27 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Spiderhole (2010)
The Unamazing Spiderhole
17 February 2012
An implausible yet intriguing set up is fatally undermined by a terrible script and plot holes you could drive a stolen VW van through.

Because the actors have no decent lines they all resort to shouting and gurning, which the director allows them to do. Presumably because he was trying to deflect attention away from the absurd plot developments which spoil what could have been a decent British attempt at the torture porn genre.

If that's what floats your boat then you might still get something out of it. Personally, I prefer my horror to be frightening as opposed to merely repellent.
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Not brilliant but not trash
9 July 2011
If you can get past the bargain basement costumes and sets, there's the germ of an interesting story here. The premise - an elite team heads to a remote planet to investigate a series of deaths - is a good one; so much so in fact that you wonder why more sci-fi films haven't used it. Admittedly the plot does then develop along predictable lines but some thought at least was given to dreaming up an unusual monster and there's perhaps more science than you'd expect from such a cheapo production. The alien landscape is pretty good too and shows what can be achieved with a red filter, a smoke machine and a bit of imagination.

On the downside, the aforementioned sets and costumes are pretty laughable: everything is red or white, or red and white. Some of the acting is pretty shocking too, although it must be said they don't have much to work with. The last half hour drags pretty badly, after a sprightly opening.

So, in summary, certainly no classic but not a total waste of time either.
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The Way (I) (2010)
Simple but engaging road movie
21 February 2011
Like most road movies, this is as much about the characters' inward journey as it is about getting from A to B. At times it is too sentimental for my taste and some of the encounters seem rather artificial. But it has considerable warmth, humanity and good humour.

I saw this at the BFI in London at a screening attended by Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen. They are very proud of their film and it obviously means a lot to them, as father and son. They came across as intelligent and socially aware people, which was great to see.

During the discussion, a member of the audience pointed out the parallels with "The Wizard of Oz", something which I confess escaped me while the film was on but seemed perfectly obvious when I heard it. So watch out for that if you see the movie, and also look out for a cameo by Matt Clark, veteran character actor and, apparently, good friend of MArtin Sheen.
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Basement (2010)
The worst film of 2010
22 November 2010
I don't know why I do it to myself, I really don't. This is unquestionably the worst film I've seen this, or possibly any, year.

The acting is appalling, the dialogue is worse (see 'memorable quotes' for some examples I have added), the direction is amateurish (the opening scene between Danny Dyer and his Mum is so badly framed that half her face is missing) and the sets are worse than Dr Who c. 1989. It really has to be seen to be believed - but don't. Take my word for it.

It kind of sums the film up that they spell the leading lady's name incorrectly in the trailer.
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Fulci's best-ever 'pensioners in titty bar' movie
5 March 2010
Pretty decent stab at an erotic thriller from the Goremeister General. It's all the things you would want: stylish, sexy, and gripping. It's also crisply shot and has an excellent Riz Ortolani score. Again, the dubbing is pretty ropey but if, by this point, you're seeking out some of Fulci's lesser-known works then it's safe to assume you've made your peace with this constant problem.

Marissa Mell is great as the femme fatale and Elsa Martinelli is cool and chic as the devoted mistress who, despite herself, can't stop believing in her man. In fact, the female performances are much stronger than the men, probably because Jean Sorel doesn't have much to do except wander around with his shirt off, looking bewildered.

Great photography of San Francisco, looking as good - if not better - than in BULLITT. There's also a fine cameo from Jean Sobieski, for connoisseurs of louche photographers in movies.

The only real problem is that the film isn't quite gripping enough. The premise is set up well in the first half hour or so, and the suspense and mystery sustained during the kinky interludes in the middle, but all is revealed through a clumsy expository scene with about 20 minutes remaining and after that it runs out of steam.

Well worth a look though.

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Confucius say "Meh"
26 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
There's nothing really wrong with this movie that isn't wrong with most spaghetti westerns; that is to say, most spaghetti westerns that weren't made by the giants of the genre. It has the requisite brooding hero, the sadistic villain, the grotesque supporting characters, atrocious dubbed performances and inventive violence in all the rights places.

