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

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