Tuesday, 30 May 2017

THE SECRET OF THE BLUE ROOM (1933) Directed by Kurt Nuemann. and THE SECRET OF THE CHATEAU (1934) Directed by Richard Thorpe.

These two rarities from the Universal stable are often listed as horror movies, Neither really fits neatly into that genre. It is easy to dismiss THE SECRET OF THE CHATEAU which is a pretty dull detective story about the theft of a valuable Guttenberg Bible. I found it dull in the extreme, The advertising for the film is more than slightly misleading. Rating *. THE SECRET OF THE BLUE ROOM is another thing altogether. Not a horror film as such, it is a remake of a German film made the previous year which is listed on IMBd as "Horror" although that is not always a reliable source. This version has a lot going for it. It belongs to the locked room murder genre and tells of a room where murders were once committed where quests are mysteriously vanishing again. The room is situated in the castle of Robert von Hellsdorf (played by Lionel Atwill - another reason for its close association with the horror movies). The supporting cast is above average and includes the Gloria Stuart, Paul Lukas, Edward Arnold and Onslow Stevens. Atwill is usually worth the time spent watching a film and this is no exception. The film was remade again in 1938 and again in 1944 (as a musical!). Rating **

DEAD AGAIN (1991) Directed by Kenneth Branagh.

I'm going to swim against the tide with this one. When I first saw it years ago I quite liked it but seeing it again recently I found that it irritated the hell of me for a whole bunch of reasons. DEAD AGAIN was Kenneth Branagh's second film as a director. With his first, HENRY V, he was on safe, more familiar ground, Here he veers into Hitchcock territory with a psycho-drama about murder and reincarnation. Branagh and Emma Tompson play, respectively, a modern day private eye and an amnesia victim given to bad dreams of being murdered back in the late 1940's by her husband (also Branagh), In his past incarnation Ken has a goatee beard and the modern Ken doesn't and even when he is looking at a picture of his previous self does he or anybody else seem to realise. It is rather like Superman disguising himself as Clarke Kent and the entire staff of the Daily Planet failing to notice.Branagh's direction seems over emphatic as do all the performances. VERTIGO remade by luvvies springs to mind. I remain a Branagh fan, With Andy Garcia, Robin Williams. Rating **


My interest in films was nurtured by my mother who was a great cinemagoer. But that interest was really encouraged by my school film society and in particular by two teachers, particularly an American named Jim Kitses. Jim went on to work and the British Film Institute, to write a wonderful book on Westerns and to lecture on film at San Francisco University. .I'm happy say Jim and I are still in contact today. This picture shows Jim (with moustache) having a relaxed chat with film director Samuel Fuller.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

THE INTERRUPTED JOURNEY (1949) Directed by Daniel Birt. B/W.

I was, until a few days ago, unfamiliar with the work of director Daniel Birt, except for the interesting THREE WEIRD SISTERS.  If this neat little thriller is anything to go by his others films may be worth investigation. To give away any plot points would be unfair as the script, written by Michael Pertwee, twists this way and that like a snake. The film has a dreamlike quality (or should I say nightmare) which is enhanced by the dramatic photography of  Erwin Hillier (whose career began with Murnau and Lang and ended with Harryhausen.) The words "Film Noir" are used far too o.ften these days but this seems to me to be a rare example of a genuine British film noir. The cast are more than competent with Richard Todd and Valerie Hobson in the lead and excellent support from Tom Walls as the dogged  Railway detective and a nice cameo by Dora Bryan as a slatternly waitress. Rating ***

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

KAIDAN SEMUSHI OTOKO (1965) Directed by Hijaime Sato.

The Japanese certainly have a flair for horror movies. This film has more in common with William Castle's THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL than it does with the somewhat over praised JUON : THE GRUDGE.  The film may not have an enjoyable performance by Vincent Price but it certainly delivers on horror. A group of people find themselves unable to leave a creepy old mansion which is complete with a sinister hunchback caretaker. As cliché demands the hapless characters are picked of with one by one. The film has several different titles and the copy viewed on You Tube is the Italian print (although listed as HOUSE OF TERRORS). The Japanese cast are dubbed into Italian but there are English sub-titles. Alternative Titles : THE GHOST OF THE HUNCHBACK.
Rating ***

Monday, 22 May 2017


Back in November I announced that I would be returning to film reviews in the New Year. Due to various circumstances, both personal and technical, this never happened. The world turns and it is now possible to reopen the Fleapit, While there will be a wider range of posts such as the promised return to reviews (of a sort), broader comments on the film world in general etc. I will, on occasions. continue to list films in my DVD collection. As before, comments are both encouraged and welcome.