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Up Pompeii (1971)
I saw Frankie Howerd in 1991 in the West End of London in a one-man show that he had been doing intermittently since the 1940s. This is the entire act (minus some ad-libbing):
"Oooh No. No don't. No please. You're mocking - MOCKING Francis. Ooh, poor soul. No, don't - DON'T, missus! Ooh! Ahh! It's wicked to mock the afflicted."
He got nearly 50 years of work out of stringing the above out in the various films and shows he was in.
And it worked. Sir Frankie is a lugubrious Comedy God, and Up Pompeii his finest cinematic hour.
Hostel: Part II (2007)
A waste of genuine talent
Eli Roth's sequel to his alarming but highly effective 2006 torture-porno presents us once again with a depressing vision of humanity.
A new set of -this time female- American kids are lured to the industrial confines of Roth's torture-house to be savagely murdered by high-powered businessmen who have bid, eBay-like, for the privilege of indulging their most bloodthirsty fantasies on young innocents. Once again we are asked to assume that the human capacity to enjoy other people's suffering runs in a prosaic arc with Big Brother at one end and vicious acts of torture and murder at the other, and that only money and local laws stand in the way of complete indulgence.
This was a tenuous-enough premise in the original film, where the bloodthirsty rich were shadowy and mysterious figures, and Roth takes an interesting risk in Part II by taking us under the skin of two of the 'Hostel's' well-heeled clients, an American executive who believes that committing murder will give him a killer-edge in business, and the more timorous associate he drags along with him.
The narrative arc of these 'clients' gives Part II at least some differentiation from the original film.
Really Part II is actually Hostel 2.0.1. As per the original, it passes the first half of the movie introducing us to well-drawn and credible characters, building up empathy which it then proceeds to hack at with a chainsaw...
The second half of the film begins with the first 'commercial murder', a scene so ugly, depressing and vilely pornographic that it could be an excerpt from some otherwise utterly unfilmable, ultra-extreme S&M lesbian bondage porno.
The gentlest and least-offensive of the unfortunate American girls is hung by her feet over a large bath where an attractive -older- naked woman with an Elizabeth Bathory fixation luxuriates in the blood that she draws from her victim with tentative stabs and scratches from a scythe. She savours the early rivulets of blood that spatter her face, but soon is unable to hold back any longer, and goes for the 'money shot' - slashing the terrified and tearful girl's throat open, apparently climaxing as she is showered in the blood and gore of her victim.
Be offended. Be very offended. The intention of the scene is to make you actively participate in the 'enjoyment', and to pay for the privilege, like Bathory-woman. Unlike the many other hard-to-watch scenes in both Hostel films, this one fails the John Carpenter criteria for justifying torture-porn, which assumes that we are emphasising with the victim and not the torturer; here the grisly tableaux is laid out in the classic camera angles, stark colours and erotic half-lighting of glossy pornography, and to a sickening and degrading effect for the viewer.
Contrary to much rumour, there is no overt sexual violence in the film, except inasmuch as the female sex are far more traditional fodder for this particular brand of cinematic exploitation than the all-male back-packers of Hostel, and their suffering in the torture-farm inevitably brings charges of misogyny, angering a tender sentiment which the first film could not, since men are seen to be 'at home' in the context of violence and horror.
Yes, there is a horrifying finale to rival the 'eye' sequence in Hostel, but it is aimed at men, almost solely intended to defuse the film's misogynistic ambiance and lacks the cross-gender horror of its progenitor. The ending itself is also far less convincing than that of the original, and there is no equivalent of the Tarantino-esquire moment in Hostel where Jay Hernandez realises that he cannot leave one of his fellow victims to his fate, and returns to the House Of Horrors (in any case a plastic copy of Bruce Willis's moment of conscience in Pulp Fiction).
Eli Roth is an eminently capable story-teller in the vein of Hitchcock himself, but risks burying himself in the rut of shock/schlock-horror - if he keeps on the path that Part II indicates he is on, he will not even make an adequate Brian De Palma clone.
The Shape of Things to Come (1979)
The worst film I ever saw in a cinema
A sinful waste of good actors. I saw this with my father in 1979 and we agreed then that it was the worst film we had ever seen. We have not changed our opinions since.
The airfix special effects, the purple blood, the attempt to circumvent zero-budget production-design with cheap sci-fi chicanery in the dialogue....above all the JUMP TO HYPERSPACE! ...in which a plastic model continues to pass tortoise-like in front of a black curtain with a few holes representing stars at exactly the same speed it was doing before.
Tear out your eyes before buying this, you'll be happier.