Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Viewings: May 2022

May had some absolute bangers; both old and new. The biggest film highlights mostly consisted of Nordic extravaganzas: Robert Eggers' The Northman was the type of Hollywood style movie I've been craving for in what feels like forever; Hanna Bergholm's Hatching was an incredibly impressive directorial debut; and Eskil Vogt's The Innocents was an enthralling spin on today's never evending capeshit. Other first time viewings which I enjoyed a lot were Things to Come, Witchhammer, Alison's Birthday and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954).

In non-film entertainment: the B.F.I's online panel discussion on New French Extremity was an entertaining glossary on the movement.

Hyped for Phil Tippet's Mad God finally being released next month.


Film

Things to Come (William Cameron Menzies, 1936)* 

The Seventh Commandment (Irvin Berwick, 1961)*

Witchhammer (Otakar Vávra, 1970)*

The Big Doll House (Jack Hill, 1971)

Sweet Sugar (Michel Levesque, 1972)

Frightmare (Pete Walker, 1974)

The Witch Who Came from the Sea (Matt Cimber, 1976)*

That Sinking Feeling (Bill Forsyth, 1979)*

Alison's Birthday (Ian Coughlan, 1981)*

Death Wish II (Michael Winner, 1982)

One Deadly Summer (Jean Becker, 1983)*

The Initiation (Larry Stewart & Peter Crane (uncredited), 1984)

The Killer Is Still Among Us (Camillo Teti, 1986)

House Party (Reginald Hudlin, 1990)

Mr. Bean's Holiday (Steve Bendelack, 2007)

New York Ninja (John Liu & Kurtis Spieler, 2021)*

Everything Everywhere All at Once (Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert, 2022)*

Hatching (Hanna Bergholm, 2022)*

The Cellar  (Brendan Muldowney, 2022)*

The Innocents (Eskil Vogt, 2022)*

The Northman (Robert Eggers, 2022)*


Television

Nineteen Eighty-Four (Rudolph Cartier, 1954)*

First Tuesday -Season 8; Episode 12 - Paul Sykes: At Large (Nick Lord, 1990)* 


*First time viewings.


Dada Debaser Notes:

  • Matt Cimber's The Witch Who Came from the Sea is another grail film I can finally tick off the watch list. For whatever the reason, it just didn't click for me. Giving it another shot at a later date.
  • Ralph Richardson as a Mad Max style post-apocalyptic warlord ruler in futuristic England (the 1970s), was one of my favourite parts from the Things to Come. Loved the future tech designs, too.
  • Didn't realise this Frightmare easter egg until now, but the film that Deborah and Graham were watching at the cinema was La Grande Bouffe (1973). 
  • Hats off to Talking Pictures TV for having The Seventh Commandment, a delightfully sleazy noir being broadcast on a Sunday afternoon. Great alternative to the kid-friendly and chick flick shite that's usually on around that time.
  • Full Force deserved their own House Party spin-off movie, imo.
  • The hilariously suggestive girl/candle artwork for The Initiation is the only memorable thing relating to the film. Much prefer The Dorm That Dripped Blood (1982) - aka Pranks, the other slasher with Daphne Zuniga appearing in it.
  • Not seen the uncut version of Death Wish II before. The assault on the maid is way more graphic than I originally remember it being. Doubt I'll ever get my hands on the fabled Greek VHS version, but one can hope. One of the best Bronson lines in that film.
  • Might have been a little too long, but the plot twist revelations in One Deadly Summer kept me hooked throughout. First class performance from Isabelle Adjani (in her daisy dukes), too.
  • Carson Clay's Playback Time, as featured in Mr. Bean's Holiday is a completely on point derision of pretentious film makers.
  • Derivative and unoriginal as The Cellar was, I dug the finale and the obvious homage to Lucio Fulci's classic The Beyond.

Monday, May 30, 2022

The British Library

There's something profoundly satisfying when middle aged musicians produce a song or a musical composition that goes off in a totally different and entertaining trajectory in comparison to their much younger and more hip peers. In the case of television and film composers, you can't get any more magnolia than the library music makers from yesteryear. However, amongst all that elevator muzak, there are some remarkably dope cuts to be found. Here are three such tracks, by a bunch of British gents which I regard as personal highlights:
 
Syd Dale - The Hell Raisers
The Sounds of Syd Dale (1966)
 

Question: What does the former Who Want to Be a Millionaire, cutlery throwing, TV presenter Chris Tarrant have in common with legendary Compton gangsta rapper, Eazy-E? The answer is they have both used Syd Dale's stock music. Man Friday was the theme used for Chris Tarrant's television show Tarrant on TV, while Walk and Talk was sampled on Eazy-E's thoroughly sleazy Gimme That Nutt. Our Syd had a few other incidental muzak bangers; a personal favourite being the rowdy anthem, The Hell Raisers. It was featured in seasons two and three of ABC's classic animated show Spider-Man (1967-1970) along with a grip of other tracks by him. In more recent times, anyone familiar with the legendary film distribution label, Something Weird Video, will instantly recognise it as the theme from their promo trailer. SMV's trailer holds a special place in many a psychotronik fanatic's heart, as it was their first portal to the wild side of exploitation cinema and Syd Dale's The Hell Raisers became associated with it.

