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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Correcting a previous poster..., 14 March 2008

'The House on Greenapple Road' was the original pilot for this series, and in fact starred Christopher George as Dan August, not Burt Reynolds. The was never an episode called 'Once is Not Enough', let alone it being the pilot episode 'introducing us to the character of Dan August'. For goodness sake, there is an episode list alongside the subject! It's so easy to verify your facts. People use the IMDb as a source of reliable information, so unreliable information such as that previously posted on this subject, and many others I might add, should not be allowed to find its way here. I thought the IMDb personnel vetted these postings?

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Theme Music, 29 February 2008

This 1965 series has an excellent theme by Laurie Johnson. Laurie was no newcomer to writing for the screen. In 1959 he had written the theme for the successful British police TV series 'No Hiding Place' and scored 'Tiger Bay', a thriller starring John Mills, his then young daughter Hayley and Horst Buchholz (later to find fleeting fame in 'The Magnificent Seven'). Aside from writing for TV in the sixties he would score 'The First Men in the Moon', Ray Harryhausen and Charles H. Schneer's cinematic working of the H.G. Wells novel, Michael Winner's comedy 'You Must Be Joking', Stanley Kubrick's 'Dr. Strangelove (or – How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb)' and 'Hot Millions' featuring a bizarre cast which included Peter Ustinov, Bob Newhart, Dame Maggie Smith, Caesar Romero and Karl Malden. He also composed the themes for the British TV series 'Animal Magic', 'Echo Four-Two', 'Freewheelers', 'Whicker's World' and 'This is Your Life' and most predominantly 'The Avengers', 'Jason King' and 'The Professionals'. The original title of the tune was Latin Quarter, and the original recording can be found on numerous, cheap CD compilations under either of the titles, usually Latin Quarter. They don't write 'em like this anymore!

6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
By far and away the best of the MI movies to date..., 8 February 2008

By far and away the best of the MI movies to date, the first having the gall to make the character Jim Phelps from the original TV series into the villain (what were they thinking, and what quicker way to alienate an established fan base?) and the second abandoning the old MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE team formula completely, making it a one-man show and just cashing in on Cruise and the title.

Here the formula is re-established. Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is now the IMF team leader, having been coaxed back into the field from the training of potential new IMF agents. A team is assembled, with photos and bios a little more hi-tech from the 60s presentation perhaps, and each rightly having their own distinct personality and expertise. Not only that, they are given three (appropriately) Impossible Missions to perform, namely rescuing a fellow agent (and one of Hunt's students) from captivity in Berlin; kidnapping the world's no. 1 villain and arms-dealer (Hoffman) from inside the supposedly impregnable, security-wise, Vatican City itself, and also, as a bonus, leaving the world, and more importantly his buyers, to believe he's dead, then a daring raid atop the nighttime skyscrapers of Shanghai to steal the mysterious and much sought after weapon 'The Rabbit's Foot', the nature of which is never disclosed, and therefore which, like NORTH BY NORTHWEST and many other Hitchcock movies, becomes the 'MacGuffin' of the movie. Hoffman's character sums this up best with the line "What I'm selling and who I'm selling it to are the least of your problems". Added to all this is the fact that that Hunt is now romantically involved and his spouse consequently becomes the target of Hoffman's villain's revenge, and also adds a much needed humanity to Cruise's character.

The wit and wiles of TV's IMF squad are admittedly replaced here by ridiculous yet riveting stunts, but when these are beautifully realised and executed under the direction of veteran 2nd Unit director and stuntman/co-ordinator Vic (Bond) Armstrong, you can't go far wrong, especially with a budget that Eon would cry for.

British actor Simon Pegg (SHAUN OF THE DEAD - see my review in the archives) makes a welcome appearance as a 'Q' like computer boffin at IMF HQ, and eventual reluctant inside man to rogue agent Hunt. As I know of Simon's love of cult 60s TV this must have been a dream of a job. He's also appeared in the new BBC DR. WHO series and narrates their accompanying 'Behind the Scenes' documentaries. Good man Simon.

