Monday, 29 August 2016

Vanishing Point (1971)

THE high-speed, hypnogogic, hypnotic, pin-point pupilled, testosterone tormented, hades headed, soul injected, white-line fevered, odyssian, existential white knight. Accept no substitutes and be there for the death of the American dream.

Letterboxd Review

Sunday, 28 August 2016

The Warriors (1979)

That scene on the train, where the prom kids get on board and Mercy goes to brush her hair and Swan stops her. Beautiful.

Letterboxd Review

Friday, 26 August 2016

Whistle and I’ll Come to You (1968)

An academic old duffer pipes open the doors of perception and peers into the unknown.

Michael Hordern in an M.R. James ghost story, directed by Jonathan Miller. What's not to like? Beautifully unnerving although I kept expecting Hordern to exclaim "Bear!".

Nope-Tober: Random Shit for an Ill-disciplined Mind

Letterboxd Review

The Stone Tape (1972)

A great premise. An electronics company in the search for a new recording material, find that their new research facility, located in an old house, contains the very solution they've been searching for... walls so old and resonant that they've somehow been imprinted with the emotional history of the inhabitants.

I wouldn't be surprised if The Stone Tape had an influence on The League of Gentlemen as the engineers bore an uncanny resemblance to the LoG plastics company workers Geoff, Mike and Brian.

Warning: this programme contains an odious little shit!

Letterboxd Review

Quatermass and the Pit (1958)

In which our hero, Professor Quatermass along with Dr. Matthew Roney, a paleontologist, sciences the hell out of the supernatural and occult, all the while hindered by the military's arrogant dismissal of facts that don't meet their own agenda.

Another series and another Professor Quatermass, this time it's André Morell and, compared to the log-like performance of John Robinson, he's a breath of fresh air. He is the definitive Quatermass.

Quatermass's military nemesis, Colonel Breen (played wonderfully by Anthony Bushell), is a blustering and uptight arsehole but I love him and his "Speckled Jim" style tirades. Baah! British character stalwart and frequent tavern keeper, Michael Ripper pops up as a shouty army sergeant.

The special effects and set design are the best yet. Simple and very effective.

Tense as hell and filled with occult references and supernatural dread. The best of the Quatermass serials and an absolute classic that everyone should try to watch. This series must have terrified TV audiences back in the late 50s!

Letterboxd Review

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

An adult fairytale that's not quite the sticky and hellish S&M masterpiece of the original, but close, so very close...

Letterboxd Review

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

Carpenter's western is a stone-cold classic and that ice cream scene with a wee Kim "Tuff Turf" Richards still makes my blood run cold. Not shy of writing strong parts for women, secretary Leigh (Laurie Zimmer) is probably the toughest female character Carpenter/Hill ever created.

This is the film that Quentin Tarantino has been trying to make for the last 25 years.

Letterboxd Review

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Quatermass II (1955)

After the success of the first serial, the BBC stumped up for more location filming and better sets and special effects. The camera work is also a little less static and is a much more cinematic affair. The humour present in the first series is pretty much missing, making Quatermass II a far more sober affair.

After the death of Reginald Tate, John Robinson takes up the titular role but, unfortunately, isn't a patch on Tate and his delivery is stilted and lacking warmth and enthusiasm, at least until later episodes. He's also got this weird habit of looking upwards while delivering his lines. In fact, Quatermass is outshone by his assistant Dr. Pugh, played by Welsh actor Hugh Griffith.

A few other notes:
  • The title music is brilliant!
  • At one point a tramp (played by Steptoe & Son's Wilfrid Brambell) asks Quatermass "You're a funny fellow with stones, aren't you?". Well, Kneale does seem to have a bit of a stone fetish: meteorites, stone walls, standing stones!
  • The zombie soldiers are, unintentionally, hilarious!
  • There's a healthy distrust of government and bureaucracy.
  • Some lovely miniature sets.
  • Quatermass's daughter seems to have had a whole bucket full of "received pronunciation" poured down her throat.
  • The spacesuits, although still quite ragged, are much better this time around and look less like welder's gear.
  • There's a rather nice illustration of Newton's 3rd law of motion in the 6th episode!
Overall, a much more cinematic affair than the original series with a thrilling plot but handicapped by a leaden Quatermass.

Letterboxd Review

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Visiting Hours (1982)

It's... always... a-pleasure-to... SEE... William... Shatner... in-a-non... STAR-Trek... production.

