Saturday, 14 December 2013

Thanks to Matthew Coniam for another questionnaire (and plus I also saw Deadly Discovery (1992), Desperation Highway (1996) and In Till You Die from DANCEBUY/Digital video Dreams/Fremantle/Thames/Talkback Thames, all of which were bloody shite

1. Which actors do you always (or did you always) mix-up?
Oh, Jack Albertson and Lloyd Nolan. The fact one appeared in The Poseidon Adventure and the other in Airport, and apparently both in a TV movie opposite Danny Nolan makes things more confusing. Aubrey Morris and Freddie Jones, and possibly Aubrey Morris and Norman Bird. Oh yes, and Geoffrey Whitehead and Geoffrey Bayldon.
2. Gidget or Beach Party?
The British equivalent - Summer Holiday (1963).
3. Favorite Movie Outfit?
I have no idea.
4. If you could be ANY character in ANY movie...who would you choose?
I would be Clarence Woolsey in Joe Dante's Matinee. or Benny U Murdoch in Eskimo Nell.
5. If you could marry ANY character in ANY movie...who would you choose?
I have no idea, just any girl who would be attractive enough and like me for who I am.
6. If you could live in ANY movie...which would you choose?
Carry On Abroad (1972).
7. Black & White movies you wish were in Technicolor, or vice-versa?
Hmm, I'd like to have seen perhaps the 1965 Ten Little Indians in colour.
8. Favorite Movie Soundtrack?
I don't know - Exorcist II - The Heretic is fabulous. Moonraker has a great one.
9. Favorite Movie Dance Sequence?
The bit in Rising Damp (1980) where the camp tailor says "Saturday Night Fever", and bizarrely Rigsby fantasises that he and Miss Jones are John Travolta  and Olivia Newton John in Grease, and he does this unbearable but oddly endearing dance move, which is essentially shaking his head with his hands attached to his ears.
10. Coolest Movie Star?
Clint, obviously.
11. Sophia or Gina
Screamy middle-aged Sophia - The ITC years.
12. "Isn't It Romantic" in most Billy Wilder films, or "Red River Valley"
"Isn't it dreary?" in Pete Walker films
13. If you could re-cast ANY role in ANY movie, what would it be?
Hmm, there are the intriguing what-ifs. Like Ronnie Barker as the butler in Trading Places or Inspector Max Bygraves in Frenzy. Lewis Collins should have been Bond in For Your Eyes Only and A View To A Kill, the latter being heavily rewritten to make it less of an ITV adventure equivalent of Last of the Summer Wine, possibly not Octopussy, as that plays to Moore's strengths, unless it was rewritten. Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing as Loomis in Halloween.
14. Favorite movie character with your first name?
George Formby.
15.One movie that should NEVER be remade? (under THE THREAT OF A SLOW, PAINFUL DEATH!)
An American Werewolf in London.
16. Actor or Actress who you would love to be best friends with?
The entire cast of Twilight to convincingly persuade them to make something better.
17. Are you an Oscar or a Felix?
A bit of both.
18. Actor/Actress you originally hated and now love?
I used to hate any actor who played the Doctor, for I believed Davros would turn up.
19.Actor/Actress you originally loved and now don't like?
 Mr. Johnny Depp.
20. Favorite performance that was looked over by Oscar? (Not to be confused with the aforementioned Oscar of Felix fame.)
21. Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie?
To be honest, they all blend into one glorious whole for me.
22. Hannibal Heyes or Kid Curry? (Hint for those who don't know who they are: pick Hannibal Heyes.)
None of them.
23. Favorite Style Icon: Fred Astaire or Cary Grant?
The dwarf in Don't Look Now.
24. Single most favorite movie scene EVER?
Hmm, I have no idea.
25. Movie you really "should" see, but have subconsciously avoiding for who knows what reason?
Oh god, for many years it was Cannibal Holocaust, but now that I have seen that. The Hobbit, the Twilight films and so on I have all avoided. I think I would like some scenes in the Hobbit for their Harryhausen-ish invention plus it has Sylvester McCoy, but I was bored stiff by the two Lord of the Rings films I saw in the cinema.
26. Movie quote you find yourself most often repeating in real life?
"No!" or "That's enough!" from An American Werewolf in London.
27. 50's Westerns or 60's Spies? (I can't even answer this myself...but you have to! MWAHAHAHA! - Millie)
60's spies.
28. Favorite splashy, colorful, obnoxious 50's musical?
What's Opera, Doc? (1957)
29. Favorite film setting (example: Rome, Paris, Seattle, Siberia, Chile, Sahara Desert, etc)
London, dense, foggy, on a backlot.
30. If you could own the entire wardrobe of any film, which would it be?
The one in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
31. Carol Burnette or Lucille Ball?
I only know the former from Annie, and the latter as a caterwauling TV lady. The latter.
32. Favorite Voice. Ever. Period?
Hmm, Brian Glover? Possibly, a Northern English accent at any rate.
33. Favorite movie that takes place in your home-state?
I don't have a state, so I will go by county. The thing is, there's not an awful lot of films SET in Wicklow, compared to the hundreds made in Wicklow, due to Wicklow being the home of Ardmore Studios, Ireland's topand for many years ONLY film-making paradise. So I'll just punt for Zardoz. Which is filmed entirely in Wicklow, but set in an Anglophone nowhereland that seems to be post-apocalyptic Britain but could easily be post-apocalyptic Wicklow. Oh, if you mean state by country, then, hmm, the thing is films set in Ireland kind of do my head in. So, I'll keep with Zardoz. It is rubbish, but it endearing rubbish, and the sheer weirdness and balls of it (not Connery's) is mind-blowing for a major studio picture. This  is what it means to escape type-casting.
34. Which actors would you want for relatives? (Mother, Father, Grandma, Crazy Aunt, annoying cousin, older brother, etc...)
Leonard Rossiter as Dad, Roy Barraclough and Les Dawson as Aunties.

What I have seen.
Outland (1981) - Yawn, Connery is Scottish space marshal alongside UK-based Yanks. Peter Boyle is odd. Kika Markham is wife. Substandard.
The Guns of Navarone (1961) - Rollick on. J Lee Thompson's direction and an A-class cast keep this a Bank Holiday treat.
Orphan (2009) - Couple adopt cute Estonian girl (Isabelle Fuhrman). Girl turns out to be not as nice and senstiive, but a 33 year old Estonian criminal who seduces dads and then kills them. 12-year-old Fuhrman is creepy. Everyone else is poorly characterised and could have done without the deaf sister. There should be a sequel with the character of Esther/Leena doing a Stepfather and visiting/adopted by another family.
The Dirty Dozen - The Next Mission - Marvin, Borgnine and Jaeckel wander around England posing as France and Germany, still in World War Two, but looking old (apart from Marvin who basically looks the same), along with a new team of US TV/B-rate stars, Ken Wahl, Sonny Landham, that bloke who played the American priest Fr. Buzz Cagney in Father Ted. Poor.
The Hired Hand (1971) - Boring "countercultural" western starring and directed by Peter Fonda, starring alongside Warren Oates as Appalachians. Watch Race With The Devil instead. It has campervans.
Sightseers (2012) - Brilliantly black comedy, Ben Whealtey's best so far (His A Field IN England is interesting and flawed, kind of like Kevin Brownlow's 1978 film Wisntanley, also a weird b/w English Civil War drama) and honest in its portrayal of easily angered caravan enthusiasts, with a homicidal twist. Steve Oram and Alice Lowe are great. There's transsexual dogs with personality crisis, a murder involving killing a grouchy man who refuses to pick up his own litter, so he is killed in a stone circle and his trousers pulled down to make it look like a sex killing. And successfully de-Christmasitises Frankie Goes To Hollywood's The Power of Love.
The Terrorists (1974) - Boring action film with Sean Connery. Low budget, most of it spent on Connery. Like a bad Alistair MacLean film.

