Wednesday, 30 December 2009


I really don't see enough new films each year to do a "Top Twenty" of the year's releases so I'm following the example of THE LAND OF CERPTS AND HONEY and making a list of the films I have seen during the year for the first time and enjoyed most. The list is not in order of preference - it's not in any order.

1. MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2006) Clint Eastwood's female boxing saga which turns out to be
not the film you are expecting.
2. THE HAPPENING (2OO8) Not Night's best movie by a long way but odd enough to keep him
in my sights as one of the most interesting directors in Hollywood.
3. MILK (2008) Gus Van Sant's biographical drama about activist Harvey Milk featuring a
deservedly oscar winning performance by Sean Penn.
4. GRAN TORINO (2009) Clint Eastwood again takes our expectations to the limit and then
whips the carpet out from under us.
5. DEATH PROOF (2007) Minor but ridiculously enjoyable trash from Quentin Tarantino.
6. SOMMARLEK/Summer Interlude (1951) Early Bergman winner.
7. SANTO Y BLUE DEMON CONTRA LOS MONSTRUOS (1965) Bizarre, colourful, engaging
nonsense from the Mexican fantasy factory.
8. CHANGELING (2009) Clint Eastwood's disturbing child abduction drama.
9. AND STARRING PANCHO VILLA AS HIMSELF (2006) Bruce Beresford recreates one of
the most bizarre events in film history.
10. FROST/NIXON (2009) Reconstruction of the David Frost/Richard Nixon interviews with
two great actors - Langella and Sheen - going head to head.
11. THE AVIATOR (2004) Scorsese 's biog of Howard Hughes.
12. APPALOOSA (2007) A classic Western that ticks all the boxes.
13. TAKEN (2008) Pierre Morrel's kick arse thriller.
14. LAT DEN RATTE KOMATA IN/Let the Right One In (2008) Brilliant Swedish horror
that sets new standards.
15. JUDEX (1963) Georges Franju's recreation of the classic Feuillade serial.
16. LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA (2008) Clint Eastwood yet again with the famous battle
seen from the Japanese viewpoint.
17. PLANET TERROR (2007) Robert Rodriguez's homage to the zombie flick.
18. AMERICAN GANGSTER (2008) Another great movie from Ridley Scott.
19. THE SARAGOSSA MANUSCRIPT (1963) Strange Polish surrealist fantasy .
20. THE DEPARTED (2008) Martin Scorsese's crime drama.
21. DESERTO ROSSO/The Red Desert (1964) Great but undervalued Antonioni.

Runners Up : THE MONSTER (1925), SERVICE DE LUXE (1938), POOL OF LONDON (1951)


With no less than four titles
in my top twenty
I declare

Never expected that...well did ya, punk?

Wednesday, 23 December 2009


The term "film noir" is bandied about a lot these days and nonchalantly applied to, it seems, almost any crime film made in black and white before 1960 . Although the term had its origins in France it is essentially an American phenomenon its roots being traceable back to European origins. These days we can identify films as "post noir" or "neo noir" - films which conform to noirish conventions without actually becoming a pastiche of the genre - I'm thinking here particularly of the French gangster films of Jean-Pierre Melville of the early films of John Dahl. Genuine British noir is a rare bird but it seems to me that Basil Dearden's POOL OF LONDON ticks all the right boxes. Two merchant seamen, one white and one black, dock in London. The white (American actor Bonar Colleano) has a little sideline in contraband and is offered the chance to make some money delivering a package to Amsterdam. Unwittingly he becomes involved in, and the main suspect, for a murder committed during a heist. The plot follows Colleano, the robbers and the black sailor - played without any of the racial stereotyping so usual in the films of the period by West Indian actor Earl Camerobas he slowly gets drawn into his friends difficulties. The film even explores the obvious romantic pull between Cameron and the girl who works in the music hall (played by Susan Shaw) which is seen as doomed by the social racism of the time and depicted in a way far more subtle than you might expect. The film manages to be tense, atmospheric and exciting with first class performances throughout (look out for Alfie Bass as a safecracker) and benefts from being shot almost entirely on location in London with trams, trolley buses, pubs, dance halls and music halls all bringing back memories of a now nearly vanished London. Rating ****

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Jennifer Jones R.I.P.

Jennifer Jones

Friday, 4 December 2009

RICHARD TODD 1919-2009

Nice tribute from SparkyGerbil on YouTube to British actor and War Hero, Richard Todd, who starred in the classic THE DAM BUSTERS, Hitchcock's STAGEFRIGHT, Disney's THE STORY OF ROBIN HOOD and with Ronald Reagan in THE HASTY HEART. Todd was also one of the first troops to parachute into France on D-Day 1944 and one of the Paratroopers who held Pegasus Bridge. This event was recreated in the film THE LONGEST DAY with Todd playing one of his own commanding officers. R.I.P.

Monday, 30 November 2009


I first saw this about a year ago and deliberately didn't write about it because I wanted to see it again to see how I felt about it after a second viewing. I still think it is a cracking piece of film making which contains some terrific direction, writing and acting. Certainly it deserves all the praise that that was heaped upon it. And yet......maybe it's just me, but how many people are totally satisfied by the ending. Not many, I suspect. But it just isn't cool to say so. I've always been a Coen Brothers fan since BLOOD SIMPLE and I accept that Cormac McCarthy is a great writer (although I'm not a fan of his work) and I do, truly, love this movie. However, I'm still uncool enough to like a film where you have a beginning, a middle and an end. I know life isn't always like that but this ain't life, it's a movie - a drama. I don't mind an enigmatic ending which is open to interpretation (John Boorman's POINT BLANK is a perfect example) but the problem I have with NO COUNTRY is two fold. From a purely personal view I still like to see the bad guy get his come uppance - again I know that isn't always how life plays out. I hated it back in the 1970's when the trend began in horror films that the villains/monsters began to win. All those totally predictable twist endings really pissed me off. My second objection which is more to do with the film itself is that NO COUNTRY sets everything up for a climax which however it turns out is good dramatic story telling. A character we have followed throughout the film, been lead to identify with and like is placed in a dramatic situation that we desperately want to see resolved. Then what happens ? Well, whatever it is it happens off screen and the character is killed. The bad guy gets away. End of movie. I did not, however, have any problem with the scene at the end where Tommy Lee Jones (a brilliant performance) narrates his dreams - that he was not involved in the resolution did not worry me, I thought that was a perfect irony for his character. But in respect of the other two characters I needed resolution - maybe life is like that but dramatically its all a bit coitus interruptus to me. Rating ****

