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The Hunters on a false trail.
After seeing the Nordic Noir False Trail a few weeks ago,I made a note to pick up the first of the two films (made 15 years earlier!)in the series. Finding the adaptation of Jo Nesbo's very good book The Snowman to be getting terrible reviews, (with the director admitting that production was rushed,and saying that 15% of the script that was needed to be shot was left un-filmed) I decided it was time to go on a hunting trip.
Returning to the small town of Norrbotten after being a cop in Stockholm for 20 years due to the recent death of his dad, Erik Bäckström joins the local police force. Joining his brother Leif,Erik Finds the village to appear to be crime free,where all the people know each other,and know each other secrets, Bäckström decides to investigate a case of reindeer poaching. Learning that the poaching has been going on for years, Bäckström tries to find out why no one has been arrested,but is told by his fellow officers not to hurt local honour. Seeing his brother Leif wide smirk when standing with a group of local thugs, Bäckström decides to hunt down the secrets of the town.
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Going down a similar country lane as the one in Lucio Fulci's superb 1972 Giallo Don't Torture a Duckling for this very early Nordic Noir, the screenplay by co-writer/(with Björn Carlström)director Kjell Sundvall dig up the superstition and Noir distrust just below the peaceful village image. Arriving as an outsider,the writers give the dialogue thrown at Erik Bäckström a brittle crunch,where one sly hand-shake can cause secrets in the town to be lost forever. Giving an excellent twist to the genres major theme of the elite being corrupt, the writers keep the mystery of the poachers tightly linked to the dour arrival of Erik into town,which exposes the police force working with the corrupt locals,which causes any trust Erik gives to his fellow officers to leak out.
Impressively starting visual themes which would be expanded on 15 years later,director Kjell Sundvall & cinematographer Kjell Lagerroos keep track on the activates in the town with sweeping crane shots over the beautiful countryside,that close in on the sniper-fire of deceit. Peeling away at the calm appearance, Sundvall paints Erik's bitter Noir frustrations in a deep black canvas,where outbursts of violence hit the screen with a blunt force.
Hanging around each other like a pack of hyenas,all of the guys playing the local thugs give outstanding performances,with Jarmo Mäkinen making gang leader Tomme Harela a psychopathic ticking time bomb, and Lennart Jähkel seeds moments of doubt into Leif,which are unable to overcome the allure of the darkness. Currently looking like he will return for an upcoming TV mini-series in the role, Rolf Lassgård gives a magnificent performance as loner Rolf Lassgård,whose failure to catch any glimpse of happiness is drawn with a superb heaviness on his shoulders by Lassgård,as Erik Bäckström joins the hunting season.
The Beast Within (1982)
The Beast In Me.
Picking up Tom Holland's Fright Night,I decided to watch a series of Holland related Horror flicks. Originally looking at his directing credits,I found that Holland made his Horror debut as a co-writer of an 80's gore fest,which led to me unleashing the beast.
Conceived after his mum was raped by a strange beast (what a cheerful way to start the film!) 17 years ago, Michael MacCleary finds himself becoming very ill. Rushing to the hospital, Eli and Caroline MacCleary are told that Michael is suffering from his pituitary gland mutating. Fearing it is related to the attack,Eli and Caroline decide to take a deep breath and visit the city where she was attacked. Whilst his parents place their hopes on saving him by finding out about Caroline's attacker,the transforming Michael starts to howl at the moon.
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Replacing original composer James Horner, Les Baxter counters the splatter effects with a magnificent score which injects the title with an atmospheric bite,thanks to Baxter's spidery sounds climbing up the fear of the beast being unleashed. Pushing any "subtle" tones aside for Baxter,director Philippe Mora & cinematographer Jack L. Richards stab a ripe splatter showcase,bursting with pulp air- bladder special effects that cover the screen in rotting green and brown ooze.