And that is really what the main problem is with this film: it's entirely by-the-numbers film-making. Now, depending on your view of Lucio Fulci he is either the grand old man of Italian exploitation cinema or a cynical old hack who jumped on whatever bandwagon happened to be rolling by at the time. In my opinion, there is too little originality and invention in his films to take anything other than the latter view.

He was wasn't without talent: there are a number of individual shots in Massacre Time that have great quality. For example, there is a shot of a deserted, early-morning Laramie City, just before Tom and Jeff ride through en route to Scott's ranch, that has a beautiful but eerie quality. But moments such as that are few and far between. They are swamped by lazy scenes and plotting.

For instance, Tom is beaten and humiliated by Junior who handles his whip as if it is an extension of his hand, so skillful that he can whip a wineskin out of someone's hand and transfer it to his own - while on horseback. And yet, when the final confrontation takes place he acts as if he has never been in a fight before and prefers to use his gun rather than his whip.

There are plot holes all over the place too. Why, if he is such a skilled gunman, is Jeff an alcoholic bum? He is able to kill six men with his rifle on horseback before they even manage to get a shot off. Surely he could have handled the problems in Laramie better and more quickly than his seemingly less talented 'brother'? Anyway, no-one watches a spaghetti western for the water-tight plotting and coherent storyline. Which is probably why so many of them are sub-standard. But this one is always watchable, even though it has many flaws. The theme song is quite good too.

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Better than Newman thinks ...
30 December 2009
Okay, it's not great but it's no worse than numerous other Biblical epics - so I'm puzzled as to why Newman was so scornful of it. Maybe he was just dissatisfied with his performance; as well he might be because he is pretty wooden.

If you can get past the jarring American accents delivering some, at times, solemnly stilted dialogue there is much to enjoy. For starters, Palance is terrific as Simon Magus - by turns cynical, insolent, proud and ultimately messianic. Then there are the remarkable sets; in many Biblical epics everything looks ancient, as if cities two thousand years ago never looked modern, clean or impressive. Not here, the sets and structures are often quite mesmerising in their modernity - very unusual for a film of this type and era. There is also fun to be had in spotting the faces in the supporting cast: Joseph Wiseman, Lorne Greene, E. G. Marshall, Michael Pate, plus Sam Peckinpah-alumni Albert Dekker and Strother Martin. Not to mention the beautiful young Natalie Wood.

So give it a try - the widescreen DVD looks great. Why not have a 'Pier Angeli Night' and do a double-bill with SODOM AND GOMORRAH?
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The Road (I) (2009)
Faithful adaptation that still offers something new
19 October 2009
Just got back from seeing THE ROAD.

I had been very impressed by the novel and was concerned about how it would be adapted. The tone of the novel is almost unremittingly bleak and a 100% faithful adaptation would be very difficult to watch.

I'm happy to report that the film is very good indeed. It solves the problem of being unendurably depressing by concentrating on the emotional impact of the unspecified Armageddon, rather than the day to day fight for food, shelter and so on. So while at times it remains very upsetting it is shot through with hope rather than despair. I always felt the end of the novel was somewhat out of kilter with the rest of it but in the film it seems quite appropriate.

I think the film is more about the collapse of civility rather than civilization: for a film that shows the last remnants of mankind struggling to eke out an existence it is remarkably concerned with relationships. That's probably why the exact cause of the catastrophe is left blank: the film isn't really about the end of the world so much as the end of society. It's an interesting companion piece to NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN in which an ageing man sees nothing but horror in the modern world. In THE ROAD a man convinces himself, for the sake of his son, that humanity will abide even in the face of appalling conditions.
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The best diamond-smuggling,'60s Brit music B-picture ever!
31 October 2004
You're unlikely to come across this movie unless you're a) a big fan of the Small Faces, b) a connoisseur of British B-pictures, or c) an insomniac. However, should an opportunity to see DATELINE DIAMONDS present itself to you, there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half, such as watching Birmingham City FC.

