Saturday 27 January 2018

Quick round of reviews. -10 ex. Death Line and Phase IV, Alice, Alabama, Dead Calm, Reflection, Valerie, Dead Calm, American Way, Nasty Rabbit, Death Line, Phase IV, inc. ref to No Blade of Grass

Alabama's Ghost (1973) - Insane tosh. Badly dubbed gran-svestites, wheelchair-bound one-eyed magicians, Scots-Irish-Scouse celtic weirdos, funk music, like a variety show intermingled with voodoo-Nazi stuff, Cockney scientists, robots,  a vanishing elephant, very strange, everything badly post-synced, and then come the  giant monster jaws. Indescribable, even when watching it. From the director of Godmonster of Indian Flats (1973),  an inappropriately scored feast of nonsense where a female psychic warns a mysteriously backward modern but very Western town of a sheep carcass monster, which is attacked by cowboys.

Alice in Wonderland (1933 - B/W) - The likes of Cary Grant, W.C. Fields and Gary Cooper are mostly unrecognisable in mangy animal suits, trapped in a godawful panto, with Harman-Ising animation thrown in, and live action scenes seemingly constructed to look like weird Eastern European stop motion animation.

A Reflection of Fear (1972) - American-posing-as-Canadian horror with Robert Shaw. Very Brian Clemens-y. Slow, doesn't quite make use of its interesting setting. Sondra Locke age 28 plays a fifteen year old girl, or so we think. Needless to say, it's what those in the theatrical biz call "a trouser part". A bit pervy. Obsession with genitals. But it has an interesting atmosphere.

Valerie And Her Week of Wonders (1970) - Colourful, beguiling but somewhat sinister-feeling Czech fairytale, like a dubbed BBC summer filler made by weirdos. Nice gothic costume party, but the underage "girl becoming a woman" stuff is icky, despite an interesting vampire character.  And Granny's makeup is shite. She still looks like a young woman, a young vampire with hair in a bun. Nice soundtrack.

Dead Calm (1989) - A passable half-hour anthology idea overstretched. Billy Zane more annoying than anything.

The American Way (1986) - Overlong British-playing-American music video post-apocalyptic rock opera shite with Dennis Hopper. Awful.

Lou Bunin's Alice in Wonderland (1949 - B/W) -  A strange live-action stop motion hybrid. Carol Marsh, then 21 is too mature as Alice, making the overtones of Carroll's fascination with Alice (Carroll here played by future Navy Lark-er Stephen Murray) rather inappropriate-seeming. The animation is pleasingly grotesque, but Marsh is also too tall to fit in with them. It doesn't work, especially as it then goes into light opera. Misspells Joyce Grenfell's name in the credits as Gronfell.

The Nasty Rabbit (1964 - B/W) - Arch Hall Jr. vehicle, like a group of mental patients decided to make a Cold War epic and a sub-Disney comedy and a western all in the same film. Unfunny yet beguiling.

Rewatched Death Line (-1972), and I like the atmosphere, but I find it spends too much time with the annoying youth characters, especially David Ladd, who isn't a good actor (well, he is a convincingly spoilt brat in The Wild Geese, but...). Obviously, there's a reason why he started acting (your dad was a big star), and why he kept acting (your brother's a big producer). Plus it is slightly too slow. It might have made a better anthology segment.

Also rewatched Phase IV (-1974) - Very much a standard TV movie concept, and bar the few psychedelic detours Saul Bass gives us, is rather dry, one of these sci-fi films too stuck up its arse in one idea, slow, cold, and though the soundtrack is nice,  it is very much a half-hour idea stretched out. Devoid of much of the sporadic excitement other mostly boring insect attack films have. Everyone seems to be on drugs, especially Michael Murphy. It seems just an excuse for insect footage, but they already made The Hellstrom Chronicle. Stars Nigel Davenport and Lynne Frederick reunited from Cornel Wilde's strange, chronologically muddled and quite depressing John Christopher adap No Blade of Glass (1970), also not a great film, despite Wendy Richard as a biker bitch and Roger Whittaker singng the theme tune.

Sunday 21 January 2018

More animation

Been watching Sally Cruikshank's award-winning short from 1975, Quasi at the Quackadero, which is set in an interesting carnival dystopia and its sequel, Make Me Psychic (1978), which isn't as good, despite the appealing fat-bellied Quasi character. Cruikshank's 1987 short, produced by her ex-Corman associate husband Jon Davison (and featuring a thanks to Dick Miller credit), is basically a music video for its composers, Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo. A lot of 70s student animation has a weird undergraduate thing to it that people would say, "oh it's all made by hippies on drugs", but definitely there is a part of that that is true.
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Also watched Canadian animator Gerald Potterton's 1970s adaptations of Wilde's The Selfish Giant and The Happy Prince (1974, narrated by Glynis Johns and Christopher Plummer) and The Remarkable Rocket (1975, with David Niven and Graham Stark), which although undeniably beautiful have this slightly too reverential feel, and feel like better versions of those cheap Australian adaptations of classics, and animations that are not tongue-in-cheek, especially if they outlast their welcome, and Potterton's shorts are half an hour.  The Remarkable Rocket might be the most enjoyable. It is very simplistic, with a range of anthropomorphic national stereotype fireworks, Stark giving us his Indian and his Scouse and his Italian (i.e. his character Tony the Italian trattoria owner in Hi-De-Hi) and Stark clearly gets a bit self-indulgent with his voices. Shorts like the NFB output such as the UPA-esque Potterton-Leacock My Financial Career, the blackly comic Beano-esque EB White adap The Family that Dwelt Apart (1972), Rene Jodoin's experimental  plotless wanders e.g. 1976's Monsieur Pointu and Bretislav Pojar's Mr. Men-esque 1972 short Balablok or the ahead of its time 1963 Potterton-Norman McLaren collaboration Christmas Cracker or John Weldon's 1990 woman's picture To Be and 1991 photomontage The Lump or Cordell Baker's 2002 short Strange invaders (not the crap 80s film but the story of a button-eyed nightmare child) don't outstay their welcome. Especially not the wondrous  ant-mad stop-motion/live action musical crossbreed of Juke Bar (1989). As well as the bizarre 1976 NFB death-umentary Afterlife and the simple 1997 dance sequence of Bully Dance.
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Also watched the shorts of George Dunning, like Potterton, an animator on Yellow Submarine, and they're surrealist for the sake of it, Gilliamesque drivel.

The 1973 ABC Depatie Freleng special The Incredible Indelible Magical Physical Mystery Trip is odd, a cutesy but psychedelic mix per US kidvid of the era, two live action kids on an animated Fantastic Voyage inside their smoker Uncle Carl, guided by the anthropomorphic Timer, a Public Service announcement character and featuring lungs moaning about lack of fresh air in their nicotine stained domain.

