Saturday 31 March 2018

16 -Walker, Vincent Ward, Nothing but the Night Vincent Ward, Summerfield, Coma, Poirot

Vigil (1984) - Wonderfully shot, atmospheric, aimless but visually stunning, almost apocalyptic exploration of the New Zealand countryside from Vincent Ward.  Would be a rather average relationship drama were it not for the extraordinary setting of a remote sheep farm, and such sights as a  girl in a tutu and balaclava trying to herd sheep in the wind, Bill Kerr trying to play a tuba in a shed, and a sinking tractor. The sex scene feels shoehorned-in.

The Navigator (1988) - Ward's opus, I find some of the scenes magical, i.e.the forming of the metal in cross, but it feels very sub-Gilliam in its portrayal of pop-eyed, leather-helmeted Northumberland yokels from the dawn of time running amok Les Visiteurs-style in 1980s New Zealand, and the B/W bits look like a Guinness ad. Vigil might be his best film.

Summerfield (1977) - Confusing, attractively shot mystery with Nick Tate, the other John Waters and Charles Tingwell and Lizzie Birdsworth from Prisoner, directed by Ken Hannam (who did the 80s Day of the Triffids). A teacher in an Australian seaside community wonders why his predecessor vanished, similar to Wake In Fright (1971), but not quite as gruelling or able to build as convincing a world (a film that feels like a wonderful documentary, wherethe plot and character seem to be an obstacle), but then again, it doesn't have a soundtrack reputedly doctored by Rolf Harris. The Bruce Smeaton soundtrack is nicely creepy. The film has the feel of an Aussie kids' TV series of the era. Quite prickly, though - the ending makes it "one of those films" (it's about incest).

Rewatched the fourth wall breaking Rutherford Miss Marple/Christie Cinematic Universe expansion Alphabet Murders (1965 - it begins in the studio), with Tony Randall as Poirot doing a weird Anglo-French accent, it's weirder than the Rutherford Marples. Beginning with an Avengers-ish clown getting murdered in a swimming pool, Robert Morley as Porky Pig as Captain Hastings and Maurice Denham as Japp. It feels in the opening quite Tashlin-ish, but the fact it's in b/W may have restricted the former Termite Terrace resident. It doesn't know what it is. Is it a spy spoof? A noir spoof? A Pink Panther knockoff? British comedy and Tashlin don't mesh well. I want to like it, and it has a good cast, aside from Anita Ekberg, Guy Rolfe, James Villiers, Julian Glover, Clive Morton, Cyril Luckham, Richard Wattis, Patrick Newell, a very young Sheila "Benidorm" Reid... But nah...

Tried watching Coma (1978), but I'm not one for hospital drama.

Nothing But The Night (1973) - Ten green Bottles is the theme, Cushing and Lee are the stars, Gwyneth Strong proves she's as bad an actress as a kid than as an adult (when she was in Only Fools and Horses as Cassandra). Like Doomwatch movie, is sort of weirdly average - despite a good cast. It's not good, it's not bad, it has Diana Dors as a ginger. Keith Barron and Michael Gambon appear. Like a kids' sci-fi TV show - mysterious black cat logo - music and all. It's avaerage like a lot of British horror. Fulton Mackay does a weird Cornish-Scottish accent that ends up making him sound and look like Irish politician Willie O'Dea. The end is basically the Wicker Man via Get Out (same plotline, but with drama school kids instead of black youth). Directed by Peter Sasdy, a TV guy. Most of his films feel televisual. Taste the Blood of Dracula and Hands of the Ripper look good, but still like many 70s Hammer period pieces, bits do look like the film inserts of an ITV children's adventure serial. Countess Dracula (1971) I never quite understood the love for, because it looks very TV/Carry On level (I know it was done at Pinewood), and I Don't Want To Be Born (1975) is mental, it's just about worth it, but it has a lot of potential that it doesn't live to. Georgia Brown is a weak heroine. Characters come and go. There's not enough Cush and Lee. There's silly comic relief Scotspeople.

The Corpse (1970) was made by a load of BBC staff, and feels like one of those dull but "atmospheric" US regional horror movies that people often laud. It lacks the stable shonky but relative gloss of most British horrors of the era. It does feel like a home movie. Even Mike Raven's films looked better.

Then, some terrible films aren't helped by the bad prints - Craze (1974) looks like a cheap sex film that stars Jack Palance and Trevor Howard. But then it's badly shot too, it seems.
Pete Walker's stuff I find, well I found it fun as a kid, but the films themselves don't hold that well. House of Whipcord (1974) is a prison film, and is a bit too sleazy, Penny Irving is miscast, and it's basically a padded-out public information film. The most atmospheric bits are the hitch-hiking scenes. The Comeback (1978) is probably his best-constructed film, it's a little slow, but when it is good, it is very good, and Sheila Keith and Bill Owen are brilliant as the villains, the plotting wife and her outwardly absent-minded killer husband (and rewatching it, yes, now I can hear the bits of David Doyle that'd seep into Grandpa Pickles in Rugrats). House Of Mortal Sin (1975) has a great villain in Anthony Sharp, plus Keith, but the plot gets quite hard to follow with  Susan Penhaligon disappearing, and Norman Eshley stepping in as the doomed priest. And Frightmare (1974)is fun. The thing is they have great hooks, but the actual films are usually not great. And Schizo (1976) is not about a gorilla chasing an ice skater, as little boy me used to think (though Jack Watson is pretty ape-like). Walker tries too hard. They should be more fun than they actually are. And he wastes Bill Kerr.

Friday 30 March 2018

Looney Tunes roundup.

Watching the Great Piggy Bank Robbery (1946) - Duck Tracy, "Batman" (an anthropomorphic baseball bat), "Pumpkinhead", "Picklepuss" "Odd noodle", "Jukebox Jaw". Planes flying out of Flattop's head.  Another ad for Joe's. Just when you think they get samey, some real creativity pops up.
Shishkabugs (1962)- one of the more modern Looney Tunes. Involves kebabbed Bugs to make Hassenpfeffer. Less samey because of the almost-UPA style (a style pioneered in WB's own Dover Boys in 1942).  Some of the early samey Bugs i.e. the Wacky Wabbit can be taxing. They're no Rabbit Seasoning or Ali Baba Bunny.
The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1949) - Carry On Dick made by the Looney Tunes. Nice jokes i.e. the cliffside horse-chase and Porky as the Lord High Chamberlain.
A Corny Concerto (1943)  - Warner slagging Fantasia.
Rabbit of Seville (1950) - the one with cream fruit salad-headed/bridal-clad  Elmer Fudd, fun, exquisitely done. Woody Woodpecker did the same thing a few years earlier, but slightly more annoying.
Feed The Kitty (1952) is a bit too cutesy, Tom and Jerry for me.
Daffy Duck's Book Revue with its books dancing about and characters falling out has some of the same ideas as some of Avery's stuff.
You Ought to be in Pictures (1940) - Early meta-how to do film with Porky and Daffy, still quite babyish and cutesy, a la such other early Warner takes as Joe Glows the Firefly.  Porky wants to star with Bette Davis. Early live-action mix. Inventive stuff.

