Sunday, 31 May 2015

Mickey Spillane: The UK Corgi editions

Ipcress (AKA Leonard), a letterboxd friend has recently been on a big Mike Hammer kick and we've had a few small conversations about the artwork, especially on the UK Corgi editions. Years back I had a site with a whole section dedicated to Spillane paperbacks, but even the Wayback Machine can't seem to bring back the cover images I stored there. Sadly, over the years, I've lost a lot of my collection (including some gorgeous 1950's editions) but as some of the covers are so beautiful I thought I'd join Ipcress in his appreciation of them and list the ones I have on this here blog starting with the earliest, and in my opinion, best.

The sad thing is that the cover artist was never acknowledged in the publishing details, so if anyone knows who he or she was please let me know.

Kiss Me, Deadly

This is a 1963 Corgi edition with a great cover. After some research I've discovered the cover artist may be Renato Fratini.

"My name is Mike Hammer. I must tell you about this dame - the dame who almost fell under my car; who wasn't wearing a stitch under her coat. Well, she died in the most horrible way you can imagine. I saw it - and heard it.

The cops reckoned they'd pin the rap on me, but I had other ideas, like who were the real killers; and why.

M-A-F-I-A. Heard of them? Five letters which spell terror and death whichever way you look at them.

But I was going to put the skids under the big guys, and when they fell, I was going to be around. To make sure they fell hard - and dead."

I, the Jury

Another 1963 Corgi edition. After some research I've discovered the cover artist may be Renato Fratini.

"The name's Hammer. I'm a private investigator; I expect you've met me. You've never met my friend. He was once my buddy, but now he's dead, murdered callously by a killer who stood by and laughed.

Now when this kind of thing happens, it makes me want to hit out; watch the killer crawl, hear him beg for mercy as my finger tightens on the trigger.

But there are problems. Whenever I chase a lead, a beautiful dame turns up. You can never trust a dame.

Pat Chambers of Homicide is after the killer too. If he gets him, he'll only stick him in front of a jury. But when I catch up with him, I'll be the Jury, and the judge, and the executioner."

The Girl Hunters

1963 Corgi edition

"Mike Hammer is back!

Mike is found in the gutter - an alcoholic on the verge of losing his mind. It has taken him seven years to reach this point: seven years of guilt for believing he caused the death of Velda, the girl he loved.
Then he hears: Velda may still be alive, but before he can be sure, he must find and destroy a master killer called the Dragon.

Make Hammer Versus the Dragon - care to take odds on the result?"

My Gun is Quick

1965 Corgi edition. This is a big of an anomaly as Corgi ditch the fantastically painted covers for dull photographed ones. Lucky the 1967 saw the painted covers make a comeback.

"My name's Mike Hammer.

I'm a private eye, or detective (it depends which way you look at things). I don't operate in what is generally known as the better places, and I carry a gun.

This day I'm talking about, the redhead said Hallo. When redheads come and introduce themselves to me, it usually means one thing - but not, brother, this one. All she wanted was a square meal and somebody to talk to... It ended up in me beating the skin off some louse who interfered in the lady's business - not many hours later she was lying in the gutter, dead. I liked that redhead, and I didn't like murder, which my instincts told me it was, not an accident. I don't make a steady habit of rescuing dames on the loose, but if she's pretty it makes it worth the trouble, and if she's dead that makes me sore.

That's the best excuse I know for proving that my gun is quick."

One Lonely Night

A 1967 Corgi edition that some idiot has drawn in in biro. The '67 edition covers were not quite as beautiful as the '63s but still very nice.

"I'm a murderer - that entitles me to the chair. The judge said so. But they can't touch me - because my name's Mike Hammer. I'm a private investigator - with a licence to kill...

It all started when I found the girl on the bridge that night. She threw herself over the side before I could stop her... but she did leave her card behind, a small green one. The hood who had been following her didn't live long enough to give any explanations... he had a green card too. Pretty odd.

There's something inside me which makes it my business when two bodies turn up the same calling card. My friend Pat from the Squad had some very interesting information. One of the most vicious rackets in America was operating right under our noses - and now I knew, the smell wasn't very nice.

I'm a murderer, I'm scum, the judge said so. But when something dirty sticks its head right in front of my gun sights, I pull the trigger... I don't bother about consequences. It's my job to enforce the law, and I do it the quickest, cleanest way I know how."

