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  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,360MI6 Agent

    THE SHINING (1980)

    Oh, dear.

    I love Stanley Kubrick as a filmmaker. He has a great visual eye and an ability to tell a story in set-pieces which has rarely been bettered. Where he suffers as a writer / producer / director is, like all auteurs, a tendency to lose sight of his goal. I wonder if he ever knew exactly what his goal was when he set out to adapt Stephen King’s novel The Shining.

    Now, I have not read the book, so I am not speaking from a place of authority, but I am fairly certain Mr King might have spent a few pages attempting to explain the phenomena his characters experience, at least to a degree we can understand – or think we understand – what occurs. Kubrick doesn’t bother with that. He’s so obsessed with providing perfect visual shocks he forgets to offer any decent unknotting of all the fabulous questions he is asking. He raises issues – psychic phenomena, extra-sensory projection, alcoholism, career dissatisfaction, writer’s block, child abuse, wife-beating, cabin fever, ghouls, spectres and murder – but has no plan of action for any of them. Hence, trying to interpret The Shining is like dropping a hook in barrel of fish. Just take what you get.

    As an exercise in mounting tension and terror, the movie is outstanding. As a character piece, it is so-so. As a horror, we’ve seen much of this before. Psycho springs to mind: as a lone chef makes his torturous way to the snowbound Outlook Hotel only to be hit with an axe, I could only recall Arbogast’s similar journey to his maker in Hitchcock’s classic. The idea of psychic projection, what King calls a ‘shining’, had cropped up in films as recent as Carrie [another King novel] and Don’t Look Now, which celebrates a 50th anniversary this month.

    Here Kubrick focusses on a family, the Torrance’s, and specifically the son, Danny. The lad doesn’t have many friends and instead talks to a person called Tony, who lives ‘in his mouth’. These early sections are very good and exceedingly well drawn. We learn that the shocks we see are Danny’s nightmares and that the hotel’s cook, Hallorann [Scatman Crothers], shares his ‘shining’ skill and warns him not to visit Room 237; the implication being this is where those nightmares originate from. Where the screenplay comes unstuck is in suggesting the same ESP / shining / psychic power is attributable to both father and mother. Jack Nicholson turns in one of his most extreme performances as John (Jack) Torrance, a failing writer, who appears to succumb to something more than cabin fever. Jack starts to talk to dead or imagined people, even takes advice and instruction from them. The fact we can tell Jack is a nut case from the first time we meet him doesn’t suggest any of this is shocking, but it skews what we already know of him. Early on, he’s intensely odd and creepy. For instance, at the caretaker’s job interview he smiles at all the wrong times, wears dreadful mismatched clothes and hasn’t bothered to properly comb his hair. This obvious character defect seems completely lost on the filmmakers who plough on with the ghost / psychic voices angle while allowing the psychopathic nonsense to keep rearing it's head. They skew their themes even further with a hint of prescience during the final baffling shot, a zoom close up of Nicholson’s character photographed at the hotel in 1921. Has he always been the 'caretaker' is the implication - but given we never see this in close up until the final shot, it might just be an elaborate hoax by the director, a final nail in his coffin of open ended questions.  

    During the extended climax, as Shelly Duvall’s Wendy wails hysterically and wanders the corridors flapping her arms like a wounded duck, she too witnesses moments of psychic phenomena, some of which were originally Danny’s nightmares. So, whose dreams are we / were we witnessing? Is Danny punishing his mother while he escapes his rampaging father? Seems unlikely. At this point, you realise, if you haven’t done already, that Kubrick isn’t interested in telling any sort of coherent story, he merely wants to deliver as many vital shocks as he can in as few minutes as possible. The European version of the movie is twenty minutes shorter and I suspect scenes were eradicated to speed the movie up and to remove vital information, making the landscape even more baffling. Some of the remaining and most famous scenes are ridiculously over blown. The best are the understated moments of Danny’s imagined childhood fear.

    Young Danny Lloyd is quite affecting as the challenged youngster, but even his role is undone by Kubrick’s insistence on eking every last vestige of tension from the screen. There’s a preposterous scene where the young lad scrawls ‘murder’ on his mother’s door and appears about to stab her with a kitchen knife, prompted by the ‘voice’ of Tony repeatedly growling ‘murder’. Once Wendy wakes up and gives the boy a hug the whole moment is forgotten. There are some commentators who think he’s trying to warn her, or that he’s sleep walking another nightmare, but Kubrick doesn’t show him sleepwalking, nor does he warn his mother in any conventional manner. Tony, the talking finger, never reappears, so what was his purpose in the film? He doesn't help Danny, nor hinder him, he's just an annoying voice and isn't even related to the 'shining' nightmares.

    Nicholson’s character is eventually locked in a store cupboard, just punishment for attacking his wife. He miraculously escapes and I assumed, with no evidence, that Danny must have released him as there is no other physical presence in the building and we know Wendy is asleep. In which case, why is Danny / Tony inflicting the threat of death on himself and his mother when he already knows it is coming? From here on, the psycho stuff takes over.