+ 1 - 1 (1987) - Bozzetto associate Guido Manuli does this surrealistic sketch- romcom about a newsreader, a Superman, a sale, and a live action Marilyn Monroe.  Slightly Klasky-Csupo ish. About how life is a film.
Incubus (1987) - Manuli's strange short about a man haunted in a hotel room. A policeman, a teeth, a giant rat, legs, a widow, all scored to music that sounds like the 3-2-1 theme. A bit Amazon Women on the Moon - specifically the Lou Jacobi bit. But Italian. Therefore better.  Extraordinary.
S O S (1979) - Live action/animation hybrid with a funny-voiced scientist, a King Kong spoof, a bride cutting open her husband instead of the cake,  cavemen, naked ladies being flattened into porn and various rather ingenious sexy jokes.
Fantabiblical - a nice but not very amusing bible spoof, though the Jesus on the moon visual is memorable
Opera - Bozzetto, features Nazis with tanks in their mouths, Batmen inside Batman, growing TV aerials and a gasmasked Statue of Librty - stunning, then a gun with teeth..
Istruzioni Per L'Uso - just lots of arse-related jokes - arse jetpacks, arse islands, people turning to ash when they pinch arss. A bit wearing.
TRAILER - spoofs Battleship Potemkin in an appealing Belleville Rendezvous type world, a cinematic experiment with a EuroDisney pisstake.
Sexy Symphony - B/W cartoon animals fucking. That's the joke. Not one of Manuli's best. .
Need to watch more Manuli/Bozzetto. More of the Mr. Rossi shorts.

EDIT: The Mr. Rossi shorts feel more Walter Mitty-ish and a bit more adult - sexy hitchhikers, congestion jokes, creepy gasmasked miners in Venice, but they do feature a rocketship made out of washing machine explode a cruise liner into a load of suds. A lot of pleasing surrealism. Mr. Rossi on Safari has some unfortunate stereotypes (amongst more civilised black characters, there's tribal stereotypes ahoy who unlike the civilised characters have big lips and darker skin but charge for dancing). But they're also routine, and lack dog action. The first film is basically an Italian knockoff of UPA - transparent skin and all.

Wednesday 28 March 2018

2 - Deathwatch and The Norseman

The Norseman (1978) - Lee Majors, Cornel Wilde and Mel Ferrer in the last major film from director Charles B. Pierce (though he made a few others and wrote Sudden Impact). Pierce's films feel wrong  exploitation films that think they're old Hollywood. This may be the most extreme case. It feels like a 90 minute beer commercial  or an 80s fantasy made ten years early. It has Jack Elam as a wizard, Christopher Connelly as a lusty, rapey warrior called Rolf, and Kathleen Freeman in brownface as a Little Plum-esque Native American nana, and features a British-Asian, Susie Coelho, in the hope no one would notice one kind of Indian playing the other kind. She looks very Desi. Shot in Florida and North Carolina, even though most of it looks like some abandoned Viking world attraction in Buttfuck, Idaho. Not a good film. But you can't fault its ambition.

Death Watch (1980) - Never really saw it, because I always imagined it was a dull SF thriller like Brainstorm. With people like Harvey Keitel and Harry Dean Stanton. And though it could be, no, because it's magnificently photographed and shot in Glasgow (hence Robbie Coltrane), with even a police box visible (a nod to former Doctor Who sidekick William "Ian" Russell who appears as a doctor), it is probably one of the most appealing dystopian futures I have seen. Signs and ads are left up, a la Light Years Away (1981). Scottish police cars and uniforms, but still it works. Even in Russian, quite beguiling though overlong. The use of 70s Glasgow reminds me very much of the scenes of Glasgow doubling as Brno in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, down to some of the same locations in the market scene. There is a great chase sequence through the carnival market. The reality TV thing is interesting, but the scenery and some of the best photography I have seen, images of vans riding through the countryside, filled with Asian asylum seekers while Keitel and Romy Schneider struggle for peace. Dedicated to Jacques Tourneur deserves a better film.   Romy Schneider's last film.

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Who Can Kill A Child (1976) + 3 = 4

Image result for who can kill a child 1976
Spanish light entertainment TV magnate Narciso Ibanez Serrrador is often hailed as some unheralded genius of horror. But his  two films are quite nasty. The House That Screamed (1969) is an 80s slasher in 60s Gothic drag, with Lilli Palmer and John Moulder-Brown (star of the similarly nasty Deep End and the similarly grotty Vampire Circus). It uses excess footage of historical tragedy in between Wish You Were Here... type footage with Lewis Fiander and Prunella Ransome wandering about the Costa Packet. The idea of an island full of murderous kids is one of those ideas that is interesting but usually don't play well i.e. Children of the Corn or the fun-if-you-are-a-kid Peopletoys/Devil Tmes Five (1974). Yes, we all dream of seeing annoying child actors get murdered, but in a realistic context, it's not so pleasurable.
Chris Tarrantino and Eli What? like this film. It seems to relish in violence (there's a fatal miscarriage played as a shock death scene), but I can see why people like it. Serrador isn't a hack. The film's slow - but that's because the idea is more of an anthology segment than a feature. His films look decent enough, especially Who Can Kill A Child/Would You Kill A Child? It doesn't look like a cheap Franco or Naschy or even Bava film. Then again, it has the benefit of being shot on location, in bright light, but still it looks good for the budget it must have had.
No wonder Serrador quit directing and created 3-2-1. It does have a lovely soundtrack, per most Euro-shock nonsense. In this case by charity shop regular neo-classicist Waldo De Los Rios, which does convincingly sound like the sort of music British/Irish tourists would bring back from a week in Marbella.

Then again, I like horror films to be fun. And only the soundtrack is fun.

Franco's best films are for Harry Alan Towers. He could've livened up the usually staid and languid adaptations of Ten Little Indians Towers did. The best, 1965's  Ten Little Indians is an okay attempt at mimicking William Castle and Margaret Rutherford (same director as her Marple films - George Pollock), but nothing more.  Better than that weird, forgettable ABC Murders with Tony Randall.

Monday 26 March 2018

Am I losing interest in film? - 1 - Taking of Pelham

Tried watching the 1973 Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three - a film which I feel should like because of Robert Shaw's character and the poster, but NYC comedies/cop movies/hostage thrillers (the Entebbe case is different - because that's an international crisis) I've never really enjoyed. It's as if its villains are too good for it. I don't know what it's trying to be. Is it a thriller? Is it a cop movie? Is it a quirky comedy? Is it a disaster film? God knows. It doesn't know. The thing is I always liked the poster.
If it was the London Underground, Shaw leading a bunch of clueless Americans who think they know better - it might have worked. 
Then again, maybe I find films set almost entirely in the underground uncinematic, when they spend too much time there (Death Line I want to love - but David Ladd is grating). 

George White's Cartoon Cavalcade Part 1

Been watching more.