Sunday, 29 November 2009


It is true that we sometimes view the past through rose coloured glasses but, despite what some cynics say, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The distillation of memory often results in the preservation of the things that really matter (see Cerpts wonderful invocation of his childhood in New Jersey in THE LAND OF CERPTS AND HONEY) - yesterday's wine of a very fine vintage. Joan Littlewood's SPARROWS CAN'T SING is an important (albeit disgracefully neglected by critics and film historians) film which records an East End of London that was rapidly vanishing even as the film was being shot. Despite slight exaggerations of behaviour this is far removed from the "Mockney" world of Guy Ritchie or the instant depression of EAST ENDERS. More than any other part of the city, East London has its own character and its own mythology - Jack the Ripper, The Kray Brothers, The Elephant Man etc. I'm from North London, rather than East, but I grew up among people not unlike those depicted in this film. The James Booth character could have been my Uncle Bill (coincidentally named Booth) and the Cockney Kneesup in the pub may look a bit contrived and embarassing but I can recall feeling equally embarassed seeing my Aunt Peg dance the Can Can just as Avis Bunnage does in the the film. Although it is no way a crime film one can almost feel the presence of Reggie and Ronnie Kray who visited the set production on several occasions in their never ending quest for rubbing shoulders with show business celebs. The films star, Baraba Windsor, was, of course, married to the Kray's fellow gangster and associate, Ronnie Knight. Barbara Windsor is wonderful in the film, looking gorgeous with, as one writer said, "tits you could impale a charging buffalo on" and playing Maggie whose life is thrown into turmoil by the return of her seafaring husband (Booth). The film perfectly captures the mood of the dying East End where the old homes that formed a real community are being bulldozed and the people squeezed into sterile and impersonal tower blocks. The street where Roy Kinnear lives in the film was actually in the process of being demolished during production.

Besides Windsor, Booth and the aforementioned Roy Kinnear (who nearly steals the film) director Littlewood employs a cornucopia of London talent - Brian Murphy, Avis Bunnage, John Justin, Victor Spinetti, Bob Grant etc - many who had worked for her at her groundbreaking Stratford theatre. I must make special mention of a few players such as Wally Patch who plays a watchman and who was a real life friend of my mother. Patch can be seen in bit parts in countless British films and once played the hero in a series of thrillers featuring Fu Manchu clone Dr. Sin Fang, back in the silent days. Stephen Lewis, who is best remembered as Inspector Blake in ON THE BUSES is the co-writer of the film and contributes a wonderful viginette as an over officious caretaker. Finally there is Queenie Watts as the barmaid in the final scenes of the film - Queenie was a real life pub landlady/actress/pianist. I know Queenie was quite likely to get on stage and belt out a song in a pub but whether the voice we hear in the film delivering a Bessie Smith like blues is hers is difficult to judge as it is badly lip-synched. They should have let the old girl do it live. Arthur Mullard, who plays, the brewery cart driver, was exactly the same off screen as on and towards the end of his life used to hang about a pub near Highbury Station in North London (where I believe he had a share in a Flower stall) and cadge drinks off anybody who would buy them - including me! He was a genuine character. SPARROWS is a treat although I suspect a lot of people will just miss the point. Rating ****

Young Barbara Windsor
"Tits you could impale a charging buffalo on!"

Friday, 27 November 2009

PROFONDO ROSSO/Deep Red (1975)

SUSPIRIA not withstanding, DEEP RED is my favourite Dario Argento movie by a big margin. I'm not an Argento fanatic by any means but despite his sometimes alarming lack of narrative skill ( something he shares with other Italian horror directors such as Lucio Fulci and even the great Mario Bava) you can't deny the man is a true stylist. After the disappointment of the awful MOTHER OF TEARS I decided to go back and see if I still liked the earlier films and I'm happy to say I do. DEEP RED still stands out for me and becomes a richer experience each time I see it - which is not bad for a film I've seen five or six times. Argento has always been well served by his English speaking stars with Tony Musante, Karl Malden, James Franciscus and Tony Franciosa amongst others all turning in good performances for him and in DEEP RED the excellent David Hemmings brings with him the added bonus of slight deja vu from Antonioni's BLOW UP which has a similar now you see it now you don't theme - indeed it isn't too far a stretch of the imagination to see DEEP RED as the sort of horror film ntonioni might have made in an alternate world. Even after multiple viewings I still find the suspense scenes work very well indeed, as does the rather subtle humour and, thankfully, Argento is in total control of the story. Rating ****

Thursday, 19 November 2009


Over at THE LAND OD CERPTS AND HONEY our friend Cerpts is recovering from the shock that I've actually seen SERVICE DE LUXE before him! Vincent Price's film debut has eluded me for as many years as I have been a fan of the great man. Directed by Rowland V.Lee who helmed such classics as TOWER OF LONDON and SON OF FRANKENSTEIN and showed with both a rather dark sense of humour. SERVICE DE LUXE is a lightweight screwball comedy which benefits from some wonderful ensemble playing from its cast which includes Constance Bennett, Charles Ruggles, Helen Broderick (pictured above with Price) and a scene stealing Misca Auer.Price is excellent as a young inventor trying to get finance for a revolutionary tractor and becoming unintentionally involved with his sponsor's daughter while preferring to devote his attentions to agency boss Bennett. Based on a story by Vera Caspary (who penned Price's 1944 classic LAURA) the film never really reaches the sublime heights of PHILADELPHIA STORY or BRINGING UP BABY but it is amiable entertainment and, of course, a must for Price fans. If you are inclined (are you listening Cerpts?) y0u can do what I did and watch the whole film on YouTube. Rating ***

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


I've been taking a little sabbatical from film viewing...not intentional but just the way things have worked out. Should be back to normal by next week. In the meantime here is (to me) a totally delightful scene from one of the Ingmar Bergman films that I am yet to see. The combination of Ingmar Bergman and Mozart in an intriguing one. Hopefully a copy of the complete film will come my way soon - it has been rather elusive so far. Opera is not to everybody's taste - but for friend Cerpts I can promise that these are not people arguing with each other in Italian....

