Thursday 30 August 2018

48/50 (51 inc. Moon44) 152 for august - Shake Hands, Dream Demon, Spencer and Hill, the Seducers, Where's Poppa, Nighthawks, Warlock, I Vampiri, I Bury The Living, Lewton, Raimi, gore, The Bible, Neil Simon, Solar Crisis, Mountains of the Moon, Castle, gialli, A Little Romance, DTV action, Perfect Crime, Goodbye Gemini, Hammer, Brewster, Ritz, Night Visitor, Delicatessen, Man who would be King

Shake Hands with the Devil (1959  - B/W) - An all-star cast - Jimmy Cagney as an Oirish priest, Glynis Johns as an Irish barmaid, Cyril Cusack, Richard Harris, William Hartnell as a Sergeant, Ray McAnally, Niall MacGinnis, Noel Purcell, Allan Cuthbertson as a colonel and Robert "M" Brown his sidekick, Harry H. Corbett and special guest stars Michael Redgrave and Sybil Thorndike, and my grandad somewhere. Attractively made, but this sort of "Iyerish" IRA-rallying nonsense makes me cringe.

Dream Demon (1988) - 80s British horror blandness. Jemma Redgrave as a Sloane named Diana, haunted by journalists Jimmy Nail and Timothy Spall, as it looms to her wedding day  to Mark Greenstreet (in a rare lead). Kathleen "Pepper Ann" Wilhoite plays an American, who may be her sister. Weird flashbacks have Annabelle Lanyon (who is older than Redgrave and looks it) as the younger Jenny, although this may be to add some weird uncanny valley thing.

The Changeling (1980) - It's better made than a lot of other slow horrors, and the Canadian locations and soundtrack add atmosphere. It does everything right that Ghost Story (also with Melvyn Douglas) did wrong. At least it eventually moves, unlike the Legend of Hell House - which looks into itself far too much. The cast is great, and the plot relatively interests.  Combining the elements of haunted house and conspiracy thriller helps. But it is very slow. It might have worked better at 75 minutes, in a TV movie format. And Trish Van Devere is kind of cold. It's the haunted house action that doesn't grab me.

Mr. Billion (1977) - Hollywood's attempt to do something with Terence Hill. Directed by ex-Corman hand Jonathan Kaplan,  has a weird semi-Hal Needham vibe (Jackie Gleason plays the antagonist) and a weird style that isn't quite Hollywood. It's as if a bunch of Americans are trying to recreate a strange Italian comedy.  It feels at times like a duff Italian ripoff of Silver Streak. There's even the weird tonal shifts  common in such Italian romps. There's a long, sweeping scene of a town being destroyed.  It doesn't know what  it is, and plus Hill and Valerie Perrine have no chemistry.

All The Way Boys (1972) - Cyril Cusack plus Spencer and Hill. One of the jungle films they did, as opposed to the Miami ones. 

I'm For the Hippopotamus (1979) - Another  rewatch of another Spencer/Hill thingy. Featuring SABC Newsreader Hugh Rouse, boxer Joe Bugner and Wakefield-born wrestler Malcolm "King Kong" Kirk (whose death in a bout against Big Daddy arguably ended the Golden Age of wrestling in the British Isles), more mystifying hi-jinks.

Go For It (1983) - More of the same tired stuff from Spencer and Hill.  Another influence on Miami Twice. At the end, it becomes a Bond knockoff,. David Huddleston is the boss.

The Seducers (1969) - Europiffle with the music from the last ep of the Prisoner.

Where's Poppa (1970) - Found George Segal rather hateful. Like a bad US version of Sorry!

Nighthawks (1981) - Previously saw this. It has an international element that appeals. Rutger Hauer, in a beard buys some Yardley Gold, gazes at an ad for Daily Mirror, then uses a bomb in a backpack to blow up a chemist's. It feels almost like an Italian film, with the Keith Emerson score and the international scale. Robert Pugh plays the IRA snitch, with a convincing Norn Iron twang. Third-string Carry On-er Brian Osborne and Frederick Treves play the Yard.  At least, it puts you in the place unlike the French Connection. Joe Spinell looks weird when clean-shaven. Hauer is great. The chase through the underground construction works is epic. The subway scene is always how I imagined the Taking of Pelham One Two Three to be.  It moves, and has a good cast.

I Vampiri (1957 - B/W) - Dull, tedious scenes enlivened by almost neo-realistic  photography.

I Bury The Living (1958 - B/W) - Apart from Theodore Bikel as a Scot, this didn't do it for me. I suppose the reason people like it is it is a noir, really.

Warlock (1989) - The most nothingy horror-adventure ever made. Styleless, miscast and forgettable as amnesia.

Cat People (1942 - B/W) - I'm sorry, but I'm with John Carpenter. Lewton is overrated. They're too much style over substance. And hardly anything happens. The sequel, Curse of the Cat People (1944 - B/W) is even odder - it's actually a sort of Cocteauesque family drama.

Perfect Crime (1978) - Begins with the assassination of some British toff (Kenneth Benda - uncredited), Joseph Cotten, Adolfo Celi, Anthony Steel and Alida Valli star in a British-set attempt to cash in on Agatha Christie. Features a lot of Soho sleaze, a fox hunt, but it is a mess. Features Dagger of the Mind-type intercutting between 70s London grime to what is clearly a Roman quarry. Has that thing of having Union Jack tourist tat as set dressing.   

Dominique (1978) - Like a shite giallo, but British would be a vulgar but accurate description of this all-star post-Amicus vehicle. The likes of Ron Moody have nohing to do but get slaughtered. Even Leslie Dwyer gets more to do. Judy Geeson looks bald. Needless to say, Jenny Agutter did it. David Tomlinson looks very old. Michael Jayston's seen all this before (in Craze (1974)) Some bits look a bit sub-Argento, but it's cobblers.

St. Ives (1976) - Bronson in rather flat all-star thriller directed by J. Lee Thompson. Feels like a TVM down to the credit - "guest star Maximillian Schell".  Almost what if Bronson was Columbo. John Houseman looks like Mick Miller, in a distracting ginger toup.