Derek Scott - Fugarock
Sounds Unusual (1975)
 

When you think of the sounds of George A. Romero's classic zombie film, Dawn of the Dead, you would be right to recollect Italian prog-rockers Goblin's awesome soundtrack. However, Romero went to town with licensing some of De Wolfe Music's stock material like Jack Trombey's Mask of Death and the hilariously upbeat and ringtone of choice for many a gorehound, The Gonk by English composer Herbert Chappell. Derek Scott, another English man, also had some of his incidental music featured in the film too; one particular gem is the insanely regal sounding slice of early electronica known as Fugarock. Dada Debaser has instant flashbacks of zombie bitten Roger melancholically eating pickled kumquats when bumpin' this oddball delight. It's one of those gems that doesn't get any love whenever Dawn of the Dead's soundtrack is discussed and this blog is here to change that.

Neil Richardson - Approaching Menace
KPM 1000 Series: Dramatic Background (1970)


Hard to believe that the wholly inept slasher meets conspiracy thriller Delirium (1979), a film inadvertedly rescued from limbo thanks to its inclusion in the Department of Public Prosecution's infamous "video nasties" list, shares its music with the theme to the BBC's prestigious quiz show Mastermind (1972 -2022). Thanks to that programme, Neil Richardson's Approaching Menace is so ingrained in the British public's subconsicous, that it's instantly associated with any subject matter that is remotely described as "brainy". However, when you hear it for the unpteenth time in Peter Maris' terribley farcical film you can't help but laugh out loud at its hilarious inclusion. 

If only customer services had these incidental tracks playing instead of Coldplay, or whatever other dreck whenever I'm placed in a queue or put on hold. Would have lessened the hassle of having to call them, to be honest.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

The Kids Aren't All Right


The Innocents (Eskil Vogt, 2022)

Feels like waiting for a bus when it comes to good movies, and then two come along at the same time; in this case, it's the second Nordic horror I wound up watching this week. Eskil Vogt's The Innocents is an intimate and unique look at childhood development via a group of high rise kiddies, blessed with supernatural powers. Which places natural learning and well-being at complete odds with the maifestation of their paranormal powers.

What's particularly enjoyable about Vogt's film is the discard of any exposition to explain the source of the childrens' powers; which would have probably dragged the film down, in my humble opinion. Instead, their supernatural gifts are conveyed with the same sense of wonder and acceptance; much like anything else by its young recipients. There's also the conflicition of children having the capability of being sadistically cruel at times; resulting in some unexpected dread surfacing in its high realism. It's this dichomity which results in some unsettling moments in the film. The bullied, Ben (Sam Ashraf) gets more sadistic as his telekinetic powers grow stronger, to the point where he tortures and kills a cat, to commiting murder via mind control and telekinisis. Authoritarian figures, such as the kids' parents, are not only oblivious to the disturbingly goings on in their childrens' lives, but also to their paranormal powers.

The plot is a classic tale of good and evil, with the morally grey Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttm) having to choose a path as represented by the empathic Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim) and the destructive Ben. The life of her autistic sister, Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad), who she initially tortures by placing broken glass in her shoes, is also in serious jeopardy since her powers rival Ben's. Anna is the vital component in Ida's final decision. Letterboxd rabble could lazily dub this as an A24 mumblecore take on the X-Men, but it has more in common with the likes of  Village of the Damned (1961) and Scanners (1981) than it does to all that overplayed capeshit.

Stylistically, it's well shot and very well acted. The high rise apartments look like every other urban hellhole, so it gets thumbs up for not being another suburban chiller. Apart from some scenes feeling a little long and drawn out here and there, this does a superb job in conveying the emotional and perplexing weight faced by its young ensemble cast. Its serious treatment and brutal realism make this a refreshingly unorthodox substitute to the deluge of superhero flicks we have had to endure over the last couple of decades. It might not be pretty, but it does a better job of portraying the moral compass most of us have had to learn in our childhoods, and to quote the late Stan 'the Man' Lee, "with great power - there must also come great responsibility!" which this offers in abundance.

It's at this point where I would throw a wobbly about it being a 2022 film rather than last year's, since it's a May '22 release where I am, but Google did prove it got a national public release in its country of origin. Fair to say then, that The Innocents probably fills the empty tenth spot from my Best Films of 2021 list, since I love it way more than any of the honourable mentions I also listed. (EDIT - changed it to a 2022 release. Feels dumb AF listing it as a film from last year and it being released now over here.)

Dada Debaser Bonus:

Now, I like my Nordic killer kiddie films, but I also like my Nordic kiddie horror films. But which is better? There's only one to find out. FIGHT!

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Egg's Gon' Give It To Ya

Hatching (Hanna Bergholm, 2022)

Always refreshing when blindly (not literally) going into a movie you know absolutely nothing about and it works its charms upon you. Hanna Bergholm's Finnish body horror, Hatching aka Pahanhautoja is one such example. A dark fairytale that tells how a young girl finds a mysterious egg which shatters the illusionary world created by her self-absorbed vlogger mother.

We're introduced to Tinja, our young lead, who suppresses her personal feelings and desires to please her horribly overbearing and passively aggressive mother. Known simply as Mother, this is the film's real antagonist - a vlogger who paints this idyllic fantasy to her followers, without realising the profound affect it's had on Tinja and the rest of the family. This includes a bratty and spoilt little brother, Mattias, and her father being an acquiescent cuckold. Siiri Solalinna, who plays Tinja is superb in this; all the more extraordinary whenever a child actor carries a film, without resorting to over-acting, subsequently breaking all immersion. Props to her for that.

My first thought while watching this film was just how beautiful it looked. Not just in terms of its cinematography, but the set and costume design, too. Flowers are a recurring motif throughout the picture; ranging from the common garden variety to floral patterns of them obtrusively adorning walls and clothing. They're obviously symbolic here, much like the egg that Tinja finds and helps to incubate. From it growing disturbingly larger every time Tinja feels emotionally burdened, to its eventual hatching.

