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The Mummy (1959)
The best of Hammer's Mummy cycle... though periodic longueurs hold it back from being one of their very best., 1 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When thinking about Hammer films which actually form part of a series, the obvious ones are the Dracula's and the Frankenstein's. There were, of course, other occasions when they made sequential films in their long history, such as the Jurassic classics (their prehistoric series) and the Mummy cycle. Even the most ardent fans of the studio accept that some of the Mummy movies are a little dull, and the main cause of this I feel lies with the 'monster' itself... mummies are just too slow and lumbering to have much shelf life as the bad guys in a whole series of bloodcurdlers. One film, yes, why not? But a whole series? Perhaps not. For me, the best of Hammer's Mummy cycle is the first - The Mummy from 1959, directed by the ever-reliable Terence Fisher, featuring yet another collaboration of the studio's favoured star duo Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

Egyptologists Stephen Banning (Felix Aylmer), Joseph Whemple (Raymond Huntley) and John Banning (Peter Cushing) discover the long-lost tomb of of the ancient Queen Ananka. Against the dire warnings of Egyptian villain Mehemet Bey (George Pastell), they enter the tomb. Something happens to Stephen inside the tomb which leaves him in a vegetative state, driven out of his mind by some nameless fright. Later, it becomes clear that he was attacked by the still-living mummified figure of Kharis (Christopher Lee), the Queen's high priest and secret lover... and when Mehemet Bey brings the mummy to England to finish off the others who desecrated Ananka's tomb, the scene is set for a final battle to the death.

Lee's mummy, a gruesome and unstoppable automaton, is actually a rather interesting monster for this type of film. Powerful and frightening, yet strangely pitiable, it's a testament to his acting that he creates empathy from beneath so many layers of make-up. Cushing is good value too as the gammy-legged scholar trying to defeat he creature. What hurts The Mummy somewhat is the rather long-winded set-up, involving heavy-going and repetitive recap sequences narrated by Cushing. At its best colourful and exciting, at its worst dull and long-winded, The Mummy is a decent enough genre picture but not really top-tier stuff from the folks at Hammer.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Simple but serviceable wartime cheapie from low-budget maestro Roger Corman., 31 July 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Shot in a couple of weeks by Roger Corman, Ski Troop Attack was cobbled together in such a hurry it's a minor miracle it emerges anything other than an unmitigated disaster. At the time, Corman's brother Gene was in the process of producing Beast From Haunted Cave in some mountains in South Dakota, with Monte Hellman directing. Never one to miss the opportunity of recycling existing resources, Roger bagged the same sets (and many of the same actors) to create Ski Troop Attack - a 60 minute wartime quickie blending actual staged actors and scenes with bits of stock WWII footage. Surprisingly, given the nature of its production, the film hangs together reasonably well: it has a serviceable plot, something approaching real character dynamics, and a fairly solid structure. The acting is generally unremarkable, the editing and cinematography are entirely average, but for this brand of low-budget Corman quickie Ski Troop Attack remains a decent enough offering.

A five-man reconnaissance unit led by the young and inexperienced Lt. Factor (Michael Forrest) are on patrol in the snow-swept Ardennes Forest in the winter of 1944. Factor is endlessly at odds with his second-in-command, the older, more battle-wearied and bloodthirsty Sgt. Potter (Frank Wolff). Potter has a taste for killing Germans even though the company has strict instructions to monitor the enemy, not engage them in combat. Suddenly, the German army launches an unexpected offensive and Factor finds his small band at the forefront of the action, in a unique position to observe German movements and report back to HQ. Potter is keen to pick a fight with the enemy rather than skulking in the shadows, but Factor is determined to sneak about gathering valuable information about the enemy's strategy. Factor's small unit soon discover that the Germans are moving supplies and equipment along a vital rail route which crosses a high mountain bridge. The bridge is in a narrow mountain pass, very difficult to strike from above with airpower... but from a ground attack it may be possible to destroy it. They plan to sabotage the bridge, but the job is fraught with danger.