    In Don’t Look Now, the writers carefully ensured we understood who had psychic abilities and the shock comes in how they fail to understand them. You could suggest Kubrick is attempting the same thing here, but by wrapping the experience up with a prototype slasher theme deflects all the nuances. Most audiences simply think Jack’s going mad or he’s already mad. This doesn’t elicit any sympathy, so Nicholson’s turn becomes one dimensional. He was used to playing nut cases, he won an Oscar as a man pretending to be insane, but this is a downright objectional performance, all ugly mugging faces and hooded eyes. His intent is so obvious we know what is going to happen before it even starts. The roaring demented climax is simply too much.

    I don’t know. Have I defeated my own arguments? Brilliant to look at. Delivers several shocks. Can be quite chilling. Completely incomprehensible. Guesswork, please. Certainly not the 88th Greatest Movie of All Time [Sight and Sound 2022].

      

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,992MI6 Agent

    I always assumed the hotel's ghosts exploited Nicholson's mental illness, and at the end claimed him as one of their own, along with all the other murderers and victims in the hotels history. somehow these ghosts are able to open doors and photoshop new characters into old photos. and its all something to do with a native burial ground isnt it?

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,360MI6 Agent

    Is it ?

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,890MI6 Agent
    edited December 2023

    Mississipi burning (1988)

    I haven't watched this movie since it was new, and I'm glad I did revisit it. For those who don't know/have forgotten it's Alan Parker's fictional movie about the tragical real murders of three civil rights activists in 1963. Gene Hackman, William Dafoe and Francis MacDormand are the leads in a very well-acted and well made movie. Hackman and Defoe play the two FBI agents leading the investigation. the title of the movie was also the title of the FBI case file. The movie was shot in the region where the real events took place and many extras were locals. the locals who are interviewed were just given the topic, their racist words are their own. Most of the people at the KKK rally were also local, and many got in the scene by showing their KKK membership cards.

    My sister was an exchange student in neighbouring Louisiana the year the movie was made. While the racism in the South almost certainly wasn't as bad as it was in 1963, she did tell some stories. If someone saw people of oposite sex and differnt skin colour in a car, one would just do a U-turn and follow them. My sister was in the school band, but after hours practicing under the hot sun her host family "father" wouldn't let two black band members sit in his car on the way home.

    Both as a statement about a time and place in history and as great film-making "Mississipi burning" is well worth watching.

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,339MI6 Agent
    edited October 2023

    In the Line of Fire - Clint Eastwood in the Indian summer of his career, the sort of Hollywood revival Sean Connery enjoyed just a bit earlier, Also has a couple of ludicrous scenes where the ageing if slim star outruns the more youthful Secret Service agents in a couple of scenes, something Connery did with Wesley Snipes in Rising Sun albeit just keeping pace in once scene but even so.

    A bit problematic as midway through the film Eastwood gets a chance to be a hero but flunks it big time with a fatal outcome. We are meant to ignore it. Anyway, he plays a not very highly promoted agent dogged by the memory of being on duty the day JFK was shot in Dallas - there was a bit of a triangular obsession with the death of Kennedy around this time, with Kevin Costner in JFK of course and both he and Eastwood starring in a downbeat film with the death of Kennedy as a backdrop - can't recall the title. Now Eastwood's character has the chance to redeem himself as creepy assassin John Malkovich uses Eastwood's character as a sort of conduit for his assassination campaign. It's a good thriller all told, the final confrontation seemingly nicked a bit for GoldenEye a few years later, the latter being less effective imo - that film did magpie a few things.

    At time, Clint did put me in mind of Joe Biden - seen as lean and fading, with a quizzical look. Funny to think Clint is still going these days, it's good news.

    Good support from Rene Russo - what's she up to now? - and John Mahoney - who went on to be Frasier's Dad.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,360MI6 Agent

    PITCH PERFECT 3 (2017)

    WTF was that?

    The Barden Bellas reunite for a European tour of unmitigated disaster.

    I love Anna Kendrick, I really do, but her agent needs a slap. She’s a much better actress than all these half baked roles as cartoon trolls and wannabe acapella singers suggest. Or perhaps she isn’t. You can’t really judge on this outing, which is a smutty ninety minutes of girl love, bonding and forgiveness. A multitude of terrible performances ramp down the enjoyment to almost zero. I annoyed myself by laughing at the “Never moist” joke. Just a dreadful experience from start to finish.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,631Chief of Staff


     Hammer Box Set

    Countess Dracula  Twins Of Evil  Vampire Circus

    These movies all date from around 1970, more or less the point where Hammer Films discovered that their usual horror movies had become less profitable than they had been accustomed to. This may or may not have had something to do with the then recent success of such films as “Night Of The Living Dead” which gave audiences a different kind of horror than Hammer had been serving them, taking place in more or less the real world rather than Transylvanian castles, to ordinary people rather than Counts or Barons, and with more convincingly brutal body horror rather than unconvincing stakes through the heart.

