Tuesday, 27 November 2007


Take a few moments to tear yourself away from the fleapit and visit Paleo-Cinema. Paleo is a blog by Australian film buff Terry Frost. Terry describes himself thus : "Movie buff, former professional Dungeons and Dragons player, Ditmar Award winning passionate amateur writer, Francophile, iconoclast and passionate atheist, Mr Frost lives in a palatial home in Melbourne surrounded by albino peacocks, capuchin monkeys and deformed manservants with amputated tongues." Get all Terry's news from his blog and then click onto his podcast to listen to the man himself tell you about his favourite movies! You'll find it addictive. At the moment Terry is talking about non-Bond spy movies. You can link directly to the blog and podcast from this page.

Terry Frost Writes : Glad you like my humble rants. The next one should be out in a couple of days. I'm discussing Italian Neorealist cinema and the ouerve of Gerry Anderson in the same podcast.

Monday, 26 November 2007


Well, there were no takers in the competition and the only response I had was a bit of whingeing from across the Atlantic! The answer was that the picture is a painting of the location for Marcel Carne's masterful tragedy of Parisian low-life HOTEL DU NORD (1938). The Hotel du Nord itself can be seen in the picture, it's name slihtly obscured by the words of he blog description. Although the hotel is a real building, it's location on the bank of the canal made the filming difficult so a replica of the whole area was built in a studio to make things easier. One admirer of the film used to cycle past the hotel every day and commented that the set looked more realistic than the real location! Reel life rather than Real Life!


Edward L.Cahn rarely, if ever, ventured into the world of "A" features, spending his days knee deep in low-budget Westerns, horror and Sci-fi. This film, produced by "Jungle" Sam Katzman is one of his better efforts thanks to a story that relies far less on padding than is usual for this kind of production. It reminded me of a mixture of a zombie movie and DRAGNET (although if Jack Webb had written and starred it would have been a better movie) as cops track down a gangster who is using a tame German scientist (Gregory Gaye, looking for all the world like an elderly Conrad Veidt or one of Lang's super criminals) to producing Zombies to carry out revenge on his former associates. It's pretty tame by George Romero standards but it moves at a fair lick towards its climax as a small army of Zombies break out from the laboratory to dike it out with the polices. Top-liner is the reliable Richard Denning (we know he's reliable because he smokes a pipe) in the days before he retired to Hawaii to share the Governor's job with Lew Ayres in Hawaii 5-0. Rating **

Friday, 23 November 2007


O.K. you've looked at it long enough.....Can anybody tell me what the picture behind the title of this blog is ? Clue is that the painting is the set of a classic film. If you can tell me what it is by midnight (my time - GMT) on Monday I will send you a copy of the film! The answer is in the picture.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007


Well, it's here! and for the most part the news is good. The Masters of Cinema DVD series has released the newly restored version of F.W.Murnau's NOSFERATU and it is great to be able to report that this is a beautiful restoration by Luciano Berriatua - previously unseen shots, the correct projection speed, no pulsating of the image and the absolute minimum of scratches. In addition we have the original inter-titles where possible and where not there are sympathetic recreations based on the original text. Last and by no means least we have the original musical score written by Hans Erdmann which has been unheard for eighty five years. Previously, inferior prints of the film have been released with electronic score, jazz score and a new score written by James Bernard of Hammer Film fame. Enough to say that Erdmann's score magnificently eclipses all these. Included in the packaging is an eighty-page book containing several articles on the film, a newly translated piece on vampires by the film's producer Albin Grau and notes on the restortation.

Why then do I say that for the most part it is good news? Well, also included in the release is the documentary THE LANGUAGE OF SHADOWS by Luciano Berriatua which, for the most part is highly entertaining and informative about the career of Murnau which manages to dig up some fascinating stills from the director's lost films like DER JANUSKOPF (and, yes, they do manage to find one of Bela Lugosi) with Conrad Veidt, DER BUCKLIGE UND DIE TANZERIN and one of the few surviving clips from SATANAS. The documentary also spend a fair amount of time talking about the film's producer Albin Grau and his involvement with ritual magic as a member of the O.T.O. and colleague of Aleister Crowley...the problem is that the film refers to Grau being sixty-six years old when he met Murnau and later tells us that he was still involved in the occult when he died in 1971. 1971 ? Well, that would have made him about One 115 years old at the time of his death! All sources I have checked say that Grau died in Buchenwald concentration camp during World War Two. One must wonder about the accuracy of the other information. Then we come to the feature commentary by R.Dixon Smith and Brad Stevens which, in almost the first sentence, tells us that "Nosferatu" is a Hungarian word for the undead. Sorry, fellas, it isn't. It is a completely made up word and is, I am assured by a Hungarian Count of my acquaintance (honest), nothing to do with the Hungarian language. I soon gave up on these two as the commentary became more and more banal and boring. One of the two had an obsession with arches in the film and seemed to attach great significance to them "Look! another arch!" and with the theory that Count Orlok is a mirror image of the film's hero Hutter...a theory that doesn't to cut the mustard for me. The other guy gets into a conversation with himself about whether of not Murnau was an expressionist or not. No, but NOSFERATU is an expressionist film despite its realistic setting is his conclusion and he gets very excited when he sees a crooked bookcase or a high chairback "Look an expressionistic chair!" I think most people might have liked a bit of background information on Max Schreck!