Delving into Tex Avery's stuff. Familiar with his characters mainly through 1990s dire Hanna-Barbera nonsense Tom and Jerry Kids. Rural Riding Hood - influence on Simpsons' Brandine. Red Hot Riidng Hood - same. The Wolf cartoons the most formulaic, at least when Droopy appears, he livens them up but he is the hero. Screwball Squirrel is annoying, and then they give us what we want, as if Avery knows what the audience want. Little Red Riding Habit - for once different. The Hick Chick - fun, idiot chicken. And sub-Daffy gangster duck. Droopy - Dumb-Hounded - chases Wolf to the North Pole, then uses a boulder, looks genuinely tired.  Bad Luck Blackie seems a normal cavalcade of cartoon violence but the black cat in the white hat being revealed as the true mastermind is neat.  Barney Bear's Polar Pest - a wonder of ice-sculpture.    Tex Avery's Who Killed Who is a winning spoof of 1930s crime movies, complete with Edgar Lustgarten-type host, transvestite gangsters, secret passages and Hooded Thugs. King Size Canary - bootleg Tweety  and Sylvester Hulk-out. Features a mouse-novel called the Lost Squeakend, but forgets where the canary goes. Jerky Turkey (1945) begins with limited animation, i.e. the queue of static pilgrims, but then proves to be far from limited - with pleasingly anachronistic caravan-dwelling Human Droopy and the civilised pre-colonial community full of sandwich-men bears and Um Indians whose half-breed status being lampshaded as a corny gag shows the inventon of Avery, and that's before Super-Turkey and a traffic light appear. Warning - Don't Eat at Joe's. Avery's Batty Baseball is fun, with its setting at W.C. Field, even though sports slapstick never quite appeals to me. The Cuckoo Clock shows all MGM-universe cats do chase animals, but some are quite nervous. The banquet in Out-Foxed is an extraordinary piece of symmetry, and Screwball Squirrel wears a monocle to shut him up. Northwest Hounded Police features some unusual, somewhat Britoid Canadian accents from dogs, and Droopy's surname is revealed as McPoodle. Its designs are somewhat basic because it moves to Manhattan and a desert island (yes, off the Canadian coast), but it gets meta with Droopy appearing in the city cinema's short.
MGMs The Calico Dragon (1935), an early colour cartoon is very cutesy but  storybook inventive, with its three headed dragon. See also Ising's MGM short The Homeless Flea, almost more like comics like Pogo than Droopy and co. 
Peace on Earth (1939) - Epic sentimental funny animal post-apocalypse from MGM.

Porky in Wackyland (!937) -Warner fun, both uses and subverts (Dark Africa - Darker Africa - Darkest Africa) the racist Um Bongo tropics.
God   What's Opera Doc (1957) is fantastic. Especially the ending.
Sniffles and the Bookworm (1939) - Cutesy but attractive WB Merry Melody, a Fievel-esque mouse and an elderly bespectacled worm lead various characters out of their books [ from Robin Hood to Frankenstein's monster, in a Karloffian design. See also the Wacky Worm.

Also watching Disney's 1937 short The Old Mill, which is a moving painting essentially, as different to the humour of MGM and Warner.

UPA's The Unicorn in the Garden is charming and feels initially like it was made thirty years later by a Canadian company.  Then, it gets more 50s. The plot by James Thurber is basically a Tale of the Unexpected.  John Hubley's UPA short Rooty Toot Toot (1951), a jazz thing looks like an unfinished animatic, such is its style. UPA's The Miner's Daughter (1950) shows how the UPA style looks when not succumbing to stylistic laziness. It looks great, when there have a colourist, all angles and curves and realistic non-transparent skin. And it features hallucinations of living food. Warner copied this style, seen in 1955 Looney Tune Hare Brush (the one with Elmer Fudd outwitting Bugs by dressing as a bunny, not to be confused with Rabbit Rampage - the lesser Duck Amuck).

The National Film Board's Man Who Planted Trees - serious nostalgic NFB from 1987, narrated by Christopher Plummer. Less fun, more reflective and literary, but well-done.

Havoc in Heaven (1965) - Chinese animation, strange but impressive and nonsensical in a  Western context. Shown on BBC in 1981, presumably to cash in on Monkey. A lot of flying monkeys. Incredible animation,though.

Watched Tallinnfilm's grotesque industrial supermarket/ Hamlet ad Breakfast on the Grass (1987) - an unsettling but mind-expanding mix of styles from the Uncanny Valley to photomontage to Klasky-Csupo style. It becomes something astounding and malleable - full of faceless and then one-eyed metaphors for the Soviet Union, holding umbrellas. And then it turns out to be about Manet. Lots of fat women as objects of attraction too. Featuring a bootlegged recording of Hooked on Classics.

Image result for aeg maha
Aeg Maha (1985), also from Tallinnfilm, about a zany male cat who speaks word balloons with pictures. Features the animator's hand, and  teleportation via whirlwind and Estonian reggae that sounds like the Pigeon Street theme, plus cowboys, crows, police and general fun. Astounding. Also saw Klaabu, a less impressive Tallinnfilm from 1978  about eggs in a garden romancing each other I think.
Porgu (1983) - a documentary-like vision of Hell, full of burning tea dances, melting dance bands, and clockwork soldiers whirring as gasmasked troopers leak in. Also from Tallinnfilm, the creepy adult Estonian Noggin the Nog that is Suur Toll (1980), the child-ruining-an-announcement film fun of Exercises In Preparation For Independent Life (1980) and Ja teeb trikke (1978) - experimental gun using notebook paper as background about a crazed shape-shifting, ice cream licking panda, and a dog whacking trees to the Pink Panther theme. Very strange fun.

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Soviet hauntology
nichut ne strashno (1981) - Cutesy Soyuzmultfilm ghost story.

Also watched Oscar winner Ference Fofusz's Hungarian shorts the Fly (1980 - a first person journey of a fly through a house before the inevitable window-crash) and the less impressive uncanny valley apples of Gravity (1984).

Son of the White Mare (1981) - Trippy Hungarian post-apocalyptic animation - like a 90 minute title sequence.

Image result for luncheon 1980 csaba varga
Eggs not breasts.
Luncheon (1980) - Hungarian short from Varga/Pannonia - a clay sunflower creature makes a dish. Simple but energetic fun.
Also watched some of Ferenc Cako's work, an ex-Pannonia animator, but now more of a performance artist.

Watched the Polish 1980 Oscar winner short Tango - which is interesting but not much of a film - but the effort in it - it's a lot of people in a room bumping into each other - that looks like an FMV video cutscene, thanks to being shot on loops via a static camera.

Czech animator/Trnka associate Jiri Barta's work is quite uncanny valley, all dummies, old aristocrats,   his A Ballad About Green Wood (1983) is charmingly Oliver Postgate-esque, with its winged branch, though. A little serious, overall.
Some animation is more art than film - i.e. TVP Poland's Witold Giersz's childlike paintings. and TVP/Annecy festival associates like Stefan Schabenbeck, Daniel Szczechura, the scratchy b/w stuff of Piotr Dumala, Jerzy Kucia, Jan Lenica (an associate of Borowcyzk), and the Norman McLaren-esque Julian Antonisz (whose studio helped on Bluth's Thumbelina), all Gilliamesque, more style, less substance, no story, though Lenica's Monsieur Tete from 1959 is fun.

Sunday 25 March 2018

More reviews - 6- - Inuit, blaxploitation, Doctor in the nude, Canada

Traitement de Choc (1973) - UK Title: Doctor in the Nude, actually an arty, stylish but nothingy Alain Delon film that happens to have vampires or at least technology-using human blood-drinkers a la 1979's Thirst, which does it much better. Doctor in the Nude has the feel of a long interlude short shown where programmes run short crossed with a Rollin-type vampire film. Features a hair whipping contest and a plane chasing sheep.

