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.

Friday, 8 December 2017

RIP, continued.

Shashi Kapoor (1938-2017) aged 79. One of Bollywood's most recognisable, photogenic stars throughout the 60s and 70s.  His breakthrough role was in the 1963 Merchant-Ivory film THE HOUSEHOLDER, and then in their SHAKESPEARE WALLAHBOMBAY TALKIE and HEAT AND DUST. Other international films include PRETTY POLLY in 1969 and SAMMY AND ROSIE GET LAID in 1987, as well as his many Indian films in the booming Bollywood film industry. He was married to Jennifer Kendal, sister of Felicity, whose parents toured India with their Shakespeare productions.

Christine Keeler (1942-2017) aged 75. English model and showgirl, at the heart of the Profumo scandal in 1963 (I was 17 at the time and remember reading avidly about it.  The story is too well known to rehash here, but she was involved with the Minister for Defence John Profumo,  as well as  Soviet spy (at the  height of the Cold War) as well as society osteopath Stephen Ward. Profumo lied about his involvement with her in the House of Commons and discredited the Macmillan government. Her later life was dogged by the scandal. It was a high price to pay for being a symbol of the Swinging Sixties. 

Karin Dor (1938-2017) age 79. Another of the Eorobabes who departed this year, Karin had a substantial career in European films. I know her best from Hitchcock's TOPAZ in 1969, where she is stunning as the Cuban who is helping the Americans
. Hitch gives her a perfect death scene as she is shot with that purple dress billowing out around her as she falls.  She was also an early Bond girl in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE in '67. 
Suzanna Leigh (1945-2017), aged 72. Another of those decorative British blondes popular in the mis-60s: she was the posh one in THE PLEASURE GIRLS (1965) and co-starred with Elvis in PAADISE HAWAIIAN STYLE, and in BOEING, BOEING in '66 with Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis - we did not feel the need to see that. Soon it was stinkers like THE DEADLY BEES, THE LOST CONTINENT, LUST FOR A VAMPIRE and various tv series. 

Keith Chegwin (1957-2017) aged 60. Another British TV stalwart 'Cheggers' worked mainly in childens' television and morning shows, and seemed unfailingly popular. 

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Strictly finalists ?

Our 2017 season of STRICTLY COME DANCING is coming to a close, with the semi-final this weekend. Here are three sizzlers from last week's Musicals theme. We expect these three to be in the final ...

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Weekend photo miscellany

Some of our favourites: Vitti, Stamp & Losey during MODESTY  BLAISE, Dirk and Ingrid when she was his house-guest in 1965 (Eve  Arnold photo), Marlon visits Marilyn at 20th Century Fox in 1954, he was playing Napoleon and she is in one of her THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS dresses, a nice shot of Alan Bates, and that duel between Florinda Bolkan (as Lola Montez) and marvellous Margaret Courtenay in Lester's under-rated ROYAL FLASH; and Barbra wants to be a cycle slut in THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT, 1970.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

The Wages of Fear / Sorcerer

I realised the other day I had never seen Henri-George Clouzot's 1953 classic THE WAGES OF FEAR, that highly regarded thriller about the four desperate men driving two trucks of dangerous explosives over rough terrain in a South American jungle. who would survive?. I almost did not like it at the start as the first hour is spent setting the scene, but once they get going, and Yves Montand takes command - boy, does the tension build...

In 1977 William Friedkin, a hot director after THE FRENCH CONNECTION and THE EXORCIST (and of course THE BOYS IN THE BAND) did a remake, with stunning colour photography of the jungles and Roy Scheider (hot after JAWS) in the lead, and its super fantastic now, with that great score by Tangerine Dream (me neither), but it, now renamed SORCERER, it was a huge box office disaster, as we were all loving those space operas by George Lucas and Spielberg or living the New York life with Woody Allen (ANNIE HALL) and John Travolta (SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER), so SORCERER quickly got lost and disappeared from view, until a new issue recently. Its a keeper and one to see again, even if - like the Clouzot film there is a confusing opening section setting up the characters in various locations like Paris, Jerusalem, New York etc. Highly recommended - if only  for the scenes of the trucks crossing those bridges ... It must have been a tough shoot.
A gangster, a crooked banker, a hitman and an arab terrorist are stranded and on the run in a small village in South America. Their only chance of escape is to drive two trucks filled with unstable nitroglycerin up a long and rocky mountain road in order to plug an escalating oil refinery blaze. With their deadly cargo likely to explode at the slightest bump, the four men must put aside their differences and work together to survive. 
Trapped in squalor, unable to return to the lives they abandoned, they're driven by circumstance to accept a normally unthinkable job. They have to drive old, unstable dynamite from its storage site hundreds of miles over mountain terrain and washed-out roads to the location of an oil well fire so the blaze can be snuffed out. The pay is exorbitant -- but it's commiserate to the danger. The risks are colossal ... and they ultimately have no choice.
SORCERER is tense, suspenseful film-making at its finest. Friedkin creates a palpable sense of place, and Scheider is immensely powerful as a man whose every move suggests that he knows he's doomed. Taut with suspense, completely convincing and breathtakingly human, SORCERER is an unfairly maligned film that delivers in every way.
See both versions and decide which you prefer ...

