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  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,412MI6 Agent

    DEATH WISH (1974)

    A famously violent film that isn’t anywhere near as nasty as it is made out to be. Once the initial shock of a horrific murder and rape of a mother and daughter has passed, we are on the familiar turf of Dirty Harry et al and watching a ceaseless gunning down of violent criminals. You don’t have much feel for them, although you sense their demise is an over-reaction to circumstances, and you don’t feel much for Charles Bronson’s vigilante Paul Kersey, who turns from a distinguished architect into a hardened killer. There are allusions made to the mores of modern society which still feel relevant today, both in his violent conduct and in the more environmental outlook of a Tucson billionaire who persuades Kersey to design a new build town with people not profit in mind. Reverse that of course to New York, where space is a prime asset and people are the victims of big business, dark alleys and little opportunity. Arizona is sunny, bright, fun. New York is in perpetual winter, almost always filmed at night and hemmed in by enormous buildings and shifting noisescapes.

    Despite these efforts to engage us in a wider debate, or perhaps precisely because of the debate, the film lacks an edge. The attempt to contextualise Kersey’s behaviour doesn’t ring very true, for he appears to enjoy the killing. Vincent Gardenia’s police chief, all sniffles and bluster, hunts Kersey down with weary acceptance. He has been specifically ordered not to arrest the fledgling anti-hero as the popular press has begun to lionise his actions. So more points for the moviemakers alluding to individual notoriety and political exploitation, but the fact we know from midway that Kersey is never going to be called to account for his own crimes diminishes all hope of a tension filled finale.

    Kersey in fact proves a less than capable crime fighter. Batman he is not. As his own targets start to fight back, he becomes injured, makes mistakes and is eventually caught. The final scenes, where a self-exiled Kersey goads a group of insolent teenagers at Chicago airport, just makes him appear a dumb caricature of himself. Incisively directed by Michael Winner, but without any ounce of subtlety, and accompanied by a bruising music score from jazz maestro Herbie Hancock, Death Wish is a film very representative of its time, but it is quite grim and dissatisfying fifty years on. 

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,957Chief of Staff

    Hammer triple bill!


    CURSE OF THE MUMMY’S TOMB (1964)

    Well, you know this one even if you’ve never seen it- Egyptian tomb opened near the beginning of the last century by British arachae… arch… digging explorers financed by an American, said tomb carrying a curse warning anyone who opens it, mummy comes to life and begins picking off the team one by one, etc etc. No star names, no Bond alumni that I spotted- although the leading lady’s (? dubbed) voice sounded very much like our own Nikki van der Zyl.

    As is often the case with Hammer, every expense has been spared. Sometimes they get away with that, making their films seem much more expensive than they really were. This isn’t one of those times.

     

    THE MUMMY’S SHROUD (1967)

    Er… more of the same. The best part of this one is that the always reliable Michael Ripper gets a more prominent part than normal (often he’s an innkeeper with a couple of lines), an opportunity he seizes with enough skill to make me wish that Hammer had used his talents more. Andre Morell is excellent, too. For fans of Mummy movies only.

     

    THE GORGON (1964)

    Best of this bunch, enormously aided by the two stars: Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. In a quiet village somewhere in middle Europe, a snake-haired woman has been turning people to stone for a century or two (one of whom is Michael Goodliffe, who played Tanner in TMWTGG) although the local authorities deny this. There is a paper-thin mystery as to how this is occurring, but I won’t say more. Lee for once is the good guy and Cushing the villain, which leaves me to wonder if they had a chat on the first day of shooting as to whether they had received the correct scripts. Terence Fisher directs, as he did for most of the best Hammer movies. As always, atmosphere is what counts and Fisher supplies it.


    I've bought another box of Hammer movies so there are more to come....

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,637MI6 Agent

    Enjoy them @Barbel you can’t go far wrong with a Hammer movie!!

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,982MI6 Agent
    edited October 2023

    THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER (2023)

    (No more spoilers than are in the trailers)

    Having revived the 'Halloween' franchise for a largely inauspicious trio of films between 2018 and 2022, David Gordon Green has now embarked on similar service for another icon of 70s horror.

    For much of its duration 'Believer' plays like a tribute to 'The Exorcist' (1973) - in subtle ways as well as obvious; in style as much as content. It's not entirely a homage 'by numbers', though: it departs from William Peter Blatty's themes - not altogether convincingly - while toying with a case of double possession; it contrives a more ecunemical, improvised approach to the act of exorcism itself, overdoing the visual effects in the process.

    The sum of the parts isn't a patch on William Friedkin's original - 'The Exorcist' was profoundly impactful in its day, and remains a cinematic tour de force - though this latest cash-in does amount to passable, fan-oriented fare. It's difficult not to let Ellen Burstyn's comments about her motivation for returning to her role as Chris MacNeil - the money! - affect one's reception of her scenes.

    I suspect that Blatty's 'The Exorcist III' (1990) is still the best of the sequels to date, though I'd have to check it out again.

