Saturday 22 September 2018

54/51 inc. Westworld - Freaks, Christmas, North Sea Hijack, Canadian SF, Twilight's Last Gleaming, Visitor, Wise Blood, 12 Chairs, Breaker Morant, Blunden, 60s comedy, Euro-action, 70s horror, Sammy Going South

Tried watching NFB pirate films, but they're all the same.

Live Wire (-1992) - Pierce "Peter" Brosnan fights terrorists using unwitting suicide bombers. A lot of pre-9/11 stuff made about how the US has never had a terrorist incident.  Ben Cross does "the Rickman" role. Dareisay it, I'm not the biggest fan of Mr. Brosnan. He's to Roger Moore what Big Tom is to Johnny Cash. Clement von Franckenstein plays a mad scientist with his unique "I want to be Herbert Lom" acting style. Only lasted 15 minutes.

Scrooged (1988) - The faux-shows are good, but I found it at the same time, sentimental and obnoxious, and a bit too 80s comedy "wacky". The Elfman score doesn't help.

Tried watching A Christmas Story (1983), and I understand why it's unknown here. It's that very American sentimentality. But there's bits of weird humour that kind of gel with me, the lamp. Darren McGavin's great. It works in bits, but other times, the more kiddy stuff doesn't quite do with me. Some of the vignettes are great, but it's bitty.

Freaks (1932 - B/W)  - It feels incomplete, for obvious reasons. It's not a good film. It's almost a proto-reality show. But it is fascinating.

Norman's Awesome Experience (1989) - Canadian attempt by the makers of Lexx to do a bland if sometimes attractive Canadian Bill and Ted-via-Asterix. See also Terminal City Ricochet (1990), a similar Canadian video-sci-fi "comedy" that doesn't work.

Twilight's Last Gleaming (1976) - Probably Aldrich's best film, shot like a cinematic comic book, excellent use of split-screens, a incredible cast even though it is overlong.

The Visitor (1979) - It is way too overlong, but it is so extraordinary. John Huston as a Polish-named Time Lord sent by Franco Nero as Space Jesus to rescue a female devilchild, from Mel Ferrer as a corporate representative of Satine. Shelley Winters as a good Mrs. Baylock. Glenn Ford and Sam Peckinpah appearing. Lots of nonsense involving birds. Lance Henriksen as a stepfather. Kareem Abdul Jabaar as himself. The epoch of Italian exploitation.

The Food of the Gods (1976) - Most of Bert I Gordon's stuff I'm not a fan of, but this although quite dreary has an attractive, unusual Canadian setting and British Columbia locations, though the silliness of the giant chickens does tonally crack that. It is better than Gordon's silly Joan Collins Floridian ant-camp Empire of the Ants (1977) and the TV movie-ish faux-Gordon cowpoke drudgery of Kingdom of the Spiders (-1977).

Wise Blood (1979) - More Huston. Not quite my film. It feels a bit tonally awkward. The setting seems to be  an afterthought. It feels like it should be the 50s, but the budget wasn't there.

The 12 Chairs (1970) - Early Mel Brooks comedy, forgotten. It's odd. Frank Langella and Dom Deluise try to help/hinder Ron Moody in finding a diamond sewn into one of the titular seats. Very Jewish, with lots of Benny Hill-like spedup chases. It's a bit too Fiddler on the Roof for my tastes. Moody and Langella's styles don't quite gel. Nicholas "Rumbold" Smith pops up. It's an oddity. Not that funny. But it is an interesting folly. The finale includes some Brooks madness.

Amazing Mr. Blunden (1972)-  "you skinny slut!" Seen by the previous generation as a classic. It's almost.  It's overwhelmingly charming (the end credits!) but sometimes it's a little too genteel. Diana Dors is a little too hammy. She's not a convincing threat (plus Madeleine Smith is too likeable, and Dave Lodge is wasted). Bette Davis was considered for Wickens. And I think she would have been more convicingly monstrous, especially if she had done her "posh voice". Dors is a little panto, a bit Grotbags. The plot's a little clumsy too, the whole grave and potion stuff padded. The time travel stuff doesn't make sense. Lawrence Naismith is so brilliant, though, as is Graham Crowden.  I remember it being considerably darker. If they had gone for the darkness that colours the exciting and rather creepy climax, rather than slapstick...  Garry Miller plays a time-traveller called Jamie, having done so in the titular role in a blatant Doctor Who knockoff the year before.

Tried Breaker Morant (1980) again, and it's not quite my film. It's well-acted, well-made, but slow as hell. It's a war film, an unusual one, but still a war film.

Manchu Eagle Murder Caper Mystery (1975) - Altmanesque comedy rubbish with Gabriel Dell, quite well-preserved for his age and Barbara Harris.

