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Reg Varney shines in a non-comedy role...
12 October 2019
This is a film adaptation of a play by Kevin Laffan - the creator of the popular UK soap opera - EMMERDALE (originally EMMERDALE FARM).

I am not a fan of the soap opera in question, and with Reg Varney appearing in this film in a non-comedy role, I was unsure of what to expect.

The story is simple. A caravan park entertainer, whose act is very much in the music hall tradition, has delusions of grandeur. He has grand ambitions but doesn't succeed. His world is shaken when he comes to the realisation that things are not going well in his life, and that he seems to be losing everything he has got - the popularity of his act, the love from his wife, security of employment, among other things. I won't say more about the plot since to do so would ruin the experience of watching this excellent film.

The first time I saw THE BEST PAIR OF LEGS IN THE BUSINESS about 20 years back, I didn't like it. I think at the time I was not ready to see Reg Varney playing anything other than a comedy role, preferably his Stan Butler character from ON THE BUSES. Also, it felt to me that the comedy and drama didn't really mix all that well. And I think I actually fell asleep watching it.

Having seen it for a second time earlier this week, my view has totally changed.

I have also seen the TV version from 1968. Enjoyable though that version is, I can say without any doubt that this film version is superior in every way. There is more comedy and the film seems to revolve much more around Varney, which is really the point of the original story. The TV version seems to spend more time focusing on the other characters, and feels a bit too much like an extended episode of a soap opera, albeit a good one.

The comedy routines in this film version are far more enjoyable and memorable. I can't get the "everybody here loves Sherry" ditty out of my head. Reg Varney clearly enjoys playing the camp comedian role and is a delight to watch. The delivery of his lines is spot-on. Reg Varney became typecast as Stan Butler. This film proved he was so much more, given the opportunity.

Just because the film has more comedy than the TV version, don't assume that there is less effective drama because you couldn't be more wrong. Varney is actually less restrained in the concluding scenes than in the TV version.

The film version overall also feels much more energetic. It's longer than the TV version by more than 40 minutes. Yet it doesn't feel padded out at all. The extra scenes are all great, and the meeting between Varney and the parents of the girl his son wants to marry is not to be missed. It's a classic scene that mixes comedy and drama so brilliantly.

The film version also has better stars playing the supporting roles, with excellent performances from Diana Coupland and Jean Harvey especially. The former gives what I consider to be her best career performance in this film. The latter is someone I wish had appeared in more films, rather than being confined to TV.

The camerawork is better and the presence of musical cues heightens the impact where appropriate, making the acting performances even more effective. There is not one poor performance anywhere in this film. Even a young Johnny Briggs is delightful to watch, playing a barman.

What this film manages to do most effectively, though, is combine comedy of the Carry on films variety, with some very poigant drama. Kudos to writer Kevin Laffan and director Christopher Hodson for achieving this, because it is not easy to do. I remember for example when I watched Norman Wisdom in the film, WHAT'S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE?. He was playing a role that was a combination of half comic and half serious, as Varney does in this film, and the drama just didn't mix well with the comedy. One scene in that film is very depressing too much, and I wish it had not been included. THE BEST PAIR OF LEGS IN THE BUSINESS avoids this pitfall, and there is not one scene I would take out of it.

The only real flaw in the film is that the conclusion does get a bit too depressing, not least because the acting performances are so brilliant. I would have preferred a happier ending. But this is a minor gripe about an otherwise superb film.

On a final note, THE BEST PAIR OF LEGS IN THE BUSINESS is a great film that combines comedy and drama very effectively indeed, and makes full use of the talents of its main star - the late, great Reg Varney. It is a film I intend to watch many more times in the future.
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Reg Varney shines in a non-comedy role...
12 October 2019
This is a TV adaptation of a play by Kevin Laffan - the creator of the popular UK soap opera - EMMERDALE (originally EMMERDALE FARM).

I am not a fan of the soap opera in question, and with Reg Varney appearing in this TV play in a non-comedy role, I was unsure of what to expect.

The story is simple. A caravan park entertainer, whose act is very much in the music hall tradition, has delusions of grandeur. He has grand ambitions but doesn't succeed. His world is shaken when he comes to the realisation that things are not going well in his life, and that he seems to be losing everything he has got - the popularity of his act, the love from his wife, security of employment, among other things. I won't say more about the plot since to do so would ruin the experience of watching this TV play.

The first time I saw THE BEST PAIR OF LEGS IN THE BUSINESS about 13 years back, I didn't like it. I think at the time I was not ready to see Reg Varney playing anything other than a comedy role, preferably his Stan Butler character from ON THE BUSES.

Also, it felt to me that the comedy and drama didn't really mix all that well.

Having seen it for a second time today, my view has totally changed.

Earlier this week, I also saw the 1972 film version of the same production. I prefer that version because there is more comedy and the film seems to revolve much more around Varney, which is really the point of the original story.

The TV version is more drama than comedy. The comedy routines as part of Varney's act in this TV version are not as funny as those in the film version. And sometimes the drama elements feel a bit too much like a soap opera. The shorter running time leads to a tighter pace, and it feels like the conclusion is reached far too soon. Perhaps a two-part play might have been better. The film version escapes this problem.

This is not to say that the TV version is lousy because it is not. Varney's performance is absolutely magnificent, albeit a little restrained during the conclusion when compared to the film version. The scene in the film version when Varney hangs around the swimming pool seems much more poignant, and I think better for it.

The TV version also manages to mix the comedy and drama elements well, as the film version does also. Kudos to writer Kevin Laffan and director Christopher Hodson for achieving this, because it is not easy to do. I remember for example when I watched Norman Wisdom in the film, WHAT'S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE?. He was playing a role that was a combination of half comic and half serious, and the drama just didn't mix well with the comedy. One scene in the film is very depressing too much. THE BEST PAIR OF LEGS IN THE BUSINESS avoids this pitfall.

The actors other than Varney are all competent in their roles, although some are played by better actors in the film version.

In short, this TV play is well worth watching, if only for the excellent performance of Reg Varney in a role about as far departed from Stan Butler as you could imagine.
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A lesser but enjoyable horror anthology...
24 August 2017
TALES THAT WITNESS MADNESS is a horror anthology in the vain of the ones Amicus produced. It isn't as good or enjoyable as the Amicus films but it is a decent effort nonetheless. It helps that the film continues the tradition of casting well-known British actors to play key roles (Joan Collins, Jack Hawkins, Donald Pleasance and so on), as well as having Freddie Francis, who directed some of Amicus' best anthologies (TALES FROM THE CRYPT for example) on board to direct this one too.

The linking story sees a psychiatrist visiting a colleague who runs an asylum for the insane. The psychiatrist at the asylum explains to the visitor how the inmates arrived there, making it sound as though he's developed a new theory that's a breakthrough in psychiatric thinking. They meet with four of the patients to learn their stories. This flimsy set up is made interesting by the presence of two great actors - Jack Hawkins and Donald Pleasance.

The first story is about a boy who has an imaginary friend; a pet tiger. The boy insists the tiger is real even though no one else can see or hear it. I won't say anything more about this story, suffice to say it has a superb, shocking conclusion.

The second story is about an antiques dealer who has recently acquired a penny farthing that has the ability to transport him back in time when he rides it. At the same time, the guy feels as though the picture of his late uncle Albert is watching him. Could there be a connection? Watch and see since I'm saying nothing more. This story is the most suspenseful and eerie of the four, with Peter McEnery and Suzy Kendall giving good performances.

