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Loves Westerns ,film noir and period pictures
Devoted to the great game of cricket and can be found listening to traditional and insurgent country when not watching movies or cricket matches
Voracious reader -especially of pulp writers like Goodis and Jim Thompson and of Western novels
Warrior Angels (2002)
Cut price sword and sorcery movie
Lady Elizabeth (Joanna Pacula) has proved herself a more than capable warrior ,doing valiant service in the Crusades when she is wounded and compelled to return to England .There she finds that major changes have taken place on her manor.A local warlord ,Grekker (Rutger Hauer) has gathered together a formidable band of outlaws ,is exacting tribute from the local peasantry ,and has taken her only son prisoner ,raising him in the outlaw way.She tries to raise a force to tackle the outlaw and recapture her son but the locals are too cowed and fearful to take action .Instead she assembles a small group of women ,all outcasts ,who are willing to fight on her side .There is the formidable Hunter(Molly Culvert) a skilled archer and sword fighter ;the prostitute Eve (Charlotte Avery)and the gypsy Sybil ,an expert on spells and potions .
Also in the brigand's camp -albeit reluctantly -is Luke(Arnold Vosloo) ,an enigmatic individual with a chequered past and who is uneasy at the actions of Grekker ,and his part in perpetuating his reign of terror.
The action is lively enough ,although budget restrictions don't help ,and the cast is better than usual for such fare .Sadly,the movie does not follow through on its themes ; for instance in the clearly implied sexual attraction felt by Hunter towards Elizabeth .This movie could have been so much better given the talent on display but is mired in the "adequate time passer " category .Watchable but a missed opportunity
Oklahoma John (1965)
Watchable European Western
This a "town tamer " Western ,like such classics as "Dodge City " or "My Darling Clementine " ,and without ever approaching the heights of such quality movies it is a perfectly decent little movie,always assuming you can overlook some less than ideal dubbing . The local Mr Big is rancher Edwards ,whose men display open contempt for the law ,and whose son is a vicious ,bullying weakling ,hiding behind his father's power and reputation.The new Sheriff turns out to be made of sterner stuff than his predecessors and stands up to Edwards and his men ,finding time along the way for some amorous dalliance with the daughter of a man killed on Edward's orders.
There are hints of "Rio Bravo" in the characters of the town drunk redeemed by the support of the Sheriff ,and the elderly town gaoler ,a garrulous and verbose gentleman .These have parallels with the roles played by Dean Martin and Walter Brennan in the Hawks classic,
The movie is a sturdy ,uncomplicated and old fashioned Western that will be mainly enjoyed by those who like that particular genre ,
Lewis: Dark Matter (2010)
Typical and typically polished episode of the series
Andrew Crompton ,the Master of Gresham College,Oxford ,is an astrophysicist of no little distinction and when he is found murdered in the Oxford Observatory it ,naturally ,causes a stir within both police and academic circles.There is no shortage of suspects .These include the College Porter,Temple<( Warren Clarke ) a domestic tyrant to his long suffering wife but a toady to those in authority;then there is the distinguished classical composer ,Raeburn (robert Hardy) and his wife (Diana Quick),not to mention Jeremy(Andrew Hawley) the bright and personable working class student and protégé of the deceased ,and the up and coming conductor Finniston (Andrew Calf).Not to mention sundry others all with means ,motive and opportunity to do the deed.
Lewis and his Oxford educated sidekick Hathaway (played as always by ,respectively ,Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox)are assigned to the case and conduct their investigation among the "dreaming spires "of the University and its erudite denizens.The series -like its predecessor ,Inspector Morse ,has always utilised classical music for gravitas and Holst is deployed frequently in the episode.this is all about "civilised" murder and urbane detection ,ahaving little to do with the reality of crime in the real world but essentially heir to the academic mysteries of such writers as Michael Innes and Sayers.Polished ,professional and proficient and well acted by a cast of genre veterans this breaks no new ground but will please those viewers who like cosy mysteries,as an antidote to grittier fare like "The wire"
Thunder Over Arizona (1956)
Mistaken identity Western
Ervin Plummer-played by the estimable George Macready ,who like his good friend Vincent Price was a man of culture and erudition who specialised in bad guy roles-is a grasping avaricious businessman with a hunger for gold .He evokes an archaic and little used law ,the Apex Rule ,which says that if a mineral vein runs through his land the landowner is entitled to claim all the rights to ownership of the mineral from the owner of the land containing the head of the vein .The Right has rarely been exercised and might well fail in court but to ensure a better chance of success Plummer arranges the death of Warren ,his major target ,and for his family to be served with a crippling tax bill.To make absolutely sure he engages the services of the ruthless killer Shotgun Kelly ( George Keymas) to remove any residual opposition .Kelly ,a bad loser at dice , tries to ambush and Tim Mallory (Skip Homeir) who had defeated him in a fair game but is himself killed .Mallory is mistaken for Kelly by Plummer and his gang ,and having fallen in love with the enticing Fay Warren (Kristin Miller)sets out to thwart Plummer's plans .
