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The Cool Surface (1993)
Tormented writer draws inspiration from the life of the girl-next-door for his next novel. But, as topless Teri Hatcher looks to be giving him the book his publisher has been begging for, the writer falls for her. The kind of film where anger can only be represented by a character punching a table top.
Color of Night (1994)
You won't believe this one
Shrink Bruce Willis (oh yeah) has a bad experience with a client (she throws herself out of his office window) and to get away from it all takes over a friend's (Scott Bakula) Monday evening class. Bakula gets brutally murdered. Soon Willis is having sex with Jane March, effing a lot (though not as much as usual) and avoiding falling cars. An unengaging thriller, despite the nudity and the seemingly endless sparkling glass surfaces. Ruben Blades does his best to spice up the goings-on with an outrageous turn as the wackiest cop in the precinct.
Point of No Return (1993)
Drug-crazed murderer becomes top government hit woman and juggles the love of two men. Filled with loopholes and boasting an unbelievable plot - not least the central love affair between Bridget Fonda and Gabriel Byrne - the film has just enough explosions and is undemanding enough to make a half-decent accompaniment to a few cans of beer.
Carlito's Way (1993)
De Palma back to form
Carlito (Pacino), a legend on the block, tries in vain to go straight and escape with his girlfriend to the West Indies. But treachery and fate make sure his story can only have one end - a fact director De Palma plays well, keeping our attention for almost two-and-a-half hours, although we know Carlito won't be seeing any golden beaches. Showing panache not evident for a while, De Palma is rewarded with a top-notch performance from his star, who dominates the picture despite good support from Penn in particular.
Blue Ice (1992)
Missed opportunity to recreate Harry Palmer films
Straining desperately to recreate the atmosphere of the Harry Palmer films of the 1960s, Blue Ice even includes a surreal but dreadful torture scene. It would have been fine if not for a predictable plot and a script which at times is simply terrible - a police interrogation scene begins with the line: `For the last time, who are you working for?' Plus sides: Sean Young's bottom makes another screen appearance (nudity being about the only memorable aspect she brings to any of her roles) and there's a moderately exciting denouement on the docks.
Best in the action sequences
Director Ron Howard's tendency for overstatement and scenes of sentimental brotherly love aside, this is not a bad film, elevated by De Niro's fire investigator and some good action sequences. Jennifer Jason Leigh battles through despite having to play a ridiculous sex-on-the-fire-truck scene.
Countess Dracula (1971)
Ingrid Pitt is the stuff of dreams - and nightmares
The tale of Countess Bathory who, horrified by her own ageing, discovers taking a bath in a virgin's blood will restore her lost youth and get her noticed by dashing Sandor Eles. Fortunately for the countess, her estate positively heaves with buxom maidens. Director Peter Sasdy may have let the brilliant Ingrid Pitt run a little wilder amongst the drab sets with the roles of Bathory young and old, but her joy at hamming it up helps place this as one of the better later Hammer productions. Nigel Green and Maurice Denham give twitching support.
Il postino (1994)
Lyrical, moving and beautifully photographed gentle comedy in which an exiled Chilean poet inspires his Italian postman to woo and marry a local girl. Massimo Troisi gives a wonderfully contained performance as the postman who learns to see the beauty in poetry and his home on an Italian island. Philippe Noiret plays the poet Pablo Neruda with the usual assuredness. It is difficult not to be moved by the simple beauty of the film.
Scary horror classic
Michele Soavi's Stagefright (1986) is a blood-curdling film - 90 minutes during which an array of sharp, limb-severing weapons are taken to a group of actors as they struggle to rehearse for a forthcoming play. Rehearsals begin to go badly when Betty gets a pick axe in the eye but the director spots the commercial possibility of the murder and vows to crack on during the night with the aim of opening the show in three days. Outside there's the world's most useless police escort; inside there's an escaped lunatic running around in a feathered chicken head and using every DIY enthusiast's favourite tools to separate people from their limbs. This Italian horror classic also known as Deliria or Aquarius or Bloody Bird - has a truly terrifying ending and at least half a dozen points at which shutting your eyes for a few seconds seems the most attractive option. If you already get a cold shiver down your spine every time you see a psychokiller in a chicken head, this film could send you over the edge.
Witchfinder General (1968)
Fantastic tale of revenge, superstition and violence
A tale of hypocrisy and violence directed by Michael Reeves and set during the English Civil War. The film features Ian Ogilvy as one of Cromwell's soldiers, dashing into battle and charming the vicar's niece Sarah whom he plans to marry after a battle at Naseby. This, though, is the England of superstition and Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, is roaming East Anglia looking to torture, hang and burn his considerable quota of witches. He picks on Sarah's uncle, played by Maigret actor Rupert Davies, and so incurs Ogilvy's wrath. The soldier tracks Hopkins down to a finale which still shocks more than 30 years after the film was made. Michael Reeves' film - recently restored on video in the UK with original scenes reinserted - is much more than just an exercise in gore. He certainly knows how to direct a horse chase and an execution, but the whole tale is told with pace, and even the rather wet romance never becomes boring. The violence never seems to be more than part of his evocation of time and place. All the more sad then that Reeves died tragically young soon after finishing the film. Vincent Price, as the general, is more than enough reason to see any film, while there are cameos by Patrick Wymark and Wilfred Brambell.
