Wednesday 4 April 2018

8 - Next of Kin, Herman Cohen, Executioner, Shuttered Room, Madhouse, Untouchables

Next of Kin (1982) - Full of strange imagery, rain falling down in the desert of an Aussie old people's home, old men in baths, like an Aussie soap opera reversioned by a madman. There's no real plot, but it looks great. Nice sequence in a haunted services with a kid dressed as a soldier, an arcade machine and ballet on the telly. And lots of vehicular mayhem - a van crashing through the services. This being an Aussie horror. Thought I saw it before, but realised I saw only the opening. It gets going. It is really interesting, and also not bland, unlike a lot of Ozploitation.  It's a Clemensy idea given a good visual treatment.

99 & 44/100 Dead (1974) - Strange film,by John Frankenheimer - halfway between the French Connection and Doc Savage - The Man of Bronze. Some visual innovation but not quite enough. Richard Harris on autopilot. Similar but not quite as engrossing as 1972's Prime Cut, from the same writer. The opening is great. Chuck Connors as a feather-duster-handed assassin is great. But Ann Turkel is rubbish (she always was). The killer is the tone and the bland setting. Some of the performances are too heightened, especially Bradford Dillman. The last 45 minutes peak up, but it's so strange. If it had been an Italian film, it might have been better. The school bus chase is good, but it doesn't hang together as a film. The scene where Harris fleeces from an explosion is well-timed. Edmond O'Brien plays Frank Kelly.  I suppose it is a discovery.

Trog (1970) - Weirdly Mid-Atlantic accented spelunkers and the very English David Griffin get lost in cave, and Joan Crawford and Griffin, while searching for the others find a Missing Link, which wrecks a local TV company and then find that classical music and Major Matt Mason dolls sooth it, and light and Major Matt Mason madden it. It's an overlong story for such a film, but the whole way the film is played as if it is Flowers for Algernon, that somehow the crew were trying to make it a proper drama to please Crawford, it's just bizarre. It's a terrible idea, even if done as an Out of the Unknown.  There's an interesting germ there, if it were done with a more realistic costume and a treatment like First Born with Charles Dance, but there's a Burt Reynolds film - Skullduggery from the same year which is a more serious treatise on the same idea, and that is itself a massive folly, although it is more convincing (and the makeup much better, i.e. Japanese girls in whiteface with orangutan fur).  It is known to be gloriously awful, and it is, but who knows if it had been better if it hadn't been so earnest... Konga and Gorgo are better, if only because of the monster suit destroying London stuff is fun, and they are both fabulously silly.

The Executioner (1970) - Average UK spy thingy, feels a bit ITC. Written by Jack Pulman and directed by Sam Wanamaker. George Pepper (yes, I know but my grandad called him Pepper, so it sticks)  plays a British spy raised in the US. A lot of flashbacks. Feels like a rubbish episode of Department S. Lots of moping about with Joan Collins.

Watching the Untouchables (1987). I don't like the actual film, but I like the design and the look of it, and the recreation of Chicago (I like when they build worlds for film), and the soundtrack's great.

The Shuttered Room (1966) - Workmanlike but sporadically creepy Fauxmerican Lovecraftian horror - Carol Lynley (who I always wondered was she UK-based because of her prolific appearances in British horror, then discovered she was the longtime partner of David Frost) and Gig Young are the American imports. A fair recreation of Maine in England.  But the plot is muddled, a Beast in the Cellar-type plot (Flora Robson and all, with a female caged up adding a Jane Eyre-ish element) ensuring a typical gothic potboiler with added supernatural elements (like a lot of contemporary Lovecraft adaptations that toned down the weirdness and upped the soap), plus juvenile delinquents. Oliver Reed and Rick "Yoffy from Fingerbobs" Jones appear. Bernard Kay is scarred, and Donald Sutherland dubs at least one actor. Not that enjoyable, kind of nasty in that downbeat way the Hammer Frankensteins could be, without the period gloss. Director David Greene went on to do Roots and Rich Man, Poor Man, and Grey Lady Down. And Godspell.

Berserk (1967) - How do Joan Crawford and Michael Gough have a proper plugged-in non-portable telly in their TARDIS-esque caravan? "As old as my elephants and twice as wrinkled!" It's a grim variety show linked by murders. It's a more showbizzy Circus of Horrors. Enjoyable fluff. A lot of these mid-rate British horrors don't excite me the way they did when I was 16, and this isn't quite as weird as it appears. The murders are too infrequent considering the size of the cast. It seems afraid to kill off certain cast members. Like Trog, it seems to think it's a serious drama in order to lure Crawford, but it's a variety show with murders. Philip Madoc's good as Diana Dors' sinister foreigner husband (Prague via Glamorgan, going by the accent) with a conscience who knows what is going on. George Claydon too, as the dwarf. (Seems to have quite an initeresting life, Claydon - Oompa Loompa, club comic, Joan Collins' vengeful dance partner in I Don't Want To Be Born, and one-time sidekick to Rolf Harris!).  Robert Hardy looks disturbingly youthful. The love triangle stuff gets tired pretty quickly. The ending is OTT, and Judy Geeson's arrival so late that the supposed mystery isn't much, even though her OTT performance is something.   Better than Trog.

Madhouse (1974) - Vincent Price's last proper horror, Peter Cushing costars. A sort of Targets for the both of them, but confused whether it should be a horror-film version of Theatre of Blood, or a fitting epitaph for the British exploitation film industry. Features Michael Parkinson hosting for fictitious ITV region Rainbow Television, and Dr. Death (Price-as-Paul Toombes' fictional horror movie supervillain turned Uk telefantasy hero) reading Frank O'Connor. Very strange, could have been better, if a better script and director were involved. Too much filler, i.e. stock footage of earlier AIP-Price efforts.  But still more interesting than various period pieces of that era, i.e. I, Monster or whatever. And the ending is a keeper.


  1. Trog's mask was one of the 2001 A Space Odyssey apeman outfits reused. The bits where Joan is trying to reason with him are really funny. Weird to see it recreated on a prime time TV drama recently in Feud.

    Love The Unotuchables, from when David Mamet was somewhere nearer a reasonable human being. I saw a revival of it at the pictures in the 1990s, and that opening title sequence with Morricone's fantastic music pounding away was just great.

    Oliver Reed is incredibly rapey in The Shuttered Room, and it's really not very enjoyable because of it.

    1. The Shuttered Room is not that enjoyable, true.
      Feud got so much wrong (i.e. a big US-style Thamesside backlot instead of Bray, Francis a David Burton-alike a good fifteen years older than Francis was)- but funny to see American extras as Gough, Griffin and Bernard Kay.