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The Werewolf (1956)
Where's the horror?
THE WEREWOLF (1956) is an American B-movie horror yarn that I caught on telly the other night. It begins with an amnesiac wandering into a bar before finding himself assaulted by the town drunk, but he has a surprise in store that soon leads the whole town on a manhunt. You don't hear much about this production and on seeing it you realise why: there's very little horror content and it feels much like a standard drama in terms of plotting and character. It also jettisons most of the expected werewolf mythos and atmosphere and other than some cool transformation scenes, doesn't have a whole lot to offer the seasoned horror fan; I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF is much more fun.
Danger UXB: Cast Iron Killer (1979)
As good as the last
Like the previous episode, this is really strong and effective, with plot twists galore. It feels very much like a stand-alone thriller of the week and yet it layers in the characterisation too.
This third instalment is the least of the trilogy, but that's no bad thing when the first two were so very good. It's still a superior, spoof-a-minute story that holds up a lot better than I remembered. The opening UNTOUCHABLES gag is brilliant and the prison scenes are a hoot; there's so much going on here that you'll never tire of it.
Danger UXB: Just Like a Woman (1979)
Shock to the system
A big step up from the first two episodes and little surprise that the great Roy Ward Baker is the man directing. This one has an icy realism to it which works really nicely - a truly powerful shock to the system.
Riders to the Stars (1954)
Typical space flight drama
A typical space flight drama of the 1950s, made in a very different era. This one isn't cheesy at all, instead going for all-out realism and incorporating stock footage of V2 rockets and the like to simulate modern technology. It's a little dull as a drama, but as a kind of snapshot of where the world was with space travel in the early '50s, it's worth a look.
Danger UXB: Unsung Heroes (1979)
A likeable enough second episode, not particularly exciting or engrossing at this point, but watchable nonetheless. We learn more about the characters and why they are where they are, and there's some conflict too.
Doesn't suit the film format
VOICES (1973) is a slice of British psychological horror that I wanted to enjoy far more than I actually did. It starts off on a strong footing, with an excellent set-piece that basically copies the opening of DON'T LOOK NOW, and it has a good ending - but it's that long hour in the middle which is the problem. This is based on a play and it shows, as it's all about a conversation between two people interspersed with some very mild spooky moments.
The ghostly material is almost timid and other than a Bavaesque moment, negligible. Real-life couple David Hemmings and Gayle Hunnicutt are both fine, particularly the latter, but they can't do much with such uninteresting characters. Plus TV director Kevin Billington doesn't seem to have any affinity with the genre. The sudden cutting from the filmed outdoor scenes to the videoed interiors is quite abrupt too, which makes this look rather cheap and grainy - like a reguar TV episode from the era.
Das siebente Opfer (1964)
One of the better krimi
One of the better krimi films out there, even if it is based on a novel by Bryan Edgar Wallace rather than his father. It's one that held my attention throughout with the story of a string of murders taking place at a rich, horse-owning estate. There's ample humour here, titillation, a mystery mega-villain, and constant elaborate murders to save you from boredom.
Fun fight flick
BALLISTIC is a typical B-movie action flick of the mid 1990s starring Marjean Holden as a tough cop on the trail of a drug kingpin played by ol' FLASH GORDON himself, Sam Jones. It starts out as a routine cop investigation movie before seguing into a fight flick halfway through. The cast is pretty decent here, with old-timers Richard Roundtree and Charles Napier popping up, and both a young Michael Jai White and Cory Everson (from DOUBLE IMPACT) impress in the fighting stakes. The action's fun at least and you could do worse.
Hard to Die (1990)
The third in the SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE trilogy but they renamed it for some reason. This time around we're in an office building, where a group of lingerie-clad employees encounter a murderous spirit that dispatches them one by one. It's cringy, cheesy stuff throughout, focusing on showering and nudity and little else.
Night Drive (2019)
Didn't buy it
Not sure what others were watching but this is pretty bad. It's about a ride share from hell which starts off mundane but eventually turns murderous. Then there's a quietly ridiculous twist that turns this into a science fiction movie. I wasn't buying it; it just felt too low budget and unconvincing to work. Try the Spanish classic TIMECRIMES instead.
Danger UXB: Dead Man's Shoes (1979)
A solid first episode of the show. This one feels more grounded than some others from the era and the period trappings are nice. Anthony Andrews has the potential to be a strong lead and the characterisation works so far.
Last Night in Soho (2021)
Emperor's new clothes again
Another modern outing that left me cold. This has plenty of potential in the first half as you think it's building up to something decent. The cinematography by a Korean auteur is excellent and both the '60s setting and the soundtrack are very well depicted. I wasn't that keen on the acting, particularly McKenzie's little girl voice - it felt like she couldn't handle the West Country accent she's supposed to have. Sadly, in the second half, this becomes increasingly long-winded and tedious, building to a ridiculous climax straight out of a cheesy CGI B-movie ghost flick.