But, forget the commentary, turn out the lights, pull the curtains and enjoy what remains after eighty-five years one of the greatest German silent films and one of the classics of the horror genre. Rating for NOSFERATU *****

Thursday, 15 November 2007

BROTHER (2000)

Whether you love him or hate him once you've seen a Takeshi Kitano movie it's hard to ignore him. He is one of the true maverick's of todays cinema. For my money he's one of the coolest guys around since Lee Marvin. Here Takeshi returns to some of the themes of hisearlier classic SONATINE. His acting alter-ego Beat Takeshi plays a Yakuza who is forced to leave Japan and go to Los Angeles. Once there he teams up with his half brother and begins to build a crime crew that consists of both Japanese and Blacks.Joining forces with the local "Little Tokyo" crimelord he goes from success until finally his gang over reach themselves in taking on the mafia. The finale will offer no real surprises if you are familiar with Takeshi's brand of existential/fatalist crime movies. The film is very violent....in addition to Takeshi's trademark shock bursts of violent gunfire the film notches up stabbings, explosions, beheadings and even death by chopstick. The body count is quite awesome. If you have not samples Takeshi's work and you like crime films this is a good place to start. This or SONATINE. If you like historical Japanese films I suggest you check out the director/actor's re-imagining of the ZATOICHI samurai films. I promise you that you won't see the climax of that coming! Loved it. Rating ****

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

PARIS NOUS APPARTIENT/Paris Belongs to Us (1960)

Win some, lose some. Back in the late Sixties a moviegoing friend told me that he though Jaques Rivette's PARIS NOUS APPARTIENT was one of the most boring films he'd ever seen. Naturally I couldn't wait to see it. For some reason it has taken me until now to catch up with it and I have to say that my friend's judgement on the film seems pretty sound. Yes, yes, I know it is greatly admired in some circles and is regarded as a key film of the nouvelle vogue, but it didn't work for me. A young girl(played by the extraordinarily ordinary Betty Shneider) is a member of a theatrical troupe who endlessly rehearse Shakespeare's "Pericles" - the forthcoming production of which seems to hold the fate of the world in its hands. She learns by accident of a conspiracy which her fellow actors and her brother seem aware of but are unwilling to explain to her. People die, are suspected of treachery and nobody seems willing to accept any events at face value. Well, I own up to slipping off to dreamland several times while attempting to watch the film and this did not help my understanding of the plot (which is obviously meant to be cryptic) but neither did the film make me want to wake up and pay attention. The disc from the BFI contains also an earlier short film by Rivette (COUP DE BERGER) from 1957 and an interesting appreciation of the director which initially sparked my interest but which was totally negated by watching the film itself. Rating **

Monday, 12 November 2007


It is quite wonderful to find a film which, although you can't quite figure it out on first viewing, you recognise immediately as a classic. I happily admit to not understanding much of LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES. I am a great admirer of both Jean Cocteau (who wrote the original novel) and Jean-Pierre Melville (who directed the film) and I have waited years to see this. As it was made early in Melville's career I think I expected that Cocteau was the true auteur behind this production but it seems that Melville was very much in charge, taking care that Cocteau (who visited the set most days) did not dominate the production - insisting on his own ending rather than Cocteau's preferred one and demanding, when Cocteau did one day of shooting due to Melville being unwell, that the poet film nothing unless he followed Melvilles's instructions to the letter. One writer has pointed out that this gives the film a somewhat schizophrenic atmosphere. Maybe it does but that does not automatically harm what is was going to be a pretty weird movie anyway. A brother and sister (probably incestuous) live in a Paris apartment with their dying mother. The boy is sixteen (played by Cocteau's former lover Edouard Dermithe - Cegeste of the ORPHEE movies - who was twenty five at the time and looks too old to be wearing short pants in the early scenes) and his sister (the wonderful Nicole Stephane) slightly older. Their mother dies, they go to the seaside with a friend, they shoplift and the girl becomes a model. She brings home a girl as a lodger but her brother is disturbed because the girl reminds him of an effeminate young man who once injured him with a snowball (are you still with me ?). The sister marries a rich American who croons at the piano (the fact that he looks like a young Billy Joel adds to the surrealism) and who is killed soon after the wedding. The siblings and their two friends move into the American's huge mansion where they seemingly camp out (no pun intended) in the half empty rooms - where secrets are revealed and mind games played that move the film it its inevitable tragic finale. As the film progresses it becomes more surrealist and dreamlike with Cocteau's narration suggesting it is all a performance anyway. The whole thing is totally hypnotic on many levels and certainly isn't your basic Saturday night at the moves fare. It is, perhaps, not 100% successful but if you are a Cocteau fan you will love it, if you are a Melville fan you'll want to see it, if you are a fan of classic cinema you won't want to miss it. The BFI DVD also contains a moving interview with Nicole Stephane and a commentary which I look forward to hearing. Rating ****

