Sunday, 27 April 2008


AJust heard that Amazon have sold out their movie rental business to LoveFilm and that my account will be transferred soon. As I deliberately picked Amazon over LoveFilm this has somewhat irked me. But I need my monthly fix so I'll have to see how it works out.

The lack of movies here in the Fleapit has made me niggly! I'm getting example of this is that I recently wrote nice things about TROY. While, overall, it is very enjoyable I had a feeling that something went wrong towards the end - a feeling that everything was being rushed. I nearly laughed out loud at the scene where Odysseus (Sean Bean) is sitting by a campfire watching a man carving a wooden horse toy. All the scene needed was a lightbulb turning on above his head. Cut to the next scene and there i lots of hammering and behold - a giant wooden horse! I really think it needed a little more. Likewise Achilles fighting his way through the streets of burning Troy to rescue his girlfriend just sat uncomfortably with me. Talking about the film Wolfgang Petersen admits that everything up to the death of Hector comes from The Iliad and everything after was made up by the scriptwriters - even to the point of creating a new death for Agamemmnon. Well, what does this tell us ? Also the film has a typically coy example of Hollywood homophobia with Achilles' male lover becoming his "cousin". Homer Phobia!

Wednesday, 23 April 2008


THE PRODUCERS : Uma goes to work!

II thought I'd take a few moments to mention some of the more recent movies that I've seen that, while being pretty good, didn't exactly inspire me to write about them. First were two musical remakes of earlier films. THE PRODUCERS starring Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell is hugely enjoyable, as is HAIR SPRAY, although neither completely wipes out my fondness for the originals and, for once they are not meant to. The new films are more than able to stand on their own feet. Of the two I preferred THE PRODUCERS. I've been putting off seeing TROY for reasons I really can't explain. I picked up cheap in a sale and, although I thought it overlong (this is the Director's Cut), I was impressed by the spectacle and the overall design. Performances are excellent with Brad Pitt making a more than one dimensional Achilles. The armies of both the Greeks and Trojan are so huge one wonders just how they'd keep then fed during a ten year siege - but, hey, that's movies for you! I thought that the ghost story 1408 started well enough and the early scenes between John Cusack and Samuel Jackson hold promise of frissons to come. Sadly the promise is not kept and the whole thing deteriorates into a special effects nightmare punctuated by a lot of fake Freudian backstory. I had problems getting to the end although I made it, which is more than what can be said for THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK which lasted ten minutes before I switched channels to THE FANTASTIC FOUR. Which, although, and perhaps because, I was not a fan of the comic, I found quite enjoyable.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008


Happy Birthday, Jack!

Friday, 18 April 2008

L'ECLISSE/The Eclipse (1962)

I know that Cerpts over at the Land of Cerpts and Honey has been gearing himself up to tackle this movie and it wasn't my intention to write about it myself. But I watched the film again last night for the first time since its original release and it won't let me go back to sleep until I've said my piece. Back in the early 1960's I was lucky enough to see Michelangelo Antonioni's trilogy of films in quick succession and of the three titles, L'AVVENTURA, LA NOTTE and L'ECLISSE, it was L'ECLISSE that impressed me most. In retrospect, several decades later, I'm damned if I can remember why. In my mind's eye it is the other two films that have stayed in my memory. Watching L'ECLISSE again, last night, I felt that this opinion was being justified. But, I awoke about an hour ago and the film was running through my brain and I knew that it was just as brilliant as I thought all those years ago. As the opening title role we hear a trendy little Italian pop song on the soundtrack. Suddenly this changes to something more sinister and disturbing and, for me, this simple musical effect sets the somewhat edgy mood of the rest of the film. The simplest scene seems to have an almost schizophrenic undercurrent; a delightful African dance performed by Vitti during a girly night with friends comes to an abrupt halt when her friend suddenly says "let's stop playing at negroes" and then launches into a racialist description of the people she knew in Kenya as "monkeys still living in trees", an episode soon after this, involving a search for a lost dog which ends with the said dog reducing Vitti to laughter by its antics becomes something darker and disorientating - Antonioni brilliantly using architecture to isolate and alienate his characters throughout the film. I'm deliberately not giving away the plot in this piece as L'ECLISSE should really be experienced without preconceptions although I'm still not sure that after forty years or more I really know exactly what is going on. I look forward to Cerpts review on his blog as he has only seen the film for the first time recently. It is an extraordinary piece of cinema - one that will worm its way into your mind. Rating *****
Click on the link in the right hand column and jump over to The Land of Cerpts and Honey and read Cerpts brilliant piece on this great movie.

