Saturday, May 26, 2018

Britannia Hospital (1982)

A dark comedy and satirical look at Britain, especially the National Health Service which is seen at being in thrall to money (so still quite topical then!)

Strange things are going on in Britannia Hospital and Malcolm McDowell is investigating them. The hospital is in trouble, an African dictator is a patient (sparking protests outside) and half the staff are on strike due to the extravagant demands of private patients, while elderly NHS patients are left to die. The mad Professor (Graham Crowden) seems only interested in his bizarre medical experiments including putting a brain in a blender and tricking people to drink it!

It all starts getting a bit weird and the medical experiments become quite frankly grotesque. We end up with a cyborg, which then starts to break down.

As a dark comedy it works, as a satire I'm not so sure. It is maybe a bit too much. The cast is great though, including appearances by Mark Hamill and Leonard Rossiter.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Terror in the Crypt (1964)

An atmospheric Gothic horror film about a cursed family. The film, an Italian/Spanish co-production is also known as La Cripta e I'incubo.

Christopher Lee is a count whose daughter Laura (Adriana Ambesi) is having visions of strange deaths in the family. An investigator in the historical occult is bought in to research a legend. We learn that in the distant past the count's ancestor had a witch put to death and a curse was laid on the family... which now seems to be coming true.

So it has all the ingredients of a fine horror film: a creepy castle, men in pointy hoods, black magic et cetera. While it is an enjoyable film there are issues. The acting is often a bit indifferent (though the dubbing doesn't really help), the story is also rather unoriginal and sometimes a bit confusing.

Well never mind that, the atmosphere in this film is wonderful. It is also has it's fair share of Euro beauties with heaving bosoms.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Battle Beyond The Stars (1980)

Naturally the success of Star Wars invigorated the space-opera genre in the late 1970s and a number of similar type films were released, Battle Beyond The Stars was among the better of these.

Very heavy based on the Magnificent Seven plot: a planet is threatened by a crazed space warlord (John Saxon). Young Shad (Richard Thomas) then sets out to recruit warriors to help defend his otherwise defenseless world.

The warriors are a crazy bunch ranging from the scarred old veteran (Robert Vaughn), happy-go-lucky space trucker (George Peppard) to a number of strange aliens. The film is quite different in some ways to Star Wars, rather more campy and exotic and adult though at the end of the day its space ships firing laser beams at each other.

The story is basic, the budget was fairly low but a decent cast and plenty of cheese helps win the day, and indeed save the galaxy from evil!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Shadow Strikes (1937)

Lamont Granston (Rod La Rocque) is The Shadow, hero of pulp fiction and radio serials. This film assumes you already know all about The Shadow as there is very little introduction.

Indeed we're straight into the action. The Shadow interrupts a couple of burglars trying to rob the office of a lawyer. The Shadow then impersonates the lawyer when the police turn up and gets involved in a murder mystery. The murder being of his "client" who was bumped off while a new will was being written up.

It is all rather ridiculous and often quite baffling at times. The Shadow isn't really much of a super hero, rather a keen amateur detective who wears a hat. Supposedly a master of disguise he relies mostly on the naivety and stupidity of all around him, especially the police, to maintain his pretense. The film is fast paced but nonsense. It's a lot of fun though. The Shadow and his loyal servant Henry (Norman Ainsley) make a great team.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

It Happened in Soho (1948)

A murder takes place in Soho, a reporter Bill Scott (Richard Murdoch) and his new found friend from the country Susan (Patricia Raine) investigate the cosmopolitan streets of London in what at times is a rather strange but undeniably charming travelogue of Soho in the early post-war period.

Nowadays it comes across as rather quaint though in 1948 it probably seemed exotic with it's racial mixing, illegal dancing and cool coffee shop society to the average Briton still recovering from the war.

Inspector Carp (Henry Oscar) is investigating the murder, his sardonic manner is quite entertaining. When mutual friend Julie (Eunice Gayson) is the next murder victim the film takes a much darker turn. A very low budget film, most of the film takes place in just a couple of locations including the cafe but an enjoyable little film.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Discarded Lovers (1932)

Discarded Lovers is an enjoyable little murder mystery involving the murder of a Hollywood star. Actress Irma Gladden (Natalie Moorehead) is what used to be known as a "loose woman", with various men on the go. She is found dead after finishing a film and suspicion falls on... well quite a few people.

