Monday 26 February 2018

And there's more...19 - Fathom, Target, Magic Toyshop, Little Girl who Lives Down the Lane, Hindenburg, The Deep, Inferno, 92 in the Shade, Saint Jack, Blood of the Vampire, Kiss of the Vampire

Fathom (1966) - Raquel Welch in spy vehicle, better than the avarage Eurospy joint but then other Eurospy films don't have Richard Briers as the love interest, still typical insubstantial, but sporadically entertaining - not surprising as it was intended to be made by Lindsay Shonteff. The spy formula works better in film than TV (because all those ITC shows repeat themselves, even The Man from Uncle gets increasingly samey and interchangeable). The IPCRESS File (1965) is decent, because it goes somewhere different, Funeral in Berlin (1966) is generically boring (though Hugh Burden is good as a Mandarin-gowned official),  and Billion Dollar Brain is a surrealist mess.

The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane (1976) - Attractive but obnoxious, rather pervy Canadian melodrama. Jodie Foster as a hateful little brat, the nearest one will get to James Harries - The Motion Picture. Martin Sheen plays a paedo.

Innocent Blood (1992) - As a  fan of An American Werewolf in London, it disappoints that Landis' followup is like an episode of Tales from the Crypt, and I'm not a gangster man either.

The Magic Toyshop (1987) - Dennis Potter-y Angela Carter "what a kid thinks adult drama is like" nonsense.

Hopscotch (1980) - Glenda Jackson and Walter Matthau in amiable, bloodless but smarmy, and aimless spy comedy. End has Matthau undercover as a British Asian man buying  Mitchell Beazley cookbooks, but thankfully, he does a plummy RP. It's friendly, but it's a mess. An excuse for globetrotting. George Baker has a large role. It feels too jolly. No one gets killed, but there's no jeopardy.

Target (1985) - Actually quite fun, better than similar KGB/CIA nonsense from the period. Got some ace action (including a tuk-tuk chase) and easy to follow, even in German.  Better than most of Hackman's 80s output, which I find unappealing. Got a synthy video company intro-type soundtrack.

Also been watching elements of the Adventures of Beans Baxter (-1987),  a typically uneven though at times inventively broad Vancouver-shot spy-comedy series from Fox by Savage Steve Holland, master of uneven but broad teen comedies, who not surprisingly, went into cartoons after this. Although there are some moments, i.e. the Halloween episode with some well-designed pumpkin monsters and a dance sequence cribbed from Strange Behaviour, "Lightnin' Strikes" and Jonathan Ward is an appealing hero, it feels too much like Saved By The Bell (or considering the filming location, Degrassi High) crossed with the stupider episodes of the Man from Uncle. Holland's stuff goes  a bit too above the line marked "stupid", while trying to aim at "daft" (something the slightly better Never Too Young To Die (1986) does - John Stamos is stiff, but Gene Simmons as a hermaphrodite showgirl super-bitch is definitely wonderfully, astonishingly daft). This would perhaps work better as a cartoon, i.e. Kim Possible, which did this much better but as a cartoon.
Although the similar but better-done Teen Agent (1991), another Canadian production also worked, but that had a SAW-produced soundtrack and Roger Daltrey as Britain's greatest secret agent and Roger Rees being brilliant as a villain called Augustus Steranko, the head of the EU (yes, it's a Eurosceptic spy movie - no wonder they shot it in Montreal rather than Paris), and was probably one of the few non-Bond films to somehow capture that elusive "Bond joy", i.e. it's that rare thing - a decent Bond knockoff that doesn't go into default travelogue mode. The only good thing Richard Grieco's done. And also the Duncan Jax series are astonishing, but for so many different reasons.

Why am I only lukewarm to Robert Aldrich's films? I'm not the biggest fan of psycho-biddy. He may be the ultimate "films that are good to watch on a Sunday afternoon" director. 

The Hindenburg (1975) - Great soundtrack, great effects and great design. A good cast, though the (lack of) accents don't work (Rene Auberjonois tries as a Brit, bless him). But a visual feast. The best-looking disaster movie, even if it is almost documentary-like, but it works because it is so precise, like a finely tuned clock.

The Deep (1977) - Another feast of weird accents - Eli Wallach's attempts at imitating Robert Shaw are to be heard to be believe. And again visually strong, with a cast that have some fun, and a good soundtrack. It does bore a bit, but it's not that bad. It holds itself together and doesn't embarrass itself, unlike the Island (1980).

Inferno (1980) - I admit I am not an Argento fan. Suspiria (1977) I like the idea of, and I like Jessica Harper, and I like some of the characters and the German setting, and that gets by on that, but even Creepers/Phenomena (-1985) I find a chore, although that may be in the dialogue and the soundtrack. With Inferno, so much style, almost no substance, especially being a dubbed Italian movie, saddled with clunky dialogue.Though unlike other Italian filmmakers, his New York is not grotty and realistic, shot guerilla-style but this weird backlot-y anytown. Beautifully shot nonsense, as usual, but still nonsense.Choice dialogue - "Do you know the Three Sisters?" "What, the black singers?"

92 in the Shade (1975) -  Peter Fonda-Warren Oates drama about nothing, not as good as Race with the Devil, but a nice portrayal of a  bromance". Not for me.

Saint Jack (1979) - Slightly too sleazy and aimless (i.e. "documentary-like") for my liking, livens up when Joss Ackland, Denholm Elliot, James Villiers and Rodney Bewes (as token Northerner) appear as drunks in a bar.  Made by the usually wandering Peter Bogdanovich for his old pal Roger Corman and New World, it doesn't know what it is, exploitation or a drama. Gazzara is good, and there is a transvestite dance scene to the theme from Goldfinger, which the Broccolis got a bit touchy about, especially as there's a blink and you'll miss it bit from George Lazenby too (and Villiers of course was in a Bond). It does capture Singapore in all its sleazy disgusting glamour. Based on a book by Paul Theroux. One is reminded of his son Louis' trip to Thailand, where similarly dirty old Brits were seen wandering about Asia for sex.

Blood of the Vampire (1958)  -Stylistically, a nice Hammer imitation, although so generic, it could almost be a spoof if there were any jokes in there. Victor Maddern's hunchback an annoyance. Le Mesurier turns up as a judge, Bernard Bresslaw as a thief. Donald Wolfit is OTT,  by the end but it isn't a great film. It is gothic by numbers. Not   as good as Kiss Of The Vampire (1963), which at times looks like it could be Hammer's best vampire film up to that point, with a great opening, Clifford Evans a decent Van Helsing figure, and great sets and a great climax. You can see Hammer are learning, but it doesn't hold together, though it may be more memorable in many respects than most of the other Hammer vampire films. Apart from Evans and Edward de Souza, the lead cast aren't especially memorable (though Peter Maddern is good as the local official), and it is hard to take seriously at times, i.e. the little car our heroes drive in. And Noel Willman is a relatively weak villain, less a vampire overlord and more a vaguely sinister Ulster Protestant clergyman/minor Unionist. The problem with it I feel are the rather unmemorable and silly cadre of vampires, and Jennifer Daniel is a little bland.

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