Recent multi-award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman's (CAPOTE) villain is wonderfully underplayed and just plain arrogant and mean. He's great in this, and I couldn't help but feel there was a little, perhaps deliberate, touch of the Bond/Le Schiffre frisson (in the notorious wicker chair sequence in the original CASINO ROYALE novel) in the attention grabbing teaser which may foreshadow that forthcoming movie. The final and inevitable punch-up between him and Cruise is particularly, and necessarily, brutal and satisfying. The rest of the cast also pull off some top notch performances, considering the material.

On top of all that there's more of Lalo Schifrin's glorious original MISSION music, notably the militaristic 'THE PLOT', which underscores the team's preliminary preparations, as it should. Okay, the identity of the inevitable double-agent/sneak within the IMF organisation is a bit telegraphed, but that's okay. At least it gives you the satisfaction of thinking you've sorted one of the plot points out ahead of everyone else.

Considering that the spy TV series of the 60s were spawned by the Bond movies, this one has surpassed its progenitor. This is Ludlum meets Fleming, i.e.: Bourne meets Bond, and both of those franchises are going to have to go some to beat this.

This one also puts the floundering Cruise firmly, and literally, back in the picture.

'We're going to need considerably bigger buns…', 8 February 2008

CALENDAR GIRLS is the poignant, funny and basically true story of a small group of women in a Yorkshire branch of the Women's Institute who decide to do something special for their annual calendar. W.I. calendars traditionally feature craftwork, baking, flower arranging, that kind of thing, and their calendar will be no exception. There will be one big difference however. They're going use local members in the photographs - and they're going to do it naked.

Needless to say this idea not only causes quite a stir in their small Yorkshire village, but also in the W.I. itself, but these are feisty women and not ones to be put off by the disdain of others.

Annie (Julie Walters – HARRY POTTER, BILLY ELLIOTT, EDUCATING RITA) has recently lost her beloved husband John to Leukaemia and wants to use the calendar to raise money to buy a sofa, in his memory, for the waiting room in the local hospital. Her old friend Chris (Helen Mirren – PRIME SUSPECT, GOSFORD PARK, THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE & HER LOVER), a rebellious member of the local W.I., comes up with the idea of doing it naked after she spots a girly calendar at her local garage.

Remember these are all middle-aged and elderly ladies and the idea of stripping off in front of a camera doesn't come easily to some of them. As Annie says at one point when one of the other girls expresses her concern: 'None of us have been here before, love. I mean, for God's sake, my John didn't see me naked until the spring of 1975.' 'Why, what happened in the spring of 1975?' she's asked. 'A lizard ran into the shower cubicle…' Eventually, after facing numerous obstacles, i.e.: convincing the W.I., finding a suitable photographer, winning over their husbands and kids, and not least overcoming their own inhibitions, the calendar is published.

Once the media get hold of the story, the girls become nationally, then internationally, famous. The calendar starts to sell out worldwide and the girls achieve celebrity status, even to the point of eventually finding themselves on the Jay Leno show. Chris loves this. Not only will it raise huge amounts of money but also she actually likes the lifestyle, even though it is causing problems on the domestic front. Annie however is not so happy, as all she wanted to do was raise a little money to buy a sofa. Now it all seems to have gotten out of hand and everyone seems to have forgotten why they did the thing in the first place: Her husband's memory. As she says to Chris: 'I'd rob every penny from this calendar if it would buy me just one more hour with him'.

