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.

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