Friday 10 August 2018

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. .

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