Saturday 13 January 2018

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.

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