Wednesday, March 31, 2010

This month's slew of crud. I don't know... the crap I watch to keep myself sane.

  1. Logan's Run (1976) - That was long. And dull. I suspect the only reason this movie has lasted so long in people's affections - or at least in men of my generation's affections - is the scanty clothing worn (and taken off, on camera) by Jenny Agutter.

    As evidence I would like to submit this contribution submitted to the 'Goofs' for this movie on IMDb
    Continuity: When Jessica takes off her green tunic to put on the fur, she has very low-cut dark green underwear. Later when she slips on the ice running from Box, she is wearing lighter-colored underwear.
    Now there's a man who has worn out his rewind and slow-mo buttons. Yay! Thirty years later though, two hours does seem like an awfully a long time to sit through for a couple of brief flashes of Ms Agutter's boobs no matter what coloured tights she was wearing at the time.

  2. Flashman (1967) - Italian Batman rip off set for the most part in London where 'Lord Alexei Burman' dons a cheap Power Rangers-like costume and bashes bad guys and foils an evil gang armed with the secret of invisibility. Not very good at all, even by the standards of cheap Italian knock-offs. I'm off now to contribute to its goofs section - apparently in 1967 Holloway Prison housed men.

  3. Shorts - Pizza night!

  4. Terror! Il castello delle donne maledette (1974) - aka Dr. Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks (and an awful lot of other titles). An deliriously incoherent mess that took all the usual Frankensteiny tropes and added a few more - then threw away all the ones that made any sense. The scene where the necrophiliac dwarf and the last remaining Neanderthal man wordlessly discover each other and make friends to a piece of music scored for a solo trombone full of custard pushed my What the Fuck am I Watching?! buttons in all the right places.

  5. Freakmaker (1974) - Oddly compelling bit of very cheap 70s horror. Directed, of all people, by Jack Cardiff. This was Cardiff's last directorial gig before he went back to doing what he did best - he was the cinematographer on Black Narcissus, The African Queen, and Conan the Destroyer among many others. Freakmaker (aka The Mutations) borrows from Tod Browning's Freaks and has a heavily made up Tom Baker as the owner of a touring freak show procuring healthy bodies for mad scientist Donald Pleasance's experiments. Pleasance is your standard misguided genius trying to create a hybrid race of plant/humans. His theory being that if we can synthesise our own food from sunlight, this will alleviate world hunger, put an end to war, and let the human race race achieve its 'full potential'. The fact that his most successful experiment to date looks like a green flip-top bin with tendrils and has to be fed on a diet of live rabbits isn't going to stop him, no sir. Not when there are conveniently available subjects like Julie Ege to experiment upon...

    (What's that you say? 'Just another cheap excuse for another gratuitous screen capture of a naked woman in a bath'? Would I ever...?)

    By an amazing coincidence there were naked women taking baths in Terror! Il castello delle donne maledette too. For years (from the days of the Lumiers I suspect) film-makers have struggled with the problem of coming up with decent excuses to get their leading actresses naked - in the seventies the most common solution was to have them take a bath. By an even more amazing coincidence this was the second film I watched tonight that starred Michael Dunn. He was the necrophiliac dwarf in the Spanish mess and the co-owner of the freak show in this one. When he was given something to get his teeth into, like he did here, he was a bloody good actor.

  6. The Maggie (1954) - Gentle minor Ealing comedy with a few really nice moments, my favourite was a tiny scene (one shot?) that took place in an office well away from the main action where a secretary in a few words and a gesture sketches in a whole new dimension to the central character.

  7. Gandahar ( 1988 ) - I came to Gandahar with fond childhood memories of director René Laloux's 1967 film La planète sauvage and was hoping for some real screen magic.
    I always try to learn something from every film I watch, this time I think I learnt that maybe sometimes the memory of a film is more vital,interesting and real than the film itself. I very much doubt if this is a new idea but I'm not going to put it to the test. I haven't seen La planète sauvage for many many years and having seen this I doubt if I ever will again, just in case I destroy those fond memories.

    I also learnt that if you read really really fast you can watch subtitled films on fast forward and not miss a sodding thing.

  8. Princess Warrior (1989) - I doubt if there is any way of watching Princess Warrior that will make it bearable. In a female dominated society (Bad movie alert! Awoooga! Awooooga!) on another planet the queen is dying. She has two daughters, one good (blonde and prone to mooning about in a mini-toga), one evil (brunette and prone to carrying weapons and wearing leather fetish gear - hang on, I'll turn that siren off).

