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  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief 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: 5,983MI6 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: 3,131MI6 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: 35,974Chief of Staff

    More Michael Caine.


    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: 2,962MI6 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: 3,886MI6 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: 35,974Chief 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: 3,131MI6 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: 10,197MI6 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: 3,886MI6 Agent


    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: 3,131MI6 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: 35,974Chief of Staff

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

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 5,983MI6 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.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 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: 3,886MI6 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: 3,131MI6 Agent

    Is it ?

  • Number24Number24 NorwayPosts: 21,623MI6 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: 10,197MI6 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: 3,131MI6 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: 35,974Chief 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: 3,131MI6 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: 35,974Chief 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: 3,131MI6 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: 35,974Chief 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: 5,983MI6 Agent
    edited October 2023


    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: 35,974Chief 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: 5,983MI6 Agent


    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: 21,623MI6 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: 5,983MI6 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: 35,974Chief 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.

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