Frenzy (1972 United Kingdom)

“Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square” by Arthur La Bern is not a novel I’ve read so I can’t say if this is better or worse than the printed page its based upon. All I do know is sometime in 1971 Alfred Hitchcock came back to dear old Blighty to do it to his audience one more time. And here he dons the chef’s apron to serve us up a classic of cheap and nasty: forced sex, murder and food. I wonder what Hitchcock’s wife and family thought of Frenzy. “That’s…lovely dear…” They probably reacted the way any family would if the patriarch had just been arrested in your local brothel. Yep. Frenzy is red light entertainment all the way! [Read more…]

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The Oblong Box (1969 United Kingdom)

Owing virtually nothing to Edgar Allan Poe other than the title, American International Pictures (AIP) did like to insult the public’s intelligence. The critics of the time did not have much enthusiasm for this flick, which is often surprisingly nasty for that era, but I think this has enough entertainment value for at least one viewing. The director, Gordon Hessler, who replaced Michael Reeves after his untimely death, does a good job of making the film into a reasonably compelling narrative, even if he is a little too fond of extreme close-ups.
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The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959 United Kingdom)

No, this is not the Cliff Richard story but that could be an alternate title. TMWCCD is from the era when a film could be made for 84,000 pounds, and look expensive. We have here a tale of an eminent doctor, Georges Bonnet (Anton Diffring, who stepped into the role after Peter Cushing backed out) who dabbles in sculpting. Bonnet is maintaining a pretty big secret: he’s actually a lot older than he looks, managing to stay healthy and youthful looking by a scientific process involving removing glands from unwilling donors. The problem is one can see this was developed from a stage work so the viewer has to be patient. Very patient! [Read more…]

Dressed To Kill (1980 USA)

Dressed-to-Kill-1I wish Michael Caine had not been cast in this because he is too conventional and limited an actor to portray such an extremely unconventional character. That aside, Brian De Palma’s mash-up of Argento and Hitchcock really made headlines on release. Outraged feminists in the north of England invaded a cinema while it played and threw blood at the screen in protest. That kind of publicity guaranteed more curiosity and meant bigger box office than expected. A master filmmaker manipulated his audience with dark, politically incorrect twists filled with impure thoughts, deeds, guilty pleasures, illicit sex, and its punishing aftermath… [Read more…]

Murder On The Orient Express (2017 USA)

An update on the much revered original of 1974, here is the ultimate luvvie himself, Kenneth bloody Branagh, and he has actually come up with the goods here. Ignore the nay sayers…they declare he’s derailed Agatha Christie’s novel– but I say (and its my blog, so I can) that he’s certainly breathed enough steam into the old locomotive to keep it chugging to its destination: an entertaining and involving cinematic experience. Even Kenny’s much maligned mustache deserves an Oscar for effort. This is facial art without peer. [Read more…]

The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde (1968 Canada/USA)

First broadcast on Canadian TV, this is a very strong production, and given that it’s shot on videotape with a period setting mounted on fog-bound studio sets, it all comes off very well indeed thanks to Trevor Williams’ excellent art direction. Horror great Dan Curtis produces here and also shares directing duties with Charles Jarrott. Composer Robert Colbert’s music is properly spooky too, alive with jabs of tense foreboding. But obviously, we’re all here for the mean and mighty Jack Palance, and he is very good as both Jekyll and Hyde. [Read more…]

The Butterfly Garden (Dot Hutchison)

This is a psychological/mystery/horror thriller – that won’t be to everyone’s liking; due to the subject matter. (And there’s bound to be a big screen version) It starts off with two FBI agents, Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison, interviewing a young woman, Maya/Inara, who was rescued with other girls that were being held captive by a person only known as ‘The Gardener.’ The garden is a New York–set paradise complete with beautiful trees and flowers, streams and ponds, a cliff and a waterfall. But in reality it is a prison, fully enclosed by walls and glass within a larger garden from which there is no escape. [Read more…]

Halloween (1978 USA)

He’s gone! The evil has gone!” Bug eyed Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence) screams. This hilarious line stands out from such a bare bones of a screenplay. John Carpenter’s direction makes a lot out of such simple elements as: shadows, dark streets, creaking doors, that it makes even the everyday setting of a small town neighborhood claustrophobically terrifying. Of course, back when this was made there were no smart phones or CCTV to combat predatory homicidal stalkers. Although it wasn’t the first of its kind, Halloween certainly was the game-changer for almost every other slasher flick that followed this low-budget indie horror. But they only ended up imitating the formula that this sick ‘classic’ originated. [Read more…]

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…]

Thérèse Raquin (1980 BBC)

The picture quality on this DVD has the resolution of a fading VHS tape from 30 years ago, and if this truly is the best restoration that can be made of this 166-minute production, that must be counted as a minor but distinct tragedy…for actress Kate Nelligan is the Thérèse Raquin to end all Thérèse Raquins. Based on the Zola novel, this is the story of a vibrant but trapped young woman, stuck in a loveless marriage to a pampered weakling. Then one day, the husband brings home an old friend–Laurent– and the doors of her soul fly open. [Read more…]

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