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The Big Parade 1925 (King Vidor)

All Quiet on the Western Front 1930 (Lewis Milestone)

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

JOUR SE LEVE (1939) and THE LONG NIGHT (1946)

Jour se leve

Marcel Carne's JOUR SE LEVE bridges the gap between the Poetic Realism movement and that of The Popular Front. The film starts with a murder and then; with the murderer cornered in his attic room, we see how fate has led to the crime. Carne is one of the great directors of cinema with a string of classic films to his name and with his epic drama LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS often being cited as one of the greatest films ever made. The great French actor Jean Gabin plays the man who is trapped by his love for a pretty girl despite the evidence of her fickleness and ultimate betrayal - her impressionable head being turned by the attentions of the toadlike but suave Valentin - a trainer of performing dogs (the irony is not lost on the attentive viewer) - while rejecting the more honest and genuine love of Valentin's ex-assistant (played by the wonderful Arletty). From the start of the affair we see Gabin's character being sucked into an inescapable web and few actors have ever been as capable as Gabin of expressing the world weariness of a man who knows where fate is leading him. If JOUR SE LEVE is a great film, Anatole Litvak's remake THE LONG NIGHT is certainly a very good film, even an excellent one, up to a point. That it fails to reach the heights of the French original is, I think, due more to Hollywood convention and censorship than any real fault of the film makers. THE LONG NIGHT has a lot going for it. Firstly it has one of Henry Fonda's career best performances - it is a detailed portrayal which is in many ways the equal to Gabin's in the original. Likewise Ann Dvorak is tremendous as the showgirl whose love is ultimately rejected. Where Litvak's film not only equals but actually surpasses the earlier film is in the casting of Vincent Price in the Valentin role (here he is called Maximilian). Where Berry was an almost comical dirty old man, Price is positively wolfish. THE LONG NIGHT gives the character more screen time than the first film so we see more of his seduction of the girl. This is probably because the Hollywood version needs to make her more of a victim of evil (to accomodate to changed ending) than the more fickle, rather dim girl of Carne's film. So where does THE LONG NIGHT finally go wrong? It is in the changed ending. I watched the films on consecutive nights and three quarters of the way through the American film I knew that Hollywood was not going to have the courage to follow the French lead. Giving the film a totally illogical upbeat ending (and it really doesn't make sense) robs the film of the tremendous final shot of the French film which Carne holds and holds to devastating effect. Hollywood just wasn't ready for that. Both films look terrific with Sol Polito's crisp black and white photography being a highlight of the American film and Alexander Trauner's sets (cleverly aped by Eugene lourie for THE LONG NIGHT) being standout in JOUR SE LEVE. The object of desire is played in Carne's film by the excellent Jacqueline Laurent and in the remake by Barbara Bel Geddes (who I find almost as intensely irritating as June Allyson) making her film debut. Ratings : JOUR SE LEVE ***** THE LONG NIGHT ****
The Long Night

Tuesday, 3 November 2009


I remember being rather impressed at the time that the great Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann was making a film in England. If I am right, this film, premiered on television in England. I know I watched it at the time but seeing it again nearly thirty years later revealed how little I recall about the plot. Liv plays a woman whose husband has a heart attack while on a business trip and subsequently dies. At the hospital she discovers that he had being travelling with his mistress (played by a very young Amanda Redman). She tracks the girl down with revenge in mind but finds herself being seduced both emotionally and physically. The film seems surprisingly dated now and, it has to be said, a bit pretentious. But it is quite watchable thanks to the performances. Liv Ullmann is hardly stretched by a role that she could have played in her sleep (let's face it, her eyelashes could act most other actresses off the screen!) and she is more than ably supported by Miss Redman as the bi-sexual lover. Tim Piggott-Smith is the reliable friend (tweedie clothes, pipe and beard were standard reliable accessories back then) who leads the adequate supporting cast. I quite enjoyed it even if I didn't really get to involved with the characters. Rating ***

Saturday, 31 October 2009


I had been saving this for my Halloween viewing. Cerpts did a very positive review over in THE LAND OF CERPTS AND HONEY and I'm a big fan of the same director (Stuart Gordon)'s other Lovecraft adaption, DAGON (although to call this a Lovecraft adaption is ridiculous) but I was bitterly disappointed and quickly lost interest in the tiresome guilt ridden American family who inherit a castle in Italy. Of course there is something nasty in the dungeon. Cerpts put forward some interesting psychological points but if they held any water I'd totally past the point of caring. Lots of screams in the night and endless wandering down corridors and staircases. As with many modern horror films that lack a supernatural element this one resorts to some particularly nasty physical horror and a heavy helping of exceedingly unpleasant sexual violence. I lasted about an hour when I decided I could find something better to do. Rating *


Some wonderfully phantasmagorical images from the 1922 classic HAXAN directed by Benjamin Christensen.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

TAKEN (2008)

If you are into tough action films this one is a real treat. It's a double treat because here is a film that knows exactly where it is going, achieves exactly what it sets out to do and does it without wasting one foot of film. It signs in at a lean and very mean 93 minutes. It also scores heavily for me by actually having a good actor in the lead who can make the hero convincingly human as well as seriously badass. Liam Neeson plays a former ""preventer" for a U.S. Goverment Agency ("I prevented bad things happening") who has retired to be near his 17 year old daughter who lives with his ex-wife. The girl travels to Paris with a friend and no sooner is she on French soil she is grabbed by Albanian sex traffickers. Neeson hears the abduction over the phone and is soon on his way to Paris. The American scenes very cleverly inform us of his former trade, the people he worked with and, in a scene at a pop concert, show us his abilities and skills. By the time he arrives in Paris you know that the Albanians are in for a bad time. The action is fast and furious with an body count that would make some action heroes sick with envy. Yet, during the shooting, beating, stabbing, garrotting, crashing etc, thanks to Neeson's performance, you never loose sight of the fact that this is a man pushed to the very edge at the thought of losing his daughter. He shows no mercy to the scum he encounters and the film never moralises about his methods even when he improvises an electric chair which he casually leaves running after extracting the information from the man in it. Only once was I pulled up short by one of his actions (and I believe this is too intelligent a film for that not to be the reaction that the writer and the director wanted) when he casually puts a bullet into an innocent woman to convince somebody he means business. It is the most shocking scene in the film despite all the graphic violence that has preceeded it. Yet, even here, the film refuses to moralise. The only question the film asks us is what we would do if it was our child? We are not invited to pass judgement on Neeson's character, only on ourselves. Written by Luc Besson and directed by Pierre Morrel TAKEN is a terrific action film with a brain. Rating ****