Early on in Ski Troop Attack, the script seems to be sowing the seeds of an interesting clash of interests between Lt. Factor and Sgt. Potter, but this character conflict sadly never evolves into anything of note. Wolff if actually quite good as the snarling, cynical Potter (he's by far the one actor who stands out above the others), but he's surrounded by otherwise mediocre performers. The WWII footage is obviously of a different stock to the dramatic scenes, but it is used sparingly and the differences in the grain never become overly distracting. At 60-ish minutes in length, the film is brief enough to keep your attention and is put together with more coherence than, say, some of the other Corman quickies from the period (such as the dire She-Gods Of Shark Reef or Attack Of The Giant Leeches). While it never ates as a first-rate Boys Own behind-enemy-lines flick, Ski Troop Attack remains competent and enjoyable in its simple, unambitious way. Basic B-movie fodder, but not entirely unenjoyable - you could do a lot worse!

Disappointing horror flick built around an under-developed background of tribal mumbo-jumbo., 8 July 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Relatively obscure as it is, I still had modest expectations from Shadow Of The Hawk - there are several positive reviews here on the IMDb, the idea is appealing, and the cast contains two of the unsung workhorses of 70s cinema in Chief Dan George and Jan Michael Vincent. A little part of me hoped that perhaps this might be one of those rare overlooked gems one is lucky enough to unearth from time to time. Sadly, the film does not live up to its potential - it has a couple of highlights, separated by long stretches of tedium; worse, for a horror flick, it commits the cardinal sin of being virtually scare-less for its entire duration.

Mike (Jan Michael Vincent) has half-Indian ancestry, but has forsaken tribal life for a job in the big city as a computer executive. He is visited by his grandfather Old Man Hawk (Cheif Dan George), who wants him to come back to the old tribal community to help him fight the spirit of Dsonoqua, a vengeful old witch-woman who has previous history with Hawk's family. Mike is initially reluctant to turn his back on his high-tech city lifestyle to go chasing ghosts and goblins in the forest. However, a female journalist, Maureen (Marilyn Hassett), persuades him that he really should show enough respect to at least take his grandfather home and check out his claims. Maureen senses there may be a news story somewhere in all this, and that too motivates her. Mike, Hawk and Maureen begin the long, lonesome drive into the woodland but they are threatened by strange events en route. A menacing black car pursues them and forces them off the road; a masked figure continually observes them from the bushes; they are attacked by enchanted snakes and roving bears. As they near the tribal village, Old Man Hawk reveals that he has known Mike will be the one to face down Dsonoqua since he was a young baby. Now is the time for Mike to embrace his tribal roots and defeat the malevolent spirit of the enemy.

The script trips up everyone here, lacking both drive and coherence. George is a wisened old pro, but he looks pretty indifferent here; Vincent was a rising young star at the time of release, but he too looks like his heart isn't really in it. Things are cursorily explained so there is very little interest or suspense in the events. A couple of scenes are neatly done - a snake bites Old Man Hawk while he sleeps; a car crashes into an 'invisible barrier'; a group of eerily masked worshippers emerge from the trees to terrorise Vincent while he stands in an enchanted circle... but these strong moments are separated by such long stretches of dullness that they cannot save the wider film. Too many scenes fizzle out without making much impression, and an air of dispiritedness hangs over the proceedings. 'Dreary' is the most apt description for it - 'Shadow Of A Movie' might have been a better title!

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Middling Agatha Christie adaptation - should have been better given the considerable talent involved., 25 June 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Following the all-star Agatha Christie extravaganzas Murder On The Orient Express and Death On The Nile, a similarly impressive cast is assembled for The Mirror Crack'd. The difference this time is that the story is not one of the many Hercule Poirot entries that Christie wrote; instead, it features her 'other' celebrated creation, Miss Marple. One of the main problems with the film is that Miss Marple doesn't really feature enough in the action. She is confined to her home for much of the film, meaning there are long stretches where she is absent from the screen (worse, this makes her ability to solve the murder by piecing together second-hand information, descriptions and accounts very hard to swallow. It's like asking us to believe Sherlock Holmes figured out the Hound of the Baskervilles mystery without going to Dartmoor, without leaving London... heck, without even setting foot outside 221b Baker Street!)

