Thursday 28 June 2018

18 plus 12 refs equals 31,33 - (inc. the System)- c.1150-1200 - Soviet comedy, Euro action, Winner comedy, 60s adventure, David Thomson's book, arty stuff, Cambodia Express, Extraordinary Seaman, House in Nightmare Park

Andromeda Nebula (1967) - Soviet Dovzhenko film, very Things to Come and rather staid. Some of the most, almost deliberately stylised yet unconvincing sets. Yet somewhat Bavaesque.

Gentleman, I Have Killed Einstein (1968) - Another Barrandov time-travel comedy, nowhere near as funny or well-designed as Tomorrow, I Shall Wake Up And Scald Myself With Tea. Very mod mix of 60s futura (with selfie sticks) and period drama. By Oldrich Lipsky. Watched Lipsky's Srdecny pozdrav ze zeměkoule (1982), which despite the inventive idea of using Dilbert-ish line animation for aliens, is an unfunny comedy about two sinister bearded men being silly.

hanno cambiato faccia (1971) - An Italian modernist version of Dracula. Arty, atmospheric, but hell it's head is up its arse. Adolfo Celi is a good Dracula, but it is not an enjoyable film. Prefigures The Cars That Ate Paris (1974).

Target - Eagle (1982) - Another late-period Eurospy, a Spanish/Mexican film that despite an interesting cast - George Peppard, Maud Adams, Max Von Sydow as a Swedish-Irish-Mexican spymaster and Chuck Connors, is entirely unmemorable routine cop dreck with added skydiving and a nice Baccara-esque theme tune.
Goma-2 (1984) - Ropey trucksploitation with Lee Van Cleef as a French gangster.  From the makers of the above.

Shout at The Devil (1976) - One of those films that might have been more enjoyable for the cast and crew. Moore and Marvin enjoy themselves, Ian Holm is miscast as a mute Algerian (I know he was known for playing Frenchmen, but still...), and it feels like a cutdown of a miniseries. It's a mire of good stuntwork, but it doesn't hold together. A folly. You get lost in it. And the tone is all over - from comedy scrapes to a baby getting topped in a bonfire. As Andrew Male says, "it's half-Carry On Up The Khyber, half-Soldier Blue".

Parents (1989) - It's a hard film to categorise. Bob Balaban's direction is very flat and TV-like, goes from arty to bland. I feel it needed a Joe Dante. It feels too serious. And the kid a bit useless. It's an overlong MTV sketch.

Bimini Code (1983) - A dreadful hourlong "bikini babes educate children about marine life"  thing, imagine a G-rated Andy Sidaris film.

Mystery Mansion (1983) - A cheap family film, about kids finding gold in a house. A sort of US Children's Film Foundation thing with none of the charm. A videotape of this appears in Argento's Opera, apparently.

You Must Be Joking (1965 - B/W) - Endearing, attractively shot if not exactly hilarious all-star Michael Winner vehicle. A bit too much of a chase, cramming in too many faces. Gets lost in itself.

The Jokers (1967) - More of the above from Winner. But he manages to get on my nerves with Michael Crawford and young Edward Fox together. It does serve as a nice time capsule of 1960s London, though. But it is a bit Children's Film Foundation/Nutty Hijack.

Tried to watch the System (1964), but it's not my kind of film.

Watching the Police Squad! TV series of 1982. Never quite a fan of the Naked Gun films, preferred Airplane and Top Secret! The trouble is there are laugh out loud moments, but they get lost in amidst regular 70s cop show mediocrity, and obviously there weren't enough jokes for six episodes, as it was intended as a one-off IIRC.

Jack the Giant Killer (1962) - Despite some good if rather too cartoony stop motion work from Jim Danforth and usage of Harryhausen's regular director Nathan Juran and stars Kerwin Matthews and Torin Thatcher, its stagebound Hollywood "fairytale-land" setting and semi-musical atmosphere is rather silly. Anna Lee, 8th billed despite having a few years earlier been 2nd lead in John Ford films. It's on a similar level to the lesser Harryhausen stuff - 3 Worlds of Gulliver and Harryhausen's early films (Harryhausen was always helped by the fact his Golden Age was based in the UK, and hence could get the cream of character actors), and some of the Dark Princess bits have a pleasingly Tales from Europe quality. Don Beddoe as the Leprechaun is particularly annoying (imagine what a Patrick Troughton would have done).

Tried to watch The Creature From Black Lake (1977). but regional 70s monster movies are almost always dire, sadly. This, with its mix of dodgy photography to avoid glimpses of a bad ape suit, bad country songs always sung by the director, and redneck bromance,   See also the Crater Lake Monster (1977), a similar film about a plesiosaur that wreaks bloody havoc. Has a nice stop-motion creature by David Allen,  but the film around from wht I could sit through was godawful, as bad actors dressed as policemen mourn over their dead friends, like these films always end.

Captain Sindbad (1963) - Another similarly barefaced attempt at Harryhausenploitation, and with a varied cast - Guy Williams at the titular hero in between Zorro and Lost In Space, Starsky and Hutch's Captain Doby, Bernie Hamilton in the Woody Strode role,  Abraham Sofaer (an actual Middle Easterner) as the Magician,  Pedro Armendariz, the unfortunately named Rolf Wanka, Harryhausen vet John Crawford and Geoffrey Toone - the effects are more stylised i.e. dancers in funny suits, and the Bavarian studio locale adds a more European texture. It looks lovely, but it's somewhat lacking.

Mysterious Island (1961) - The opening scenes are really badly lit, as if to hide that they're in a suburban street in England and not in Virginia. The gruff Fauxmericana is a bit grating, and Percy Herbert's Deep Southern accent sounds Yorkshire/Cockney. Michael Craig is a strong lead, and his accent's convincing enough. But it takes too long, 75 minutes in to get to Herbert Lom as Nemo. The stop-motion work is sterling as always for Harryhausen (in one case, bringing back  a dead crab to life).  It's a solid entertaining three star adventure. But it seems too indebted to Swiss Family Robinson survival tactics.  Joan Greenwood is a bit too irritatingly posh, but her character is not a fawning damsel, but a do-all suffragette who does more than some of the men. Gary Merrill is convincingly beaten-down as a journalist. Also has refreshingly apart from Nemo, no deaths. Everyone who arrives on the island lives. Other films would kill off Percy Herbert as Pencroff for being a fool, or have Dan Jackson as Neb (a rare heroic black character in such films) die a noble death. Not here.

