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Doc says I'm better now, I'm free to roam in society again :-)
Me? Middle aged British punker who is heavily in love with anything punk related circa 1976 - 1982. Film fanatic who indulges in any genre of film but specialises in film-noir, westerns, war and big - bold - historical epics.
I like writing reviews, even having some published in British newspapers and I have received nice emails from people associated with films that I have reviewed. While my mantra here is quite simply lets be here to learn and share.
The Director Titans
Alfred Hitchcock Robert Aldrich Anthony Mann Sam Peckinpah Jacques Tourneur
The Director Gods
John Ford Budd Boetticher Robert Siodmak Billy Wilder Joseph Losey
The Director Royalty
Edward Dmytryk Nicholas Ray Fritz Lang John Sturges John Carpenter
The Director Gurus
Preston Sturges Frank Capra Howard Hawks Marcel Varnel Carol Reed
Modern Director Legends In Waiting
David Fincher Michael Mann
Stay Cool Peeps, See You On The Boards.
100 Rifles (1969)
Rifles or Trifles?
100 Rifles is directed by Tom Gries and Gries adapts to screenplay with Clair Huffaker from Robert MacLeod's novel The Californio. It stars Burt Reynolds, Jim Brown, Raquel Welch, Fernando Lamas and Dan O'Herlihy. Music is by Jerry Goldsmith and cinematography by Cecilio Paniagua.
Arizona lawman Lydecker (Brown) travels into Mexico to arrest bank robber Yaqui Joe Herrera (Reynolds), and lands in the middle of a war between the Yaquis and the Mexican army.
A good blood pumping Oater feasting on Spaghetti leanings, 100 Rifles boasts star appeal coupled with exciting genre staples. Filmed in Almeria in Spain, pic doesn't lack for smooth on the eyes locations either. The dialogue is a mixture of cheese and the philosophical, but it sits well in the production. It's strong on violence, with a number of action sequences very well constructed, while it has a cheeky glint in its eye and for sure is sexy into the bargain. OK, so the cast aren't exactly pulling up any trees, but they are fun to watch as we take in weasel villains and lovable rogues.
Good time to be had here. 7/10
Highway Dragnet (1954)
Rock It Baby!
Highway Dragnet is directed by Nathan Juran and written by Herb Meadow, U.S.Anderson, Roger Corman and Jerome Odlum. It stars Richard Conte, Joan Bennett, Wanda Hendrix and Reed Hadley. Music is by Edward J. Kay and cinematography by John J. Martin.
All I did was buy her a drink. One drink, and for 65 cents I bought a martini mixed with dynamite!
Though indexed in some sources as film noir, this barely resonates as such. It is basically a man on the lam picture, where Conte is wrongly accused of murder and has to go on the run to escape police arrest. He hitches with two gals, who start to become wary of their newly acquired companion. So, we have cops trying to capture their target, with near misses and with Reed "The Voice" Hadley heading up the dragnet operation, whilst there's the mystery element of who is the killer hanging in the air. Cast are fine and the production is standard fare, the finale at least serves up an atmospheric locale, and there's some decent snatches of dialogue. But really it's average at best and not one to seek out as a matter of urgency. 5/10
1408 is based on one of horror writer Stephen King's short stories. It stars John Cusack as a supernatural investigator who rents room 1408 at The Hotel Dolphin in New York. It is said to be a most haunted room and the scene of many deaths. He soon finds his scepticism tested to the max.
Although it has deep themes of grief et al, this essentially boils down to one man in a room being plagued by psychological and physical attacks, with the intended chills and shocks surreal in presentation. It's all very twisty and big on conundrums, which makes a second viewing something of a necessity, whilst Cusack's performance is also reason to check in for another viewing. However, it's not the scary movie some have lauded it as, in fact it's more fun-house palaver than anything terrifying, but there's no doubting the intelligence and skill of the writing. The mind is a curious, wonderful and troubling thing, and 1408 wants us to know it. 6/10
Rock-a-Bye Baby (1958)
Lewis and Tashlin Open Up Their Cartoon Book.
A loose remake of Preston Sturges' wonderful The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, Rock-a-Bye Baby is safe entertainment for the Jerry Lewis fans. Here he plays Clayton Poole, a small town guy whose childhood sweetheart, Carla Naples (Marilyn Maxwell) is now a big film star. When she finds she is pregnant, the problems it will cause her career prompts her to coerce Clayton into looking after what turns out to be triplets! Much prat-falling and high energy chaos ensues.
