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Track of the Moon Beast (1976)
Chase the body !
Chase Cordell and his muscular physique star in this monster on the rampage movie. You'll see Chase posing shirtless, ripping his shirt off and putting his shirt on. Chase in little white shorts and Chase in a very nifty pair of polka dot pyjamas. Occasionally he gets into a lizard outfit to terrorise all and sundry. The only possible reason for watching this effort is to let your gaze linger over his toned body but depending on your proclivities you may prefer to cast your eyes over the long legs of Leigh Drake. Those are the high spots folks! If you want good acting, a decent script, terrific special effects or anything else you'll have to look elsewhere!
The Story of Shirley Yorke (1948)
Dinah and Derek in delirious drama
Upper crust Dinah Sheridan is naive enough to believe that raffish Derek Farr loves her for herself and not for Daddy's money, but behind her back the bounder is playing the field. When he gets shipped off to the colonies to fight he promises to write but Daddy has the dashed bad luck to die on a fox-hunt and it turns out the old boy was heavily in debt. With no further word from Derek and the mansion sold off to pay the debts what's a poor gel to do but tramp the streets of London looking for a job? After falling in front of some traffic she is deposited in a Lyons corner house by a good old London Bobby where she meets formidable Matron Margaretta Scott who dispenses tea and sympathy and a job at the local hospital. All goes swimmingly for Dinah until she travels to help our boys abroad and bumps into that bounder again, after that it's all downhill until she meets John Robinson (doing his best Noel Coward impersonation) and realises she is in love with him during a game of 'Perfect Pussy' (I'm not making this up). He is working on a miracle drug and gets his chance to try it out on wealthy invalid Beatrix Thomson who although bed bound has been working overtime on the hair and makeup to keep up appearances. Desperately ill Beatrix needs a live in nurse so Dinah moves in to give her the requisite shots much to the chagrin of Mrs Danvers look-alike Barbara Couper. Barbara gives Dinah the evil eye but casts far too friendly an eye over her cousin Beatrix however soon all eyes are on Derek who turns out to be the newly wedded husband of old moneybags Beatrix. Barbara cottons on to the fact that there is more to Dinah and Derek than meets her evil eye and concocts a cunning plan to reveal the truth to bewildered Beatrix. Beatrix has an uncanny ability of being able to impersonate the voice of others at will (both men & women) in fact they are so good you could be forgiven for thinking that the voices are dubbed in. Beatrix puts her talents to good use by phoning Derek and pretending to be Dinah and dastardly Derek is rumbled. Beatrix collapses into a heap with shock and is swiftly finished off with a lethal injection but administered by who? At the coroners court the culprit is revealed and makes a dash for it but no-one gets past policeman Arthur Mullard and the murderer makes a hysterical confession in the dramatic finale.
Well you won't see the likes of this melodrama again stuffed as it is with unlikely coincidences and improbable impersonations. It is also stuffed full of long forgotten stage actors who turn the whole farrago into compulsive entertainment. You simply have to see it!