The plot manages to encompass diamond smuggling, '60s music, international police co-operation, safe-cracking, pirate radio, and the frantic plugging of as many different bands as the running time would permit.

There is the customary fun to be had spotting various British actors and actresses although I, as a David Hemmings fan, was disappointed to discover he wasn't in it (unless it was literally a blink-and-you'll-miss-him appearance). There is also quite a well detailed sequence where the chief bounder breaks into a safe in, where else, Hatton Garden.
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One for Margheriti completists only
12 October 2004
There are artists (like Argento)and there are hacks (like Bruno Mattei) and inbetween there are pros like Antonio Margheriti. He could turn out quite competent movies which, although lacking in originality, have a certain verve. This one develops more along the lines of an Agatha Christie effort than anything else, eschewing as it does the supernatural elements of the ostensibly similar SUSPIRIA.

I wouldn't bother with the cut version as it has been trimmed of almost all the nudity and violence, which are pretty much what one watches these things for. What remains are the performances: Michael Rennie fans should beware as he is barely in it, but there is a great (dubbed) turn from Lorenza Guerrieri as Jill, a hyper-imaginative pupil.

For Margheriti fans, I would place this among his dreary late-60s efforts - nowhere near the Gothic elegance of DANSE MACABRE or VIRGIN OF NUREMBERG, and neither coming close to the simple joie de vivre of his 80s movies with David Warbeck.
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delirious ... and not in a good way
12 November 2003
This utterly bizarre film is the closest you'll get to the Jess Franco experience without actually watching one of Franco's efforts. This is made even more remarkable by the fact that it does have a pretty starry cast, and not old has beens like Franco feels obliged to work with. The songs are truly awful although anyone who can get the word "meretriciously" into a lyric can't be all bad.
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they'll bore you to death
5 November 2003
The fourth and least of the Blind Dead series this is for the most part shoddily directed, scripted and acted. The the performances are flat, some of the dialogue makes no sense, the 'action' non-existent, and the continuity is appalling. In one sequence our heroes flee their house in darkness and are chased along the beach by the Blind Dead in what appears to be broad daylight. And yet De Ossorio still manages to create some atmosphere, particularly in the scenes with the hostile villagers - something of the tension of being an unwanted visitor in a small community has definitely been captured. The Blind Dead look pretty good too, not unlike the Ring Wraiths in Lord of the Rings. Theire familiar slow-motion moving style is quite effective, at least while they're on horseback. However, when they attack the doctor's house in a Straw Dogs/Night of the Living Dead-type sequence they cease to be quite so scary. Overall, I'd suggest you see this only if you've seen the first three, or are a big De Ossorio fan, and then only for sake of completeness.
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deeply conservative rubbish
29 October 2003
It is quite a common occurrence for horror/gore movies to have an underlying right-wing bias and Island of Death is no exception. Among the victims in this film are: an artist, two homosexuals, a black man, a middle-aged nymphomaniac, and a lesbian junkie. Some of these are minority groups that regularly come under attack in the West because they are seen as threats to the established order of society. Particularly vehement in their condemnation of 'outsiders' like these is the church, so it is fitting perhaps that the murderous force here is a religious maniac, who is not averse to a bit of bestiality but cannot abide blasphemy. The film posits a world where those who are different will meet with violent deaths but at the same time shows the killer to be a bigot who is more perverted than those whom he seeks to kill. All this of course is to imbue the film with a subtext which it scarcely deserves since the film's raison d'être is simply to catalogue as many gruesome practices as it can cram in to the running time. This it does adequately enough despite being saddled with an atrocious performance from the murderer's sister/girlfriend and an absurd soundtrack composed of ominous synth murmurings and a recurring folk song motif.
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worth a look
29 October 2003