This is a lovely film that skilfully plays with your emotions. The lush, green rolling hills and stone cottages of Yorkshire are captured beautifully and create a great contrast to the later scenes when the girls are in L.A. Truly two different worlds. There are some great lines too, like the elderly couple chatting over breakfast: 'You're nude in The Telegraph, dear. (Beat) Can you pass the bacon…' and when they're setting up a baking photo where the model is being helped by the other girls to hide her modesty behind some buns, Chris finally tells the photographer: 'Lawrence, we're going to need considerably bigger buns…'

The performances are perfect throughout, as you would expect from such a stalwart and experienced cast, and the roles are underplayed just to the right degree. It's a case study, not in acting, but reacting.

The 'Naked Truth' documentary on the DVD introduces you to the real life calendar girls upon whom the story is based and the other doc shows the actresses creating a second calendar for 2004 which was sold for the same good cause as the original. The deleted scenes, though interesting, were wisely cut.

If you're a FOUR WEDDINGS, NOTTING HILL, FULL MONTY or LOVE ACTUALLY fan then this is for you.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A well put together movie featuring a classic underdog vs. establishment scenario..., 8 February 2008

Adelaide, Australia, 1958 and a 9 year-old girl is found brutally murdered and raped. The police quickly, perhaps a little too quickly, find a suspect: Max Stuart, a young illiterate and heavy drinking half-caste Aborigine man (Ngoombujarra – CROCODILE DUNDEE IN L.A.) from out of town who, once in custody, confesses to the crime. As it's a legal aid case Stuart is appointed lawyers in the shape of local team Carlyle (THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, FULL MONTY) and Fox (THE GATHERING, THE POINT MEN). Prosecuting is arrogant, experienced and privileged-class Crown Solicitor Dance (ALIEN 3, LAST ACTION HERO). Stuart's story is that he is innocent and that the police beat the confession out of him, but faced with a bigoted community and the overwhelming skill and legal connections of Dance's character, the odds prove too overwhelming for the young, inexperienced duo.

Stuart is predictably found guilty and sentenced to be hanged.

Carlyle's character however does not give up that easily and, helped in his quest by the prison priest (Friels – DARK CITY, THE MAN WHO SUED GOD) and a young newspaper publisher called Rupert Murdoch (Mendelsohn – VERTICAL LIMIT), he continues to discover new evidence and witnesses, and proceeds through the hierarchy of appeal procedures, ultimately speaking before the Lord Privvy Council in London, resulting in seven stays of execution over the following year.

Based on real events, this is a well put together movie featuring a classic underdog vs. establishment scenario, not just in Stuart, who is regarded as just an ignorant savage by 1959 white Australian society, but also in Carlyle's lawyer who is thwarted at every turn by an archaic legal system and a superior foe, and who is risking his reputation and livelihood in the pursuit of justice. The film makes no final judgement and presents both sides of the case equally leaving the audience to come to their own verdict. The audience will of course take the side of the underdogs, but there is an unnerving dénouement where we catch up with the real Max Stuart who makes a very ambiguous comment on his innocence.

The era is well captured and the acting is solid throughout, though the characters are rather obviously drawn.

Not worth owning but well worth a watch.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
An abysmal affair and certainly no final fitting tribute, yet..., 8 February 2008

