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 รก 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.

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