Saturday 31 March 2018

16 -Walker, Vincent Ward, Nothing but the Night Vincent Ward, Summerfield, Coma, Poirot

Vigil (1984) - Wonderfully shot, atmospheric, aimless but visually stunning, almost apocalyptic exploration of the New Zealand countryside from Vincent Ward.  Would be a rather average relationship drama were it not for the extraordinary setting of a remote sheep farm, and such sights as a  girl in a tutu and balaclava trying to herd sheep in the wind, Bill Kerr trying to play a tuba in a shed, and a sinking tractor. The sex scene feels shoehorned-in.

The Navigator (1988) - Ward's opus, I find some of the scenes magical, i.e.the forming of the metal in cross, but it feels very sub-Gilliam in its portrayal of pop-eyed, leather-helmeted Northumberland yokels from the dawn of time running amok Les Visiteurs-style in 1980s New Zealand, and the B/W bits look like a Guinness ad. Vigil might be his best film.

Summerfield (1977) - Confusing, attractively shot mystery with Nick Tate, the other John Waters and Charles Tingwell and Lizzie Birdsworth from Prisoner, directed by Ken Hannam (who did the 80s Day of the Triffids). A teacher in an Australian seaside community wonders why his predecessor vanished, similar to Wake In Fright (1971), but not quite as gruelling or able to build as convincing a world (a film that feels like a wonderful documentary, wherethe plot and character seem to be an obstacle), but then again, it doesn't have a soundtrack reputedly doctored by Rolf Harris. The Bruce Smeaton soundtrack is nicely creepy. The film has the feel of an Aussie kids' TV series of the era. Quite prickly, though - the ending makes it "one of those films" (it's about incest).

Rewatched the fourth wall breaking Rutherford Miss Marple/Christie Cinematic Universe expansion Alphabet Murders (1965 - it begins in the studio), with Tony Randall as Poirot doing a weird Anglo-French accent, it's weirder than the Rutherford Marples. Beginning with an Avengers-ish clown getting murdered in a swimming pool, Robert Morley as Porky Pig as Captain Hastings and Maurice Denham as Japp. It feels in the opening quite Tashlin-ish, but the fact it's in b/W may have restricted the former Termite Terrace resident. It doesn't know what it is. Is it a spy spoof? A noir spoof? A Pink Panther knockoff? British comedy and Tashlin don't mesh well. I want to like it, and it has a good cast, aside from Anita Ekberg, Guy Rolfe, James Villiers, Julian Glover, Clive Morton, Cyril Luckham, Richard Wattis, Patrick Newell, a very young Sheila "Benidorm" Reid... But nah...

Tried watching Coma (1978), but I'm not one for hospital drama.

Nothing But The Night (1973) - Ten green Bottles is the theme, Cushing and Lee are the stars, Gwyneth Strong proves she's as bad an actress as a kid than as an adult (when she was in Only Fools and Horses as Cassandra). Like Doomwatch movie, is sort of weirdly average - despite a good cast. It's not good, it's not bad, it has Diana Dors as a ginger. Keith Barron and Michael Gambon appear. Like a kids' sci-fi TV show - mysterious black cat logo - music and all. It's avaerage like a lot of British horror. Fulton Mackay does a weird Cornish-Scottish accent that ends up making him sound and look like Irish politician Willie O'Dea. The end is basically the Wicker Man via Get Out (same plotline, but with drama school kids instead of black youth). Directed by Peter Sasdy, a TV guy. Most of his films feel televisual. Taste the Blood of Dracula and Hands of the Ripper look good, but still like many 70s Hammer period pieces, bits do look like the film inserts of an ITV children's adventure serial. Countess Dracula (1971) I never quite understood the love for, because it looks very TV/Carry On level (I know it was done at Pinewood), and I Don't Want To Be Born (1975) is mental, it's just about worth it, but it has a lot of potential that it doesn't live to. Georgia Brown is a weak heroine. Characters come and go. There's not enough Cush and Lee. There's silly comic relief Scotspeople.

The Corpse (1970) was made by a load of BBC staff, and feels like one of those dull but "atmospheric" US regional horror movies that people often laud. It lacks the stable shonky but relative gloss of most British horrors of the era. It does feel like a home movie. Even Mike Raven's films looked better.

Then, some terrible films aren't helped by the bad prints - Craze (1974) looks like a cheap sex film that stars Jack Palance and Trevor Howard. But then it's badly shot too, it seems.
Pete Walker's stuff I find, well I found it fun as a kid, but the films themselves don't hold that well. House of Whipcord (1974) is a prison film, and is a bit too sleazy, Penny Irving is miscast, and it's basically a padded-out public information film. The most atmospheric bits are the hitch-hiking scenes. The Comeback (1978) is probably his best-constructed film, it's a little slow, but when it is good, it is very good, and Sheila Keith and Bill Owen are brilliant as the villains, the plotting wife and her outwardly absent-minded killer husband (and rewatching it, yes, now I can hear the bits of David Doyle that'd seep into Grandpa Pickles in Rugrats). House Of Mortal Sin (1975) has a great villain in Anthony Sharp, plus Keith, but the plot gets quite hard to follow with  Susan Penhaligon disappearing, and Norman Eshley stepping in as the doomed priest. And Frightmare (1974)is fun. The thing is they have great hooks, but the actual films are usually not great. And Schizo (1976) is not about a gorilla chasing an ice skater, as little boy me used to think (though Jack Watson is pretty ape-like). Walker tries too hard. They should be more fun than they actually are. And he wastes Bill Kerr.

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