Saturday 23 February 2019

Spy, action, general psychoronic weirdness - 109

The Long Voyage Home (1940 - B/W) - Might be John Ford's best. Gregg Toland's cinematography is excellent. Thomas Mitchell actually sounds Irish. John Wayne's Swedish sounds Southern.

The Canterville Ghost (1944 - B/W) - Laughton's presence fails to eniven what is transformed into a schmaltzy wartime culture clash comedy.

THE STRANGER (1946 - B/W) - Typical noir, with Orson Welles, though seeing Orson getting impaled on a motorised gargoyle is a memorable climax.

The Boy with Green Hair (1948) - Dean Stockwell in a strange, schmaltzy Oirish-tinged fantasy. But still, Stockwell proves he was always an admirably quirky performer.

The Woman In White (1948 - B/W) - Hackneyed, VERY American take on Wilkie Collins. Saw it on, so skimmed it along.

Whisky Galore (1949 - B/W) - It's picturesque, but it's not my thing. I find Ealing comedies not especially funny, though I did get tickled at Gordon Jackson playing a character called George Campbell, which in a thick Hebridean twang, sounds like "George Cowley". 

Little Red Monkey (1955 - B/W)  - Merton Park/Monogram thriller with Richard Conte, typical British B-movie excitement-induced tedium., with organ soundtrack. This sort of Brit not-quite-noir I'm not quite  a fan of, but still I have an entire Edgar Wallace box set to rifle or stifle through.

Moonfleet (1955) - I can see why Stewart Granger hated this. It's an odd film. Nothing feels authentic. The West Country setting is so obviously Hollywood, that even Fritz Lang's very European direction doesn't help. And even Joan Greenwood is out of place.

Captain Lightfoot (1955) - Similar fare with Rock Hudson, notable for being almost entirely shot in Ireland, with lots of Irish support. But not much cop, fairly anachronistic.

The Scapegoat (1959- B/W) - Dated, uninteresting melodrama with two pints of Alec Guinness for the price of one. Typical "women's picture" of the 50s. Needed more pep. Bette Davis hams it up.

In The Dog House (1961 - B/W)  - Sporadically entertaining quasi-Carry On. Peggy Cummins oddly reminiscent of Shelley Duvall. The stuff with animals trashing a brass band is fun.

The Naked Edge (1961 - B/W) - Confusing, sub-Hitchcock thriller, despite sterling cast.

Tintin and the Mystery of the Golden Fleece (1961) - Baffling live action adaptation, despite having a parrot in a helicopter.

Two Weeks In Another Town (1962) - Though not my sort of drama, interesting to note that however much an evocation of the American-Italian film industry, how much of it ironically is actually the MGM lot. George Hamilton is ridiculous.

Judex (B/W - 1963) - The soundtrack is typical Jarre, bits of Island at the Top of the World and Jesus of Nazareth crop up. Attempt by Franju to make art out of pulp. Doesn't quite work. Needs speed and verve.

Kali Yug Die Gottin Der Rache (1963)/Aufruhr in Indien (1963) - A clear attempt to repeat the success of Fritz Lang's Indian adventure. This has a strange cast Lex Barker, Ian Hunter, Michael Medwin, Senta Berger - and as Indians, Sergio Fantoni, Claudine Auger and yes - Klaus Kinski blacked up (not browned up, blacked up, this isn't just some boot polish, he is darkened to the point it becomes Uncanny Valley), plus actual Desi I.S. Johar. But while Lang's film(s) felt interesting and vivid, this lags.

7 Seas To Calais (1963) - Boring Italian-set-in-Plymouth actioner about Sir Francis Drake, with Rod Taylor and Keith Michell. 

A  Shot In The Dark (1964) - Oh well... It's a strange hybrid. At times, it's a straight mystery. When you realise Clouseau is shoehorned into a preexisting story, plus Clouseau wasn't really CLOUSEAU! until the later films, it makes sense...

Once A Thief (1965  - B/W) - Bland, arty attempt to make Alain Delon in Hollywood.

A Thousand Clowns (1965 - B/W) - Sub-Neil Simon comedy full of wiseasses, especially Jason Robards' nephew.

A High Wind in Jamaica (1965) - Susan Who and Martin Amis get adopted by pirate Anthony Quinn in this Disney-ish pirate Railway Children. Slow, hulking.

Harper (1966) - Again this kind of noir, I find a kind of proto-TV movie blandness in a lot of 60s US studio thrillers, as the studio system crumbles, made in ignorance of what is going on. 

Let's Kill Uncle (1966) - Utterly contrived cop-out kiddie matinee from William Castle. Nigel Green is fun, but it's a one-joke scenario.

Modesty Blaise (1966) - A massive folly full of "hey, it's a comic strip so it has to be random and full of circus acts, eh?", rather than a clean adventure. Dirk Bogarde I find even sillier than usual (the trouble with Bogarde is I find him ridiculous because as a twelve year old, Channel 6, a failed TV channel in Ireland would show Stella Street, and I became hooked, and John Sessions' flowery, tweedy posho just ensured I can never take Bogarde seriously). Why is there a random musical number? It's indescribably awful, rather than just bland per many spy films of the era.  Monica Vitti looks lost, and it feels improvised.

Rotten To The Core (1965 - B/W) - Stodgy heist comedy. Anton Rodgers is stifled because he's forced to inhabit a role that Peter Sellers was pegged for. Charlotte Rampling is the "crumpet".

Our Man Flint (1966)/In Like Flint (1967) - There's just something about the US Bond knockoffs that I never got. Maybe, it's the studio  backlot nature. Although these films don't have especially strong villains, which is what a good spy film needs.  All a bit too goofy. They seem to undercut everything. 

Three Fantastic Supermen (1967) - Italian superhero knockoff, where the heroes are merely acrobats who dress like superheroes for the sake of it. Energetic, but still blatantly nonsensical and irritating.

Operation Kid Brother (1967) - Even though I don't really do Eurospy films, it's hard not to enjoy probably the most blatant Italian Bond imitation of them all. I like the theme, except the bit where Kristy sings, "He seems to be the one for me" in a sexy Arthur Mullard voice. Like all the Bond knockoffs of this era made in Europe, it mistakes the weaknesses of the Connery Bonds as their strengths. Though this, in apology for the usual sexist hero, gives Lois Maxwell more to do than twenty five years as Moneypenny ever did. The American inflected dubbing is rubbish, though. The Thanatos meeting scene is a copy and paste of the British Intelligence gathering in Thunderball. But this is terribly made. Even though the Connery Bonds have dated very badly, even this, which by Eurospy standards is plush, is still a tough watch.

Danger Route (1967) - Richard Johnson in Amicus spy tosh. Little plot, just lots of affairs. Sub-ITC. Crappy back projection ahoy. Anita Harris sings the theme.

The Killing Game (1967) - Wobbly psychedelia about cartoonists with Jean-Pierre Cassel and Claudine Auger.

Les Bicyclettes de Belsize (1967) - A rather inconsequential and cloying but interesting musical short, in debt to Demy, but directed by Douglas Hickox, who hints at the style he'd perfect in Theatre of Blood.

In The Heat of The Night (1967) - I'm not a fan of films set in the South or cop thrillers. It's undoubtedly a well-made film, but I find cop films set in rural areas just not my jam. It's also kind of muddled.

Two For The Road (1967) - Isn't it just that No, Honestly with Pauline Collins and John Alderton, but with Finney and Hepburn?

The Corrupt Ones (1967) - Proto-Raiders with Robert Stack, theme by Dusty Springfield, written by Brian Clemens. 

Operation St. Peter's (1967) - Edward G. Robinson and Heinz Ruhmann (playing a character called Cardinal Braun, so that the film can be marketed as part of the Father Brown adaptations that Ruhmann starred in) in jokey, unmemorable Lucio Fulci-directed Vatican heist movie. Music by the Swingle singers. 