The Big Kill

Corgi 1967 edition.

"My name's Mike Hammer. You've probably met me before. I'm a private investigator and I take any job that arouses my interest - or my anger at this crummy world we live in. This time they've made me angry - they meaning I don't know who. But I'm sure going to find out, however long it takes me.

It's funny how fate turns the switches. That tawny-haired angel who happened in on the case was just too good to be true. Orphans, murder, and then dames: trouble in three easy stages.

Still, that's my job."

The Twisted Thing

Corgi 1967 edition.

"My name's Mike Hammer. I guess you've heard of me. I'm a private eye - and I get pretty mad when someone beats up an old friend - especially when the one doing the beating up is a cop.

It all started when the boy was kidnapped. No ordinary boy either. This boy, Ruston, was a genius. His father wasn't so clever, though. He called in the cops.

Dilwick was in charge of the case. The dirtiest, roughest cop who ever walked a beat.

So I had to find the kid first; it was as simple as that."

The Snake

Corgi 1969 edition. The shitty photographed covers are back and even worse than before!

"It took Mike Hammer seven years to find out that Velda, the girl he loved, was still alive. They came together again in passion, but it wasn't long before Mike discovered that being with Velda still meant danger.

Velda had offered protection to a girl who was convinced she was to be killed. And the girl was wanted badly enough for Make and Velda to be in bad trouble.

Make Hammer had to fight or shoot his way out of many desperate situations before he was able to solve the mystery of why the girl was wanted, and why she kept talking about someone she could only identify as...The Snake."

The Body Lovers

Corgi 1971 edition. The painted covers are back again, but this time with a very 70's vibe.

"Let me introduce myself. Mike Hammer - private detective.

I wouldn't say I look for trouble but it certainly has a way of finding me. Now take the other night; there I was, driving along, minding my own business, when I heard a kid screaming. So, I stopped the car, grabbed a flashlight, and ran.

I found the kid. I also found what he was screaming about. He'd stumbled across the body of what was once a beautiful red-head - but now the body was a mess, and something had put an expression of stark terror into the face."

Survival... Zero!

Corgi 1971 edition. Even more seventies looking!

"Who would want to kill a nobody like Lippy Sullivan, and why?

Before Mike Hammer finds out the answers, he is running interference for the CIA, and he learns more than is good for him about germ warfare, the TV industry, and a certain blonde with eyelashes painted round her navel."

Vengeance is Mine

Corgi 1973 edition. The worst Spillane cover ever; just nasty! Cover may be by Michael Codd.

"The D.A. had really been after my gun licence for a long time. Now it really looked as if he had me cold - at least it looked that way to him. My name's Mike Hammer, I'm a - well, let's say a private eye working here in N.Y. - and my friend Chester Wheeler is in his hotel room, stone dead, with my gun in his hand.

It looked like a straight forward suicide case to everyone, except me - and when I discovered what kind of women Chester had been associating with recently, and when some thugs tried to persuade me to get disinterested, I realised that I'd tumbled on something pretty corrupt, and I would have to get to the bottom of it fast, before any more nice people like Chester found themselves booked for eternity - in six feet of earth."

Missing are my copies of The Girl Hunters (1970's edition), Vengeance is Mine (1950's), One Lonely Night (1950's), Return of the Hood, Killer Mine (several editions), The Erection Set, The Killing Man hardback amongst others. I also have a old 60s hardback of The Deep without a dust-jacket.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971)

Optimum Classic DVD in Italian with English subs.

Even from the start credits I know I'm in for a treat. The music, the visuals, and then Florinda Bolkan; I'm overdosing on gorgeousness! A bewildered Bolkan, breathing heavily, runs down a train corridor which then beautifully segues to her still running, but this time down a white corridor filled with naked bodies, fucking. Falling, then running again, this time in darkness, and finally lesbian sex on a Marilyn Monroe style red bed. Fucking hell, this is good!

Bolkan plays Carol Hammond, daughter of a politician, wife of a cheating husband. She and her husband are not sleeping together and because of this sexual frustration she dreams of making love to Julia, her next door neighbour - the only person she can get sexual satisfaction from. Everyone around Carol is having sex, even the old fluorescent woman upstairs is fucking her chauffeur. Then the dreams turn nasty and she kills her dream lover and Carol is the main suspect. But hold on, this is gialli and we can be certain that things are never as simple as they appear.