Also watched Fred Wolf's 1967 short NFB-ish The Box, about a beardy old man pulling girls (that's it) and the pre-Irish move Murakami-Wolf 1971 special The Point, a cutesy Harry Nilsson-scored allegory with (depending on the version) Dustin Hoffman, "friend of Rolf" Alan Thicke or Ringo Starr, and Brady Bunch kid Mike Lookinland as a kid with a round head in a world where everyone has pointy heads so he wears a pointy hat cos he doesn't have a point. Also saw the trippy but sugary Puff the Magic Dragon specials they did with added weirdness such as Puff helping liars, orphans and kids with an imaginary friend called Mr. Nobody, a duck in a feathered saucepan hat. The Magic Pear Tree (1967), another Murakami short with Agnes Moorehead as a French princess. It's very caricatured, and somehow American shorts lack the strangeness and well, how else can I put it, sheer Canadian wit.
And also a few shorts by John Hubley, whose style I don't really enjoy - because it's almost identical to Charley Says. And thus they feel oddly preachy even when not.

Though in terms of NFB-like ability, the simple but pleasing children's book adaptations of Weston Woods e.g. Gene Deitch's creepy Teeny Tiny and the Witch-Woman (1980, narrated by Marie Rosulkova, the American tourist in possibly the greatest sci-fi film of the 1970s, Tomorrow, I Shall Wake Up and Scald Myself With Tea*) and Deitch's Tomi Ungerer adap The Beast of Monsieur Racine come close.  Also saw Weston Woods' Harold and the Purple Crayon (1971, based on a book that possibly inspired Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings). Deitch's stuff was mostly post-his UPA days done in Eastern Europe like the uplifting underage soldier tale of Munro (1960, which surely inspired Grampa Simpson's youth) and looks appealing because it's based on a Jules Feiffer story.

Also watched the 1971 Spike Milligan-narrated video for Cat Stevens' Moonshadow, with a little lad in a top hat, one of those ITV region fillers like Rondo Veneziano or the Butterfly Ball by Halas-Batchelor.

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Also looked at the popular 1970s Hungarian-TVNZ Gustav shorts, which are about a rather seedy middle-aged bald man going about his life, basically a cartoon Reggie Perrin, but with the odd transvestite bridal fantasy and dinosaur encounter thrown in, and an episode called "Gustav is a Muff".
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I've also been trying to delve my toes into Yugoslavian animation, having seen Zagreb film's shape-changing sporadically coloured surrealist journey and seeming Disney satire and Oscar submission Diary (1974) full of striking images such as the bouncing micro-universes in cubes.   Their Cypporat/Surrogat by Dusan Vukotic is very a UPA-esque genii-related Tales from the Crypt-like twist in the tale and 1959's Cow On The Moon is similar modernist, though I couldn't tell if the Angelica from Rugrats-ish little girl is the titular cow, as an actual cow only features briefly. Has a neat bucket-and-aerial headed "alien" disguise.  In the 70s, we got the witty Benidorm-set insomniac's battle Tup-Tup (1972), (featuring a nude lady with grotesquely droopy boobs and a flying Red Bull ad-esque postman and kissing a Moomin-like hippo-thing in a crown that becomes a princess in a grave) and the Deux-Deux-esque radiophonic-soundtracked rivals of Learning to Walk (1978),  By the 1980s, they were making Posla koka u ducan, a Yugoslavian music video featuring a clucking chicken leading a funny animal disco. There's a lot of similarities with the NFB, to the extent, that one of their guiding lights, Zlatko Grgic made the NFB's Hot Stuff, amongst others.

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The Magic Pony (1977) - a remake of a seminal Soyuzmultfilm film, that inspired Disney, this one of the few Soyuzmultfilm animations to reach a western audience, dubbed by Gadabout Gaddis communications with the voices of Hans Conried and Joanie from Happy Days. Has that folky feel Soyuzmultfilm specialise in, and were dubbed for PBS and hosted by Mikhail Baryshnikov, which then resulted in a lawsuit.  But this is also a typical "magic horse" film, like the Last Unicorn, but better animated and not as psychotronically weird.

Fyodor Kitruk, who did Soyuzmultfilm's Winnie the Pooh also did Great Troubles (1961), a sort of domestic sitcom told in child's drawings featuring dancing to Soviet rock and roll, narrated by a woman with a Russian "50s voice actress dubbing child" voice, and the modernist photomontage of Story of One Crime (1962) which features an extraordinary range of images - live action footage on television and even creating the platform videogame 20 years early. His Man in the Frame (1965) and the Bob Marley-on-a-desert-island-plus-some-scientists fun of Island (1973).

Also saw the most interesting Soyuzmultfilm, Robert Silverberg adaptation Contract (1985), a very strange Soviet Metal Hurlant sci-fi with a matchbox, a cashier cat-bot and a disco hosted by a Max Quordlepleen-type.

And finally after a while tracking, saw Bretislav Pojar's Elahw the Whale from 1977, the charming tale of a whale newsagent. Yes, really. Also features a grumpy suitcase-hatted cat.

Been watching the Herbs/Parsley the Lion. Charming but every ep the same.

Have been sampling Ladislas Starewich's stuff e.g. 1933's The Mascot and his early re-animations of dead ants have a spooky, uncanny valley feel - like if Toy Story was a found footage film from the early 20th century.

Also been for the first time, seeing Ray Harryhausen's early fairy tale adaptations, and the dolls are terrifying, Auton-esque blank-eyed things. No wonder monsters are his first love. It says something when Humpty Dumpty for once is the jolliest looking creature. Even the witch in Hansel and Gretel is actually quite normal compared to the titular grotesque charity box-like sprogs.

Also been reading Animation - The Global History and the work of Paul Grimault (whose unfinished and rather strange Dogtanian-esque steampunk epic Mr. Wonderbird ended up in Herschell Gordon Lewis' film Jimmy the Boy Wonder), e.g. the steampunky LES PASSAGERS DE LA GRANDE OURSE and the attractive but very odd to look at work of Nazi animator Hans Fischerkoesen. A lot of early 2-D animation, especially immediately post-Disney is strange, it's pretty but it almost feels too hard to be matching Disney, and therefore though there will be some invention, it feels  very pleasant but very generic. Found the work of Columbia's early animations from the 30s sickly sweet, though.

*Looking at a list of 70s SF films, and I find it weird that a lot of them I'm indifferent on. Too many dull dystopias and cold, characterless scientific experiments. Not enough fun. Worthy, interesting but not that enthralling films like the Andromeda Strain, Rollerball (Death Race 2000 is better), the Terminal Man, the Forbin Project, the Groundstar Conspiracy, ZPG, the Stepford Wives, THX 1138, Slaughterhouse 5, I realise that I'm not really a literally SF man. Then again, I'm not into 50s sci-fi so much. I'm in the middleground, intelligent but fun. I'm more into fun, big concepts.

Saturday 13 January 2018

Animation Roundup

Been watching a lot of animation, mainly foreign stuff.

