nineteen year old. It's very professional, but it still feels like a student film. And I find it rather stupid. Evil Dead 2  (1987) is more of the same stupidity, but done more professionally. I like the set design and the mattes, but not the film itself. And the ending is neat.

Body Melt (1993) - Unlikeable Aussie horror, a deliberate cult film that fails -  trying to go for a Peter Jackson, but lacking the humour and style of Sir Pete.  Ian Smith, in between his break as Harold from Neighbours relishes his role as a mad scientist,  but for most of the runtime, it resembles an erotic thriller, and once it gets more colourful, it's too late.

Crimewave (1985) - It's so mannered, so deliberately manic and cartoonish that it becomes annoying. Ed Pressman isn't very good, in an acting role. The Coens' films never do it for me. The performances feel a bit forced, a bit too heightened a la the Avengers. I always like the effects and models in Raimi-involved projects, e.g. the Hudsucker Proxy, but never quite the actual films, which annoy.

The Body Snatcher (1945) - An unconvincing Scotland that it takes one out of the story - the trouble with noir is what began as a novelty becomes a norm, and the darkness just becomes irritating rather than atmospheric.

Mountains of the Moon (1990) - It's just a bit of a mess. I can see why it flopped. It looks epic, butthere's the vague air of a TV period drama. With the likes of Peter Vaughan and John Savident and a nice turn from Richard Caldicot  popping up. Bergin feels anachronistic, like your da's mate who has suddenly found himself lost in a Masterpiece Theatre-type thing when he really should be on Winning Streak. Plus a nude Fiona Shaw is akin to seeing your mum naked. I find these sort of epics laborious. I like a bit of pulp served  on the side.

Solar Crisis (1990)  - Heston and Palance amongst the stars in one of those expensive but boring international coproductions about space that went straight to video. And I didn't even make it through 1990's "Moon 44".

The Bible (1966) - Had to watch much of this on fast-forward, it is so slow, there is not much dialogue, it is confusing, stars appear for seconds, while John Huston gives himself the best bit as Noah. Nice Italian design, being a DDL production, especially the ark interior, but it's dull mostly.

RIP Neil Simon. Bar Murder by Death, never much of a fan. Watched the Out of Towners (1970). Sandy Dennis is both annoying and yet unable to take your eyes off. This sort of New York manic farce never quite gels with me. I don't know what it is. I find that sort of relationship based comedy just doesn't appeal.

Nightforce (1987) - Linda Blair and Chad McQueen are elderly teens brought together by colonel Richard Lynch to fight South Americans, while Cameron Mitchell shows up as a concerned senator dad. Thinking of doing a history of the direct to video industry, but it better not be critical. Most of the films are dreck. Even though Lynch is good, as always.

Fatal Skies (1990) - More DTV dreck, despite Timothy Leary as the villain. Made in the part of the US where the 70s never quite ended.

Death Merchant (1991) - Nu-AIP/Dancebuy action shite about an ancient Egyptian prophecy and nuclear war. Shot on video, or at least edited on tape.

A Little Romance (1979) - A attractive but somewhat alienating picture-postcard culture-clash romance with the novelty it is portrayed by kids. Diane Lane shines, while the French lad who plays Daniel comes across as quite unlikeable and a bit sinister. Yes, I get he's a film-head, but he seems a bit of a creep. Olivier's camp European matchmaker is a bit overplayed at times. His accent changes from scene to scene. It is attractively shot, but it feels kind of too sentimental. Towards the end, it picks up. But it kicks in too late. It helps if you are charmed by it.  The end is moving, but the film is kind of "there". It's a pleasing Sunday afternoon thing. But it's charming in a very touristy way. It needed perhaps more than charm. Lips, the Dandelion Trail and Bloody Tuesday all sound like convincing titles. Dexter Fletcher's brother Graham (whose credits range from Sid and Nancy and Bugsy Malone to the CFF and Grange Hill) plays the gangster-suited  sidekick of Daniel, who seems much nicer. Actually, if Dexter Fletcher had played Daniel...

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972) - Rubbish per usual dubbing track, nice Nicolai score,  Barbara Bouchet, Sybil Danning and Chateauvallon's Ugo Pagliai are the leads. The van-murder is pleasingly ridiculous. The killer looks like Tony Hancock's statue in the Rebel. But it's a load of bollocks.

Goodbye Gemini (1970) - It's odd, like Alexis Kanner's American-Irish accent (based surely on a showband performer of the era). I find Judy Geeson and Martin Potter kind of annoying in their perkiness. Hippy nonsense. Sir Michael Redgrave pops up (how did they get him into this shite?), with Freddie Jones as a fellow homosexual.  Hedonistic hippies in burqas with a teddy bear do not make a good film.  Barely finished.

