Saturday, 31 January 2009

MOVIE MEME - Cerpts and Terry did it so I can't be a killjoy and not play!

1) What was the last movie you saw theatrically? On DVD or Blu-ray?Theatrically?

Saw nothing theatrically last year. Last film on DVD : William Wellman's THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY. No Blue-ray.

2) Holiday movies— Do you like them naughty or nice?

Sore point in my life so I'll have to say Naughty or at least cynical.

3) Ida Lupino or Mercedes McCambridge ?

No contest - Ida, sweet as apple cider.

4) Favorite actor/character from TWIN PEAKS

Never watched the series but it would have been Hank Worden if I had.

5) It’s been said that, rather than remaking beloved, respected films, Hollywood should concentrate more on righting the wrongs of the past and tinker more with films that didn’t work so well the first time. Pretending for a moment that movies are made in an economic vacuum, name a good candidate for a remake based on this criterion.

John Irvin's GHOST STORY

6) Favorite Spike Lee joint.

Never seen one.

7) Lawrence Tierney or Scott Brady?

Oh, come on! Lawrence Tierney was the business.

8) Are most movies too long?

Not if they are worthy of their running time.

9) Favorite performance by an actor portraying a real-life politician.

Albert Finney as Winston Churchill in THE GATHERING STORM

10) Create the main event card for the ultimate giant movie monster smackdown.


11) Sheree North

12) Why would you ever want or need to see a movie more than once?

Because a/I enjoy repeating pleasurable experience b/Sometimes I fall asleep and c/I sometimes like to re-evaluate.....a bit like sex, really.

13) Favorite road movie.


14) Favorite Budd Boetticher picture.


15) Who is the one person, living or dead, famous or unknown, who most informed or encouraged your appreciation of movies?

Jim Kitses, Tom Milne, Martin Scorsese.

16) Favorite opening credit sequence. (Please include YouTube link if possible.)


17) Kenneth Tobey or John Agar?

Kenneth Tobey.

18) Jean-Luc Godard once suggested that the more popular the movie, the less likely it was that it was a good movie. Is he right or just cranky? Cite the best evidence one way or the other.

He was right. THE SOUND OF MUSIC.

19) Favorite Jonathan Demme movie.


20) Tatum O’Neal or Linda Blair?

Linda Blair. Tatum could't spider walk or do that thing with her head.

21) Favorite use of irony in a movie. (This could be an idea, moment, scene, or an entire film.)


(22) Favorite Claude Chabrol film.


23) The best movie of the year to which very little attention seems to have been paid.


24) Dennis Christopher or Robby Benson?

Who ?

25) Favorite movie about journalism.


26) What’s the DVD commentary you’d most like to hear? Who would be on the audio track?

BRINGING UP BABY. Howard Hawks, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn.

27) Favorite movie directed by Clint Eastwood.


28) Paul Dooley or Kurtwood Smith?


29) Your clairvoyant moment: Make a prediction about the Oscar season.

Heath Ledger

30) Your hope for the movies in 2009.

Westerns become popular again.

31) What’s your top 10 of 2008 ?



It seems only right that the first production by Hammer Films should have starred horror icon Bela Lugosi. The film, however, is a far cry from the more familiar titles from that studios Golden Age in the Fifties and Sixties. Although the apalling quality print available on DVD seems to have been trimmed of a prologue and epilogue featuring an enquiry into the fate of the infamous ship it would seem to me that the film wasn't much shakes to start with. Stiffly directed by Denison Clift and and even more stiffly acted in the way of many British films of the period. The film's one saving grace is Bela Lugosi - cast against type for this period of his career - is as enjoyable as always despite being criminally under used. Rating **

FORBIDDEN is another disappointment. Thought to have been a "lost film" for many years the films has, for me at least, several points of interest. Firstly it was filmed on location in Blackpool, the town where I was concieved (a purely personal interest, it must be admitted) although, unfortunately, very little is made of the opportunity to exploit the seedy seaside fairground atmosphere. Secindly the films features an early performance by the ever excellent Kenneth Griffith as a low-life spiv. Griffith was a fine actor who in later years became a superior and passionate maker of historical documentaries. Through my work I got to meet Griffith several times at his home in Islington, London and found him a fascinating person. I recommend his autobiography to all readers of this blog. The film's other plus is an early performance by the beautiful Hazel Court. The film itself is a sub-Hitchcock "wrong man" plot and director George King (more famous for his work with Tod Slaughter) makes little of the material despite a nice final twist which has the villain (Griffith) saving the life of the hero as they fight on Blackpool's famous tower. Rating **

Tuesday, 27 January 2009


The Duke delivers the bad news!

