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Star studded feature length episode in upmarket 'Crossroads'
Unfortunately this is the impression you get of this film when watching it, although the excellent acting and very grandiose set pieces have nothing in common with the crap, long-running English soap opera. In addition to the already mentioned, top marks go to Rod Taylor as the no-nonsense hotel manager and Kevin McCarthy as the obsessed businessman intent on buying the hotel to settle a petty score. The supporting cast were also great and eased the sometimes mundane scenes. Likewise I agree that the 'outside' scenes were too obviously the Warner Brother's backlot and the big-band score was a bit annoying and repetitive.
I think the problem with this film is that, although Arthur Hailey's novels make great easy reading, they don't really transfer well onto the big screen which is probably why you get many adapted and spectacular disaster sequels of his 'Airport' series. Sequels of 'Hotel' were obviously never going to happen.
Air Force One (1997)
Action packed, but badly flawed
I will give them a degree of artistic licence , but the fact that the makers of this film were refused entry into the real Air Force One is strongly evident in this film. None of it seems to gel into a whole and you are constantly forgetting that the majority of the action takes place aboard an aircraft. This is evident when they fire machine guns all over the place without any concern about piercing the outer skin and sucking them all out into oblivion. I have seen this plot on too many films of this genre, and this particular piece of 'eye-candy', albeit action based and reasonably fun, is marred by a excruciatingly bad script, laughable cliche, crap acting (see Glenn Close) and dreadful 'foreign' accents. Harrison Ford is worth more than this.
Sweeney 2 (1978)
More violent than the TV series, but a must for fans
This film is rarely shown and so it was a treat to watch it the other day. The first thing you notice is the liberal use of the f-word which probably did the film no favours in the 1970's as the TV series was watched, in the main, by under 15's. In fact the general level of violence has been greatly increased in this film spin-off, especially towards the end when the shootings, explosions and subsequent body count goes off the scale.
There are also liberal views and references to women's breasts (a nod towards the predominantly male audience). However, the old formula of the tv series that enderes it to so many 20-30 somethings still permeates the film. This includes car chases, scraps, extremely non-PC moments, and amusingly comic overtones, especially the odd scene where the bomb squad and sweeney have a booze-up in a hotel knowing that a device is being defused in one of the rooms (an incident that today would plaster the front pages of the newspapers for months afterwards). Reagan and Carter are a brilliant double act and their supporting colleagues (especially the scruffy, nose picking, Welsh DC Jellyneck) give an air of "Keystone cops" to the whole film. Mention must be made of the dreadful 70's fashions that always added to the enjoyment and interest of the series. Lots of famous supporting cast including Denholm Elliot in a small role as a corrupt ex chief inspector.
The Beast in the Cellar (1970)
Contrived, but interesting horror flick
A soldier walks alone in the ever darkening sunset. Suddenly he is attacked by a creature. You know this because the camera is shaken around, there is disjointed screaming, and the same photo of a bloody slash mark is subliminally flashed. This was obviously to avoid too much editing by the censor, but I immediately thought, "Great, a 1970's crap horror movie. Worth watching" Then the laid back, easy-listening trumpet title tune put the icing on the cake - more cocktail lounge than horror film it is immediately at odds with the theme of the film. After the intro, the usual chapter with the detectives investigating the incident scene. You don't actually see the body, but the contrived commentary by the detectives gives you a good idea of its condition. "Hmmmm, deep lacerations to the face and body made by talons, I'd say." You get the picture. This thorough off the cuff autopsy by the detectives gets them off on the wrong foot by making the assumption that it's a Panther.
Apart perhaps from the two leading actresses and T P McKenna, there is little evidence of any real acting. The soldier that keeps an eye on the two old dears was probably a real soldier - he appeared to be reading from idiot boards such was his woodeness. However, the story does get a bit more involved and at times seems well written, so you shouldn't judge this film by the first amusing half hour.
Strange cuckoo in the nest
Lazenby's solo appearance as Bond is actually not that bad. Whatever reasons there were for him not appearing again in the series robbed him of any chance to develop in the role. I happen to think that he would have made a good if not better Bond than Roger. Some of his lines especially at the beginning do appear contrived, but he was supported by one of the best and most believable Bond plots so far. Blofeld's legitimate allergy clinic in the Alps is far more feasible than his top secret volcano launch-pad bunker in You Only Live Twice.
