VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1972)
A fabulous late-era Hammer Productions chiller. The early seventies saw a distinct shift in emphasis for the studio’s horror output, one which took advantage of the times and included more bloody gore to off-set the of-its-time female nudity. Vampire Circus is certainly one of their most magically seductive sagas. To boot, it also includes the squeamish, yet extremely plausible, act of vampires feeding on children; although I’m not certain the pleasure the little ones seem to take in meeting the bloodsuckers is entirely appropriate even if it makes mythological sense.
The movie is set in a Serbian village quarantined due to the plague, the inhabitants fearing the revenge of its resident vampire count, who they committed to staking and fire decades ago. The local doctor’s nymphomaniac wife was in cahoots with the dastardly Count and they foolishly allowed her live. Cue the entrance of a travelling circus jammed packed full of magical freaks and orchestrated by a whip carrying ring-mistress, the ever watchable Adrienne Corri. Not only does she bear a faded resemblance to the afore mentioned wife, but she also brings with her a mute strong man, a lecherous midget, a ghostly panther, who transforms into the bewitching Emil, a pair of deadly fanged-up twins and a bizarre animal dance troupe who strut their stuff painted nude. The beguiling, fairy-like circus show is a haunting moment of shifting, unsettling quiet. The audience knows something is about to occur. The excitement is in not knowing how long it takes us to get there.
Director Robert Young increases the suspense by constantly deferring the biting and slaughtering. Peter Musgrave edits with some panache. It’s luridly colourful. The movie is obviously studio set, utilises poor day-for-night shooting and has that curious demonstrative method of over-acting which all Hammer productions seemed to specialise in. There are plenty of shocks and some neat visual tricks which keep you hooked into a fairly mundane story.
I’m a closet fan of Hammer’s seventies output, when the studio was at its most trashy, yet also delivering some unusual movies, like Countess Dracula, Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde and Moon Zero Two. It also gave us On the Buses and Nearest and Dearest, so you can’t win them all. I thoroughly enjoyed this vampire slasher. It’s short, suspenseful, splendidly erotic, grisly and gory. What more can you ask for from a Hammer horror?
Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
I am about to watch 'An American Werewolf in London'. I have not seen this film before but a work colleague has recommended it so I thought I would give it a try.
"Night Of The Ghouls" (1959.... and 1984)
A film by the one and only Ed Wood. It was shot in 1959, but Ed never paid the lab fees to have the film processed and released. Long after his death, a fan paid the charges and it was released.
It's a sequel (sort of) to Ed's previous.... masterpieces "Plan 9 From Outer Space" and "Bride Of The Monster". Some cast members return, and some of them even play the same characters. The continuity isn't strong, of course.
There's a lead part ("Dr. Acula") which Bela Lugosi would certainly have played had he been available, which he unfortunately wasn't owing to having died a few years earlier. Tor Johnson returns as Lobo, the part he played in "Bride", and Paul Marco plays Officer Kelton as always.
It is naturally terrible, as only Ed Wood could do. If you liked "Plan 9 From Outer Space" or "Bride Of The Monster" then it's a must. If you like good movies, avoid like the plague.
Good one !
I love those two actors, even in terrible movies. Oh hell, especially in terrible movies!
I think it's a really good film, Joshua, and I hope you enjoy watching it then give your thoughts on it here.
WHEN HARRY MET SALLY… (1989)
I have great affection for Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron’s classic romantic comedy because it was the first movie I took my first serious adult girlfriend to see. It was autumn, the Purley Odeon. We held hands, which is rather cute, and laughed a lot. That’s enough about me, what about the film.