The third story is the silliest and weakest of the three. A guy called Brian brings back home with him a tree. His wife doesn't like it and it starts to feel as though the tree is actually alive and that Brian is falling in love with it. This premise is even sillier than the story of the murderous piano in TORTURE GARDEN. The story is worth seeing only for the great performance from Joan Collins and a certain interesting scene towards the end of the story, which I won't reveal here of course.

The final story is about a woman named Auriol who organises a luau to impress a writer who has come to stay with her, along with his assistant. Auriol finds herself falling for the writer, but he prefers to be around her daughter instead. The reasons soon become apparent. This is perhaps the best of the four stories. It has a disturbing, macabre edge to it, as well as being an interesting mystery and a great performance by Kim Novak as Auriol. Its ending, which I won't give away of course, is the kind you would find in an EC Comics tale.

The film ends strangely to say the least, different from the way films like these normally finish.

This film certainly makes great use of Freddie Francis' talents in delivering shocks and surprises. There are many moments that linger in the memory long after the film has finished, much to its credit.

Overall, TALES THAT WITNESS MADNESS is a slightly different, lesser-known horror anthology compared to the Amicus ones, but very enjoyable nonetheless.
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Hip Hop Locos (2001 Video)
The worst film ever made!
24 August 2017
Just checking back on my ratings list, I recalled the names of the most awful, lousy films I've seen and rated one star out of 10. I realised that one of those films is probably the worst film ever made. There's one film that stood out more than any of the others and that's HIP HOP LOCOS.

I'm having a really hard time trying to remember much about this film (think I may have fell asleep halfway through watching it). It's about a bunch of rap stars who kill drug dealers or something like that. My only real memory of this film is about a guy saying "homes" in just about every line, which was very irritating. We never see the faces of these guys or anything. Whether this was some lame attempt at creating a mystery of some kind or due to non-existent lighting I'll never know.

The acting, the dialogue and everything else about this film is absolutely atrocious. There is not a single positive thing that can be said about this film, not even one. I'm being generous even calling it a film since it's just a series of loosely connected scenes, shot on a camcorder, made on a budget of what seems like $2.50. And there may have still been some spare change left over. The worst film Ed Wood ever made must seem like a very competently produced epic masterpiece in comparison to this dreck.

There's nothing more I can say about this film. It has nothing whatsoever going for it. Whoever produced it would be well-advised not to attempt to make any more films.
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Decent but slightly flat British giallo...
24 August 2017
THE PSYCHOPATH is a thriller in the vein of an Italian giallo. But it has a very British feel to it. It was one of Amicus' few non-anthology films and unlike their better known non-anthology works such as THE BEAST MUST DIE for example, this one fell into obscurity for a long time. It remains hard to find today, with no official UK DVD release to date, which is surprising.

The plot involves a police inspector investigating a series of murders in which a doll of each victim is found at the scene. Luckily this is not one of those so-called police procedural gialli, where there are frequent boring scenes with the police talking endlessly at the station. The inspector in this film gets out and about, trying to piece together the puzzle, and that's a definite plus point in its favour.

The film has many good things going for it - good acting, an interesting mystery, some fairly decent murder scenes and a short running time (ensuring the film doesn't outstay its welcome).

But there are a few flaws that need mentioning.

Patrick Wymark doesn't have the screen presence of Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and many other British horror actors I could name from the time period the film was made. There's nothing wrong with his acting or anything but his lack of screen presence, combined with other factors such as the flat feel the film has at times, drags the film down a bit. I thought Wymark was at his best in Roman Polanski's REPULSION, in which he played a landlord. He was great in that film. He's just nowhere near as compelling to watch in THE PSYCHOPATH, though, it has to be said. His part is written as though he was intended to just go through the motions, which is what happens.

The murder scenes are decent but lack the macabre shocks associated with the Italian gialli. It's true that most of the early giallos were like this, bar BLOOD AND BLACK LACE. But there is a flat feel that makes doesn't make you suspect that makes you suspect you're not watching anything particularly disturbing or shocking. This is accentuated with the denouement, when we find out the killer's identity. The solution to the mystery lacks the shock that a thriller should have. It doesn't pack a wallop at all. I couldn't help but suspect that the whole film may have been a slightly rushed production. It would explain why Freddie Francis's usual strength in creating shocks and surprises isn't fully exploited.

Overall, THE PSYCHOPATH is a decent British giallo, worth a watch for giallo fans and fans of British/horror thrillers. It is hard to track down and I wouldn't recommend anyone going out of their way to find it. But if you can buy it cheap or see it for free then you might enjoy it.
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Trog (1970)
As bad as many people say it is but not the work of unintentional hilarity some claim....
24 August 2017
TROG is a legendary poorly-made, silly film about an anthropologist who finds a troglodyte and takes it to her laboratory, where she seeks to domesticate it. The title of the film derives from the name given to the creature by the scientist.

There is some underlying social commentary about the rights of the creature to a life. This is mainly played out in the form of a court hearing. It isn't well-handled, though.

For reasons unknown the film has garnered something of a cult following, with some seeing it as a "so bad it's good" type of film. Trouble is that the film is very boring indeed and is really only livened up a bit by Michael Gough's performance as the man who wants the creature to be killed due to it being, in his view, a threat to the local populace. Some other interesting things happen towards the end, which I can't really discuss without giving anything away, suffice to say it doesn't last very long.

I guess there is some unintentional humour to be derived from the inclusion of footage of dinosaurs fighting (taken from some other film). But I didn't laugh; I was just bored and bewildered.

It is sad that Joan Crawford plays out her last big screen performance in this lousy film because she gives a good performance, as one would expect.

Overall, TROG is lousy. The presence of Joan Crawford and Michael Gough led me to suspect that it might have been better than people say. But it isn't. The people who say this film is bad are right.
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The Nanny (1965)
My favourite Hammer film!
24 August 2017
Here it is, folks, my favourite Hammer film. And it's quite ironic that as a horror fan more than a thriller fan that I should find this Hammer thriller a better, more riveting film than any of their horror films. But life can work out that way sometimes.

The plot starts off with a simple concept, which goes as follows - the parents of a 10-year old boy pick him up from an institution he's being held in and bring him back home. It's implied that the boy has done something wrong that led him to being confined. But we're never told what. It's this air of mystery throughout the film that forms the frame on which the rest of the other great aspects of the film are built. The atmosphere at times is reminiscent of the other masterpiece Bette Davis starred in - WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? But the two films are very different in other ways.

There are some interesting characters to be found here.

The boy's mother, played brilliantly by Wendy Craig, is a depressed woman, easily upset and unable to cope with the responsibilities of life, particularly motherhood. The boy's father, played equally brilliantly by James Villiers, is a calm man, in control but somewhat impatient of his wife's mannerisms and her behaviour. You get the impression that things weren't always this way and that once their marriage and home life was a happy one before whatever sad event caused things to change. This all adds to the air of mystery and the film keeps you guessing until late on.

Then we have the boy's nanny, a sinister woman with a very creepy vibe about her, played to perfection by the one and only Bette Davis. Does the boy really have anything to fear from his dear, old nanny? Or are his fears irrational? You'll have to watch the film to find out. But the film really keeps you guessing.

Jill Bennett plays the sister of Wendy Craig's character. Bennett's character is, on the surface, much stronger-willed than Craig's and finds the boy's behaviour ridiculous at times. The contrast in the characters of the two sisters is interesting but what's more interesting still, is that she does have a vulnerability of her own, which I won't reveal here.