Day of the Dead (1985)  - It feels bland. It feels grey. Romero makes the same film again. At least it has a good Irish character (Jarlath Conroy, who I have since discovered is the uncle of Ruaidhri Conroy, Tayto from Into the West)

The Evil Dead (1981) - Never quite been a fan. It's a tremendous amount of effort and work for a nineteen year old. It's very professional, but it still feels like a student film. And I find it rather stupid. Evil Dead 2  (1987) is more of the same stupidity, but done more professionally. I like the set design and the mattes, but not the film itself. And the ending is neat.

Body Melt (1993) - Unlikeable Aussie horror, a deliberate cult film that fails -  trying to go for a Peter Jackson, but lacking the humour and style of Sir Pete.  Ian Smith, in between his break as Harold from Neighbours relishes his role as a mad scientist,  but for most of the runtime, it resembles an erotic thriller, and once it gets more colourful, it's too late.

Crimewave (1985) - It's so mannered, so deliberately manic and cartoonish that it becomes annoying. Ed Pressman isn't very good, in an acting role. The Coens' films never do it for me. The performances feel a bit forced, a bit too heightened a la the Avengers. I always like the effects and models in Raimi-involved projects, e.g. the Hudsucker Proxy, but never quite the actual films, which annoy.

The Body Snatcher (1945 - B/W) - An unconvincing Scotland that it takes one out of the story - the trouble with noir is what began as a novelty becomes a norm, and the darkness just becomes irritating rather than atmospheric.

Mountains of the Moon (1990) - It's just a bit of a mess. I can see why it flopped. It looks epic, butthere's the vague air of a TV period drama. With the likes of Peter Vaughan and John Savident and a nice turn from Richard Caldicot  popping up. Bergin feels anachronistic, like your da's mate who has suddenly found himself lost in a Masterpiece Theatre-type thing when he really should be on Winning Streak. Plus a nude Fiona Shaw is akin to seeing your mum naked. I find these sort of epics laborious. I like a bit of pulp served  on the side.

Solar Crisis (1990)  - Heston and Palance amongst the stars in one of those expensive but boring international coproductions about space that went straight to video. And I didn't even make it through 1990's "Moon 44".

The Bible (1966) - Had to watch much of this on fast-forward, it is so slow, there is not much dialogue, it is confusing, stars appear for seconds, while John Huston gives himself the best bit as Noah. Nice Italian design, being a DDL production, especially the ark interior, but it's dull mostly.

RIP Neil Simon. Bar Murder by Death, never much of a fan. Watched the Out of Towners (1970). Sandy Dennis is both annoying and yet unable to take your eyes off. This sort of New York manic farce never quite gels with me. I don't know what it is. I find that sort of relationship based comedy just doesn't appeal.

Nightforce (1987) - Linda Blair and Chad McQueen are elderly teens brought together by colonel Richard Lynch to fight South Americans, while Cameron Mitchell shows up as a concerned senator dad. Thinking of doing a history of the direct to video industry, but it better not be critical. Most of the films are dreck. Even though Lynch is good, as always.

Fatal Skies (1990) - More DTV dreck, despite Timothy Leary as the villain. Made in the part of the US where the 70s never quite ended.

Death Merchant (1991) - Nu-AIP/Dancebuy action shite about an ancient Egyptian prophecy and nuclear war. Shot on video, or at least edited on tape.

A Little Romance (1979) - A attractive but somewhat alienating picture-postcard culture-clash romance with the novelty it is portrayed by kids. Diane Lane shines, while the French lad who plays Daniel comes across as quite unlikeable and a bit sinister. Yes, I get he's a film-head, but he seems a bit of a creep. Olivier's camp European matchmaker is a bit overplayed at times. His accent changes from scene to scene. It is attractively shot, but it feels kind of too sentimental. Towards the end, it picks up. But it kicks in too late. It helps if you are charmed by it.  The end is moving, but the film is kind of "there". It's a pleasing Sunday afternoon thing. But it's charming in a very touristy way. It needed perhaps more than charm. Lips, the Dandelion Trail and Bloody Tuesday all sound like convincing titles. Dexter Fletcher's brother Graham (whose credits range from Sid and Nancy and Bugsy Malone to the CFF and Grange Hill) plays the gangster-suited  sidekick of Daniel, who seems much nicer. Actually, if Dexter Fletcher had played Daniel...

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972) - Rubbish per usual dubbing track, nice Nicolai score,  Barbara Bouchet, Sybil Danning and Chateauvallon's Ugo Pagliai are the leads. The van-murder is pleasingly ridiculous. The killer looks like Tony Hancock's statue in the Rebel. But it's a load of bollocks.

Goodbye Gemini (1970) - It's odd, like Alexis Kanner's American-Irish accent (based surely on a showband performer of the era). I find Judy Geeson and Martin Potter kind of annoying in their perkiness. Hippy nonsense. Sir Michael Redgrave pops up (how did they get him into this shite?), with Freddie Jones as a fellow homosexual.  Hedonistic hippies in burqas with a teddy bear do not make a good film.  Barely finished.

Phantom of the Opera (1962) - Possibly Hammer's best film. Certainly their best-looking, most visually captivating production. It doesn't feel as stagnant as some of their other productions, especially from the 60s onwards. The sets are marvellous, especially the lair. It feels a lived in world, not the vague Mittel-Europa Hammer usually deals in.

The Vampire Lovers (1970) - When Hammer began to get terminally camp. Ingrid Pitt doesn't look like a virgin. She kind of looks like Marsha from Spaced, initially.  The figure of the Man in Black is a bit ridiculous. I am sort of reminded of the story of Frederic Bourdin, a French con artist/"unloved child"  who often took the identity of missing teenage boys, despite being in his twenties/thirties, and looking like the lovechild of Gerard Depardieu and Richard Clayderman. The thing is, Douglas Wilmer is very good as the vampire hunter, but he and Cushing (the two Sherlocks) are barely in it, and instead we are left with Harvey Hall romancing Kate O'Mara, and it's basically filler around a bunch of sex scenes. I think its reputation lies in nostalgia. It tries to pretend to be respectful. Its sequels don't give a toss.