Although some of the special effects displays are (unintentionally?) hilarious (such as everyone just standing round a bed silently for 5 minutes as the set piece takes place!) Mora still rubs up a grisly Grindhouse mood,where the warm fuzz of the pitch-black sets give the film a wonderfully grubby appearance. Splitting the tale into a series of "nights",the screenplay by Tom Holland & (uncredited) Danilo Bach take on Edward Levy's book huffs and puffs its peculiar werewolf tale,as dry attempts to dig into Michael and his family situation,lack the weird shocks from Mora's special effects. Whilst working as just a co-writer here,Holland shows a clear eye for kicking off the "boy who cried wolf" major theme that would continue in his work,via Michael's pleas to everyone about the evil falling on deaf ears, until Michael reveals the beast within.
La noche de Walpurgis (1971)
Werewolf Shadow:The English dub cut.
Whilst aware that Daninsky is his most famous role,the peculiar Giallo A Dragonfly for Each Corpse has somehow ended up being the only Paul Naschy movie I've seen. Keeping a recording of the chilling Spanish Horror Sleep Tight on the side to see in October,I was pleased to spot a Naschy film in a local DVD shop,which led to me finally meeting Daninsky.
Traveling round in search of mythical vampire Countess Wandessa de Nadasdy, Elvira and her friend Genevieve meet gentlemen Waldemar Daninsky, who unknown to them is a Werewolf who has just come back from the dead,after some now-murdered doctors removed silver bullets from him. Revealing to them that Nadasdy's grave is by his castle,Nadasdy takes Genevieve and Elvira to the coffin. As it is opened up, Elvira accidentally gets a cut and bleeds on the-soon to be revived body of Nadasdy,who Daninsky will have to use more than silver bullets on to take Nadasdy back to the grave.
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Making his arrival to the Daninsky series,director León Klimovsky & cinematographer Leopoldo Villaseñor ignore any opportunity to be subtle,by marvellously delivering buckets of sleaze,from all the beautiful ladies appearing naked covered in cheap fake blood and the special effects having a real handmade quality. Backed by a terrific dreams-cape score from Antón García Abril,Klimovsky brews up a dream-logic vibe via echo sound effects being added to the score,and abrupt use of slo-mo giving the tale a hazy appearance.
Bringing Daninsky back,co-writer/(with Hans Munkel )lead actor Paul Naschy combines slivers that go more into the background of Daninsky with delicious pulp Horror,as the incredible stupidity of Genevieve and Elvira allows the writers to unleash lesbian vampires and a snarling werewolf. Possibly naming Elvira after Naschy's wife,the writers surprisingly wipe the horror away for an oddly sweet Beauty and the Beast-style Fantasy ending. Joined by the proper fit duo Gaby Fuchs and Barbara Capell as Elvira and Genevieve,Naschy gives a very good performance as Daninsky.thanks to Naschy carrying the polite,gentlemen side of Daninsky,with the snarling hiss,that reveals itself as the werewolf steps out of the shadow.
Mientras duermes (2011)
Don't let the bed bugs bite.
A fan of the first Rec flicks,I was disappointed to find the franchise go completely off the rails for the final two in the series. Greatly enjoying the non-Rec Fragiles,I was surprised to find the BBC showing one of director Jaume Balagueró;s non-Rec titles,which led to me getting into bed.
Left on his own in an apartment block, concierge César passes the time by slyly tormenting all the tenants. Welcoming beautiful new tenant Clara in, César soon starts playing mind games with her. Finding Clara to just brush off any attempt he makes to get under her skin, César decides to take things to the next level.
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Slithering round the building, Luis Tosar gives an excellent,creepy performance as César, who is given a skin-crawling, covered in slime seediness by Tosar,which makes everything César says be something that can't be taken at face value. Innocently laying in her bed, sexy Marta Etura gives a very good performance as Clara, whose sunny side up attitude is gradually dimmed in doubt by Etura.
Leaving the shock & awe of the Recs,director Jaume Balagueró & Rec actor/cinematographer Pablo Rosso go for a slow-burn,sinister atmosphere,as the apartment block is given a blank surface appearance. Sneaking César into Clara's life, Balagueró builds up the anxiety with stylish two-shots,where the viewer can see César,but Clara can't. Holding back from Psycho-Thriller shocks, the screenplay by Alberto Marini finds horror in the mundane,where everything appears normal, but Marini has César subtly chip away at Clara in the background. Whilst the ending unlocks a macabre apartment, it also sadly highlights the large plot holes (such as no CCTV or Clara feeling any different) jumped over for it to be delivered,as Clara sleeps tightly next to César.