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


This is so obscure that I couldn't find any decent (or indecent) pictures from it on the web. But it is worth saying something about - albeit nothing very good. It is a desperate attempt to put together a film nouveau noir out of other peoples ideas. Sean Young steals a bag of money from her boss. She packs, drives out of town, changes cars at used car dealership and that night stops at a motel and takes a shower......whoa! we've all seen that before. Here, however, she continues her journey the next morning and eventually arrives at a remote diner which looks straight out of THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. She is befriended by the kindly owner (an unconvincing performance from Tom Conti) and decides to stay there a while. Meanwhile her boss, who is a cigar chomping Al Capone clone who you'd have been embarassed to see in THE GODFATHER, is sending out his goons to find her. When one of the hoods finds her and attacks her Conti accidently kills him and later helps her gas another threat (who turns out to have been totally innocent) and they are both drawn into a web of suspicion and murder. The boss gets the barbershop treatment in a scene that is very similar to the one that opens Cronenberg's EASTERN PROMISES. The film saves a couple of twists for the climax but if you don't see them coming you've got no right to be traveling down these mean streets. Conti is a good, even great actor, given the right material. Here he doesn't have a lot to work with and has to do it with an American accent which I was constantly aware of although I can't say how authentic it was. Directed by Richard Trevor (English, I think) a film editor from his own script. He's done nothing since as a director. A shame as I like modest films, I like nouveau noir - but this totally lacks any originality. Rating *

Thursday, 15 October 2009

FRANKENSTEIN 1970 (1958)

I first saw this film circa 1961. I was fifteen years old and I'd never seen Boris Karloff in a horror film. FRANKENSTEIN 1970 turned up on a one day only show at one of our local cinemas and I had arranged to meet some friends for the show (the support feature was William Castle's MACABRE) when my mother decided she wanted to see the film! Horror! How could a fifteen year old kid go to the cinema with his mother when his friends were going to be there? Deviously I decided we'd go to the matinee and avoid my friends. Of course I had completely forgotten that as we left the cinema we would walk past the queue for the next show - and all my friends!

Anyway, enough of my moment of shame, and on to the film. Howard W.Koch had directed a couple of good movies early in his career, SHIELD FOR MURDER and BIG HOUSE USA , and he would later go on to produce the AIRPLANE comedies. There is certainly nothing wrong with his work on FRANKENSTEIN 1970 and he gets the best from a not too bright script. The film is particularly well shot ( ) and the newly released DVD print handsomely brings out the crisp quality of the black and white photography and the castle interiors (presumably left overs from a bigger budgeted production, are impressive. The supporting cast are all competent with Don "Red" Barry hanging up his stetson to play the insensitive film director who has the bright idea of making a film at the real-life Castle Frankenstein where the current Victor von Frankenstein, his mind unhinged by his experience under the nazis, is continuing the experiments of his notorious ancestor. Karloff, complete with scar and crewcut, walks (or limps) away with the film and shines in every scene - the early sequence where Karloff delivers to camera a monologue about the Frankenstein legend. Not a great film by any means, not even a very good one, but for Karloff fans and vintage horror fans generally it is an interesting one. Rating ***
This film has been released as part of a box set of four Karloff/Lugosi movies. To read what friend Cerpts had to say about the film and its four companions CLICK THIS LINK.


This Amicus production directed by Freddie Francis is, surprisingly, good fun. It's low budget with some flimsy sets and some ripe overacting (Michael Gough is a total joy as usual as he once again spits out his total contempt for the human race and for his wardrobe). The plot seems like something that was rejected as an adventure for Professor Quatermass back in the 1950s. Robert Hutton stars as a man with a metal plate in his head and Jennifer Jayne as a woman with a two foot high ginger bouffant on hers but look out for Zia Mohyadden with a colander on his!Ray guns and accessories from the local toy shop. Hard to believe this was onlyn 85 minutes long as it seemed twice that but I can't say it dragged. Good? Frankly, no. but definitely watchable. Rating **

Wednesday, 14 October 2009


Wonderful....a really enjoyable low-budget horror film from the Charles Band crypt which although it has a not too interesting "good vampire" of the type sadly becoming popular with todays teenagers also features Anders Home as his evil brother who thankfully adheres to the Max Schreck school of bloodsucking and peasant extermination. Other pluses are that there is less padding than usual and the film is actually made on location in Transylvania. Direction is by Ted Nicolau who made the excellent THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS (1997) which I believe is a spinoff from this film. The DVD to hand also features a short "making of" documentary of which the best part is a load of Romanian citizens saying that they've either never heard of vampires or that they are the invention of "simple minded Americans". Yeah, right. Also included is a very funny compilation of good bits from other Full Moon Pictures. Nearly forgot to say that Laura Mae Tate is cute. Perfect, undemanding late night viewing. Rating ***

Monday, 12 October 2009


This is an enjoyable, if somewhat odd, entry into the Weissmuller series. It starts with Jane returning from England where she has been helping with the war effort. We know Tarzan isn't the brightest light in the jungle because he doesn't seem to notice that when she left she was Maureen O'Sullivan and now she has come back as Brenda Joyce. Of course there is a treasure seeking safari on the loose led by Barton MacLane (again!) who are searching for the lost city of the Amazons. Oddly the Amazons seem to all be of the same age and rather pretty, except for their queen who is old Maria Ouspenskya - and nobody is older than Maria Ouspenskya! - who talks as though she is warning everybody about lycanthropy. Tarzan films are always better when there is a lost city around but why do they all seem to be populated by Europeans? As with all the later Tarzan films there is not a black face in sight anywhere. Johnny Sheffield is Boy again and one has to say that he was one of the more pleasing child actors in that he never really became irritating. This is quite violent for a Tarzan movie with lots of pretty Amazons getting shot, the entire safari being wiped out and Tazan watching two of the bad guys going under the quicksand without any attempt to help. Even Boy is condemned to death at one point in the story. Oh, by the way Cerpts, Weissmuller's nipples still look evenly placed to me. Direction by Kurt Neumann. Fun. Rating ***

Johnny Sheffield today (scary, eh?)

P.S. After my last TARZAN review a reader of this blog asked me how I could possibly give the film a *** rating. The answer is simple : I enjoy these films. They make no pretense to be anything more than what they are. I don't expect great art - or any art really. Any film that keeps me entertained without making me bored or irritated gets a ***.

