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A Hard Watch, 23 September 2016

This was available on YouTube for a while but is otherwise quite a rare find having been produced for Direct To Video release in the '80's. Director Ray Selfe a largely unsung contributor to the golden age of British exploitation cinema told me that Vincent Price's footage was shot in one day but the budget seems to have stretched to a change of jacket for Mr Price which might have been to boost the production values or Ray may have been mistaken and taken two days to shoot Prices on camera sequences. Apart from VP's presence to tell the history of cinematic horror and in similar fashion to another Ray Selfe production "The Casting Couch" everything else is made up of Public Domain footage from Ray's archive with some stuff from Dick Randall the Producers back catalogue which brings this almost up to date for the time this was made. plus a wild card excerpt from Paul Hart-Wilden's "Horror Film" according to the films credits, which may be "Horrorshow" (1990) from Hart-Wilden's IMDb page. PHW also provided the original story for another Randall epic, "Living Doll". The end credits give 1989 as the copyright date for this but IMDb give 1985 as the production date which seems more likely. Ray also claimed to have been the original , unaccredited, editor on "Friday the 13th" which provides some clips here and suggests some Randall/Spectacular involvement in that not mentioned on IMDb. Which might suggest "Friday the 13th" is actually a British Production!!!

BTW about the same time as this Ray was working on a video release of "Phantom of the Opera" (Chaney) with a music track by Rick Wakeman! another rarity

Sadly Forgotten Topical sketch show, 7 September 2016

As a youngster this was a must see show for me. Now largely unsung and forgotten Bernard Braden was a TV genius who addressed the camera from behind a desk with somewhat satirical humour. His urbane insight into the weeks events made him a genial TV Host. But it was the appearances by Peter Cook in the role of EL Wisty performing surreal comic monologues which were the highlight for me. Before his double act with Dudley Moore hit the screen these pieces by Cook ended up on an LP and I still treasure my copy. The format was refined into a later show called Bradens Week sans Cook but with featured reports from one Esther Rantzen who "adopted" Bradens Format as her own in a show called "Thats Life" which ran for 20 years. With magnificent foresight Braden filmed a number of interviews on colour film with leading lights of the late '60's scene. These were followed up, years after his death with new interviews with the same people amazed at their former selves the result called "Sex Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll: The 60s Revealed" well worth seeking out.

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Relic of a Golden Age, 2 July 2015

This "documentary" was produced in the era of the VHS "sell through" title and tells a lot of well worn tales of a Hollywood for which the parade had long passed by. The production is based on a book of the same name by "Selwyn Ford" a pen name for the team of Derek Ford and Alan Selwyn whose work in the exploitation movie world of 1970's UK has some followers. Their volume covers much the same ground as Kenneth Angers "Hollywood Babylon" books. But as the title suggests the focus is on those whose rise to fame was aided by trading sexual favours for parts. Susan George acts as presenter in the links filmed in a Soho preview theatre basically introducing clips culled from Public Domain titles. Some like Hedy Lamarr's nude debut in a film which her husband attempted to suppress, ultimately unsuccessfully, have a well documented provenance. Others like Joan Crawford's rumoured appearance in a stag film remains unsubstantiated by the clip used here where the identity of the young lady involved is masked by the poor quality of the image. Legend has it that Crawfords rival Bette Davis was the only female star not to provide her favours for advancement. However gossip especially the salacious kind about the gods of the silver screen is always saleable. As a long line of publications like Confidential magazine testify. So thanks to the joy of market research the Producers discovered they could make a profit from a minimal investment and this project was born. The subjects of this film were long gone 20 years ago when this was made so they are probably unknown to modern movie fans of today but if you're a nostalgia nut this is worth seeking out. Kenneth Anger has promised a new volume of "Hollywood Babylon" when the subjects have passed away and therefore cannot sue so maybe an update is due.