An above average, polished and progressive slasher/thriller starring Michael Ironside as a quietly scary killer with Mummy issues. Lee Grant as the stalked reporter can sometimes come over as a little shrill and Ellen "The Exorcist" Burstyn-like but she carries the moral heart of the film well. Linda Purl provides strong support as a nurse and mother.

Letterboxd Review

Long Weekend (1978)

If we treat ourselves and everything around us with ignorance and contempt and throw money at our inadequacies, we can hardly be surprised when a possum chews our fingers off.

Long Weekend is beautiful, ugly and horrific in equal measure.

The Blu-Ray from Synapse is the best I've seen this film. Even the new 5.1 mix works really well and enhances the subtle sound design rather than smashing you in the face with surround-sound gimmickry. The original stereo soundtrack is also available on the disc.

"What've you been doing to the tree?"
"Chopping it down"
"Why not?"

Letterboxd Review

Monday, 22 August 2016

The Quatermass Experiment (1953)

Broadcast live, four years before the launch of Sputnik 1, eight years before Gagarin orbited the earth and fifteen years before Armstrong and company landed on the moon, The Quatermass Experiment was the television serial which kindled our fascination with the extraterrestrial.

Nigel Kneale's script really captures post-war pioneering science, cold war fear and cosmic horror but grounds it all with large doses of humanity. Reginald Tate is perfect as the scientific evangelist, Professor Bernard Quatermass and there's some great studio-based set design. The programme is pretty tense in a knob-twiddling, oscilloscope-wobbling kind of way and contains an almost Lovecraftian fear of the unknown.

Unfortunately, only the first two episodes survive and it's extremely unlikely that any recordings will ever be found of the missing four episodes.

Jolly good fun, chaps!

Letterboxd Review

Sunday, 21 August 2016

The Prowler (1981)

The well spaced, Savini created kills are extremely effective if, occasionally, a little uninspired - I guess there only so much you can do with a bayonet and garden fork. The shower cubicle and final kills are beauties though.

The identity of the killer was a little obvious but overall the Prowler ticks all the right slasher boxes. One question: where does Rosemary's killer keep his roses?

Letterboxd Review

Street Trash (1987)

Not a review but I was clearing out my roof space and laying some boards when I found a box of video tapes including my long lost Avatar VHS copy of Street Trash!

I also found my promo copy of the Stiff Little Fingers concert film "See You Up There" and my boot copy of "The Way We Were" the Channel4 punk comp of performances from the Granada show "So It Goes" and DOA, the Sex Pistols in the US film and a load of other punk and hardcore tapes!

All now back in the attic apart from Street Trash which is now proudly on my shelves :)

Letterboxd Review

Friday, 19 August 2016

Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972)

Sure, it's slow but... grubby, crusty, devil worshipping zombie-mummy-vampire-skeleton-templars on fucking HORSES!

WARNING: This film contains the weirdest, most inappropriate and lecherous mortuary technicians ever!

"She was asking for it. Going around flaunting herself. It's as if they want to be bitten." -- Mortuary technician

Letterboxd Review

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The Pendle Witch Child (2011)

An interesting documentary on the Pendle/Lancaster witch trails with some very nice animation. Would make a nice companion piece to either Haxan or The Witch and it's available on iPlayer.

See Mark C's review for a more detailed review.

Letterboxd Review

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971)

"We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of Black people." -- Black Panther manifesto (1967)

"Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements. It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement." -- Black Lives Matter (2015)

Messy, egotistical, uncomfortable, meandering, funny, brave, chaotic, experimental, brutal, raw, guerilla, ground-breaking, important and with an Earth, Wind and Fire (written by Van Peebles himself) jazz-funk score that is fucking amazing!

Letterboxd Review

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

The 3 hour Ultimate Edition. Zack Snyder really needs to chill the fuck out and stop blowing shit up... except for Jesse Eisenberg. He can blow that fucker up as much as he wants. I want an Ultra-Mega-Super-Deluxe Edition that just contains 24 hours of footage of that bastard being killed over and over and over again.

Letterboxd Review

Friday, 12 August 2016

Solaris (1972)

I know that I don't write reviews any more, but I thought Solaris deserved a little more than my recent pithy remarks.