Friday, 9 October 2009


This film should have been included as an "extra" on the DVD of Scorses's THE GANGS OF NEW YORK, being, as it is, a musical comedy about Irish immigrants and "Boss" Tweed in 19th Century New York. Deanna Durbin is good if you like Deanna Durbin and perfectly matched by Dick Haymes as a crusading New York Times reporter. Vincent Price easily steals the film with his perfect suave villainy as Tweed, relishing every corrupt moment. The musical score is okay but one really longs for a full scale musical number featuring an appearance by Bill the Butcher and the Dead Rabbits. Unobtrusive direction by William Seiter. Rating ***

See the whole film on You Tube.

A ROYAL SCANDAL/Czarina (1946)

Straight away I have to admit that if I have a blindspot amongst the acknowledged great directors, it is Ernst Lubitsch. People rave about "the Lubitsch touch" but his films just waft over me leaving no real impression. I couldn't really tell you why and I'm quite happy to admit that the fault probably lies completely with me. A ROYAL SCANDAL was a Lubitsch project but illness prevented him from working more than a few days as director. He was replaced by his fellow countryman, Otto Preminger, who finished the film according to Lubitsch's plan and signed it. My main reason for seeking the film out was that it contains a performance by Vincent Price which I've never seen. Price plays the French Ambassador to the Court of Catherine the Great (Tallulah Bankhead, far removed from Dietrich's take on Catherine in THE SCARLET EMPRESS). Price has two scenes, one at the beginning and one at the end, and is good in both.The film is ostensibly a comedy but it raised n'er a smile on my face. Rating *


Despite his following, David Cronenberg has always remained on my "very interesting list" and EASTERN PROMISES, despite its critical reception, does nothing to change my estimation. The film has three strong performances at its centre - Viggo Mortesson, Vincent Cassell and Armin Mueller-Stahl. Mortesson is the friend/driver for the son of a Russian Mafia boss in London, Cassell is the son, while Mueller-Stahl is the father. While the film concentrates on the relationship between these characters it is totally gripping. Unfortunately the main plot of the film concerns a mid-wife trying to track down the family of a young Russian girl who dies while giving birth. Her search brings her into contact with the Voy - the Russian Mafia. I found the performance by Naomi Watts less than charismatic and the coincidence of her being half Russian (one of several rather contrived coincidences surrounding her character) hard to take. The biggest problem for me is that the film lacks any real climax - the scene involving the rescue of a baby with Mortesson and Watts riding to the rescue on a motorbike is quite laughable and the decision to only refer to the imminent fall of the Russian godfather rather than actually show it is dramatically so unsatisfying that the film seems to just fizzle out. A shame because Mortesson gives a terrific understated performance (although the revelation that comes near the end of the film tends to negate everything that has gone before) which in its turn is overshadowed by German actor Armin Mueller-Stahl as the gang boss whose introduction as a kindly restaurant owner hides the true evil of the character.He stole the film for me, Famous Polish film director Jerzy Skolmoski plays Watts' uncle and the eagle eyed with spot ex-pop singer/film director Mike Sarne in a small role. Lots of good stuff here, often superbly done, but the construction frustratingly nearly sinks what could have been a terrific film rather that just terrific bits. Rating *** (original rating was ** but I upgraded it on a second viewing and added a new last sentence to my review).

Monday, 5 October 2009


Well, I've got nobody to blame but myself. Baz Luhrmann's film is a bit of a mess. No, let's be honest, it's a big mess. Luhrmann's style has always been, it seemed to me' to have no style at all and to just throw anything into the pot and see what happens. This undisciplined approach is the kiss of death to the epic subject matter of AUSTRALIA. That he veers from slapstick to romance to outback B-Western, from mystical to war movie might not have mattered if somehow he had made it all gel, but he doesn't. This failure is not helped by the fact that while overall the film looks absolutely gorgeous one is time and time again presented with quite dreadful blue screen work and some of the worst CGI sequences I've seen in a big budget film. The film is full of memorably awful scenes - the cattle stampede has to be one of the most ridiculous I've seen for a long time and Hugh Jackman's entry into the ballroom and the romantic scene that follows are groan inducing. The intercut clips from THE WIZARD OF OZ (not to mention a boatload of mixed-race Aborigine orphans singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow") would seem to be the last desperate touch of a director bereft of originality and totally out of his depth. Can't help wondering what Peter Weir might have made of it. Nicole Kidman looks absolutely stunning, gives a totally undisciplined and two dimensional performance - which really sums up the whole film. Rating **

Sunday, 4 October 2009


Ridley Scott's AMERICAN GANGSTER tells the true story of the rise and fall of black gangster Frank Lucas and the detective who finally brought him down. From the opening scene when Lucas casually pours petrol over a bound man and sets him alight befor shooting him we know that he is capable of any violent act. His main business is drugs which he floods the streets with and which he can sell cheaper than his rivals because he imports directly from South East Asia. The film depicts him as more intelligent and cultured than his fellows which tends to make us quite like him and the fact that he is played by Denzel Washington makes us have to keep reminding ourselves that this was a real mobster who was responsible for the deaths of thousands. Dramatically this works well as does Russell Crowe's depiction of Detective Richie Roberts as a cop whose honesty extends only to his police work and not to his private life. Lucas's personal lifestyle makes him almost invisible to the police investigations and it is only when he reluctantly goes against his personal taste and attends a sporting function dressed in flash pimp clothes does he draw the attention of the police. The film, like Lumet's SEPICO and PRINCE OF THE CITY, blurs the line between the crooks and those that hunt them - to the corrupt police (75% of New York's drug squads were proved corrupt - mostly thanks to the evidence of Frank Lucas) the film also implicates the U.S.Military personel who were smuggling drugs into the country on Lucas's behalf - even using the coffins of the war dead. Ironically, Lucas and Roberts would eventually become friends. The film is superbly acted with Washington giving one of his best performances in a film that is multi-layered and excellently directed. Rating ****

The real Richie Roberts and Russell Crowe who
portrays him in AMERICAN GANGSTER

Friday, 2 October 2009

TENGOKU TO JIGOKU/ High and Low (1963)

