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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've always found Anthony Schaffer one of the most overrated and
snobbish writers of his era. With the exception of The Wicker Man, I
don't see much to warrant his esteem, especially not the repulsive
Frenzy. Sleuth however does have much to be admired, but all the same
it's an oddity: a miserable comedy... a guessing game that's very
predictable.... an actor's showcase which is strangely miscast...
Stage plays being turned into films is rarely a good idea, and in Sleutch's case, it was specifically a play that was about theatre, about illusion, about charade and performance, and crucially it was designed as a theatrical sleight-of-hand, it's great coup de theatre being something that can only work on stage, and only then if done by precisely the right actor.
Thanks to it' tasty script full of colourful dialogue, accents, lampooning and bitchiness, its always a joy to watch, but there are some very odd wrong notes in the movie that one has to wonder about. Olivier is absolutely bang on as Wyke, a man you'd hate to be friends with but can't get enough of on screen. But Caine, despite giving his best shot at Milo, is all at sea. He is not the bronzed Lothario nouveau rich playboy who threatens Wyke's Olde England. And he fails completely to fool us with his Inspector Doppler. How would Wyke, who is such a master of games playing, be so fooled? Caine never gives a bad performance, but Milo is a part for a character actor: Finney or Bates would indeed have been perfect. His accent and manor are not easily camouflaged. He's not a chameleon actor.
Also there are some very odd cuts in the film. What's with the red jacket Milo moves near the end? There are some very odd cutaways to inanimate objects that don't really do anything for the movie. And the house itself isn't quite the puzzle palace it out to be. The film just doesn';t quite capture the "fun" of it all.
The relationship between the two men is also a bit inconsistent. After Doppler is disposed of, Milo is getting changed, chatting away, having a drink. Five minutes later is is seething about Wyke's earlier treatment of him.
It also has one twist too many at the end, and stops being believable. And lets fact it, the burglary plot and clown's disguise....huh? That's all the moaning about it over, but it's still riveting entertainment!
I can't pretend otherwise, I've always loved this film and it's one of
my guilty pleasures for a rainy afternoon, or more likely a night in
with a few drinks.
It's astoundingly dreary looking: apart from Joan's soft focus entrance there is precious little opulence on display. The film is low-lit and rather seedy looking. The opening credits sequence remarkably switches from day to night and back again! But right from the start, when the incredibly beautiful Felicity departs after a night with Tony, and then the sequence of him dressing and going out to the sound of the irresistible theme tune (watch Oliver Tobias trying to say "you handsome bastard" tro himself as quietly as possible!), this is a classic quotealong movie. Some of the one liners are great: "they ask for comics and a bag of sweets you give 'em penthouse and amyl nitrate" and best of all "there are two sorts of women in this world. The first sort pick you up and screw you, the second sort pick your brains and screw you up." It's rubbish of course, but however good it may or may not be its about the disco scene and shagging so it will always be seen in that way.
Whatever happened to the director? Oliver Tobias is rather underused in the film it must be said: he doesn't have much to do and is rather overshadowed by super-bitch Fontaine. But the soundtrack is great, and the film is fun. And the scenes with Tony and his pals are the best in the movie. Those three deserved a series! But why does Ben return the video to Fontaine? Surely he'll need it as evidence?
Watching Holding On again, now it's finally appeared on DVD (albeit
with a slightly edited end of part one, annoyingly) it has gone from
being the best drama of the 90s to one that in many ways sums up all
that was bad about the 90s.
It's a magnificent achievement, filled with incredible performances and poignant story lines, but there are one or two overall elements which for me slightly mar the end result.
Firstly, as with almost everything Marchant writes, the drama feels strangely cold. There is a serious lack of sympathy for any of the main characters: we feel for the more obvious targets such as Sally, Vicky and Tina, incidentally all beautiful young women whose world suddenly fall apart, but in particular the character of Claire is very difficult to warm to, as is Shaun. David Morrissey is clearly extremely talented and his descent into the depths is heartbreaking, but I didn't find it terribly believable that his ultra-scrupulous tax inspector would suddenly behave in such a manner, and Morrissey's performance in the early episodes is a little too Christopher Eccleston-like, rather too full of pomp and bluster.