The next year's Vatican Story (1968) is almost the same film, but with Walter Pidgeon, and Klaus Kinski. It has a lot more style, even though it is ridiculous. Pidgeon as a blind art expert/thief. Though down to the casting of Klaus Kinski, and with the central idea of an elderly American star as the mastermind, it borrows a lot from another Edward G. Robinson Euro-heist -

Grand Slam (1967) Also starring Janet Leigh, Robert Hoffmann (TV's Robinson Crusoe), and Adolfo Celi. I'm not a fan of heist movies in general.But these two Italian heist films of this era seem to have that something that lacks from more personality obsessed heist fare and indeed  Eurospy fare. They seem more polished, more visually stimulating. They lack that skankiness. And Grand Slam has a great twist ending.  

1001 Nights (1968) - Shonky late period peplum nonsense with Raf Vallone and Luciana Paluzzi.

Boom! (1968) - I wish this Burton/Taylor indulgencefest would explode.

The Birthday Party (1968) - Maybe I dislike Pinter, but the fact it is directed by a certain Mr. Friedkin perhaps makes this uncomfortable for me. Weird to see Patrick Magee with his hair dyed brown, and looking almost his real age. Robert Shaw is a bit childish. Not much happens.

In Enemy Country (1968) - Anthony Franciosa and an incongruous Tom Bell in this Universal TV-like WW2 boreathon so obviously filmed in Little Europe.

Wonderwall (1968) - Confusing, bemusing George Harrison concoction. Surrealist cartoonish weirdness with Jack McGowran, looking quite like a consistently baffled John Hurt. Pervy, endearing scrapes with Jane Birkin, a bit Reggie Perrin, infuriating in your face at most times, but utterly unique in its own way.

Return of Monte Cristo (1968) - Pierre Brasseur is almost unrecongisable from his days of lifting girls' faces off as a drunk in this strange, decent for a Eurospy modernisation of the old story. Action-packed if quite televisual in its style. 

Golden Claws of the Cat Girl (1968) - Daniele  Gaubert in desperate female Diabolik.

Assignment K (1968) - Grim spy vehicle for Stephen Boyd. Just because it is about a toy company rep who is a spy doesn't make it the fun nonsense it sounds like.

Subterfuge (1968)  - Are we sure this isn't an episode of the Adventurer? Gene Barry potting about in London... Written by Dr. Who showrunner David Whitaker. Ron Pember shows up, and that's the highlight.

The Assassination Bureau (1969) - The sort of overblown Victorian romp I should like, but I find terribly self-indulgent and "oh, we're so clever, aren't we?". Even Frank Thornton looks smirkily. Vernon Dobtcheff in a large role billed over giallo-starlet Annabella Incontrera, George Coulouris, Jess Conrad and Kenneth Griffith.

Angel, Angel, Down We Go (1969) - Typical AIP youth nonsense, bar an attempt for Jennifer Jones to go almost psycho-biddy.  Seems to predate John Waters' oeuvre with a merrily large heroine. Obsessed with sitcom-level parachuting. Roddy McDowall plays a tennybopper drummer despite being over 40, and the Beatle wig makes him look like a bad Pat Troughton cosplayer.

The Big Cube (1969) - Would make a good double bill with the above, though much better - which isn't saying much. Lana Turner's not-quite-psychobiddy venture into hippy exploitation. Featuring "Daniel" O'Herlihy doing a sort of West Brit accent, 35-year-old George Chakiris as a college student, Swedish-Mexican Karin Mossberg may be one of the worst performances in any film I have ever seen, complete with weird Harfynn Teuport accent. It seems to think drugs make one do wacky paintings. Plus lots of Hispanic extras trying to pass as WASPs, with dubious dubbing.

Futz (1969) - AIP's farmer version of Corman's Gas. As idiotic as that sounds. 

That Smashing Bird I Used To Know (1970) - Dennis Waterman, Patrick Mower and lesbian schoolgirl Maureen Lipman in nonsensical school sexploiter.

Mr. Forbush and the Penguins (1970) - John Hurt in his cheeky scamp days  moons over Hayley Mills and chases penguins and go-go dances with them. Interminable.

The Delta Factor (1970) - RTE used to show this quite a bit. I remember it in listings, and being surprised a Christopher George starring vehicle was on. So I knew it'd be cheap-ass exploitation hell, but nowhere near as cheap and weird as this, even though it's by Raoul Walsh, Mickey Spillane and Tay Garnett, made independently in 1970, and released by Medallion, who mainly did peplum, but were part of Continental-Walter Reade, whose output was a mix of kitchen sink classics and being the folk behind the iconic double bill of Doctor Who and the Daleks and Night of the Living Dead. It feels like an Al Adamson film, and the hero, Morgan is maybe the most awful sexist hero in spy movies, and he has competition. He points out it is okay to rape a wife, as he has married his co-agent Yvette Mimieux.  And it feels like it is stuck in the 50s. Tay Garnett was 75 when he made this. Not his last film. He did a few regional family programmers for the likes of Howco.

Le Voyou (1970) - Typical arty French crime film. Attractive but not much there.

The Outside Man (1972) - Jean Louis Trintignant again, in boring American coproduction with Roy Scheider that shows how boring LA really is.

Wanda (1970) - Odd, unfriendly, uneasy feminist exploitation film.

Cover Me Babe (1970) - Hateful countercultural moviemaking satire with Sondra Locke and Robert Forster.

Mr. Superinvisible (1970) - Shonky nonsense aping Disney movies. At least Dean Jones dubs himself.

The Grissom Gang (1971) - Made by Robert Aldrich for ABC TV's film arm, Selmur, this feels quite like an episode of the Waltons (Ralph Waite even appears), and also not too far off Corman's ___ Mama films. I always found Scott Wilson a unique presence in his youth. I once met him at a lift in a con, and I did say I did like his performance in Exorcist III. The garish sets look almost Batman-esque. Kim Darby is odd, as always. Based on the Fauxmerican No Orchids for Miss Blandish. Setting it in actual rural America as opposed to a fantasyland New York jars with James Hadley Chase's unique vision of American gangland, to Britain what Karl May's American west was to Germany.  But this feels weirdly comic.

Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx (1971) - Weirdly, I had never seen this before. Clips, yes. Despite being a fan of Wilder, despite stories of the production being a constant in my grandad's house. It certainly paints a glorious picture of Dublin. Even though it uses that funny "Celtic" font that the 1972 Hound of the Baskervilles does. Waris Hussein ("the Indian", as my grandad derisively called him) and Gil Taylor have made Ireland look distinct. They have made Dublin look like an industrial metropolis on the edge of ruin. Some of the Doobalin accents can be a bit grating, and that's just the acting style. In fact, Wilder's goofish eejitry may be more convincingly Irish, even if the accent is odd, and his mother doesn't even look old enough to be his big sister. His accent is strange. It's similar to Pat Troughton in The Omen, in that they are somehow dirty and haggard enough to pass as Irish. But the Irish actors' performances, especially Eileen Colgan feel like they're in ads. But worth it for the picture of Dublin, Wilder adjusting his hair outside the Ambassador Cinema, full of hoardings for Oliver. The romance element with Margot Kidder is sweet,  but it's more about the man himself. There's a wonderful scene where he frees all the horses intended to be slaughtered, my grandad I think appearing somewhere. It might be Waris' best work.

Who Killed Mary Whats'ername (1971) - Peculiar hard-boiled mystery that seems to be a parody but isn't, despite weird humour moments and Red Buttons.  An early Cannon film. Feels very experimental and underground like a lot of pre-GG Cannon, the likes of Joe, which are all "hey, we're in a revolution!", but they're almost like a cousin of early Troma. Cameo by Jake Lamotta.

Lady Liberty (1971) - Idiotic comedy about Sophia Loren, William Devane and a sausage. 

Zachariah (1971) - Don Johnson in this is pretty but annoying and looks goofy when he pulls a certain face. A western but with deliberately anachronistic touches.  Dick van Patten plays a horse salesman. Nice soundtrack. But not my thing.  From the director of Wonderwall.