    On a personal note, 'The Exorcist' was one of my great formative experiences of the cinema. My first viewing of it was in 1980 when I snuck in to see it in a double bill with 'The Exorcist II: The Heretic' - before I was old enough to go to X-certificate screenings. Playing first, 'The Heretic' (1977) was a tedious film; 'The Exorcist' itself blew my socks off, giving me nightmares for days afterwards! At about the same time, give or take a year, I saw 'Carrie' (1976) in a double bill with 'Piranha' (1979), another illicit X-certificate forray! Again, the inferior movie played first... and then Brian De Palma's classic scared me witless, making for an unforgettable night in the cinema!

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,412MI6 Agent

    I agree entirely with Curse of the Mummy's Tomb @Barbel a quite dreadful Hammer production.

    My Dad wanted to watch this:

    THE FUGITIVE (1993)

    It has been thirty years since director Andrew Davis rebooted the 1960s television series The Fugitive as a single suspense laden thriller starring Harrison Ford, who at the time was your go-to action star. Ford is rather good as Dr Richard Kimble, a man falsely convicted of murdering his wife, who fortuitously escapes incarceration and goes on the run. His quarry is the man with a prosthetic limb who he discovered in his house the night his wife was murdered. His hunter is US Marshal Sam Gerard – Tommy Lee Jones in forceful performance mode. The plot doesn’t deserve close examination but the thrills are still worth watching and the script sparkles and crackles with witticisms and hardboiled cliches which might have stepped right out of the sixties. It’s a very tense movie because it has two taut and well-delivered pursuits which run parallel to each other, converging in a rather tame, stereotypical finale. Very little needs to be said. It’s an excellent product and bagged seven Academy Award nominations if that’s any measure of success. Tommy Lee Jones won a Best Supporting Actor gong. Photography is exceedingly good, especially all those overhead nightscapes of Chicago. The music score from James Newton Howard is suitably highly sprung. Other than the ending, I feel Hitchcock might have approved.

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,371MI6 Agent

    Never Say Never Again is 40 today, going by the US release date.

    Talking Pictures TV showed Play Dirty tonight, which I hadn't seen before.

    Harry Saltzman produces this WW2 yarn from 1969 which stars Michael Caine, Nigel Davenport, Nigel Green and Harry Andrews - the cast list gets you salivating. It's seemingly all shot on location in North Africa and nicely lensed by the guy who did The Dirty Dozen, which this film seems to emulate a bit, and 633 Squadron. NSNA's Michel Legrand does the score, not that I noticed much.

    So one to crack a beer open to - but I struggled to get on with it. It's meant to show the brutal, cynical side of war but didn't begin convincingly. You have Caine as an upper class officer, or captain - well, I suppose you can chose to go with that but there's an element of Caine not having his accent not quite being Caine. He is put in charge by Nigel Green of a ragtag band going through the desert to blow up fuel depots behind enemy lines. His personality isn't well established exactly. HIs support is Nigel Davenport, who is a bit like Quint in Jaws - an unreliable helper who thinks he runs the show. His backstory is that he pulled an insurance scam on a sinking ship that killed two dozen men - you know you're not going to take to the guy so for long stretches there is nobody to really root for. The set-up, which suggests Caine is not being played fairly by his superiors feels very similar to another Satzman-produced film The Iprcress File, given that both Caine and Green play the same kind of roles.

    Stuff doesn't quite ring true - Caine seems to be out of his depth with his men but when he suggests to his men they need to get up a huge rocky cliff face with three trucks, they obey without question. What becomes ludicrous is the Nigel Davenport oversees the final truck screwing up by it being overloaded - just don't know why he would do that, or why Caine's character would not be on it, or at least run the 10 feet down the hill to unload some of the baggage in it, rather than just tensely watching the rope fray and then snap. Perhaps Harry Andrews' inclusion is nod to this scene, similar to Ice Cold in Alex, in which he starred. But both he and Green are only in a few scenes albeit key ones in the long film.

    The film might be an easier watch as one of those tacky Italian Western-style WW2 films with dodgy dubbing. This film does go on for a long time too. The finale is rousing in a GoldenEye pre-credits sort of way. I don't regret seeing it but....

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,982MI6 Agent
    edited October 2023

    @Barbel Re: 'The Satanic Rites Of Dracula' (1973). I fully agree with your comments.

    Like its immediate predecessor, 'Dracula A. D. 1972', 'The Satantic Rites' is a curious genre hybrid of its time - both scripts were penned by Don Houghton - and yes, an allusiveness to Bond is indeed in the mix. To give three examples: the Count's D. D. Denham persona is positioned in notably similar dramatic reclusiveness to Blofeld masquerading as Dubya Dubya - Willard Whyte - in DAF; the security guard electrocuted at Pelham House collapses flat on his face in exactly the same style as Harold Sakata in GF, and Dracula's three Establishment lackeys protest in a similar manner to DAF's Professor Doctor Metz on Blofeld's oil rig when it becomes clear that their diabolical master is actually prepared to unleash destruction rather than simply hold governments to ransom. 'A.D. 1972' had begun with a pre-credits sequence in which the villain is apparantly destroyed before the titles roll - DAF style - and I've commented elsewhere on intersections between Mike Vickers' score for 'A.D. 1972' and John Barry's contemporary Bond scores. This partial indebtedness to Bond - Bond on a shoestring - does make the last gasps of Christopher Lee's iteration of the Hammer Dracula seem like an audition for the part of Scaramanga: "Professor Van Helsing ... I've been expecting you!"

