This is such a finely photographed and acted piece and such a shame that it seems so whimsical and unfunny. I am reminded of a recent viewing of The Wrong Box in which Peter Sellers has the most fantastic and hilariously funny cameo as an old man with ledgers in a room full of cats and then to see him working just as hard here to be an old stuck in the mud without anything like the same result. There was a massive cultural change that sets the 50s and 60s far apart and this film released in 1960 seems very much steeped in the world of the previous decade, if not the late 40s whereas by the time of the later Bryan Forbes film there had been enormous upheaval and even more hinted at. So, for some this might be considered a charming and subtle film with no bad language or crude guffaws but most will find it at best a time capsule of less imaginative times.
Laura (1944)the first half is good fun
27 May 2020
Hailed as one of the finest Film Noir films, I had saved its Blu-ray viewing until after watching the same two stars in the same director's 1950 Where the Sidewalk Ends. I now feel that I should have watched them the other way round. Clearly this film has its fans and the first half is good fun with Andrews' detective wandering through the various scenes with great confidence and some good lines. As soon as the lovely Gene Tierney appears, however, everything changes and director Preminger seems content to throw everything away and make a good old parlour room romance where a jolly good time can be had by all and nothing of consequence happens. When writing about the previously mentioned 1950 film I mentioned that it was particularly nasty but lacked those loveable and quotable lines, watching this I wish it had been just a little bit harder or at least made some sort of sense. This has none of the solid story and logic of the later film. The two main stars do well, Vincent Price has a good stab at it (though why anyone would put up with his character for a moment beats me) but Clifton Webb, although loved by many, drives me mad throughout the proceedings as things drift down to a poor conclusion.
Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)nasty at the start and pretty much throughout
25 May 2020
There is no denying that this is noir, and a very fine one, but it is no cosy affair with sweet and quotable dialogue. This is nasty at the start and pretty much throughout with a stony faced and uncompromising Dana Andrews (of course) at the centre of the violent action. Gene Tierney is perfect in the role of the recently widowed lady and if she is not at her sultry best its because there is little opportunity in this shabby but evocative tale of corruption and more corruption. Not sure that there was really as much location shooting as it would appear but however Preminger managed it this really appears to to take place in those dark and neon illuminated LA streets. Excellent.
The Chase (1966)this was probably just too far a reach for Arthur Penn
24 May 2020
Something of a well intentioned failure, this was probably just too far a reach for Arthur Penn, who would find his feet, fame and fortune the next year with Bonnie and Clyde. Here he seems hampered by a very large cast, very slight story, rotten stagey script from Lillian Hellman and a domineering producer. It is also somewhat ironic that he, no doubt, also got some stick from his main star who it just happens turns in one of his very best performances. This is a must see for Brando fans because the man really doesn't put a foot wrong and underplays his role while all about him are there are actors in some other film. Jane Fonda looks lovely but like most of the others seems to be trying to hard, thinking she is on some stage. In fact a lot of this movie is shot of studio lots and stages and remarkable though the building of such stuff may be it is no substitute for the real thing and as we get splendid real cars running along pretend roads beside pretend buildings, there are masses of cast members pretending to be real. Robert Redford puts in little more than a cameo performance and shows no promise at all as far as I'm concerned but I'm in a minority of one and the man was set for the top. Looking at the film 50+ years on it is possible to reference the Kennedy assassination, the race riots and the Vietnam war but essentially this is a wasted opportunity with all but one star making it a rather tiring exercise in self congratulation.
Whirlpool (1949)I think Ferrer's character is just too horrid
23 May 2020
This is well enough written and well enough directed and shot, Gene Tierney, Richard Conte and Jose Ferrer cannot be faulted and yet there is some a little lacking here. All begins well but I think Ferrer's character is just too horrid and as his role and control over Tierney is increased the fact that he is so unlikeable begins to work against the film. We should have a greater understanding why women fall for this piece of s*** and his confident use of hypnotism. So proficient is he that towards the end his mastery of self hypnosis rather stretches credibility too far. The role of the married woman, her perceived hysteria/mania and the wonders (or not) of hypnotism combine to drive this noirish movie more into what was once called 'a woman's picture'. It is still interesting and holds the attention, especially with regard to the shining performance of Tierney but could perhaps have been trimmed just a little.
