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…]

After The Sunset (USA 2004)

Max (Pierce Brosnan) and Lola (Salma Hayek) are eating at a restaurant with an American couple and are discussing their business activities. Wendell: “My family’s been in manure for three generations.” Max: “No shit.” Having pulled off yet another amazing and cunning diamond robbery and left FBI Agent Lloyd with yet more egg on his face, Max and Lola retire to the Caribbean and get on easy street. After a while though the lobsters start to lose their luxury, the sun seems normal and the days are boring more than they are relaxing. [Read more…]

Hell House (Richard Matheson)

Matheson really was a master of his craft. He took the conventional Gothic structure and threw it out of the window. Assaulting the reader with carnal, palpable terror, from its first page to the very end. Readers new to Hell House will be wondering how far are things going to go regarding the repulsive sexual shenanigans… What would have been shocking and new to audiences in 1971 has become a tad too familiar today, unfortunately. While this speaks volumes to the book’s cultural and literary impact – the fact that it has been copied and imitated by so many on film and on the page detracts from the book’s overall contemporary wow factor. I bet Stephen King used this as some inspiration for The Shining. [Read more…]

The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961 United Kingdom)

Remember when Britain produced really great motion pictures? OK, no one is that old who would visit this blog. Lucky for us there is dvd-blu ray to enjoy these hoary relics. Anyway, this was made decades before millions hated and distrusted the lame stream’s media lies that pass for “news.”  It is very rare that a film manages to capture the sweat, stress and panic of the newsroom (ho ho! – alright, I’ll reign in my cynicism for the duration of this post) where the workers gather round for quick meetings and discussions before frantically typing up a new story and making those all – important phone calls. And the decision to tell the whole story from the viewpoint of the Daily Express workers is a refreshing and exciting one. [Read more…]

Dig That Bass

Library music (aka production or stock music) is music recorded in a multitude of contexts and styles by work-for-hire musicians, owned by music-library labels, and lent out to commercial enterprises in TV, radio, and film. So there’s a good chance you’ve heard this somewhere. Thought I’d give credit to the guys responsible…guitar – Colin Pincott. bass – Don Gillies. drums – Peter Trout. organ / composer – Mike Lease. Library music is fascinating because if there’s such a thing as ephemeral music this is it—recordings that were meant for a certain moment then filed away when that moment has passed, with the general public unable to purchase it at the time. They give us a picture of the way day-to-day music sounded decades ago, outside either the bounds of pop-chart aspirations or the critically-acclaimed underground. This particular piece screams “use me in the most sleazy way!”

Animal Farm (George Orwell)

Written between November 1943 and February 1944, but not published straightaway, because of the USSR’s status as an ally in the Second World War. Orwell was a socialist writer, so the fact that he chose to do such a savage critique of the Soviet Union may come as a bit of a surprise to the present-day reader. One might have expected him to choose the far right, rather than the far left. But he personally felt that Soviet Russia had itself become a brutal dictatorship, and that its original ideals had become perverted. I personally don’t believe any of the original Bolshevik leaders who overthrew the Tsar had any ‘ideals’ other than a brutal, bloody dictatorship that would impoverish the majority of its citizens. And so it proved! Socialism can only work in a racially homogenous nation with no ethnic Trojan horses. (Scandinavia in the 1960s probably came closest to the Socialist ideal) [Read more…]

Inferno (1970 United Kingdom)

This was the final story in Jon Pertwee’s debut season and, although slow, it is the best of a series that, whilst an improvement on latter period Patrick Troughton, seemed a bit stilted and somewhat stuck. Not least because after a ruling by the Time Lords, Pertwee is stuck on earth to help Unit (a hush-hush military brigade headed by the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) and there is no time travel. This gave the whole 1970 season a ‘Quatermass’ vibe that is very cosy and British. The story concerns a mission at a research station to bore through the earth’s crust with a view to harnessing what lies beneath as a form of cheap energy. [Read more…]

Monster’s Ball (2001 USA)

This is a typical male erotic fantasy, the hesitant white man dutifully tending to the jungle goddess because she’s damaged and begging to be repaired. What the film really wants to do is titillate its audience with the prospect of hot black- on- white sex. Whilst the entire film is shot with economy, using very little coverage, its famous sex scene is shot from every possible angle (and more if you buy the director’s cut). The director wants us to leer at Halle Berry’ chocolate flesh- the film treating the audience to delightful little snippets of Berry’s berries and pert little cheeks. End result: white audience gets a slice of jungle fever, whilst passing it off as grief coping. As for me, my White Guilt O Metre could only reach as high as 4 out of 10. [Read more…]

If You Could See Me Now (Peter Straub)

The blurb of my copy of the book manages to drop three spoilers in the space of two sentences, and then reiterates one of the spoilers just in case I was slow on the uptake. I shall endeavor to avoid doing something similar. Straub brings class to horror unlike anyone I’ve ever read. He has literary tricks up his sleeve that will keep sophisticated readers happy throughout. He is a master of tone. And not just with the mystery he puts forth in this novel, but with the way he sets up our narrator as this haughty know-it-all faced with a town of plebeians that plague him. This book is a wonderful ride to take for that reason. [Read more…]

The Train (1964 France/USA)

The concept of an ‘action’ film is the most curious, as many examples of the genre seem very static – even today where it seems that anything can be shown. A fight, car crash, explosion, etc is rehearsed, staged, simultaneously photographed and edited in a certain way that brings out and sometimes enhances the action. But, as the event is meticulously planned, rigorously controlled, sometimes or always re-shot, spontaneity cannot be part of the action, or plays a small part. The action may be impressive, but still seems unreal, too chaotic, the sense that the action is not integrated into the story and maybe even more importantly, the attitude and motivation of the characters. Most action films are far from achieving all this. [Read more…]

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