Rewatched The Frozen Dead (-1966), which is very ropey and cheap, but the whole frozen head twist speaking in a  child's voice is very creepy. But even she is cribbed from The Brain That Wouldn't Die.

Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974) - It has a great atmosphere and an overqualified cast. (WTF is Bernard Lee doing playing a minute's worth of screentime as a mute?) Repeating many of the same ticks as earlier films. Dave Prowse as the Monster is interesting. But it might be my favourite of the Hammer Franks. Always disappointed that it wasn't about a demon wrestling with a Karloffian thing. And characters just slip in and out. You think John Stratton as the head of the asylum will play a big part, but he doesn't, even though he's quite good, though you do get the impression they wanted Freddie Jones, but realised he'd already been used.  It feels unfinished. And the whole "she can speak" thing is a bit out of nowhere. The model of the asylum is very ropey. The idea of the monster digging up its own grave is great. And the ending is a bit sitcom-pilot.

Delicatessen (1991) - Attractive animation-like imagery hide an ugly film that's hard to follow. Comparisons with a certain black lesbian are unavoidable. Nice to see Howard Vernon. I want to like it, but Caro and Jeunet either go full "annoyingly quirky" or "arty nonsense". It's like Brazil. Lovely set design, but what's hapenning in the surroundings is gash.

The Night Visitor (1971) -Slow, cold psychothriller with Max Von Sydow as an escaped lunatic.

Brewster McCloud (1970) - It's typical Altman New Hollywood nonsense. Lots of countercultural nonsense surrounding the story of a boy who could fly. Like a Disney comedy script ended up with someone who wanted to make a point.     

The Ritz (1976) - Jack Weston and Jerry Stiller fight over each other, as the former hides in a gay bathhouse that holds a Princess Margaret lookalike competition. Sexy young F. Murray Abraham (it's weird seeing him with a head of beautiful curls). It's not especially funny, but because it is made in the UK by Richard Lester, the various gays include the likes of Ben Aris, Peter Butterworth (as a couple) and an opera singing Ronnie Brody,it captivates. Treat Williams' schtick wears thin - that he's a straight man undercover who everyone presume is gay as his voice never broke (even though I empathise with him greatly). Adding to the fauxmerican atmosphere are songs on the soundtrack sung by a pre-Eurovision/"The Cheetah Likes My Beard" Colm Wilkinson (the songs actually like sound like that anthem of a big cat running from Letterfrack to Mallow). I did find it much more watchable than say a Neil Simon adaptation of the same era. Because it's from a different tradition. But it's a one joke premise.

The Skull (1965) - A most unmemorable film. The idea is so bare, and by Bloch, it feels like a 15 minute Night Gallery segment padded out with historical flashbacks.  Then, it feels like The Prisoner. Interesting that much of it convenes around a statue of Beelzebub.

13 Ghosts (1960 - B/W) - The sort of gee-whiz 1950s family schlock of William Castle I never quite get. Gimmicky. The ending makes no sense. It's very US sitcom.

House on Haunted Hill (1959 - B/W) - The prime Castle picture, but really a prime jokey kids' filler. When you get older, you realise it's not much cop. Elisha Cook does his face.

The Tingler (1959 - B/W) - More Castle stuff with Vincent Price and Patricia Cutts, the first incarnation of Blanche Hunt on Coronation Street. Castle seemed to make the same film ten times. The Tingler itself is interesting, but it's an Outer Limits thing. There's a weird silent interlude. Castle's films are basically thrillrides.

Mr. Sardonicus (1961 - B/W) - Faux-Hammer from William Castle. Better than his more famous gimmickathons, but it's got that thing the Corman Poes have, of US actors who can't do gothic. Ronald Lewis, the hero who resembles a British David Hasselhoff was one of about forty actors to come out of Port Talbot. It feels very TV-ish, like an episode of Karloff's Thriller over-stretched. It feels outdated, even in 1961. Only the iconic grimace of Guy Rolfe's teutonic Baron and the McGuffin being a lottery ticket stick in the mind. Alongside the rigged gimmick. It's a slog.

  StraitJacket (1964 - B/W) - Hard to take seriously, even in a camp way. Tedious melodrama from Castle. Joan Crawford playing younger than her years. Camp nonsense. George Kennedy beheads a chicken. These gaslighting thrillers I tend to find cliched. Yes, it's a real problem, But it makes formulaic films.  The ending is ridiculous. How you get a mask made of your own mother?

The Man Who Would Be King (1975) - It's a great story, but I find it slightly too leisurely at times. It may work better in cinemas. The lack of an antagonist and real goal beyond colonialism also suffers. It may have need a good snip to become a jolly adventure, rather than something frustrated, between epic and adventure. It's too leisurely for its own good.

House of the Living Dead (1973) - Shirley Anne Field and Mark Burns in a South African gothic potboiler. Quite amateurish, and unfortunate (references to the "blackers", mondo-ish footage of a baboon being experimented on). Kind of like 1974's Ghost Story. Not very good.

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Eurocrime 19

Squadra Antitruffa (1976) - Baffling culture clash comedy with Tomas Milian in a knotted bandana and David Hemmings, age 35 looking fifty-odd.

Squaddra Antigangster (1979) - More of the same, with Milian dressed as the Fourth Doctor-as-a-gangster. Baffling. Basically Miami Twice, down to a similar stunt.

Caliber 9 (1972)/Il boss (1973) - Not quite a fan of Eurocrime. These are two well-made for an Italian actioner, but it's not my sort of film. Fernando Di Leo does have more talent than the usual hack.