Twelve O'Clock High (1949)
Intelligent study of stress on wartime bomber unit leader
Great World War II drama about the leader of an American bomber unit who slowly cracks under the pressure of not only fighting a war but keeping up the morale of his war-weary men. Gregory Peck gives a great performance in a film which concerns itself with a study of the men on the ground, rather than the now over-familiar dog-fights in the air.
Naked Lies (1998)
Another erotic thriller that's not erotic or thrilling
Another in the continuing expanding library of erotic thrillers starring Canadian Shannon Tweed. I can't remember the plot but Tweed - by 1997 the executive producer of this tale of a DEA team - manages to get some other girls to do most of the stripping. She does though get a brief shower scene (it's in the contract) and a short time from the end her famous beach ball breasts get kissed and she moves slowly up and down in some guy's lap. What a turn on.
Cult sexpot Lina Romay in a blond wig
Candy tells the story of her life, her dissatisfaction with her male lovers, her desire for her girlfriend Katy and the route that led her into stripping. This is 80 minutes of flesh, bordering on the hardcore, sometimes on the gynaecological, and supposedly directed by Lina Romay (Candy Coster). Her husband Jess Franco was probably on hand somewhere. Romay in 1982 is not the trim young sexpot she was in the early 70s but she loves to get stuck in and there are still moments of genuine eroticism. It's a shame a ridiculous blond-white wig often offsets her cute, slightly buck-toothed face.
Devilish work in the English countryside
Known in the UK as Black Candles, the original Spanish title Los Ritos Sexuales del Diablo sums it up a lot better. The characters in this 1981 film from Jose Ramon Larraz spend most of the time naked and jumping on one another. Saucy German actress Helga Line, pushing 50 when the film was made, leads the way with an erotic, knicker-shedding performance as a middle-class woman at the centre of a Satanic cult. Drawing heavily on Rosemary's Baby and set in England, this is a daft piece of soft core in which the devil's work is done largely by the genitalia.
Las edades de Lulú (1990)
One woman's desires
This early (1990) major feature from Bigas Luna is the one which not surprisingly got him noticed. It is an uncompromising study of sexuality, exploring desires which most directors would shy away from on and probably off the camera. Italian actress Francesca Neri plays the lead character. It's an erotic, uninhibited performance, taking Lulu from an innocent virgin with a crush on her brother's friend to a woman so desperate for carnal gratification that she trawls bars looking for men with which to have three-way sex. For some, the film's frankness masturbation, homosexual sex and cunnilingus and exploration of everything from transsexual sex to incest might bring it close to pornography. But it is refreshing to see these challenging areas of sex dealt with by a competent director and good cast of actors. It hints at the themes which would run through Luna's later work, such as Jamon, Jamon and Golden Balls but without the quirky humour of those films. Slightly exhausting, perhaps taking on too much of the dark side of sexuality.
Contes immoraux (1973)
Great European Erotica
Immoral Tales consists of four stories, each of feminine eroticism through the ages. They work back through time, beginning with a contemporary surrealist story of a 20-year-old man initiating his cousin in a sex act on the beach, timing his ecstasy to the ebb and flow of the waves. In the second story, Charlotte Alexandra stars as a girl whose dedication to God reveals itself as a burning lust when she is unjustly banished to her room for three days. The Countess Bathory episode starring Paloma Picasso is largely the study of liquids on flesh, while the final story follows a visit by Lucrezia Borgia to see her father Pope Alexander VI and brother Cardinal Cesare Borgia, and details the bawdiness that follows. The second tale is by the far the most erotic. Elsewhere the film is a little slow but well worth seeing.
La comtesse noire (1973)
Classic erotic performance from Romay
SPANISH director Jess Franco discovered Lina Romay and she was to reward him with an incredibly erotic performance as the blood/semen sucking vampire in this 1973 film, better known in the UK as The Female Vampire. This is one of the ultimate films for fetishists, whether your bag is belts or oral (woman on woman, woman on man), capes, vamps, bits of household furniture or supersexy knee-length boots. Romay turns in a remarkably uninhibited performance in what is, even in its most censored form, simply soft-core porn. She is naked most of the time in the best version of the film and, wearing just big black boots, a belt and a cape, gets into a variety of very hot sexual situations.