Monday 1 October 2018

Ramblings part 2 yearly count - 2018 - 1109/1279 2017 - c.300

206 - July + 23 refs    June 73 + 52 refs  = 125/138    Jan = 91 Feb = 157 + 27+ish      March = 67  April = 133/176   May = 106/118

2017 c.300

Realised there's very few 80s horror films I genuinely love - Gremlins, Halloween III, American Werewolf. The Stuff. The Howling's bits of, yes.  Most fall into three categories, fun, reasonable timekillers, artsy-fartsy and plain duds. As you were saying, It becomes all very slick and heartless somehow. Even something like Waxwork. And also - a major reason, 80s American teens annoy the hell out of me. There's elements of films I live - the opening of the Monster Squad (and Duncan Regehr's a good Dracula), McDowall in Fright Night, Elmer in Brain Damage, Belial in Basket Case, the Killer Klowns from Outer Space themselves but not so much the film, bits of Creepshow (but even then Romero is overrated, and apart from Amicus, EC comics translations don't work well as they're all about a single image), bits of the 80s Blob, bits of the Funhouse, the attacks, the opening and Henry Silva's bits in Alligator (1980), elements of fun slashers, Bloody Birthday, Strange Behaviour and Motel Hell  the slashers especially, a few moments shine - but the slasher is a genre where every film is so fragmented), most of Omen III - The Final Conflict (I know, it's not great but...), Frank Finlay's performance and the hitch-hiking scenes in Lifeforce, but a lot of it doesn't gel, and a lot of those films have 80s teens. And also re:that 80s zaniness of things like Re-Animator, I think a friend said that that HBO Tales from the Crypt mix of prosthetics and jokes doesn't translate well here.
And I like Miracle Mile (1989), that's a different kind of horror - but Cherry 2000 is silly, typical post-apocalyptic tosh, where even the imaginative bits are rather stupid.Miracle Mile strikes the balance between intelligence and entertainment, And the 80sness isn't too overwhelming, and it has a good cast.
There's films I like for their so-bad-it's-good quality, Pieces (1982) a rare 80s horror entry, Pieces,
Even something like Dead and Buried (1982) I find the California sunlight ruins it, it also feels slightly too much like an episode of an 80s cop show.  I think TVCream described it as being Lorimar-esque, which is a very nice way of putting it. Then again, zombie films I find mostly boring. And of the British horror films of the era, The Keep is badly-made and badly-written, Xtro would have made a fine anthology segment - but the good weirdness (the clown, the Action Man) is overwhelmed by the bad weirdness (the alien stuff), Venom (1982) would have made a neat Tale of the Unexpected, but is overlong, the more Americanised stuff is forgettable, i.e. The Sender, the Hunger, Slayground, Scream For Help and yes, Hellraiser. 1/3 of Screamtime works, there's stuff that I did see but didn't register - The Godsend (1980), Dream Demon, and the Company of Wolves, which registered simply because of the My Weekly that appears. Even the shite 70s British horror films have some charm, or at least, curiosity value.
Weirdly, the 90s, there's more films there, possibly - Hardware, the Witches, the Addams Family/Addams Family Values, Braindead, Matinee, Funny Bones, Mars Attacks! but even then, most of those are borderline...
Yes, I don't like Halloween, but I like III. See also - The Adventures of Barry McKenzie is alright, but Barry McKenzie Holds His Own is astonishing.

Realised that outside of Saddles, Frankenstein, Wonka, Smarter Brother and Silver Streak, most of Gene Wilding (it's what my grandad called him)'s films I find only slightly enjoyable. Stir Crazy (1980) is okay, as is The Producers (1968), and the likes of Frisco Kid, World's Greatest Lover and even Start the Revolution Without Me have not quite appealed for a full watch (see also similar non-Wilder fare like Johnny Dangerously - which from the trailer, struck me as an adult Bugsy Malone). They reek too much of comedy swashbuckler, a genre I've never quite appealed.