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Frantz, 2016

In the aftermath of World War I in 1919 Germany, Anna notice a stranger placing flowers on the grave of her fiance, Frantz. She now lives with Frantz's parents,  (a doctor who refuses to treat French patients) and his equally upset wife. In fact anti-French feelings run high in the town. The stranger is Adrien and he and Anna slowly get to know each other. He and Frantz were best friends in Paris and then both enlisted in their respective armies ...

This is a slow, languid film with marvellous widescreen black and white photography, with occasional moments of pale colour, and it confounds our expectations of where the story is going. Just when we think it is almost over there follows another departure as Anna travels to Paris to find the missing Adrien and ends up meeting his wealthy family. The upper class milieu of concerts and art galleries is nicely depicted, and is certainly a departure for Francois Ozon, the gay French director who has been very prolific - is it really seven years since his delightful POTICHE (reviews of this and other Ozons (SWIMMING POOL, UNDER THE SAND, 8 WOMEN. TIME TO LEAVE etc at Ozon label).

Paula Beer (new to me) is marvellous as Anna, a quiet controlled performance drawing the camera to her, and Pierre Niney is new too as Adrien. Highly recommended for when one is in the mood for something different (rather like Fassbinder's EFFI BRIEST also with that marvellous monochrome photography and hypnotic slow pace).

Co-scripted by Ozon loosely based on a 1932 Lubitch film BROKEN LULLABY.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Period pieces 1: Miss Marple / Mapp & Lucia

An investment for those long winter nights is a reasonably priced boxset of all 12 BBC Miss Marple stories featuring Joan Hickson as the intrepid detective of that perfect 1950s English village St Mary Mead. Hickson, usually seen in comic roles (YANKS, UPSTAIRS & DOWNSTAIRS, PLEASE TURN OVER etc) is just perfect here.

The 1960s Marple films with Margaret Ruthrford were comic trifles, and much as I like Geraldine McEwan and Julia McKenzie their later Marples were all wrong, and the films silly and stuffed with guest stars (step forward as usual David Walliams).

The main Marple stories like MURDER AT THE VICARGE, 4.50  FROM PADDINGTON, and my particular favourite AT  BERTRAM'S HOTEL are all iincuded and it will be a pleasure to see them again. See Miss Marple label for review of this,

I already have the 80s series of MAPP & LUCIA,  the blissful comic capers of those two warring ladies in Tilling in Sussex, in that perfect period between the wars, with Geraldine McEwan, Prunella Scales and Nigel Hawthorne all perfectly cast, as are all the other characters. I have reviewed this in more detail at Mapp & Lucia label. 

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

RIP, Jill Barklem & Brambly Hedge

We we sorry too to hear of the death of childrens' graphic books writer and illustrator Jill Barklem, at the early age of 66. I have long enjoyed her series of books of BRAMBLY HEDGE with their endlessly fascinating illustrations of the mice who live there, in the series of four books charting the seasons: SPRING STORY, SUMMER STORY, AUTUMN STORY, WINTER STORY. The mice live in their little houses, so splendidly detailed, in the tranquil hedgerows and the illustrations of trees show how they have stores, and bedrooms, and lovely cosy living rooms, by the fire, as the community of mice live amid the wild roses, brambles and elderberries of a hedgerow. 


In the winter they have a Snow Ball with lots of marvellous observation too. 

She wrote the stories and did all the illustrations. The hobbits' homes in the LORD OF THE RINGS series gives one a flavor of their underground retreats. 
Children of all ages would find her books endlessly fascinating and they have been huge bestsellers and led to merchandise like Royal Doulton figures to stationery. 

RIP, continued ...

