Tuesday, 29 May 2012


No, still not the recent Johnny Depp film but the 1990 revival of Dan Curtis's earlier daytime supernatural soap.  I didn't expect a lot but was very pleasantly surprised. No masterpiece but a great improvement on the original in every way: better acted, better sets,  better technical credits and, thankfully, some real vampire action. Ben Cross seems a bit stiff to start with but soon makes a good Barnabas Collins.  The other standout elements for me were Jim Fyfe as Willie (a vast improvement on John Karlen) and, of course, the wonderful Barbara Steele who I'd happily share a pizza with. They stand out in a more than competent cast which also includes Jean Simmons and Roy Thinnes.  Rating ***


CHI O SUU BARA/ Evil of Dracula (1974)

EVIL OF DRACULA is the third part of Michio Yamamoto's vampire trilogy and while not being up there with the classics of the genre it is at least comparable in quality with the second rank of Hammer films. It does, indeed, ape the Hammer style with only occasionally nods towards traditional Japanese horror films. Shin Kishida repeats his vampire from the earlier films (neither of which I've yet seen) and Toshiro Kurosawa is likable as the young teacher who arrives at a secluded girl's boarding school (vampires seem to love those places) and discovers more going on than net ball matches.  To be honest I rather enjoyed it as a curiousity and look forward to seeing its predecessors. Rating ***

Sunday, 20 May 2012


This is the original television series that inspired the latest episode of the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton mutual admiration club. I've not seen the Burton film yet but I was pleased to finally catch up with the first incarnation of the television series which, until now, has remained unseen in England. The three disc DVD is nicely packaged and contains a 17 minute "highlights" of the series before picking up the story at the first appearance of Jonathan Frid as vampire Barnabas Collins whose adventures we get to follow for ten episodes. But, be warned, there is very heir little in the way of vampirism on show here and all the episodes are black and white. My first reaction was that the whole ting was pretty slow and boring but by disk two I was getting into the spirit. One has to remember that this was a daytime soap with only 22 minutes to play with each day and if you enjoy actors fluffing their lines, missing their marks, cardboard sets, collapsing props then it is quite fun. Its a bit like CROSSROADS with vampires. I've just ordered the 1990 reworking with Ben Cross as Barnabas (well, it does have Barbara Steele in it) and I'd probably buy more episodes of the original....if they were cheap enough. Rating **

HUGO (2011)

I may see another film better than Martin Scorsese's HUGO this year but I doubt if I'll see one I like as much.Reviews of the film seem to be divided between those who find it boring and those who, like me, are enchanted by it.  Having read many reviews by the dislikers it was noticeable that many simply had no idea who Georges Melies was.  It is Melies, rather than the boy Hugo, who is at the heart of this movie. Because of this, under Scorsese's direction, the film becomes a tribute to the great French movie pioneer and innovator and both in subject and,  in the technical aspects of the film itself, a hymn to the wonder and magic of movies.  Performances, even in minor roles are superb with Ben Kingsley a more than convincing Melies and Sacha Baron Cohen turning in a wonderful comedy performace as the Station Inspector. Richard Griffiths, Frances De La Tour, Ray Winston, Jude Law and Christopher Lee add to a cast of characters who could have stepped from the pages of Dickens. Special praise must be saved for the younger members of the cast who, under Scorsese's direction, avoid the mawkish sentiment that could have sunk the film so quickly: Asa Butterfield is excellent as Hugo and Chloe Grace Moretz effortlessly claws her way up the ladder to true stardom with another performance that shows her as one of the most versatile young actresses around. Rating *****