Bolkan is brilliant as Carol and Fulci uses every trick in the book to highlight her neuroses including some wonderfully wobbly and slightly distorted POV shots.

In Woman in a Lizard's Skin we have art, sexual repression, anticathexis, gore, fetishism, police procedural, dreams as reality (Descartes First Meditation), and red herrings aplenty. Man, this plot twists and turns like a twisty turny thing! And that bat scene - it sure beat the tarantulas in The Beyond!

The film is stunningly shot and edited with judicious use of POV, split screen, wipes, macro zoom shots, wild pans. A great soundtrack that I think I may have to track down on CD, and that cover; a great piece of graphic design. Regarding the audio; it's really weird watching an Italian film set in London with English characters speaking Italian! I think I may try the English dubbed version next time.

I'm a big fan of Fulci's horror films and own four of them but this beats them hands-down. A trippy mindfuck of a psycho-sexual giallo masterpiece.

Original letterboxd review

Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (1970)

Blue Underground DVD with English dubbing.

Just how far would you go to protect your husband?

The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion is a film made at the tail-end of the sixties sexual revolution and portrays a traditional marriage torn apart by domination (both inside by her husband and outside by a sex-crazed blackmailer), and the search for liberation. Everything this "good wife" does is ordered; don't move, stay there, be quiet, stop it. She has no free will and flaps around like a puppet.

As an example of how much of a dick her husband is: his wife is thrown to the ground, has her dress cut open and a knife held to her throat and he says "Yes, but he actually didn't do anything. He just held you down. Threatened you. Probably some kind of prank".

An unusual giallo in that you think you know what's happening but not why; what is the motive? There's jealously, architecture, a spiral staircase, art, dreams, oddles of flashbacks, bondage, mental collapse, an external investigator, there's even some black outfits and gloves although not where you expect them and Carlsberg lager replaces the usual J&B Whiskey product placement. The film is quite noir'ish with flashbacks and voice-overs and good use of lighting and shadow. There is one film that springs to mind when watching this, but don't click on the link if you don't want a major spoiler. The first part moves quite slowly and has a lack of atmosphere and tension but gathers steam towards the end.

The dialogue is pretty poor in places and I don't think an Italian soundtrack would have helped - maybe it's that I've been spoiled lately. It's nicely shot with another groovy score by Morricone.

The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion is chock full of innuendo, suggestion and sex, perversion, and BDSM. A pretty bloodless giallo with a distinct lack of bodies but I quite liked it.

Finally: there's a tortoise in it for no apparent reason! Can anyone tell me why it's there? Did I miss something?

Original letterboxd review

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1974)

Uncut, Synapse DVD

Young Frigga is molested as a young girl and rendered mute as a result. Later, as a teen, she is groomed, hooked on heroin, pimped and repeated raped and abused. She trains in marksmanship, unarmed combat and driving and then seeks revenge on her pimp and his clients.

Christina Lundberg as Frigga is just brilliant; just as cool as fuck. Starting as vulnerable and shy, then rebelling against her situation, then slowly becoming a puppet-like addict beaten into submission, then slowly bulding in confidence, until she become a killing machine intent on revenge and escape. You know those movies where you want to be the hero, well I wanted to be Lundberg's character. There is something mythic about Frigga, the black coat, the eye patch; a real angel of death. It can't be coincidence that her name is from the goddess Frigg, wife of Odin One-Eye.

Even though the sex scenes were added to appeal to the then new pornography trade in Scandinavia they are handled very well and you are distanced by the clinical way it is filmed. Instead of titillation you feel incredibly uncomfortable, and if you find that of these scenes turn you on, you're a very strange person indeed. Do they add anything? I think that they do, although they do make the film a little long.

The slo-mo kills were pretty good, although quite tame considering the extreme nature of the rest of the film. Still good though. The film contains a real a-z of British 70s cars: Capri, Granada and even a Escort Mk1 (my first car) Mexico. The soundtrack is great, full of phasing, oscillations, reverb and loops. There is, on occasion, some absolutely stunning camera-work.

The picture on this Synapse DVD was great. They kept a lot of the grain, dirt, scratches and burn marks whilst still making it watchable. The term "Grindhouse Classic" was invented for films like this.