First with the US stuff.
The 1930s work of Disney collaborator-turned-rival Ub Iwerks, like another ex-Disney hand, David Hand's Animaland try to be too Disney, lovely but dull. Flip the Frog is halfway between a Mickey and a Bugs, trying to be mischievous but quite annoying, similar to Terrytoons like Heckle and Jeckle and even Mighty Mouse who always seemed out of place in his rural Funny Animal world. The John K-Ralph Bakshi series felt more tuned to the superheroic element. 
UPA's stuff is fascinating if not always appealing, their surrealistic style seems to be constructed to hide lack of budget. The Tell-Tale Heart works, almost Eastern European, and with James Mason to boot.  But for example with Gerald McBoing-Boing, there are sign of laziness - clothes are the same colour as skin AND the wall, and it changes, because it is actually transparent skin. Some neat scenes, though - i.e. Gerald in the radio room in a cowboy outfit doing gun noises. I never understand why he can't just impersonate human speech.

I've been delving into the output of National Film Board of Canada. I don't know how. I think their shorts were shown on RTE when I was little, but I have no memory of the shorts themselves, just the logo and the name. Obivously, they have done lots of live action documentaries from the fascinating crazed daredevil profile The Devil At Your Heels (1981) to the disturbing Not A Love Story (1981), and live action fiction - e.g. The Railrodder (1965) - possibly my favourite Buster Keaton, because it is him as an old man, on a final madcap journey through the great white North.
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The Owl Who Married A Goose (1974) shows the range of the NFB. Lovely inky black animation, similar to the later Sniffing Bear. Although by the 80s, the likes of Special Delivery, the piano-themed Getting Started (1979, with unusual 3D-like painted backgrounds), the fun fire educational short Hot Stuff (1971), the snaggle-toothed couples' argument The Big Snit (1985) and the Cat Came Back (1989) showed that the NFB were mainly making wobbly Dilbert-esque animations about people or animals in social situations backed by a harmonica score. Still in vogue by the time of 2006’s At Home with Mrs. Hen. The Big Snit's animator, Richard Condie also put his style to effect in the fun John Law and the Mississippi Bubble (1979), about the history of paper money, the medieval-themed Apprentice (1991), the early rough draft short Oh Sure and the early CGI ugliness of La Salla.
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Although this style was in the NFB as early as What on Earth (hence why it looks newer than it is) and the witty Spinnolio (1977), where a little puppet gets his wish – of becoming Onslow from Keeping Up Appearances, after the cricket gets eaten.

Also in that often-scratchy Cat Came Back style the lovely geriatric love story George and Rosemary and the biscuit ad-esque Tale of Cinderella Penguin, the UNICEF-sponsored Every Child, which becomes its own making of, and the overlong educational Les Drew’s Every Dog’s Guide to Home Safety, with voices by Cagney and Lacey’s Harvey Atkin, although the 1991 short Every Dog’s Guide to the Playground is more traditionally animated, more sitcommy, with its typewriting blue-furred protagonist. Drew's pollution-themed Dickens spin The Energy Carol (1975) with a blue pig as Marley is also recommended.

The NFB always are attractive, or were, pre-CGI, nothing as grotesquely rudimentary as the Steadman-esque ugliness of British animator Geoff Dunbar’s Ubu (1978), with the voice of  Canadian trailer narrator Bill Mitchell. The NFB always have a soul, like a lot of inventive foreign stop-motion cartoons, there’s no soulless weirdness for the sake of it like the Brothers Quay or even the slightly too pleased for yourself charming but not captivating spirit of the Animated Tales of the World or the Fool and the Flying Ship. A lot of foreign cartoons have this soul, something like the astonishing man-rat love story One Day A Man Bought By House, made by Pjotr Sapegin in Norway, who made for the NFB, the evil Filmfair-like Aria and the Moomins-styled Moms’ Cat.

S.P.L.A.S.H. (1980) has a nice Cosgrove Hall feel.

Also sampled were the Milky Way ad-meets-Tex Avery living comic strip The Persistent Peddler (1988), Disney-esque Get A Job (1985), with the grotesque Carmen Miranda frog-businessman, the natural-themed animation of Sand Castle (1977), Garden of Ecos (1997) and Bydlo (2012) – all about moving nature and the arty, trying to be poignant Subservience (2007), the more recent Skeleton Girl and Uncle Bob’s Hospital Visit, which has the traditional NFB harmonica soundtrack, the uncanny valley Ryan, which with its CGI was a modern break from the norm. One thing about the National Film Board is that there can be shorts from 1966 that look like they are from 1986, and shorts from 2006 that could easily come from 1976, or 1952's the Jay Ward-esque Romance of Transportation in Canada or the early-CGI of 1974's Hunger, both of which could easily come from fifteen years later. They are ageless.
2011’s the Big Drive – a mix of photo-collage, off-model CGI and Clasky-Csupo/Mike Judge esque characters doing their own National Lampoon’s vacation, becoming increasingly freakish and uncomfortable, with added harmonica, then introduces cutesy cats riding the car, and earlier stuff as the surreal documentary-mixed-in-with-metaphorical psychedelic freakout animation of Man – The Polluter (1973) and the Underground Movie where a Scots-accented narration and chunky Noah and Nelly-types experiment on a dog Clockwork Orange style, while the drilling ship they’re all in digs through the various layers of the Earth (1972), as we are taught about limestone and sedimentary layers. That was by Les Drew, who also did the strange Dingles from 1988, about a loving depiction of a possibly-crazy-but-actually-nice cat lady.
Also watched the historical montage of 1990’s Mirrors of Time – which pleasingly feels like a 90s educational videogame, with weird cel-shaded animation, and Asterix-type Romans. Propaganda Message – which has scratchy hand-drawn, hand-shaded animation and French dialogue with comic strip dialogue bubbles as subtitles, to explain the differences between the Canadians and their neighbours.
Mindscape (1976) is very nice and appealingly gothy. It reminded me of the titles to  the BBC's Late Night Story.
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A favourite is the witty detachable-eared ex-actor Roger Rabbit-esque yuppie dog in a live action office, Buck Boom of John Weldon’s Real Inside (1984), a former Disney star (“I was in Snow White”) with an obsession for having sex with live action girls, arguing with his live-action prospective boss, familiar character actor Colin Fox.
Bretislaw Pojar’s egg-headed story of caution, To See or Not To See (1969) has cutesy egg-head men turned into spiral ghosts and disturbing human whirlwinds to show us which way is right, Pojar did various shorts for the NFB including the satirical E, featuring bowler-hatted arguments and resembling an educational study on the letter E until a violent denouement.
Also saw the 1995, rather Jim Henson/Cadillacs and Dinosaurs-esque How Dinosaurs Learnt to Fly. Almost every NFB short is at least fun vignette. The quality astounds me. Very few boring adaptations of Pushkin among the gold, like you’d get with Soyuzmultfilm.
Another of the recent ones is the stunning railway dance sequence of Runaway, which reminded me a lot of Belleville Rendezvous, same composer and all. Then, 2012’s Wild Life is stunning, but feels like a Honda ad. Its moving painting style needs narration by Garrison Keillor.

