Thursday 3 May 2018

14 - Five Days from Home, the Appointment, Burt, horror, White Hunter, Black Heart

The Appointment (1981) - Edward Woodward horror-drama. Some atmospheric suburban visuals but  mostly uneventful. Shot like a Public information film.

Five Days from Home (1979) - Despite being a theatrical release from Universal, this George Pepper (yes, I know, blame Grandad) vehicle feels like a pilot for a Fugitive-type series, but then, it becomes a schmaltzy regional family tearjerker, with a proper "You have been watching" end credits.. Got on the cover of Films Illustrated, despite not even getting a VHS release. No wonder. Nice theme but couldn't finish it. Directed and funded by Peppard, to break stereotyping.

The End (1978) - Burt Reynolds comedy. Kind of odd tone. Sporadically entertaining, i.e. Robby Benson as a priest younger than even me, looking like a 1970s US Father Dougal. It takes about an hour to kick in the actual plot. I know it's weird but if this was a Bud Spencer and Terence Hill vehicle, it'd have been better.  Deluise is miscast. From a certain light, he looks threatening, but ACTION! and he's a talkative smart-ass. He looks soft. The character is supposed to be this murderer, and the most dangerous that he comes across is a slightly annoying uncle.

American Pop (1981) - The performances are all stiff, even in animation. Thus is the flaw of rotoscope. Feels like a point and click videogame. Not a big Bakshi fan. Exposed too young to find most of it silly. Though I like the cartoon Lord of the Rings. At least it's not nine hours long.

Sharky's Machine (1981)  - A serviceable Dirty Harry knockoff with Burt Reynolds. It's nothing special, but the atmosphere is very dark and grim for a Burt film. A bit De Palma-ish. Henry Silva plays a Mafia man, after years of doing it in Italian films. His Italian accent isn't bad, but then again he was practically a naturalised resident by this stage. Rachel Ward looks awfully young as Burt's love interest. The playground end sequence looks more like a father and daughter bonding than two lovers. Nice theme by Randy "No, she's not a bloke!" Crawford,  but I've long tired of this film. Only the Georgia setting feels fresh, that and this era Burt being surrounded by lashings of sex and violence.

Been reading and enjoying John Willis' Screen World annuals, especially the 1981-1982 lot. A lot of weird films in there I'd forgotten about that I attempted but never finished, The Hand (forgettable Michael Caine Hands of Orlac job. Windwalker (Trevor Howard plays an Indian chief spouting mystic mumbo-jumbo in subtitled Cheyenne), the Godawful Incredible Shrinking Woman, Young Doctors In Love and Coup De Torchon (with Philippe Noiret as an oversexed arse patrolling Africa in an all-star Gallic sex farce that feels like it is a cinema verite Dennis Potter a la France).

Murder By Phone (1982) - Bland Canadian thriller, like an even less effective Telefon (1977). Richard Chamberlain in another valiant attempt to break out of telly. As for Telefon, Pleasence has a ridiculous  blond bowlcut disguise, so it is an intriguing oddity, unlike Murder By Phone.

Tried watching What's New, Pussycat? (1965), but it's just Sellers, O'Toole and Allen indulging in nonsense.

Ugly, Dirty and Bad (1976) - Carlo Ponti-produced account of a grotesque family. The trouble is the family aren't quite grotesque enough. Yes, Nino Manfredi has a wonky eye, and he dreams of transvestites on mattresses, but it feels just ugly, and not in a surreal or exaggerated matter. It's too ugly and non screen-ugly. It's too convincingly dirty. Their home looks like the Bucket house from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, if it were in the real world. The commedia all'italiana is a bemusing genre. It's a farce that doesn't translate well. It feels very stagey - even the house has a very unconvincing sitcom-type photographic backdrop of the Rome skyline sticking out of the window. Why are Italians obsessed with fat women? Do they think it's funny or sexy? It's how I imagine the sitcom "What A-Mistake To Make-A". For those not aware, I once used footage of the similar Laurence Olivier Presents staging of the play "Saturday, Sunday, Monday" to enact a world where Olivier made his only sitcom for Granada in 1976-77, playing an exaggerated Italian patriarch. Because the play was shot on video by Granada, it kind of worked.

US TV would show anything though, even the least horrific horror of all - the oddly compelling Dean Jagger vehicle So Sad About Gloria (1975 - the end involves a Phantom Stranger-type dragging a coffin onto a railway platform) and its director's Pepsi cola ad-esque sci-fi non-weirdness The Day It Came to Earth (1979).
The Evil (1978)- decent haunted house horror with Richard Crenna and Victor Buono as the Devil. Steals from the Sentinel and Legend of Hell House. The ending is great, the house erupts into a white void - Hell presided by Buono dressed as Ricardo Montalban.   Includes haunted quicksand. 
ITV showed 1974's Symptoms (1974) - Less a horror, but a psychodrama. Slow but good performances  and nice Sunday afternoon atmosphere.  Made by Spaniard Jose Larraz and Spirou publishers Dupuis. Mike "Barry!" Grady turns up. Peter Vaughan and Angela Pleasence the stars.

Tried to watch White Hunter, Black Heart (1990), but Clint's performance is awful.He's trying too hard to channel John Huston. Every line is... forced... and over-stressed... to such a point... that it... becomes... ridiculous. They make a point of the character not being John Huston, when Clint plays it in such a way that it obviously is. And it feels cheap. It feels like a Screen Two, and unexciting in the way that a lot of those Screen Twos are.

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