Monday, 22 December 2008

Christmas again...

Christmas again. I always tend to be a bit optimistic about the true message of Christmas. Luck many others I get sucked into the blatant commercialism but come to 11.3o on Christmas Eve when I wrap up against the cold and head of to church for the Midnight Mass I know that I have not forgotten what it is about. This year is more difficult. I have friends who are unemployed, a friend who is coping with his lady's descent into mental illness and I have just had to make one of the most painful decisions of my life. I still don't doubt the true meaning of Christmas and the message of Frank Capra's IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE seems particularly pertinent this year as the banks collapse and people lose theie homes and jobs. I just can't help feeling that, just perhaps, the alternative reading of IT A WONDERFUL LIFE as a sort of proto INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS where the expression on James Stewart's face athe finale is one of trapped desperation rather than joy seems more significant than usual.

Have a good Christmas and thanks for reading this blog. Hopefully next year I'll be able to get back to regular reviews. Stick with me,

Sunday, 7 December 2008


It is with great regret I mark the death of Forrest J.Ackeman. Forry was an editor, collector, writer, journalist, actor, literary agent and through his groundbreaking magazine FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND was an inspiration to a whole generation. I don't propose to write a long tribute to the man as there will be many of those but Forry changed my life and the life of many of my friends by passing on his love of all things weird and fantastic in literature and the cinema. I was lucky enough to meet the great man in 1964 when we both attended the World Science Fiction Convention in London. A sad day for fans everywhere. Thanks for everything, Forry. RI.P. and Rise in glory!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

HISTOIRES EXTRAORDINAIRES /Spirits of the Dead(1968)

I think that American International made a half-hearted attempt to sell this as part of their Edgar Allan Poe series but this French production is a very different kettle of fish. Three stories by Poe adapted by famous European directors with big name stars sounds like a sure fire recipe for a superior horror movie. The first episode is directed by Roger Vadim and is based on the tale "Metzegerstein" and stars brother and sister Peter and Jane Fonda. The biggest problem, as you might expect comes from Roger Vadim's usual non-direction but close behind comes the total impossibility of convincing anybody that Jane Fonda is some perverted Countess Bathory wanabe who is forever indulging in salacious orgies and such like - Fonda just looks so sweet and American and innocent even when clad in outrageous and revealing costumes and the dissolute orgies laughable. The second story is "William Wilson" Poe's doppelganger story which stars Alain Delon (who would return to the theme with much better results in Joseph Losey's MR. KLEIN) and is directed by Louis Malle, seemingly without any enthusiasm. Brigitte Bardot also appears but does little to raise the general blandness of the segment. The final and longest story is "Toby Dammit" based (supposedly) on Poe's "Never Bet the Devil your Head" directed by Federico Fellini. Now I'll happily shout from the rooftops that virtually everything that Fellini has done since I VITTELONI leaves me cold. But here he wins hands down. Not because I think his segment is particularly good but simply because the other two are so bland and uninteresting. Terence Stamp plays a wrecked drug addled actor at Cine-Citta who has a more than close encounter with the Devil in the shape of a small child bouncing a ball - an image that Fellini lifted from Mario Bava's OPERAZIONE PAURA made two years previously. At least Fellini steals from the best. Rating **