Once the egg hatches, we're greeted by this grotesque avian hatchling, which has this instant psychic emotional bond with Tinja. The creature looks really great; like something from produced in Jim Henson's workshop while on a bad acid trip. As Tinja and the hatchling named Alli, bond further and further, you begin to see the latter evolve into a more human creature. Signing off from there as far as plot details go, because of spoilers, but I will say the relationship between Tinja and Alli really is wonderfully weird. It's has an endearing Roald Dahl vibe about it, which kept me invested in the film throughout. 

In what's realistically a creature-feature, Alli is but an avatar of Tinja's emotions, and the film's real villain is Tinja's mother. The matriarch being a perfectionist forces her temperament onto her family, while projecting this "idyllic" lifestyle to her followers though her volog updates. It's an unhappy existance for Tinja, forced to train as a gymnast, to keep mother happy. This results in long physical training and emotional suppression, that leaves her often feeling alone and struggling to form friendships with her peers.

What makes Bergholm's film such a success to me is the intelligent writing and well tuned pacing, which keeps the film inviting and never grinds to a halt. The beautiful fairytale visual aesthetic is both mesmerising and altogether refreshing from the drab looking industrial look which feels synonymously found in many modern horror films. Last, but not least, is Solalinna's superb performance; especially her interactions with Alli, which marks this as a winning a film for me. Very impressive debuts from both Bergholm and Solalinna. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Opinions Are Like... (Part 2)

Felt compelled to write another "unpopular opinions" list after wasting my Saturday night going to the local multiplex and seeing that god awful film with Michelle Yeoh in it. Jackie Chan dodged a bullet.

 
1. If ever a film screamed, "Look at me, Reddit millennials!" it's the stupendously boring, Rick and Morty style multiverse farce, Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) by them two blokes who directed the Turn Down for What music video. Speaking of multiverses, I now realise I'm living in the same universe where me and The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw don't like this film. WTF?
 
2. Neither Deep Cover (1992) nor Menace II Society (1993) would have received the Criterion treatment a decade ago; in fact, both of these films would have been mocked and dismissed by Tarkovsky arse-kissers and other annoyingly pompous cinephiles as typical rapsloitation trash. Predicting King of New York (1990) and Fresh (1994) getting the same treatment in the not too distant future.

3. The last great film trilogy was 20th Century Fox's reboot / reimagining of The Planet of the Apes.
 
4. Fuck Terrence Malick! The greatest comeback by a director, was by Herscell Gordon Lewis for Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat (2002), returning to the director's seat after a thirty year hiatus.

5. Film critics who exploit their status to sway public opinion; be it social or political, deserve to lose their jobs.

6. One of the most powerful performances from the last decade was by a Hollyoaks actress, Jemma Dallender in I Spit On Your Grave 2 (2013). It's also the best film from the remake trilogy. Film critic / journalist, Art Ettinger might be the only other person sharing this same sentiment as me. Props to Arty!
 
7. The best film from Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy is For A Few Dollars More (1965). Lee Van Cleef and Clint Eastwood have the best chemistry together as rival bounty hunters, while Juan Maria Volonté's El Indio excels as the best villain from the entire trilogy.

8. Steve McQueen's Shame (2011) is way too ridiculous to be taken remotely seriously and should only be appreciated as an unintentional comedy, like Tommy Wiseau's The Room (2003).

9. Trey Parker's Team America: World Police (2005) is one of the best films of the noughties. It's also one of the best comedies to date, and it puts the likes of overrated satirical shite like Dr. Strangelove (1964) to shame; especially when its mockery of Hollywood actors feels even more necessary today.

10. No one would be referring to Gaspar Noé or Claire Denis' names today if it wasn't for France's ostracised horror faction that became associated with the New French Extremity movement. Alexandre Aja did more for the scene than either of them and still doesn't get the respect he deserves today.
 
11. Both Jesús Franco and Jean Rollin were a couple of pornographers whose horror and sexploitation films were rescued from bargain bin hell and found recognition by pretentious arthouse critics, in the vain attmpt to make them appear acceptable to their exploitation movie peers.

12. Alfonso Cuarón's Roma (2018) is nothing more than a beautifully shot yawnfest with no real sense of direction. My interpretation of one drawn out scene in particular, where the film's maid protagonist, Cleo sweeps away dog shit in her employers' garage, speaks volumes to me, since it's basically instructing its audience to be complete idiots and overlook all the obvious shite which plagues the film.

13. The most heartwarming thought pertaining to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is knowing that its fanbase will be mocked by the next future generation; much like today's middle aged Star Wars fans.

14. Wes Craven's The People Under the Stairs (1991) virtually sabotages itself in the very last few minutes by the angry mob, along with the ill-suited use of Redhead Kingpin & the F.B.I's Do the Right Thing; completely changing the tone of the film. Wasn't good enough for Spike Lee's movie and it shouldn't have been for Wes Craven's film, either.

15. The only real mainstay regarding James Whale's The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) is that Jack Pierce hit another home run with his iconic make-up design for The Bride. Other than that, it's an inferior sequel that's been over praised by critics and film historians who mysteriously forget the light hearted distractions which ruin the film. It's predecessor, Frankenstein (1931), is still the superior film and still disturbing today.

16. The liberal application of the phrase "cult classic", often extends with palliating films that aren't for everyone. Hal Ashby's grossly overrated "comedy", Harold and Maude (1971) is one such example. A film where an elderly woman and a teenage boy form an emotional bond, while getting into a series of hijinks together, which ultimately culminates in them having sex. It's completely repulsive and the only memorable thing about this unfunny snoozefest. It's appraisal by film critics and connoiseurs should be a red flag to any discerning fan of cinema.