Following the completion of 'Enter the Dragon', Bruce Lee returned to Hong Kong to resume work on a long time project: 'The Game of Death'. A simple premise, designed to illustrate his philosophy and teaching of martial arts, Lee would lead a daring raid on a heavily defended pagoda. Inside the pagoda a lone martial artist guards each level. Lee must fight his way to the top, pitting his own fluid, flexible and adaptable style (Jeet Kune Do) against the rigid, unbending styles of other forms of martial art. It would have been the ultimate, and most personal, Bruce Lee movie. But then he died. He never saw or enjoyed the success of 'Enter the Dragon', nor was able to complete 'Game of Death'. Whichever conspiracy theory you subscribe to, if any, it was a great, great tragedy. Not wanting to let go of the goose that had laid the golden egg, and obviously thinking that five years was long enough for everyone to grieve, in 1978 Robert Clouse, director of 'Enter the Dragon', was brought in by producer Raymond Chow to helm a new movie using footage that Lee had completed in 1972 and bringing in big name American co-stars like Dean Jagger, Gig Young and Hugh O'Brian, and music by Bond movie maestro John Barry. Sounds like it can't go wrong. Sadly it did. The new story has Lee playing the part of Billy Lo, a martial arts movie star. This of course allows the makers to incorporate footage from Lee's previous films into the story. The film actually opens with the climactic fight in the Colosseum in Rome from 'Way of the Dragon' (US: 'Return of the Dragon') thus enabling the makers to add Chuck Norris's name to the already star-studded cast list without actually having to employ him. Anyway, back to the 'story': Basically some gangsters want Billy to join their syndicate, which he refuses, but when 'accidents' start to happen on set and they threaten his girlfriend, Billy decides to take them on. To do this he conveniently uses large sunglasses, various disguises, and ultimately plastic surgery to change his appearance (and also to disguise the fact that it is not Lee at all - in fact the only Bruce Lee footage is about 11 minutes worth at the end of the film, with the rest being padded out with obliquely lit and filmed-from-behind look-alikes and close-ups of Lee's eyes or face clearly lifted from previous films. Also, though it is not explained why, after undergoing plastic surgery, Billy's face is therefore back to normal for these last minutes of the film). But the ultimate insult is this: in order to put the gangsters off his scent Billy fakes his own death, and yes - unbelievably, the makers actually use footage of Bruce Lee's funeral as part of the movie! To be honest it could have been a good Kung Fu movie, if only they hadn't tried to make it a Bruce Lee movie. The fights, choreographed by Sammo Hung, are terrific, marred only by the fact that they are constantly trying to hide the face of the actor playing Billy Lo. As it is it is an abysmal affair and certainly no final fitting tribute to, if not yet a great movie star (outside south east Asia), inarguably a great and charismatic movie martial artist. It is presented here in it's uncut, digitally remastered and dubious glory, the plus being the insightful feature length audio commentary by Bey Logan, avid martial arts film buff and editor of two UK publications, Combat and Impact magazines, also publisher of Hong Kong Action Cinema, one of only two exclusive and notable books on martial arts film published in the West. Yet, despite the awfulness of this movie, for some reason the image of Lee in the striking yellow and black catsuit has become his most enduring, to which the Tarantino feature 'Kill Bill' is a testament. I think this is simply because of those last 11 minutes, where the fights are stunning, and fans knew that this would be the last they would see of their hero. But that was where they were wrong, and this is what makes this two disc set worth the money. If this set has given us the worst of the genre, it makes up for it by providing us with some of the best. The three hours of special features on the second disc are presented with lovingly designed animated menus guiding you through five floors of a digital pagoda, which not only include the usual photo galleries, biographies, textual retrospectives, trailers and TV spots, but also interviews with George Lazenby, Taky Kimura (both proposed co-stars) and Dan Inosanto (who was Lee's senior instructor in Los Angeles at the time and with whom he has the incredible nunchaku fight in the movie); a Jeet Kune Do seminar with Dan Inosanto; documentaries on Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto, but last, and certainly far from least, and quite rightly only when you eventually reach Floor Five, an edit of the final 40 minutes (or as near as damn it) of the original film envisioned by Lee, using original footage re-discovered in 1999 by the aforementioned Bey Logan in Golden Harvest Studios, based on Lee's original script and directions, where he and his companions (not he alone as in the '78 debacle) fight their way past the final three floors of the pagoda. Just this sequence alone is worth the purchase price and truly gives you a feel of what his initial vision of the project was. The disc also features out-takes from these original recording sessions.