    Overall, 'Rites' is decidely wobbly. Lee and Peter Cushing aside, the performances are so-so at best. Stephanie Beacham in 'A. D. 1972' made a far more engaging Jessica Van Helsing than Joanna Lumley does in 'Rites': Lumley gives a fairly wooden interpretation of the part. Freddie Jones' hammy Professor Keeley has the most dreadfully knotted kipper tie in cinema history. And Michael Coles' bewildered Inspector Murray is like a creation straight out of Euston Films. Cushing is immaculate, as ever, but he is hamstrung by ludicrous amounts of exposition: Van Helsing accurately infers Dracula's entire evil scheme from virtually nothing, over servings of soup in silly crockery and speculative conversation with bemused allies.

    The idea of an academic Cushing character having a granddaughter to protect recalls Cushing's brace of 60s Dr Who movies for Aaru (Amicus) - Coles had played a glammed up Thal in the first of these; child actor Roberta Tovey had played Cushing's granddaughter, Susan, in both - though certainly the groovy Stephanie Beacham incarnation of Jessica Van Helsing in 'A.D. 1972' brings as much to mind the pairing of Jo Grant (Katy Manning) with the then incumbent Doctor Who on TV (Jon Pertwee) in their 'UNIT family' phase (for which Don Houghton had also written. See his 'The Mind Of Evil' serial in 1971, complete with its side reference to "Dracula's castle" in Part One. When 'D. D. Denham' boasts to Van Helsing that he is "the master" of the corporation, it's hard to resist a notion that Houghton will have been thinking of The Master - a Moriarty-In-Space character created for the 1971 season of Doctor Who, inveigling his way into positions of industrial, scientific, political and spiritual power and played with devilish charm by Hammer veteran Roger Delgado). As for Joanna Lumley's mature Jessica in 'Rites', she's more Liz Shaw (Caroline John) than Jo Grant - i.e. she's a bit boring. (In 1970, Houghton had written Who's 'Inferno' serial for that earlier, top-secret security team of Pertwee's Doctor, Liz and the Brigadier. In 'Rites' Richard Vernon's Colonel Mathews and William Franklyn's Torrence occupy a generically similar zone to Who's UNIT and various 'men from the Ministry' - albeit for an adult audience.)

    Lee was on record as saying that he'd considered himself emotionally blackmailed by Hammer's producers to repeatedly return to the Dracula role, their argument being that if he didn't agree to star as the Count the movies wouldn't get made and he'd be putting out of work a regular crew and the other actors! A reluctant Lee apparently stipulated a condition of his recurring appearances that - amidst the increasing emphasis on sleazily sexualised nudity - the Dracula scripts should include at least some adaptation of lines from Bram Stoker. Personally, I'm not sure that this particular element works well for the films, as the bits of dialogue in question feel, to me, a little odd in context, not quite consistent with the overall style of the Hammer Dracula which, at least since 1966, had been established as a largely silent/taciturn character, only occasionally uttering short, declarative statements in between instinctual hissing, snarling and wailing.

    Dracula's Stoker-ish exclamation in 'Rites', "My revenge has spread over centuries and has just begun!" - though delivered with melodramatic fervour by Lee - is an almost laughable oxymoron, a degeneration of the source line from the novel: "My revenge is just begun! I spread it over centuries, and time is on my side."

    Another Stoker line, reworked in 'A.D. 1972', was hardly better, a slightly odd fit to the sequence of confrontation with Van Helsing: "You would play your brains against mine, against me who has commanded nations?" (- a simplification of Stoker's somewhat garbled, "Whilst they played wits against me, against me who commanded nations, and intrigued for them, and fought for them, hundreds of years before they were born, I was countermining them.")

    Dialogue-wise, I'm generally more at home with earlier Hammer Dracula movies where the Count's lines are minimal and straightforwardly expository, albeit relished by Lee, as in 'Taste The Blood Of Dracula' (1970) where he marks with sinister simplicity each of the patricidal killings perpetrated by his acolytes: "The firrrrrst! ... The second! ... The thirrrrrd!"

    An exception would be 'Scars of Dracula' (also1970), where I really like the more developed dialogue Lee's given, the formal courtesies of welcoming guests to his castle in a similar style to the welcome he extended to Harker in the original 1958 film. The difference in 'Scars' is that at the same time his undead pallor is really to the fore - zombie-like - infusing with spooky menace the impeccably mannered lines.

    The reason why the lines adapted from Stoker in 'A.D. 1972' and 'Rites' seem odd to me, in context, is because the Hammer films show no other interest in the idea of the Dracula character as stemming from an historical warrior emperor - they don't otherwise explore the Vlad the Impaler mythos which Coppola engaged, in 1992. To the extent that Lee's Stoker allusions momentarily nudge towards a broader mythologisation of his Dracula, I suppose they do (sort of) serve the way in which, in 'Rites', Van Helsing envisages the Count in legendary terms, horrifically predicting that he will bestride the Earth as the Figure of Death Itself, supernal amidst an apocalypse of his own making, the bubonic plague he'll have unleashed ravaging the entire planet! Too bad the Count fails to live up to this publicity, anticlimactically meeting his end by blundering into a hawthorn bush in the grounds of Pelham House!

