Sunday 18 March 2018

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. 

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