I realise the reason most of the "great horrors" alienate me, Les Diaboliques, The Shining, Night of the Living Dead, Carrie, Halloween, The Exorcist, Dawn Of The Dead, Nightmare On Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw, Psycho, Rosemary's Baby, Don't Look Now, Alien, Predator, the Evil Dead, Poltergeist (well, to an extent - I then saw the film and realised  how Spielberg-y it was), both Terminators, Robocop, Hellraiser, Silence of the Lambs, Blue Velvet, The Usual Suspects and Goodfellas (they were lumped into "scary moments"), was because because I saw them in full I had already seen them in digest form in various clips, and so I had seen the films without seeing the films, and having tasted the films, I didn't want more. Predator I saw on E4 or Sky, and I liked it enough. It's an amiable enough sci-fi programmer, but nothing more... It's got a good monster and a good cast, but not much else. And the setting is slightly too remote.
The Omen, American Werewolf, Jaws, bits of The Thing are the exceptions - and the Wicker Man, kind of, even though I don't see it as a horror - but as a rather daffy musical comedy.
It's also why it took me a long time to watch the whole canon of Universal horrors. I saw the Mummy, Frankenstein and Dracula at 8, the latter two had documentaries which also briefed the whole saga - and served the whole Frankenstein and Dracula canon in digest form. The Mummy doc didn't have this, and I didn't see the Wolf Man itself until I was 15, even though I had glimpsed/digested the sequels. And when I saw the films, I really was rewatching them.

This also happened to a lot of "the great canon films". By the time I was 10, I'd sampled Midnight Cowboy, Bullitt, Taxi Driver, various Hitchcocks, the Rocky, Rambo and Dirty Harry series, Cape Fear, Bonnie and Clyde, The Great Escape (that and numerous bank holidays) Mommie Dearest, Night of the Hunter, White Heat (actually I think I caught it on TG4 around that time), Little Caesar (not a gangster man, any road), the Godfather (also my mam had sat me down to watch it but I got tired), the Dollars trilogy, A Clockwork Orange (also read the book despite being about 6) - Mum was horrified when she saw me asking what words meant, Chinatown (duh...), All About Eve, Manchurian Candidate, Casablanca, High Noon, Grapes of Wrath, Schindler's List, Norma Rae, Gandhi, In the Heat of the Night, On The Waterfront, The Adventures of Robin Hood (well, I caught that on RTE around that time), All the President's Men, the Big Sleep (again not a hard-boiled man), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (what rubbish), Double Indemnity (not a noir man), Tarzan the Ape Man, Boys' Town (well actually was Grandad sitting me down as well), The French Connection, Die Hard, Cool Hand Luke, Sgt. York (not a western man per se), Serpico, True Grit, Animal House, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the Philadelphia Story, the Jerk, the Producers, many of the Ealing stuff (Kind Hearts I find wastes Guinness, the rest more light dramas than anything), Porky's, Fast Times at Ridgemont High (okay, not "great", but still pivotal), Life of Brian/Holy Grail, Dr. Strangelove, The Naked Gun (but not Airplane! - that is great, and a Sky 1 watch), Some Like It Hot, M*A*S*H, and all the 80s folderol, Spinal Tap, Ferris Bueller, Beverly Hills Cop and Police Academy (though my dad watched them constantly), When Harry Met Sally, Withnail and I, Planes, Trains and Automobiles (John Candy was better off in Canadian stuff - SCTV, Heavy Metal and daresay it, the lovely Sesame Street - Follow That Bird), The Odd Couple, not quite Trading Places (because I eventually realised that film, it's not great, but it's probably the best straight-comedy that Landis has done), Stand By Me, Enter The Dragon etc, I had already glimpsed them in the form of digested versions on movie shows, equivalent to Castle 8mm versions, so the films didn't really ever pique my attention after, and in most cases, the genres they represent, because I'd already got the gist and didn't really need to see them. I'd been given the icing, and had enough. And once I saw most of these in full, I realised I hadn't missed much. See also the various Disney Time-type compilations you'd see without seeing the full films.  The Searchers I had seen because my mam sat me down. It was an education, even though I don't do westerns per se. Maybe because of the mass exposure of westerns I had, growing up in the Americana-obsessed Irish heartland. Or perhaps a case of Too Much, Too Young.