Horrible, unflinching, nasty, cruel, depressing and brilliant.

Original letterboxd review

The House with Laughing Windows (1976)

This review is for the Shameless DVD in Italian with English subs.

The weirdness starts from the very beginning. The following voice-over plays whilst a young man is shown being stabbed to death:

"My colours... my colours...
They run hot in my veins...
So soft, my colours...
My colours are soft, like Autumn,
they are like fresh blood...
They are smooth like syphilis
And they... they get into people's eyes
contaminating everyone.
My colours
they flow through my veins
My Lord
and they get far... far away
Yes they go far.
One must die for them.
Oh my lord, I must purge myself
get them out. Out...
These are the colours. All my colours
Son of a bitch
Here we come. My Lord, I feel death coming
He's dying.
I need purity, I need to be pure.
Keep him still."

The premise is pretty Lovecraftian. A young artist starts work restoring a fresco of Saint Sebastian (symbolically pierced with knives rather than arrows) and uncovers a story of torture and madness in the idyllic Italian countryside!

The House with Laughing Windows is full of strange characters, surreal imagery and the bizarre superimposed over the normal; it almost seemed like a David Lynch film. Everything is slightly off-kilter. Like the village is in a different, distorted plane of reality. The colours are lurid, too bright, too vivid, unreal, like a grotesque painting by the mad artist featured in the film's plot!

While it may not have a black gloved killer this is most definitely giallo, but giallo of a strange sort. There's an outsider as the investigator, the macabre, disturbing phone calls, interesting architecture, a shed-load of strange and suspicious characters, red herrings, sex, perversion, insanity, obsession, death, blood, and a dream like quality. Giallo. Then there's the mouse cooking advice, the refrigerator full of snails, the odd flower lady (or, going back to Lynch, the log lady).

You can definitely see where Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani got their inspiration from for Amer and All the Colours of Your Body's Tears, and I wouldn't be surprised if this was an influence on TV's The League of Gentlemen.

The House with Laughing Windows is a rural giallo with a screenplay by H.P. Lovecraft (the madness, if not the cosmic horror) and directed by an Italian David Lynch. I'd love to see this on Blu-Ray!

Pupi Avati, you mad bastard!

Original letterboxd review

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Almost Human (1974)

This review is for the Shameless DVD in Italian with English subs.

A small time crook in search of respect and the big score, descends into a pit of violence and mayhem.

I think this may be my first Poliziotteschi and I'm pretty excited! I've seen a far few gialli, the usual Italian cannibal and zombie films, but Crimi films have somehow always escaped my attention. Here's goes...

The first shot shows a black Citroen DS, so we're off to a good start as I always identify this car with Euro-crime thrillers. Admitted in the past these films have nearly always been French and star Alain Delon but viva Italia! We then move to a botched kidnapping and a pretty thrilling and very nicely shot car chase through the streets of Milan. Good stuff!

Tomas Milan plays Giulio Sacchi, a repulsive and cowardly small time crook eager to move up in the crime world and, after bungling a kidnapping for some "proper" criminals, strikes out on his own with another kidnapping - this time of a rich businessman's daughter. Whiny and pathetic Sacchi is willing to do anything to get noticed including killing anyone who gets in his way. It's almost like school - a kid gets picked on and then, over-compensating for his perceived weakness, bullies other children weaker than himself. In one scene he even gets his hostage to write "They'll put my head in the toilet bowl, and they will pull the chain" - he has become the school bully and is demanding respect.

Milan is excellent as Sacchi and seems to be channelling Tony Montana, with his shades, haircut and matchstick chewing (yes, I know that this film is 9 years older than Scarface - but it's true!). Montana would never be seen dead in a duffle-coat though. Sacchi is a man who makes up for his lack of intelligence and incompetence with violence. He wants everything but is too lazy to work for it, unlike the cops who work hard, get paid little but finally win out.

Speaking of which... Henry Silva is great as Walter Grandi, a calm and efficient police detective, and serves as a counterpoint to the out of control brutality of Sacchi. Grandi is the first to relalise that the body count is only going to increase as Milan spins out of control and that he needs to be stopped, at whatever cost.