Until its recent DVD release, William Wellman's 1954 THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY was one of the films most sought by Wayne enthusiasts. The Wayne heirs at Batjac continually blocked its release (along with ISLAND IN THE SKY) for reasons best known to them. But here it is in all its 1950's Hollywood star-studded glory. Is it the lost masterpiece ? Well, no. Is it a great film even ? Well, no. But is is, arguably, the precursor of such distaster movies as the AIRPORT fanchise and countless films since. To be honest, I didn't find the film particularly suspenseful and it lacks a sense of urgency, but, on the other hand I found it wonderfully entertaining in a comforting Hollywood embrassing way. I watched it late at night, alone except for my dog streched out before the fire and a cup of hot chocolate. Like all the imitators that came after it, this film about a DC-4 en route to San Francisco from Hawaii that suffers techical problems and looks like it might have to ditch in the ocean, is populated by such luminaries as Robert Newton, Claire Trevor, Jan Sterling, Paul Kelly, Phil Harris, Laraine Day, John Howard, Paul Fix and John Qualen. The crew is headed by Robert Stack (an actor who only has to go near a plane in any film for disaster to loom) and co-pilot John Wayne (giving a fine understated performance). The one problem for me (the lack of urgency may worry modern viewers but didn't spoil my enjoyment) was that the back stories of the chacters (seen in flashback) just weren't dramatic or interesting - they were all much more interesting on the plane. Very much a film of its time, if THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY catches you in the right mood and you can accept it on its own terms, it has a lot to offer. Rating ***

Monday, 26 January 2009


I really can't remember a time when I wasn't a John Wayne fan. From my earliest visits to the cinema as a child right up until today I have always enjoyed watching Wayne on the big or small screen. I never subscribed to the view that Wayne was a bad actor - an opinion usually voiced by those who look down on the Western as a genre. Sure, the Duke wasn't going to play Othello but I doubt if he ever wanted to, and let's face it, Sir Laurence Olivier wasn't going to play The Ringo Kid, was he? Wayne proved himself a good actor time and time again but more importantly he was a star. My enjoyment of Wayne on the screen had very little to do with the rather pointless question of his acting ability. Of course there were the classic performances for John Ford and Howard Hawks but I also still get pleasure watching those old Wayne B-Westerns made in the Thirties before he hit the big time in Ford's classic STAGECOACH in 1939. I really can't think of a Wayne film that I can't enjoy of some level (although I'm not blind to some of the obvious faults) - even the much abhored THE GREEN BERET has a few delights for the true Wayne enthusiast....which brings me to why I am writing this piece. On a sudden urge today I visited the local HMV shop in search of credit crunch bargains I discovered a box set of DVDs called The John Wayne Paramount Collection . There are several similar box sets on the market but this one really does stand out from the rest, mainly because it lives up to its name. Originally selling at £50 but now reduced to £20 the box contains (very handsomely packaged) all fourteen of the films made by Wayne for Paramount. Included are the movies produced by Wayne's Batjac company and these discs, among them two long unseen items - ISLAND IN THE SKY and THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY - are enhanced by extras and commentaries by Leonard Maltin. The other Batjac titles are the excellent HONDO and the easy to watch comedy McLINTOCK. The other films seem to be sans extras which is a shame (although I've not explored every disc yet) but not, to my mind a fatal flaw, and comprise of Hathaway's enjoyable THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER and the Oscar winning TRUE GRIT, John Ford's romp DONOVAN'S REEF and his late masterpiece THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, Otto Preminger's star-studded IN HARM'S WAY, Howard Hawks' classic ELDORADO, his less than classic but fun RIO LOBO and the rompsh HATARI! George Sherman's under-rated BIG JAKE and Wayne's terrific last film, Don Siegel's THE SHOOTIST. Some of these films will be reviewed on this blog over the next few months.

