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Two Twisted (2005)
Channel 9 couldn't get this off fast enough
If you liked this series, then well and good, there's stuff I like that people think is crap. But if the truth be told this was a pretty embarrassing affair for all involved. They talk about the talented cast pulled for this, well that's because these people need the work as they are adrift in a sea of reality TV. The scripts were mostly terrible, as was the direction and the acting. 2400 scripts submitted. Did they read them all? I also have to wonder if the executives at Channel 9 sat down to watch any of the episodes before it was broadcast? How depressing it would be to realise you've just invested in another turkey. Then again, it might make its budget back from cable like the first mostly crappy series did. I think the article in The Age said it all.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
A complete massacre
I read here people praising this film. I must say this really does baffle me! Why? Because it is such a bad movie!
Okay, let's forget for a moment that it's a remake (basically in name only) of a well-loved and honored classic. Let's just take the line that this is another horror film pumped out of the dreamfactory by businessmen who have no love of film and certainly no respect for the people who go to watch them and see what we get; TCM 2003 starts with a black & white sequence showing the events leading up to the story the film tells. Now, the film is set in 1974, so why would the footage be black & white and look as though it was shot in the fifties? Then the film starts proper with Daniel Pearl's stunning but highly inappropriate 21st century pop art/video photography (I wonder if he shot Fairy Tales this well?) Then we meet our cast of characters who look, talk, and behave nothing like they would were they living in Texas in the early 1970's. So far so bad! Then comes the hitchhiker sequence with the ridiculous revelation of where the badly traumatized girl keeps the gun. Then the director has his camera zip out the hole in the girl's head and out the shattered window, and you know from there that this is going to be all style over content, in fact, he was so impressed with it that he does the same shot a second time. Then, from the moment the teenagers (cough, cough) decide to head into town and pull up at the service station to ring the police the film was in drastic trouble. First off they go to a place they were never given directions to, the Old Mill, and find it no troubles at all? Then they are introduced to a young boy whose character is solely in the film to help out with a few dodgy plot points. Then they go to the massive house on the hill, which looks like a Chinese laundry there are so many sheets hanging on the line. Why? Simply for visual effect!
Characters are introduced but make no sense. And on it goes; they meet a sheriff who is so obviously a nutcase, although he does have a nasty sense of humour, which I liked, even though R. Lee. Ermey was miscast, as he's played the same character way too many times. Then Leatherface is introduced, and would have to be the lamest introductions in cinema history. Then when Jessica Biel escapes, after the ridiculous crap going on in the basement, she ends up at a caravan inhabited by two women and a baby. Now, from the moment we meet these two new characters we know who and what they are, but this still doesn't explain how they had the drugged tea already to go? And I could go on and on pointing out bad plot point after bad plot point, all the way to the less than stunning denouement.
In summary: The acting was bad, the directing was worse, and the script was vile. The productions only redeeming factor was Daniel Pearl's photography, but even that was used in the wrong film. Where was Daniel Pearl when they were shooting Wrong Turn? Which was a fairly decent horror flick that definitely could have used a bit of inspiration in the photography department. Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good horror film with a nasty streak of black humour and TCM 2003 had that nasty streak all right but cocked everything else up in the process.
As a horror film TCM 2003 sucks. As a part of a legend it sucks even more. In my opinion most genre films today are absolutely woeful. Certainly anything made by Steven Summers, Roland Emmerich and or Michael Bay are huge piles of puss. The only trouble is their films, like TCM 2003, continue to make money.
Dawn of the Dead shows how real filmmakers re-image a classic. Now, do you think it is too much to expect that the new versions of The Hills Have Eyes & 2001 Maniacs (which should really be called 2004 Maniacs?) will be any good? Yah never know, but I doubt it.
Britannia Hospital (1982)
Life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel!
"The absurdities of human behaviour as we move into the Twenty-first Century are too extreme - and too dangerous - to permit us the luxury of sentimentalism or tears. But by looking at humanity objectively and without indulgence, we may hope to save it. Laughter can help." Lindsay Anderson
Britannia Hospital, an allegory for what was transpiring in England at the time, was released in 1982, and is the final part of Lindsay Anderson's brilliant lose trilogy of films that follow the adventures of Mick Travis as he travels through a strange and sometimes surreal Britain. From his days at boarding school in If.... (1968) to his journey from coffee salesman to film star in O Lucky Man (1972), Travis' adventures finally come to an end in Britannia Hospital which sees Mick as an investigative reporter investigating the bizarre activities of Professor Miller, played by the always interesting Graham Crowden, whom he had had a run in with in O Lucky Man. Checkout the Pig Man scene (This is well before Seinfeld.)
As is usual with an Anderson film the acting, by a top notch cast, most of whom had been in the previous two, is uniformly good. It is professionally shot by Mike Fash, although his work doesn't have the same feel to it that Miroslav Ondricek brought to the proceeding instalments, and is well produced. All three films have recurring characters from each. Some of the characters from If...., that didn't turn up in O Lucky Man, returned for Britannia Hospital. The film was lambasted by the English critics on release, although Dilys Powell listed it as one of the films of the year.