Sherlock Jr. (1924)Really funny and actually amazing
22 May 2020
A joy to watch, this relatively short silent feature, is an absolute gem with magical inventions throughout. I can just about imagine what it would have been like back at the beginning of cinema and a whole new world of opportunities opening up. For many, simply that the images moved before your very eyes was magic enough but not for Buster Keaton. Here we have bright ideas and surreal conceptions at every turn. Managing to make these dream like scenes believable must have been hard enough but to construct a convincing storyline and make people laugh as well was something not many attempted and few ever surpassed. Really funny and actually amazing with the added bonus with Blu-ray of being able to clearly see traffic and shop fronts adds enormously to the pleasure to be gained from this almost 100 year old film.
The Concrete Jungle (1960)The pacing is extraordinary, especially for a film of this time, and rips through from beginning to end.
22 May 2020
British Losey film that is as tough as they come. Don't be put off by the fact this is largely set inside a prison, because the scenes are so well done. A lot of familiar faces here and everyone contributes to make this such an uncompromising and brutally believable affair. Stanley Baker is, of course, brilliant throughout and Patrick Magee worryingly effective as a prison officer with a purpose and not a little malice. The pacing is extraordinary, especially for a film of this time, and rips through from beginning to end. Many prison sequences but also a few other interiors and some very fine canal side and snowy open field scenes. Marit Saad is terrific as the potential love interest but it is the assured direction of Losey and presence of Baker that ensure this is such a solid film. Music of John Dankworth and a song from Cleo Laine help things along too. Excellent.
The Thing (1982)convincing and marvellously horrible experience
19 May 2020
This is really quite splendid and it is evident watching it once more, this time on Blu-ray, that it will easily bear multiple viewings. What happens and the order that it happens in matters less than the whole believability of the situation and the grittiness. This may not look like the kind of crew you might expect to find at an American research station at the North Pole, but they are a likeable bunch. The dialogue is good, with the rapport and humour in abundance, despite or because of the pending doom. Then there are the special effects, different every time and mind boggling and the degree to which we buy into these transformations figures heavily when the guys partake in the blood testing. A fantastic and central sequence where we believe nobody knows whether they are possessed or not and feel their individual fear as the Russian roulette type ritual is undergone. Full credit, of course to Carpenter and the young effects man but here Kurt Russell really gives his all and helps make this such a convincing and marvellously horrible experience.
A Cat in the Brain (1990)sadistic and gloating goriness gives some cause for concern and reflection.
18 May 2020
Good fun on one level and a decent compilation of some of the director's more gory and gruesome scenes from his later films. On the other hand some of the sequences are rather disturbing. Bereft of their filmic context and with crazed and over enthusiastic participation some of the scenes become more troubling and unpleasant than they ever would in their original context. Unfortunately, for us Blu-ray viewers, the clips are necessarily of inferior quality to the newly filmed links but overall this is well worth seeing and fun to spot the individual films even if the nasty, sadistic and gloating goriness gives some cause for concern and reflection.
Sleepwalker (1984)Just a shame about that dinner break.
17 May 2020
This short film, largely set in a marvellous, rambling, yet crumbling country cottage begins brilliantly. There are ominous shadows and attractive shafts of light only partially illuminating the interior before a storm thunders above creating havoc. The film also concludes in great style with much blood curdling action more reminiscent of an Italian gallo than an English old dark house tale. Unfortunately the two siblings are visited by their sister and her husband. He is played by Nickolas Grace and regrettably his over acting is evident from his first appearance in the car as the couple try to find the cottage. Because of storm damage the four go to a local inn for dinner and for some reason director Saxon Logan has the dialogue become something of a diatribe for and against Thatcherism and with Grace allowed full reign, this is a rather embarrassing episode. As I say, back at the cottage the sinister and brilliantly conceived horror develops. Just a shame about that dinner break.
Shadows (1958)Brave, bold, innovative and influential but not an easy watch
17 May 2020
Brave, bold, innovative and influential but not an easy watch. The location shooting, Times Square and 42nd Street are amazing, particularly on Blu-ray with vivid b/w images of the neon and signage of cinema and strip club fronts. Even here though we have grown men behaving like young boys, running around and jumping on each other. The inside sequences are more restrained and here for good or bad the improvised dialogue comes into its own. There is an authenticity but little cohesive narrative flow and we get the impression, probably unfairly, of an insufferable bunch of rich guys having a good time with no regard for anyone finding their antics interesting. Time has been both kind and unkind here, it is fantastic to see these late 50s New York streets and catch a flavour of that jazzy moment just after the War but at the same time, we have seen all the French New Wave and other European efforts at cinema verite and some of this now seems just a little tiresome.
Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)will our children ever get around to watching this?
16 May 2020
G W Pabst's follow up to Pandora's Box, once more with the delectable Louise Brooks doesn't quite match up to the wonders of that classic. As soon as Brooks appears the film lights up and she shines throughout, her delicate and iconic beauty illuminating a rather sad and predictable melodrama. There are some wonderful sequences, the orgasmic, gong driven exercise, the dormitory frolics to retain the diary and the supposed dance lesson where Brooks wears very little at all. This is though, a ninety year old film, times have changed, attitudes have changed and more particularly the speed we are used to a story being told has changed and however fascinating it is to see the wonderfully created brothel and seaside bathing sequences, there is a sense that the camera is lingering a little too long on those terrible monster like faces of Brooks' tormentors. We feel we are ahead of the action too often and that the only way to fully appreciate what is going on is to suspend belief and watch as in some time capsule. Whilst I fully appreciate the work of those involved in putting together a complete work of art such as this, I sometime wonder if there shouldn't also be a viewing print, possibly cut more to the rhythms we are more used to. Sacrilege I know but will our children ever get around to watching this?
Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)Creepy, is barely an adequate word to describe the worrying events
15 May 2020
A very unusual opening with close-ups of a seance and its departing participants is an unnerving start to this most unsettling film. Richard Attenborough is faultless as the hen pecked husband and Kim Stanley simply amazing as his very worrying wife. Stanley who doesn't put a foot wrong in a very challenging part reminds me somewhat of Elizabeth Taylor now and again in her delivery and intensity and there is the ghost of Who'se Afraid of Virginia Woolf about here somewhere. Edward Albee's play was performed a couple of years before this and it would be couple of years before the famous film opened. Bryan Forbes' film which was basically a labour of love for him and Attenborough, is nevertheless a great personal achievement. Creepy, is barely an adequate word to describe the worrying events played out here by two very vulnerable people. The co-dependence of this horrific man and wife team is shockingly believable and if their ultimate plan is grossly flawed we know only too well that, even should they be aware, this won't stop them. The ending is something of an anti-climax but the viewer is so shell shocked by then it matters not a lot and it is good, anyway, to see a late appearance of Patrick Magee. Brilliantly photographed and directed with wonderful lighting and almost exclusive location shooting, the cinema verite style shots of the West End being particularly effective. Early score from John Barry helps set the mood and his screaming violins replacing the young girl's screams during the kidnap perfectly foreshadow the considerable cinematic output to come.
The 'Burbs (1989)only Bruce Dern and Henry Gibson, for me, do the job required
14 May 2020
I sat in a rather uncomfortable and confused state watching this unfold until I realised it wasn't the film I thought it was. For some reason I had confused this with Arlington Road. That film (also firmly set in suburbia) starts with seeming unfounded claims of sinister goings on and the viewers' standing is constantly undermined. Here things are so much more straightforward and despite some marvellous and amusing cinematic cleverness and inverted cliches, this is essentially a slapstick and rather broad popcorn jape. It has not worn well, as in my opinion is the case with many late 80s films, and it is hard to fully appreciate 30 years on. I always find the acting style of Carrie Fisher and Tom Hanks rather embarrassing and only Bruce Dern and Henry Gibson, for me, do the job required. They both remain solidly in character, throughout the madness and I rather feel that if director Dante had so instructed the rest of the cast this might have been easier to enjoy.
Two Evil Eyes (1990)Great fun and one of the director's great late films
13 May 2020
Bearing in mind this is the remains of an aborted effort it is much better than might have been expected. I don't think I have ever seen it before and found the Romero contribution a bit overstretched and dull. It all seemed rather bland and although the frozen victim looks pretty good the 60 minute segment certainly overstays its welcome. We segue into Argento's part and everything changes. It would seem he must have taken all the production funds as whilst Romero's looks stuck on a poor studio set, this second film is a complete transformation with fabulous lighting, cinematography and directorial style. He takes liberties all over the place, introducing different Poe elements, managing an element of humour into the proceedings and milking the presence of Harvey Keitel to the hilt. Great fun and one of the director's great late films.
