Saturday, 22 April 2017

Robbins? Robbins!

Recently watched a few Harold Robbins adaps.

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

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

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

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

Monday, 3 April 2017

My problem with Brazil.

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


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

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