HAZEL COURT 1926 - 2008

Oh dear, another favourite is gone! I think it is impossible to be a fan of horror movies during the 1950's and 60's and not love Hazel Court. She was a classical beauty with a voluptuous figure and a wonderful voice. She made a lovely heroine and a delectable villainess in such films as DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, DR.BLOOD'S COFFIN, PREMATURE BURIAL and, my own personal favourites among her many roles, MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH and THE RAVEN. I certainly never thought of her being in her 80's. To me and, I'm sure, all her fans she will always be one of the great beauties of the screen.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Skiffy Films

"Yes, yes! I promise I'll click on to Skiffy Films"

If, like me, you are addicted to Paleo-Cinema and the Paleo Podcasts, you will most certainly want to check out the latest blog from the prolific Terry Frost. Skiffy Films is devoted to science-fiction and fantasy films. Click on the link on this page.


Happily, I now feel in a position where I can open the Fleapit Annex again. I really want to do some stuff on books, vintage television and music, so the Annex seems the place to do it and all film related items will stay on the Fleapit. The Annex will probably get a completely new look as well. Hopefully this will all take place before the end of this month so watch for the announcement.

Sunday, 13 April 2008


I recently received, via Amazon, (the retailer not the river) a box containing the three horror films that John Braham directed at 20th Century Fox during the 1940s. Two of these films THE LODGER(1944) and HANGOVER SQUARE (1944) star Laird Cregar and might be called the heavyweights of the trio while the third, a werewolf tale, THE UNDYING MONSTER is a low-calorie snack. All three titles have been wonderfully restored for the DVD release with THE UNDYING MONSTER looking particularly crisp. Lightweight it maybe but THE UNDYING MONSTER has always been a favourite of mine – fast moving (little more than an hour), beautifully shot and atmospherically directed by Brahm. The thing that struck me about the film when I first saw it on television was that it could easily be remade as a Sherlock Holmes film and I was pleased that this was pointed out by one of the historians in the extras. The two Cregar films – THE LODGER especially – are outstandingly good, both benefiting from powerful and intelligent performances from Cregar, great photography by Lucien Ballard and, of course, great direction from Brahm. Although the set contains lots of interesting extras, including intelligent commentaries it is this very aspect of the DVD release that has prompted me to write this piece. On the UNDYING MONSTER disc there is a documentary about the films of director John Brahm. Roped in are witnesses such as Kim Newman, Steve Jones and Chris Wicking (forgive me for picking these three from many but I know Newman slightly, once worked for Jones and have met Wicking) – all of whom know what they are talking about. After a brief mention of Brahm’s early films the experts settle down for a discussion of the three movies in the set. Unfortunately there is no mention whatsoever of Brahm’s other films that repay viewing : GUEST IN THE HOUSE, THE BRASHER DOUBLOON and THE LOCKET. Even if these films are not even given a passing mention I find it difficult to believe that nobody even thought to make reference to Brahm’s other horror film THE MAD MAGICIAN made at Columbia in 3D in 1954, a film that actually recreates one of the most successful scenes from HANGOVER SQUARE. From the title THE FILMS OF JOHN BRAHM one might reasonably expect it to give an overview of Brahms career, or at best his horror films.This grumble aside, it’s an outstanding release….perhaps Columbia can treat us to a3D dvd of THE MAD MAGICIAN. Oh, yes, I seem to remember a very atmospheric short film directed by Brahm on the doppelganger theme, based on the Joseph Conrad story THE SECRET SHARER and starring James Mason. It was originally included as half of the compendium film FACE TO FACE in 1952.