17. Not only has Fast & Furious 7 (2015) aged better than other seventh installments from other popular franchises released in the very same year (Creed and The Force Awakens), it also has a plot that doesn't steal from its respective first entry and pass it off as a sequel or as an original property.

18. Duckie was the real antagonist in John Hughes' Pretty in Pink (1986).

19. Studio interference can be a necessary evil. An example of which is the theatrical version of Leon, aka, The Professional (1994) being far superior in comparison to the disturbingly noncey additional scenes from Luc Besson's director's cut. Genuinely regret ever watching his director's cut and have never returned to either version ever since. Same goes with Clive Barker's Nightbreed (1990).
 
20. The jocks were the good guys in Revenge of the Nerds (1984).

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Caroline Munro's Greatest Parts

In an era where dedicated film channels like Film4 appear to have given up on catering to the kino massive and vintage trash hounds alike, it's a blessing that a freeview channel like Talking Pictures TV exists. A refreshing place of solace where you can cotch and watch obscurities like The Soldier (1982); from a time when film buffs weren't treated like they were on Ritalin. The highlight of Talking Pictures TV is undoubtely Cellar Club with Caroline Munro; a short introduction series presented by the proclaimed first lady of fantasy. Not quite Alex Cox's educational stints presenting Moviedrome, nor the cartoonish antics of Elvira's Midnight Madness, but a more chilled read from a teleprompter type of deal à la The Horror Channel's Emily Booth. In any case, it's a good excuse to chat about some of Caroline's best films:

Dracula A.D 1972 (Alan Gibson, 1972)

Considering how much complaining the late great Christopher Lee had done with Hammer's Dracula films, it's amazing to know he still starred in seven of them. This, his penultimate appearance for Hammer, as Transylvania's famous blood-sucker was Dracula A.D 1972; a contempory setting this time around as it's set in swanky, seventies Chelsea. It's the one that cemented The Count as a world class super pimp, for me. The major highlights are Caroline Munro in garms that might just be the one redeeming example from the hippie era and of course, Johnny Alucard's summoning of the Prince of Darkness. Wound up getting sent to bed because of that scene, when I was little.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (Gordon Hessler, 1973)

Nothing screams rain-soaked bank holiday television like this quintessential Ray Harryhausen stop motion FX bonanza. The only notable film that Gordon Hessler directed, imo. A film where British actors like the G.O.A.T Doctor Who can go in the make-up department and pass off as of Middle Eastern origin. Of course, it helps if you have peak era Caroline Munro replete with an oiled up cleavage that's so mesmerising, it's forever hard-wired into your brain for the remainder of your life. The greatest Caroline Munro highlight, for this humble blogger. 

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (Brian Clemens, 1974)

What with Chrirstopher Lee hanging up the cape and Hammer striving for relevancy, this late game entry from the studio is something of a notable curiosity on numerous levels: firstly, its protagonist takes the form of a young comic book style swashbuckling hero to battle the vampires; secondly, a major change in established vampire folklore, like the use of frogs and shit; and of course Caroline Munro as a hot peasant girl put in the stocks for dancing on a Sunday. 

 At the Earth's Core (Kevin Connor, 1976)

If ever a film cemented Caroline's moniker as the first lady of fantasy, then this Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation is arguably the one. Mauled by the critics, but a firm favourite here, since it's lit like a Mario Bava classic, a bewildered looking Doug McClure and Peter Cushing reprising his eccentric persona session from his two previous Doctor Who films. Follow that up with shite looking foam rubber dinosaur costumes, noncey-looking pig men, psychic pterodactyls and a sweaty Caroline Munro, and you have a winning formula. If only A.I.P. and Amicus hired the gawd Ray Harryhausen for all the creature features, because At the Earth's Core would have have been on par with the likes of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.

The Spy Who Loved Me (Lewis Gilbert, 1977)

Perhaps the best James Bond film Sean Connery stans refuse to admit to liking, to be honest; while millennial Daniel Craig contrarians never bothered seeing any of them, since any Bond film before the 21st century is completely irrelevant to them. Their loss; since this has it all: a Lotus submarine car (used to have the toy of it as a kid), a bizarre looking underwater base, a super tanker that eats nuclear subs, the best henchman ever, and of course two of the best Bond girls - Barbara Bach as Agent XXX and Caroline Munro as the helicopter hottie Naomi. Her playful wink while she chases Bond through the coastal roads in Sardinia, Italy, is the reason why she's one of the coolest evil babes in the franchise.
 
Starcrash (Luigi Cozzi, 1978)

Make no mistake, Starcrash is a spectacularly terrible Italian rip-off cashing in on the whole Star Wars (1977) boom. David Hasselhoff wielding a lightsabre; there's no point going any further. None of that is important. What is though, is Caroline prancing about in a black pvc bikini and thigh boots in this film as Stellar Star. That's way more palatable than suffering through Zardoz (1974) and having to endure Sean Connery's disturbing red mankini ever again. She's so smokin' hot in it, she even makes Nadia Cassini look like how Amanda Seyfried did next to Megan Fox in Jennifer's Body (2009).

Maniac (William Lustig, 1980)

"You know, you're the most beautiful woman I've seen since my mom." It's beyond far fetched that fat and greasy serial killer Frank Zito could land a date with Caroline Munro, and even more bonkers that she took that cringeworthy line as a compliment. With the slasher craze in full swing, Maniac is amongst the scuzziest and disturbing offerings from that era. Perhaps Munro's most recognised film, other than her Bond movie outing. Not the first, nor the last movie that both Munro and Joe Spinnell worked together on, but it's undoubtely their best film.