Blackfly (1991) is a Canadian folk story with a nice wobbly style a sequel to the earlier Log Driver's Waltz (1979). Very Canadian, by the McGarrigle Sisters too – Rufus Wainwright’s mum and aunt. Another folk story short the NFB did is the Alberto Frog-esque Frog Went A-Courting. They also did a version of An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly – similar in style to the Cat Came Back (1989).
Cosmic Zoom (1966) is extraordinary. Exactly what the title says.
The Sweater (1980) has that painterly style – like leaky paint, common as the aforementoned style.

Overdose (1994) is poignant – about a happy young boy’s day told in appealing broad-strokes and large head style – then he overworks himself and it all goes wrong.

Yes, that is Peter Ustinov promoting one of the NFB's few cartoon franchises, the limited animation of Peep and the Big Wide World. 

Also been watching the Soviet animations of Soyuzmultfilm, the leading animation company of the Cold War.
Cheburashka – a Monchhichi-esque stop motion character – like a Soviet Rankin/Bass. Apparently, he's a Mickey Mouse figure in Russia, like Soyuzmultfilm's Soviet adaptation of Winnie the Pooh.

Moy zelenyy krokodil – Duncan the Dragon-esque blue crocodile and Babycham cow fall in love, then crocodile turns suicidal and turns into a leaf.

Yuriy Norstein – Tale of Tales (1979)- oddly apocalyptic, painterly photomontage, Gilliamesque mix of figures, autobiographical not unlike Raymond Briggs.

The wondrous Hedgehog in the Fog is like an MR James cartoon – disturbing Soviet hauntologia.

Lisa i zayats – has a bear in floral crown – something woodcut-like, folklorish, and also gets meta, with lots of screens, characters jumping from screen to screen.

Seasons – moving, like a serious cartoon of the Morecambe and Wise Doctor Zhivago Sketch.

Also saw the shorts Choonya – fat pig’s adventures, and Antoshka – with an androgynous Wickie-esque caveboy.

Grey Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood, from 1990, feels more like 1970, but nicely surreal - with the 3 Little Pigs, Musketeers and Red fighting a big bad Wolf. Their later films often feel trapped in an earlier era, as in their 2-D Russian folk village tale Laughter and Grief by the White Sea (1987).

1969’s Bremen Town Musicians – weird half-trad half-surrealist style, James Last-esque score, Soviet’s view of Western music, very odd. Funny animals played seriously. Soyuzmultfilm Boring Pushkin adaps.

Soyuzmultfilm is so strange – because their stuff feels quite basic, in some respects, sometimes they’re stunning, like Hedgehog in the Fog, and other times, they’re basic kidvid, but because they’re Soviet, they can get weird like the baseball-hatted medieval donkey of Bremen Town, but they’re always well-animated, there’s no Hanna-Barbera cheap cuts, there’s always something organic especially Murun Buchstansangur-esque Fru-89. Their views of the world are especially alien - weird views on what little they have seen of American cinema as 1967's Spy Passion, the supposed Godfather spoof Robbery on... (1978) (which has an MGM spoof) and the pale face-people's movie studio-themed Film, Film, Film (1968) (which uses photos of Marilyn Monroe, Buster Keaton,etc), the caveman-themed time-travelling love story of I Shall Give You A  Star,, and the Donald Sutherland-as-Frank Spencer cartoon the Adventures of Vasi Kurolesov (1981). про сидорова вову (1985) is odd, very cutesy, little boy in the army, couldn't tell if it was a comedy or a parable. тайна третьей планеты (1981) and 1953's A Flight to the Moon are very interesting Soviet space operas, the former a fantasy with dustbin-robots and a Goldblum-esque hero and lots of nice designed aliens and worlds including a six-armed Sontaran-type thing, while the latter is an educational "what if?".
Soyuzmultfilm - the Soviet Disney, Hanna-Barbera and NFB all rolled into one. 

As for Soyuzmultfilm rivals, there were Ekran - who then spawned Pilot - makers of Mike, Lu and Og for Cartoon Network and otherwise often disturbing, weird, feel-bad shorts like the b/w Andrei Svislotskiy and the bestiality-themed John Carpenter/Cronenberg-like Hen, My Wife. In contrast, I watched Ekran's considerably jollier Plasticine Crow - like the 2-D stop-motion of the Moomins, its shape-shifter a bit like the tongue twisters in RTE's Bosco. Ekran's Relatives (1993),  about two brothers is especially Csupo-like, but their Soldier's Tale (1983) is much more solemn and painterly.
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Remember Mike, Lu and Og - "I can't believe it's not Klasky-Csupo!"
 Although Pilot's Igor Kovalyov would work for Csupo.

Also watched 1935's the New Gulliver, the stop-motion Soviet Jonathan Swift reimagining - which has a weird newsreel-like feel, and nicely grotesque animated characters. Better than the actually quite interestingly designed-though-slightly too Disneyesque Fleischer version of Gulliver's Travels (1939 - where, like its stablemate, Hoppity Goes to Town, every character seems lifted from a character in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves - though some end up looking like Elmer Fudd's inbred family - which clashes with the heavily rotoscoped Gulliver). New Gulliver is by Alexander Ptushko, the maker of such MST3K-friendly Mosfilm/Corman Viking fantasies as the brownface-heavy Arabian/Indian adventure of Sadko, the Sword and the Dragon and Sampo - which often seem to feature pixellation. Ptushko also worked on 1967's  Viy, a "fairytale" which is actually the same story that Bava adapted in 1960's Black Sunday, told in the style of the Singing, Ringing Tree (hence how it get away with being the first Soviet horror film), with flying broomstick scenes and scary gargoyle-goblins and stop-frame teleporting-ageing scenes. Therefore, it might be better than Bava.

I find British animation best from when it comes from between the 60s  and 80s. As a kid, I was kind of disturbed by cartoons where all the voices were done by one middle-aged narrator, even though I liked the series enough., which is I think why I avoided watching much of the 70s Paddington on reruns, and prefered the 1997 Canadian version, although while Michael Hordern voiced the 70s one, the 90s one only had Cyril Shaps!
Because you can never have enough Cyril Shaps.