Saturday, 12 April 2008


Damn and Blast! I missed it. One of the great pleasures of blogging or simply being on the internet is that you get to meet some awfully nice people with similar interests. A few years ago on a site called Monster Club I started exchanging e-mails with a couple of nice guys who have remained friends ever since. One was Cerpts, who runs Land of Cerpts and Honey, and the other was mistermonster who is scowling at you in the picture above. I figure he was planning to grab the autographed pic of John Carradine on my wall. Mistermonster and his partner flew into London about a year ago from sunny Florida and we were able to meet in person and despite truly awful weather he braved the trip to my home town. We talked a lot of movies and still do regularly in cyberspace. Recently it was mistermonster's birthday and I forgot it completely. I hope he forgives me and continues to offer me the support he has in the past - both on a personal level and to the blog. He is truly one of the inspirations for this project. Dargoneit! he knows as much about fantasy movies as I do! Hopefully mistermonster will be up and blogging himself soon! A belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY Mr.M!!!!!!!

Friday, 11 April 2008

JULES DASSIN 1911 - 2008

Richard Widmark : NIGHT AND THE CITY

Dassin's early films are, reportedly, unremarkable and with the possible exception of THE CANTERVILLE GHOST rarely seen these days. His reputation was made in the post-war period with three tough crime dramas, BRUTE FORCE(1947), THE NAKED CITY(1948) and THIEVES HIGHWAY(1949), after which the director fell foul of the HUAC investigations and moved to Europe where he continued in the same vein with, first, the classic noir THE NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950) which was filmed in London and then RIFIFI (1954), the Paris filmed template for virtually every "heist" movie since. In later years he had some big commercial successes with NEVER ON A SUNDAY(60) and TOPKAPI(1964), neither of which I have seen. In between these he made the somewhat overwrought but very enjoyable PHAEDRA(1962). These three all starred his wife, the Greek actress Melina Mercouri. His post-war thrillers were, for me, his greatest achievement. R.I.P


Me and my Shadow : Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck

Jesse James has had a long film career from the first major film biography starring Tyrone Power and directed by Henry King in 1939, In the fifties this was, more or less remade by director Nicholas Ray as THE TRUE STORY OF JESSE JAMES starring Robert Wagner. More versions followed, often bewilderingly close to each other, THE NORTHFIELD MINNESOTA RAID, THE LONG RIDERS, FRANK AND JESSE. In between there were films ranging from serials and Roy Rogers B-movies to Samuel Fuller’s offbeat I SHOT JESSE JAMES and a television movie starring Kris Kristofferson. After FRANK AND JESSE in I thought it would be years before anybody would tackle the story of the notorious outlaw brothers. A few years back I read Robert Hansen’s novel THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD. It is an amazingly detailed reconstruction of the final days of the Missouri badman. So detailed that it never occurred to me that it might be the basis for a new film, let alone one starring Brad Pitt. Let it be said that Pitt, who had a hand in the production, is an excellent choice as Jesse. Unlike most films based on Western heroes and villains THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES makes no attempt to be an action film. It is a mood piece, a tone poem – exquisitely photographed and superbly acted, perfectly capturing the period. The film concentrates on the relationship between Jesse and his biggest fan – the wannabe outlaw Robert Ford. In an early scene Ford offers his services to Jesse’s brother Frank, and Frank (superbly played by Sam Shepard), sensing Ford’s unhealthy obsession, rejects him and humiliates him (a scene reminiscent of the humiliation of Robert and his brother Charley by Frank and Jesse in the earlier THE LONG RIDERS.) The film, justifiably, treats Jesse James like a modern day celebrity and it is not difficult to think of the murder of John Lennon by a killer looking for fame. Jesse seems to be playing Ford like a fish on a line and there is the suggestion, inevitable in the context of the story being told and perhaps in history itself, that Jesse accepts his own death and even welcomes it. At one point Jesse asks Ford “Do you want to be like me or do you want to be me ?” and taunts Ford by hinting that he (Ford) may have a sexual motivation. The scenes after Jesse’s death, detailing Ford’s life, are fascinating, although rather anti-climatic and the motives of his own killer are somewhat sketchily dealt with in a way that while being dramatically satisfying will send the curious scurrying for a copy of Hansen’s novel. I’ve always rated Brad Pitt as an actor, without being a particular fan of all his films but here he is superb at conveying the unpredictable nature of Jesse’s paranoia – a celebrity killer, feared by his own cohorts; the Ronnie Kray of his day. Casey Affleck is excellent as “the dirty little coward who shot Mr.Howard” , particularly in the scenes leading up to the murder of Jesse – you feel every beat of his heart and sweat every bead of perspiration. For me, THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD directed by Andrew Dominik is a major achievement and one of the great American films so far this century. Rating *****