Slaughter High (George Dugdale, Mark Ezra & Peter Mackenzie Litten, 1986)

Producer, Dick Randall made a bunch of exploitation gems back in the day, with a habit of being all in the video like Puffy. Amongst one of his notable releases, is the fake American slasher Slaughter High. A tale of bullies getting a taste of their own medicine at their school reunion. The fact that Caroline Munro would turn up in a baggy jump suit that would even make Anneka Rice wince, is one thing, but the fact that she could still look good in it, is a complete miracle. Anyhow, don't let multiple names in the director credits fool you into thinking it's going to be utter shite, as it's fun from start to finish. Slaughter High is a personal favourite slasher; blessed with some of Dada Debaser's favourite kills.

Vampirella (Never Made)

If ever there was a role Munro was born to play it would be Hammer's adaptation of the comic book heroine, Vampirella. Producer, Michael Carreras had Barbara Leigh from Terminal Island (1973) in mind as the titular heroine, but Munro's name was also considered, during the long drawn out pre-production that helped doom the legendary film company. Ironically, it would be decades later, that another Bond girl, Licensed to Kill's Talisa Soto who would eventually be cast as Vampirella in a forgettable straight to video adaptation. Still, since then, Munro has always been seen by many fans as the Vampirella that could have been. In any case, I would like to think that there's an alternate dimension out there where the film did get made, and Caroline Munro had got to play the part she was made for.

Dada Debaser Bonus:

Caroline Munro had tried her hand at having a pop music career. It didn't seem to get very far, even with the likes of Eric Clapton and Gary Numan helping her out in the past. She may have looked like an angel, but alas, none of her music sounded too angelic for me, sadly. On a more positive note, her brief cameo singing Warrior of Love in another of Dick Randall's slashers, Don't Open Till Christmas (1984), was one of the best scenes in that gloriously terrible picture. Her best music related highlight was when she appeared in Adam Ant's Goody Two Shoes video, as the hot reporter with the blonde streaks she rocked in The Last Horror Film (1982); which I didn't include in her greatest parts, as I've only seen it once and didn't think much of it:

Adam Ant - Goody Two Shoes 
Friend Or Foe (1982)

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

It's Grim Up North


The Northman (Robert Eggers, 2022)

Been hyped for Robert Eggers' norse saga for a while now. Two consecutive hits in a row; his feaure length debut, The Witch (2015), is what I consider a classic and the best horror film of the 2010s; while his lovecraftian sophomore effort, The Lighthouse (2019), was another top quality film. Therefore, you could say I was more than a little bit anxious to see Eggers' first foray into a bigger budget and mainstream effort; especially with rumours abound with Eggers being discontent with the editing of his film, since the studio had final cut on the film. For what it's worth, there doesn't seem like any obvious studio tampering on screen or any transparent compromise.

The Northman is based on an ancient norse tale; one that Shakespeare's Hamlet was inspired upon, telling the story of Amleth, a viking prince out to avenge the death of his father by his murderous uncle, Fjölnir. Eggers is well suited to tell this revenge saga, since his two previous films, both of which period pieces, also exhibit his penchant to exude his trademark uncompromising gritty style. I mean that with utmost sincerity, since some scenes are profoundly shocking; even for someone like me. The burdening weight of payback rests heavily on the revenge-fuelled mind of Alexander Skarsgård's Amleth. The brutal savagery and exotic customs of the norse way of life help realise a world we should all be thankful we no longer are a part of. 

What with it being a recent film and without delving into serious plot spoilers, The Northman is a revenge film that I would never have expected to be made in this day and age. I watched this over the same weekend as Death Wish II (1982) and both of those films pose a very obvious quandary: whether the wronged can move on and find happiness, or allow revenge to ultimately consume them? As much as I love Michael Winner's sequel and consider it the best in the franchise, The Northman does handle this dilemma with a more mature and less exploitative manner. In the case of Amleth, he doesn't just flirt between the fine line of an antihero and villain, but actively acknowledges these divergent paths.

Strong performance from Skarsgård as the film's protagonist. It's all too easy to blurt on about how much he bulked up and got really hench for this physical role, but, more importantly, the range of his acting prowess displays he's a considerable talent should the right role come along - like this one. This is perhaps his best performance I've seen him in, thus far. The supporting cast is also really good; not quite sure what Anya Taylor-Joy's accent was meant to be, but she was great, regardless. Claes Bang as Fjölnir The Brotherless, the film's antagonist, almost manifests into a sympathetic character by the end of the film. It's also great to see him in a more serious role compared to his poor choice of Carry On... like performance as the titular character in the asinine Dracula (2020). Not sure what happened to Nicole Kidman's face, but she seems to be suffering from Lady Cassandra O'Brien Δ17 Syndrome. She was great in it, though, and it's hard going into any real depth regarding her role without giving anything away. Willem Defore was in his natural element as shamanistic jester Heimir The Fool. Also worth noting that Bjork was surprisingly well cast in her fleeting cameo as a weirdo prophetess of doom.

The sweeping vistas, the natural elements and a butt nekkid Anya Taylor-Joy in a hotpool; it's all breathtakingly beautiful for what's essentially a gritty revenge saga.Visually, it's all so very striking, Jarin Blaschke's photography is on some Roger Deakins type cinematography porn. It's a big reason why I'm skipping the eventual blu-ray release and coppin' the 4K UHD instead.