Horrors of the Black Museum (1959)
You can only visit the real 'Black Museum' (now based at New Scotland Yard) by invitation so you may have to make do with visiting this version of the 'Black Museum' put together by crime writer Edmond Bancroft (played by Michael Gough) which is a third rate approximation of the real thing. You would certainly get more of a thrill by visiting 'The Chamber Of Horrors' at Madame Tussauds which at least has more authentic looking waxworks than the pathetic efforts displayed here. The museum also seems to double as a laboratory with banks of electronic machines (all flashing lights, dials and levers) whose purpose is never really made clear but comes in handy for electrocuting an interfering busybody. So you may think viewing this film would be a complete waste of your time but it's not quite like that. For starters this film contains the most gruesome and bizarre murders shown on the screen up to that time and even now they have quite an impact. People still talk about the binoculars with the deadly spikes which kill by piercing the eyes and brain - although I'm not sure how the victim would have removed them once they were embedded into her eye sockets. Then there is murder by an improvised guillotine - although it does seem strange that the victim didn't notice a maniac with a huge blade standing at the head of her bed before she got into it. An old lady is murdered by ice tongs (!) and a man who is lowered into a vat of acid is retrieved as a (fully articulated!) skeleton. The special effects are distinctly lacking and compared to the excesses of today you actually see very little but the murders still achieve an immense shock value. The acting is variable but the performances bring lots of incidental pleasures. Michael Gough is madly intense as the owner of the museum, June Cunningham as the 'sexy' blonde performs a 'torrid' dance at the local pub, for the benefit of no-one in particular, before losing her head and Beatrice Varley entertains us nicely as the wizened and canny antique shop owner. Blink and you'll miss lovely old timer Hilda Barry with just a few lines as 'the woman in the hall'. The climax takes place at a funfair (probably the long gone Battersea Park) with a double death at the Big Wheel, witnessed by all and sundry, but the police establish what's what and who's who in a couple of minutes, the ride reopens immediately and the crowds disperse to carry on enjoying themselves as though nothing has happened. It's British, it's bizarre and there's been nothing quite like it before or since.
Cross Creek (1983)
Drifting along at Cross Creek
This movie is rather a long haul as it lacks any narrative drive, there are no real dramatic highs and lows, it just tends to drift along at a far too leisurely pace. The performance are uniformly good but the script is often crass and, as the Director is striving for a natural feel, the actors often battle to make themselves heard against the elements and the sounds of wildlife. The biggest impression is made by Alfre Woodard who was Oscar nominated, counting towards four nominations for this film in total, which was a remarkable achievement. There is a good story to be told here and it is well photographed and nice to look at so if you're in a really laid-back mood you may well enjoy it.
Ziegfeld Girl (1941)
You stepped INTO a dream!
When you hear Tony Martin sing 'You Stepped Out Of A Dream', introducing one of the most spectacular musical numbers of all time, you'll know you have stepped into the MGM dream factory. This is where an elevator girl with no talent can become a Ziegfeld showgirl simply because she is beautiful and who was more beautiful than Lana Turner in 1941? She never was the world's greatest actress but I defy anyone not to have a lump in their throat when, fired from the Follies and desperately ill, she takes one final walk down the grand staircase of the theatre. You want more? Then take a look at sensational but unhappy Hedy Lamarr unable to resist the temptations of handsome suitor Tony Martin despite really loving her husband Phillip Dorn. Fabulous Judy Garland, fizzing with energy and bursting with talent, performing the stunning Busby Berkely number 'Minnie From Trinidad'. See if you can spot the point where she is replaced with a mannequin for the risky moment she is hoisted aloft on a platform with bamboo poles in this amazing sequence. You'll get plenty of laughs from former silent star Mae Busch as the wardrobe mistress and the incomparable Eve Arden, who actually had appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies, as a showgirl coming to the end of her career. All this and the amazing talents of costume designer Adrian providing us with dozens of truly fantastic gowns to gasp over. However, I do have one major reservation and that is the use of so many clips from 'The Great Ziegfeld' during the finale, with Judy in a ridiculous blonde wig to match up with Virginia Bruce in the long shot. What happened here? I can only presume the film had run way over budget and they had to do a 'cut and paste' job to make a suitably eye-popping climax. Great if you had not seen 'The Great Ziegfeld' of course but truly disappointing if you had and I should imagine most 1941 audiences had done. Anyway, if at any time you get depressed with the crudity and ugliness that the modern world throws at us constantly, immerse yourself in this big, camp, glamorous extravaganza and I guarantee you'll feel better for a couple of hours at least!