The film is well-paced and the script is simply excellent (kudos to Jimmy Sangster). Too many thrillers, particularly Italian ones that I've seen, have thrown away the solid foundation they are initially built on by descending into tedium. THE NANNY doesn't fall into that trap. It keeps you on the edge of your seat and you will want to stay with the film until the mystery is solved. The revelations don't disappoint or ruin what comes before them either. It's all rather disturbing when the truth comes out but it's not depressing to watch. There is much suspense and tension in those scenes. Seth Holt does an outstanding job.

Overall, THE NANNY is my favourite Hammer film. There's none of the cheesiness found in their better known horror films. This is a serious film from beginning to end and a true mystery thriller masterpiece.
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Amicus' best non-anthology film...
24 August 2017
THE BEAST MUST DIE is based on a short story called "There Shall Be No Darkness", written by James Blish.

The plot is as follows - a big game hunter who owns a massive country estate invites a group of people to his house for the weekend. He believes that one of them is a werewolf but doesn't know which. They all have skeletons in their closets that fascinate the guy a lot. The hunter has had a state-of-the-art security system recently installed, with cameras and microphones all over the place, plus tracking devices. He's confident the werewolf won't be able to escape as he intends to hunt it down as his "biggest game of all".

This film has everything going for it - interesting characters, great acting, an air of mystery, a fast pace, chase scenes, suspense, tension, memorable lines of dialogue... you name it. And the producers don't mess it up either.

The casting of Calvin Lockhart may have been intended as a gimmick to try cashing in on the "Blaxploitation" craze sweeping across America in the early 1970s. But the truth is that Lockhart makes the role of the hunter his own. He is very believable in the part and compelling to watch. I know that Robert Quarry was originally intended for the role and, good as Quarry might have been (probably playing the role with a more sinister edge to fit his style), Lockhart was the better choice. What makes the film work is that you root for Lockhart to succeed even though the character isn't exactly the nicest man in the world. And at the same time, you're never sure whether he will or not. The film keeps you guessing. It owes a lot to a great script.

Peter Cushing plays a familiar yet different character in the shape of Christopher Lundgren, a German doctor. His German accent is pretty good in my opinion and he never ceases to hold our attention. Cushing is the man who could read a phone book and keep you listening, as someone else on IMDb mentioned previously.

It's great to see Michael Gambon in an early role and the rest of the cast do a great job too. I particularly like Ciaran Madden as Davina. I don't know why; I just do. Something about her makes her interesting to watch. Charles Gray isn't given enough to do in the film, though, and that's really the only minor gripe I have with it.

The chase scenes are exciting and not drawn out or boring as some suggest. They move along fast and the camera-work is excellent.

The film is brimming with atmosphere in all scenes set at night. You're never sure what may spring out at any moment. It's a film that really keeps you guessing as previously mentioned. There are some great moments of suspense and tension, particularly in a key sequence about halfway through the film. I won't say anything about it because it would give too much away. But you'll know what I mean when you see it.

And finally, while some may not like the infamous "werewolf break", I love it!

For me, THE BEAST MUST DIE is probably the best werewolf film of all time. It's certainly the best one I've seen to date. Very different in style to films such as THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF or the Paul Naschy films for example, it has a style all of its own, with a very 1970s vibe to it. And it's by far and away the best non-anthology film Amicus produced.
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Sleuth (1972)
Disappointing thriller...
24 August 2017
SLEUTH is an adaptation of the stage play by the same name, written by Anthony Shaffer. It plays out as though it were a filmed play, mostly taking place not just at a single location, but mostly in one room at that.

The plot is as follows - an eccentric millionaire invites his wife's lover to his house. The former proposes that the latter steal his wife's jewels from his safe and then claim the insurance. I won't give away any more of the plot, suffice to say that all is not what it seems and the two characters become engaged in a game of cat-and-mouse.

Both Olivier and Caine invest a great deal of energy in their performances and no one could argue to the contrary. Olivier overacts at times, which I didn't expect. But both actors are enjoyable to watch in their roles... until all the endless talking without action becomes too boring that is.

The problem with this film is that the plot simply doesn't deliver enough twists and turns. The plan to steal the jewels is talked about to an interminable degree. One would assume that Shaffer would have trimmed down the excessive dialogue for the big screen version. But he doesn't appear to have taken out even one line, judging by the film's length, which is simply too long for the story being told here.

I really can't understand how this film can be held in such high regard. From reading some of the other reviews, I discovered that it was once listed in IMDb's top 250 films. There's no way that this film is one of the 250 best films of all time. I wouldn't even place it anywhere near the top 250 of my own personal list of films that I've seen. It's technically well-made and nice to see the performances of the two great actors but the film itself is boring and I was frequently looking at the elapsed time when watching it. I was hoping for a surprise denouement at the end of the film. But there wasn't one. The few twists and turns there are became easier to predict after the first one, which admittedly surprised me a little.

Overall, SLEUTH is a disappointing thriller. It's labelled as a mystery but the only real mysteries are how this film attained such a high rating and why Shaffer thought it was a good idea to transfer his play to the big screen without making any apparent changes. Stage and film are two different mediums and Shaffer seems to forget this as he made this film.
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Ronnie Corbett shines in this excellent farce!
24 August 2017
NO SEX PLEASE WE'RE British is a film adaptation of the stage farce of the same name, written by Anthony Marriott and Alistair Foot. The stage version is one of the longest running farces in Britain and originally starred Michael Crawford. I'm too young to have seen the play when originally performed but I've read it and I have to say that once again the film version is better. This seems to be a trend with British films based on stage farces - the film version is better. The faster pacing has much to do with this. It's because of this that I wish more films based on British stage farces were made. It would have been wonderful to have A BEDFUL OF FOREIGNERS and MOVE OVER, MRS MARKHAM on the big screen for example.

The plot is as follows - a couple living in a flat above a high street bank find themselves receiving all sorts of pornography - "dirty" postcards, books and so on. A timid, accident-prone bank clerk finds himself embroiled in it all too. The comedy derives from the very British theme of embarrassment of association with sex and the predictably hilarious results as they try to dispose of the books, the postcards and the videos. The film is a neat blend of CARRY ON style comedy mixed with the elements of traditional stage farce (outrageous misunderstandings, mistaken identities, characters making up ridiculous stories to get out of trouble and so on). There's also quite a bit of running around, hiding from people and the like. All that's missing really is a Benny Hill-style chase sequence, which would have been the icing on the cake.

This film rests on the excellent performance of Ronnie Corbett. Outside of THE TWO RONNIES, Corbett is at his best in this film. He invests such a huge amount of energy and spirit in the role that it has to be seen to be believed. He proves what a great character actor he was. I really couldn't imagine anyone else being as good as he was in the role he played in this film. It's as though he found the part he was born to play. He did play a similar role in a film called SOME WILL, SOME WON'T it's true. But it just works better in this film due to the incredible situations he stumbles into.

Ian Ogilvy and Susan Penhaligon are massively underrated as the couple who live above the bank. Before watching this film, it's hard to imagine Ian Ogilvy running around a flat trying to avert disaster. But he does it to perfection here. Likewise, Susan Penhaligon is great. The scene with the chili peppers is brilliant.

Arthur Lowe is great as the pompous bank manager outraged by the proliferation of porn. No one could make pompousness hilarious like Lowe did.

The rest of the cast, including Beryl Reid, Michael Bates, Cheryl Hall, Michael Robbins and many others, are all great too and all play up to their screen personas in other films and shows very well.