Apart from a rather annoying and silly policeman (Fred Kelsey) the story is solid if rather cliched and has some decent performances including Irma's secretary Valerie (Barbara Weeks) and Jason Robards as Rex, one of Irma's lovers.

Naturally being a Golden Age period murder mystery the police are happy for a civilian, in this case a reporter (Russell Hopton), to be involved in the case. As a police investigation it isn't exactly text book but the sheer glamour of the occasion and the exuberance of some of the acting makes up for everything.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Strangers of the Evening (1932)

A very confusing crime drama involving missing corpses at a morgue, a murder, mistaken identities and amnesia. It is a complete mess of a film which doesn't make a great deal of sense and has all manner of weirdness going on.

Despite all of that the film is quite entertaining even if some of the attempts at humour seem to fall pretty flat. The fight scenes are so poor they are hilarious.

Eugene Pallette plays the detective given the hapless task of trying to work out what is going on, he gives a good phlegmatic performance. Zasu Pitts is given star billing though doesn't do a great deal in the film.

What does any of it mean? Well helpfully it is all explained at the end, though is still as clear as mud.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Wayne Murder Case (1932)

A silly and sometimes painful murder mystery, the Wayne Murder Case does have some interesting ideas though, but they arn't executed particularly well.

Silas Wayne is a cantankerous dying old rich man (William Mong). He gathers his relatives together (who hate him as much as he hates them) to reveal their inheritances.

However he suspects someone is already ripping him off and calls in the police. While a couple of police officers are on hand he is murdered right in front of everyone.

In comes the detective (Regis Toomey), helped/hindered by an annoying reporter (June Clyde) whom he fancies and so is willing to break police procedure to have around. While the investigation takes place a strange hooded figure starts bumping off the relatives.

It sounds like it could be a decent set-up but it is executed rather poorly. Scenes drag terribly with some indifferent/bizarre acting. The murders are pretty gruesome but the hooded figure is a bit too ridiculous to take seriously. The twist at the end is good though and makes up for a lot of what happened before.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Rubber Racketeers (1942)

Gangster Tony Gilin (Ricardo Cortez) takes advantage of rubber rationing and the subsequent spike in demand for tyres to steal new tyres. He has them hacked to look used and sell them in car lots.

Unfortunately some of his early tyres were death traps. One of the tyres kills the brother of Mary (Barbara Read), her boyfriend Bill (William Henry) is determined to find out who is behind the scam.

Gilin decides Bill needs to be silenced permanently but doesn't count on his girlfriend Nikki (Rochelle Hudson) despairing of Gilin's evil ways and warning Bill...

It is all rather clunky, low-budget and the propaganda is laid on somewhat thickly. In fact a bit too thickly as some of the dialogue is ridiculous. Vigilante justice also seems to figure highly in this curious little film. What I did like is the slang spoken by some of the villains. The film quite frankly is as flat as a dodgy tyre but is entertaining enough.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Cross of Iron (1977)

Being someone who devoured, as a teenager, the books of Sven Hassel and Leo Kessler on bands of misfit German soldiers in World War 2 then Cross of Iron is easily right up my street as it covers much the same ground. It stars James Coburn as a tough battle-hardened yet cynical German NCO leading his men on the Hellish Eastern front.

While dodging Russian bullets and Nazi spies he also has to deal with his new commander Captain Stransky (Maximillian Schell), a mad Prussian obsessed with winning the Iron Cross no matter the cost (though preferably without having to do any actual fighting).

It is a tough film, uncompromising and filled with brutality and violence with some very good and realistic battle scenes. The film is all about the darker side of humanity, there is lightness though at times but usually showing the absurdity of life such as when Stransky is trying to show he can earn his Iron Cross but cannot even load his machine pistol. A great supporting cast including James Mason and David Warner make this a pretty special film.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

For the one hundredth review on this blog one of my all time favourite films... 

