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 ***

Tuesday, 25 August 2009


Horror scream queen Barbara Steele might be all tied up these days going to Horror Film Conventions but later today I will be posting some of my favourite pictures of Babs over on the WEAVERMAN ARCHIVES. If they are not there yet, check back later.

Sunday, 16 August 2009


This one is a real guilty pleasure. Good film? Frankly, no. But I've always been a fan of writer Mickey Spillane whose talents I believe have been seriously undervalued by critics. Robert Aldrich famously quipped after reading the book KISS ME DEADLY which he was about to film "Between the fucking and the fighting I couldn't find the story". Aldrich went on to make the best film ever of a Spillane story but, near masterpiece the film maybe, it isn't faithful Mike Hammer or Mickey Spillane. So why is THE GIRL HUNTERS a must for Spillane fans? The acting is pretty poor, the script also and direction by Roy Rowland is routine (although it is nicely photographed) but it does have Mickey Spillane himself playing his famous creation, Mike Hammer. Physically, Mickey fits the bill perfectly and looks believable in the part and he growls some pretty awful dialogue with total conviction despite his very limited range as an actor (matched perfectly by Shirley Eaton) in what must be a unique performance - have any other writers played their own creations on screen? Interiors were filmed at MGM studios in England while for the exteriors Cape Town stood in for New York. At the time of the film's initial release one writer suggested that the was " for the psychiatrist rather than the film critic," and it is easy to see what he meant. Fun. Rating **

CALLAN (1974)

Edward Woodward is highly regarded for his performance in THE WICKER MAN and his even better one in BREAKER MORANT. There was also the hit television series THE EQUALIZER but to most people my age he will always be David Callan the down at heel secret agent in the late 60s tv hit CALLAN. The show was a response to the more realistic spy stories of Len Deighton and John LeCarre. The character made on to the big screen in 1974 with this adaption of the show's pilot which was called A MAGNUM FOR SCHNEIDER. Essentially it is a pretty faithful version of the original with Woodward and Russell Hunter (superb as the eternally smelly Lonely) although some diehard fans were upset by a rather inappropriate score which replaced the evocative mood music of the original. I've seen the film at least four times and always enjoy it. The story is good, the use of London locations is exellent and the cast outstanding. As well as Woodward and Hunter there is Carl Mohner, Catherine Schell, Eric Porter, Peter Egan, Kenneth Griffith, Michael DaCosta and Dave Prowse. Director Don Sharp keeps things moving. The character of Callan was more complex than the usual tv hero and this transposes well to the screen. The original show appeared briefly on DVD and now commands silly money which makes it ripe for a re-issue. Woodward and Hunter reunited for a one-off tv sequel in 1981's THE WET JOB with fair results. Rating ***

Friday, 14 August 2009


The first twenty minutes or so of the made-for-tv version of Lewis Carroll's books (bits of the sequel are included) really annoyed me for some reason but I'm glad I stuck with it as once Martin Short and Francis Wright appear as the demented Mad Hatter and rather scarey March Hare it becomes quite memorable. Short (hardly a favourite of mine) almost steals the film. I say almost because its a close run thing between him a Miranda Richardson who, as the Queen of Hearts, gives a sinister variation on her Queen Elizabeth I in BLACK ADDER II. It's not quite Carroll but it gets close on occasions and there is a memorable cast. Be interesting to see what Tim Burton will do with the subject. If you haven't already, read the book. Rating ***

Thursday, 13 August 2009


J'Accuse : Scorsese Speaks Out

Get it Right : Steven Soderbergh

These two news items caught my eye on the Imdb website this morning. Both highlight the rather cavalier attitude of big organisations and institutions to how we watch our movies and how they are presented. It is good to see to of Hollywood's top directors prepared to speak out.
I thought it was worth providing links to these pieces here.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009


Oh dear, what a mess! A decidedly lack-lustre and misconceived version of the classic tale. The script by Wolf Mankowitz is no great shakes to start with and Terence Fisher's direction does nothing to help. It's pretty hard to ring the changes on Stevenson's novella and the best versions have been those which were more or less content to tell the story straight. Of course, we find ourselves with a Hammer production without a monster which is always bad news and although Christopher Lee plays his supporting role well enough the central performance by Paul Massie is really not up to scratch as either dull Jekyll or his other half. The depiction of the supposedly depraved London night life is laughable. There are some interesting faces from the Hammer call sheet including a young Oliver Reed and Francis DeWolff - and the legendary Denis Shaw as a mugger. Denis was one of the great Soho characters of the 1960s and fondly remembered by all who knew him (including yours truly) except for the many pub landlords who barred him from their establishments. Poor David Kossoff looks like he'd rather be somewhere else. Rating *

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


I hear that Tim Burton is developing his delightful short film into a full feature. I hope not as it would seem to me to be fine just as it is. When the Frankenstein family's bull terrier Sparky gets run over their son Victor (this is modern America by the way) constructs a lab out of old bikes, toasters and aerials and brings the dog back to life. Good performances (Shelley Duvall and Paul Bartel are among the familiar faces) and the climax set in a burning mill on a miniature golf course is a hoot. Check it out on Youtube, you'll love it. Rating ***

Monday, 10 August 2009


This, the third in MGM's Tarzan series starring Johnny Weissmuller, is interesting on several counts. The plot is pretty standard with Jane's cousins arriving in the jungle to sort out some inheritance problems but it turns out that their white-hunter guide is up to no good. The threat that Jane (still played appealingly by Maureen O'Sullivan as upper class totty) will have to go back to London, albeit temporarily, gives tha opportunity for a little emotional depth and, although earlier films in the series had an innocent erotic charge - particularly TARZAN AND HIS MATE with its nude swimming scene - the first scene where Tarzan and Jane are obviously about to make love. Naturally, the camera pans discreetly away but the implication is unmistakable. This obviously gets Cheetah the Chimp excited as there is a scene where it look suspiciously like the ape is trying to hump a Zebra. All in all it is a good entry in the series which would begin to go down hill after a couple more titles. The film gives us a chance to see the actor John Buckler who shows great promise as the villain of the piece. Soon after the film was finished Buckler was killed in a car crash along with his father, actor, Hugh Buckler. An alternate ending involving a giant spider, vampire bats and pygmies was filmed but not used.Despite malicious rumours circulated by friend Cerpts over at THE LAND OF CEPTS AND HONEY there appears to be absolutely nothing wrong with Johnny Weissmuller's nipples! Rating ***

Saturday, 8 August 2009

The Weaverman Archives are now open...

