Monday 16 October 2017

What I've been watching in October - 50

Going Bananas (1988) - Dom Deluise deputises for Bud Spencer in a 40s jungle comedy complete with stereotypes (Jimmie Walker as the Mantan Moreland-ish Mozambo), but made in 80s South Africa by Cannon with Herbert Lom as a dictator-ish Captain and Deep Roy essentially playing the Peking Homunculus again.  A dull Disneyesque joint intended as a sequel to the Clint Eastwood and Clyde the Chimp films AND an adaptation of an Israeli Curious George knockoff, and the Needham-esque circus scenes hint at the former, pumped up to ultra-weirdness levels by Cannon. Nice Pino Donaggio soundtrack.

Iron Eagle (1986) - average, very 80s Karate Kid-via-Top Gun, Lou Gossett as mentor. David Suchet livens up proceedings, but too 80s teen movie for its own good, something which has hurt the likes of Night of the Comet (1984) and Night of the Creeps (1986).  

Machinegunner (-1976) - HTV pilot shot on film, feature-length Leonard Rossiter vehicle. Interesting failure, the tweedy harpschicord soundtrack does not work against urban Bristol. Murkily shot in some scenes, a complicated plot involving Nina Baden-Semper, Colin Welland, Kate O'Mara,  feels overlong at 80  minutes, lots of non-dialogue spying and chasing, 

TRAPPED! (1982) - Blackfaced hillbilly nutter Henry Silva wages war in slasher/vigilante rural terror movie, uninteresting characters against interesting setting. 

Blazing Magnum (1976) - Stuart Whitman, Martin Landau, John Saxon, Gayle Hunnicutt all feature in Italian-Canadian cop thriller with some exciting action scenes - Whitman getting beaten about transvestites on top of a skyscraper, lots of proto-parkour,  an ace car chase, a helicopter assassination climax that seemingly influenced the opening of For Your Eyes Only in camera direction (Remy Julienne worked on both) and a nicely Canadian feel a la the Silent Partner. Stunt director Remy Julienne miscredited as Julienne Remy.

Ruby (1977) - Piper Laurie in  muddled supernaturally gangster drama that also revolves around a haunted drive-in, and features a moon-eyed teenaged daughter for extra Carrie-ness.  Like an episode of Happy Days directed by someone who wants to be Argento. Curtis Harrington directs, but he's not sure of the plot. Is it a horror or a 50s melodrama?

Russian Roulette (1975) - ITC-funded George Segal thriller/travelogue of 70s Vancouver,  Gordon Jackson, Denholm Elliot and Nigel Stock play Canadians, only the latter attempting an accent. Typical tax shelter larks, although good action and an interesting soundtrack, its main theme a high school band performance of Polyushka Polye, its Canadian-ness creating a friendler tone than other Cold War thrillers including Segal's cold Quiller Memorandum (1966).

Three For All (1975) - Early Martin Campbell film, all star disaster of a comedy musical. More interesting behind the scenes story, frankly.

The Dunwich Horror (1970) - A duff episode of Night Gallery that goes on for 90 minutes.
The Dove (1974) - True life adventure, Charles "Condorman" Jarrott directing, though with its partly Australian setting, less Disney, more Lost Islands. Teen Joseph Bottoms travels around the world and falls in love with Deborah Raffin.  Features staged Fijian kitten-butchery.

 Ghost Story (1981) - Atmospheric but dull all-star horror. Shock ending at odds with tone of the film. Craig Wasson a rubbish lead.

Watched a few Blake Edwards films, find his stuff self-indulgent, too weighed down to work. Even the Pink Panthers go overlong, even the brilliant Pink Panther Strikes Again. Then watched the likes of Breaking Away (1979 )and More American Graffiti (1979), like most coming of age stories, pleasing but only occasionally interesting - an average time-killer. Although the theme to the TV version of Breaking Away is very close to Mrs. Brown's Boys.