There seems to be two subtle themes to Almost Human: religious and societal subjugation of the poor. In one memorable scene Sacchi and his cronies are hiring guns from a dealer called "Daddy" who refers to his firearms using reverence and religious quotes. Religion features again when the criminals break into a rich person's home and also occur later in the film. The rich are portrayed as just as criminal as Sacchi and his brethren, intent on making money with as little effort as possible (the 1973 oil crisis and how it will make money for the rich).

Almost Human is a film where you don't cheer on the bad guy. Sacchi is no Robin Hood - he steals from the rich and poor alike and kills anyone who gets in his way. He has no redeeming features at all and is throughly repulsive. I won't give away the ending although, to be honest, if you know your crime films you know how it ends. The law is an ass and you need to fight violence with violence.

The soundtrack is clear but has occasional pops and crackles. The image is fine if a little blurry at times. The subs are in yellow and were adequate if sometimes a little to literal. Morricone nails the score yet again!

Original letterboxd review

Thursday, 21 May 2015

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)

Somehow I've never watched this film. Don't ask why as I have absolutely no idea! This review is for the Arrow Blu-Ray in Italian with English subs.

An American novelist witnesses the attempted murder of a woman by a black-clad assailant and risks his and his girlfriend's lives in trying to track down the killer and break his writer's block.

With the Bird with the Crystal Plumage Argento cemented the giallo framework laid down by Mario Bava in The Girl Who Knew Too Much and Blood and Black Lace.

The staples of giallo are present both as internal factors (insanity, fear, perversion, obsession) and external (voyeurism, violence, J&B whiskey, spiral staircases, blades, black gloves).

Filled with tension and mystery, the Bird with the Crystal Plumage has superior cinematography, plot, dialogue and performances. Even the police are a cut above the usual bumbling idiots portrayed in gialli. Light touches of humour temper the tension (I nearly wet myself laughing at the cat scene). Apparent clues are dropped hard and fast. The film really wants you to try and work out who the killer is and red herrings are laid down with logic and cunning, meanwhile Argento's smiling, safe in the knowledge that he is holding a hand of aces dealt from a stacked deck. I always think a good "whodunit" makes you think that every little thing is a clue and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage accomplishes this with aplomb. It seemed like I was accusing a different person every 10 minutes!

The Blu-Ray was great and had an excellent picture with light grain and vibrant but not harsh colours. With the caveat that I have no understanding of Italian, the sub-title translations seemed natural and accurate and were a cut above the usual ham-fisted attempts, and what a difference an Italian soundtrack makes! The discordant score and an almost childlike main theme drives the film along nicely without being intrusive.

Argento may be known as a "style over substance" director but Bird with the Crystal Plumage proves that, early in his career, he also had a real talent at storytelling.


Original letterboxd review

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Danger: Diabolik (1968)

You see, there's this real cool cat by the name of Diabolik, who's like super cool and groovy. He rips off the establishment and the bourgeoisie, dig! Then the pigs man; they come down heavy and really start to harsh his mellow, so he uses these gadgets and really starts to fuck with their ch'i. Then some real bad dudes, they try to trap him but this cat's too fast for them baby!

Anyway freaks, the movie looks real far out, has some real groovy sounds and if you're into The Avengers, In Like Flint, Modesty Blaise or Batman you'll dig this Euro-Caper!

Danger: Diabolik! Mega groovy wonder movie!

Original letterboxd review

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Ms. 45 (1981)

This review is for the French uncut (80 min) DVD by MEP Video which had a great picture and sound, although the dialogue and music seemed a little unbalanced.

Spoilers ahoy!

Shy and mute Greek-American Thana (portrayed extremely well by Zoë Lund) seeks revenge and control after being raped. That's the basic premise. Does Ms. 45 rise above the usual rape-revenge exploitation films of the period?

The tone and theme of the film is set almost immediately with some women from a clothes factory suffering the usual "everyday sexism" as they walk down a New York street. It's now 35 years later and it's sad to say that not much has changed.

The first rape itself is filmed well and does not contain any of the excess that regularly featured in exploitation films of the time. Shots are short and do not linger. There is no nudity. Instead the man is portrayed as an animal, rutting. A nice touch is that during the aftermath the soundtrack fades out to complete silence, highlighting Thana's state of mind and inability to give voice to her rage and impotency. Thana being a mute also highlights her powerlessness.