Robert Eggers is three for three for me. The hottest writer/director working in the industry right now. The change in pacing might be problematic for the Ritalin masses, or those who mistakenly expected an all out action flick, but this was perfectly tailored from the usual shite that Hollywood tends to bombard us with. Eggers knows how to make movies which just plug into my cerebral cortex and stimulate the old grey matter. That's a compliment I use incredibly sparsely in this day and age. It's a shame Nosferatu fell through, as it was one of those rare times that I would have been looking forward to a remake.

EDIT:

Didn't realise until much later on that Sight and Sound used the same title for their review of the film. Should have stuck with 'Up North Trip' as my original title. Oh well.

Friday, May 13, 2022

O Big Brother, Where Art Thou?

Nineteen Eighty-Four (Rudolph Cartier, 1954)

A prime candidate from twentieth century literature that has become ingrained in our cultural zeigeist would arguably have to be George Orwell's 1949 novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. A chilling and cautionery tale set in a dystopian future where the human soul is forever controlled and oppressed by a totaliarian regime. Its influence is still felt today; from words and phrases that have become part of our lexicon, such as "doublethink" and "thoughtcrime" and "Room 101", to today's constant tracking of the masses with surveillance and the stifliing of creative freedoms via censorship. Critical thinkers and intellectuals continue to evaluate Orwell's novel, but a humble proletariat like myself has always enjoyed dystopian sci-fi. Regardless if it draws parallels to today's political and governmental ideologies, or not, its reappropriation of creative works from the past and reshaping it into a new context, is cause to take note. It took a combination of Apathy's awful song, bork football fans and Corbynistas which finally broke me and gave up on enjoying the one and only song I liked by The White Stripes.

Held off watching this the longest, as I refuse to watch 144p quality rips of Rudolph Cartier's 1954 adaptation on the YouTubes. Finally, in between their shite screenings that no-one with half-a-brain wants to see, the BFI released the blu-ray. Sadly, since it was mostly a live teleplay, only a few film inserts got the lavish high definition treatment (although what a sight they are). It's not all bad, though, since the adaptation itself is a captivating two-hour affair. 

Peter Cushing plays Winston Smith, the Outer Party drone protagonist longing to feel free from Big Brother's oppressive regime. It's perhaps the earliest leading role I've ever seen him in. Little did I know, it was based on this performance which garnered Hammer's interest in him; so it's possibly one of his most pivotol career choices. The portrayal of Citizen Smith is way more nuanced than the other interpretations I've seen thus far. It's hard to call him a "hero" in simple terms, since he admits to committing something utterly vile from his past, that I find unforgivable. Although, to be fair, it's a situation that the majority of us are blessed never ever to be placed in.

The rest of the cast are also solid, too. Yvonne Mitchell is a bit too old for my liking as Smith's love interest, but I she had good chemisty on with The Cush, not to mention an appealing introduction, regardless. Donald Pleasence has a small role as Syme, The Ministry of Truth's wordsmith, working on Newspeak adaptations of classic literature. There's also Albert Steptoe himself, Wilfrid Brambell, in not one, but two very minor roles. The always stellar André Morell plays one of Big Brother's higher-ups, O' Brien. Goes without saying that Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are a dope combo like fish and chips, but it's worth pointing out that The Cush and Morell never fail to disappoint when together on screen. Best Holmes and Watson, in this humble blogger's opinion, but it's worth checking out Quentin Lawrence's underrated crime thriller, Cash On Demand (1961) for the spectacular performances between the pair on screen.

Of the three adaptations of Nineteen Eighty-Four that I have sat through, my favourites would be Michael Radford's decayed industrial vision released in 1984, and this, the 1954 teleplay for the BBC. Cartier's production being the most faithful of the two, but they both have their individual pros and cons. Worth taking into consideration, it was a controversial choice for Sunday night TV i fifties Great Britain. If only I could pick and mix all the elements that I like, though. Peter Cushing has a way more relatable complexity about him in his depiction of Winston Smith; while John Hurt's, as commendable as it is, feels far more linear. Yvonne Mitchell seems a bit too old as the kinky Julia and despite Andre Morrell's O'Brien being superb, it doesn't reach the level of Richard Burton's last hurrah as the chilling Inner Party member. They're both great in many respects; with their own highlights to take into account and without going on another conflicted path like my other recent post, it's worth checking out the pair of them. Can't get any more diplomatic than that, comrade.

Nineteen Eighteen-Four (Two Minutes Hate Scene)
(Rudolph Cartier, 1954)

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Year by Ear

Rule was simple: one score composition / original film song per year of its release. No more; no less. Started from 1957 as I found it a real struggle going any further back without breaking the pattern and skipping a year here and there. Stopped at 2020 since I'm still diving into a bunch of films that I haven't seen yet.

Now I know how Meryl Streep felt in Sophie's Choice. Completely killed me not being able to include a bunch of tracks that I love, but couldn't make the cut. The sixties and seventies were way too tough, while the successive decades appeared to go with a compilation formula as well as a seperate score album.

Cool thing about working on this list was seeing the popular music trends at the time and how they changed our perception of film soundtracks being solely exclusive to movie buffs and the like.

Probably going to remember a bunch of tracks after I hit the "Publish" button, no doubt.