    Cushing reprises for 'Rites' his shouted "Count Dracula!" line from 'A.D. 1972', baiting the vampire, but in 'Rites' the film is let down by the almost comic implausibility of the Count compounding that error of walking into a hawthorn bush - by getting himself more and more entangled in it, rather than simply extracting himself. The crown of thorns is a nice touch, though. And I'm always moved by the final image of 'Rites', the freeze frame of Cushing holding up Dracula's ring from amidst the Count's ashes, gazing at it with detached contemplation.

    I have a theory as to why Hammer 's Dracula was fatally inept on a recurring basis. At one level, of course, it was a condition of the genre: audiences expected to see and enjoyed seeing at least one Dracula death sequence per Dracula movie, and the film-makers sought to meet that expectation in as many varied ways as they could square with vampiric lore. But maybe it's also part of the tragedy of the character. Lee's autocratic Dracula retains traces of the social and intellectual sophistication he may once have boasted when fully alive, but the instinctual, animalistic tendencies to which he's prone as a vampire often dominate, suffusing him with blood-red lust and rage, making it possible for his adversaries to outwit him in such moments. This might explain why Van Helsing goads his nemesis at critical points during those confrontation scenes in Lee's final two Dracula outings for Hammer.

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,412MI6 Agent

    That's a good summation @Shady Tree I'm glad you mention Scars of... as it features an almost entirely different Lee performance from any other Dracula movie. As I recall it is much more sensual and almost mute, the austere politeness makes a tremendously affecting contrast to an almost cannibalistic sexual blood lust which isn't so noticeable elsewhere. It's a very chilling performance.

  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,982MI6 Agent
    edited October 2023

    Yes, agreed. And 'Scars' stands out as a Hammer Dracula with a different distributor, too - MGM-EMI - compared with the Warner pictures in the series before and after it. Complex distribution rights across the series are the reason why we'll probably never see, on retail, a complete Hammer Dracula box set.

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,957Chief of Staff

    I agree with @chrisno1, that's an excellent summation @Shady Tree.

    Since we're on this subject it may be of interest that Hammer didn't secure the copyright on "Rites" (no idea how that came about) and it's now public domain so easily viewable online. Also there's an American version which I believe was edited (again, I don't know about that) called "Count Dracula And His Vampire Bride" which isn't a good description of the film.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,957Chief of Staff

    Please also have a look at the second post in Imaginary Conversations - it's on this very film.

  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,982MI6 Agent
    edited October 2023

    Ah yes, #2 - with Cushing and Lee exchanging career notes. I did one on a similar theme a bit later, #1661: https://www.ajb007.co.uk/discussion/comment/1031013#Comment_1031013

    Also, I've now added a bit more geekery to my above comments on 'Rites'...

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,957Chief of Staff

    😁 As I said at the time, that one was hilarious!

    As I was reading through the extra added geekery (and much enjoying same) I was reminded that we do have a thread somewhere which was devoted to Hammer movies. I've watched another today and am pondering whether just to post what passes for my thoughts here as usual or revive that thread.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,957Chief of Staff
    edited October 2023

    SCREAM OF FEAR (1961)

    Not all Hammer movies were full of vampires, werewolves, etc etc. Sometimes they were psychological crime thrillers (I’m sure someone has a better description) and this is one of them. Susan Strasberg plays a young woman who lost the use of her legs in a horse riding accident some ten years before the film starts. She comes home to her very rich father’s house, having not seen him for nine of those years and is met by her stepmother who tells her that her father is away on business. The atmosphere is decidedly unsettling, not aided by the frequent visits of the stepmother’s friend, the local doctor who clearly can’t be suspicious at all since he’s played by Christopher Lee…. And that’s about all I want to say for fear of spoilers. There are some startling moments, and things do not go the way that viewers may think they’re heading.

    Very enjoyable and not the usual Hammer stuff. I believe there are a few others like it, and I might get round to them.


    The Bride was sure that Lee would turn out to be the villain, which he isn’t. I was a bit less sure but still didn’t figure out the whole thing.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,957Chief of Staff

    THE TWO FACES OF DR JECKYL (1960)

    Having had great recent success with their revived versions of old monster movies (Frankenstein, Dracula, Mummy), it was now simply a case of ticking the other ones off. The Phantom of The Opera and a Werewolf would soon be unleashed, but for now it was the turn of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde. It isn’t anywhere near as good as the three mentioned, and I can’t help but think that there was one obvious way it might have been improved….

    Hammer Exec 1: So, what are we doing next, then?

    Hammer Exec 2: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

    Hammer Exec 1: Good choice. Who have you lined up to be in it?

    Hammer Exec 2: Well, there’s Christopher Lee.

    Hammer Exec 1: Ah, excellent. He was good as the Creature in “The Curse Of Frankenstein”, even better as “Dracula”, and terrific as “The Mummy”. He’ll do a good job as Jekyll & Hyde.