    The dying queen anoints blondie as her successor. Swords are drawn as the evil daughter's faction stage an instant coup. Blonde is whisked to safety by her followers by shoving her into a handy matter transmitter (the only one on the planet) and sending her to some random destination to be rescued when the situation is normalised. The random destination turns out to be a over-lit bar in LA. As anyone travelling through the matter transmitter has to be naked (if they're not, they disperse into 'random ions') it's damn lucky that the bar is hosting a poorly-attended wet T-shirt contest and the newly-arrived, and totally naked, royal fugitive finds herself standing at the table with all the T-shirts on. Evil sister and two hench-women follow, as does much "Okay? Punch two three... kick two three... turn two three - you're supposed to hit me now..." fighting and the saddest, longest, most boringly repetitive excuse for a car chase put on the screen since Mack Sennet invented the idea. So far it is a toss-up between this and Alien Private Eye for my uncoveted 'Crappiest Film of The Year Award'. I think this one is winning, at least in Alien Private Eye you could hear the dialogue (you didn't want to but you could) here you could hardly make out vast swathes of dialogue for the bloody awful 'my mate's got a big synthesiser in his bedroom - he'll do it' music that was sloshing all over the place.

    Looking at the listing on IMDB I see that a couple of the alien girls were called 'Exzema' and 'Bulemia' - I suddenly think the makers thought they were making a comedy.

  9. Monsters vs Aliens (2009) - See giant a Giant Robot destroy San Francisco in Gosh Wow! beautifully rendered Dreamworks computer animation.

  10. Beginning of the End (1957) - See giant locusts eat Chicago! Or rather, watch Burt I Gordon film a few grasshoppers crawling around on some postcards of famous buildings intercut with Peter Graves (RIP) firing a Thomson submachine gun out of a window - and Morris Ankrum, as usual playing a general, barking orders down the telephone. I think Morris Ankrum must have owned his own uniform he appears so often in these sorts of movies as 'The General'. He probably turned up to auditions in it. "Yeah I can do a General, got my own suit too. Save you fifty bucks on the costume budget." Judging by the obvious lack of money on show here, that fifty bucks probably got him the part.

  11. Plan 9 From Outer Space - To christen my new (to me) DVD player which, after performing the arcane ritual of: opening the tray, pressing 9 on the handset four times, waiting two seconds, pressing it again and then closing the tray, is now a multi-region player. I grabbed the first region 1 DVD that came to hand. For months now, ever since the last decent DVD player we had died a mysterious death two thirds the way through Zathura: A Space Adventure, I have been unable to play anything but region 2 or region 0 discs. For some reason the replacement resisted every effort to turn it into anything other than a European DVD player. That's the last time I buy a £15 DVD player from Tesco's. £30 from Lidl? Now you're talking! - it even has a USB slot in the front which will speed up the download to watching time somewhat considerably....

  12. Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? (1969) - Any film that has Joan Collins playing a character called 'Polyester Poontang' has got to be worth a watch hasn't it? She sings too! Basically in this film we get to see Anthony Newly - he was big in the Sixties - have a mid-life crisis on a beach in Malta talking to the devil aka 'Good Time Eddy Filth', and an enigmatic godlike figure who tells an endless stream of not quite jokes. Newly and other characters are constantly breaking the fourth wall, stepping in and out of character, interacting with the film crew making the film we are watching and all sorts of other smart, clever stuff fashionable at the time. (The past may be a 'different country' but these days the Sixties are starting to look like a different planet.) The word Felliniesque (or something similar) is the word most often used to describe Merkin - once you've ignored the words 'crap', 'self indulgent' and 'twaddle' - and in a way it is... almost. It's clearly and unashamedly influenced by Fellini (he even gets an explicit name drop in the film) but it just doesn't work in the same way that Fellini's films do - and if I knew what the difference was I would be a rich and influential man. I suspect that part of the answer is that the film is in English. If this film had been in a language I did not understand and subtitled I suspect I would have come away from it with a different feeling. Maybe if I understood Italian I would hate Fellini's movies just as much as I hate Ken Russell's.

