Monday, November 01, 2010

  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) - That was jolly fun.

  • House of Whipcord (1974) - Another chunk of low budget 70s British schlock from the same director as Die Screaming Marianne. It had a few nice, dark and claustrophobic, set pieces. The film almost built up a real working horror atmosphere but was continually shooting itself in the foot by undercutting all that with the hurried parallel story which was taken at such a clip that the actors seemed to be almost tripping over themselves to get their lines out - possibly before the film ran out in the camera.

  • O'Horten (2007) - three days in the life of a retired Norwegian railway engineer. Slow, gentle, sometimes funny. I'm trying to work out how to build to a joke about closely observed train drivers, but it's not that good a joke so I won't bother.

  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) - Hmmmm. I wasn't disappointed exactly but I came away wishing I'd liked it more.

  • Frightmare (1974) - The third Peter Walker I've watched this week (I bought a boxset). Better constructed than the previous two. British movie acting of the 70s, as exemplified in these films, was really weird. Lines were delivered very briskly and clearly enunciated - even though the words arrive at a hell of a clip you don't miss any - but there's precious little acting going on behind them. It's all very mechanical. Mind you, the audience for this sort of thing wasn't paying to see acting going on. They were paying to see tits and arse and gory violence. Personally I could have done with more T&A and less GV - if only because it would have meant I spent less time looking at hideous 1970s clothing.

  • Robots - repeat viewing. Lots of eye candy and a few nice jokes but a paper thin story.

  • The Raven (1935) - Karloff and Lugosi in a totally bonkers and mercifully short (61 mins) second string Universal horror. Dreadful dialogue despite, or because of? there being eight screen writers involved? who knows. It did have a couple of flashes of genius though. Best lines came in this brief exchange between Samuel S. Hinds as Judge Thatcher and mad, Poe obsessed, Doctor Vollin played to the hilt by Bela Lugosi. The doc has the judge strapped to a slab in his high vaulted cellar - he has annoyed the doc by suggesting that his daughter might be better off without a psychopathic Rumanian weirdo in her life. From the ceiling a curved blade on a complex mechanism swings to and fro - it's the mad doc's recreation of the device from The Pit and the Pendulum...

    Judge Thatcher

    (Looking upwards in dread)

    What's that?

    Doctor Vollin

    A knife.

    Judge Thatcher

    What's it doing!?

    Doctor Vollin


    Which is a cracking bit of writing in anyone's books. I wish the rest of the show had been up to it.

  • Micmacs (2009) - Jean-Pierre Jeunet. I've not seen all of M Jeunet's films but the ones I have seen (Amelie, The City of Lost Children, Delicatessen) I have thoroughly enjoyed but this one just left me cold. The story seemed really unfocused and the quirky oddnesses that litter his movies just came over as very contrived and striving for a cuteness that they just didn't deliver.

  • Mission To Mars (2000) - Looks great. Some good work went into the design here, decent cast, some really seriously good camera work; De Palma does a nice line in long tracking shots which let the actors act knowing their performances aren't going to get completely fucked over line by line in the editing - and a script that stank the screen up. A seriously rotten script with every moment of tension or awe, or anything that wasn't mechanically technical, signalled by having the characters saying "My, God!" in a variety of intonations. Terror? "ogodogodod!", Wonderment "Ohhh my gahd!" et bloody cetera. There was lots of other less irritating stuff to laugh at too. Like a supposedly tense moment when the ship is hit by a meteorite. All the air is being sucked out into space. No one can find the hole. The air pressure inside the seriously huge interior of the ship (it's like a sports hall in there) is dropping by percentage points per second. No one can find the hole. Where's the hole? Someone goes out in a suit to see if he can see the air venting out from the outside. A character inside - whose helmet has been conveniently smashed, thus adding the impetus to the whole finding the hole thing (if his helmet hadn't been conveniently smashed everyone would have just suited up and fixed things in their own time) has the brilliant idea of squirting a tube of Dr Product Placement Pepper into the air. Follow the liquid! The soft drink floats in the weightless conditions and disappears into a crack in the panelling! "The hole's in section whatever!" Hole gets fixed. Huzzah! And all this happens in silence - apart from the music and the "Oh my Gods!" of the characters. There's brazzilions of gallons of air per cubic second being sucked out through a narrow gap and it doesn't make any noise at all? No thin whistling that would have given the game away perhaps?