With a remake from Mike Nichols still on the cards for next year from a David Mamet script it seems a good time to look at Akira Kurosawa's classic again. The film is, typically for the great Japanese director full of pleasant surprises. Not the least of these is that the film is based on a police procedural thriller by American crime-writer Ed McBain. Toshiro Mifune plays Kingo Gondo (didn't GODZILLA fight him once?) who is approached by the board of the shoe manufacturers where he is the head of the factory to help them in a takeover bid. He declines because he is secretly planning his own takeover in a multi-million yen deal that must be concluded by the next day. As his assistant is about to leave with the cheque that will conclude the takeover he receives a phonecall that his son has been kidnapped. He is prepared to pay the ransom knowing that it will ruin him. Almost immeadiatly he discovers that the kidnapper has grabbed the wrong child and has taken his chauffer's boy. Realising his mistake the kidnapper rings back and says that Gondo must pay anyway or the chauffer's boy will die. Will he pay the money and ruin himself ? This moral question is only the start of this very tense film. The bulk of the plot (the films runs for well over two hours) is taken up by the detailed investigation of the police as they track down the kidnapper. Kurosawa creates an almost hypnotic rhythm as the cops go about their monotonous and seemingly impossible task until slowly even the most insignificant seeming piece of evidence slips into place. But Kurosawa never loses sight of the human story which centres on Gondo - his confusion at the choice that he has to make (we know from the beginning that he is a ruthless businessman but simply by highlighting his concern for the quality of his factories products and his care of its good reputation Kurosawa tells us he is a man with values). As I have said Kurosawa is full of little his camera tracks through a shanty town we hear a very unlikely piece of music playing, schubert's "The Trout", the sudden use of a coloured

detail in an otherwise black and white film (many years before Spielberg did the same thing in SCHINDLER'S LIST) and the great Japanese actor Takashi Shimura in a relatively minor role - but one that needs the natural authority he brings to the role. Great orchestrated set pieces, of course, such as the tense scenes on the train, the police de-briefing during a heatwave, the nightclub scene with lots of European faces in the crowd as they twist the night away and the truly eerie drug den with the threatening, pathetic, zombie-like drug addicts. Kurosawa's use of the cinemascope format is quite brilliant, showing (what we knew already) that he is one of the cinema's masters of composition.

Despite Hollywood's current obsession with remakes - a remake of this doesn't fill me with dread when I see the names of Nichols and Mamet connected with it. Western cinema has not done bad by Kurosawa - THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and THE RUNAWAY TRAIN were excellent movies and I'm rather fond of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and LAST MAN STANDING. Akira Kurosawa loved Westerns and in addition to Ed McBain here, he has used Shakespeare and even Dashiell Hammett as jumping off points for his own films and we must not forget that his HIDDEN FORTRESS was partly responsible for the idea behing STAR WARS. It seems a rather fruitful cross pollination for once, although maybe we should charitably forget BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS and THE SAVAGE SEVEN. Rating *****


Having only seen Martin Scorsese's THE AVIATOR a short while ago I was intrigued to see the film that Howard Hughes is making during the early part of that film. Reading comments on Imdb there seems to be a sharp division between those who feel the acting scenes are so dated that they ruin the film completely and those like myself who are a bit more tolerant of a film made way back in 1930. Yes, it is dated but I really didn't feel that the performances by the three stars - Jean Harlow, Ben Lyon and James Hill were noticeably worse than in many other films from the period. I was particularly fascinated to see Ben Lyon who for many years was a star on British Television with his wife Bebe Daniels in the series LIFE WITH THE LYONS. The story is slight and tells of two brothers, one heroic and honourable and one decidedly less so, who both fall for the same girl and who join the Royal Flying Corps at the outbreak of World War One. It's all a bit cliched now (probably wasn't in 1930) but I never found it boring. Of course it is the truly spectacular aerial combat scenes that really make the film. The dogfights are a very impressive example of amazing stunt flying and masterful editing while the earlier scenes of a Zeppelin raid on London are superbly staged model work. The shot of the huge airship emerging silently from the night time clouds is not one to forget easily. Howard Hughes is credited as the director but other scenes were directed by both James Whale and Edmund Goulding. As a piece of film history it is a must. The print available on DVD at the moment has been restored at UCLA Film Dept. Rating ****

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Tuesday, 22 September 2009


Any remake of THE PHILADELPHIA STORY was bound to be on a beating for nothing but in the case of HIGH SOCIETY one has to admit that the beating is probably justified. It is a pretty tired film, seemingly lacking in energy and conviction. Yet, that said, it does have Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra. What it doesn't have is Cary Grant, Kate Hepburn and James Stewart....neither does it have George Cukor directing and Charles Walters is no substitute. One shouldn't be too hard on what is, after all, a piece of light weight confectionary but it really does fail to satisfy. The one plus is, of course, the music and both the "Now you has jazz" number featuring Crosby and the great Louis Armstrong and Bing's duet with Frank Sinatra are well worth waiting for. Rating **

Thursday, 17 September 2009

THE PUMPKIN EATER available soon.

Although neither Amazon or LoveFilm seem to be aware of it (surprise, surprise!) Jack Clayton's great film THE PUMPKIN EATER is released on DVD in October. Made i n 1964 this was one of the great British films of the period although it is virtually forgotten today except by dedicated cinephiles. Great direction, great script (Harold Pinter) and superb performances by Anne Bancroft, Peter Finch and James Mason.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009


This penultimate entry in the popular series is one of the more enjoyable of the later efforts. Johnny Weissmuller is obviously overweight for the role of the Lord of the Jungle but not disastrously so and Johnny Sheffield, now a handsome teenager, as boy, makes his last appearance in the series before being snapped up by Monogram Pictures to star as BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY. Brenda Joyce has replaced Maureen O'Sullivan in this the second of her three outings as Jane (and the only one which attempts to duplicate the romantic playfulness of the O'Sullivan films.) The plot is pretty standard with Tarzan taking on unscrupulous animal trappers trying to stock up post World War Two zoos but a boost is given by the gorgeous Patricia Morison as animal trainer Tanya who, we are told, is "the toast of Europe" and the ever villainous Barton McClane. Bizarrely, despite being set in Africa with all the usual African animals, all the negro natives have disappeared and been replaced by obviously Anglo actors dressed in what look like Malaysia costumes, just as two years later in TARZAN AND THE MERMAIDS we find an African tribe looking and behaving like South Sea Islanders. But for the truly bizarre look no further than the final scene with the chimp Cheetah descending from an airplane by parachute while applying lipstick! Direction by Kurt Neumann is efficient and I have to inform Cerpts that his obsession with Weismuller's nipples gets no support in this film. His nipples are normal, Cerpts, live with it! Rating ***

Patricia Morison


1952 - 2009

Monday, 14 September 2009

RECOIL (1953)