The film is very fast-paced and the script contains lots of lines that, while not particularly hilarious on paper, translate into hilarity on the screen.

Overall, this is a great farce with Ronnie Corbett playing the part he looks born to play. It's one of my all-time favourite comedies and is a must-see for fans of the CARRY ON films, Benny Hill or British stage farces.
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Clue (1985)
One of my all-time favourite comedies!
24 August 2017
CLUE is the only film that's based on a board game ever to be made. With this unusual concept in mind, you won't be sure of what to expect when seeing this film for the first time. I know I wasn't. But I do know that after seeing it for the first time, I would see it many more times over the years to come. And that's precisely what happened.

The film plays out much like a stage farce in the sense that it's mostly on one set, with a simple concept that develops into something much more complex, with the characters losing control of the initial situation they find themselves in. Six people are invited to dinner at a manor house by an eccentric millionaire. When they arrive, they find things are not what they seem, especially the absence of their host. But it soon becomes apparent why they are there and a murder is committed. To say anything more would be to give too much away, suffice to say that the six people are based on the six suspects in the CLUE board game (Scarlett, Mustard, Green, White, Plum and Peacock). For anyone who's seen MURDER BY DEATH, this film is very similar in terms of plot and there are similarities in how it unfolds too.

It's mainly the actors who make this film great and hold it together. Tim Curry is simply spellbinding as Wadsworth the butler. As far as I'm concerned, this is Curry at his best. I was honestly gripped by disbelief when I learned that his part was originally written for Leonard Rossiter. Great as though Rossiter was, this fast-paced running around farce-style comedy is really not his style. So I really don't think the film would have worked with him playing Wadsworth. It would have been a very different film that's for sure.

So this is really Tim Curry's film and I always saw it that way right from the moment of the first viewing when I was 14. But as the years have gone on, I've come to appreciate the other actors more. Madeline Kahn is probably the best as Mrs White, who improvises her dialogue in a key scene towards the end of the film. The other actors all have fun with their roles, and Martin Mull's many exchanges with the others provide some of the finest and funniest moments in the film.

Aside from the very spirited performances of the cast, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the film are the very funny one-liners. And it's hilarious watching the characters try to handle the many new situations they are thrown into as the film goes on. It's very much like a stage farce as I've said before. But since it's so difficult to translate this humour to the big screen, complete with the single set, then it's all the more reason for Jonathan Lynn and John Landis to be congratulated for pulling it off.

The film also boasts a great soundtrack and the inclusion of some 1950s songs, particularly Shake, Rattle and Roll and Sh-boom, was a great choice. I for one prefer the use of Shake, Rattle and Roll for the end theme rather than the one originally intended.

Overall, CLUE is a great farce-like film that boasts some great acting performances, a fast pace, lots of surprises and plenty of memorable one-liners. It's one of my all-time favourite comedies.
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Sellers, Falk, Niven and others shine in this wonderful comedy!
24 August 2017
MURDER BY DEATH is a murder mystery spoof. It's very similar to CLUE in terms of plot, and with similarities in the way the plot unfolds too.

Five of the world's greatest detectives are invited to "dinner and a murder" by an eccentric millionaire. That's the plot in a nutshell. I really don't want to say much more because it would spoil the fun, suffice to say that a murder takes place and the detectives try to solve the mystery.

Each of the detectives is based on a known fictional detective. Peter Falk plays Sam Diamond, a spoof of Sam Spade for example. Peter Sellers plays Inspector Wang, a spoof of Charlie Chan. David Niven and Maggie Smith play Dick and Dora Charleston, spoofing Nick and Nora Charles. James Coco plays Milo Perrier, a spoof of Hercule Poirot. And finally, Elsa Lanchester plays Jessica Marbles, a spoof of Miss Marple. Like me, you're probably either unfamiliar or not totally familiar with one or more of these. It probably helps in the understanding of the jokes if you know a lot about all of them. For example, Milo Perrier's insistence that he's "not a Frenchie" but instead "a Belgie" is something you might not understand if you weren't familiar with the character of Hercule Poirot, who is the detective in a number of Agatha Christie novels and stories. The other characters in Poirot stories often mistake him for a Frenchman, to which he replies (often forcefully) that he's Belgian.

For me, much of the fun of the film derives from the way the actors play off against each other, trying to steal scenes, very much in the same way that their characters are each trying to demonstrate better detective skills than the others. It's delightful to watch.

Peter Sellers, Peter Falk, David Niven, Maggie Smith, Alec Guinness, James Coco and Eileen Brennan are simply brilliant in this film and deliver some of their finest performances here. Elsa Lanchester seems somewhat miscast as Jessica Marbles but no one can forget her memorable entrance as she pushes in a wheelchair, in which sat is an old woman, who the others assume is Miss Marple (sorry, Marbles). But it turns out that the old woman is her nurse. Finally, Truman Capote is a playwright rather than an actor but he enjoys himself as the eccentric Lionel Twain and plays the part very well in my opinion. The lines in which he's mocking the other detectives are very funny and well delivered.

The film is kept moving on nicely but isn't quite as fast-paced or energetic as CLUE. There's none of the running around and new situations springing up so quickly. But it does have that similar stage farce feeling to it and mostly takes place at one location, as that film also did. And there are also the great one-liners, with the following surely being the best:

Sellers: Did you hear that?

Narito: No.

Sellers: Neither did I.

I'm not going to mention what they were talking about there or why the line is so funny when delivered. You'll have to see for yourself.

Overall, MURDER BY DEATH is an excellent murder mystery spoof with great performances, plenty of laughs and even a few surprises.
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The weakest of the Leslie Phillips 1970s farces is still very enjoyable...
24 August 2017
Leslie Phillips made a number of bedroom farces in the 1970s. Aside from this film he also starred in NOT NOW DARLING, DON'T JUST LIE THERE, SAY SOMETHING, Spanish FLY and NOT NOW COMRADE. DOCTOR IN TROUBLE is more a vehicle for Phillips to do his "thing" rather than a true entry in the DOCTOR film series. It's also the weakest of the five Phillips farces in my opinion, but still very enjoyable nonetheless.

The plot is simple - a doctor finds out the woman he's in love with is going away on a cruise. He wants to propose to her so he decides to go aboard the ship and ends up being a stowaway, hunted down by the crew. While Phillips is the star of the film, the film itself focuses much of the time on the antics of the other passengers of the ship. This isn't a bad thing, though, since Harry Secombe especially is very funny in the film. But he's enjoyable to watch nonetheless and fans of British humour will find his mishaps funny.

Phillips is on form in this film. I wouldn't say he was at his best and most energetic, like in NOT NOW DARLING and DON'T JUST LIE THERE, SAY SOMETHING. His caddish on screen persona is less exploited in this film than in those for one thing. Secondly, this film plays out more like a CARRY ON film rather than a stage farce, so lacks the usual clothes coming off, mistaken identities and so on to quite an extent. Finally, his hiding out from the crew and running away when looks like getting caught, gets a bit repetitive after a while.

Janet Mahoney is fun to watch as a stripper who hooks up with Harry Secombe (thinking he has recently come into a fortune). The striptease scene is also the best scene in the film, with a wonderfully catchy stripper theme composed by Eric Rogers, playing in the background. I could listen to that theme all day; it's that catchy. It was later re-used in CARRY ON BEHIND and CARRY ON EMMANNUELLE.

