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7/10
Fascinating!
26 March 2007
I enjoyed this film when I recently viewed it on DVD. Good production values and an easy to follow narrative make this a satisfying way to spend your time. The views re Indians/settlers may be a trifle simplistic but at least Custer is not portrayed as a murdering bastard. Most films about Custer make this error. It is fascinating to see these famous events portrayed a mere 36yrs after they actually happened. The myths of The West are already in place and are still being rolled out even today ... 95 yrs later. Let's hope it is not another 95yrs before someone has the guts to make a 'real' film about Custer, one that portrays the Civil War hero and not just the defeated soldier of Little Big Horn.
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The Borgias (1981– )
10/10
Excellent ...unfairly overlooked...series
12 March 2007
I hugely enjoyed this series when it was first shown in 1981, even watching the contemporary Sunday repeats which were buried away at 10.30pm on BBC2. The portrayals of all the leading figures were outstanding, especially Oliver Cotton as Cesare. He was mesmerising as the charismatic 'Duke Valentino' and it is a crying shame that his performance was lost amongst the grossly undeserved tirade of abuse the series attracted. The settings were authentic and the costuming was also superb. The series was accurate in it's depiction of a violent and bloody era and did not fall into the trap of making the Borgias raving, sex crazed psychopaths and tyrants. In truth they were responsible governors and were respected (if not loved) by their subjects. After he was deposed Cesare even had to go to a city in person to persuade the people to surrender to his enemies or they would be killed. They reluctantly did so but praised him for putting their welfare before his pride. Lucrezia was also well portrayed, she was loved by the citizens of Ferrara (home of her third husband) for her charitable works and they requested for her to be canonised but the Pope (unsurprisingly given her 'reputation') declined. I don't think any other person in history has been so unfairly maligned as Lucrezia (with the possible exception of General Custer). I have longed to see this series again and think 26 years is too long to have to wait ... the series now belongs to that era of classic video-taped programmes that we no longer see. The BBC release some excellent lesser known series on DVD so there must be a place for this. They may also make some of their money back!!!
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The Texican (1966)
8/10
Excellent western ... and Audie Murphy too !!!
19 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I enjoyed this film. The atmosphere is effective, Audie Murphy gives a good performance and the script is none too bad. The action is well handled and the supporting cast glowers and/or simpers in all the right places. The loss of two stars is down to the dreadful performance of Broderick Crawford as the 'heavy'. He sleepwalks through his role and appears to be 'worse for wear' at times. It's a pity Audie died so young because he was lined up to play Scorpio in 'Dirty Harry'. That could have taken his career into a new direction which, for fans like me, would have been exciting. Audie delivered some great performances, notably in 'Red Badge of Courage' and 'No Name on the Bullet', and carried numerous routine westerns on his back, lifting them to a level of enjoyment rarely seen in oaters. The only other actor able to do this regularly in low budget westerns was the great Randolph Scott. Audie held his own opposite acting giants like Jimmy Stewart, Michael Redgrave and Burt Lancaster .... it would have been interesting to see him up against Randolph.
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7/10
A good...but not great...series.
19 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
General Custer is one of the most controversial figures in American history. He is perceived by some to be an egotistical, murdering, glory hunting pariah but to others he is almost a saintly figure to whom history has been most unkind. The truth inevitably lies somewhere between the two. Custer was indeed egotistical and also very ambitious, but he most definitely was not a murderer. Custer was a man of his time, a professional 19th century soldier obliged to carry out the duties of his office. No matter what he personally (and a letter exists to prove that Custer was against an Indian war) felt about his orders. Son of the Morning Star makes the mistake many make when dealing with Custer. It places 20th century 'politically correct' sensibilities upon the events of his later years which distort the truth to an alarming degree. Custer did not 'murder' women and children at the Battle of Washita, evidence exists to prove that he did, in fact, prevent soldiers from such acts although many were killed before he could intervene. Custer did not 'leave some of his men to die' after the battle, he was forced to withdraw as a large army of Sioux approached his position and he was ill-equipped to deal with them. Custer was vigorous in his determination for Indian Agencies to supply the reservation tribes with the food etc that they were entitled to, risking his own career in the process. And finally, at the Little Big Horn, he did not go charging in without thought or rationale. He presumed (incorrectly) that the tribes were escaping and, after giving orders to his subordinates which they did not obey, went in pursuit. Unfortunately there were many more Indians to deal with than expected so he held a defensive position and waited for reinforcements which did not come, due to the failure of others. Consequently he and his men were annihilated. Custer was a complex man, something that this film attempts to touch upon but is let down by it's emphasis on debunking anythinhg positive to be said about him. it's about time someone made a 'real' film about Custer. One that portrays his fine record in the Civil War (he is still the youngest ever General in the US army) and how he was an inspiration to his men. How he displayed great tactical knowledge and extreme bravery under fire. People laugh at Errol Flynn's portrayal of 'Saint Custer' and indeed the latter stages of They Died With Their Boots On are laughable, but the depiction of Custer during the Civil War is (although heavily stylised) very accurate. The flamboyant uniform, the cry of 'ride you wolverines!', marching to Garry Owen - this stuff really happened. After the war Custer was given one tawdry job after another by the army. He disgraced himself on more than one occasion and was ultimately court martial-ed, but he performed his duty for his country and should be remembered for the role he played as a winner in the Civil War, not just as the loser at the Little Big Horn. Cinematically, the film is escellent, with good attention to detail and fine staging of the battle scenes. It's a shame it is flawed by a ha'porth of tarred scripting.