The Italian Connection (1972) - Better stuff from Di Leo. Cyril Cusack plays an Italian mafia boss (and he dubs himself - basically it's Uncle Peter from Glenroe in the Mafia). Henry Silva and Woody Strode are his American hitmen. Mario Adorf plays their target, an ascot-wearing pimp. Luciana Paluzzi has a drink from a barman who looks eerily like Derek from Crystal Swing. Adolfo Celi has dyed hair. There is a great van stunt. And the final junkyard castration is memorable. But a lot of these Italian films, there's memorable moments within a stodgy package. But it does have the unusual element that everyone in the cast is cast perfectly.

Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man (1976) - A rewatch. Ray Lovelock, Marc Porel and Celi again in a trashier take on the genre by Ruggero Deodato and tonally all over the place, going from comedy to rapey stuff to blood and guts that there's little enjoyment. The Engrish theme song by Lovelock is astonishing.

The Big Racket (1976) - Fabio Testi and Vincent Gardenia in a film that proves why I'm not really a fan of this genre. Sleazy and not enjoyable.

Heroin Busters (1977) - Testi and Hemmings in  a more adventurous crime epic. Shot on three continents, the opening is excellent, but the rest of the film doesn't live up to it. Despite a plane chase, it is more parochial.

From Corleone to Brooklyn (1979) - Filled with time capsule shots of 1979 New York, Maurizio Merli is the lead in this otherwise quite bog standard and predictable gangster flick costarring Van Johnson and singer Mario Merola whose Alf Roberts-ish presence makes me wonder was his pigeonholing in gangster films influenced by Get Carter. It's interesting mainly in being an Italian view of Italian-American crime. Marred by things like uncomfortable looking extras in cop outfits.

Copkiller (1983) - Harvey Keitel and John Lydon in RAI-coproduced crime drama. Disappointingly rote. Yes, Keitel and Lydon supply their own voices. Lydon/Rotten's performance style is exactly the same as it was in Today in 1976. He talks to Keitel like he talked to Bill Grundy.  Despite the NYC setting, has a country theme. 

The Squeeze (1978) - Margheriti-Carlo Ponti coproduction that feels too American to be Italian, but too Italian to be American. Lee Van Cleef plays an ex-safecracker turned modern cowboy. Edward Albert and Karen Black costar. More American-seeming than usual, despite the De Angelis Brothers-ish theme. Alexander Boris DePfeffel Johnson-alike Peter Carsten is a badly dubbed gangster. Feels a little too small. If it was a proper American film, it might work better, but as an Italian production, it feels a bit cheap.

Cannabis (1970) - Gainsbourg, Birkin, Curt Jurgens and Paul Nicholas (yes, THAT Paul Nicholas) in . Early examples of evocative Italian New York photography. But Serge is a sleazy auld bugger. Hippyish old rubbish. 

Lucky Luciano (1973) - Glenn Miller-soundtracked Italian biopic. Francesco Rosi directs an uneasy mix of Italian fauxmerican exploitation and arthouse drama. Gian Maria Volonte leads, Vincent Gardenia, Edmond O'Brien, Rod Steiger and Charles Cioffi add US cred. There is sloppy period detail. Charles Siragusa plays himself. Not my sort of film.

The Valachi Papers (1972) - Bronson and Ventura in another interesting but flawed Italian attempt at American true crime mythology. Very odd attempts on makeup to made both men look younger. Lino has a dyed black combover, Bronson with a thick wig and pinkish slap like a Louis Tussauds Alain Delon. Later on, still clean shaven, he does a Lee Marvin approximation with flour in his hair. Terence Young directs with surprising incompetence that brings to mind a real Italian hack and not a Bond vet. 70s cars and buildings are apparent in location shooting. Plus captions and credits are full of errors. I'm not really into this gangster schtick, and with long epics like this like Luciano, one tends to get lost amid all the bad ageing makeup and changing era where period detail is nonexistent. The Ortolani soundtrack is lovely.

Il consigliori (1973) - Martin Balsam in an incompetently shot (cinematography by Joe D'Amato) take on the Godfather. The sort of shite more common in this genre. Nice Riz Ortolani soundtrack, almost identical to the above.

Street Law (1974) - The sort of Italian policier I don't enjoy, even though Franco Nero dubs hmself, it's full of irritating, badly dubbed villains doing unspeakable things in silly ways.

Fear City (1984) - A strange film by Abel Ferrara, well made but full of sleazy nonsense. Hard to enjoy, hard to understand.  Padded out with stripping scenes.

Crime Busters (1978) - Just Spencer and Hill cracking jokes and beating folk up and trying to convince folk they're American.

Who Finds A Friend Finds A Treasure (1981) - Un-PC, possibly racist caricatures of tribesmen are the level of this unfunny Spencer and Hill thing. With the unlikely appearance of Jamaican poet/cultural icon Louise Bennett as tribal queen.

Bonus TV entry - Closed Circuit (1978) - Italian sci-fi western giallo made for Rai by Giuliano Montaldo. A Giuliano Gemma western is showing in a cinema, then a bullet is fired - an authentic western bullet. A King Kong float, Posters for Girl in Room 2A, A*P*E, Perfume of the Lady in Black and Tentacles show the cinematic landscape of Rome. It's not very good, takes a while to set up but the climax is incredibly memorable and tense. With Gemma's gunslinger shooting and throwing his cigarette butt through the screen into the audience. Doesn't quite make sense, though. 

Friday 10 August 2018

More European stuff - 31

Les 1001 Nuits (1990) - De Broca-directed Arabian nights tosh, meta-framing work involves television, a pre-Darling Buds Catherine Zeta Jones (when she was still Welsh) as Sheherazade, Vittorio Gassman as "Sindbad". Forgettable.

A Maldição do Marialva (1991) - Forgettable, foggy RAI-TVE medieval quackery.

Un piede in paradiso (1991) - Bud Spencer, French star, Thierry Lhermitte, Ian Bannen as Lucifer and Sean Arnold off Grange Hill/Bergerac in Italian Bedazzled-type fare. Assistant directed by Victor "man with bottle" Tourjansky. Produced by Berlusconi. Doesn't do anything. Just sits there.

