The Owl Service (Alan Garner)

I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed this book until now. I read it when I was little, and it scared me quite a lot at the time. Now that I am not as much of a scaredy cat I can see it for what it is: an impressive novel originally intended for a juvenile readership but, as these things tend to do, ended up being just as popular with adults. A remarkably subtle and complex fantasy that could also be classed as weird fiction for young adults. The style is fast-paced, sparse, and doesn’t patronize the reader with pages, or even paragraphs of scene-setting. (By the way– it may be bad luck to gaze at an owl. That’s why I chose such a bland cover above instead of the more striking ones featuring our nocturnal feathered friends. Don’t want to tempt fate…) [Read more…]

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“The silver stream is a poor man’s wine…”

Lady In Cement (1968 USA)

Warning: for the hip-hop/MTV crowd of today – this flick is probably one for you to avoid. It does not contain CGI effects, mindless dance music, jumpy editing, eye-blinding SFX or even a politically correct message thrown in. Good, now that’s out of the way, what do we have here? We’ve got the pride of Italian Americana – ole Blue Eyes himself…we’ve got a Jewish lady with a sumptuous cleavage that puts Raquel Welch to shame… we’ve got very bad 1960s hair days… we’ve even got Hoss Cartwright himself, Dan Blocker… Oh, and we also have the aforementioned Raquel Welch…our basket might be overladen with goodies! Or is it? [Read more…]

Twisted Nerve (1968 United Kingdom)

I’ve reviewed quite a few movies from that year of our Lord, 1968. A disquieting year for a number of reasons…Twisted Nerve, something of a link between Michael Powell’s “Peeping Tom” and Hitchcock’s “Frenzy”, has floated about like an apparition for so long it’s somehow managed to permeate the most seemingly unconnected crannies of pop culture. Its main theme, a haunting melody penned by legendary Hitchcock scorer Bernard Herrmann, was stolen by Hollywood’s pet magpie, Q Tarantino, for “Kill Bill, Vol 1”. Penned by celebrated “Peeping Tom” scribe Leo Marks, this is a fairly typical late-1960s psycho-thriller. [Read more…]

Blind Corner (1963 Britain)

(This motion picture is also known as “Man In The Dark” for the American market) Director Lance Comfort’s finest 74 minutes of his career. Not that that’s saying much as his stock in trade was the “supporting” B films that were shown before the main feature in British cinemas throughout the 1950s and 60s. These types of movies were done on the cheap as there just wasn’t enough cash in Britain’s post-war film industry those days. Its amazing how many did get made. They were always great value, and its fairly cheap to build up a nice dvd collection of them. They are also historical documents as to how people lived back then. [Read more…]

You Only Live Twice (1967 US/UK)

As I watched “You Only Live Twice,” I developed a nostalgia for many scenes that made the older Bond films work so well. One of the great things about “You Only Live Twice” is that it has the confidence to be quiet. Take Bond’s conversation with Henderson (Charles Gray). Bond walks into Henderson’s home, he asks his contact a few questions, an interesting conversation between the men ensues and then Henderson freezes. Someone threw a knife into his back. “North by Northwest,” also has a man unable to reveal a crucial piece of info because he is suddenly killed. And you know what? Between you, me and the gate post, these scenes never get tired/worn. They are what separates the old world of film from the new. [Read more…]

The Killers (1964 USA)

Hugely influential classic re-telling of Ernest Hemingway’s short story. This flick has inspired many a wannabe. Not really Film Noir as it was made after the genre had passed and is in colour and features no detectives or private eyes. And not even a “film” as it was originally intended as the very first made-for-television movie. With this version also featuring a murder-by-sniper scene, the recent assassination of John F. Kennedy by sniper ensured The Killers was temporarily on unsafe ground. With Ronald Reagan making his last appearance on film before moving into politics, the ’64 version of The Killers has a bit of history. [Read more…]

Thunderball (Ian Fleming)

The Bond originally conceived by the cinema was very much a creature of the 1960s. Yet the Bond of the books is a man of the 1950s. And like many men in the 1950s, eating an English breakfast 3 times daily and not only being unfit, but unable to even spell the word, seemed to be de rigueur: James is in poor shape it seems, 60 cigarettes a day (think of that in 2017….where would he even find a place to smoke that often!?) do not keep the doctor away. And he drinks like a fish. So M sends him away on a little vacation to recuperate…again. And, of course, each time James goes away to rest, someone tries to take him out. What a life huh? [Read more…]

The Mind Parasites (Colin Wilson)

“The Mind Parasites” came about when Wilson criticized a bloke named H P Lovecraft in one of his works. August Derleth, Lovecraft’s posthumous publisher and apologist, made a challenge to Wilson – saying, essentially “If you think Lovecraft was such a lousy writer, why don’t you do better yourself?” Wilson relished the challenge and set out to do just that. This book is the result. In fact, it can’t really be regarded as part of the Lovecraftian cycle – it takes too many liberties with the canon for that – but in its own right it’s an amazing work. We are not the top of the food chain; we have an energy predator which is feeding off of us and also restructuring the world in its image — this is the new world order. [Read more…]

Arabesque (1966 USA)

After the success of his Hitchcock homage “Charade”, director Stanley Donen made this very similar comedy-thriller with Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren in the lead roles. While Peck and Loren are not quite as suited to this kind of thing as Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, they still make an attractive couple. If you thought “Charade” was complex, you’ll find “Arabesque” resembles a hundred shoelaces tangled into an impenetrable knot. The plot is not really meant to be followed – it merely exists as an excuse to stage one dazzling set piece after another. But it’s Arabesque’s wildly inventive cinematography which sets it apart from virtually every other action film. Its beautiful to behold. Quite a feast for the eyes. [Read more…]

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