    Hammer’s immediate solution was simple: sex & violence. Recent changes in certification allowed them blatant nudity rather than it being coyly implied, and they offered jobs to a long list of young actresses willing to strip off while meantime the violence was also ramped up- not to Romero levels, but higher than it had been in the past- with lashings of blood.

    Sadly, while this did slow down the decline in Hammer’s fortunes it couldn’t stop it, especially since ”The Exorcist” would soon arrive in cinemas making Hammer look even more quaint and out of date. I’ve just watched this box set with three films full of fangs, nipples, and a generally younger cast than usual.

    “Countess Dracula” isn’t strictly a vampire story, being the well-known one of a Countess who bathes in virgins’ blood to keep her youth. Ingrid Pitt looks sensational, of course, although her old-age make up is rather unconvincing. She’s dubbed, as are quite a few performers in these three movies (no, I didn’t spot Nikki van der Zyl unless she was one of the twins in that one) but puts up a good show. “Twins Of Evil” stars a more villainous, or at least unsympathetic, Peter Cushing than normal alongside the titular twins, one of whom falls under the spell of vampirism to the local Count. I’ve seen Cushing stake many a vampire as well as force them into sunlight, etc, but this was the first time I’ve seen him behead one (and a good effect it was, too). The last “Vampire Circus” was IMHO the weakest, full of recycled ideas (vaults, burgomeisters, curses) with flat performances and direction.

    So, I didn’t like this then? Well, I’ve ordered yet another Hammer box from eBay so you can figure that one out for yourself…..

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,360MI6 Agent

    Twins of Evil is IMO the best of Hammer's latter day escapades. Cushing is very forceful in this one, playing a domestic abuser subjugated by his religious rhetoric. There is an awful lot more happening in the film than mere surface thrills. It's probably got more textual layers than Curse of Frankenstein, but maybe not as well executed.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,631Chief of Staff

    Yes, I'd agree with most of that but "the best"? Depends of course on where you draw the line for latter day, but I'd suggest the almost contemporary "Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde" is at least in the running. Also I have an affection for Frankenstein stories (you might just have noticed this) so "Monster From Hell" ranks highly with me.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,360MI6 Agent

    Latter day would be 1970 - 1976 for me. The folk horror imagery of the period is often prevalent, although dimmed in the contemporary set offerings. I enjoy that sub-genre and Twins... echoes some of those fears, particularly in the horrific nature of the Brotherhood. Yes, it is very much personal opinion and I haven't seen them all, and many not recently. I wasn't over-enthused by DR&SH. Captain Kronos was an interesting failure. To the Devil a Daughter [Hammer's epitaph?] is another very effective movie, but it is badly miscast.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,631Chief of Staff

    Captain Kronos was fun, it so nearly was good. Can't stand Daughter for many reasons, one of them being the wasted potential but one definitely not being Lee.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,450MI6 Agent
    edited October 2023

    BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE (1957)

    This Hammer-style horror even has Jimmy Sangster writing the script which has a similar plot to the following years Revenge Of Frankenstein. We begin with a staking scene as a vampire played by Donald Wolfit is finished off by villagers. They go the local tavern where a sexy girl is entertaining the lusty menfolk by dancing, but are interrupted by hunchback Victor Maddern wanting the doctor to sign a death certificate for the recently deceased vampire. The doctor is bribed into doing a quick heart transplant and the vampire is alive (dead?) once more.

    A few years pass and a young doctor with revolutionary surgery ideas is up before a judge (John Le Mesurier) for not managing to save the life of a patient. He’s sentenced to time in the ubiquitous Institute for the Criminally Insane in a remote castle. It’s run by Wolfit, of course, who has a rare blood disease and he wants the doctor to cure him. The doctor is engaged to sexy Barbara Shelley and she gets a job at the institute. The hunchback, whose hands seem to be stuck in the position of having a J. Arthur Rank, keeps his protruding eye (Marty Feldman may have seen this film) on her whilst also indulging in some S&M with the girls that the vampire keeps in the dungeons to feed on. Wolfit, a Shakespearean actor was at the end of his career here and although he tries hard he is no match for Christopher Lee’s Dracula, which was filmed at the same time.

    Stanley Black, whose Film Spectacular Movie Themes LP’s my father used to buy in the 60’s, provides a Hammer-style score. Produced by The Saint’s Baker and Bergman, the movie looks very good but it doesn’t have the same atmosphere as early Hammer’s, but it’s still a very much enjoyable horror from a great era of British filmmaking.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,631Chief of Staff
    edited October 2023

    Nice review of a film that was trying hard to be a Hammer film, CHB. I've just watched two actual Hammer movies, the first having a very similar title -


    Kiss Of The Vampire (1963)

    A young English couple are honeymooning in Transylvania about a hundred years ago when their car runs out of petrol. They're not far from a mysterious castle....