Jackpot (1992) - Italy's answer  to Mike Reid, Adriano Celentano and a slumming Christopher Lee in futuristic comedy. Features a Martin Prince-type super-genius kid at an altar. Lee is the butler. It's not great - basically a cash-in on the multimedia boom.

Window to Paris (1993) - Sony Classics' Franco-Russian tale of a Russian who finds a literal window to Paris. Charming but plotless. Insubstantial.

Taxandria (1994) - Awful Gilliamesque German-Belgian semi-animation with Armin Mueller-Stahl and Andrew Sachs (yes - remember that Manuel is from Berlin).  Dead Ernest  (l982) likely to better. Star Elliott Spiers died before production.

Volere volare (1991) - Maurizio Nichetti slowly turns into a cartoon, i.e. the film is almost over. From New Line and Tartan.

De Zeemeeerman (1996) Dutch comedy coufunded with TROS TV. Maritime nonsense. Couldn't understand it. Turns out the lead can't get girls cos he  smells of fish. One of the worst Dutch films ever, apparently. I can see why.

Le Leopard (1984) - Claude Brassuer and Marius Weyers in aimless French spy-in-the-desert nonsense.

Nestor Burma, detective de choc (1982) - Baffling, Michel Serrault in a clown nose and Jane Birkin as a punk.

Banzai (1983) - Though very attractively shot in deserts and in Asia and the US, this vehicle for Coluche, another mononamed rotund oddball is little different from the typical Bud Spencer vehicle doesn't quite translate. It feels very reminiscent of Revenge of the Pink Panther and Live And Let Die (in the scenes of a white man in a nice suit walking through filthy NYC streets in an otherwise black community). The ending is astonishing though - a slapstick but convincing model shot of a commercial airliner crashing into an aircraft carrier while attempting a landing.

L'Africain (1983) - Philippe Noiret and Catherine Deneuve in a take on the African Queen that is wonderfully photographed - capturing the dense foliage and humid nature of Africa. It is rather too leisurely for its own good.

Summertime Killer (1972) - Karl Malden, Chris Mitchum, Olivia Hussey, Raf Vallone, Claudine Auger and Gerard Barray in a  Spanish actioner that begins with a soppy theme accompanying slow-motion dog and motorbike racing with Chris. Interesting that Malden is both dubbed in Spanish by someone, in unsubtitled scenes, while dubbing himself in English elsewhere. There's some interesting motorcycle stuff, but rather too much mooning over Olivia Hussey.  Lots of zoom shots per this sort of junk.

L'Invite Surprise (1989) - Featuring French comedy regular/thief in European Vacation, Victor Lanoux - it has  a great opening - a Christmassy shiny floor light ent spectacular is being televised live, and an assassin waits in the back and shoots a game show contestant - a black man. But it just doesn't live up to that. It's a rather light comedy that doesn't work.

The Crazy Charlots (1979)- Monkees-esque unfunniness from Les Charlots, stars of Bons Basiers du Hong Kong.

Les Longs Manteaux (1986) - From TF1 and UGC, nice footage of Peru but it is a slog.

Tendre Poulet (1978) - Thriller with Philippe Noiret that forgets it is a thriller, and becomes a dull romcom.

Teheran 43 (1981) - Told non-linear, this Mosfilm coproduction with the West featuring Alain Delon and Curt Jurgens feels like a Soviet Heaven's Gate. Almost 3 hours long, never quite holds, even though it looks great. The scenes in London look especially spectacular.

Uranium Conspiracy (1978) - Early Golan-Globus Arab relations thriller. Utterly forgettable. Threadbare travelogue features a bad restaging of the Amsterdam canal boat chase from Puppet On A Chain, and a depressing ending. Love interest Janet Agren dies early on, but hero Fabio Testi doesn't know until the very end.

Sgt. Klems (1971) - Expensive looking but incompetent action film with a slumming Peter Strauss.

Le Mans, Scorciatola per L'Inferno (1970) - Lang Jeffries and Edwige Fenech in a ripoff of the equally tedious McQueen film. Though the racing scenes have energy.

Sfida sul Fondo (1976)- Frederick Stafford in basically the Spy with the Cold Nose, but serious. Has an Alsatian as the lead. A timewaster. Clearly inspired by the success of White Fang movies in Europe at the time.

Sette Assassine dalle Labbra di Velluto (1969) - Rene Cardona Jnr. pic. Another tired rehash of Thunderball.

Sette ore di violenza per una soluzione imprevista (1973) - It is shoddily made, so nowhere near good enough to be a discovery, but an oddity. An Italian kung fu movie with George Hilton, or at least it is supposed to be. Mostly done at a dock.

Blood and Bullets (1976) - With a theme that tries to be Shaft, by notorious hack Alfonso Brescia and starring George Eastman, with barely any Jack Palance, godawful crime shite.

Italian Graffiti (1973) - This shouldn't be as interesting a film as it is. A 30s Chicago-set crime comedy with Ornella Muti and some bloke calling himself Alf Thunder that resembles an adult Bugsy Malone, it seems to be an average entry in the annals of sub-Spencer/Hill comedy. In many ways, it is. But look closer. Though set in Chicago, the exteriors were mainly filmed in Dublin. One time Fair City and Strumpet City actor Brendan Cauldwell has an uncredited but meaty role. But it isn't a good film.

Le Complot (1973) - Crime film with Jean Rochefort and Raymond Pellegrin, mostly forgettable bar an insane full-body burn.

 Kottan - Den tuchtigen gehort die Welt (1981) - Alias the Uppercrust, an Austrian TV spinoff with Nigel Davenport, Frank Gorshin and Broderick Crawford. Goes from sex comedy to crime thriller. Feels like an episode of Derrick.

The Last Escape (1972) - Martin Jarvis and John Collin stop opposite Stuart Whitman in dreadful stock footage-laden WW2 twaddle.

ORAPRONOBIS (1989) - Cannon-coproduced Filipino-French drama directed against the wishes of Cory Aquino, by Lino Brocka. Rather flat, and devoid of energy, like a TV movie.