Captain Nemo and the Underwater City (1969)  - Robert Ryan as a Windjammer captain-type Nemo, Chuck Connors in a bad wig, Nanette Newman in a bad wig, and Kenneth Connor and Bill Fraser as comedy folk, also in a bad wig. All I remember from this film was that there was an organ. Clearly trying to do more of the sort of epic steampunk comedy of Around the World in 80 Days than the pure albeit light adventure of 20,000 Leagues, with heavy underwater footage. The titular underwater city looks like a Victorian leisure centre. But then again it is written by Pip and Jane Baker. Mysterious Island is entertaining and captivating. This isn't. Even the Irwin Allen miniseries is better. Nemo should be this mysterious but regal figure. Ryan is like a salty seadog who now runs a novelty seafood restaurant. Then again, his titular settlement is basically a holiday camp.

s a furat o bomba (1961 - B/W) - Romanian cross between The Plank and Dr. Mabuse. Quite noirish but lost in translation.

La vie est un long fleuve tranquille (1988) - This film I first came to know from David Thomson's Cinema: Year by Year, about a child switched at birth. The stills looked awesome, to an eight year old. A silly, broad family comedy. It is that in points, but it also weirdly feels a bit noirish at times. It's a tonal cluster. The middle-class bits are bland, the working class bits are delightfully uncouth a la Flodder or Carla Lane's Bread. Daniel Gelin (the French bloke who dresses up as an Arab and gets shot in the Man Who Knew Too Much) plays the doctor. The thing is the wealthy family, the Le Quesnoys whose daughter is actually the daughter of the working-class Groiselle/Gooseberry clan - who have the Le Quesnoys' son. In the end, neither care much about their birth families and return home. Features a giant poster of the Pope in a Catholic classroom. A lot more sentimental than I thought. The kids get lost in the plot.

Other films I remember from that book were Outrageous (1977), an amateurish sub-John Waters Canadian thing, Le Grande Bouffe (1973 - two hours of four dirty old international stars eating and having it off), and from the same director, Marco Ferreri - Bye Bye Monkey (1978) - where Gerard Depardieu raises the baby son of King Kong, but is actually a dull dramedy not a knockoff sequel despite some interesting visuals, and The 4th Man (1983), which I find kind of sleazy and voyeuristic, and also Jeroen Krabbé always seems rather gormless. . It also gave me glimpses of Dr. Phibes, The Fury, Body Double, Phase IV, The Story of O, Emmanuelle, Last Tango in Paris, The Beast, Billy Jack, and my first glimpses of female nudity.

Jonas Who Will Be 25 in the year 2000 (1976)  An arty kitchen sink semi-futuro-nonsense by Alain Tanner. The sequel, Light Years (1981) is much better, not just as it is shot in Dublin.

Blue Christmas (1978) - A Toho alien invasion film. Using the idea of people who can see UFOs and get blue blood as a result as a Holocaust metaphor, featuring lots of attempts at international appeal - including shooting in the US, though no professional actors, and a strange English-language attempt to launch an American pop band called the Humanoids. It's two hours twelve minutes, but could easily be ninety. Features seemingly authentic TF1 news bulletins. It is flawed, but there is a gem in  there. A Japanese Quatermass Conclusion. The climax is astonishing in its sudden shock - scenes of people enjoying golf, telly, cycling, all being shot - blue blood splattering all over the place, even nuns getting slaughtered.

Intervista (1987) - Indulgent, empty, yet somewhat joyous tour of Cinecitta by Fellini - but almost too artificial, like a full-motion video game directed by Fellini.

And The Ship Sails On (1984) - Weird seeing Freddie Jones not just in a lead, but in a lead in a Fellini film. Also the likes of Peter Cellier and Philip Locke pop up. Again, it feels a bit like an educational videogame, especially as Freddie Jones is the sort of name a cheap British video game company could have afford. The visual world is stunning.  The glass harmonica scene is fun. And it is wonderfully artificial. But it is wearing. The end is spectacular.

Cambodia Express (1982) - Dick Randall's Thai-shot attempt to get on the Italian Namsploitation bandwagon - an intriguing "find my wife" storyline with Robert Walker as an unusually and realistically dorky vet/hero tracing former love Nancy Kwan, while being trained by commando Woody Strode (playing himself essentially and looking impressively ripped at 67, but also disconcertingly like my late uncle - if he were black) to fight Kurtz-alike Christopher George. Impressively photographed, but nothingy. Typically tragic ending has Kwan die in Walker's arms without him noticing. Walker thus shouts, "Why her?" Film ends. To quote my mum when watching On Her Majesty's Secret Service, "She's just tired, son." Typical depressing Italian war shite beloved by dads.

The House in Nightmare Park (1973) - I find Frankie Howerd okay in small doses,  but when he's the star, well, in this case, a tonal mess. The direction by Hammer vet Peter Sykes is effective, but it's a dull retread of 1930s old dark comedies. With little zap. The plot is interesting enough, but it doesn't fit. It gets lost in a stream of schtick. It starts too slow. Kicks too late in. The puppet and dentist sequences belong in a better film. Kenneth Griffith dressed as a golliwog, Rosalie Crutchley as a doll, Hugh Burden as a soldier boy and Ray Milland as a sailor boy are creepy.  But it feels heavily padded. John Bennett is rather respectful in his turn as an Indian servant.  It gets better as it goes to the end, but it remains merely an interesting oddity with an ever more confusing plot. No wonder Al Adamson and Sam Sherman liked it enough to release it.  Milland is quite convincingly menacing. The killer being the elderly mother and not a man in drag is an interesting twist.  In fact, it seems at times that Howerd is the one miscast. The soundtrack by Harry Robinson is rather too straight, and the final helicopter zoom-out shot is too good for such a cheapie.