Saturday, 24 January 2009


Elvis Extraordinaire

Thanks to a certain resident of the Land of Cerpts and Honey I have been able to sit down, put my feet up, and watch four back to back segments of TCM's interview programme UNDER THE INFLUENCE. The English TCM Channel is but a pale imitation of its American cousin. Over in Obamaland TCM takes its films as seriously as BBC2 used to before the rot set in - remember the glory days when Auntie Beeb's second channel did a season of no less than seventeen John Ford Films, including rarities like STEAMBOAT 'ROUND THE BEND ? TCM across the pond still treats movies with respect. UNDER THE INFLUENCE features film critic Elvis Mitchell in a series of interviews with film luminaries who are give the chance to talk about the films and film makers who have influenced them. The four episodes I watched featured the late lamented Sidney Pollack, Laurence Fishbourne, Quentin Tarantino and Bill Murray. While I quite enjoy Tarantino and, cinematically, know where he is coming from, his interviews hack me off - he's an undisciplined motor mouth who really ends up telling you nothing that he hasn't told you before. The other three interviewees inpressed me no end and all surprised me - Pollack relating the kindness shown to him by Burt Lancaster, Fishbourne citing Clark Gable as a major influence along with lavishing accolades on Mantan Moreland and Bill Murray picking Margaret Sullivan as one of the funniest screen actresses. These three came over as witty, intelligent and self effacing in the best possible way. Heaps of praise too for the erudite Mr.Mitchell who draws his subjets out in a chatty conversational manner and is not afraid to let his draw drop at some of the surprising answers. I want to see more of this guy. The final comment must be about Tarantino who lambasted an actor for not knowing who Leni Reifenstahl was and then proceeded to call her Lena!

Saturday, 17 January 2009


MADHOUSE is one of those films that you just know isn't very good but you can find lots of perfectly good reasons for enjoying it. It easy to cite Vincent Price and Peter Cushing as valid pluses but for me the film holds lots of good memories as I was lucky enough to be invited to Twickenham Studios by Vincent Price to watch the filming. When I got the invitation I don't think anybody knew that it was going to be such an unhappy set. Vincent's marriage was in tatters due to his relationship with actress Coral Browne, he was unhappy with his co-star Robert Quarry and with the script which was being constantly rewritten by producer Milton Subotsky (I actually witnessed two arguments with Subotsky - a real stand up shouting one between him and actress Adrienne Corri and a more measured but nonetheless angry confrontation between Subotsky and Vincent. Into this bubbling cauldron of miscontent you can also drop the perceived incompetence of director Jim Clark (a talented and highly respected film editor). Adrienne Corri and several other members of the supporting cast were quite vocal in their assessment of Clark's abilities. Of course, to witness such chaos was quite interesting and probably actually enhanced my visit to the studio. Vincent was his usual charming self despite, for obvious reasons, being rather pre-occupied. Robert Quarry was very pleasant and amused by my greeting "It's good to see Count Yorga lives!" and actress Linda Hayden was happy to chat about her career in horoor films and how thrilled she was to work with Vincent. Sadly, Peter Cushing was not working during my visit. The film may not be a masterpiece but if you are Price or/and a Cushing fan there is plenty to enjoy. Jim Clark never directed again and went back to his distinguished career as an editor. Rating **

Saturday, 10 January 2009


I was one of the few who were underwhelmed by Christopher Nolan's BATMAN BEGINS. I did not like the move to bring Batman into the real world. There is a sub-species of comic fandom that takes all this sort of stuff very seriously but when it comes down to it Batman is a man who jumps of high buildings dressed as a bat. It seems generally agreed that THE DARK KNIGHT is the best film ever based on a comic and the best Batman film to date. Not for me, I'm afraid. I much, much prefer the two Tim Burton films - Burton, for me, getting the balance of the character just right. The first hour of THE DARK KNIGHT bored me and I had to watch the remainder of the film in two sittings. I thought that the dramatic construction of the film poor and Nolan's script confusing. Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne/Batman is almost wilfully uninteresting. Best performance comes (according to everybody) from the late Heath Ledger as The Joker (I still prefer Jack Nicholson) but even there the praise heaped on Ledger for what is just a very good performance is ridiculous. If a posthumous statuette is awarded this year Hollywood sentimentality will have triumphed once again. As the Joker says "why so serious?" Indeed. But maybe I'm just missing something. Rating **