The Sweet Hereafter (1999) - like an arty episode of the Beachcombers. Atom Egoyan's films have never really done it for me, not even Felicia's Journey which makes the idea of Bob Hoskins as a Brummie serial killer obsessed with a Culchie girl and his Fanny Cradock-esque mum quite boring, even though the soundtrack's nice. Most of his stuff is well-made Skinemax fluff.

Shadow of the Wolf (1992) and Map of the Human Heart (1994) - both Canadian flops about Inuit. Wolf has an impressive Maurice Jarre soundtrack, but Lou Diamond Phillips and Jennifer Tilly aren't great as Inuit lovers, though Toshiro Mifune as a shaman, well it's Toshiro Mifune as a shaman wearing a tiara! Map of the Human Heart is the one Vincent Ward made after getting fired from Alien 3 - with Jason Scott Lee and La Femme Wee Jimmy Nikita herself, and Patrick Bergin, when he was still a big star and not a guest star in EastEnders. Both films look great, but they prove the point that most films (i.e. The Savage Innocents and the wonderfully photographed  but rather empty 1974 film The White Dawn) about Inuit seem to be tedious overwrought epics crowded with mysticism, and the Arctic backgrounds get boring after a while, especially peddling the idea that they're noble but child-like simpletons when confronted with civilisation. Both films share some of the same cast.

Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) - Has a weird tone, half-blaxploitation, half Disney comedy adventure. Fun, if you're in the right mood, though the tone can be grating. Weird Carry On Again Doctor-ish epilogue where Redd Foxx (another similarity with COAD - having Albert Steptoe/Freddy Sanford in it) goes off to run a harem in Africa. Trouble is, Raymond St. Jacques is a more interesting detective than his supposed superior Godfrey Cambridge, perhaps because Cambridge was more of a comedian.  Not a private eye or even really a blaxploitation man (weird considering how many times I saw Live And Let Die as a kid), but this is strange. The sequel, Come Back, Charleston Blue (1972) is equally silly - but instead of African preachers, they're using the help of a gangster's ghost.

Blame The TV Times for my indifference - Telefantasy special

In my early teens, I read a lot of books and magazines about sci-fi TV. Didn't watch much sci-fi films, but TV - I watched classic Doctor Who, Red Dwarf, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (also tried the first radio series), The Tripods (which still has a special place in my heart), the 70s Tomorrow People (which I liked when I was 12), Eerie, Indiana (one of the few US TV SF series to appeal to me), seasons 2 and 3 of Lost in Space (because they were more appealing and the boxes were expensive), Children of the Stones (which despite enjoying - I think I didn't quite finish the last episode - just a little too padded, then neatly tied up, which most kids' serials were - and Sapphire and Steel especially). Dark Season (1991) I watched around that time too, and found it worked, because it was two three-part stories, with little padding.
Saw episodes of Blake's 7 online. Found Doomwatch a little stolid. I enjoyed Day of The Triffids (1981). Tried some Space:1999, and kind of liked it, but then realised that not only did it get either very dull or quite fun but quite stupid, but every episode was pretty much the same  - which is what I then found with most ITC series I caught, even The Prisoner because the first episodes I saw were The Girl Who Was Death and Fall Out, and when you see them first alongside a handful of clips, everything else doesn't really need to be seen. I saw some Robin of Sherwoods on ITV, and because I wasn't mad on Robin Hood, found it just to be a bunch of eco-warrior types wandering around as Clannad played - not too different from what happened in Wicklow.
I was already fascinated with Nigel Kneale - having seen documentaries and age 15, the Quatermass and the Pit film, but I only slowly got through his other work, loved the film of Pit and Quatermass (1979) the best, and Beasts (1976) despite some good performances is very silly, like old Emmerdale Farm or Crossroads with monsters - almost hinting at what a British Dark Shadows might have looked like.   I enthused about a lot of these shows through my then-love of Doctor Who, and telefantasy ideas, and from what I saw of the Avengers, because as a 13/14 year old, I didn't mind Clemens. I liked his silliness and broad eccentrics, but now I find it grating. Maybe because I was exposed to characters like his on kids' TV.
Anthologies -I watched a few Twilight Zones, which never quite appealed, and also the Ray Bradbury Theatres, but even as a 13 year-old raised on PAL VT, NTSC video always seemed off-putting in a dramatic context. Maybe because my main exposure to anthologies apart from Goosebumps and Tales of the Unexpected and not giving a fuck about Are You Afraid of The Dark? on CITV, were the Simpson Treehouse of Horror specials, which make you realise how silly some of those episodes/Serling/Bradbury concepts are.
 As a younger kid, my TV SF was mainly Star Trek and Gerry Anderson and cartoons, and I watched episodes of the Incredible Hulk, Six Million Dollar Man, Xena, Hercules, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Airwolf, Knight Rider, the Bionic Woman,  didn't really care for those - preferred Batman, enjoyed the Munsters and Battlestar Galactica even though now I can see I just liked the fact they went to planets that looked like western towns and there were kids in it. I also enjoyed BBC stuff like Maid Marian and The Borrowers, but Buffy kind of put me off. I liked that one episode with the ventriloquist's dummy, but old teenagers put me off things. Even the X-Files I preferred to read the episode guides than watch the actual show. Then, you could be showrunner! Which I did with a lot of shows, thanks to reading the TV Times Encyclopaedia of TV Science Fiction. That quenched my thirst for some shows, intrigued me by introducing me to others (though discovering that Ace of Wands was not full of Clemens-esque stereotypes but rather dull variants with little character did disappoint - especially trying to play a dragged-up character as a grumpy old bat and not as a floral-hatted caricature).
To quote Grandpa in The Lost Boys, why watch TV when you can read TV Guide...

I tolerated and enjoyed Star Trek, but I find Voyager and Enterprise crap. I liked the Original Series and TNG, and DS9 too, even though now I don't bother. But Babylon 5 always looked a bit rubbish. Most US TV I found formulaic, miniseries less so, but anthologies definitely - even though Night Gallery could be fun,  a lot of episodes bleed into either "US soap with a nasty twist", "Twilight Zone-esque comedy/sentiment" or "fun but rather shonky period nonsense". The Irwin Allen stuff I outgrew quickly. Goliath Awaits I was pleasantly surprised by, because it is bonkers.
The trouble is - when you get down to it, a lot of TV and film is samey.

Saturday 24 March 2018

West German telefantasy roundup

Der Androjager (1981) - Nice synthy soundtrack, annoying hero - like an alien Frank Spencer.

Cherie Mir Ist Schlecht (1981) is a very Nice Video Shame About The Song art student-y shot on video vampire-themed mess of Chromakey,  reminds me of similar British experiments like Rock Follies or the Flipside of Dominick Hide. See also the CSO-tastic ZDF Utopian odyssey of We (1982).

