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Doc says I'm better now, I'm free to roam in society again :-)
Me? Middle aged British punker who is heavily in love with anything punk related circa 1976 - 1982. Film fanatic who indulges in any genre of film but specialises in film-noir, westerns, war and big - bold - historical epics.
I like writing reviews, even having some published in British newspapers and I have received nice emails from people associated with films that I have reviewed. While my mantra here is quite simply lets be here to learn and share.
The Director Titans
Alfred Hitchcock Robert Aldrich Anthony Mann Sam Peckinpah Jacques Tourneur
The Director Gods
John Ford Budd Boetticher Robert Siodmak Billy Wilder Joseph Losey
The Director Royalty
Edward Dmytryk Nicholas Ray Fritz Lang John Sturges John Carpenter
The Director Gurus
Preston Sturges Frank Capra Howard Hawks Marcel Varnel Carol Reed
Modern Director Legends In Waiting
David Fincher Michael Mann
Stay Cool Peeps, See You On The Boards.
Annabelle: Creation (2017)
Conduit Demon: Take 27!
OK! It may not be 27 films in the latest conduit demon phase of horror film making, but it sure as hell feels like it! Annabelle: Creation would have been a very good horror film if it had come out 10 years ago, as it is we find ourselves treading familiar ground and relying on the usual horror film making playbook for our thrills.
Anyone such as myself who is bothered by pediophobia, automatonphobia and pupaphobia will surely be chilled to the bone here, for the makers push it to the max, with fine results. However, once that aspect is stripped away and the sound and visual horror staples grow tired, we are left hankering for a glorious final quarter of film to terrify us - which sadly doesn't materialise as we then get conduit demon 101.
In the pluses column there's a superb tie-in to the real Annabelle doll, an adherence to story as fact shrewdly inserted, and the acting (with young Lulu Wilson bright again as she wanders in from Ouija: Origin of Evil) is more than adequate. Sound mix rocks, as does the photographic shadows and shimmers, rendering the production technically good. If only the writers had been a bit more bolder and imaginative...
Much better than Annabelle (2014) (which isn't hard really), "Creation" is above average fare for casual horror fans with the fears previously stated. Hard core horror nuts, however, are likely to be very jaded come the end credits rolling. 6.5/10
A Kiss Before Dying (1991)
Kiss of life required to ignite this film noir re-imaging.
A remake of the 1956 film of the same name, A Kiss Before Dying is directed by James Dearden and Dearden adapts the screenplay from Ira Levin's novel. It stars Sean Young, Matt Dillon, Max von Sydow, Dianne Ladd and James Russo. Music is by Howard Shore and cinematography by Mike Southon.
Story has Dillon as a troubled young man who murders his pregnant girlfriend (Young) and then hones in on her twin sister (Young again obviously) for further psychotic shenanigans.
It's just about an average thriller at best, where even if the plot line and character motivations are intriguing enough to hold the attention to keep one interested to the ending, even there the outcome is rushed and unsatisfying. From the negative reaction at the initial test screenings, to Golden Raspberry awards, and tales of rewrites and re-shoots et al, this noir reboot is messy.
The tie-in to Hitchcock's Vertigo is glaringly "not" homage worthy, and not just content with that, director Dearden tries to use some of Hitchcock's macabre black humour to unintentionally "not" witty results. So with Young on hilariously bad form as well, the thriller aspects strain to get resuscitated for dramatic worth.
Dearden does show some nice touches with his camera-work, and there's a lurid quality to Southon's colour lenses that pay respect in heart to Levin's source material, but ultimately it's hard to recommend seriously to noir fans and the 56 version (itself not without problems) is still the way to go. 5/10
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)
They have destroyed my servant. They will be destroyed...
Taste the Blood of Dracula is directed by Peter Sasdy and written by Anthony Hinds (AKA: John Elder). Out of Hammer Film it stars Christopher Lee, Geoffrey Keen, Peter Sallis, Linda Hayden, Gwen Watford and Ralph Bates. Music is by James Bernard and cinematography by Arthur Grant.