Phantom of the Opera (1962) - Possibly Hammer's best film. Certainly their best-looking, most visually captivating production. It doesn't feel as stagnant as some of their other productions, especially from the 60s onwards. The sets are marvellous, especially the lair. It feels a lived in world, not the vague Mittel-Europa Hammer usually deals in.

The Vampire Lovers (1970) - When Hammer began to get terminally camp. Ingrid Pitt doesn't look like a virgin. She kind of looks like Marsha from Spaced, initially.  The figure of the Man in Black is a bit ridiculous. I am sort of reminded of the story of Frederic Bourdin, a French con artist/"unloved child"  who often took the identity of missing teenage boys, despite being in his twenties/thirties, and looking like the lovechild of Gerard Depardieu and Richard Clayderman. The thing is, Douglas Wilmer is very good as the vampire hunter, but he and Cushing (the two Sherlocks) are barely in it, and instead we are left with Harvey Hall romancing Kate O'Mara, and it's basically filler around a bunch of sex scenes. I think its reputation lies in nostalgia. It tries to pretend to be respectful. Its sequels don't give a toss.

Rewatched The Frozen Dead (-1966), which is very ropey and cheap, but the whole frozen head twist speaking in a  child's voice is very creepy. But even she is cribbed from The Brain That Wouldn't Die.

Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974) - It has a great atmosphere and an overqualified cast. (WTF is Bernard Lee doing playing a minute's worth of screentime as a mute?) Repeating many of the same ticks as earlier films. Dave Prowse as the Monster is interesting. But it might be my favourite of the Hammer Franks. Always disappointed that it wasn't about a demon wrestling with a Karloffian thing. And characters just slip in and out. You think John Stratton as the head of the asylum will play a big part, but he doesn't, even though he's quite good, though you do get the impression they wanted Freddie Jones, but realised he'd already been used.  It feels unfinished. And the whole "she can speak" thing is a bit out of nowhere. The model of the asylum is very ropey. The idea of the monster digging up its own grave is great. And the ending is a bit sitcom-pilot.

Delicatessen (1991) - Attractive animation-like imagery hide an ugly film that's hard to follow. Comparisons with a certain black lesbian are unavoidable. Nice to see Howard Vernon. I want to like it, but Caro and Jeunet either go full "annoyingly quirky" or "arty nonsense". It's like Brazil. Lovely set design, but what's hapenning in the surroundings is gash.

The Night Visitor (1971) -Slow, cold psychothriller with Max Von Sydow as an escaped lunatic.

Brewster McCloud (1970) - It's typical Altman New Hollywood nonsense. Lots of countercultural nonsense surrounding the story of a boy who could fly. Like a Disney comedy script ended up with someone who wanted to make a point.     

The Ritz (1976) - Jack Weston and Jerry Stiller fight over each other, as the former hides in a gay bathhouse that holds a Princess Margaret lookalike competition. Sexy young F. Murray Abraham (it's weird seeing him with a head of beautiful curls). It's not especially funny, but because it is made in the UK by Richard Lester, the various gays include the likes of Ben Aris, Peter Butterworth (as a couple) and an opera singing Ronnie Brody,it captivates. Treat Williams' schtick wears thin - that he's a straight man undercover who everyone presume is gay as his voice never broke (even though I empathise with him greatly). Adding to the fauxmerican atmosphere are songs on the soundtrack sung by a pre-Eurovision/"The Cheetah Likes My Beard" Colm Wilkinson (the songs actually like sound like that anthem of a big cat running from Letterfrack to Mallow). I did find it much more watchable than say a Neil Simon adaptation of the same era. Because it's from a different tradition. But it's a one joke premise.

The Skull (1965) - A most unmemorable film. The idea is so bare, and by Bloch, it feels like a 15 minute Night Gallery segment padded out with historical flashbacks.  Then, it feels like The Prisoner. Interesting that much of it convenes around a statue of Beelzebub.

13 Ghosts (1960) - The sort of gee-whiz 1950s family schlock of William Castle I never quite get. Gimmicky. The ending makes no sense. It's very US sitcom.

House on Haunted Hill (1959) - The prime Castle picture, but really a prime jokey kids' filler. When you get older, you realise it's not much cop. Elisha Cook does his face.

The Tingler (1959) - More Castle stuff with Vincent Price and Patricia Cutts, the first incarnation of Blanche Hunt on Coronation Street. Castle seemed to make the same film ten times. The Tingler itself is interesting, but it's an Outer Limits thing. There's a weird silent interlude. Castle's films are basically thrillrides.

Mr. Sardonicus (1961) - Faux-Hammer from William Castle. Better than his more famous gimmickathons, but it's got that thing the Corman Poes have, of US actors who can't do gothic. Ronald Lewis, the hero who resembles a British David Hasselhoff was one of about forty actors to come out of Port Talbot. It feels very TV-ish, like an episode of Karloff's Thriller over-stretched. It feels outdated, even in 1961. Only the iconic grimace of Guy Rolfe's teutonic Baron and the McGuffin being a lottery ticket stick in the mind. Alongside the rigged gimmick. It's a slog.

