Monday, 24 August 2009



Two Sidney Hayers films have drifted my way recently: both 1970s British suspense thrillers with a gallery of familiar faces in their casts.

First up was 1970's Revenge, a neat little tale in which a pub landlord (James Booth), having just lost his daughter at the hands of a sex fiend, kidnaps the local perv (Kenneth Griffiths) with the intention of getting a confession out of him. But things don't go according to plan: Booth's wife (Joan Collins!!!!!) isn't keen on the situation, the police are sniffing around, and Griffiths might not actually be guilty after all.... As things unwind and unravel, the movie loses its way somewhat in the last third, as Collins departs the scene in frankly ludicrous circumstances, but for the first hour or so it's not too bad and builds up the suspense quite nicely.

Much better, although sleazier and more salacious, is the following year's Assault, which is that most bizarre of treasures: a British giallo. A sex fiend is operating in the woods near a girls' school and there's a healthy list of suspects all equally flagged up as the maniac: the local journalist (Freddie Jones), the handsome doctor (James Laurenson), the dominated husband of the school's headmistress (Tony Beckley), even the copper on the case (Frank Finlay). In the best giallo tradition, it also features something seen at the scene of the crime that's mirrored later in the film that provides the key clue, while Suzy Kendall, a semi-regular in giallo movies, is at the centre of it all. To be honest this isn't anywhere near the heights of the genre (the best of Argento, for example) but it's engrossing and enjoyable and nicely shot, and manages to twist audience suspicions from one character to another. The worst part is the villain's demise which is frankly silly and doesn't belong.

The 1970s (and on up to about 1983) probably stand as my favourite years of cinema and it's those years which I'm most keen on filling in the gaps, particularly in the horror, fantasy and thriller genres and especially British ones. While Revenge isn't bad at all and a more than acceptable time-passer, Assault is easily the better of the two films and I'm really glad I've managed to finally see it.


Saturday, 15 August 2009



Yet another Jess Franco movie - I now make that 25 seen out of a filmography the IMDb suggests runs to an astonishing 190 titles. Astonishing in terms of sheer bulk, and astonishing in that very few of the 25 I've seen so far have been particularly decent. Granted, there've been a couple of not-bad ones: I particularly enjoyed She Killed In Ecstasy, and the madness of Vampyros Lesbos is fairly amusing. But there's so much incompetent dross on the list: cheap and shoddy rubbish such as Dracula: Prisoner Of Frankenstein, ludicrous sleaze such as Bloody Moon, unwatchable dullness such as X312: Flight To Hell. Franco, not to put too fine a point on it, tends to be a hack.

The Devil Came From Akasava dates from 1970 and can only stand as one of Franco's better films in comparison to so many of his others. By anyone's standards it's an absolute mess. Somewhere in Africa a stone has been unearthed that has the power not just of alchemy but also of turning people into zombies. (The film itself is a little confused on this issue, so I yield to the wisdom of the reviewers on IMDb.) Following the disappearance of the scientist who found the stone, Scotland Yard and the Secret Service send in a couple of agents, including the late Soledad Miranda going undercover as an erotic dancer. There's plenty of nudity (mainly from Miranda) some feeble violence, Franco himself in an extended uncredited role as an Italian secret agent, his usual over-reliance on the zoom lens, and a score that is mainly trippy pop with an abundance of sitars and bears no relation to what's happening on screen. Action sequences are indifferently staged, and the whole thing makes no sense at all. And it's all in German as well.

It's obviously terrible. I'm minded to give it a second star for the charming Soledad Miranda, and for not actually being as cripplingly dull as Franco too frequently tends to be.


Friday, 14 August 2009

100 FEET


This entry is quite short because really the less you know about it the more effective it is, and I'm really not a big fan of spoiling movies any more than strictly necessary. Sometimes it's impossible to really discuss without revealing important plot information, but in this case I think it's best to leave as little as possible.

In this instance all I'm going to say is that I rather liked 100 Feet, the latest Eric Red thriller. Adopting the electronic tag idea last seen in the functional Disturbia and bolting on a supernatural revenge angle, it has Famke Janssen under house arrest, on probation for her abusive husband's murder, and having minimal contact with the outside world except for deliveries. But she's not alone in the house....

It's generally pretty entertaining with some nice scare moments, and if it does go a bit over the top in the final reels when the supernatural elements stop sneaking about in the background and spectacularly reveal themselves, I'm not about to complain. It's a crowd-pleasing horror film and not a tract about human guilt and spiritual redemption; it made me jump a few times and the effects when they arrive are, well, effective. Worth a rental.


Thursday, 13 August 2009



Carol Thatcher is a complete sexual pushover who's pretty much anyone's at the drop of a five pound note. Not that Carol Thatcher, obviously - I'm talking about the amusingly named petrol pump attendant heroine of Pete Walker's 1970 sex comedy Cool It Carol, who legs it away from small-town drudgery to the bright lights of London, along with halfwitted butcher Robin Askwith, and embarks on an endless series of sexual shenanigans en route to becoming the biggest prostitute and sex star the world has ever seen - before she decides she's had enough of dropping her knickers for whoever's in the room, he decides he's had enough of arranging porno and hooker gigs for her, and they both elect to slink back to their small-town origins.

Back in 1970 it had a big shiny X certificate; time and social change have allowed it to drop to a fairly weedy 15. It's another movie that's more interesting for its portrait of Britain and London in 1970, and for the attitudes and behaviour of its characters that wouldn't be countenanced today. Askwith's laddish idiot thinks nothing of living off his girlfriend's income as a prostitute, and the perfectly nice and pleasant Carol (Janet Lynn in her first and biggest role of a short career) thinks nothing of basically doing it with absolutely anyone. In all honesty it's not a film to like but it is eye-opening in places. Though it obviously doesn't come anywhere near hardcore, there are still vast amounts of casual nudity and debauchery, and for some reason Stubby Kaye is in it as well. Very strange.

Though I prefer Pete Walker's horror movies (particularly Frightmare and House Of Mortal Sin), it's still worth catching a few movies of this ilk from time to time and I'm sure Walker's other entries in the genre will show up on DVD sooner or later. On balance, Cool It Carol isn't great, or even particularly good, but it is mildly interesting.