Mad Bomber (1972) - Drab Bert I. Gordon policier enlivened by explosions. Has a pre-Scanners body explosion of Chuck Connors.

The Assassination of Trotsky (1972) - Despite an enjoyably hammy Richard Burton, this historical Europudding is a turd.

Pickup on 101 (1972) - Peculiar attempt to crossbreed AIP youth operas with Harry and Tonto, though before the latter, with Jack Albertson, Martin Sheen and Lesley (and) Warren. Albertson has a hilarious slow motion death scene with a train that barely touches.

Innocent Bystanders (1972) - Derren Nesbitt billed over Warren Mitchell in this Stanley Baker vehicle. Weird fish-eye shots of Nelson's Column as Dana Andrews and Donald Pleasence walk, with montage shots. More exciting than the average British actioner of the era. Some of the most unconvincing doubling for NYC, i.e. a woman with poodles and some US cars, almost on a level of Superman IV. Based on a novel by Callan creator James Mitchell,  and there is a lot of that nihilistic view of spying in there, with Andrews and Cec Linder as CIA men who use torture on Baker. Pleasence plays a character called Loomis, which means he's probably a cousin of his Halloween character. But it gets rather dreary, and there's no real drive. Geraldine Chaplin isn't great, but Warren Mitchell steals it as an Akubra hat-wearng Australian-Turkish ANZAC bar owner called Droopy Drawers Omar. But there is striking production value. The ending has a silly day for night scene in "Cyprus", while we learn of a big bad called Asimov.

Gordon's War (1973) - Paul Winfield is good as always, but this is typical blaxploitation. Grace Jones pops up.

Executive Action (1973) - Bland, unexciting docudrama, almost on a Sunn Classics level, despite Lancaster, Ryan, Will Geer... Little period detail.

Hex (1973) - Awful 1910s hippie biker western horror with Gary Busey, Grizzly Adams, Keith Carradine. Nonsense. 

Wedding in Blood (1973) - Pervy Claude Chabrol arty nonsense. Does not know how to pace a thriller.

Together Brothers (1974) - A strange, not wholly successful attempt to mix docudrama, blaxploitation and the Hardy Boys. The murderer turns out to be a transvestite mama's boy who dresses like a disco Navajo chief. Nice soundtrack by Barry White, though.

Sunday in the Country (1974) - Unusual rural exploitationer. Set in a peaceful, almost Waltonsesque rural Americana (though clearly Canadian), church-going grandad Ernest Borgnine driven to torture after rapist thugs assault his granddaughter.  Slow and tonally all over the place and anticlimactic.  Another Canuck Deliverance imitation, SHOOT (1976) is a dreary, boring Canadian Borgnine rural exploiter, with Henry Silva and Cliff Robertson trotting about. 

The Driver's Seat (1974) - Another dreadful, "artistic" Anglo-Italian chunk of Lizploitation, with Andy Warhol as an English lord. 

Dead Cert (1974) - Uninteresting Dick Francis thriller with Judi Dench and Michael Williams. 

The Parallax View (1974) - An otherwise well-staged but mundane and somewhat vaguely filmed conspiracy thriller notable only for the incredible montage brainwashing. Thor cameo! Features both William Jordan and Edward Winter billed together, Winter later to take over Jordan's role in ITV filler Project UFO.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) - Didn't do much for me. Feels silly yet not very funny. An action film filtered through a New Hollywood buddy "bunch of eejits" movie glaze.

Capone (1975) - Fox-Corman coproduction, so heavy use of the Fox lot, which mars this artificial, TV-rate biopic with Ben Gazzara, plus a young Sylvester Stallone as Frank Nitti, but a good cast rendered identikit via lazy styling and photography. The hammier The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967) is  almost definitely better, directed by Corman and actually looks like a film, to the point you expect Jason Robards to burst into song. And progressive (Jamaican Frank Silvera as a Mafioso).

Mr. Sycamore (1975) - Quirky comedy drama that feels like a serious indie take on a Disney movie idea. Jason Robards wants to be a tree. As good as that sounds.  At the end, he wills himself. Not to be confused with dire Canuck James Coburn-Fionnula Flanagan "thriller" Mr. Patman (1980).

The Big Bus (1976) - Saw this as a kid on TV3, back when they showed weird movies. Jokes don't really work. It isn't quite outrageous to beat, say, Airport '79. It takes a while to get started. I still remembered Stockard Channing being called Kitty. The cheers joke seems to be one of the few obvious jokes. Richard Mulligan is fun as the madly-in-love yet near-divorcee to Sally Kellerman, but it's nowhere near as outrageous as it needs to be. It doesn't sparkle. The farmer's son who appears nears the end, Dennis Kort played Pike in the failed US Dad's Army pilot with Lou Jacobi. No one is given great material. It ends quite suddenly.

Crime and Passion (1976) - For years, I presumed this was a tacky Euro-romance AIP released starring Omar Sharif and Karen Black, mainly because of American International's poster. And though this isn't incorrect, as it does have lots of slushy montages and skiing, it turns out it is  an adaptation of a James Hadley Chase novel, produced by William Richert, with a strange genre-melting style not unlike his later Winter Kills, but directed by Ivan Passer. Sharif is chased by a crazed fat woman in a comedy sequence, but then a scary castle and a supposed ghost pop up, revealing this to be basically a giallo, down to the fact it was retitled in some territories, "Frankenstein's Spook Castle". However, despite  a macabre ending, involving the frozen count that Black has married, it has a happy ending for Karen and Omar. And is really just a bland Euro-romance at its heart.

Echoes of A Summer (1976) - Canadians jumping on the Italian dying child bandwagon, with Jodie Foster and Richard Harris, the latter singing the theme song, "Deirdre", which he apparently wrote himself. And indeed sounds like the work of a man from Limerick trying to combine the oeuvres of Gordon Lightfoot and Joe Dolan. It's like an extra-tedious ep of the Beachcombers. At the end, they put on a panto. Literally. See also the similar Harris venture Bloomfield, which is just as bad, if not worse. An Israeli Match of the Day meets the Champ. 

Find the Lady (1976) - It has taken me this long to see a film set in a fairground starring John Candy, Dick Emery, Mickey Rooney and Peter Cook. This Canadian-British comedy is awful, and I don't like it, because it doesn't seem to hold together at all. Emery does his voices. It's almost a sequel to Ooh, You Are Awful. Still, seeing young pre-fame Candy and the ageing Emery together is something. It feels like the New Avengers in Canada. 

American Hot Wax (1978) - 50s-set biopic/concert film about DJ Alan Freed, feels like a Pepsi ad in that very 70s portrayal of the 50s.

Money Movers (1978) - Typical 70s crime caper, very Euston but Aussie. Not quite my thing. Bryan Brown, Charles Tingwell, Jason Donovan's da and half the Skippy cast enact it.

The Brinks' Job (1978) - Not a Friedkin fan, but this is weird. Not funny, not suspenseful, an ambling TV movie-ish journey about some great character actors wasted in silly parts doing a heist.

The Driver (1978) - Not quite my film, not really into navel gazing crime stories. Though the end was more watchable, almost reminding one of Trading Places. But down and dirty crime stories don't appeal.

High Ballin' (1978) - Terrible, shoddy depressing trucker flick with Jerry Reed and Peter Fonda.

Skin Deep (1978) - Amateurish, not very funny but very open picture of 1970s New Zealand.

Zero To Sixty (1978) - "Introducing Denise Nickerson", despite already having been Violet Beauregarde. Ironically, this was her last film. And this is basically what happened next  to Violet. She's now a teenage private eye who drives about. Idiotic sub-Disney larks with Darren McGavin, Joan Collins, Sylvia Miles and the Hudson Brothers, and is dressed in baggy clothes to make her not look like a twenty one year old. She looks vaguely Krankie-ish, even when topless. Yes, and she's supposed to be underage. Yes, and she romances fiftysomething Darren McGavin. 

