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5/10
Ticks the boxes
20 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
NOOSE FOR A LADY is a rather typical murder mystery of the era, one that goes through the motions while perhaps lacking the kind of gravitas that the best of the genre tends to have. What is nice is seeing Dennis Price playing a good guy rather than the usual caddish or sleazy characters he essayed during this era (and beyond). He plays the cousin of a condemned woman, fresh from hunting criminals in Uganda, who visits a number of suspects as he tries to solve the murder case that could see his own flesh and blood led to the gallows. A well-judged supporting cast allows for nice performances from Esma Cannon, a shifty Charles Lloyd Pack and farmer Robert Brown, and it certainly succeeds as a box-ticking enterprise.
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Feral (2017)
4/10
Done to death
19 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
FERAL is yet another done-to-death teens-in-the-woods horror flick in which a bunch of vacuous youngsters head off into the forest for some fun only to find themselves exposed to a rabies-type virus. You know, you've seen this kind of thing play out endlessly in the likes of THE EVIL DEAD and CABIN FEVER, and there's nothing about this one to make it stand out from the masses. Things begin with the usual foray into torture porn and stays on the same level, emphasising bloodshed and noise over any kind of decent plotting and atmosphere. THE WALKING DEAD star Lew Temple plays in support, but he deserves better than this.
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4/10
Should be better
19 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
DAUGHTER OF DR. JEKYLL is a typical B-movie programmer of the late '50s, starring none other than genre stalwart John Agar. The title writes the plot for you; set twenty years after the Stevenson novel, this features the daughter of the infamous scientist going out of her mind as she comes to believe that she's responsible for a series of brutal murders. Sadly, the story is hampered by the usual budgetary constraints of this genre, with very little in the way of action and even less in the way of FX, schlocky or otherwise. There's some melodrama at the climax, wrapped up with a twist ending, but overall you can't help but feel they should have done better.
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Dark Shadows: Episode #1.343 (1967)
Season 1, Episode 343
6/10
Enjoyably spooky
19 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Episode 343 is an enjoyably spooky one, particularly so in the scene in which Julia is menaced by a sinister spirit that looks exactly like a guy in a gimp suit. Elsewhere, Barnabas spreads his mischief and Victoria is denser than ever.
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Chun huo (1970)
6/10
There's brash, then there's Wang Yu...
18 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
MY SON is a contemporary Shaw Brothers drama featuring Jimmy Wang Yu at the height of his success, and shortly before he became indelibly associated with the martial arts genre with the release of THE CHINESE BOXER. This is a lesser vehicle indeed compared to the likes of THE ONE-ARMED BOXER, but still worth a look thanks to the depiction of societal norms and attitudes of the day. It's a very Western-feeling movie, firmly depicting a late '60s world of vibrancy, music, pessimism and street gangs; a Chinese REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, if you will.

Wang Yu plays a typically stoic scene presence with Margaret Hsing Hui supplying the brunt of the acting work as his put-upon girlfriend. The story that develops frequently threatens to become depressing, but somehow manages to stay on the right side thanks to copious brawling action scenes added in to appease Wang Yu's action fans. Watch out for Wu Ma as an unlikely hippy (!), Tien Feng as Wang Yu's bad-ass dad, and a completely loathsome Ku Feng doing what he does best.
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7/10
Engrossing true story
18 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
I WAS MONTY'S DOUBLE is another feather in the cap of director John Guillermin, who seemed to make some of the classiest films of the time (NEVER LET GO, EL CONDOR and THE TOWERING INFERNO are all established favourites of mine). This one tells the true story of a real-life soldier and actor who ends up impersonating General Montgomery in a real-life mission during WW2 due to his uncanny resemblance to the British army leader. A star-studded cast, plenty of wry humour and interesting situations make this a surprisingly engaging kind of biopic, one which only lapses into fantasy for a final-reel splash of excitement which closes the picture beautifully. With stiff upper lips all round, it's John Mills and Cecil Parker who are the scene-stealers with their continued double act lightening the mood considerably.
