Saturday 10 August 2019


Le testament du Docteur cordelier (1959) - A silly, goofball, drunken Mr. Hyde ruins this quite serious film.

Cimarron Strip - Knife In the Darkness (-1968) - An episode of telefilm series Cimarron Strip, starring Stuart Whitman and Jill "Elizabeth Poldark-Warleggan" Townsend and Percy Herbert, fresh from Carry On Cowboy, who looks distinctly out of place in a US western series, but there he is, as the regular sidekick. Written by Harlan Ellison, it's strongly made. Typical western larks infused with the gothic horror sensibility. A tache-free Tom Skerritt turns out to be Saucy Jack.

The Scarecrow (1972) - PBS teleplay with Gene Wilder dressed as David Battley as a kind of American Worzel Gummidge during the 17th century witch trials.

A Cold Night's Death (1973) - Small, cramped but unnerving two hander - Robert Culp and Eli Wallach trapped in an Arctic base with monkeys.

Scream of the Wolf (1974) - Just Clint Walker and Peter Graves in turtlenecks drinking whiskey and discussing wolves.

The California Kid (1974) - Botched attempt to do the American Graffiti school of 70s-50s nostalgia, combining it with horror. Martin Sheen probably the right age for the character, were it made when it were set.

Phantom of Hollywood (-1974) - It descends into typical TV movie folderol, but the opening bits, with the frantic cutting back between the MGM backlot, as it waits for demolition, and what it was, using old stock footage, is gorgeous. Though the studio is called, "Worldwide Films", with a chintzy logo more fitting of a B-movie distributor, the films, footage, stars of Worldwide all are MGM. Andy Hardy, Mrs. Miniver and The Wizard of Oz, even the likes of Garrison's Gorillas and the Rat Patrol, we are told are Worldwide. Jack Cassidy is both the Phantom and his brother, surprisingly making more of an impact as the hunchbacked assistant. Skye Aubrey, the lead plays the daughter of studio boss Peter Lawford. Ironically, she was the actual daughter of MGM overlord James Aubrey.  Cassidy, as the Phantom, sounds weirdly Irish/Cornish.

The Strange and Deadly Occurrence (1974) - What's going on here? Not even Robert Stack knows.

The UFO Incident (1975) - Estelle Parsons and James Earl Jones provide convincing performances in quite a shonky true-life telepicture about real-life interracial couple Betty and Barney Hill's encounter with malicious aliens.

Search for the Gods (1975) - Forgettable Von Daniken-ish pilot with Kurt Russell, Stephen McHattie and Victoria Racimo searching for some ancient astronaut's amulet given to Aztec/Native Americans, while London-based sinister European collector Albert Paulsen and his right hand man Raymond St Jacques chase them. Features stock footage of Trafalgar Square.

Time Travellers (1976) - Shonky Irwin Allen pilot, a semi-reboot of theTime Tunnel. Victorian Chicago represented by sets from Hello Dolly and tinted clips of In Old Chicago.

Whistle And I'll Come To You (-1968) - More a documentary than a drama. Kind of slow. Like all of these shows, the same structure.

Lost Hearts (-1973) - The best of the Ghost Stories for Christmas. Wonderful Joseph O'Conor performance. Great creeps. The Ash Tree (-1975), another MR James is less memorable, however. Typical BBC costumier.

The Signalman (-1976) - Slow, but the visuals, the crash and Dirty Denholm's haunted face especially are wonderful.

Stigma (-1977) - Yet another Ghost Story for Christmas. SLOW, DISTANT, LOTS OF JCB ACTION FOR MY DAD. A bit Cronenberg. Plus BOWLES!!! See also the equally middle class The Ice House (-1978)

Good Against Evil (1977) - Failed pilot for an Exorcist alike series. Lots of padding and Dan O'Herlihy shouting in Latin.

Ants - Panic at Lakewood Manor (1977) - Typical US TV of the era, bland thrills interspersed with familiar faces and lots of "jiggle".

