Friday, May 7, 2021

The Mirror Crack'd (1980)

An excellent Agatha Christie adaptation packed full of stars. Hollywood has invaded a quiet English village to make a film being directed by Jason Rudd (Rock Hudson) and starring wife Marina (Elizabeth Taylor). However, at a reception local girl Heather (Maureen Bennett) dies of poisoning. Was the poison really intended for Marina?

Miss Marple (Angela Lansbury) and her nephew Inspector Craddock (Edward Fox) investigate the murder in their own separate ways. There are a number of suspects including the shifty producer Martin (Tony Curtis) and Marina's unstable rival Lola (Kim Novak). But was the crime not quite as it appears?

A delightful film that really plays up the contrast between the hysteria and exaggeration of Hollywood and the staid conservatism of a 1950s English village. The film doesn't move very quickly but it certainly is highly enjoyable.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Reptilicus (1961)

Everyone was doing a monster movie in the 1960s, and here is the Danish "Godzilla", a rather ridiculous looking reptile which destroys Copenhagen. The preserved remains of a strange beast are found by Svend (Bent Medjing) a miner. Back at the lab, Professor Martens (Ashjorn Andersen) is carefully analysing the remains. When a mistake thaws the remains out the remains begin to regenerate...

During a thunderstorm the regeneration completes rapidly, the result being a huge armour plated killing machine. The Reptilicus (as it is called) escapes and begins to destroy. US General Grayson (Carl Ottosen) is tasked with stopping it but the army weapons have little effect as the creature descends on the city...

A very strange film with odd stilted dialogue and stiff acting, plus incredibly ropey special effects. For some reason the creature spits green goo, which has little effect on whatever it hits. It also has a lot of trouble destroying even the most cardboard of building. The film is complete nonsense and also hilarious and hugely enjoyable of course.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

West of the Divide (1934)

An unsurprising but perfectly competent Western. Ted (John Wayne) is still wondering what happened to his brother and smarting at how his Dad was probably killed by Gentry (Lloyd Whitlock) and the family ranch taken over. By sheer chance he sees the opportunity to pose as an outlaw and infiltrate Gentry's gang. Gentry meanwhile is after another ranch, menacing Fred Winters (Lafe McKee) and his daughter Faye (Virginia Brown Faire)...

With the help of his sidekick Dusty (George Gabby Hayes), Ted seeks evidence of Gentry's mis-deeds and finally brings him to rights with much hard horse riding and diving through windows.

Although the story is a bit by numbers (though with a few surprises) and artistically is nothing out of the ordinary, this is a decent Western. John Wayne was not quite the finished article but you can see why he was well on the way to becoming a legend.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The Great Smokey Roadblock (1977)

One of a number of trucking movies made in the late 1970s. Although light hearted enough, this isn't as funny as some of the other trucking films, though has some soul and heart. Elegant John (Henry Fonda) is dying and his truck is repossessed, he wants one last great cross country run before he dies so he skips hospital and steals his truck back. He heads East across the US, picking up Bible bashing hitchhiker Beebo (Robert Englund) and a trailer load of prostitutes including Eileen Brennan and Susan Sarandon also fleeing the law...

Our journey across small town and smaller trail America takes in a number of fascinating characters including the Missouri lawman called Harley Davidson (Dub Taylor)! The film is watchable though overall has the energy of a broken down truck. It tries very hard to be a comedy though much of the comedy falls quite flat. The story, Elegant John's need for one last fling before he dies, is solid. The film may have been better if they dialled back on the other weirdness and concentrated more on that. 

Despite it's problems the film isn't bad at all especially with the cast it has, and as a period piece of late 70s small town America it really works.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Cleopatra (1912)

A classic early silent movie, full of dramatic gestures and many extras in period costumes (of dubious historical accuracy). This tells the story of Cleopatra (Helen Gardner) after the murder of Julius Caesar and her seduction of Marc Antony (Charles Sindelar) and blah blah blah. The history, or at least William Shakespeare's version of it, is very familiar and doesn't need to be repeated here.

At the start of the film, the slave Pharon (Mr Howard) professes his love to Cleopatra. When she finds out she offers him ten days of love after which he must kill himself. He agrees though Pharon's lover the handmaiden Iras (Pearl Sindelar) is not so keen on this and later uses this against her Queen...

This is a lush historical epic to which regular colour tinting adds another dimension. The film is fairly low budget though and the sets reflect that. The camera is also pretty static, it is more like a filmed stage play than an actual film but still an interesting watch all the same.

Friday, April 30, 2021

The House on Sorority Row (1982)

Nowhere near as good as it could have been (though equally nowhere as bad as well!) A group of college girls want to hold their leaving party at the house they live at with the tyrannical Mrs Slater (Lois Kelso Hunt). Mrs Slater is eager for the girls to leave as soon as possible so the girls decide to play a prank on her. As the prank involves a gun and getting her to fall into a rancid pool its a rather mean prank. Especially as she dies during it...

Despite causing their landlady's apparent death, the girls party continues as planned (which is probably the funniest part of the entire film). Then the girls start disappearing one by one, killed off by a largely unseen assailant. Then the only one left is Katharine (Kate McNeil) - who to be fair is the only one with any the slightest inkling of what is going on. But then she gets drugged and left as bait...

Full of cliches and yet another 1980s slasher horror with plenty of gore. The acting is fairly mediocre and most of the characters loathsome though the film isn't without it's good points and unintentional humour, just that you have to wait some time for it,

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Party Girl (1930)

An awkward early talkie and a rather cheap exploitation film involving the sleazy world of escort girls and the men who pay for them. Jay (Douglas Fairbanks Jr) is the son of a rich businessman who finds himself dragged into this world, targeted by Leeda (Judith Barrie) and her cunning mother. Jay is tricked into marrying Leeda, for her personal gain. Jay's plans to marry Ellen (Jeanette Loff), his Dad's secretary, lie in tatters. Yet another rich sucker.

However, the law are planning to move in and shut the scam down. Will Jay and Jeanette get dragged into their necks?

A rather racy film for the day which leaves little to the imagination. It suffers from the usual problems of many an early talkie and is quite shameless and not very good to be honest. The most notable thing about the film is the young Douglas Fairbanks Jr having to appear in it, just showing that all stars had to start somewhere. The sets and club scenes are superb though.