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, 

1 comment:

  1. I wish Mark Kermode would stop going on about Jeremy, it really is the most treacly, cloying bollocks imaginable. You can just about see what the appeal of Robby Benson was to 1970s teenage girls in a sub-David Cassidy way, but his "style" has not aged well. Compare Jeremy to something like Breaking Away and there's light years of difference in quality. Or even Romero's Martin!