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.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010


Some lovely shots of Romy Schneider from Visconti's LUDWIG (1972) where she nicely reprises her earlier SISSI role as Elizabeth of Austria, here she finds a lot of brittle humour in the more mature Sissi, and also Chabrol's INNOCENTS WITH DIRTY HANDS in 1975 which is really a valentine to Romy - it is all about her and she has a great variety of looks and hairstyles as she deals with cheating husband, lover and those policemen .... and also that recently re-released uncompleted 1964 Clouzot INFERNO! (More on Romy at label)

Monday, 29 November 2010


STAR WEEK! Today: rare shots of Dirk Bogarde / to follow: Romy Schneider, Anouk Aimee, Joe Losey and Luchino Visconti films (and then back to the 1930s with Irene Dunne, Margaret Sullavan, Loretta Young and Norma Shearer).

Thanks to a friend in New York, here are some very rare (well I had not seen them before!) publicity stills which Bogarde did for MODESTY BLAISE in 1966 - they kept the fish in the glass but Dirk went all silver blonde in the movie! (as per other MODESTY photos on here).

Resnais' PROVIDENCE in 1978 is quite a rare one too - I enjoyed it at the time, it has hardly surfaced since. Here are Bogarde, Gielgud, David Warner, Elaine Stritch and Ellen Burstyn. Quite an eclectic cast!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Showpeople (8): Troupers

Whether climbing the ladder of success or basking at the top today's selection of showpeople show how it is done:

Hedda with a starlet / Rock, Tony and RJ Wagner circa '57? / Marlene and Noel in 1959 and Judy and Mickey in '63 are the very essence of show-biz troupers / Kay and Rex in '57 / and young Barbra (with Michael Craig) getting into her stride as Fanny Brice in the London run of FUNNY GIRL in 1966 (I saw that from the front row). Omar got the movie gig though!, and speaking of troupers, here (for TJB) is Susan Hayward as MAME at Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas - wish I could have seen that!:

Showpeople (7): when we were young ....

A 1920s Keystone Cops and Bathing Beauties scene?

Look again ... (click twice to enlarge) - a re-creation from I'd say 1958 with a roundup of young players .... can you spot:

Debbie Reynolds, Shirley McLaine, Marge Champion, Sheree North, Kim Novak, Lee Remick, Dana Wynter, Joan Collins?

and the guys: Nick Adams, Don Murray, Tommy Sands, Fess Parker, Gower Champion, Buddy Ebsen, James Garner, Paul Newman and Rock Hudson ?

(Rock is showing his girlie side between Sheree and Kim). They forgot to include Hope Lange, Sandra Dee and Nat Wood !

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Fantasy double bill: Priest / An Ideal Husband

PRIEST from 1994 is a difficult movie tackling a difficult subject. It highlights the many conflicts of being a modern-day Roman Catholic priest. Upon arrival at his new parish (somewhere near Liverpool it seems), Father Greg (Linus Roache) quickly becomes embroiled in a series of no-win situations. His fellow priest (Tom Wilkinson) is having a clandestine affair with the housekeeper (a underused Cathy Tyson); and a young girl reveals while in the confessional that she is the victim of incest by her father or stepfather - he tries to advise her but should he intervene or is he bound by the rules of the confessional?; and he himself has his own secret desires, which are revealved as he gets involved with an initial casual pickup (Robert Caryle).

Father Greg’s conservative version of Roman Catholic faith appear to be no match for the very real problems of life in his very ordinary English parish. A crisis of faith ensues as his fellow clergy and the parish in general are dragged along unwittingly and unwillingly. As directed for the BBC by Antonia Bird and scripted by Jimmy McGovern it makes for grim viewing as our priest gets caught in a compromising situation with his lover and he gets fined in court and is naturally on the front page of the local paper. The climax with our isolated priest on his own during the communion ceremony with his bigoted parishioners (led by the unlikeable Anthony Booth) all going for communion to the other priest is painfully out of date now - their bigotry is not challenged. This is all a very 90s view of gays - and makes the drama very dated now. Only the child whose confidence he could not break goes for communion to him, as though she forgives him, as they both collapse in tears! Full credit though to Roache, Carlyle and Wilkinson for their full-on commitment. The drama though is an angry polemic against the strictures of the Church.