Manila in the Claws of Light (1975)  - Not European, but by Brocka, but a better film. A bit rough, but it captures life in 1970s Manila perfectly.  Not my kind of thing, but the use of energetic quick-cut flashbacks is memorable.

17 (2 ref = 19, inc. Rue Morgue 1932, 20 inc. Mary and Max) - HK, British Intelligence, Sinbad, Q Planes, Fishmen, Malcolm, Ministry of Vengeance, Time After Time, Mother, bad action, the Pilot, Borderline, Hanky Panky, Desp. Target, Spook - bad

A Kid From Tibet (1992) - Yuen Biao as a monastic Indiana Jones. Jackie Chan cameos. Feels more like a Hong Kong Ferrero Rocher ad. To be honest, not a big fan of martial arts movies.

Island of the Fishmen (1979) - Basically my personal Rosebud. A ropey jungle adventure that cashes in on both the Island of Dr. Moreau and Warlords of Atlantis, with Barbara Bach in a big blonde wig, and Joseph Cotten as her mad scientist father. Richard Johnson plays the Dr. Montgomery-type, relishing his dialogue (he dubs himself), as it turns out he is more of a Captain Nemo. There's cannibal-style voodoo scenes, and killer rastas. The monster suits are variable, and cheap. Cotten only appears briefly but it's a dud. Johnson and Cotten are the only ones to take it seriously, even though both Bach and Italian lead Claudio Cassinelli dub themselves (at least in the original English dub). Now, when I was 8 or 9, I had a book from the school library, Top Ten Horror Stories from Scholastic. It has a section on mad scientists - Phibes, Quatermass, and a section on  a film called Screamers (1981), and "Dr. Marvin", a  widow's peaked, boggle-eyed drawing not much like either Johnson or Cotten. It mentioned sea-apes. For years, I searched this film, until I came across the synopsis. Screamers is the 1981 New World Pictures recut, with help from Jim Wynorski and Joe Dante. It adds a rather lush prologue with Cameron Mitchell and Mel Ferrer, and works better, thus is slightly less of a dud. It also cuts most of the voodoo nonsense. But keeps the rubbish miniatures.  Sergio Martino tries to do as much as he can as director. Too much.

Q Planes (1939 - B/W) - Ralph Richardson plays Steed in this proto-Avengers. Weird to see Olivier as a rip-roaring leather jacketed lantern-jawed serial-type pulpy Biggles-alike action hero. It's an odd film, unsure what it should be - Republic-style thrills or British wartime conspiracy thriller. Or a comedy. And never quite fits. John Laurie pops up (someone who did appear in the Avengers), talking very fast, which is odd. He seems to be doing a Groucho Marx--if-he-were-Scottish impression. There's a baffling comedy interlude involving a donkey and then a cookery course.

Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971) Hokey Price-Free Poe adap with Jason Robards. Opulent production values fail to highlight what is effectively a Harry Alan Towers production in all but producer. The most memorable part is the John Barry-ish Waldo De Los Rios score. Herbert Lom is shoehorned as the Phantom. Ironically considering the theatre setting, the (1932 - B/W) version has more of a Tod Slaughter vibe than this.

Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936 - B/W) - Actual Tod Slaughter. Feels quite stagey. Less of a film, more of a panto. Feels joyfully amateurish, but this sort of quota quickie is not quite my thing. It's just a stretched out variety act. Has a weirdly ambitious jungle interlude. Feels like people learning as they go along. Everyone around Slaughter tries to be earnest.

Eastern Condors (1987) - Typically trashy Vietnam nonsense with the novelty of it having a Chinese cast as the heroes. Sammo Hung's presence adds some weird tonal fudges.

British Intelligence (1940 - B/W) - A few unusually dynamic action sequences liven up this Boris Karloff propaganda thriller.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) - It takes a while to get going. And John Philip Law isn't a good fit. He's more of a villain. Tom Baker is good, but his accent is distracting. Douglas Wilmer is limited by his mask. The thing is, I also realise, it is written by Brian Clemens. Gordon Hessler directs. I know these are not director's films, that basically Harryhausen is the auteur, but the decision to have everyone talk in cod-Arab accents doesn't quite work. The monster-work is excellent, as always. And Robert Shaw is winning in his cameo. But I'm one of the few who thinks that Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) is an ever so slightly better film.

Ministry of Vengeance (1989) - Ex-Duke John Schneider plays a suspiciously young Vietnam Vet who is now a priest alongside George Kennedy and Ned Beatty. When his family are slaughtered by Arab terrorists, he and ex-commandant James Tolkan go into battle into "the Lebanon" for revenge. Style-less, cheaply made video-edited actioner. Yaphet Kotto plays a character called Norman Whiteside. This thing done slightly better as 1981's The Amateur.

Watching Time After Time (1979), and yes it is one of the great sci-fi films. Everything from the Victorian opening to the time-space continuum bits - the tunnel accompanied by radio, "the Scottish place" that serves pommes frites (McDonald's), the soundtrack,  David Warner as probably the best Jack the Ripper (especially sinister in double denim - "grass?"), the sign that reads "Exorcist IV". Mary Steenburgen is quite appealing, no wonder Malcolm McDowell actually married her. When I saw it originally, I found it a bit soppy, but no. It's a little overlong, but that's hardly worth complaining. Dublin-born Keith McConnell's accent sounds very West Brit as one of Wells' pals.

Malcolm (1986) - Initially avoided this in the belief it was a well-meaning if slightly mocking and ill-advised tale of an autistic bloke, but it is Australian and Australia made Mary and Max (2008, also with a Penguin Cafe Orchestra soundtrack), probably the best cinematic depiction of Asperger's. Colin Friels is a little petulant Father Dougal-ish. He is likeable if a bit annoying. And the inventions are fun. But the world around him doesn't quite feel heightened enough. It's trying for more of a Bill Forsyth vibe. John Hargreaves is appealingly louche.  There is a joy in it, but it feels slightly too small.  There is something annoyingly quirky about it. The heist is fun, with the robot dustbins,  and the dummy, and the ice cream van, but it feels too short and kind of flat.

