Monday 6 March 2017

What I have been watching. - 15/ 19 ish - Billion Dollar Brain, Forsythe, Mackenna's Gold, Ozploitation

Billion Dollar Brain (1967) is weird, again I mentioned my problem with Ken Russell. And this almost works, but it's the disassociation between visuals and characters, it's wonderfully shot, especially the surreal tankers and soldiers and eggs climax on the ice, but it all feels shallow, like a caper comedy from the period. All caricatures. Caine is playing a bad impression of himself, Ed Begley somehow doesn't go over the top enough, or maybe he does, and Russell doesn't focus on it. I find a lot of post-Bond spy thrillers kind of cold, e.g. the Quiller Memorandum, etc. The other Palmer movies never did much for me. They pass a Saturday afternoon, but no more. They feel like they should be slightly trippier.
And I was also watching Day of the Jackal ('73), which is ruined by Edward Fox's cravatted, unlikeable bullyboy snob of a protagonist.
The Odessa File is better, and it has the hauntingly merry Perry Como-Lord Snooty theme, "Christmas Dream". Apparently remade as a fan-film by the Containment/Forest of Light's Scott Jeschke, who like my friend Jason Wallace knows Maria Breese.

Also watching MacKenna's Gold (1969), which is overlong, laughably cast - with the likes of Omar Sharif, Ted "Lurch" Cassidy and Julie "Catwoman" Newmar as Native Americans, etc.

Been on an Ozploitation kick. I like the sort of widescreen style of a lot of those films. Even though some of them can be quite bland.

Snapshot (1979) - Simon Wincer/Tony Ginnane's rather ropey slasher with two almost identical female leads, a cast made up mainly of actresses from Prisoner: Cell Block H, a killer in an ice cream van, as with almost of all this genre, a nice score by Australia's Ronnie Hazlehurst, Brian "not that one, the other one" May. Ginnane was behind this, plus the great Patrick (1978), Strange Behaviour, Brian Trenchard Smith's Turkey Shoot (1982), the rather bland and confused (and a troubled production) The Survivor (1981)and even 1995's Screamers, arty nonsensical "aliens take football trophy" movie Incident at Raven's Gate (1988) and daft New Zealand period thriller Mesmerized with (1986) Jodie Foster, Harry Andrews and John Lithgow going Kiwi.

Thirst (1979) - Ginnane-produced, May-scored, rather clever modern day vampire film. About possible relations to Elisabeth Bathory, being haunted by gothic dreams, then abducted by a New World Order-ish cult who live in a castle among green fields on the edge of the bush, headed by David Hemmings and Henry Silva, and keep blood cows, i.e. humans whom they attach to milking machines and drain them of blood. The setting is brilliantly designed, resembling an actual dairy. Lovely scene where tourists are guided around "the dairy", taking snips of blood cows/calves, all upright, eyes wide open.The sacrifice/blood-drinking scenes, with everyone in evening dress are also quite striking. Nice twist ending.

Harlequin (1980) -  Again directed by Simon Wincer and produced by Tony Ginnane, Senator "Ellie" Steele, a prominent politician based on Aussie prime minister Harold Holt vanishes at sea. David Hemmings is groomed as replacement. Robert Powell plays a modern Rasputin/Jesus figure/magician in various costumes (i.e. a Mittel European doctor, a clown, a Jesus, a Leo Sayer) who heals Hemmings' son (as usual with most child stars of the era, one of the kids in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome). Hemmings is in an arranged stunt marriage the son has been born into, as a sort of symbol of unity, the idea being that this is a modern version of the fall of Imperial Russia.  Set in a weird Mid-Atlantic netherworld with Governors, generic capitals and characters with either quasi-British/Australian accents or quasi-American accents (mainly American-Australian Gus Mercurio), a TV shows the BBC test-card (apparently as much a fixture down under), stations have regional American-style names with lots of disjointed letters, and the kid is voiced, in British film tradition, by a woman. Interesting film. Inventive scenes including a psychokinetic drowning scene, lots of computer text on screens, and a captivating plot. Rather underrated, albeit rather bland at times, but a better vehicle for Powell than the Survivor. Apparently, the lead role was intended for David Bowie, but producers met him and got cold feet. However, Powell is great, and the publicity cashed in on his fame as TV's Jesus of Nazareth, by prepping the idea of him being a new messiah.

Dark Age (1987) - That man Ginnane again. Aussie croc goes on rampage, eating Aborigine kids. Interesting but rather overlong film. Clever twist in that three quarters of the way in, the croc is captured, as it is an endangered breed, and then escapes. Features Ray "Alf from Home & Away" Meagher with a tache. It feels bland but slick. The whole "sacred animal" thing where the Aborigines believe its damage is actually for good is interesting. The Aborigines including the inevitable David Gulpilil are the few interesting characters. It is watchable, with the ruthless killing of a small boy (whom the Aborigines don't quite care for, because we are told he was incredibly ill), but it lacks something.

Been watching rather boring likes of Blood Beach (1980 - somewhere between a private eye movie and a country music romance, with an interesting monster subplot buried within) and the utterly ridiculous, but only slightly, sporadically fun Italian Jaws-off, Great White (1981), where James Franciscus has to emote over an eerily bisected Vic Morrow (bad Scottish accent and all, as the Quint) while a big rubber shark groans at him, a shark that is also represented with a very cheesy, fake-looking fin that one expects to be revealed as a sort of Bart Simpson: Shark-Boy type joke.

Watched Penda's Fen (1974) - arty Play for Today, didn't do anything for me, perhaps as it is saddled with an annoying, camp hero, played by Spencer Banks of ITV Doctor Who rival "Timeslip". It is sort of like an Anglia TV Raul Ruiz, like his films City of Pirates, Treasure Island & bits of Three Crowns but without the feel of weird dubbed kids TV that Ruiz's films tend to have, yet somehow get even weirder than the likes of The Legend of Tim Tyler, etc. And Ruiz at times goes into dreaded De Palma mode - split diopters take life from the image.

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