If you are a fan of Bruce Lee, or Hong Kong Cinema in general, then, the final finished film aside, this is a 'must have' and probably the best record we're ever going to get of a planned movie that would have kicked 'Enter the Dragon' into a cocked hat. Now there's another conspiracy theory…

classic cinema analysing its own roots..., 8 February 2008

After 30 years of success in the big world, Salvatore, now a famous film director, is summoned back to the Sicilian village of his birth to attend the funeral of an old friend and mentor. Before his departure, in a series of poignant, very funny and genuinely tragic flashbacks, he reminisces about his life in the village, his family, his initial fascination and introduction to the wonders of film in his local 'flea-pit' cinema (the 'Cinema Paradiso' of the title), early friendships and life-lessons, and last but by no means least, a lost love.

This is one of those films you hear made reference to many times and think, yeah, I must catch that one day. People who have seen it can't believe that you haven't, so you tell yourself again, yeah, I definitely must catch that one day. Unfortunately that day kept passing me by, but I now believe this was meant to be, for when I did finally catch it a week or so ago, it was a very different film than everybody had been going on about. I was invited by two ardent fans of the film to watch it with them and we opted to watch the Director's Cut, with a whopping 50 minutes plus of extra footage, which they had never seen. Normally when you see these boasts of extra footage, they tend not to make a great deal of difference to the end result (here I cite Dances With Wolves as a prime example). Not so with this little beauty. I sat watching absorbedly but also listening to the occasional gasp of 'that wasn't mentioned before', and 'they didn't tell you that in the other version' etc., etc., and apparently there's almost an entire third act reinstated which delivers several revelations about some of the main characters that adds a darker edge and considerably more depth to events depicted in the version released theatrically. My friends were unsure about this new/original version. I of course knew no other (apart from the large hints given by their commentary) and was entranced.

The most enjoyable moments to me were the scenes with the child Salvatore (real name in fact Salvatore), or Toto as he is known in the village. A little acting marvel, his face truly lights up brighter than the cinema screen with which he is enraptured, and his scenes with Philippe Noiret as projectionist Alfredo are touching and magical without being overly sentimental (Spielberg could learn a lesson here). I could also have easily believed he would grow up to be the older Salvatore (French actor Jacques Perrin) who returns to the village. The adolescent Salvatore (Marco Leonardi) however bears no resemblance to these two whatsoever and, if I have a complaint, this is it, and so my disbelief was unsuspended for a while. This notwithstanding, the film is beautifully framed, lensed, and is enhanced immeasurably by an exquisite score by the Morricones which has become a favourite soundtrack for collectors. As with many of Morricone's scores it was composed based simply on the script and before any filming took place, so that the actors could perform and react to the music and tempos being played in the background of their scenes, a la theatre. According to Tornatore 'Some of the themes that are now in the film were composed right in front of me during those first few days. His music was an inspiration to everyone', whilst Morricone himself states 'The music was born of my collaboration with Giuseppe. It reflects how I was inspired by the story of a boy, in love with a beautiful woman and coming of age in a small town in Sicily. After reading the script I attempted to write music that would aid the film in its slow transformation from comedic and ironic to heavily dramatic'. He succeeded beautifully.

The story goes that the original 1988 release received a poor reception with test audiences in Italy and producer Franco Cristaldi insisted, to director and writer Tornatore's displeasure, that cuts be made. But Tornatore, as a relative unknown, was indebted to Cristaldi and complied by coming up with a two hour version of his story, and it is this version which won the Cannes, Academy and Golden Globe accolades.

Moments to watch for (and there are many) include Leopoldo Trieste's wonderfully measured performance as Father Adelfio, a fastidious local Priest who piously previews upcoming films to be shown at the early Cinema Paradiso, and who rings a bell as an indication to projectionist Alfredo as to which scenes are to be excised from future public screenings, invariably an on-screen kiss (or anything approaching it), and the powerful and emotional film dénouement where Salvatore receives and views his bequest from Alfredo – a reel of film containing all of these censored screen kisses.