Rodney Bewes (1937-2017), aged 79.   Distinctive-looking British actor, best known for THE LIKELY LADS (1964-1966) and WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE LIKELY LADS? (1973-1974) which captured the aspirational Seventies perfectly, as well as being marvellously funny as we followed the misadventures of Bob (Bewes) and his grumpy pal Terry (James Bolam), forever carping and mocking Bob's suburban lifestyle with his wife, the formidable Thelma (Brigit Forsyth). 
In later years Bewes seemed the forgotten man of British TV comedy, as Bolam blocked any repeats of the hit series for many years. It is bliss seeing them again now.  He continued working on the stage and doing lucrative voiceovers.  Rodney was also Tom Courtenay's pal in BILLY LIAR (1963) - he and Tom had shared a flat. It seems he and Bolam had a falling out which led to the series not been seeing much. I have just ordered them on disk now to  re-live them all again. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais' comedy is up there with the best of the 70s British tv comedy series, like HI DI HI or ARE YOU BEING SERVED? 

Keith Barron (1934-2017), aged 83. Another stalwart of British TV, and a familiar face from one's TV viewing, Barron was in everything from CORONATION STREET to BENIDORM, via hit series DUTY FREE, and series as varied as Z -CARS, UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS, DR WHO and the Dennis Potter plays STAND UP, NIGEL BARTON and VOTE, VOTE FOR NIGEL BARTON. The Yorkshire actor was a familiar face and certainly kept busy from 1961 to 2015. 

David Cassidy (1950-2017), aged 67. The Seventies pop and tv icon.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

New must sees ...

Now the festival season is over and winter settling in, the new Award Season should be underway for the next Oscar ballyhoo in February. Three I particularly want to see are the new Luca Guadagnino CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, Annette Bening (surely leading the Best Actress nominations) as Gloria Graham in FILM STARS DON'T DIE IN LIVERPOOL and PADDINGTON 2- my lofty film buff friends turned up their noses at the first one, boy are they missing out ... 

Revisiting old favourites ...

I have written about these here several times, so no need to rehash them again, but its been a lot of fun revisiting QUENTIN DURWARD, JUSTINE and SANDRA ..... see labels for previous comments.
QUENTIN DURWARD from 1955 is maybe my favourite costume drama from the 50s (along with Fritz Lang's MOONFLEET, also 1955 - I enjoyed seeing them as a kid at Sunday afternoon matinees). DURWARD captures the Walter Scott world perfectly, with perfect roles for Kay Kendall and Robert Taylor and Robert Morley as the very devious King of France. 
JUSTINE is a genuine Trash Classic, started in Tunisia and then moved to Hollywood, it in 1969, it has that plush 20th Century Fox look, a great score by Jerry Goldsmith and Anouk Aimee looking stunning in those Irene Sharaff creations, plus Michael York and Dirk Bogarde as well as Anna Karina. George Cukor took over the direction, lensed by veteran Leon Shamroy, so it romps along, capturing some of Durrell's exotic Aleandria. I just like it a lot.
SANDRA in 1965 is maybe a lesser Visconti, but is still a powerful operatic melodrama with Claudia Cardinale and Jean Sorel at their peaks of stunning beauty as the incestuous brother and sister. Again, one to savour. 

Monday, 13 November 2017

Soldier of Fortune, 1955

One of those little seen now adventure movies the studios churned out in the 1950s, usually teaming two stars (like John Wayne and Lana Turner in THE SEA CHASE, also 1955) and featuring exotic locations - we are in 1950s Hong Kong here and with Clark Gable and Susan Hayward, plus Michael Rennie.

Susan - looking good here - arrives to find her missing husband who it seems in held captive in 'Red China' and engages shady businessman Gable to help her, he is initially reluctant but falls for her charms. There is lots of local colour too in the locations with all those junks and sampans and those shady people at the hotel. It moves along at a nice pace but the two stars never left the studio backlot, though one would not notice. This was Susan's adventure movies period for 20th Century Fox, when she was teamed with the likes of Cooper, Power, Mitchum, before her big emoting roles in I'LL CRY TOMORROW and I WANT TO LIVE!. (Gable it seems did go go to Hong Kong for some location shots).

