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World of Wrestling (2007)
For my money the best of the Film Club trilogy about extraordinary characters doing mundane activities. A group of British wrestlers from its seventies/eighties heyday take the late night bus home in a gloomy town. Along the way they bicker and despite Big D's desire to "have no trouble" they are forced to battle various other wrestlers. I suspect the viewer needs to remember World of Sport or the scene to really enjoy this film. I loved the way the stage persona's of the wrestlers was recreated. Big D(addy)'s gruff but decent fatherly manner. Giant Haystacks' panto villain snarling. Kendo Nagsaki's silence and his relationship with his manager. The fights on the top of the bus were hilarious. But the best moment for me was Miranda Hart's cameo as Klondyke. The miserable nature of late night in a northern town was excellently captured. This film is the unexpected highlight on the Blake's Junction 7 DVD.
Nothing interesting on the box tonight
The last season of "The Twilight Zone" was plagued by anaemic story lines where little happened or the twist is obvious. This episode is sadly typical, with Sterling Holloway's brief, arch little cameo as the TV repairman being one of the few elements that lifts the story.
The plot is also something of a rehash of an earlier episode about a magical camera. However the way that the main character tries to redeem himself after learning a supernatural lesson, only for that very attempt to lead to tragedy, is unusual for the series. There is no forgiveness it would seem for wrong doing this week, making this an unusually misanthropic tale from the "Twilight Zone".
Better than you initially think
At first, when two rubbery rocks on a shelf start talking to each other like Pinky and The Brain, I thought this was going to be the wooden spoon episode of the season. But once the alien possession plot begins in earnest, this episode quickly improves. In fact the last act is quite frighteningly intense and comes to a bravely downbeat conclusion.
Salome Jens gives a terrific performance. The alien creatures true form may be an obvious puppet but thanks to its scuttling quick movement, its appearances are good shock moments. The film noir look is perfectly achieved and helps make this low budget TV series look a lot more cinematic and scary. Far from the weakest, this has become one of my favourites of the first season.
Setting the tone for the series
The first episode of The Outer Limits contains many elements which would reoccur throughout its run. A dedicated scientist who is obsessed with his work and neglects his emotional life until it's almost too late. A misunderstood alien visitor. A clash between high ideals of scholarship and the more venal concerns of commerce and greed. There are some minor differences between this pilot and later episodes, most notably a slightly longer title sequence which merges into the first scene of the story. But the strengths of the series are self-evident: intelligent writing, a well-realised alien creature and a terrific film noir look to it all, lots of stark shadows and a hard cold look to the picture. Cliff Robertson is ideal as the man reaching out to the stars, but missing the importance of people around him. A great template for the series.
Candidate for worst ever TZ episode?
It's interesting how often respectable drama TV writers come unstuck when it comes to writing out and out comedy. The likes of Nigel Kneale and J Michael Straczynski have demonstrated that it is a lot harder than it looks. So it is that Rod Serling's 'funny' episodes of "The Twilight Zone" are amongst his worst work.
"Cavender is Coming" is probably the weakest of the lot. No wonder it was not picked up for a series. It is a lumpen entry in the magical friend sub-genre, of which "Bewitched" and "I Dream of Jeanie" are the best known examples. Only Carol Burnett's endearing qualities make these twenty-two minutes bearable. The laugh-track is certainly annoying but even removing it doesn't improve matters much.
The Twilight Zone: The Fugitive (1962)
Time has not been kind
It's unfortunate that changing social mores have cast a shadow on to what is meant to be a whimsical fairytale. But it's hard to watch a story about an old man who has a close friendship with a neighbourhood little girl, and ends taking her to another world to marry her, without feeling a twinge of unease.
Even without that obstacle, this is a pretty poor TZ episode. There's not real twist or indeed drama. The cutesy music quickly becomes aggravating. The alien is pretty poor looking too, looking like he came straight out of a cereal packet. At the end of the story is just seems to come to dead stop with a terribly convenient explanatory speech that's one step up from "it had all been a dream". An entry for completests only.
Old fashioned fantasy
This definitely feels like the pilot for a TV series but none was forthcoming. Made well before "Touched by an Angel" or "Highway to Heaven", perhaps it was ahead of its time and if it had appeared during the late nineties' fresh interest in guardian angels it would have found an audience.