This is a wonderful mixture of documentary, drama and vintage material, skilfully inter-weaved to tell us the story of AMG studios. It is fascinating to see these physique films recreated before your very eyes and then masterfully inter-cut with the actual vintage material. It is also sad to see the men who appeared in these movies, at the very peak of their physical beauty, interviewed so many years later when it has all but gone. However, their personalities still shine through and all those interviewed remember their experience in this genre fondly. Technically superb, my one and only reservation about this film is that the actors portraying the models are only vague approximations of the real thing. However, Josh Peace gives a thoroughly charming and charismatic performance as Neil E. O'Hara and Jonathan Torrens is excellent as the mightily naughty David. It would be really nice to have a boxed DVD set of these original films, carefully selected, remastered and presented chronologically. They capture a particular moment in time, far removed from the excesses of today, but still carry a hefty erotic charge.
This is a fabulously unique film and I guarantee you have never seen anything like it. It's virtually a live action cartoon which proceeds at breakneck speed and is hilarious to watch. It's one of the most 'cinematic' films you will ever see and every scene uses colour, imaginative camera work and scenic design to optimum effect. The only downsides are the casting of Reed Birney in the lead when the part really calls for someone with more charisma. The sense of period becomes very fuzzy and the music score is a little too overpowering and becomes quite wearing after a while. But don't let anything put you off seeing this film if you get the chance because there is so much to enjoy. You will gasp at the sheer inventiveness of it all and Bruce Campbell fans will lap up his appearance here which he plays to absolute perfection.
Dead of Night (1974)
The grief of love ...
Despite many shortcomings this film remains one of the most effective zombie films ever made. A mother who can't let go of her son even though he is dead gives us the most powerful reason to believe in his 'ressurection'. This leads to torment and torture for the whole family including the 'dead' son who only wants to rest in peace. Technically it could have been better of course and the acting is overwrought in most cases. The exception being Richard Backus who gives a stunning performance as the unfortunate son and plays the part with amazing intensity. The final few minutes are the most tragic and bone-chilling in horror film history and will stay with you long after the credits roll.
What is the truth behind alien abductions?
This is an extraordinary film which portrays the intense experience that victims of 'alien abduction' go through. This is a well documented phenomenon and the descriptions from people who believe they have undergone them have much in common. The subject was even researched by a professor at Harvard, the late Dr. John E. Mack, which ended up putting his career on the line. Dr Mack believed he was near to the truth about what was happening and this film may also be a step in the right direction towards a definitive explanation. Christopher Walken is superb in the role of Whitley Streiber, a rather wacky and annoying New York writer, who encounters alien beings at his country house. The first sight he has of the creature in his bedroom is one of the most intensely frightening scenes ever filmed and is the beginning of the real life nightmare Strieber and his family are then plunged into. Their further experiences are in turn scary, comic and disturbing and the film offers no easy answers as to exactly what this all means. There is however a lot of food for thought and anyone with the slightest interest in the subject of alien abductions should watch it.
Carnival of Blood (1970)
This threadbare, bottom of the barrel effort will certainly hold you in suspense as you wonder to yourself '"Will it ever end? Will it ever, ever end?" The opening credits are the most bizarre you may ever see and they are inter-cut with the movies incredibly irritating theme song. The setting is Coney Island and the film uses this location for the bulk of the filming. There are many scenes of the real life carnival customers gawking at the camera from a few feet away and some also appear to have been roped in as extras where crowd scenes are needed. There are a few indoor scenes filmed in the dingiest and grimiest sets imaginable. The murder scenes are interesting as the gore is laid on thickly, in the style of Herschell Gordon Lewis movies, but using an even more minuscule budget. There are endless scenes of ad-libbed dialogue complete with microphones in plain view and also scenes using dubbed in dialogue which bear no relation to what's happening on screen. There are looped sounds of background carnival noise which are repeated endlessly and will have you wishing you were hard of hearing in no time. The 'acting' is appalling throughout with the sole exception of Gloria Spivak who would appear to be an entertaining character in real life. The film often looks as though it is about to veer off into porno territory which is no surprise when you look up the Directors former and subsequent credits.
Box of Moonlight (1996)
Moonlight and magic!