(An amusing update: Linus is the son of William Roache, who plays Ken Barlow in the long running (50 years!) English soap series CORONATION STREET, and he looks very like his father. He joined the series this year playing his father's long-long son who turns out to be very homophobic and cannot get on with his gay son, played by another of William's sons!)
And now for something completely different:

Despite the fact that it was written over a century ago Oscar Wilde's AN IDEAL HUSBAND resonates strongly with today's politicians and the stories we read of policital corruption. Wilde of course knew all about secets and lies - this was his last play and he was in prison about 6 months later. This one involves a rising government minister (Hugh Williams) threatened with blackmail and ruin by the scheming Mrs Cheveley (the glittering Paulette Goddard) who knows what he did in his youth to gain his fortune: selling government secrets and insider trading. He is now a morally upright prig loved by his adoring wife (Diana Wynyard) who could not love him if he had flaws. This is more than the usual Wilde comedy such as THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, dealing as it does with the pursuit of power and the cost of success. Mrs Cheveley wants him to back her scheme which he knows is fraudalent or she will expose his past to his wife ....

It is a glittering production by Alexander Korda with gowns by Cecil Beaton - maybe dated now and very '40s, but still fascinatng at this remove. The whole cast excels: Michael Wilding is the ideal dandy about town Lord Goring who assists Wynyard in defeating Mrs Cheveley, and Glynis Johns is just right as the ideal girl for him. There was of course that later rather lightweight production with perfect in their own way Colin Firth and Rupert Everett (who also were in the re-activated IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST) but this 1947 version is the one to see (as is the 1952 Asquith IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, with that too perfect cast). There is also now a new production of IDEAL HUSBAND currently in London which has been getting rave reviews, a testament to its timeless values and dazzling entertainment.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Fantasy double bill: Lizard / Ashes

LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN from 1971 is another of those steamy Italian giallo thrillers with heightened drama and piling on the exotica, by stalwart Lucio Fulci. I liked those two I saw a while back: SHORT NIGHT OF THE GLASS DOLLS with Jean Sorel and Ingrid Thulin and Barbara Bach, which was stunningly done and involving, and Sorel again with Carroll Baker in one of theirs, A QUIET PLACE FOR A KILL in 1970.

This one is all about Florinda Bolkan - that stunning Brazilian who came to prominence in Visconti's THE DAMNED in '69 and was the lead in De Sica's A BRIEF VACATION, as well as her Lola Montez in Dick Lester's ROYAL FLASH in '75 (see previous post....). Here she is Carol who is having very realistic dreams or nightmares where she is involved with the sex crazed lesbian who lives next door - cue lots of girl on girl action which takes a violent twist when the said neighbour is found stabbed to death, with Carol's fur coat and scarf nearby .... in Carol's nightmares she is the guilty party who then realises after the stabbing that she is being watched by two hippies who are out of their minds on acid.... What is real and what is fantasy or nightmare? Is Carol being set up? Carol dreamed the killing, and there are her prints all over the place. She claims she didn't kill her, but then who? Can Carol's father find out and put the blame? Will the police detectives solve the crime, which could be a set-up. There are several striking sequences such as Carol fighting her way through a crowded train corridor when suddenly all the other people on the train are naked....

Fulci takes the viewer on a convoluted journey through Carol's psyche, with the various endless corridors, winding staircases and labyrinthine buildings through which she finds herself being pursued (whether by actual physical forces or her own subconscious) reflecting her confused and deeply convoluted mental anguish.

The supporting cast is similarly excellent, combining famous British faces - an older Stanley Baker as the investigating policeman and QUO VADIS's Leo Genn (that dependable English actor) as her wealthy father, and as her husband giallo regular Jean Sorel who really has not too much to do here. The sets are opulent and there is that chase through the deserted Alexandra Palace, which features a bat attack clearly influenced by Hitchcock's THE BIRDS. Other London locations are well used too, and there is the usual Morricone score. The ending is quite a revelation....

