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…]

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Spectre (2015 United Artists)

The Sam Smith theme tune is s**t, obviously, but the rest of Spectre is quite superior to most other 007 entries in the long and tortuous franchise going back to before most of us were even born. Heck, this may even be my favourite. If you’ve wanted a Bond film that successfully merges Craig’s gritty Casino Royale, with all the old school touches, look no further. Director Sam Mendes tries to create massive story-arcs that span 4 films! Adding to that he attempts to weigh in on Bond’s steely personality, giving him a back-story that almost turns him into Bruce Wayne. (Don’t laugh) In modern parlance, this is some deep s**t. [Read more…]

Shattered (1991 USA)

Wolfgang Petersen directs this suspense thriller with some skill, so most intelligent viewers should be intrigued enough to be seduced by it up till the very end. Even though Shattered has been compared to Alfred Hitchcock movies and the novels of Agatha Christie, it does go a lot further and is far more daring then anything that Agatha Christie or Alfred Hitchcock ever wrote or directed. The reason it seems that so many people are turned off by this motion picture is that it not only went the full nine yards to tell it’s mystery/suspense story with an out of the blue surprise ending, but it goes the entire length of the football field in telling it. [Read more…]

Night Watch (1973 Britain)

Ellen Wheeler (Elizabeth Taylor) is stuck in a loveless marriage with John Wheeler (Laurence Harvey). There’s also a deserted mansion right next door to her. One dark and stormy night she sees a dead body in that house. She’s terrified and calls the police. They come but find nothing. Her husband and best friend Sarah (Billie Whitelaw) try to convince her she was seeing things but she’s positive it was there. Soon she can’t sleep or eat and is slowly going mad. The viewer may also be driven mad by the pace of this flick: its slower than a broken clock. And that describes about the first eighty minutes of running time. So be patient.  [Read more…]

Dementia 13 (USA/Ireland 1963)

Public domain titles from the golden age of schlock, like Dementia 13, tend to live an unloved life in the bargain bins of any self-respecting dvd store. Price will vary from fifty cents up to maybe five bucks if the merchant is feeling lucky. Why this has such a I’m cheap buy me status is baffling to a lover of old schlock like me. This film owes much of its terror from its setting, its imagery and surreal circumstances that have a hint of something otherworldly. [Read more…]

The Ax ( Donald E Westlake)

Wanted: Middle management for the oversight of an assembly line in an industrial paper factory. College degree and experience a must. Homicidal maniacs welcome to apply. Burke Devore is a typical middle-aged guy with a steady job, a wife and two kids. When he gets laid off he spends 2 years looking for new employment and realizes that there are too many people with more education and experience looking for similar work. Donald Westlake wrote this in 1997, but his publishers missed an opportunity during the last economic bust to reissue this book with great fanfare because it’s even more poignant now. There is not a single dull moment in the entire novel and to top it all off, the ending is even more brilliant.
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The Forbidden Territory (Dennis Wheatley)

This was a smash hit in 1933 for its first time author. And he never looked back. By the 1960s he was selling a million books a year. He was never ‘big’ in America though, and with his elitist views and prudish characters, Wheatley’s name has faded into near obscurity now. As well as being well written from a technical perspective—plot, story, dialogue, exposition, The Forbidden Territory is also an interesting window on the late British Empire. For this reason, if no other, the books of Dennis Wheatley are worth reading. If you have a warm fire and a comfortable reading chair, this slim novel should provide a top-hole evening of very British entertainment: wealthy debonair characters (resolutely heterosexual) tanning the hide of uppity foreigners. It almost makes one wish for the return of the British Empire. [Read more…]

Assault On Precinct 13 (1976 USA)

Labelled an “auteur” by the French and a “bum” by his compatriots, John Carpenter will never get the acclaim of a Spielberg or a Hitchcock. I’m siding with the Americans…The best thing about “Assault” is its bare-bones construction. There’s precious little backstory, no real explanation for the heinous actions of the gang members, no extraneous “character development” for the protagonists, no scenes where they talk about how they have a wife and kids at home or are retiring tomorrow, and very few cutaways from the main action once it gets going (the lone exception being a few sequences with a couple of clueless cops patrolling the neighbourhood who keep missing the siege on the supposedly abandoned precinct). [Read more…]

The River Wild (1994 USA)

A family-friendly feminist reboot of Deliverance. Without the sodomy. Damn…I knew something was missing. Maybe director Curtis Hanson suggested that Meryl Streep give up her booty, Ned Beatty–style. Was she willing to take one for the team? Obviously not. Anyway, from the viewpoint of 2017 The River Wild screams 1994. Here’s an action film with no CGI, with the obligatory Spielbergian “marital problems”, the typical “90s son”, typical “architect father” and yet another “Jerry Goldsmith score.” The River Wild proudly rode a then-new trend: the extreme sports/wilderness action film (Cliffhanger and The Edge). [Read more…]

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…]

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