The Amazing Mr. No Legs (1979) - A vanity project for one Ted Vollrath, with no production value, stolen locations, variety acts to pad up time, and a few names like Lloyd Bochner and Richard Jaeckel. He's not even the hero.Directed by veteran undersea cameraman/Creature from the Black Lagoon, Ricou Browning. 

Times Square (1980) - A bland, TV movie-ish EMI thing about teenage lesbian punks in New York, astonishingly.  Murkily shot.

The Kidnapping of the President (1980) - William Shatner stars in this Canadian tax shelter thriller. Begins with the coldest looking Argentina I have ever seen. Yes, it's sunny, but that's a winter sun. Hal Holbrook is the President, Van Johnson and  Ava Gardner give guest star turns and a lot of stock footage is used to pad this nonsense out to 1hr 50 mins.

The Gong Show Movie (1980) - Terrible, mostly VT footage of the TV series badly transcribed onto film. It's the American Best of Benny Hill. But it's an invaluable document of terrible American light entertainment TV. But that's just the bits from the TV show. The new bits are awful. Someone says, "the Gong Show is now the Goon Show", with seemingly no understanding or deliberate reference.  It seems to keep going back to clips of the TV show in desperation.

Montenegro (1981) - It's like a weird, pornographic Yugoslavian family sitcom.

Cutter's Way (1981) - Cold, unfeeling, bleak noir, hampered by a bizarre performance from John Heard.

The Inquisitor (1981) - Boring Lino Ventura drama about child abuse. 

Not for Publication (1984) - Despairingly ordinary "comedy" from Paul Bartel, with Nancy Allen and David Naughton. 

Bliss (1985) - Strange, surreal but unsuccessful Aussie fantasy, bland style shows the handiwork of post-Corman New World Pictures.

Tampopo (1985) - An interesting, odd, not especially laugh-out-loud but visually interesting treatise on ramen from Toho.

Half Moon Street (1986) - Godawful erotic thriller that makes no sense, somehow features Caine and Weaver. Made in association with Showtime TV. 

Messenger of Death (1988) - Weird to have Bronson paired with Trish Van Devere (herself part of another inseperable husband/wife duo) rather than Jill Ireland. A rather lazy, unoriginal actioner that seems to think Mormons and Amish are the same thing. Ends with a public dinner party assassination.

Mystery Train (1989)  - Memphis is a nice location, but Jim Jarmusch's style is very strange. These are films in which not much happens. He's not interested in excitement.

Thieves Of Fortune (1990) - Goofy South African comedy with Michael Nouri and Lee Van Cleef, sub-Romancing the Stone, with some burning Hispanics, Africa doubling for Spain and England. 

The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) - It begins promising, but Michael Douglas' performance (in an attempt to capture the essence of his father) is embarrassing, and the action is limply directed. And Val Kilmer's accent... yeeech...

Tried Zabriskie Point, and it's two radicals moaning in the desert.

Thursday 21 February 2019

4319474817754836 -89 horror

Haxan (1922 - R/W)  The world's first History Channel documentary.

Vampyr (1932 - B/W) - Whatever it is, it is strange,primal, untypical and has a character called David Gray, not the bland 90s crooner.

White Zombie (1932 - B/W) - Muddled, dreamlike cash-in on the horror boom with Lugosi.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939 - B/W) - It feels like a living, breathing world, as opposed to the stagey (1922) Chaney version. Laughton is genuinely good, sinister but endearing and not in a silly way like Anthony Quinn or Anthony Hopkins as Mick Hucknall in the TV version. Maybe it is because Laughton's head shape suits the makeup, though at times he looks disconcertingly like Muttley.  Maureen O'Hara is good, and there's a great support cast.  A DISCOVERY.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1956) - Anthony Quinn is doing a Peter Lorre voice, for some reason. It's colourful, but it's stilted, being a Eurofantasy of a certain era.

The Lodger (1944 - B/W) - Though the period detail is halting, Laird Cregar is a menacing presence. And the climax is fun. But this is where that Americanised idea of the Ripper's world comes from...

Hangover Square (1945 - B/W) - Its recreation of London is so American-tinged, it's a bit of a shock when George Sanders pops up. In his final performance, Laird Cregar (the man who wanted to be Robert Morley) looks for once his own age. The ending, as he plays piano amidst the flames is ridiculous, but it never quite gels on a tone.

Strangler of the Swamp (1946 - B/W) - Oddly toned  PRC double feature filler, starring a young Blake Edwards. Weird mix of rural comedy and swamp noir.

Things Happen at Night (1947 - B/W) - Goofy but weirdly watchable quota quickie old dark house flicker. Has that odd, weird 1940s British comedy energy that Ealing killed. Has a weird thanks credit to Harry Price, the notorious ghost hunter.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951 - B/W) - Did the posh British sorts in this at Hong Kong inspire the airmen in Independence Day? Never saw this in full, and though it does go slow, it has lovely little touches like the backlot French village full of men in berets, "Calcutta Radio", scenes set at BBC TV Centre,  recreations of every corner of the world, and it has an ambition. And that's what I like - SF films with ambition.

Fire Maidens from Outer Space (1956 - B/W) - Threadbare Fauxmerican space antics, idiotic but strangely hypnotic in its awfulness. Suburban gardens double as an alien world. Stranger in Paradise overused.

Earth Vs The Flying Saucers (1956 - B/W) - Shots of great model work are squandered, and is an otherwise quite silly little film.

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957 - B/W) - Probably the best of the US Harryhausens. The Ymir is a wonderful beast.

The Trollenberg Terror (1958) - Warren Mitchell enlivens it as a mad scientist. More dynamic and fun than average US SF of the era. Though the ending is a bit of a cop out. Strange World of Planet X (1958), made by the same team, also with Forrest Tucker, also from an ITV serial, isn't anywhere near as good.

The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) - Hammer attempt to photocopy their formula the first time. Creates the beats each sequel would follow. But it seems too mired in period drama. All Eunice Gayson in big dresses and Francis Matthews in a cravat. And Charles Lloyd-Pack in the first of a couple of roles in the Frankenverse.

The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1958 - B/W) - Somehwat samey but wondrously visual and inventive Czech SF from Karel Zeman, if at times easy to lose the plot.

Jack the Ripper (1959 - B/W) - A cheap, inept misty-even-inside British quickie made for fifty grand that nevertheless made many times more than that, thanks to Joe Levine at Embassy. Eddie Byrne does an Ulster-American-Cornish accent. John Le Mesurier cast to make people think he's Karloff. Ewen Solon plays the helpful superior who is actually the killer. Ends with " Fin " to make it more classy.

Werewolf in a  Girls' Dormitory (1961 - B/W) - Star Carl Schell, the brother of Maria and Maximillian was on Jackanory once. This is set in an England full of American accents. Luciano Pigozzi is dubbed with a Lorre-ish voice. Typical 60s Euroshocker.
Atom Age Vampire (1961 - B/W) - Ditto.

The Old Dark House (1963) - Probably the best of William Castle's comedies, helped by a British cast and Hammer. Maybe, it's because I saw this sick from school one day, but the whole stuff about the ark and having Janette Scott be the killer, it somehow works because it is so odd, rather than typical old dark house comedy nonsense.

The Last Man On Earth (1964 - B/W) - Italy fails to double as LA, though Vincent Price's narration is great, he's miscast, in this Richard Matheson adap. The zombies are unconvincing.

The Long Hair of Death (1964 - B/W) - Artless Barbara Steele vehicle by Antonio Margheriti. Remember that Victoria Wood joke about historical dramas based on a few spare wigs? That sums up a whole genre of period gothic made in Europe.

Children Of The Damned (1964 - B/W) - Better than Village, a remake rather than a sequel, placing the threat not in a nice, posh little village, but amongst the working-class and immigrants of London. A multi-ethnic gang of kids who are more dangerous than their white, Aryan forebears, who drive their mothers to ruin. Plus it has Alfred Burke.  The trouble is the kids are just ciphers. Though the church siege makes them grow. And nice performance from Harold Goldblatt as the generically "foreign" scientist.