In terms of British animation, the 50s and beforehand is too quaint, and the 90s post-Aardman, post-Snowman seems to be trying to be very quaint, and aimed at doing specials for C4 that I watched as a kid, but wouldn't watch now. Even in the late 1980s, there is invention like 1988's Rarg, by Tony Collingwood, whose stuff became quite quaint, but there's a Gilliam-esque (not in terms of animation, but in terms of design) approach in the masses of giant babies gathered around a cartoon Michael Gough in a strange clockpunk techno-dream city, similar but darker than their series Oscar's Orchestra. 
The Goffster

I wonder if Cosgrove Hall is to blame. I watched their stuff constantly as a kid. Their stuff is endlessly high quality. Chorlton and the Wheelies from what I've seen of it is fun and it has Joe Lynch doing voices and sneaking in jokes about Dun Laoghaire (and pronouncing it the RTE way too), DangerMouse is fun, the Wind in the Willows is sweet, but I think their trend of sweetness is to blame. dd since their BFG (1989) is one of the best Roald Dahl adaptations,  miles better than what Spielydrawers and his Globe Theatre-running "pantomime dame of legitimate theatre" pal Mark Rylance did. But their stuff does go for either cutesy or in the case of their 1990 short the Fool and the Flying Ship, that nice "you'll like this" (but you'd rather watch Diamonds Are Forever) well-animated but rather static prestige animation based on a folk tale your parents sit you down to watch a la the Animated Tales of the World or the Animated Shakespeare (though IIRC, my mum thought they were too frightening for me).
Though I must watch more Alias the Jester, because Richard Briers as an alien time-travelling Flash-cosplaying dwarf in the time of King Arthur may be the best concept for a television series ever. Fantomcat is rubbish. A British attempt to do a Batman The Animated Series, but with Robert Powell as a feline Adam Adamant. Yes, really.

Watching Bob Godfrey's stuff - which I find a bit nudge nudge wink wink, a bit men's magazine editorial cartoon - though I like that his "Know Your Europeans" list of British heroes includes Virgil Tracy, John Steed, Arfur Daley, Des O'Connor, Roger Moore, Alan Bennett, Custard the Cat, John Cleese, Sid James, etc. 

Also been watching Halas and Batchelor's shorts such as Automania 2000 and The History of Cinema, Flow Diagram, and they are beautifully done, charming, but they are nowhere near as joyous as the NFB. They feel a little "Make Learning Fun" at times, and sometimes as if they are trying to pass themselves off as Canadian, or in the case of 1967's the Question and the Foo Foo stuff, as UPA films.

Also been watching several shorts by Oscar-nominated Dane animator Borge Ring (e.g. the Bruno Bozzetto-referencing Anna and Bella, Run of the Mill, O My Darling, all quite like the NFB - little snippets of life), the grotesque work of Ukraine's Studio Borisfen (makers of BBC's 64 Zoo Lane), and Tallinnfilm's junk-filled portrait of marriage The Triangle from 1982, all weird, colorful, unique, although Borisfen's Bluebeard is nonsensical.

January Part 2 41 And No, I'm Not Reviewing The Terminator - Not Interested. Aliens is Cameron's nearest-decent film.) Orton, Scalawag, Chosen Survivors, Up..., Sneakers, the Kiss, 30s sf, Naked Jungle, the Mask, Eyes Without a Face, Aussie/NZ horror, Canadian films, Devil with Hitler

Crossplot (1969) - Post-Saint Roger Moore vehicle, with a Department S-type teaser pre-credits. Roger Moore is a milk bottle-snatching, swinging ad exec, in scenes with Bernard Lee.  It does feel like it was made for TV, down to very dodgy back projection scenes in a park. It is produced by regular ITC/Moore collaborator Robert S. Baker, so it has a reason to feel like Alexis Kanner appears, still in character from The Prisoner, while the likes of Derek Francis (as angry boss), Francis Matthews and Dudley Sutton have large-ish roles. It gets tiresome pretty quickly, and has a weird Great Race-style Edwardian car show diversion.

Watched a few 70s ITV anthologies. Classics Dark and Dangerous, Haunted, Worlds Beyond -all have a sort of atmospheric mediocrity. A lot have a sameyness. One gets petered out. Shadows, a mix of middle-class hauntings and subTomorrowPeople/Grange Hillness and a good range of character actors. 3/5.

Watched Scalawag (1972) - schmaltzy semi-musical (Lionel Bart!) spaghetti western Treasure Island with Mark Lester, Kirk Douglas,George Eastman, Lesley Anne Down. And Danny DeVito.

The House On Garibaldi Street (-1978) - Despite a fascinating cast and setting (Leo McKern as Ben-Gurion, Alfred Burke as Eichmann), quite boring.

Chosen Survivors (1974) - low budget bats in bomb shelter film, really interesting design, TV movie level cast. Not much else.

"Joe Orton's Loot" (1970) - the OTT "knowing, eccentric performances" a la the Avengers irritate bar Joe Lynch and Milo O'Shea.

Naked Jungle (1954 - B/W) - turgid romantic melodrama starring Chuck Heston, Hispanic William Conrad and guest starring killer ants.

Watching 30s SF - The Tunnel (1933 - B/W) and Things To Come (1936 - B/W). Both visually astounding, but most 30s films sort of alienate me. Things is baffling.

Been watching and enjoying the Up... (1971, (1972, (1973) films. Never been a fan of Pompeii, but the fact it goes disaster at the end makes up for it.

Watched clips of Jerry Lewis' Which Way to the Front (-1970). Set in a Danger 5 ish 70s 40s, unfunny comedy including some Krustyish Japanese jokes.

Watched Sneakers (1992), and just couldn't understand. A bland, characterless "quirky" drama, with not much daring or interest or curiosity.

Watched Stephen Volk's the Kiss (1988). A confusing mess set in New York/Belgian Congo, shot in Montreal.

Dellamore Dellamorte (1994), Charming, well-shot, pretty zombie movie, but the comedy is lost in the dubbing. It's tonally odd, going for Raimi/Jackson splatstick, but has a weirdly genteel flavour rather than going all grotesque. Rupert Everett's best performance. 

The Mangler (1994) - Harry Alan Towers/Tobe Hooper adaptation of the Stephen King spoof, played seriously, why is Robert Englund in callipers and old age makeup that makes him look like Gay Byrne yet talks like the Crypt Keeper? Why does South Africa actually pass quite well as New England in some shots, yet not in others? Why are the old and young women still working in a laundry press that surely would be considered a danger since it publicly eats their co-workers? Why would you throw holy water on a laundry press even if to get rid of a demon?  Why don't they have washing machines? God knows. It looks good for a cheapjack HAT production shot in Africa, but it is bollocks.

The Mask (1961 - b/w) - Canadian 3-D horror, for 1961, quite explicit - with Raiders-esque melting cults and looking because of the 3-D effects, like a late 70s spoof of old horror movies shot on video. It feels quite Mid-Atlantic,and stranger than the likes of the idiotic but earnest"white head on brown body" rampage of The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959 - b/w) or  the more normal/gothy Night of the Eagle or any of the Thriller/Twilight Zone esque cheapies of the time that it resembles in the more normal, non-3D bits. It also has an odd Mid-Atlantic feel, like a British film trying to feel American or vice versa.