Monday, 2 December 2013

The Awakening (1980) - The Omen Goes to Egypt

Charlton Heston turned down the role of Robert Thorn in The Omen (1976). He was no stranger to sci-fi and horror, with the Naked Jungle in 1954 and then in the 1960s and 1970s, Planet of the Apes, the Omega Man, Soylent Green, Earthquake and the fact that the role went to Gregory Peck and then the film became a roaring success must have made Charlton fire his prize pistol in the air in anger at making such a mistake. So he decided to capture lightning in a bottle, and duly was born this baby.
An adaptation of Bram Stoker's The Jewel of Seven Stars, previously adapted in 1971 by Hammer as Blood from the Mummy's Tomb, this version moves it like Hammer to modern-day London, but it gives it a big Omen-type rescaping. Heston is wobbly-accented British archaeologist Matt Corbeck, who in 1962  (though 1970s cars are seen) finds the tomb of mysterious, barely known to exist Queen Kara with his mistress/assistant Susannah York while his wife, Jill Townsend is pregnant with baby Margaret, looked after by curiously un-Egyptian Miriam Margolyes. They find the tomb, but an Arab assistant is hung and the pregnancy is rough. 18 Years later, Queen Kara's tomb's glass breaks. And Margaret (Stephanie "silly-named bit of eye candy off Remington Steele" Zimbalist) is coming home for her eighteenth birthday to see Dad who now due to an attempt to make him older (having tried to make him look younger miserably), now looks like Rolf Harris. And Mags now has hair like an Egyptian.

It is a fairly anaemic British horror, from that post-Omen/post-Hammer closure bust, of Norman J Warren, of ITC, of Little Hitlers and Richard Burton - Horror Star. Director Mike Newell, later attempting to drive British film into an early grave with Four Weddings and A Funeral (1994) and then directed by the fourth Harry Potter. Nadim Sawalha, British film and TV's go-to-Middle Eastern person appears as Heston's sidekick, Ian "Emperor Palpatine off Star Wars" MacDiarmid plays a cardigan-wearing psychologist who gets stabbed by Zimbalist, and the romantic male juvenile lead is Patrick Drury, whose battles with his would-be girlfriend would be rivalled by his role as much-abused/much-abusing husband John O'Leary in Father Ted. There are only a few unmemorable Omen-style death scenes, and even Sawalha is left unscathed. There's nice cinematography by Jack Cardiff, echoing his work on 1978's Death On The Nile, as this film boosts genuine location filming in Egypt, unlike many Mummy films, but he would have been a better director, having done the insane The Mutations (1974).
The ending, whilst close to Stoker seems to have been used to inject a post-Omen negative ending/sequel hook. "You evil bitch!".

In my opinion, it should have had Sawalha and Margolyes as victim, Sawalha disfigured by hot toast coming out of a toaster too fast and Margolyes' fat frame smashed in by a wobbly incubator. Perhaps, they were saving for the sequel.

I've also been watching Killer's Moon (1978) Alan Birkinshaw and his sister Fay Weldon's schoolgirl choir versus middle-aged Droog/mental patients who believe they're in a dream. With men shagging cross-dressing corpses in the belief it is their mother, singing, singing, US reality TV star Lisa Van der Pump and Hilda "Nana Moon in Eastenders" Braid, Linda Hayden's sometime lookalike sister Jane now less like her (sis was in the much bigger British horror The Boys From Brazil), a three-legged dog and a bizarre song by the bloke who sang the theme tune to "Goodnight, Sweetheart", Val Doonican backing singer Nick Curtis.

Monday, 28 October 2013

IFI Horrorthon Report - Rituals (1977)

Directed by Peter Carter
Starring Hal Holbrook (Harry), Lawrence Dane (Mitzi), Robin Gammell (Marty), Ken James (Abel), Gary Reineke (DJ)

Sometimes, at horror festivals, a gem is uncovered, something that never got a UK theatrical release, previously available on these shores on a grubby pre-cert VHS, and available only on US DVD as a doyenne of public domain cheapness. This is a Canadian film, made by UK-born director Carter, also behind Klondike Fever (1980, Harry Alan Towers' nearest attempt to a 'proper' film) and the late-period AIP Peter Fonda trucker flick High Ballin' (1978). This film which apparently cost just under $700,000 Canadian dollars, which for a Canadian tax-shelter piece is low compared to the $4 million it cost to make Scanners (1981) or Death Ship (1980), and a sixth of that went on getting Holbrook, because they needed an American 'name'. It's about 5 middle-aged-ish doctors who go on a camping trip in the "Cauldron of the Moon", a fictionalised area of rural Ontario. However, behind the goofery of the trips, four out of the five pairs of boots the men brought are taken. One by one, DJ goes missing, to find a dam in order to get help. Then, Abel gets killed by bees (or did he?) and Marty (unusually for an exploitation film, a sympathetic gay character, just one of the guys, whose sexuality is not made a big deal, bar one shout of "faggot") is left in a vegetative state. Mitzi and Harry then find that someone is bumping them off, but who is this mysterious mountain man?
Yes, though it seems to be a blending of Deliverance and a slasher (unusually, an all-male example of the latter), it works. The performances are realistic, the characters you root for, then feel remorse as they get killed. The killer is a bit unoriginal, and the makeup isn't great, but it works. Dane, in particular (the villain in Scanners, and a regular of Canadian exploitation in everything from Anglo-Canadian Alistair MacLean adap/Channel 4 regular Bear Island (1979) to Happy Birthday To Me (1981) and Bride of Chucky (1998)) is great as the troubled, conflicted Mitzi who wants to abandon the vegetative Marty and get help, while Holbrook's Harry disbelieves him.
In all, an underrated little picture.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

A stab at fiction - Northern Heroes - Part One (3176 words)