Keeping a TV recording of the very good The Borderlands by the side,I started look for another title to watch for a British Horror double bill. Catching me completely by surprise,my dad revealed a rarely mentioned Hammer Horror he had picked up,which led to me turning paranoiac.
After the deaths of their parents in an air-crash the ties that bind the Ashby family together start to snap. Sinking into depression with the rest of his brothers and sisters, Tony Ashby appears to end it all by jumping off a cliff into the sea,an act which none of the other family members see take place.Taken care of by Aunt Harriet,Simon starts becoming increasingly aware of how fragile his sister Eleanor is in the mansion. Wanting all the inheritance for himself,Simon begins playing games that get Eleanor to question her sanity.Fearing that she's starting to see ghosts,Eleanor and the rest of the family discover that "dead" Tony is actually alive. As everyone appears to accept that he is telling the truth,"Tony" starts playing a paranoiac game
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Cracking under the pressure of her family and the re-appearance of Tony, Janette Scott gives a great performance as Eleanor,whose stuck in the mansion status leads Scott to getting Eleanor to lunge out in violently fearful,and abrasively passionate ways. Bringing light into the Ashby family,Alexander Davion gives a sharp, icy performance as Tony,whose handsome looks Davion sands down to a reveal calculating bite. Joined by a simmering Sheila Burrell as Aunt Harriet,Oliver Reed gives a cracking performance as Simon,who Reed balances between wrapping cruel mind-games round Eleanor, and falling down to the madness of the Ashby family.
Beginning the themes that would re-appear in the excellent Amicus Giallo The Psychopath, director Freddie Francis & cinematographer Arthur Grant blend the Gothic smoke of Hammer Horror with dazzling Film Noir stylisation, with the isolation of the Ashby mansion being reflected in water and deranged family members spying on each other in shadows. Backed by a spidery score from Elisabeth Lutyens, Francis brings frightful doubt into the mansion with crisp side shots giving the impression of ghosts/mysterious figures,and a digging deep inside the foundation,allow Francis to unmask fiery secrets.
Loosely based on Josephine Tey's novel,the screenplay by Jimmy Sangster wonderfully uses each Ashby family member to set the other one off to psychological horror,from the fury of mourning from Harriot,to the screams of Eleanor and the cackling weirdness of Simon. Whilst the ending is too neat and tidy,Sangster brilliantly makes Tony a Noir loner trapped in a horror nightmare,with the "love" Eleanor has for Tony edging towards a risqué undertone,and the ambiguity of this Tony being real or fake making each of the Ashby's feel paranoiac.
The Borderlands (2013)
Boarding the borderlands.
Whilst being a fan of the first two Rec films and enjoying some of the Paranormal Activity flicks,I'm well aware that the "Found Footage" Horror sub-genre is seen in the mainstream as being at the bottom of the ladder. Taking a look at the BBC listings recently,I was happily surprised to find a Found Footage flick being given a good time slot!,which led to me setting the recorder and crossing the border.
Getting reports of a "miracle" taking place in a church,The Vatican send Deacon and Gray in to find out if a miracle has taken place,and are ordered to film their investigation. Locating the church in a country town,Gray and Deacon find the locals less than keen to talk about the past of the town. Whilst initially believing that it was all a hoax,Gray and Deacon soon nail a dark secret in the church on the cross.
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Openly having the lads joke about The Wicker Man to the locals for his debut feature,the screenplay by writer/director Elliot Goldner features a refreshing playfulness,as Deacon and Gray's investigations at the church are inter-cut with them exchanging banter over the alleged miracle in the country pub. While taking some leaps with the horror, (no one bothers to check what is being recorded at the church) Goldner makes these flaws easy to overlook,thanks to building a real relationship between Gray and Deacon,who go from arguing about every minor thing the other one does,to praying that they can help each other survive.
