Some time ago I stopped writing about the films I'd seen an concentrated on listing the films in my DVD/Blu-ray collection. Several regulars who kindly follow this blog and a few friends have asked me to reconsider doing reviews - I hesitate to use the word "reviews" and prefer to describe them as "reactions" - so in the new year I will go back to commenting on the movies I've seen. As before I will try to concentrate on the obscure, the rare, the old and the unloved rather than modern mainstream productions, although I expect there will be a few exceptions. The DVD listings will continue as well. See you in January.
Monday, 7 November 2016
|F. W. Murnau|
Before making a career in cinema, Wilhem Fredrich Murnau had been a pilot during the Great War. He is regarded today as one of the greatest exponents of German expressionism and later films fall into a category that is best described as poetic realism. Thankfully his best films are still available. He is one of my favourite directors of the silent era. He was played (not very accurately) by John Malkovich in the film SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE. Films in my collection are: DIE GANG IN DIE NACHT (1921) SCHLOSS VOGELOD (1921) NOSFERATU (1922) PHANTOM (1922) FINANCES OF THE GRAND DUKE (1924) THE LAST LAUGH (1924) TARTUFFE (1925) FAUST (1926) SUNRISE (1927) CITY GIRL (1930) TABU (1931)
Saturday, 1 October 2016
Michael Williams and Wendell Pierce in THE WIRE
Friday, 26 August 2016
Fritz Lang 1890-1976
Films in my collection: DIE SPINNEN (1919/1920 two parts) DESTINY (1921) DR.MABUSE DER SPIELER (1922 two parts) DIE NIBELUNGEN (1924 two parts) METROPOLIS (1927) SPIONE (1928) FRAU IM MOND (1929) M (1931) DAS TESTAMENT DES DR.MABUSE(1933) YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE 1937) MANHUNT (1941) HANGMEN ALSO DIE (1943) MINISTRY OF FEAR (1944) WOMAN IN THE WINDOW (1944) SCARLET STREET(1945) HOUSE BY THE RIVER (1950) CLASH BY NIGHT (1952) THE BLUE GARDENIA (1953) THE BIG HEAT (1953) HUMAN DESIRE (1954) DAS TIGER VON ESCHNAPAUR (1959) DAS INDISCHE GRABMAL(1959) DIE 1000 AUGEN DES DR.MABUSE (1960)
Thursday, 25 August 2016
The origins of the German "Krimi" crime dramas go back to Fritz Lang's DR.MABUSE DER SPIELER (1922) which itself owes a debt to the earlier French serials of Louis Feuillade such as FANTOMAS (1914). Lang followed the success of the first Mabuse film ten years later then revived the character in 1960 after his return to Germany - it was this film, DIE TAUSEND AUGEN DES DR.MABUSE and DER FROSCH MIT DER MASKE made a year earlier that really kicked off the "Krimi" as a distinct sub-genre.
I don't think anybody would claim that the krimis of the 1960's produced any masterpieces but they can be entertaining - a bit dull at times, maybe. There were a few c0-productions such as CIRCUS OF FEAR and TRAITOR'S GATE but the krimi remains a very Teutonic sub-genre. The inspirational Dr. Mabuse went of to inspire Claude Chabrol's DR. M (1990) and there has been a recent American remake, so far unseen in the UK. Evidence of the popularity of the character is witnessed by the fact that Gordon Hessler's unrelated SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN was released in Germany as DIE LEBENDEN LEICHEN DES DR.MABUSE. The 1937 film listed below managed to invoke both Edgar Wallace and Dr.Mabuse, not to mention Conan Doyle while, seemingly being unrelated to any. Films in my collection are:
DR.MABUSE DER SPIELER (1922) DAS TESTAMENT DES DR.MABUSE (1933) DER MAN DER SHERLOCK HOLMES WAS (1937) DER FROSCH MIT DER MASKE (1959) DIE TAUSEND AUGEN DES DR.MABUSE (1960) DER FALSCHER VON LONDON (1961) DIE IM STAHLNETZ DES DR.MABUSE (1961) DAS TESTAMENT DES DR.MABUSE (1962) UNSICHTBAREN KRALLEN DES DR. MABUSE (1962) SHERLOCK HOLMES UND DAS HALSBAND DES TODES (1962) DER HENKER VON LONDON (1963) DER GEHEIMNIS DER SCHWARZEN WITWE (1963) DIE WEISSE SPINNE (1963) DIE TODESSTRAHLEN DES DR.MABUSE (1964) DER UNHEIMLICHE MONCH (1965)
Monday, 20 June 2016
|Bud Abbott (1897-1974) Lou Costello (1906-1959)|