As he looked out through the Irish Sea, from the top of the Blackpool Tower (Britain's answer to the Eiffel), Sheldon Ledwidge smiled. He was a tall, rangy man with a large nose, startling eyes, one covered up by an eyepatch, silver-blond hair, a lollipop protruding out of his mouth towards one cheek and a hook-hand. He was once the Greatest Surgeon in Europe, and before that, he was "Blackpool's Favourite Son", the greatest Northern Soul DJ of his time, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the genre, only rivalled by his arch-enemy, Franklin Devine. He was currently trying not to think about Franklin or "Frigid Frank", as he was known. Frank was a huge bearded man, with an almost uncanny resemblance to the late actor/director/writer/producer Orson Welles, but had a high voice and a thick Lancashire accent. He was emotionally crippled by his obsession with Department X, a long-running science fiction television series that ran on BTV from 1968 to 1984, about the Ministry of Defence's Paranormal Defence Department, known as Department 'X'. He felt as if he was responsible for its cancellation, when its star Edmund Frazier was found drunk dancing to "Don't Leave Me This Way"  by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes in Devine's club, "The Blackpool Starlight Music Company" in 1977. Not even the addition of Gordon Jackson could save the series from a slowly impending doom.
Sheldon looked at another man who was following him up the Tower. It was Perry Lo, the owner of the local Chinese restaurant, in his mid-twenties, tall, handsome, tufts of dark hair rising out of his Burberry cap. He had just taken over the restaurant from his recently deceased father Desmond.
"What do you want?" Sheldon asked, in his slightly gruff Redditch accent.
Suddenly, Perry opened his mouth, revealing a ridiculously fruity English voice, as if he was possessed by a dead vicar. "Nothing much. Not very likely, my dear boy, business has been dead rotten, as usual. The typical audience, kiddies, drunken teenagers, alcoholic teenagers, drunken couples, alcoholic couples..."
"Is there a difference?" queried Sheldon.
"Yes, Sheldon, a drunk is poor and likely to be unemployed, while an alcoholic is a rich yuppie-type who has wasted his money on the local wine bar. And by the way, the Geordie is coming back!"
"The Geordie?" Sheldon asked, in a haunted tone of voice.
"Yes, the old man, Dad Desmond told me about him. He remembers him. Says he was the top bodyguard in the Northern Soul scene, then became a mercenary, one of the Wild Geese. Served in Arabia, in the private army of a sheikh with ninety wives, then was thrown out for having an affair with four of the wives. The women were all about to be stoned to death, their heads buried in the sand, but they were taken to Spain by their lover, who opened up a club in Marbella from 1989, and the women served as waitresses. Recently, he sold the club, and is back in Britain!" chirpily intoned Perry.
Sheldon gruffly replied, "Yes, I remember him, real name Frank Hastings, born in Redcar, 1950, moved to South Shields, aged two, left school aged 15, initially a boxer, then aged 18, became a bodyguard. We were mates initially, until that Saturday in June 1976, at the Mecca. There was a double booking."
"And?" Perry Lo halted Sheldon briefly.
Sheldon continued, "Both Devine and I were supposed to be playing, but there only room for one, so one of us had to be thrown out. I volunteered, but Franklin Devine was removed, fired, and he opened up his club the month after. Frank got so disillusioned with the job, that he screamed at me, told me to leave the job and join him as a merc. I refused, and off he went."
"I see." grumbled Perry, as his hands began to glow green, pulsating with energy. He lifted them up and shot a beam of red heat towards a lift shaft. The wood and wire lift clattered down instantly.
"How did you do that?" asked Sheldon, who was slightly overwhelmed by this sudden occurrence.
"They don't call me the "Blackpool Illumination" for nothing!" laughed Perry. "It is a special power I have. I can manipulate light, bounce light off myself, make myself light-intolerant and essentially invisible, can create lasers, can switch on and off lights without electricity. I can light anything."
"Is that why you came up here?" asked Sheldon. He seemed suspicious.
"What, that the Tower is the base of semi-legendary C-list superhero Captain Pennine, World War Two hero Joseph Rodd given powers via proto-botox injections? Yes!" Perry said, half-jokingly.
"Yeh, well superheroes don't really have secret identities. It is all for fame, so why pretend to be someone you're not? That's what I say." Sheldon noted, as he pulled out a spanner, and began trying to open the door to the lift.
"Yes, I agree. I'm Perry Lo, the Blackpool Illumination. I saw that the holographic shield to protect the base was showing off, so I realised that to protect it from vandals and the conspiracy theory nuts looking for Pennine's base, I'd use my power to repair it."
"Yeh, go on!" said a booming, semi-educated voice.
"It's him!" Sheldon said. "It's Captain Pennine."
A figure dropped down from the lift, tall, black-permed, wearing a low-cut shirt revealing chest-hair. He was seemingly in his early fifties, botox smoothening out the wrinkles to make his pink-lipped smile look suspciously fake.
"Hello," Captain Pennine said, ever so smarmy, "I am testing out a new cape. I say it fits"
"I thought you had superpowers." Perry Lo exclaimed, in a more authentically Chinese, more youthful voice, though with remnants of his fruiter tone.
"I do, but my technology strenghtens them. I've just finished some metallic fighting gloves. They need a polish. They have to be fire-resistant." cheerily intoned Captain Pennine. "Sheldon, have you done the tweaks to the P-9?"
"Yes," nodded Sheldon, "it can go 200 miles in an 'our. Perry, fix the holo-shield!"
Suddenly, Perry Lo began to concentrate and let out a huge spiral of laser twirling into Captain Pennine.
"Oh, that's neat!" Captain Pennine laughed at Perry.
"What's the P-9?" Perry wearily asked the heroic Captain, standing in front of him, hands on his hips, as the twirling went ever so near.
"It's my plane, my dear -" Captain Pennine stopped in mid-sentence, as Perry's lasers hit Pennine's heart. Pennine collapsed, his body buzzing, and the heart eventually rumbled on, quicker and quicker, until its beats slowed down, and soon enough, the heart was stopped completely.
 "Oh no, I've killed Captain Pennine!" Perry exclaimed.
"Thank God,you killed him! Joseph Rodd is dead!" exclaimed a relieved Sheldon.
"You not happy? Why are you happy" said a confused Perry Lo.  
"For twenty years, I was his Alfred. I was his supposed butler, mechanic, surgeon, a bloody slave. Now that I am free, I am in the knowledge that we will no longer be supposedly protected by an egocentric, xenophobic Nazi-hating bastard!"
Sheldon exclaimed. He was both terribly angry and yet could not be more relieved.
"But Sheldon," added Perry Lo, puzzled, "Joseph Rodd was a war hero."
"No, the true war heroes are dead. He was the last in his platoon, because he hid under a rug crying his eyes out, so people would think he was a f**k**g baby!" grimly laughed Sheldon.
"Who will protect us now? The police, are they strong enough?" asked Perry Lo.
"You will!" Sheldon exclaimed, as a wry smile fell across his face.
"But I do not have any experience. My name is Perry Lo, and though they call me the Blackpool Illumination, I do not think that I am just not confident for it, for the trials and tribulations of being a hero."
"Well, you think you are not able, but you seem confident to me," smiled Sheldon, "we could put a team together. The Geordie is a hero. I think the main threat in this world, it is Devine. He's a lot more dangerous than he comes across."
"What on Earth is the Geordie doing?" asked Perry Lo.
Sheldon eruditely answered, "Workin' for Dougie Quilter at the Club. Got Mixu Nieme, Finnish player for Bolton Wanderers, Chloe Bonaparte, some child singer off the telly,  a talent contest. Marian Edgar off the charity shop is the sponsor/judge."
"Oh, do they have that local drag queen, Fanny LeCoq?" joked Perry Lo.
"Yes!" Sheldon cried, pulling out a photo of the overweight, pink-beehived Cockney drag act.
"Who is the compere?" asked Perry.
"Oh, Royston Legbourne from Coronation Street, played Harry Heseltine for three years!" exclaimed Sheldon.
"I don't remember him, Sheldon. Who was he again?" Perry added.
"Must have been before you were born. He owned the corner shop briefly with Rita. Was married to Emily, but turned out to be a bigamist!" Sheldon laughed. "He's a cut-rate Roy Barraclough."
"Sounds like Ken Morley!" Perry laughed.
"Don't say that!" Sheldon angrily rumbled, as they went down the steps. "We  need to find  Devine."
At a Department X convention in the city of Blackpool, various guests, young and old were at the city hall. The series had recently been successfully revived, but Devine was having none of it. He wanted to make his own version of the series. He wanted to buy the rights off BTV, but they would not let him. He was now hosting a convention, luring its stars such as Edmund Frazier and the revival's sidekick, Declan Sean. Kids dressed as Crocodons (upright crocodile biped aliens) swarmed the queues, tunelessly pulling the guns of their plastic toy ray-guns. Devine was in  the main hall of the Convention Centre, with a microphone. He was interviewing the cast of Are You Being Served? (all notable stars had appeared in guest roles in Department X) when he felt some weird power. He could feel the assembly of something.
"Our Squadron is here!" Devine suddenly exclaimed.
"What is that, lovey?" the purple-haired Mollie Sugden cried. She seemed worried, and cared for Devine, whom she had known for many years.
Devine fell off the stage. He collapsed. He was unconscious. The fans who hated him were a great many. They cheered as he completed his fall from grace.
Flash - Devine opened his eyes. He was in a clinical room, entirely white. He could see the view of the city through the large window directly in front of him, in the back of the room. Shelley Ledwidge came in, with a bouquet of dead flowers.
"Sorry, I was late." Shelley gently spoke.
"It doesn't matter." Devine nodded.
"I know."
"Perry Lo." suddenly said Devine.
"What about him?" asked Shelley.
"He's one of them." Devine angrily muttered.
"One of what, Devine?" Shelley hid his knowledge.
"Eunice Curtis." Devine spat out.