The Extraordinary Seaman (1969) - Barely attempted this bizarre mix of B/W stock footage  with some comedy bits where ghostly David Niven faces off with Mickey Rooney, Alan Alda and Faye Dunaway. The worst kind of countercultural flop.

Mission Stardust, Crack in the World, Night Caller, Wild in the Streets    kalai asri kapoor

Monday 25 June 2018

My brush with fame.

Image result for dustin's daily news

As hard as it may once seem, I once had a whiff of TV notoriety in my homeland. When I was 11. I wasn't a child star. And to be honest, it was a hickory stench. But I have the dubious honour of having been one of the main elements in a RTE children's TV serial plotline on RTE's The Den. For those who don't know, The Den was RTE's answer to CITV and CBBC's the Broom Cupboard. It ran for twenty four years from 1986 to 2010, where it was overhauled by a sixty-odd head of kids' TV and renamed "TRTE" and RTE Jr, and no one's sure what the T stands for. But it'd already been almost dead. For context, the Den began as Dempsey's Den. Hosted by affable disc jockey Ian Dempsey with the aid of two puppet aliens, Zig and Zag, it was initially a series of links to a mix of cartoons, reruns of old ITV serials, Commonwealth filler and US teen sitcoms, as well as the odd native series such as Rimini Riddle or The Morbegs. But the spark of puppeteers Ciaran Morrison and Mick O'Hara turned the Den into some bizarre soap opera, with running storylines, introducing Podge, a ventriloquist's dummy, and later Dustin the Turkey - an illegitimate, streetwise half-vulture from Sallynoggin. When Zig and Zag moved to the UK, on the Big Breakfast, Dustin took over, aided by an infantile sock-haired dog-thing called Soky the Sock Monster, though weirdly the two aliens from Zogs' pet Zuppy remained a regular. By this time, Dempsey had left. And was replaced by Ray D'Arcy. D'Arcy has since gone onto a mystifyingly successful career as a radio DJ and talk show host, yet he was only ever good for kids' TV. He had a magic there that he lacks now. I remember D'Arcy, and then his replacements Damien McCaul (who always seemed to be a poor relation - esp. as it was now "Den II"), and the sadly short-lasting Francis Boylan Jr. Then, in 2005ish, the Den got overhauled. Dustin was moved into his own show and the host segments were hosted by Kathryn McKiernan - a joyously untamed flame-haired youth, though Soky was still hosting the pre-school segments. Dustin's Daily News was the result - a strange hybrid of news satire, celebrity interview (when I say celebrity - the most famous people they got on it were Dewey from Malcolm in the Middle, writer Michael Carroll - who I now know quite well and lots of Irish talent show sorts who have of course vanished, a few GAA players and some prominent children's writers of the time.) and kids' gameshow. Dustin was aided by "the lovely" Sinead Ni Churnain, as well as Snotser, another Den carryover, a falsetto-voiced pig in a blonde wig.
However, they realised they needed a running plot. Such plots were regular in the Den, from Podge coming to life and the regular appearances of Aunty Monica (played by a male actor in drag - who the actor was I have no idea, but he had great comic timing). But they decided to somehow do a spoof of the Max Headroom Broadcasting Hijack.
Image result for max headroom broadcasting hijack
For those not in the know, Chicago, November 22, 1986, a PBS channel and WGN were hijacked by a bloke in a Max Headroom mask, the PBS showing during a showing of the Doctor Who story "Horror of Fang Rock". "Max" ranted on about Coke, Clutch Cargo and WGN. Dustin's Daily News gave us Martin Duck, a camp, cravatted duck in a blue coat who wanted to run Duck Daily News. He was quite sinister in his arch nature, his blank ping-pong eyes staring at the camera.

This was in January 2006, I was ten, glued to this strange figure who distributed wanted posters. The set for DDN had a TV behind Dustin, but Martin would appear periodically, only to disappear when Dustin looked. And so I emailed in to tell them to look back on the recordings and locate Martin. Thus, they did. Alas, my recording of my appearance is not on, but I did appear - in a voice-only capacity, phoned in,told them, and then the storyline continued. Martin dragged up as "contestant Deirdre Drake" for the not-at-all-the-same-as-Mastermind-but-for-thick-Culchies "Masterbrain game", flirting with Dustin, then kidnapped Sinead and took her place, only for Martin to be tracked down from a secret location, via cryptic clues. A shed in Blackpool, Co. Cork. Then, Limerick. Then, he turned out to be a huge fan. But came back the next year, hijacking the RTE newsroom and was chased through Phoenix Park or something.

I remember speaking to Sinead on the phone, and watching the TV - with the mute button on, as the soundtrack'd be on the phone. I was excited, and got a free pen and T-shirt, which I kept, along with the T-shirt and pen I got from an earlier write-in to Den 2, a part of a best friends photo compilation with my pal Kwesi.

To be honest, I have clearer memories of when Dustin dragged up in Irish dancing frock and wig, or this astonishingly awful country song from Dustin - (backing band footage from Pat "the Deal" Campbell's RTE show Country Star Time), considering he had a series of actual hits in Ireland. And then his Eurovision, but that's another story.
But I still feel proud to be involved such a momentous piece of Irish TV.

Sunday 17 June 2018

12-ish (15) Eurospy

Seven Times Seven (1968) - An Italian heist comedy (disturbingly close to "Nutty Hijack") trying to pass itself off as a British heist comedy. The likes of Erika Blanc, Gastone Moschin, Ray Lovelock, a toothbrush-tached Adolfo Celi  and Gordon Mitchell show its true nationality, but it does have a Brit supporting cast, Terry-Thomas, Christopher Benjamin and the very Brit-film choices of Neil McCarthy as prison bruiser and Police Sergeant David Lodge. Lionel "moider" Stander plays one of the leads. It is too long, kind of ponderous, with almost art-film scenes of bare chested cons in a bath discussing. If it were a British film, it'd be a ton shorter.  It has an odd tone, not quite silly enough to be one of those Argoman-type silly capers, though there are silly costume jokes, but it is shot like a drama. Imagine Carry On Matron with the same script, but shot like a hard-hitting political thriller. Not that funny. Didn't even get a UK release.

