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  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,192MI6 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: 5,983MI6 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: 3,124MI6 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: 35,974Chief 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: 35,974Chief 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: 10,192MI6 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: 5,983MI6 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: 10,192MI6 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: 3,124MI6 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: 3,124MI6 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: 3,124MI6 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: 35,974Chief 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: 10,192MI6 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
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff

    I'm old, Napoleon - I read it in a book long before IMDb existed!

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 5,983MI6 Agent

    I think you’re a bit harsh on Night Of The Demon @Napoleon Plural it’s a classic, although as mentioned it would have been better without the demon reveal at the end.

    Dana is one of those names that are used for both sexes, like Robin or Holly. In this case the male name is usually pronounced Day-na while the female is pronounced Dar-na. Leslie or Lesley is a better solution for having the names spelt differently but sounding the same.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,885MI6 Agent

    chrisno1 said:

    SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939)

    ... 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 think Bela Lugosi's Ygor is a new character in the third Frankenstein film, he is a hunchback because he was hanged and the noose broke, he's actually supposed to have a badly healed broken neck. the assistant in the first film was named Fritz, a different character. And in one of the later sequels, isnt [spoiler] Ygor's brain transplanted into the monsters body [/spoiler]?

    @Barbel 's usually the expert on these matters. Barbel, whats the deal with Ygor?

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff

    You're quite right, @caractacus potts, that's the way of it. And I think it's pronounced "Eye-gor" .... 😁

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,124MI6 Agent

    That's interesting as it isn't how Eyegor explains it. Poetic licence then?

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,124MI6 Agent

    THE CONQUEROR (1956)

    A movie with a reputation so bad it doesn’t so much precede it as be wallowed in it. Voted one of the 100 worst films of all time, The Conqueror isn’t all that bad, no worse than hoary old **** like The Black Tent or The Silver Chalice. John Wayne being cast as Genghis Khan raises the eyebrows and while I can’t say he acquits himself well, he doesn’t sound or act any worse than Victor Mature in Androcles and the Lion or Tony Curtis in Tarus Bulba, those Brooklyn accents grating like an axe on marble.

    They remade this film ten years later with Omar Sharif and Stephen Boyd and to be fair, this is more enjoyable. Okay, you laugh at the dialogue – “You’re beautiful in your wrath!” etc – and the accents are all over the place, and not just John Wayne’s, but at least the movie has verve and enterprise. Joseph LaShelle’s cinematography is exceedingly colourful and the battle scenes are more than decent, accompanied by rousing Victor Young music. You can’t really follow the plot which meanders all over the place, involving much riding of horses between cities and camps and up and down valleys. Susan Hayward looks delightful playing a posh Tartar wife. Judith Anderson scowls as Wayne’s mother. Pedro Armendariz desperately tries to add gravitas as his blood brother. Lee Van Cleef pops up in a minor role. The director was Dick Powell, a song and dance man who’d reinvented his career, but he is too inexperienced a director for the task, though he doesn’t make anywhere near as much of a hash of it as you might expect. You can’t take The Conqueror too seriously, either as entertainment or a history lesson, but it passes the time amiably enough.

    There are much, much worse films out there although not many suffer from such horrendous casting. You realise how it happened once you see the name Howard Hughes listed as producer. The multimillionaire never gave a fag about realism, RKO Studios was his midlife crisis playground and he threw money at several doomed projects without a care. Amazingly, The Conqueror was one of the year’s biggest hits, but like Cleopatra in 1963, it lost too much money. While 20th Century Fox just about survived, RKO did not. The company was wound up by 1959.