Nice English B/W thriller that occasionally attains something approaching a Film Noir feel (there is a sad tendency these days to label any B/W crime film as Film Noir - it just isn't so) but this has an atmospheric opening as a gang prepare to rob a jewellers - night time, fog, trenchcoats etc. IT occured to me later that the robbery itself is so totally badly planned that it really doesn't make much sense but I didn't think of it at the time. The jeweller is killed but his daughter sees the killer. As the police can't build a case against him she decides to go undercover and infiltrates the home of the killer's brother. Slowly she is drawn into the world of the rival gangs. A good cast is headed by Elizabeth Sellars and Keiron Moore and there is a nice piece of swarthy villainy from Martin Benson as a gang leader. One of my favourite supporting actors of the period, Michael Balfour, turns up in one scene but is sadly not seen again. Director John Gilling does an efficien t job, particularly in the action scenes - an ambush outside a night club and a shootout in a warehouse are a cut above those usually seen in English crime films of this period. I wouldn't go as far as to call the film outstanding but it'll keep you watching. Rating ***


There have been a few actors who have played THE LONE RANGER including, notoriusly, Clinton Spilsbury in one of the biggest of Hollywood flops. We are also promised, intriguingly, that Johnny Depp will take on the role in a future production. But, playing THE LONE RANGER is all that any of these actors did or will do. Clayton Moore WAS the masked man and always will be. Clayton had spent years in supporting and bit part roles in Hollywood before he was cast as THE LONE RANGER in a television series in the mid-sixties. After the series ended Clayton continued to make personal appearances "as" THE LONE RANGER but the producers of the disastrous Spilsbury version got a court order to stop him appearing "as" the Ranger. However, you can't outwit the real Ranger that way and Clayton simply wore heavy dark glasses that approximated the famous mask. After the new film disappeared down the drain Clayton was again permitted to be THE LONE RANGER. My favourite story of him (probably apocryphal but maybe with an element of truth) is that he was driving home from a personal appearance when he witnessed a serious accident. He leapt from his own car and pulled the injured driver from the crash vehicle and made them comfortable until help arrived - all while wearing his white stetson and his mask! When help appeared Clayton simply returned to his car and drove away. With a mighty "Hi-Yo Silver, Away!" I'd like to bet. My friend Ray was lucky enough to meet Clayton at the Biograph Cinema during an English tour. I have to content myself with an autograph. There are pictures on the web of Clayton without his mask but I'm not going to be the person who unmasks the masked man. I will watch some episodes of THE LONE RANGER tv series late today, though. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO A HERO.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

RITEN/The Rie (1969)

Ingmar Bergman's first made-for-television film is not the easiest of his films to approach. Three members of a theatrical troupe are called befor a judge on an unspecified charge of obscenity. They are questioned together and individually by a seemingly friendly but unsympathetic judge - much of the questioning centres on the actor's personal lives and relationship to each other. In the climatic scenes the actors give a private performance. I really can't pretend to tell you what this is really about (maybe just what it says?) except that the judge seems almost to be judging himself - it's all a bit obscure. But, of course, being Bergman it is quite rivetting and nothing starring Ingrid Thulin and Gunnar Bjornstrand can by less than watchable. Perhaps it is a black comedy, S&M gear, giant strap on penises, and a captioned epilogue which made me laugh out loud after witnessing the preceeding scenes. It has been suggested that Bergman was playing with his audience just as the actors ultimately play with the judge. I suspect there is more to it than that but with Ingmar you never know - which is why he is such a great director. Not classic Bergman, maybe not even essential but no admirer of the great Swede can afford to miss it. Bergman himself does an unbilled cameo as (what else?) a priest in a (where else?) Confessional. Bless me Ingmar for I have sinned. Rating ****

Monday, 7 September 2009

L'ORRIBLE SEGRETO DEL DR.HICHCOCK/The Terror of Dr.Hichcock (1962)

The first time I saw this film was on a dreadful VHS copy that was so badly cut that it was quite incoherent. I really wondered if it deserved its reputation as one of the best Italian horror films of the 1960s. To see a good DVD copy of what, by the title, I take to be the English release print leads me to say that it certainly deserves its reputation. Italian Gothic often look good and Riccardo Freda's film is no exception but it is also very well directed and Freda seems much more capable of telling a story than some of his contemporaries. Freda's directions gives us one of Barbara Steele's best performances and she looks gorgeous with those amazing eyes highlighted by lashes that must be at least an inch long. Of course, much of the film's reputation also rests on its somewhat perverse subject. Dr.Hichcock likes his females dead and cold and his wife is happy to indulge his little sexual peculiarities by allowing herself to be injected with an experimental anaesthetic which renders her corpse like before sex. Hichcock, seeking something more closely resembling a corpse, accidentally overdoses and she seemingly dies. Twelve years pass and the Doc is back with his new bride (Miss Steele) who soon starts hearing strange noises and seeing ghostly figures in the garden...and does the sinister housekeeper really have her mad sister locked up ? Freda gives his subject the full Gothic treatment with billowing curtains, screams in the night, black cats, thunder and rain, lightning flashes and a superior score by Roman Vlad. Not least of the film's plus points is the performance by English actor Robert Flemyng as Dr.Hichcock - just melodramatic enough for the subject but subtle enough to make the character more rounded and believable that the average mad doctor. He conveys Hichcock's mounting sexual frustration (at one point he attempts to have sex with a corpse in the hospital but is interrupted) at not being able to indulge his necrophila quite superbly. This is obviously a much better vehicle for his talents than the dire THE BLOODBEAST TERROR where he took on the role at the last minute to replace Basil Rathbone. All in all Freda's film is an excellent, even outstanding, example of the Italian horror film. Rating ****

Friday, 4 September 2009

LAT DEN RATTE KOMMA IN/ Let the Right One In (2008)

After sitting through THE SPIRIT I really deserved to see a good film. You hear that a film is good and within minutes of it starting you get a sinking feeling...well, for once that did not happen. I knew nothing about the plot of this film. I'd heard that it was a good horror film from Sweden so I added it to my rental list. I'm not going to write too much about the film except to say it is probabably the best new film I've seen this year, the best new horror film I've seen for quite a few years and the best vampire film since NOSFERATU (and I mean the 1922 original!)Nuff said? It's a masterpiece. See it. Rating ***** P.S. Currently being re-made in Hollywood.

