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The Unamazing Spiderhole
An implausible yet intriguing set up is fatally undermined by a terrible script and plot holes you could drive a stolen VW van through.
Because the actors have no decent lines they all resort to shouting and gurning, which the director allows them to do. Presumably because he was trying to deflect attention away from the absurd plot developments which spoil what could have been a decent British attempt at the torture porn genre.
If that's what floats your boat then you might still get something out of it. Personally, I prefer my horror to be frightening as opposed to merely repellent.
The Killings at Outpost Zeta (1980)
Not brilliant but not trash
If you can get past the bargain basement costumes and sets, there's the germ of an interesting story here. The premise - an elite team heads to a remote planet to investigate a series of deaths - is a good one; so much so in fact that you wonder why more sci-fi films haven't used it. Admittedly the plot does then develop along predictable lines but some thought at least was given to dreaming up an unusual monster and there's perhaps more science than you'd expect from such a cheapo production. The alien landscape is pretty good too and shows what can be achieved with a red filter, a smoke machine and a bit of imagination.
On the downside, the aforementioned sets and costumes are pretty laughable: everything is red or white, or red and white. Some of the acting is pretty shocking too, although it must be said they don't have much to work with. The last half hour drags pretty badly, after a sprightly opening.
So, in summary, certainly no classic but not a total waste of time either.
The Way (2010)
Simple but engaging road movie
Like most road movies, this is as much about the characters' inward journey as it is about getting from A to B. At times it is too sentimental for my taste and some of the encounters seem rather artificial. But it has considerable warmth, humanity and good humour.
I saw this at the BFI in London at a screening attended by Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen. They are very proud of their film and it obviously means a lot to them, as father and son. They came across as intelligent and socially aware people, which was great to see.
During the discussion, a member of the audience pointed out the parallels with "The Wizard of Oz", something which I confess escaped me while the film was on but seemed perfectly obvious when I heard it. So watch out for that if you see the movie, and also look out for a cameo by Matt Clark, veteran character actor and, apparently, good friend of MArtin Sheen.
The worst film of 2010
I don't know why I do it to myself, I really don't. This is unquestionably the worst film I've seen this, or possibly any, year.
The acting is appalling, the dialogue is worse (see 'memorable quotes' for some examples I have added), the direction is amateurish (the opening scene between Danny Dyer and his Mum is so badly framed that half her face is missing) and the sets are worse than Dr Who c. 1989. It really has to be seen to be believed - but don't. Take my word for it.
It kind of sums the film up that they spell the leading lady's name incorrectly in the trailer.
Una sull'altra (1969)
Fulci's best-ever 'pensioners in titty bar' movie
Pretty decent stab at an erotic thriller from the Goremeister General. It's all the things you would want: stylish, sexy, and gripping. It's also crisply shot and has an excellent Riz Ortolani score. Again, the dubbing is pretty ropey but if, by this point, you're seeking out some of Fulci's lesser-known works then it's safe to assume you've made your peace with this constant problem.
Marissa Mell is great as the femme fatale and Elsa Martinelli is cool and chic as the devoted mistress who, despite herself, can't stop believing in her man. In fact, the female performances are much stronger than the men, probably because Jean Sorel doesn't have much to do except wander around with his shirt off, looking bewildered.
Great photography of San Francisco, looking as good - if not better - than in BULLITT. There's also a fine cameo from Jean Sobieski, for connoisseurs of louche photographers in movies.
The only real problem is that the film isn't quite gripping enough. The premise is set up well in the first half hour or so, and the suspense and mystery sustained during the kinky interludes in the middle, but all is revealed through a clumsy expository scene with about 20 minutes remaining and after that it runs out of steam.
Well worth a look though.
Confucius say "Meh"
There's nothing really wrong with this movie that isn't wrong with most spaghetti westerns; that is to say, most spaghetti westerns that weren't made by the giants of the genre. It has the requisite brooding hero, the sadistic villain, the grotesque supporting characters, atrocious dubbed performances and inventive violence in all the rights places.
And that is really what the main problem is with this film: it's entirely by-the-numbers film-making. Now, depending on your view of Lucio Fulci he is either the grand old man of Italian exploitation cinema or a cynical old hack who jumped on whatever bandwagon happened to be rolling by at the time. In my opinion, there is too little originality and invention in his films to take anything other than the latter view.
He was wasn't without talent: there are a number of individual shots in Massacre Time that have great quality. For example, there is a shot of a deserted, early-morning Laramie City, just before Tom and Jeff ride through en route to Scott's ranch, that has a beautiful but eerie quality. But moments such as that are few and far between. They are swamped by lazy scenes and plotting.