Viaje Fantastico En Globo (1975)  - Rene Cardona's version of Jules Verne, set in a London portrayed by some rather opulent interiors and a sign on a an arch. Awful, clearly a vessel for stock footage.

I've been watching a lot of Euro-spy tosh.
Apart from the glorious Diabolik, Argoman (1967) is better than the other rival Italian spy-superhero-villain rivals, eg the bland duo Kriminal (1966) / Il Marchio Di Kriminal (1968)– which uses comic strip frames and shows Piccadilly cinemas showing CAST A GIANT SHADOW! before cutting to an Italian house with a policeman plonked house before devolving into the typical Italian superhero mix of parties full of extras in silly outfits, before devolving into sub-Topkapi capers, done in a such boring manner, laboured shots of foreign places and lots of padding, all visually attractive. A lot of them try to go Avengers-ish raised “oh, I’m a deliberate cartoon” even without dubbing, e.g. exaggerated facial movements eg the Fantomas movies. Diabolik does all this but does it well, somehow pulling it off.
Even the Italian Mexican wrestler knockoff Goldface (1968) devolves into the typical Italian spy knockoff, a rented helicopter, some badly staged fistfights, exposition, some cheesecake and invariably footage of London.
Argoman has all this, but it feels jokier, grander, it looks to have a bigger budget than it probably did, the dubbing by Lewis Ciannelli, son of regular Man from Uncle baddie Eduardo is rather fitting, all blustery Scotland Yard men and coquettish American girls. It has ambition and enthusiasm unlike a lot of the others, but it is a mess because it is too childish, too silly at times. Argoman tries too hard to have fun, and it is bright, breezy, attractive and like a lot of Italian exploitation heist/spy films, has interesting photography of British industrial areas (see also Kriminal).

Special Mission Lady Chaplin (1966) – One of the better Eurospy films, but still not a great film. Like with a lot of these films, it has unenthusiastic performances both in front of the camera, and in the dubbing. The plot is hard to follow, star Ken Clark (playing Dick Malloy in his third film) has the look of a provincial waxwork of Roger Moore, I’ve watched numerous Italian spy films, and they’re all the same. Ex-musclemen/cowboys charmlessly beating up stuntmen, driving against back projection, using shite gadgets and wooing overly made up models. This has a few novelties. Ex-Bond girl Daniela Bianchi plays the titular Lady Chaplin, a British fashion designer (hence lots of boring scenes at fashion houses), who is also a spy. She gets up various disguises, but they’re all leaden and directed like a Pink Panther knockoff. The plot, though moving from New York to London to god knows where is ultimately some sort of vague Thunderball do-over with cardboard nukes. It’s hard to tell who is the villain, though it is Kobre Zoltan (ex-Mr. Ginger Rogers Jacques Bergerac, ironically later a Revlon executive). But he has relatively little presence. Directed by Alberto De Martino, who also handled OK Connery (1967). This has a better budget than most of the Eurospy fare (less reliance on stock footage) including the two earlier Dick Malloy films (with Clark labelled as 077 but doing work more akin to a mixture of Harry Palmer and Mike Hammer), but there’s still the inevitable slapping women about (these films make Bond look like a liberal feminist). There is some perhaps accidentally inventive set design (Intelligence HQ is a cramped bedsit with floral wallpaper and space taken up by massive computers). But there seems to be too much focus on location filming than trying to create a good story, a good villain, good cast, etc.

Umberto Lenzi’s 008 – Operation Exterminate (1968)  has sequences in Egypt prefiguring Spy Who Loved Me. Nothing else to say.

Target for Killing (1966) - Stewart Granger plays “James Vine” (not Shonteff’s Charles Vine). Watching it, and his boss appears. “That looks like Rupert Davies. It can’t be. It is!”. I didn’t notice the fab credits. I know the BBC Maigret was successful in Europe, hence why all 52 episodes miraculously survive, despite being a BBC series from the 1960s. Also featuring Curd Jurgens AND Adolfo Celi, as well as Klaus Kinski. Most of the stars use their own voices (certainly, Granger and Jurgens do). Despite a band of villainous white-robed monks, it is boring.

Coplan Saves His Skin (1968) – French effort with Mexican leading man Claudio Brook, better budgeted than the Italian efforts. Kinski plays a pervy sculptor. Weird scenes of hairy near-naked men lying in a bathhouse dressing dolls, and a plastic-faced cat-petting villain. Directed by Yves Boisset (who made arguably the greatest French SF film ever made- Game of Danger), it’s overlong and doesn’t really go anywhere. The sets are just ruins where the cast have camped in. Also saw elements of FX 18 – the Ken Clark Coplan film, which is a lot more dull.

Spy In Your Eye (1966), the Jerry Cotton series, Roger Browne in Password Kill Agent Gordon (1966), all cheap or empty, with none of the fantastic that Bond brings. The Kommissar X films at least look expensive and vivid, with lots of local colour in Death is Nimble, Death is Quick (1967) and Kiss, Kiss, Kill Kill (1967), but they’re empty vessels with charmless leads. No wonder most of these films went straight to TV, because they’re quite ITC.

