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.


  1. Mauvais Sang has become strangely influential in the indie field, I don't see it so much as a thriller, more a swooning romance. It's a tribute to Godard, apparently, hence stuff like the dance/run down the street by the great Denis Lavant to the strains of David Bowie's Modern Love (ripped off by Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha - you could have guessed she loves French movies). Another fantastic Lavant dance scene is at the end of Beau Travail. Felt a bit weird about him after seeing Holy Motors, though.

    Agreed, Carl Weathers IS great, and deserved better leads (or more of them). At least he was hilarious as "himself" in sitcom Arrested Development. But Creed was surprisingly excellent, best Rocky since the first.

    I like the kaiju that arose in the 1970s, when they went even more nuts, Godzilla vs The Smog Monster is a sight to see. I can't remember to made the comparison, but Matango has a neato early Doctor Who creepy atmosphere to it. The Green Slime is worth it for the "futuristic" dancing.

  2. The thing is the 70s ones get quite formulaic. A lot of online review - the modern equivalent of Castle films 8mm cutdowns shows do them, and they all blend into one. I think because there are so many of them. Even the Hammer Draculas and Frankensteins aren't so similar. Always alieninvasions. They get silly. I've always meant to track down the 90s Godzilla and the reboot of the even sillier Gamera. Hedorah/Smog Monster is one of the trippier, more original ones, but like Who, they're always reusing actors in similar but not-the-same character roles.
    The thing is some Japanese SF from that era can be quite fascinating. Their noirish horrors never really did much for me. But I've been trying to track down Sayonara Jupiter.

  3. Sayonara Jupiter is hilarious, but unfortunately it wasn't a comedy. It is on DVD, though, if you're that curious.

  4. Seen clips of Sayonara. Trying to go for epic and goofy - characters eating McDonald's and Coca Cola, and watching Godzilla movies. I'm fascinated by films aimed at the American market that get wrong. At least with Solar Crisis, Message from Space, Latitude Zero, Green Slime and the astonishing Virus (most expensive Japanese film ever - although mostly shot in Toronto, hence the likes of Cec Linder and Nicholas Campbell amongst Olivia Hussey, George Kennedy, Sonny Chiba, Henry Silva, Robert Vaughn, Glenn Ford and Chuck Connors as a Royal Navy officer in a submarine populated by Canadians doing fair British accents, one of them attempting Northern because Canadians get British show on mainstream primetime), they had American stars or at least recognisable TV faces. Sayonara has amateurs living in the country at the time, or the same usually Turkish bit-parters one sees in the aforementioned.

    Of course, the Italians are famed for it, but I was watching the Detached Mission - the Soviet Rambo - about brave Soviets fighting Americans off the coast off Florida, filmed in Cuba. Very strange - Soviet Rambo a near-50 balding bloke with a tache, American characters dressed in stars and stripes attire, and characters speaking English phonetically in flat accents.

  5. The Godzilla films don't awe me or captivate the way the Harryhausens do.

  6. Also mention the Wild Wild Planet and stuff, which I did see - so may be 15.