As befitting the Tashlin/Lewis combination, it's all very cartoonish in visual presentation. Narratively outside of Lewis' mad-cap rearing of the babies, there's a running thread of Carla's sister, Sandra (Connie Stevens), being hopelessly in love with Clayton - who of course has no idea, while the sentimental strings are pulled as Clayton fights to not lose the kids to a shifty legal guardian.
The musical numbers start to grate on the nerves after a bit, with them feeling like attempts to show off something that isn't there, and the running time is too long to sustain this type of comedy. But once a Lewis fan then always a Lewis fan, with that in mind Rock-a- Bye Baby still has enough fun and frothery to make it above average entertainment. 6.5/10
Il grande silenzio (1968)
For all I know he is the devil.
The Great Silence is directed by Sergio Corbucci and Corbucci co- writes the screenplay with Mario Amendola, Bruno Corbucci and Vittoriano Petrilli. It stars Jean-Louis Trintignant, Klaus Kinski, Frank Wolff, Luigi Pistilli, Vonetta McGee and Mario Brega. Music is by Ennio Morricone and cinematography by Silvano Ippoliti.
Snowhill, Utah - Winter at the turn of the century, and the local villagers have succumbed to thievery purely to survive. But with that comes bounties on their heads, which brings into the area the bounty hunters who are a law unto themselves. Enter the mute gunfighter known as Silence, who has a deep rooted hatred of bounty hunters...
Something of a cult classic and massively popular in Spaghetti Western fan's circles, The Great Silence is as perpetually cold as the snowy landscapes that surround this tale. Death is a financial commodity, greed and corruption stalks the land, while the shades between right and wrong are as blurry as can be. The violence cuts deep, none more so than with the famous finale that closes down the pic with a pneumatic thud. The photography captures the winter scapes perfectly and is in tune with the narrative drive, while maestro Morricone lays a ethereal musical score over proceedings.
There's some daft goofs such as a dead man blinking and manacles that mysterious disappear, and not all the acting is of the standard that Kinski and Wolff provide, but this is one utterly unforgettable bowl of Spaghetti. Its reputation in the pasta circles well deserved. 8/10
Forsaken is directed by Jon Cassar and written by Brad Mirman. It stars Kiefer Sutherland, Donald Sutherland, Brian Cox, Michael Wincott, Aaron Poole and Demi Moore. Music is by Jonathan Goldsmith and cinematography by Rene Ohashi.
There's a group of words bandied around for this one such as generic, cliché and formulaic, and most assuredly these can not be argued about. For this is very much an old style traditional Western, the plot featuring a retired gunslinger being pushed into action again - while he tries to reconcile with his estranged father - is a hard core staple of 1950s Westerns. But what is wrong with having a traditional Western in this day and age as long as it's produced with skill and grace? The answer for Western lovers is nothing at all.
This is a beautifully mounted picture, fronted by father and son Sutherland's - which adds heartfelt emotion to their scenes together - and boosted by gorgeous cinematography (making it a Blu-ray must), it's a genre piece of worth. Crucially it knows what it wants to be, it has no pretence to be anything other than a traditional Oater for lovers of such. The villains are sneery and scenery chewers - apart from Wincott who is a gentleman dandy type - and the good guy is wonderfully broody and reflective. Pacing is fine, the story has good drama and the finale excites as we hope it should.
In summary, nothing new here of course (except maybe Cox's out of place language!), so expectation of such would be foolhardy, but a smashing Western it be. 7/10
Bloody Mama (1970)
Bloody Mama is directed by Roger Corman and written by Don Peters and Robert Thom. It stars Shelley Winters, Bruce Dern, Don Stroud, Robert De Niro, Diane Varsi, Robert Walden and Pat Hingle. Music is by Don Randi and cinematography by John A. Alonzo.
Story is loosely based on the infamous Kate "Ma" Barker, who along with her sons would cause criminal carnage wherever they went.
"I told my boys to just rob banks and stay out of trouble"
Very much coming off like the bastard son of Bonnie and Clyde, Bloody Mama finds Roger Corman on devilish form. He somehow manages to create violence that cuts hard, and yet there's still a pantomime vibe to things. The characters range from a mad matriarch who is a deathgasm addict - to a psychopath - a sadist - a submissive homosexual - a junkie torturer - and a hapless girlfriend, is it any wonder there's murder, robbery and seedy sexual shenanigans going on?! Hell the pic even begins with incestuous rape!
Kiss me Kate!