I was realising why I like 70s horrors set in Britain, maybe it is due to the evocative setting, not the 70s glam and all that, but the world it conjures up, of the mundane against the fantastic, not so much ghosts (I feel like I should like the Legend of Hell House more than I do, but to be honest, I find it a little silly - it's an EC comic idea taken too seriously), but things breaking through, metaphysical horror, of dark nights, wind against suburban streets, British character actors looking grim. The 70s Amicus horrors do it best (Dr. Terror and Torture Garden are fun, but they're slightly too silly, almost throwaway, a bit too Bloch, a bit Mid-Atlantic). It doesn't have to be set in the 70s, but mittel-European stuff only please me when there's nothing else on, maybe as it is too familiar because it is a time that only existed in the movies, and some are stifled by clashing elements (i.e. the vampires are the worst thing about Kiss of the Vampire, and Curse of the Werewolf doesn't feel thought-through, the Spanish setting chosen just to use a set - when everyone knows the foggy streets of London are the best place for a wolf ). And Victoriana depends on the story. Though that said, some of the seedier, more giallo-like, more grounded ones are a little difficult, and I'm not an erotic thriller man per se (again, noir). "Fright" (1970) is a bit silly but worth for Dennis Blood-erman (in a pre-reunion with George Cole). The fuzzy felt folk-soundtracked "I Start Counting", "Assault", "The Offence", "Revenge", "What Became of Jack And Jill", "Straight On Till Morning",  the grimmer, humorless ones don't quite do it for me, and they're quite pervy, and others can get quite Clemens-y. And Soon The Darkness has a good cast, and is nicely shot, but it does wander a bit, although with the hitch-hiking element, it is appropriate. But on the subject of pervy pictures, as beautifully shot as something like "What Have You Done To Solange?" is, it is almost too unnervingly bleak. And Our Mother's House I found rather annoying in its chirpy, child-like nature, too "quirky" and aimless as to what genre it is. It perhaps needed a character, perhaps an older sister as a more sensible, rooted protagonist. At least Pete Walker's films entertain. It might not be hauntology, it just might be the slight difference between good and bad horror. And more so 70s than 60s, even though I loved the Italian Job as a kid, a lot of that 60s stuff wears me down now, especially all those comedies -The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom, Prudence and the Pill, and that's excluding all the "pop star" vehicles. I like Summer Holiday, but the Beatles' films are godawful, and there's a lot of films where it's all "oh, we're working class lads on a wacky adventure - like us, please!".
One thing for sure - most British horror films work better than similar TV series (i.e. the likes of Children of the Stones are all overlong and padded, and yet are saddled with really rushed endings - they could easily be compacted and given a better resolution - but because they were for kids, they could not go for a spectacular Quatermass-type all out sacrifice - as they were traumatising the kiddies enough). Though to be honest, many of the later Hammer period vampire efforts feel a bit like ITV's period kids' shows, Black Beauty with blood, if you may, especially the very cheap-looking and silly Vampire Circus (1972). Nigel Kneale's Beasts (-1976) I find hard to take seriously, though - like Crossroads with ghosts.