  13. Gremloids aka Hyperspace (1984) surprisingly funny low budget 'what if Star Wars met Close Encounters?' spoof. It drags in places but is often a lot funnier than a lot of better-made 'comedies'.

  14. Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) - Dr Jekyll, searching for The Elixir of Life (or even An Elixir of Life, I don't suppose he's that fussy really) finds himself transmogrifying into a woman with a penchant for wearing red and slaughtering prostitutes.
    Mixing the Jekyll and Hyde story with the Jack the Ripper story makes some kind of sense but adding Burke and Hare into the mix (60 years too late and in the wrong city) seems a bit odd. But then Hammer was never really one for historical accuracy - if you want to get really picky Jekyll's talk of creating a powerful anti-virus is pretty spectacular given that the first virus wasn't identified till 1898, ten years after the Whitechapel Murders (isn't Wikipedia wonderful? suddenly I'm an expert on the Victorian era).
    So, pretty routine late Hammer stuff, all swirling fog and dodgy cockney accents accents. There were some nice moments, the best of which was the first transformation. We've all seen the Jekyll>Hyde transformation before, the actor will clutch his throat as if he has just accidentally swallowed a bucket of phall, stagger under the weight of fifteen pints of Special Brew lager, fall out of shot behind convenient piece of furniture and emerge, after a suitably dramatic pause and a couple of hours spent in Make-up, covered in hair and with a lecherous gleam in the eye.
    Here he staggers across the set and slumps into a chair in front of a full length mirror, he lowers his head into his hands (the agony!) and the hand-held camera tilts down on him till his head and shoulders fill the screen, music music music, and the camera tilts up again, Jekll's reflection is hunched over in the mirror, slowly he looks up, (we see what he sees as the camera is now in an over the shoulder shot) he drops his hands from his face and there is the female Hyde staring back at him. Pretty impressive. I had a real 'Wait! How did they do that?' moment. Jekyll, played by Ralph Bates, hadn't been out of shot for the entire transformation and there were no cuts or cross-fades that would have allowed a substitution. Rerunning it a couple of times the trick became so bloody obvious and elegantly simple. Real Jonathan Creek stuff.
    In the few moments the mirror was out of shot and we were staring at the back of Jekyll's head and shoulders, the mirror was moved slightly, rotated a few degrees so that, when camera picked it up again, it wasn't showing the reflection of Jekyll sat in the chair as it had been before but the reflection of the actress playing Hyde, sat in an identical chair placed off to the cameraman's left. Clever stuff. So clever I guess this was the basis for the film's 'The sexual transformation of a man into a woman will actually take place before your very eyes!' tag-line. I wish the rest of the film had been that inventive.

  15. The Quiet Earth (1984) - 0ne of those films I can watch again and again. This time I was struck by the wonderfulness of the sound editing.

  16. Solar Crisis (1990) - Ho Hum, was that it? Japanese American co-production which tells the story of an international mission to lob a giant bomb into the sun thus stopping a Mega Flare from erupting and incinerating all life on earth. We know this is what is happening because the first third of the movie consists of people telling each other that this is what's going to happen. It got a bit boring after a while - even after learning that the flare turning the surface of the Earth to magma would only wipe out 95% of humanity - the other 5% presumably having had the foresight to hide in a fridge for the duration. Inevitably things go wrong - none of them were explained very well or generated much excitement. People got sweaty and shouted at each other a lot and the saboteur turned out to be the only crew member with a British accent (d'oh!). Meanwhile, back on Earth, there was another movie going on in which Charlton Heston searched for his grandson. Charlton Heston was playing the father of the International Mission to the Bomb Sun so the two story lines did have a slight relationship to each other but none that advanced either of them. On the whole, not good enough to be good but not bad enough to be good. The director had his name taken off the credits. Mind you, some of the shots of the space ships looked nice, they were very well done.

  17. Hellboy (2004) - Fun to start with - but boy did it go on. A good 10/20 minutes off the running time wouldn't have hurt a bit.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Wee Dilemma

I swear. Sometimes I swear a lot. I try not to swear in front of the kids but sometimes I just can't help it. Meeting foreign tourists driving on the wrong side of the road, as we did last week, does tend to to bring it out.

The other day, while talking to Merriol, Holly used the word 'fucking': "I couldn't open the fucking thing!" or something like that.
"Holly, don't ever say that word!"
"But Daddy says it!"
"Well he shouldn't and he's naughty. I don't want you to say it ever again. Promise?"
"I promise."