Although not fashionable today I remain a big fan of Bud and Lou. Charles Laughton was another fan who said he enjoyed their "low comedy" and was happy to appear with them in ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET CAPTAIN KIDD. They certainly still make me laugh however many times I see their routines (often barely changed from film to film). Films in my collection are : ONE NIGHT IN THE TROPICS (1940) BUCK PRIVATES (1941) IN THE NAVY (1941) HOLD THAT GHOST (1941) KEEP 'EM FLYING (1941) RIDE 'EM COWBOY (1942) PARDON MY SARONG (1942) WHO DONE IT? (1942) HIT THE ICE (1943) IN SOCIETY (1944) HERE COME THE CO-EDS (1945) THE NAUGHTY NINETIES (1945) THE LITTLE GIANT (1946) THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES (1946) BUCK PRIVATES COME HOME (1947) THE WISTFUL WIDOW OF WAGON GAP (1947) ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948) MEXICAN HAYRIDE (1948) ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE KILLER, BORIS KARLOFF (1949) ABBOTT AND COSTELLO IN THE FOREIGN LEGION (1950) ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN (1951) JACK AND THE BEANSTALK (1951) COMIN' ROUND THE MOUNTAIN (1951) LOST IN ALASKA (1952) ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET CAPTAIN KIDD (1952) ABBOTT AND COSTELLO GO TO MARS (1953) ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR.JEKYLL AND MR.HYDE (1953) ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY (1955).
Friday, 3 June 2016
|Stanley Kubrick 1928 - 1999|
Steven Spielberg's A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE was intended as a Kubrick film and taken over by Spielberg at the time of Kubrick's death.
Tuesday, 24 May 2016
|Howard Hawks (1896 - 1977)|
I find it hard to say anything particularly interesting about Howard Hawks except to applaud his professionalism - and countless others have done that before me. Undoubtedly, many of his films are truly great works but achieved with deceptive simplicity. Hawks' world is a man's world populated by professionals who know how to get things done and in simplistic terms that, no doubt, described Hawks' no fuss attitude to story telling. He is certainly one of the Hollywood directors whose work remained consistently entertaining throughout a long career. Films in my collection: SCARFACE - SHAME OF A NATION (1932) BARBARY COAST (1935) BRINGING UP BABY (1938) ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (1939) HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940) TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944) THE BIG SLEEP (1946) RED RIVER (1948) THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951) GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES ((1955) RIO BRAVO (1959) HATARI (1962) EL DORADO (1967) RIO LOBO (1970)
Thursday, 5 May 2016
|William Shakespeare 1564 - 1616|
This year (as if you didn't know!) is the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare's death. I consider myself lucky that I was not taught Shakespeare at school. My first real experience of the bard's work was the Olivier version of RICHARD III which I saw on its original release. Although only nine, I loved the film and years later I went to see it every year at the Academy Cinema in Oxford Street when they ran their annual "Olivier in Shakespeare" season. Naturally I bought it on DVD and now have the wonderfully restored Blu-ray. It remains my favourite Shakespeare play. I enjoy the plays, particularly in their film incarnations although I have an aversion to KING LEAR and I prefer the historical plays to the comedies (with the exception of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW). I am aware that their are some important films missing from my collection. The list of films below is divided into two parts. Part one is acknowledged adaptions and the second is the films inspired by Shakespeare's plots, parodies or films that have some connection to the writer.
HENRY V (1944) RICHARD III (1955) HAMLET (1964) THE CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (1965) THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (1967) HAMLET (1969) THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH (1971) KING LEAR (1971) JULIUS CAESAR (1979) RICHARD III (1983) MACBETH (1983) HENRY V (1989) KING LEAR (1999) THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (2004) THE TEMPEST (2010) RICHARD II (2014) HENRY IV (2014) HENRY V (2014)
|RICHARD III (1955)|
THRONE OF BLOOD (1954) Inspired by MACBETH
FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) Inspired by THE TEMPEST
THE BAD SLEEP WELL (1960) Inspired by HAMLET
ALL NIGHT LONG (1961) Inspired by OTHELLO
WEST SIDE STORY (1961) Inspired by ROMEO AND JULIET
THEATRE OF BLOOD (1973) Inspired by the works of Shakespeare.
RAN (1985) Inspired by KING LEAR
LOOKING FOR RICHARD (1996) Inspired by RICHARD III
MY KINGDOM (2001) Inspired by KING LEAR
ANONYMOUS (2014) Inspired by the works of Shakespeare.