The only gripe is the crudely sped up fight scenes and the underlying "Love Story" that runs with the main plot. It becomes a bit of a chick flick, especially at the end, but the story itself is good and the film is stylish (for 1969). Also it could have been a bit shorter - they could have cut out the unnecessary stock car racing scene. However, the plot and the good sound track make it enjoyable viewing.
Billion Dollar Brain (1967)
Not brilliant, but a good 1960's period piece
You can always tell Ken Russell's arty farty and not wholly successful direction in this film. Some of the scenes are just plain eccentric, but add a certain charm, especially when coupled with the wonderful Finland scenery. Definitely not as good as the Ipcress File, but still worth a look as an interesting 1960's period piece. It's the familiar Cold War story though this time Deighton has introduced a slightly more inventive, albeit fantastic plot. In this film it revolves around a billionaire nutcase who has built a super computer that is orchestrating an anti-communist revolution. As it's the late 1960's, when sophisticated computers were becoming in vogue, expect the usual enormous mainframe with lots of flashing lights, reel to reel memory banks, clackerty-clack machines which spew paper out and electronic noises nicked from James Bond films. I'm sure I saw some of the equipment in You Only Live Twice filmed in the same year. Also, I can't decide whether the soundtrack is good or rubbish - it sounds disjointed and inappropriate in some places. However, worth a look.
Cheeky Cockney Chappy
This is one of Caines best films and proof that with the right material he can be a very good actor. The story is based on the popular 1960's British theme of human emotions and how the central character faces up to their shortcomings. Alfie, the character, is a dinosaur by today's standards, but there were, and still are men who behave in this way. The film broke new bounds at this time, particularly with the abortion scene. It is said that many cinema-goers walked out in disgust at this harrowing point in the film. How times change. Denholm Elliot's short performance as the sleazy abortionist is worth a mention here as it captures the filthiness of the moment perfectly.
In fact all the supporting roles are excellent. As a period 1960's piece, the film is almost flawless and Sonny Rollins' jazzy soundtrack is beautiful. The ending of the film is very moving with Caine summing up his life and the arty end credits being run whilst Cher sings Burt Bacharach's "Alfie" theme tune. Watch it and your views on life will change.
Bullet to Beijing (1995)
Only for HP fans. Even then, a disappointment
Like the majority of people brought up on The Ipcress File I was disappointed by sequels such as Billion Dollar Brain (yet to see Funeral in Berlin). This sequel is no exception. Although he has done some great stuff in his career, Mr Caine, a "working actor" who does not suffer luvvies and primadonnas gladly, has produced some real stinkers. This is one of them, although I have to say it was initially good to see Caine returning to the role after all these years (and he looks bloody good for 62 as well). There are some interesting scenes. At the beginning of the film when HP is spying on an embassy through some net curtains, you can see where the comedian, Paul Whitehouse, got the inspiration for "Michael Paine, the nosey neighbour." Apart from that, a disappointment and an unbelievable plot. And tell Jason Connery not to give up the day job.
What's Up, Doc? (1972)
Silly slap stick humour at its best
This film really does make the equivalent Carry On movies extremely juvenile. Very rarely, if at all does this film delve into lavatorial/innuendo humour. All of its humour is based on slapstick and a terrific script full of one-liners that you never tire of viewing. They could have made a sequel, but then the humour would have soured in the same way that the Naked Gun or Airplane films did. All the characterisations are spot on, everyone except Striesand is portrayed as being bumbling unsubtle fools including the CIA and Russian spys. It's basically a change to see the Americans not taking themselves seriously for once. Kenneth Mars is very amusing as O'Neal's opponent for the music grant. Of particular note is the car chase in San Francisco in an exaggerated Bullitt style. Granted, it is very dated - it's 1972 and chequered flares and velvet is much in evidence, but this adds to the film's charm. It is one of the few films that I was sad to see ending...
Georgy Girl (1966)
Fine drama with comical overtones
Alan Bates' eccentric performance outshines in this interesting and whimsical film. It is certainly an odd mix of drama and comedy as Bates never seems to act seriously around what essentially is a perverse story with cutting moments, particularly Charlotte Rampling's performance in the hospital after her baby is born. Redgrave is perfect as the dowdy and shy Georgie - like her description in the book, she appears plain but strangely attractive. Mason again appears as the downtrodden anti-hero, never quite getting what he wants at the end of the film - in this respect he always seems typecast. There's always something I like about these B/W 1960's films with their gritty London location filming and this one is no exception.