Buckaroo Banzai is a very strange film. It is a science-fiction comedy involving a team called the Hong Kong Cavaliers (who are a mixture of advanced technology engineers, special forces and rock stars of course) led by Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller).

Banzai is our hero and what an incredible hero he is too. He is a test pilot, rock star and brain surgeon. He is such an icon they even make comic books about him. How on Earth does he find the time?

Red Lectroids from the Eighth Dimension, rather unpleasant aliens led by John Lithgow, became marooned on our world in the 1930s. Now they plan to steal Banzai's technology to return to their own dimension. The only problem with that is, their enemies the Black Lectroids don't want them back and threaten Earth with nuclear war if Banzai doesn't stop them!

The result is an amazing meander from strange sci-fi situation to situation, drenched in 1980s weirdness and sarcasm. The film is chaotic, various plot threads appear out of nowhere and then don't develop. Sometimes you wonder if you are watching a film or a very long 1980s pop video. The film is chock full of weirdness and randomness. The likes of Jeff Goldblum dress as a cowboy for no apparent reason. You have aliens who sound like rastas. There is also plenty of lampooning of the US state. So what does it all mean? I couldn't really tell you. I've seen this film dozens of times, each time I discover something else I missed but it often still doesn't make much sense.

But that's why I love this film and have no hesitation in proclaiming this one of the best movies ever made. Now that is a controversial statement to make of course but this is my review and I can make it!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Mr Wong, Detective (1938)

The first of a series of films on the Chinese detective Mr Wong starring the somewhat non-Chinese Boris Karloff. Mr Wong investigates the murder of the owner of a chemical company who has been apparently killed by poison gas. Grant Withers plays the police chief who blunders all over the place until Mr Wong solves the case for him.

Although a pretty low-budget affair this is a highly entertaining detective film. There are quite a few twists and the crimes are quite ingenious.

Karloff's Mr Wong is an interesting character, lets just say there are quite a few old stereotypes on show.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Alice in Wonderland (1903)

Lewis Carroll's classic story has been made into a film many times but this is the first and is a very impressive piece of early cinema, restored by the BFI. Starring May Clark as Alice, she follows a large rabbit down a rabbit hole and... well I'm sure everyone knows the story.

The use of special effects, especially when Alice shrinks and grows to full size again is very impressive. It was, at the time in 1903, the longest film yet made in the UK.

The film has a real charm about it (especially the army of children as playing cards), portraying the somewhat trippy tale with the right amount of dreaminess.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Black Abbot (1934)

The Black Abbot is a highly enjoyable quota quickie. As it is a film of that type then of course it was rather cheaply made and sometimes a bit rushed in the case of this crime drama it makes it all the more enjoyable.

A criminal gang use the legend of a ghost in the home of stately home of John Hillcrist (Farren Soutar) to lure him into a position where they can kidnap him for ransom.

Assisted by an American detective who just happens to be on holiday over here (Ben Welden) the plan is to pretend to pay the ransom then catch the gang in the act. However suspicion falls on Frank Brooks (John Stuart), the fiance of Hillcrist's daughter Sylvia (Judy Kelly), is he really behind the plot and was he just with Sylvia to arrange the terrible crime? As the hilarious toff Lord Jerry (Richard Cooper) might say, "What a rotter!"

It is a fun little film, light hearted and silly rather than dark and menacing. The tiny budget means that most of the action takes place in just a couple of different scenes and action is saved in favour of talking most of the time. It doesn't detract from the film in this case.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Action Stations (1959)

Quite a bizarre little (indeed it is rather short) film where random action is soundtracked by what sounds like a hammond organ. The story involves the daughter of a top forger being on the run from the bad guys and helped by a couple of smugglers (including Paul Carpenter) with a heart of gold.

If the story sounds reasonable the execution is hilariously bad and very low budget. The dialogue seems to have been dubbed post-production, unfortunately at times it seems like the actors were given a different script to the dubbers. Then there is the sheer randomness of some of the scenes, including a strange man on a bicycle. A very odd and confusing film, unfortunately not in a good way. The organ music is good though.