This is classic cinema analysing its own roots and its effects on its audience and I could go on and on about this rich, gorgeous and vibrant film, but I'll take a tip from my friends, who finally decided that less is more, and preferred the version they had originally seen, but with the reservation that the extra footage had thrown new light, and in one case a form of closure, on various relationships. Whichever version you choose to watch, which of course you can with this particular presentation, you are assured of viewing a great film (and I don't use that term loosely).

Hostel (2005)
As if Americans didn't have enough reasons for not travelling to Europe…, 8 February 2008

***May Contain Spoilers*** I'm not sure who really benefits from these movies that are 'sponsored' by a big name, by which I'm talking about the 'Quentin Tarantino Presents' part of the title. He did it with HERO and THE PROTECTOR also, and Spielberg has also done it in the past with Landis and Dante movies. They have nothing to do with the production of the movie, so I assume it's just a promotional thing, for both the movie and the sponsor. But if it gives a minor, good movie a bigger profile then fine. As long as it's a good movie.

This is, speaking broadly, an amalgam of American WEREWOLF IN London and SAW. Two young male American backpackers are travelling around Europe, Amsterdam in fact, and are given the opportunity to stay at a particular hostel where, well let's say, fun and women are abundant. There is of course a catch.

The movie then, after a slow start I must say, moves into the realms of… what am I talking about? 'The realms of'? It degenerates rapidly and graphically into butchery. The guys are lured by gorgeous gals into basically what is a slaughter/torture house where sick people with lots of money can live out their macabre fantasies on the bodies of terrified individuals, making use of bolt cutters, chainsaws, blow torches and, well, you name it. There's dismemberment, screams, tendon cutting and gore galore which I'm sure is more than satisfying for those who like this kind of thing.

I did squirm a little at some of the 'renditions', but in retrospect, it wasn't the visual depiction that shocked me, more the idea of it which unsettled me, and for which I give due respect. It's nice to know that the power of suggestion is still being employed in this age where anything that can be imagined can be visually presented. That little thing that creeps in behind your mind and lurks there and keeps you unsettled for days afterward is far more powerful and memorable, and is what keeps you thinking and talking about it.

So, like I said, apart from the slow start, I can recommend this, but with the warning that it will claw at the back of brain for a while after viewing.

You certainly won't look at an electric drill the same way again…

13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Spall is mesmerising as Pierrepoint..., 8 February 2008

Capital punishment in Great Britain was abolished in 1964. Prior to that date there were many Home Office appointed Hangmen, none more prolific than Albert Pierrepoint, who served from 1932 to 1956, during which time he hanged an estimated 433 men and 17 women.

Following his father Henry and uncle, Thomas, into the family 'trade', Pierrepoint became the number one hangman in Britain and his career brought him into contact with many notorious criminals including "Lord Haw-Haw" ("Germany Calling"), real name William Joyce; John George Haigh, the famous "acid bath murderer"; Derek Bentley, still a controversial case and the subject of the 1991 film LET HIM HAVE IT; Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain, and again the subject of a movie, DANCE WITH A STRANGER (1985); gangster, Antonio "Babe" Mancini; Theodore Schurch, the last person to be executed for treason in Britain. Perhaps the most controversial case in Pierrepoint's career was that of Timothy Evans, whose wife and baby daughter had been found murdered at their home at 10 Rillington Place, also the home of one John Reginald Christie. Evans was executed in 1950. Christie was later charged with the murders of seven women and hanged in 1953. Evans was eventually granted a posthumous pardon in 1966. Evans was played harrowingly by John Hurt in the 1971 movie 10 RILLINGTON PLACE, with Richard Attenborough as a chilling Christie (according to John Hurt on the DVD commentary for 10 RILLINGTON PLACE, Pierrepoint himself actually offered his services, under an assumed name, as technical adviser for the hanging scene in that film as the actual method was covered by the Official Secrets Act and, ever the professional, Pierrepoint wanted it re-creating accurately, and nor would he have wished his work to be misrepresented).

