40 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
A real ripping yarn!
30 April 2005
Based on a story by Patrick Ford, the son of the legendary John, 'North West Frontier' clearly owes a debt to Ford seniors classic 'Stagecoach' as a mixed group of travellers set out on a perilous journey. In its own way, 'North West Frontier' matches that Hollywood classic in quality. After a stunning opening twenty minutes where barely a line of dialogue is spoken, the movie lives up to the old cliché of "offering a roller-coaster ride of excitement", something which is much promised but seldom delivered.

Kenneth More is one of my favourite actors and he is wonderful in this. Perhaps his character lacks the neurotic edge that the late Sir John Mills brought to the directors earlier movie 'Ice Cold In Alex' (a movie which shares plot elements with this one), but instead More brings an air of honest decency to the part. The evocatively named "Captain Scott" is no super-hero, but simply an honest man trying to do a difficult job.

Lauren Bacall also gives a fine performance, in a role which could easily have been the film's weakest link as a token Hollywood 'big name' for the American market. While the likes of Lom and Hyde White fill their roles with practised ease as I. S Gupta steals every scene he is in.

At over two hours it is a long movie, yet the 129 minutes seem to fly by and I was genuinely sad to bid farewell to the passengers and crew of the 'Empress of India', while the 'Eaton Boating Song' played in my head for day afterwards.
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Guinness's best performance?
24 April 2005
Confession time, I first saw 'The Horse's Mouth' around ten or twelve years ago, one afternoon on British television and hated it. Alec's "Gulley Jimson" seemed to me to be very un-likable and I found myself unable to get the point of the film. However, re-watching this on DVD, I found it to be far, far better than I remembered and something of a revelation.

I found myself identifying with "Gulley" this time around and appreciating Alec's subtle performance (to the extent that I was genuinely sad to see the film end). Guinness is backed by two astonishingly fine performances by Walsh and Houston (it's Rene's finest performance, for someone with a tendency to play 'broad' here she is remarkably subtle).

All in all, a wonderful if sadly under-rated film and one equal to Alec's best Ealing work.
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The 39 Steps (1959)
Escapist fun.
16 April 2005
First things first, Hitchcock's 'The 39 Steps' is and always will be a classic of the British cinema and Ralph Thomas's remake (it's unashamedly a remake, rather than an adaptation of the novel) fails to equal it. However, once you get past that fact, on its own terms this is rather an enjoyable little movie.

Kenneth More is one of my favourite performers, perhaps not the greatest actor in the world, but one who has a charismatic personality. If he doesn't quite equal Robert Donat's original 'Richard Hannay', he comes close and invests the role with genuine warmth. Taina Elg's foreign heroine however, though very attractive is no Madeleine Carroll and is perhaps the movie's weakest link.

The stars are backed up by a splendid cast of familiar British character actors, ranging from Sid James's cameo as a truck driver, to Brenda De Banzie's turn as a friendly, man-hungry roadside café owner.

Another plus is the glorious Scottish locations (genuine this time, as opposed to the original's studio mock-ups), filmed in luscious 'Eastmancolor'.

All in all, while Ralph Thomas is no Alfred Hitchcock (but then, there's only one Hitch), the remake is ideal entertainment, perfect viewing for a dark winter's night, curled up in your armchair with hot coffee and toast by your side.
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Les Girls (1957)
4 December 2004
Gene Kelly's last MGM musical is oddly obscure, seldom mentioned in the same breath as his earlier classics such as 'Singin' In The Rain' or 'On The Town'. Let it is a very enjoyable movie which sticks in the mind long after you have watched it.

Kelly heads a very strong cast, full of familiar faces such as Patrick McNee (of 'The Avengers' fame) and that old smoothie Leslie Phillips, who you seldom associate with the Hollywood musical. The stand out of course is the marvelous Kay Kendall, who steals the picture (Kelly himself is a bit subdued in this picture).

Even though the Cole Porter songs here are a bit under-par, the script is strong and the movie is expertly directed by George Cukor and the movie itself deserves to be better known.
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The Pilgrim (1923)
Fun way out West!
20 November 2004
Over-shadowed by such classics as THE GOLD RUSH or CITY-LIGHTS, THE PILGRIM is a delight and is perhaps Charlie's finest 'short'. Dropping his 'Little Tramp' character, Chaplin is now an escaped convict, heading out West disguised as a clergyman and who is mistaken for the new Pastor of a small Western town. Sentiment is kept at a minimum and THE PILGRIM is filled with inventive sight gags and sequences, with perhaps the stand-out being the middle-section, where Charlie suffers from the attentions of a little boy (the bowler hat covered with custard and served as afternoon tea is a wonderfully surreal touch).. The 1959 re-issued version is perhaps the version to see, as it comes with a wonderful score by Chaplin and a specially written theme song, 'Bound For Texas' sung by Britain's own Matt Monroe. It's a memorably jaunty song which you will be humming for days afterwards.
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Seriously under-rated.
14 November 2004
Some people still consider this movie a flop. Having just re-watched this movie for the first time in years, I can't see why. Perhaps Walston is a bit weak in a leading role (Sellers would have been fantastic), but the script is first rate, both funny and touching.