"What do you mean exactly?" Shelley Ledwidge was confused, scratching his head.
"Eunice, Hotpot, you know, the fat one in Asda, short, dumpy, looks like Rose West!"
"I know who she is, Frank. Why her?"
Devine grinded his teeth. "She's pyrokinetic, like that film with diddy Drew Barrymore and Freddie Jones. I must call Fred actually for next year's convention, but that's another matter."
"She can control fire. I know." Shelley said, but he remained tight-lipped. "That's why they call her Hotpot."
"And Perry is an embodiment of light. He can control it, bend it, solidify it." Franklin Devine said, deluded with power.
"How do you know?" asked Shelley, clearly unsettled by Devine.
"How do I know, Shelley? I had a premonition. I could feel the death of Captain Pennine, a new team of heroes at his wake."
Shelley Ledwidge was most confused. "Do you not mean in his wake?"
"No," cried an angry Franklin Devine, "AT his wake, surrounding the coffin. His legacy, the legacy of a bastard."
"Who shall be their nemesis - Dougie Quilter," asked Shelley, "I did have aspirations of putting together such a gang."
"No, I shall be!" Franklin Devine laughed evilly, his brain clearly pulsating.
The Hotpot came in, dressed like a poor man's Su Pollard. She left flowers, torched almost to a crisp. "I'm sorry." She said.
"You bloody should be!" Franklin Devine was angry. Hotpot pulled her left hand out, her palm flattened in the air, placed vertically and out of it she released a flame, scorched Franklin's hair and beard. He was bald. His mouth was temporarily sealed and he was muted. His tongue was blown off.
Perry appeared, outside the window. He was flying, in Captain Pennine's cape. He froze Devine in a bed of solid light.
"Thanks for disabling him." Shelley Ledwidge said simply.
Perry simply said. "Where are the others?"
He was unaware that down below him in an ice cream van was the Geordie, trim, bearded, not unlike Jimmy Nail if he was an assassin like the Punisher or Charles Bronson's Paul Kersey in [i]Death Wish[/i], with a grenade disguised as a Flake '99. As he threw it upward, Perry used his powers to prematurely detonate the device in mid-air, and sucked up the explosion to gain more light-based energy. The Geordie smirked. He did not speak much, but he had clearly been under Devine's employ.
Then, he spoke. "That Devine promised be half a fookin' million!" It was clear that if there was half a million for joining R-Squadron, he'd take it.
"Frank Hastings, will you join a superteam for half a million pounds?" asked Shelley Ledwidge, his head peeping outside the window.
"No, I'd rather be back in Marbella with t'wife!" cried the Geordie, as he drove off in the ice cream van.
It looked like the Squadron was going to be a duo, or would it be? Stirring up in his muted head, Franklin Devine would plan his greatest project- World Domination.
Hotpot looked wearily at the disabled Franklin Devine. Hotpot was approaching her sixtieth birthday, but she was still extremely sprightly. She ran out of the window, riding on a fireball that she had moulded herself. "Hallelujah, praise the f**k**g lord!" she cried, both typically and uncharacteristically.
The Geordie jumped out of the Ice Cream Van, when it was still on the road. It trundled into a beach hut and exploded, killing one man, a David Agnew. Agnew was Devine's right hand man, a former writer on Department X and also on such television series as Doctor Who. He was a gloriously camp man in a gold lamé tracksuit. He'd had plastic surgery to look like his crush - Ian Ogilvy circa 1970, during his time in "Upstairs, Downstairs." His face melted away to reveal his true likeness, a more weathered self, like a gay Sid James, complete with neckerchief. The Geordie always cried a tear when he killed someone accidentally. He cried a tear of pure beer, pure John Smith. Only real men cried beer, either that or that the Geordie was an alcoholic who had drunk so much that he had gotten a sort of water on the brain that was 100 per cent alcohol. Hotpot came down on her fireball, having calmed the waves in order to stop them from torching her.
"Hello, Frank!" Hotpot screamed in a flirty manner at the initially bemused Geordie.
"Oh, not you, Eunice!" was the Geordie's shocked reaction. "It's been years since we were together."
"I know. You haven't been here in years. Anyway, I have a husband. You have four wives. There's no comparison."
The Geordie looked blunt. "I'm not looking for a fifth, Eun. Or a fourth. One walked out. I needed a rest from it."
"Which one was it? And by the way, they call me Hotpot."
"I know, Hotpot. But I am the Geordie, so I still call you Eunice. It was Rosa. I needed to let her go. Anyway, this super team, are you joining?"
"Oh yes, I am." Hotpot was enthusiastic. "You're too much of a loner."
"I am indeed. And the wife, sorry the three wives, they need me." coughed the Geordie. He walked off, rifle in hand. Hotpot looked at him. She was both sad and happy. She felt the deepest amount of regret, as it sunk into her heart.
Meanwhile, an undertaker's carriage, "U.R. De'ath" trundled along the Golden Mile to the hospital. Selby De'ath, the bowler-hatted Head Undertaker, grim, bald, face like a brick wall with food poisoning came up to Shelley Ledwidge, who was outside, smoking a pipe.
"What happened, Shelley? Is he dead yet?" grunted the Head Undertaker.
"Nothing, Selby, Devine's burnt, muted, partially disabled! He may as well be buried." Shelley Ledwidge hissed in an unusually sinister tone of voice.
"I'll tell Mayor Legbourne." Selby said, immediately dialling his 1989 cell phone. "Mr. Legbourne, is that you." There was a brief pause, then more chat from Selby. "Oh, Franklin Devine's dead, well not quite dead, but he's dead enough for us. He's disfigured, check, mute, check, disabled, check, bedridden, check, corrupt, check, pain in the arse, check, not much of a loss, check. He's eligible for us. Thanks, Royston."
Selby went in and entered the hospital room. Perry was there.
"What, he's not dead yet!" Perry exclaimed, stretching himself over the bed, billowing a cape of light.
"He's eligible for us. The throat is burnt. He is not breathing properly. He'll expire in time." Selby defiantly grunted, as he dragged the heavy body of Franklin Devine out of the room and down the stairs.
Ledwidge followed Selby out of the hospital and into the horse-drawn funeral carriage. "I think I need to perform some surgery on his face. I am a trained surgeon." Ledwidge boasted.
"I'm sure he said on Granada Reports that he wanted a cremation." Selby questioned Ledwidge.
"Maybe, maybe, Selby, but he's cremated enough." Ledwidge claimed, towering over Devine's horizontally mounted corpse, scalpel in his hook-hand.
The carriage went towards the De'Ath funeral complex, situated across the road from Blackpool Pleasure Beach. It was a combined mortuary/crematorium/funeral home/seaside cemetery which resembled an old church giving birth to a giant purple crystal placed precariously on the roof. Ledwidge went in, caked the burnt face of De'Ath with a kind of pale white face-mimicking plasticine and quickly went on. He believed that Ledwidge did not deserve the proper surgery. As he left, he saw a mysterious dwarfish figure in a trenchcoat - leaning on a lamppost, carrying a violin case.
"Is that George?" Ledwidge asked himself. "It can't be. He's been dead for almost fifty years." Ledwidge did a double-take and walked off into the fading sunset.
This mysterious figure entered the De'Ath funeral complex, by cleaning its windows, opening them up and jumping in. He took out of the violin case, a banjolele, not quite a ukulele, not quite a banjo. Had the ghost of the legendary King of Blackpool, Mr. George Formby come back from the grave in order to rescue the man he believed to be his heir - Franklin Devine? Yes.
In time did Formby restore Devine, giving him from beyond the grave a genuine World War Two gasmask coated in gold to restore his breathing, and a purple velvet cape, complete with Wurlitzer organ pipes to help him breathe and to act as a new endoskeleton. Devine had become the Oppressor, a camp Doctor Doom or Darth Vader, a cyborg destined to rule Blackpool as a fascist paradise against the muted Formby's wishes.Devine, reborn as the Oppressor thanks to George Formby's banjolele being whacked on his side, was now desperate to prove that he could make Department X better than BTV, so he went down in his Datsun Cherry down the road to Granada Studios in Manchester, punched Bill Roache in the face, and then took out a drill to "bore Ken Barlow!". The emergency alarm rang at Blackpool.
"Oh, Hotpot, Perry the Illumination, come here!" shouted Ledwidge, trying to signal the few members of R-Squadron.
Hotpot immediately flew into action on her fireball, still in her gingham blouse uniform from the supermarket checkout. She scorched the red letters at Granada TV and entered the set of Coronation Street's No. 1 public house, the Rovers Return, heating herself over another hotpot, Betty's famed dish, while Betty Driver sat in the background muttering to the ghostly, shimmery figure of Fred Feast. Hotpot came face to face with the Oppressor, immediately spraying his golden mask with flames. It was now copper, rusted but the Oppressor merely laughed her off in an electronic tone of voice that spouted incomprehensible gibberish. She ripped off his mask to see that his face had melted off. He was now completely faceless, no eyes or nose or mouth.
"How can one see?" asked Hotpot.
"Through the mind!" laughed the Oppressor, only to walk into a door, something that he hadn't seen.
A gunshot was heard. It was the Geordie, firing past the studios with a rocket launcher. He was in a taxicab back to the airport.
The Oppressor lifted a old copy of the TV Times from the archive, and tried to chant the listing of an episode of the Professionals shown during a weekend somewhen in 1978. "I hope to revive Gordon Jackson for my show!"
Hotpot used her powers to burn up the TV Times, scorching the Oppressor's hands.
Perry realised that he needed to get to Manchester, so he used his powers to build from solid light an ornithopter, a two-man flappy-winged flying machine for him and Ledwidge to man. As soon as they arrived at Granada, the Oppressor was dead.
"What happened?" asked Perry and Ledwidge at the same time.
"Oh, nothing! He got caught on fire!" laughed Hotpot, as the three laughed at each other like the cast of an American TV show as an episode closed. They needed to get back to Blackpool for a talent show. For now, Blackpool did not need them, but real heroes.  