There are good supporting roles played by Irene Handl, Freddie Jones, John Le Mesurier and others. Sadly, James Robertson Justice appears in only scene, with most of his role being played by Robert Morley, who plays his on screen brother. Morley is very good as the captain of the ship and his exchanges with Secombe are very funny and provide much of the delight of this film's very British humour. Graham Chapman also turns up playing a comic gay character.

There really isn't much more to say. For fans of the DOCTOR series, I recommend it only if you can accept that this is more of a Leslie Phillips film rather than a true DOCTOR film. For fans of Leslie Phillips or the CARRY ON films, it's definitely worth at least one viewing.
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Fantastic farce starring Brian Rix and Leslie Phillips!
24 August 2017
Leslie Phillips starred in a few bedroom farces in the early to mid-1970s. These were DOCTOR IN TROUBLE, NOT NOW DARLING, Spanish FLY, NOT NOW COMRADE and this film. DON'T JUST LIE THERE, SAY SOMETHING is undoubtedly one of the best of these films.

The plot is as follows - a government minister intends to tighten up the laws on censorship, leading to a group of hippies kidnapping his underdog. From this simple premise the film descends into the usual farce with clothes coming off, mistaken identities, characters making up stories as they try to explain away their various antics and so on.

The first thing to note is that the film doesn't look like a filmed stage play in the same way as NOT NOW DARLING did. It makes use of more than one location and some outdoor scenes too (although not too many).

Leslie Phillips is on top form in this film and his caddish on screen persona is ideally suited to the part he plays. Likewise, Brian Rix is probably at his best in this film. I remember recently seeing the film version of another Rix farce, DRY ROT, and noting that it was a far less energetic production than this one. Rix has a ball of a time getting into all manner of mishaps, as well as trying to fool a police inspector with a phony Australian accent. It's all great to see and the film moves along at a very fast pace like NOT NOW DARLING did.

Joanna Lumley has always been better in serious works rather than comedy. That's my opinion anyway. I'll always think of her as being at her best as Sapphire in the SAPPHIRE AND STEEL series. But she is good as Miss Parkyn, Phillips' secretary and shares many great scenes with Phillips.

Derek Royle has fun playing an MP of the opposition party, hoping to find evidence of Phillips' sexual exploits in order to try embarrassing (and possibly bring down) the government.

Peter Bland is excellent as Inspector Ruff, a character who reprises his role in another, lesser-known Rix farce called A BIT BETWEEN THE TEETH (sadly no film version of that one was made).

Joan Sims is somewhat wasted as Phillips' wife, but it's great to see her here nonetheless.

The rest of the cast are great too, especially Katy Manning.

As was the case with NOT NOW DARLING, the film is better than the stage version. The faster pace and the perfect casting ensure this.

Overall, DON'T JUST LIE THERE, SAY SOMETHING is one of the best British farces - a fast-paced masterpiece and one of my all-time favourite comedies. For fans of the CARRY ON films, Benny Hill, Ray Cooney farces (or Brian Rix ones of course), this is a must see.
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Probably the best of the Leslie Phillips bedroom farces...
24 August 2017
Leslie Phillips made a number of bedroom farces in the early to mid-1970s. These were DOCTOR IN TROUBLE, DON'T JUST LIE THERE, SAY SOMETHING, NOT NOW, COMRADE, Spanish FLY and this film. NOT NOW DARLING is probably the best of the five films. Unlike the two of the remaining four films to be based on a stage production, this one doesn't go to great lengths to hide its stage origins.

The plot is simple as most farces start from a basic idea - a furrier wants to buy his girlfriend an expensive mink coat but is worried about her husband finding out. So he tries to sell the coat at a huge discount, hoping the husband will fall for it. One event after another leads to things spiraling out of the furrier's control, with his assistant noting "what a tangled web we weave" (an often used line in Cooney's farces) about halfway through the film.

Leslie Phillips is perhaps at his best in this film. He seems to have a ball of a time as the fast-paced film goes on. His caddish screen persona is perfectly suited to the role and I really couldn't imagine anyone else being able to play the part so well, not even the late, great Sid James.

In many reviews of the film I've read, people have said that Ray Cooney was wrong to take on the role of Crouch himself. I disagree completely. Cooney is brilliant as Crouch and steals every scene he's in with such glee. He livens up the film immensely and it's just as well that he gets such a great deal of screen time with Phillips because they make a great double act.

Julie Ege is fantastic as Janie, the girlfriend of the furrier. She really fits into the world of this CARRY ON-style humour as though she had been in it throughout her career. She is also shown topless several times and fully nude in the uncut version.

Joan Sims and Barbara Windsor bring their CARRY ON personas along and it blends perfectly with the humour of the film.

Derren Nesbitt is brilliant as the bloke who the furrier tries to dupe into buying the mink coat. The expressions on his face as he reacts to the various things happening around him are simply hilarious.

The rest of the cast - Bill Fraser, Jack Hulbert, Cicely Courtneidge and Trudi Van Doorn - are all great too in their supporting roles.

I think the sheer genius of the film itself, though, arises from the fact that 80 per cent or so of it takes place not only on a single set, but in just one room. It's incredibly difficult to translate stage works of this kind to the big screen at the best of times. So Ray Cooney is to be applauded for making such a phenomenal success of it. In a book about Tony Tenser and the films of Tigon (who distributed NOT NOW DARLING), Cooney planned to make a series of NOT NOW... films, in the same vein as the CARRY ON gang had their series. The NOT NOW... films were obviously intended to be cheekier outings, closer to the UP POMPEII! film with Frankie Howerd. Sadly only two films were made. That is a great shame because I would have loved to have seen at least half a dozen of these films made. I've read many of Cooney's farces and they are all incredibly funny and hold your attention like this film does.

One other thing I haven't mentioned yet is that I read the play and didn't think it was as good as the film. The faster-pacing, the cheekier dialogue and the perfect choices of casting lead to the film being better than the stage version itself.

Finally, make sure you see the uncut version of the film, which can only be found on a DVD with a pink cover, distributed by a company called WHAM. All of the other DVD versions and VHS releases are the cut UK cinema version, which cuts out many of the best cheeky lines as well as most of the nudity.

Overall, NOT NOW DARLING is a masterpiece of farce, one of my all time favourite comedies. For fans of 1970s British comedy (particularly the CARRY ON films and Benny Hill), this is a must-see.
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Lousy British horror film...
24 August 2017
Most British horror films are good and I've enjoyed watching them ever since I was a kid. I've spent my adult years tracking down the ones I never got to see, for whatever reason, when I was growing up. Today I finally got to see VENOM, which I'd never heard of to be honest. It could have been one of those "hidden gems" we all come across from time to time. But sadly it isn't.

The plot revolves around a mad scientist trying to create a poisonous nerve gas from spider venom. The idea is interesting and one could imagine Hammer, Amicus or Tigon making an interesting film out of the premise. But sadly, VENOM is as dull as dishwater. It's also very incoherent and it seems that every five minutes or so, the main character is chasing this girl through the woods. The problem is that there really isn't much mystery other than the motive of the mad scientist. The characters aren't interesting and nor do they do anything that holds your attention through the film. If you stick with it, you're merely doing so just so you can "cross one off" your list of British horror films to see.

Director Peter Sykes has made only two other horror films besides this one - DEMONS OF THE MIND and TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER. What makes his style different from most other directors of British horror films is that he goes out of his way to try shocking the viewer. In TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER the shocks are quite effective in my opinion. But VENOM just fails to escape its flat feeling so much that one could be forgiven for falling asleep before the shocking moments arrive. I won't explain what happens but it's tame and not as compelling viewing as it should be.