Trawling through all the sequels of Hammer's Frankenstein and Dracula series it becomes apparent that opinions differ greatly, a case in point is this, the fifth of the Dracula cycle. For her we have a Dracula film thought of very highly in some quarters, most notably in one of the Hammer Films' lauded literary bibles, myself, like the other 50% of Hammer film fans, just don't see that at all.
Famously it's the Drac film where Christopher Lee had to be greatly coerced into reprising the role of the blood sucking count, financial rewards doth talk it seems. His apprehension with script and stale feelings were well grounded, with the final result begging the question as to how bad was the script before Lee's intervention?
Story has three upstanding English gentlemen showing themselves to be model pillars of society by day, good stern parents/husbands and all that, but by night they are purveyors of a different sordid lifestyle, kind of like members of the naughty Hellfire Club! When decadent dandy Lord Courtley (Bates) offers then something tantalisingly more dangerous, they indulge and it results in murder and the rebirth of Count Dracula.
After a neat opening which tags onto the ending of Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, we find Dracula once again on a daft revenge mission, being a bit part once again in a film bearing his name, and saddled with minimal lines that really aren't worth a suck of the neck. Some striking sequences apart (Dracula birth - bloody retributions etc) the film feels like a confused blend of ideas. On one hand it's taking a caustic peak behind the curtain of upper crust Victorian England, on the other it tries to be a period based revenger fronted by the iconic beast of the title.
Under Sasdy's direction the look has been stripped back from the Gothic colourful splendour of previous Dracula entries, in place is a more earthy approach, which isn't as appealing. Of course there's a so-so romance simmering away, plenty of heaving bosom and blood shot eyes, and Bernard's musical score hangs around like a moody step-father. Which leaves us with a Hammer Dracula that's not bad at all, it's just ordinary and not all it can be, where they shoehorned Dracula into what is in truth a serial killer like revenge picture. 6/10
Criminal Law (1988)
Boston based neo-noir fails to ignite.
Criminal Law is directed by Martin Campbell and written by Mark Kasdan. It stars Gary Oldman, Kevin Bacon, Tess Harper, Karen Young and Joe Don Baker. Music is by Jerry Goldsmith and cinematography by Philip Meheux.
Boston attorney Ben Chase (Oldman) successfully defends Martin Thiel (Bacon) who is on trial for a sexually aggravated murder. But not long after Chase comes to realise Thiel's guilt and sets about correcting the wrong he helped orchestrate.
If you have never seen a legal thriller before, or a serial killer based neo-noir for that matter, then Criminal Law might just poke its head above average waters. Unfortunately the well is quite full of such filmic exercises, and much better they are too!
It's all so formulaic, where the potent promise of character disintegration into a hellish noir infused world is never fully realised. Instead we get characters whose actions are at times baffling, others who are under used or pointless scene fillers, and a screenplay cracking under the strain of a near two hour run time. Add in some poor accents for the setting, one of Goldsmith's worst scores and a damp squib finale, well you are struggling continually to get on board with it all. There's a high energy sex scene where the makers are clearly showing what their intentions were, in how stuck in a web of turmoil Chase is, but it just proves how muddled and rickety the narrative is.
Positives come in the form of the visual look of the piece, Meheux (GoldenEye/Casino Royale) showing some nice stylish touches, most notably a dark underground set of scenes where slatted shadows operate as the noir staple of a character psychologically imprisoned, but these moments are fleeting and the story begs for more. Elsewhere, the killer's motives are at least interesting, adding in a controversial moral poser, and Elizabeth Shepherd as Thiel's mother is superbly cold and detached (pic needed more of her). But ultimately it's a disappointing film and not recommended as a must see. 5/10
His name is Hammer and they call him Hammer, and he's just as subtle!
Riffraff (AKA: erm, Riff-Raff) is directed by Ted Tetzlaff and written by Martin Rackin. It stars Pat O'Brien, Anne Jeffreys, Walter Slezak and Percy Kilbride. Music is by Roy Webb and cinematography by George Diskant.
Something of a little cracker is this one, a pic for those with a discernible palate of Private Investigator based film noir. Don't be misled into believing others when they write that it's minor noir, or borderline of such, it quite simply is a noir pic from what was a stellar year for that film making style.