OTELLO (2014) Inspired by OTHELLO and the Rossini Opera OTELLO
|CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (1965)|
Saturday, 23 April 2016
|James Whale 1889 - 1957|
British born director James Whale will always be remembered as the man who made the original Boris Karloff FRANKENSTEIN. The film kicked off the whole Universal horror series of the 30's and 40's but I think it is fair to say that loved as some of those films are, none as prized as Whale's contributions. The jewel in the crown is undoubtedly BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, a film that Whale was actually reluctant to make. His other films are largely forgotten - except for SHOWBOAT (1936) and THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK (1939) which remain the best versions of their particular stories on film. Ian McKellan portrayed James Whale in the 1998 film GODS AND MONSTERS, a fictionalised film based on Whale's last years and death. Films in my collection :
HELL'S ANGELS (uncredited) (1930) FRANKENSTEIN (1931) THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932) THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933) BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) SINNER'S PARADISE (1938) GODS AND MONSTERS (1998)
|James Whale on the set of BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN with Boris Karloff|
Tuesday, 12 April 2016
|The Life of Brian (1979)|
During a recent illness I developed an urge to see as many of the Hollywood epics set during the days of The Roman Empire. Several, naturally, deal with the story of Jesus, either directly or with subsequent events. QUO VADIS turned out to be much better than I remember and the accompanying documentary explaining its importance in Hollywood history was revelatory. THE ROBE turned out to be almost as good as its sequel, DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS. These may lack historical accuracy but they often have good screenplays which go beyond the mere spectacle. Films in my collection : CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA (1945) QUO VADIS (1951) THE ROBE (1953) DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS (1954) BEN HUR (1956) BARABBAS (1961) CLEOPATRA (1963)THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW (1964) THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (1965) FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (1965) JESUS OF NAZARETH (1977) THE LIFE OF BRIAN (1979) JULIUS CAESAR (1979) THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (1988) GLADIATOR (2000) KING ARTHUR (2004) THE EAGLE (2011)
|The Fall of the Roman Empire (1965)|
Monday, 21 March 2016
|Sam Peckinpah 1925 - 1984|
What can one say about Sam Peckinpah ? Love him or hate him. My first Peckinpah film was RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY and even that early it seemed obvious to me that there was something very special. Outrageous stories about the difficulty of working with him abound - many of them, admittedly quite funny. I was working at Columbia Pictures in London when the MAJOR DUNDEE debacle happened which was, I think, partly fuelled by the studio's problems with Roger Corman on a not dissimilar project, THE LONG RIDE HOME. But Sam did things his way even if the studio hacks did the butchering later. Thankfully a few of his films have been restored more or less as it is thought he would have wanted them. With PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID he made my all time favourite Western, one of the saddest films I've ever seen. Peckinpah's films in my collection are: THE DEADLY COMPANIONS (1961) RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (1962) MAJOR DUNDEE (1965) THE WILD BUNCH (1969) THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE (1970) STRAW DOGS (1971) JUNIOR BONNER (1972) THE GETAWAY (1972) PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THJE KID (1973) BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA (1974) THE KILLER ELITE (1975) CROSS 0F IRON (1977) CONVOY (1978) THE OSTERMANN WEEKEND (1983)
Thursday, 17 March 2016
|John Huston 1906-1987|
Saturday, 5 March 2016
I knew Martin Scorsese was going to be an important director from the day I saw his film BOXCAR BERTHA. His most popular films are the ones about organised crime but, while I certainly love these, I also greatly admire his quieter efforts such as AGE OF INNOCENCE and HUGO. Very import as well are his two documentaries about the history of movies, PERSONAL JOURNEY and MY VOYAGE TO ITALY, master classes in film appreciation from a very personal perspective. The man's love of his art shines through in everything he has done. I won't pretend I like all his films but I respect the artist more than any other living American director. Films directed or produced by Martin Scorsese in my collection are: MEAN STREETS (1973) TAXI DRIVER (1976) NEW YORK NEW YORK (1977) THE LAST WALTZ (1978) RAGING BULL (1980) KING OF COMEDY (1982)THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (1988) GOODFELLAS (1990) THE GRIFTERS (1990) CAPE FEAR (1991) AGE OF INNOCENCE (1993) A PERSONAL JOURNEY WITH MARTIN SCORSESE THROUGH AMERICAN MOVIES (1995) CASINO (1995) KUNDRUN (1997) MY VOYAGE TO ITALY (2001) THE GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002) BLUES : FEEL LIKE GOING HOME (2003 and series producer) THE AVIATOR (2004) NO DIRECTION HOME : BOB DYLAN (2005) THE DEPARTED (2006) THE KEY TO RESERVA (2OO7) VAL LEWTON : THE MAN IN THE SHADOWS (2007) SHINE A LIGHT (2008) SHUTTER ISLAND (2010) BOARDWALK EMPIRE (2010 pilot and series producer) HUGO (2011) THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013).