  StraitJacket (1964) - Hard to take seriously, even in a camp way. Tedious melodrama from Castle. Joan Crawford playing younger than her years. Camp nonsense. George Kennedy beheads a chicken. These gaslighting thrillers I tend to find cliched. Yes, it's a real problem, But it makes formulaic films.  The ending is ridiculous. How you get a mask made of your own mother?

The Man Who Would Be King (1975) - It's a great story, but I find it slightly too leisurely at times. It may work better in cinemas. The lack of an antagonist and real goal beyond colonialism also suffers. It may have need a good snip to become a jolly adventure, rather than something frustrated, between epic and adventure. It's too leisurely for its own good.

House of the Living Dead (1973) - Shirley Anne Field and Mark Burns in a South African gothic potboiler. Quite amateurish, and unfortunate (references to the "blackers", mondo-ish footage of a baboon being experimented on). Kind of like 1974's Ghost Story. Not very good.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Eurocrime 19

Squadra Antitruffa (1976) - Baffling culture clash comedy with Tomas Milian in a knotted bandana and David Hemmings, age 35 looking fifty-odd.

Squaddra Antigangster (1979) - More of the same, with Milian dressed as the Fourth Doctor-as-a-gangster. Baffling. Basically Miami Twice, down to a similar stunt.

Caliber 9 (1972)/Il boss (1973) - Not quite a fan of Eurocrime. These are two well-made for an Italian actioner, but it's not my sort of film. Fernando Di Leo does have more talent than the usual hack.

The Italian Connection (1972) - Better stuff from Di Leo. Cyril Cusack plays an Italian mafia boss (and he dubs himself - basically it's Uncle Peter from Glenroe in the Mafia). Henry Silva and Woody Strode are his American hitmen. Mario Adorf plays their target, an ascot-wearing pimp. Luciana Paluzzi has a drink from a barman who looks eerily like Derek from Crystal Swing. Adolfo Celi has dyed hair. There is a great van stunt. And the final junkyard castration is memorable. But a lot of these Italian films, there's memorable moments within a stodgy package. But it does have the unusual element that everyone in the cast is cast perfectly.

Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man (1976) - A rewatch. Ray Lovelock, Marc Porel and Celi again in a trashier take on the genre by Ruggero Deodato and tonally all over the place, going from comedy to rapey stuff to blood and guts that there's little enjoyment. The Engrish theme song by Lovelock is astonishing.

The Big Racket (1976) - Fabio Testi and Vincent Gardenia in a film that proves why I'm not really a fan of this genre. Sleazy and not enjoyable.

Heroin Busters (1977) - Testi and Hemmings in  a more adventurous crime epic. Shot on three continents, the opening is excellent, but the rest of the film doesn't live up to it. Despite a plane chase, it is more parochial.

From Corleone to Brooklyn (1979) - Filled with time capsule shots of 1979 New York, Maurizio Merli is the lead in this otherwise quite bog standard and predictable gangster flick costarring Van Johnson and singer Mario Merola whose Alf Roberts-ish presence makes me wonder was his pigeonholing in gangster films influenced by Get Carter. It's interesting mainly in being an Italian view of Italian-American crime. Marred by things like uncomfortable looking extras in cop outfits.

Copkiller (1983) - Harvey Keitel and John Lydon in RAI-coproduced crime drama. Disappointingly rote. Yes, Keitel and Lydon supply their own voices. Lydon/Rotten's performance style is exactly the same as it was in Today in 1976. He talks to Keitel like he talked to Bill Grundy.  Despite the NYC setting, has a country theme. 

The Squeeze (1978) - Margheriti-Carlo Ponti coproduction that feels too American to be Italian, but too Italian to be American. Lee Van Cleef plays an ex-safecracker turned modern cowboy. Edward Albert and Karen Black costar. More American-seeming than usual, despite the De Angelis Brothers-ish theme. Alexander Boris DePfeffel Johnson-alike Peter Carsten is a badly dubbed gangster. Feels a little too small. If it was a proper American film, it might work better, but as an Italian production, it feels a bit cheap.

Cannabis (1970) - Gainsbourg, Birkin, Curt Jurgens and Paul Nicholas (yes, THAT Paul Nicholas) in . Early examples of evocative Italian New York photography. But Serge is a sleazy auld bugger. Hippyish old rubbish. 

Lucky Luciano (1973) - Glenn Miller-soundtracked Italian biopic. Francesco Rosi directs an uneasy mix of Italian fauxmerican exploitation and arthouse drama. Gian Maria Volonte leads, Vincent Gardenia, Edmond O'Brien, Rod Steiger and Charles Cioffi add US cred. There is sloppy period detail. Charles Siragusa plays himself. Not my sort of film.