What I actually enjoyed more was the 1965 British thriller RETURN FROM THE ASHES, a long unseen item, by stalwart J. Lee Thompson, shot in Panavision monochrome by Christopher Challis with a good score by Johnny Darkworth (who also did those scores for THE SERVANT and MODESTY BLAISE among others). This is an involving thriller heading by Ingrid Thulin terrific as ever as the woman returning to Paris from the concentration camps - we first see her on a crowded train unaware of her surroundings as an annoying child falls from the train, her tattoo visible on her arm. She books into a cheap hotel in Paris and even her old work colleague Herbert Lom does not initially recognise her. Before the war she had married an opportunistic chess player Maximilian Schell but is he really carrying on with her tease of a step-daughter Samantha Eggar?

It turns out that Thulin is now a very wealthy woman and Eggar and Max want to get their hands on it. Sam spots Thulin in the street and realises they could use her to pose as her mother, whom they believe died in the camps, to get their hands on the money. Ingrid goes along with this, not telling them who she really is. The plot twists and turns, with a very good bathroom scene, until final retribution. It is actually very enjoyable and the 3 leads excel. Highly recommended - if you can find it!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Fantasy double bill: Royal Flash & Gerard

Richard Lester's films always please. Nice to see his 1975 ROYAL FLASH is available again. This is a pleasing spoof on THE PRISONER OF ZENDA with a who's who of British talent: an early part for Bob Hoskins, the final appearance of an aged Alistair Sim and that trio of Malcolm McDowell, Alan Bates and Oliver Reed in their prime, plus Christopher Casenove, Britt Ekland and the spectacular Brazilian Florinda Bolkan as that very spirited adventuress Lola Montez (her motto being "Courage and shuffle the cards") as they love and fight across 19th century Europe.

Flashman of course is the creation of George MacDonald Fraser with that sequence of novels and who scripted this and Lester of course adds those touches which make his films from A HARD DAY'S NIGHT and HELP! on so enjoyable. This, like his ROBIN AND MARIAN and the two MUSKETEERS films are perfectly in period while also being exciting and damned funny, and also puts a great cast through their paces. (one Lester I missed was his '76 thriller JUGGERNAUT, and of course his 1967 San Francisco based PETULIA with Julie Christie is a deservedly cult movie, and those little seen items like THE BED SITTING ROOM and HOW I WON THE WAR). It is one of McDowell's better roles (like his H G Wells in TIME AFTER TIME) [there's a cult movie to discuss!] and he seems to be having great fun here as do all the cast, including Roy Kinnear, and boxer Henry Cooper. (McDowell strips again, Bates stays dressed this time).

Here, we first meet the coward and braggart Flash cavorting with famous courtesan Lola Montez and getting his bottom spanked with her bristly hairbrush, thus interrupting the aria of singer Margaret Courtenay (splendid as ever) leading to the two ladies having a duel at dawn! Reed is the glowering Otto Von Bismarck who also is enraged by Flash at the gaming tables of Victorian London, and then Bates turns up as the dastardly Rupert of Hentzau-like villain with the plan for Flash to impersonate a European prince! There are some splendid set-pieces among the alpine castles involving Tom Bell and others, as our "hero" ends up fighting in Kabul, Afghanistan - also a dangerous war zone back then!

This would make a terrific double bill with Jerzy Skolimowski's 1970 caper THE ADVENTURES OF GERARD, from Conan Doyle about the hussar Gerard and his adventues during the Napoleonic wars, with Peter McEnery in his element as Gerard, with Claudia Cardinale and stalwards Eli Wallach and Jack Hawkins (complete with voice box). This is just a memory though as the film has not been available for ages, one of those lost European films like Schlondorff's MICHAEL KOHLHAAS from '68 with David Warner and Anna Karina, about the horse trader (Warner) seeking justice no matter what cost to himself, or Cacoyannis' bizarre THE DAY THE FISH CAME OUT from 1967, already discussed here (1960s label), or Tony Richardson's THE SAILOR FROM GIBRALTAR or ....