Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Fun and Games

“Ze snake iss loose"!!
VENOM – How about this storyline: the kidnapping of a wealthy kid goes wrong and the kidnappers find themselves holed up in the family home as the police surround them and THEN they find out that the snake the kid collected that morning is not harmless but is in fact a deadly mambo who soon escapes from its box and slithers into the ventilation shaft, after biting the nanny (Susan George, expiring in grand fashion) … This farrago was originally to be directed by Tope Hooper, but was taken over by Piers Haggard and features a cast of temperamental actors who here, in 1981, were not quite as famous as they used to be, but when one’s career is in the descendant one has to take what work one can – so we find Klaus Kinsi and burly Oliver Reed as the kidnappers, Sarah Miles with nothing to do as the medical specialist and Sterling Hayden as the grand-father, and the once promising Nicol Williamson is the police superintendent. Its satisfyingly worked out – Klaus gets a good scene with ze snake – as does Olly when it slithers up his trouser leg! and dear old Rita Webb owns the pet shop the snake comes from!

EYE OF THE CAT - A drifter and a mercenary nurse plan to murder his eccentric but wealthy aunt once she has changed her will in his favour. However, the aunt keeps dozens of cats in her home, and the man is deathly afraid of cats … interesting premise for a Joseph Stefano (he scripted PSYCHO) thriller ably directed by David Lowell Rich in 1969 and with another top notch Lalo Schifrin score. Its another of those glossy Universal late 60s thrillers – which we saw here in England as supporting features but they certainly made their mark. This one is fabulously entertaining to see again now as its twists and turns and the cats are all terrific, particularly that main cat. What a star! Stunning sequences include the aunt in the runaway wheelchair, Sarrazin explaining his childhood fear of cats and Gayle Hunnicutt surrounded by all those hungry moggies – not only a clever homage to Tippi and those BIRDS but surpassing it! All 3 leads are terrific: Hunnicutt with her big hair and Sarrazin are so typically late ‘60s and nice to see Eleanor Parker again as the aunt. Even dependable Laurence Naismith pops in as the doctor! Then there is the brother, Tim Henry – whatever happened to him? San Francisco looks terrific too as lensed by Russell Metty.
GAMES – another young couple back in the swinging 60s in San Francisco (not seen much as its mainly interiors) and an older woman who joins their games in Curtis Harrington’s stylish whodunit which also looks terrific (and may well have influenced EYE OF THE CAT) and benefits from the casting of Simone Signoret in a terrific role for her here in 1967. She is Lisa Schindler the saleslady who manages to become the houseguest of bored rich couple James Caan and Katharine Ross and joins in their kinky mind-games. The games turn deadly though when mysterious Lisa insinuates herself into their lives. After a rather slow start, Games soon segues into an exciting, serpentine mystery that seems way ahead of its time for 1967. Good to see Estelle Winwood too. Another interesting thriller then with twists one can almost anticipate as one begins to realise who is pulling the strings. Signoret of course was in LES DIABOLIQUES ... It was a second feature when I first saw it back then, I loved seeing it again.

A Shelley Winters double bill!
WILD IN THE STREETS – Another ‘60s trash classic I had forgotten but its also vastly enjoyable now. Barry Shear’s film of the Robert Thom story for American-International was a hit in 1968. Its certainly a wild and woolly view of hip culture then as millionaire singing idol (Christopher Jones) helps a Kennedy-like congressman (Hal Halbrook) become senator on the platform of lowering the voting age to 15, through sheer charisma gathers to rallies in both L.A. and D.C., Jones even wins the office of U.S. President and then forces anyone over 30 into a "paradise camp" to be forever happy on LSD so that they are incapable of causing any more trouble. Its mad, its wacky, its enormous fun, particularly with Shelley Winters on the rampage as Jones’ whacked out mother. Chris Jones is much more animated here than the waxwork he had to play for David Lean in RYAN’S DAUGHTER, and there’s also ‘50s starlets Diane Varsi as a spaced out senator and Millie Perkins as the senator’s wife, and there's a young Richard Pryor! Nice ending too with Jones being told he is too old by the new generation of kids wanting power... Its all an outrageous take on events of the counterculture late 60s. Now for A-I’s companion piece THREE IN THE ATTIC!

SOUTH SEA SINNER (not SOUTHSEA SINNER, that part of Portsmouth where I lived for 10 years!). This 1950 yarn finds Shelley in the South Seas as the bar singer Coral, Macdonald Carey is as dull as ever, also Frank Lovejoy. There is a kind of plot but its mainly Shelley torn between the two men and warbling a few ditties, in some very kitsch costumes. A nice programmer for a rainy afternoon, pity its not in colour. Also called EAST OF JAVA.

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