From its opening scene where an elderly patient is left to die on a gurney to its final revelatory scene of Miller unveiling his greatest scientific achievement, the film is choc full of surprises. One character is played by a dwarf and another by a man in drag. Yet one of the more pleasant surprises is the performance of Robin Askwith as Ben Keating, the school bully from If...., Askwith's film debut. Keating has organised a strike by the kitchen staff in retaliation for Potter ordering sixty-five ambassador class lunches from Furtnums. Askwith handles his role with skill, making Keating quite a likable character.
Over the years Britannia Hospital, as with the other two, has been revaluated and is now considered another classic from the Anderson stable. I, as did Dilys Powell, could have told them this when I first saw it back in '82.
Caligula - misunderstood classic or porno travesty?
`I have existed from the morning of the world and I shall exist until the last star falls from the heavens. Although I have taken the form of Gaius Caligula I am all men as I am no man, and so - I am a God!'
Bob Guccione's Penthouse International invested 17.5 million dollars into the production of Caligula, and in doing so created one of the wildest exploitation films ever made.
The film, which chronicles the terrifying reign of the tyrant Gaius Caligula Caesar, Rome's fourth and most notorious emperor, who ruled from A.D. 37 to A.D. 41, took eleven months to film and attracted a multitude of talented artists into its creative team. These included renowned novelist, essayist, playwright and historian Gore Vidal, who wrote the initial screenplay the final film was based on, and Danilo Donati, four time Academy award winning designer, and frequent Fellini collaborator, who created the lavish sets, 64 all up, and costumes. The Emperor himself had 26 costume changes alone. 3,592 costumes in all were created. Actors of the calibre and stature of Malcolm McDowell, Sir John Gielgud, Helen Mirren and Peter O'Toole flew to Rome for what promised to be one hell of an experience, and it proved to be just that.
Ever since its release in 1979 Caligula has been resoundly lambasted by not only the critics but by most of the participants in the production. It is well known that the production of the film degenerated into a huge slagging match between the main talents and the money men and that the director, Tinto Brass, was removed from the production after he had edited the first twenty minutes of the film. The rest of the film was edited by Guccione and a freelance editor, and if you look at the film from the moment when dawn arrives and all the freaks awake in Tiberius' grotto, they had no idea what they were doing. They probably even used the wrong takes most of the time. The blame for the films failure has been placed mainly at the feet of Brass. Brass reportedly used three to five cameras all rolling at the same time to capture the action. This was one of the reasons used by Penthouse to fire him. They claimed that he wasted film shooting this way. Yet, if you look at the first twenty minutes the film is a sharply edited piece of work, excluding the opening sequence in the forest, which is pretty dire, and which probably was never shot to open the film anyway. It's a shame Brass wasn't left in control, as I believe he would have produced an intelligent movie. Sure, it wasn't going to be the erotic/todger pulling classic Guccione wanted, but who cares. One of the really bad aspects of the film are the stupid porno inserts featuring the pets. I believe Brass was on his way to creating a masterpiece, well, maybe not, but certainly a film of much merit. Piernico Solinas, author of The Ultimate Porno: The Making of a sex Colossal, certainly believed this to be true. It would be interesting to see the film totally re-edited from start to finish again. There is certainly a lot of footage that was shot that never ended up in the final cut.
Caligula is an easy film to knock. People don't like it because of its frankness. People claim it is badly acted. People claim it is badly written. People claim it is badly photographed. People claim it is just bad. Well they are wrong. What it is is a prime example of how to ruin a film in the editing stage. Anyone claiming it to be badly photographed need look no further than the Dutch Filmworks release of it on DVD. This is a beautiful, not completely blemish free, print that shows just how well filmed Caligula was. It is far superior to the Penthouse DVD. Sure, Caligula is not a perfect film, and sure it is in your face filmmaking, but at least the filmmakers had the guts to make something different, something challenging. What went wrong with Caligula was that there were too many chiefs. What Caligula was was a brave and interesting experiment that didn't quite come off. Caligula could have been powerful, intelligent and stunning. Instead, it is one of the best exploitation films ever made. And, anyway, who could hate a movie that has a giant head lopping machine in it.
Addio fratello crudele (1971)
Incest, splatter and a young Charlotte Rampling.
Family drama concerning the love of a brother, Giovani, for his sister, Annabella. At first Giovanni tries to reject his feelings but through the efforts of Annabella he soon finds himself in her arms and her in his bed. Unfortunately Annabella is promised to wed Soranzo by her father, and as with all great sagas of love and lust, revenge soon raises its ugly head as the sordid saga heads towards its bloody finale.
This is one of the great unknown treasures of cult cinema. I'm looking forward to when an appreciating audience finds this challenging Italian costume drama and it is given the DVD SE treatment it deserves. This fabulous movie, based upon the stage play by John Ford, is directed with an eye for the beautiful, bizarre and tragic by director Giuseppe Patroni Griffi, stunningly photographed by Vitorrio Storaro, beautifully scored by the great Ennio Morricone, and contains ravishing costumes, authentic locations and stunning sets, not forgetting muscle bound men, buxom women and Charlotte Rampling looking absolutely gorgeous.
This is the kind of film Jess Franco would have made if he had any talent. Indeed, for anyone who enjoys cult movies and/or Italian/European trash cinema of the late sixties/seventies this film offers it all. The ending is a corker, one that the makers of Caligula would be envious of.
NB: Tis Pity She's a Whore was released to video by Redemption in the UK in the mid nineties. Wisely they chose to release it in widescreen and used a nice print. No longer available.