Monday, 29 February 2016
THE CABINET OF CALIGARI (2016) Directed by David Lee Fisher **
Impressive but ultimately pointless remake of the classic silent film which brings nothing to the table except sound. The original existed as part of the German post WW1 expressionist movement and a slavish remake which recreates the stylised sets of the original can only replace innovative originality with pastiche however clever the production is. The acting is adequate without being outstanding. An interesting experiment, no more. Available on You Tube.
Saturday, 6 February 2016
|Mario Bava (1914 - 1980)|
Mario Bava is easily the most famous and most talented of Italian horror film directors. His films are triumphs of style over content but are rarely boring thanks to his visual flair (he was formerly a noted cinephotographer). There were a few disasters along the way - his film with Vincent Price was an unhappy experience for both director and star - but the classics outweigh the less interesting films.
His films have many alternative titles but I have listed the titles of the copies I own. The first two films on this list were credited to Riccardo Freda but were completed by Bava. Films in my collection are : LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1957) CALTIKI THE IMMORTAL MONSTER (1959) BLACK SUNDAY (1960) HERCULES AT THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH (1961) THE EVIL EYE (1963) BLACK SABBATH (1963) THE WHIP AND THE BODY (1963) BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964) PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES (1965) CURSE OF THE DEAD (1966) DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE SEX BOMBS (1966) DANGER DIABOLIK (1968) BLOOD BRIDES (1970) BAY OF BLOOD (1971) BARON BLOOD (1972) LISA AND THE DEVIL (1973) HOUSE OF EXORCISM (1975) SCHOCK (1977)
Tuesday, 26 January 2016
|David Lean (1908 - 1991)|
I was lucky enough to meet David Lean in the mid-60's thanks to his Indian step-son, Ranju, with whom I worked. He was polite and friendly and obviously pleased that I admired his films but I sensed he would rather be somewhere else. I am a great admirer of David Lean, preferring his earlier black and white films (with one exception) to the later colour epics. On the basis of those earlier films I regard Lean as one of the greatest British directors. His films in my collections are : IN WHICH WE SERVE (1942) THIS HAPPY BREED (1944) BLITHE SPIRIT (1945) BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945) GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1946) OLIVER TWIST (1948) THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS (1949) MADELEINE (1950) SOUND BARRIER (1952) HOBSON'S CHOICE (1954) BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (1957) LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962) DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965) RYAN'S DAUGHTER (1970) PASSAGE TO INDIA (1984).
Tuesday, 19 January 2016
|Vincent Price (1911-1993)|
Vincent Price is one of my very favourite actors. I was lucky enough to meet Vincent on many occasions, the first being in 1968 when he came to England to star in WITCHFINDER GENERAL and subsequently visited him on the sets several of the films he made in England. He was, as many others have testified, a gentleman of the first order, a great raconteur and a man of great generosity and charm. In his best known films he was, of course, most often a sinister figure - a role he relished, saying : "I sometimes feel that I'm impersonating the dark unconscious of the whole human race. I know this sounds sick, but I love it." But there was, in reality, much more to his acting than that and his career is peppered with memorable performances. As an unashamed fan I have sought to collect as many of his performances as possible - still a few to go but I'll get there! So far I have: SERVICE DE LUXE (1938) TOWER OF LONDON (1939) THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS (1940) HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES (1940) SONG OF BERNADETTE (1941) LAURA (1944) A ROYAL SCANDAL (1945) LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (1945) SHOCK (1946) DRAGONWYCK (1946) THE WEB (1947) MOSS ROSE (1947) UP IN CENTRAL PARK (1948) ROGUES REGIMENT (1948) THE BRIBE (1949) BARON OF ARIZONA (1950) CHAMPAGNE FOR CAESAR (1950) CURTAIN CALL AT CACTUS CREEK (1950) THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN FABIAN (1951) HIS KIND OF WOMAN (1951) LAS VEGAS STORY (1951) HOUSE OF WAX (1953) MAD MAGICIAN (1954) SON OF SINBAD (1955) WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS (1956) THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) THE STORY OF MANKIND (1957) THE FLY (1958) HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959) RETURN OF THE FLY (1959) THE TINGLER (1959) THE BAT (1959) THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960) MASTER OF THE WORLD (1961) PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961) THE BLACK BUCCANEER (1961) THE EVILS OF CHINATOWN (1962) TALES OF TERROR (1962) TOWER OF LONDON (1962) THE RAVEN (1963) DIARY OF A MADMAN (1963) THE HAUNTED PALACE (1963) TWICE TOLD TALES (1963) COMEDY OF TERRORS (1963) THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964) MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964) THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964) CITY UNDER THE SEA (1965) DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE BIKINI MACHINE (1965) THE WILD WEIRD WORLD OF DR.GOLDFOOT (1965) DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS (1966) HOUSE OF A THOUSAND DOLLS (1967) WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968) MORE DEAD THAN ALIVE (1969) THE OBLONG BOX (1969) SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN (1970) CRY OF THE BANSHEE (1970) AN EVENING WITH EDGAR ALLAN POE (1970) THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971) DR.PHIBES RISES AGAIN (1972) NIGHT GALLERY : RETURN OF THE SORCERER (1972) THEATRE OF BLOOD (1973) COLUMBO: LOVEY BUT LETHAL (1973) THE SNOOP SISTERS : BLACK DAY FOR BLUEBEARD (1974) MADHOUSE (1974) THE MONSTER CLUB (1981) VINCENT (1982) HOUSE OF LONG SHADOWS (1983) EDWARD SISSORHANDS (1990) plus various television guest spots.
