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.

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