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First Kill (2017)
3/10
Cheap and dull
18 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
FIRST KILL is yet another disappointing effort from director Steven C. Miller, whose AGGRESSION SCALE appears to be his only decent work. This one is scuppered by a forgettable, cliched and small-scale storyline and a super-fast shooting schedule of just two weeks. Hayden Christenson (remember him? thought not) plays a father who gets into trouble with some ne'er-do-well characters, one of whom kidnaps his kid. Half of this seems to be about the usual firearm glorification while the rest is made up with autopilot Bruce Willis doing his usual extended cameo. It's familiar and boring in equal measure, the viewer never once getting invested in the tired antics on screen.
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4/10
Absurd
18 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
THE BEACH GIRLS AND THE MONSTER is a hilariously cheesy B-flick of the mid '60s, made on no budget whatsoever. It attempts to mix a 'party beach' style swinging flick with random scenes of a rampaging monster killing people off-screen for the most part. With wooden performances, lacklustre scripting and very poor direction, this is undoubtedly a tongue-in-cheek escapade for bad film lovers only. Half the running time seems to be padded out with incessant musical numbers in which the cameraman lingers on swaying hips and bikini-clad bosoms in loving detail. The monster itself looks as if the Creature from the Black Lagoon dropped acid; just as absurd as the rest of the movie.
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The Cracksman (1963)
6/10
Genial comedy
18 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
THE CRACKSMAN is a genial comedy of the era and a star vehicle for the diminutive redhead Charlie Drake, who is far less of an annoying presence that I was expecting. He plays a warm and amiable master locksmith who finds himself swindled by a number of devious characters intent on exploiting his skills for their own ends as the film goes on. What's remarkable about this is that the ensemble cast features stalwart turns from familiar face after familiar face, from a pre-PORRIDGE Ronnie Barker as a con (what else?) to a typically slimy Dennis Price, alongside Eddie Byrne and George Sanders as rival gangsters. The film is generally amusing enough, getting by thanks to Drake's hard work for the most part, with some fun scenes of slapstick to recommend it. It gets a bit slow in the second half but picks up for a riotous climax.
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Automata (I) (2014)
4/10
Seen it all before
17 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
AUTOMATA is another disappointing addition to the robots-run-amok cycle of films which have been pumped out relentlessly since I, ROBOT and SURROGATES back in the 2000s. These all feature similar-looking robots breaking down and killing people, which is against the laws of robotic programming. It takes something special for such a film to stand out, but AUTOMATA isn't that film. Instead it's a gloomy, slow-paced police procedural-type thriller with a few half-hearted action scenes amid the recycled plot ideas. Poor old Antonio Banderas does his best and is supported by some interesting actors in support, but the story never takes off and ends up climaxing in the most predictable way imaginable. The CGI effects used to animate the robots is pretty decent but I'd have preferred a more engrossing story with worse effects.
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Cairo Road (1950)
4/10
Plodding
17 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
CAIRO ROAD is one of those 'exotic' police films that were all the rare in the 1950s. These invariably involved British actors dressing up in costume and brown face to play variously Arabic or Asian characters in local-set mysteries. This one is no exception, with police chief Eric Portman investigating drug peddling with the aide of his young assistant, Laurence Harvey. The film plods along at a wearying pace without much in the way of effort, and the only life comes from typically well-judged but minor turns from character actors like Eric Pohlmann and Marne Maitland.
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Dark Shadows: Episode #1.342 (1967)
Season 1, Episode 342
6/10
Fall-out
17 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Episode 342 features the fall-out from Dr Woodard's death, given that a single episode is never enough on this show. Thus it mainly consists of characters brooding and informing each other of the death while dramatic music plays. Sam and Maggie are the focus here, although Burke's back too, all equally perturbed.
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The Remaining (I) (2014)
5/10
Not that bad...