This is a simply superb movie, made with great craftsmanship, that repays repeated viewings. Al Fountain (John Turturro) a disciplined, dedicated man is approaching a mid life crisis when, through a twist of fate, he meets wild and free spirited Kid (Sam Rockwell) and begins a journey of self discovery. Spending several days together with the unconventional Kid, Al will finally discover and experience all the feelings and emotions he had denied himself. Turturro and Rockwell are absolute perfection in their respective roles and a complete joy to watch. The cinematography is superb and the music score fabulous yet never overpowering. The great accomplishment of this film is that it captures something elusive about being human, something intangible, just like the 'moonlight' in the box given to Al by the Kid on their parting.
Body Double (1984)
This Hitchcock style thriller plays like a delirious mix of 'Vertigo' and 'Rear Window', full of plot twists and turns that will keep you intrigued. Sometimes logic and believability fly out of the window but that doesn't spoil the film as a whole. In this film nothing is what it seems and that becomes obvious right after the opening credits. Craig Wasson is a very likable leading man but never achieved the star status he seemed headed for and Melanie Griffith is very amusing as a hardcore sex film actress. There is also a very catchy and atmospheric musical score which helps the film along immensely. A thoroughly entertaining, although at times rather sleazy, dream-like mystery/thriller.
Blast from the Past (1999)
Brendan is a blast!
This is a superbly funny and original comedy, very well made and thoroughly entertaining. Christopher Walken brings his kooky and strange presence to the role of the father whilst Sissy Spacek descends dizzily into an alcoholic haze - but after living in an underground fallout shelter for most of her life who could blame her?. Brendan Fraser has been brought up with a 60's lifestyle for 35 years and suddenly finds himself in the virtually alien civilisation of the late 90's. The script is very well written and brings many laugh out loud moments. The use of colour in the production design is exceptional, the music evocative but never overwhelming. Above all Brendan Fraser is an absolute delight and joy to watch, making the very most of the comic potential in his role.
Blood for Dracula (1974)
Brilliant - but can you take it?
This film opens with a close up of Udo Keir, possessor one of the most beautiful male faces of the era, applying makeup in front of a mirror. The camera then reveals that being Count Dracula, like all vampires, he has no reflection! thus the humorous tone is set for the rest of the film. The dialogue is wild and delicious, helped along by hugely overstated accents of all kinds and exaggerated overacting and in many cases - no acting at all. The film is stunningly photographed and is often beautiful to look at when you can, but you may find it difficult to watch Dracula regurgitate gallons of impure (i.e. non-virgin) blood or watch him lick pure virgin blood from the floor. Much more easy on the eye is the sight of a naked Joe Dallesandro, the camera drinks it's fill of this guy and many close-ups of his amazing face fill the screen. There is also an excellent cameo from Roman Polanski who challenges Count Dracula to an amusing game in a bar. The climax is blood soaked and bizarre and like the whole movie, way over the top. A hugely entertaining film providing you have the stomach for it!
The Black Cat (1934)
Karloff and Lugosi battle - against the music!
During the opening credits we see Karloff only from behind, his first appearance is only in shadow and when we finally see him one can only marvel at his unique and strange appearance. Unfortunately his image is on the artwork for the DVD and Video releases and this detracts from the initial impact it must have had on audiences. Lugosi appears normal but when he speaks there is madness in his eyes. David Manners and Jaqueline Wells are the normal couple caught up in events and find themselves in Karloffs amazing futuristic house which has dark secrets in the basement. The Black Cat really has very little to do with the story but adds to the sinister overtones. The film is gruesome without being explicit and has some wonderful dialogue, expertly delivered by the two masters of horror. The only negative point is the overuse of the classical music which runs in the background virtually throughout the entire movie. Not only is it often used inappropriately but at times it threatens to drown out the actors!
Ride from this valley!