    So far, so very like "Dracula Prince Of Darkness" but it develops slightly differently. The vampire is Dr Ratna, a part tailor made for Christopher Lee, and the Van Helsing figure a Professor Zimmer. The ending has Prof Z invoke black magic against Ratna and his cohorts, an ending Peter Cushing rejected for "Brides Of Dracula" which is probably why he isn't here.

    Some excellent set pieces, a little mystery, and a nice sub-Hitchcock situation the young man finds himself in about halfway through.


    Phantom Of The Opera (1962)

    The Hammer version. You all know the plot, though each version has it's own changes, so I'll take that as read.

    Hammer's constant low budget isn't quite as apparent as usual here though obviously it's no MGM production. Heather Sears is our heroine and does a good job, Edward de Souza (by coincidence the young man from the film above) likewise does fine as the nominal hero, but they are completely overshadowed by Michael Gough chewing the rather appealing scenery as the villain of the piece and by the never to be underestimated Herbert Lom as the Phantom.

    Lom manages to convey the necessary frustration, sadness, pride, and occasional threat from behind a mask with only one eye visible. When the mask eventually comes off the makeup is less than startling, unfortunately, but he does have a maskless flashback scene to compensate.

    It's not the best version of this story, but it isn't terrible either.

    Edit- I'll have to watch it again to be sure, but there seems to be a scene missing towards the end, either just before or just after the Phantom confronts the villain d'Arcy.


    Footnote - after watching this you'll never see Lom playing the organ while wearing full cape in "The Pink Panther Strikes Again" quite the same way again. 😁 That was clearly deliberate, but the joke is lost on younger viewers who didn't see him as the Phantom.

    Similarly the scenes of Dreyfuss lying on a couch talking to various British actors as his psychiatrist are lost on those who never saw him in "The Human Jungle".

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,450MI6 Agent

    MASTER OF THE WORLD (1961)

    This AIP entry has a badly miscast Charles Bronson as a peacemaking government agent in the late 19th century. He sets off with his daughter and a munitions expert on a balloon voyage to a Pennsylvania crater where he finds Vincent Price as a scientist who has built a huge flying machine in which he intends to fly around the world destroying all instruments of destruction to avoid any future wars.

    Scripted by Richard Matheson from Jules Verne’s books, Clipper Of The Clouds and the sequel Master Of The World, it doesn’t live up to other adaptions of his work. Price is too straight here, where we needed a decent ham performance we get an untypical restrained performance, and Bronson is just uninteresting in an unsuitable role for him. The effects are ok for the period and the photography is colourful but it’s just all rather dull, overall. Veteran director William Witney mainly worked on B-movies and television series and it’s clear that he finds the larger budget hard to handle.

    Very average.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,890MI6 Agent

    A town called Alice (1956)

    I hadn't seen this movie classic based on a novel by Nevil Shute before. It's about a an English woman (Virginia McKenna) and an Australian (Peter Finch) from, you guessed it, a town called Alice. They are both prisoners of war in Japanese-occupied Malaysia in WWII. He as a truck driver and her as a member of a small group of English women and children being forced around the country in a seemingly endless march. The truck driver tries to help the group survive, and in the process he falls in love with MaKenna's character. No wonder, because MaKenna is both a great actress and beautiful even with a dirty face. But did women in the 1940's have such short hair?

    Part of why I liked the movie is how they show aspects of the war that are rarely shown in movies; Malaysia , the prisoners of war in Asia and the women's war. I also like how we get to see a Japanese soldier who's a good man, but without glossing over the brutality of the Japanese occupation too much. Another impressive feat (in a way) is that none of the main cast left Britain during the filming. Parts of the movie was shot in Malaysia and Australia, but that was second unit using doubles, adn it doesn't really show. Good movie!

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,450MI6 Agent

    THE DEVIL’S MEN (1976)

    With Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasence headlining the cast it’s got to be good eh? Well, in this case, no.

    A thin plot sees three youngsters explore a remote area in Greece despite being warned against it by Catholic priest Pleasence, as satanists are practising the dark arts. The kids spend a lot of time having sex in ruins before they are set upon by the satanists who are worshipping the Minotaur, a half-man/half-bull idol, which is poorly constructed. Pleasence and a private eye friend then join up with Luan Peters (who Basil Fawlty famously groped) who is searching for her missing boyfriend. Cushing’s Baron Carofax is the mastermind behind all the satanic going-on’s and when he sights sexy Luan he wants her to be the next sacrifice.

    Cushing is phoning in his performance here, which is unusual, and Pleasence decides to ham it up with an Irish accent that is all over the place. There’s quite a lot of nudity to spice things up and Brian Eno contributes an eerie score but the movie drags laboriously until the bloody finale which is pretty good for the year.