As it is, this TV movie is chiefly interesting for its cast. Tom Bell and Warren Clark were the most famous cast members at the time, but Alfred Molina was still a few years away from Hollywood success. James Purfoy, Louise Lombard and Nimah Cusack would also go on to greater heights. Nice to see Cathy Tyson playing someone other than a prostitute or ex-prostitute too.
The tone is whimsical and sentimental. The emphasis is on the small human dramas of the recently deceased, rather than the magical elements. Most of the tricky questions about life after death are ducked, whilst Limbo is portrayed as old-fashioned hotel lobby full of comfortable chairs and attentive staff. Of the three 'cases' for the angels, the best concerns Molina as a reporter whose friend dies instead of him as scheduled, causing problems for him and his now zombified pal.
An entertaining little piece from the days when British telefantasy was a rare sight.
Literature lends class to a French soft core movie
There is nothing on the sleeve of the DVD to suggest this was other than standard soft porn fare. Whilst it's hardly great, the ingenuity with which the makers translate the Greek classic Odyssey deserves some praise.
Ulysse is a truck driver who gets lost in the desert after his middle-aged co-driver is lured away by a mirage of beautiful women (The Sirens). They are rescued by a beautiful woman who lives by an oasis (Calypso) who falls in lust with Ulysse and keeps him with her for weeks. Meanwhile Ullyss' wife Pamela (Penelope) finds her restaurant gradually filling up with bachelor truckers who think Ulysse is dead and fancy claiming his wife and his business. The plot alternates between Ulysse trying to make the difficult journey home, encountering a one-eyed ogreish woman (the Cyclops), whilst back at the café the suitors and local whores stage drunken sex games and circle around the resourceful Pamela.
All the women, Cyclops excepted, are beautiful and sexy, whilst the men are generally hairy and rather gnomic looking. If you can get past that, this is a bawdy romp with a bizarre musical soundtrack of poor cover versions of sixties and seventies pop songs. The sun constantly shines on the lovely French countryside and film is pretty professionally made. The dubbing is haphazard on the English version but even with that obstacle, Elizabeth Turner gives an elegant, sensuous performance as Pamela, making her a woman well worth crossing a desert for.
Loose Times at Ridley High (1988)
Good humoured all-American sex
It may seem odd to describe a hard core sex movie with words like warm and playful but this entertaining eighties porn movie is a sexy, fun diversion. It may not be art but it is not too far from "Porky's" either.
At a private school for 'girls', the seniors are dreading their finals and using a variety of schemes to pass, hardly any of which involve studying. Sleeping with the class maths geek, tempting their teachers or just stealing the questions are more their line. This leads to a set of entertaining sexual vignettes, often leavened with a fair amount of humour.
One of the best selling points of the flick is the attractive but natural looking cast. These girls are pretty and sexy, but in a varied, imperfect girl-next door kind of way, rather than a set of perfectly sculptured and shaved set of Barbie clones. Also unlike many a high school plot, there are no really bitchy characters. What pranks there are a rather mild. Instead everyone seems to be having fun and generally liking each other. Okay so this is a extremely unlikely film but it makes the sex more fun when the actors seem to be enjoying themselves. For example I half expected the princess of the year to pull a trick on the maths wizard but she sticks to her promise and gives herself to him for the night.
The makers even put a bit of imagination into the structure with a few enjoyable fantasy episodes. The opening sequence is the best, set in a white void where a gawky but good looking brunette graduate steps out of her robes and into a giant certificate, before doing some enthusiastic horizontal jogging with a man she's found in there. It turns out this is a doodle a frustrated teacher has been drawing on a white piece of paper. A neat touch.
Good humoured porn that's better than it's derivative title would suggest.
Screen Two: The Lorelei (1990)
Supernatural cautionary tale
A low key mixture of mystery and romance with supernatural overtones. Amanda Redman is excellent as a lonely geography teacher whose quiet life is disrupted by a frightening encounter with a strange man in a Welsh bed and breakfast - a man who vanishes into thin air. Back home she is shocked to find that the new drama teacher at her school looks the same as that stranger. A tentative romance begins, but that moment in Wales always remains in the back of her mind.
The mystery is really a plot driver for the real message of the story, which is about the difficulty, yet importance, of trusting another person. Especially when love is involved. Michael Maloney is fine as the charming, quirky man who tries to woo her. John Nettleton enjoys a fruity cameo as the bread-making landlord of The Loreilei. Chilly Wales also performs well, with its impressive mountains and pretty villages. This is a modern day fairytale with an ambiguous conclusion.