Tuesday, 8 April 2008


In a year during which we have lost many great names in the world of entertainment it is, perhaps, the death of Charlton Heston that I feel most personally. For the last six years Charlton Heston has suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, a condition that afflicts my own partner. Like Heston, who faced his illness with great bravery, my partner struggles against her own memory loss and confusion. Often, during times of depression I would make her laugh by saying she was in an exclusive club – just her and Charlton Heston! Tonight she watched the announcement of Heston’s death with no comment beyond “What a shame”. She did not remember that she had seen Heston on stage at Salisbury Cathedral with Richard Branagh. My thoughts are with Heston’s family. Charlton Heston was a fine actor. In his early days he may have been somewhat limited in the range of roles he was offered because of his physique – he was, the opposite of Richard Widmark who died recently in that he was, as a workmate once accurately put it “built like a brick shithouse”. As with Widmark I will leave biography for the historians and list here my favourite Heston roles.

Heston’s performance in DeMille’s THE TEN COMMANDMENTS is about as big as they come. It’s a monster of a movie and just about as spectacular as you might want. You might just think it is a work of art, a bad taste sideshow, a great camp classic (“Oh Moses, Moses, you stupid irrepressible fool!”) or a wildly enjoyable star spotting exercise but whatever you think it is great entertainment. TOUCH OF EVIL is one of Heston’s very best performances as a Mexican cop caught up in corruption in a border town. Not for the last time in his career Heston went out on a limb to support his director/co-star, Orson Welles. Chuck was back in costume for his famous roll in William Wyler’s BEN HUR, reportedly oblivious to the homo-erotic slant that Wyler was giving to Heston’s scenes with Stephen Boyd and Jack Hawkins. BEN HUR, like THE TEN COMMANDMENTS before it and EL CID after almost defy you not to enjoy them – luckily, they repay attention. One of my very favourite Heston roles was as the Norman knight in Franklin Schaffner’s THE WARLORD. Set in a period usually ignored by the cinema the film featured totally convincing performances by Heston, Richard Boone and Guy Stockwell. Afew years later Heston reteamed with Schaffner for equally memorable sci-fi classic, THE PLANET OF THE APES. My final two choices are both Westerns. Heston showed rather unexpected vulnerability in both films. In Sam Peckinpah’s under-rated MAJOR DUNDEE he played the title role – a strong man who has unexpected weakness due to career disappointments and in Tom Gries’s WILL PENNY he plays an ageing and illiterate cowboy who makes a final grasp for happiness. Heston was superb in both. These then are my favourite Heston films but before finishing I’d like to make honourable mention of his performance as Cardinal Richelieu in Richard Lester’s musketeer films, his television version of A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS and his very effective Long John Silver in TREASURE ISLAND which for me eclipsed all earlier versions. Stars didn’t come much bigger than Heston (cinematically and physically) and it will be impossible to fill his sandals. R.I.P Chuck.