    Hammer Exec 2: Oh no, he isn’t playing Jekyll & Hyde, he’s the best friend. We’ve got some Canadian actor called Paul Massie as Jekyll & Hyde.

    Hammer Exec 1: Well, if you’re sure….

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,412MI6 Agent

    I thought I'd read an @Barbel review of this movie, but I couldn't find it in the search facility. I hope he watched it last night...

    THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT (1955)

    A sharp and concise sci-fi shocker from Hammer productions, who emphasised the horror material by deliberately misspelling the title word as: Xperiment. The film is a rapid condensing of Nigel Kneale’s groundbreaking BBC television series and as with all adaptations of the ilk, it loses something in the retelling by the necessity to edit away a shedload of background and character material.

    Here writer / director Val Guest cuts us straight into the action as quack scientist Professor Bernard Quatermass’ British space craft crash lands near London causing a panic. The government isn’t happy. They hadn’t authorised the test flight. He’s over the moon, as it were, until he discovers only one astronaut has survived. The other two appear to have vanished. The survivor, Victor Caroon, has turned mute, has a frozen, scaly skin texture and can barely move. Investigations by Quatermass’ doctor pal Gordon Briscoe do not hint at the terror which lies in wait. Caroon has been infected by a deadly spore-bearing space virus which has taken over his body, altering his metabolism into something that more resembles a plant. As the police chase the poor victim around London, Val Guest utilises many familiar tropes from horror films past, like Cat People and Frankenstein, reminding us that while this is science fiction the aim of the movie is to ramp up the tension and deliver the appropriate shocks.

    Once or twice, he really does. There is a very effective moment where Caroon’s misguided wife tries to rescue him from hospital but on seeing her husband’s misshapen hand, she screams, cries interwoven brilliantly with the shrieking violins on the soundtrack. There are also a couple of nasty ‘drained’ corpses. Ultimately though, the monochrome gore content is well marshalled. When Dr Who ripped off the idea for 1976’s The Seeds of Doom, the human-plant transformation was all blood, puss and green algae, positively horrific. This version suffers from black and white and from the accents of its time. There isn’t much anyone can do about the octopus-like creature which finally materialises, clambering over scaffolding in Westminster Abbey. It looks like an inflatable puppet and probably was.

    The real horror of The Quatermass Experiment is Brian Donlevy’s lead character, a man so driven and devoid of humanity you wonder how anyone could consider him to be a hero. I have never seen the original series [four of its six episodes are in the BBC archive] but if Reginald Tate’s interpretation was anything like this it must have been an equally tough watch in the summer of 1953.

    Jack Warner, a few months away from Dixon of Dock Green, plays the police chief in control of the pursuit. In small support roles you can see Thora Hird, Gordon Jackson, Sam Kydd and a very, very young Jane Asher. The film bounds along with a lot of purpose but very little explanation or character definition. I don’t believe that was Hammer’s intent. The ‘X’ of ‘Xperiment’ was that and they get it just about right without ever threatening to give anyone heart attacks.

    As a forerunner of Hammer’s more famous horror products, The Quatermass Experiment is an interesting half-way success. As a sci-fi film, it is a very good product indeed, as good as anything in the alien invasion subgenre coming from the USA at that time – stuff like Invaders from Mars or It Came From Outer Space. A little more depth would help, but it is an enjoyable, slick product, robust at the core and only fraying a little at its edges. The film makers were confident enough to introduce the likelihood of a sequel in the film’s final few seconds.

    An important film in both Hammer Production’s history and subsequently the British Film industry as a whole, it really should be better known and more watched. I can only assume there’s a malicious snob value borne against it by those critics and naysayers who cite the excellence of Nigel Kneale’s original, which very few audiences have access to.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,957Chief of Staff
    edited October 2023

    @chrisno1 - I didn't watch it last night, but I do know it very well and that's a well-written review. To paraphrase our founder in "Goldfinger", may I correct you without weakening your case? Only two rather than four episodes of the original six BBC episodes survive, which is very sad for we aficionados. In partial recompense, there was a remake in 2005 which like the original was done live. This has a few drawbacks, unfortunately (happy to discuss that if anyone wants to).

    As you say, a good number of UK actors appear (Thora Hird is hilarious) and the big drawback of the film is Brian Donlevy's Quatermass. Of the several actors to have played the role, I put him firmly at the bottom of the list. I'm pretty sure you can watch Reginald Tate on YouTube if you want to do a comparison, though there's only the two episodes so it's a bit restricted. Donlevy would be back in "Quatermass 2", where he is a bit more sympathetic.

    I've definitely written more about Quatermass here.

    Edit - John Robinson was also a poor Quatermass but he had the excuse of coming to the part late. He was the replacement for Tate, who died shortly before the filming of the BBC's "Quatermass 2" started.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,957Chief of Staff

    STAGE FRIGHT (1950) Alfred Hitchcock

    This starts off as several other Hitchcock movies do- a young man, wanted for murder by the police, goes on the run enlisting the help of a young woman. After that, for spoilers’ sake I don’t want to discuss any more here except to say that there is one unusual story development for the time which caused some controversy.