British Horror of the 70s falls into several sections - the great (much of the Amicus stuff, Blood From The Mummy's Tomb, Horror Express, The Omen, Blood On Satan's Claw*, Theatre of Blood, arguably the two Phibes films), the stuff worth one watch (most of it), the terrible, and "Have I seen this one before?" (too many serial killer thrillers of the period with girls being stalked through forest, anything about a haunted house, so many films about "weird" families - Goodbye Gemini, the forgettable Michael Gough dinner conversation of The Corpse, Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly, etc).  I like Blood on Satan's Claw because it feels a bit Kneale-ish, if Beasts was done properly, and not as an episode of Crossroads. Scream and Scream Again, The Beast Must Die and Captain Kronos are fun, but they feel like TV pilots."george white" Revisiting these lists I made. I Find Red Sun and The White Buffalo not as good as I did, Red Sun's fun at times, but it's no Valley of Gwangi in terms of barking genre collisions, while The White Buffalo is almost ashamed of its genre roots, and the other westerns are all serviceable, apart from Carry On Cowboy. As you can see, for the detective entry, I struggled for titles, not being a noir man. The Big Sleep I enjoy because it's a genre mashup, it's Raymond Chandler via Euston (or ITC's Euston-aping division, but still...). And yes, the Dogs of War I enjoy, because it is more of an adventure. a little downbeat but they create an interesting setting, and put together a good cast. And Colin Blakely is great. But I kept misaligning Miss World as an ITV thing. Fear Is The Key is a bit of a mess, though.
I find Cold War spy films, mostly the less adventurous ones, the more serious (and to be honest, most of the comedic) ones rather boring, things like The Falcon and the Snowman is forgettable, but it's Seany Penn trying to be a  spy, so of course it mightn't register, and most of all, Gorky Park, one of those films that baffles as it has Americans and Brits playing Russians with their own accents, and then a Yank character comes in, and despite some fun casting - Richard Griffiths, Rikki Fulton, Alexei Sayle, and a nice cameo from Henry Woolf as a coroner, the British voices directing a Soviet film perplexes and it becomes apparent that it is nonsense because it is written by a certain red-faced hack named Potter. Tinker, Tailor and Smiley's People I find a little overlong, but it has such a good cast at their best, and the doubling of Glasgow for Czechoslovakia is astonishing. There's a barren Eastern quality in those scenes that don't look British at all. But most spy films I find boring. I find films entertainment, or portals to other worlds, and in most of these films, they don't entertain and the worlds always seem very fake.
Marathon Man looks good, but it has irritating characters. Schlesigner is not my cuppa. Day of the Locust and Yanks and Honky Tonk Freeway are interesting attempts to evoke worlds, but not especially great. He'd have been a good game designer.
John Frankenheimer's films I also never get. I seem to be going off typical political thrillers, crime stuff and war movies.  Maybe it's watching them on a laptop, where your attention has to be grabbed more than say, a DVD, as there are more diversions. Or maybe it's just I've seen too much the same.

Surprised at how little SF/horror there is. Then again, I've a weird taste in SF. I like intelligent yet entertaining SF. I don't like Star Wars anymore, but I like Flash Gordon, Battle Beyond The Stars, Last Starfighter, Ice Pirates, and find Dune overlong, bloated, cold, with no real characters to relate to, a real folly but still a visual treat. But the more Mad Max-tinged likes of Metalstorm and Spacehunter are awful. Probably why I never was really interested in Alien.  For me, there needs to be a certain amount of wonder and awe and fun in SF. I've already mentioned my disinterest in 50s/60s space movies.

And Yes, I enjoyed Rituals (1977), but still find Deliverance and Southern Comfort a slog. The latter two try to create a world and fail, which is a disaster, as the world is the enemy - and you need a good villain. And Rituals  has a great location, and good sets (from ITC kiddy-show The Forest Rangers).

And Charles Pierce's films are rather muddled, and confused, his sheriff in The Town That Dreaded Sundown like something from one of those awful spoofs like Saturday the 14th or Pandemonium.

This is when I'd have enthusiasm for something like Grizzly! (1976) Now, like Pierce's films, I find the films of William Girdler at best serviceable, average and almost TV movie-like, an attempt to be mainstream that reduces all charm, some weird moments i.e. rapey Leslie Nielsen and the twenty-odd dwarf-schoolboy in Day of the Animals, but nothing special. Yes, he died young, yes he had promise, but he may have been America's Michael Reeves, a journeyman at best, and certainly not an auteur. His early films are near-unwatchable. And though his unmade Outsiders sounds promising, it might have been another dire Star Wars knock-off (not a good one like Battle Beyond the Stars, Last Starfighter or Ice Pirates, but something like Shape of Things to Come).  Michael Ansara is good in the Manitou, but the film doesn't feel quite as weird as it should be, bar the 3-D-like climax. It's no The Sentinel or The Visitor. It's like The Legacy, it's mid-budget studio horror with no spark.And Grizzly is okay, but it has no spark. Even when Piranha lulls, there's always a joke or a little spark Dante adds to keep you interested, like the stop-motion creature's cameo. And Grizzly doesn't have that.