Roaring Fire (1982) - Early vehicle for Hiroyuki Sanada as a cowboy warrior.  Very odd. Good action but contains Frat comedy,  Japanese Nazis, Sonny Chiba and a ventriloquist's dummy clearly voiced by a woman.

Cancel My Reservation (1972) - Interesting for the wrong reasons, Bob Hope's final starring vehicle, pushing seventy,  a throwback old dark house vehicle with added preachy subplot about Indian land rights. Odd tone. Cameos from Bing, John Wayne and Johnny Carson, all looking adrift in the very low budget, sub-TV surroundings. Typical 60s/early 70s comedy programmer, TV-ish production values, ageing star, jokes that don't quite land.

Law and Disorder (1974) Low-key, low-laugh, plotless wanders. Wambaugh-ish cop comedy with Carroll O'Connor and Ernest Borgnine, weirdly produced by Michael Medwin and Albert Finney.

Perils of Pauline (1967) - Terminally camp, overwrought pilot, theatrically released, Terry-Thomas in Dick Dastardly mode, Pat Boone as the hero, white jungle tribesmen and more in excruciating "comedy".

Pyro - The Thing Without A Face (1964) - Partly British-shot Spanish erotic thriller/horror with Barry Sullivan, sub-Bava lighting with Eurospy turgid action and a House of Wax aesthetic. Climax similar to Horrors of the Black Museum.

Le Gentleman of Cocody (1965) - Bland but attractive Jean Marais actioner. Some neat stunts, but sub-Bond hijinks.

The Steagle (1971) - Baffling countercultural com with Richard Benjamin changing identity and blowing up a western town. The PD print doesn't help either.

The Ski-Bum (1971) - Charlotte Rampling in countercultural snow-dung.

The Deadly Trap (1971) - Bland, nonsensical almost-giallo by Rene Clement, with Faye Dunaway and Frank Langella.

And Hope To Die (1972) - Jean Louis Trintignant, Robert Ryan and Aldo Ray in Rene Clement heist in Canada. Too slow to make an impact. Too long, too.

Rider on the Rain (1970) - A third Clement. Charles Bronson in a more serious film than usual. Not quite my thing. Star Marlene Jobert is Eva Green's mammy. Tiresome relationship drama.

End of the Game (1975) - Jon Voight and Maximillian Schell in the latter's vanity project. Giallo-ish. But forgettable. Even the end car flip and the assassination on an airport conveyor belt fail to register. Perhaps hard-done by the grainy print and lack of English version.

North Sea Hijack (1979) - I want to like this film much more than I do,because Moore clearly relishes the role, but he's rather too unlikeable. Ffolkes is not a comic monster, he's just a ridiculous grotesque. And the hostage situation is rather boring, "Norway" is clearly Galway, Anthony Perkins is a good solid villain, but it almost feels too small. Something with the scale of Raise The Titanic may have suited, rather than the hostage of Jack Watson with a hurdy-gurdy accent. "Both my parents died in childbirth".

Le Marginal (1983) - Belmondo and Henry Silva in half-hearted French actioner.

The Master Touch (1973) - Kirk Douglas in Typical Eurocrime. Good chases but little else.

Hard Contract (1969) - James Coburn in bland Eurothriller. Like a lot of these thrillers, dated.

CIA contro KGB (1978) - Dreary but attractively shot suspense gubbins with Dennis Hopper, Joseph Cotten, Bruno Cremer, et al. Sudden ending.

Fuzz (1972) - It looks good, but it's tonally all over the place, being an Ed McBain adap.

Last Embrace (1979) - Jonathan Demme's slavishness to Hitchcock ends up with something rather boring indeed, a sort of De Palma photocopy.  The climax is interesting, but with a confused antagonist, it just looks a bit silly.

The Hospital (1971) - Altmanesque in some ways, Diana Rigg and George C. Scott fail to liven up a script.

7 Women (1966) - John Ford's Tenko. A little stagey, not quite my sort of film. And some of the yellowface is laughable. And there's a shoehorned in cutesy music number. But it is unfairly neglected. Anne Bancroft as a feminist action heroine is something. The end with her dressed as a geisha is both laughable and oddly striking.

Grizzly (1976) - It feels like a family mountain adventure movie, and not a good one, with shoehorned violence. All rather hopeless.

Prophecy (1979) - Flawed, slow and dull, Grizzly with a bigger budget and an ecological element. Robert Foxworth tries his best, Talia Shire looks like Anita Harris, Armand Assante is grossly miscast, and the difference between studio and British Columbia is obvious. The baby mutant bear is a neat visual, but it's so forgettable otherwise.

