Hell Is For Heroes (1962 USA)

Steve McQueen was striving to make it big in Hollywood and used the force of his ego to position himself as the star here. This didn’t endear him to the picture’s original director Robert Pirosh, who also wrote the screenplay. McQueen’s insistence on rewriting scenes and placing himself in the center of the action spoiled Piroff’s vision of a fighting unit that worked together with no single individual standing out. McQueen got Pirosh fired, and Don Siegel was hired with McQueen’s approval to take over. Siegel knew how to stroke McQueen’s fragile psyche, and in some cases, simply agreed to some of McQueen’s suggestions then did his own thing. If you keep a close eye on Private Reese (McQueen), this sense of embittered self confidence pervades his character throughout the story. He’s right even when he’s wrong. [Read more…]

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From Beyond The Grave (1974 Britain)

A four part story film with more resonance than its predecessors. The success of this Amicus portmanteau is the unusually strong and well-integrated story, with a Yorkshire – voiced Peter Cushing enjoying himself as the sinister proprietor of ‘Temptations Antiques.’ Situated between a cemetery and a nearby demolition contractor this is a most curious of curiosity shops. Cushing’s duffel coat and cloth cap appearance seems like just another part of the shop’s antiquated décor. But mind how you treat him if you want to buy some of his object d art. Even the one honest customer who goes in has to endure a highly unpleasant experience! [Read more…]

Lock Up (1989 USA)

(Living the dream. Sly’s got a new boyfriend and some cat food. Talk about Mr Hollywood!) Frank Leone (Sylvester Stallone) is a saint. Literally. He has to do time in the big house for avenging the brutal beating of an elderly man. And he’ll only break out of prison if there’s a funeral for a loved one, or the old man that he avenged. Then back to his cell he will go like a good ‘un. Heck, when he has any free time he even spends it with his kids. And not even his blonde girlfriend, looking on approvingly, can stop him. Not a racist bone in his body either, but as an Italian stallion, he can see through those racist Anglo-Saxon types. Like warden Drumgoole and his guards, Manly and Wylie. These are the bad dudes. Lock Up isn’t subtle. [Read more…]

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…]

The Woman In Black (1989 United Kingdom)

A truly memorable piece of work, once seen never forgotten. Unlike American made horror, the Brits know how to do subtle, relying on the potency of a story full of suggestion and anticipation. And when the great Nigel Kneale is involved with a script the result is usually quality and this is quality. Plus the special effects are few which lulls the viewer into thinking that this film is set in the real world, thus making us a bit more uneasy. No monsters, no blood or violence, no cliches, just terror. You’re constantly thinking: Is she there? Isn’t she? Where is she? What’s that sound? What’s upstairs? Everything’s fine…or is it? Aaah! [Read more…]

In The Heart Of The Sea (2015 USA)

Unfairly labelled a flop because it didn’t generate enough moolah at the box office, but in this day and age that’s probably a sign of quality. A dramatization of the true events that inspired Herman Melville’s classic novel “Moby Dick”. In 1820 the whaling ship Essex sets sail from Nantucket, Massachusetts. After a largely fruitless search in the Atlantic she heads for the west coast of South America. There she hears about rich whaling grounds several hundred miles west. After reaching the whaling grounds she is attacked and sunk by a massive white sperm whale. The crew take to the boats in what will be an epic struggle for survival.  [Read more…]

Bottom Live 2003: Weapons Grade Y- Fronts Tour

Following the average Bottom 2001: An Arse Oddity, Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson returned for their fifth and final Bottom tour, which played the length and breadth of Britain in 2003. One of the places they brought the show to was Southend on Sea. The Cliffs Pavilion to be precise. Eddie: “Why don’t you just own up to the fact that you were actually born in Basildon?” Richie: “How dare you? I was born here – I love Southport!” By now they were probably just phoning it in, which is why they upped the quotient of swear words for this one. [Read more…]

Groundhog Day (1993 USA)

I think one of the smartest ideas here is that the setting, pure and simple: it could be anywhere but nowhere important. Of course, it is important for our character to get stuck in the middle of nowhere – then it wouldn’t come as such a curse to spend every day on a nice island or a big city. Here monotomy hits us hard. And here comes the life lesson: people in their 30s & 40s can easily get the metaphor, that ‘every day looks the same’. We work, sleep, eat, …. and what else? Something is missing, right? Maybe words that begin with L and H. [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…]

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