Phil Daniels provides the weakest link in the saga as the character who holds it together. Not a great actor at the best of times, he is clearly here off the back of his success narrating Blur's Parklife, providing a ludicrous and grating voice-over which usually says absolutely nothing and shows all too clearly the risible influence of Britpop and Tarantino in its "profound words on trivial themes." Despite that, the closing monologue is brilliant and incredibly uplifting: therein lies another oddity about the series. It doesn't seem to make a single attempt to show the magic of London life, only its horror, and then after eight episodes of it suddenly ends telling us how, despite all this, it's a terrific place.
I was puzzled as to why we've not heard more from Fleur Mould who played Sally incidentally.
Despite these few nagging doubts, this is an incredible drama, and easily Marchant's best, especially in comparison with the equally unsympathetic but much less impressive Passer By. The camera work is brilliant throughout, Shergold fond of using single takes in the most technically demanding scenes. It does make me glad the 90s are over though: hearing songs like Design for Life in the background, and seeing a production so lacking in pity and so heavily influenced by Britpop makes me realise that, to me anyway, the 2000s are a better and more co-operative decade, with London in the grip of a more visible threat and yet strangely, feeling a nicer place too.
When Auf Wiedhershen Pet first appeared in 1983 it truly was a new type
of television series. There had been comedy-dramas before, Minder and
Shine on Harvey Moon spring to mind, but Auf W had political bite too
and unlike the other two series was a true ensemble piece with seven
wonderful characters driving the show and also for once not a London
Series One still looks marvellous, it is beautifully acted by everyone and every episode is a winner. At the time such broad accents on TV was a major revelation, as was the unflinching portrayal of men visiting brothels and using their fists to settle arguments.
If series one had a fault, it is perhaps that its only ongoing storyline is Dennis' divorce, which is actually the most tedious of sagas, and whilst Dennis is a most honourable and decent character, as the series goes on the strain begins to wreck him and he becomes something of a monster. All comes good in the end thankfully though! Series 2 I found a huge disappointment. Its still terrific stuff in places, but the trend for more ongoing story lines gives it a rather repetitive feel, and none of the individual stories seem to have much of a conclusion. Work on the manor house in the first few episodes seems to go nowhere, and while the lads' confrontations with the villagers produces some funny moments they are very exaggerated and repetitive. Bill Paterson makes an excellent contribution as the villain of the piece but the storyline is rather dull and for me Auf W was always at its best when dealing with the small everyday business of getting by and doing your best: in fact the lyrics to the theme song of the first series sums up what it was all about capturing best.
What's more Dennis spends most of series 2 in a foul mood and Oz seems to become more gentle and more of a hero.
The BBC series started off well enough but to me collapsed into a far fetched mess.
For me on the strength of the first series alone this is one of the greatest things ever to appear on British television, but it quickly lost its subtlety. And that scene in Series 2 with Oz supposedly unaware of how well he is going to sing is absolutely dreadful!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm very fond of Mona Lisa. It's a story of innocence in a world
dripping with sin, and Hoskins is perfection as the ex-con quite
capable of dishing out a beating when he's up against it but childlike
in his naivety to the horrors of child prostitution.
The two performances that really stand out for me though are Michael Caine and Clarke Peters who are both absolutely terrifying, Caine also very funny in places too.
The major problem with the film is that the plot is, frankly, rubbish! Why does Anderson spend years trying to find Simone when she's working for his colleague Caine as part of the same business? Why is Caine paying George to drive her around? If he is her pimp why doesn't Anderson know this? It's all rather odd. And also how come George just walks away from the climax scot-free? That, and also why the girl in the room who is from Ireland have a Birmingham accent...
But a haunting, touching and frightening film, although it's interesting that the film offers no sympathy to Tyson's character despite the fact that she clearly uses George because she by now only sees men as a means to an end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am not a fan of disaster movies, especially not the utterly
depressing and hammy Poseidon Adventure, but for some reason The
Towering Inferno is one of my all-time favourite films. It's partly a
celebration of Hollywood's dying days, as well as a magnificent,
exhaustive spectacle with excellent attention to detail and a lot of
care in all areas.
A terrific score starts things off nicely, and from then on we are treated to star after star turning up to add another jewel to the crown. Fred Astaire dancing with Jennifer Jones, Richard Chamberlain being throughly repulsive, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen being every inch the heroes of the hour: by the end of the film covered in everything from soot to sweat and still glistening with class.