Night must Fall (1964 ) - A close relation to The Haunting, though Finney's psycho is  clearly slightly Norman Bates-ish, though this is obviously a remake of an earlier film, though more realistic and Finney is a better psycho than Richard Montgomery doing an Irish/Geordie accent. Watching it in German enforces the krimi similarities even more, but it feels too slow, too hard to be a "proper film". The end is all very Diabolique.

The Night Caller (1965 - B/W) - What begins as a blatant Quatermass imitation becomes a typical Butcher's crime movie, with a few odd touches - inspectorly lead Maurice Denham supported by John Saxon, and the killer is a silly alien talent agent. But interesting cast- Alfred Burke, Marianne Stone and Warren Mitchell as bereaved parents, Aubrey Morris as a gay snitch, Ballard Berkeley as the typical authority.

Curse of the Voodoo (1965 - B/W) - Nonsensical Brian Clemens/Shonteff horror set unconvincingly in Africa.

War-Gods of the Deep (1965) - Lethargic and unmemorable fantasy-adventure, Vincent Price slightly miscast as the leader of a Lyonesse that doesn't feel lived in, Tab Hunter as himself and doesn't rub off Susan Hart, John Le Mesurier brought into replace Boris Karloff and is trying for something, but ultimately padded out by diving scenes. Feels like a crap Doctor Who episode, because of David Whitaker's involvement.  David Tomlinson keeps a pet chicken (more chemistry between him and the chicken that between Hunter and Hart), and wears a kilt, as the Doctor substitute.  Plus they don't even use a sub. They just walk via a secret passage from a library.

She (1965) - John Richardson is a plank. Bernard Cribbins is well... he's Cribbins. The trouble is She is kind of an unplayabale part, and Andress is not my type. Rosenda Monteros is far more attractive in a supporting part. And it's the sort of "generic historical civlisation" that always feels silly. The climax is well-staged, though.
The Vengeance Of She (1968) - Dull, ITC-ish sequel, from the director of the Morecambe and Wise films.

Billy the Kid vs Dracula (1965) - 90 per cent a western. Just because it has John Carradine doesn't make it a horror film. John Carradine was in as many westerns as he was in horrors.

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966) - Needed John Carradine, who at least had played the Coward Bob Ford. Just another shite western with anachronistic touches. Director William Beaudine had astonishingly directed Will Hay.

Munster, Go Home (1966) - There's some good jokes, i.e. Eddie presuming a wardrobe is a "bed". Marilyn is recast, and is sufficiently younger.  Terry-Thomas and Hermione Gingold  play  rival cousins.  Grandpa  gets the better of a lycanthropy potion. Robert Pine plays an unconvincing young English racing driver.   Shroudshire seems to be possibly in the North, with some Northern accents.  John Carradine is a butler.  An accidentally genius touch is the England the Munsters exist in is the England of Universal horror. But it runs out of material.

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966) - Typical Don Knotts comedy. It's not that I dislike Knotts, in fact I find him a very personable and welcome character presence, but the film he leads in are the kind of quasi-Disney (and indeed actual Disney) fare that one grows out of in your teens. The sort that never really translated to this part of the world. Though it is nice to see Liam Redmond, an incongruous presence in a small US town in a major role. But it's  typical "Boo!" fake-ghost thrills, which are very routine.

The Witches (1966) - Uterrly ridiculous Hammer vehicle for Joan Fontaine, constantly gaslit by the likes of Leonard Rossiter, after experiencing voodoo. Not one of Kneale's best. Tries to make Sindy dolls look creepy.  Kay Walsh's butch lesbian teacher is so clearly a wrong one, because she seems to be seducing Joan Fontaine. Michele Dotrice uses her yokel accent.

Journey To The Centre of Time (1967) - Despite  Abraham Sofaer's presence, a even lesser do over of the Time Travellers and the earlier, even worse Beyond the Time Barrier (1960).

The Stolen Dirigible (1967  - B/Y, yes - black and yellow) - Charming tinted fantasy from Karel Zeman, with a CFF-ish concept. 

Nude Si Muore (1968) - Glossy, well-made but kind of empty, oddly playful giallo, by Antonio Margheriti, seems to be going for the feel of an ITC thing, a British film set in France, hence a few British cast members including an ageing Michael Rennie. Mostly teenage girls gossiping. Has the Nancy Drew type in love with headmaster Rennie, even though he's three times her age.

Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968) - Typical Tigon fare, cheap, sub-TV production values, despite Lee, Karloff and a wasted, green-skinned Barbara Steele, and Michael Gough as a doddery butler. The hero is future Coronation Street villain Mark Eden. Ron Pember plays a petrol station attendant. There's a random streaker. Goofy.

Savage Intruder (1969) - Psychedelic low-rent Hollywood set psychobiddy awfulness with a Joe 90 soundalike theme and Miriam Hopkins going on about George Brent.  Depressing. Features a plotline about a lookalike sex doll.

Blood of Dracula's Castle (1970) - Has weird shots of a walrus at a marine park. Paula Raymond and Alexander D'Arcy as the Draculas are like the posh villainous neighbours in a sitcom. Typical waste of ingenuity from Al Adamson. A fright is screams over a purple dress with a spider on top.

The Brotherhood of Satan (1971) - Sporadically interesting visuals, and an interesting performance by Strother Martin fail to make good of a flat, confused and confusing shocker, though the scenes in the coven all look excellent.

The Man With Icy Eyes (1971) - Nonsensical giallo,  set and shot in Nevada, with Victor Buono, Keenan Wynn and Faith Domergue. Ends with Antonio Sabato getting out of prison, a car drives up and a little man with a Beatle-wig gets out, hugs Sabato and welcomes our hero in the car.

The Night Digger (1971) - Rather boring vehicle for Patricia Neal, crafted by her husband Roald Dahl, despite Peter Sallis and Yootha Joyce as a couple.

The Velvet Vampire (1971) - Dire performances colour this Corman-produced distaff Yorga/redneck Daughters of Darkness. But Celeste Yarnall is an interesting vampire. And the climax where Diane accidentally stumbles on some Christian iconography is actually quite inventive.

Web of the Spider (1971) - More evidence that Antonio Margheriti was a hack when he didn't have the chance to engage with miniatures. Weird seeing the distinctive-voiced German Peter Carsten dubbed with a generic British voice. Anthony Franciosa looks out of place, and very severe. And it all looks surprisingly cheap. The Italians' gothic horror never feels unique, bar except Bava. It mostly always feels like a photocopy, like so much of Italian cinema, where they can be only as half as good as what they are tracing over. Remake of Margheriti's hoary Barbara Steele shocker Castle of Blood (1964) - not the almost identical Steele-as-a-blonde schlocker Nightmare Castle (1965).

ZPG - Zero Population Growth (1971) - Astonishingly like the later Logan's Run, a cold, rather flat, televisual dystopia. 

Dr. Tarr's Torture Dungeon (1972) - Mexican horror with a caped Claudio Brook. It thinks it's European, but lots of badly staged nonsense including a wrestling match-like scene with pygmies confirms its true identity. Has a comedy musical interlude with a sheep.

Case of the Bloody Iris (1972) - Typical idiotic giallo, nice soundtrack and photography, though George Rigaud is not a bad antagonist (though bears quite a resemblance to Irish presidential candidate Peter Casey), and for a man near-seventy, quite physical.

The Flesh And Blood Show (1972) - Patrick Barr's hammy, shouty performance is the best thing about this film, which feels like a sex film and not just cos Robin Askwith pops up in it.     Though the flashbacks have anachronistic looking "young actors". It doesn't end, it just kind of stops.

The Holy Mountain (1973) - Transvestites, barechested gladiators, warrior tortoises, Mexican tourists all feature in Jodorowsky's epic for the sake of it. Memorable if not actually good.  It's just a stream of astonishing non-sequiturs, from the variety shows in coffins to the toy factory. And a chimp in a  tabard.