The Gateway (2021)
Run of the mill
Another one of these low budget, small scale thrillers that fails to do much with a half-hearted premise. This one has a lot of characters but is in the main based around a father being released from jail and bringing crime into the life of his wife and daughter. As usual for this genre, they amass some top actors in support including Keith David and Bruce Dern, and Shea Whigham is reliably great. But it's very hard to get too excited about something so run of the mill.
Again, something different from the show, and quite unexpected. It's a court drama based around mysterious disappearances and characters trying to figure out the unfolding mystery around them. Dialogue-heavy and peppered with familiar faces, but not the liveliest out there.
Qun ying hui (1972)
A kung fu anthology
Something different from Shaw; three short kung fu flicks for the price of one. The quality is variable here. The first is a sword-in-the-stone type tale with Shih Szu and Yueh Hua and I was digging it until it ended abruptly; really, there's enough here for a full movie. The second is about a prostitute's love affair and one I found quite dull; the plotting is a little tedious and it goes on too long too. Lo Lieh is as excellent as ever. The last is a Chang Cheh epic and a spin-off of THE WATER MARGIN, with an all-star cast battling evil. It's lovely to watch and again, just feels too short.
I really struggled with this first episode of season two. Strong production values as you'd expect but no hook; the only terror is a couple of cheesy CGI spook scares. The new milieu of characters aren't very interesting and their sub-plots feel like they drag - why do I care about that pregnancy? It builds up to an obvious climax and feels heavy handed throughout. Let's hope it improves.
I found this final episode really quite tedious. It just consists of a succession of characters sitting around in a room and discussing an off-screen case. Joss Ackland is always good value but plays a weedy character here and the mistaken identity plot feels interminable.
Plenty of action
Another fairly enjoyable example of the Italian spy film, heavily stylised and derivative of the Bond series as always. This time around, a secret agent called Lemmy Logan (!) is on the trail of a missing NASA scientist, and it turns out genre regular Alan Collins is behind it all. There's plenty of action here, alongside exotic females and even a couple of strip sequences to titillate viewers.
White Elephant (2022)
A blip in the career of Jesse V. Johnson, usually to be relied upon for making kick-ass martial arts and action movies. This one has a story that's all over the place and merely seems to exist to tie together cameo appearances from various desperate actors - John Malkovich, Olga Kurylenko, Bruce Willis among them. There are good bad guys and bad bad guys, and some not-bad shooting sequences, alongside Michael Rooker being as tough as ever. But I expected far more from this.
Squadra volante (1974)
What you'd expect
Another enjoyable slice of crime from '70s Italy, with old-hand director Stelvio Massi on good form again. Tomas Milian is another cop on the trail of hoodlums, but this time around he's more serious and less jokey, probably to do with his wife being gunned down in the opening. Ray Lovelock makes an appearance too, but the real star is Gastone Moschin, as imposing and larger than life as ever. Not a huge amount of action here, but it hits the mark every time.
I'm not sure whether this was based on a Victorian/Edwardian mystery as it seems to me to be an entirely new screenplay. It's about the theft of gold bullion on a ship and the purser who has to figure out what happened to it. The plot feels involved and Ronald Fraser is excellent as the lead.
Il cugino americano (1986)
A pretty good little gangster story, with the proviso that this was originally a four hour television series that's been severely cut down to fit an hour and a half running time. As such they've kept all the 'juicy' action scenes and killing in but left out all of the background and character work. It has a strong cast and good milieu, but you feel like you're missing something...
The Bed Sitting Room (1969)
Watch it for the cast
A very strange film, this one, a surreal post-apocalypse comedy with some broad satire aimed at British politics and culture. It's quite unmissable on account of the incredible cast of famous faces and worth seeing just for them doing their bit, but the rest is more of a sketch show than anything else. It's moderately funny, on par with a typical MONTY PYTHON episode of the era.
The Old Dark House (1932)
THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932) is a fun little comedy horror film from James Whale, sometimes overlooked when it comes to Universal horror and sandwiched between FRANKENSTEIN and THE INVISIBLE MAN. You can forget the woeful remake by Hammer and William Castle, as this is a lot more assured, a fun and quirky tale that helped to popularise a whole sub-genre of similar movies throughout the 1930s and 1940s. It's a slimly-plotted affair, with a bunch of characters holing up in a creepy old Welsh mansion during a torrential storm, but the entertainment's in the delivery of it.
The viewer gets mannered performances from Yorkshireman Charles Laughton and a delightfully arch Ernest Thesiger; a stodgy romance between a young couple which sometimes slows the pacing down to a crawl; and a wonderful turn from Boris Karloff as mute butler Morgan, stealing every scene. As a horror film it's quite tame, although there are a few stand-out moments, but the overwrought climax helps to make up for that. The humour generally works well and there's even a little FRANKENSTEIN in-joke for the fans. It is a dated film but Whale's efforts are enough to make it a worthwhile one.