Silas (1981) - ZDF classic, notorious amongst Brits of a certain age (see also its brethren - Legend of Tim Tyler (1979), Jack Holborn (1982), Patrick Pacard (1984)), this sort of serial is crying out for a Danger 5-type spoof – blind nursemaid, a comedy horse, abusive father figure, Silas nooses someone, there’s a German Nicholas Lyndhurst-type named Bein Godek, dog on a tightrope, Silas as a clown with a moustache, entertains idiot peasants by riding a horse and tunelessly playing a flute, Silas tames a bear, chased by a comedy nobleman, taken in by a nice rich family and their hearty housekeeper, then has to escape with Bein-Godek, meet Slugworth and the Princess from Conan the Barbarian, and then Bein-Godek and Silas ride into the sunset- almost wondering was it intended as a comedy…

Jack Holborn (1982) is much more conventional – a New Zealand coproduction, weirdly while Silas/Jack himself Patrick Bach supplied voices for the German dub of Lord of the Rings, David Weatherley, of the British navy played Barliman Butterbur in Jackson’s films. It’s impressive, with whole market sets and the tribal chief is an appealing Sydney Greenstreet-esque grotesque essayed by famed Maori showbander Prince Tui Teka (for Irish audiences, this would be akin to Joe Dolan as a vicious knacker), and then they introduce Arab slavers, but only in the background. Then, they all return home to England/Dubrovnik and all the adults get hanged, and Jack reunited with his mum.

These series were shown in a Winter Holiday slot, on ZDF, others in the slot – Timm Thaler and Patrick Pacard, these were HUGE in Germany, big, expensive treats – imagine the Box of Delights level. Fondly remembered by German fortysomethings.

Black Are The Galaxies (1981) - French series, begins with a scuba-masked Chuck Norris alike sinking into the water, then coming across sinister white-suited ambulancemen, one of whom looks like Tony Osoba. It begins too much like a typical French gangland saga. It features Hawk the Slayer/Fulci regular Catriona MacColl, Quite slow, overlong, attractive but uninvolving, but maybe, it loses something in translation. Not until episode 2 where we find a spacecraft. The last episodes get more exciting - with Bodysnatcher-esque silver eggs. But still a bit of a slog. The alien surgeons' space-holiday camp is striking. And there are mysterious bonfires.

Eye of the Devil (1966) - 2/3 inc. Haunting - B/W

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One of the last major B/W films, nicely shot but rather too noirish, which makes it look lower-budget than it actually is. But it's very generic. David Niven doesn't know where he is. Donald Pleasence is sinister as a priest who calls similarly-aged Deborah Kerr "child". Sharon Tate and David Hemmings are all ghostly. Nobody sounds French. It's like a silly, almost Harold Robbins version of the already overrated The Haunting, i.e. it's all about demonic wine. It's not quite as camp as it should be. Maybe because it takes too long. Emlyn Williams and Edward Mulhare do good in exposition roles, but while the coven scenes are sinister. it seems to be a horror movie made by people who think they are above horror movies. And then it becames a Hammer/Brian Clemens psycho-thriller-type thing. And then we meet creepy villagers. It doesn't make much sense. A major folly from J. Lee Thompson. Almost a horror version of another Filmways production - The Loved One, nicely shot, but too much going on. 

J. Lee Thompson is a good director who I think worked too much doing average fare, even though much of his stuff merely exists to fill the gaps on a Sunday afternoon schedule - a solid journeyman turning out solid, if unexceptional fare. He seems most engaged doing action. I'm not a fan of his noirish thrillers so much. He seems to have had a touch too much melodrama, although The Greek Tycoon is astonishing for all the wrong reasons. He still manages to lift Happy Birthday To Me or King Solomon's Mines, and especially 10 To Midnight, and The Passage at least looks nice for a violent warsploiter.

I think a lot of this low to mid-budget pop filmmaking I've become tired of, because I've seen so much of it, that of course it gets samey. One wants new experiences.

The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975) - Interesting concept but rather dull. Feels oddly Canadian, with the cast and all, but no, a US production. Also confused as to what it should be. 

Thursday 22 March 2018

13 (plus an overview on bad teen movies and kaiju - 20-ish) - French SF, animation, Action Jackson, Mad Magician, Hillbilly John, Norman loves Rose, Roughcut, Shadows run Black, Kaiju

 Long Live Life (1984) - a dreary futuristic relationship comedy with Charlotte Rampling and Michel Piccoli. Then, halfway through aliens appear over Paris in brilliantly shot scenes, projecting their messages onto electronic hoardings. Then, it goes all a bit Dennis Potter. Even Charles Aznavour and Chateauvallon's Raymond Pellegrin turn up.

Mauvais Sang (1986) - Piccoli and baby Julie Delpy and Juliette Binoche appear in this confusing, rather boring reluctant Eurospy thriller.

Illustrious Corpses (1976) - Astonishing work by Francesco Rosi. Well-constructed, exceedingly well shot. The plot's meandering and hard to follow, but then it is meant to be. Great cast - Lino Ventura, Fernando Rey, an almost unrecognisable Max Von Sydow. Other Italian crime stuff I find one-time watches, even stuff like Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion (1970) - which is a better constructed, more adult spin on the Euro-Cop genre. Illustrious Corpses though moves, has lots of interesting settings within settings and mixes B/W stock footage to illuminating effect.

Action Jackson (1988)   - I'm not especially a cop movie fan. Carl Weathers is great (when they killed Apollo off - that was the end of Rocky), but this though a good vehicle is incredibly derivative and unoriginal. It's an average Dirty Harry knockoff in blaxploitation drag, or vice versa.

Nelvanimation (1981) - A Nelvana shorts compilation. The Devil and Daniel Mouse is  a bit Schmaltzy, basically the Apple (1980) but as a cartoon, with funny animals. Inspired Nelvana's Rock and Rule - which is even more like The Apple.  Romie-0 and Julie-8 is fun and very Canadian. A lot of fat grotesques. But there is a bit of schmaltz amongst the sub-Moebius design. And the modulated voicework is grating. Some fun junk monsters, though.  Intergalactic Thanksgiving is a silly Space Western, prescient of Bravestarr in the alien designs. But the clown magic mirror is fun.

Rock and Rule (1983) is weird, with Lou Reed and Iggy Pop providing the singing voice for one character - Mok, otherwise voiced by Don Francks - who himself was a singer.  The New Wave stuff doesn't interest me -  and some of the designs are unattractive even though a lot of it is winningly grotesque. But it's an interesting failure.

The Mad Magician (1954) - Lesser Vincent Price vehicle intended for 3D, gets minus points for casting Price and the eerily similar Patrick O'Neal as villain and hero but doesn't make them relations. (A similarity so much so that not only do their voices flow into each other but O'Neal played the villain in Chamber of Horrors - originally a pilot for a spinoff of House of Wax). Feels like a typical studio period potboiler with some 50s mad science and 3-D thrown in. Nothing really special.

The Legend of Hilbilly John (1975) - Folksy not-horror, a vaguely supernatural, more western, semi-musical Grizzly Adams-type romp with a cool stop-motion bird-thing but little else.

Norman Loves Rose (1982) - Not great 1980s comedy, kid's older brother announces his engagement to Aussie-accented Carol Kane. Kid falls in love with her (and he's about thirteen) and they well....  Not that funny, almost unwatchable, tonally all over the shop but intriguing in a sort of gonzo Aussie soap way. Warren Mitchell plays the European immigrant da. I had a similar thing (without the sex), when I was in my mid-teens, a constant passion for my cousin's much younger then-girlfriend. Needless to say, some fun elements i.e. the overprotective mother. But the ending is confusing. Is he having a string of affairs with women old enough to be his mum let alone a few years older like Rose? Is Rose giving Norman her even older friend so she can continue with his brother?