Gable was getting a bit long in the tooth for these kind of action roles - he wisely stuck to romantic comedies afterwards until his final film THE MISFITS filmed in 1960. Hayward is in her element, she had tested for Scarlett O'Hara in 1939, but finally gets Gable here. Directed by Edward Dmytryk, with a good score by Hugo Friedhofer from a novel by Ernest K Gann, it is one programmer that is worth another look now. 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Under-rated directors: Clive Donner

Like Desmond Davis (below) Clive Donner (1926-2010) also seems under-rated but directed a clutch of interesting films and tv movies during the 1960s, starting with THE SECRET PLACE, a 1957 Belinda Lee drama I have just got a copy of, and he also helmed Pinter's THE CARETAKER in 1962 with the powerhouse trio of Robert Shaw, Alan Bates and Donald Pleasance. He also did SOME PEOPLE that year, that pleasing film about pre-Beatles teenagers making music in Bristol, with the young David Hemmings.
Two seminal Sixties movies followed: NOTHING BUT THE BEST in 1964 capturing that new London on the rise, and the delirious WHAT'S NEW PUSSYCAT in 1965 which the 19-year old me and my friends loved and saw several times, with that terrific line up of O'Toole, Sellers, Schneider, Capucine, Paula Prentiss, Ursula Andress and more in a madcap Paris, with a Burt Bacharach score (I had to have the soundtrack album) and script by Woody Allen, who also appears - his first film.

We also loved his 1967 Swinging London (though set in Stevenage) comedy HERE WE GO ROUND THE MULBERRY BUSH with its cast of engaging youngsters led by Barry Evans, and that great Traffic score, and his 19689 historical mini-epic ALFRED THE GREAT, filmed in Ireland and very much of its time as hippie king Alfred (David Hemmings) fights the Danes led by Michael York, and it also features a young Ian McKellen, Colin Blakely and Vivien Merchant. Its one to see again too. Quality television work included Peter O'Toole in ROGUE MALE, and good versions of THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL and A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Donner, below, with Hemmings & Blakely.
Quite a few of these I would like to see again- see Donner label for reviews.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Under-rated directors: Desmond Davis

Now in his 90s (born in 1926) Desmond Davis is surely one of Britain's most neglected film directors, who had a good run in the 1960s, and directed that original star-heavy (led by Olivier, Maggie Smith) CLASH OF THE TITANS in 1981 (I couldn't even watch the CGI-heavy remake). 
He began as camera operator on TOM JONES in 1963, and also on Huston's FREUD, plus those new wavers A TASTE OF HONEY and THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER. His 30 directing credits include those two particular favourites of mine, from Edna O'Brien stories: THE GIRL WITH GREEN EYES in 1964 and I WAS HAPPY HERE in 1966, with those great County Clare locations Lahinch and Liscannor, as they were then, and Sarah's bedsit in London overlooking the new Post Office Tower.  

I have written about these a lot here  - see Ireland, O'Brien, Miles, Tushingham labels), and he also directed the 1984 television remake of O'Brien's THE COUNTRY GIRLS (the original of GIRL WITH GREEN EYES). Other 60s films include our other favourite SMASHING TIME, re-uniting Rita and Lynn in that slapstick Swinging London riot. There was also a rather good Agatha Christie: ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE
Other British-based directors of the time may have got all the kudos and awards (Tony Richardson, Schlesinger, Losey, Lester, Boorman) but Davis's work endures and is still endlessly watchable, particularly his Irish-based dramas,which should have a lot of resonance with anyone Irish. He also did a lovely little film THE UNCLE in 1967 which barely got seen, though I got a ticket to the premiere from "Films and Filming" magazine. 

Next: equally neglected Clive Donner & WHATS NEW PUSSYCAT, ALFRED THE GREAT etc.

Monday, 6 November 2017

1960s girls on London underground

Julie Christie of course, and below: Brigitte Bardot, circa 1955, and a guy - me, in 1966 .... thankfully the tube is more modern now, even if  more overcrowded. 

Jenny or Jenny ?

Jenny Bowman or Jenny Stewart, that is. Both are legendary Broadway divas, very used to getting their own way.  Joan Crawford is Jenny Stewart and TORCH SONG is Joan's first in colour, in 1953, and is a camp riot of garish colour, particularly with Joan in "tropical makeup" for the bizarre "Two Faced Woman" number. One feels sorry for the chorus boys Jenny terrorises and Michael Wilding as the blind pianist who is the only man who can stand up to her. Very odd too is her pack of teenage fans crowding the stage door to meet her .... I have reviewed this Camp Classic several times, as per Crawford label, so these are just a taster: love her party where she is the only woman. Joan truck gold again the following year with the equally bizarre western JOHNNY GUITAR, the first movie I saw, aged 8; again see label.
I COULD GO ON SINGING is more serious fare, with Judy Garland's final role, a decade after her A STAR IS BORN, where she plays Jenny Bowman, a version of herself, superbly aided by Dirk Bogarde. The numbers are great and Judy is caught here at a good moment for her in the early sixties. The shoot though was a nightmare, as per Dirk's memoirs. Lots more at Judy label,