Thursday, 28 July 2011


SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY is an interesting piece of Euro Trash directed by Jesus Franco (who else?). It is interesting because although while watching the film (mercifully short at 74 mins) and realising it's not very good there are enough interesting points to keep you watching. Two of the points of interest belong to the beautiful Soledad Miranda. Miss Miranda is credited as Susana Korda and several other members of the cast and crew are working under pseudonyms - presumably to protect the guilty. The plot is a variation on THE BRIDE WORE BLACK or even DR.PHIBES with Miranda bumping off the medical board that caused the death of her husband by driving him to suicide. Notable among the victims are dear old Howard Vernon, an expert at this kind of stuff, who actually gets his kit off for a full frontal nude masochistic sex scene that will make it difficult to watch THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF again - this sort of thing never happened when he worked for Fritz Lang. Even more bizarre is another victim played by none other than Jesus Franco himself. Like poor old Howard, Franco gets his dick cut off. If you look quickly there is also an appearance by EL VAMPIRO himself - German Robles! If you are into Euro Trash you're probably salivating by now but there is also a totally inappropriate pop score which has nothing to do with the action, female nudity and girl on girl action. Rating ***

" I am Jesus Franco, I directed this movie, you can't cut my willy off!"

Sunday, 17 July 2011


MMarlene Dietrich named this as her personal favourite among her films and it is easy to see why, although for me it falls just short of SHANGHAI EXPRESS and THE SCARLET EMPRESS. There have been at least eight or nine versions of this story - one starring Bardot and a much more diistinguished version by Luis Bunuel - his last film. Of these three the Dietrich version directed by her Svengali, Josef Von Sternberg is my favourite. The central character, the beutiful Conchita, is a tiotal bitch and surprisingly (for Thirties Hollywood) the film does not try to palm the audience off with any redeeming features as she puts poor old Lionel Atwill (in one of his finest performances) through hell. Sternberg's direction is exquisite and as in all his films it is obvious he never knew the meaning of the word excess when it came to set decoration. Cesar Romero and Edward Everett Horton are fine in support roles. I look forward to MOROCCO.

Thursday, 14 July 2011


Despite excellent films like HOMBRE and HUD, Martin Ritt is a director who is rarely mentioned by film fans today. He seems to have passed from the collective consciousness and been relegated to being a footnote in the career of Paul Newman. To be honest, PARIS BLUES is, despite many positive qualities, not one of his best films. While being perfectly acceptable in technical terms it betrays its age in many ways, admittedly this is not necessarily a minus point. The film begins with a pan across the rooftops of Paris and then dissolves into what is obviously a series of model buildings before descending into a studio created Parisian street. Now I'm not particularly against this as I'm fond of model work and well done studio sets but in this case it goes somewhat against the tone of the film and one has to ask, given that much of the film was filmed on location in Paris, why? Perhaps they couldn't find a street that looked atmospheric enough. The first view of the interior of the jazz club is wonderful parade of cliche characters - hipsters in shades, a fat lady with her toyboy, real gone kids, intellectual types, beatniks and even a very coy suggestion of homosexuality. The acting by the four principals is, as you would expect, excellent and they almost overcome the difficulties of the script. Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier as the two ex-pat American jazz musicians come off best. Newman is cynical, moody and magnificent. He looks incredible - cool, confident and every inch a super star. What a great actor the man was - the camera loved him and he dominates the screen whenever he appears. Poitier, no less charismatic and talented, has to overcome the script's insistence that he is shown to be hip by having to end every sentence with the word "Man". The real life Mr.Newman, Joanne Woodward, and Diahann Carroll are fine although I never quite believed how easily the self-confessed lover of small-town USA life falls into bed with Newman's character on her first night in Paris. Carroll's character is forever reminding poor Sidney of his racial responsibilites and how he should return home to the fight for the cause. This, unfortunately, gives the film a rather dated "preachy" feel. Being about jazz musicians the subject of drugs has to turn up but here it is confined to the secondary character of the "gypsy" guitarist played by Serge Reggiani (the "introducing Serge Reggiani" betrays the Hollywood imperialism by casually wiping out the distinguished European career of this fine actor). Musically the film is treat from the musical score by Duke Ellington to the on screen apopearances by Louis Armstrong. Despite some rather jarring elements I enjoyed the film and, let's face it, the chance to see Satchmo jamming with Newman, Poitier and Reggiani is a hard one to resist. Rating ***

Friday, 1 July 2011


I'm very much a born again Charles Chaplin fan. Years ago I lost interest in his silent comedies although I retained an admiration for some of his talkies like MONSIEUR VERDOUX and LIMELIGHT. A television documentary a couple of years back sent me back to his silent features such as CITY LIGHTS. As a kid I went to see THE GOLD RUSH several times at the old Electric Palace, Highgate. I loved it although as this was during the 1950's it must have been the version re-released by Chaplin the early Forties with with narration and dialogue spoken by Charlie himself rather than the original 1925 version which has a different and far more satisfying ending - which I'd nominate as one of the greatest romantic moments in cinema history. Today, I find the sound re-issue extremely irritating but luckily the DVD I viewed has both versions. THE GOLD RUSH in its original 1925 version is, undoubtably, a great American movies. Chaplin keeps the pathos in check with a touch of cynicism, provides some iconic comedy sequences and some extremely clever in-camera special effects. Chaplin had to refilm many scenes after getting the original female lead pregnant and she was replaced by the luminously beautiful Georgia Hale with whom he also had a romantic involvement - watch that final scene in the original verson! As with Bogart and Bacall in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, it's all there on the screen. Rating *****