I can see why this film was not a success at the box-office. For a thriller, it is far too talky and at times the plot unfolds purely through scenes of conversational exposition. There are no chases, no shootouts, and only the briefest of sex scenes and courtroom sequences. The reason is because the film is concerned solely with character. Even the film's supposed theme, that of corruption infecting everybody (even down to O'Toole's teacher sister), is only half-heartedly dealt with. There has been speculation that the play upon which the screenplay is based was inspired by Arthur Miller's relationship with Marilyn Monroe and this is an interesting consideration. Angela is a frustrating character although not without charm. O'Toole certainly falls for her in a big way and I suspect that might be the reason this got termed a film noir. Sometimes you wonder just how much effort the critics put in. Yes, a cursory scan of the plot would reveal the elements of a noir: private investigator, mysterious seductress, murder, corruption - but watching the film it feels less like a noir and more like one of those small town dramas, like Gene Hackman made in the 1980s, such as TWICE IN A LIFETIME or FULL MOON IN BLUE WATER. And the gang of church-building bikers, led by cinema's favourite fruitcakes Patton and Wilhoite, seems to have wandered in from an entirely different movie. That said a script by Miller will undoubtedly give up some fantastic dialogue, which is definitely the case here. You can tell the guy's pedigree as even some of the throwaway lines are beautifully written.
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Ravagers (1979)
That tin of dog food belongs to me!
29 October 2003
There are plenty of good ideas here but they are betrayed by lacklustre direction. There is something about these 'last men on Earth' movies that I really enjoy and I am not sure exactly what it is. In common with THE OMEGA MAN and MAD MAX 2, this film posits a future in which a handful of people seem unaffected by that which has wiped out most of the world's population. This is never explained here but it is hinted that a massive global conflict, presumably nuclear, has finished virtually everyone off. It is said that the seas are poisoned and that nothing can grow on land. This gives every opportunity for scenes of scavenging for food and the joy of discovering a couple of unopened tins of peach slices. Unlike NIGHT OF THE COMET and DAWN OF THE DEAD, the holocaust happened many years in the past and thus we have no scenes of glorious looting in deserted shopping precincts. In fact it has been so long that the initial despair has worn off and a new lifestyle has developed. So much so that there are hints of a new mythology: unconnected groups of people all speak of 'Genesis' a place where fish swim in the rivers and fruit grows on the trees. Thinking about it, there is plenty of religious allusion in this film, all the way up to the somewhat abrupt ending.
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East Lynne (I) (1913)
early Merchant/Ivory-style melodrama
29 October 2003
I saw this film some years ago as part of an MA course. Stylistically it marked something of an improvement from others we had seen previously and some of the visuals were quite stunning; in fact they put me in mind of the heritage cinema of today, with lyrical shots of meadows and angelic looking characters, particularly women. Also like todays heritage cinema the film was based on a bestseller of the time, which I believe has been filmed several times before and since. It may have been a bestseller but I doubt that it was up to the standard of, say, E. M. Forster because the story was slight and full of coincidences driving the action - such as it was. The acting style was still influenced greatly by stage acting and in most cases comes across as hammy.
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there's no vampires in it
5 January 2003
Despite my print being in Spanish (a language I don't speak) I quite enjoyed this early, non-horror outing from Franco until about half way through when it suddenly lurched into a comedy-thriller narrative. Up to that point it had been a quite amusing romantic comedy based around the last days of silent cinema: the performances were engaging and the frequent musical numbers pretty (especially the one at the guest house for musicians). There is an interesting moment when newspaper headlines proclaim the advent of talkies and the death of silents, which sees the main characters become destitute overnight. This could have been developed into an intriguing plotline, dealing with an often ignored period of cinema history but, Franco being Franco, he decides to up the ante and take the film into a whole new, almost entirely unconnected, area. It then becomes a pretty lame rip-off of SOME LIKE IT HOT, made the previous year. Never one to miss a trick Franco has made them not only cross-dressers but black impersonators too, piling bad taste on to bad taste. Naturally the film has nothing to do with vampires, except for the pre-credits scene showing a film being made, where one the actors wears a set of false vampire fangs.
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There Was a Little Boy (1993 TV Movie)
TV movie with a difference
4 January 2003
Films like this generally personify for me everything that is wrong with TV movies. They take a situation, usually with a high emotional content, and milk it for as much as it is worth. The emotion arises more out of the narrative rather than anything the actors do or say. This, however, is different.

