Monday, June 1, 2020

The Mighty Peking Man (1977)

A superbly weird film just as you imagine the HK version of King Kong would be. Johnny Fang (Danny Lee) heads to the Himalayas to track down the mythical Peking Man or Utam, some sort of gigantic (although the size seems to vary between scenes) monstrous ape. Finally he discovers the creature but he is about to be crushed by it... until the arrival of a female Tarzan called Samantha (Evelyne Kraft) who was lost as a child in a plane crash in the Himalayas and bought up by Utam in the jungles of the Himalayas.

Samantha falls for Johnny and he persuades her to bring Utam to HK so the whole world can see him. Utam ends up in a show but you just know it will end up badly...

An epic in monster mayhem, the destroyed buildings are so obviously models but the action scenes are tremendous set pieces. Samantha is a terrifically strange character, the fact she seems to hate wearing clothes adds to the sheer camp of much of the film. However amid the camp there is a lot of darkness in this film, Utam dies with honour, many of the humans die after being crushed by his giant feet. In fact Samantha (and maybe Johnny) apart, the humans in this film act terribly.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Tarzan of the Apes (1918)

The very first Tarzan film made only six years after the original novel was published, Edgar Rice Burroughs being an adviser on set. The story is of course very familiar and this version is very close to the novel. After Lord & Lady Greystoke's are marooned off their ship by mutineers and later perish their young son is bought up by Kala the ape as her own. Tarzan (Gordon Griffith) grows to a young man (Elmo Lincoln) and becomes the king of the apes.

Meanwhile reports of this strange white man who rules the apes has reached England and an expedition sets out to find him. Tarzan avenges the death of Kala and later romances Jane (Enid Markey)...

Elmo Lincoln was pretty imposing physically though didn't look much like he'd spent his life swinging between trees and fighting wild animals. This is an impressive film and a good version of Tarzan though especially considering how early it was made.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Adventures of a Taxi Driver (1976)

Crafty chappy cockney sexcapades with taxi driver Joe (Barry Evans) who's life revolves around birds, bonking and avoiding his fiance Carol (Adrienne Posta). He leaves home, his battleaxe mum (Diana Dors) and annoying half-siblings, and moves in with a stripper called Nikki (Judy Gleason) and her pet python (of course)...

That is it really, the film is more of less just a sequence of quite amusing and often fairly erotic adventures for Joe. Some of the adventures are ridiculous but genuinely funny, such as when Joe has to take a nun on a fare but he hasn't got any clothes on... after his previous adventure with a married woman (of course).

It is all a load of low-rent and predictable nonsense, with 70s stereotypes and misogyny galore. The nostalgia of 1970s London and all it's associated grime and sleaze makes the film highly enjoyable and very watchable, as does appearances from the likes of Robert Lindsay, Ian Lavender and Stephen Lewis. It is crap but a particular kind of British crap, so I loved it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A Star Is Born (1937)

A story told many times, a young hopeful from humble beginnings comes to Hollywood to try and become a star. However this was one of the earliest and also one of the better versions of that tale. Esther (Janet Gaynor) leaves her honest rural home with a starry eyed dream in her heart - and more usefully a handful of dollars from granny. Esther finds it virtually impossible to get any work though...

Then she meets movie star Norman (Fredric March) at a party. Norman marries Esther and helps her get into the movies. But Norman's losing battle with the bottle is taking his career on a downwards trajectory just as Esther's is moving up...

A lovely film in Technicolor, the inner workings of Hollywood and the wonder of the magical place are so well portrayed. As is the darker under belly. For every realised dream there were a thousand broken hearts. Like in so much of life.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

From Hell It Came (1957)

A rather odd little monster horror film... the monster in this case being a walking tree stump! A idyllic island in the South Pacific is troubled by radioactive dust and a native prince being killed by the tribal chief Maranka (Baynes Barron), under the advice of the scheming witchdoctor Tano (Robert Swan), for being overly friendly with American scientists...

The prince comes back to life as an accursed Tabanga, a dangerous tree stump. The monster begins to wreck havoc, can the scientists Tod Andrews and Tina Carver defeat native dark magic with science? Tabanga meanwhile slowly stomps around the island throwing people into quicksand.

The premise is fairly familiar though the monster in this case is a bit unusual. The film is slow to get started, the monster doesn't appear for a long time and when it does it is pretty laughable. The low budget makes for pretty shoddy production values but this does add a lot to the cheese value. Don't expect enlightened attitudes to Pacific islanders, but do expect a walking tree with eyes.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Dark Power (1985)

A terrible horror which wins through sheer ridiculousness. An American Indian medicine man (Robert Busheyhead) dies, his last word is "Toltec", what did he mean? Well a group of annoying college students move into his house, despite the fact he tried to get the land it is on condemned and dumped in the sea. Apparently four Toltec wizards were buried alive and they could come to life again...

They indeed do, and turn an annoying frat party with casual racism and sexism galore, into an abattoir. The Toltec wizards are amazingly poor looking zombies but are pretty unstoppable. Well apart from Ranger Girard (Lash La Rue) who has a magical whip and takes on one of the zombies in what must be one of the most long winded final battles ever.

The film is in two halves: the first is actually rather slow and boring but once the wizard zombies come back to life the actual horror part isn't that bad though humour rather than thrills is usually the result. Rather terrible film but worth watching for the sheer inanity.

Friday, May 22, 2020

South of Panama (1941)

A modest but decent espionage drama. Government scientist Paul Martin (Hugh Beaumont) has developed a new secret camouflage paint and is heading to Panama, but enemy agents want that secret for themselves. Paul's sister Jan (Virginia Vale) is warned agents are waiting for her brother and causes a distraction with stranger Mike Lawrence (Richard Pryor).

Lawrence, whom the rather clueless agents think is Jan's sister, gets drawn into the action which includes some fairly low-octane car chases and a few fumbling fight scenes. Jan meanwhile puts on a black wig and becomes a Latina singer and becomes "unrecognisable" despite her awful accent...

An enjoyable little film which makes little sense if we are to be honest, if the scientist's formula was so valuable why would he be allowed to travel without any protection? However if the viewer can get over that they'll find a fast paced drama, maybe few surprises but well executed.