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Primeval (2007–2011)
4/10
disappointing
12 February 2007
Any new sci-fi on UK TV has got to be worth a look given the cultural heritage of the genre (Quatermass, Tripods, Dr Who, Blakes 7 etc) but i found this very disppointing. As with the equally disappointing Torchwood it seems to have been deliberately peopled with 'quirky' individuals rather than real characters - the clever one, the cute one, the sinister one etc etc - and have been given the most inane dialogue to boot. the dinosaurs were OK and some scenes were cute atmospheric but can anyone tell me how some of these 'actors' get work. OK they are good looking but they simply cannot act. British TV used to be full of interesting looking people with charm, charisma and talent .... these days a vague likeness to some Hollywood idol seems to be the criteria for success. there are some exceptions - James mcevoy and the great john simm to name but two - but its a dreary old world we live in when such a potentially great idea is scuppered for a ha'porth of tarred casting. Dr Who seems to be heading down that route too ... ho hum.
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5/10
OK but inaccurate movie
19 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This may not be the most historically accurate piece of film making, but it is an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours. Shaw is fine as Custer and the rest of the cast hold up well too. The desert landscapes are nothing like the Dakota territories but make for an impressive back drop. What really lets the film down is the storyline. If you are going to tamper with history at least make your version more interesting (see They Died With Their Boots On). The screenplay is too episodic too fully grab your attention with far too many irrelevant sequences purely designed to show off the widescreen process Cinerama. Having said that the film is strangely watchable and I did actually enjoy it.
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Custer (1967)
10/10
Excellent western series
28 October 2006
I remember being enthralled by this series as a kid and was disappointed when it ended. I endeavoured later to find out about the real Custer and am now enjoying the series again on DVD. Maunder plays Custer as an efficient and rather aloof officer which indeed he was. Custer was idolised during the Civil War but was reduced to fighting a tawdry war against the Indians during the 1870s. This series portrays that part of his life. It is highly fictionalised but elements of the truth keep bursting through from time to time...the relationship with Reno, the unlikely use of 'Gary Owen' as a marching tune, reluctance to follow orders and his love/hate banter between Terry and Custer. Production values are good and the guest stars excellent. Most episodes have a real air of excitement about them and the fact that Custer's sad fate is well known adds a poignancy to the proceedings. Wayne maunder's portrayal of Custer is excellent, far from being the glory seeking buffoon of many other 'epics', he plays Custer as he probably was,an efficient cavalry officer. Give this show a look, especially if you are a western fan, and you wont be disappointed. ps - The character of 'California Joe' was a real person.
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Hazell (1978–1979)
10/10
70s crime drama at it's best
9 October 2006
i have recently acquired all episodes of this series on DVD and am thoroughly enjoying them all over again. if it is true that Nicholas ball wanted it to be shot on film otherwise he would quit then it is a real shame, but i can see his point. the series suffers only through being on tape, everything else is spot on. some of the stories are, indeed, a bit clichéd but the performances and scripts are excellent right the way through two series. i was thinking about if a revival was to occur who could do it .... four names came into my head:

Craig Fairbrass (tough) Leslie Grantham (edgy) Nigel Harmon (sexy) and Nicholas Ball (venables/williams thought him too young at the time .. well, he's a lot older now and still looking good)

.... i think a 21st century update would be great. To not consider it because it is sexist is ridiculous, a good screenwriter could turn the novels into superb TV, much better than the likes of 'vincent' or 'murder city'.

gives this series a look, it is great!!!!