A film crew descends on the small English village of St. Mary Mead. They are there to shoot a costume picture about the times of Queen Elizabeth 1st and Mary, Queen of Scots. The lead role is to be played by Marina Rudd (Elizabeth Taylor), once an international superstar and multi-Oscar-winning actress, now a forgotten face (she gave birth to a mentally retarded baby after contracting German measles during her wartime pregnancy, and subsequently suffered a severe nervous breakdown). Another key role is to be played by Lola Brewster (Kim Novak), a bitchy diva who revels in engaging in a war of words with Marina. Others present include the director, Marina's husband Jason Rudd (Rock Hudson); the producer Marty Fenn (Tony Curtis); Jason's production assistant and possible adulterous partner Ella Zielinsy (Geraldine Chaplin); and a whole entourage of actors and crew. During a pre-shoot party, a local busybody named Heather Babcock (Maureen Bennett) approaches Marina and bores her with a story about how much of a fan she is of her career. Later Heather dies after drinking a poisoned cocktail, possibly intended for Marina. Scotland Yard policeman Dermot Craddock (Edward Fox) arrives to find out whodunit. He calls upon his injured, housebound aunt, Jane Marple (Angela Lansbury), who lives locally, to seek her expertise in uncovering the killer.

Lansbury is great as ever as Miss Marple, though she needed way more screen time than she is given. The verbal sparring between Taylor and Novak is enjoyably done, while Hudson plays Taylor's husband pretty well. Perhaps the best of the supporting performances comes from Fox as the Scotland Yard detective - a deceptively canny policeman who also happens to be a movie buff. Some of the actors are a little wasted, like Curtis, Chaplin and Charles Gray as a butler. The resolution to the mystery is decent enough, with sufficient red herrings thrown in to keep the killer concealed, but the closing scene is rather confused. John Cameron's score has a habit of launching off into an ill-fitting 'sexy' saxophone style which rarely fits the mood of the film, while Guy Hamilton directs it all in ploddingly efficient fashion. Not the best Christie adaptation ever made; nor the worst. A passable entry, but, given the calibre of the talent involved, it could and should have been much better.

1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Cheap, boring and frequently inept family "entertainment" – doctors could recommend this movie as a cure for insomnia!, 13 June 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Oh dear! As misguided family movies go, they don't come much more misguided than Santa Claus Conquers The Martians. A meagre budget does not necessarily spell doom for a film (check out some of Mario Bava's films, for instance, which had little money behind them but still emerged pretty good on the whole), but in this case the lack of funding is evident in almost every frame. The whole film is a desperately sad attempt to make a movie for kids and adults to enjoy together – kids are likely to be hugely unimpressed by the lame comedy and boring story, while adults will be depressed by the woeful acting, production values and plot. One critic wrote: "frankly, I am ashamed to be from the same species as the people who made this movie". Which sums it up. Perfectly.

On Mars, the Martian children are acting strangely. They seem lethargic and depressed; Martian leader Kimar (Leonard Hicks) notices that his own kids are especially gloomy, and wonders if their obsession with tuning into Earth TV programmes is affecting them. The Martian leadership council summon a wise old elder to ask what he thinks is wrong with the kids. The elder (Carl Don) says that the Martian kids are not allowed to play, to have fun, to be young-at-heart, etc, and this, coupled with the fact that it is almost Christmas time on Earth, is making them unhappy. By watching so many Earth shows, they are learning all about Santa Claus and festive spirit, and feel like they're missing out. Kimar decides to take a unit of men to Earth to kidnap Santa (John Call) and bring him back to Mars to cheer up the children. They accidentally end up capturing Billy (Victor Stiles) and Betty (Donna Conforti), a couple of Earth children, as well as old Saint Nick himself. Trouble beckons when Martian subordinate Voldar (Vincent Beck), who has been vociferously opposed to the plan from the word go, tries to sabotage the mission by doing harm to Santa and the two Earth children.

The sets wobble and bounce, the outfits look ultra-cheap and unintentionally funny, the make-up is pitiful (towards the end the green Martian make-up must have almost run out as the Martians look nearly white… unless there's a whole racist subtext at work?), and the performances are roundly terrible. Don as the elder is so awful, adopting a croaky drawl which makes him sound like a constipated cockerel, that the audience is reduced to guffaws during his scene. The others fare little better (Stiles and Conforti are wooden as the Earth kids; Call chuckles away inanely as Santa; and Bill McCutheon as comic relief character Dropo is so irritating one wishes one could strangle him and quietly dispose of him in the space garbage!) At least Hicks and Beck try to give interesting performances as bickering Martians, although the dumb dialogue defeats their efforts. Worst of all is the utter deadly dullness of the film. I literally cannot watch this movie in a horizontal position – I attempted to view it twice in bed, and was sound asleep both times within mere minutes. In the end I stood up and watched the movie whilst ironing to make sure I stayed awake. That bad, you ask? You bet ya!

