- Yellow Hair and the Fortress of Gold (1984)
- I bought this movie thinking it was something else. I can't remember what the something else might have been now but it wasn't this unholy mixture of slapstick and Spaghetti Western sadism. It's long, it's boring, and hasn't a spark of originality about it.
I have no idea who the producers thought the target audience for this movie might be but the pitch must have been a doozy:
"It's a Spaghetti Western Comedy - only, and here's the twist, we have a woman hero and make it look like an old time Saturday morning children's serial to cash in on the Indiana Jones market! How can we loose?"
Three big targets to hit - and they missed all three. The comedy is feeble - are we really supposed to find the fact that the generalissimo is a teensy bit camp funny? The serial framing device is so clumsily and laboriously done that any humour in it evaporates before it gets going. The whole point about the Saturday serials was that there was a cliffhanger at the end of each episode*, a point that seems to have been totally missed by the writers. The only one of their targets they came close to hitting was the parody/homage of the Spaghetti Western genre - but as that was a genre that was always shamelessly happy about sending itself up it's a very easy target to hit. Give anyone a week in Almeria with a few unshaven actors and they could have come up with this stuff.
*Apart from the last one naturally.
- Fiend Without A Face
- In a rural part of Canada populated by people with weirdly variable accents, something is sucking the brains out of the locals who live round an experimental Atomic-Powered US Air Force Radar base - the variable accents came about because this film is a British pot boiler made in Walton on Thames by a poverty row studio who couldn't afford many real actors - though they did manage to scrape together enough money to hire one Jeep and one American car as props thus creating about as convincing an evocation of Canada as sticking a red telephone box in the middle of Times Square and captioning it 'Piccadilly Circus' would convince anyone that New York could double for London. It turns out that what has been sucking the locals brains was a species of 'Mental Vampire' unwittingly bought into being by a crazed old coot professor and the only way to stop them is to blow up the control room (sic) of the military's, already out of control, nuclear power plant. Just goes to show Britain could make grade-A Z movies too.It goes all the way to Eleven
- The kids loved it but it bored the pants off me. What was the point? Toy Story, Monsters Inc, The Incredibles - just about all the Pixar movies I have seen - have a sustained internal logic that springs from the world they are set in. The Monsters need to gather scream energy in Monsters Inc. and the reversal of that - in the child who escapes into their world is toxic to them - and all that follows from that is delightfully worked out, Buzz Lightyear's realisation that he is indeed a toy, and can't fly is one of the great tragic moments of modern cinema. In Cars we get the tired old story about finding out that what Really Matters In Life is not necessarily what you think it is, dolloped out with animated cars as protagonists. Apart from a few puns and substitutions - tractor tipping instead of cow tipping was the best - nothing much happens that couldn't have happened in a straight movie. The Toy Story movies could only happen in the Toy Story Universe - it made sense to spend all that time and effort to animate it and make it believable. Cars could have happened anywhere - so why bother?
- The World The Flesh and The Devil
- loosely based on the The Purple Cloud by P M Shiel, this is one of those films that may well have lost some of its shock value over the years but is still interesting (the ending implies that the last woman in the world isn't going to choose between the two men who have been fighting over her but will in fact sleep with both of them.
What would have been even more shocking to audiences in 1959 is the fact that one of the men is black. I doubt if this was shown in many cinemas in Alabama when it was released.) It's a great film on all sorts of levels. The shock value may have dissipated with the years but the issues it deals with haven't.
- The Missionary
- slight but amusing.
- I Married a Monster From Outer Space
- I have long considered this to be one of the greatest movie titles ever. I've never seen it before and it turns out to be a stupendously dull movie which sent me to sleep three times in one viewing (two of them simultaneously).
- Ikarie XB1
- a 1963 Czech SF movie, previously watched in a chopped down American version known as Voyage To The End of The Universe. Another of the many movies which has resonances with, and reckoned by many to have been an influence on, Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey - though, if you play this futile game long enough it soon becomes possible to prove that Kubrick didn't have a single creative thought during whole of the making of 2001, an absurd notion - which doesn't stop everyone playing it. Ikarie XB1 has more claim than most contenders, ending as it does with the crew of Earth's first interstellar craft looking hopefully toward the future as abstract patterns flow before their eyes and the image of newborn baby fills the screen. (The American version, for some baffling reason, cut the baby and added aerial shots of New York, thus implying the crew were aliens come to Earth). Curiously compelling with some odd choreography in a shipboard party sequence - this is a big spaceship, one of the crew has a baby grand piano in his cabin. And I want the soundtrack.