Pierrepoint's body of work (if you'll forgive the expression) was greatly affected by World War II, and he worked all over Europe including Germany, Cyprus, Gibraltar and Austria. It is believed that in 1945 he hanged 190 men and 10 women war criminals at Hameln prison in the British controlled sector of Germany, including Irma Greese, Elizabeth Volkenrath, Juana Boreman and the "Beast of Belsen", Josef Kramer. During the war itself he had assisted his uncle Thomas in the execution of 16 American soldiers, condemned by Court Martial for murder and rape, at a military prison in Somerset. The movie carefully portrays Pierrepoint the man, not Pierrepoint the executioner. When he does his work he leaves Albert Pierrepoint outside. He is totally professional: he doesn't care who they are or what they've done, all that matters to him is that they are human beings who have to die and he will achieve that as quickly and humanely as possible. All that matters to him is height, weight and physical condition. He is also portrayed as compassionate. When organising the order of the hanging of the German war criminals he selects a girl, who has just accused him of doing the Jews work for them, to be hanged first. His army assigned assistant agrees as she's an 'arrogant bitch'. 'No,' says Pierrepoint, 'she's the youngest. She'll be the most frightened.' And after the deed he insists that the remains be treated with due reverence: 'They've paid the price. They're innocent now. D'y'see?' The publicity surrounding the Nazi war criminals disturbs Pierrepoint, as people applaud him in the street and buy him drinks in the newly acquired pub owned by himself and his wife. This isn't right to him. What he does, his job, is private, he does not even discuss it with his wife. All this attention isn't right. Also there is now an ever growing movement opposed to capital punishment. To some he is a national hero, to an increasing number of others he is a murderer. He starts to question his role. Timothy Spall, known as a dry, comedic actor on British TV (AUF WIEDERSEHEN, PET) and usually the slimy, slightly dopey, comic villain in movies like HARRY POTTER and LEMONY SNICKETT, is mesmerising as Pierrepoint. He portrays a quiet, gentle man, and one who regards his profession with honour and pride. He is appointed by the Government; he is the best in the land. His is not to question the law or the decisions of the lawmakers; his is to do his duty to the best of his ability. And he does. Only when his own notoriety, the hanging of his friend and the changing mood of the country toward capital punishment creep into the melting pot, does his resolve start to falter, and only when the various prison authorities start haggling over payments for his services, something he sees as an insult to his position as Chief Executioner, does he consider resigning, which of course he finally does. There are a few historical inaccuracies and inconsistencies (such as the main fact that he was not the last executioner. Capital Punishment continued for another eight years after Pierrepoint's resignation) but this is the norm for this kind of movie, and on the whole the film is as accurate as any film covering over 20 years in 90 minutes. The acting is excellent in all quarters, particularly Juliet Stevenson, though Spall leads by a length. The period is very well captured and is a close cousin to VERA DRAKE in this respect. The main thing about this movie is that it lingers with you and makes you want to think and learn more about its subject. With Pierrepoint's 'clients' having played such a large part in cinema history, it's time we had a movie about the man himself. And this is it. Recommended.

8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
A product of its time..., 8 February 2008

It is the near future. Britain struggles with the collapse of civilisation and violent bands of urban guerrillas rule. Also Earth is being harvested. Ancient sites of gathering all over the globe turn out to be the focal points of a blinding and powerful ray from outer space that leaves a pile of ash where thousands once stood. Various elements of Homo sapiens are essential to an anonymous alien race, and once again the time is, or rather we are, literally, ripe. It falls on the now retired Professor Bernard Quatermass, veteran of weird goings on long before Fox Mulder, to basically save the planet. Again.

