Wednesday, 26 September 2007
'Night of the Demon' (1957) is a genuinely suspenseful and atmospheric British horror film from the acclaimed French-American director Jacques Tourneur. The film stars Dana Andrews as the sceptical scientist Dr. John Holden who investigates the activities of a satan-cult leader Dr. Julian Karswell (Niall McGinnis). He is contacted by the niece of a professor who was recently killed by an unknown animal (we know that he was killed by a demon at the beginning of the film) and by Dr. Karswell, who threatens him. However, Holden continues to proceed to investigate more.
Remembered today as the horror film with the line used by Kate Bush in her song 'Hounds of Love' ("It's in the trees! It's coming!"), this is a well-crafted horror tale with genuine moments of suspense and with a wonderfully menacing performance by McGinnis. A notable classic and definitely worth watching! RATING *****
Shown on BBC2: Mon 1 Oct, 12:10 am - 1:45 am 95mins
Monday, 24 September 2007
'Vertigo' is a psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1958. The film stars James Stewart as John "Scotty" Ferguson, a San Francisco detective who develops acrophobia after a police officer falls to his death from a rooftop after trying to rescue Scotty.
Forced to retire from police work, Scotty is asked by an old college friend Tom Elster (Tom Helmore) to work as a private detective so that he can follow his wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak). Elster is concerned about his wife's mental health, that she is possessed by the spirit of someone who had lived and who had committed suicide over a century before. Scotty reluctantly agrees to follow Madeleine and after following her around San Francisco, Scotty notices that Elster's concerns about Madeleine appear to be genuine. Feeling a strong sense of attraction for Madeleine, he follows her to San Francisco bay where she jumps in in what appears to be a suicide attempt. Scotty jumps and rescues her. In an attempt to help her with her obsession, Scotty brings Madeleine to the Mission San Juan Bautista , the location featured in one of Madeleine's dreams. However, when they arrive at the scene, Madeleine runs up the steep staircase to the bell tower in what appears to be another suicide attempt but can Scott overcome his acrophobia so that he can follow her up the stairs?
'Vertigo' is one of my favourite films but it was not well-received by the critics or the general public at it's initial release. However it is now regarded as one of Hitchcock's most influential and personal works. The screenplay was by Samuel A Taylor and Alec Coppel from the French novel 'Sueurs froides: d-entre les morts' (Cold Sweat: From Among the Dead) by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. Hitchcock's wonderful use of colour is evident throughout which adds to his very unique visual style. His stylish direction is supported by a wonderful team of technicians such as the a haunting score by Bernard Herrmann (at the top of his form) and master cameraman Robert Burks.
The performances are excellent too. James Stewart is excellent as the likable Scotty who shows vulnerability and a streak of nastiness as he becomes more obsessed with Madeleine. As well as looking quite stunning as Madeleine, Kim Novak's performance portarys a ghostly, tortured soul who is the centre of Scotty's obsession. Barbara Bel Geddes plays the sympathetic Midge, who harbours a passion for for Scotty.
'Vertigo' was restored by Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz and this restoration was released in 1996. The film contained newly-restored colour, DTS digital surround sound and was shown in 70mm, which was quite similar to the original Vistavision process used for the original film.
I remember watching 'Vertigo' at the Rio Cinema in Dalton Kingsland on a cold Friday evening back in 1990. The print was possibly the same print used for the initial releases from decades before, although I did enjoy the experience. However the newly-restored print is wonderful and I have just shown it to my film studies class today. All of the pupils had never seen the movie before and they loved it. 'Vertigo' becomes better after every viewing and so like me, they will anticipate the day when they will watch it again. RATING *****
Friday, 21 September 2007
Released in 1990, 'Dances with Wolves' is a multi-awarded western epic, directed by and starring Kevin Costner. The film tells the story of John Dunbar (Costner), a United States cavalry officer from the civil war who wants to see the frontier "before it is gone". So he travels into the Dakota Territory, near a Sioux tribe and in time, earns the trust of members of the local Sioux leaders.
Although 'Goodfellas' was released on the same year and it is regarded by many as Martin Scorsese's most entertaining film, 'Dances With Wolves' has been attacked by many critics over the years as the film that won the Oscars at the expense of 'Goodfellas'. But 'Dances With Wolves' is an escapist if over-indulgent film perhaps, but thoroughly enjoyable in it's own right! It is epic in scope and it graces a massive production alongside a beautiful haunting music score by John Barry. The acting has it's moments too, especially Graham Greene's intelligent performance as 'Kicking Bird'.