Thursday 14 June 2018

Strange Brew (1983)

Finally kind of understand this spinoff of Canada's SCTV. It's kind of cartoonish, but then the dad is voiced by Mel Blanc. Canadian hosers seemed quite similar to a lot of Irish folk. There's something innocent about Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis as Doug and Bob McKenzie. The Elsinore mattes are gorgeous. I seem to latch onto comedies with a sense of visual ambition, and this seems to make up for the cold Canadian atmosphere. Regular UK Rentayank Angus MacInnes plays a brewery guard whom the boys recognise as Jean "Rosie" LaRose, a Quebecois hockey star they admire to the extent  of keeping his trading card in Bob's pocket (there are lots of similarities between hockey culture and GAA culture). The scenes with Max Von Sydow in shadow bossing a computer technician seem to mirror Flash Gordon. Lynne Griffin is appealing as the Hamlet manque, in a role that isn't in a cold, unfriendly slasher (the backbone of Canadian pop cinema). Von Sydow's Swedish-Canadian accent seems exaggerated to almost Swedish Chef levels. A celebrity paradox occurs when Star Wars nut Doug makes a ref to Darth Vader, while in black hockey gear, in front of MacInnes, who of course played an X-Wing pilot. The Canadian eejitry is a bit wearing after a while. Moranis can be a bit too eager. But every time it seems not to work, it knows that it needs to move on, and it does. So you get the McKenzies returning home and meeting their skunk-striped dog Hosehead, that sees them literally are two lumps of raw meat, we get a brief scene of their parents in bed (Blanc dubbing Thomas), and the boys listening to screaming on an LP ("it's a British new wave band!").  There is lots of fourth wall breaking, "ever noticed that people don't look at the road when driving in movies, eh?", or words to that effect. And the intermission - after which, the film seems to take great relish in parodying the overwrought thrillers the Canadian film industry tried to mainstream itself with, with a hefty underwater rescue scene immediately sledgehammered by our heroes feeding "Rosie" some beer in the waterlogged van. It's also visually innvoative - i.e. using the frame of a mugshot to frame a scene. And some lines. "Wanna smoke?" "No, we want our lungs pink when they fry us." It's a bit overlong, but the climax is extraordinary. The inflated Moranis trapped in a tank is a deliriously silly sight. As is the idea of the dog being able to read a road map and then turn into a low-budget Krypto knockoff - flying off to the local Oktoberfest (though a Shmenges cameo would have improved things and also tied things into SCTV) to slurp up enough of the rogue Elsinore beer... Nice effects, eh....
And yes, it's an adaptation of Hamlet.
Sadly, 1984's Going Berserk (1984), with SCTV-ers John Candy, Joe Flaherty and Eugene Levy was shite, but the TV special The Shmenges - The Last Polka in 1985 made up for that. But this, though not perfect, is a gem. Yes, a comedy that made me laugh.

Wednesday 13 June 2018

19 - 70s horror, Dr M, Metalstorm,Mr. Lawrence, SAS

Rewatched Messiah of Evil (-1973), and I can see why it has its fans. It's very moody, atmospheric, for the first hour, but nothing happens, and then the last hour is lots of gore and Elisha Cook Jr. doing his Elisha Cook Jr. face.
Same thing with Black Christmas (-1974). It is very atmospheric. I can now see it is a great film, but I don't enjoy it. It does move more than Deathdream (1973), which is a post-Vietnam drama with a zombie at the end, a very good Vietnam drama, but not quite my thing. It doesn't excite or intrigue like horror should.
Or something like Communion (1976). It's well-done, well shot, well-designed, well-cast, but it doesn't feel enjoyable. It feels a little too pervy, a little too creepy, and it's way too long. And it's a bit De Palma.
It's like a gear has shifted slightly in my head.
Then again, also tried to watch Terror at Red Wolf Inn (1972), an overlong, half-professional, half-amateurish sort-of-comedy with a one-joke premise more suited  to a short anthology segment. Motel Hell (1980) did it better.

Watched The Other (-1972) in German, and think I might have liked it more than if it had been in English. The thing is Robert Mulligan directs it like he directed To Kill A Mockingbird. It feels like a family drama. It has a great Goldsmith soundtrack. And it being in German somehow dilutes the cheesiness of the silly dress-up the kids do. Once it goes more horror, it gets a bit silly. I can see why these films work, but I don't enjoy them. US horror of the 70s can be very good at building dread, but god it can be po-faced.

Watched The Stepford Wives (1974) again in a  decent print, and it's not good. Patrick O'Neal gives good sinister, but it feels very TV-movie ish, a bit Clemens, not surprising considering he and Forbes had worked together before, and O'Neal was in a Thriller, but it feels bland, and an idea more suited to a thirty minute anthology.

Burnt Offerings (1976) - It's a routine TV movie-level horror with a good cast in routine parts, Oliver Reed, Karen Black, Bette Davis - except this is Burgess Meredith's show. I think I read somewhere that a good villain needs to act like the hero in their own film. A lot of slashers e.g. Michael Myers I find useless because you don't understand why they do what they do. That's why I prefer Halloween III. As Conal Cochran is mad, but he thinks he is doing right - fighting for the name of Ireland, and besides he's of the generation when babies were regularly murdered by priests. Here, you understand why Burgess Meredith wants to put these people in trouble. It's all for his mother. But even he and Eileen Heckart are not in it enough.

The Legend of Hell House (1973) - I want to like it more than I do. The cast is great (Roddy McDowall is very Doctorish), the idea isn't as strong, but it feels too serious, and too hard to be like The Haunting. If it had a larger cast, beyond the four, to even things out, and stop things being samey, it might have worked.

I Start Counting (1969) - A little pervy, a little aimless, fable-like, Jenny Agutter looks even younger than she was. 16, but could pass for 12. It doesn't really go anywhere. An overlong public information film.

City Of The Dead (1960 - B/W) - Atmospheric (and good B/W photography - not in that naturalistic, "we're not horror" manner of Seance on a Wet Afternoon/Bunny Lake Is Missing), but the fauxmericana robs it of something. The accents ruin it. It looks better than the typical US cheapie of the same era.

Midnight Lace (1960) - A well-cast (bar John Gavin's strange accent, giving a hint at what he'd have been like as Bond) if fairly standard gaslighting thriller, the highlight being its gloriously tacky backlot London. Rex Harrison has the dubious honour of playing a horrible villain character that is still probably a better person than Harrison himself.  Gavin sounds like he's doing a Stephen Boyd impression.

Freak Orlando (1981) Agitprop farce nonsense. Eddie Constantine and Delphine Seyrig pop up somewhere. Couldn't quite finish.

Child's Play (1972) - Similar to Unman, Wittering and Zigo - even less exciting, with a bunch of Logan Pauls. The lads a bit too old, like in Zigo. Couldn't finish it. Felt like "what the heroes of a sex comedy do when there's no girls..." Barely attempted it.