During her second rape Thana manages to kill her attacker and then dismembers his body. She then takes his symbol of power, the gun. Unfortunately this action also exacerbates her already fractured mental state and, after seeing visions of the man, she killed she walks the streets. A little later she kills a man with the rapists gun; using a man's source of power to regain her own. This idea that she can regain control is furthered and re-enforced when she watches a friend swear at, and scare away, a man who was trying to flirt with her. She realises that she doesn't have to take it, that she can act instead of react. She will use men's inability to control themselves to control them... violently.

It's not just rape that enables Thana, it's everything around her; the cat-calls, the inappropriate touching, beatings, invasion of personal space, the way even a regular conversation can sound sleazy. It's a constant and unending sense of male entitlement that pushes Thana over the edge. At one point Thana writes "I just wish they'd leave me alone" on a piece of paper. The name Thana comes from the Greek Thanatos, a daemon personifying death.

The scene on the park bench where she listens to a man that has been cheated on by his wife could have ended up as a "not all men" scene, but is treated intelligently and with care. In fact the end of this particular scene is one of the most shocking moments in the film.

On to the ending. One of the stand-out scenes in the film is of Thana dressed as nun kissing her rather phallic shaped bullets, almost like communion or the kissing of a cross. Killing has become almost a holy mission. She has now lost control and is about to descend into misandry. Then her boss kissing her boots and the fact he was just about to go down on her shows Thana's dominance and is the final act of male submission to her. This whole sequence displays an interesting juxtaposition of sex, religion and death that Ferrara would later revisit in Bad Lieutenant.

The final slow motion scene is excellently shot and jam-packed with symbolism. At one point there is a woman behind Thana holding a knife at her crotch, like a penis. Also, the man she is killing is dressed as a bride; the emasculation of man? Thana is finally stabbed in the back by the penis wielding woman who she herself cannot kill. Thana's first and only word as she lies dying? "Sister".

Zoë Lund is a great protagonist. Vulnerable but also showing great strength. A superhero for the grim and dark streets of New York City. Even the title brings to mind a superhero: "Ms. 45". Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Iron Man, Ms 45, why not?

Realistic, gritty, powerful and considered. I think that Ms. 45 is the best rape-revenge film I've seen. In fact, because of the other more exploitative films in this sub-genre, even calling it a "rape-revenge" detracts from just how good this film is. Ms. 45 features some terrific cinematography and shot choice; Thana standing next to a "Men" toilet sign being a case in point. The soundtrack, or lack of it, is excellent and used sparingly.

After a long history of repression, abuse and inequality don't be surprised when extremism (misandry in this case) raises it's head. You reap what you sow, as they say. While, in this case, extremism/misandry is understandable, does it solve the problem or merely exacerbate it?

Original letterboxd review

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Short Night of Glass Dolls (1971)

As a big fan of "Night Train Murders", Aldo Lado's bloody and shocking treatise on class, I've been really looking forward to this film.

"Short Night of Glass Dolls" is gialli Jim, but not as we know it. There are no black gloves, blood is mostly kept off screen, and a knife is rarely seen here. What we do get is a really interesting mystery story with a macabre edge - the twin foundations of giallo. Rather than a shadowy killer we have a secret organisation, an almost illuminati like cabal and the tale of a dogged reporter's hunt for his missing girlfriend told in flashbacks.

The location is Czechoslovakia; a country under soviet control and the colour red features heavily from the "red curtains" separating the workings of the cabal from the proletariat, to the state newspaper "Rudé právo" (Red Truth) and finally the red blood of the young spilled by the state and by implication, the cabal. The story is full of portents and omens from ravens, to tolling bells and walking over graves stones and as the film progresses Prague's labyrinthine city streets become ever darker, full of uncaring citizens and corrupt police officers and an increasing sense of dread and foreboding colours the film. The image of the butterfly is used throughout to symbolise a fragile freedom that the cabal's machinations seek to undermine. Possibly one particular use of a display of dead and pinned butterflies shows that the only real freedom in Prague is death.

Cinematography is excellent with wonderful high long shots of the city and some Leone-like zooms and tracking shots. Morricone supplies a score that starts and ends with a percussive heartbeat, moves through wistful, to a dark and chilling climax.