|Vincent Price in THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960)|
If, like me, you are a fan of the "Old dark house" sub-genre this is a fairly entertaining example from the 1940's. The clichés come thick and fast - relatives gather in an old mansion for the reading of the Will of an eccentric rich relative, a stormy night, a sinister butler and....well, if you've seen THE CAT AND THE CANARY you know the score. Jack Haley (the tin man of OZ) is the cowardly hero and Lugosi as the sinister butler who gets some of the best lines in what is an above average script for this kind of film. Available on You Tube.
Monday, 18 January 2016
|Steven Spielberg (b. 1946)|
Steven Spielberg needs no introduction. He started as a young film fan and has become a one man film industry. Hugely influential he has ventured into every area of film and television production. Of his own work as a director he said "My movies are all different. I've tried to make every movie as if it was made by a different director, because I'm very conscious of not wanting to impose a consistent style on subject matter that is not necessarily suited to that style. So I try to re-invent my own eye every time I tackle a new subject. But it's hard, because everybody has style. You can't help it. It just comes off you like pollen. I mean, if you're a bee, you're a bee, but at the same time I try very hard to work a little out of the box every time I make a choice. And I had to go back to a box that I had helped invent in the 1980s to accomplish the task of bringing Indiana Jones back to life in the 21st century. We went right back to the blazing Technicolor style of the first three instalments. For MUNICH (2005), I certainly tried to bring an early-70s Hollywood style, a cinéma-vérité style, with zoom-lenses, and a lot of the tools that were used to make movies in the 70s, one of my favourites being THE DAY OF THE JACKAL (1973), the Fred Zinnemann film. Films directed by Steven Spielberg in my collection are : THE NIGHT GALLERY (1969) COLUMBO : MURDER BY THE BOOK (1971) DUEL (1971) JAWS (1975) CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984) INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989) JURASSIC PARK (1993) LOST WORD: JURASSIC PARK (1997) AMISTAD (1997) SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998) A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (2001) MINORITY REPORT (2002) WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005) MUNICH (2005) INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008) LINCOLN (2012). Films produced by Steven Spielberg in my collection : ARACHOPHOBIA (1990) CAPE FEAR (1991) THE MASK OF ZORRO (1998) THE HAUNTING (1999) JURASSIC PARK III (2001) FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS (2006) LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA (2006) TRUE GRIT (2010) JURASSIC WORLD (2015)
Saturday, 16 January 2016
THE MAN WHO TURNED TO STONE (1957) Directed by Leslie Kardos *
The only reason I got to see this film is because I ordered via Amazon a four film set for the sole purpose of obtaining the Vincent Price film THE MAD MAGICIAN. Other films in the set are TERROR OF THE TONGS, FIVE and THE MAN WHO TURNED TO STONE. A Sam Katzman production directed by Leslie Kardos, this tells the unlikely tale of a group of reform school administrators who are scientifically sucking the life from their female charges to prevent themselves turning to stone. That's about it, flat direction, little suspense, no imagination. At seventy odd minutes it long out stays its welcome. Victor Jory stars.