It's also got some tremendously cool wisecracking. "How do I get back down....oh s***!" "It's good for starting fires"..."He's all smiles"..."that Goddamn son-in-law of yours"..."How do you expect her to her a phone call she's deaf!" The only thing that slightly mars the film for me is one or two extremely depressing moments such as Susan Flannery's protracted demise which kind of confuse the spirit of the film. Otherwise, a real classic and even before the fire runs riot its wonderful entertainment. It's also the longest film I've never once been bored during.
Quite possibly the most obscure thing on George Cole's CV, I captured
this little gem on a late night screening on ITV in 1984, all 25
minutes of it. Its set in a police interview room where a moody
detective investigating the murder of a girl is questioning a witness
who may in fact be the killer. The witness is none other than George
Cole as a mild-mannered, nervy, wetter than a wet weekend but rather
seedy put upon husband who claims he was letching the girl harmlessly
like a lonely middle aged married man and had nothing to do with her
Cole is playing a slightly less affluent Arthur Daley here, and its a marvellous character performance: over 25 minutes he even manages to develop catchphrases and unique mannerisms. Aside from a few silent flashbacks the film is totally a one room piece and a forgotten gem, like a low-key and quirky version of The Offence. Its themes are interesting and its tone light.
When there are so many scripts every year that don't get made and
plenty of much better books that don't get televised, why was this
chosen? Its rather depressing isn't it, especially when all Birchill
was wanting to do was stir up Middle England. Excuse me, they don't
care! The only programmes that really get people wound up (Men Only,
Brimstone and Treacle, whatever) are good ones: that's why Mary
Whitehouse used to attack The Sweeney and not The A Team. If its hollow
it won't be taken seriously enough to bother moralists.
And isn't it nice to know that Birchill considers a teenage discovering she's bi-sexual makes "a perverted little work"? This is the usual roller-coaster-directed Channel 4 insular media view of the world, a middle-class attempt to shock. Teenagers probably like to claim its accurate because that way it makes them seem hard.
I read A Kestral For A Knave when I was at school, and when I saw the
film I could not believe how perfectly it translated the book. Billy
looked exactly right and the whole atmosphere was perfect.
The only admission is perhaps the most upsetting passage in the book, Billy's "tall story" but this compensated for by the beautiful performance by Colin Welland as the teacher.
This is the only film I have ever cried at in my life and I well up just thinking about it. When Billy flings himself sobbing onto the sofa at the end of the film its heartbreaking.
And there's not a jot of sentimentality to be found anywhere.
There's been quite a few rainy afternoons when I've dusted down my copy
of Blind Terror and settled down to watch it again, and every time I'm
left with the same feeling: something isn't quite right about this
movie, despite obvious skill in places.
Brian Clemens is hardly an intellectual writer, but as a writer of simple television thrillers he's a legend. And like many of the best TV writers, his success as a screenwriter is varied. Both Blind Terror and And Soon The Darkness point the way forward to Clemens' THRILLER TV series of the Seventies, which effectively exploited the "girl in peril" situation. What makes these two movies different is their rather unpleasant, slightly depressing feel. "Darkness" is very slow and rather uneasy in its voyeurism, whilst Terror is a little too nasty to be a wholly enjoyable thriller.
Perhaps the most telling and interesting sequence is actually the opening credits, with Bernstein's enjoyable but somehow inappropriate music accompanying the faceless killer leaving a cinema that is showing "The Convent Murders" and "Rapist Cult", an only slightly exaggerated take on early Seventies exploitation movies in Britain. He then walks along a street where every shop seems to be selling violence: a TV shop has a set displaying a murder taking place, a toy shop sells toy guns and a newsagent displays grim headlines.
From there the movie is rather predictable, and unfolds at a slow pace (nothing really happens until about 50 minutes in) but is somehow pretty watchable all the same. Along the way there are some fascinating glimpses of Seventies Britain to be enjoyed. But from the inexplicable massacre at the house onwards things feel a little sluggish and the killer is so one-dimensional we do not have much interest in his actions. And why does he try and find the bracelet again at the end, as if Sarah would still have it! The ending is terribly abrupt and nothing is explained.
Fleisher's direction though is careful and he uses a fantastic trick of keeping the camera close on Farrow during her long escape sequence so that we cannot see where she is heading either.
There are also a couple of good moments of surprise but the movie is lacking a real scare and the overwhelming impression is one of gloom.
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