Where The River Run Black (1985) - Features Charles Durning playing a priest, as my mum noted, when isn't he playing a priest? Attractive locations, but like a cannibal film made by Christians.

Rough Cut (1980) - Forgettable and forgotten British heist movie with David Niven chasing Lesley Anne Down and Burt Reynolds. Features Timothy West and Patrick Magee with a Nazi collection a la Father Ted.  Al Matthews, Apone from Aliens and Benny's dad in Grange Hill has a major role. Niven repeating same ground he did in A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square (see also The London Connection and Sewers of Gold, also from 1979/1980).  Feels absurdly cheap for a Don Siegel-directed film, let alone a Burt vehicle. It's sub-Euston. Also featuring Julian Holloway, Joss Ackland, Douglas Wilmer, Sue Lloyd... All virtually in walk-ons. Has Burt as an Arab, Lesley Anne Down in a burqa

Watching episodes of North Korean miniseries Nameless Heroes, notorious for starring four US Army deserters playing Brits, Americans and Irish, among a sea of Asians in whiteface, false teeth and funny wigs. Charles Robert Jenkins, who plays evil Dr. Kelton appeared in several North Korean war movies including Ten Zan - an Italian coproduction starring C-list video bargain bin perennial Frank Zagarino and directed by Treasure of the Four Crowns/Blindman helmer Ferdinando Baldi.  Like Soviet films, it features "British" characters talking English in halting foreign accents. Funny that yes, a lot of Korea does really look like Wicklow. And the supposed Irish soldier,Lewis played by Jerry Wayne Parrish forgets his lines on camera, and he's clearly trying to do some sort of Irish-American twang, but only in certain vowels. Very strange viewing.

Kaiju movies, they work best in highlights - most of them just worth it for the monsters. Their monster work/FX is always better than US movies of the same era, with the exception of Harryhausen/stop motion stuff, obviously. But the actual films usually don't captivate otherwise. Apart from the oddity like Latitude Zero (1969), Joseph Cotten and Cesar Romero as rival Captain Nemo steampunk submariners who live in the titular underwater Portmeirion-via-Shang-Ri-La, where the monsters are used by old Tacheface include a rat with a zipper down its side and bat-men, while Cotten dips Richard Jaeckel and his Japanese-French cohorts in a bath to make them bulletproof. And it has a stuffed puppet lion playing a real lion, that gets wings and the brain of a woman. But aside from the steampunky Prisoner twist, it's usual Japanese B-movie folderol (they seem obsessed with undersea kingdoms), with the addition of being performed by Mr. and Mrs. Cotten (Pat Medina), and Romero. And is less formulaic than the other Toho stuff, which is genuinely hard  to tell apart (often with good reason - they reuse FX a lot).
And some are stupid - Matango - a Japanese Gilligan's Island via the Lost Continent via the Blind Dead - a group of annoying sitcommy stereotypes attacked by mushroom zombies.
The Green Slime (-1968) I find formulaic, despite the monsters and funky themes. It is too similar to all sorts of US and Italian space cheapies of the same era (though The Wild Wild Planet does try to be something by going Eurospy and the Snow Devils looks unhinged, initially but then delves back into typical space opera).


US Teen SF movies from the 80s are increasingly samey - My Science Project, Teen Genius, the Manhattan Project, WarGames, no matter the tone or idea - they keep hitting the same beats of mediocrity.

Sunday 18 March 2018

Ace of Aces (1982)

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Jean-Paul Belmondo's films usually seem the same to me (I've mostly seen his Eurocrime/Eurospy stuff and know of his swashbucklers), but this is basically a sort of French Biggles via Raiders (there's an army of Tohts). But with his old trench rival Hitler, played by Gunther "Slugworth" Meisner (which means it is in the same world as the Winds of War), and his sister, also played by Meisner in full on Austrian maiden dress. Like the Prize of Peril, it has Marie France Pisier (who I only really know from The Other Side of Midnight and The French Atlantic Affair). An agreeable, attractive little adventure.  There's a cute bear, a Jewish Short Round-type kid sidekick, a motorcycle army chase, a lederhosen dance scene (Remy Julienne stuntwork) and  a Nazi cuckoo clock. For all my hatred of the Nouvelle Vague, I've taken a real liking to French pop cinema. They can make GREAT adventure films.
Vladimir Cosma's soundtrack is good, hints of his theme for forgotten RTE-coproduced Franco-Irish comedy-drama Roses from Dublin (1981), about a Kerry family of rugby-loving brothers including Colm Meaney.
The other WW2 comedy of the era that Belmondo and Pisier did,  Les Morfalous (1984) isn't as good. It's a silly Foreign Legion romp, more comedy than adventure, and the humour  doesn't translate.

The Prize of Peril (1984) 5

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Watching this. And already, "this is one of the best films I've ever seen". French sci-fi, based on a book by Robert Sheckley (hence why it reminded me of Condorman), but more of an influence on the film of the Running Man than King/Bachman's novel. It begins in style, with more energy and verve and visual attraction than most SF. Not a dull cinerama of America but an energetic chase through the streets of a European anytown (Yugoslavia), as CTV helicopters and a blimp chase a man through a docklands rail yard and surrounding streets, like a larger-scale quivalent of the Kobe chase from You Only Live Twice. Michel Piccoli is nicely smarmy as the Damon Killian-type (this film's book influenced King, but the films even more so). Plus his ponytail and suits are prescient of Stanley Tucci in the Hunger Games. There is some more game show chintz, a Tittupy Bumpity-type Hawaiian girl chorus of browned-up French girls in bin liner wigs and teacup-wearing maids. Even in unsubtitled French, though, it is astonishing. Exactly the sort of SF I like - fun but intelligent, which often means "doesn't feel American". The night-time chases are as good as any Bond film (and non-Poirot Achille Aubergine  from A View To A Kill pops up). Like the Running Man but not dumb. It's a long time since a film captivated me so much.

Directed by Yves Boisset - whose films I have to explore, especially Purple Taxi as Grandad is in it (it's where he met Fred Stair and Peter Ustinov). EDIT; Purple Taxi (1977) is not good. Gay Byrne said it wasn't good on a retrospective Late Late, and Uncle Gaybo was right. Edward Albert acts all moody in a proper old Irish living room, Fred Stair (this being the film that spawned that monicker) looks frail. Part of that continental view of Ireland, the Ireland of James Last LPs, more mysterious and dark than the Oirish-American view. Jack Watson plays an Oirish farmer. I'm sure he bumps into Grandad while trying to escort burning horses.

Boisset's  Dog Day (1984) has Lee Marvin frying French gangsters with a bazooka, and then hides in a cornfield with a psychotic family of French yokels including the kid from The Tin Drum (David Bennent, age 17 looking like a weird 12 year old, telling his mum that they'll be real shitheads, and she can wear lipstick when they're in America). Aside from the neat ending, it's a bit confused. Ace stunt-work, though from Remy Julienne at the start.  It begins as a stunt-actioner, but then becomes a horrid French "psycho family" movie but with hostages not horror. Then again, because it has Marvin in it, it tries to be a bit American, and it's also incredibly downbeat and hateful and cruel. I agree with Jon Abrams of Daily Grindhouse,  it's  a hateful, horrendous film (a black character called Doodoo, child rape, comedy suicide), but it's hard to forget. It's just sad to see Marvin in such a film. Most of his films are entertaining. A lot of them I don't love, a lot of westerns, crime and straight war - but they are decent, mostly the sort of films that brighten up a Sunday, and this does not.