|John Ford (1894-1973)|
John Ford was much more than his famous description of himself "I'm John Ford and I make Westerns." He certainly did that and much, much more. The man himself was a mass of contradictions - cantankerous, rude, a bully, a liar - who happened to make some of the most beautiful American films ever and who inspired both loyalty and love from the actors and technicians who worked with him regularly. It is hard to assess Ford's entire career (over 140 directorial assignments) as most of his silent films are lost or simply not available but his sound output is quite remarkable. Ford was a poet and is, arguably, the greatest American director. Films in my collection are : THE IRON HORSE (1924) JUDGE PRIEST (1934) YOUNG MR. LINCOLN (1939) STAGECOACH (1939) DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK (1939) THE GRAPES OF WRATH (1940) THE LONG VOYAGE HOME (1940) THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY (1942) DECEMBER 7TH (1943) THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1945) MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946) FORT APACHE (1948) THREE GODFATHERS (1948) SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949) WAGON MASTER (1950) THE QUIET MAN (1952) MR. ROBERTS (1955) THE SEARCHERS (1956) THE HORSE SOLDIERS (1959) SERGEANT RUTLEDGE (1960) TWO RODE TOGETHER (1961) THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962) DONOVAN'S REEF (1963) also MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949) produced by Ford and the documentary DIRECTED BY JOHN FORD (1971) directed by Peter Bogdanovich.
Friday, 15 January 2016
|Jean-Pierre Melville (1917-1973)|
French director, Jean-Pierre Melville always looks like he should appear in gangster films but instead he decided to direct them and he did that better than any of his contemporaries. He once said : "It so happens that the gangster story is a very suitable vehicle for the particular form of modern tragedy called film noir, which was born from American detective novels. It's a flexible genre. You can put whatever you want into it, good or bad. And it's a fairly easy vehicle to use to tell stories that matter to you about individual freedom, friendship, or rather human relationships, because they're not always friendly. Or betrayal, one of the driving forces in American crime novels." I discovered Melville in the 60's when the film company I worked for distributed LE DEUXIEME SOUFFLE (or SECOND BREATH) in England. I watched the film in a basement screening room in Wardour Street and I was immediately hooked. One of Melville's films LE SAMOURAI is among my ten favourite films of all-time. Melville himself was obsessed by American culture, drove a Cadillac, wore Stetsons and fedoras, drank Coca Cola and loved the American movies which inspired him. He said: "I'd usually see five films a day. Fewer than five and I'd get withdrawal symptoms. I've always had a screening room at home so I could watch a couple of American films after dinner." The films of Jean-Pierre Melville in my DVD collection are : LE SILENCE DE LA MER (1949) LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES (1950) BOB LE FLAMBEUR (1956) LEON MORIN, PRIEST (1961) LE DOULOS (1962) SECOND BREATH (1966) LE SAMOURAI (1967) ARMY OF SHADOWS(1969) LE CERCLE ROUGE (1970) UN FLIC (1972)
Wednesday, 13 January 2016
THE MAN WITH NINE LIVES/ Behind the Door (1940) ***
One of the low-budget "Mad Doctor" films made by Boris Karloff at Columbia Studios. The best of the series was THE DEVIL COMMANDS which is truly bizarre but this effort by the well named Nick Grinde is rather routine despite the fact that most of the action takes place in an underground ice cave. It is also notable that it takes a relatively long time for Karloff to appear on screen. The pleasure derived from these films is not one of artistic achievement but almost purely in the presence of Boris Karloff and if , like me, you are a fan, this is often enough. Here Karloff is the benevolent Dr.Kravaal, living alone on an island carrying out experiments in "Frozen therapy" which, of course, meets with the disapproval of the medical establishment - a theme reflected in the other films in this series and, indeed, in nearly all mad doctor films. Available on You Tube.
Tuesday, 12 January 2016
THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (1961) Directed by Terence Fisher **
Written (as John Elder) and produced by Anthony Hinds this is one of Hammer's weaker efforts. Terence Fisher's solid direction makes the best it can from a script that is all over the place and makes little logical sense - it never can quite decide why Reed becomes a werewolf. Oliver Reed's makeup as the wolf man is very impressive and lingers in the mind long after the endless talk but appears far too late in the proceedings to make one really care. Catherine Feller is pretty while Yvonne Romain is voluptuous and the rest of the cast is filled out with regular Hammer bit players (Michael Ripper is particularly memorable as always in a small role).
