Sunday 4 March 2018

11 - Harry and Tonto, Night of the Hunter, Doctor Death - Seeker of Souls, Grave of the Vampire,Cinerama (Terror at the Wax doesn't count), the Being, Kill and be Killed, Abominable Snowman, the Being

The January Man (1989) - All-star serial killer comedy, a serial killer movie done in the style of When Harry Met Sally or 3 Men And A Little Baby. As wrong as that sounds. Kevin Kline does "quirky tec", Alan Rickman plays unruffled Brit, Rod Steiger plays da Chief, and  ex-RTE stalwart Pat O'Connor tries to direct the chaos.

The Abominable Snowman (1957 - B/W) - Early Hammer horror, despite some good photography and sets, never really holds. Peter Cushing is good, but it still feels like a TV play. It is rather slow.  And the Yetis are not great. I kind of like the design - a sort of feathered Max Wall-thing, but it's not what you'd expect of the Yeti.    The 50s were a strange, transient decade for horror. A lot of the stuff is entertaining, but few are genuinely great.  Someone more like Paul Massie's forceful, mannered Canadian soap opera star-like, almost Shatner-esque Dr. Jekyll for Hammer might have been better than Forrest Tucker.

Kill and Be Killed/Kill And Kill Again (1976/1981) - Apartheid-era South Africa's martial arts sensation, James Ryan stars in these two dodgy, sporadically entertaining for the wrong reasons actioners. Featuring some slight racist overtones (his black sidekick's called Gorilla - because he's subhuman - ha!) and sexism (the kidnapped Professor's daughter, ex Miss World Anneline Kriel can't go on the mission because she's a woman, even if the government say so!) Set in a generic English-speaking milieu full of British Intelligence types, and involves potato oil as a McGuffin. At times like a bad imitation of a Brian Trenchard-Smith film. Also featuring a dwarf who kung fu punches with a Punch puppet, a parrot crashing a jeep, a levitating character called the Fly, early bullet-time and a Nazi baron who lives in the desert, in his own castle. I'm not a kung fu fan per se, but there is something off-kilter about these films, a pleasing nutzoid Bond knockoff quality unlike later SA-shot ninja/kickboxer films. The action is good, but rather generic, aside from the stranger moments, but the cast, mostly radio actors are stiff. The second film in particular predates the A-Team, yet is quite similar, but as if recreated by a gang of Afrikaners going mad in the desert. The first one I have only seen lengthy clips of.

The Being (1983) - Jose Ferrer and Martin Landau star in confused "alien in small town" nonsense, like a lot of similar fare, Mutant, Nightbeast, etc. A "where are they now?" epilogue suggests a spoofy tone that doesn't seem to be there.

70s Imitation-British sorts like Cinerama's Arnold! and Terror at the Wax Museum (1973) are fun if at times a little US sitcom Halloween special, but the LA-set Doctor Death - Seeker of Souls (1974) despite a Moe Howard cameo,  is a bit too TV cop show/Disney movie ish, it's an overlong Night Gallery with a plot more suited to a fifteen minute segment of that show.  The flashbacks are fun, and John Considine does his best, but it's almost like a Highlander knockoff that fell backwards in time and was made by ABC TV. Directed by TV man/second unit guy Eddie Saeta, who worked on Diamonds are Forever, hence why it feels like the "gorilla woman" scene from that film stretched out to feature length, mixed with the "we want to do gothic, but we can't" feel of the likes of Grave of the Vampire (1972 - ambitiously amateurish).
Cinerama also did The Killing of Sister George (1968), which always annoyed me. Beryl Reid's great, but everyone's so hateful. It's about bitchy BBC people in the 60s, but made by ABC, and shot at Paramount. I should like it, but maybe too much camp bitchiness can cause headaches for me.

Watching the 1993 BBC version of Suddenly, Last Summer, very stagey, Tennessee Williams is not my forte, Maggie Smith's southern drawl annoying. Weird to see Irish  comedienne Rosaleen Linehan in something allegedly American.

Also tried watching Harry and Tonto (1974). It's a road movie that is quite sentimental and sweet, a bit too schmaltzy. Art Carney is good, but the trouble is the makeup is a little Clive Dunn-ish. He still looks like he's pushing sixty and not eighty. He looks like a comedy old man. Compared to his performance in the slightly better Going in Style (1979 - not the crap remake which is just a straight heist film - and not the subversion the original is), where he did convince as an old man, but his character there was quite different to Harry. Not quite my kind of film, but Larry Hagman appears in his mid-career phase when he had not yet struck oil.

Night Of The Hunter (1955) I find a strange film. It's not a good or a bad film, it's a singular film, somewhere in between. It's a weird piece of art.  Plus my grandad didn't like Mitchum, so maybe that has got something to do with it.


  1. Have you seen The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue? Strikes me as a zombie movie you'd approve of with regards the above.

    The 50s big star perversity version of Suddenly Last Summer has Rita Webb popping up among the inmates. Almost the strangest thing in that film.

  2. I do like Manchester Morgue. It's just I often judge films visually, which with a lot of Euro-films and exploitation works. Began watching films, sped up because of bandwidth problems back in the day.

  3. Well, film is a visual medium I suppose. But crackling dialogue doesn't go amiss, you don't get so much of that these days, alas. Even the music's less tuneful.

    When VHS came in, Ken Russell used to watch films on fast forward to get them over with quicker. He boasted about seeing two Matt Dillon movies back to back in half an hour in an interview I read once.

    1. I find the more stagnant, slow Michael Crichton-type SF (his directorial stuff) works better on speed. Even Westworld, I always found Romanworld and Medievalworld more interesting.

      I like films that move, that take you into worlds...

  4. Not all British horrors I like, a lot are crud - even some classics I find overrated, Michael Reeves wasn't an auteur but a hack, the Sorcerers I enjoyed of what I saw age 12, but it's a bit dumb, a lot of the haunted houses films I find slow (hence my favourite haunted house film is Ghostwatch). Death Line - good plot but awful juvenile leads (David Ladd can only ever convince as a spoilt brat - I imagine he was this in real life, knowing who his da was), and there's a lot of dreadful programmers - the Vulture, Island of Burning Damned (Island of Terror is better ,more fun and set in Ireland), Devils of Darkness, a lot of the early Compton stuff. A lot of stuff seemingly made to fill slots on Elvira.

    Somehow I love the Name of the Rose, even though I am not a hard boiled fan, I like some Sherlocks and Poirots, but the US stuff I'm not a fan of, maybe because I was expoed to so many US cop shows a s a child, and I became indifferent to the genre.
    But I love the Name of the Rose. The setting, the mystery, the idea of a literally humourless villain.