LE CLAN DES SICILIANS/The Sicilian Clan (1973)

I have a real weakness for French gangster films, particularly those directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, and this film stars three of the premier icons of the genre – Jean Gabin, Alain Delon and Lino Ventura. Sadly, though, this film is not directed by Melville but, rather, by Turkish/Armenian director Henri Verneuil. Delon plays a career criminal who is arrested after killing two policemen. He is spring from custody (the best sequence in the film) by a Sicilian crime family who, in return use him in a big international caper. Except for the aforesaid break from custody this film is pretty slackly directed and played. Delon, as usual, does little to play for audience empathy – something that can be turned to advantage by the right director. The leader of the Sicilian family is played with quiet authority but little else by the great Jean Gabin who only really seems to be really interested in the proceedings in his two short scenes with Lino Ventura as the cop in pursuit. The final confrontation between Delon and Gabin is well staged and almost worth sitting through the rather dull proceeding scenes. Rating **

GUMSHOE (1971)

Stephen Frears' GUMSHOE is an absolute gem. It was made the same year as that other classic British crime movie, GET CARTER, but unlike that film GUMSHOE seems to have been virtually forgotten. I saw it first at the time of its television premier and quite liked it. It turned up again as part of a season of British films a year or so ago at which time I recorded it and filed it away until now. GUMSHOE is from a very clever script by actor/writer Neville Smith (who has a cameo in the film) and tells of small-time Bingo caller and wannabe stand-up comic Eddie Ginley (Albert Finney) who is addicted to hard-boiled America detective stories by the likes of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Eddie puts as advert in the paper offering himself as a Private Investigator (no divorce work) and much to his surprise is called to a hotel where he is met by a mysterious fat man who gives him a packet containing £1000, a gun and a photo of a girl. At first Eddie thinks it is a birthday joke by his friends but he is inexorably drawn into a world of gun smugglers, drugs, kidnapping, hired killers and South African politics. The scene shifts from the mean streets of Liverpool to London and back again as Eddie unravels the mystery which leads him down some dark streets as the corpses begin to pile up. What is clever about Smith's script is that one might expect that Eddie, living in his attic flat with his collection of green Penguin crime novels, would be depicted as a loser, totally out of his depth. Eddie have dreams, live in a crummy flat and have a dead end job but he certainly isn't out of his depth. Eddie is well-read (check out his bookshelf) and the world into which he is plunged may not be the world in which he lives but it is the world of his fantasies and he knows exactly how to cope - he's been reading this stuff foe years! The dialogue fairly crackles as Eddie delivers the hard-boiled one-liners(in a knowingly bad American accent) as if born to it. Along the way he encounters a host of expert players : Billie Whitelaw, Frank Finlay, Fulton MacKay, Wendy Richard and Maureen Lipman. Lipman appears in a scene that approximates the famous bookshop scene in THE BIG SLEEP but here is played at in the famous Atlantis Bookshop near The British Museum, which, as here, specialises in occult books and was once frequented by Aleister Crowley (not to mention Dean Stockwell, who went there while researching his role in THE DUNWICH HORROR) - I was there last year with my American friend Dave. Stephen Frears has made some good movies but few, if any, better than GUMSHOE. Seek it out. Rating ****

Wednesday, 2 April 2008


What next ? I thought when I read that some joker planned to remake Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS, can it get worse ? Well, this week I read that Madonna wants to remake Michael Curtiz’s CASABLANCA. Of course she has a twist and wants to set it in war torn Iraq! Surely she remembers that one of the reasons behind the story of the 1843 film was that it wasn’t set in a war zone but in a neutral open city. Of course, it is also just possible that the singer who has had a less than spectacular career in the movies doesn’t know that Pammy Anderson has already remade CASABLANCA as BARB WIRE. Let’s hope that Madge’s one trick pony film director husband, Guy Ritchie, manages to talk her out of her plans.