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9/10
Classic Spillane - only not so !!!!
28 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is a great film. Full of Spillane's touches and excesses and featuring a brilliant performance by Ralph Meeker as the quintessential anti-hero Mike Hammer, a thug for every occasion. Trouble is that there is much anti-Spillanestuff going on too. Director Aldrich hated Spillane's book so much he played around with it and turned it into a kind of satire on cold war thrillers and Eisenhower era attitudes. The film portrays Hammer as a real sleaze bag with no redeeming features. OK, the Hammer of the books wasn't a nice guy but Spillane knew that, Aldrich misses the point somewhat by turning into a character to loathe whereas the literary Hammer always has a side of him you can identify with, even if you don't like to admit it. Aldrich redeems himself with some fantastic direction and some solid story telling. This a great latter day noir, though not as good as the first version of 'I, The Jury' made a few years earlier.
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I, the Jury (1953)
9/10
Excellent combination of Spillane and Film Noir
28 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I love this film. The noir imagery combined with Spillane's no nonsense character Mike Hammer works marvellously to create a mood and feel seldom found in low budget detective films of the early fifties. It may not be 'The Maltese Falcon' but this film makes it's own solid contribution to the genre. Spillane is often criticised for alleged misogyny etc, but his 'dames' are way above their male counterparts in terms of cunning and intelligence. Poor old Mike Hammer, as effectively played by Biff Elliott, is blinded by the beauty of the mysterious psychiatrist whom he meets when investigating the death of an army buddy. When the penny finally drops his face is a picture. Good to see that 50s censorship did not force the film makers to omit the famous last line. A bona fide low budget classic.
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7/10
Hammered!!!!
28 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This film has been on my 'must see' list for years and I finally got to see it recently. It is probably one of the better low budget detective yarns of the late 50s and is improved by having a producer (Victor Saville) very familiar with his material having produced two earlier Spillane/Hammer films. Robert Bray is excellent as an unshaven worn out Mike Hammer and is well supported by the rest of the cast. The script and location photography are good and the music suitably sleazy and atmospheric. What lets it down is the predictable ending, often a problem with Spillane stories - it's nearly always 'the dame that dunnit'. My favourite Hammer film is the first version of 'I, The Jury' which benefits from some superb noir imagery. This film isn't quite that good but is a serviceable and very entertaining movie.
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8/10
Lost 'classic'????
28 September 2006
While never in the class of 'Kiss Me, Deadly', or even the original version of 'I, The Jury', 'The Girl Hunters' is an enjoyable detective movie featuring a surprisingly convincing portrayal of Mike Hammer by his creator Mickey Spillane. The film is well shot, mostly well acted and has a storyline that keeps you interested till the end. What lets it down is the intrusive and repetitive music and endless shots of Spillane/Hammer walking in and out of buildings/offices while putting on or taking off his trench coat. After a while both these elements become irritating, but not irritating enough to make you want to stop watching. Spillane is a suitably rough around the edges Hammer and is well supported by Lloyd Nolan as a helpful FBI agent and by the gorgeous Shirley Eaton as the only female character in the picture, the widow of a murdered senator. My personal favourite Mike Hammer film is the first version of 'I, The Jury' with Biff Elliott as Hammer. That film is pure noir and Elliott is excellent in the role. 'The Girl Hunters' tries hard and almost gets there, but noir was past it's sell by date and the old masters of the genre were mostly gone. This film gives a good facsimile and is very watchable, but do not expect 'The Big Sleep'.
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Standing Room Only: Sherlock Holmes (1981)
Season Unknown, Episode Unknown
10/10
Masterful
10 April 2006
I have a huge collection of Holmes films on DVD and this has to be among the Top Ten. Recorded in front of a live audience this is not just a filmed play, it is a real film. Langella is magnificent and is ably supported by a great cast. If only all drama could be this good. It is no surprise that this play has been a hit for about 100 yrs, it crackles with superb and witty dialogue. The plot is well constructed and has hardly aged at all. Langella and co must be proud to have worked on this production. Prior to this Langella had been a wonderful Dracula on both stage and screen. What a wonderfully talented actor he is.
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8/10
Great Spaghetti !!
21 February 2006
I saw this recently for the first time. Reeves is great in his final film, what a shame he was unable to continue making films because of an injury. He looks good and acts well in this revenge story which is head and (very broad) shoulders above of most of the post 66 Italian western output. Reeves could have been one of the great western stars but it wasn't to be. A glimpse of what he could have achieved can been found in such films as 'Sandokan' and 'Morgan the Pirate', non-sandal films that were great fun. I was glad to discover that his post-movie life was a success and that he was a happy and wealthy man. He is much missed by his fans.