Needs a sequel, 27 May 2015

"Mistress Ursula" not as salacious as it might have been the eponymous heroine comes across well in this portrait, which giving her background as a stand up comedian is unsurprising. While success on the stage didn't carry her here the Mistress persona enabled her to earn a living when she relocated to London England shortly after making this. Here she combined her dungeon role with that of actress and model notably in films for "The English Mansion" website where she can be seen in action. While doing all this she pursued higher education and now practise's as a therapist under her real name. So more than a dozen years later it would be interesting to hear of her journey in a sequel/update.

Hex (1969)
Uncompleted Masterwork?, 13 November 2014

The life of anyone associated with Film Production is littered with incomplete projects and this sadly is one of Michel Parry's. The principle photography and editing were carried out but the final stages of post production, sound mix, married print etc were never completed due to financial and technical difficulties that in this digital age could easily be surmounted. The production was touted in the underground newspaper" International Times" and magazines such as "Gothique" dedicated to the arcane in music film and art. On set photos were published of the shoot which took place in the "Roundhouse" a venue in London's Camden Town area converted from a railway building which then as now hosted many music gigs. The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, The Who, The PInk Floyd and the Rolling Stones have all appeared there. At the time that Michel used it as a set it was firmly associated with the cutting edge of psychedelic culture. In the mood of the times the "spirit" of the place would have been considered very potent. Sadly the few pictures that appeared are currently all that is available to judge what might have been. The materials are still extant so its possible that this seminal work might eventually surface. I hope so as the Surreal and Mystical side of Michel which is present in his other works would make this a must see.

Vampyre Lovers (2010) (V)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Erratic or Erotic????, 19 October 2014

The relationship between sex and Vampires has been seen in the movies since Theda Bara strutted her stuff and the Lesbian vamp sub genre is a regular staple of the horror film. "Vampyre Lovers" thus spelt to avoid confusion, or perhaps litigation, with Hammers "Vampire Lovers" may disappoint in comparison with its name sake. Graphic lesbian sex scenes in skimpy costumes and fangs don't provoke the kind of tingles associated withe the Gothic. Artfully the producers have not provided the performers with dialogue so we are spared the embarrassment of an amateur dramatic performance. That said the girls are attractive the action is explicit and as that would seem to be the raison d'être for this form of entertainment it fulfils expectations. Anyone expecting suspense or coherence will be disappointed. More erratic than erotic for my money but each to their own. NB. While IMDb have this as being American it is in fact a British production featuring a roster of UK based girls.

Wet Dreams (1974)
10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Hippy Days, 14 August 2011

The late 60's early 70's were the golden age of amongst other things free love. Jim Haynes who is credited with the idea for this film is an American who had organised two festivals of erotic cinema in Amsterdam in 1971 and 72 called the "Wet Dream" festival . Having moved there from London where he had been involved in what was called "the underground". He is quoted as saying "we are not concerned with pornographic aspects primarily, but with the libertarian concept. It is an attack on paternalism because it asks why people can't see any image they want." The film was intended as an expression of that ideology and is probably of more interest to students of underground, experimental, avant garde, and independent cinema history than those seeking a "party movie". This was originally titled "Dreams of Thirteen" and was intended to have contributions from 13 film artists the linking theme being sex. Portmanteau features made up of thematically linked short films were quite fashionable in Europe at that time, titles like "Paris vu par" and "RoGoPag" which showcased the talents of the new wave spring to mind. However not all of the shorts intended for this were completed and from what I can gather a couple that were finished were not included in any released version, hence the re-title to "Wet Dreams" which relates it to the festivals that spawned it. This film is obscure and hard to find. I managed to catch it in an actual cinema in London's West End when it had a limited run in Britain. It was released as a sex film by a low rent exploitation distributor in the late Seventies not long before video brought an end to the strand of cinema beloved of the "raincoat brigade" and has not been distributed since. Copies on the collectors circuit in the UK come from the VHS release of that time. While being a mixed bag all of the segments are at worst interesting and none overstay their welcome. There is some nudity but no hardcore (at least in the version I saw) despite a contribution from porn legend Lasse Braun. I was mainly drawn to this title by the reputation of contributor Nick Ray, Director of "Rebel Without a Cause" and many other classics. His segment "The Janitor" is the last and most obscure offering, quite rewarding for a completist like myself but possibly a puzzler for others.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
neither gone nor forgotten, 2 December 2010