    Speaking of survival, a sorrowful footnote to the film is the controversy surrounding its filming location in the Utah deserts downwind of a US military nuclear test site. Over 100 atomic bombs were activated in the area between 1951 and 1962. It isn’t clear whether RKO understood the risks the cast and crew were being exposed to, after all so as to replicate the look of the desert the production crew even shifted thousands of tons of radioactive sand back to the studio lot to decorate the sound stages. Almost 50% of those closely associated with the movie subsequently contracted some form of cancer. It is still not clear whether radiation was the major factor, but the statistics make extremely raw reading.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 5,983MI6 Agent

    DARK PLACES (1973)

    I’m doing well in watching previously unseen films, and this one sees dodgy doctor Christopher Lee and his sexy sister Joan Collins attempt to find a hidden fortune which has been left to mental hospital chief Robert Hardy on the large estate bequeathed to him in a will. There’s too many flashbacks which made the film a bit muddled but director Don Sharp does a decent enough job and gets a naughty performance out of Joan. Another film that tries hard to be in the Hammer or Amicus mould, but doesn’t quite get there.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 5,983MI6 Agent

    THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST (1945)

    John Abbott plays a 400-year old vampire who runs the shady underworld in Africa. By donning a pair of sunglasses it seems that he’s able to walk around in daylight, but he has in fact been cursed to live forever. A meeting with some jungle natives with silver tipped spears might alter that, though. It only lasts for an hour and that’s just about right. Abbott is pretty good as the doomed vampire and went on to star in programmes such as Bewitched and Star Trek and even British soap opera Emmerdale. The screenplay is by Leigh Brackett who began by writing in pulp magazines and then science-fiction novels, this was her first screenplay and she would go on to co-write the script for The Big Sleep (1946) and some John Wayne westerns including Rio Bravo (1959). She also wrote the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back (1980) which George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan reworked. Leigh died in 1978 from cancer and they have her an onscreen credit, even though not much of her submission was used in the final film.

    It passes an hour quite nicely if you like this sort of thing, and I do 😁

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,124MI6 Agent

    HELLFIGHTERS (1968)

    What perhaps could have been a roaring success about Red Adair, an oilwell fire fighter who garnered a certain degree of notoriety for his expertise in the field, Hellfighters throws its stock far and wide and includes too many flame gushing oil wells and too many soap opera style plotlines. John Wayne’s Chance Buckman is a veiled impersonation of Adair, who contributed technical know-how to the filming. Nothing is bad, but nothing is very good either. While the assorted injuries, rescues, fights, love affairs, bad business decisions and Venezuelan revolutions don’t exactly disappoint, they don’t enthral much either. Seen fifty plus years on, Hellfighters looks much like a precursor of the successful 1970s disaster movie genre crossed with an airbrushing of Dynasty, featuring as it does an aging out-of-place star, decent photography, addled script, wayward direction, plenty of action and a raft of so-so performances.

    Katherine Ross, fresh from The Graduate, looks very chic as Wayne’s headstrong daughter who marries his business partner [Jim Hutton]. Vera Miles is her mother and Wayne’s ex-wife. The ‘love triangle’ becomes four sides of an exceedingly dull square. Watching the early scenes, I was reminded of the story that Elvis Presley was offered the Glen Campbell role in True Grit, but his manager insisted on top billing with John Wayne. Hutton’s more modern hero, his bafflement at his wife’s intransigence and the Hatari-esque tomfoolery of the Buckman troupe would far better have suited Elvis’ acting style.

    The score from Leonard Roseman sounds as if it was written for one of Wayne’s late sixties westerns.     

    Generally though, the film is alright.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,124MI6 Agent

    LOVER COME BACK (1961)

    Frothy romantic comedy pitching Rock Hudson’s unscrupulous philandering advertising executive against Doris Day’s slightly prissy workaholic. She too is an advertising executive, and the pair are ensconced in opposite buildings on Madison Avenue. Desperate to get one over each other, they embark on an advertising feud for a non-existent product known as VIP. Cue mistaken identity, romantic interludes and good-natured comedy.

    This is the film which most resembles the 2003 retro comedy Down With Love, a Ewan McGregor / Renee Zellweger project which delivered far more than it promised. So too does Lover Come Back, although Doris Day already seems too old for the role she is playing, that moniker of America’s Virgin resting uneasily on her shoulders. Rock Hudson’s smooth comic timing is impeccable as he flirts with lady after lady to ensure his advertising schemes come to fruition. The action has an amusing running commentary from Jack Albertson and Charles Watts as two hotel residents who constantly witness the end of his affairs. Tony Randall is Hudson’s nervy boss.

