Man In A Suitcase (1967/68 United Kingdom)

No, its not the Police song from their 1980 album ‘Zenyatta Mondatta’. Man in a Suitcase is one of those ITC colour series filmed in and around Pinewood Studios and on location in London during 1966/7. (Locals at the time must have been constantly interrupted by cameras, cast and crews preventing them getting from A to B). Its a rough, tough adventure series which, thanks to the strength, charisma, and capability of the leading player: a surly Texan method actor Richard Bradford, still continues to enthrall and entertain folk who lap up this nostalgia for swinging London, dollybirds in mini-skirts, green Hillman Imps etc.
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The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (Joan Aiken)

 

Set in an alternative 1832 where the monarch is James III (implying that the House of Hanover never came to the throne) and wolves have entered England during a bad winter by crossing the Channel Tunnel (not opened in our reality until 1994). Unlike the children’s books of today – this was first published in the early 1960s – the whole thing proceeds at a rip-roaring pace with very little build-up. There are a number of other books in the series, all set in the same alternate history but I don’t know if all the characters are the same in each. [Read more…]

The Assassination Bureau (1969 United Kingdom)

‘The Assassination Bureau Ltd.’ was an incomplete novel by Jack London. The 1969 film version was produced by Michael Relph and directed by Basil Dearden. Crusading journalist Sonya Winter (Diana Rigg) uncovers the existence of a secret society of hired assassins operating at the turn of the 19th century. Their founder is cocksure Russian nobleman Ivan Dragomiloff (Oliver Reed). He is hired by Sonya to murder…himself. Feeling the Bureau to have become complacent, he accepts the challenge. Sounds like quite an ominous plot!
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Silent Running (1972 USA)

This was one of five movies made by Universal “on the cheap”, (a millions bucks each) after the phenomenal success of the low-budget Easy Rider. Of the five, Silent Running was a modest success, though it suffered from lack of publicity, which was an erroneous decision made by Universal. Special effects wizard, Douglas Trumbull, was given the director’s reins. Silent Running is one of those lonely sci-fi films made in the spirit of 2001: A Space Odyssey where it’s all about astronauts being isolated and becoming gradually unhinged in deep space. What makes this one unique is the ecological theme, which is still timely today.
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“She’s mine for the price of a drink…”

Paul McCartney makes a fool of himself while Harrison Ford – despite being smashed out of his gourd with booze – proves he’s cooler than the man who wrote Ebony And Ivory. One more attribute to be added to his long and illustrious CV. Don’t think HF appreciates being shoulder grabbed by an Angela Lansbury doppelgänger either. Those god damned limeys!

Scream And Scream Again (1970 United Kingdom)

This is one of those old British films that let you down but you want to look for the good within the disappointment. Its mildly entertaining but incoherent: 3 separate stories have been forced together. The result is an ultra-long episode of TV’s The Avengers. This is so late ’60’s, with its discotheques, pop groups ( ‘The Amen Corner’ ) and blokes in flowered shirts. Hammer tried to go down the same route later with ‘Dracula A.D. 1972’ but, by then, London had stopped swinging. On the plus side, if any film signposted the direction horror took in the ’70’s, it was Scream And Scream Again. You even get a foretaste of Michael Crichton’s ‘Coma.’
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Salems Lot (Stephen King)

This novel brought up my lapsed Catholicism. About one third of the way in I had taken to wearing a crucifix. I was so absorbed that I only put the paperback down to sprinkle drops of holy water around my bedroom. Hell, why stop there. I even asked the dog and cat to help me out with a few Hail Marys. Back to the book: this is a busy tour de force of how evil small towns can be. Of course that’s total BS but it works for a fictional setting. There is a wonderful intimacy on display with so many characters we can relate to. From the paranoid bus driver aghast at how unpatriotic kids are in 1975… to a Peeping Tom old bag, Mabel Werts, and her binoculars… to the slut-shaming of a teenage girl because she has big boobies. Magic stuff.
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“It’s as cold as hell…”

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