Thursday 11 October 2018

Mystery Action-adventure - Hannibal Brooks At The Top of The World 53 - El Norte, noir, Alraune,Gasbags, Fruit Machine, Devil at Four O'Clock, volcanoes, Euro-action, yellow peril

Hannibal Brooks (1969) - Such a strange film, likeable but hard to understand. Michael Winner's family film. Oliver Reed and Michael J. Pollard in parts that the other should play.  An awkward mix of comedy, animal adventure and war actioner.  Also, quite brutal (it kills off the female lead, young Sheila Keith-alike Karin Baal),  while the fourth wall-breaking sing-al-long musical conclusion is almost from a different type of film.

Cash On Demand (1961 - B/W) - Hammer second feature, well-played by Cushing and Morell, but can't escape its theatrical roots until the end. Slightly confusing seasonal thing.

S*P*Y*S (1974) - Bemusing cross between Altman and The Tall Blond Man... Oddly small and televisual. Joss Ackland seems to be channelling Bruce Boa. Thinks explosions are jokes. Sutherland and Gould feel too big for it. Even the theme, a bit of muzak with the word "Spies" uttered three times over the course of the music, feels unfinished.

The Gorilla (1939 - B/W) - The Ritz Brothers are interchangeable, performances are overwrought and Lugosi tries to find dignity in this misbegotten old dark farce.

The Island At The Top Of The World (1974) - I really like this Disney adventure, even though it does meander.  Donald Sinden is great as the determined Sir Anthony Ross, and even America's answer to Frank Bough, the John Craven-esque breakfast TV host David Hartman is good in a role that might have gone to someone more Doug McClure ish, but is less of an action man and more of a professor, with the action going to Mako, who looks surprisingly young and attractive, as an unfortunate comedy Eskimo (their word, not mine), whose character varies between brave warrior and comic coward, with his unique voice wasted on pidgin-speak. Jacques Marin is also fun as the French airship captain. However, once they get to the titular island, Astragard, surprisingly late into the running time, the film kind of falters. As the Vikings speak unsubtitled Norse and are all played by anonymous Norwegian actors (including future star of the Last Place on Earth, Sverre Anker Ousdal), they fail to make much of an impression. Perhaps, it needed a better villain. But it is well made, unlike say, AIP's similar attempts like 1961's Master Of The World, and though there is a poodle,it is not as goofy as some of the Irwin Allen efforts.

The Maltese Falcon (1941 - B/W) - Sorry, but I'm not feeling it. It feels too earnest, not grand enough. Plus an almost perfect cast, though slightly marred by a slight bit of writing. 37-year-old Elisha Cook Jr., who was never young as "The Kid" or "The Boy" Perhaps, because of my dislike to noir.

The Internecine Project (-1974) - Written by Jonathan Lynn, of all people. Begins in a fictitious UK TV news show. "The World This Week", has rats sonically blasted. Harry Andrews is an appealingly sinister presence. James Coburn is a sexist pig with a hatred of crusading lady journalists, Lee Grant the one who takes his fancy, her plasticated face photographed in soft-focus. She's like a Beverly Sister or Wee Jimmy Krankie - looks young from a distance. Some obvious day for night shooting. Nice twist involving the poisoned notebook, and lovely 70s photography. But it's lacking action.

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1983) - A technical marvel, but both Steve Martin and Carl Reiner are overrated talents. Reiner actually feels like a 40s character actor in his cameo, but Martin is out of place. And far too many tit jokes.

Cloak and Dagger (1946 - B/W) - Gary Cooper in WW2 resistance spy noir. A lot of these WW2 noirs just blend into one, I'm afraid, especially the "foreign" ones like Macao, Tropic  Zone (1953 - Reagan! In Color!), Singapore (1947 - B/W - young Roland Culver in a Hollywood film - though I understand my maternal grandad's dislike of Fred MacMurray), etc.

The White Dawn (1974) - Lou Gossett, Warren Oates and Timothy Bottoms in rather cold (in both terms of the word), Disney true-life Adventure-type docudrama by Philip Kaufman.

Death Wish V (1994) - Bronson looks like his own waxwork. The film resembles a mafia miniseries from the time. Robert Joy's turn as a transvestite named Freddie Garrity  resembles David Duchovny in Twin Peaks gone wrong.

The Black Camel (1931 - B/W) - Warner Oland's first film as Charlie Chan, start of the Fox/Monogram series. Bela Lugosi appears. Surprisingly dynamic considering the period.  Lots of locations.

Charlie Chan at the Opera (1936 - B/W) - Chan's proverbs irritate me. Karloff's great, as usual. The opera bits are the most dynamically directed.

Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum (1940 - B/W) - Sidney Toler instead of Warner Oland, again the character can be an irritating presence, especially as his sons are played by Keye Luke and in this film, Victor Sen Yung, and are always portrayed as being squarely American.