Dean Martin and Kim Novak are seriously under-rated actors in my opinion; here Dean sends himself up as 'Dino' and is not afraid to play himself as un-likable. Novak is, as always, wonderful. Sadly Kim never seems to get the appreciation she deserves, her performances in such movies as 'Vertigo' and 'Bell, Book & Candle' are never less than first class. While the lesser-known Felicia Farr comes across very well (she was also the wife of Wilder's frequent star, Jack Lemmon, I wonder how this film would have worked with Lemmon in the Walston role?)

This is a gem of a movie and one of Wilder's best.
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Average AIP nonsense.
24 September 2004
Originally filmed under the more atmospheric title 'The House At The End Of The World', sadly both the American ('Die, Monster, Die!') and British ('Monster Of Terror') titles reflect the quality of the movie.

An adaptation of H P Lovecraft's 'The Colour Out Of Space' it feels more like a Poe adaptation, with its old dark mansion, subterranean corridors and air of family secrets. Unsurprisingly first-time director Haller was Corman's production designer/art director on the Poe series and the end result is a good-looking movie ruined by a poor script.

Karloff is wasted as is the cast, which is a shame as it is a fine one. Freda Jackson, Suzan Farmer and Patrick Magee are genre veterans who have given (or would go on to give) fine horror performances in other movies, here they are just thrown away in small cameo roles or, in Farmer's case, a stiff, disconnected leading role.

Haller would go on to make the far better Lovecraft adaptation, 'The Dunwich Horror', which, while flawed, is well worth checking out.
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Slightly better than the original.
18 September 2004
'Up The Creek' proved such a success that this sequel was rushed into production and in fact debuted in the same year. Val Guest remained aboard for this second voyage as did most of the supporting cast (Jeffries, Lodge etc); the only one who refused to sign on was Peter Sellers, who was busy working on 'The Mouse That Roared'. Stepping into his shoes was Frankie Howerd, who proved to be as an effective foil to top-billed David Tomlinson as Sellers was.

In many ways this sequel improves upon the original, having a faster pace and more comic incidents. Tomlinson fares better in this movie, an early scene raises the ghost of Guest's work with comic legend Will Hay, as Tomlinson's bumbling Lieutenant-Commander crosses swords with a knowledgeable Sea Cadet.

An expanded cast including Thora Hird and the very shapely Shirley Eaton (a fixture of British comedies in this period) helps to open out this movie and the sea voyage plot line takes this into different waters from the previous movie.

'Further Up The Creek' faced troubled waters when it was released, failing to match the box office performance of the first movie (partly, in Frankie's Howerd's view, because it was released too close to the original) and plans for any further on-screen voyages were scuppered. Which is a shame as it's an enjoyable little movie, well worth watching if you are in the mood for some innocent fun.
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More of the same.
18 September 2004
The biggest problem with 'The Mummy's Shroud' is that with 'The Mummy' in 1959, Hammer made the definitive 'mummy movie' and so 'The Mummy's Shroud' which basically tells the same story with only minor differences, comes across as being redundant.

John Gilling does his best with the material (there are a lot of great shots in this movie) but is unable to over-come the basic familiarity of the story. The cast is mixed, with the best actor, Andre Morell, wasted in a minor role. There are compensations, however, as Hammer veteran Michael Ripper (dubbed by Christopher Lee as 'face of Hammer') is given is best role as Longbarrow, his death is perhaps the dramatic highlight of the movie.

In addition, 'The Mummy's Shroud' is superior to Hammer's last movie in the series, 'The Curse Of The Mummy's Tomb', having a faster pace and sticks better in the memory (mainly due to the talents of Gilling). While not vintage Hammer by a long chalk, it's a solid Hammer movie which suffers from the 'seen it all before' factor.

Oh, by the way, if you're a Peter Cushing fan you will be disappointed, as despite being credited to Cushing in some sources, the narrator does not sound remotely like him.
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The Big Job (1965)
Fairly funny comedy.
11 September 2004
Based around the old chestnut of having crooks rob a bank, bury the loot but later find that that the area has been built upon, this is a fun mid-sixties comedy. Not quite a 'Carry On' (it's not as funny, for a start), it does share much of that series style (as well as sharing the production team, writer and three of its stars).

Sid James is, well, Sid James in this. A bit muted perhaps, but it's always nice to see him. He is backed expertly by the likes of Dick Emery and Lance Percival, a fine pair of comedians who seldom were seen on the big screen. The big revelation (for me at least) is Sylvia Syms splendid comic performance. Syms is best known for her serious dramatic roles in the likes of 'Victim' or 'Ice Cold In Alex' and it is a pleasant surprise to see her in a comedy.

'The Big Job' has its problems, the plot as mentioned above, was hardly original and plans for this movie began in the late fifties. Quite a few writers had a bash at the script (including Spike Milligan) and the final script, by Talbot Rothwell, while fair, was far from the comic masterpieces he was coming up with for the 'Carry On' series proper.

If 'The Big Job' isn't a comedy classic, it is an entertaining little movie, well worth catching on one of its many television re-runs.
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