- Jason and the Argonauts
- I loved this as a kid and took every opportunity to watch it that I could get - which were few and far between in the pre VHS, DVD days of my youth. I remember the sequence with the 'Clashing Rocks' holding a special horrible fascination for me. I'm glad I shared it with my kids tonight, they said they enjoyed it but it doesn't half look like ropey old tosh to my jaded adult eyes. Ah well, another memory that should have been left undisturbed.
- The Notorious Bettie Page
- fun little bio-pic of the fifties Pin-up girl. I wasn't entirely convinced by the need for the colour sections.
- Six Degrees of Separation
- for a movie that hardly stops talking for a minute and rarely leaves the homes of rich urbanites holding glasses of dry white wine, this is hell of an exciting film. Far more so than any number of explosion and stunt ridden bits trash because, unlike most explosion and stunt ridden trash, I had no idea who the good guys were (if there were any) and what was going to happen next - this despite me having seen it at least twice before.
- The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl
- I think I've finally ODd on Robert Rodriguez's kid's - sorry, 'family' films recently. My kids with their normal hyper-uncriticality loved it.
- The Pope of Trash, John Water's rockabilly musical. I love it to bits; how can you not love a movie that has lines like:"You're rehabilitated. Here's three and a half dollars and a clean pair of underpants."?
- Cosmic Princess
- Do I count this as a film? It's a TV movie made from splicing together two episodes of that great unintentional comedy hit Space:1999. Why not? It's not as if I'm going to be watching anything more like real film tonight. Favourite lines:
Hero (Puzzling out why the Moon has just vanished in a overly sustained crappy visual effect): "There's only one answer: they've gone through a Space Warp. They could be billions of miles away."
Sidekick: "...and we have fuel for less than a million."
I can't even start to list all the reasons that those lines are so stupid but the implication that spaceships just stop when they run out of fuel had me hooting with laughter - but then I am the sort of twerp that finds that sort of thing endlessly amusing.
- The Fairy King of Ar
- Presumably short for 'The Fairy King of Argh, Who Wrote This Shit!'. I would guess one of the dreadful things about being an actor is that you can't ever take your name off your work. Directors can hide behind pseudonyms, producers can blame the director, and everyone else can throw up their hands and blame everyone else for letting them down. The actors however are stuck there up there, on screen for all the world to see, unable to hide from the awfulness that surrounds them. And this movie is awful.
Most of the blame lies with the direction - not that there appears to have been any, and a script that may well have been, judging from what arrives on the screen, little more than a rough outline, semi-improvised by the actors as they were shooting. The whole thing looks like it was shot in single, unrehearsed takes with no one having bothered to tell the cast and the few background artists what was going on or what they were supposed to be doing.
In short it looks like an amateur production and I can't begin to guess at the behind the scenes events that left reliably professional jobbing actors like Corbin Bernsen*, Glynis Barber, and Malcolm McDowell so helplessly adrift; I occasionally work with youth drama groups and have seen more conviction from bored High School kids than is on display here. Still, I guess the principals all got a nice holiday in South Africa out of it (a bizarre location choice for a film set on the Isle of Man). I don't suppose anyone involved in this turd will be including any part of it in their show reels.
Having said all that my hyper-imaginative, six year old, fairy loving daughter was hooked throughout and genuinely terrified during the 'climactic' trapped-in-the-mine sequence, and even my four year old got 'the message'.
*Bernsen also has to suffer the indignity of most incredibly underwritten, non-specific terminal disease in the history of movies since the Production Code of the thirties prevented anyone from mentioning the clap.
- The Fatal Flying Guillotines
- 1977 Kung-Fu nonsense in which everyone kicks the bejeesus out of each other upon sight for no apparent reason to the sound of hyperactive Foley artists having fits in a junk yard. I'm used to movies trying to unsettle or dislocate the audience in the opening moments but this movie had a new (to me) trick: an on-screen written prologue simultaneously read aloud on the soundtrack - almost. The back story they were trying to get over was the same but the words coming out the voice-actor's mouth weren't the same as what was up there for us to read. Very disturbing. Like trying to pat your head while rubbing your tummy anticlockwise. Mind you the sequence where an ancient Shoalin Monk disables our fit young hero by giving him a double nipple twist was almost worth the pain of the rest of it.
- Fugitive Alien
- (MST3K) My first 'episodes of a Japanese TV show edited together to make a movie' movie for a while. Absence has not made my heart grow fonder. Though I will say one thing for the genre: they're very easy to fall asleep to. Visual sleeping pills. I suspect it's because they are so incoherent and disjointed; they jump from scene to scene in a way that defies any other sort of logic other than that which happens in dreams, that they somehow trick my body into thinking it's already asleep.
You're safe from this nonsense for another four weeks. More bums next time. I promise.
(note to self: Watch more movies with semi-naked women in.)