The movie has some good performances ,notably from Macready ,and Jack Elam as his henchman Slats while Wallace Ford as a scheming lawyer also make an impression .Homeir ,an under-rated actor is good as the hero .
The pace is brisk and the action efficiently handled .The only major drawback is the cheap looking colour process which makes the picture look faded and dull .An okay time filler if you like the genre
Fort Massacre (1958)
Sharp and edgy minor Western
The patrol movie has been a staple of cinema since its very early days and has cut across many genres including the war movie and ,as in this case,the Western.The setting is New Mexico in the late 1870's and a platoon of the US Cavalry is trying to make its way back to base under less than auspicious circumstances .Its officers are all dead ,killed in action by the Apache,and its leader,by default is Sergeant Vinson (Joel McCrae -cast in a rare unsympathetic role).Vinson is neither liked nor trusted by his men who believe that he is so embittered by the death of his wife at the hands of the Apache that his judgement is flawed and that he will risk their lives for his own revenge .His bellicose attitude seems to reinforce this belief as he orders an attack on a superior force of the enemy as they camp by a waterhole ,with heavy loss of life.This is not the only encounter with the enemy as he and his men take shelter at a seemingly abandoned adobe dwelling where he is besieged by the Apache.
Shot wholly on location by the estimable Carl Guthrie this a tight ,taut movie that moves with pace and efficiency .The acting is excellent with special praise to MacRae ,John Russell as an educated drifter turned soldier Travis ,who becomes a confidante to Vinson ,Forrest Tucker as Irish born trooper McGurney (the role Andrew McClaglen usually played in John Ford pictures)and Anthony Caruso as the Native scout Pawnee .McRae in particular shows us that he could play morally complex and driven characters every bit as well as did James Stewart in his movies for Anthony Mann .Vinson is an angry and bitter man ,qualities the actor brings out well Joseph M Newman directs briskly and stages some lively action sequences in what is a predictable but highly entertaining minor Western
Cavalry Scout (1951)
Sturdy minor Western
The major drawback of this movie is that it was shot in a truly mediocre colour process known as Cinecolor which gives it a dull,grainy ,washed out air which is not at all pleasant to look at .Ignore this ,assuming you can ,and you may find yourself able to give it a slightly higher rating than my modest 6 . The picture is set in 1870's Montana where former Confederate officer ,turned civilian scout for the US Cavalry ,Kirby Frye (Rod Cameron) is sent to find out who has stolen a consignment of Gatling Guns with the aim of using them on robberies and also selling them to the Cheyenne and Sioux who are readying for battle against Custer .The villain is a local freight hauler Martin Gavin (James Millican ) .Frye is helped in his task by Lieutenant Spalding (Jim Davis)and he also finds time to romance the shrewd and lovely local business woman Claire (Audrey Long) ,at whom Spalding has also set his cap.
Future star spotters will enjoy seeing James Arness in a rare bad guy role .