The whole production has the feeling of everyone simply going through the motions. The acting isn't awful by any means. But the whole production just feels flat and lifeless most of the time. Derek Newark, usually cast as a police inspector or detective in films and TV shows from the 1960s and 1970s, is wasted here. Gertan Klauber is better in his brief appearances in the CARRY ON films, as well as his small role in SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN. The remaining cast members are nearly all unknown to me and Simon Brent is particularly bland as the lead.

Overall, VENOM is a very boring film. It remained obscure in the UK for a long time for good reason. Recommended only for British horror completists.
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Tigon's best horror film!
22 August 2017
CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR is another great British horror that has been all too frequently derided, as though it were a poor film. It's actually very good, with some great nightmarish imagery (for a British horror), great acting and a few interesting twists.

Tigon produced a few horror films back in the day. Among their works are THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR, THE BEAST IN THE CELLAR, VIRGIN WITCH, WITCHFINDER GENERAL and THE BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW. It's the last two of these that are the most well-known and considered their best. I beg to differ, though, since I consider CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR to be their best film.

The story concerns an antiques dealer called Robert Manning, who goes to a house in the countryside in search of his brother. He's in for a few surprises when he gets there.

This is one of those British horror films with lots of dialogue and seemingly little action. But the script is well put together and the film holds your attention. It helps that the film makes use of the great talents of Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee, two horror legends who don't disappoint. The hardest part of this film was getting Mark Eden, an actor not known for appearing in horror films, to carry it. But he pulls it off very well. Also appearing is the legendary Barbara Steele, who is famous for starring in a number of Italian horror films in the 1960s. She is arguably at her best in this film, though, playing the villainess in the form of a witch named Lavinia Morley.

There is a creepy vibe running through the film much of the time. This is helped in part by the choice of musical cues and the air of mystery surrounding the manor house and its occupants. The nightmare sequences are particularly effective and director Vernon Sewell does a great job in his work generally.

Overall, CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR is a very underrated film from a lesser known British film production company. It showed that Tigon at their best could compete with the better known Hammer and Amicus at making horror films.
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Raw Meat (1972)
A disappointing British horror from the golden age...
22 August 2017
DEATH LINE (aka RAW MEAT) was made when British horror was in its golden age. Hammer were producing great films such as DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE for example, Amicus were producing some of their best anthologies such as VAULT OF HORROR and FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE and Pete Walker was barely getting started, having produced his first horror film, THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW in 1972, the same year that DEATH LINE was made. Unfortunately, DEATH LINE is a very disappointing film, directed by a bloke I've never heard of (and perhaps this film is the reason why).

The plot of DEATH LINE is interesting if far-fetched - a cannibal lives in a disused part of a Tube station and passengers begin to disappear, never to be seen again. A police investigator hopes to uncover the secret of the disappearances and solve the mystery.

One of the problems of this film is that the characters are simply not likable or interesting. The scriptwriter seems to go out of his way to make Donald Pleasance's character as obnoxious as possible and this just doesn't work at all. In these types of films, it's important that the police inspector investigating the case is a likable bloke who you want to see do what he sets out to do.

It wasn't uncommon in the 1970s to cast comedy actors in horror films (Terry-Thomas in VAULT OF HORROR and Ian Carmichael in FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE for example) but Norman Rossington is given nothing to do to liven the film up. His comic talents aren't put to use and, to be frank, any other actor could have been cast in his role and no one would have noticed the difference. For a British film that's not what I expect.

The remaining characters are all mostly forgettable. I like James Cossins as an actor and the beginning of the film with him in it does look good. It's good to see him doing his thing and these scenes are the best in the film. But sadly he's written out of the film far too early.

Beyond the opening scenes, the film is mostly badly scripted. The police investigation is as dull as dishwater. The underground scenes with the cannibal are even worse. And the film as a whole feels longer than it is. Freddie Francis should have been asked to direct this film and Anthony Hinds would have been a good choice to write the screenplay. We would have had a far better film if they had, of that I have no doubt at all.

Overall, DEATH LINE is a very disappointing film from the golden age of British horror. Besides Donald Pleasance, there is no actor with any screen presence. The film is mostly boring and forgettable. I can only assume that the cult status it has derived stems from some people seeing it as a "so bad it's good" film. I don't see it that way, though. It's just too dull.
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The Ghoul (1975)
Another underrated British horror film from the 1970s!
22 August 2017
Many 1970s horror films made in the UK are vastly underrated and THE GHOUL is definitely one of those films. In my opinion, it's better than most Hammer films. So why some people talk as though this were some cheap, awful dreck I simply don't know. For one thing, it has Peter Cushing and John Hurt at the top of their game. We get to see an exciting car race, Veronica Carlson is great to watch and listen to, the misty setting provides a great atmospheric backdrop, there's a very creepy vibe in the scenes where the ghoul appears or is about to appear and there's never a dull moment. What's not to like?

This is one of those films where you know the plot but you're not sure quite how it'll unfold and what twists and turns may be presented along the way. The setting is the 1920s and a group of rich people are having a party. One of the party-goers gets her boyfriend to challenge another guy to a race to Land's End (the most Southerly point of England). Along the way, they become lost and one of them finds herself in a house owned by a former Clergyman who harbours a secret.

Peter Cushing delivers one of his most moving performances in this film (second only to TALES FROM THE CRYPT). The scenes where he's telling the guest of his house about his past must have been at times difficult and uncomfortable to perform. But Cushing performs them to perfection as we know he always would. These moments are key in leading us to decide whether he did wrong and make us wonder what we might have done if we were in his shoes.

John Hurt is simply fantastic as Cushing's gardener, Tom Rawlings. He is at times creepy and at others comical but always fun to watch in action.

Veronica Carlson is at her best in this film - the one film in which she gets to play a major role. She has screen presence and looks very glamorous as Daphne.

Alexandra Bastedo is a bit wasted in the lesser role of Angela, more of a damsel-in-distress character than the one given to Carlson. But she plays it well.

Gwen Watford is suitably sinister as the Indian Ayah who serves as Cushing's housekeeper.

Ian McCulloch is more famous for his roles in Italian films such as ZOMBIE. But he's great to watch in this film too.

The directing by Freddie Francis is excellent. Francis is good at creating atmosphere and ensuring key scenes have a creepy vibe to them. He selects his camera angles carefully so that while you see what he wants you to see, he also uses the power of suggestion very well. He's also good at delivering shocks and surprises. I can never forget the moment for example in DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS when Roy Castle turns on the light and finds the Voodoo god seemingly standing right next to him, more or less. The guy isn't stood as close as he appears to be and he also looks very tall and imposing too in that first shot.

Overall, THE GHOUL is an immensely enjoyable film. It's darker in tone and more gruesome than a Hammer or Amicus effort but it's a great British horror film from the golden age that all fans of such films should enjoy.
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Underrated British horror film starring three great legends!
22 August 2017
For reasons I've never understood, this film has been considered a failure by many. To me it's a success and this is why it's garnered a cult following in more recent times.

There's plenty of intrigue and mystery as three seemingly separate plots come together. One plot concerns a wrestler who wakes up in what seems like a hospital. He's confined and finds a limb missing each time he wakes up from sleeping. Another plot concerns a military officer in what seems to be a country in Eastern Europe. He uses illegal torture methods to extract information and his superiors find out. The final plot concerns a series of murders of young women, whose bodies are found with puncture marks on their wrists, similar to those of a vampire. As the film goes on, we discover that there are reasons for these three separate plots and it all comes together very well, with a few interesting twists and turns on the way.