This movie will stretch your patience to breaking point in no time. The constant droning of the on screen 'comedy' narrator, the repeated shots of bouncing breasts and grinding crotches, the hysterical orgasmic screaming of the female leads will have you exhausted with it all after ten minutes. If the tedium doesn't get you then the unceasing loud and overwrought music score will guarantee a headache. Russ Meyer's early movies were much more enjoyable than this last effort where he goes all out to be as 'shocking' and explicit as possible. The women are as amazing as usual (in a an exaggerated cartoon kind of way) for a Russ Meyer movie but if only everyone could have calmed down just a little then it may have been watchable. As it is, watching it just becomes a horrendous, never-ending, shrieking nightmare.
6 donne per l'assassino (1964)
Visually beautiful but brutal thriller
Visually, this may be one of the most stunning films you will ever see. The photography, framing, lighting and use of colour is unequalled in this genre of film making from this era. The fluidity of the camera-work is remarkable and repays repeated viewings to appreciate it fully. The only thing that may make this difficult going for some is the English dubbing so see it with subtitles if you can. The acting is not great and in some places will bring about laughter where it was not intended ditto the actions of some of the victims. The murders are gruesome and graphic even in the cut version of this film and must have been truly shocking to audiences in 1964. The excellent music score fits perfectly with the fashion house setting of the story and the models are beautiful.
More bonkers than berserk!
It's very sad to see Joan Crawford reduced to appearing in this cheaply made and poorly written opus but she behaves like a STAR all the way through. Who else would have looked so good in a leotard at 62 years old? The film is set in a travelling circus (in reality the UK's Billy Smarts Circus, one of the best and biggest of its day)and much of the running time is taken up with showing the acts. As most UK circus acts are now animal free it's an interesting history lesson to see how these acts were actually presented. It's quite a breathtaking sight to watch a huge elephant step over half a dozen women prostrate on the floor and rather sad to see the lion tamer putting half a dozen snarling, growling beasts through their paces. Just look at Joans expression as she helps lead out the performing poodles though, she's loving every minute of it! We know that she had pet poodles of her own and she is really in her element here. The plot (what there is of it) doesn't bear too much scrutiny and the revelation of the killer and the motive are quite ridiculous. Also on the minus side of things are some poor performances - George Claydon in particular and a cringe-making musical comedy number which appears out of nowhere. There is also a hugely embarrassing scene with Crawford looking like an ancient ghost, wearing shoulder length hair and a neck high negligee, being romanced in her trailer by hunky Ty Hardin - she was 62 and he 37! On the plus side there are some great character actors appearing including the fabulous Diana Dors, Michael Gough, Ambrosine Phillpotts and Robert Hardy but only Diana Dors gives Crawford a run for her money. Overall this is still a fun film for Crawford fans but if you're going to watch it don't watch the trailer first as it shows every killing and even the death of the (supposed) murderer!
The Bedroom Window (1987)
Don't take it too seriously - just enjoy!
This thriller would have made a great Hitchcock movie. As it stands, it's not too bad but it could have been so much better. However, any film that can engage the attention for nearly two hours must have something going for it and this does have an intriguing story line. It also has the advantage of a good cast, Steve Guttenberg is his usual affable self doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, Elizabeth McGovern brings a wonderful hard edge to her performance and Isabelle Huppert is beautiful but nasty. Brad Greenquist manages to imbue his role with a sinister quality without saying barely a word. The plot doesn't really hold up unfortunately and there are plenty of scenes that stretch credulity just too far. However if you are prepared to accept the film on just a surface level you will find yourself nicely entertained.
Every Day's a Holiday (1937)
Sensational Mae in so-so film.
This Mae West film starts out in the tradition of her earlier movies, with the big buildup for her character and portraying New York life at the turn of the century. The politically motivated plot is boring beyond belief but we do get enough one liners from Mae to keep a smile on our faces throughout. Mae is noticeably slimmer in this film and wears some amazing and incredible costumes. Look especially for her first stage appearance as 'Mademoiselle Fifi' and watch her cape be lifted from her shoulders to become a vast curtained backdrop to the set, revealing another sensational costume beneath. Hoisted into the air at the finale surrounded by hordes of men she is truly in her element and looks fantastic. Her 'Fifi' disguise of black wig and bizarre extended eyelashes gives her quite a different look to the Mae West we are accustomed to. Unlike her earlier films, there's not a single handsome man in the film for Mae to get any chemistry going with and no female characters with more than a word or two. If you're a Mae West fan it's worth sitting through the dire 'comic' scenes with Charles Winninger and Charles Butterworth to admire her stunning projection of camp glamour.