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Inconsequential story about a forbidden romance - untaxing and easy-to-watch, but never truly absorbing., 30 April 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Seven Nights In Japan is an old-fashioned romantic drama with a lot of James Bond alumni aboard as cast and crew. The screenwriter is Christopher Wood (The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker); the director is Lewis Gilbert (You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker); and the cast includes Charles Gray (You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever), James Villiers (For Your Eyes Only) and Ann Lonnberg (Moonraker). The film couldn't, however, be further from a Bond film in style - it's all very genteel and leisurely-paced, with an emphasis on the romantic dilemma at its core. A few sequences involving political assassins are thrown in to pad the running time, but these aspects of the film merely come across as half-hearted and rather silly.

Royal tearaway Prince George (Michael York) arrives in Japan aboard a Royal Navy ship. He is a sailor with diplomatic duties and responsibilities to attend to, but has a history of neglecting such frivolities when the mood takes him. Faced with a long and tedious shore leave at the residence of the British Ambassador, Henry Hollander (Charles Gray), George decides he cannot bear such a stay. He sneaks out of the Ambassador's house at night and explore the delights of Tokyo alone, with civilian clothes and dark glasses to keep his identity secret. One evening, he meets a pretty tour guide named Sumi (Hidemi Aoki) and is immediately smitten with her. He returns to meet her again the following night, and soon a bond of love and desire forms between them. Sumi is not aware of George's true identity... together they head off into rural Japan, spending more time together and falling deeper in love as they do so. George begins to have serious doubts about returning to his ship, and contemplates throwing away all his royal privileges for a simple life with this humble Japanese tour guide. Meanwhile, a team of political assassins plot to locate the AWOL Prince and eliminate him.

The notion of a Royal craving a simpler life and having a wild fling - including (shock, horror) sex outside of marriage with a Japanese civilian, no less - was presumably a controversial theme when the film was released in 1976. However, the film doesn't really follow through on its controversial qualities, and instead contents itself with being a standard yarn of forbidden romance. York is fairly wooden as the Prince, though Aoki is sweetly vulnerable as his love interest. The scenes featuring Gray and Villiers - fretting hopelessly about whether the Prince will return in time for the ship's departure - provide some welcome comic relief. The film is beautifully shot by Henri Decae and has a lovely score by the under-used David Hentschel, but the drama is rarely convincing and the ultimate dilemma about which choice York will make - remain a Royal, or forsake it all in the name of love? - never really materialises into anything gripping. You should really care about what happens to these people, but you don't... it simply isn't particularly involving. And, as mentioned earlier, the assassination subplot is a laughable waste of time. Seven Nights is OK for what it is, a light and harmless romantic melodrama... but deeply affecting and heart-wrenching cinema it ain't.

Mozambique (1964)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Routine 60s adventure, shot on unusual locations (which helps a little)., 27 April 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Prolific (and oft-ridiculed) British producer Harry Alan Towers is the man behind this typical 60s adventure flick set in a far-flung corner of Africa. The film is full of none-too-convincing attempts at hard boiled dialogue, murky characters who mostly turn out not to be what they seem, and a few decent action sequences shot on actual locations in Mozambique. Photographically it is perfectly acceptable, even quite good in parts (though some of the night-time sequences are so dimly lit it becomes virtually impossible to tell what is going on). It was the final film of Steve Cochran, here given a rare opportunity to play the male lead (he was usual a memorable supporting character-actor... this film finally gives him a shot at the top-billed hero figure, but later that year he died in suspicious circumstances during a yachting holiday off Guatemala, prematurely ending his career and life at the unfortunate age of 48).

Blacklisted pilot Brad Webster (Cochran) is desperately seeking work in various corners of Lisbon, but as the sole survivor of a disastrous airplane crash a few months earlier he is considered unemployable in most circles. Following a bar-room brawl, he winds up in jail... but the local Commandant, Commaro (Paul Hubscmid), springs him from behind bars and offers him a job opportunity. The job involves going to the African colony of Mozambique and work as a bush pilot for someone named Valdez. If he refuses, he will go to jail for quite some time. Webster heads off to Mozambique, befriending fellow 'last-chance-saloon' passenger Christina (Vivi Bach) on the flight down to the African country. Upon arriving, Webster learns that Valdez is dead and he will be working for the odious Da Silva (Martin Benson) instead, although the job remains essentially the same. Valdez's widow, Ilona (Hildegard Knef), despises Da Silva and is bitter at the fact her husband never left a will, meaning she cannot lay claim to any of the sizable fortune she believes she is entitled to. Further skulduggery is provided by the mysterious Henderson (Dietmar Shonherr), who, like Valdez and Da Silva, seems to have his finger in a number of unsavoury pies. Webster finds himself flying unofficial clandestine flights aiding Da Silva and Henderson in some kind of drug-smuggling racket, but the more he probes the more he discovers this is only the tip of a dangerous iceberg.