For instance, Tom is beaten and humiliated by Junior who handles his whip as if it is an extension of his hand, so skillful that he can whip a wineskin out of someone's hand and transfer it to his own - while on horseback. And yet, when the final confrontation takes place he acts as if he has never been in a fight before and prefers to use his gun rather than his whip.
There are plot holes all over the place too. Why, if he is such a skilled gunman, is Jeff an alcoholic bum? He is able to kill six men with his rifle on horseback before they even manage to get a shot off. Surely he could have handled the problems in Laramie better and more quickly than his seemingly less talented 'brother'? Anyway, no-one watches a spaghetti western for the water-tight plotting and coherent storyline. Which is probably why so many of them are sub-standard. But this one is always watchable, even though it has many flaws. The theme song is quite good too.
The Silver Chalice (1954)
Better than Newman thinks ...
Okay, it's not great but it's no worse than numerous other Biblical epics - so I'm puzzled as to why Newman was so scornful of it. Maybe he was just dissatisfied with his performance; as well he might be because he is pretty wooden.
If you can get past the jarring American accents delivering some, at times, solemnly stilted dialogue there is much to enjoy. For starters, Palance is terrific as Simon Magus - by turns cynical, insolent, proud and ultimately messianic. Then there are the remarkable sets; in many Biblical epics everything looks ancient, as if cities two thousand years ago never looked modern, clean or impressive. Not here, the sets and structures are often quite mesmerising in their modernity - very unusual for a film of this type and era. There is also fun to be had in spotting the faces in the supporting cast: Joseph Wiseman, Lorne Greene, E. G. Marshall, Michael Pate, plus Sam Peckinpah-alumni Albert Dekker and Strother Martin. Not to mention the beautiful young Natalie Wood.
So give it a try - the widescreen DVD looks great. Why not have a 'Pier Angeli Night' and do a double-bill with SODOM AND GOMORRAH?
The Road (2009)
Faithful adaptation that still offers something new
Just got back from seeing THE ROAD.
I had been very impressed by the novel and was concerned about how it would be adapted. The tone of the novel is almost unremittingly bleak and a 100% faithful adaptation would be very difficult to watch.
I'm happy to report that the film is very good indeed. It solves the problem of being unendurably depressing by concentrating on the emotional impact of the unspecified Armageddon, rather than the day to day fight for food, shelter and so on. So while at times it remains very upsetting it is shot through with hope rather than despair. I always felt the end of the novel was somewhat out of kilter with the rest of it but in the film it seems quite appropriate.
I think the film is more about the collapse of civility rather than civilization: for a film that shows the last remnants of mankind struggling to eke out an existence it is remarkably concerned with relationships. That's probably why the exact cause of the catastrophe is left blank: the film isn't really about the end of the world so much as the end of society. It's an interesting companion piece to NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN in which an ageing man sees nothing but horror in the modern world. In THE ROAD a man convinces himself, for the sake of his son, that humanity will abide even in the face of appalling conditions.
Dateline Diamonds (1965)
The best diamond-smuggling,'60s Brit music B-picture ever!
You're unlikely to come across this movie unless you're a) a big fan of the Small Faces, b) a connoisseur of British B-pictures, or c) an insomniac. However, should an opportunity to see DATELINE DIAMONDS present itself to you, there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half, such as watching Birmingham City FC.
The plot manages to encompass diamond smuggling, '60s music, international police co-operation, safe-cracking, pirate radio, and the frantic plugging of as many different bands as the running time would permit.
There is the customary fun to be had spotting various British actors and actresses although I, as a David Hemmings fan, was disappointed to discover he wasn't in it (unless it was literally a blink-and-you'll-miss-him appearance). There is also quite a well detailed sequence where the chief bounder breaks into a safe in, where else, Hatton Garden.
Nude... si muore (1968)
One for Margheriti completists only
There are artists (like Argento)and there are hacks (like Bruno Mattei) and inbetween there are pros like Antonio Margheriti. He could turn out quite competent movies which, although lacking in originality, have a certain verve. This one develops more along the lines of an Agatha Christie effort than anything else, eschewing as it does the supernatural elements of the ostensibly similar SUSPIRIA.
I wouldn't bother with the cut version as it has been trimmed of almost all the nudity and violence, which are pretty much what one watches these things for. What remains are the performances: Michael Rennie fans should beware as he is barely in it, but there is a great (dubbed) turn from Lorenza Guerrieri as Jill, a hyper-imaginative pupil.
For Margheriti fans, I would place this among his dreary late-60s efforts - nowhere near the Gothic elegance of DANSE MACABRE or VIRGIN OF NUREMBERG, and neither coming close to the simple joie de vivre of his 80s movies with David Warbeck.