The Valachi Papers (1972) - Bronson and Ventura in another interesting but flawed Italian attempt at American true crime mythology. Very odd attempts on makeup to made both men look younger. Lino has a dyed black combover, Bronson with a thick wig and pinkish slap like a Louis Tussauds Alain Delon. Later on, still clean shaven, he does a Lee Marvin approximation with flour in his hair. Terence Young directs with surprising incompetence that brings to mind a real Italian hack and not a Bond vet. 70s cars and buildings are apparent in location shooting. Plus captions and credits are full of errors. I'm not really into this gangster schtick, and with long epics like this like Luciano, one tends to get lost amid all the bad ageing makeup and changing era where period detail is nonexistent. The Ortolani soundtrack is lovely.

Il consigliori (1973) - Martin Balsam in an incompetently shot (cinematography by Joe D'Amato) take on the Godfather. The sort of shite more common in this genre. Nice Riz Ortolani soundtrack, almost identical to the above.

Street Law (1974) - The sort of Italian policier I don't enjoy, even though Franco Nero dubs hmself, it's full of irritating, badly dubbed villains doing unspeakable things in silly ways.

Fear City (1984) - A strange film by Abel Ferrara, well made but full of sleazy nonsense. Hard to enjoy, hard to understand.  Padded out with stripping scenes.

Crime Busters (1978) - Just Spencer and Hill cracking jokes and beating folk up and trying to convince folk they're American.

Who Finds A Friend Finds A Treasure (1981) - Un-PC, possibly racist caricatures of tribesmen are the level of this unfunny Spencer and Hill thing. With the unlikely appearance of Jamaican poet/cultural icon Louise Bennett as tribal queen.

Bonus TV entry - Closed Circuit (1978) - Italian sci-fi western giallo made for Rai by Giuliano Montaldo. A Giuliano Gemma western is showing in a cinema, then a bullet is fired - an authentic western bullet. A King Kong float, Posters for Girl in Room 2A, A*P*E, Perfume of the Lady in Black and Tentacles show the cinematic landscape of Rome. It's not very good, takes a while to set up but the climax is incredibly memorable and tense. With Gemma's gunslinger shooting and throwing his cigarette butt through the screen into the audience. Doesn't quite make sense, though. 

Friday, 10 August 2018

More European stuff - 31

Les 1001 Nuits (1990) - De Broca-directed Arabian nights tosh, meta-framing work involves television, a pre-Darling Buds Catherine Zeta Jones (when she was still Welsh) as Sheherazade, Vittorio Gassman as "Sindbad". Forgettable.

A Maldição do Marialva (1991) - Forgettable, foggy RAI-TVE medieval quackery.

Un piede in paradiso (1991) - Bud Spencer, French star, Thierry Lhermitte, Ian Bannen as Lucifer and Sean Arnold off Grange Hill/Bergerac in Italian Bedazzled-type fare. Assistant directed by Victor "man with bottle" Tourjansky. Produced by Berlusconi. Doesn't do anything. Just sits there.

Jackpot (1992) - Italy's answer  to Mike Reid, Adriano Celentano and a slumming Christopher Lee in futuristic comedy. Features a Martin Prince-type super-genius kid at an altar. Lee is the butler. It's not great - basically a cash-in on the multimedia boom.

Window to Paris (1993) - Sony Classics' Franco-Russian tale of a Russian who finds a literal window to Paris. Charming but plotless. Insubstantial.

Taxandria (1994) - Awful Gilliamesque German-Belgian semi-animation with Armin Mueller-Stahl and Andrew Sachs (yes - remember that Manuel is from Berlin).  Dead Ernest  (l982) likely to better. Star Elliott Spiers died before production.

Volere volare (1991) - Maurizio Nichetti slowly turns into a cartoon, i.e. the film is almost over. From New Line and Tartan.

De Zeemeeerman (1996) Dutch comedy coufunded with TROS TV. Maritime nonsense. Couldn't understand it. Turns out the lead can't get girls cos he  smells of fish. One of the worst Dutch films ever, apparently. I can see why.

Le Leopard (1984) - Claude Brassuer and Marius Weyers in aimless French spy-in-the-desert nonsense.

Nestor Burma, detective de choc (1982) - Baffling, Michel Serrault in a clown nose and Jane Birkin as a punk.

Banzai (1983) - Though very attractively shot in deserts and in Asia and the US, this vehicle for Coluche, another mononamed rotund oddball is little different from the typical Bud Spencer vehicle doesn't quite translate. It feels very reminiscent of Revenge of the Pink Panther and Live And Let Die (in the scenes of a white man in a nice suit walking through filthy NYC streets in an otherwise black community). The ending is astonishing though - a slapstick but convincing model shot of a commercial airliner crashing into an aircraft carrier while attempting a landing.