Cochran seems too old for the leading role, but Schonherr and Benson make for an agreeably slimy pair of villains. Knef is rather wasted as the enigmatic female lead, either an embittered widow or a scheming femme fatale, while Bach as the romantic female lead is pretty hopeless. The location work is good, though, and provides the film with a bit of unusual local flavour. The final action sequence - which borrows the old Hitchcock trick of basing the excitement at a well- known location (in this case, Victoria Falls) - is actually rather well-done, and is easily the best thing about the film. Mozambique is a routine 60s film, typical of its type and the kind of movie where there's little of it left in your memory the day after you watch it... but it passes the time harmlessly enough whilst on.

Sex-starved soldiers lose morale… unusual western, boosted by a unique location and refreshing plot angles., 1 March 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In 1966 the western genre was pretty tired – only the Italians, with their stylistic spaghetti westerns, were finding new angles to keep the genre fresh. American westerns were becoming thinner on the ground, and those that did still get made were often entirely routine. It would be the sprightly caperish-ness of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid and the slow-motion violence of The Wild Bunch a few years later which would briefly reinvigorate the Hollywood horse opera. An unusual film from this era is Savage Pampas, which is more of a semi-western than a fully-fledged western. Co-written and directed by Hugo Fregonese, it is an American-Spanish-Argentinian co-production set on the pampas of 19th century Argentina. Maybe the best label for it would be a "southern"?

At an army outpost in Argentina commanded by the ball-busting Captain Martin (Robert Taylor), the soldiers consist of a number of ex-cons, fugitives and desperadoes. For several years they have been locked in conflict with bandits and hostile Indians. All the while, the army soldiers have been kept away from women. Morale is low among the sex-starved soldiers, and many are deserting to the side of the bandits where they are promised women and pleasures of the flesh. Martin realises that urgent changes are needed and arranges for a number of women – whores and ne'er-do-wells – to be brought into the camp to satisfy his remaining men. The women have to be transported across miles of perilous terrain, personally accompanied by Martin and some of his best soldiers. The journey is fraught with danger, and the men and women undertaking find themselves unexpectedly developing mutual respect – love, even – as they go.

Savage Pampas is intriguing for its very unusual plot threads – an examination of the effect celibacy on fighting men; temptations of the flesh; the fragility of morale; primitive attitudes towards women, etc. The film is handsomely shot, with some very good-looking panoramic sequences. There is action and violence in spurts, some of it is surprisingly hard-edged for 1966, though at other times the film is relatively sombre and slow-moving. Taylor holds it together well enough, playing a John Wayne-like authority role (he even drawls his lines like the Duke!) Waldo de los Rios provides a flavoursome score which adds to the rich South-'o'-the-Border atmosphere. Overall Savage Pampas is a smooth and watchable flick – it does not deserve to have fallen into relative obscurity.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Laughable 50s sci-fi cheapie... little to recommend to general viewers, but genre addicts may find some charm in it., 31 December 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Shot over eight days on a super-low budget - with brothers Gene and Roger Corman as producer and executive producer respectively - Attack Of The Giant Leeches is a typical 50s sci-fi cheapie. The 50s was awash with films like this, brief and often absurd time-fillers made to capitalise on Cold War fears. Here, rocket activity in the Cape Canaveral area is blamed for mutated leeches which grow to human size and drag unsuspecting local yokels into the swamp. Well, it's a plot… of sorts.