And I forgot to put Winter Kills (1979) on the list -a film which I shouldn't like, but I love because it is so darn weird - and the conspiracy actually clicks/weird enough/big enough for me to enjoy it (see also The Boys from Brazil). It knows it is boring, so it livens itself up. Cutter's Way almost captures the same feel, maybe cos of Jeff Bridges again in similar surroundings, but it devolves into rather bleak noir. And it doesn't have John Huston being strange, or this weird satiric "big business" thing going on. Apart from the Parallax View 70s, conspiracy thrillers are rather strait-laced, but Winter Kills is this globe-trotting quest through the weird side of the rich. Its spiritual companion, the American Success Company didn't quite click - Larry Cohen writing an upmarket magic realism sex comedy. It's a fun little picture, actually quite a bit like Who Is Killing The Great Chefs of Europe or Silver Bears, a mediocre caper that sporadically sparkles, but nothing special. But Winter Kills could easily go the way of Eyes of Laura Mars or Looking for Mr. Goodbar, and instead becomes something strange and wonderful. Director William Richert does seem to be "a bit of a character".
And as for Who Is Killing The Great Chefs of Europe (1979) - typically duff European comedy, but the all-star British segments set at "GBTV" Centre are ace, because any film with a UK TV studio chase is bound to have some value (well, there was a Norman Wisdom film, and Wisdom always annoyed me a bit although I appreciate him because my gran loved him, but still...)

Sidney Lumet's films never gel with me. Finney's Poirot is rank. Heist/crime films don't do it for me. See also Schlesinger and Frankenheimer.
Day of the Locust and Yanks and Honky Tonk Freeway are interesting attempts to evoke worlds, but not especially great. He'd have been a good game designer.

Of John Huston's films, I like the Man Who Would Be King I suppose, it at least looks nice even if it's a bit overlong, List of Adrian Messenger and Mackintosh Man are Irish-made and are pleasingly odd time-killers, Victory is great fun despite not being a sports fan. African Queen is okay, even though it's basically two slightly tipsy people of different classes trying to flirt with each other, and Moby Dick and The Dead are all atmospheric, and portray Ireland as it should be, even when it plays New England. Night of the Iguana I kind of like too, and I actually enjoy the characters, even though that Southern prose can be hardgoing, but that's mainly Burton. The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean I want to like more than I do. But everything else I am ambivalent on - and The Kremlin Letter I've tried constantly and never succeeded.

I've a weird sense of humour. Comedies I seem to like seem to be the ones with big ideas.
80s comedies I can't seem to get, bar Airplane!, Top Secret!, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Gremlins, Ice Pirates, Amazon Women On The Moon... Most social comedies (9 to 5, Private Benjamin) never appealed. Some films about showbusiness (My Favourite Year, the Escape Artist) appealed, but mainly due to the characters and eccentricity. The first two Muppet Movies and Follow That Bird I like, Muppets Take Manhattan is odd. Big Trouble In Little China I find weird, pleasingly strange but somewhat alienating. Trading Places I like, Coming To America I feel like I should like more, Star vehicles, of Robin Williams, Steve Martin and most of the SNL lot have faded from my taste. National Lampoon's Vacation and its first sequel are still relatively fun. The Cannonball Run is a complete folly, in the mould of such unwatchable messes as Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. Cheech and Chong I never got, but I don't even drink alcohol (I eat it, whiskey truffle chocolate, yum). Dudley Moore I find likeable, but I don't really find his films great. And his stuff with Cook, urgh... The Stunt Man I found artsy bollocks. Used Cars was akin to an ordinary 70s sitcom crossed with an anodyne 70s Disney movie starring Kurt Russell, or a US remake of Minder. I find Polyester and Popeye films that look great stylistically, but but raise no laughs.  Back To The Future I did like as a boy, but now I prefer Last Starfighter, plus the ending is cruel. John Candy's solo vehicles - I liked them as a kid but now realise his full talent was only ever exposed on SCTV. There's quite a few I saw as a kid, and probably shouldn't revisit - the Ernest films. And Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and Ghostbusters I like but not because I find it funny. I liked them because there is humour in them, yes, but they're adventures with charm and ideas. Clue is alright, but it is confusing, and I do wonder what it'd have been like if original choice Leonard Rossiter had lived to play Tim Curry's part.
Even British ones of the era - I like Time Bandits, Local Hero (but Forsyth's other films aren't that appealing), Restless Natives, some of Meaning of Life, Clockwise, kind of like Morons from Outer Space and Bullshot, And 90s British comedies - Funny Bones, the Commitments (technically), Bean (kind of),) and the perfectly pleasant Hear My Song and Blame It On The Bellboy. Everything is either anodyne or awful.
I'm not a great comedy drama boy, and though I love Hot Fuzz, find cop-comedies somewhat bland, perhaps too American. I find a lot of things samey. I suppose if you are exposed to things too young or when you want other things, that's what happens. I like weird, broad, possibly conventionally misshapen things.