The idea of a fourth Quatermass serial was kicked around the BBC for three years before being finally commissioned in 1971, and then later dropped by them as being too expensive. The production was picked up by Euston Films, Thames Television's TV film-making subsidiary (their most famous production at the time being the uncompromising and controversial police drama 'The Sweeney'). Euston increased the budget to £300,000 per episode with the criterion that the final product be produced in two versions: four fifty-minute episodes plus a single, shortened version for theatrical release and overseas markets in order to recoup some of their production costs. This created a writing dilemma for original creator and writer Nigel Kneale who now had to come up with two scripts for the same story. He neither wanted the theatrical release to be an edited version of the series, nor the series to be a padded out version of the film. Both had to work in their own right, and, thanks to Kneale's skill (he was an experienced screenwriter and at one time 'script doctor' for the BBC), they do. Unfortunately with the story having been written in 1972 and reflecting the political and economic concerns of that time, by the time it reached the screens in 1979, with it's new-age hippy type characters, it was already out of date (though it is still superior to the recent and dreadful '28 Days Later').

Euston also wanted a big name to play the lead, hence Sir John Mills, who is badly miscast and clearly looks as uneasy as he reportedly was with the role. Gone is the bombastic, resourceful yet flawed character played in the '50s BBC serials by Reginald Tate and brilliantly by Andre Morell, and later more famously by Andrew Keir in Hammer's 1967 'Quatermass and the Pit' (American actor Brian Donlevy had played the role in the first two Hammer Films but Kneale so hated him in the role he withheld permission to make a third Quatermass film for ten years). Here Mills plays him as a semi-senile, despairing, doddering tired old man. He is as much Quatermass as Peter Cushing was Dr. Who, but he fulfilled the need of the 'big name' at the time, being not only an already established British film dignitary and household name, but also then still familiar to TV audiences as having recently appeared in the popular 'Zoo Gang'. But it is hard to believe this is meant to be the same Quatermass we have seen in previous incarnations.

The plusses though are in the production values. At that time most British TV drama series tended to be controlled environment, studio bound affairs with the odd bit of grainy location footage (a la 'Dr. Who', 'Doomwatch' etc.) but 'Quatermass' was, strikingly for the time, shot entirely on location on 35mm Panavision, with great expense being laid out particularly on Joe Kapp's radar facility and home. It was also intended that Stonehenge would be one of the main locations. Permission to use it was however withdrawn by the British Tourist Board because it had become very popular with tourists and they didn't want anyone, or anything, even by inference (in the script several thousand people get fried simply by gathering there, so I suppose not a good selling point from their point of view), jeopardising their little earner.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy film and TV buffs will enjoy early appearances by Simon MacCorkindale, later of the short lived series 'Manimal'; Brian Croucher (the second 'Travis' in 'Blake's 7'); Declan Mullholland (the original, later CGI'd out, actor who played 'Jabba the Hutt' in 'Star Wars') as a TV Studio guard; David Yip, who would be Indie's ill-fated accomplice in the 'Club Obi-Wan' in the opening sequence of 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom'; and, talking of Indie, a major role played by Margaret Tyzack, who would later become the young Indie's long-suffering Oxford tutor in 'The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles'. Also featured in an early role is Brenda Fricker, later to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 'My Left Foot'. Executive Producer Verity Lambert was already well known to fans of this genre for her involvement with 'Dr. Who' and 'The Avengers'.

If you are a Quatermass fan, a fan of British Sci-Fi, or even a budding screenwriter wanting to pick up a few tips, then this is an essential addition to your library. The set is nicely presented and is released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of 'The Quatermass Experiment' in 1953. The package folds out to an 18" picture of (ironically) Stonehenge. The two discs containing the four episodes, simply called 'Quatermass', feature extensive production notes, animated menus, the opening and closing titles for each episode with each episode having a spectacular cliffhanger ending, making you eager to watch the next, and the hours pass swiftly. The third disc contains the theatrical version, retitled 'The Quatermass Conclusion', and a previously unseen Sci-Fi Channel interview with Nigel Kneale. Also enclosed is a booklet on the Quatermass history.

Overall it is an engrossing watch, but as Nigel Kneale himself says: "It was a product of its time."

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