No Way To Treat A Lady (1968) - Rod Steiger's Irish accent is odd, it comes and goes, but it isn't bad. It's a bit convincingly Culchie, and his rapey, tickley tum is astonishing. Overlong and a bit typical predictable US comdram of the period (They Might Be Giants etc), but when Steiger appears, it's another film, a better, stranger film. His various characters from camp wig salesman Dorian Smith to a local cop to a South African-Cockney to the titular female alter ego (where he murders another female impersonator).  Captures late 60s New York, including a trail through various Cunard ships. Michael Dunn almost steals the show as a campaigning midget (his term, not mine) who thinks he's the killer. The climax is almost pedestrian, but Steiger hams it up. Better than The Illustrated Man (1968), an innately forgettable film.

SAS á San Salvador (1982) - Miles O'Keeffe as Malko Linge, a French pulp spy/Austrian prince,  intended to start a Bond-esque franchise. Featuring a topical plot about the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, O'Keeffe resembles the lovechild of Sam Jones and Oliver Tobias. Sybil Danning and Anton Diffring (wearing a "Don't Shoot" t-shirt) pop up.  It feels exactly like Never Say Never Again despite being on about a thirtieth of the budget. And there is no action. Very disappointing. Eurospy films never changed. Was hoping for another Duncan Jax, but alas not. Also featuring in a smaller role, Robert Etcheverry - the Flashing Blade himself.

Metalstorm - The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983) - Like Drew McWeeny on 80sallover, I don't care for Charles Band. This is nonsense, like a bad American Blake's 7 fanfilm. Why did Universal buy this piece of cynical junk, out of all of the other Band cynical junk...

Dr. M (1990) - More proof Claude Chabrol is the rich man's Jess Franco. Is Alan Bates trying to do a Patrick Magee?

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933 - B/W)/The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1961 - B/W) - What was revolutionary in 1933 is old hat and routine and ordinary in the Krimi-laced landscape of 1961.

Sunday 10 June 2018

20 - Stardust, Eurohorror, Capra,Hammer psychothrilers, Battle Beneath the Earth, Bronco Billy, Eurocomedy, Killer's Moon, Cold Nose - half-attempted, Dr, T, Signpost to Murder

Stardust (1974) - Perfectly reasonable portrait of the rise and fall of British pop stardom. But the fact that David Essex, Paul Nicholas, Adam Faith and Larry Hagman all became jokes, icons of tack does colour it a bit as something camper and sillier than the grim parable it is. And seeing Keith Moon, Dave Edmunds, Karl Howman, Peter Duncan and Essex as sort of faux-Beatles is a little odd. And "Dea Sancta et Gloria" brings to mind Essex's real life attempt at a self-penned musical, Mutiny!  It's a pity they kill off Essex's Jim Maclaine (though the final scenes are astonishingly well directed by Michael Apted) as we could have had a TV movie sequel c.1990 - where Maclaine is reduced to starring in a bland TV sitcom playing a gypsy who lives on a canal boat, after bringing down the Rank Organisation with a film about motorcycles...

Paranoiac (1963 - B/W) - Never a fan of these sort of Hammer psycho-thrillers, like Brian Clemens' Thrillers, they always feel stagnant, a bit ropey. A bit soapy, in this case. Brat Farrar via Psycho. Completely unsatisfying, with everyone dying in a fire.

Battle Beneath The Earth (1968) -  British-pretending-to-be-American sub-ITC action film where "Chinese" (played by mainly white actors including Martin "Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz" Benson) burrow under "America" (Borehamwood), to be fought off by valiant US soldiers, played by the likes of Earl Cameron, Ed Bishop and Bill Nagy, with Bessie Love as a Matron, setbound recreations of Vegas and the tropics. Kerwin Mathews is US import. Colourful but not very interesting or good, or positive. Quite dire at times, but surprisingly solid production value.

Bronco Billy (1980) - It's a nothingy romcom with Clint.

Howard The Duck (1986)  Who thought this was a good idea? It feels cheap, it feels like there is no plot, yes it was a waste of money.

Tried watching Lost Horizon (1937 - B/W), but I find Shang-Ri-La a really uninteresting place. Why would you want to stay there? It's like a Magdalene laundry via Butlin's.

Expulsion of the Devil (1973) - French horror from ITC-alikes Telecip and Juan Bunuel, son of Luis. Some creepy shadowy lady and poltergeist activity bits amongst a familial comedy drama. Features a certain Gerard Depardieu as part of a TV crew. Quirky but tonally odd - the kids' play in the middle of it is very strange. And it goes a bit arty and into the plotless nonsense genre.

Been reading Jonathan Rigby's Euro Gothic. Most of the films in it are shite. I've tried A Bell from Hell  (-1973), Anima Persa (-1976 - arty gothic with Vittorio Gassman), the Blood Splattered Bride (-1972), Michel Piccoli in Le Trio Infernal (-1973), Parapsycho (-1976 - German killer nonsense with Leon Askin from Hogan's Heroes) - all forgettable, arty, afraid of their horror roots or trashy cobblers.

Have I lost a sense of humour? Being Arsenic and Old Lace (1944 - B/W). I find it too stagey, too overplayed - everything's been a bit overdone. I know it's a play, but it feels like it only comes to life with an audience.

Also attempted Mansion of the Doomed (1976), but even in his first film, Charles Band had the power to make sunny but utterly soulless and unattractive films.

The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953) - At the same time, very odd but very anodyne Dr. Seuss-written musical.

Wild Goose Chase (1975) - Broad and silly French comedy starring Pierre Richard (fresh from the baffling Tall Blond Man... films) and Jane Birkin, involving a costume party on a train. Forgettable, loses in translation, some weird Milligan-esque stuff involving a bath and a sink on stilts.

Tried to watch Rollin's Grapes of Death (-1978), but god, it's a slow, arty hack, like its helmer. Could only get a few minutes in.

Les Adventuriers (1967) - A colourful, quirky but cluttered and ultimately characterless series of vignettes held together by Lio Ventura and Alain Delon in an increasingly miserable tale.

