Shake Hands with the Devil (1959 - B/W) - 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 Redgrave 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 - B/W) - Dull, tedious scenes enlivened by almost neo-realistic photography.
I Bury The Living (1958 - B/W) - 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 - B/W) - I'm sorry, but I'm with John Carpenter. Lewton is overrated. They're too much style over substance. And hardly anything happens. The sequel, Curse of the Cat People (1944 - B/W) is even odder - it's actually a sort of Cocteauesque family drama.
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 - B/W) - 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 - B/W) - 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 - B/W) - 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 - B/W) - 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 - B/W) - 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 - B/W) - 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.