Reviews written by registered user
JohnSeal

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1087 reviews in total 
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Go straight to the commentary, 10 November 2017
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As film historian Richard M. Roberts opines on the commentary track for Yesterday and Today (which is actually a compilation of two different British-made film compilations), there is simply no explanation for George Jessel's career - or at least, there isn't for anyone who didn't see him on Broadway in The Jazz Singer back in the roaring twenties. The rest of us grew up watching him being mildly droll on TV talk and game shows, and I too can remember being absolutely baffled by his apparent prominence and fame. Yet here he is in 1953, narrating (rather badly) this 'movies are your best entertainment value' puff piece masquerading as a tribute to the early days of cinema. Some of the clips are familiar, but quite a few are not (or at least, were not to me!), and may only exist in part right here - which, of course, renders this a rather important little film in itself. Trust me, though: go straight to Roberts' commentary and skip Jessel's terrible MST3K-style commentary and lip-synced rendition of Toot Toot Tootsie.

Incident (2007)
All the fun of the fair, 16 October 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This marvelous short subject follows the adventures of a young woman as she takes in the sights and sounds of the long since closed Battersea Pleasure Gardens: the Ferris wheel, the dodgems, the toffee apples, and the eligible bachelors. Shot in 1959 but not completed until 2007, this was Norman J. Warren's first film, and it certainly suggested that he - along with cinematographer Brian Tufano, who apparently shot Incident on two different kinds of film stock (one grainier than the other, which may explain why the film remained unfinished for so long) - was a talent to watch. This is no nostalgia trip, though, coming with a sting in the tail that belies the beauty of Mt Davidson's contemporary score. A really pleasant little surprise.

The Pit (1962)
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Pendulum, too, 3 September 2017
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If you've never seen this British Film Institute-produced short subject, hasten thee worthwith to BFI's Schalken the Painter disc, where it resides as a very special extra. Based on Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum, this is a brilliantly realised film rich in atmosphere and dread; one of the best pure horror films I've ever seen and (almost) completely dialogue free. Brian Peck (whose remarkable resume includes everything from Twisted Nerve to 'Z' Cars) stars as a prisoner condemned by black clad monks to 'the pit', where he's subjected to a series of exquisitely cruel tortures designed, it seems, to drive him to madness. Brilliantly shot in black and white by Gus Coma - whose other work seems to consist primarily of industrial films and softcore pornos - The Pit is as atmospheric as the best Riccardo Freda Gothic horror. Consigned to obscurity because of its 28-minute running time, this is a classic waiting to be discovered.

It's no Godfather, 23 August 2017
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

With a title like The Horse Without a Head, you might anticipate all sorts of criminal thuggery, but no - this is actually a long forgotten Wonderful World of Disney episode. Set in France but (for reasons unknown) shot in Britain, the story revolves around petty criminal and traveling salesman Roublot (Help! and Rumpole of the Bailey's Leo McKern) and his bankrobbing entanglements with big time crime lord Schiapa (Herbert Lom, in top form). Jean-Pierre Aumont adds a genuine Gallic touch as Inspector Sinnet, the policeman in charge of the Schiapa case, and 12-year old Pamela Franklin (The Innocents) is here to provide young viewers with an identifiable adolescent. It all adds up to pretty typical fare for early sixties youngsters; adequate in its time but strictly a trip down memory lane now. Look for Peter Vaughan in a small role as a police sergeant.

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The modern West, 11 July 2017
4/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm not much of a fan of westerns of the non-spaghetti variety, but when this very rare Universal second feature popped up on television a few months ago I couldn't ignore it - especially as there were no IMDb reviews. So here I go, galloping into uncharted and generally unfriendly territory.

Buck Jones was, I gather, a minor star of the oater genre, and this is indeed billed as 'A Buck Jones Production'. Though the film has a western setting, it is not the 'old' West, but the West of the 1930s, where women wear contemporary fashions and the sheriff works in a modern office. Buck plays the absurdly monickered 'Alamo Bowie', a Wells Fargo employee assigned to bust a New Mexico cattle rustling ring. He doesn't want the assignment but changes his mind when he discovers he'll get to spend time near vaguely attractive Betty Golden (Noel Francis).

There is little if anything in this film to set it apart from a thousand other b-westerns. Disinterestedly directed by Lesley Selander, the film has been well preserved and looks terrific. If you're a Buck Jones fan, you'll want to watch for it on Encore Westerns. If you're not...well, I just saved you from wasting 62 minutes of your life.