    Shortly after this our gallant crew abandon ship, form a conga line, and jump to a passing satellite to the sound of raucous laughter from the gallery.

  • 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) - Ray Harryhausen animated Venusian monster on the loose in Italy. I fell asleep after about fifteen minutes, woke up again half way through, and again at the end. Even in my befuddled state I managed to join the dots and discovered I hadn't missed much.

  • The Spiderwick Chronicles ( 2008 ) - Friday night Onigiri and Movie Night choice of number one daughter. It was 'a bit scary - but good'.

  • The Simpsons Movie (2007) - that was fun. I'm now going to have the Spider Pig Song going round in my brain for a week.

  • Gilda (1946) - Rita Hayworth? Fwaaaaaar!

  • The Brain That Wouldn't Die (Feb 15th 1962) - And back to the crap. The Brain that Wouldn't Die is your typical everyday story of deranged doctors, hideous mutations, crippled lab assistants and disembodied heads. It starts with a seriously creepy opening. A real chiller. The screen is black then this female voice plaintively whispers “Let me die… Let me die…!”. It's nicely creepy twelve seconds and probably the best bit of movie making in the whole film.

    Dr Bill Cortner (brilliant medical man who has been pilfering body parts from his hospital and has a secret lab in his father's old country 'place') receives an urgent call. 'Something dreadful has happened'. In response he drives like a maniac to his lab only to crash the car, decapitating his fiancee in the process. Horrified he retrieves her head from the burning wreck, wraps his jacket around it and spends the next two and a half minutes (a fair chunk of a 70 minute movie*) running through the countryside with the head clutched to his chest like a rugby player making for the touchline. Run run run. He stops occasionally to do some acting: puff pant I'm tired! (wipe arm across forehead to indicate sweating and move on...), oh my god! what's that? Blood? My girlfriend's head is leaking!, stumble on steps leading to house, so tired, I'm in pain must get up... must sit down again... no! get up... etc. etc.

    Kurt, his crippled assistant, opens the door... he stumbles in bundled head cradled like a baby... and then comes one of those bad movie moments that I live for.


    What's happened to you?

    Dr Bill

    A terrible accident...

    Got to save her... Got to save her...


    What is it? What have you got here?

    Dr Bill

    Kurt, please! Sterilize the tubes

    and instruments, quickly!


    What are you going to do?

    Aren't you going to look in the

    closet first?

    Needless to say the doc saves his girlfriend's head and then, not bothering to wait and see if she's at all grateful (she isn't), rushes out to find her a decent body. This involves him driving around following girls, going to strip joints, and ogling the contestants in beauty contests before finally lighting upon a lesbian photographic model with serious facial disfigurements (oh the irony!). Meanwhile back at the lab the head and the monster in the closet have become friends, and after a bit of cajoling, the monster rips Kurt's arm off. Doc arrives with a drugged model, finds Kurt's body and after throwing a sheet over it and putting his next victim on the operating table, does the thing that all mad scientist's yearn to do and backs up against a door with a small hatch in it about face height with a homicidal monster on the other side - a homicidal monster, please note, that he knows has just ripped the arm off his long time assistant. Grab! Scream! Fight! Door off hinges, something highly volatile gets knocked over and the whole place goes up in flames. The only survivors at the end are the mutated monster in the closet and the lesbian near body donor. The End.

    *Though I do seem to have watched a seriously cut version. IMDb lists it as 82 minutes and there is also, apparently, a 92 minute version which contains the same amount of story but more of the strippers and sleazy ogling stuff.

  • Fiend Without a Face ( 1958 ) - "We're facing a new form of life that nobody understands. I believe it feeds on the radiation from your atomic plant - and that it's evil!"

  • Brides of Dracula (1960) - The usual Hammer nonsense. Looks great and has loads of atmosphere but don't stop to think about the story. I had never really noticing how damn hansom Peter Cushing was before. Athletic too. He did a lot (if not all) his own stunts here.