Wednesday, 7 November 2007


Can it really be that John Boorman's POINT BLANK was released in 1967? Can it really be forty years old? I had not seen it for a few years and when I sat down to watch it last night I was astonished at how great it looks - every bit as fresh and innovative as it did on its first viewing. It simply hasn't aged. Based on Richard Stark's novel "The Hunter"(which was also the basis of Mel Gibson's entertaining but relatively minor PAYBACK) the film tells the story of Walker who is double-crossed by his wife and best friend and left for dead during a heist. Walker returns to take revenge and claim his $93,000 share of the loot ("Well, somebody's gotta pay") in what, on the surface seems a simple plot. But unlike many crime films of the time John Boorman sets out to engage his audience on a far deeper level than plain story-telling. Boorman's chosen style demands that the viewer meets the film half way. It is one of those films where the world seems slightly off kilter - the scene where Walker visits his ex-wife's apartment is a good example. It is fully furnished, she kills herself, the apartment is unfurnished, the body vanishes. Of course, it is very much a film about memory and Boorman himself has said that the interpretation that Walker really does die in the pre-credit sequence and then returns from the dead is a perfectly valid interpretation. Walker is played by Lee Marvin, giving one of his greatest performances, proving what Robert Mitchum always knew : Less is more. Simply one of the key American films of the Sixties if not of all time. Rating *****

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

AUTUMN SONATA/Hostsonaten (1979)

Ever since I saw my first Bergman film back in the early 60's I've known that his films are not an easy ride. They are challenging and shocking, both in content and form. AUTUMN SONATA is one of Bergman's "chamber" pieces. Ingrid Bergman (in her last film performance) plays a famous concert pianist who goes to visit her daughter (Liv Ullman) who is married to a clergyman and who looks after her handicapped sister. Most of the film takes the form of a conversation between mother and daughter during one night. The film is, despite the visual limitations of the setting, always highly cinematic. Bergman is on record as being an admirer of the old Universal horror films and, while AUTUMN SONATA, cannot be regarded as a near genre piece (as, for instance, HOUR OF THE WOLF and THE MAGICIAN can) the film is a horror film of sorts (Bergman includes one of his nightmare sequences) but this is the true horror of the soul rather than a flight of gothic fantasy. The scene when Ullman (surely among the greatest actresses of all time) finally unleashes her tirade of hatred, hurt and resentment agains her mother is truly amazing. I suddenly realised that I had actually recoiled into my chair with my hand thrown across my mouth because I felt that I was witnessing something disturbing, personal and shocking. Few films have ever affected me in that way. It is an astonishing piece of acting, writing and directing. The scarey thing is that for a brief moment I was, in my mind, unleashing some of the issues that were left unresolved between myself and my own parents. Uncomfortable but undeniably great. Rating *****

Cerpts wrote :

There's a reason why David Byrne and co. chose to call their band "Talking Heads": because there's very few more compelling things than two people talking. I'll have to check this film out.

Weaverman says :

Be prepared to suffer!

Monday, 5 November 2007


A sequel to H.G.Wells' oft filmed THE ISLAND OF DR.MOREAU, this straight to video movie by Charles Band holds some pleasant surprises. First, one is surprised by the rather classy credits showing vintage clips of Los Angeles (including Boris Karloff and C.Aubrey Smith at a film premiere) and the fact that the film is set uring the 1940's. The story has Dr.Moreau being held captive by his own manimals in an old sanitarium near Los Angeles. Into this wanders our hero, a young boxer, looking for his missing brother (the film has the odd feeling of starting halfway through the plot) with the aide af his girlfriend and a female reporter. Band livens things up a bit with odd camera angles and some, maybe unintentionally, funny dialogue. There's a bit of sex, hints of bestiality, some mild gore and some alarming lapses of continuity. Throw in some awful makeup and non-existent acting and a relatively short running time. None of these elements really add up to much but in all honesty I was never bored. Rating *

Friday, 2 November 2007

DRACULA IN ISTANBUL/Drakula Istanbul'da (1953)

I first read about this film in the pages of "Famous Monsters of Filmland" and later impressed a Turkish friend by actually having heard of it and being able to name the star! I suppose that like many films I never expected to actually see DRACULA IN ISTANBUL has found a special place in my heart. The copy I finally managed to get hold of is pretty poor quality, looking like a third or fourth generation video from a television broadcast. It is just possible that this and the lack of sub-titles have coloured my perception of the film. Luckily, the plot, for most of the film, follows Stoker's original novel but that doesn't make the viewing any more enjoyable. DRACULA IN ISTANBUL is hard to get enthusiastic about for any reason. Poor sets, pretty poor acting and overlong (it seemed to go on for hours) with direction by Mehmet Muhtar which is virtually non existent. As I've said, my copy was pretty poor but I doubt if a better one would change my opinion. Atif Kaptan (according to the Imdb this was his only horror film) is as wooden in the role of Dracula as his coffin. Rating *