16 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
THE REMAINING is another end-of-the-world thriller, albeit one told through the found footage medium this time around. It brought back some fond memories of the likes of CLOVERFIELD, although of course it's not as good as that classic. Instead, this one looks at Biblical end times, and in particularly the rapture, and in that respect it's a darn sight better than LEFT BEHIND. I'm not big on religion, but it's not particularly overbearing here; the biggest problem is the usual one, underwritten and unlikeable characters. Still, the disaster scenarios and demon attacks are pretty well handled, so it could be a lot worse.
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Get Cracking (1943)
5/10
Lively wartime comedy
16 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
GET CRACKING is a lively wartime comedy vehicle for ukelele-playing comedy star George Formby. How much you like it really depends on how much you like Formby himself; his high-pitched, loud voice can be more than a little overbearing, especially to a modern viewer, although there is something lovable about him. The story has George joining the home guard and getting involved in scrapes involving troops stationed in a rival village. Expect plenty of songs, minor plotting, and some well-judged supporting turns from the likes of Ronald Shiner, Irene Handl, Dinah Sheridan, Wally Patch and Edward Rigby.
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Dark Shadows: Episode #1.341 (1967)
Season 1, Episode 341
6/10
Grim
16 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Given the importance and drama of Episode 341 it's a pity that the master tape was lost, leaving only a fuzzy black-and-white copy in its place. It's the one in which Dr Woodard meets his maker in a way which is pretty grim by TV soap standards.
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Dark Shadows: Episode #1.340 (1967)
Season 1, Episode 340
6/10
Unpleasant characters
15 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Episode 340 offers an amount of time spent with some truly unpleasant characters in the form of a scheming Barnabas and an anything-goes Dr Hoffman. I've heard that both characters become sympathetic later in the show, but I do have to wonder how given their cruelty at present. As ever, when life's in peril this becomes unusually compulsive viewing.
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Point Blank (2019)
4/10
Sluggish
14 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
I should say from the start the original French version of POINT BLANK, released in 2010, is one of my all-time favourite thrillers: a low budget affair, starring nobody familiar in the West, which nonetheless turns out to contain so much action and suspense that it's literally a pulse-pounding watch. Following on from the ill-advised remake of another superior French thriller, SLEEPLESS NIGHT, we have the 2019 POINT BLANK, a film which goes through the motions without once igniting the screen like the original. Anthony Mackie is a boring protagonist while a charismatic Frank Grillo is typically dangerous and the best thing in this. The rest is a lukewarm re-tread at best, failing to include all the bits that made the original film so good, feeling sluggish and cliched as a result.
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4/10
Long-winded
14 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
HOME AT SEVEN is a film featuring a perennial favourite plot - the 'amnesia' storyline in which the protagonist arrives home only to discover that his missing memory coincides with robbery and murder. Is he himself responsible, or has he been set up? Sadly, this is a lesser outing for the genre, a studio-bound and dialogue-heavy story which is quite frankly boring for large swathes of the running time. Ralph Richardson as actor is fine, but Ralph Richardson as director is far less assured, failing to invest his picture with the necessary suspense to make it interesting. The supporting cast features typically strong performances from old-timer Michael Shepley alongside Jack Hawkins, but there's no getting around this film's long-windedness and the fact that the eventual solving of the mystery is all exposition.
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The Cat (1992)
7/10
Cheesy and brilliant
13 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
THE CAT is a typically off-the-wall science fiction flick from Hong Kong, liberally scattered with horror and action elements too. The plot appears to have been made up as they went along, although it does feature popular fictional professor Wisely as the protagonist. The main story features pretty space princess Gloria Yip and her black cat which turns out to have magical powers.

The story is quite episodic and slow in parts, although it's absolutely mad at other times and certainly sticks in the mind as a result. There's a scene in which a mastiff is called in to tackle the cat in a scrapyard which is surreal and insane, like a cartoon put on screen. Elswhere, Phillip Kwok plays another absolute bad-ass again (typecast after HARD-BOILED) and Waise Lee gets a chance to play the hero after his memorable turn as the baddie in A BULLET IN THE HEAD.