Lilith (1964)we too become entranced by the devilish doings of the crazy lovely
12 May 2020
Beautiful, involving and at times lyrical film with early performances from Warren Beatty and Gene Hackman. Beatty was, of course, moving fast and would have Hackman with him a couple of years later in Bonnie and Clyde. But here is a much more subdued and thoughtful young star seemingly happy to allow the devastatingly overlooked Jean Seberg show here just what she could do and how she might have become a much bigger star. Peter Fonda also impresses as a fellow inmate with Seberg as he tries to enlist Beatty as a go between. The trainee staff member is already, himself, bewitched by the lovely Lileth (Seberg) however which will have tragic repercussions. The director was much admired in Europe and Seberg had sparkled before with Goddard so the fact the film looks a little more European than American at times should not be so surprising. There is a sinister air to this tale of life in a private insane asylum but whilst we get shots of damaged spider webs and the staring eyes and groping hands of patients we also get flowing water, reflections of the sun and trees and ladies dresses. We know this will not end well but such are the performances and cinematography as well as sharp eyed direction, this is always a pleasure for we too become entranced by the devilish doings of the crazy lovely as personified by Jean Seberg in her finest performance.
9 Souls (2003)the comic moments probably appeal more to a local audience
10 May 2020
This is well made with some fine cinematography and considering it is a two hour film really does keep moving along. Unfortunately we are not really going anywhere and although presumably this is supposedly part comedy part tragedy, the comic moments probably appeal more to a local audience and as for the tragic side, because this comes in the second half it will only work if your sympathies are with the characters. Mine weren't, the whole notion of nine escapees sticking together seemed daft and there was too much laughing at fat or shy people and generally too much pissing about - literally! So well put together, however, that even if the story is not fully engaging there is enough charm here to at least persist till the end.
fine way to conclude what, overall, is a most enjoyable and magical experience - with rather a lot of bloody violence
8 May 2020
Fabulous conclusion to a fine series with less dubious samurai philosophy and more creative and marvellously choreographed fighting sequences. The stupendous snow scenes that open and close the film are jaw dropping and whilst watching could only imagine the filming difficulties. Subsequently I discover that these relatively short scenes took some six weeks to film with the youngster playing the cub crying at the pain of the cold and his 'Papa' near to collapse on several occasions. It is a remarkable episode in many respects and not least with regard to the cinematography which seems even finer here with some truly wonderful moments. i think I actually gasped when the opposing forces appeared on the brow of the snow clad mountain-side. The ending here differs from that in the manga partly because the film actually came before the story had been concluded - so keen apparently were the film makers to carry on with the series. Far from being a let down, as I feared it might be, this sixth and final film in the series is a fine way to conclude what, overall, is a most enjoyable and magical experience - with rather a lot of bloody violence.
Salvatore Giuliano (1962)There is a problem with this film
7 May 2020
There is a problem with this film. Bold, courageous and outspoken though it is, director Franco Rosi is somewhat held captive by his conflicting Communist Party and neorealist filmic leanings. Presented as a if a street reality he is caught between the style and the substance which is made far worse by the ambiguity of the central character, who we only see as a dead man. As a picture of post-war Sicily and its poverty stricken towns and labyrinthine streets it appears remarkable but as to who is doing what and for why much more confusing. I understand it was not just me who was confused, Giuliano himself appears to be a man of many faces and apart from often appearing to be a man of the people keen to wrestle his country from the hands of the Italian government, he went so far as to suggest it should become a part of the US. Rosi is therefore considerably conflicted here as with his background and beliefs, he is keen to bring a much more left orientated administration to the whole of Italy. Such is the result on film that we are presented with the main thrust of discontent and the evils of the State and judiciary and an implication that behind the scenes our hero had everyone's interest at heart. Bit sentimental you might say and a difficult watch.
the violence when it comes is as crunching and bloody as ever
6 May 2020
Fifth in the series and it seemed a little tired but maybe that was just me or the fact it came after the rather special previous film Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril directed by Buichi Saito filling in for regular man Kenji Misumi. Either way this is slightly longer than the first three and has a rather pedantic beginning with five men to be dispatched and then drifting rather before coming back for the usual spectacular finale. There is variety here with street scenes and festival goings on so nothing really to complain about and the violence when it comes is as crunching and bloody as ever.