Friday, 25 October 2013

IFI Horrorthon opening Film - In Fear (2013) - Never has a Scottish bloke pissing on a road in the rain been so terrifying...

At the Irish Film Institute in Temple Bar, Dublin, Yesterday night, I saw the premiere of a little film called In Fear, without knowing much about it. There's three actors (Australian teen actress Alice Englert, recently of the flop stillborn franchise Twilight-beater Beautiful Creatures (2013), Scottish actor Iain De Caestecker, seen as a Minipops Christopher Timothy in the recent BBC miniseries Young James Heriot, and Irish actor Allen Leech, best known as Bray-born chauffeur Tom Branson in ITV's period bore-a-thon Downton Abbey), and it is the debut film of British TV director Jeremy Lovering, who attended the Irish premiere, the only person involved with the film there, doing an audience Q and A which I participated in, and has worked on various TV shows such as Sherlock, Spooks and done second unit for Hot Fuzz (2007). This film is shamelessly derivative. Elements of the Hitcher (1986), Race with The Devil (coincidentially (according to Lovering, as I asked him myself) being shown next week on Film4, In Fear's co-producers), Roadgames (1981) and Duel (1971) crop up. At first, it seems to be entering the territory of Christopher Smith's Triangle (2009), involving travellers trapped in what appears to be a time loop, but it becomes something else.
Tom (De Caestecker) and Lucy (Englert) are two young lovers who have only been together for 2 weeks. Tom buys tickets for a rock festival in Ireland. It is actually filmed in Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, the director told me that this was due to unavailable Irish tax breaks, but it works, and gives it an unearthly, ambiguous feeling, especially as the surroundings are almost identical to the Irish countryside, in that it had many of the Irish audience fooled. Tom, being a bit unaccustomed to camping in the country, and also a romantic, books a hotel room in the seemingly idyllic Kilairney House Hotel, but on their way to the hotel, they get lost and are chased by seemingly several white-masked killers. Eventually, they find a victim, Max (Leech), who is at the same time predictable yet unpredictable.
The twists keep coming. What seems supernatural is actually the work of local pranksters. A mysterious noodle incident (what happened at the pub?) serves as the trigger for the events, or does it? What seems to be the work of several men is actually one man. It briefly becomes an Irishman setting up a more personalised, mobile version of Straw Dogs, simply because he's in a remote village, and it's either this or the pub, then the tables are turned, then it becomes something like Wolf Creek (2005), then something else.  The ending ends on a freeze-frame, but there is much to enjoy. SPOILERS.

Leech's psycho role is brilliant. Clearly doing it for the 'craic', he seems normal, then psychotic, then normal, then eventually the whole catalyst. The revelation of "Kilairney House Hotel - a Slice of Paradise" will be forever stuck in my head, not least for its resemblance to a friend's house (yes, even my friend has piles of derelict cars in front of his house, but then again, his dad is a props maker at Ardmore Studios and Kwesi used to drive around in a London taxi age 10, driving his godmother/my mum nuts).

There are problems. The briefly-seen Irish pub, "O'Connor's" looks a bit too green, both leads are likeable but the idea that even a romantic bloke would book a posh country house hotel to go to a festival needs some suspension of disbelief. However, the film works.

The festival was a great chance to meet other fans, including someone who I always admired, Erik Threlfall of the Hysteria-Continues podcast, one of the other few Irish horror-bloggers/podcaster web personalities. We chatted, he said he'd follow this blog, talked about the film. We both found it "alright". The IFI also served for only a fiver (horror fans only), the most scrumptious scampi and chips I have ever had, like a giant packet of Scampi Fries.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

IFTA Masterclass Report - Neil Marshall

My masterclass with Neil Marshall (the director of Dog Soldiers (2002), The Descent (2005), Doomsday (2008) and Centurion (2010), as well as Blackwater, an episode of the HBO series Game of Thrones) two Saturdays back helped me in looking at the life of production in film and television. I got in for free. It was an IFTA event, for industry professionals, and I was an aspiring filmmaker, but I got in as there were limited places,I e-mailed IFTA  came in at around 11 o'clock, though it began  at 12-15 PM, at the Lighthouse Cinema. I was surprised to see Neil there, having breakfast along me in the cinema café, an affable Geordie 43-year-old balding, bearded man. I was almost starstruck. He was a lovely, solid bloke. He told me not to answer too many questions, as I'd have to answer some at the IFTA masterclass. I asked him what was the most unconvincing portrayal of Britain in a TV show or film not made in Britain, as his films Dog Soldiers and Doomsday, both set in Scotland were respectively filmed in Luxembourg and South Africa. He didn't have an answer, but he did say that the hardest part of faking the UK was setting and laying tand finding the street furniture. Soon, more industry professionals came in - including the producer of several TV3 reality docusoaps, and the editor of The Voice of Ireland (whose job, she said jokingly was to ensure that all the judges wear the same clothes day in, day out to provide continuity) and Dearbhla Walsh, director of The Tudors, The Borgias, Shameless and a recent BBC adaptation of Esio Trot, the Roald Dahl novella starring Dustin Hoffman and Dame Judi Dench. I asked Marshall several questions (He told me the film he'd like to remake would either be The Car (1977, Jaws or Duel with a Lincoln Continential limousine) or the 1975 Peter Fonda film Race With The Devil (two couples in a camper van witness a Satanist murder-orgy and are chased through the desert by the Satanists who want revenge). He liked the fact that I pointed out Sean Pertwee in Dog Soldiers did the gurn when in peril his father Jon did as Doctor Who, Marshall being a Doctor Who fan getting this reference. He also said that he'd follow my blog, said that his new film Troll Hunter though set in Norwegian territory will be filmed in Canada, and he liked me noticing that John Carpenter's The Thing was similarly set and filmed in that way and liked my enthusiasm for his WW2 Alistair MacLean tribute Eagle's Nest, currently in development hell and my knowledge that he was briefly attached to a film of the TV series The Professionals. In all, it was a good day.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Thanks, Matthew Coniam for giving me this questionaire.