There are rare pictures of Vincent Price (with more to come) at the WEAVERMAN ARCHIVES which you will find at

Thursday, 6 August 2009


Budd Schulberg, the writer that gave us ON THE WATERFRONT
has died aged 95.
BUDD SCHULBERG 1914 - 2009


When I heard that this British-Luxomberg production was yet another version of Henry James masterly ghost story, "The Turn of the Screw", I had to check it. I have several versions in my collection, including the classic 1961 film THE INNOCENTS and a film version of Benjamin Britten's opera THE TURN OF THE SCREW. The strength of James' novella, the thing that has made it virtually impossible for adapters to spoil is its ambiguity. Are the ghosts real or are they in the mind of a disturbed woman? This modern day adaption goes firmly for the latter interpretaion, giving the governess a back story involving sexual abuse. Unfortunately, as she sees the ghost of Peter Quint before she has heard of him and certainly before she has seen his picture this all seems badly thought out. The film tries hard to establish an eerie atmosphere but never quite pulls it off and things are not really helped by the laughable violin playing masturbation scene or a brief (sadly) lesbian scene between the governess and Miss Grose, the housekeeper (played by the delectable Tara Fitzgerald) or the fact that lead actress Leelee Sobjeski just isn't up to the demands of her role. Directed by Donato Rotunno. Rating **

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Georges Franju's JUDEX (1963)

A scene from Franju's wonderful 60's remake of the classic serial by Georges Feuillade.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009


I first saw BLOODY MAMA prior to its English cinema release when it was shown at the National Film Theatre in London on the same day as Roger Corman;s John Player Lecture. At the time Corman could do no wrong for me and I liked the film a lot more then than I did this time around. Don't get me wrong, it has lots going for it. The film is a wildly inaccurate retelling of the story of "Ma" Kate Barker and her killer sons diring the American depression. There is no evidence that Ma was ever involved in her sons' crimes and the image of her as a gun-toting gang leader (as depicted in this film) is a product of an FBI cover-up to excuse their killing of an old lady in a hail of machine gun fire. But, as John Ford, said "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend" and that is the route Corman takes. He totally refuses to glamourise the Barkers - Ma is incestuous, her sons are psychopaths, incestuous, sado-masochists, drug addicts etc. and parts of the film plays out like some perverted Greek tragedy. The killings are nasty (the drowning of an innocent irl who has wandered into the gang's clutches is particularly disturbing) and the crimes petty. Performances are excellent with Shelley Winters showing no trace of parody (she would later play the character for laughs as "Ma Parker" in the BATMAN tv series.) Pat Hingle is terrific (as always) as a kidnap victim whose eyes disturb the gang (the eye motif an ever present element here and in many other Corman films) and the sons include Don Stroud, a young Robert De Niro and Robert Walden. Alex Nichol has a memorable scene as "Pa" Barker and the always welcome Scatman Crothers has a small role. Bruce Dern is outstanding as a very creepy member of the gang inspired by the real life, aptly named Alvin "Creepy" Karpis. As I said, this time around it didn't quite come together for me but I can see what Corman was striving for. The script by Robert Thom was novelised by him and is a historically much more accurate depiction of the Barker gang. Although there have been other films inspired by Ma Barker - THE GRISSOM GANG, MA BARKER'S KILLER BROOD, PUBLIC ENEMIES (not the new Johnny Depp film but the 1996 production starring Theresa Russell as Ma) and, of course, the famous WHITE HEAT, the definitive film on the subject is still to be made. Rating ***

Monday, 3 August 2009


I don't watch broadcast television - my TV set is not even connected to an aerial. However I have been adding ome of my favourite shows from the past to my DVD collection. Among these was the complete five season run of ALLY McBEAL, a series I adored first time around and have enjoyed even more this time. It's very funny , occasionally very poignant and moving, It had great guest stars, especially of the musical variety, quite brilliant acting and writing (it is often not appreciated that creator David E.Kelley wrote every episode - which very much kept it on track) and a seemingly endless parade of hot women. It was only by accident that I discovered that the series BOSTON LEGAL was also by David E. Kelley. Before buying it I decided to check it out. I was able to do this thanks to my dear friend Fiona who won't mind me describing her as a rabid William Shatner fan. To be honest I was a bit disappointed in the first episode. It was good but I felt it was nothing special. However it took off with episode two and by the end of the first series I was totally hooked. This is writing for television of a very high order with acting to match. Bill Shatner, James Spader, Candice Bergen, Rene Auberjonois and the rest of the cast bring the characters to life. Like all great TV shows BOSTON LEGAL has a endless supply of memorable scenes (the climatic scene of season 1 which features an execution will stay with me for a long time) and great dialogue. Already I am getting the urge to walk up to strangers and simply say "Denny Crane"....but that probaby means there is some thing wrong with me. The series also poses within the episodes some interesting ethical and moral questions. Highly recommended.