    Richard Todd is the young man, Jane Wyman the young lady who quickly becomes our main character. Marlene Dietrich has a showy role which might have been written for her- certainly at least one of the songs was. The delightful Alistair Sim plays Wyman’s father.

    Hitch builds the suspense masterfully- of course. Recommended, though some may find it dated.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,637MI6 Agent

    THE EQUALIZER 3 (2023)

    Denzel Washington is back in a third outing as The Equalizer as he sets about helping the citizens of a small town in South Italy overcome a local Mafia outfit who want to take over the area. It’s all handled slickly by action director Antoine Fuqua, but it’s really retreading those 80’s one-man-army movies with Stallone and Schwarzenegger. The Italian locations are stunning and the action is bloody and plentiful and it moves along at a rapid pace. Worth watching, but it’s all been done before.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,412MI6 Agent

    I see @Napoleon Plural beat me to this one. A nice review and thanks for the head's up...

    PLAY DIRTY (1969)

    Talking Pictures TV showed Play Dirty tonight, which I hadn't seen before.

    Nor had I. I recorded the film and watched it on Friday.

    Harry Saltzman produces this WW2 yarn from 1969 which stars Michael Caine, Nigel Davenport, Nigel Green and Harry Andrews - the cast list gets you salivating. It’s seemingly all shot on location in North Africa and nicely lensed by the guy who did The Dirty Dozen, which this film seems to emulate a bit, and 633 Squadron. NSNA’s Michel Legrand does the score, not that I noticed much.

    This was one of the pictures Caine made with Harry Saltzman, part of an eleven film deal he cut before making Billion Dollar Brain. Battle of Britain was a third, then it all fell apart as Harry started to lose money on his pet projects outside of James Bond.

    Play Dirty isn’t shot in Africa. It is shot in the Tabernas Desert near Almeria in Spain. Almeria was a popular location for spaghetti westerns, films like 100 Rifles and the Leone movies. In fact when the heroes reach a supposed coastal town with a fuel dump in it, there’s a clever bit of editing. The town you initially see is the same one-street lick-up used for the final scenes of For a Few Dollars More, as it pans away, the editor cuts to a model mock-up of a WW2 harbour packed with boats, the harbourside with the cars and lorries superimposed in the front. I've seen this set. It still stands at a tourist attraction called Mini Hollywood. However, the interiors for that film were shot in Rome. I’m digressing.

    The photography from Edward Scaife is really good. It’s interesting you mention The Dirty Dozen, because the film seems to be a British take on that theme, with Nigel Greene running a troop of British Empire ex-cons who perform dangerous behind the lines missions for little reward. Chief among them is Nigel Davenport, a nasty piece of work who only entertains the mission to destroy a German fuel dump because he stands to earn £2000 should he return Royal Engineer captain Michael Caine back in one piece. Caine’s character turns out to be a fast learner in the ways of commando warfare and an equally adept leader, proving his worth and his moral fibre in front of the seven rascals of death.

    I hated the incidental score. At one point I was reminded of Charles Gray’s Blofeld quipping: “I do so hate martial music.”

    So one to crack a beer open to - but I struggled to get on with it.

    No beer here. Watched it sober. Possibly a bad move.

    It’s meant to show the brutal, cynical side of war but didn’t begin convincingly. You have Caine as an upper class officer, or captain - well, I suppose you can chose to go with that but there’s an element of Caine not having his accent not quite being Caine. He is put in charge by Nigel Green of a ragtag band going through the desert to blow up fuel depots behind enemy lines. His personality isn’t well established exactly.

    I’d disagree. He plays chess, so a deep thinker then; he has a disregard for authority when it suits him – this comes out later towards the films climax; he prefers order to chaos. He also seemingly has a thing for the ladies. Having said that, I felt the performance reflected the part Caine played in Zulu, where his officer class struggled to cooperate with Stanley Baker’s antiauthority lower ranker.

    The film is certainly cynical, but it labours the point over and over. I agree it isn’t made clear why the group follow Caine’s orders, or why Davenport so shoddily lets him assume a semblance of command. While Caine develops a brutal skin, Davenport’s softens at the end, his cynicism on the wane. Yet it is the softness which proves his undoing. The film has no heroes, so I suppose you could call that cynical.

    His support is Nigel Davenport, who is a bit like Quint in Jaws - an unreliable helper who thinks he runs the show. His backstory is that he pulled an insurance scam on a sinking ship that killed two dozen men - you know you're not going to take to the guy so for long stretches there is nobody to really root for. The set-up, which suggests Caine is not being played fairly by his superiors feels very similar to another Saltzman-produced film The Iprcress File, given that both Caine and Green play the same kind of roles.

    It certainly is, only here he’s double crossed by them both. The ending has a bitter edge to it. ‘Playing dirty’ is a felonious interpretation of war. As Nigel Greene says: “War is a criminal enterprise and I fight it with criminals.” Our heroes, if that is what they wish to be, suffer the ultimate fate for playing dirty.