Charlie Chan at Treasure Island (1939  - B/W) - More fun, but we don't see much of the titular location. all the Chan films of the Fox era seem to maintain the same rough quality and appearance. Has Cesar Romero as a magician and a masked, turbanned big bad - "Dr. Zodiac". Toler as Chan a little more hard to buy than Oland.

Charlie Chan in London (1934 - B/W) - Still feels transitory. Oland is weirdly jolly, and his distinctive way of speaking not quite ingrained. A young "Raymond Milland" pops up.  Limited sets and murky lighting.

Charlie Chan In Panama (1940 - B/W) - Attractive but increasingly rote.

Dead Men Tell (1941 - B/W)- Charlie Chan versus a hook-handed killer. A bit of a slog. Atmospheric.

Charlie Chan in Rio (1941 - B/W) - Goes on autopilot after a musical number, could easily be set anywhere else. See also Charlie Chan in Paris (1935 -B/W)

Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise (1940 - B/W) - At times, I see Chan's sons almost being his carer. They're the real brains of the operation.

The Jade Mask (1945 - B/W) - Monogram Toler, who now looks like sinister, latter-day Rolf Harris.

CHANDU THE MAGICIAN (1932 - B/W) - Ambitious timekiller, now old hat. Lugosi as serial baddie in Egypt. Has great fun with astral projection and "little people".

Terror of the Tongs (1961) - Lush, expensive looking Yellow Peril hokum from Hammer. Seedy,  with the likes of Roger Delgado and Charles Lloyd Pack in dodgy eye-liner as Chinese folk,  Christopher Lee doing a dry run for his Fu Manchu. Most of the Chinese characters are only identifiable as so by their clothes and/or moustaches. Ending has Lee knifed by Delgado. A better, colour redo of the earlier, inferior Hammer Asian actioner, The Stranglers of Bombay (1960 - B/W). Which later spawned the likes of the colourful but turgid European adventures such as the Peter van Eyck starring Kidnapped to Mystery Island (1964).

M (1951 - B/W) - Creepy, atmospherically shot but alienating remake. No one's really likeable. Losey often has this problem.

The Big Sleep (1946-  B/W)  - I've said it before, but I prefer the Winner version. Bogie comes across as a dick. Why do women keep calling him "cute"? It's well-made, but the thing with noir is everything kind of ends up looking the same.

The Penguin Pool Murder (1932 - B/W) - Edna May Oliver a ridiculously overbearing caricature of a spinster as Hildegarde Withers.

Rome Armed To The Teeth (1976) - Typically noisy Eurocrime that despite interesting views of Rome, c.1975 and a few interesting pursuits, is rendered nonsensical by the typical mix of thoughtless sex and violence that colours these films.

The Russia House (1990) - Lovely cinematography, but quite slow, not quite my thing. Ken Russell's incredibly odd performance is a highlight, though. Typical LeCarre film adaptation problems of incomprehensible plot. Jerry Goldsmith does Roy Budd.

The Wages of Fear (1953 - B/W) - The South American setting feels stagey. The quarry could be anywhere. Well-made but it feels mostly cold. The ending is almost mocking.  Like its remake, it just stands there, watching. Hell Drivers (1957 -B/W) is a better encapsulation of the trucker's life.

Sorcerer (1977) - Better than Wages of Fear. Slow, cold, clinical, Friedkin's eye ensuring you're never quite there, but it looks gorgeous. Perhaps works better as a cinema experience. But there are moments that spark - the burnt corpses, if one embraces it almost as a documentary, it works. But there's a reason why it flopped. The ending, while more uplifting, stills feels quite seedy, but in a way, perhaps more rewarding. At least, Royston survives. It feels like a European film, in its mix of wonder and cack-handedness.

Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) - Giallo-ish nonsense, Tommy Lee Jones as Ivan Rassimov. Remembered  Rene Auberjonois being more of a threat.

The Glass Sphinx (1967) - A slumming, paunchy, make-up caked, cardigan-clad Robert Taylor and Anita Ekberg in this Bontempi-soundtracked Italian potboiler. More Bula Quo than Quo Vadis. Lots of zoom shots befitting this kind of talentless Italian schlock.

Alraune (1952 - B/W)  - Depressing, unexciting German melodrama starring Hildegarde Knef as a homunculus, Karl Bohm and Erich Von Stroheim.

El Norte (1983) - Feels like a PBS drama, because it is, crossed with Koyaanisqatsi.

Greed In The Sun (1964 - B/W) - Baffling Wages of Fear-alike with Ventura and Belmondo.

The Devil at Four O'Clock (1961) - Slow, meandering disaster movie, one of various dull South Seas pictures of the era,  with a solid cast portraying uninteresting characters. The characters (Spencer Tracy as a priest, Frank Sinatra, Kerwin Mathews as another priest) are not varied enough. Like most volcano movies, it takes too long to get there.