Eyes Without A Face (1959 - b/w)  - Atmospheric, not really a horror, but a sort of atmospheric mildly fantasy drama about trying to do the right thing and creating a misfit, and hope, nice Maurice Jarre score.

Footrot Flats (1987) - Beano-esque New Zealand comic strip adaptation animation, fun, breezy but too Kiwi for international audiences.

Long Weekend (1978) - One of those Australian horrors like Next of Kin and even Picnic at Hanging Rock that feel quite  slow, then hit you with some real shock moments of dread, then plod along, then wow you again. A moaning couple bicker through a camping trip because the Harold Robbins reading Michele Dotrice-esque future Neighbours star wife  Briony Behets would rather stay at a hotel, while guitar-strumming husband John Hargreaves wants to live a wastrel Foster's-drinking survivalist delusion. Then, they start ruining nature so nature plays back. The characters are deliberately horrible, both unlikeable and also cruel, mowing down kangaroos, while insects feast on their picnic. Features a cameo by Michael Aitkens, future creator of BBC geriatricom Waiting For God. Like a lot of the Australian suspense films of the era, it seems to be sub-Neighbours drama punctuated by some really strange and intriguing moments (or in the case of Patrick (1978) - The Young Doctors being literally torn apart by telekinesis, and Alison's Birthday (-1979) - John Bluthal's Aussie remake of Bless This House being a front for Satanist child-napping). Here, the drama starts being replaced by more and more weird and intriguing vignettes - a Sindy doll washed up on the beach. A lot of the US animal attack movies are mostly awful melodramas on a TV movie level, or inspired by westerns e.g. the TV movie on mescalin-esque Phase IV (1974), Bug (/1975 - which I can't remember how much I've seen), Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), Night of the Lepus (1972), etc., but this one, although at first seems like an Antipodean counterpart then gets increasingly tense, and is excellently photographed. The soundtrack is great, at first sinister and orchestral, then hissy and pseudo-electronic. The ending, while seemingly inspired by one of the kills in Damien - Omen II (which came out the same year) is memorable, and a fitting end.

Sleeping Dogs (1977) - The film that stared New Zealand cinema. Sam Neill's first film, with some party-fezzed Warren Oates sprinkled about to add some American appeal. Set in a sort of dystopian future.  A gritty, excellently photographed, well-performed thriller.  a sort of dystopian future.  A gritty, excellently photographed, well-performed thriller. It peters out by the end, with a soppy love story and the chase element slowed down, but then it perks up, with an escape in a sheep truck. And it becomes the sort of into the bush manhunt that Neill would return to in Hunt for the Wilderpeople almost forty years later, but even more insane, with explosions and helicopters and the RNZAF.

Mr. Wrong (1984) - Slightly backward/eejity girl buys a haunted Jag. Slow, uneventful New Zealand horror, based on a story by Elizabeth Jane Howard, of the Cazalets fame, script by Geoff Murphy.

The Lost Tribe (1985) - Another NZFC horror. Feels at first like a kids' TV series, i.e. The Boy From Andromeda or Under The Mountain, being narrated by  the daughter of anthropologist John Bach (in one of two roles as brothers). Nicely shot New Zealand vistas until it gets murky. Atmosphere, rather muddled and dated. Also in the same vein is Bridge to Nowhere (-1986), where bushman/NZ cinema staple Bruno Lawrence stalks a bunch of annoying Kiwi teen show rejects including the requisite headband-wearing asshole on a hiking trip. I find a lot of NZ films rather bland, apart from Peter Jackson's work and Strange Behaviour (1981) and Sleeping Dogs/Hunt for the Wilderpeople and the bizarre The Quiet Earth (also with Lawrence). A lot of the early stuff, like Battletruck (1982) and Race for the Yankee Zephyr, and the repulsive Death Warmed Up (1984) seem mired in coproduction deals and confusion as to what they should be. There never feels as much action as there should be.

Goodbye Porkpie (1981) - Another seminal NZ film. Despite an appealing performance by Tony Barry as a jilted flying helmet-clad schlub trying to reunite with his ex, some really gorgeous photography and a quite spectacular flaming Mini stunt, it is let down by the annoying Marjoe Gortner-esque baseball hatted titular delinquent.

The Devil with Hitler (1942 - b/w)/That Nazty Nuisance (1943 - b/w) - Hal Roach comedy shorts about Hitler (lookalike Bobby Watson playing him as a Jewish/Italian ethnic sort) and Mussolini first having to deal with the denizens of Hell judging them and then having adventures with the Japanese (yellowfaced Hirohito double Suikyaki), in Arabia, in the Pacific and with an orangutan. Basically a live action 40s Beano strip. Bizarrely features "the events and characters depicted are fictitious" warning.

Frog Dreaming (1986) - Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, a post-ET Henry Thomas (having already appeared in another Aussie genre vet, Richard Franklin's Cloak and Dagger) is Cody, an American orphan living in Australia  who thinks there is a "bunyip" or a sea monster called Donkegin in the lake, and is aided by two blonde sisters. A post-Doctor Who Katy Manning does her screaming bit again as the girls' mum.  Produced by Harvey Weinstein, who apparently liked the film (maybe, he was a fan of Manning's Dalek photoshoot). Goodbye Porkpie's Tony Barry plays Thomas' guardian, having previously appeared in The Earthling with William Holden and Ricky Schroder - another film where an American child star plays a Yank orphan in the outback). Trenchard-Smith, while not as outrageous as his other films does well with an appealing Children's Film Foundation-style romp, and regular Ozploitation writer Everett De Roche adds various neat touches including an Aborigine named Charlie Pride ("what, like the country and western singer?"). And the whole thing is atmospherically photographed.

The Adventure of Faustus Bidgood (1986) - Strange Newfoundland comedy.  Feels like a student film,  with b/w flashbacks and a few of those sub-Waterford Newfie accents. A lot of Newfie films feel amateurish, i.e. 1992's Secret Nation which doesn't even bother to use stock footage for its fake London scenes, just a black screen and the word "London", though it does have Ken Campbell, and the more lavish Kiefer Sutherland vehicle The Bay Boy (-1984) where Sutherland Jr. wears a flat cap and does an accent not unlike his da in The Eagle Has Landed.

The Peanut Butter Solution (1985) - Strange Canadian kids' film, very downbeat feel, with a boy regaling us how he gave money to a tramp, and then goes bald - when he sees some ghosts and falls out of a window down some masonry, so he uses a hair growth formula made out of peanut butter, but his hair won't stop growing. Has a character put peanut butter on his crotch to make his pubes grow. Very Canadian, tonally all over the place, entertaining, with songs by teenage Celine Dion.  Part of Rock Demers' Tales for All, alongside The Great Land of Small (1986), a Cirque Du Soleil-starring fantasy that despite a pre-Twin Peaks Michael J. Anderson as a burping, floating dwarf never gets past feeling like a shameless cash-in on The Neverending Story, and the rather fun-looking time-passing Australian coproduction Tommy Tricker and The Stamp Traveller, which features kids transported throughout the world via magic stamps that briefly turn them into cartoons and again features Tony Barry. Canadian kids' films are weird, even the earlier likes of the sub-Krofft Jacob Two Meets The Hooded Fang (1972), Mystery of the Million Dollar Hockey Puck (1975) and The Christmas Martian (1971),which feel like Disney films made by people who have never seen a Disney live action caper. The Million Dollar Hockey Puck has kids having romantic dinners and a snowmobile chase in a junkyard.