Some pro-Indian sentiments are voiced ,which sets it apart from some other movies of the era but essentially this is routine fare although brisk direction by veteran Lesley Selander helps as do some effective performances .It is just such a pity the colour is so drab as better and brighter colour would have boosted interest considerably.Its watchable but nothing more
Wycliffe: Number of the Beast (1996)
Efficient TV episode with a take on modern myths
The most famous " beast " in the UK is unquestionably the fabled Loch Ness Monster but the so called "Beast of Bodmin Moor" surfaces from time to time in the press and on TV -;he/she/it is alleged to be a large cat like creature spotted on the Moor from time to time and preying on livestock .(For the record ,I am a sceptic with regard to both alleged creatures but that is bye the bye) The "beast " forms background to this episode in the Cornish set police drama.When a schoolteacher is found dead on Bodmin Moor with his throat torn out some are keen to blame it on the Beast ,especially a publicity seeking "Beast hunter" ,and the national and local press are quick to stir up interest in "beast sightings" .Soon there is another victim -the local priest (Teniel Evans) who is discovered in a pool of blood with "666 " daubed on the walls .The police ,especially Wycliffe (Jack Shepperd) believe it to be some human agent ,with a grudge ,and using a vicious attack dog as a weapon .Wycliffe's right hand man Kersey (Jimmy Yuill )finds time amidst the carnage for an amorous dalliance with the landlady of the pub where he is is staying during the investigation but soon finds himself in a kidnap situation as the episode reaches its n climax . Making good use of Cornwall's beauty and with fine performances by Teniel Evans and Kenneth Collley this is a workmanlike 60 minutes are so of UK police drama ,in a series which never quite attained the popularity it merited
Indian Uprising (1952)
Unoriginal but lively low budget Western
There is nothing even remotely original about Indian Uprising which regurgitates themes and character types from countless Westerns that went before it ,but it remains a watchable movie aided by its brief running time (75 minutes ) and brisk direction ,which ensures the picture never outstays its welcome George Montgomery plays UC Cavalry officer ,Captain McLoud who is trying to keep the peace between Geronimo's Apaches on the San Carlos Reservation and the white prospectors who are violating the peace treaty by searching for gold on the Reservation .His endeavours are so successful that he becomes a threat to the businessman backing the miners that they have him suspended and replaced by the inexperienced martinet Major Stark whose bungling ,bull headed leadership soon starts a fully fledged war between the Apaches and the whites especially when the Apaches are falsely accused of murdering a miner.Mcloud must try to rebuild the peace in the face of enemies both civilian and military all the time while he is wooing the daughter of the local Indian agent and mentoring a callow young officer Lieutenant Whitley (played respectively by Audrey Long and John Baer)
The movie is derivative and John Ford's cavalry pictures are a direct inspiration .The troopers are "types" lifted straight from Ford and one scene in which the blundering Stark leads his men into an ambush is evocative of a similar scene in Ford's masterly Fort Apache but done with less style and a lower budget .
The acting is proficient and the movie will entertain Western devotees well enough despite some muddy colour and an original ploy .Professional and solid but no more
Better than average vintage Western B movie
John Sands is a famed ex lawman ,most celebrated for having faced down Billy the Kid .He is now living in Mexico ,having fallen foul of the law in the States,and is working as a storekeeper when news reaches him that his brother has been murdered .He vows to return to America to avenge his brother despite knowing full well this places him at risk of arrest . He is drawn into enmity with the ruthless Matt Garson who is also his rival for he hand of Garson's secretary (Joan O'Carroll)and to complicate matters he law is on his tail.
Blake Edwards -a man mostly known for his acerbic comedic scripts-co wrote this movie and the screenplay is above average for the genre, and the era .Add some lively action ,including the old genre staple of a bar -room brawl ,and some capable performances and the result is a good and watchable B movie that devotees of the Western will especially enjoy
The Mad Magician (1954)
Melodrama and magic
This is essentially a variation on House Of Wax ,in both the plot and the type of role played by the star of both movies ,Vincent Price.In both pictures he plays a talented artist who is sent toppling over the edge into insanity when his creations are usurped by other,less talented and less scrupulous people .In this movie he plays a designer of illusions for stage magicians who aspires to set out on a performing career himself only to be frustrated when another illusionist ,the Great Rinaldo (John Emery)insists that he honour his contract and give him first choice of any illusions he designs.Price is already ill disposed towards Rinaldi as his former wife is now a paramour of Rinaldi. He deploys his talents as an illusionist and as a brilliant mimic to avenge himself upon Rinaldi and others who thwart his plans for recognition as a performer and a designer.
Price is pretty much the whole show here and gives a well judged star turn as a wronged man whose predicament earns audience sympathy.The rest of the cast are competent if colourless and the weight of the whole venture falls on Price who carries the burden with ease .
Good solid B Movie melodrama , this is a crime movie rather than a horror picture and is enjoyable providing you don't expect a masterpiece .Shot in black and white it is low on gore and is best seen as melodrama and enjoyed for the presence of its star giving an idiosyncratic performance