Death Wish (1974 USA)

Few motion pictures have the notoriety of Death Wish: short sharp slabs of repulsive, sadistic violence that linger in the memory along with a theme–if you like the film then you must be an advocate of fascist exploitation cinema, or if you don’t like it then you are a bleeding heart liberal. Critics of the time hated the picture, calling it irresponsible for advocating vigilantism. What the critics of the time failed to see, as the film became a huge commercial success, was that they had the luxury to sit in their comfy secure high rise apartments as the people of the streets lived in fear of stepping outside their homes. At least in large cities like New York. [Read more…]

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Pyramids Of Mars (1975 BBC)

It was really Tom Baker who epitomized the eccentricities, sharp-wit and extreme other-worldliness that one would expect from an extra-terrestrial master of  Time and Space who has inexplicably developed a keen interest (and insatiable curiosity) with regards to humanity. And in this story Tom Baker makes perhaps the most striking entrance in the show’s history, standing silently next to the Tardis’ control panel, head bowed, hands in pockets like a Western gunfighter before looking up to later utter the immortal lines: “The Earth isn’t my home, Sarah. I’m a Time Lord…I’m not a human being. I walk in eternity.” [Read more…]

Easy Listening

Endless Night (1972 Britain)

First I reviewed the novel, now the celluloid. The book was a clever literary trick for its time. It is the first person narration of a psychopathic killer who is trying to hide his real nature and intentions from the reader, while actually dropping a series of clues that things are not quite what they seem. It is this trick, rather the banal situation, which is the real reason for reading the book and it is obviously this trick that made Sidney Gilliat want to film it. The problem is that he could not find a way to replicate it on screen, because cinema only really works in the third person and people are generally uncomfortable with movies that tell lies. [Read more…]

Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971 USA)

Roald Dahl’s Grimm-like book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” gets a careful, pointed musical treatment here, involving five Golden Ticket-winning children who get to tour a mysterious chocolate factory–at their own expense. Turns out the journey is a test of their personalities and upbringings, and while the film is a little presumptuous to suggest that the poorest child may be the most noble and honest (as if all rich kids are rotten). This must be in the top 10 of the most entertaining films of the last 100 years. Few people haven’t seen this. [Read more…]

Revenge Of The Manitou (Graham Masterton)

The 71 year old Edinburgh-born author has an unusual pedigree. He used to write sex books like How To Drive Your Man Wild In Bed – 3 million copies of that one sold. He was also heavily involved as an editor for porn mags like Mayfair and Penthouse too. Then he became a prolifically successful horror novel writer. Interesting…anyway, this follow up to his earlier The Manitou is much more entertaining. At first I was leery as the book opened with the focus on an eight-year old protagonist, but I quickly warmed-up to Toby and the Fenner clan.  [Read more…]

Carry On Henry (1971 Britain)

A curiously neglected entry, perhaps as it was made in a period when the series had generally started to go into decline, but in my view it’s one of the best of all, certainly in the top three. The historical outings were usually among the team’s funniest, and Talbot Rothwell provides perhaps his most audacious script with a real plot, told in his trademark puns and double entendres, but with a real abundance of panache and wit, attaining an almost poetic quality. Here the great tyrant, Henry VIII, is kinky haired Sid James – a pint-sized, dirty old man with a mug only a mother could love – chasing tavern wenches and princesses alike. [Read more…]

These Birds Could Sing

Dracula A.D. 1972 (United Kingdom)

(I dedicate this post to Peter Cushing, who always maintained his dignity even when his hands were full.) Moving on…no prizes for guessing which year this baby was released. T’was a leap year in horror. A vintage year for being a vampire trapped in St Bartolph’s churchyard, London. Although it feels slapdash, with its day-as-night shots, total lack of continuity and sloppy script, this film succeeds as a comic masterpiece. A bit like the Beatles disastrous Let It Be sessions, Hammer’s Dracula run-at-the-top was also nigh. Right nigh. And there was little Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee could do to stop the rot except to throw as much middle aged, Anglo-Saxon gravitas at the latest concotion they had found themselves roped into. [Read more…]

The Day Of The Jackal (1973 Britain/France)

Oubliez le remake 1997 de la merde. En fait oublier que Bruce Willis existe même. This is a wonderful, organic piece of thriller-narrative film-making. Over 2 hours, mostly without music, no patronizing voice-over or script-embedded exposition. Consequently, those moments where we’re not entirely sure what’s happening act as moments of suspense, not so much twists as notches in the grain of the plot. What I like most about the film is its pace. The economy with which the director Fred Zinneman tells the story is stripped right down. He allows the story to breathe inside the viewer. What else do I like about it? No CGI – hurray! No botox – bravo! No Hollywood/PC multi-culturalism to make races with brown or yellow skin feel ‘included’ in a story which isn’t theirs – wonderful! No smarmy wisecracks either. [Read more…]

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