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A potentially great film but.....
...ruined by almost indecipherable speech, especially on the part of Cooper. We chose this film as it had received good reviews and we like a good science fiction film, but within the first ten minutes we knew we were in for a 'what did he say' -fest. The actor playing Cooper had such mumbled, lazy diction and spoke in a semi whisper it was almost impossible to understand anything he said. About an hour in we almost decided to give up and watch an old 60's Doris Day & Rock Hudson comedy instead - at least you can hear every word clear as a bell. But we struggled through all 2.5 hours of it and came out the other end none the wiser.
Do they go somewhere to learn how to mangle their speech? Or maybe they have their jaws wired?
Wake in Fright (1971)
Ye Gods, what a strange film. If you haven't yet seen this film (as I hadn't until a few days ago), seek it out and make a date. Truly disturbing, it tells the story **SPOILERS FROM HERE** of John Grant, a teacher at a small village school who decides to visit his girlfriend in Sydney. On the way, he stops off for one night (he thinks) in 'the Yabba' a town inhabited by some rather over-friendly people who force alcohol on him and virtually control his life. They are his 'mates' whether he likes it or not. As he has lost every cent in the local gambling den, he has no way out and nowhere to stay except at the homes of these hard-drinking troglodytes, and in a short time he is just as bad as any of them and spends his days in an alcoholic haze. Is there any end to this hell on Earth? I suppose this film sets out to show how our sheen of civilization hides our inner self under the surface, and how little it takes to corrupt us, especially when we can see no way out. A truly awful but brilliant film. Get yours today.
The Stone Killer (1973)
Kind of good, but....
I liked this film, despite being a bit thrown by the jumpy, confused directing of (I presume) Michael Winner. Bronson is good, as are all the actors playing the major characters. But I think I got most pleasure from the mob-style Fedora hats that almost everyone seemed to be obliged to wear perched high on their heads. Surely by 1973, this style of headgear was way out of date? It looked vaguely ridiculous but at least it kept me amused. There was a 'Dirty Harry' vibe about the film and some of Roy Budd's music was quite close in style to that of Lalo Schifrin. Overall, an enjoyable film but maybe not because of the story.
The Avengers: The Morning After (1969)
For me, this is one of the worst eps of all the filmed series. Tara may not be up to Mrs Peel's standards, but she is a good eyeful and sadly she is missing for most of the hour. And you know - this ep simply doesn't look like an Avengers story, it's almost as if it was made by another company as a cheap filler, it's just 'wrong'. It would fit better into the later (and worserer) New Avengers series. The Avengers always looked expensive (well, since it went to 35mm film), but this one looks as though it was suffering from a severe budget cut. Bleurgh, take it away.
The House in Nightmare Park (1973)
Frankie Howard YES, this film NO.
We were stuck for something to watch last night and we chose this 'hilarious comedy' to pass a couple of hours. We usually delight in watching bad films, but this one took us to our limits really. Frankie Howerd can be very funny left to his own devices, but here he is stuck with a script with weak jokes and a very thin story. Ray Milland has never been our cup of tea, but here he puts on a good show, seemingly resigned to the fact that his career was over anyway. Several notches less entertaining than 'Up Pompei!', it ground its way through our evening and we were quite relieved when it finished.
Who Dares Wins (1982)
Entertaining but patchy.
I saw this many years ago and had good memories of it, so we settled down with a glass of wine last night to watch it on the 'Movies 4 Men' channel. Either I've changed or the film has not aged well. A rather over-groomed Lewis Collins (rigid hair, slightly camp wardrobe) does his 'Professionals' moody tough-guy act in this rather good story of a radical people's party taking hostage a group of top-brass and the SAS effort to free them. The first half of the film is all over the place, but it tightens up later on and of course (SPOILER) everyone is safe in the end. It looks rather like a TV-movie version of a 'Professionals' story, but maybe that's not so bad. Could have been a lot better.
The Perfect Host (2010)
Intriguing and very enjoyable.
What a treat this film turned out to be. The only thing that was easy to guess at was the fact that no-one was coming to dinner and that Warwick Wilson was nut. But there was more than enough intrigue and twists & turns to keep us guessing all the way through, and the quality of characterisation and acting from David Hyde Pierce was superb, The way he kept it just on the right side of camp was masterly. SPOILER COMING. It was a complete shock to discover that Mr Wilson was not only a cop, but a crooked one! What a stroke. What a film.
