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, 25 February 2015

Bad things

Before moving on to some classy repeats on television this week (Antonioni's THE PASSENGER and Haneke's AMOUR - I have covered them both previously, but more in due course), here's a round-up of some trashy items we enjoyed or endured recently ...

Its always a pain to see performers one likes doing something rubbishy later in their careers, say hello to HOW AWFUL ABOUT ALLAN a so-called shocker from that year of Trash Classics 1970 - its by Curtis Harrington who gave us the campy delights of WHATS THE MATTER WITH HELEN?, WHOEVER SLEW AUNT ROO? and GAMES (reviews at Horror label) but this one is dull fare indeed and wastes the talents of Anthony Perkins (perfecting his twitchy neurotics a decade after PSYCHO) and one of my great favourites Julie Harris (see label) in a thankless role.
After an eight-month stay in a mental hospital, a tormented man comes home to live with his sister; but a mysterious boarder may be trying to kill him.
Its a drab affair, that also features Joan Hacklett, and is thankfully only about 70 minutes.

More campy and glamorous is 1973's NIGHT WATCH, which re-unites Elizabeth Taylor with Laurence Harvey, and adds in Billie Whitelaw. 
Ellen Wheeler, a rich widow, is recovering from a nervous breakdown. One day, while staring out the window, she witnesses a murder. But does anybody believe her?
This is one of those campy thrillers with a twist ending - think Doris Day in MIDNIGHT LACE or Lana in PORTRAIT IN BLACK. They also ramp up the glam here with Liz in different gowns and furs and diamonds for every scene .... she and Larry were much more fun in BUTTERFIELD 8, both their careers were on the slide by this time, he was terminally ill and died later that year. NIGHT WATCH is an efficient potboiler which passes the time agreeably as one laughs at it, as dully directed by Brian G Hutton, who also helmed Liz's other 70s Trash Classic ZEE & CO. One cannot reveal the twist .... but its a howler. 

On to 1998 and VERY BAD THINGS - a thriller starring Christian Slater and Cameron Diaz.
A group of friends head to Las Vegas for a bachelor party.. only things go wrong and a woman is killed. Soon, the bodies are piling up and the friends find themselves turning against one another as the cover-up builds.
The main interest in this now is that one of the guys (the one who accidentally kills the prostitute) is an almost unrecognisable Jeremy Piven (right), well it was 17 years ago - a long way from his sleek MR SELFRIDGE which entertains us on Sunday nights here now.
Its a dark black comedy which keeps one watching, as director Peter Berg mixes laughs with chills as bodies get cut up to be buried out in the desert. Daniel Stern is good too and Cameron is ace as the bride-to-be from hell. Chunky hairy Piven is deliciously sleazy and its certainly ramps up some scuzzy Tarantino-esque fun as we watch some good guys do evil things as events get progressively out of hand. VERY BAD THINGS remains a polarising movie, with some either loving or hating it.

Back to 1944 for FRENCHMAN'S CREEK, a costume drama about pirates from a novel by Daphne De Maurier, with her REBECCA star Joan Fontaine. This is now a Spanish dvd: EL PIRATA Y LA DAMA (The Pirate and the Lady), by that interesting gay director Mitchell Leisen. Mexican Arturo de Cordova is the pirate, with hissable Basil Rathbone, dependable Cecil Kellway and blustering Nigel Bruce. 
Joan is the noblewoman who tires of her husband and his decadent friends in bawdy Restoration London and who decamps with her children to her country estate, run by kindly Cecil, in remote Cornwall. She soon finds out that a French pirate moors his ship in a nearby cove and has been using her house and bedroom. They get to meet and have a chaste affair.  She soon enjoys herself dressing up a his cabin boy and getting involved in his pirate activities. 
Then her husband and suspicious Basil turn up as the plot works out to a satisfactory, for its time, conclusion as she has to give up her pirate lover and settle for dull marriage and looking after her children. Joan gives it her all and gets to wear some nice gowns. Arturo and his pirate gang seem a gay lot .... a subtext picked up by my IMDB pal melvelvit, who commented:  "I see what cinema scribes mean when they speak of Leisen's "gay sensibility"; the camera practically caressed Arturo's hairy (unusual for the time) chest and there were lots of lovingly photographed bare-chested pirates" ... A sometimes campy, sometimes dull swashbuckler then. Joan's and Basil's fight to the death on the stairs is certainly well done and packs a punch! 


  1. Martin Bradley4 March 2015 at 13:46

    I've never seen either HOW AWFUL ABOUT ALAN or NIGHT WATCH but let me tell you that VERY BAD THINGS is NOT a thriller but a very twisted, very black thriller and a personal favourite in this house! :)

  2. I also happen to love the over-the-top Night much fun watching a zoftig Liz flounce around in colorful bulk-concealing caftans and screaming bloody murder...and I adore Billie Whitelaw...
    Very Bad Things was where I first noticed Mr. Piven...thanks to his gratuitous nude scene...and agreed, this is a terrifyingly good black comedy.

  3. Leisen is wonderful with the way he shoots his male actors. The best example has to be Fred MacMurray in "No time for love", but it appears over and over particularly in his 1940s films.

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