Next day Holly is walking upstairs with Daisy:

"Daisy, you're not allowed to say the 'F word'. That's 'fucking'. You're not allowed to say 'fucking'... or 'fucked', or 'fuck this', or 'fuck' anything. Okay? We're not allowed to say 'fuck'."

Later, I find this on the wall of their bedroom:

Now, here's the thing - do I correct her spelling?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sorry this is not a better quality picture but trust me, hanging around inside men's toilets with a camera is not my idea of comfortable so I had to grab this with my phone.


Thursday, March 11, 2010


  1. Night Watch (2004) - not sure what to make of this one. It was either total crap or really great fun - or both. I couldn't make my mind up while I was watching it and I still haven't made my mind up a day later. Whichever it turns out to be I felt bludgeoned after watching it. "There is room in your eyeballs for one more image and I'm going to hammer one in!" I'm going to leave it a few days before watching the next one.
  2. Vampire Circus (1972) - A gloriously bonkers piece of late (more boobs less Cushing) Hammer nonsense with (among many other delights) Lalla Ward as a vampire acrobat.
  3. Zoom: Academy for Superheroes (2006) - a Friday night kids pizza movie-night movie which promised little and failed to deliver. It's not that it was bad, it was just not very good. It looked good, the cast did their job, the design guys did their stuff, the cameraman got the people in the viewfinder and the director didn't do anything outrageously awful but it was all lacklustre. Nothing really jelled. It took ages to get going, scene followed scene without any seeming connection between them or momentum building up. The plot (such as it is) concerns a group of 'misfit' kids with special powers being trained by a has-been superhero to fight a returning super-villain. Sort of. Trouble was the villain of the piece was totally absent - after a long piece of off-camera exposition at the start of the show we just had to take it on trust that he would return by the end to provide a climax. There was a total lack of urgency about the, ill-defined, non-specific 'threat' he posed. So a second layer of threat was introduced: if the kids don't come up to expectations under our hero's guidance they will be artificially enhanced using the same dangerous technique which created the totally absent super-villain in the first place. Apart from the circular non-logic of that, it doesn't work in story terms as a threat because we haven't been shown the possible dire results of this treatment, to wit the totally absent super-villain they are being trained to fight.
    Often when I watch a film on DVD I will, afterwards, work my way through through any deleted scenes included on the disc. Most of the time you can see why they weren't used in the final cut - even without the director telling you. A scene may be funny, or have a nice moment but if it doesn't say anything you didn't already know (or find out later) what is the justification for including it? The big question is always: 'does it advance the story'? Most deleted scenes don't. Watching this film was like watching all the stuff that they could have easily cut, strung together. At the same time it contained odd jumps in the narrative that implied that scenes that should have been included, had been cut. At one moment our hero has hidden the kids and told them to stay hidden while he sorts something out, the next moment the kids are in a different location and being led to the very fate our hero was trying to save them without a word of explanation of how they got there.
    My girls both liked it; no scary bits.
  4. Dick Tracy's Dilemma (1947)
  5. Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947)
  6. Darkman (1990) - "I hate Danny Elfman! I hate Danny Elfman! Shut the fuck up, Danny Elfman!" I'm sure I had more lucid thoughts about this bit of comic book nonsense but they were driven out of my brain by the bloody score. I hate being told what to think by an orchestra.
  7. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs ( 2008 ) - I don't think I've laughed so much for ages. Curiously for a 'kids' movie neither of my two, aged 7 & 5, were impressed.
  8. Species - Ooooh! Ben Kingsley can't half do a spooky 'I'm weirdly dangerous' look when he wants to. In this he's the weirdly spooky boss of a secret government project which mashes up Alien (near indestructible carnivorous ET designed by H R Geiger) with A for Andromeda (alien in female form created by scientists following instructions received via radio telescope) adds a wee bit of The Andromeda Strain (scientists locked in a sealed lab environment with an escaped deadly alien organism) and then, having run out of movies beginning with 'A' to steal ideas from, swiftly descends into a long plodding stop start chase (I think it was supposed to be a 'game of cat and mouse' but missed) culminating in people with big guns and bigger torches running around in sewers. Our hero is Michael Madsen, a man whose career totally baffles me - as in 'how does he have one?'. I've watched several of his films now and am still waiting for him to act. Someone must see something in him though - he currently has twenty-nine (29!) current projects listed on IMDb.
  9. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) - And my third Bruce Campbell movie of the month. This, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Darkman.
  10. Caligula (1979) - and the second movie in a row to contain great chunks of Khachaturian's Spartacus. (I may go back to my long abandoned Six Degrees game if this continues.) Caligula. There are many versions of this movie - some with lashings of gratuitous sex scenes and some without. There are, by my count, 13 different edits of this film listed at Wikipedia. At 98 minutes the copy I have turns out to be one of the shortest*. Is this a good thing? Not sure. I may have to go and find a longer version and sit through all that naked flesh (and more) again to find out.