|Clint Eastwood (b.1930)|
|Clint Eastwood as THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES (1976)|
Monday, 11 January 2016
|Jean Renoir (1897 - 1979)|
Jean Renoir, son of the painter Auguste Renoir, is arguably the greatest of French film directors. Charles Chaplin, Orson Welles and other cited him as the "Greatest director of all time". Personally, I love his films with one exception. I fully recognise that LA REGLE DU JEU, which many rate as his finest achievement, deserves all the praise heaped upon it. It certainly is a "must see" for anybody seriously interested in the cinema but I have never warmed to it and can't explain why - my loss, I am sure. As for the rest, I can watch them time and time again. Jean Renoir films in my collection are: CHARLESTON (1928) THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL (1928) BOUDU SAVED FROM DROWNING (1932) TONI (1935) PARTIE DE COMPAGNE (36) LA GRANDE ILLUSION (1938) LA BETE HUMAINE (1938) LA REGLE DU JEU (1939) THE SOUTHERNER (1945)WOMAN ON THE BEACH (1947) THE RIVER (1951) THE GOLDEN COACH (1952) FRENCH CAN-CAN (1954) THE TESAMENT OF DR. CORDELIER (1959) PICNIC ON THE GRASS (1959) THE VANISHING CORPORAL (1962)
SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937) A Walt Disney Production. *****
I first saw this in the early 50's and have probably seen it half a dozen times since. It has never lost any of the magic of that first viewing. It is, unquestionably, a ground-breaking production of great historical importance. Thankfully the Disney Organisation (unlike some studios) has always been aware of the treasures within their stewardship and today we can view SNOW WHITE and other studio classic in pristine copies. The DVD has a fascinating commentary track which goes into great detail about the making of the film - much of it narrated by Walt Disney himself. Simply a masterpiece.
|Boris Karloff (1887-1969)|
The films of Boris Karloff in my collection are: THE BELLS (1926) FRANKENSTEIN (1931) SCARFACE (1932) THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932) THE MASK OF FU MANCHU (1932) THE MUMMY (1932) THE GHOUL (1933) THE BLACK CAT (1934) BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) THE BLACK ROOM (1935) THE INVISIBLE RAY (1936) JUGGERNAUT (1936) THE MAN WHO CHANGED HIS MIND (1936) CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OPERA (1936) NIGHT KEY (1937) MR. WONG, DETECTIVE (1938) SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) MR. WONG IN CHINATOWN (1939) MYSTERY OF MR.WONG (1939) THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG (1939) TOWER OF LONDON (1939) BLACK FRIDAY (1940) DOOMED TO DIE (1940) THE MAN WITH NINE LIVES(1940) BEFORE I HANG (1940) THE APE (1940) BRITISH INTELLIGENCE (1940) YOU'LL FIND OUT (1940) THE DEVIL COMMANDS (1941) THE BOOGIE MAN WILL GET YOU (942) THE CLIMAX (1944) HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944) THE BODY SNATCHER (1945) ISLE OF THE DEAD (1945) BEDLAM (1946) LURED (1947) DICK TRACY MEETS GRUESOME (1947) ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE KILLER, BORIS KARLOFF (1949) THE STRANGE DOOR (1951) THE BLACK CASTLE (1952) ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR.JEKYLL AND MR.HYDE (1953) THE ISLAND MONSTER (1954) VOODOO ISLAND (1957) THE VEIL (TV Series) (1957) GRIP OF THE STRANGLER (1958) CORRIDORS OF BLOOD (1958) FRANKENSTEIN 1970 (1958) THRILLER (TV Series) (1960) THE RAVEN (1963) THE TERROR (1963) BLACK SABBATH (1963) COMEDY OF TERRORS (1963) MONSTER OF TERROR (1965) GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI (1966) MAD MONSTER PARTY (1967) THE SORCERERS (1967) FEAR CHAMBER (1968) TARGETS (1968) CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR (1968) HOUSE OFB EVIL (1968) THE SNAKE PEOPLE (1971)
|Boris Karloff as The Creature in FRANKENSTEIN (1931)|
Saturday, 9 January 2016
|John Huston as Noah|
THE BIBLE : IN THE BEGINNING... (1966) Directed by John Huston. ***
This is, in many ways, a quite remarkable film to come out of Hollywood. Based on the first twenty-two chapters of Genesis the film does not shirk from its task, does not try to soften some of the more unpleasant aspects of the Old Testament or pander to general audience expectations - the dialogue is King James. We are dealing here with Judeo-Christian myth rather than historical fact and both script writer Christopher Fry and Huston understand that and make no excuses. The creation sequences are poetic (Atheists please note that this was never meant to be a science lesson when written) and while I, personally, found the Adam and Eve sequence a bit naff, the film really comes into its own with the Noah's Ark portion with Huston himself giving a winning performance as Noah and allowing himself as a director for the first and only time in the movie to inject a little sly humour (Kangaroos!). Performances are excellent..Richard Harris as Cain, Ava Gardner as Sarah, George C. Scott as Abraham, Stephen Boyd as Nimrod and Peter O'Toole as the three Angels. This may not be John Huston's finest hour but it remains an impressive film.