L'Africain (1983) - Philippe Noiret and Catherine Deneuve in a take on the African Queen that is wonderfully photographed - capturing the dense foliage and humid nature of Africa. It is rather too leisurely for its own good.

Summertime Killer (1972) - Karl Malden, Chris Mitchum, Olivia Hussey, Raf Vallone, Claudine Auger and Gerard Barray in a  Spanish actioner that begins with a soppy theme accompanying slow-motion dog and motorbike racing with Chris. Interesting that Malden is both dubbed in Spanish by someone, in unsubtitled scenes, while dubbing himself in English elsewhere. There's some interesting motorcycle stuff, but rather too much mooning over Olivia Hussey.  Lots of zoom shots per this sort of junk.

L'Invite Surprise (1989) - Featuring French comedy regular/thief in European Vacation, Victor Lanoux - it has  a great opening - a Christmassy shiny floor light ent spectacular is being televised live, and an assassin waits in the back and shoots a game show contestant - a black man. But it just doesn't live up to that. It's a rather light comedy that doesn't work.

The Crazy Charlots (1979)- Monkees-esque unfunniness from Les Charlots, stars of Bons Basiers du Hong Kong.

Les Longs Manteaux (1986) - From TF1 and UGC, nice footage of Peru but it is a slog.

Tendre Poulet (1978) - Thriller with Philippe Noiret that forgets it is a thriller, and becomes a dull romcom.

Teheran 43 (1981) - Told non-linear, this Mosfilm coproduction with the West featuring Alain Delon and Curt Jurgens feels like a Soviet Heaven's Gate. Almost 3 hours long, never quite holds, even though it looks great. The scenes in London look especially spectacular.

Uranium Conspiracy (1978) - Early Golan-Globus Arab relations thriller. Utterly forgettable. Threadbare travelogue features a bad restaging of the Amsterdam canal boat chase from Puppet On A Chain, and a depressing ending. Love interest Janet Agren dies early on, but hero Fabio Testi doesn't know until the very end.

Sgt. Klems (1971) - Expensive looking but incompetent action film with a slumming Peter Strauss.

Le Mans, Scorciatola per L'Inferno (1970) - Lang Jeffries and Edwige Fenech in a ripoff of the equally tedious McQueen film. Though the racing scenes have energy.

Sfida sul Fondo (1976)- Frederick Stafford in basically the Spy with the Cold Nose, but serious. Has an Alsatian as the lead. A timewaster. Clearly inspired by the success of White Fang movies in Europe at the time.

Sette Assassine dalle Labbra di Velluto (1969) - Rene Cardona Jnr. pic. Another tired rehash of Thunderball.

Sette ore di violenza per una soluzione imprevista (1973) - It is shoddily made, so nowhere near good enough to be a discovery, but an oddity. An Italian kung fu movie with George Hilton, or at least it is supposed to be. Mostly done at a dock.

Blood and Bullets (1976) - With a theme that tries to be Shaft, by notorious hack Alfonso Brescia and starring George Eastman, with barely any Jack Palance, godawful crime shite.

Italian Graffiti (1973) - This shouldn't be as interesting a film as it is. A 30s Chicago-set crime comedy with Ornella Muti and some bloke calling himself Alf Thunder that resembles an adult Bugsy Malone, it seems to be an average entry in the annals of sub-Spencer/Hill comedy. In many ways, it is. But look closer. Though set in Chicago, the exteriors were mainly filmed in Dublin. One time Fair City and Strumpet City actor Brendan Cauldwell has an uncredited but meaty role. But it isn't a good film.

Le Complot (1973) - Crime film with Jean Rochefort and Raymond Pellegrin, mostly forgettable bar an insane full-body burn.

 Kottan - Den tuchtigen gehort die Welt (1981) - Alias the Uppercrust, an Australian TV spinoff with Nigel Davenport, Frank Gorshin and Broderick Crawford. Goes from sex comedy to crime thriller. Feels like an episode of Derrick.

The Last Escape (1972) - Martin Jarvis and John Collin stop opposite Stuart Whitman in dreadful stock footage-laden WW2 twaddle.

ORAPRONOBIS (1989) - Cannon-coproduced Filipino-French drama directed against the wishes of Cory Aquino, by Lino Brocka. Rather flat, and devoid of energy, like a TV movie.

Manila in the Claws of Light (1975)  - Not European, but by Brocka, but a better film. A bit rough, but it captures life in 1970s Manila perfectly.  Not my kind of thing, but the use of energetic quick-cut flashbacks is memorable.

17 (2 ref = 19, inc. Rue Morgue 1932, 20 inc. Mary and Max) - HK, British Intelligence, Sinbad, Q Planes, Fishmen, Malcolm, Ministry of Vengeance, Time After Time, Mother, bad action, the Pilot, Borderline, Hanky Panky, Desp. Target, Spook - bad

A Kid From Tibet (1992) - Yuen Biao as a monastic Indiana Jones. Jackie Chan cameos. Feels more like a Hong Kong Ferrero Rocher ad. To be honest, not a big fan of martial arts movies.