This was a documentary that formed the main section of an evening of television designed as a tribute to the late comedian Marty Feldman. Before stepping in front of the cameras Feldman had gained an enviable reputation as a comedy writer on radio and television. As a performer in such shows as IT’S MARTY FELDMAN and THE MARTY FELDMAN machine he had the backing of some top American talent like Larry Gelbart of M.A.S.H fame and future Oscar winner Barry Levinson. Hollywood called and Marty appeared as Igor in Mel Brook’s classic YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. This resulted in Marty directing two movies before returning to England. He accepted a role in Graham Chapman’s film YELLOW BEARD and while filming in Mexico he died of a heart attack. The praise heaped on Marty during the programme is quite phenomenal with such luminaries as John Cleese, Gene Wilder, Larry Gelbart, Barry Levison and Dom DeLouise stepping up to heap praise on Marty’s head. Feldman seems to have been a genuinely sweet guy and there can be no doubt that his early scripts werefunny (as was shown in another show that evening, a reconstruction of a ROUND THE HORNE recording session) but despite all the expert witnesses to the contrary I remain unconvined about his true value. Those early sketches were small parts of bigger shows and were often produced in collaboration. As a performer Marty had the big advantage that he looked funny with features that would have done credit to a gargoyle. It can’t be denied that the films he directed, THE LAST REMAKE OF BEAU GESTE and IN GOD WE TRUST were unmitigated disasters. Star Michael York put up a spirited and loyal defence of his director and co-star in BEAU GESTE but the truth of the situation is that a sad Marty bringing in his own editor, Jim Clark, and begging him “can you make it funny?” In an attempt to salvage the disaster the studio recut the film and, tellingly, his editor sided with the studio. Both versions were given the thumbs down by preview audiences. After the documentary an episode of IT’S MARTY FELDMAN was shown and I was prepared to change my mind. Sadly I didn’t. There were two long sketches – one involving a coach trip and the other golf – both were painfully unfunny and at least twice as long as they needed to be. The shorter sketches were of a quality that wouldn’t make it into any of the better sketch shows of today. As far as I am concerned, I will always love Marty in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN and he has some good bits in THE ADVENTURE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES SMARTER BROTHER (both written by Gene Wilder) but for the rest I remain unconvinced.


Chips Rafferty

There is an old joke that says that the streets of Australia are clean because they sweep up all the rubbish, turn it into television programmes and export it to the U.K. Unfair ? Well, despite the fact that I once formed a mild addiction to THE SULLIVANS, I have seen HOME AND AWAY and NEIGHBOURS which makes me think the joke might have some truth behind. Despite the stupid sporting rivalry between Australia and England which is mostly based on the way we throw cricket balls at each other (yes, yes, I know I should have said bowl but life is too short to worry) we share a lot in common with our cousins down under. They’ve given us Rolf Harris, Skippy, Joan Sutherland, Kylie Minogue, Paul Hogan, XXXX, Bryan Brown, Nicole Kidman, Jack Thompson etc. In this article I salute the Australian film industry (who made the first film of more than one reel in length and were among the first to convert to sound) by highlighting a ten of my personal favourites from down under.

1.Chips Rafferty. Absolute Australian icon of my youth. Long before there was Paul Hogan there was Chips Rafferty. Tall, rangy and, seemingly, never without his bush hat, Rafferty seemed to be in every film even remotely connected with Australia made during the 1950’s and 6o’s whether he was the star, as in EUREKA STOCKADE or making sure that imported stars like Robert Mitchum didn’t get lost in the outback in THE SUNDOWNERS. I hope that somewhere down under they’ve erected a statue to good ol’ Chips.

2.Peter Weir. This young director garnered much attention and critical praise for his film PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK. The true story of some missing girl students in the Australian outback appealed to may because of Weir’s wise decision not to offer explanations thus allowing the movie to be all things to all viewers. THE CARS THAT ATE PARIS was an offbeat satire of cannibalized cars and outback nastiness. My personal favourite of Weir’s early years was THE LAST WAVE an apocalyptic thriller with Richard Chamberlain wandering into Aborigine Dream-time…truly weird and unsettling. GALLIPOLI and THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY catapulted Weir into the bigtime. All these years later with MASTER AND COMMANDER : THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD Weir proved that he was still a force to contend with.