The film's real star is the special effects, which have to be seen to believed. The main characters are menaced by an amorphous space-being straight out of Lovecraft, so expect scenes of gore, dissolution and gloopiness all round. The director is also obsessed with fire and Kwok performs some incredible stunts as a result. Imagine a bizarre, frenetic mix of THE BLOB, SOCIETY, TERMINATOR 2, WESTWORLD and THE THING and you'll be there; the OTT climax manages to be both incredibly cheesy and bloody brilliant. See it to believe it.
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Stan & Ollie (2018)
6/10
Somewhat artificial, but its heart's in the right place
12 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
STAN & OLLIE is the latest biopic looking at the two most famous film comedians in history. As a massive Laurel & Hardy fan I was interested in seeing this, and for the most part it does a good job of portraying what the duo must have been like in their real lives. After a brief opening introduction featuring the couple during their '30s-era glory days, we move into a tired and haggard 1950s world, with Stan & Ollie touring crumbling British theatres to relive their former glory.

John C. Reilly couldn't look more like Hardy if he tried, while Coogan has all the tics, tricks and mannerisms down to a tee. The story is loaded with sentimentality and it seems to me that conflict between the duo is clumsily shoehorned into the narrative just so it can exist, but the bittersweet tragedy that seeps in towards the end is a step in the right direction.
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The Chase (1994)
4/10
Too MTV
12 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
THE CHASE is an attempt to re-create the old car chase film genre of the 1970s, albeit with 1990s-era sensibilities and styling. It's also an ill-conceived comedy, as on-the-lam con Charlie Sheen hooks up with the original Buffy, Kristy Swanson, who just so happens to be the daughter of a very rich man indeed. Media and corporate satire are the order of the day here, but sadly the film is shot through with MTV styling which leads to over-editing throughout, everything played out ridiculously over-the-top, and some very bad bits of direction. It's a pity, as there are some well-staged car stunts littered throughout. In the end, you're better off sticking with the old classics of the genre like VANISHING POINT.
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6/10
Interesting if small scale
11 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
MURDER WITHOUT CRIME is an interesting albeit low budget character drama from future Hollywood director J. Lee Thompson. It's obviously made on a tight budget with just four main characters, although when one of them is played by the delightfully slimy Dennis Price you know you're in for an interesting watch. It's a story of accidental murder and blackmail, fleshed out by the usual twists and tension. Derek Farr doesn't make for the most sympathetic of protagonists but an intense Price carries the attention. The crazed set decoration plays a big part too.
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3/10
A chore to sit through
11 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
MERCURY PLAINS is a low budget thriller conceived as a star vehicle for actor Scott Eastwood, but he's going to have to try harder than this if he wants to make his mark. This one's a south-of-the-border story in which Eastwood hooks up with a team of young vigilantes in order to bring war to the Mexican drug cartels. What follows is slow and meandering, failing to inspire either in terms of strong characterisation or interesting plotting. There are a few half-hearted action scenes and the presence of Nick Chinlund hamming up big time as the leader of the vigilantes, but overall this is a chore to sit through.
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Dark Shadows: Episode #1.339 (1967)
Season 1, Episode 339
5/10
A burglary and a hissy fit
10 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Episode 339 doesn't do a great deal to further the slow-moving plot. Dr Woodard's house-breaking investigation is the most entertaining part of this, although Roger's hissy fit over the possibility of Burke living with him comes a close second. Watch out for the bit where the cameraman appears to drop the camera.
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Shaft (2019)
4/10
Lazy
9 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
SHAFT is a lazy Netflix cash-in on the SHAFT franchise and a surprise follow-up to the 2000 Samuel L. Jackson movie. The twist is that Jackson's grown-up kid is no the co-lead in a story of revenge against the usual gang of deadly drug dealers. Sadly, this film seems to have been made in a hurry and it's one that goes through the motions rather than innovating at all. The script is bogged down with endless profanity and no kind of wit at all, while the young guy is a complete bore. Jackson barks his lines with a gruff delight and is the best thing in this, at least until Richard Roundtree shows up in the final act and brings a ton of charisma; he's been away from our screens for far too long. Other than a couple of vibrant shoot-em-up scenes, SHAFT is a missed opportunity.
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