Demers' film The Dog that Stopped the War (1984 - its credits begin with the early Miramax logo, a montage of all the awards it has won  - all of which seem to be toys bought from a boot sale) is a good-natured if preachy story of snowball fights, but it is overlong.

Eyes of Fire (1983) - US period horror, feels like a  solemn PBS drama that might play well in the US but does bugger all in the UK/Ireland. The end scene - with shapechanging FX out of a kids' film of the period is odd. The Americans doing olde worlde accents kind of ruin it.  Features future Ninja Turtle/Yakko Warner/Pinky Mouse  Rob Paulsen doing a less convincing Britoid accent than his Cockney in Pinky and the Brain.

Friday 12 January 2018

Discoveries of 2016

I made this list for Rupert Pupkin Speaks, but somehow it never got published last year.
So here it is. And yes, my writing style has changed. But this was written for a slightly different market.

Discoveries of the Year

Fedora (1978)
Bonkers Europudding potboiler with obligatory bad dubbing and Munich doubling as England and California. Directed by Billy Wilder, it resembles a cross between his own Sunset Boulevard and an episode of Tales of the Unexpected (complete with José Ferrer). William Holden plays a Hollywood producer who investigates the apparent suicide of his ex-lover, the titular ageless Garbo-esque movie queen (Marthe Keller) who he tried to rescue from a life of being cooped up in a castle in Crete with Ferrer's mad scientist with a gold earring, Frances Sternhagen's Stephanie Cole-esque maid and a mad old wheelchair-bound countess in a black veil. Then discovers that the mad Countess is an old, disfigured Fedora - played by Hildegard "the Lost Continent" Knef, driven mad by Ferrer's injections of animal semen, and that the seemingly ever-young Fedora is her daughter. And from here on it gets rough. Henry Fonda and Michael York appear as themselves, the latter becoming an object of infatuation with "Fedora" keeping Logan's Run pinups hidden behind the wallpaper. With Ferdy "Grace Brothers' Ten Pound Perfume" Mayne and Stephen "Gold Monkey" Collins as a Hollywood director and young Holden respectively, and Mario "Don Camillo" Adorf and Gottfried "the mad Soviet in Goldeneye" John appear as Greeks to please the German co-producers.

11 Harrowhouse (1975)
Interesting if not very good heist movie with Charles Grodin and Candice Bergen as idiotic Americans taking the mick of British society while embroiled in a heist with English lord Trevor Howard and dying banker James Mason with the help of a cockroach. Proper bloody British cast including Johnny Sconny Gielgud, Peter Vaughan, Jacks Watson and Watling, Clive "always the Governor" Morton, Glynn "Dave the Winchester" Edwards and Cyril Shaps. With 70s easy-listening theme par excellence by Peters and Lee.

Jacqueline Susann's Once is Not Enough (1975)
Turgid bonkbuster. Hollywood producer Kirk Douglas marries richest woman in the world Alexis Smith, while she shags Garbo-esque movie queen Melina Mercouri. Kirk's daughter Deborah Raffin is lured into an incestuous relationship with her cousin George Hamilton only to fall for sugar daddy David Janssen in a dry run for her later screen romance with Charles Bronson in Death Wish III. Highlight of the film is a bizarre appearance early on of BBC TV variety host/"Doctor Who" Time Lord president Leonard Sachs as a Swiss doctor with an outrageous accent coupled with his Good Old Days word-precision, presumably only appearing either as a favour to British director Guy Green or for a free holiday in Geneva.

Alf's Button Afloat (1937)
Wonderfully odd British comedy, basically a cinematic panto, complete with bare, traditionally panto-esque weird hybrid Chinese/Arabic generic "Eastern" setting in the opening. Alastair Sim is the camp, extremely un-Arabic genie who grants wishes based upon the misunderstandings of the British comedy troupe the Crazy Gang. "Well, stripe me pink!" 

The French Atlantic Affair (1979)
Technically a miniseries, but my first Warner Archive purchase, and what can I say, the Love Boat goes to Jonestown was how I described to fellow site contributors William Bibbiani and Witney Seibold, and I guess that'd be a sufficient comparison. Produced by Aaron Spelling like LB, it's set on a French ocean liner, the SS Festivale (played by the real life SS Festivale cruise ship, the difference is in size and scale and is obvious so they use the Queen Mary for bits too, I believe). It begins grey stock footage of New York Pier and a model cruise liner in full color pasted over, and from there, a crazed terrorist/UFO cult leader, Fr. Craig Dunleavy of the Church of the Cosmic Path (Telly Savalas, doing the same religious terrorist schtick he did in Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, the Equalizer, even the Dirty Dozen to an extent) has gathered a hundred and something members of his cult as his undercover passengers to hold the ship hostage  (they are described at one point as ""paranoid primadonnas" disguised as inspectors to sell the ship to Texans to turn it into a floating Texan bordello) and with an army of creepily-permed henchmen including John Rubinstein's computer expert who has a Julia McKenzie lookalike wife (Rebecca "the Boogens" Balding) and believes that his computer has pointed to Telly being God, presumably due to his giant medallion. On board is Chad Everett as fellow medallion man Harold Columbine, a Harold Robbins roman a clef who has written a Sybil Fawlty-aimed bonkbuster about the Cosmic Path, which Dunleavy believes is his new bible or something. Michelle Philips of the Mamas and the Papas plays the cruise director love interest, Shelley Winters does her Poseidon schtick wearing the same hat she does in Tentacles, while her fellow Poseidon Adventurer Stella Stevens plays another cultist who dies while Savalas makes out with her and then drops her overboard. Carolyn "Morticia" Jones plays a middle-aged tourist dressed like one of the Rubettes, Louis Jourdan the captain, and meanwhile in France (mostly genuine shooting in Paris with a few ropey studio interiors), Jose "he can play any nationality" Ferrer is the President, and Donald Pleasence is the head of the French Atlantic line whose VP James Coco leaves due to fat jibes. French import Marie France Pisier (after her failed Hollywood career in The Other Side of Midnight) plays villainous ransom-taker Richard Jordan's hooker floozy, while Jean Pierre Aumont of the Surete and criminal computer expert John Houseman and his sidekick Ted Danson (yes, Ted Danson!) try to find a solution, which is solved by  the Disney-esque subplot thirteen year old Tristram Fourmile-alike son's proficiency with ham radio and his ham radio girlfriend played by Dana "Audrey Griswold II" Hill and her dog MacMutt. It's filled with nonsensical subplots to fill out the six hour runtime. Michelle and Chad are disguised in a niqab and french foreign legion outfit/st. Bernard costume - mistaken as Stella/BoPeep's lost lamb at the masquerade party. We get Dana Hill's home life including GW Bailey from Police Academy as a Texan cowpoke stereotype, who says, "Texas, where the girls are prettier than the cows". Pisier shares an apartment with a dingy M. Emmett Walsh (reunited with Jordan in Raise the Titanic the next year). To emphasise this is France, someone actually says 'allo 'allo! A bomb timer appears on screen William Castle-style. Kraut cowboy Horst "which one was he again?" Buchholz, the key to being a pub quiz champ, as a French doctor tries to help Jourdan turn off the bomb. There's a trip to the imaginary African city of Libwana, Brazaka, which is really a Californian desert airfield. And there's an astonishing scene where unmarried couples are rounded up for a photograph and are brutally gunned down on a veranda, all Dutch shots.