Mother (1970) - Awful softcore nonsense with added Wally Cox, Victor Buono and Julie Newmar.

The Pilot (1980) - Flat TV-like drama about a drunk pilot with Cliff Robertson and Milo O'Shea.

Borderline (1980) - Bronson film "introducing Ed Harris", with a proper all-star cast of character actors, Bert Remsen, Michael Lerner, (A.) Wilford Brimley and John Ashton. It has a handheld documentary style, and a breathing Brimley as a corpse. It's a passable time-killer,  forgettable but watchable. Harris is quite handsome, when he had hair.

Desperate Target (1980)- Chris Mitchum tries to be Chuck Norris. Miserable, with dubbing so bad I'm sure the people involved aren't fluent in English.

Hanky Panky (1982) - Confused, not at all funny Hitchcockian comedy with Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner. Directed by Sidney Potter (Potter or Poitier?)

The Spook Who Sat By The Door (1973) - Ambitious though hard-to-like actioner. It is a humourless satire, a documentary-style expose on black CIA agents. No one is likeable, plus it's full of the annoying white counterculturals common in US action films of this era. .

Sunday 5 August 2018

Japanese roundup -31 Tidal Wave, The Seven Golden Men Strike Again, the Last War, Golden Arrow

Timeslip (1980) - I'm not really a samurai movie guy, but this is awesome. Sonny Chiba and a platoon of 1970s Japanese National Guard get sent back in time. And everyone dies. A bit overlong at over two hours. But it makes sense. It looks gorgeous. It also shows the negative consequences of 20th century weapons in this world. And has a nice Japanese pop soundtrack.

onibaba (1964 - B/W) - Atmospheric but not quite exciting. Almost neo-realist.

Frankenstein Conquers The World (1965) - It never quite reaches its possibilities. The faux-German WW2 touches are nice, but both Frankenstein and Baragon are forgettable. The idea of Frankenstein's monster as a toothy caveboy is endearing at first, but it doesn't say anything Frankenstein, bar the Karloffian haircut. Only the first ten minutes which recreate Hiroshima Toho-style are worth it.

Legend Of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds (1977) - Japanese country music concert is attacked by a plesiosaur and a pterodactyl. Incidental music is disco. Some good effects, but the close-up puppets are shocking. From Toei. It descends into a mess.

Goke - Bodysnatcher from Hell (1968) - Interesting effects in this Japanese disaster sci-fi thriller which goes from being quite staid and Twilight Zone-y to psychedelia, never quite settling in. The ending with the Mysterons-type aliens freezing time, turning everyone into rotten corpses and letting off a nuke is excellent.

Wolfguy (1975) - A typical Sonna Chiba actioner changes via hallucinations of a tiger, and he turns into a werewolf.  Some action, but rather nasty.

Nippon Chinbotsu (1973) - Toho disaster epic, released in the US by New World, with added bits of Lorne Greene, as Tidal Wave, this overlong at 2 hours 20 minutes but extraordinary visual tale is one of those Japanese ultra-disaster movies that although overtly long, once getting to the spectacle, does it beautifully. Tetsuro Tanba,  a regular in Japanese-made SF plays the PM. It's incredibly overlong, no wonder Corman cut the film to bits, but the non-dialogue scenes are photographed beauifully, a tragic beauty common in Japanese disaster films (clearly an effect of Hiroshima) that very few US films have (The Hindenburg comes to mind). Pity that so much of the film is exposition. Scenes of evacuation against eruptions. One thing the miniatures do is put little bits of movement amongst the models so you think you see people rushing through.

Adventures of Electric Rod Boy (1986) - Obnoxious semi-amateur nonsense from the bloke behind Tetsuo.

964 Pinocchio (1991) Video original shot-on-video cyberpunk nonsense.

August in the Water (1995) - Soppy teen romance with fantasy elements. Eisei "Doctor Who" Amamoto appears.

War in Space (1977) - Japanese attempt to cross-breed Star Wars and Atragon. Featuring elements of conspiracy thriller, it's colourful fun, and unusually portrays a mostly working class space crew. The alien designs are interesting from a sort of blue centurion (who resembles a Kree from Marvel Comics) to a horned Chewbacca-type. People give out about it, but it feels different, and it moves. Yes, it's formulaic and unoriginal and goes in circles, but it's got a Republic serial vibe. Most tokusatsu/hero stuff I feel are like Charles Band films, too adult for kids, too silly for adults. Not as pleasingly weird as Message From Space.

Ghost of the Hunchback (1965) - Toei horror, with Anglicised names in the credits, despite being Japanese.  Slow, atmospheric but not engrossing. Titular creature looks like Liza Minnelli.

Message From Space (1978) - Possibly one of the best Star Wars imitations, with Battle Beyond the Stars. It's so odd, set in a sort of alternate 20th century  where space battles and space pirates are common. Vic Morrow plays an alcoholic robosexual General. Sonny Chiba has a late-on role little more than a cameo, as Prince Hans, while Hiroyuki Sanada is the main Japanese hero for the main run. The dubbing is a little over-egged, especially as several of the actors are Americans who are clearly speaking with their own voices. It goes between tokusatsu silliness and something more grandiose and epic. But it looks expensive as hell, and it was. And even though it is a mess, it's full of little original bits, from a robot funeral to the design. As for Star Wars cash-ins, I say this is the best-looking. Battle Beyond is a better film as a whole, but this is the one with the best design. The opening scenes have an energy though. Swimming with space fireflies. Druids. A lizard-man design that looks very like the Lazuli in Battle Beyond the Stars.  It's the more Star Wars-y bits that feel a bit off, even though the model work and dog-fights are very un-Lucas. Kinji Fukasaku also adds some very fluid cinematography.  The opening theme is basically Leia's theme, but the rest of the soundtrack, stirring Japanese war anthems is not so Williamsesque. This is the TV series. Though the film was a flop, Sanada starred in a loosely adapted TV series, with Morrow replaced by a talking, cigarette holder smoking ape in a  cape.  And a blonde, sexy space princess as a baddie.  But it lost something. It felt silly. In other words, it lacked Kinji Fukasaku. And a budget. And was more straightforward spacey nonsense.