    There’s plenty to enjoy. The film is very amusing and well-plotted, although it loses its way in the final few minutes. The script crackles with that ‘battle of the sexes’ stuff the two stars made famous. Innuendo is a great source of low wit, satire a more elegant bough, and writers Stanley Shapiro and Paul Henning use both to concoct an engaging, frequently farcical but never dull series of scenarios for the players to effortlessly waltz through.

    Lover Come Back has none of the modern tones of inanity, insult and impurity. There’s a wonderful scene at an aquarium where Hudson first seduces distracted Doris with his silky patter, played out against exotic tropical fishes assassinating one another. Very apt and much more subtle a bitter edge than anything our millennial stars and writers come up with. I rather prefer this intelligent generosity, it leaves a frothy taste, rather like the champagne Miss Day’s character opens as she ponders spending a night with Mr Hudson. Oh, for the shame! 

    Of its time, but very good all the same.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 5,983MI6 Agent

    THE MUMMY (1959)

    It was fairly obvious that Hammer and director Terence Fisher would turn their hand at the third of the famous Universal monsters after Frankenstein and Dracula was such a success for the British studio. So Christopher Lee once again steps into the shoes (rags?) of Boris Karloff, this time as The Mummy. Jimmy Sangster uses elements from the original 1932 movie plus a liberal helping from The Mummy’s Hand (1940). In old Egypt Lee plays Kharis, High Priest of ancient god Karnak who tries to bring back to life the love of his life Princess Ananka, played by lovely Yvonne Furneaux, by reading the Scroll Of Life. This is an act of blasphemy and being discovered Lee has his tongue removed and is mummified alive.

    Forwarding to late 19th century Egypt we find a family of archaeologists played by Peter Cushing, Felix Aylmer and Raymond Huntley who are excavating the exact ruins where this all took place, ignoring the protests of our own George Pastell who worships the god Karnak. When Aylmer recovers the scroll and reads it he raises Kharis from the dead, the sight of this sends him insane. Back in London and the archaeologists are followed by Pastell who wants revenge for the desecration of the sacred site. The Mummy’s rampage is put on hold when he recognises that Cushing’s wife is the reincarnation of Ananka (very convenient).

    Fisher directs in his usual competent manner and Lee manages to imbue the Mummy with a genuine physical threat but also manages to show pathos when required, not easy when he only has his eyes to work with.

    Its not as good as Hammer’s Dracula and Frankenstein debuts but it’s still well worth watching, even if it’s only for Lee’s great performance.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff

    Good reviews, @chrisno1, but Hammer is where my heart lies (when it isn't with Bond, of course).

    The 1959 Mummy is very well done though not, as you say @CoolHandBond, up to the earlier Frankenstein and Dracula versions Hammer had made. It's the best of the mummy movies they would make. Cushing and Lee are superb, of course, which almost goes without saying.

    Somehow, though, I sneakily prefer the much older Universal Mummy series- terrible effects, poor acting (obviously not from the likes of Karloff), feeble plots....

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,277MI6 Agent
    edited November 2023

    @chrisno1, I've been a long time fan of those Rock Hudson/Doris Day comedies of the 60s. Pillow Talk and Send Me No Flowers are two more really funny ones.

    My favorite movie in that genre is probably Man's Favorite Sport. Doris Day is not in this one and Paula Prentiss plays Rock Hudson's love interest. Hudson is a fishing expert who's never once fished in his life; Prentiss the young and ambitious advertising agent who unwittingly enters him in a fishing competition which he must somehow win to save his job. Lots of laughs and witty banter in this one.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 5,983MI6 Agent

    JULES VERNE’S ROCKET TO THE MOON (1967)

    By the mid-60’s Verne was perceived as having enough of a name to have it in the title as a selling point. The inspiration for this movie is from another of his novels From The Earth ToThe Moon, but it really has its roots in the 1965 movie Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines. Don Sharp directs an ensemble cast including the great Terry-Thomas as his usual British cad character, Lionel Jeffries, Burl Ives, our own Gert Frobe as the Jack Lemmon/Great Race villain and TV’s famous cop Stratford Johns who played Charlie Barlow in several different series.