Boisset's Espion, Leve-Toi (1982), a decent but unremarkable spy-thriller with Lino Ventura, a bit dry, some decent stunt-work, but a bit Smiley-ish. Ventura is great in everything, though.

The other Euro-Sheckley, The 10th Victim (1965) I find a little too overdesigned and meaninglessly Mod, a little aimless. Yes, I like Danger - Diabolik, but that  has a style, an effort, a heart. This is just Ursula Andress and Marccelo Mastroianni running about with lots of people in fab outfits on rooftops, trying to kill each other while cameras follow, shot in a serviceable but unremarkable style. 

Saturday 17 March 2018

Cannon moan + 6 - Jonesploitation

Realise there's few Cannon films I genuinely love - Death Wish III, their weirdo musical the Apple, well bits of that, the songs, and when Joss Ackland appears as God, specific bits, I think it's more the stuff about the films, the way they advertised their films, their brio, a lot of it are godawful Chuck Norris-type action dreck (though Bronson's 10 to Midnight's a decent if quite gross spin on the slasher), or attempt sat seriousness that falls flat. King Solomon's Mines is fun. Highlander I like elements of, but it's played slightly too seriously, and the flashbacks clutter the plot rather than add to it. The Wicked Lady isn't really my type of film. Sahara was the only film I saw while on Netflix, and again it's not great but the fact they went and said,"hey - let's do a Great Race via Lawrence of Arabia with Brooke Shields playing a boy", and put John Mills as a Cambridge don called Cambridge. Even their neo=noir stuff that proper critics like I found kind of boring. Lifeforce is ruined by the miscasting of wet Peter Firth as an SAS hardarse (should have been Collins) and perhaps a different director And some of the Israeli-made stuff is astonishingly terrible - the Magiican of Lublin, Kate Bush-scored Yiddish fairytale- Alan Arkin as a man whose dream is to fly.
A lot of the stuff is enjoyable in moments, but their arty stuff is not my cup. Even their Treasure Island I found to be basically akin to The Legend of Tim Tyler and Silas.

There is Treasure of the Four Crowns (1984), which is one of Cannon's Indiana Jones knockoffs. But it is truly barking, the brainchild/vanity vehicle of American spaghetti western star Tony Anthony, who'd previously made 3-D western Comin' At Ya in 1981, this is his 3-D Raiders. And it begins with a cavalcade of flames, arrows, burning rocks and other things in an astonishing  20 minute non-dialogue opening. It does have boring patches, and the cast isn't great, apart from Bunuel regular Francisco Rabal, but it moves from place to place, and it does weirldy look like a  Bollywood film, due to the film stock and prefigures Temple of Doom with its villain, Jonas, a crazed jewelled bindi-wearing part-Hindi, part-Satanic, part-hippy, part-Jim Jones cult leader who worships a horned statue that looks vaguely like the titular beastie in shonky Greek Cushing-Pleasence vehicle Land of the Minotaur (1976). He also has an army of harem brides and beret-wearing IRA balaclava and beret-wearing tambourine ninjas. With a better script and cast, it could easily have been to Raiders, what Battle Beyond The Stars was to Star Wars, an imitation that goes its own way and becomes just as fun (think a more consistent Sky Bandits, if directed by Brian Trenchard Smith), but the nearest Four Crowns gets to these heights is with the staggering climax, where Anthony gets possessed, his face melted Two Face-style and uses the gems to turn into a sort of fire-demon, and turns the gems into flamethrowers, wiping out Jonas and his brotherhood of Putty-Men IRA tambourine ninjas, as a triumphant Ennio Morricone soundtrack plays. And then as he and his girlfriend leave, a giant swamp monster jumps out.

It reminds me that Antonio Margheriti, whose own Raidersploitation includes Cannon's own Jungle Raiders never put his regular co-star Lewis Collins in a Raiders knockoff. David Warbeck is a serviceable B-movie lead, but Collins was the British action hero of the 80s. And only Who Dares Wins shows the full promise of his would be Bond persona, and even that has long dry spots, mostly involving Judy Davis as the attractive but irritating villain (Paul Freeman, Belloq himself appears as the sequel hook nemesis - an intriguing What If). As Broccoli foolishly rejected the potential 007, someone should have put Collins in a spy knock-off not unlike the exotic but charmless 80s post-Eurospy likes of Codename - The Soldier and SAS - Terminate With Extreme Prejudice, ambitious, glossy but ultimately quite dull Bond imitations that lack that inimitable Bond joy. Team Collins up in something like Four Crowns or those insane Hong Kong films, like the attractive, if sometimes hard to follow likes of the Wisely series, which are at least most ambitious than the cheap "just shoot in a jungle and have a hero in a fedora" Indiana Jones knock-offs of the West. I like those kinds of Hong Kong films. Trad policiers and martial arts film per se don't do it, but mix in a lot of weirdness - and voila!
The Legend of Wisely (1987) especially has that annoying goofiness that is common in HK films, hence why Big Trouble in Little China is a bit silly - because Carpenter was trying too hard for that HK feel). Unlike its ambitious, good-looking but nonsensical Sam Raimi-meets-Cannibal Holocaust Chow Yun Fat-as-Rambo-goes-gore sidequel The 7th Curse (1986), some of it is pleasingly epic, like motorcycles driving on the steps of a temple and avoiding monkeys, and the dragon-spaceship models look good. Certainly better than Jackie Chan's similar but silly folly of a sequel, Operation Condor - Armour of God II (1991). The first Armour of God in 1986 is spectacular (the balloon ending) and quite charming (it has a 70s pop star as Hong Kong and therefore the Commonwealth's answer to Indiana Jones), better than the rival Aces Go Places series, but the sequel is lacking, and feels like it is trying too hard, and goes overboard with the silliness.
See also the similarly spacey and goofy and less impressive Magic Crystal (1986), with added Cynthia Rothrock and Andy Lau, guns behind papers, a Greek travelogue, KGB torturers, and schmaltzy Chinese Tristram Fourmile-type kids who talk to glowing space rocks, going from Raiders to Mac and Me, with wobbly papier-mache aliens and Richard Norton getting vaporised.

Thursday 15 March 2018

Smaller stuff - 13/19-ish inc. refs - Crusoe, Garner, Crichton, ITC, Day of the Dolphin, Powell, Network, Raiders of Atlantis

Crusoe (1989) - Slipshod, confusing chronologically mixed-up adaptation, rather than the traditional staid but adequate version. With a slavesploitation edge. Shane Rimmer 6th billed, directly below Jimmy Nail and Tim Spall (did they have to appear in everything together in the late 80s?).And over William Hootkins, but below Warren Clarke, or Clark, as they misspell it.