I've just sat through a load of bad movies, Spanish horror The Nameless (1999, based on a superior Ramsey Campbell novel, sending its Scouse gothic to sunny Spain, with its Liverpudlian haunted family (think a less scary, more humorous haunted version of 80s shitecom Bread) and turned into a tale of Mediterranean passion haunted by ancient cosmic terror, meh! 1986 Grace Jones post-Corman New World claptrap strippers 'n' vampires hokum Vamp, and the rather good 1980 Umberto Lenzi cannibal film Eaten Alive (1980, the only good one, if only for its bizarre Jim Jones-style plot involving Papua New Guineans with blow-darts attacking New York at Christmastime, and though it has some animal cruelty, it is all comparatively mild to Holocaust, bar an alligator-slaying and it is all recycled from other films), and the good old Cronenberg masterpiece from 1983, The Dead Zone, though Canada is clearly the location, despite it supposedly being the US.

Fortunately, king of all things awesome. Pax Romano of Billy Loves Stu, had thoughtfully produced The First Ever Billy Loves Stu Meme for Horror Bloggers and I decided to my own.

Of these horrors, I'd list them from my favourites to least favourites here.
An American Werewolf In London
Bride of Frankenstein
The Omen
The Wicker Man
The Haunting
The Thing
Dawn of the Dead
The Exorcist
The Shining
Rosemary's Baby
Night of the Living Dead
The Hills Have Eyes
The Lost Boys
Friday the 13th
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
A Nightmare on Elm Street

1: In Ten Words or Less, Describe Your Blog:
Cult ramblings of films and such. 
.2: During What Cinematic Era Where you Born?
A: The Classic Horror Era (late 30's to 40's)
B: The Atomic Monster/Nuclear Angst Era (the late 40's through 50's)
C: The Psycho Era ( Early 60's)
D: The Rosemary's Baby Era (Mid to Late 60's)
E: The Exorcism Era (Early to mid 70's)
F: The Halloween Era (Late 70's to Early 80's)
G: The Slasher Era (Mid
to late 80's)
H: The Self Referential/Post Modern Era (1990 to 1999)
Well, I was born in H. The first horrors I remember coming out were possibly the remake of The Haunting, being both terrified and delighted by the childish ghost-cherubs, and also the slashers, Scream 3, Valentine, so on. But Grandfather foisted a love of A, B/C, and that settled it...
.3: The Carrie Compatibility Question:
(gay men and straight women - make your choice from section A)
A: Billy Nolan or Tommy Ross, who would you take to the prom?
(straight guys and lesbians - make your choice from section B)
B: Sue Snell or Chris Hargensen, who would you take to the prom?
I have to say I thought Carrie was twaddle, not De Palma or King's best. No, I'd take my own girlfriend.
.4: You have been given an ungodly amount of money, and total control of a major motion picture studio - what would your dream Horror project be?
.Jesus, I would create a roster of low-budget films all costing less than $5 million, made in different parts of the world. It'd be Tigon, Amicus, Hammer, AIP, 30s-Universal, Monogram, PRC, Towers of London, ITC all rolled into one unholy mixture. But my dream, dream project - a remake of The Medusa Touch in stop-motion animation, that or Stalk, which the remake of Jack The Giant Killer has basically killed, since it too is a retelling of the same myths. But mine'd be darker, and not 'darker and edgier', like those silly Christawful Nolan Sisters' Batman movies. It wouldn't have Jack be growly and psychotic. It'd make the giants scary not comical. They'd be brutish and uncivilised, like snow-Vikings, each one stop-motion animated in the likeness of Brian Glover, in various disguises, huge shoulder-padded leather fur-trimmed suits, like Vikings or Mongols, and ride on seaweed-bearded seadogs, that jump out of the frozen lakes, the snow eventually falling down to become our rain. The land is held together by clouds. The giants would keep a library of humans in little jars, in suspended animation, usually in jam, the giants feeding on human brains so they can gain intelligence, the library controlled by a walk-on typewriter. The giants would be primitive, gas-lamps in their helmets, firing gunpowder pistols, strapped to sleeves, and would ride on rocket-sleds. The beanstalk would be formed out of deadly weed that would cover the giants' icy world, producing goblin-spawn out of the weed.  The giants' fortress would  be rudimentarily built, with crooked walls, as the giants can't plan properly. It would be guarded with a living, screaming, moaning portcullis with clawed blades at its ends. At one point, a giant spider would rise from a crack and attack Jack and the Princess, who only wants him as he's the only attractive young man in the vicinity. Earth would be a nightmarish place called Cornwall, part-Victorian English village, part-consumerist American suburb, cobbled motorways, mini-castles with garages. Jack would not be a blond, handsome Michael York-type insolent fop, but a slightly odd, gangly, black-haired dork who can only survive in the world of the giants as a hunter, because the little humans that are there regard him as a hero, while his people back home regard him as an embarrassment. The witch would trick him into going up, an escaped prisoner-turned-bag lady going around with a shopping trolley full of weed, her only sustenance and food.

5: What horror film "franchise" that others have embraced, left you cold?
Oh, a lot of them are cold fish to me. Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw, Halloween, Friday the 13th, they're all repetitive. Hellraiser's only for kinksters. My favourite instalment of any of them would be Halloween III - The Season of The Witch, only for the fact that its barking mad, has the Irish win against the Americans, wiping out a generation of winsome annoyances known as Hollywood child actors, and the fact it began as a germ of an idea sneezed out by a slightly reluctant Nigel Kneale.
.6: Is Michael Bay the Antichrist?Not necessarily, he hasn't got any ounce of talent, creativity or subtlety, but neither did George Lucas.
.7: Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Frankenstein Monster - which one of these classic villains scares you, and why?Dracula, because he's the only one who is aware of being horrid, and likes that. That is why the 1979 adap with Frank Langella didn't work, because he was essentially the protagonist, Van Helsing and Harker being the villains. It even had a positive-ambiguous ending.
.8: Tell me about a scene from a NON HORROR Film that scares the crap out of you:
Mae West in Sextette...

9: Baby Jane Hudson invites you over to her house for lunch. What do you bring?
HP, fig rolls, Scampi Fries, a Teatime Express or Gateaux cake, bought from Dunne's, an Irish supermarket chain.

10: So, between you and me, do you have any ulterior motives for blogging? Come, on you can tell me, it will be our little secret, I won't tell a soul.Kickstart my career as this generation's Peter Bogdanovich...
.11: What would you have brought to Rosemary Woodhouse's baby shower?
Regan McNeill as a babysitter.
.12: Godzilla vs The Cloverfield Monster, who wins?
Original Toho-era Godzilla, not the one in that fancy-pants kraut Emmerich's pro-US nuclear weapons farce.

13: If you found out that Rob Zombie was reading your blog, what would you post in hopes that he read it?
I think you mean well, but your films are all the same. Do something other than hillbilly bollocks. You may be an 'auteur' but you need to move away from doing stories about demented Southerners with long hair and beards. Just because you have long hair and a beard doesn't mean Michael Myers should have.
Or words to that effect.
.14: What is your favorite NON HORROR FILM, and why?
Ooh, Time Bandits, The Boys From Brazil (is that horror?), The Cassandra Crossing (is that horror?), Moonraker, I don't have an idea.

15: If blogging technology did not exist, what would you be doing?
Rounding up firewood for the father...

That's all.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

After failing 3 film schools, I've seen Death Ship - 1980 UK-Canadian horror directed by Alvin Rakoff, and it's special.

This film stars George Kennedy as the Captain, Richard Crenna as his deputy, Sally Ann "Truly Scrumptious off Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" Howes as his wife, some Canadian child actors as their kids, Nick Mancuso and Victoria Burgoyne as lovers, Saul Rubinek as the first victim, an annoying comedian/entertainer/compere and Kate Reid as the Shelley Winters-esque middle-aged widow.