It's all very chaotic at times, led by a blunderbuss turn from Winters, but just when you think it's going out of control to the point of no return, Corman and his cast pull it back on track. It's often thrilling and unnerving, and with Corman blending newsreel footage of the era with the fact the pic is filmed on location in Arkansas, there's an earthy docu style feel to the tale - even if as a history lesson it's hokey at best.
Not everybody's idea of enjoyment but from that chilling opening to the blood and thunder of the finale, Bloody Mama holds court with shifty glee. 7.5/10
The Jayhawkers! (1959)
The Backwards Napoleon.
The Jayhawkers! is directed by Melvin Frank and Frank shares writing duties with A. I. Bezzerides, Frank Fenton and Joe Petracca. It stars Jeff Chandler, Fess Parker, Nicole Maurey, Henry Silva, Leo Gordon and Frank DeKova. Music is by Jerome Moross and cinematography by Loyal Griggs.
Territory of Kansas . . . Shortly before the Civil War.
In short order form the plot finds Chandler as a driven empire builder Luke Darcy, who is taking advantage of Bleeding Kansas. Insinuating himself into Darcy's gang is Cam Bleeker (Parker), who has a very personal ulterior motive for doing so.
The Ace of Spades!
It's one of those films that has some great literary ideas, with some stoic characterisations and deft hints at the turmoil hitting this part of American history, and yet it never truly delivers on its powerful potential. Action is in short supply so we are very much asked to invest fully in the key players, their motives and drives, reasoning's etc, with the Darcy/Bleeker relationship and the shades of grey holding the attention whilst simultaneously holding the play together.
Love-And-Death. That's everyone's fortune my friend.
Bonus point also are the tactics used by Darcy to build his empire, which coupled with his beliefs - and Bleeker's growing conflicted values (Bromance does that to a guy apparently) - marks it out as a good try at something more deep and meaningful. Filmed in Technicolor/VistaVision, pic looks lovely, but not enough is made of the outdoor locations, while Moross provides a big bold booming score - which is great - it's just in the wrong film as it belongs in a ripper of an action piece.
All told it's a very mixed bag, and stripped down it's a undercover story dressed up in familiar Western attire. It works for those who enjoy well written speeches and simmering tensions/passions, but it's a trick film to recommend with confidence. Oh and serious history buffs should give it a wide berth. 6/10
Hero and the Terror (1988)
Chuck Norris plays cop Danny O'Brien, who finds that a one time serial killing enemy of his has apparently come back from the dead and started killing again.
It's all very cheesy and in truth it's a low grade Norris vehicle. Norris is going through the motions, even portraying a character more softer at heart than what he usually played in the decade. The villain played by Jack O'Halloran is something of a lumbering oak and not very threatening, and once again Norris fans are short changed as per quotient of martial artistry. The big face off at the finale is at least well constructed, thus saving the pic from total stinker status. 4/10
Hell's Half Acre (1954)
Case History of Chet Chester.
Hell's Half Acre is directed by John H. Auer and written by Steve Fisher. It stars Wendell Corey, Evelyn Keyes, Elsa Lanchester, Marie Windsor, Nancy Gates and Leonard Strong. Music is by R. Dale Butts and cinematography by John L. Russell.
Filmed and set in Hawaii, one could be forgiven for thinking this couldn't possibly work as a piece of film noir. In fact, the opening credit sequences lends one to think this could well be a frothy Elvis Presley type of movie - but it most assuredly isn't.
Cash or Cave in?
Story has Corey up to his neck in femme fatales, shifty criminal acquaintances and coppers. Which is not bad for a guy who was apparently killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor! The Hell's Half Acre of the tile is what is termed in the film as a shabby tenement district, this is the seedy underbelly of what we know as the paradise island. The location makes for some excellent atmospheric noir touches, with the production line abodes and the ream of wooden stairs and banisters making for a moody backdrop. At night the shadows come in to play, hanging nicely off of the alleyways and tawdry bars.
Though a little too contrived for its own good, the many characterisations on show make the annoying itches easily scratched. From two-timing dames and thugs in need of anger management - to alcoholic slobs and batty taxi drivers, this has a roll call of colourful people drifting in and out of Hell's Half Acre. There's even some censor baiting going on, though the whiff of violent misogyny could have been less pungent.
Some serious noir credentials are found with the makers, Auer (City That Never Sleeps), Fisher (I Wake Up Screaming), Corey (The Big Knife), Keyes (The Prowler), Windsor (The Narrow Margin), Gates (Suddenly), Lanchester (The Big Clock) and Russell (Moonrise), and that's only really scratching the surface. With its distinctive setting and well controlled unfurling of noir conventions, this is well worth a look by the noir faithful. 7/10