The opening sequence, showing the kidnap of the baby, is well-handled and sets up what is essentially a mystery that has to be solved. There is a real sense of loss and bewilderment. The action then springs forward fifteen years and we see Shepherd in the school where she teaches. These school scenes are also done well; aside from the fact that she is a teacher of English, as is always the case when movie deal with teachers, the film avoids the usual cliches. She has the respect of most, but not all, of the kids and the school itself is a mix of the rough and the smooth.

The scenes are intercut with the progress of the couple in their search for the child. Greg is much more intense in his desire to keep going as he feels he was ultimately responsible for the loss, although in a later scene Shepherd's character confesses she feels it was really her fault. Basically there are powerful emotions at work here and although we guess early on who her child is there is much work to be done before the final resolution.

The acting is the real reason to watch this movie. The film belongs to Cybill Shepherd and she does very well, particularly convincing in the classroom sequences. John Heard, who can do this sort of thing in his sleep, works like the true professional he is.
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watchable ... just
4 January 2003
This starts off very badly, even while the credits are rolling: neon pink lettering over a holiday brochure shot of an exotic location. Things pick up slightly in the opening sequence where Kristofferson resolves a siege situation by throwing a small boy out of a 10th floor window. This gives some indication that while, on the whole, the script is not up to much, at least there is some evidence of an imagination at work.

What I mean is the plot does take some unexpected turns and never quite decides about the fate of Adam and what punishment he deserves. Some of the violence is quite graphic for a film which feels as if it was made for showing on television in the afternoon and the sex is also more than you would expect for a film of this nature.
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Used Cars (1980)
4 January 2003
******************SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!******************************

There are not many American films made any more which are as inherently cynical and as satirical as this. I know Rudy gives up his chance of becoming Senator to help Barbara but the last image we see is him giving the spiel to an old woman. The makers knew they wouldn't be able to get away with making a film which didn't have some sort of phoney closure so they stuck in the big finale, but they mean for us to be aware of Rudy's true identity; once a hustler, always a hustler.

It is also incredibly funny, packed with incidental pleasures as well as the foregrounded plot. In many ways the film could have been improved if they had just concentrated on the machinations of the rival dealerships but I think the film did need something more concrete to hang the narrative on. The last half an hour is a little disappointing but given that the preceding hour and a bit was so good, one can forgive them this.

There are so many things to mention I think I'll just list a few: Toby the dog, the two guerilla broadcasters, Rudy's first commercial, Jeff conning a customer into thinking he has killed the dog. There are so many great moments I can't think why this film isn't better known than it is.
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The Swordsman (1974)
Better than Big Zapper
4 January 2003
A definite improvement on the first movie, this jettisons most of the zany action and lame attempts at humour in favour of a more straightforward approach. They have also dropped the crude emphasis on titillation , although there is a smattering of dolly birds knocking about. A major plus is the introduction of a decent adversary in the form of Alan Lake, a quite charismatic actor who bears a striking resemblance to the young John Belushi. Because his character works so well and is interesting he can be afforded more screen time than was the case in the first movie. This takes the emphasis off the weak Marlowe, whose one-note performance as Zapper lets the film down. In the first movie she seemed understated compared to Gary Hope but next to Alan Lake in this film she simply appears less talented. Again, though, the supporting cast is very poor. The film opens well with an intriguing scene detailing a modern day duel;, however, the scene also introduces a note of mercy in Lake's character that is not present for the rest of the film. The scene makes good use of the British countryside like other films of this period (say EXPOSE or WITCHFINDER GENERAL) suggesting murky goings on in a tranquil, pastoral setting. While there is evidence, then, of a reasonable intelligence at work here, Shonteff lets himself down with a poor command of technical know-how. The camera work is poor, the editing is dreadful and the special effects are ropey to say the least.
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Wild Rovers (1971)
a little-seen gem
4 January 2003
This is not a film about which you hear a great deal, which is a shame because it is one of the most enjoyable westerns I have seen for a long time. I think the problem lies in the fact that it tries to be too many different things and cover too many bases. It is funny, but not as funny as BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID; it is elegaic, but not as elegaic as PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID; it is violent, but not as violent as THE WILD BUNCH; and it is beautiful, but not as beautiful as JEREMIAH JOHNSON.