One of a kind, 2 July 2017
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Having experienced The Movie Orgy on July 1 2017 at San Francisco's Roxie Theater, I can report that it is every bit the special experience I anticipated. Filled to the brim with movie clips, commercials, excerpts from TV shows, educational films, and much more audiovisual ephemera, it is a near perfect summation of mid-20th century American cultural mores. Amongst the highlights: the completely bizarre segments from 'Andy's Gang', the wacko kids show hosted by actor Andy Devine; the shockingly insensitive Bufferin commercials that no longer exist except as part of this film; and the hilarious and carefully selected scenes from 1959's JD epic Speed Crazy. Any complaints are minor: the film leans a little too heavily on Albert Zugsmith's College Confidential (though its integration with Nixon's Checkers Speech is brilliant), and at only 4 1/2 hours in length I yearned to see the original 7 hours plus version. Regardless, if you ever have an opportunity to see The Movie Orgy, you simply must take advantage of it. Shockingly, the Roxie was no more than half full for what will probably be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Don't make the same mistake hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents made!

Farewell, Babylon! (1993) (TV)
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Incomprehensible, 1 May 2017
4/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Wow. It's always exciting to find a film on IMDb without a review, so here I am to fill the void. If only I had something good to say about Adieu, Babylone!, but alas - this is one of the most pointless, incomprehensible films I've ever seen (and I've seen a LOT). Directed by the erratic and unpredictable Fernando Arrabal and shot on video, the 'film' blends excerpts from earlier Arrabal flicks with contemporaneous 1992 footage of a young New Yorker named Lelia Fischer who likes to read Rimbaud, kiss fish, and put make-up on men. All of this is accompanied by the sort of overly flowery narration you would expect from the artiest of French art-house pics. There are some interesting shots of the Big Apple right on the cusp of its transition to a playground for the rich and unexpected appearances by Melvin Van Peebles and the young Spike Lee, but on balance this is a mess you can miss.

Embarrassing for all concerned, 28 February 2017
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There is a limit to my '60s nostalgia, and it's reached in Every Day's a Holiday (or as it's known in the US, Seaside Swingers). The bottom of the barrel is scraped early on when John Leyton is seen in blackface, 'emulating' Nat King Cole by turning his Unforgettable into a grotesque parody of Al Jolson. This is an unpleasant reminder of a time long past when The Black and White Minstrels were considered wholesome family entertainment, and it sets the tone for the balance of the film, which is irredeemably awful and burdened with terrible songs and dance numbers. The only exception are The Mojos, who mime effectively and whose music at least has a bit more edge than (gag) Freddie and the Dreamers and Mike Sarne. And let's not overlook an all too brief appearance by Patrick Newell! Yes, I'm grasping at straws. This is a terrible film.

Trucker's wardrobe, 25 February 2017
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A rare example of the 'corruption in the trucking industry' genre, this shot in South Carolina indie includes most everything you'd expect from a '70s drive-in circuit cheapie. There's risible dialogue ("something's not copacetic"), hideous wardrobe (star Michael Hawkins sports a tacky white two-piece), unbelievable hair (as modeled by co-star Mary Cannon), a splash of nudity, lots of country music, and a memorable performance by a drunken Doodles Weaver. The story revolves around Kelly (Hawkins), an independently-inclined trucker not willing to cooperate with the crooked guys running the local terminal. Naturally, trouble ensues when he and pal Ben (Weaver) set out to establish their own terminal. There's lots of footage of roadside attractions like the Flaming Pit Restaurant and, of course, the every classy Ramada Inn, and look for the waitress's uniform that shows up again 20 minutes later as a maid's uniform!

Tattooed Pan and Scan Man, 25 February 2017
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This obscure yakuza flick was released on VHS in 1987 by an outfit called 'Fox Hills Video'. I suppose we should be grateful, because otherwise English speakers would have no way of appreciating Tattooed Hit Man, but it must be said that the folks at Fox Hills did a particularly crummy job. In addition to being horribly pan-and-scanned, the print is compressed in order to squeeze more image into the 1.33:1 box, and the result is ugly to say the least. It's a shame, because Yamaguchi-gumi gaiden: Kyushu shinko-sakusen seems to be an above average piece of hardboiled crime cinema deserving of a much better fate. Yet here we are in 2017, and there's still no DVD or Blu-ray in sight: for those who caught this one in a Times Square grindhouse back in the day, your memories will have to suffice.


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