    Stuff doesn’t quite ring true - Caine seems to be out of his depth with his men but when he suggests to his men they need to get up a huge rocky cliff face with three trucks, they obey without question. What becomes ludicrous is the Nigel Davenport oversees the final truck screwing up by it being overloaded - just don’t know why he would do that, or why Caine's character would not be on it, or at least run the 10 feet down the hill to unload some of the baggage in it, rather than just tensely watching the rope fray and then snap. Perhaps Harry Andrews’ inclusion is nod to this scene, similar to Ice Cold in Alex, in which he starred. But both he and Green are only in a few scenes albeit key ones in the long film.

    Davenport’s character wants the truck to fail so he can prove he was right and Caine wrong. He doesn’t want to pursue the fuel dump enterprise: he’s made that clear more than once even with £2k riding on it. If the truck crashes he can go home.

    That business with Ice Cold in Alex was familiar. They even captured a hospital van and had a German prisoner. I recall too something similar in Sahara, the excellent Humphrey Bogart actioner from 1943. Writer Melvyn Bragg must have been watching old war films to prepare for this.

    The film might be an easier watch as one of those tacky Italian Western-style WW2 films with dodgy dubbing.

    Interesting you point that out, because, other than the filming location, I noticed a lot of western traits. The almost dialogue-less scenes and the leering, grinning mute accomplices who meet sticky ends has the hallmarks of the spaghetti western subgenre all over it. Director Andre de Toth cut his teeth on 1950s westerns, so it is no surprise to find the action here dovetailing towards the atmosphere of a western. There are seven men in the assault group, for instance. They encounter sandstorms, broken wheels, busted tyres, a scouting group of Bedu [read Native Americans], they have their own native scouts, they all drink heavily in a bar before heading out, they cover their faces with rags.  

    This film does go on for a long time too.

    Yes. It does.

    The finale is rousing in a GoldenEye pre-credits sort of way. I don’t regret seeing it but....

    It isn’t great.

     

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,957Chief of Staff

    More Michael Caine.


    THE GREAT ESCAPER (2023)

    Michael Caine plays an aged Harry Palmer, breaking out from a Russian prison where he has been since the events of “Midnight In St Petersburg”, many years earlier….. No, only kidding (especially you, @caractacus potts) and just a little wishing.

    Based on a true story, Caine plays a 90-year-old war veteran who having missed his official chance to attend the 70th anniversary of D-Day in France, decides to leave his care home in S. England and go anyway. Glenda Jackson, in what sadly turned out to be her last performance, plays his wife. It’s sentimental and leans more to the older generation. Caine is magnificent in what he claims to be his last film (He’s said that before) and Jackson no less so.

  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,982MI6 Agent

    Looking forward to seeing this one. If it is indeed Caine's last movie, it sounds like a lovely part to bow out on.

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 4,002MI6 Agent
    edited October 2023

    @the boss said

    Michael Caine plays an aged Harry Palmer, breaking out from a Russian prison where he has been since the events of “Midnight In St Petersburg”, many years earlier….. No, only kidding (especially you, @caractacus potts) and just a little wishing.

    _____________________________________________________________________

    I've not yet seen the two nonDeighton 'Arry Palmer films so dont get the specific reference, but you know I am of the theory that its all one big film, and if Caine is playing a Palmer-like character then it probably is Palmer, just under a different covername. Theres another film Caine did in the 80s with a young Pierce Brosnan where he's doing all the classic 'Arry moves (lousy surveillance gigs, lipping off to his bosses) even though its based on a novel by a completely different spy author, I happily watched that one telling myself its another 'Arry adventure even if the character wont admit it.

    and having a character with a different name who's not quite 'Arry, but a near relative perhaps, is a genuinely Deighton thing to do

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,957Chief of Staff

    Have you seen "Blue Ice", cp? It's from roughly the same time as the two nonDeighton films. Caine plays a retired spy called... wait for it .. Harry Anders (yup, you read that right) who gets dragged back into the game because blah blah reasons. He isn't wearing his glasses, but otherwise it's just our 'arry back in action.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,412MI6 Agent
    edited October 2023

    @caractacus potts That Caine-Brosnan movie is The Fourth Protocol. You probably knew that. It was a number one at the UK box-office I seem to recall.

    On another note, I never completed my watch of the Harry Palmer movies, missing the last two. They come on TV fairly often in the UK so watch this space.

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,371MI6 Agent

    Thanks for that review @ChrisNo1 - I'm having a lousy evening so enjoyed your going over my review and adding your own thoughts. One other thing - besides my typo of Caine's superiors treating him 'fairly' - I meant unfairly I think - is the set-up of Caine having to go out in the desert based on some Ancient Greek plan that his superior is a fan of. It's exciting but not much is made of that I think, we don't hear about it again, no 'I bet that Ancient Greek fellow never had to put up with this....' or any consequence from it. Part of it anticipates Caine's role in The Man Who Would Be King where and Connery cross and area never attempted before, or for many hundreds of years. Maybe Caine and Connery might have been the right age for the film in the late 60s as they seemed perhaps a bit too old for that game in the early 70s - I'm being unfair, aren't I? Would Caine with his age in this and Connery from The Hill have made a more convincingly youthful scallywag pair?