    I hadn’t seen this before, and with the cast, I was expecting a lot more. I hadn’t missed much by not seeing it.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,631Chief of Staff

    A while ago I started watching that one for the same reasons you did, but had to turn it off. It was that bad. Thanks to your review I now know more about the film, and it sounds like I made a good decision.

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,339MI6 Agent

    Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (2005). There's a slew of Halloween films this weekend on telly - and at London's Prince Charles Cinema - it's okay but it's like it's replaced Christmas. There seems something almost craven about UK society's need to cleave to certain events in the calendar and milk them for all their worth.

    I caught this by chance on ITV2 + 1 and it's pretty good though you might feel cheated paying to see it at the cinema. It's a bit B-movie and it has a one-trick premise - a hapless groom bungles his wedding vows and while rehearsing the lines with a ring in a dark spooky forest just out of town, accidentally bequeathes himself to a buried dead young woman out there who doesn't seem too decomposed given the time passed. Can he escape her entrapment now he finds himself lured to the other side?

    It doesn't have an alternative running story to speak of much if you're not taken with that one. A common problem is while there's nothing much wrong with the voice work of Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Emily Watson, it doesn't match the Disney heights; having famous actors doesn't really add much except they're names to boost the box office. Other voices are Joanna Lumley and Richard E Grant but mostly you don't quite know it's them while watching. I'd prefer voice actors who were anonymous - I've no idea who voiced Captain Hook in Disney's Peter Pan but he could not be bettered. Hugh Grant admired the vocal prep guy who did his film Pirates! An Adventure with Scientists! was better at it than him, so while he wasn't bad, you kind of wish these films would have the courage of their own convictions, like the Disney films used to.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,450MI6 Agent

    THE BLACK CASTLE (1952)

    Another unseen film chalked off my list. This low budget affair has Boris Karloff as a meek and mild physician being held captive by bad guy Stephen McNally (he wears an eye patch, he has to be the baddie). Richard Greene (before becoming TV’s Robin Hood) turns up at McNally’s castle lair to enquire about two friends of his that the evil Count (McNally) has disposed of. As he attempts to escape with the Counts unwilling bride he encounters a moat full of alligators and a torture dungeon. The great Lon Chaney Jr. plays the Counts thuggish henchman. It sounds a lot better than it is, the direction is stodgy and it all ends up distinctly ho-hum.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,360MI6 Agent
    edited October 2023

    LICORICE PIZZA (2021)

    Paul Thomas Anderson takes a long time to make movies. Nine in almost thirty years. That’s slow. Usually they are compelling and compellingly slow. It is as if Anderson is telling us we had to wait so long for this offering, you may as well see every second of effort he put into it lathered on the screen. Sometimes the attention to detail works fabulously well, the gentle burn and magical ending to Magnolia, the cynicism of Hard Eight or Boogie Nights, the strange eerie world of a preacher man, an obsessive couturier or a ruthless miner. His movies often draw out great performances and win awards. There was similar acclaim for Licorice Pizza [American spelling], but for me something has gone badly awry.

    Set in the early seventies, this picaresque style movie is flashy, fast and features winning and willing performances from a novice frontline cast. What it doesn’t have is an authentic tone or a tolerable structure. I felt as if Anderson had watched Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and thought of his contemporary: “I can do that.” There are snippets of true life characters, vague impersonations of the era and a slew of well-meaning cameos from guys like Sean Penn, Tom Waits and John C. Reilly – hell, Anderson even cast the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman’s son Cooper in his debut movie as the lead. But does it have a heart? Does it make sense? Do I care about anybody?

    Answer: No. No. No.

    Singer Alana Haim plays Alana a twenty-five year old Jewish actress down on her luck in Hollywood living with her parents and older sisters who bumps into fifteen year old high school leaver and child star Gary Valentine, a young man so confident of himself he declares: “I’m a showman. It’s my calling. I don’t know how to do anything else.” He’s completely unbelievable from the off, his repartee so articulate and smart you wonder why he’s so incompetent with his peers. Gary wheedles his way into Alana’s life. She discovers, much to her disbelieving annoyance, that he really is a child star, but he’s also a boorish go-getter who despite being infatuated with her, is clueless as to the art of wooing. Together, over the course of a year, the twosome embark on a series of crazy money making endeavours which test their friendship and eventually, incomprehensibly, lead to love.

    “Is it weird I’m hanging out with Gary and his fifteen year old friends?” she asks her sister.

    Yes. It is.