 

Elvis Presley - Jailhouse Rock (Jailhouse Rock, 1957)

Bernard Herrmann - Vertigo Theme (Vertigo, 1958)

John Barry - Main Title (Beat Girl, 1959)

Bernard Herrmann - The Murder (Psycho, 1960)

Elvis Presley - Can't Help Falling in Love (Blue Hawaii, 1961)

Monty Norman - James Bond Theme (Dr. No, 1962)

Henry Mancini - The Pink Panther Theme (The Pink Panther, 1963)

Mikis Theodorakis - Zorba's Dance (Zorba the Greek, 1964)

Ennio Morricone - For A Few Dollars More Main Theme (For A Few Dollars More, 1965)

Ennio Morricone - The Ecstasy of Gold (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, 1966)

John Barry & Nancy Sinatra - You Only Live Twice (You Only Live Twice, 1967)

Ennio Morricone - Man With A Harmonica (Once Upon A Time in the West, 1968)

John Barry - On Her Majesty's Secret Service (On Her Majesty's Secret Service, 1969)

Johnny Mandel - Suicide is Painless (M.A.S.H, 1970)

Lalo Schifrin - Scorpio's View (Dirty Harry, 1971) 

Bobby Womack - Across 110th Street (Across 110th Street, 1972)

James Brown - The Payback (The Payback, 1973)

David Shire - Main Title (The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, 1974)

Michael Masser - My Hero is A Gun (Mahogany, 1975)

John Carpenter - Main Title (Assault on Precinct 13, 1976)

Goblin - Suspiria Theme (Suspiria, 1977)

Goblin - Zombi (Dawn of the Dead, 1978)

Fred Myrow & Malcom Seagrave - Intro and Main Title (Phantasm, 1979)

John Williams - The Imperial March (The Empire Strikes Back, 1980)

John Carpenter & Alan Howarth - The Duke Arrives / Barricade (Escape from New York, 1981)

Vangelis - End Titles (Blade Runner, 1982)

Grandmaster Caz - South Bronx Subway Rap (Wild Style, 1983)

Harold Faltermeyer - Axel F (Beverly Hills Cop, 1984) 

Robert Tepper - No Easy Way Out (Rocky IV, 1985)

Stan Bush - The Touch (Transformers: The Movie, 1986)

Gerard McMann - Cry Little Sister (The Lost Boys, 1987)

Ice-T - Colors (Colors, 1988)

Public Enemy - Fight the Power (Do the Right Thing, 1989)

Flavor Flav / Public Enemy - Can't Do Nuttin' for Ya Man (House Party, 1990)

Akira Ifukube - Godzilla's Theme (Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, 1991)

Dr. Dre introducing Snoop Doggy Dogg - Deep Cover (Deep Cover, 1992)

MC Eiht - Streiht Up Menace (Menace II Society, 1993)

Warren G feat. Nate Dogg - Regulate (Above the Rim , 1994)

Dr. Dre - Keep Their Heads Ringin' (Friday, 1995)

Tito & Tarantula - After Dark (From Dusk Till Dawn, 1996)

Mobb Deep feat. Big Noyd & Rakim - Hoodlum (Hoodlum, 1997)

Half-A-Mil - Some Ni@@az (Belly, 1998)

Kool G. Rap & RZA -  Cakes (Ghost Dog, 1999)

Clint Mansell feat. Kronos Quartet - Lux Aeterna (Requiem for a Dream, 2000)

Pharoahe Monch - Fuck You (Training Day, 2001)

John Murphy - In the House, In a Heartbeat (28 Days Later, 2002)

Ludacris - Act A Fool (2 Fast 2 Furious, 2003)

Charlie Clouser - Hello Zepp (Saw, 2004)

Reinhold Heil & Johnny Klimek - To Canada (Land of the Dead, 2005)

Dario Marionelli - Evey Reborn (V for Vendetta, 2006)

Rose McGowan - Two Against the World (Planet Terror, 2007)

Nathaniel Mechaly - Pursuit at the Construction Site (Taken, 2008)

Mike Armstrong - Main Title Theme - (The House of the Devil, 2009)

Henry Jackman & John Murphy - Flying Home (Kick-Ass, 2010)

Power Glove - Hunters (Hobo With A Shotgun, 2011)

Paul Leonard-Morgan - The Rise of Ma-Ma (Dredd, 2012)

Mica Levi - Love (Under the Skin, 2013)

Disasterpeace - Old Maid (It Follows, 2014)

Tom Holkenborg - Brothers in Arms (Mad Max: Fury Road, 2015)

Sweet Tempest - Mine (The Neon Demon, 2016)

Oneohtrix Point Never - Leaving the Park (Good Time, 2017)

Jóhann Jóhannsson - Death and Ashes (Mandy, 2018)

Bobby Krlic(?) - ????? (Midsommar, 2019)*

Mondo Boys - Find Me in the Fall (The Mortuary Collection, 2020)**


* Wasn't included on the soundtrack album. Not 100% sure if it was by the same composer or not.

** Listed as a 2019 movie according to IMDb. Absolutely don't agree with that at all since it didn't get a proper public release until the following year. Also, there aren't even any user reviews from 2019 on its own website. Keeping it as a 2020 film.