Juggernaut (1936 - B/W) -Boris Karloff in stagy drawing room thriller about a mad scientist.

The Fruit Machine (1988) - Strange film, Granada-made murder mystery/gay coming of age romance/magic realist fantasy. Craig Charles' brother and his mate see a transvestite Robbie Coltrane get beheaded with a sword by Julian Sands, sorry Bruce Payne (they're the same man - in two bodies). Robert Stephens better here than he was as Sherlock.  Astonishing performance from Kim Christie, in her only role, as Charles' ex-actress mother married to the much younger Louis "Mick Johnson" Emerick.  The whole subplot about a woman obsessed with the highlight of her life being something that never happened (her recollection of Saturday Night, Sunday Morning being directed by John Schlesinger) possibly influenced Little Shitain's Mollie Sugden subplot. It's a bit self-consciously arty and irritating, especially  Charles. Julie Graham pops up as a teen.  It becomes a music video by the end. The bloke from the Statoil ads turns up with a dolphin.

Where The Spies Are (1965) - Desperate, dull David Niven spy caper torn between being Le Carre-ish and fantasy comedy. Sole point of interest being product placement for a Topo Gigio record. All feels very telly, with Ronald Radd as would-be chief baddie. Typical Eurospy.

Dimension 5 (1966) - Jeffrey Hunter versus "Big Buddha" Harold Sakata in actionless spy film. See also A Man Called Dagger (1967), another hamfisted American spy film, even worse than any comparable Eurospy film that at least had some continental glamour about it.

Bought in Network sale.

Unearthly Stranger (1963 - B/W) - Being a woman equals an alien, according to this . John Neville is a rather irritating, snobby lead. Him and Philip Stone are all "you know what women are like." Patrick Newell is an interesting, almost Troughtonesque presence. Literally has the line, "what is love?".

Night Birds (1930 - B/W) - Strange mix of stagey mystery and stagier but more visual nightclub acts. Written by Miles Malleson. A rare lead for future Hollywood Brit dependable Miles Malleson. Though the sprinkler attack is fun.

Death At Broadcasting House (1935 - B/W) - Young Jack Hawkins and real life BBC honcho Val Gielgud (not as himself, and yes, brother of John) in this interesting BBC-set murder mystery. NOT GREAT, has dated. Again stagey, lots of awkward pauses, being  an early talkie. Has an unconvincing strangling. References Reith and other BBC personalities. Elisabeth Welch plays herself. Feels less sensationalist than it should be. Pervy comedian character.


The Sandwich Man (1966) - Odd galaxy of stars with Michael Bentine shepherding half of Equity. It's an interesting folly, but it makes no sense. It's like those Eric Sykes ventures, but with dialogue. It keeps stopping and starting, in an attempt to keep momentum that isn't there. It is definitely a snapshot of 60s Britain, but it's so bitty. It stops for Norman Wisdom as a priest. There's some annoying gravy browning-Indian characters, who get thrown a bus by Caribbean bus conductor Earl Cameron, who unlike Burt Kwouk and Roger Delgado, is billed amongst the main stars (the film having a multicultural undercurrent that's slightly undermined by some of the other casting) and above the likes Peter Jones, John Le Mesurier, Dave Lodge,  Warren Mitchell, Aubrey Morris, Sydney Tafler, Frank Finlay and indeed Leon Thau and Hugh Futcher (as "De Sikhers"), as a big guest cameo turn. Cameron is putting more into it than most of the cast, as the angry bus conductor. It's basically just an excuse for cramming in a cast.

Gigot (1962)  - Tatty Tatiesque passion project for Jackie Gleason as a mute French tramp, impressively shot but not especially funny or poignant.

Rewatched Things to Come. How odd that Margaretta Scott, despite being a youth still is recognisably in voice and mannerisms, dear Mrs. Pumphrey. Probably has a cyborg Tricky Woo. Weird seeing a young woman talk like that. Still a visual treat.

Gasbags (1941 - B/W)- Spirited if mainly baffling vehicle for the Crazy Gang who land their barrage balloon chip shop on the Western Front, in the belief it is Ireland and the Wehrmacht are the IRA. Future Hollywood Brits Torin Thatcher and Anthony Eustrel turn up as Nazis.  Moore Marriott has a tattoo of a map on his back. Bud Flanagan's songs somewhat tearjerking. It gets increasingly strange, with the boys disguised as Nazis, then trees. The trouble with the Crazy Gang is that there's too many of them.

Sunstruck (1972) - Harry Secombe in what initially seems to be a bawdy comedy, but is actually an inconsequential, forgettable family-friendly light drama about a homesick Welsh teacher who goes to the outback after his girlfriend leaves him for Donald Houston. Derek Nimmo appears at the end for thirty seconds.

Attempted Movie, Movie, Honky Tonky Freeway and irritating Granada Bless This House-with-satire-not-jokes All The Way Up with Warren Mitchell. All Network sale reliables.

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