A nice slow burn...to nowhere.
We thought this sounded interesting so we streamed it via Amazon. It got off to a good start by keeping the pace slow while introducing us to the main character and what makes her tick. All good films spend time doing this, rather than jumping straight into a screenful of CGI explosions and wrecks.The intrigue built as we saw the mysterious ships and then their occupants with which our hero must communicate to see why they are here. Sadly, the story gets a bit up itself at this point, with memories of her dead child intruding (for no good reason as far I could see) and see rather too many visits to the 'interview room' on board the spacecraft as the aliens' language is (kind of) revealed. The denouement (such as it is) comes when it turns out the scientists have mistaken the word 'language' for 'weapon' (like you tend to do) and the whole global panic was for nothing. End of movie, cue a load of sentimental babble, roll the credits. Thank the Lord it cost us nothing extra. One more point - will someone PLEASE tell young American actors to stop whispering and slurring? I missed a lot of Amy Adams' dialogue because of it.
Bon Voyage! (1962)
Mildly amusing, saved by the nice views.
Stuck for something to watch while we had a few glasses of wine, we chose to stream this from Amazon. After all, it was one of those 'put-upon father with teenage kids and a far wiser wife' type of films. And Fred McMurray is a pleasant and reliable actor and it's a Disney production, so what could go wrong? Plenty. The first half of the film drags terribly, with the gags firing on only a couple of cylinders and there is a desperate need for some vim and vigour. Compared to James Stewart's wonderful 'Mr Hobbs takes a Vacation' (made in the same year) this film falls flat in most areas, and even the usually excellent Sherman brothers music is uncharacteristically dull. There's a curious scene in which Dad finds himself alone in a street-side cafe and is approached by a pretty woman who seems to be an er.. 'escort'. It lasts only a couple of minutes and does not connect to anything else in the film, except a little later we see the same woman trying to chat up the elder son. With an already long running time of 2hrs 12 minutes, this scene could have easily been cut with no effect on the movie. The best thing I can say is that Fred McMurray does his best and Jane Wyman (not my favourite actress) looks quite nice, as does the sunlit scenery.
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
nonsensical, pretentious rambling non-story.
Well, there's a couple of hours wasted. I never learn my lesson, I keep expecting David Lynch to make understandable crime/thrillers, but he always does the same thing - he makes a good start with an intriguing premise but then can't resist loading it up with dreams, altered reality and out-and-out barminess. We decided to watch this after seeing a TV review of it, and the 'strange blue key' had us wondering if it might be worth a watch. And it was, up to about half way through when Lynch started messing it all about. And who the heck was 'The Cowboy' and what was he there for, what purpose did he serve? Nah, Lynch just makes it up as he goes along, safe in the knowledge that his fans will lap it up and pretend to get it. We gave up even trying to follow it in the second hour. We were also thinking about 'Lost Highway', but reading the resume of that film it seems to suffer from the same thing. Never again, I'll give Lynch a wide berth from now on. I gave it three points because of the nice photography.
Empire of the Ants (1977)
Only if you're desperate.
Stuck for something to help the Yellowtail go down (although it goes down quite well anyway) we selected 'Empire of the Ants' on Amazon. Two things told us it was not going to be a riveting experience: it was made in 1977 and its big star was Joan Collins. Still, we'd paid the not inconsiderable sum of £3.99 and we were going to stick with it. Apparently a spill of nuclear waste has caused ants to grow to alarming proportions, and they get their mandibles stuck into a group of no-hopers, con-men and assorted make-weights as they tour an isolated island looking to buy real estate. It's pretty poor stuff all round, with many of the actors (including Ms Collins) apparently saying whatever the script says without bothering to understand or mean it. We turned to each other as the final credits rolled and uttered words that cannot be used on this fine forum. Be warned. If you want a much, much better giant ant film, the 1950's THEM is the one to beat. I was going to say '...despite the crude effects', but it seems nothing had improved during the 20 years between that film and this one.
The Parallax View (1974)
Intriguing and unsettling paranoia.