Story is based in Panama and finds P.I. Dan Hammer (O'Brien) involved in the search for a map that shows priceless oil concessions. Sure enough there's others who desperately want the map, so in comes murder, beatings and a sultry babe.
Pic opens with the shot of a reptile at nighttime, sitting on a rock in the pouring rain, it probably would have been better to use a snake in the shot, but it certainly is a most appealing and appropriate film opening. From there the piece is a veritable feast of super photography and punchy dialogue. OK, so the plot story is standard fare, but the makers never let it drag things down, there's always a quip or a punch thrown to keep things perky.
Tetzlaff was himself a fine cinematographer (see the previous year's Notorious), and here armed with Diskant (They Live By Night/On Dangerous Ground/The Narrow Margin) in his corner the director makes hay. The plot set-up sequences in an aeroplane are moody visual supreme, and often when a scene calls for it - such as when Hammer is getting tortured in his office by Sleazak and his thugs - the noir style comes to the fore. There's wooden slats everywhere in this, wonderful!
Initially one can be forgiven for being sceptical at a portly 48 year old O'Brien playing a tough P.I., but he pulls it off, sharp of tongue and he throws a good punch does Pat. Jeffreys (Dillinger) slinks in for some initial sultry suspicion, and does well, even getting involved in the key fight scene, Kilbride is wonderfully wry as Hammer's unofficial aide, and Sleazak does what he does best, Weasle time!
Capping it off is the MacGuffin map, whose whereabouts at reveal is cheeky and something Hitch would have been proud of. Riffraff is a winner and well worth seeking out. 7/10
Sucker Punch (2011)
Snyder pushing buttons for polarising results.
Off the bat I have to say I'm over thirty years older than what some pro critics have claimed is the demographic for this one. Sucker Punch, as reviews etc attest, is not for everyone, it has been called any number of things in derogative fashion, which since I enjoyed the film a lot means I'm a misogynist fetishist gamer, which to the best of my knowledge is not true. Lest I'm in the closet and now in middle age about to unleash traits and feelings previously untapped. Which if the latter is true you would have to say well done Zack Snyder, for that's serious film making...
Sucker Punch is loud, full of visual orgasms, musically adroit, exciting, clever and very sexy. Snyder has made no secret of his fetish leanings when making this piece, but it hardy constitutes a dark seedy mind at work. It can easily be argued that the film is very much pro women, the story itself - in amongst the explosive thunder of the fantastical action - is tender and beautiful, complete with emotional kickers. Perhaps it's in the eye of the beholder? But I see a strong female led action movie, with shifting fantasy realms, and cunningly it calls for deeper ponder come the finale.
Love it or hate it, Snyder has pushed buttons with this exercise. Better that than another cash cow sequel or another remake, re- imaging or rebirth. 7/10
Robbers' Roost (1955)
Robbers' Roost is directed by Sidney Salkow and Salkow co-adapts the screenplay from a Zane Grey story with John O'Dea and Maurice Geraghty. It stars George Montgomery, Richard Boone, Sylvia Findley, Peter Graves, Tony Romano, Warren Stevens and Leo Gordon. Music is by Paul Dunlap and cinematography by Jack Draper.
As a huge Western fan it's disappointing to find such a damn fine cast operating in such a mundane Oater. It's not bad by any stretch of the imagination, it's just so ordinary and sits with a host of other 1950s genre pieces that fail to ignite and add something interesting to a standard tale.
Here we have two rival gangs of cowpokes working for one man, the reason for hiring both sets of rivals is tenuous at best. Anyhoo, the two mobs must try and get along enough to get the job done, only a couple of the main players have hidden agendas. While of course right in the middle is a tough gal, creating untold amounts of sexual tension.
The story unfolds in steady sedate fashion, the odd moments of action perking the pace occasionally, with plenty of macho posturing on show, while the ever lingering cloud of intrigue keeps the interest ticking by. Once the agendas are revealed the pic kicks into a higher gear, which builds tidily to the expected finale of few surprises.
The location photography is most pleasant (Durango, Mexico) and the colour lenses are also easy on the eye. But it's ultimately a waste of good casting and a potent premise, leaving us with an average Oater that's more a gap filler than a must see for genre fans. 5/10
Rogue Cop (1954)
Little men begging for a break.