Kiss Meets The Phantom of the Park (1978) - Feels like a Kroftt Brothers half-hour dragged to feature length.

The Darker Side of Terror (1979) - Mundanity about cloning with Robert Forster and Ray Milland.

The Fall of the House of Usher (1979) - An opulent but rather silly adap, based on an overrated story. Weird to see Robert Hays in a serious role.

Disco Beaver from Outer Space (1979) - Baffling HBO special from the National Lampoon team, spoofing cable of the era. A spoof of Sunday classics has a subtitled Importance of Being Earnest with single entendres and Oirish puppets for some reason.

The Mysterious Two (1982) - Why was this intended as a pilot? How would John Forsythe as space-Jim Jones work weekly?

Alice at the Palace (1982) - Meryl Streep in pink dungarees in a Lewis Carroll adaptation via the Good Old Days for PBS. Very baffling American idea of music hall. Astonishing that at her prime Meryl was doing sub-PlayAway nonsense like this.

Frankenstein (1984) - Showtime/Yorkshire adaptation with Robert Powell as the scientist, David Warner in mud as the monster, Carrie Fisher, John Gielgud, with Terence Alexander and Susan Wooldridge, and not given above credit, Edward Judd and the Bill's Roberta Taylor, and Michael Cochrane who is billed higher than Wooldridge and Alexander in the end credits, as Clerval, but only billed there. Shot on video. Feels like an episode of Brass. Also a bit Doctor Who-ey.

Starcrossed (1985) - Boring space-romance drudgery with James Spader.

Top Kids (1987) - A Norwegian TV movie, this is a US-shot, sub-Spielbergian edutainment romp with Honey I Shrunk The Kids/Big star Jared Rushton as one of a bunch of BMX-riding time travelling hacker kids. Also featuring a bizarre cast - Jacques Perrin, Fabio Testi, Cyrielle Clair, Jose Carreras as Enrico Caruso and Niki Lauda as himself. Yes, really.

Firstborn (1988) - Overlong at 2 hr 45, but it works just about. Charles Dance secretly donates his sperm as he and a slightly sleazy Philip Madoc (great to see in a leading role in something that doesn't look cheap) decide to create an ape/boy hybrid. Unlike the ape-boy in the near-contemporaneous Chimera, Gordon is outwardly a normal, healthy human boy, though initially he resembles a baby in a wig and a cave-man suit. He unknowingly beds his sister (Gabrielle Anwar), yet wants to be a priest because he has no capacity for violence, but elder priest Ralph Michael disowns him because Gor's existence is an insult to God. Adult Gor actor Jamie Foster, despite this showcase never did much else. Marc de Jonge from Rambo III and Roshan Seth appear way down the cast list.  A decent score by Hans Zimmer too. From when the BBC were getting tired of telefantasy, so it's interesting to see something with a proper cast, foreign locations and all on film.

Running Against Time (1990) - The sort of thing you watch as a kid because there's time travel, only to be bored rigid.

The Gathering Storm (2002) - Oh, God. It tells us that Winston Churchill was a grouchy but loveable eccentric, and is shot like a family film. It has a treacly, Hallmark-level artifice rather than the grim period detail I was expecting. Albert Finney's performance is Rumpole-esque, I can see why ITV tried to cast him in an ultimately unmade reboot of The Bailey. He even has Reginald Perrin-style fantasy sequences seeing Marlborough in his garden. Ronnie Barker comes out best, as the butler, who is basically Norman Stanley Fletcher.

1 comment:

  1. Kiss were supposedly embarrassed by their Phantom TV special, but then decades later basically remade it as a Scooby-Doo cartoon. Not sure how I feel about that.

    Panic at Lakewood Manor was terrifying to me as a little kid - I couldn't finish it and went to bed when characters started dying. There's a tarantula one, too (not Kingdom of the Spiders), I didn't even start that one.