For a man who was reported to dislike science-fiction, Tarkovsky sure creates amazing sci-fi films. All good science fiction, even the hard sci-fi that I love, should, at its very heart, tell us something about ourselves and Tarkovsky is a master of portraying the many facets of humanity, even within a construct that he loathes.

Solaris is a Nietzschean sci-fi in which Tarkovsky seems to ask three questions:

1) How important is it to face your fears and regrets as, in the process, we can either transform them into something wonderful or let them consume us.

2) Should science should be tempered by morality or does this limit our progress. This is exemplified by Kelvin's twin angels/demons of Dr Snaut (science tempered by morality) on one shoulder and Doktor Sartorius (unbound scientific exploration) on the other. How we deal with a something is just as important, if not more so, than the end product itself.

3) Is humanity defined by our memories and experiences or is there something greater?

There are a few little things that really popped out, to me at least:

I loved how Tarkovsky makes a comparison between the hive-like city with its roads, cars and noise and the reflecting, intelligent ocean on Solaris.

The differences between the Solaris and 2001 space stations reminded me of the apocryphal cosmonaut pencil story:

"During the height of the space race in the 1960s, legend has it, NASA scientists realised that pens could not function in space. They needed to figure out another way for the astronauts to write things down. So they spent years and millions of taxpayer dollars to develop a pen that could put ink to paper without gravity. But their crafty Soviet counterparts, so the story goes, simply handed their cosmonauts pencils."

The intermittently featured Bruegel painting. Bruegel was also a master at portraying humanity in its many, sometimes unflattering, forms.

As Nietzsche wrote "For when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.", but surely if we destroy the mirror, how do we recognise ourselves?

Letterboxd Review

The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

My favourite horror film as a child and the most poetic, beautiful (with stunning set designs and shot by Nicolas "Don't Look Now" Roeg) and terrifying (feudalism becomes modern neo-feudalism) of Corman's Poe adaptations. Contains nods to other Poe works including The Pit and the Pendulum, The Cask of Amontillado, The Raven and Hop-Frog. Vincent Price at his most despicable and decadent.

It's ridiculous that The Masque of the Red Death is still not available as a UK Blu-Ray - this was the German Koch Media Blu and the picture and sound quality was great.

Sic transit gloria mundi

Letterboxd Review

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Stalker (1979)

Biblical, Arthurian, a Soviet Wizard of Oz.

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

"Joy, beautiful spark of divinity,
Daughter from Elysium,
We enter, drunk with fire,
Heavenly, thy sanctuary!
Your magics join again
What custom strictly divided;
All people become brothers,
Where your gentle wing abides."

Letterboxd Review

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

Carpenter's acid flashbacks are given form in this, his final great film. A psychotronic, Lovecraftian fever dream.

Letterboxd Review

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Afraid of the Dark (1991)

My wife is partially blind. It's a neurological blindness rather than ocular, so her eyes work perfectly well but her brain only interprets the signals for her left field of vision, leaving her completely blind on her right-hand side. Anyway, a few years back I thought that I would try a simple task whilst completely blind. I tightly closed my eyes, got up from the sofa and walked into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. I have rarely felt so afraid and confused. Is that the coffee jar or the sugar jar? How do I know when the spoon has coffee in it? How do I know when the spoon full of coffee in over the mug? How do I know when the kettle spout is above the mug and how do I know when the mug is full and not overflowing? Somehow I managed without burning myself, walked back to the sofa and drank the coffee with my eyes still closed. 20 minutes of blindness. 20 minutes of fear. Try it sometime, it'll really open your eyes. This film perfectly captures that feeling.

Afraid of the Dark features a top-notch list of British actors (James Fox, Paul McGann, David Thewlis, Rosalind Knight, Hilary Mason, Sheila Burrell, Robert Stephens, and ...drum roll... Catriona MacColl!). Terrific!

Letterboxd Review

White Settlers (2014)

If we take the title "White Settlers" as I assume, it's intended then this film is the equivalent of a pre-revisionist, c-grade, 1940s western. A couple of pioneering English city-types move to rural Scotland and are terrorised by the natives. Happens all the time down here as well.

What could have been a really interesting portrayal of the disintegration of a relationship because of paranoia, isolation and distrust is quickly shat down the drain in favour of one of the most obvious storylines I've seen in recent years (the identity of the "natives" is given out in the first ten minutes).

Animal masks... again? Really?