The Man With The Golden Gun (1974 United Artists)

This is another 007 adventure which gets trashed by many critics. Perhaps because it’s subdued in tone, possibly abnormally so for a Bond movie. As if the film itself is depressed. Well, in 1974 the world was in a depressed state–because of the energy crisis, which M and Bond remind us of in one of their dialogue exchanges. The vibe surrounding here is the most peculiar of them all: it’s very Asiatic/kung-fu in tone, and very downbeat. It’s definitely no extravaganza like, say, The Living Daylights, but an attentive viewing of the Man With The Golden Gun should prove very rewarding. This is the last of the ‘old-fashioned’ Bond films. [Read more…]

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All These Condemned (John D MacDonald)

Written in 1954 before environmental issues became big in the public consciousness – this is very different than his later works. If I didn’t know I would never have guessed it was by JDM. In the hands of some lesser writer, the two chapters per character-narrator would have come off as a cheesy gimmick, but not for the MacDonald. In just pages, MacDonald fashions whole biographies, not of these character’s histories, but of who they are in body and soul. I rarely come across a book filled with such depth and such distinctive characters.  [Read more…]

10 (1979 United States)

Around October 1979–when this flick first appeared in theatres all over the western world–a buzz had been created. Firstly, Bo Derek’s hair do became an unfortunate fashion trend. Secondly, Dudley Moore became a very unlikely sex symbol/sex dwarf. Thirdly, Ravel’s “Bolero” became the music to make love to. In other words, if you were over eighteen you just had to see this this motion picture or you were considered a square, baby. What was all the buzz about? The young lady who played the titular role, that’s what. But was she really a ten? [Read more…]

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969 United Kingdom)

Following a long period of cheap-looking productions designed to play as double-features on their home turf, Hammer returned to premium quality with Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. This is Peter Cushing’s definitive portrayal of the Baron. For once a Hammer Frankenstein doesn’t need an actual monster, but lets the baron himself become “more monstrous than the monsters he created”, as the advertisements proclaimed. And for a horror film, you’d have to agree that the locations used for filming were really quite elegant and ornate. The Spengler boarding house and Brandt’s home were exquisitely appointed and furnished, and all the while I kept thinking that they would have been a pretty nice place to live.  [Read more…]

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…]

Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

George Lucas remade one of the finest works of film master Akira Kurosawa, the Western-themed “Hidden Fortress,” with one scene (the fight in the bar) stolen from Yojimbo. Therefore, Star Wars  has a bit of the jittery discomfort of characters trying to fit into a story that wasn’t quite made for them, like people with past life experiences that intrude into the present. Kurosawa’s hero is split not into two but three heroes in Star Wars (four if you include the princess, who has a more prominent role in Star Wars. It is frankly too bad that Star Wars later fell into the hands of Disney and JJ Abrams, becoming a tool solely for cashing in, and a line item on someone’s accounting ledger, but I guess that is probably the way the wafer crumbles in Hollywood. I simply choose to ignore the boring new films… [Read more…]

Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb (1971 Britain)

I’ve been sweating cobs over some major computer problems recently and its been tough trying to write new posts. But while there’s some life in my old Toshiba there’s some hope. Hammer Studios had already peaked and it’s two marquee stars, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, had moved on to greener pastures. Loosely based on Bram Stoker’s “Jewel of the Seven Stars”, which is to say they ripped off a few elements, put Stoker’s name on it, safe in the knowledge that he was long dead and his works had entered the Public Domain. Two directors worked on this because the first one died and a lacklustre disorganization is evident. It’s also hard not to shake the feeling that Hammer horror were already on the way out. [Read more…]

The Evil (1978 USA)

During the 70’s there were tons of haunted house flicks that were either TV films or for the big screen. Among this avalanche popped up The Evil– a brave, camp, even humourous attempt to make a haunted house film in the same style as 1963’s The Haunting. But in a very low budget lackluster way. It’s not too bad but there are a number of reasons why it barely works. The story is very simple…a number of people rent a large old house for a prolonged stay only to find, once they moved in, that something sinister lives there. But they find out too late and become locked in – many terrible things happen before the few remaining survivors confront the evil entity itself and try to defeat it. (There may be some epic spoilers there) [Read more…]

The First Men In The Moon ( H.G. Wells)

Oh, for the good old days when men believed that the moon was inhabited by “Selenites” who lived in deep caves underground! If your only knowledge of this book is the 1964 motion picture, this novel will surprise you. This is no romantic comedy, although there are humorous moments. H.G. Wells, in his The First Men in the Moon takes two Englishmen, the eccentric inventor Cavor, and the ne’er-do-well Bedford, to the moon in a spherical spaceship using an antigravity substance called Cavorite. Fortunately for these ill-prepared astronauts, the moon has plenty of oxygen, so they don’t need a spacesuit with breathing apparatus.  [Read more…]

The Lost Weekend (1945 USA)

The now very famous title is obviously a reference to what can happen to the confirmed alcoholic when they feel compelled by their bodies to embark on the mother of all benders. As this is an addiction – or a disease, however you prefer to label it – gaps in time tend to occur quite frequently. The drunk will not remember nor care about the depths they have sunk to, but director Billy Wilder was able to superbly capture all of the squalor on film for his audience. The Lost Weekend is almost beyond reproach in its sobering message, sending a strong no-preaching tone. It has a wonderful, sometimes offbeat, script, a wide character range underscored by a marvelous supporting cast and an often moving lead in Ray Milland, our lush under the microscope, who does a grand job projecting despair and cynicism. [Read more…]

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