In Short Night of Glass Dolls, Lado revisits the theme of class struggle of Night Train Murders but adds a touch of individualism and freewill versus totalitarianism and control.

To quote the film: "Human beings separate all matter into classes. The world isn't made that way." and as some of the Crass stencils I saw on the side of buildings once said "Whoever you vote for, government always wins". Quite an apt film for this week I think.

Original letterboxd review

Pacific Rim (2013)

I've not seen many Kaijū films apart from the various Godzillas; from the original, through Mathew Broderick to the latest affair which was so dark I couldn't actually see the Monsters.

As I have to start making pizza (yes, I'll add my recipe to the Recipes list when I get the chance) for dinner I don't have the time to write a proper review from my notes so here's a random list of shit I noticed:

From their gung-ho and over-confident start the soldiers are pretty quickly slapped into humility. Fog-horn sound design. Battle of the Planets suits. Wizzy energy weapons. Not sure why damage feedback from the external Jaeger would affect the pilots - but I guess some form of jeopardy was needed else it would be a pretty boring movie. A great sense of the gigantic scale of both the monsters and the Jaeger bots. I didn't understand the whole wall versus Jaeger sub-plot except to highlight the stupidity of politicians; but surely we know that already! Idris Elba is shouty. The hero leaving because his brother is killed and then returning after getting a talking-to by Idris Elba is pretty clichéd. The theory that the dinosaurs were a trial run for the Kaijū is pretty ridiculous and makes a mockery of evolution but hey ho. Colourful and nicely developed characters. Exposition only when needed. No false endings, a la Bay. Rinko Kikuchi is stunning! I liked the James Bond style ending.

Pacific Rim is contrived and jammed full of cliché but still a good looking, sonically super, giant monster movie filled with neon, cables, pumps, power ranger posturing and a fucking bulldog! I used to have a bulldog and I fucking love them!

For two hours I felt like a child again.

Original letterboxd review

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Until the Light Takes Us (2008)

An interesting documentary about the Norwegian Black Metal scene: its early days; the church burning, murder and suicide and the resultant media outrage; and where it's heading nowadays.

Anti-church, anti-globalisation, anti-american, anti-homogenisation, anti-christ and unfortunately nationalistic, homophobic and racist. Black Metal is a movement that on the surface has a left-leaning libertarian stance but dig a little deeper and an extreme right-wing tendency rears its ugly head.

If only they could have separated their hatred of christian dogma from christian art, maybe the beautiful stave churches would still be standing.

Original letterboxd review

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Girl Rising (2013)

Trite, simplistic and cloyingly; Girl Rising takes poverty and the disadvantaged boils them down to soundbites for the middle-classes. It's beautifully shot and the girl's stories are interesting and emotive but the film is completely overloaded with artifice that it completely removes any impact. The mix of documentary style and scripted scenes reminded me of that current breed of nasty docu-soaps like Born in Chelsea and Geordie Shore; not the best reference when listening to tales of young girls trying to rise above oppression and the patriarchy.

The world is broken but unfortunately films like this won't fix it. What it will do is massage the guilt of Guardian readers, who will set up a £3 a month direct debit and then fall asleep on their Egyptian cotton sheets. What these girls need is rioting in the streets, organised resistance, the removal of religious influence, the overthrow of corrupt governments by their citizens, the removal of 3rd world debt, stopping the stripping of national resources by rich multinationals, and education unfettered by doctrine, gender, religion, tradition and wealth.

I really wanted to like this film but struggled to get through it. A completely fictional film or a pure documentary would have worked far better than the glossy falseness of Girl Rising. As an example of how up-it's-own-arse this film can be, at one point Meryl Streep asks "What does it mean to split a girl? Is it like tearing a photo down the middle, while each half witnesses the making of a ghost", no Meryl, that's not what it means.

Meryl Streep = $65,000,000
Selena Gomez = $16,000,000
Anne Hathaway = $15,000,000
Salma Hayek = $85,000,000
Alicia Keys = $60,000,000
Chloe Grace Moretz = $12,000,000
Liam Neeson = $75,000,000

Just how many houses and cars does a person really need? I wonder how many schools $328,000,000 could build and how many scholarships it could create?

One of the girl's stories involved the myth of Icarus so I thought I'd share a reading by one of my favourite poets, Kate Tempest.

I've been chugged in my own home!

Original letterboxd review