Wednesday, 7 January 2009


This film has been a favourite of mine since its original release. While I was never a huge fan of director J. Lee Thompson he did turn out a few bona-fide classics (such as ICE COLD IN ALEX and the original version of CAPE FEAR) and while THE WHITE BUFFALO may not match those it does achieve a rather unique atmosphere with its tale of a nightmare ridden Wild Bill Hickok pursuing a mystical white buffalo. Charles Bronson gives one of his very best performances as Hickok, slowly loosing his sight and suffering from syphilis. The supporting cast is one to relish with Jack Warden, Will Sampson (as Crazy Horse), Slim Pickens, John Carradine, Kim Novak, Clint Walker and Ed Lauter. One of the strongest elements of the movie is the script by Richard Sale (from his own novel) which has the real feeling of people trapped by their fate and powers beyond their control - plus some wonderfully authentic period dialog (which provided me with one of my favourite words in "flummery"). The film has recieved criticism for the actual appearance of Carlo Rimbaldi's animatronic giant white buffalo (there is, to be sure, an unfortunate shot that reveals the tracks on which the beast runs) but generally I feel that the "not quite real" quality adds to atmosphere...and we must remember that this was in the days before CGI. Rating ***

Sunday, 4 January 2009


Thirteen women who have remained friends since their college days receive forwarnings of violent death from a Swami fortune teller. When more than one of his predictions comes true, including the death of the Swami himelf it seems that supernatural forces are at work. But is all as it seems. At least one of the women and a sceptical detective think not. Director George Archinbaud wisely keeps the pace of this mystery slower than one might have expected but, for once, this seems to work very well and several of the scenes achieve a real, almost dream-like intensity - notably the death of the Swami in the Subway and a suicide on a train. The mood is enhanced by the perfectly judged performance by the young Myrna Loy as the Swami's sinister assistant - as deliberately paced as was Karloff in THE MUMMY (and I mean that stylistic comparison quite seriously). I liked it a lot and will certainly watch it again. The film, of course has its own secure place in Hollywood legend, being the only film appearance of Peg Entwhistle. Rating ***

Saturday, 3 January 2009


Mantan Moreland

Although I was aware of both Frankie Darro and Mantan Moreland, I had not heard of the series of low-budget comedies they made together until Cerpts mentioned them in a post in the old Monster Club forum back in the days when we were both knee high to Mickey Rooney. This film is the first of the series I've actually seen and while I believe it isn't the best of the series it is an entertaining little B-movie. Darro and Moreland play an Elevator operator and a janitor who witness a shooting in the apartment block where they work and set out to solve the crime somewhat hindered by Darro's none-too-bright detectve brother. What keeps the film bubbling along is the relationship between the stars (which I believe reflects their off-screen friendship). Direction is by Howard Bretherton. Rating **

Cerpts Writes : While I would be hard pressed to name which of their films are best, Frankie Darro and Mantan Moreland's films are all good, lightweight fun. You are absolutely right, though, when you say the main reason for watching is simply to see Moreland and Darro; their genuine friendship does indeed come across (Darro actually was one of Moreland's pallbearers). The truly nice thing to see is that both men treat each other as equals and good friends. While Bob Hope often told of his great respect for the comedic talents of frequent co-star Willie Best, Hope always treated Best as his defacto social inferior; Moreland and Darro are socially equal in all of their films. Also Mantan is constantly cheeky to his so-called white "superiors" (in much the same manner as Rochester was -- but even in that instance Rochester was always Benny's "servant"). Mantan would often contradict white establishment figures and even refuse to do their bidding while managing to subtly insult them under their radar. Most of Moreland & Darro's films together are essentially on the same level of quality and equal to each other in entertainment value. Of course, the more lighthearted the better. Their first film together (IRISH LUCK) is rather tentative since it was early days but still very enjoyable while UP IN THE AIR is perhaps their most enjoyable -- but again, it's hard to make that distinction. THE GANG'S ALL HERE is less enjoyable to me simply because it's a mostly serious outting concerning truckdriving; I like the pair in more madcap mystery settings where I think they really shine. The best part is that all the films mentioned are available VERY cheaply on DVD.