I love these conspiracy/paranoia films, and while The Parallax View is not the best it is intriguing and entertaining. For me it gets better with repeated viewing, just like Three Days of The Condor does. (SPOILERS AHEAD) The idea of recruiting 'suitable candidates' to set them up as patsies to take the rap for your own actions is an interesting one and - who knows - may have been used in one or more high-profile assassinations in recent history. Most of the good films of this type seem to have been made in the 1970's, and the way they are made, from the music to the static camera shots (Parallax is full of them) and of course the fashions and decor combine to produce (for me at least) a feeling of being 'at home', as I was a young man living with my parents when I first saw them. It's a strange effect, on the one hand feeling comfortable in your favourite period yet being unsettled by the on-screen events as our hero slowly realises he can trust no-one and doesn't even realise how he is being manipulated into a corner while he thinks he is investigating the villains.
Three Days of the Condor (1975)
Tense, smart and very watchable.
It's not often I go above 8 in my scores, but for Three Days of the Condor I'll do it. We've watched this film four times now and it gets better each time. I'm not sure what genre this film fits into - thriller, conspiracy, espionage (probably 70's paranoia) - but it's a fine effort. It's a slow-burner, sets several red-herrings early on and leaves the viewer to make his own way, working out what could be going on rather than being propelled onward by intrusive re-caps and fancy effects. The tension starts early on in the office where Turner finds his colleagues murdered and it never really lets up. As well as a fine performance by Redford, Max von Sydow puts in a chillingly quiet turn as the well-mannered killer. A superb film for discerning viewers, and it has that 'seventies vibe', one of the reasons I watch these films.
Not Now, Comrade (1976)
The British film industry, 1976...
Not now, Comrade (1976, Leslie Philips, Ian Lavender etc) We've just attempted to enjoy this on Talking Pictures TV, but it was an impossible task. Sadly, this is what the British film industry was reduced to in the mid-70's, although it gave a good number of fading stars and soap personalities something to do. We enjoy a good Ray Cooney farce, but this isn't one of them. It's one of those 'sex comedies' that became popular at the time and no-one comes out of this one well, although Carol Hawkins does have some fine attributes and was good to look at. It's stage roots are very obvious, with people who must not meet coming and going from various doors and asking awkward questions. The scene following the Russian ballet dancer's release from the car boot is excruciating, you just want it to be over as soon as possible. The Triumph Stag was probably the best thing in the entire film and accounts for one of my 3 points. Carol Hawkins gets the other two. Ahem.
Bitter Harvest (1963)
A potboiler morality tale, but a very good one.
A much better (and darker) film than we see at the beginning, it starts with poor young Jennie longing to escape from the dismal family shop in Wales and make her name in the go-getting world of London. By sheer chance she gets her opportunity when a customer drops in and tells her he can help her to realise her dreams. He's a cad, interested in only what he can get, but despite her clean-living, fresh-faced image, Jennie is just as bad. After Mr Cad (played with a certain oiliness by Terence Alexander) has got what he wants, she moves on to the attractive young barman Bob at the local pub. He's a nice bloke but he doesn't like Jennie's constant roaming and searching for the high life. Jennie crawls over anyone to reach her goal, but all she gets is more seediness as she is used by those who could help her. At every turn, we see more of Jennie's ruthlessness and the film gets darker. (SPOILER ALERT)The end of the film has a certain moment as Bob (who has now been cast aside by Jennie) comes out of the pub with Ellie, the much more dependable and down-to-earth barmaid, and is almost run down by a passing ambulance.... A word about the music. The theme is played by Mr Acker Bilk, instantly recognisable by his breathy use of the clarinet. It's a great tune, wonderfully arranged and played and suits the mood of the film perfectly.
Elvis & Nixon (2016)
Spacey steals it.
This film almost passed me by until I stumbled across it on Amazon Prime. From the 'in period' opening credits to the bad wigs to the bro's in the coffee shop the cheese is strong and thick, but it's a very enjoyable film whichever way you approach it. Michael Shannon (who was completely new to me) neither looks nor sounds like Elvis but somehow fills the role very well, exposing a rather sad, isolated individual who just wants to be noticed for something other than being 'The King'. But the film is stolen IMO by Kevin Spacey, who captures ol' Tricky Dicky perfectly - the growling voice, the stoop, the hand gestures. Not only that, but he injects a wry wit to his part which goes a long way toward lifting this movie out of a dullness which threatened to engulf it at several points. I could easily watch it again.
