Friday, 27 May 2011


As a long time film fan I've been thrilled to meet quite a few stars - Ginger Rogers, Tony Curtis, Harold Lloyd, Christopher Lee among them - but none could equal the thrill of meeting and, to an extent, getting to know Vincent Price. I first met Vincent when he was in England filming WITCHFINDER GENERAL. Thankfully, the meeting was easy to arrange as another friend, the late Michael Reeves, was directing the film. After that my girlfriend at the time and myself became regular guests on the sets of THE OBLONG BOX, SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN, CRY OF THE BANSHEE, MADHOUSE, THE ABOMINABLE DR.PHIBES and its sequel and THEATRE OF BLOOD. Vincent, as much as his work would allow, was an attentive host - always ready to chat and reminisce about his career, art or cooking. There were even more special times such as the car journey we shared with him from Harrow to London with Vincent in his full Tudor costume from CRY OF THE BANSHEE or the time he invited us, plus my mother and aunt, backstage during the stage production of ARDELE in London. He was a charming, generous, witty, lovely man. Vincent Price is also being celebrated over at the LAND OF CERPTS AND HONEY and its sister blog BATHED IN THE LIGHT OF ANDROMEDA. Click here to join the party.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


Jacques Tourneur's films are nearly always worth a look. I say nearly always because you'd be hard pushed to make a case for CITY UNDER THE SEA (War Gods of the Deep) which was a sad end to a pretty illustrious career. Luckily GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING is one of the interesting ones. A technicolor Western which has a decent script and because of this its characters have some depth. The cast is very good with Robert Stack doing well as the morally ambiguous hero and there is a nice portrait of villainy from Raymond Burr as the Elephant obsessed "Jumbo" - knowing Burr's constant weight problems I'm not sure that his physical size in this film was achieved by padding. The women who compete for Stack's attentions are good girl Rhonda Fleming and bad girl Ruth Roman. Stack can't make up his mind for most of the film and when he finally does it is too late because Ruth has paid the price for being a tart with a heart of gold in 1950's Hollywood. Set just before the American Civil War the plot concerns Southern sympathisers trying to smuggle gold down to Dixie for the coming war. The Union supporters (led by Burr who has his own agenda) are depicted very unsympathetically thanks mainly to the presence of the great Leo Gordon who almost before the opening credits are over is spitting out venom. Rating ***

Tuesday, 17 May 2011


Wonderfully straight-faced horror comedy in the tradition of SHAUN OF THE DEAD. This time around it is genetically modified killer sheep rampaging across the New Zealand countryside. In camera effects rather than CGI, a funny script, good cast and bucket loads of gore. Mint sauce and sheep farting jokes abound - what's not to like? There is even man on sheep and ram on man sex, but who are we to criticise Kiwi culture?

Thursday, 12 May 2011


Flora Robson and Stewart Granger

Highly romanticised version of the scandal that surrounded the ancestors of our present Royal Family. The film tells the story of the affair between Sophie (Joan Greenwood), wife of the future George I and the dashing Philip von Konigsmark (Stewart Granger) who are presented here a star-crossed lovers and more sympathetic than they probably deserve - but, as I said in my RED BARON review, historical accuracy does not necessarily make for an entertaining film - although I understand that the film gets the political side of things fairly accurate. I find it interesting that mystery of sorts surrounds the deaths of the central characters of this and the two previous films reviewed here - Stavisky, Richtofen and Kongismark - the later officially went missing although it is generally assumed (certainly by this film) that he was murdered. Turning to the film rather than history, this Ealing Studios film is very impressive with a fine literate script and superb colour photography by Douglas Slocombe. Direction is by Basil Dearden (born about a mile from where I sit writing this) and besides the two lead players the court intrigues are wonderfully played out by Flora Robson, Peter Bull, Francoise Rosay, Michael Gough and Anthony Quayle. Eagle eyed fans will also spot Miles Malleson, Guy Rolfe and Anthony Steel. They won't however spot Christopher Lee whose performance was removed from the completed film. Rating ****

Tuesday, 10 May 2011


I am rather fond of Roger Corman's VON RICHTOFEN AND BROWN (aka THE RED BARON) but I think that this German film (made entirely in English) has the edge on it. A critical and box-office disaster, it has been pointed out that the film is far from historically accurate in its retelling of the story of WWI's greatest air ace, Manfred Von Richtofen - The Red Baron. It is my view that when you are making a fiction film about a character who has become almost a semi-mythological figure one should follow John Ford's dictum from THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE that "When the legend becomes fact - print the legend." This does not mean a complete perversion of fact - just an acknowledgement of the legend. I thought this film handled fact and fiction rather well and it certainly contains some pretty hair-raising flying sequences. The film struggles a bit trying to give Richtofen a romance with a pretty nurse and a meeting with Roy Brown (the Canadian pilot who was officially credited with downing the German ace, although it is now generally believed he wasn't responsible) in No Man's Land. As, I said above, I enjoyed the film - probably as much as Corman's version and for similar reasons. Rating: ***

Sunday, 8 May 2011


STAVISKY is at the same time one of Alain Resnais's most audience friendly films and one of his most puzzling. On the surface it is a straight forward picture of Sergei Alexandre Stavisky, the charismatic Russian born swindler and con-man (played superbly by the equally charismatic Jean-Paul Belmondo) whose dirty dealings in the early Thirties nearly brought down the French coalition goverment - to the point of bringing France to the edge of civil war. The film shows us nothing of these tumultuous events - concentrating on the man himself while offering no real moral judgement on his lifestyle. Typically, Resnais shows us many sides of Stavisky's personality. He maybe on the edge of madness, maybe schizophrenic; he is a devoted husband with a stunningly beautiful wife yet happily sleeps with a woman in order to buy her jewellry at a cut-down price. For much of the film he seems rather like one of those gentleman crooks that were so popular in Thirties crime fiction. Investigated by the police and the secret service, Stavisky's financial empire begins to crumble - he is pursued by the corrupt forces that have allowed him to operate because his financial scams have supported them. When his friend, Baron Raoul, happily talks of having delibedrately squandered the ill-gotten fortune he inherited, Stavisky comments "I have to invent the money I squander!" Baron Raoul is, along with Stavisky's wife, the only one to remain loyal to him as all those he trusted desert or betray him. Raoul (probably a fictional character) is wonderfully played by Charles Boyer in one of his last performances. He is charmed by Stavisky and even when the truth is revealed that his friend is not French and is Jewish (he is like many European aristocrats casually anti-semitic) he stands by him - for Resnais not character is one sided. Stavisky's story is shadowed by events in the lives of two other Jewish immigrants - Leon Trotsky and a young German actress. The style of the film is typically elliptical with flashbacks and forwards and ending with a question that a lot of people have been asking about a more recent death - was Stavisky executed by the police who went to arrest him? The "official verdict" was suicide. Perhaps the line of dialogue that best sums up Stavisky the man and STAVISKY the film is "To truly understand him you must dream about him and dream his dreams." Very Resnais. Rating ****