Local poacher Lem Sawyer (George Cisar) stumbles across a large creature quite unlike anything he has ever seen whilst wandering through swampland in the Florida Everglades. He shoots the creature several times. Later, adulterous woman Liz Walker (Yvette Vickers) and her secret lover Cal (Michael Emmett) are having one of their romantic trysts out in the swamp when Liz's husband Dave (Bruno VeSota) shows up. Dave chases the pair of them with a gun, planning to shake them up good, but to his horror he instead witnesses them being dragged into the swamp by one of the gigantic creatures shot at by Lem at the start of the film. No-one believes Dave when he tries to tell them what happened – everyone assumes he killed them in a fit of rage, and has concocted the story about the creatures to get himself off the hook. Later, some more locals searching for the missing bodies also go missing, and game warden Steve Benton (Ken Clark) heads into the swamp in search of answers. He discovers a pair of human-sized, blood-sucking leeches hiding in an underwater cave, feeding off the blood of the human victims they have dragged away from the water's edge.

Cheap, stupid and generally laughable, Attack Of The Giant Leeches is a pretty weak offering in all departments. Much of it is shot in such glum colour that the action is difficult to see. The acting is wooden at best, and the dialogue often borders on the downright ridiculous. It's a surprise to learn the script is by TV and film character actor Leo Gordon, who appeared in countless westerns in the 50s, 0s and 70s. Alexander Laszlo's score is a weird jingling and jangling of instruments which sounds almost as if it's being improvised on the spot. If nothing else the film is extremely short, its running time coming in around the hour mark. It may be nonsense but at least it's brief nonsense. No-one in their right mind would seriously recommend Attack Of The Giant Leeches, but if you're an addict of these low budget 50s sci-fi B-movies you may find some charm in it.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Tedious bloodcurdler which could have been eerie and genuinely scary. Sadly it fudges its opportunities rather badly., 4 November 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw this film at a film festival, where the programme notes enthusiastically declared it "a gem" and urged patrons at the events to "try to make the time to see it". I was quite excited about giving it a look; these obscurities which are considered long-lost gems usually have a certain appeal. Sadly, in reality the film did not live up to the rather glowing appraisal given in the programme. It could have been a good little chiller had the handling been better, but unfortunately it is nowhere near as effective, eerie or entertaining as it had the potential to be. "A gem" it ain't!

American Frank (John Hackett) returns to the Phillipines 20 years after being involved in combat action at Corregidor. He is greeted by his old friend Joe (Conrad Parham) who urges him to stay permanently, although Frank seems reluctant to agree to the suggestion. In fact, it isn't long before Frank starts behaving quite irrationally, experiencing pangs of chronic panic and traumatic memories. Joe knows that Frank was involved in something pretty unpleasant during the Battle Of Corregidor near the end of WWII, and urges him to return to the scene to beat his demons. Frank heads over to the island, now overgrown with jungle scrub and dotted with eerie ruins of long-abandoned army barracks. We learn that Frank was a member of a 38-man unit which was hit by intense shelling during the fighting. 37 of the company were trapped underground when their building collapsed upon them; Frank was the only one to avoid being entombed. Knowing he should have gone to get help for his trapped comrades, he instead panicked and refused to go out into the open in search of assistance. By the time reinforcements arrived, the 37 buried men had suffocated to death and Frank was the sole survivor of the incident. Whilst returning to the scene of the disaster, Frank becomes increasingly obsessed with the idea that somehow he cheated fate all those years ago, that his true destiny was either to save his friends or to die alongside them. Sensing that their ghosts still prowl the ruined compound in search of some kind of closure, he decides he must find a way to put right his wrong… or die trying.

The setting of the story – a ruined military compound with jungle encroaching on all sides, overgrown parade grounds, smashed and windowless buildings, echoing deserted corridors – is actually very good. It lends the film a tangible atmosphere of gloom and eeriness. Plus the plot itself, exploring how one man carries 20 years of guilt and despair around with him in the wake of a fatal mistake, has plenty of potential. Unfortunately, the film makes nothing of its opportunities. As Frank wanders around the dark corridors of the abandoned fortress, chasing ghostly footsteps and the unseen spirits of his long-dead comrades, there are many moments where a 'jump' cut should have been used: the sudden appearance of a ghostly face, a spectral hand on the shoulder, a fleeting phantom materialising from the shadows, anything really which would have set one's nerves a-jitter. But almost every opportunity to give the audience a good, old-fashioned shock comes to naught. The whole film meanders along tediously, failing time and again to deliver the goods despite solid build-up work. I loathe remakes on the whole, but if ever a film needed remaking it's this one – there are sufficient good ideas here to warrant a new and improved version of the same tale. The handling lets things down badly; Fortress Of The Dead could have been a good movie, but the fact is that it falls frustratingly short.

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