Apart from the fun and locally-shot The Great Train Robbery (1978), I find Michael Crichton's directorial efforts stodgy and slow (Westworld's fun but I prefer the Romanworld and Medievalworld settings). Runaway (1984) is too much like a standard, anodyne cop thriller. The future setting is almost non-existent. It just looks like 80s suburbia. It's a bad serial killer film/Dirty Harry knockoff with robot insects as the serial killer, and though Tom Selleck  seems to be  on cop-show autopilot, far from the New Gable that Halliwell pinned him as. Gene Simmons is a good villain, and the robots in the opening are inventive, but everything else feels dull, like a pilot for a bad Canadian  syndicated show from 1988. Then again, I like my sci-fi bonkers rather than being dull and almost ashamed of itself being SF. I am not usually into dystopian noir or post-apocalyptic films (I like most of the original Planet of the Apes, and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) I enjoy slightly more than the rather hardgoing others as it feels like an Aussie kids' TV show, Boy and his Dog (1975) I liked as a kid but find silly/Altmanesque now, the Italian ones ditto), unless the setting really appeals.

Tank (1984) - Completely tonally unhinged Lorimar-produced James Garner vehicle, feels like a pilot - a sort of Hal Needham via Stripes. Is it a Disney-ish family comedy? Is it a chase comedy? Is it a small-town drama? Unwatchable. Couldn't quite finish. A lot of Garner's films feel like TV movies - They Only Kill Their Masters (1972) which from what I could see of it, is an action-crime thriller shot like a sitcom), The Fan (1981)...

The US-made ITC films, bar the Muppet Movie I found somewhat soulless. They try to be fun, but they are just TV-level escapism with a bit of extra gloss. Capricorn One (1978), I should like, has a good idea and a good cast, and is well shot  but Peter Hyams seems to be trying to out-Spielberg Spielberg.  It doesn't click. It's too unfocused, too many sides of the same story. Plus the idea is stretched - the idea of astronauts who involved in  a faked Mars landing have to go on the run for the life is better suited to a TV anthology. It spends too long to set the scene. It doesn't fit two hours. And Telly Savalas' character is the  best bit, and he only appears in the last twenty minutes. But conspiracy thrillers can be very samey. And bland. And it's just not quite weird enough. If it had been a bit more over-designed, a bit more fantastical, it may have worked, more action, less conspiracy, and about half an hour shorter. Maybe films set at mission control don't engage.

Raiders of Atlantis (1983) - Garbled knockoff of Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Warriors, Escape From New York and its knockoffs, Warlords of Atlantis and various Rambo-type jungle actioners. Nonsense from Ruggero Deodato. Imaginative at times but visually unstimulating and like most Italian sci-fi, marred by unattractive design. That's the problem with a lot of Italian SF - e.g 1990 - the Bronx Warriors (1982) and the extremely inventive/characterful but also ropey 2019 - After the Fall of New York (1983), there's a lot of ideas usually stolen from other films and combined, but a lot of shite (why is there a Hot Chocolate tribute band who drive around in 1930s cars?). And there's a few quirky innovations - but they need a John Sayles to insert character and add something to the plate.

Day of the Dolphin (1973) - Could have been quite fun but it is tonally a bit nervous, and the plot hard to folow. It is lovingly shot and initially, quite creepy. George C. Scott is good, even though it gets a bit sappy.  Like Orca, there's great underwater scenes and the soundtrack helps. George Delerue's work really makes one take it seriously.  Why does George C. Scott always play Jakes? But it does take the idea of armed dolphins slightly seriously. It's a daft Eurospy idea (especially when we see the brass Dolphin ornament-like bomb), but Scott convinces that it works, even though the rest of the film falls apart. Mike Nichols may have been the wrong choice for director. Perhaps a  J. Lee Thompson. It gets a little talky, a la Phase IV.

Network (1976) - Decent but apart from the Howard Beale stuff, almost instantly forgettable. I had forgotten the Patty Hearst-esque stuff, which struck a chord initially, but now I can scarcely remember. A good cast, though.

I was just thinking of what I think of the work of Michael Powell. In many ways, like the Bible. It's always been there, but I don't have great affection for it. Yes, they're well-made, but I almost feel force-fed it. Peeping Tom (1960) was extraordinary because it was made in 1960. Make it in 1980, and it'd be a slightly above average exploitation film. I prefer Horrors of the Black Museum, the other Anglo-Amalgamated gore film (Circus of Horrors (1960), the third one I remember being fun but very average British film of the era - and it has a theme tune written by Tony Hatch), but I enjoy the weird, which is perhaps why The Boy Who Turned Yellow (1972) may be the Powell I most enjoyed. Because it's not trying to say something, it's not trying to say how great the British are or be the cinematic equivalent to the Festival of Britain, it's just trying to make a cinema-load of kids happy. Then again, the more depressing British semi-horror psychothrillers like the Collector (1965), I find them interesting, but currently I'm not in the right mood. Although though some of them go so ridiculously pulpy, they become enjoyable - i.e. Peter Finch being impaled by the flag on a sandcastle in the rather odd Something to Hide (1972 - it doesn't really make much sense, and scenes are shot with the wind blowing in the background, so it feels quite slapdash, though Graham Crowden has a nice cameo as a religious loon and Harold Goldblatt gives good support).

Also watched stylised Soyuzmultfilm anti-American propaganda The Millionaire and Mr. Wolf, done in a pseudo-Chuck Jones style. Very interesting, a twisted inversion of American animation.

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Crime Wave (1985 - not the Raimi one, the better Canadian film)

Image result for paizs crimewaveI've always wanted to see this since I read about it on Canuxploitation. A sort of mock-documentary narrated by a 12-year-old girl, Kim about her neighbour Steven Penny, a scriptwriter who wants to make it in the world of "colour crime movies", a sort of alternative noir subgenre. Made in Canada on almost no budget by star John Paizs, it's very strange, somewhere between childlike and childish, with a kiddy theme tune, but it does go down dark passages. I thought it wouldn't live up to the tribute act-themed opening, but there are some neat jokes, i.e. using the same cameras as "Chekhov from Star Trek and Yoko Ono", and taking the mick out of the NFB.  Its narrator Kim is likable but kind of annoying. A straighter more Gordon Pinsent-ish narration might have worked better, or at least more of the punchy narrator used in the "beginnings" and "endings" Steven writes. It does one's patience. I do see a lot of parallels with my own work. Not helped by the soundtrack that sounds like something from a Canadian kids' show from the period.  There are some moments of sensation - i.e. killer rats. But it feels like Paizs had too many things going on his mind, but not enough mileage for a plot. The weirder moments like the Nelson Mingus costume are entertaining, as is a meeting between two creeps soundtracked to the Birdy Song and the celebratory dance sequence. Shots go on for too long, though, e.g. the voyeuristic Body Double-esque bit. There's also scenes of a cowboy riding Steven like a bull, while a Crazies-like "secret stuff" virus contaminates the town, as Hazmat-suited goons run about. The meta-ending works, and suddenly the film becomes as interesting and as punchy as the opening, with such sights as "Steven Penny World" and more glimpses of gory colour crime movies. It is unpredictable even going as far as Steven getting superpowers and a cameo from Christ, and there is a charm to it (a sort of 50s 80s charm, if Shakin' Stevens were a movie), but it is wildly uneven, like Shaky. But unlike Shaky, there's nothing really like it. Recommended, because it