Its about a cruise ship that thanks to recycled footage from the 1959 MGM film The Last Voyage is sunken, rammed by the titular Nazi concentration/torture ship. Seven survivors rescue their captain, who is possessed by the Nazi Captain, board the living but abandoned (seemingly) Nazi ship, and all crazy mayhem ensues.

It was written by Jack Hill, the American director behind among other films Foxy Brown, Coffy (both 1973), Spider-Baby (1968) and the Big DollHouse (1971), but directed by the husband of one-time Dr. Who companion Jacqueline "Barbara" Hill, as he was Canadian unlike Jack Hill (who was American), and plus Rakoff had directed 1977's Harry Alan Towers-produced UK/Canadian/South African potboiler King Solomon's Treasure and the Canadian disaster film City on Fire in 1979 with Henry Fonda, a post-Cassandra Crossing/Earthquake Ava Gardner and the 'serious era' Leslie Nielsen. This is nuts. No other film has death by eating 40-year-old Nazi boiled sweets that turn middle-aged widows into pustule-faced mutants that have walked off the set of Doctor Who - Mawdryn Undead (1983). Or seeing BBC boats 'n' sex soap Howard's Way actress Burgoyne killed merely via blood showered on her Psycho-style, just pure normal Nazi blood. Or having Nazi propaganda films being projected on your chest being fatal!

For trash films, it's recommended with each performance full of insanity, especially the possessed Kennedy. Even the child actors aren't that bad, as they are Canadian not winsome Americans....

Plus it was double-billed in the UK by Barber-Dann with Phobia (1980) by John Huston, starring Paul Michael Glaser, realising if his Starsky and Hutch co-star David Soul did horror well with Salem's Lot (1979), he could go better in Canada with a legendary director, and a script by Hammer vet Jimmy Sangster, plus King Solomon's Treasure and Battlestar Galactica actor John Colicos, but it is rubbish. Huston wastes his talent. It is grey, rubbish, bare of any shock value, and even as a Canadian guilty pleasure, totally fails.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Giallorama Double Feature

What Have You Done To Solange?
Directed by Massimo Dallamano
Starring Fabio Testi, Cristina Galbo, Camille Keaton, Joachim Fuchsberger, Karin Baal,

All the Colors of the Dark (Tutti i colori del buio, aka They're Coming to Get You) (1972, Italy / Spain)
All the Colours of the Dark (1972)  alias They're Coming to Get You
Directed by Sergio Martino
Starring Edwige Fenech, George Hilton, Susan Scott, Ivan Rassimov, George Riguad, Luciano Pigozzi

The giallo is an Italian mystery-thriller with elements of the slasher named after the Italian term for "yellow", in relation to the packing of mystery thrillers as yellow-jacket paperbacks in Italy similar to the Gollancz books in the UK. The giallo, in cinema arguably began with Mario Bava's 1964 Blood and Black Lace, and other directors, Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento and the two we will cover today, Sergio Martino and Massimo Dallamano.
Both these films are set and filmed in London with Italian actors, both rely on doomed pregnancy as a McGuffin.The two directors are different. Dallamano (1917-1976) was Sergio Leone's cinematographer, did other films including Dorian Grey (1970), Superbitch (1973) and The NightChild (1975), all UK-made. While they were co-productions with British actors such as Richard Todd, Stephanie Beacham, Richard Johnson and even Michael Sheard, Solange is an Italian-German film, produced by the German makers of the Krimi, the German equivalent of the giallo, based on the novels of British writer Edgar Wallace and German actors Baal and Fuchsberger (in his recurring Scotland Yard Inspector role) appear as part of this co-production deal.
Solange involves Testi as Enrico Rosseni, a teacher who has an affair with a rich pupil (Galbo) who then is mysteriously murdered. He tries to investigate, then hears about Solange (Keaton), a girl whose existence is denied by all. What is going on?
It turns out to be (Spoilers Alert! Spoilers Alert)
that the killer is a paedophile priest who got Solange pregnant, and the abortion Solange got drove her mad.
It's a dark but sublime movie. There's an excellent Ennio Morricone score, some nice London photography, including a foggy, grubby Tower Bridge and the dubbing is serviceable though in unlikely Mid-Atlantic accents. Testi is a captivating performer, and the schoolgirls are over-aged eye candy, but it is dark and an icky experience, not for the faint-heated.
All The Colours of The Dark is similar fare, involving giallo queen Fenech being haunted by a devil cult and Rassimov as a mysterious overalled killer, after a miscarriage. With appearances by good solid Eurocult stars such as Riguad (Horror Express) and Peter Lorre-alike Pigozzi (a Mario Bava regular), it is stylish, slightly pretentious but quite good.
Martino (1938-) is best known for his proto-slasher Torso (1973), as well as doing everything from cannibal movies (Mountain of the Cannibal God, 1978) to the post-apoclayptic extremes of 1983's 2019 - After The Fall of New York. He is a captivating, stylish director, and underrated, every inch the equal of a Fulci or a Bava.
If you like slightly sleazy, strange murder mysteries, these are recommended.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Motel Hell (1980)/Pieces (1982) - Slasher Double Bill

I'll be honest. I don't love slashers but I don't hate them. I find the genre a mixed bag, but it is usually formulaic. For every Halloween, there's sixty Aerobicide (1987) or Splatter University (1984) types lurking on the aged video shelf. However, it's not all just hokey masked nuts hacking nubile but overaged teens.

Motel Hell (1980)
Directed by Kevin Connor.
Starring Rory Calhoun, Paul Linke, Nancy Parsons, Nina Axelrod, Rosanne Katon

I like this movie. A rare United Artists attempt to jump the Halloween II/Friday the 13th bandwagon of major studios making exploitation horror. Directed by Kevin Connor, post-Amicus/Doug McClure, doing his first US film, it's a camp marvellous wonder that is a very noble attempt at doing a comedy horror. It's OTT and as cheesy as a grilled mozzarella bake, and that's the way it should be, complete with a chintzy z-rate country music theme by the possibly pseudonymous "Kregg Nance".
Ex-B-cowboy Calhoun is scene-swallowing (never mind chewing) as Farmer Vincent, a low-rent Colonel Sanders -type fast food merchant/motel owner behind Farmer Vincent's Fritters ('It takes all kinds of fritters to make Farmer Vincent's Fritters'.), helped by his younger sister Ida (Nancy Parsons, another scene-stealer as the overweight, pig-tailed, dungareed farm-girl), all is going well, until their  kid brother (Paul Linke, at 32, an improbable brother for the 60-odd Calhoun, less so for the 40-odd Parsons) returns with his new love, and all hell breaks loose.
This film has it all - creepy little girl twins, cannibalism (achieved by burying motel guests in the ground, their heads sticking out, tied with nooses, the ropes connected to a tractor, to make the tractor lift upward with the pulling power), swingers, hillbilly comedy, and a chainsaw-fight with Calhoun wearing a fake-looking pig's head.

PIECES (1982)
Directed by Juan Piquer Simon
Starring Christopher George, Lynda Day George, Ian Sera, Edmund Purdom, Paul Smith, Frank Brana, Jack Taylor

This, produced by semi-legendary smut/kung-fu/trash-horror producer Dick Randall is not the best slasher, but it is one of my favourites. It's not a good film, but it is semi-competently made. It has an all-star cast for a third-rate slasher (USTV stalwarts/married couple Christopher and Lynda Day George, Paul 'Bluto off Popeye/Midnight Express' Smith, former Matinee idol-turned-exploitation reliable Purdom, Spanish exploitation regular Jack Taylor) but because it is a Spanish film purporting to be an American one, it adds such a depth, such a layer, that it may indeed be the greatest film of all time. And it made $2 Million in America on its initial theatrical release, not bad for a low-budget film in a time when the drive-ins and fleapits died out.