For a horror film, this is brimming with action scenes, including car chases, chases on foot, fight scenes and more. The whole thing moves along at a brisk pace and is never boring. Director Gordon Hessler manages to create tension and suspense very effectively and without padding out the film with unnecessary or overlong scenes.

I have read the Peter Saxon novel on which the film is based. The novel is not quite as exciting as the film but is a great read and follows the same "three plot" structure as the film. It's short and to the point and also fast-paced. The film follows it very closely, except for the ending. I prefer the ending in the film and this is one of the many ways the film improved things.

It's great to have Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing all in one film, even if only two of the three actually share a scene. The film would still be great if only two of these three horror legends were in it. Cushing's performance is the best of the three even though his character is less interesting than those played by the other two and he has less to do than either. But Price and Lee are at the top of their game too. Price's character is the most interesting because we're not sure whether he's a true villain, or just a misguided likable man. The film keeps you guessing until the end.

Special mention of Alfred Marks must be made. He's simply brilliant to watch in this film as the police superintendent in charge of solving the "vampire murders" as they are dubbed. Marks was a comedy actor with a flair for dry wit and is given plenty of funny lines that allow him to put these talents to good use.

Christopher Matthews delivers a great performance as a doctor who carries out post-mortems on dead bodies for the police but finds himself taking a much more personal interest in the mysteries around him. His character becomes more prominent in the second half and I like the way he went from being a minor character to a major one. It's perhaps easier to pull this off in books and video games rather than on film so kudos to the script writer.

Overall, SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN is a briskly-paced horror film with lots of action, great acting and direction, and some great twists and turns in the story. Highly recommended for all fans of British horror.
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One of the best horror films of all time!
22 August 2017
I'll get straight to the point - I love this film and think it's one of the best horror films of all time. Many people won't agree and that's fine. But I'm going to use this space to talk about this film and what it is that I think makes it so great.

Christopher Lee is at the top of his game as an anthropologist who discovers a frozen monster in Manchuria and travels back to Europe on a trans-Siberian express train with it. It isn't a giveaway to say that the monster was merely in hibernation and wakes up as the ice it's contained in melts. There's a great atmosphere, brimming with suspense and tension. The twists and turns in the story are well-executed and the film will keep you on the edge of your seat as you wonder how all this will end.

The always dependable Peter Cushing is equally great as a scientist traveling on the same train. Cushing's wife had recently died and he didn't want to star in this film. But Lee persuaded him to do it, and while this may be selfish of me to say, I'm glad he did. It's one of the few films where they are on the same side in the battle of good versus evil and it's brilliant to watch them together.

I could never write a review for this film without mentioning the late Julio Pena, who played Inspector Mirov. He died a few months after filming was complete and before the film's release. But I'm sure his knowledge that he delivered his best performance of his career in his film will help him rest peacefully. He's absolutely fantastic to watch in action and the Mirov character himself is perhaps the most interesting police inspector to feature in a Spanish horror film, as well as being one of the most interesting fictional police inspectors ever.

The other actors are great too. Alberto de Mendoza gives the performance of his career as a Rasputin-like mad monk named Pujardov. Silvia Tortosa, Georges Rigaud and many more are all great in their roles and hold our interest in their scenes. Helga Line is given an unusual role as a mysterious character, not what she at first seems. It's a pity she's written out of the film so early on.

Eugenio Martín directs the film very differently from the way most Spanish horror films are done. Spanish horror films, like British ones, are often very entertaining (like Paul Naschy's many films for example) but rarely scary and having what I call a "safe edge" to them. By that I mean you feel almost 100 per cent sure that certain characters who you could pick out would make it to the end of the film. The atmosphere, combined with the twists and turns, lead you to suspect none of the characters are safe and that anything could happen. Martín's direction capitalises on the claustrophobia of the train setting to the full. He times the shocks and surprises well. Some people complain about the frequent exterior shots of the train between scenes. But I think they miss the point that Martín is reminding the audience that the characters are trapped in a potentially fatal situation. The icy cold of the Siberian countryside is not exactly a place one could consider an escape either, something Martín clearly wants to emphasise. The other thing being emphasised I believe is that the train journey is very long and that the dangers aboard the train will persist for what seems like an eternity.

Overall, HORROR EXPRESS is an unsung horror masterpiece in my opinion. It's simply a magnificent, fun film to watch on a Friday or Saturday night.
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A very underrated entry in the CARRY ON series...
22 August 2017
This is one of my favourite CARRY ON films. The departure of Sid James and Barbara Windsor, along with Hattie Jacques, from the series, led many people to switch off and stop watching any new CARRY ON films after CARRY ON DICK. Others dismissed the film as a lame remake of CARRY ON CAMPING. I disagree. It's better than CARRY ON CAMPING in my opinion (good though that film was).

The departure of Talbot Rothwell from the series after CARRY ON DICK could well have led to the next film having a terrible script. Luckily that didn't happen... because they chose Dave Freeman. Dave Freeman wrote a few farces that I like, the best being A BEDFUL OF FOREIGNERS, which Terry Scott starred in as the lead. He knew how to write comedy and has a flair for sexual innuendo, and deriving effective humour from misunderstandings. It's hard to think of a better person to have taken over to continue the series. It's a pity this was the only film he wrote the screenplay for, since it's a work of genius in my opinion.

There is even less of a plot to this film than the other entries in the series. But this doesn't stop the film being incredibly funny. A group of holidaymakers end up at a caravan site and much hilarity ensues. There are a few separate sub-plots that come together nicely. I don't want to give too much away so I won't say much on this point. One plot line involves an archaeologist (played by the late, great Kenneth Williams) and his assistant (played to perfection by Elke Sommer) excavating the site looking for Roman remains. They drive much of the film and get into many mishaps and misunderstandings. It's all a joy to watch on the screen.

While all the cast members are brilliant and deliver spirited performances, I want to give special mention to quite a few actors who star in the film.

Windsor Davies and Jack Douglas take on the roles played by Sid James and Bernard Bresslaw in CARRY ON CAMPING. Unlike Sid James, Windsor Davies isn't playing a stereotypical lecherous bloke with a "dirty" laugh. But he does have an eye for the ladies and even though he and Jack Douglas must be two of the least likely ladies' men ever to appear on film, you can't help but really like these blokes and root for them. The two actors seem to be having the time of their lives in this film.

Kenneth Connor is fantastic as the lecherous Major Leep. He thoroughly enjoys himself and leaves you with the impression that he's been wanting to play this part for years. There is a slight touch of pathos in the character too, which is very effective and doesn't drag down the comical stereotype.

Carol Hawkins is great as a camper who stays on the site. She has a screen presence in this film that wasn't there in CARRY ON ABROAD.

There is plenty of witty dialogue in this film. Here's one of my favourite exchanges:

Windsor Davies (referring to a beach ball burning on a fire): My ball's burning!

Peter Butterworth: Don't stand so close to the fire!

There are plenty more of the Donald McGill-type postcard jokes like that one. I love them!

There is more nudity in this film than in the prior entries in the series. But the film as a whole comes across as fun for the whole family, not an adults-only sex comedy like the CONFESSIONS films for example. Most of the humour is cheeky and very British, with many of the jokes likely to go over the top of the heads of children who watch it.