Shot on location,director Elliot Goldner & cinematographer Eben Bolter hold back on the shaky cam of Found Footage to use the format for a claustrophobic atmosphere,where the viewer sees every murmur from the church run down Gray's spine. Shaking a Gothic Horror shadow over the lands,Goldner wonderfully records the Found Footage with expert sound effects giving the eerie impression of something crawling under the border.
Hotel Reserve (1944)
Make a reservation.
Recently re-watching the enjoyable Gris title A Touch of Larceny,I started looking for other easy-going Gris/Thrillers starring James Mason.Whilst searching round,I found that the BBC were showing a Thriller with Mason,which led to me reserving a viewing.
Seeing war on the horizon in 1938, Peter Vadassy decides to apply for French citizenship,whilst going on a photographing holiday and staying at the remote Hotel Reserve. Going to collect his latest photos,Vadassy is gripped a spy who says photos of French military installations have been found on his camera. Taking a closer look,Vadassy discovers that a fellow guest has secretly switched his camera. Freed,Vadassy is told he must find out who took the photos,at the Hotel Reserve.
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Taking not one,but three directors to make (!),the mix of the trio leads to a constantly unsettled changing of tone. Put together by editor Sidney Stone,the film darts between a murky Spiv tale and a jet-set Thriller abrasively, with it going from stylishly low shadows and seeping steam,to the light-Thriller sunny outdoors with no shading of dour darkness intact. Being the main person who almost keeps things together, Lennox Berkeley delivers an excellent score, (he sadly only did 4 scores) which pounds on the anxiety and unease of Vadassy's secret mission.
Going into the hotel from Eric Ambler's book Epitaph For A Spy, John Davenport (who was literary editor of "The Observer newspaper) casts an eye on espionage in tense exchanges between Vadassy and his fellow guests at the hotel,with the clipped exchanges between them all signalling hidden secrets. Finishing Vadassy's mission with a twist that would later be used in a large number of Gialli, Davenport cleverly makes the twist work by having Vadassy casually build the wrong impression in swift asides. Joined by a simmering Herbert Lom and elegant Patricia Medina as Andre and Odette,James Mason gives a terrific,dashing performance as Vadassy,who spies on the hotel reserves.
Tutti i colori del buio (1972)
Finding The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh to exceed all my expectations,I started searching for other gialli by Sergio Martino to view this October. Looking round on eBay,I was thrilled to spot a Martino DVD on an auction about to end,which led to me getting out my paint kit.
Losing her baby in a car crash, Jane Harrison has been receiving counselling with support from boyfriend Richard. During the counselling,Harrison begins opening up about her mum being murdered when she was 5 (what a cheerful opening!) Talking to her sister Barbara about recurring nightmares she is having of a strange man trying to kill her. Jane is advised that she can be freed from her troubles by attending a black mass. Taking part in the mass,Jane soon finds her nightmare to become living colour.
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Given the challenge of carrying a one woman film,the super sexy Edwige Fenech gives an excellent performance as Jane Harrison. Chasing Giallo mystery and (loose) religious Horror,Fenech captures a fracturing of fear over Jane's face with a lingering of the sorrow just underneath the surface. Taking the traditional role of the girl in a Giallo, George Hilton reunites with Fenech to give a very good performance as Richard,with Hillton giving some rugged fear to the darkness.
One of only two gialli to have the leads be parents who lose a child,the screenplay by Ernesto Gastaldi/Santiago Moncada and Sauro Scavolini bend the mystery into devil worshipping yelps. Whilst the devil antics give the flick a trippy vibe,the writers never explain how it is helping Jane, (apart from the wild sex!) which leads to the masses distracting from the building unease.
Delving into Jane's scrambled state,director Sergio Martino expands the psychedelic flourishes of Wardh a with dazzling,ultra-stylised spray of colours across the screen painting the blending of fantasy and reality in Jane's mind. Pulling the mask off the killer early on,Martino finds other mysteries for the Giallo thrills,via expertly framed reflecting shots, designed for the foreground to unveil the sinister slithering in the background of Jane's life,as Martino paints with all the colours of the dark.