Island of the Fishmen (1979) - Basically my personal Rosebud. A ropey jungle adventure that cashes in on both the Island of Dr. Moreau and Warlords of Atlantis, with Barbara Bach in a big blonde wig, and Joseph Cotten as her mad scientist father. Richard Johnson plays the Dr. Montgomery-type, relishing his dialogue (he dubs himself), as it turns out he is more of a Captain Nemo. There's cannibal-style voodoo scenes, and killer rastas. The monster suits are variable, and cheap. Cotten only appears briefly but it's a dud. Johnson and Cotten are the only ones to take it seriously, even though both Bach and Italian lead Claudio Cassinelli dub themselves (at least in the original English dub). Now, when I was 8 or 9, I had a book from the school library, Top Ten Horror Stories from Scholastic. It has a section on mad scientists - Phibes, Quatermass, and a section on  a film called Screamers (1981), and "Dr. Marvin", a  widow's peaked, boggle-eyed drawing not much like either Johnson or Cotten. It mentioned sea-apes. For years, I searched this film, until I came across the synopsis. Screamers is the 1981 New World Pictures recut, with help from Jim Wynorski and Joe Dante. It adds a rather lush prologue with Cameron Mitchell and Mel Ferrer, and works better, thus is slightly less of a dud. It also cuts most of the voodoo nonsense. But keeps the rubbish miniatures.  Sergio Martino tries to do as much as he can as director. Too much.

Q Planes (1939) - Ralph Richardson plays Steed in this proto-Avengers. Weird to see Olivier as a rip-roaring leather jacketed lantern-jawed serial-type pulpy Biggles-alike action hero. It's an odd film, unsure what it should be - Republic-style thrills or British wartime conspiracy thriller. Or a comedy. And never quite fits. John Laurie pops up (someone who did appear in the Avengers), talking very fast, which is odd. He seems to be doing a Groucho Marx--if-he-were-Scottish impression. There's a baffling comedy interlude involving a donkey and then a cookery course.

Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971) Hokey Price-Free Poe adap with Jason Robards. Opulent production values fail to highlight what is effectively a Harry Alan Towers production in all but producer. The most memorable part is the John Barry-ish Waldo De Los Rios score. Herbert Lom is shoehorned as the Phantom. Ironically considering the theatre setting, the 1932 version has more of a Tod Slaughter vibe than this.

Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936) - Actual Tod Slaughter. Feels quite stagey. Less of a film, more of a panto. Feels joyfully amateurish, but this sort of quota quickie is not quite my thing. It's just a stretched out variety act. Has a weirdly ambitious jungle interlude. Feels like people learning as they go along. Everyone around Slaughter tries to be earnest.

Eastern Condors (1987) - Typically trashy Vietnam nonsense with the novelty of it having a Chinese cast as the heroes. Sammo Hung's presence adds some weird tonal fudges.

British Intelligence (1940) - A few unusually dynamic action sequences liven up this Boris Karloff propaganda thriller.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) - It takes a while to get going. And John Philip Law isn't a good fit. He's more of a villain. Tom Baker is good, but his accent is distracting. Douglas Wilmer is limited by his mask. The thing is, I also realise, it is written by Brian Clemens. Gordon Hessler directs. I know these are not director's films, that basically Harryhausen is the auteur, but the decision to have everyone talk in cod-Arab accents doesn't quite work. The monster-work is excellent, as always. And Robert Shaw is winning in his cameo. But I'm one of the few who thinks that Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) is an ever so slightly better film.

Ministry of Vengeance (1989) - Ex-Duke John Schneider plays a suspiciously young Vietnam Vet who is now a priest alongside George Kennedy and Ned Beatty. When his family are slaughtered by Arab terrorists, he and ex-commandant James Tolkan go into battle into "the Lebanon" for revenge. Style-less, cheaply made video-edited actioner. Yaphet Kotto plays a character called Norman Whiteside. This thing done slightly better as 1981's The Amateur.

Watching Time After Time (1979), and yes it is one of the great sci-fi films. Everything from the Victorian opening to the time-space continuum bits - the tunnel accompanied by radio, "the Scottish place" that serves pommes frites (McDonald's), the soundtrack,  David Warner as probably the best Jack the Ripper (especially sinister in double denim - "grass?"), the sign that reads "Exorcist IV". Mary Steenburgen is quite appealing, no wonder Malcolm McDowell actually married her. When I saw it originally, I found it a bit soppy, but no. It's a little overlong, but that's hardly worth complaining. Dublin-born Keith McConnell's accent sounds very West Brit as one of Wells' pals.