    Its a silly but fairly amusing story of the attempt to build the first vehicle capable of flying man to the moon, and the ensuing technical mishaps and devious pre-Dick Dastardly style schemes to stop it from happening. At two hours it’s too long for it’s own good although the slapstick comedy is still pretty funny. Most of the laughs are from watching Gert Frobe and his nefarious plans to stop the rocket, but the main flaw is that the lead star Troy Donahue is no Tony Curtis and he makes for a bland and boring lead character when up against the stellar eccentricity of the British thespians.

    Its worth a look at a style of movie that was popular in the 60’s, but it’s nowhere near the best example of its kind.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,124MI6 Agent

    @TonyDP I have not seen that one for ages! I also enjoyed the Doris Day - James Garner movies. Didn't she do a silly spy thing with Richard Harris? Caprice?

    Re: The Mummy (1959) It is a tad disappointing. A good ending I thought. I prefer the 1932 version which has an excellent cloying atmosphere.

  • Napoleon PluralNapoleon Plural LondonPosts: 10,192MI6 Agent

    On a Saturday late afternoon, what better than to sit down to Talking Pictures TV's showing of a shamelessly enjoyable Indiana Jones rip-off, Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold? Starring Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone.

    Never start these reviews when you've got rice on the boil is my advice. I now have a blackened pan to clean.

    Anyway, turns out I was being unfair - this movie is shameless but far from enjoyable. Chamberlain really isn't the dashing hero type and Sharon Stone as his fiancé seems to be ill-advisedly reprising Kate Capshaw's routine. The film is from 1986 so looking to rip off both Raiders and Temple of Doom. It aims for kooky humour but doesn't generate any laughs. It explains why both Star Wars and Raiders failed to generate much in the way of movie spin-offs - unless you have the combo of Lucas/Spielberg and Harrison Ford, it may go badly wrong. You can see why the studios were mean about the budget on Raiders after Spielberg's 1941 debacle - and given they nearly cast Tom Sellock in the role, you can understand their caution, because I don't think he'd have been so good in the role.

    Very poorly directed.

    Hamlet at Elsinore

    BBC4 are doing a lot of Shakespeare, to tie in with a long-lost play that has been unearthed, thanks to contributions from Peter Jackson and Jeff Lynn, it's being unveiled at the Globe this month. Anyway, this black and white TV drama from 1964 was shown late last night, it was introduced by our own Steven Berkoff who had a small role as one of the players in the play Hamlet stages to smoke out the king. The lead was played by Christopher Plummer, a pre-fame Michael Caine was Horatio and I couldn't believe my eyes when I figured out who was playing Ophelia - why, none other than a very young Glenda Jackson. This was interesting because she and Caine are in The Great Escaper, currently in cinemas and both their last films. In the event, they only share one scene if that in this Hamlet. Secondly, it turns out I shoulldn't have believed my eyes as it wasn't Glenda Jackson after all, still it made the three hours more entertaining!

    Berkoff was very entertaining and articulate about the filming of this version. When I saw who played the usurper King - none other than Robert Shaw, a year after playing Red Grant, I had to stay for the duration! Though some of Shaw's expressions call to mind the follow up villain, Gert Frobe's Goldfinger. Mind you, neither the King nor Gertrude seemed much older than Plummer himself - you begin to see Plummer was not stretching himself with some of his 60s films. He's very good in this, a bit Timothy Dalton-like at times... It's rare I want to watch a Hamlet to the end, let alone until 2am, but this one had me, not least due to excellent direction by Philip Savile. Thunderball's Philip Locke turns up towards the end, as does a familiar face as the Gravedigger and another recognisable actor as Fortinbras, who would go on to co-star with Caine in a 1970s film.

    It's on iPlayer, well worth watching. Actually filmed in Elsinore and its castle, I understand, hence its name.

    "This is where we leave you Mr Bond."

    Roger Moore 1927-2017
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 35,974Chief of Staff

    That is a very interesting cast!

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