O Lucky Man (1973) - It's a bit insufferable, at three hours (I never got on with If), with Alan Price musical interludes, but it has Arthur Lowe being great, And in blackface. Not so great.  Even if he is taking it completely seriously to the point that he's almost convincing. And Bill Owen. And I have to say, Malcolm McDowell - a hot twink. And it's interesting to see such a proudly Northern genre film.  It may be the best film of its length, so yes... a discovery. And then the song from the Volkswagen ad comes on. Because it's Alan Price.

The Werewolf of Washington (1973) - Michael Dunn has Dean Stockwell walking around like a dog in peculiar but ultimately boring "satire".

Love Brides of the Blood Mummy (1973) - One of the most ridiculous and threadbare Spanish horrors. Set in an undefined, presumably Victorian England, has George Rigaud in a fur-lined dressing gown/judge's robe as Lord Dartmoor. And an Aztec  costumed Egyptian mummy.

Count Dracula's Great Love (1973) - Better in black and white. Paul Naschy does not register as a villain or a vampire, and the best thing about it is a dog howling sounds like someone doing a Scooby-Doo impression.

TORSO (1973) - A nice soundtrack doesn't help this rubbishy, generic proto-slasher giallo. Suzy Kendall about twice her character's age.

Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973) - Dreary 70s sexploitation nonsense written by Nicholas Meyer of all people. Uses Also Sprach Zarathustra.

The Antichrist (1974)  - Middle-class Italian relationship drama/Exorcist imitation, mundane, livened up by a weird goat-demon giving invisible cunnilingus, and George Coulouris as a mad monk who gives a great, hammy performance as the exorcist, bringing a gravitas to the role.

The Beast Must Die (1974) - Michael Gambon is so obviously the suspect that the secondary werewolf seems to be only there to make us think he isn't. This is a laughable attempt to do a British blaxploitation film. Calvin Lockhart is extremely fruity, but his character isn't much. Though he is arguably an early black superhero of the cinema. Charles Gray and Cushing do their best. Tom Chadbon tries, but his hippyish cannibal medical student doesn't really come off. But there's not much action, hence the werewolf break. Initially intended as a vehicle for Robert Shaw (who pre-Jaws was doing stuff like this, e.g. A Reflection Of Fear), and then Robert Quarry, before being retooled for a black lead. It doesn't work as a horror.

Man On A Swing (1974)  - Unsettling too much for its own good, typical New Hollywood studio filler, not that great, but Joel Grey steals it as a peculiar psychic. But it's alienating in its strangeness. Cliff Robertson is such an unlikeable fool that it's no surprise that Joel Grey is right.

Psychic Killer (1975) - Jim Hutton kind of looks lost, in a "what happened to my career?" way, but he gives a better performance than this cheap, tawdry, idiotic little schlocker deserves. Filled with ageing stars to give it pep, and to waste time. Della Reese pops up as a mother to buy meat from a butcher played by Neville Brand, that's just there to fill time.

Dracula In The Provinces (1975) - Silly, pervy Lucio Fulci sex comedy. Barely any Dracula.

Expose (1976) - Dreadful sex-drama with Udo Kier, Linda Hayden, Fiona Richmond, Patsy "Ghoul" Smart, and Vic Armstrong, and Karl Howman in his only video nasty appearance, ten years before his eventful appearance in he painting and decorating sitcom Brush Strokes.

The House With The Laughing Windows (1976) - Typically nonsensically arty giallo. Twist is the local priest (American poet and Fellini colleague Eugene Walter) is actually a transman because he has breasts. 

The Town That Dreaded  Sundown (1976)- Charles B. Pierce is a director whom I find more interesting than his films. He's an exploitation director who made films that harked back to an earlier time, not in an Al Adamson way, because unlike Adamson, he actually had talent and skill.  The trouble is he's making films that are far more glossy and TV-level and nostalgic than they should be. Ben Johnson is the name,  but Pierce casts himself as comic relief. They are bits that feel amateurish, tonally all over the place,  but at times he seems more interested in creating some kind of weird nostalgic local comedy than a horror or true-crime movie.  I do love the product placement of the modern epilogue with Pierce's own Winterhawk's gala showing being shown.

The Manitou (1978) - Utter nonsense. Michael Ansara is wearing a bad wig to portray a Native American (he was Syrian IRL).  He looks like Richie Kavanagh.  Burgess Meredith tries, but it's all so clunky. Susan Strasberg is miscast. Tony Curtis is overwhelmed by his large collars.

The Island (1980) - Such a deeply odd film. A big-budget US film featruing an almost entirely British cast, shot and set in Florida. Michael Ritchie seems to be in love with Colin Jeavons, lots of sexy shots of the legendary character actor, bare-chested, wearing what appears to be a halter top. But even Jeavons, Don Henderson, David Warner and Dudley Sutton all come across as silly, in a pantoish manner. Their performances are more suited to Educating Marmalade. It's not clear at times. The spectacle of the pirate raids are great, but it doesn't feel connected.

Virus (1980) - Watched the 106 minute version, which is a cobbled together version of the Japanese cut and the shorter 93 minute version. It loses the epic scale of the slower but larger version, plus there's no Sonny Chiba. 

Just Before Dawn (1981) - Bland, nothingy woodlands slasher. Not even George Kennedy helps to liven up this typical rural stalking match.

Looker (1981) - Bland, glossy thriller with Albert Finney (R.I.P.) once again miscast as an American action hero with a Lancashire accent. Typical Crichton.

Possession (1981)- I can see why this was banned. Because it's dreadful, arty codswallop dressing up fetish porn in the style of Berlin arthouse relationship drama.

Litan (1982) - Excellently gorgeously shot Jean Pierre Mocky surrealism, like Nuits Rouges in the land of the dead.

Android (1982) - Somewhat overdrawn, confused mess of a film. Seems to try and actually be a small, intimate sci-fi film for Corman, but is slightly too small. Nice twist, and some verisimilitude, i.e. the technological world and space industry being heavily German. Weird zydeco-electronica soundtrack.

Videodrome (1983) - Typical Cronenberg, cold, unfeeling, silly, James Woods as much as a gobshite as he is in real life.

Frankenstein 90 (1984) - Jean Rochefort and pop star Eddy Mitchell in a French comedy that apart from a flat-headed lunk, is barely a horror film or Frankenstein. Dreadful.

Tales of the Third Dimension (1984) - An Italian Rod Serling skeleton called Igor chats with annoying, rubbish puppet birds in the host segments for this Earl Owensby horror anthology. Like an amateur night Monster Club. Though  the goofy puppets are a neat touch.

Morons from Outer Space (1985) - It might be one of my favourite Cannon films. It's not without its problems, the aliens don't feel like real characters, but there's some fun jokes with the ministry, the bloke with the duck shouting "sod off!", Andre Maranne on the Wurlitzer, and what I find interesting is that a lot of the Earthbound investigation stuff almost feels like what Lifeforce should have been. It certainly looks more cinematic/expensive. But for a film supposedly starring Smith and Jones, there's not a lot of Griff, and Mel is kept away from him until the end.

The Supernaturals (1986) - Stupid Civil War ghosts versus Maxwell Caulfield-as-reincarnated soldier plus various Star Trek folk... One of the zombie-ghosts is played by Maurice Gibb. Yes, really.

Little Shop Of Horrors (1986) - It's a small story despite the alien plant monster, and the big sets and Pinewood glitz really don't suit it.  It looks like a jeans ad from the same era.

Curse of Snakes-Valley (1988) - Finally, a Polish-Estonian Soviet Indiana Jones knockoff with the female lead being a Linda Martin alike from Soupy Norman (or rather the Polish series it used footage of - Soupy Norman being the greatest RTE TV show of the modern era, certainly). Unfortunately, despite seemingly being filmed in Asia, it is rather dull. And there are multi-headed snakes, and aliens, and blokes in pith helmets.

Class of 1999 (1990) - Typical mid-budget video fodder, with a great cast, nice locations, but descends into one-joke dreariness mixed in with sub-Enzo Castellari post apocalyptic drivel.

