Friday 6 April 2018

18 - Eurohorror, Eurocomedy, Island of Lost Souls, Frank 1970, Lady in a Cage, Dr. Renault's Secret, Gorilla at Large, Slap Shot, Thunder Road, Werewolves on Wheels

Anguish (1986) - A  stylish but confusing slasher (WTF is Michael Lerner doing in this?)  - a grim slasher with a meta-subplot. Demons (1985) is a sloppier but more fun spin on the same idea (Rambo kid!).   Directed by Bigas Luna, whose Reborn (-1981) from what I've struggled with it is similar, an interesting Catholic thing made uninteresting with flat direction and trying to be a straight drama, despite Michael Moriarty and Dennis Hopper as a televangelist.

Zeder/Return Of The Dead (1982) - Attractively produced alt-zombies set in a holiday camp, by Pupi Avati whose House With the Laughing Windows is hailed as one of the best gialli because it's a period piece a little more classy but still as nonsensical as your typical Euroschlock. This feels like an episode of Chateauvallon. The zombies aren't gut-munchers, just videotaped footage of dead middle-aged blokes doing a Max Headroom, in most cases.

Mad  Adventures of Rabbi Jacob (1974) - Set in  a very strange version of 70s New York full of French urchins playing baseball... Quite madcap, people falling into baskets, comedy car chases,  men whacking fish with umbrellas, while on a car phone in the rain, in a river. Culture-clash comedy involving an identity swap where a gangster takes on the identity of a New York rabbi. Possibly the most gunge-heavy film I have ever seen. Quite silly, and broad, but that's the French for you. It might lose something in translation. Director Gerard Oury behind Ace of Aces and The Brain, has the action of the former, and the silliness of the latter.
Le gendarme et les extra-terrestres (1979) - Again, like Rabbi Jacob, more Louis De Funès. The popular French comedy series adds a Mork-like alien. Quite pleasing, well-made and joyfully silly, but again one wonders what it loses in translation. The end resembles an episode of It's A Knockout, with a parade against a fake floating flying saucer used as bait at a quay. Has Lambert Wilson as an alien. Has lots of doppelgangers, androids with banging metal noises and a water fight. It's that kind of live action cartoon. De Funès also appeared in the similar Cabbage Soup a year later - featuring aliens from the planet Oxo. After a while, French slapstick can get wearing.

La Grande Vadrouille (1966)- More Oury/De Funes, attractive but to an English audience, despite Terry-Thomas, utterly nonsenscal wartime farce.

Island of Lost Souls (1932 - B/W). I usually find 1930s films samey, but because it has a different structure unlike any other Moreau adap, which maybe why it is the best, and Charles Laughton is... well Charles Laughton. And the sets are extraordinary. And the Beast-Men, even Lugosi do feel like real creatures, almost like sideshow freaks that Tod Browning turned down for being too strange. Using a set rather than some  attractive but not grotesque enough island helps.  In a lot of cases, Early cinema is so much different from later post-1950s cinema. Reminds me a lot of early television, it's still quite a stagey, it's almost a different medium. Lost Souls is somewhere between mondo documentary and pantomime. It feels primal, like a circus freakshow. It would have lost something in colour. Then, it would have felt like some stagey fantasy like Dr. Cyclops or The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T, and felt a different kind of kids' TV show weird.

Lady In A Cage (1964) - An effective idea Olivia De Havilland trapped in a lift in her house so there's no shaft and she just sees James Caan wrecking the place. But for most part, it feels very TV - the characters are unconvincing juvenile delinquents and it's all surprisingly grim with a shocking ending that you probably couldn't achieve if it were  an episode of Hitchcock Presents, with all the extras and cars.

Frankenstein 1970 (1958) - A nicely produced opening turns out to be a swizz - it's a film - better produced than most quickies of the period - still fairly routine - Frankenstein with Karloff now as the Baron and lots of big computers with reels going one way and then turning back another. The monster as usual doesn't get out until the final five minutes, and is entirely bandaged - so a Number One in the Prisoner ending can be used, also to save on makeup or bothering to do something that isn't the Karloffian design. "Hey, we can't use the old Universal design. Well, let's just have him look like Karloff then!"

Dr. Renault's Secret (1942) - Routine gothic nonsense with George Zucco, handsomely mounted. George Zucco a convincing depiction of a monkey man rather hilariously named Noel, but it is all rather padded. Paired with the excellently shot if rather old hat The Undying Monster (1942) on original release.

The Last of Sheila (1973) - Nice, agreeable mystery, more like watching people at a dinner party on the Continent, or Lovejoy - the Early Years. Reminds me of Sleuth (1972), a film I feel I should like more, but find the characters awful.
Watching And Then There Were None (1945 - B/W)again - Fitzgerald  is Fine Gael incarnate - predates so many Irish politicians - hiding villainy behind his typical leprechaunish role (which spawned Oirishness in the same way that costar Richard Haydn spawned a host of copycat butlers - his voice is imitated in dozens of US cartoons), the idea it's all a front - like a lot of these refined bodycount thrillers, unlike perhaps slashers, you became so wrapped up in the party going on, you lose track who's actually dead or alive. Apart from the Old Dark House, all other Old Dark House-lite films pale into comparison.

Gorlla at Large (1954) - Colourful if derivative Kong/Rue Morgue hybrid with Cameron Mitchell (with dyed golden hair), Anne Bancroft, Raymond Burr, Lee Marvin and Lee J.Cobb. Lots of circus act padding. The gorilla stuff is fun, but it's a pretty routine 50s "colour crime movie" (it's the sort of film Steven Penny wanted to make in Crime Wave).

Watched Werewolves on Wheels (1971 - duff biker nonsense), Slap Shot (1977 - I like the setting but it feels a bit sad seeing Paul Newman in such an uncouth comedy - it feels more expensive and glossier than it should be), noir/western hybrid Thunder Road (1958 - B/W - not my type of film, but interesting).

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