Rogue Cop is directed by Roy Rowland and adapted to screenplay by Sydney Boehm from the novel written by William P. McGivern. It stars Robert Taylor, Janet Leigh, George Raft, Steve Forrest and Anne Francis. Music is by Jeff Alexander and cinematography by John F. Seitz.
Christopher Kelvaney (Taylor) is a cop on the take from the mob that's fronted by Dan Beaumont (Raft). When his brother and fellow cop, Eddie (Forrest), is requested to withdraw testimony about a crook covered by Beaumont, Chris is compromised and danger lurks for all involved.
A face wrinkled like Venetian blinds.
Out of MGM, Rogue Cop is a better than average venture into film noir territories. Characters are standard fare for such plottings, but the moral quagmire at Kelvaney's core lifts things considerably. Helps also that Kelvaney is a cop with a quip, the script affording the character some hard boiled edges. With Seitz on photography duties, Rowland is able to fill out the pic with usual noir trappings, where shadows and dim lights exude a doom ambiance.
Scenes are staged in noir funky locations such as a penny arcade (scene of the vicious crime that kicks everything off), a race track and of course shimmering streets, the latter of which plays host to the gun laden finale. Colourful characters such as Francis' (excellent) lush moll and Olive Carey's wise old news stand operator (info for sale) add some side-bar female essence to the moody tale. The ending could have been bolder as per outcome, but it sits OK, and since the story has its share of emotional wallops for some of the players, it ultimately ends up as a comfortable recommendation to noir fans. 7/10
Never leave town!
Tricky. For anyone familiar with the very real instance about the spate of suicides that has blighted the Welsh county of Bridgend, then this film is likely to be a mixed viewing experience. For sure during the film one can't help but keep thinking about the real events, the theories and facts of such, so it's a little distracting because Jeppe Rønde's film demands the utmost attention throughout.
It should be noted with all seriousness that this is only a meditation on the real events, it's not offering up answers, so people should seek out all official text and documentary of the events for the real picture. The film operates in the haunting space of the ethereal, both narratively and visually, with the youngsters at the story's core firmly caught between two worlds. The behaviour of the youths here will cause consternation in some quarters, their recklessness and daring on the surface not making sense, but really that's the point. Sense doesn't operate, not here or in the real world.
There's a number of striking sequences that show Jeppe Rønde as someone who has something to offer the indie art cinema circle. Such as the naked youngsters floating silently in the lake that has become their getaway place, and the finale at same lake that is akin to lambs paddling to their slaughter. Of course the director has had to fend off charges of sensationalism, romanticising suicide etc, that was to be expected, but he hasn't. He has produced a film of intrigue and emotional depth, one that stays with you long after that haunting final shot has vanished. 7/10
Double Indemnity (1944)
A banner movie from film noir's classic era.
Double Indemnity is directed by Billy Wilder and Wilder co-adapts the screenplay with Raymond Chandler from the novella written by James M. Cain. It stars Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson. Music is by Miklos Rozsa and cinematography by John F. Seitz.
For a film lover such as myself it feels redundant writing a review for Double Indemnity, because quite simply there's nothing to say that hasn't been said already. The esteem it is held in is justified, it's a razor sharp noir across the board and can be put up as one of the classic noir era pictures that got lovers of the form interested in the first place.
Based around the infamous Snyder/Gray case of 1927, Wilder and Chandler fill the story with a sinister cynicism that is palpable in the extreme. With a script positively pumped with hard boiled dialogue, a simple case of murder becomes so much more, a labyrinth of devious cunning and foolishness, with a trio of top performances crowning this topper.
Technically via aural and visual work the story gains extra spice. Rosza provides a score that frays the nerves, imbuing the sense of doom and edginess required for plotting. Seitz excels, the photography a trademark for noir, heavy shadows, abrupt camera angles and menacing shards of light come to the fore.
And to top it all off, it gets away with so much, a real censorship baiter. The story takes a journey to the dark side of morality, and the makers, bless them for they know what they do, gleefully tease the production code to give film noir fans a reason to rejoice.
Quintessential stuff. 10/10