JOLSON SINGS AGAIN (1949) Directed by Henry Levin.***
Pure hagiography again in Columbia's inevitable follow-up to their earlier hit, THE JOLSON STORY. As before facts are rearranged or wilfully ignored (in this Jolson's mother finally dies in the 1940's whereas she had, in reality died back in the 1980's!) and the names of two of his wives are changed (the previous film had conveniently forgotten to mention his first to marriages. Notably missing from this film is any mention of his adopted children. Having said that this is, if like me, you are a Jolson fan, this is a very entertaining piece of Hollywood schmaltz. Interestingly the film covers the making of THE JOLSON STORY and we get scenes where Jolson (played by Larry Parks) meets Larry Parks (played by Larry Parks) and we even get to see Larry as himself performing a Jolson number to convince Jolson that he should play him in the film - dubbed, of course by Jolson, whose singing voice is used throughout. Magic.
Friday, 8 January 2016
|Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007)|
Ingmar Bergman is, for me, one of the greatest film directors of all time. I find his films hypnotic, moving and disturbing in equal measures. Son of a Lutheran minister, Bergman claims to have lost his faith at the age of eight but only come to terms with it while making WINTER LIGHT. Yet his religious upbringing infuse his films and he once wrote : "I devoted my interest to the church's mysterious world of low arches, thick walls, the smell of eternity, the coloured sunlight quivering above the strangest vegetation of medieval paintings and carved figures on ceilings and walls. There was everything that one's imagination could desire — angels, saints, dragons, prophets, devils, humans". This is why many of his films contain shock scenes of gothic horror. Like fellow atheist, Luis Bunel, his religiously themed films are among the most honest and moving. His films, of course, contain a series of wonderful performances by performers such as Gunnar Bjornstrand, Max von Sydow, Ingrid Thulin and Liv Ullman amongst others. Ingmar Bergman films in my collection are : MUSIC IN DARKNESS (1948) TO JOY (1950) SUMMER INTERLUDE (1951) SUMMER WITH MONIKA (1953) SAWDUST AND TINSEL (1953) SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT (1955) THE SEVENTH SEAL (1957) WILD STRAWBERRIES (1957) THE MAGICIAN (1958) THE VIRGIN SPRING (1960) THE DEVIL'S EYE (1960) THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY ((1961) WINTER LIGHT (1963) THE SILENCE (1963) ALL THESE WOMEN (1966) PERSONA (1966) HOUR OF THE WOLF (1968) SHAME (1968) THE RITE (1969) CRIES AND WHISPERS (1972) AUTUMN SONATA (1978) FROM THE LIFE OF MARIONETTES (1980) FANNY AND ALEXANDER (1983)
Tuesday, 5 January 2016
|Terence Fisher (1904 - 1980)|
Describing his own films, Terence Fisher said "I think an audience has to find what it sees in the cinema absolutely convincing for the ninety minutes of the film. I don't really care what they think when they get out of the cinema, but unless they have believed in your film, you have not achieved your purpose. You have to aim for a suspension of disbelief. Visually speaking, I think my films are good and believable, because I have a good visual sense within the frame. I hate what I call "tricky shooting" - which makes a film look like a long TV commercial."
I don't think anybody except the most ardent fan of Hammer Films would describe Terence Fisher as one of the cinema's great directors. I was lucky enough to meet Fisher in the mid-70's and found him to be a charming man who was prepared to discuss his films realistically. He knew there were a few duds in there. Having said that he did make the very best of the Hammer gothics and I can't believe that there is a horror film enthusiast who grew up in the 50's and 60's who doesn't have a great affection for Fisher's films. Terence Fisher's films in my collection are : THE STOLEN FACE (1951) THE FOUR SIDED TRIANGLE (1952) SPACEWAYS (1952) THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) DRACULA (1958) REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958) HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1959) THE MUMMY (1959) BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960) THE TWO FACES OF DR.JEKYLL (1960) CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (1961) PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1962) THE HORROR OF IT ALL (1963)THE GORGON (1966) ISLAND OF TERROR (1966) NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT (1966) FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967) THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (1968) FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969) FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1974)
|Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998)|
Kurosawa films in my collection are : SANSHIRO SUGATA (1943) MOST BEAUTIFUL (1944) HE WHO TREADS ON THE TIGER'S TAIL (1945) ZUKO SUGATA (1945) ONE WONDERFUL SUNDAY (1947) DRUNKEN ANGEL (1948) SILENT DUEL (1949) STRAY DOG (1949) SCANDAL (1950) RASHOMON (1950) IKIRU (1952) SEVEN SAMURAI (1954) I LIVE IN FEAR (1955) THRONE OF BLOOD (1957) HIDDEN FORTRESS (1958) THE BAD SLEEP WELL (1958) YOJIMBO (1960) SANJURO (1961) HIGH AND LOW (1964) RED BEARD (1965) DERSU UZALA (1975) KAGEMUSHA (1980) RAN (1985) MADADAYO (1990)