Saturday, 23 April 2016


James Whale 1889 - 1957

British born director James Whale will always be remembered ad the man who made the original Boris Karloff FRANKENSTEIN. The film kicked off the whole Universal horror series of the 30's and 40's but I think it is fair to say that loved as some of those films are, none as prized as Whale's contributions. The jewel in the crown is undoubtedly BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, a film that Whale was actually reluctant to make. His other films are largely forgotten - except for SHOWBOAT (1936) and THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK (1939) which remain the best versions of their particular stories on film. Ian McKellan portrayed James Whale in the 1998 film GODS AND MONSTERS, a fictionalised film based on Whale's last years and death. Films in my collection :

James Whale on the set of BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN with Boris Karloff

Tuesday, 12 April 2016


The Life of Brian (1979)

During a recent illness I developed an urge to see as many of the Hollywood epics set during the days of The Roman Empire. Several, naturally, deal with the story of Jesus, either directly or with subsequent events. QUO VADIS turned out to be much better than I remember and the accompanying documentary explaining its importance in Hollywood history was revelatory. THE ROBE turned out to be almost as good as its sequel, DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS. These may lack historical accuracy but they often have good screenplays which go beyond the mere spectacle. Films in my collection :  CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA (1945) QUO VADIS (1951) THE ROBE (1953) DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS (1954)  BEN HUR (1956) BARABBAS (1961)  CLEOPATRA (1963)THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW (1964) THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (1965) FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (1965) JESUS OF NAZARETH (1977) THE LIFE OF BRIAN (1979)  JULIUS CAESAR (1979) THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (1988) GLADIATOR (2000) KING ARTHUR (2004) THE EAGLE (2011)

The Fall of the Roman Empire (1965)

Monday, 21 March 2016


Sam Peckinpah 1925 - 1984

What can one say about Sam Peckinpah ?  Love him or hate him. My first Peckinpah film was RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY and even that early it seemed obvious to me that there was something very special. Outrageous stories about the difficulty of working with him abound - many of them, admittedly quite funny. I was working at Columbia Pictures in London when the MAJOR DUNDEE debacle happened which was, I think, partly fuelled by the studio's problems with Roger Corman on a not dissimilar project, THE LONG RIDE HOME. But Sam did things his way even if the studio hacks did the butchering later. Thankfully a few of his films have been restored more or less as it is thought he would have wanted them. With PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID he made my all time favourite Western, one of the saddest films I've ever seen. Peckinpah's films in my collection are: THE DEADLY COMPANIONS (1961) RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (1962) MAJOR DUNDEE (1965) THE WILD BUNCH (1969) THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE (1970) STRAW DOGS (1971) JUNIOR BONNER (1972) THE GETAWAY (1972) PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THJE KID (1973) BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA (1974) THE KILLER ELITE (1975)  CROSS 0F IRON (1977)  CONVOY (1978) THE OSTERMANN WEEKEND (1983)

Thursday, 17 March 2016


John Huston 1906-1987
I've always found it hard to define John Huston. As a director he was constantly able to surprise me. Projects I thought were totally wrong for his peculiarly masculine style turned out to be a delight and others which seemed at first to be minor works in his canon turn out to be among the most watchable.  A great director?  Most certainly - there are enough masterpieces along the way. As an actor he could be kindly, funny uncle Noah in his own, surprisingly good, THE BIBLE or he could be the epitome of evil as Noah Cross in Polanski's CHINATOWN without seemingly changing stride. He was the son of the great actor Walter Huston and part of a dynasty that still spreads out through the film world today. My DVD collection contains fewer John Huston films than I should like. The ones I have at present are : Films directed by John Huston : THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) THE BATTLE OF SAN PIETRO (1944) THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE (1947) KEY LARGO (1948) THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950) THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE (1951) THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1952) MOULIN ROUGE (1953) MOBY DICK (1956) THE BIBLE...IN THE BEGINNING (1967) FAT CITY (1972) THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN (1973)  Other films in which Huston participated other than his own : MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE (1932) HIGH SIERRA (1941) DE SADE (1969) CHINATOWN (1974) MR. CORBETT'S GHOST (1987)

Saturday, 5 March 2016


Martin Scorsese

I knew Martin Scorsese was going to be an important director from the day I saw his film BOXCAR BERTHA. His most popular films are the ones about organised crime but, while I certainly love these, I also greatly admire his quieter efforts such as AGE OF INNOCENCE and HUGO. Very import as well are his two documentaries about the history of movies, PERSONAL JOURNEY and MY VOYAGE TO ITALY, master classes in film appreciation from a very personal perspective. The man's love of his art shines through in everything he has done. I won't pretend I like all his films but I respect the artist more than any other living American director. Films directed or produced by Martin Scorsese in my collection are: MEAN STREETS (1973) TAXI DRIVER (1976) NEW YORK NEW YORK (1977) THE LAST WALTZ (1978) RAGING BULL (1980) KING OF COMEDY (1982)THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (1988) GOODFELLAS (1990) THE GRIFTERS (1990) CAPE FEAR (1991) AGE OF INNOCENCE (1993) A PERSONAL JOURNEY WITH MARTIN SCORSESE THROUGH AMERICAN MOVIES (1995) CASINO (1995) KUNDRUN (1997) MY VOYAGE TO ITALY (2001) THE GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002) BLUES : FEEL LIKE GOING HOME (2003 and series producer) THE AVIATOR (2004) NO DIRECTION HOME : BOB DYLAN (2005) THE DEPARTED (2006) THE KEY TO RESERVA (2OO7) VAL LEWTON : THE MAN IN THE SHADOWS (2007) SHINE A LIGHT (2008) SHUTTER ISLAND (2010) BOARDWALK EMPIRE (2010 pilot and series producer) HUGO (2011) THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013).

Monday, 29 February 2016


THE CABINET OF CALIGARI (2016) Directed by David Lee Fisher **

Impressive but ultimately pointless remake of the classic silent film which brings nothing to the table except sound. The original existed as part of the German post WW1 expressionist movement and a slavish remake which recreates the stylised sets of the original can only replace innovative originality with pastiche however clever the production is. The acting is adequate without being outstanding. An interesting experiment, no more. Available on You Tube.

Saturday, 6 February 2016


Mario Bava (1914 - 1980)

Mario Bava is easily the most famous and most talented of Italian horror film directors. His films are triumphs of style over content but are rarely boring thanks to his visual flair (he was formerly a noted cinephotographer). There were a few disasters along the way - his film with Vincent Price was an unhappy experience for both director and star - but the classics outweigh the less interesting films.
His films have many alternative titles but I have listed the titles of the copies I own. The first two films on this list were credited to Riccardo Freda but were completed by Bava. Films in my collection are : LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1957) CALTIKI THE IMMORTAL MONSTER (1959) BLACK SUNDAY (1960) HERCULES AT THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH (1961) THE EVIL EYE (1963) BLACK SABBATH (1963) THE WHIP AND THE BODY (1963) BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964) PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES (1965) CURSE OF THE DEAD (1966) DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE SEX BOMBS (1966) DANGER DIABOLIK (1968) BLOOD BRIDES (1970) BAY OF BLOOD (1971) BARON BLOOD (1972) LISA AND THE DEVIL (1973) HOUSE OF EXORCISM (1975) SCHOCK (1977)