La Cage Aux Folles (1978) - I find Albin/Zaza slightly too drama queen-ish to be believable. Michel Serrault's performance is very Honky Tonk. Maybe, it's being brought up with the idea of drag queens as being brassy, confident wisecrackers. But Tognazzi and Serrault look more like the cast of a European remake of the Persuaders than lovers (ironically, ITC's Adventurer, Gene Barry played Georges).

Dracula and Son (1976) - Again, by Edouard Molinaro, Christopher Lee dubs himself in French as a curiously ponytailed Count, teaching his idiot son. Features a Communist vampire defeated by a Hammer and Sickle. Wearing, confused, slow, not very funny - some of the stalking scenes are well done. An interesting idea that Dracula becomes a horror star is wasted.

Tender Dracula (1974) - Confused musical-horror-comedy-fantasy with Peter Cushing as a Scottish horror star who may be Dracula. Pictures of Cushing as Grimsdyke are seen. It tries to give Cushing a Targets, but it seems utterly confused as to what it is, even though Madhouse (which even appears as a photograph) kind of did that, and it even has Alida Valli in a similar role to Adrienne Corri in that film. Cushing's Scottish accent comes and goes.

Le Charlots Contre Dracula (1980) - Forgettable-to-horrible Monkees-style French comedy with Greek theater director Andreas Voutsinas (Carmen Ghia in the Producers) as a bearded Drac, with a Cleopatra bob. He's a very silly Drac, bless, no real gravitas, all drag queen-like prowling the stage.

Killer's Moon (1978) is awful. It's the sort of film you've seen before, forget, then the weird bits you remember, but it's 75% forgettable. It's quite unlikeably sleazy. Some of the schoolgirls do actually look quite young. It really does feel like a dream, an awful dream.

The Spy With A Cold Nose (1966) - A title I remember from Halliwell, a spy farce with Eric Sykes, Laurence Harvey and Lionel Jeffries that I once presumed was a Harry Alan Towers production but no, it's by Galton and Simpson - with June Whitfield as  Mrs. Jeffries, and Bernard Archard billed over future Nocturna - Granddaughter of Dracula Nai Bonet.  My copy broke at 50 minutes in, and from what I saw, despite  a script from Galton and Simpson wasn't promising. It's not about a spy dog per se. As a kid, I imagined something more knockabout, with a helpless dog driving a car and so on, doing Bond stuff, but not anthropomorphic in any way. Finally completed it. WTF? Laurence Harvey is like Pat Kenny.

The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980) - A strange film, the patronising Anglo-Irish narration telling us of the small and dainty tribespeople, An interesting portrayal of the real South Africa, but it wears out its welcome.

Signpost to Murder (1964 - B/W) - MGM thriller set in b/w MGM backlot England. Stuart Whitman sounds Aussie, while Joanne Woodward doesn't even attempt an accent. Like a bad US TV episode deluded that it is a Hammer psychothriller. The English hospital looks like something from a Sam Fuller film.

Foxbat (-1978) - Only saw lengthy clips of it, but realised that having long admired the soundtrack by Roy Budd, that this is just a subpar Hong Kong actioner with an eye on America.

Monday 4 June 2018

42 inc. refs to Rear Window and lady vanishes) - Mexican films, British cop films, Titanic, Hyper Sapien, Ship of Fools, 39 Steps, Hitchcock, Cat and the Canary, Universal horror

Jungle Warriors (1984) - Crummy if sporadically entertaining action vehicle for (of all people) Nina "and Frederik" Van Pallandt, costarring Sybil Danning, Alex Cord, Woody Strode, Marjoe Gortner, John Glover and Paul L. Smith (using his real voice - not a tough growl, but an average, amiable Jewish American nebbish voice).
Tried to watch its companion piece - Red Heat (1985) - dreary Cold war women in prison nonsense.

Watched Gideon's Day (1958) and The Blue Lamp (1950 - B/W) - not a fan of procedurals, even if like Gideon, have John Ford shoehorning in the likes of Dublin panto goddess Maureen Potter and a Mockney Cyril Cusack into his vision of London (complete with crap TARDIS - and this was made in Borehamwood). With the Blue Lamp, here's a musical number. It feels a weird tonal clash. 40s/50s British cinema I often find odd and hard to relate to. And this film, of course is entirely redundant. As we know Dixon isn't dead. That he is actually Christ reborn and will revive as a cop who ironically will never retire. And I can't take Bogarde seriously, mainly cos of Stella Street.

Moon Man (2013) - Lovely Irish animation, with Pat "Mustard" Laffan as the scientist, based on Tomi Ungerer's novel, weirdly has a PG-rated sex scene to a Korgis cover band, and use of Iron Butterfly on the soundtrack.

Iguana (1988) - Monte Hellman chronicles a rather tepid story of Everett McGill with a lizard face moping about the Galapagos. A ponderous Latino Mandingo.

The Lady Vanishes (1938 - B/W) - Michael Redgrave doing a Will Hay impression is fun, but I find it slightly too mannered and genteel. I kind of prefer the (1978) remake.

The Bees (1978) - Splinter-like bees attacking showjumpers to the sound of comedy music. Mexican looking Indian and Ugandan ambassadors, Like the Swarm, has a comedy interlude with kids that ends in turmoil.  Features Indian-themed ads for Royal Jelly perfume. Gerald Ford appears in footage of the Pasadena Rose Parade, where killer bees are accidentally lured in by giant cartoon bee floats. 1950s stock footage used unironically. In the words of the film's British delegate, "completely raging bonkers". The ending has the UN make a peace deal with the bees.

A Night To Remember (1958 - B/W) - I'm not a fan of 50s melodramas as such, but on a technical level, unsurpassed. The Irish bits are cringy, that sort of wistful paddywhackery old people who read Ireland's Own wallow in nostalgically, but younger folk find excruciating. Kenneth More is most definitely not stiff here. He for one is suited to his character.
Titanic (1953) is rather stiff. It is more melodramatic, less documentary like. It doesn't put you in the place the way A Night To Remember does. Then again, it focuses more on the before than the after. The ending is a punch.