It's Always Fair Weather (1955)
Could have been so much better
We've been fans of MGM musicals for many years, but somehow we never got around to watching this. I'm afraid we were left wondering what went wrong, as it is a long way from MGM's best. The first half hour contains a far-too-long (and not very good) dance sequence and a lot of poor dialogue. Then the film sinks into a rather sour flavour and the second-rate song and dance routines do little to lift the mood. The stand-out segment (sadly much too short) is Kelly's 'I like Myself' on roller skates, which is a classic warm & happy MGM number with glorious, flowing music and lush orchestration. There is a happy ending, but not before a rather depressing TV show scene. I think this story would have been far better as a non-musical drama, as the bitter taste and social comment does not lend itself to the classic MGM musical style. It pains me to give MGM such a low score, but it's a 4 from me.
The Power (1968)
Low-key but moves along nicely.
Cor blimey. I first saw this film (or part of it) in the 70's, and I found it intriguing. I didn't know what it was and in those days there was no easy way of finding out, so I just assumed it would be on again sometime. I was wrong - I never saw anything of it again. Then a few days ago I stumbled across the DVD while browsing on Amazon. It was under the Italian title 'La Forza Invisibile', but the original English soundtrack is present. Strange, unsettling events begin to take place at a research centre for human development, and a gruesome death starts Jim Tanner (Hamilton) on a quest to find a mystery man and figure out what is happening. Byron Haskin's direction keeps us moving on nicely and some of the special effects are pretty nifty - the toy soldiers are particularly neat. It has the look of a TV movie or a pilot for a TV series, but in the late 60's a lot of US films had this appearance. All in all an interesting SF/thriller which left us both impressed.
Der schweigende Stern (1960)
Some are so bad they are good. This is truly awful.
Oh dear oh dear oh dear. We enjoy 'bad' Sci-fi films (especially 50's and 60's ones), but this one is so bad on so many levels it severely tested our staying power. Badly written, badly directed, crudely edited and poorly dubbed, it barely gets above the 'homemade amateur project' level. Add to that the fact that the version available on Amazon Prime was very short (that may have been a mercy) and looked like it had been pirated on a mobile phone from a theatre screen and it became unwatchable. Whichever canal this had been dredged from, it needs to go back there with some urgency. The £3.95 we paid to watch this would have been much better spent on another bottle of wine.
Hello Down There (1969)
Oh dear God...
Oh crikey. Stumped for something to watch while we knocked back our wine, we saw this on Amazon for £2.49 instant rental. Sounded promising - made in the 60's, Tony Randall stars, director Jack Arnold. So we clicked the button. If only we hadn't. Randall and Leigh are a typical married couple with teenage kids who (needless to say) play in a band with a mate or two. Oh dear, there's going to be music. Anyhow, Randall works for a company that is looking for new ideas and he comes up with an underwater home. It's already built and just needs testing with a real family....and of course the boss (who thinks it's an awful idea) insists that Randall and family should be the ones who live there for 30 days. After a few not-too-bad underwater model shots of mini-subs etc, we get to the house. Inside, it looks like the set of The Banana Splits has crashed into The Partridge Family via The Monkees, and the plot and acting are of a similar standard. Some bits reminded me very much of the Disney films of the mid 60's. Others made me think it may have been cobbled together from a TV sitcom, all it needed was a laugh track. By the one hour mark this film had well out-stayed its welcome, but we ploughed on. A very messy final 40 minutes had the action switching between the US Navy, the underwater house, Randall's boss and his housekeeper who is passing messages to dolphins, not to mention the pop group (headed by a very young Richard Dreyfus), who had only two songs and we got to hear them every ten minutes. Aargh! We were more than relieved when the film suddenly ended (OK everyone, just finish it now will you) and we could put it behind us. What a pity to see one of my favourite actors Tony Randall in such a disappointing effort as this, and I wonder what director Jack Arnold was playing at. Perhaps everyone just needed a payday.
These are the droids we are looking for!