Thursday, 3 September 2009


I may be wrong but I seem to remember that yonks ago (and I'm talking over 20 years) sc-fi writer Harlan Ellison was involved with plans to film Will Eisner's classic comic strip THE SPIRIT. I do remember Ellison saying that the perfect casting for the character would have been a young James Garner - something I totally agree with, though, of course, even by that time Garner was too old. I am no fan of comics (I don't dislike them, I'm just not a fan) and even less of films adapted from comics. I quite enjoyed the Tim Burton BATMAN films and even liked the first two SPIDER-MAN films but have been left cold by the revived BATMAN franchise which seems to me to take itself far to seriously. Frank Miller's SIN CITY and 300 sort of worked for me but when reviewing both I expressed serious doubts about the way that the technology used to create them, impressive though it was, was leading. These films are a bit like very advanced androids - perfectly mimicking human life but totally lacking in any soul. They are all surface without depth. You really can't care to much about what is happening to the characters. I loved Eisner's THE SPIRIT and was encouraged when I heard that Frank Miller was going to "do it right" - well, what happened Frank? Knowing how protective Eisner was of his work why have you turned it into this good looking turd. Eisner and Miller were, it seems, friends and because of this you'd think that Miller might have wanted, as much as possible, to be faithful to the material. No such thing. I read that Miller signed up for the project on the day of Eisner's memorial service - et tu brute! Gabriel Macht is without charm as The Spirit, while Samuel L. Jackson goes totally OTT as the evil Octopus. It lacks pace, a good script and Miller's direction is woeful. A well mounted turd but a turd nonetheless. Rating *

FRAGILE (2005)

Totally predictable ghost story set in a children's hospital where the second floor has been sealed off for twenty years. If you are a fan of this sort of thing (and I am) you'll see each event and twist of the plot ten minutes before it happens. Having said that, this English/Spanish co-production is rather well done and has some genuinely spooky scenes, the climatic appearance of the ghost is very nicely done. The international cast (American, English, Spanish) is headed by Calista Flockhart as the troubled nurse. But bottom line is that it just doesn't really offer anything we haven't seen before and given the setting and the fact that director Jaume Balaguero is Spanish it all looks like an attempt to muscle in on the territory already exploited by Guilermo Del Toro. Rating **


With a remake in the works it seemed a good time to reacquaint myself with the original. If I had to ra\nk directors a la Andrew Sarris, Andrew V. McLaglen would fall into the group labelled "Lightly Likeable". Despite his apprentership under the great John Ford, McLaglen never really made a great film but he did make a few very good ones and some enjoyable ones. He did the fondly remembered John Wayne comedy McCLINTOCK which, perhaps, only really works for dyed in the wool Wayne fans like myself and a million others. His films with James Stewart are amiable affairs - THE RARE BREED, SHENANDOAH, BANDELERO - and in the case of FOOL'S PARADE even memorable. Later in his career he made a trio of British based adventure films of which THE WILD GEESE is the best (the others - THE SEA WOLVES and FFOLKES - are both highly enjoyable) and is now regarded as a minor classic. The plot has ageing mercenary Richard Burton hired by a multi-national company to rescue a Mandela type African leader. He gathers together his crew of specialist, trains them and the mission is successful. But we know that in this sub-genre there will be a doublecross and the mercenaries have to fight there way out. As an action film THE WILD GEESE really delivers the goods and the there is plenty of bang bang stuff which is convincingly done. The film allows itself a little moralising about the role of mercenaries but this is kept to a minimum and the when the inevitable question of the white man's role in black Africa rears its head it is personalised between a South African mercenary and the rescued black leader and the script is far from uncritical of the corruption, tribal massacres etc that have marred the post-colonial history of the dark continent. The cast is truly outstanding with good performances from everybody. Headliners are Ricard Burton, Richard Harris and Roger Moore and a quite phenomenal supporting cast which includes Stewart Granger, Jack Watson (doing his excellent Sgt-Major routine), Ronnie Fraser, Kenneth Griffith (as scene stealer as the gay medic), Frank Finlay, Hardy Kruger, John Kani, Barry Foster, Julius Limbani and Jeff Corey.Rating : ***

Saturday, 29 August 2009


It is hard to believe that John Frankenheimer's film received an "X" certificate from the British censor. Despite its subject (New York street gangs) it looks pretty tame but back then they really thought that films like this were going to corrupt the young. Burt Lancaster is appointed as a prosecutor in what seems the open and shut murder of a blind boy by three members of a street gang. The film is well acted by a cast that includes Dina Merrill, Shelly Winters, Telly Savalas, Chris Robinson and John Davis Chandler and works very well when it is a detective story with Lancaster realising there is more to the case than meets they eye. When we get the actual trial it seems to fall apart dramatically. Of course, we know that Lancaster is going to have to destroy his own case but the emphasis of the script seems odd. Why is the testimony about a harmonica ignored and why does he reveal the victim's sinister as a hooker but fail to mention the victim's secret association with the gang? Then again, it is a trial by jury but we never the closing arguments, the judges summing up or the delivery of the verdict - all we get is the judge passing sentence. In terms of good dramatic construction it fails to satisfy. It starts as a thriller and then throws everything away to be socially conscience which is a great shame because there is enough here that it could have been both. Worth seeing but not really successful. Rating **

Thursday, 27 August 2009


It seems to be generally agreed that this remake by Alfred Hitchcock of his own 1930's English thriller is inferior to the original. Unfortunately that has led some to dismiss the film as a failure and it is far from that. That it is suspenseful goes without saying and even the Doris Day hit song is playfully woven (if somewhat self consciously) into the plot which tells of an American couple whose son is kidnapped to stop them revealing knowledge of an assassination. Doris Day is a fine dramatic actress with a particular talent for portraying normality and Hitchcock uses this to great effect and James Stewart is quite superb at exploiting the hysteria that lurks just beneath the surface of his more obvious persona. For the film buffs there are some interesting faces in the cast. Look out for Noel Willman (who was the vampiric Dr.Ravna in KISS OF THE VAMPIRE) and Hollywood heavy Leo Gordon in the non-speaking role of a villainous chauffeur. Look quickly and you'll spot Carolyn Jones as one of Doris Day's London friends and veteran Alan Mowbray playing real-life entrepreneur Val Parnell and an uncredited Richard Wordsworth (the cactus clawed astronaut from QUATERMAS EXPERIMENT) as a nervous taxidermist. London locations look like they might actually be in the areas they are supposed to be and, of course, it was great to see the grand finale in the Royal Albert Hall where I've spent many a happy evening. Rating ***