Curse of the Dog God (1977) - Nonsensical and unmemorable Toei horror, bar a scene where a dog is buried alive, head sticking out of the ground.

Yokai Monsters: 100 Monsters (1968) - Japanese mythological horror. Relatively restrained compared to its sequels. Features a woman with a long neck, a one-legged, one-eyed tongue-tickler umbrella monster. Fun for what it is.

Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare (1968)  - Daiei monster madness, weird cartoonish duck-billed ghost and carrot-headed Babylonian vampire.  Imagine the Island of Dr. Moreau with samurai, if made by the Krofft brothers. Insane and glorious.

Yokai Monsters: Along With Ghosts (1969) - The least of the series - takes 45 minutes until the action starts.  More of a samurai film than a horror-fantasy.

Terror Beneath the Sea (1966) - Garish rubbish, young Sonny Chiba in Irwin Allen-esque action-free undersea nonsense.

Ogon Batto (1966) - A spiral monster with a face zaps people. Ultraman via 40s serials via Fantomas. Very odd. Very silly. More young Chiba.

War of the Insects (1968) - Shochiku proto-Swarm. Stagey, badly-acted, not good. Most of the insects seem to be invisible.

Kwaidan (1964)  - Gorgeous but no horror film needs to be three hours.

Teito Monogatari (1988) - Surrealist bollocks with Tetsuro Tanba. Slow. Overlong.

GODZILLA 1984 (1984) - It's a bit flat. Not enough Godzilla. It's a bit televisual. I don't think I'm a kaiju fan particularly.

Godzilla vs Biollante (1989) - Kind of forgettable and darkly shot.

Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991) - The thing is with the 90s Godzilla films is that they are better made.  This is the same old plot. Some shots look a bit ropey.  It feels a bit childish,  with dinosaur models and stuff, but also like a bad syndicated TV show.  Despite Mecha-Ghidorah.

Godzilla vs Mothra (1992) is a bit daft, but it looks like a proper film. The cinematography is breathtaking.

Godzilla vs Destoroyah (1995) - More of the same. Bar a Hong Kong bit. But nothing special.

Godzilla 2000 (2000) - It looks good. But it's the same old, same old - told a bit earnestly.

Godzilla vs Megaguirus (2000) - Expensive looking load of nonsense. Seems to be okay, good effects, but it doesn't work. It's very noisy.

Godzilla Final Wars (2004) - Actually does something different by having CGI big budget effects to enable quite witty jokes in the middle of the carnage. Though it gets a bit weirdly arty.

Gamera - Guardian of the Universe (1995) - It tries to do something different, but it still can't escape the innate silliness of the original Gamera films, the stupidest of the kaiju canon. A snaggletoothed, rocket-arsed turtle fighting a creature with a head like a sex toy.   Some of the model work is a  bit static. Like most later kaiju, most of the fights are hard to decipher, being located at night, in the rain. It's atmospheric, it's muddy.

Thursday 2 August 2018

Norwegian Comedy - a brief encounter - 1

Thanks to Jaffa Cakes for Proust, the podcast where Tilt Araiza told of his elusive childhood memory of an ITV airing of NUTS - a Norwegian comedy compilation for the Rose D'Or, I've been aware of Goodies-esque trio KLM - Kirkvaag-Lystad-Mjoen.
Image result for brodrene dal 1982

Watching KLM's Brodrene Dal og Professor Drovel's Hemmelighet (1979) - very Goodiesish, what I find interesting is that it's seemingly by people who consider Benny Hill, Python and the Goodies all of the same ilk. Lots of Seltzer/Friedberg-type cameos by Dracula, a Fat Frankenstein's Monster, Snow White, Indian chiefs, pirates, a submarine interior that's clearly a back room. They find buried treasure, i.e. an egg-whisk. Jokes about a shipboard office.  They then happen upon a group of astronauts and a moon buggy.  It predates the chair on a mini bit from Mr. Bean. The fact our heroes prance about in tuxedos also mirrors the League of Gentlemen. There's a particularly Python-referencing bit where men in suits and fedoras have a pillow fight soundtracked by Liberty Bell. There seems to be a lot of unrelated sketches while our heroes paddle their way through a fjord. In the end, they find a giant egg which hatches to reveal  not a "yipsilus-ogle" or a "skrekk-dinobront" but the heroes' dead father.  It did raise a few laughs, unlike say the work of Loriot.

Brødrene Dal og Spektralsteinene (1982) - I've only seen bits of this, but with VT interiors, it feels much more Goodies, down to a bit with a genie.  With time travel, swashbuckling, knights, cowboys and mummies. Bits show the influence of Time Bandits, even down to a similar Robin Hood outfit and encounter.  There's Raiders-style Nazis, plenty of Blake's 7 level CSO, Doctor Who sound effects, and by the end, it is all very Come Back, Mrs. Noah. Not very funny, though. But two more series and a film followed years later. It did seem a lot cheaper than the previous serial, though.

Diplomatix (1985) - A KLM Montreux entry narrated by Peter Cook. Again, it's somewhere between the Goodies and Benny Hill. A lot of stock footage.

Noe Helt Annet (1985) -  The KLM Movie. Features a giant cake being delivered, then cut to a cinema watching this horror spoof by KLM.  There is an inventive scene where the lovers kiss  and rotate surrounded by different bits of stock footage and fake weather (possibly inspired by a similar scene in Harold Robbins' The Pirate), but apart from the opening and climax, it doesn't go for horror spoof. There is chaos in a restaurant.  There is a trial staged like a football match, a mental hospital, and a gothic horse and carriage involved in a climax. Twist is the vampire is too much of a crybaby to bite his victims, and then after a fourth wall break,  we cut to him lying in the snow. It's a sort of Norwegian Bloodbath at the House of Death, but in most places,  it seems to owe more to Stripes or Rising Damp - the Movie or even Shock Treatment.