Killer Force (1976) - Fast-paced but not endearing Val Guest-directed pseudo-blaxploitation actioner with OJ Simpson among a cast of Peter Fonda, Hugh O'Brian, an Afrikaaner-accented Maud Adams, Christopher Lee and Telly Savalas as a character called Harry Webb, the real name of Cliff Richard, whom Guest directed in Expresso Bongo. Fun, very 70s, Fonda with a perm, lots of showcasing for South African-based actors of the era. Double-bill it with the similar, overlong but more fun Gold (1974).

Pigs (1972) - More not-conventionally-good-or-bad indie horror weirdness. Marc Lawrence in a bad ginger wig feeding victims to pigs. Kind of fun. Prototypical hillbilly cannibal nonsense. Lawrence lifts the material, but then he also directed it, and features his daughter. Dreamlike.

The House Where Evil Dwells (1982) - Badly-accented Susan George and Edward Albert move to Japan, she has an affair with Doug McClure, cool kabuki-samurai ghosts appear, but otherwise routine haunter. Boring, bad child acting, too.

Figures in a Landscape (1970) - routine Defiant Ones-ish adventure with Malcolm McDowell and Robert Shaw chased through South America by Henry Woolf.  Ends on a shootout against the military. And perks up. And then continues into the snowy mountains. Overlong. Feels like a Beckettian travelogue. Final image arresting, of bloodied Shaw alone on the mountain. 

Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun (1969) - Bonkers, incredibly confusing, lovely sets and design, slightly warmer than UFO, but hard to follow. The "flash-forward geriatric wheelchair/mirror suicide" ending is insane.

 Lisa and the Devil (1974) - The original, moody, atmospheric, slow cut not the House of Exorcism piece. Like a lot of Italian horror from this era, like most Euro-genres merges into one, and I can't take early 70s Elke Sommer seriously cos of Carry On Behind, interesting supposed-to-be-a-twist ending with If-era Telly.

Runestone (1991) - Interesting, watchable but average Viking-themed Highlander knock-off with some interesting character comedy bits.

Crescendo (1970) - I'm not a big fan of Hammer's psychodramas. A lot of them blend into one, but this almost impressed me, nice  jazzy score, and the sunny photography keeps it above TV movie level,  similar to And Soon The Darkness. The old mad twin-brother gambit, with James Olson (who I presumed for years to be a Yank in the UK along the lines of Ed Bishop, only to realise he was a solid non-star Hollywood character lead). Stefanie Powers plays along cliches, wheelchairs, missing luggage, crazy maids, orphans, it does devolve into a Brian Clemens-ish mess, but the exterior stuff is lovely.  Joss Ackland rocks many an all-black ensemble.

Daughters of Darkness (1971) - Confusing but interesting, nicely shot lesbian vampire horror. Ponderous in some respects and the back and forth in location (is it in a castle or a hotel? God knows?), but the idea of a vampire countess driving a car which then explodes and supernaturally burns, with its owner is a fascinating one. Symbiotic. And a  great soundtrack and a great location in the hotel and surrounding Ostend. The two leads are bland, but that may be the dubbing, and John Karlen doesn't have the beard he has in Cagney and Lacey or the Irish accent he had as the murderous Gard in Murder, She Wrote. But there is a definite Euro-smut vibe with those two. An above average Euro-horror.

Malpertuis (1971)- Nice design, maybe it's Welles, but it reminds me sort of what Jodorowsky's Dune may have looked like, completely different setting, but in terms of fat Orson in Euro-weirdness. But not as mind-expanding.

Daughter of Darkness (1948 - B/W)- Siobhan Mackenna in weird Irish horror-noir. Shows that the Brits always had trouble spelling Irish names. Frightfully young Honor Blackman. Atmosphere, kind of lags, I'm not a noir guy, really, but the  Irish angle is interesting. Not the 1970s vampire movie Daughters of Darkness, or the very interesting Stuart Gordon TVM, set in Romania, but filmed in Hungary. 