    Anderson defended the ‘romance’ and some dodgy racial stereotypes on the grounds they were contemporaneous, which I can just about accept. The real problem is I didn’t believe the romance and I didn’t find the supposed comic accents funny. Nor were the slew of cameos. Sean Penn impersonating a drunk Jack Holder – read William Holden – and reliving exploits from The Bridges of Toko Ri was the lowest of the bunch. “Is that a line or did it happen for real?” asks a confused Alana as Jack spouts stupidities. Amazed it took her so long to figure out that none of it is for real. I twigged it as soon as she flounces up to Gary at a sales show and he’s suddenly, mistakenly arrested as a murderer. There is something not so much dreamlike as totally bizarre about the whole scenario, as one curio follows another with increasing ridiculousness. I struggled to understand how Gary Valentine could be treated as such an adult by everyone when he is so obviously a spoilt big kid. It’s obvious she fancies him, but she does nothing about it – probably because of his age – and he obviously likes her, but can’t say the right thing… ever. At one point, when their truck runs out of gas, she watches without a flicker of amusement as he and his mates play sex jokes with the fuel cannisters. Yes. They are fifteen year old kids, Alana.

    She was better suited to Brian, the political campaign manager, but even then she picks the wrong guy, choosing an awkward encounter with the councillor Joel Wachs, I guess because he’s Jewish. Turns out he’s gay, so that’s a non-starter. She shares a moment of catharsis with the councillor’s partner and realises where her romantic bread is buttered. How? I asked myself. It must be all that running around she and Gary have been doing, the one activity they appear to have in common. If that is the best metaphor Anderson can come up with for a burgeoning romance, he’s taken a steep dive since rolling dice in Hard Eight. He’s not as brutal in his dissection of the Hollywood myth as Tarantino was, but you can tell he isn’t enamoured with the place, a killer of dreams among a wretched existence where exploitation is rife, threats abound and drugs are commonplace. Sex is on everyone’s mind, but nobody gets any. In fact nobody gets much drink, drugs or money, it seems.

    Licorice Pizza – can anyone explain the title? – is pleasantly pretty to look at, but the content is grim. The film passes the time idly enough, but it isn’t going anywhere solid and while it engages on a superficial level, it doesn’t possess any deeper gravitas. Treading water time for writer / director Paul Thomas Anderson then. Let’s hope he stops watching Tarantino films and gets back to more than surface gloss.     

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,631Chief of Staff
    edited October 2023


    THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (1961)

    Another day, another Hammer movie. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it. Here they take on the werewolf fantasy, as done twenty years earlier by Universal starring Lon Chaney Jr. It didn’t make enough profits to generate a sequel, so no long series from Hammer a la Frankenstein or Dracula.

    Here the young Oliver Reed (who would be mooted for the part of James Bond about eight years later but was personally ruled out by Broccoli) plays what I believe was his first lead role as the afflicted Leon, the title character. Note that the werewolf doesn’t do any cursing, he is the one who has been cursed. Reed does a fine job and shows what a good actor he once was before alcohol destroyed his abilities and his career.

    The story isn’t too different from other werewolf movies- the moon, true love, silver bullets, etc- but it does approach it somewhat tangentially with a long prologue before Leon is even born and then a shorter section when he is a child before Reed appears as the young adult Leon. All this gives it a slightly different atmosphere which coupled with the Spanish setting make it seem further from Universal’s stories than it really is.

    It’s based on a novel called “Werewolf Of Paris” but Hammer was able to utilise the Spanish-style sets from another movie (long story) so the location became Spain and it looks quite different from their usual style. Some Bond alumni appear (Anthony Dawson is prominent, Francis de Wolff, and most pleasantly Desmond Llewelyn who suddenly appears when a door is opened then just as quickly disappears again).

    Footnote- An actor called Richard Wordsworth plays a beggar whose story dominates the first ?15 minutes of the film though you’d never know that from the billing where he’s under actors with less important parts. And this was after his turn in the first Quatermass movie where he plays the astronaut slowly mutating into… er, something or other… and in which he was (and still is, I believe) recognised as carrying the film with his sensitive and memorable performance. I‘ve never understood why he didn’t become a horror star of Lee-esque standing.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,631Chief of Staff

    Like you I had hoped that this would be a better movie than it turned out to be. I mean, Karloff and Chaney, I'm sold right away. Unfortunately it turned out to be only boring, not even "so bad it's good".

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,339MI6 Agent

    That Black Castle film sounds like the one that popped up as footage in Targets, a 1968 film with two parallel plots, one about a ageing horror actor (Karloff sort of playing himself) set on retirement, the other about a clean looking young married lad who plots a mass shooting for no apparent reason. I saw it at the Prince Charles Cinema this summer.

    I enjoyed the review of Licorice Pizza. I wanted to like it, I saw it at the cinema. It's all a bit by numbers, it ought to be moving. Sort of The Way We Were but not as good (and that wasn't brilliant imo). A decent soundtrack, in particular good use of Wings' Let Me Roll It. It might almost work better if someone adapted it as a series. I'd like to see Seymour Hoffman in something else but I'm not sure he convinced in this simply because he's a big guy - tall I mean - and you struggle to pass yourself off as a teenager in that instance.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,450MI6 Agent

    THE HOUSE IN NIGHTMARE PARK (1973)


    Whether you like this or not may depend on if you’re a Frankie Howerd fan, I am, and I like it very much.