The Ambulance (1990) - Interesting but ultimately flawed Larry Cohen film about body parts. Some nice touches, e.g. Eric Roberts working for Stan Lee as himself, at Marvel don't help a bland TV-like presentation. James Earl Jones has a nice bit as a detective who is now frightened by the Todd McFarlane/Rob Liefeld school of comics. Red Buttons pops up, and Eric Braeden is the baddie.

Batman - Mark of the Phantasm  (1993) - It's solid for an animation.

Tales From The Crypt - Demon Knight (1995) - It looks like it was made for HBO, there's some fun bits with Dick Miller but it feels just that bit too goofy.

Space Truckers (1996) - Dareisay it, Stuart Gordon's best film, and not just because it was shot in Ardmore. There's lots of ideas there. Sure, the film lags, and needed a stronger plot, but it's so detailed, it successfully builds a world even if the Mojave Desert is clumsily doubled by Dollymount Strand, and there's a strong character cast. It has Shane Rimmer as the big bad, and there's a really weird, scatological energy it has. It's obsessed with phallic imagery, in a really childlike manner. It has the sheen of Battle Beyond the Stars, rather than the earnest but rather dull worlds Charles Band has created. And Charles Dance gets to ham it up. And Pat "Pat Mustard" Laffan plays a greasy space pirate.

Monday 4 February 2019

The Early Hitchcock Collection from Optimum DVD - 9

Champagne (1928 - B/W) - Insanely experimental, ambitious romantic comedy with Betty Balfour lolloping about on a cruise.

The Ring (1928 - B/W) - An interesting picture of carnival boxing, complete with blackface minstrel magicians.  Again, lots of visual inspiration, including superimposed faces of panic over the match.

The Farmer's  Wife (1928 - B/W) - Pantoish romantic com-melodrama.

The Manxman (1929 - B/W) Typical silent melodrama about boat racing in the Isle of Man. Actually shot in Cornwall. Because the Isle of Man Film Commission wasn't a thing back then, obviously.

Blackmail! (1929 - B/W) - Hitchcock's first sound, mostly. The first details of his style to the point that it feels like a parody. But it is very odd, mixture of newsreel, comedy and krimi. The sound has dated badly. Sounds like a MIDI file. The museum chase is excitingly staged, though.

Murder! (1930 - B/W) - Another mystery. Mostly a dull courtroom drama, the twist being the camp drag act is the murderer because he doesn't want people to know he had a black ancestor. The drag trapeze routine at the circus is the most extraordinary thing. Tries to play being a "half-caste" for tragedy. The end breaks the fourth wall.

The Skin Game (1931 - B/W) - Featuring Edmund Gwenn in the British film days when he worked with a pre-hotpot Betty Driver/Turpin/Williams (she's not in this, sadly), a rural romance drama. Well-made, but not quite my thing. A John Galsworthy adaptation.

Rich and Strange (1932 - B/W) - Aptly named relationship drama where everyone looks like ghosts. With added variety interlude in Paris. Ends with couple on a sinking ship, only to be rescued by a Chinese junk for some reason.

Number Seventeen (1932  - B/W) - A typical quota quickie thriller. Vague.

As a whole, Murder! may be the most entertaining.

Friday 1 February 2019

Action/mystery/drama and comedy - 44

4 Frightened People (1932 - B/W) - Very odd, Carry On Up The Jungle pre-code comedy by Cecil B. DeMille, a vehicle for Claudette Colbert as a nerdy siren to walk about in leopard print. Unconvincing jungle region, with multi-racial tribal extras.

No Limit (1935) - George Formby races in the Isle of Man, wears blackface to hide his identity so he can entertain. More energy than the Balcon Ealing stuff, but stiffs pretty early.

Green for Danger (1946 - B/W) - Sim's good. Interesting, but still typical wartime potboiler.

 Blithe Spirit (1945) - Madame Arcati is fun, but Rex Harrison seems to take the fun out of everything. The comedy I don't quite get.

Barnacle Bill (1957 - B/W) - Episodic attempt to do a nice version of Kind Hearts and Coronets.  Baffling, with some fun but cartoonish one-frame jokes i.e. Guinness' head in a cannibal's pot, but otherwise, it's stuff like Guinness partying with nice young delinquents who have a skiffle band. One of them is Jackie Collins. There is some inventive stuff wiith the pier, but it feels so quaint. It gets quite strange at the end, as Guinness, haunted by his forefathers creates  a steamshovel-boat, but it's all done in a very Ealing fashion. When you realise that TEB Clarke also wrote Children's Film Foundation films too, it all makes sense.

The Admirable Cricthon (1957) - As a Doctor Who fan, weird to see Jack Watling young, but then he was a big enough star to be regularly featured in the birthdays section of John Willis' Screen World for decades, when he hadn't made a proper film since a small role in Harrowhouse 13. Not quite my film, but it looks strange. It's like a high-class comedy disguised as an erotic fantasy - Lewis Gilbert practising for those Garden bits in Moonraker. But hey, Miles Malleson! And Gerald Harper!

Go To Blazes (1962) - Muddled all star heist with  Dave King, Daniel Massey and Norman Rossington an unlikeable bunch of heroes. All star cast includes Maggie Smith struggling with a French accent. Best bit is Miles Malleson as a fire engine salesman.

The Pink Jungle (1968) - George Kennedy and James Garner star in an unconvincing, backlot-laden, TV-like faux-South American caper, start of when Universal's televisual house style emerges.

Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You (1970) - Not quite a sequel, Ian McShane, in his brief attempt to be a movie star (starring opposite Anna Calder-Marshall, who was Cathy in the film of Wuthering Heights, while McShane was in the rival BBC version). Terrible, terrible, but an interesting snapshot of filmmaking in Rome. Has Ian dressed as an Indian on the set of a Richard Harrison spaghetti western. 

Entertaining Mr. Sloane (1970) - You know when people say that Tales of the Unexpected was predictable? The twists in this are always heavily signposted. Everything seems to be innuendo channelled into a surrealist Avengerland nonsensica. In that category of psychedelic weird family movies. 

 Trafic (1971) - Tati baffles me.

The Nun (1972) - Positive but treacly and tonally all over the shop comdram from Italy, with Sophia Loren and Adriano Celentano. On a double bill with The Key (1958 - B/W) - an interchangeable WW2 movie with William Holden and an oddly beardless Noel Purcell.

Spanish Fly (1976) - Odd, not very funny cad-off between Leslie Philips and Terry-Thomas. Very Casanova '73. Has theme by Phil Coulter and his wife Geraldine, former neighbours of mine.  Somehow shooting it in Spain rather than mocking it up in Pinewood makes it less funny. Because then you get actual Spanish folk (Nadiuska, later Conan the Barbarian's mum and José Lifante from Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue) who don't get British timing. A UK-Spain-Canada coproduction. Producer Peter James, head of Canuxploiters Quadrant is now a successful crime novelist. Padded out by travelogue footage and some odd dance numbers/music videos.

Seven Nights in Japan (1976) - Ludicrous Anglo French proto Hallmark fantasy with Michael York as a pseudo Prince Charles royal of an unnamed European monarchy that may or may not be the UK (all of his fellow countrymen are either played by the likes of Charles Gray as the Ambassador, Peter Jones and James Villiers or badly dubbed French women, the royal portraits look like bad lookalikes of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, his father seems to have the power, and we meet the British Ambassador, who is played by a black extra, interestingly) who falls in love with a Japanese tour guide, while on shore leave, and then gets chased by a bunch of crazed karate assassins headed by Tetsuro Tanba, who try to assassinate Prince George, a la Clouseau in The Pink Panther Strikes Again. Reminded me of the contemporaneous David Niven film Paper Tiger, another Europudding family film with jarring changes in tone, and an Asian setting.