Malcolm (1986) - Initially avoided this in the belief it was a well-meaning if slightly mocking and ill-advised tale of an autistic bloke, but it is Australian and Australia made Mary and Max (2008, also with a Penguin Cafe Orchestra soundtrack), probably the best cinematic depiction of Asperger's. Colin Friels is a little petulant Father Dougal-ish. He is likeable if a bit annoying. And the inventions are fun. But the world around him doesn't quite feel heightened enough. It's trying for more of a Bill Forsyth vibe. John Hargreaves is appealingly louche.  There is a joy in it, but it feels slightly too small.  There is something annoyingly quirky about it. The heist is fun, with the robot dustbins,  and the dummy, and the ice cream van, but it feels too short and kind of flat.

Mother (1970) - Awful softcore nonsense with added Wally Cox, Victor Buono and Julie Newmar.

The Pilot (1980) - Flat TV-like drama about a drunk pilot with Cliff Robertson and Milo O'Shea.

Borderline (1980) - Bronson film "introducing Ed Harris", with a proper all-star cast of character actors, Bert Remsen, Michael Lerner, (A.) Wilford Brimley and John Ashton. It has a handheld documentary style, and a breathing Brimley as a corpse. It's a passable time-killer,  forgettable but watchable. Harris is quite handsome, when he had hair.

Desperate Target (1980)- Chris Mitchum tries to be Chuck Norris. Miserable, with dubbing so bad I'm sure the people involved aren't fluent in English.

Hanky Panky (1982) - Confused, not at all funny Hitchcockian comedy with Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner. Directed by Sidney Potter (Potter or Poitier?)

The Spook Who Sat By The Door (1973) - Ambitious though hard-to-like actioner. It is a humourless satire, a documentary-style expose on black CIA agents. No one is likeable, plus it's full of the annoying white counterculturals common in US action films of this era. .

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Japanese roundup -31 Tidal Wave, The Seven Golden Men Strike Again, the Last War, Golden Arrow

Timeslip (1980) - I'm not really a samurai movie guy, but this is awesome. Sonny Chiba and a platoon of 1970s Japanese National Guard get sent back in time. And everyone dies. A bit overlong at over two hours. But it makes sense. It looks gorgeous. It also shows the negative consequences of 20th century weapons in this world. And has a nice Japanese pop soundtrack.

onibaba (1964) - Atmospheric but not quite exciting. Almost neo-realist.

Frankenstein Conquers The World (1965) - It never quite reaches its possibilities. The faux-German WW2 touches are nice, but both Frankenstein and Baragon are forgettable. The idea of Frankenstein's monster as a toothy caveboy is endearing at first, but it doesn't say anything Frankenstein, bar the Karloffian haircut. Only the first ten minutes which recreate Hiroshima Toho-style are worth it.

Legend Of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds (1977) - Japanese country music concert is attacked by a plesiosaur and a pterodactyl. Incidental music is disco. Some good effects, but the close-up puppets are shocking. From Toei. It descends into a mess.

Goke - Bodysnatcher from Hell (1968) - Interesting effects in this Japanese disaster sci-fi thriller which goes from being quite staid and Twilight Zone-y to psychedelia, never quite settling in. The ending with the Mysterons-type aliens freezing time, turning everyone into rotten corpses and letting off a nuke is excellent.

Wolfguy (1975) - A typical Sonna Chiba actioner changes via hallucinations of a tiger, and he turns into a werewolf.  Some action, but rather nasty.

Nippon Chinbotsu (1973) - Toho disaster epic, released in the US by New World, with added bits of Lorne Greene, as Tidal Wave, this overlong at 2 hours 20 minutes but extraordinary visual tale is one of those Japanese ultra-disaster movies that although overtly long, once getting to the spectacle, does it beautifully. Tetsuro Tanba,  a regular in Japanese-made SF plays the PM. It's incredibly overlong, no wonder Corman cut the film to bits, but the non-dialogue scenes are photographed beauifully, a tragic beauty common in Japanese disaster films (clearly an effect of Hiroshima) that very few US films have (The Hindenburg comes to mind). Pity that so much of the film is exposition. Scenes of evacuation against eruptions. One thing the miniatures do is put little bits of movement amongst the models so you think you see people rushing through.

Adventures of Electric Rod Boy (1986) - Obnoxious semi-amateur nonsense from the bloke behind Tetsuo.

964 Pinocchio (1991) Video original shot-on-video cyberpunk nonsense.

August in the Water (1995) - Soppy teen romance with fantasy elements. Eisei "Doctor Who" Amamoto appears.

War in Space (1977) - Japanese attempt to cross-breed Star Wars and Atragon. Featuring elements of conspiracy thriller, it's colourful fun, and unusually portrays a mostly working class space crew. The alien designs are interesting from a sort of blue centurion (who resembles a Kree from Marvel Comics) to a horned Chewbacca-type. People give out about it, but it feels different, and it moves. Yes, it's formulaic and unoriginal and goes in circles, but it's got a Republic serial vibe. Most tokusatsu/hero stuff I feel are like Charles Band films, too adult for kids, too silly for adults. Not as pleasingly weird as Message From Space.