    I first became a Frankie fan when I saw The Runaway Bus (1954) on TV in the early 60’s. Frankie was a staple of British TV comedy shows during the 60’s and I loved his Up Pompeii series at the start of the 70’s. He was famous for breaking the fourth wall. In this film he plays Foster Twelvetrees (what a fabulous name), a ham actor, who recites Dickens to small audiences at small auditoriums. After one of his performances Ray Milland gushes over his acting prowess and hires him to do a recital at his country home. Once at the house (Hammer’s Oakley Court) the fun begins as we get the typical haunted house shenanigans of locked doors, hidden fortunes and a host of mad family members. Frankie holds all this together with an excellent performance, he’s not a great actor, but he is great at being Frankie Howerd.

    Ray Milland was an Oscar winning actor in his early career and he also starred in the superlative horror movie The Uninvited (1944). By 1973 his career was on the slide and recent movies had included the nature-gone-wild film Frogs and The Thing With Two Heads. Howerd and Milland certainly have a fission on screen and their mutual respect for each other is clear to see, they’re having a great time with disparaging remarks and glances.

    Director Peter Sykes had just made Hammer’s Demons Of The Mind and here he crafts a good old fashioned haunted house comedy-thriller in Bob Hope’s The Ghost Breakers vein.

    Titter ye not, no don’t laugh, this is really pretty good.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,339MI6 Agent

    Oh, I'd like to see that.

    Night of the Demon (1957)

    Pre-Halloween black and white horror shown on Talking Pictures TV. This gave me a couple of real frights and when I switched off the light in bed later I felt a real unease so it did its job. Our Ken Adam did the sets though you'd be hard pressed to notice aside from a hotel corridor that suddenly turns spooky in the way it's lit.

    It's about a professional sceptic, an American played by Dana Andrews - I don't know about US actors who have women's names, there's another one out there like that isn't there, whose name escapes me - who arrives in England to expose as a fraud a master of the occult, a sort of Alastair Crowley figure who lives in a big stately home with grounds near a river. It's all very civil in that this Svengali befriends Andrews from the off - a bit like Holmes and Moriaty and how they run into each other in the Rathbone films and exchange pleasantries. Some of it becomes like an episode of The Avengers, or The Saint one I saw lately, given the country house theme and investigations of the offbeat and surreal.

    Unfortunately Andrews seems on the back foot from the off and seems to ignore all the spooky, affecting tricks that the occult master plays on him. He's assisted in his quest by Peggy Cummings as the niece of a scientist played by Maurice Denham who also tried to expose the man and came to a sticky end in the opening scenes. They don't have great chemistry, some of it seems a bit by numbers. The 'demon' itself is more laughable than terrifying, a bit like the effect of Adam's cross-eyed dragon in Dr No.

    One former victim of the occult master is a young lanky farmer lad who has been left comatose - they rouse him to hypnotise him to tell him what he actually saw and he goes berserk. To my astonishment I recognised the actor as Brian Wilde, who played kindly prison warden Mister Barraclough in the TV sitcom Porridge. As Maurice Denham also appeared in a couple of episodes as a temporarily banged-up judge, I suppose that's your Porridge connection there.

    I enjoyed it, it could have been better. It seems the sceptic's adversary always has him on the back foot so wasn't for me dramatically that interesting or gripping as it could have been. The lead isn't wholly likeable either so you don't feel there's too much at stake.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,360MI6 Agent

    Despite yesterday being Hallowe'en, I couldn't find a decent horror movie to watch on any channel. Instead, I found Anita and Me on BBC2 which is horrific in all sorts of different ways:

    ANITA AND ME (2002)

    A Punjabi family moves to a run down estate in the West Midlands c.1970. The impressionable teenage daughter strikes up an unlikely friendship with a wayward older girl who lives down the street. Racism rears its head and their idealised existence starts tumbling down. Snippet filmmaking. Short scene follows short scene in an attempt to either make us laugh or make us empathise with the growing pains of two young girls and a society that can’t grow up. Meera Syal’s book was a best seller but this film adaptation can’t capture the essence of the book’s characters or the effect of those social mores. Everyone just looks gloomy or acts stupid. The two leads [Chandeep Uppal and Anna Brewster] are okay. The cast is peppered with sitcom stars. The early 70s soundtrack is the best thing about it.  