The Collector (1965)almost too beautiful Stamp seems an odd choice for the role of the crazed loner who collects butterflies and feels the need to try a women
5 May 2020
This sustained and powerful suspense drama features a very fine early performance from Terence Stamp in only his second film. Samantha Eggar also performs well in what is essentially just a two hander. It is a considerable departure from John Fowles' original book but is pretty much a faultless enterprise easily holding the attention for the two hour duration. Something of a departure for William Wyler who was getting on at this point and more used to much bigger productions, not least of which was, of course, Ben Her. He had made The Children's Hour a couple of years before and it must have been something to do with that experience that led him here. Whatever the reason this American film using UK locations, mainly Hampstead, is a great success. Theatrically it didn't fare as well as hoped but had fully justified critical acclaim and Cannes Film Festival awards for both actors. The almost too beautiful Stamp seems an odd choice for the role of the crazed loner who collects butterflies and feels the need to try a women but with a tilt of the head and a slight limp he does a worryingly good job of convincing here. It is a compelling but unsettling piece and well worthy of catching a viewing for it is most unjustly underrated.
just a little bit extra for our continued astonishment and pleasure
4 May 2020
Number four in the series and a new director but the product is still well up to scratch. Not sure I would necessarily have noticed the change at the helm so seamlessly does this continue the theme but there is a little more stress upon the vulnerability both of the main protagonist and his cub. Fire also features here, with a blazing sword, whatever that might mean and an amazingly shot blazing field that surrounds the young cub. Elephant in the room here though is the tattooed lady. Absolutely magnificent designs front and back of the bare lady assassin and these are to have their desired affect in the combat to come, even if her bare breasts wouldn't be distracting enough. So, much as before with a little extra and wonderfully photographed throughout. The ending is not unlike that of the previous outing but even here just a little bit extra for our continued astonishment and pleasure.
Not to be missed though and more foreshadowing of the spaghetti westerns to come.
2 May 2020
Third in the series is something a little different. Nothing drastic, it still looks wonderful, beautifully shot all the time, but there is more a mix of ingredients. Bit of samurai philosophy, some torturous torture sequences and a pistol here and there to supplement the swords. Even though this is a slightly longer film, the increased variety, including a bit more action from the, now slightly older 'cub' means there is a bit less of the classic swordsmanship on display. This is fine and probably makes for a much more rounded film, perhaps a good introduction, but, particularly after the action packed second film, seems somewhat calmer. Not to be missed though and more foreshadowing of the spaghetti westerns to come.
Silence and Cry (1968)this does not make for easy viewing
1 May 2020
Beautifully photographed and conceived but far too uncompromising for those unaware of the politics of the time portrayed. There is no explanation as to what is going on and no exposition except a montage of rather blurred images of supposed dignity and military persons at the start. The long and measured takes are visually effective with a sparkly populated landscape pitifully evident but because of lack of editing Jancso seems to feel the need for his characters to walk about all the time, seemingly aimlessly. I know that after the First World War there was a push for power by the communists in Hungary and that there was resistance from a nationalist right wing alliance and although this is not mentioned in the film seems to be the reason for the disturbance. There is an undercurrent of sadism, not uncommon in the director's work, and a constant feeling of dread. For me Jancso dealt with all this in The Round Up (1966) which is a far more satisfying film. I assume there was a desire here to stretch the long takes technique and experiment with the form, unfortunately this does not make for easy viewing.
the desert scenes reminiscent of a spaghetti western are fantastic
30 April 2020
Second film in the series and a great little outing. Action all the way and even the child assisting now and again. I fact 'Cub' is much more involved generally in this one and decent rapport established between him and dad. But mainly this is about spectacularly choreographed confrontations and if there seems little doubt our hero will always win, the method and final execution can be surprising even if the fountain of blood from his victim always is the final outcome. The female ninja crew is a good notion but used to little advantage and we get more from the metal and claw handed trio. Indeed the desert scenes reminiscent of a spaghetti western are fantastic and the claw in the sand with blood seepage quite tremendous with the ultimate reveal a true spectacle. Good fun all the way with much violence more wonderful scenic shots along the way.