    The Great Escaper - not Harry Palmer so much as Charlie Crocker - as I understand the veteran hijacks the old soldiers' tour bus with a defiant cry of 'Hang on lads, I've got an idea!' and makes for the French Alps, outwitting both the gendarmes and Social Services en route.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 4,002MI6 Agent

    Vertigo

    Hitchcock 1958

    I've probably already filed a report on this film upthread, but a new viewing always makes my head spin for a few days after (heh), so might as well get my latest thoughts down


    obligatory plot summary for those who've never seen it:

    Jimmy Stewart plays Scotty, a police detective with a fear of heights forced into early retirement. He is hired by an old college classmate to follow his wife Madeline (Kim Novak), who has been acting very strangely. Turns out Madeline believes she is the reincarnation of her own ancestor, who died of suicide at the age of 25, same age as Madeline is today.

    ...and that covers the first fifteen minutes and is all the plot I'm going to summarize, just go and watch the film, and you may come back and finish reading my report when youre done with your assignment.

    . . . . .


    and with that said, I've got, lets see, eight observations I want to make that assume you've seen the film, so only the initiated may read the remainder of my Report:

    • I figure this has the most magnificent location photography of any Hitchcock film. Every shot of San Francisco is beautiful, as is the surrounding California coast. The redwood forest scene alone in particular is my favourite, speaking as an ex-West Coaster. and all those scenes of him driving his car in circles round the citys steeply angled streets. The sense of vertigo is conveyed in many ways, Scotty's fear of heights may be the least of them.
    • I've showed this film to a few folks who arent that impressed, it is kind of slow in the first half and theres about fifteen minutes with almost no dialog as Scotty follows Madeline around. Bernard Hermann tells the story here. It may be the most loosely plotted of any of Hitchcock's big films, which may be why some viewers lose patience, expecting more obvious shocks and thrills. and theres little of Hitchcocks black humour, at least in any superficial comedic sense.
    • the movie breaks cleanly into two halves, and I now realise I like the first half much better than the second half. I like the trippy dreamlike vibe, especially (again the redwood scene) when Madeline points at the rings in the tree and says "I was born here, and I died here". (Terry Gilliam mustve liked that scene too as it appears as a movie within a movie in 12 Monkeys) The second half has a completely different tone (even San Francisco looks different) and Scotty's behaviour gets creepy and uncomfortable to watch. But its the second half other filmmakers keep trying to remake.
    • Novak's acting style is completely different in the two halves, all singsong starry eyed mysticism in the first half, and embittered hardluck cynicism in the second. Compare her readings of the lines "I was born here and I died here" versus "sure I've been picked up before". In fact, its almost impossible to believe someone as pathetic as Judy could have played the part of "Madeline", the character does not seem to be capable of that acting job. One of the reasons I realised I dont like the second half as much as the first, it doesnt really convince.
    • The logical explanation comes much earlier than I'd realised, Judy tells us what really happened in a monolog almost immediately after being introduced. I'd remembered it being at the end like in Psycho. Coming so soon adds a tortuous twist, as Scotty doesnt know who she really is, and is tormenting the poor girl with his obsession, whereas she (and we) know her secret. Yet she lets him torment her of her own freewill when she could have just packed her bags and left town. I guess she really loves the poor chump, but that is one messed up way to prove ones love. Since the film is all about Identity, perhaps Judy doesnt really like herself and finds some meaning in her life as Scotty's fantasy girl. Or else shes just a hapless victim who makes poor choices.
    • I always figure much of the fun of watching gawsh shucks Jimmy Stewart is waiting for the moment when he inevitably blows his cool, like the moment in Its a Wonderful Life when he suddenly barks at the child to stop playing that darned piano!! I've been watching some late 80s SNL, and Dana Carvey did an excellent Stewart impression, and clearly got that aspect of the actors persona. The second half of this film is the most disturbingly inappropriate I've ever seen Stewart get.
    • that final shot, I just realised, what the bejeebers is Scotty going to do next? during the first inquest scene the judge argued Scotty might not technically be responsible for Madelines death, but morally he sure was. Now Scotty's left standing in nearly the same position with a second corpse at the bottom of the tower. Difference is this time he did make it to the top of the stairs and the nun is there as a witness, she must believe she saw him push the girl. I gotta assume Scotty is convicted for murder and, I hate to think it, he'd be sentenced to death. Is this Hitchcock's darkest ending?
    • I'm not usually one for superlatives, but at times Vertigo has been my favourite Hitchcock film. its just that I recently watched North by NorthWest and that one is currently hogging top spot, and this latest viewing of Vertigo has not budged it. But NxNW is Hitchcock perfecting scenes he'd already filmed several times over throughout his career, whereas Vertigo is more experimental, so gains major bonus points for that.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,412MI6 Agent

    Vertigo is overrated IMO. There is too much subtext and not enough text. Critics and essayist have got caught up too much in what the film means, what Hitch intended it to mean, and not enough on what the audience sees - which is a confused and irrational movie. Hitch has made much much better and more enjoyable movies.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,957Chief of Staff

    Dammit, now I have to watch it yet again.....

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,637MI6 Agent

    What a great review @caractacus potts although I have to agree with @chrisno1 with his assessment of Vertigo.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
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