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Hannay (1988–1989)
Excellent series
16 January 2006
Robert Powell followed up his stirring performance as Hannay in the 70s version of '39 Steps' with this 80s TV series featuring the same character. Although studio bound the stories are efficiently performed and directed and make for a pleasing way to spend an hour. What lets them down are the rather dull scripts which, unfortunately are not based on Buchan's other Hannay stories. I have heard rumours of a new version of '39 Steps' and would be interested to see who is cast as Hannay. The only person who comes to my mind is Ralph Fiennes, but even he would have to pull out the stops to better Powell who is excellent in the role. this series is soon to be available on UK DVD and is well worth spending a few quid on.
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The Image (1969)
7/10
Worth watching
10 January 2006
This is a very good little short which I watched this earlier this evening (it was on a Bowie compilation DVD and my mate wanted me to tell him about 'the other actor' in it) and it really creeped me out. The plot is simple, the image being painted by an artist comes to life to terrify the life out of him (and us). The imagery is stark and disturbing, the sound effects oppressive (especially the constant driving rain) and the performances first rate. If you can catch this it is definitely worth watching. Oh yes, 'the other actor' was in the 3rd 'Indiana Jones' movie among many others. Bowie is visually impressive and thank goodness he does not open his mouth and ruin the effect. Recommended.
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Night of the Hunter (1991 TV Movie)
6/10
OK, so it's not Laughton/Mitchum ......
4 January 2006
I will begin by stating that the original of this film is one of my all time favourites so have no axe to grind against it. I watched this on TV out of pure curiosity fully expecting to become outraged by its very existence. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. The team behind this have made no attempt to copy the original (wise decision) and have created a stand alone piece of work. Although hampered by an obvious lack of budget the film succeeds in creating a brooding atmosphere of violence and terror, especially in the rain washed opening. Chamberlain, despite looking as if he has been embalmed, gives us a sturdy portrayal of the preacher. Not as psychotic as Mitchum's but an evil, greedy man. The kids are OK too alhtough a little 'cute' at times. The ending is a bit of a let down but it didn't destroy what had gone on before. If you can put the original out of your mind you will be able to enjoy this for what it is. A solid workmanlike version of a rattling good yarn.
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Man in a Suitcase (1967–1968)
McGill .... the best ITC hero !
5 August 2005
Richard Bradford in the 60s was the Steve McQueen of TV, laced with a healthy dose of Marlon Brando. It's a real pity we only got to see him in one series of this excellent series before he disappeared into limbo land for nearly 20yrs, re-emerging to appear in films like 'The Untouchables' and the under-rated 'Mean Season'. Bradford's performance as McGill carries this series from start to finish and is the reason it is the least dated of the ITC stable. McGill is a real person ... vulnerable, prone to mistakes but never giving less than 100 per cent for the right cause. No super heroic 'Champion' - like exploits for him. The stories vary in quality but Bradford is the core to all of them and his on screen persona carries them off with credibility intact. It is good to see that an excellent 8 disc DVD set (inc extras) is available worldwide with a UK edition coming in August 2005. Dip deep into your pockets (the distribution companies know the value of this series and have raised the price considerably) and enjoy the best PI series ever made.
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good solid drama
7 October 2003
i have to disagree with the other reviewer. this a good, solid drama that captures the mood of post war london expertly. the stories mesh together well and the performances, with one notable exception, are first rate. the atmospheric photgraphy adds to the overall feel of the piece and the climax is very exciting.
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Dragnet (2003–2004)
fantastic !!!!
10 August 2003
I love this programme. I can vaguely remember the original serieswhich was shown here in the 70s but have watched the two movie versions (not the Tom hanks monstrosity). This version is excellent, it is a pity it is shown here so late because I think it could be really popular. All the cast are superb and the stories really grip. The new version of the theme gets my foot tapping and it has become the highlight of my viewing week. Anyone else in the UK watching this ?
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24 (2001–2010)
*spoilers* great tv !!!
10 August 2003
Warning: Spoilers
I have just watched the last episode of 24 on uk tv. Overall not as good as season 1 but very entertaining. A pity that David Palmer was killed off (or was he ?) but I do hope that the very gorgeous Penny Johnson Gerald comes back as Sherry. A great character. I look forward to season 3 and the proposed 2 hour real time movie I read about somewhere, (2? ... perhaps not).
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