It may sound odd but the film it most resembles, in as much as it combines all these elements, is THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT. We have a mismatched pairing of a wise man and a headstrong youth who combine to pull off a major robbery. They are pursued relentlessly by an almost psychotic adversary. They meet a tragic end. This may sound like high praise and indeed it should because this is a fine movie and I never thought I'd say that about a Blake Edwards movie.

There are moments within this film which you rarely get in a run of the mill western. For instance I never see a western which deals so well with the equivocal relationship between a cowboy and animals. This film is full of them: sheep, cows, horses, mules, cougars, cats and dogs. And not just in passing either. All the best westerns have a snowbound sequence but not many of them combine it with a horse-breaking scene, as this movie does to breathtaking effect.
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One damned day in the afternoon ... I watched this movie
4 January 2003
As with most of the follow-ups to DJANGO this bears all the signs of having been tampered with in post-production in order to accommodate the most tenuous of links to that successful series. In this case, however, the makers have decided to double their money, or hedge their bets, depending on which way you look at it, by attempting to cash in on not one but two series. Not having seen any Sartana movies I cannot comment on how well this has been accomplished but in the case of Django I have to say it bears little resemblance to Fulci's DJANGO THE RUNNER let alone Corbucci's original. I spent most of the film under the impression that the man in black would turn out to be Sartana but in fact he was Django and the most spurious of reasons was given for making Sheriff Ronson that Sartana character.

That aside what was the film like in itself? Well there was almost nothing about it to mark it in any way unusual. All the customary genre cliches were in place, with a few added touches to put it down as a shoddy spaghetti western: leering close ups, sweaty villains, sporadic violence, rudimentary characterisation, and so on. Unfortunately there was none of the sub-genre's visual flair to take your mind off the banality of the plot.
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enjoyably rambling
4 January 2003
More than anything this resembles a spaghetti western updated to a different, more modern, period setting. In as much as it follows the picaresque adventures of three bickering travelling companions in a search for treasure against a background of war it is strikingly similar to parts of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. In addition it has a typically Italian soundtrack from Ennio Morricone and uses breathtaking landscapes to good effect. Unlike that film, however, this has no clear sense of what it is or even what it would like to be. There are elements of the war film, there are certainly moments of broad comedy, a dash of romance, and, towards the end a touch of tragedy. While none of these go to make it a coherent narrative, and there is precious little plot to speak of, they combine to form a diverting film which goes nowhere in particular. It also put me in mind of Argento's LE CINQUE GIORNATE although the attempts at social commentary in Festa's effort are slighter. He deals well with the struggle of peasant people and indeed soldiers to find food during wartime, a theme which runs throughout the movie. To his credit Festa does manage to extract a less-mannered than usual performance out of Steiger. This was the first film of Lisi's that I had seen and while she makes an impression as the feisty Ada I couldn't say that she was in the same league as Claudia Cardinale. Umberto Orsini is okay as the soldier but perhaps overplays the 'stupid but loveable' angle. Perhaps the best moments involve a lazy donkey, including some great scenes where Lisi tries to get it to drag the other two along in a giant barrell!
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run of the mill but efficient
4 January 2003
Strictly run-of-the-mill British crime yarn which exerts its own modest charm. Booth is actually quite charismatic and gets across the world weary nature of the long distance lorry driver. We get intriguing glimpses of the lay-bys and cafes these men exist in but it is never really dealt with is any depth. The same is true of the underworld; there are indications that operations are run by an intelligent middle class men who employ no hope working class men to carry things out. The gang includes one black member whose race is never mentioned. We get a sequence where the girl visits her ex-husband in jail and asks him for information, which he provides, perhaps showing there is no honour among thieves, although the gang seem pretty loyal to their boss. There are hints of a network of criminals and indications that crime among the haulage industry is rife. The film makes good use of its locations and the film only begins to sag when the narrative shifts to Booth's flat where the obligatory love interest takes place.
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