    * ie the 101 minute edit running at British PAL system TV's 25 fps - which makes films run about 4% faster than at the cinema (24 fps).
  11. Up Pompeii (1971) - my plan to Caligula again tonight - a longer version this time - fell to bits when I discovered the copy I had ... erm ... obtained - had what looked like Portuguese subtitles, was out of synch by a good couple of seconds and was os such a low resolution it looked like it was made up of animated Lego blocks. So, plan B: more togas and tits* in Up Pompeii - which turned out to be even more disastrously unwatchable than I could have imagined. For those non-Brits reading this, a bit of background. Up Pompeii was an early 70s British TV series set in Pompeii sometime just before Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. Classy stuff you would have thought, a BBC production about the Romans made at the dawn of the heady glory days of television. Quality! - wrong. Up Pompeii was a studio-bound sit-com with cheap sets and most of the 'laughs' gathered by playing the supposed licentiousness of the Romans off against the accepted level of BBC approved prudery and sexual inhibitions. Most of the jokes (and most of the plots) seemed to revolve around innuendo - mostly misunderstanding the word 'it' every time it popped up.
    Have you got the fruit for the orgy tonight?
    I'm just on my market to get it.
    Get it at the market? Why not wait till the orgy?
    and so on... and on... the gimmick being the central character, the slave Lurcio played by Frankie Howerd, spent most of the time breaking the forth wall and talking to the audience. Like many unfunny British TV sitcoms of the time Up Pompeii transferred to the big screen, and apart from the obvious charms of (briefly) watching Madeline Smith in the bath - - and a better cue for another gratuitous screen cap of a naked woman I have yet to think up ...

    ... and watching Michael Hordern work** there is bugger all fun to be had here. Don't get me wrong. I don't dislike cheap smut an innuendo (I've written enough of it in my time) it's just that this was just so bloody predictable and banal smut and innuendo.

    * I like tits.
    ** I like Michael Michael Hordern too - but for vastly different reasons.
  12. Android (1982) - quirky little low budget movie which came out about the same time as Blade Runner and dealt with some similar ideas: how human can a robot really be? and for a low-budget bandwagon-jumper stuck in some very small sets it's really not bad. Not great, but not bad. Klaus Kinski keeps himself under control and doesn't chew the recycled scenery - some of which was designed by a young James Cameron - and despite the clunkiness of some of the special effects (1982 + low budget = Atari games console type graphics on the ship's monitors) it holds up pretty well.

Monday, March 01, 2010

That was fun. Fucking computers. Finally joined the rest of the Twenty-first Century* and got a wireless router - which is wired into our machine because, as far as I can tell it hardly wirelesses anything, even when the dongle aerial thing is actually plugged into the back of the computer on an extension cable and taped to the bugger. Somehow, by installing a wireless router,I have managed to screw up the mini-network I had that was working perfectly well until I touched it, and replaced it with something that does less and does it more slowly - apart from maybe letting my neighbours discover that I spend far too much time watching this sort of thing, over and over again if they should so wish.

I warn you: this is hypnotically addictive:

The long and the short and the tall of it is I also managed to somehow screw up Firefox while trying to fix the (as yet still unfixed) networking problem - so I spent an ENTIRE DAY not quite fixing Firefox before discovering that the problem wasn't with Firefox at all. It was a setting in Zone Alarm that had been changed by something - wireless router installation disc that didn't fucking work thus forcing me phone India a lot, I'm looking at you.
It's not been a good week.

* I still find that hard to type. Part of me is still seven years old and reading Thunderbirds comics everytime I think about it. The Twenty First Century! Fuck me! Where's my silver jump suit, my autogyro, and meals in a pill? I feel cheated.

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