I could be here all day talking about the great qualities of this film but I think I've said enough. It's just a great British comedy from the golden age. Watch the film and enjoy!
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The second best CARRY ON film...
22 August 2017
I doubt many CARRY ON fans would agree with me that this is the second best entry in the series, or that it deserves a 10. But I'll put forward in argument in favour.

The CARRY ON films were all about cheeky seaside postcard humour, sending up British institutions and poking fun at peculiar aspects of life in Britain. SCREAMING is the one I consider the best because it has an energy running through it higher than any of the others. Everyone is at the top of their game - the actors, the script writers, the producers... everyone. Everything is right about that film - the pace, the puns, the atmosphere, the comic timing, the flow... everything. Well, CARRY ON ABROAD is a close second in that department because everything feels 100 per cent perfect here as well. All the regulars are in this film and they deliver some of their finest performances here, with special mention to Peter Butterworth and Hattie Jacques. It is well-documented Charles Hawtrey's alcoholism was a problem during the film, and as a result, he was sacked from the series after this film. But he goes out with a bang, not a whimper, and seems to relish every moment of filming. He is simply a joy to watch on the screen and this was his finest performance in the whole series in my humble opinion. The reason why I rate SCREAMING the best, above ABROAD, is that the jokes flow a little better and the characters play off each other that bit better too. There's not much separating the two, though.

No one watches a CARRY ON film expecting much of a plot but here goes - a group of tourists go to an island in the Mediterranean and find the hotel they're booked to stay in is only half-finished. Cue lots of hilarity as toilets malfunction, balconies fall over, bathrooms have to cover two rooms and much more.

The strange thing about all this is that the whole thing is so well acted, scripted, photographed and everything that I used to think they actually did go to Spain to film it. I was quite surprised that much of the filming was at the back of Pinewood Studios... in a car park!

The film squeezes out every gag that can be had from the situations presented to the "gang". And there are plenty of corny lines that don't sound all that funny but are hilarious when delivered on the screen. Here's an example:

Kenneth Williams: I'm the executive from Wundatours - Stuart Farquhar.

Peter Butterworth: Stupid what?


Sid James (mutters to Joan Sims): I think he was right the first time!

Here's another of my favourites:

Kenneth Williams: Well it seems to me that this hotel isn't quite finished.

Peter Butterworth: Not finished? It's nothing... just a little building work... four or five floors maybe, that's all.

There's plenty more where they came from. The whole thing is very corny and very British. But it all has a timeless charm and films like this will always be fun to watch, as many other films and franchises have come, gone and been forgotten. Also, given a choice between what seems to pass for a comedy film these days (rubbish "rom-coms") or a delightful, unpretentious film like CARRY ON ABROAD, the latter wins hands down every time. You simply can't go wrong with this film.
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One of the best British sex comedies...
22 August 2017
As soon as I heard that George Baker, an actor not known for comedy, embarrassed himself by starring in a low-budget sex comedy, I had to see the film for myself. It didn't disappoint.

This is one of those sex comedies that doesn't fit into the usual "jack-the-lad has sex with lots of girls" routine found in the CONFESSIONS films and the ADVENTURES OF films, along with films such as CAN YOU KEEP IT UP FOR A WEEK? or THE UPS AND DOWNS OF A HANDYMAN. Like COME PLAY WITH ME, it has a structure and a charm all of its own.

These 1970s sex comedies have a very British charm to them that makes people feel nostalgic due to the depiction of the 1970s as it never really was, but how people who lived in that period love to remember it. INTIMATE GAMES is definitely a film that will make many feel nostalgic about the "good old days".

The plot is as follows - a college professor divides his students into pairs so that each person in the pair can learn about the sexual fantasies of the other and write a thesis on the subject. The film starts off by playing out much like a series of vignettes featuring each of the many couples. It changes course about half-way through, as other characters enter the fray and we see their sexual fantasies. Many familiar faces such as IAN HENDRY, HUGH LLOYD, CLAIRE DAVENPORT and JOHNNY VYVIAN show up in the latter half of the film and their scenes are among the funniest.

George Baker seems to have a good time with the role, despite some sources suggesting he hated starring in the film. His college professor character is clearly a closet lecherous bloke and this stereotypical Benny Hill-type character is always funny to watch.

For those wanting to see plenty of nudity, you'll find quite a bit of it in INTIMATE GAMES, plus sex scenes. The sex scenes aren't particularly erotic, as is always the case with this type of film.

The ending to the film, and particularly what George Baker's character does, along with the results, has to be seen to be believed!

The film is very cheaply put together and makes ESKIMO NELL, perhaps the most competently produced British sex comedy of the 1970s, seem like a work of great art in comparison. But it is well-paced, unpretentious and funny.

Overall, this film would never win an award in a million years but for fans of 1970s British sex comedies, this is an absolute must-see.
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So bad it's good!
22 August 2017
This is one of those films that I describe as "so bad it's good". This is an often-used term by people to describe films that are usually ineptly produced and fail at delivering what they intend yet end up being incredibly funny, albeit for all the wrong reasons. I remember reading in a review for another film elsewhere on IMDb that this term can never be applied to a comedy, since a bad comedy is, according to that review, one that isn't funny. In theory I should agree with that since it makes sense. But then I watch COME PLAY WITH ME once more and realise that I don't.

For reasons totally unknown to me and to everyone else who has reviewed this film, it was a massive box office hit in the UK, breaking records to become the longest running film to ever grace a UK cinema screen. It ran in cinemas for an incredible four years.

The plot is as follows - two forgers go on the run from a bunch of crooks and hide out in a health farm. From there the plot expands to include a government official on their trail, along with the crooks, a health farm where there are virtually no staff, and a bunch of young women turning up on a coach to run said health farm.

Lots of familiar faces from the period show up in this film, including Alfie Bass, Ronald Fraser, Henry McGee, Bob Todd, Ken Parry and many others. For none of these people is COME PLAY WITH ME their finest hour. But they are all fun to watch and the film is kept moving along nicely. The lovely Sue Longhurst, a veteran of the 1970s sex comedies, is present too and that was a wise decision on the part of the producers. She's always great to watch.

George Harrison Marks is unintentionally funny playing one of the forgers. It's well-documented that he was drunk during the making of the film and it's evident in most of his scenes. But it is funny to see him dressed up in a Victorian-era outfit (complete with horrible wig and false teeth), looking like he stepped right out of a 1930s music hall production, and into the 1970s. There's one scene where he's lifting a trunk out of the back of a car. I don't know why but I laugh every time I see it, even though there are no intentional "sight gags" involved.

The editing is very sloppy in places, with Henry McGee looking at the camera at the end of one scene for example. This provides some of the amusement to be found in the film. The dialogue comes across as being improvised on the spot at times, the absolutely awful song called Pretty Girl plays out over quite a few scenes and Ken Parry's character is just written out halfway through the film as though his part in the plot was left unfinished. I think you're getting the idea now what I was getting at when I suggested the film was inept.

There are a few sex scenes but they are all very softcore (made more so by censorship edits). People watching the film in this day and age won't be surprised to find that the marketing of the film as some kind of hardcore pornography effort was just a con trick on the part of the producer. The sex scenes aren't particularly erotic or funny and serve only to slow the film down a bit while adding the obligatory "T&A" to ensure this qualifies as a sex film rather than a straight comedy like the CARRY ON films for example.

COME PLAY WITH ME is funny mainly for all the wrong reasons but it does provide a lot of entertainment and seems to get funnier with each viewing. There isn't more one could really ask for when watching a very low-budget film from the 1970s.
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