In the Year 2889 (1968) - Larry Buchanan's the worst.

Hyper Sapien (1986) - The other Mac and Me, produced by Jack Schwartzman and Talia Shire's Taliafilm, the poor man's Eon/American Zoetrope/Amblin who went from making Never Say Never Again to a series of flop family films that ended up as cable filler. Holby City's Rosie Marcel and Sydney "young Meggie in the Thorn Birds" Penny as the alien children who have come to see MTV. Jeremy "Virgil Tracey" Wilkin as the alien da. Keenan Wynn plays cards with a three-armed Manxman Alf. Typical regional kidvid, shot in Canada. Directed by Bond vet Peter Hunt, but utterly styleless runaround with little plot. Forgettable.

Ship Of Fools (1965 - B/W) - Epic but overlong all-star drama. José Ferrer looks very like his son, moreso than usual. It's nicely shot, but it's very samey - Michael Dunn is great, but it's repetitive.

Le Rapace (1968) - Mexican Lino Ventura film, nice travelogue but rather bland.

The 39 Steps (1978) - Fun, elegantly paced adaptation - better than the Hitchcock, though then again, I also prefer the Hammer Lady Vanishes to the original. It has more energy. . John Mills should have been a sidekick. Just kill someone else off. He's too likeable to play the sacrificial lamb. David Warner is weirdly mediocre. He's role as a guarded Edwardian means he can't do the full-on David Warner we know and love.

The 39 Steps (1959) - It's nicely shot, has a great cast (Sid James and Harry Towb as a comedy duo of truckers, James Hayter and Leslie Dwyer), but it's one of these films where some of the little cameo is infinitely more likeable than the rather stiff Kenneth More and Taina Elg. And the Scottish stuff is a bit wearing. More is no Robert Powell, or Donat.

The 39 Steps (1935 -B/W)- I'm not a big Hitchcock fan (my favourites are Torn Curtain and Frenzy), it's a case of being exposed too young. And I find his 39 Steps somewhat stagnant.  The action bits are exciting, and some of the sets charm. I.e. John Laurie's farm with the back projected sky. It's weird how young Laurie is, even though he looks ancient for 38. But he still looks completely different to how he did when he was old. In fact, he looks healthier in 1975, than in 1935, less gaunt, certainly.At least, Peggy Ashcroft looks young and healthy.  Interesting how the 1935 and the 1959 scene for scene remake both change Scudder to a female victim. Also the music hall scenes show the change in variety. Then again, I also prefer the Hammer Lady Vanishes to the original. It has more energy.

Foreign Correspondent (1940 - B/W) - Most Hitchcock films are samey, aren't they? And are those windmills supposed to be directly outside London?

Hammerhead (1968) - One of those spy movies hampered by having a square bland American in the lead (Vince Edwards is out-acted by a photo of Harpo Marx in one shot) and being too many things at once. Peter Vaughan is a good villain, but as with a lot of films, it's stupid not daft. There's a girl put inside a giant burger, Michael Bates, Judy Geeson, William Mervyn, Patrick Cargill, but it also tries to be basically Thunderball. Not even Diana Dors can save it. It feels a bit ITC, and the ending's the same genre as that of Carry On Camping. The plot gets lost amongst the supposed comedy.

The Most Dangerous Game (1932 - B/W) - Nice design, but still in the mould of when cinema was  an artificial entertainment, still rooted to the stage and to carnival. Though interesting to have African-American Noble Johnson in whiteface. Only towards the end does it gain the energy its companion piece King Kong has. with the climactic chase.  Leslie Banks gives good stare.

Secret of the Blue Room (1935 - B/W) - Stagey faux-German Universal melodrama. Halfhearted Teutonic atmosphere but nice sets.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935 - B/W) - Confused and rather slow Universal Dickens adap. What happens when you adapt an unfinished book. Good Rains, but the Universal backlot obvious as always.

Dracula's Daughter (1936 - B/W) - It tries to be its own thing, but it feels almost like Trail of the Pink Panther, trying to cover for Lugosi without resorting to use him. Edward Van Sloan plays "Von Helsing", but Gloria Holden is a little too matronly in the lead. And her death is unspectacular. It feels more like a ripoff like the Vampire Bat (1932 - B/W), than a sequel.

House of Dracula (1945 - B/W) - Not much Dracula or Frankenstein, an unmemorable mad science cheapie. Bar female hunchback.
House of Frankenstein (1944 - B/W) has a fun atmosphere, Carradine has more to do as Dracula than any Frankenstein link involved, but it becomes as confused an audience pleasing mess as Ghost of Frankenstein  (1942) or Son of Dracula (1943). Karloff's death scene is interesting. Like the MCU, it's fair to see the Universal Classic Monsters cycle as a series of continuity-ignorant TV episodes. The Whale/Browning era the first series when it was good, the 40s stuff the shark jump.

The Cat and Canary (1927 - B/W) feels like a peepshow reel, the (1939 - B/W) Bob Hope remake is an amiable if not particularly funny comedy and the 70s remake forgettable, while the more supernatural Ghost Breakers (1940 - B/W) is basically a 40s Scooby Doo is a freakishly young and slim Trigger-esque Anthony Quinn.

Also watched the unmemorable The Wrong Man (1956), Notorious (1946 - B/W), Saboteur (1941 - B/W - which comes alive in the climax), Suspicion (1941 -- B/W a melodrama in a fake English village in 2-D), Stage Fright (1950 - B/W it has Alastair Sim in it so it can't be all bad, but Jane Wyman's very out of place), the Paradine Case (1947 - B/W), Shadow of A Doubt (1943 - B/W which is basically Charley Says but with Joseph Cotten) - a lot of Hitchcock films, they kind of merge into one. I misremembered Strangers On A Train (1951 - B/W) being in colour. Lifeboat (1944 - B/W) is an intriguing experiment. I like the setup and design of Rear Window (1954), but I can't take it seriously - because of the Simpsons spoof. "Grace, there's a creepy looking kid here!".  Grace Kelly I find a bit soppy. It feels overstretched.