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,360MI6 Agent

    Earlier, I'd watched The Howling, which I recorded the night before. I can't understand why this wasn't shown on Hallowe'en:

    THE HOWLING (1981)

    A shocker of an entirely different sort, Joe Dante’s The Howling suffers in comparison to John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London which was released in the same year. The creature effects for both movies are exceptional. Where they differ is in the protagonist. Landis’ film concentrates on the plight of the werewolf as a victim, so David Naughton’s young unknowing lycanthrope elicits our sympathy as he struggles to contain his shapeshifting curse. Dante prefers to side with Dee Wallace’s female news reporter as his victim, thus removing any interest in werewolves as unfortunates. They are basically nymphomaniac, flesh eating wolf-monsters and rather dull. It doesn’t help that Dante’s script has them holed up in a ‘colony’ for the psychologically challenged. Headed up by Patrick MacNee, the patients at this exclusive backwoods retreat are a bunch of crazies so strange they could only be a cabal of werewolves. Point or order: what is the collective noun for werewolves?.

    Occasionally funny [it is unclear if that is by design or accident], occasionally shocking [ditto], occasionally crass [double ditto], with a distinctly ghastly looking cast [treble ditto]. A minor hit back in the day. Dreadfully disappointing today.  

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,360MI6 Agent
    edited November 2023

    Much better was this, which I caught this morning:

    SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939)

    Despite Universal Studios being famed for its cycle of horror films which kicked off the subgenre in grand 1930s style, most of their output came during the early 1940s when inconsequential sequels became the fashion.

    Son of Frankenstein was probably the first of these and to be fair, it stands up very well compared to most of what followed. There’s an alarming time shift taking place between Bride of… and this one as we seem to suddenly be in the 1920s, all motor cars, diaphanous dresses and talk of the ‘war’. Wolff Frankenstein, the new baron, appears to be an American. He has no memory of his father and only knows of his work from conversations with his recently deceased mother. Quite why it has taken so long for his estate to passed into his hands is not clear, another mystery which remains unsolved. A third is how the hunchback Igor remains alive and still looking the same age he did when he was hanged following the events of the first film. I suppose it doesn’t do to dwell on the minutiae of the background plot as that distracts us from the unfolding drama on screen.

    Basil Rathbone cuts a swathe through the scenery as an energetic Wolff Frankenstein, determined to continue his father’s scientific research in a vain attempt to clear the family name. It is a doomed enterprise, only the Baron doesn’t see such until events have spiralled far beyond his scientific control, at which point he’s putting the frighteners on his whole family by acting increasingly like a lunatic. The local police chief has his card marked. Lionel Atwill, who also featured in several early horror pics – things like Doctor X – is very good as the one-armed Inspector Krogh.

    Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi are excellent as the Creature and his mesmeric guardian Igor, both owing much of their performances to the silent era, as their dialogue is pared to the minimum or to nought. The scene where the Creature examines itself in a mirror was very affecting. Lugosi is terrific as the vengeful hunchback, all manky clothes, wretched straggly beard and diseased teeth. This is a man who you really believe has been plotting revenge for decades.

    Basically, Igor has been tending the wounded Creature, occasionally allowing it forays into the surrounding woodland where it murders animals and, occasionally, people – usually to order. When the new Baron enters the old castle, he discovers Igor skulking in the ruined laboratory and the comatose Creature lying in the cellar and vows to restore the monster’s faculties. Oh, dear. We all know what’s going to happen next. And it does…  

    The look of the movie is tremendous. They had to build new sets for this one and they are off the scale, harking back to the art deco of the twenties and thirties as well as those strange Escher lithographs and the extreme angles of German expressionism. The enormous empty spaces have a paradoxical claustrophobic effect. We genuinely feel Josephine Hutchinson’s fears as the Baroness wanders her new and grandiose apartments, the deep long shadows, the twisting open staircases, the gnarled corridors and passages, and bedrooms as huge as hallways.

    In a unique reversal, the laboratory is a smaller, cramped space, lacking the elevator construction and instead digging into the bowls of the earth for a fiery sulphur pit has been uncovered in the intervening years. Similarly too, the village council chamber is a pokey room with its aldermen trapped in wooden pews like lapsed parishioners. The clergy do not feature once in the film, nor does Wolff Frankenstein consider himself to have the hand of God, but he does scrub out the word ‘monster’ on his father’s epitaph so the phrase reads ‘Maker of Man’. Subtle that.

    The usual monster revival and the terrors that follow don’t surprise this seasoned watcher anymore, but they are exceedingly well presented and the above average performances assist in our believing all this just might not be as ludicrous as it appears. Son of Frankenstein gained good reviews on release. 1939 was a great year for American movies, quite possibly the greatest of consistent quality in all Hollywood’s history, and Son of Frankenstein sits right up there, just below the very best, as a fine example of the studio system working miracles and producing memorable cinematic moments.

    Very, very good indeed.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,631Chief of Staff

    @Napoleon Plural, the director didn't want to show the "demon" at all but was forced to by the studio. The film would be a lot stronger without it.

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,339MI6 Agent

    I know, I know... I read that on imdb too! I can't mention everything.

    I think I also forgot to mention that the line that opens Kate Bush's Hounds of Love song - 'It's in the trees, it's comings!' refers not to the latest Westminster MP sex scandal but is taken from this film.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
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