Intentionally omitted a bunch of big scores that were once faves from the list as I can't stand listening to them during recent years for whatever the reason. Hoped to get some lesser recognised compositions in there and still couldn't manage it. Also, some tracks were a bit of a grey area and I wasn't sure if they were breaking the rule or not. Here are few honourable tracks I wish I could have included:

Bernard Herrmann - Twisted Nerve (Theme)
(Twisted Nerve, 1968)

 

 Bruno Nicolai - Sabba Sequence 2
(All the Colours of the Dark, 1972)

 Badder Than Evil - Hot Wheels (The Chase)
(Gordon's War, 1973)

Tangerine Dream - Betrayal
(Sorceror, 1977)

 

Ronnie Hazelhurst - Are You Being Served? (Movie Theme)
(Are You Being Served?, 1977)

Charles Bernstein - Bath Attack
(The Entity, 1982)

Eric B. & Rakim - Juice (Know The Ledge)
(Juice, 1992)

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Going Strait

Paul Sykes: At Large (The Straits of Johor)
(Nick Lord, 1990)

It's a sorry state of affairs when revered documentarian film makers like Louis Theroux have to resort to interviewing a Twitch troll with supernatural belching skills to earn an honest buck in this day and age. It's only right to delve back into the past, when a documentary about the poor and unfortunate wasn't just prime time poverty porn; in this case it's the episode called Paul Sykes: At Large, from the documentary series, First Tuesday; first broadcast on Yorkshire TV in 1990. 

Following the exploits of the legendary English hardman and long term resident in the nick, trying to make a go of it on the straight and narrow. It's a mesmerising watch as Paul, wasn't just a hard-hitting pugilist in the boxing world, but a philosophical soul, too. Spending time with Paul adjusting to life outside the belly of the beast is pure magic as the viewer is blindsided with pearls of wisdom from Wakefield's finest, like "people get stuck in the groove, they're thinking gets stuck in the groove. Give 'em a little belt, you've knocked their groove out and then you've got their attention." The stuff of Plato, in my opinion.

Of course, the go to scene which offers a tantalising teaser of what this mesmerising documentary has to offer, is Paul schoolin' us plebians on the shark tainted Strait of Johor and how he deals with these predators of the sea. Consider me shocked, that it's a genuine real location situated between Malaysia and Singapore and not something dreamt up by The Incredible Bullshitting Man

Other personal highlights include:

  • Paul's mother dropping truth bombs on him like there's no tomorrow.
  • Typing up his novel "Sweet Agony" on a old BBC Micro computer.
  • A poorly planned wedding with his belle, Cath; resulting in Paul losing his patience and going on a drunken atheist rant.
  • The sitdown with his kids after a tenner is pinched from Cath's purse. "I'm gonna hafta beat him up...he's a terrible disgrace of a lad. Am I to blame? I don't know. He'd still be a useless bastard, whether I would have been there or not."
  • Paul's requirement of twelve pints of liquid everyday to keep his ruptured kidney in a state of hydration. Beer being the obvious choice, of course.
  • A rendition of Yazoo's Only You sung by what looks like two-thirds of the Space Angels from Battlestar Galactica.
  • A fund raiser raffle for young kids in the local area. One of the prizes being a fine art painting by one of Paul's mates, none other than British serial killer, Patrick MacKay.
  • Paul's Last Resort debt collecting business; which introduced the viewer to his colourful client, "local business man", Dennis Flint. The palpable tension with his reluctance to offer Paul a drink to avoid any possible damage to his flamboyantly decorated crib. The Rolls Royce desk was a touch of class, in my humble opinion.

"When you're handed a drink: you're an educated man, okay? When you've had a drink; you're a fucking maniac, okay?"

The world lost a great intellectual thinker in 2007 as Paul Sykes passed away from pneumonia and cirrhosis of the liver. Fortunately, we still have this fascinating film to educate and possibly dissuade any young 'un from taking the wrong path in life. Cheers, Paul.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Druid Come from a Land Down Under?

Alison's Birthday (Ian Coughlan, 1981)

Originally planned to give Robin Hardy's classic The Wicker Man (1973) a watch over the May bank holiday, but for one reason or another, I didn't get the chance. On the plus side, another folk horror film managed to sate my desire for pagan hijinks in the form of Ian Coughlan's relatively obscure Alison's Birthday (1981) from Australia.

The film begins when a trio of unconvincing looking school girls (they look like they're in their thirties), hold a Poundland ouija board session; one of whom is Alison, our film's heroine, played by none other than Mad Max Rockatansky's missus (Joanne Samuel) before she wound up as Toecutter's roadkill. One of the girls is possessed by the spirit of Alison's father, who warns her not to make any plans for her nineteenth birthday before it all ends tragically for her.

Jump to three years later and it's almost Alison's nineteenth birthday and who should ring her out of the blue? It's only her creepy aunt and uncle out in the boondocks; who happen to have a mini Stonehenge site plonked at the bottom of their garden. They convince her to come celebrate her birthday with them. You would think that a ouija summoning session which ended with the horrific death of her friend,  warning her to stay put would still run fresh in Alison's mind. No chance. She relunctantly goes with her boyfriend, Peter (Lou Brown). Anyone who has seen Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (1968) and Richard Donner's The Omen (1976) should have an idea where this film is heading as Coughlin's film is very much a hybrid of the two classic films.

As deriviatve as it all might sound, it's a very enjoyable slow burn horror that has heaps of great atmosphere, particularly the Mirne ritual scenes (with Alf Stewart's wife) and it's blessed with a very memorable finale. Australia produced some top quality genre films during the late seventies and early eighties and while Alison's Birthday is hardly on the same level as Long Weekend (1978), Patrick (1978) or even Road Games (1981), this definitely feels like a quality effort from that era, regardless. 

It's a real shame that this film is only currently available on Severin's freakishly expensive box set, All the Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium of Folk Horror. Would have loved to have copped this box set if had been more affordable, since there are a bunch of other movies on there like Eyes of Fire (1983) and Kier-La Janisse's feature documentary Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror (2021) that I'm desperate to see. Perhaps the YouTube gods will bless us with a rip of them, since that's how I wound watching an obscure title like Alison's Birthday in the first place.