3.Peter Finch. Finch was at the EUREKA STOCKADE before he headed for London under the sponsorship of Laurence Olivier, leaving behind him a successful career in Australia as a stage and radio actor. Ironically Finch was only half Australian on his father’s side and had actually been born in London in 1916. He had been raised in France and India before arriving in Australia in 1926. I first became aware of Peter Finch in the Fifties when he appeared as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Walt Disney’s THE STORY OF ROBIN HOOD AND HIS MERRIE MEN and later in such films as ROBBERY UNDER ARMS and THE SHIRALEE. Although English by birth Finch was regarded by most people as an Australian and this impression was enforced by the films he made down under. It is not an exaggeration to call Finch a “great” and there were many roles of distinction before Finch was cast against type in THE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE. Other outstanding performances followed in THE PUMPKIN EATER, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD, SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY and his final film NETWORK for which he won a posthumous Oscar.

4.Ned Kelly. The infamous Bushranger and Australian folk-hero was the subject of one of the very first Australian films, THE STORY OF THE KELLY GANG in 1908. Since then Australia hasn’t done much with Kelly, at least not filmwise. In 1970 Kelly was a gift to the British film industry when somebody decided it would be a good idea to cast Mick Jagger as Kelly (it must have seemed a good idea at the time) in Tony Richardson’s NED KELLY. I was physically attacked by a drunken Australian for even mentioning this film in a London pub – he seemed convinced that I had something to do with the film which according to him starred a “Pom Poof” in the role of his hero. A couple of years back it was the American’s turn to tackle the legend in NED KELLY starring the late Heath Ledger. They did a pretty good job of it as far as I was concerned. But one can’t help wondering why the Australians haven’t made more of Bucket Head Ned over the years?

5. Russell Crowe. I first noticed Crowe in THE QUICK AND THE DEAD and he really got my attention in GLADIATOR and even more so in MASTER AND COMMANDER : FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD. There have been a few stinkers along the way but I’m always interested to see what he does next and regret that we never got to his stab at Davy Crockett in the remake of THE ALAMO – a project he quit when producer Ron Howard withdrew.

6.Aborigines. At first glance the Australian Aborigine would seem to occupy a cinematic position similar to the Red Indians/Native Americans in American films, but in reality there are great differences, As far as I know the Aborigines have rarely, if ever, been shown as the aggressive marauder. Even when films have not dealt with the bad treatment of these native Australians (and I’m sure that there must have been a few films redressing the balance in recent years) they seem to have been depicted with a certain amount of respect – given credit for their ancient skills and endurance. More often than not there is an element of mysticism surrounding them (THE RIGHT STUFF, THE LAST WAVE) and they can disappear into the landscape at will (CROCODILE DUNDEE II) to the mystification of the whiteman who is totally out of his depth in the outback(WALKABOUT) which all enforces the feeling that they know a lot more about the the nature of the world than their fellow countrymen. It’s a fascinating subject and one that almost certainly would repay further exploration...picture shows the great Aborigine actor David Gulpilil.

7. Michael Pate. I paid tribute to this talented actor in my review of the film HONDO which appears elsewhere on this blog.

8. Errol Flynn. What is there new to say about the biggest star ever to come out of Australia. At his best there were few, if any, who could even begin to challenge Flynn as the greatest action star of Hollywood’s Golden Age. His THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD has never been bettered and titles like CAPTAIN BLOOD, CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE, THE SEA HAWK, THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON, NORTHERN PURSUIT, OBJECTIVE BURMA etc talk for themselves. Hail the Hero.

9. Rod Taylor. This likable actor was always a plus in any film he appeared in whether it was great, like Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS or awful like SEVEN SEAS TO CALAIS. I won’t spend any more time on Rod as Terry Frost paid a great tribute to him on his PALEO-CINEMA PODCAST No.10 which is another good reason to check it out.

10. How to end ? I am a bit of a loss although tempted to say RAZORBACK, that low-budget film about a ton of homicidal Pork….or maybe the wonderfully villainous Frank Thring (who sentenced Mick Jagger to death in NED KELLY and was a wonderful King Herod in KING OF KINGS)…..but no, the decision goes to the MAD MAX trilogy. Not just three films but a whole genre really of post-apocalyptic road movies. The first was an edgy low-budget effort which was followed by ROAD WARRIOR the wildly enjoyable (and much imitated) action classic and the coda with Tina Turner no less which wound things up nicely and even came close to evoking real beauty, Just writing this makes me want to see them again.