High Anxiety (1977) - You can tell Brooks isn't as interested in parodying Hitchcock as he is in Universal horror or the western. It also feels cheap. Cloris Leachman doesn't work. What I think is that he should have done something like Airplane!  The thing is the plot of Airplane isn't a joke. It's a 50s B-movie plot. The jokes come through the plot. Brooks tries to structure the plot around jokes.

Picture Show Man (1977) - Something Steve Pemberton-ish about John Meillon. Confused, amiable film with Rod Taylor and John Meillon as rival projectionists in the 1910s. Taylor's American accent per usual sounds distinctly Strine. A possible interest in the films a la Roy Clarke's similar series is negated for nonsensical subplots involving Patrick Cargill, then making Father Dear Father Down Under, as a magician and his Yugoslavian assistant. Apparently, Taylor was cast as American, because the producers thought he'd no longer be able to do his original accent, which apparently pissed Taylor off. Because he never sounded American, anyway.  It's nicely shot, but it's more of a prestige light drama than a comedy. Nicely shot but rather empty. Dolore "Aunt Vanessa" Whiteman appears.It feels episodic, and Taylor's character is nothing but a thinly-written foil. There's a bit where you can see him rolling his own eyes, and you think, "is that real, Rod?".

Who Is Killing The Great Chefs of Europe (1979) - Basically Meredith Merridew Lives!  Segal and Bisset's storyline holds it back. This is Morley's film. H. Dumpty. Silly voices. It only comes alive in the UK bits. Weird billing. Frank Windsor and Peter Sallis and even Tim Barlow billed over Joss Ackland, Daniel Emilfork and Jacques Marin.

Stunt Rock (1979) - Nonsensical pseudo mock-doc, vehicle for the charismatic Grant Page, Australia's greatest stuntman. It's a mess, but the stunts are good, the music less so.

The Odd Angry Shot (1979) - Interesting but not wholly successful war pseudo-comedy about a simultaneously laddish and bitchy bunch of Aussies, including Graham Kennedy, John Jarratt, John Hargreaves and Bryan Brown,  in Vietnam. The low budget shows, the tone is odd, but it's the only Vietnam War film to mention Coronation Street, probably. The climax, set on a bridge is clearly in a Aussie suburb, with yellow parking lines is laughable. But a Saigon city street set actually looks semi-convincing.

Garbo Talks (1984) - A supposed dramedy. Anne Bancroft is annoying. Sidney Lumet shoots the thing in a beige style. The end, with a Garbo lookalike shot from the back being randomly spotted is a cop-out. 

Johnny Dangerously (1984) - Worth it for some good jokes at the beginning, but this attempt at a Brooks/ZAZ-type parody of gangster fare does fall apart. The story doesn't work, but the jokes do.

Only Angels Have Wings (1939 - B/W) - Some reason, I don't warm to it. I think it is because it's basically a western with palm trees and jungle foliage instead of desert and planes not horses.

Le Corbeau (1942 - B/W) - An energetic, oddly Ealing-ish French noir.

The Clouded Yellow (1950 - B/W) - Baffling, confused Ralph Thomas Hitchcock imitation with Trevor Howard, Jean Simmons and Kenneth More. Nice crane-chase cinematography.

I Confess (1953 - B/W) - Typical Hitchcock heightened by 50s Quebec locations.

Rififi (1955 - B/W) Stylish, but not quite my thing.

Piccaddilly Third Stop (1960 - B/W) - Wolf Rilla's British heist film. Not great. Not a fan of these sort of films. William Hartnell billed above the credits is the best performer as a paedo safecracker,
while Dennis Price merely a guest star. Terence Morgan one of those British B-actors who isn't much of a talent. Weird to see a young, tache-less Charles Kay. Interesting inter-racial element with Yoko Tani's Polynesian aristocrat. She's adorable. But it is a dodgy redo of Rififi.

The Pursuers (1961 - B/W) - I need to look at more Danzigers' fare. I did see bits of Devil Girl From Mars, and wasn't too encumbered by it. But this is odd. A rare lead for Cyril Shaps, cast against type as a Nazi war criminal/Auschwitz commandant, stalked by Francis Matthews. Most of the film centres on Shaps, unusually first billed, and using his inimitable panicked little face as the evil mastermind now trying to live a normal life. Brian Clemens adds a few interesting touches, notably the Pabst-like director now resident in Britain, who made propaganda films at the camp. Though this was probably to use a set from a previous film, and to use the films' cameras as props.

The McKenzie Break (1970)  - An interesting failure. Probably the best cinematic showcase for Wicklow, but this has problems. Des Keogh plays a Scotsman with a Dublin accent. Because it is about Nazis, no one is sympathetic. For a 60s war actioner, it is quite grim. Grandad plays a Scottish delivery man. It feels almost like a Tale of the Unexpected. Brian Keith is out of place. He is good, but distracting.

Red Sun (1971) - The Samurai element feels shoehorned in to an otherwise average western, one of those mock Hollywood spaghetti westerns.

The Mechanic (1972) - Jan Michael Vincent is channelling Bronson. Too much of a character piece. The European stuff is prime Winner. The twist is neat.

Across 110th Street (1973)  - Not my type of film, but it does what it does well. It puts you in the place of 70s New York. It works as an evocative piece of cinema, but the trouble is it tries too hard to be imitative of William Friedkin. Anthony Quinn and Yaphet Kotto are good, as is the rest of the cast (including Antonio Fargas and Burt Young).  But it's all a bit contrived, and the documentary style, though striking, renders a lot of it kind of hard to read, at first. And the freeze-frame shock ending with a roll-the-credits-silent Adric/Martha Longhurst in the Rovers-style doesn't really fit. Interesting to see much cast and locations in common with Live And Let Die, which in comparison, thanks to the Pinewood interior sets, feels like a much less authentic runaround. It isn't a blaxploitation film, really. It isn't much of an action film. It's a honest, realistic crime film. Still, it's better than Cotton Comes To Harlem.

The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1973) - Very 70s take on the Jesse James mythos. Not my thing. Would-be Altmanesque gubbins.

Mahler (1974) - It's a load of bollocks, but it has so much power, so much energy.
Lisztomania (1975) is even more nonsensically vulgar, with its Hitler-Frankenstein thing at the end.It's Russell parodying himself.

Sunday Too Far Away (1975) - A picture of Australia in its purest form, but not quite my kind of film. Feels more like a documentary.

Mikey and Nicky (1976) - Cassavetes and Falk in grimy, amateurish gangster thing. Clearly a pet project.

Valentino (1977) - Nureyev does not register. Ken Russell marinates the thing in overstylized imagery to hide that he is not in Hollywood, but then Felicity Kendal, Alfred Marks, Peter Vaughan and Dudley Sutton turn up.

Rollercoaster (1977) - George Segal gets nostalgic over cigars. Has a random hamster ball being perused by Helen Hunt. This film terrified me as a kid. Has Sparks in it. Eventually becomes bemusing.

Gray Lady Down (1978) - A less entertaining Universal disaster. Kind of bland, but submarine films don't tend to work for me.

Power Play (1978) - Bar a soundtrack by Ken Thorne not unlike Michael J. Lewis' for the Medusa Touch, the sort of nonsense that gives Canadian cinema  a bad name. Peter O'Toole clearly did this for Guinness money. The  setting feels like no one gave thought to it. Dick Cavett's cameo is not needed.

Kagemusha (1980) - Not a big fan of epic movies. It's beautifully shot, but like a lot of period dramas, samurai films tend to blur into one for me.

Dirty Weekend (1993) - Michael Winner's female vigilante film. Jesus, Andrew Neil looked as old then as he is now. Why is Michael Cule awkwadly dubbed? Some Winner energy, but it's not great. Still cost me 20 quid.

TRIED WATCHING 1973'S JEREMY. But rather than a charming coming of age story, it felt a self-confident but rough precursor to all those irritating 90s indie films. Robby Benson is annoying. Then again, I tried the Last Picture Show, and ditto.

Rewatched Willard. Bruce Davison is whiny in a Hywel Bennett manner, the TV movie production values make it look like an episode of Mannix,