Febbre da cavallo (1976)
At the races.
Watching the great Giallo All the Colours of the Dark last night,I started to look for another Italian flick to see as a double bill. Knowing her for teen Comedy-Drama and Gialli,I was intrigued to find a Comedy co-starring Catherine Spaak,which led to me going to the races.
Putting their last handfuls of cash on a horse race," Mandrake' and 'Er Pomata', find their bet to come dead last,and for their last bit of money to be lost. Along with Mandrake now being unable to satisfy his girlfriend Gabriella,the guys find gangsters wanting them to re- pay all the cash they have borrowed. Only knowing gambling at horse racing, the duo decide to cover their debts,by doing more gambling at the races.
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Whilst the boys get to have most of the fun in the movie, Catherine Spaak is still able to sparkle as Gabriella,thanks to Spaak giving Gabriella a feisty edge which strikes at the mishaps of the trio. Causing each other to fail at the races, Gigi Proietti and Enrico Montesano each give very funny performances as 'Mandrake' and 'Er Pomata',with Montesano giving Pomata a fake humble earthiness,and Proietti covering the money losing Mandrake with a rich layer of arrogance.
Losing all their money at the races,the screenplay by co- writer/(with Alfredo Giannetti/Massimo Patrizi and Enrico Vanzina) director "Steno" sends Pomata and Mandrake on the tracks of loose- linked Comedy set-pieces based in them finding ways to fund their habit,from Pomata uses his grandmother to get the gangsters off his back for debt,and Mandrake using his fake businessman swagger to get cash in hand. Whilst the set-pieces are stretched a bit too long,the writers do well at keeping the comedy antics rolling by increasingly pushing the duo in a corner. Backed by a chirpy music score by Franco Bixio/Fabio Frizzi and Vince Tempera, director Steno and cinematographer Emilio Loffredo keep the atmosphere fast-paced with whip-pans following Mandrake and Pomata's money making tricks at the races.
My Favorite Wife (1940)
"There's an ordinance in this state that don't allow necking in bar rooms."
Once I sorted out some movies for a friend,I decided to start catching up on films I had waiting to view. Finding Vivacious Lady a cheerful Rom-Com,I was pleased to spot another RKO creation from the genre,which led to me meeting my favourite wife!
After his wife Ellen has been declared legally dead, Nick Arden gets married to Bianca Bates. Unknown to Nick,Ellen has actually been alive and living on an island with Stephen Burkett. Returning home,Ellen finds out that Nick has gone off on his honeymoon. Learning this,Ellen decides to give the happy couple a special honeymoon gift.
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Taking over at the last minute when Leo McCarey got hurt in a car accident, (with McCarey's injuries making the comedy atmosphere desired on set difficult to retain) 27 year old director Garson Kanin enters the production with an impressive ease,as Kanin,editor Robert Wise (and un-credited editor McCarey) & cinematographer Rudolph Maté stylishly break the frame in two,so that the set-up and reaction to the punchlines are shown at the same time. Starting without a script in place, the writers never quite overcome the sown-together feel of the movie,but do weave a number of wonderful threads.
Holding Nick and his two wives in the same hotel,the writers lock them in with sparkling Screwball Comedy dialogue which zips along Nick's very funny attempt to keep each wife unaware of the other. Introducing Bianca and Ellen to each other causes some of the one liners to lose their sparks to dry Drama,which gradually gets pushed aside by the playful rivalry between Nick and Burkett. Flatmates off-screen, Cary Grant and Randolph Scott both give terrific performances as Nick and Burkett,with Grant giving Nick shocked,slippery reactions to the sight of his "dead" wife",whilst Scott grabs the eyes of all the ladies,as a chiselled Burkett. Returning from the dead Irene Dunne gives a wickedly dead-pan performance as Ellen,whilst Gail Patrick hits the Screwball punchlines wide as Bianca,as Nick decides who his favourite wife is.