SPOILERS! The end is a double gut-punch. The ship explodes, with Mama Michelle still on board, seemingly, and then Shelley shoots Telly. THen, it turns out all on board the ship escaped in lifeboats, the Captain staying on board, and it ends with Michelle and Chad a couple at the funeral with an awful oil painting of Jourdan hung above, and the son finally meeting his girlfriend for the first time.

The List of Adrian Messenger (1963)
Made in Ireland, and aside from the star cameos, it's a good cast, a mix of Hollywood-based British talent, a few Irish stars e.g. the living embodiment of Dublin that was Noel Purcell, and even an appearance from British TV regular Bernard Archard in a rare US role. Seeing not-Sinatra as a gypsy entertained me, and the usage of Huston's beloved Ireland intrigued me, as I live relatively nearby from Cabinteely and Powerscourt, where they shot part of the film. And the sub-Children's Film Foundation end fox chase was a surprise.

White Dog (1982)
Sam Fuller's last major film, possibly his most interesting. Kristy McNichol is an actress who with the help of Burt Ives and black trainer Paul Winfield, tries to turn a dog trained by racists to attack blacks around. With a neat shock ending. Intelligent pulp. Saw it with the different but similarly maddening in a different way and very good Wake in Fright (1971). 

The Name of the Rose (1986)
Yes, I'd never seen this. Watched it and loved it. The intricate mystery, Christian Slater's accent, the roundup of international character talent (Vernon Dobtcheff! Yay!) and the weird Uncle Fester-y gay priest character who apparently was once in an episode of CBBC's Silas, it's all good. 

Britannia Hospital (1982)
I never much liked Lindsay Anderson. If? Iffy. Oh Lucky Man's confused, and so is this, but Graham Crowden's performance, possibly the only time he gets above the title billing (alongside Leonard Rossiter, and in a cast full of stars, no less) is possibly one of the most refreshing I've seen. It's a pity this didn't lead to a career as a modern horror icon, the Lionel Atwill of the 80s, playing mad scientists in various movies. And it has the most ridiculously stellar cast of British/Irish actors. Aside from the two supposed leads we have -  Joan Plowright! TP Mckenna! Malcolm McDowell as Mick Travis! John Gordon Sinclair as Gregory! Richard Griffiths as Jimmy Savile! Peter Jeffrey again! Alan Bates as a corpse! Fulton Mackay! Vivian Pickles! Robbie Coltrane! Robin Askwith! Arthur Lowe! Frank Grimes! (yes, Simpsons fans, there's an actual actor called that, Irish too) Roland Culver! Liz Smith! Betty Marsden! Dandy Nichols! Tony Haygarth! Brian Glover! Valentine Dyall! And an appearance by a certain Mark Hamill. And the ending is just barking. 

The Hard Way (1979)
I love ITC. I love films made in my home of Bray. Why did I wait so long to see the film in the middle of the venn diagram? There aren't many Irish action films. The Hard Way (1979) is the nearest 1970s cinema got to a proper hard-boiled action thriller that Ireland can call its own. Made by Lew Grade's ITC in 1979, produced by the head of the lower budget end of Grade's film output, Jack Gill and his subsidiary Chips Productions, it was directed by John Boorman's regular second unit director Michael Dryhurst, and Boorman is credited as executive producer. It begins in a London underground station that looks like a redressed Dublin rail outlet, and then quickly moves to the unfortunately named Irish mercenary John Connor, played by Patrick McGoohan (remember, he was raised in Leitrim) dreaming of his wife (writer Edna O'Brien in a rare acting role) as he lies on the Sealink to Dun Laoghaire, handling Bank of Ireland cheques. He then visits O'Brien in their terraced house at Carlisle Terrace, Bray. Then cut to Lee Van Cleef as an American mercenary, McNeal arriving in Dublin airport before a meeting with he and McGoohan's fellow boss in the Shelbourne Hotel. Seeing Van Cleef wandering around Wicklow being cool alongside McGoohan, drinking in the same pub in Newtownmountkennedy and wandering around Luggala/Roundwood is worth the film itself. Seeing such icons walking about in the area where this writer grew up is surreal and adds something, so it'd be hard to be critical on the film, but it is a well-paced programmer, though never theatrically released. McGoohan's accent is a little slipshod at times, but he has enough presence, especially opposite Irish stalwarts such as Donal McCann, John Cowley, Kevin Flood (once again playing a Frenchman in 1979 Paris the same year as his role in the Doctor Who story "City of Death")and Joe Lynch. It is also unconventionally framed, narrated by O'Brien, pontificating on her husband's exploits. It also features Ireland doubling for Paris, as well as a tense Entebbe-esque attack amongst Dublin Airport. It's quite innovative and twisty,especially the funhouse-themed Van Cleef vs McGoohan ending, not unlike "The Prisoner" series that McGoohan had helped change television with. It is a lost gem of Irish cinema and television. 

Midnight Express (1978)
Another one I'd tried to watch, lost interest, but watched it again and sort ofloved it. Yes, it's Alan Parker, who bar the Commitments and the nostalgic filter of Bugsy Malone, tends to be quite insufferable, even though I find him quite an interesting interviewee. And yes, it doesn't promise to be the strange mix of action and intrigue in the dirty world of Turkish prison corruption the initial moments promise, but there are diamonds amongst the rough. And it has a fab cast, Brad Davis, Bo Hopkins, John Hurt, Peter Jeffrey as a mad Turkish paedophile, Kevork Malikyan around the time Mind Your Language started, Randy Quaid before he became a fugitive himself... Great soundtrack.
EDIT: Watched it again, and the cast save it. But it could have been better. And the actual escape in real life was much more exciting. 

Also runners-up - Silver Streak (1976), A Kid For Two Farthings (1955),