Friday, 2 January 2009


This is a real weird one. Black magician Aleister Crowley has been somewhat ignored by the cinema. Kenneth Anger did his bit with LUCIFER RISING, a couple of lo,w budget efforts and, of course, lots of hints in the films of Crowley's godson Donald Cammell and that is about the sum of it. Back in the 70's AIP were considering a full blown film on Crowley starring Telly Savalas, but it never materialised and Crowley, once dubbed "the wickedest man in England" has continued to elude film makers. CHEMICAL WEDDING doesn't really make up for this lack of cinematic attention but it tries hard and is, I feel, partially, successful. After watching the movie I actually spent most of the night dreaming about Crowley in dreams that were interspersed with scenes from PERFORMANCE, DEMON SEED and HAXAN as well as images from Rex Ingram's THE MAGICIAN (1926) which was based on the novel of the same title by Somerset Maugham which in turn was inspired by Crowley. CHEMICAL WEDDING is a thriller based on and idea by Bruce Dickerson (singer with Iron Maiden) in which a group of scientists at an English university accidently reincarnate Crowley in the more than willing body of eccentric professor Oliver Haddo (also the name of the Crowley figure in Maugham's book) played by Simon Callow. In reality Crowley was a pretty disgusting old bastard and the film certainly doesn't ignore this facet of his one point Callow unzips his pants and pees over the class he is lecturing! Good as Callow is and as enjoyable as the film is (I applaud any film that doesn't immeadiatly bring to mind half a dozen similar films) it left me wishing that somebody actually attempted a serious film about the "beast" Crowley - and this is more than endorsed by the openinging sequence of the film where two students go to visit the ageing magician in Hastings in 1947 with actor John Shrapnel giving a very convincing performance as Crowley. Direction by Julian Doyle. A most welcome oddity. Rating ***

Thursday, 1 January 2009

THE NIGHT HAS EYES/Terror House (1942)

Directed by Leslie Arliss and written by John Argyle, both stalwarts of British cinema of the 3os and 40s, this is a rather neat old dark house thriller set on the Yorkshire moors. Two young female teachers go to visit a remote area in the north of England where a colleague had previously disappeared. They discover an isolated house on the edge of a mire where shell-shocked Spanish Civil War veteran and composer James Mason comes over all mean and moody (not to mention homicidal) at the time of the full moon. Lots of mist and a couple of servants who might not be quite what they seem. It succeeds where other films of this genre fail not because it is particularly scarey but because it actually has a story that holds the interest. Mason's performance is good and set the mould very much for the rest of his 1940's roles. Nothing special but if you really can't resist another old dark house film (I'm sucker for them) you could do worse than this. Rating **

Old Year, New Year

My obsession for 2009 : MAMMA MIA's Christine Baranski

Well, it's a New Year, and a time to look forward rather than back. But I'm going to pause for a moment to with all my fellow bloggers - Cerpts, Mild Colonial Boy, Terry Frost, Dave and Aaron all a great New Year and assure them I continue to read them regularly despite a certain amount of inactivity in the FLEAPIT during the last few months. I don't intend to do a full review of the year's movies but I have had a pretty exciting year catching up with lots of the classic (and not so classic) movies of the past. I've not been tempted by new films much during 2008 although I was very impressed by THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD and I join with lots of others in applauding the genuine feelgood factor of the Abba musical MAMMA MIA! Among my other new favourites of the year were THERE WILL BE BLOOD and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. I also caught up with two other musicals - THE PRODUCERS and HAIRSPRAY both of which I enjoyed. Thanks to my friends Cerpts and Terry Frost I've been able to view (and review) lots of difficult to find films - low budget horrors, comedies. The inter-blog discussions and e-mails have been particularly useful and one of the major things to come out of this is my renewed acquaintance with Antonioni's great trilogy. There have been lots of Begmans and Kurosawas to enjoy, restorations of Fritz Lang and Murnau. If 2009 offers such variety I'll be happy.