  • Battle Beyond the Sun (1964) - Roger Corman made a bit of a habit of buying technically impressive but ponderously doom-laden Eastern Block SF movies and then totally screwing them up by re-editing, inserting new footage, and generally buggering about with them. This time the film was Небо зовет (Nebo zovyot) a two hour ponderous doom-laden Russian epic about a total failure to land on Mars. It's amazing how often Russian SF movies end in glorious but noble failure, (this time the Imperialist Capitalists' rival mission to the Red Planet got in the way by having to be rescued en route). Corman didn't do the chop jobs himself, he was always surrounded by eager young wannabees desperate for any kind of screen credit and this time he gave the job to a young and hungry lad called Francis Ford Coppola. Everyone has to start somewhere. But as someone pointed out to me when I was an eager (but not so young) wannabee working for the man. "Yes, a lot of famous people started out with Corman. But they got famous after they left."

  • Blood Suckers (1972) - sometimes you get the feel of a movie in the first few moments. Even if the director is wrong footing you and deliberately making you think the film is about one thing, and then making you realise later it is about something else entirely, you will have a fair idea what you are in for very quickly. Quite often you can tell within a very short time how good or bad the movie is too. With Blood Suckers you know before the opening shot has finished that what you are watching is deliriousfully fuckeduply awful. By the end of the opening sequence the film has racked up more crashingly bad edits than the average crap movie maker will use in a whole feature. Bad edits that had characters jumping around the set like lottery balls. An exhaustive few minutes internet research let me know why. Apparently the film suffered real financial problems. (The money ran out / was withdrawn before they had finished shooting.) The film was shelved and a couple of years later the distributors assembled what footage there was into as good a shape as they could get, slapped on a voice-over narration to cover the gaping chasms in the storyline, and then added a six minute drug-fueled orgy sequence. This sequence got them up to a decent 83 minute run time and gave them a legitimate excuse to put some tits on the poster - at which point the director (whose previous credits included Gonks Go Beat) got his name taken off. Which is a pity, because the orgy sequence (available as an extra in the Prism DVD version, available from all good Poundland shops) is the best thing on show and far better made than the rest of the badly acted, badly staged incoherent dross that surrounds it. I know I may be slightly biased here but, even putting aside my abiding fascination with boobs, the orgy sequence is a masterpiece in comparison. Highlights include watching John Steed (sorry Patrick McNee) chase a buxom vampire up a hillside on a donkey, such shoddy lighting that a central black character appears as a silhouette for most of the movie (they couldn't afford one reflector!?), and David Lodge (one of Spike Milligan's cohorts in several series of Q "I was in Cockleshell Heroes") as a Greek general.

  • Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961) - a Roger Corman comedy notable only for having the endearingly dumbest monster committed to film.

  • The House of Mortal Sin (1976) - aka The Confessional Murders, another from the Peter Walker boxset, this time a twisted tale of murder and - well, more murder. This time the twist is the sexually frustrated psychopathic killer is a Catholic priest and his victims include his own mother. By far the best of Peter Walker's films that I have seen. Plotwise it's a load of bollocks like all the others but he really got the atmosphere right with this one, helped by a terrifically weird location; the interior of the presbytery is a character itself. Wonderfully claustrophobic dilapidated and creepy. Very good on claustrophobic and hemmed in is Mr Walker, things go a bit tits up when you can actually see what's happening on the screen and there's dialogue but some nicely creepy stuff going on here. Most wonderfully creepy though is an actress I had never consciously come across before owning this box set. Sheila Keith. She appears in several of Walker's movies playing similar roles - nice kindly, middle-aged woman who turns out to be: a cannibal with a penchant for attacking her victim's skulls with electric drills to get at the juicy bits (Frightmare), running a secret private prison and hanging the women inmates for offences as trivial as stealing a piece of bread (House of Whipchord), living as a housekeeper to a priest she has been in love with for 30 years - and torturing his senile mother on a daily basis all the time, and finally in

  • The Comeback (1978) - she lures a pop singer, played by Grammy award winner Jack Jones, into her house and starts to drive him insane by killing his estranged wife and leaving bits of her around the place for him to find. And for good measure, bricking up his new girlfriend (Pamela Stephenson) in with the mummified remains of her long dead daughter. In the end though she is accidentally killed by an axe wielded by her husband, played by Bill 'Compo' Owen. Not as engagingly weird as it sounds, there is a limit to the number of times I can watch what is essentially the same couple of shots of an American crooner going to sleep and then waking up in the middle of the night, getting out of bed, clumsily putting on his dressing and opening his bedroom door. This film reached that limit about half way through. I may never want to see an American crooner get out of bed ever again. Except maybe Rudy Vallee, I think I could stand to watch Rudy Vallee get out of bed.
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