The Great Lie (1941)
Bette outshone for once!
This really is a load of old tosh story wise, a ridiculous soap opera with not a scrap of believability anywhere in it. It starts off appearing to be a light comedy and then veers into a ridiculous melodrama. The racist treatment of the black characters in the film is also very hard to take in this day and age: the black servants come running with cries of 'Yes Massa' as soon as the white folks call. The only enjoyment to be got out of this effort are the scenes of rivalry between Bette Davis and Mary Astor. In these scenes the dialogue crackles with a tension not found elsewhere and Astor looks and sounds sensational. Bette's acting is however not believable and her scenes of grief, when believing her husband lost, are most unconvincing. George Brent is his usual colourless and bland self and the lovely Hattie McDaniel plays her usual stereotyped role. At 1hr 47mins this is a long haul but is worth watching for the stunning performance by Mary Astor.
Deep Throat (1972)
If you'd like to send your mind on a journey through a sewer then watch this film. It's surely the ugliest and least erotic sex film ever made. Why it became the most famous sex film of all time is quite beyond me, there were much more competent films of the genre being made around this period. The script is stupid, the photography appalling, the acting atrocious and the sex appeal of Linda Lovelace and her 'speciality' is zilch. This film is so grubby you may feel the need to take a shower after watching it. There are only two very minor plus points: the likable personality of Harry Reems and the catchy music score. But I wouldn't recommend watching it, it's really not worth soiling your mind for.
Certainly not 'sunny'!
The sight of Anna Neagle playing young and 'cute' whilst in her mid thirties is not very appealing. The only real reason for sitting through acres of boredom is to see the wonderful Ray Bolger and his amazing elastic legs in a couple of great dance routines. John Carroll is a slightly chubby and bland leading man. The musical numbers are expensively mounted but are not presented well enough to hold the interest. The movie needed a less stodgy director than Herbert Wilcox, a younger leading lady and should have been filmed in colour for maximum impact. The previous version of 'Sunny' was no masterpiece and this remake is no improvement. It must have played better on the stage and obviously doesn't lend itself to being filmed.
Swing Hostess (1944)
Threadbare effort fails to swing
This opus glaringly displays the lack of talent that 'poverty row' studios had to contend with compared to the major players. You won't find much here in the way of decent Set design, make-up, clever editing or good photography. Martha Tilton has a nice voice but doesn't project any personality, although this may be the fault of the poor direction. The only performance really worth watching is that of the gorgeous Iris Adrian and even she is just a little too strident in the role. Earle Bruce brings some macho charisma to his role but incredibly this appears to be the only film he ever made. Although it's not a total write-off it certainly makes you realise that a major studio could have brought so many incidental extras to the filming that they could turn even the flimsiest material into something worth watching.
Murder at the Vanities (1934)
It's murder for sure!!
Despite the lavish production numbers and wonderful costumes this film is a chore to watch. The murder-mystery plot is just a vehicle to mount the musical numbers on but it often brings the proceedings to a staggering halt besides not being very involving. Although there has obviously been a lot of money spent on them the numbers are badly staged and poorly photographed. It's obviously a pre-code film because the girls often wear very little clothing and there's even a song singing the praises of marijuana! The performances are all one-note although it's nice to see Carl Brisson in a musical but when Victor McLaglen, as the police Lieutenent, lurches into view for the umpteenth time on the hunt for clues, you may want to throw in the towel or at least fast-forward to the next number. Pity the patrons who were trapped in the cinema on its release though!