The film begins in "Boston, 1942", though it clearly is "Valencia, 1982". A little boy in a cardigan is piecing together a jigsaw of a very 70s-looking naked lady with big Farrah Fawcett hair. Anachronistic baseball ephemera is seen on his wall, the look clearly trying to be more American than authentic period. His mother comes in, disgusted, asking for a "plastic bag" (in 1942) so he slaughters her up, then the neighbour and a Super Mario/Luigi alike cop comes in. The boy cries, saying a big man came in. Somehow, they believe he's innocent, despite him being covered in blood.
Cut- 40 years later.
In a suspiciously tropical Boston University, a girl skateboarding slowly crashes into a glass window carried Laurel and Hardy/Chuckle Brothers-style by two workmen from Masiello and "O'Donell" Co. (sic). Somehow, she survives and then is attacked by the killer who beheads her with a nice yellow chainsaw. The killer still holds dearly his mother's bloodied dress (How did he sneak it away from the scene of the crime I have no idea).
Meanwhile, the cops come in, invited by the Dean (Purdom). There's Lt. Bracken (George, tongue slightly in cheek) and Brana as his Leslie Nielsenesque sidekick. There's Smith as the odd caretaker, Willard (dubbed by the voice of Bud Spencer, Edward Mannix) who cherishes his yellow chainsaw. There's Professor Brown (Taylor), a polo-necked homosexual biology teacher who keeps bones in his office. The cops are helped by geeky permed stud Kendall (Ian Sera), who must have some ultra-magnetic attractive force, since he's not particularly desirable (this may be explained by a dubiously advised full frontal shot for our hero). Note how the cops accept Kendall, despite him being a potential suspect. Then, they bring in Lynda Day George as the world's worst tennis professional, Mary Riggs as an undercover cop/teacher, all watched by the Dean  (Purdom) and a Daria Nicolodi-lookalike nosy reporter.
This is undercut by weirdness - how is the killer able to sneak in a chainsaw into a lift? Why do they recognise him, behind his Shadow-esque scarf and wide-brimmed hat? Why does a kung-fu professor (an uncredited Bruce Le, a popular Bruce Lee-alike) wander about, kicking the air in the dark?
Only the identity of the killer is revealed - being the Dean, who is the boy, despite in the forty years between gaining an English accent (did he study at Oxford, Cambridge, Darlington Polytechnic?)
Well, he wants to create a jigsaw girl out of different body parts (Frankenhooker mark 1) to wear his mother's dress, why is not sure? Did he steal it from another Spanish Horror, 1969's The House That Screamed? Nobody knows.
The cops and Kendall rescue Mary from the Dean, and kill him before he plans to cut off her feet to put on the Frankenhooker.
The Frankenhooker comes to life, with a completely different face to the girl who was beheaded, whose head is now the hooker's.

And pulls off Kendall's penis through his denim jeans.
The film ends, freeze-frames on Kendall's anguished face.
Yes, not only did the Frankenhooker come alive all of a sudden (possessed by the Dean, the mother, one of the victims who was jilted by Kendall?) but it suddenly gained super strength.
The film is an enjoyable cheesefest. There's aerobic scenes, kung fu, laboured sex comedy between a breasty student asking where the pectorals are,  Friday the 13th poster (the head of Friday's production company, Steve Minasian produced PIECES).
The actors are serviceable, though the Spanish actors are quite stilted, rendered more by the dubbing.
But I cannot truly sum up this film's charms. Director Simon also did the 1979 Superman mockbuster Supersonic Man and a Kenneth More-starring Journey to the Centre of the Earth in 1976, also with Jack Taylor as a time-traveller, wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey bloke.

Both films have Arrow editions. Motel Hell has some interesting cast interviews, critiques by writers and journalists, and a  commentary with journalist Calum Waddell and director Kevin Connor.
There's a similar batch for PIECES, with a good amount of extras on one disc (though no features from the US Grindhouse edition) including a commentary by Fangoria editor Tony Timpone and Waddell, an interview with Jack Taylor, a nostalgic critique and a trailer. Both are recommended to horror fans.

Stitches and Grabbers (2012) - AN Irish horror double bill

Stitches (2012)
Stitches 2012 movie poster.jpg
Directed by Conor McMahon
Starring Ross Noble, Tommy Knight, Gemma-Leah Devereux
Irish horror has had its up and downs. I think that there has not been a truly great Irish horror director since John Boorman, and even he's British-born. Glenn McQuaid's films have been interesting and there have been various international films made here. Neil Jordan's films are too artsy-fartsy and the likes of Grabbers seem to play it up for paddywhackery. This is a slightly restrained variant on the latter.
Director McMahon, previously behind Dead Meat (2004), a film that should have been called "Culchie-Zombies In Leitrim", as that is what it was exactly. Stitches is a comedy-horror. Now, I have to say, I like comedy-horrors IF they are good. Young Frankenstein, Shaun of the Dead, even Barry McKenzie Holds His Own, but there's a particular knock. For each one of these, there's a Scary Movie, a Boy Eats Girl and a National Lampoon's Class Reunion.
The plot concerns Stitches/Richard Grindle (Geordie comedian/BBC panel show regular Noble in his acting debut), a children's entertainer/clown composed out of the worst features from Reece Shearsmith's Psychoville character Mr. Jelly and amped up to a 100, who is an inexplicably Tyneside clown in Ireland who is killed in an accident by a group of particularly bold children.
Six/seven years, the leader of the kids (Sarah Jane Adventures' Tommy Knight, an inexplicably English Home Counties boy in Ireland) is hosting a big teen party, only for Stitches to come back for revenge.
The plot has elements of I Know What You Did Last Summer, Stephen King's It!, Nightmare On Elm Street and every teen movie ever. The romantic leads, Knight and Devereux are appealing and likeable, but everything else isn't.
The supporting teen actors are dreadful, all D4 ways, and almost winsome portentousness in their little heads that makes you want to see them suffer. Sadly, the humour in the film doesn't work, the deaths try to go for an Elm Street-type dream logic, but they happen in reality. Noble is a slight OTT, almost reminiscent of Tim James in Funnyman (1994), with his Northern (Tyneside not Yorkshire) accent and wisecracks like a Newcastle Krueger.
It's unfunny, feels longer than it is, and only really of recommendation if those want to see Irish teens slaughtered rather than Americans or Canadians.  

Stitches (2012)
Directed by Jon Wright. Written by Kevin Lehane.
Starring Richard Coyle, Russell Tovey, Ruth Bradley, David Pearse

From Anglo-Irish director Jon Wright (of tubby-schoolboy-goes-slasher British horror Tormented (2009)), this is a spin on Tremors with elements of Island Of Terror/Night Of The Big Heat (1967), that takes its 'original' concept from 1986's Blue Monkey - basically "Get Drunk to Survive Alien Invasion". Its characters, a veteran Garda (Coyle, from Steven Moffat's shitecom Coupling, and doing a very convincing Irish accent) and a Dublin rookie (Ruth Bradley, who gets under my skin, don't ask me why, she just irritates me) find an alien and a local British scientist, Dr. Smith (Tovey, showing his credentials as a potential Doctor in Doctor Who, and the film's best performance) doing research. The aliens - cephalopods/squid-like Cthuloid monsters are allergic to alcohol, so the locals and the Garda and Dr. Smith (no, not  him from Lost In Space) have a lock-in in the only pub.
The film plays up stereotypes, not quite in tbe scathing way Father Ted did, which did this thing a million times better in "Night of the Nearly Dead". Coyle is very good, Bradley serviceable, Tovey excelling in his role as a scientist who when drunk goes to Brian Blessed-levels of extreme) but the Irish character actors cast are lost, playing it up slightly too much, and the humour gets lost. TheCGI is okay, but I never really felt a CGI monster's presence, bar Mars Attacks! (1996) and this film definitely is lacking.