Orca (-1977) -  Rewatching it. How stupid is Richard Harris' character? The character does seem authentically Irish (most of which I imagine was down to Harris), but he's such an eejit, that it becomes tiring. It's not that he's a top o'the morning stereotype. No, he is exactly the sort of person you avoid in a village, because you know they'll put you in trouble and always blame you. He's like a proto-Rubberbandit, Sillybilly Boathouse. How does he think he has a chance with Charlotte Rampling? Some of the lighting is very gialloesque. The soundtrack is great, but it just needed a rewrite. It's slightly too serious for its own good.

Rewatching Westworld (1973). I've never really felt for it. I always found it kind of cold. The Medievalworld and Romanworld I slightly prefer, but they feel chintzy. I know it's an amusement park, but it feels too chintzy. Even the Medieval robots have American accents. James Brolin is annoying.

History of the World Part 1 (1980) - The prehistory stuff is nonsense. The Roman stuff and the Spanish Inquisition musical number are great, the French Revolution is not good until Milligan turns up being silly. The Universal Little Europe lot is especially obvious in the Roman scenes. There's 19th century-style buildings in Rome! Still, Jews  in space.

Fiend (1980) - Typical Don Dohler dreck, bar the interesting Readybrek glow effect.

Dark Echo  (1977) - Eastern European horror with Karin Dor and Department S' Joel Fabiani. Dreary, with synth-soundtracked ski footage shoehorned in, as are a skull-faced captain, gypsies, fishing, Satanists and yet it is still boring. 

 Screams Of A Winter Night (1979) - Was this shot on local TV news videotape?   

Night of Bloody Horror (1970) - Typical amateurish US independent horror dreck.

Dr. Heckel and Mr. Hype (1980) - Oliver Reed in bemusing Cannon answer to Love at First Bite, about a monstrous Noo Yawk-accented scientist who turns into an English gent. Prolific small actor Tony Cox makes an early appearance as a leather-jacketed pint-sized tough.  Jackie Coogan is a cop.  Being a Cannon film, Yehuda Efroni is shoehorned in.

Shadow of Chikara (1977) - Joe Don Baker in a rather dull western posing as a horror.

The Pack (1977) - Joe Don Baker versus dogs. Better than the same year's David McCallum film Dogs.  Features a creepy treehouse. Still ridiculous, and rather dull, and saddled with uninteresting characters, but attractively shot. Directed by Robert Clouse, who seems lost.  The end shot of slow-motion canines climbing stairs and getting burnt alive almost as ridiculous as anything in Night of the Lepus. Somehow, they kill the other dogs but merely tie up their own dog, which is cured unlike the others. Soppy end theme.

Nocturna - Granddaughter Of Dracula (1979) - A strange oddity, "Armenian"/French-Vietnamese belly dancer Nai Bonet's vanity project casts herself as John Carradine's reluctant grandchild. She is terrible, moreso than bland, supposedly straight but  very camp gay Aussie stud Anthony Hamilton, somewhere between Joe Longthorne and Barry McKenzie. Yvonne De Carlo plays Dracula's ex-wife, which means she's technically Lily Munster's mother.  Sponsored by Sunkist, ironically. Gloria Gaynor allegedly conned into doing the theme. The Bonet family crop up in the credits a lot, alongside future director Robert Harmon and  future composer Joel "son of Jerry" Goldsmith.

Frankenstein all'italiana (1975) - Comedy with Aldo Maccione. Ropey, has a curly-haired doctor and a monster makeup not unlike Peter Boyle's, showing an attempt to remake Brooks. An American flag shoehorned in raises a single laugh, as does an out-of-tone Hallelujah. But these aren't intentional titters.

Man With the Transplanted Brain (1972) - Dry, forgettable French ripoff of Seconds with Jean Pierre Aumont.

Don't Look In The Basement (1973) - All the worse, all the more stupid considering it's set in a mental home.

Blood And Lace (1971) - Gloria Grahame in forgettable, bloody proto-slasher set in a home for the world's oldest orphans.

The Love Butcher (1975) - Quite odd split-personality horror, attractively shot, but so ridiculous and inept in other respects, it resembles a vaudeville giallo.

The Hearse (1980) - Bar one dream sequence, this solo vehicle for Trish Van Devere fails to deliver.

Sammy Going South (1963) - It's beautifully shot, the kid's a bit hard taking used to, the story takes it time, Edward G. Robinson doesn't appear until over an hour in, though he is great, Harry H. Corbett's basically doing Air Ace Harold Steptoe.  Though the whole hunting subtext is a little unfortunate.  It's a mess. And the story of a boy and his newfound father figure is kind of lost within.  But it's a beautiful mess.

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