When Harry Met Sally doesn’t need much explanation. I expect you know the story: two unsuitable people meet on a student carshare from Chicago to New York, decide never to be friends but fortuitously meet five years later, then again five years after that, when both recovering from failed relationships. They embark on a platonic friendship which eventually leads to love. During their ups and downs, which include hopeless matchmaking, sociological debate and the public demonstration of how to fake an orgasm, there is a tremendous amount of good humour, whimsical romantic interludes from elderly couples and fantastic, genuine performances. The two leads Meg Ryan [beautiful, distracted, nervy, shamefully not Oscar nominated] and Billy Crystal [cynical, never better, shamefully not Oscar nominated] work so well together you can’t help but believe whole-heartedly in them. Early on, when their differences are deeply apparent, you feel Harry is mostly correct in his assertions about relationships, but Sally occupies the optimistic, moral upper ground. As the friendship grows, some of his rough edges invade her territory, while his persona becomes less sceptical. Of course their eventual coupling sees them revert to type – exactly as they both suggested during their ugly confrontations on that road trip twelve years earlier. The audience has known all along they’ll end up together; in the very best romantic comedies you always know, the joy is finding out how the couple get there.
What elevates When Harry Met Sally above the staple fare of the genre, particularly the terribly inane teen influenced sex-rom-com – a peculiar sub-type of the eighties epitomised by About Last Night and The Sure Thing – is that the writer, and thankfully the director, who ran with the script almost verbatim – allow the two central protagonists to be the focal point of every scene. Modern rom-coms are too ‘busy’ around the edges with sub plots, office cattiness, parental disapproval, the other lover, etc. that they seem to overlook the basic principal of a rom-com, which is Romance first, Comedy second. No time is wasted on the couple’s lives outside each other. This evokes some of the best of Woody Allen’s New York stories, where the core friendship fills and supports everything around it rather than the other way around. We briefly learn Harry is a political analyst and Sally a journalist; that’s enough detail, now we can get on with the romance.
When Harry Met Sally thankfully never forgets this either and, subtly, reminds us at every turn that these are two lonely people seeking friendship, loyalty and affection. Look at the way Harry approaches Sally in the book shop, tentative yet casual, intrigued, willing to befriend the only genuine person he knows. This time he remembers her name! Or the scene where they lay an enormous Turkish carpet in his apartment, discussing love while talking aesthetics. They even buy a Christmas tree together. They are able to confront and resolve each other’s relationship issues. They understand each other, because their understanding is born from initial antagonism, mutual respect and romantic adversity. They become reliant and this is reflected brilliantly in the series of hollow telephone messages Harry leaves Sally, looking for the love he knows exists. He’s suddenly the optimist. Sally’s turned pessimistic, recognising Harry’s original ethos might just be right. The resolution is neat, tidy and [for my girlfriend] a little tearful.
The movie is excellently written and directed, well photographed – New York almost plays a third character – it is where the two travel to forge new lives, their new backbone and of course their new loves, when Harry finally realises he's in love he's at Washington Square, the same place Sally dropped him when he first arrived in N.Y. – small details like hairstyles and fashions are spot on, barely a detail is missed. Harry Connick Jr provides an appropriately melancholic song score. The whole film sparkles, especially the performances, generating a frisson of anticipation, the same as you have at the start of a new love affair, the small moments, the highs and lows, the opposites, the similarities attracting, the future.
One Oscar nomination wasn't nearly enough. When Harry Met Sally... should have had awards showered over it.
I wonder if Debbie still gets teary eyed…
What did you think Joshua? I'm a big fan. Some parts still scare the hell out of me!😁
We finished off the other two. The one you cited, THE CONCORDE: AIRPORT '79, is definitely one of those 'so bad it's good' kind of movies. Just incredibly stupid and full of logic bombs. That scene you cited is probably the most 'get the F outta here' scene in the film...
The plane is doing something like MACH 2 when they're doing these barrel rolls and such. When the enemy plane shoots the missile at the Concorde, they roll and go upside down, George Kennedy actually opens a side window in the cockpit (in and of itself, completely ridiculous) and shoots the flare gun UPSIDE DOWN AT MACH 2.
Don't believe me? Here's the scene:
Other things we noticed:
As bad as it is...and it's pretty bad...we were entertained by its relative badness and absurdity.
The line about the co-pilot's horoscope is so good it should be used in a Bond movie! 😃
I enjoyed it. It was different, funny and with plenty of scenes that were indeed scary. I am not a fan of horror films but that is an exception.
I think they made a sequel? Set in Paris? Have you seen it? If so is it as entertaining as the first one?
I switched off when the flare distracted the first missile, so missed the rest of that scene! It is truly as awful as I remember! I wonder what the actors were saying about the script in between takes?!