Watched Jean Paul Belmondo's That Man from Rio (1964) and The Burglars (1971) - which are nice time-wasting visual treats, watched them in French/Italian, but it didn't matter, cos they are visual films, with all his stunts, better than Italian stuff of the same era. But they work best or purely as excuses of doing great stunts.

Also watched intriguing but rather cliched and stilted Martin Sheen-Sam Neill spy thriller Enigma (1982), very clearly shot entirely in France by Jeannot Szwarc with a dubbed Michael Lonsdale, dubbed by Marc Smith doing a Lonsdale impression with an American accent.

The Silent Partner (1978) - Christopher Plummer as Santa - two icons of Christmas in one being. And then he's in drag. He's doing panto. Superman tin. Robertson's jam. Away in a manger. John Candy with a kipper tie. Plummer wears eyeliner even out of drag, and a blond syrup. Celine Lomez's head cut along the fishtank. Elliott Gould's realistic reaction - almost vomiting as Plummer laughs. The nearly headless corpse rolled up in carpet. Little touches in Plummer's performance make him such a memorable villain. The way he touches his hair constantly, sauntering down. His hairy chest in the Chanel blouse. Recommended.

The Glove (1979)- Decently made if rather inert TV-ish Canadian-funded LA-shot thriller - Rosey Grier has a studded metal glove. John Saxon is in narrator mode as the bounty hunter out to get him. On DVD with similarly average Vietnam-revenge-in-Toronto thriller Search and Destroy (1979), starring Perry King, Tisa Farrow being a waxwork of her sister essentially and George Kennedy.

The Snake-Woman (1961 - B/W) - Sidney J. Furie b/w horror, an atmospheric but not very good colonial Victoriana with a sub-par cast, seemingly an influence on Hammer's the Reptile.   Double-billed with Furie's slightly more fun but rather dull-if-colourful  Dr. Blood's Coffin (1962).

The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (1977) - Larry Cohen's all-star CIA expose, almost an anthology of US political vignettes,  entertaining in its almost-Churchill's People sense of cramming it all in if a little confused. And never gets at outrageous as it should.

I Was A Teenage Frankenstein (1958 - B/W) -  Threadbare average AIP (who I prefer in their 70s era) B-monster fluff. Titular creature a well-spoken disfigured lad. It and the actually-not-very-exciting I Was A Teenage Werewolf (1957 - B/W) were united in semi-meta not-really-a-horror-more-a-poignant-but-halfbaked melodrama sequel How To Make A Monster (1958 - B/W) the next year, with Gary Conway once again in makeup as the Frankenstein's Monster, again a normal kid with horrible makeup, but much better than that film. Michael Landon alas is nowhere to be seen.

 Also watched the fun Truck Turner (1974), though I'm not a big blaxploitation guy (Larry Cohen's efforts in the genre are occasionally enlivened by his trademark guerilla action work, but are otherwise well-done but token blax-gangster fare), it has an interesting cast, Isaac Hayes as the lead, Nichelle Nichols as a madam with a hooker called Colonel Sanders cos she's "finger-lickin' good", Scatman Crothers as a pimp and Yaphet Kotto being weird with a client named Joe Dante, a deliberate reference, as this was directed by Jonathan Kaplan, another Corman alumnus. Also saw JD's Revenge (1976), a fun gangster film masquerading as a horror, though the period stuff is ragged. It may have been more interesting with a racist white gangster possessing the black lead. But Glynn Turman is astonishing.

 Watching Fog Island (1943 - B/W), the ultimate Old Dark House quickie, plus the similar Horror Island (1941 - B/W), the repetitive Gorilla Woman films (1943, (194, (1945 - B/W), the surprisingly atmospheric Terror is a Man (1959 - B/W) - which spawned a series of colourful but ultimately worthless colour Blood Island films, keeping its monster little-seen and mysterious unlike its sequels. I've seen Mad Doctor of Blood Island (1968), Brides of Blood (1968), Beast of Blood (1970) and yet they all blend.