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.

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