I have seen 'Airplane' a couple of times and honestly think that is more realistic and has more drama then the Concorde film! It's quite obvious where the Airplane people got their inspiration from!
By the way. The Concorde's engines cooled very quickly so they could throw off the other misslies!
It's not quite JAWS: THE REVENGE bad but it's up there.
A FEW GOOD MEN (1992)
Excellent military courtroom drama from Rob Reiner.
Tom Cruise and Demi Moore play greenhorn lawyers defending two marines accused of murder. The courtroom scenes owe much to similar legal based movies such as The Caine Mutiny, Anatomy of a Murder and Inherit the Wind. Kevin Bacon is a by-the-numbers prosecutor who seems too young to be in his job. Cruise suffers a similar fate, he really does still look about twenty years old. He’s very good. At this point in his career he still wanted to act. Jack Nicholson’s crazed Colonel Jessop who gets all the plaudits. I’m a massive Tom Cruise fan, but it is slightly disconcerting he gets pissed all over acting-wise by a man who features in only four scenes.
Well worth watching if only for the final confrontation between Cruise and Nicholson. Ah, hell, worth watching for all those four scenes with Big Jack in them.
There’s a stunning credit sequence of marines performing coordinated parade manoeuvres which sets the orderly tone. Reiner directs with a keen eye for character. Well-constructed, if low on legal detail. It’s based on a play by Aaron Sorkin who went on to write The West Wing.
Glad you enjoyed it. Such a fun(!) film when you're in the right mood.
I've only seen an American Werewolf in Paris once. I think that tells you enough!😄
In the Werewolf genre, if you haven't seen Dog Soldiers, it's worth a viewing.
WITHOUT REMORSE, currently playing on Amazon Prime.
Not the best, not the worst. You've seen this movie done a dozen times already under different names and this film fits squarely in the middle of said grouping. It's a Kleenex movie...watch it once and throw it away, never to think of it again.
Gonna fold laundry and build a new IKEA shelf? This is a great movie to have on in the background.
KING CREOLE (1958)
A brooding Elvis Presley sings some great songs, treats his women mean and fights Walter Matthau.
This was probably his best [singing] movie, although it still leaves some things to be desired: a stronger structure and a better grasp of how to capture Elvis as a live performer, for two. A good support cast really lifts this one so Presley’s charisma doesn’t have to carry the whole can. Carolyn Jones is a smouldering siren, Dean Jagger a good representative for the older generations, Matthau scheming and unrepentant as the crocodile-like villain, snarling, powerful, vicious. Vic Morrow and Dolores Hart pop up as well.
The screenplay is nominally based on Harold Robbin’s bestseller A Stone for Danny Fisher, but there’s almost nothing left of the novel except a couple of characters. Michael Curtiz filmed in black and white to give the movie a noirish effect, but it’s not very noir, just a little seedy. New Orleans has rarely looked more raunchy and yet so miserable.
The soundtrack was a massive seller, and rightly so. Oddly the best and bestselling single on it [Hard Headed Woman] is only heard briefly as an audience queues outside a nightclub. Compensations can be found in Elvis raucously howling the anthemic Trouble and the joyously clumping and clapping to Dixieland Rock.
All round good entertainment.
I'm taking a break. I'm sure you're all fed up with my reviews by now. Back with more in a couple of weeks.
Not fed up at all!
This is not necessarily my favourite Elvis movie but IMO it's the best, for pretty much the reasons you mention. Surrounded by excellent actors such as Matthau, Elvis doesn't embarrass himself and gets some top class songs to sing. Sadly, this would not always or even often be the case.
...Carolyn Jones is a smouldering siren...
Morticia Adams! love her, I wanna see more of her work. I see she had a huge filmography, but I think the only other thing I saw her in was Wonder Woman where she played Queen Hippolyta (replacing the Chloris Leachman from the pilot, so that was some big sandals to fill)
more reviews please! yours are the best written and cover the most diverse range of movies, and are always good for stoking discussion.
Not fed up at all, no.
THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT
I hadn't seen this one in years and it was fun to revisit it last night. I read somewhere that Samuel L. Jackson considers this to be one of his favorite roles so that put the bug in my ear to watch it again.