We have always loved the original STAR WARS (A new hope) and the two follow up films, but thought this new one might be a disappointment. How wrong we were! From the moment the famous Star Wars fanfare comes crashing from the speakers and the iconic text rolls up the screen, we were hooked. What a treat to see Harrison Ford playing an ageing Han Solo and Carrie Fisher all mumsy as the Princess. Nice too to know that Anthony Daniels was still inside C3PO (although he isn't given much to do) and Peter Mayhew was bravely once again wearing 'the rug' despite his ill-health. No sign of Luke (Mark Hamil) or R2D2 for most of the time, but there are two gratifying reveals late in the film. R2D2's place in this story is taken by a spherical droid called BB8 who is cute and rolls around squeaking and bleeping. As for the story, it's basically 'fight off the baddies while trying to find Luke'. But who cares about the story - this is basically a nostalgia movie for those of us of a certain age. Plenty of fascinating extras too. These are not the droids you are looking for.......
The High and the Mighty (1954)
It could have been so much better.
Watched this from restored two disc 'special edition' DVD. The film begins with a parade of characters booking in at the desk, and it's fun spotting the drunk, the honeymoon couple, the precious actor etc who will each get their moment of screen time later. John Wayne literally plays co-pilot in this film, with Robert Stack notionally in the driving seat. It's odd seeing The Duke in such a secondary role, and although he gets going in the second half of the film he never really breaks through, preferring to mope about his wife and son who were killed on one of his flights. Robert Newton plays an actor in such an overblown manner that I couldn't decide whether he was playing for laughs, Phil Harris booms his merry way and pilot Robert Stack seems to have made his mind up the 'plane is going in the drink almost as soon as it's in the air. All in all a bit of a mess, but it is saved by Dimitri Tiomkin's swirling, romantic theme. It really is a cracker.
Jet Storm (1959)
Quality British thriller.
Ernest Tilley (Attenborough) has discovered the identity of the man who drunkenly killed his baby daughter in a hit-and-run, and armed with a bomb boards the same flight as him. Tilley is deeply depressed and obsessed with killing this man at any cost, even if it means killing his own family and everyone on board. Attenborough plays Tilley very quietly, a man hollowed out by his depression and hatred, not only for the hit-and-run driver, but for the whole world. As the film progresses, it is very easy to feel real sorrow for him. The writer and the director keep the lid firmly on for most of the time, only allowing the anger and fear to burst out in small doses. The other seats on board are occupied by many faces of the time, including Dame Sybil Thorndyke and Harry Secombe, who sit together and do a grand job of lightening the mood with their witty and charming performances. Husband and wife Bernard Braden and Barbara Kelly don't do much and neither does Marty Wilde. Very nice to see Stanley Baker playing against the usual 'thick ear' parts he normally gets, and he turns in a very good part. This film will not appeal to modern audiences who need an explosion or slanging match every five minutes. It's a character study, and a very British one at that. If you like your thrillers with a bit of humanity and depth, I can thoroughly recommend this impressive film. DVD from Simply.
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
High Art or Emporer's Clothes?
I first saw this film in the late 70's and haven't been able to decide to this day whether it is the noodlings of a rather Sixth-Form mentality or a genuine work of art. The story - such as it is - concerns 'Thomas Newton' (Bowie), who appears from nowhere (he's actually from a distant planet) and presents himself to a corporate lawyer with several ground-breaking ideas for new products, all of which earn a massive amount of money for Newton's new company. He needs this money to launch a space program in order to get back to his home planet where his family - and indeed the whole population - is dying from lack of water. SPOILERS FOLLOW. After a great start, his company falters and Newton falls victim to the same frailties that afflict the Humans around him - greed, sleaze, waste and sloth. In the end he has given up his grand scheme and lives his life as a sad drunk, surrounding himself with women, drink and the low morals that come along with them. So the question is - is this film high art or make-it-up-as-you-go-along junk? A deep and biting comment on the human condition or just aimless posturing? Plenty of each, I'd say. But one thing is for certain - it's a very mixed bag, some scenes looking like a million dollars, others like the work of a bored amateur. At least it ends poignantly with Artie Shaw's 'Stardust', which brings the whole thing to a perfect end.
One of those 'bad but good' films.
This was shown on the Horror Channel last night. An island off the coast of Ireland is invaded by blood-sucking aliens. There's only one way out - get hammered! The aliens cannot tolerate alcohol, so the locals (including the police) all get thoroughly langered, leading to some amusing comedy, although the rather indistinct dialogue made parts of the film a bit of a mystery. It's sort of bad, but strangely entertaining. Take a good dose of Alien, add some Gremlins and stir in Island of Terror and you'll understand. Despite this, my wife nodded off for the last 20 minutes and asked me what happened. I had some difficulty telling her as I too was drooping a bit....