I find the Nouvelle Vague terribly uninteresting and rather boring, because it is well... vague. And Jacques Demy feels annoying. It's like he is the progenitor of Gondry, Jonze and all those irritating music video sorts.

Realised that the pre-80s US anthologies put me off because there is something "scarimental" about them, a queasy mix of genre and sentimentality, i.e. Serling and Bradbury. Stories that work as stories or as comics may not work on the screen.Though I do have a soft spot for Night Gallery, but the good eps of that were mostly adaptations of British stories or by loonies like Lovecraft. And I don't like sentimentality. It works sometimes, i.e. The Escape Artist (1982) and My Favourite Year (1982), but a film needs to earn itself to be sentimental, it needs to have characters you like and a reason for sentiment. And those films are more wistful than sentimental, plus films set in that entertainment milieu attract me.
I've also gone off cop shows and episodic drama TV in general.  Too samey, perhaps if they have actors I like, I might watch an episode, but I have reached a point where I feel like I have seen almost too much.

Arty-weird film directors, yer Herzogs and Jodorowskys fascinate me. I don't really enjoy their films (well, from what I saw of Where the Green Ants Dreams seemed to be interesting, but it is Australian), the thing about a lot of these filmmakers is the behind the scenes stuff is always more interesting. They are films that you want to make, not see. See also the other German New Wave types, e.g. Fassbinder (World on a Wire is enjoyable in a 70s Euro-SF way, even if it is a sort of German ITC Dennis Potter thingy, though the chase is great and the aquarium visuals interesting).
Then again, I think Nicolas Roeg's best film is The Witches (Don't Look Now, I know it's childish, but it takes too long for the film to reach the highlight - i.e. its end).
And my favourite Hitchcock is Frenzy (though I do almost like Torn Curtain).
And I have a weird distaste for screwball comedies and noir and westerns, and gangster movies, and only like the more adventurous sort of war movies. And despite being an alleged horror fan, find most US horror extremely formulaic, especially the post-70s slashers and bladder FX ones. Good trailers, not so good movies.
I have gone off cop/detective shows.
Even basic thrillers if they don't have a touch of foreign intrigue or excitement tend to bore me. Then again, something like Wait Until Dark is basically a Clemensian nonsense-ride and an excuse for Alan Arkin to ham up and be "the American Sellers". He's a good character actor in smallish roles, but tends to be stale ham in larger roles.

And Kubrick's best work is lighting the stages for the Spy Who Loved Me. While Ridley Scott has never bettered his work for Hovis. And James Cameron's best work is Aliens, and even that falls apart.
I find most serious science fiction dull, good ideas, but better trailers than films , and though i enjoy a fair few Star Wars knockoffs, even Star Wars alienates me. Pure SF needs to work on screen, mixed in with other genres, I feel. And even then, a lot of the old-fashioned B movies alienate me. Again better trailers than films. And see also the Terminators and Robocops (well, elements of the first one work but I was never the biggest 2000 AD fan - it's a better world to write than read), though Total Recall is fun.
In other words, action-adventure films need to have a bit of exoticism and foreign intrigue, and sci-fi films have to have a mix of awe and enjoyment.
Comedies have to appeal to me if there's a good idea behind them. Same with horror or SF. US sex comedies, and hell most UK sex comedies and all Euro-sex comedies don't appeal. The Confessions never had the crux that a Carry On had - it was driven to repetition and died out because it had to be about Timmy Lea, while a Carry On can be about anything.

I am weird. Though I do like movies for plots and incidents, a lot of movies fascinate me not for the story or the dialogue, just the craft of filmmaking, of building visual worlds and the odd little performance from a character actor. I suppose I am like a car enthusiast who prefers the ideas of cars being assembled rather than driven.

Also been trying to watch a few PBS original dramas. It is as if they thought in order to be an alternative to US network TV, they'd have to be dry and slow, and devoid of excitement.

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