It's better than I remembered. I remembered it being funny but not THIS funny. The Shane Black script is packed full of great lines and I can see why SLJ recalls this film with great fondness. His opening scene is particularly good.
The action is solid and I find that Geena Davis acquits herself quite well in the movie. She's fairly convincing in all facets of her dual character. She's certainly better here than in her prior film, CUTTHROAT ISLAND, which has no redeeming qualities apart from the incredible boat explosion at the end.
I generally have a problem with a lot of Renny Harlin movies in that they all have a mean streak to them and consistently rely on an overindulgence of violence and foul language. DIE HARD 2 and CLIFFHANGER are good examples where it goes just a bit too far. This one, the balance feels about right and I didn't feel overwhelmed by the mean-spiritedness.
Fun film. Worth a watch if you've never seen it before.
This is Oliver Stone's now classic Vietnam war movie. Many tend to say movies like this one are "realistic". Most of us can't possibly know, so I guess the words we're looking for are "convincing" and "believable". Platoon has aged very well and it still packs a punch. Today it's strange watching Charlie Sheen in a serious role and Johnny Depp in a supporting role.
I wonder if a major studio movie treating the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq in this way can have such a cultural impact Platoon had when it was released. Would it even be made? Movies like "American sniper" and "Zero Dark Thirty" are very good movies, but they don’t have the dark view of war and cynical view of US foreign policy we see in Platoon.
I was 17 when the film came out and saw it, I think, twice theatrically.
In my school, we had a few Vietnam veterans and several of them were asked to comment on the film. From what they said, the actual 'life' depicted was 100% accurate. They could not comment on the events that happened as they were, for them, fictional, but the film was totally accurate in terms of putting you into the bush with other soldiers.
From what I gather, Oliver Stone (himself a Vietnam Vet) based a lot of the film on his own experiences although the central conflict between Sheen, DeFoe, and Berenger was entirely fictional.
I wonder if any of the Afghanistan or Iraq veterans will turn out to be talented filmmakers in 10-20 years?
I will give the 'Paris' sequel it a try if it comes on TV but I expect I will turn off if it is bad.
I haven't seen Dog Soldiers either. I have looked briefly and think it is on You Tube.
Prick Up Your Ears is a fine Alan Bennett script directed by would-be Bond director Stephen Frears - as such, it exhibits intelligence and taste if being a little short on pizzaz - a bit like Michael Apted's style. It's about the life of gay playwright Joe Orton, based on his diaries, and his slightly Sid James - Tony Hancock style relationship with his lover and flatmate Kenneth Halliwell, in that Halliewell is the Hancock type who is a bit of a misery cramping Orton's style (the comparison sticks because the actor who plays Halliwell - Alfred Molina of Raiders opening scene and 'Doc Oc' in the Spiderman film - also played Hancock in a BBC adaptation.
Bennett matches Orton's sly, snobbish and acerbic take on his fellow men though it can't help make his cottaging exploits seem like something British and traditional like it's Last of the Summer Wine.
It's odd to see so many English names here - Gary Oldman is brilliant as Joe Orton, of course. It's amazing to think he also did Smiley and Churchill. Of the others - Vanessa Redgrave, Julie Walters, Richard Wilson, Molina, et al it's amazing to think all these years on they're all still alive while Orton, Halliwell and Brian Epstein - referenced due to a mooted script for the Beatles - were all gone by the 70s.
The title is a bit of wordplay, the last word being an anagram.
When Harry Met Sally
You can read Chrisno1's review above - though I didn't get to take Debbie to the cinema to see it, otherwise...
Oh, one advantage is that it's only 90 mins, it doesn't outstay its welcome. Factor in all those clips of aged folk recalling their great love affairs and it's even shorter. Yet oddly it doesn't seem short, it's kind of epic in its reach over time, some 15 years or so.
Not sure there's a bum note in the entire film, though it's odd how Billy Crystal seems older in the mid years but younger in the latter part of the film.
Don't bother with AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS. Seriously. If you ever get the urge to watch it, just put on ...IN LONDON again. It's a worthless sequel.