The opening sequences and the many great vistas stay in the mind and not even the lengthy extended versions (released on VHS and DVD shortly after the cinematic release) diminishes the power of such a beautiful movie! Always worth watching and certainly under-rated! RATING ****
Thursday, 13 September 2007
Thursday, 6 September 2007
I am a big fan of the James Bond film series and the following selected Bond films are my favourite. I also think that they represent the very best of the inventive additions to the series. It is in my opinion that 'From Russia With Love' (poster above and photo below) is the best simply because I feel that it has the best screenplay of the whole series. I must admit that I think that 'Goldfinger' does come quite close.
1. From Russia With Love (1963)A wonderful sequel to 'Doctor No', with a taut plot helped by a brilliant screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Johanna Hawood. There is a lush music score by John Barry. exotic cinematography by Ted Moore, clever editing by Peter Hunt and stylishly directed by Terence Young. The performances by Sean Connery (a laconic and unforgettable James Bond), Lotte Lenya (as the evil Rosa Klebb) and Robert Shaw (as the menacing Red Grant) are unforgettable. A truly enjoyable Bond picture. RATING *****
2. Goldfinger (1964)The ultimate Bond film with amazing set designs by Ken Adam and an unforgettable brass score by John Barry. Beautiful visuals by cinematographer Ted Moore and an amusing screenplay (by Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn), along with another memorable performance by Sean Connery as the invincible Bond contribute to make this a classic to remember. RATING *****
3. The Living Daylights (1987)This was the movie that introduced a new James Bond after the many years of Roger Moore and this new Bond was Timothy Dalton. The Bond film contained the last score by John Barry for a Bond film and it is indeed a memorable one. Dalton's performance is a serious but striking one which helps this makes this film unique if slightly underrated addition to the Bond canon. RATING ****
4. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)The critics may have been quite right about the central miscasting of former Australian model George Lazenby as James Bond but the movie is now regarded as a classic and one of the best of the series. This movies contains loads of exciting moments and has another memorable score by John Barry. RATING ****
5. You Only Live Twice (1967)
An enjoyable picture despite a rather thin screenplay by Roald Dahl. The film boasts a superb brief performance from Charles Gray as Dikko Henderson and a genuinely menacing Donald Pleasance as enemy Blofield. The set pieces may not be the best of the series but the memorable score by John Barry and the inventive set designs by Ken Adam, along with the masterly direction by Lewis Gilbert gives this film an edge over many of the others.
6. Doctor No (1962)The first if not quite the best of the highly successful Bond series. Sean Connery provides a smooth and memorable performance as the suave 007. Joseph Wiseman is well cast as the creepy Dr. No, a performance that has been much imitated throughout the years. It is amazing to know that one of the set pieces in 'You Only Live Twice' had cost more than the whole of 'Doctor No'. RATING ****
7. Thunderball (1965)An amazing global box office success on it's release, this movie may be regarded as a lack- lustred follow-up to 'Goldfinger' but it does contain many enjoyable action sequences and some inventive set designs by Ken Adam. RATING ****
8. Casino Royale (2006)Nobody expected this new vision of Bond to work. But it does, well until the last thirty minutes when we can safely say that the movie becomes tedious. The critics were impressed with Daniel Craig's debut performance as the spy but it is the stunts and the cinematography by Phil Meheux that make this Bond film one of the best for many years. RATING ****
9. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)The first part of this Roger Spottiswoode directed Bond film is as good as any other of the series with a particularly memorable moment when Pierce Brosnan (an excellent James Bond) confronts the evil killer, Doctor Kaufman (Vincent Schiavelli). Sadly the second part of the film develops into a standard action thriller with a weak villain and containing lacklustre setpieces with lots of explosions. RATING ****
10. The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)Heavily criticised by critics throughout the years, this entertaining addition to the Bond series is campy and humorous. Roger Moore's comic timing is evident and the expensive set pieces are worth the price of the entry alone. Clearly not the best Bond film but definitely not the worst. RATING ***
Wednesday, 5 September 2007
Tuesday, 4 September 2007
Director of such classic films as 'Alien' and 'Blade Runner' says that 97 per cent of all modern films are "stupid".
Ridley Scott has proclaimed that 97 per cent of all modern films are “stupid”. The director of such classics as ‘Gladiator’, ‘Alien’, ‘Thelma and Louise’, and ‘Blade Runner’ was speaking at the Venice Film Festival on Sunday when he said that “where it used to be 50/50, now it’s three per cent good, 97 per cent stupid”.
Scott also said that new technology is killing off the big-screen experience, saying that mobile phones and computers are the threat. He said that “people sit there watching a movie on a tiny screen. You can’t beat it, you’ve got to join it and deal with it and also get competitive with it. But we try to do films which are in support of cinema, in a large room with good sound and a big picture”.