Ghost of the Hunchback (1965) - Toei horror, with Anglicised names in the credits, despite being Japanese.  Slow, atmospheric but not engrossing. Titular creature looks like Liza Minnelli.

Message From Space (1978) - Possibly one of the best Star Wars imitations, with Battle Beyond the Stars. It's so odd, set in a sort of alternate 20th century  where space battles and space pirates are common. Vic Morrow plays an alcoholic robosexual General. Sonny Chiba has a late-on role little more than a cameo, as Prince Hans, while Hiroyuki Sanada is the main Japanese hero for the main run. The dubbing is a little over-egged, especially as several of the actors are Americans who are clearly speaking with their own voices. It goes between tokusatsu silliness and something more grandiose and epic. But it looks expensive as hell, and it was. And even though it is a mess, it's full of little original bits, from a robot funeral to the design. As for Star Wars cash-ins, I say this is the best-looking. Battle Beyond is a better film as a whole, but this is the one with the best design. The opening scenes have an energy though. Swimming with space fireflies. Druids. A lizard-man design that looks very like the Lazuli in Battle Beyond the Stars.  It's the more Star Wars-y bits that feel a bit off, even though the model work and dog-fights are very un-Lucas. Kinji Fukasaku also adds some very fluid cinematography.  The opening theme is basically Leia's theme, but the rest of the soundtrack, stirring Japanese war anthems is not so Williamsesque. This is the TV series. Though the film was a flop, Sanada starred in a loosely adapted TV series, with Morrow replaced by a talking, cigarette holder smoking ape in a  cape.  And a blonde, sexy space princess as a baddie.  But it lost something. It felt silly. In other words, it lacked Kinji Fukasaku. And a budget. And was more straightforward spacey nonsense.

Curse of the Dog God (1977) - Nonsensical and unmemorable Toei horror, bar a scene where a dog is buried alive, head sticking out of the ground.

Yokai Monsters: 100 Monsters (1968) - Japanese mythological horror. Relatively restrained compared to its sequels. Features a woman with a long neck, a one-legged, one-eyed tongue-tickler umbrella monster. Fun for what it is.

Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare (1968)  - Daiei monster madness, weird cartoonish duck-billed ghost and carrot-headed Babylonian vampire.  Imagine the Island of Dr. Moreau with samurai, if made by the Krofft brothers. Insane and glorious.

Yokai Monsters: Along With Ghosts (1969) - The least of the series - takes 45 minutes until the action starts.  More of a samurai film than a horror-fantasy.

Terror Beneath the Sea (1966) - Garish rubbish, young Sonny Chiba in Irwin Allen-esque action-free undersea nonsense.

Ogon Batto (1966) - A spiral monster with a face zaps people. Ultraman via 40s serials via Fantomas. Very odd. Very silly. More young Chiba.

War of the Insects (1968) - Shochiku proto-Swarm. Stagey, badly-acted, not good. Most of the insects seem to be invisible.

Kwaidan (1964)  - Gorgeous but no horror film needs to be three hours.

Teito Monogatari (1988) - Surrealist bollocks with Tetsuro Tanba. Slow. Overlong.

GODZILLA 1984 (1984) - It's a bit flat. Not enough Godzilla. It's a bit televisual. I don't think I'm a kaiju fan particularly.

Godzilla vs Biollante (1989) - Kind of forgettable and darkly shot.

Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991) - The thing is with the 90s Godzilla films is that they are better made.  This is the same old plot. Some shots look a bit ropey.  It feels a bit childish,  with dinosaur models and stuff, but also like a bad syndicated TV show.  Despite Mecha-Ghidorah.

Godzilla vs Mothra (1992) is a bit daft, but it looks like a proper film. The cinematography is breathtaking.

Godzilla vs Destoroyah (1995) - More of the same. Bar a Hong Kong bit. But nothing special.

Godzilla 2000 (2000) - It looks good. But it's the same old, same old - told a bit earnestly.

Godzilla vs Megaguirus (2000) - Expensive looking load of nonsense. Seems to be okay, good effects, but it doesn't work. It's very noisy.

Godzilla Final Wars (2004) - Actually does something different by having CGI big budget effects to enable quite witty jokes in the middle of the carnage. Though it gets a bit weirdly arty.

Gamera - Guardian of the Universe (1995) - It tries to do something different, but it still can't escape the innate silliness of the original Gamera films, the stupidest of the kaiju canon. A snaggletoothed, rocket-arsed turtle fighting a creature with a head like a sex toy.   Some of the model work is a  bit static. Like most later kaiju, most of the fights are hard to decipher, being located at night, in the rain. It's atmospheric, it's muddy.