I am sorry to have missed the BFI show mentioned here but luckily had the opportunity to see the entire series recently.(no I can't get you a copy!) The material does exist so it's really a question of letting the BBC know that there is an audience waiting to see this gem of a series and hoping they can navigate the rights issues to put it out on DVD. If you are familiar with the original books you will know that it spans the years leading up to the outbreak of war and the occupation of Paris following the interlinked lives of a group of people centred around the character of Mathieu a lecturer at the Sorbonne. The TV series condenses and omits some of the incidents in the book, most notably the ending which gives the book a very different slant to the TV series. Some of the adaptation is due to the budget which is obviously limited but also the decision to concentrate on certain characters. The series manages to give a very convincing feeling of the time and location. The real strengths however are the original material and the casting and performances which are note perfect. Others have mentioned the haunting theme delivered beautifully by Georgia Brown which never palls even watching 13 episodes in a row.

9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Jolly good fun, 25 September 2010

I saw this film on its initial release as the lower half of a double bill,I forget what made up the other half as this is the film that impressed me. The star was Bernard Breslaw a popular comic actor at this time as he was one of the troop of conscripts in a TV show called "The Army Game". A show that was loosely based on the classic "Phil Silvers" or "Bilko" show transported to an English setting. Breslaw played Pvt "Popeye" Poppelwell. This show was popular enough to get a Film Version made called " I only Arsked" Popplewell's catchphrase and Breslaw had a hit single with a song called "Mad Passionate Love" delivered in the style of his Popeye character. N.B IMDb only lists him as appearing in two episodes of "The Army Game" but I remember him as one of the main recurring characters.If it was indeed only two episodes he made a hell of an impact as he is fondly remembered by those who recall the series, fifty years later.

I don't think it is giving too much away to say that "The Ugly Duckling" is a comic updating of the Jekyll and Hyde story. Breslaw in Popplewell mode as Henry Jekyll is a pharmacist working in a chemists shop. He discovers the formula for the Mr Hyde solution and is transformed from the idiot Jekyll into the smooth and dashing Teddy Hyde. As the dashing and handsome Hyde dressed in a natty suit he becomes the fearless leader of a gang of crooks. Breslaws performance in the dual role is terrific. Moving from the bumbling incompetent to the suave master criminal with equal conviction.

One thing to note is that the gag of having Hyde as a handsome womaniser pre dates the same idea used in "The Nutty Professor", with Jerry Lewis making a similar transformation, by four years. I have often wondered if Lewis saw this before making his own version.

Sadly this film is unavailable at the time of writing I would welcome a DVD release to re acquaint myself with it.

6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Great Fun! and a whole lot more., 8 July 2010

It would be easy to dismiss this movie as lightweight entertainment however this is a much more interesting film if for no other reason than it is the first pairing of Siegel and Eastwood one of the most interesting partnerships in cinema that between 1968 and 1971 produced four good movies and at least one classic, "Dirty Harry". In this film Clint forged a bridge between his cowboy persona and the contemporary characters that he went on to play. While it was released to theatres the frame compositions look better in 4;3 TV ratio suggesting that like another Siegel film, "The Killers" this was produced with TV in mind and released to cinemas when the quality of the piece became apparent. I think this might explain why it has taken so long for a 1.85 transfer to be released and why the quality of the DVD is so poor, full frame prints look fine. Also the use of what looks like pre-standing sets gives it a low budget TV feel. With "Play Misty for me" Clint became a director and Siegel appeared as an actor thus the partnership was ended, the pupil became the master. Clints style as a director owes much to Siegel and he still has the economy which was a hallmark of Siegels work. Another partnership that began in this film was with actor Albert Popwell who went on to appear with Clint in the first four Dirty Harry movies,portraying a different role in each film. So as an Eastwood or a Siegel fan this is a must see pivotal movie and contains much of their trade mark craft even on a low budget. Don Stroud is as ever a bonus as is Susan Clark.