Sunday, 31 July 2011

Less Than Animals

In 1892, a dozen construction workers digging out the London Underground were cut off from the surface by an accident. Lacking the funds or the inclination to rescue them, the powers that be simply left them to their fate, little realising that they would survive and, due to a propitious ratio of female workers, thrive, running to several generations. Inbreeding took its toll, of course, as did the need to cannibalise each other for food. By 1972, there were only two savage, degraded creatures left and then, when his mate died, a sole male remained, a hairy, dirty, sore ridden monster who treated the outside world and the people in it as a Takeaway and could only gasp three human words: 'Mind The Doors'.

Based on a true story (no, not really), 'Death Line' (re-titled as 'Raw Meat' in the US) is actually very good. It suffers from an uneven tone, and several underground scenes where its too dark to see what's happening, but it has plenty to recommend it: a hilariously sarcastic turn from Donald Pleasance, some gory killings, bags of pathos, James Cossins as an OBE who frequents strip clubs, location shooting at Holborn and Aldwych stations, an extremely original premise and great, strange music from Wil Malone. 

Little seen at the time of release due to a poor distribution deal, this little gem very occasionally shows up on late night telly but, happily, was finally released on UK DVD in 2006. My thanks to The Happiness Patrol for the gen.

Death Line

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Offending Articles

Lobby Cards from 'The Offence'.

It's All Too Much

I first saw 'The Offence' in the late eighties, coming in at midnight after a night at the pub and flaking in front of the TV to watch the Friday film. I think I had some chips with me. By the time it had finished, I was completely sober and deeply depressed: it's pretty serious shit, and I just wasn't prepared for it.

One of the pet projects Sean Connery got to make for returning to the Bond franchise in 'Diamonds Are Forever', 'The Offence' was directed by the brilliant American film maker Sidney Lumet, although it's very much a British film. Shot on location in Bracknell, it shows us the aftermath of a fatal interrogation by a veteran Police Officer who simply cannot cope with the pressure anymore. When he questions a suspect in a child rape case the parallels between them are too much to take, so he beats him to death in anger and disgust and a sudden burst of self-awareness.

Imbued with a creepy, clinging atmosphere of foreboding, it's by no means an easy film to watch, and is certainly not recommended to those of a morbid disposition. But then that's the point, isn't it? It's an olive, grey and brown world of suicide, murder, rape and abduction, rain and mud and unhappy marriages and poky flats and dead kids and too many cigarettes and sheepskin bloody coats and stewed tea and 'Please, Sir' and killing a man because he knows what's inside you...what did you expect, a musical comedy?

The Offence

Friday, 29 July 2011

Valerie Leon, Sex Object

Valerie is reduced to a series of constituent parts in 'The Rise & Rise Of Michael Rimmer' (1970).

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Throwaway Lines Often Ring True

I like Roxy Music. At their best, they were one of the most inventive groups that ever stalked a stage; at their worst, they are absolutely ridiculous, and I like that too. There’s still something very contemporary about them, perhaps because they consciously set out to make 21st century music when they started some forty years ago.

'Out of The Blue' is one of their most complex and enigmatic songs, with some interesting violin and oboe interjections and a tight, insidious rhythm that prefigures their later excursions into Eurodisco. Oh, and nice 'tache, Bryan.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Hugh Goes There

Hugh Griffith was a Welsh actor known for his exuberant performances and extraordinary face. He appeared in a number of high prestige blockbuster films in supporting roles, but wasn't fussy, also cropping up in horror films and sex comedies and even co-starring with Cliff Richard in 'Take Me High'. He's seen here as cheeky grave digger / grave robber Mickey in 'Cry Of The Banshee'.

He'll be back, the rascal. Thanks to Andrew Demetrius for the suggestion.

They Can Only Shriek, Shriek

'Cry Of The Banshee' is effectively a cross between the better known 'Witchfinder General' and 'Blood On Satan's Claw' in theme and style but, sadly, doesn't come close to either film in terms of quality or interest.

The usually good value Vincent Price gives perhaps his most boring performance, seemingly rendered immobile by the dullness of the production, too stupefied to even arch an eyebrow. The story, which has nothing to do with Poe no matter what the posters say, is set in the sixteenth century and concerns an arrogant Lord (Price) and his boorish, spoilt brat children who piss off a local witch coven (by hacking most of them to death) and then feel their wrath, one by one, victims of a supernatural entity called Patrick Mower.

It pains me to say it, but this film is a waste of time. You don't even get to see the monster properly. A very poor show all round.   

A Thing That Never Learned To Die

More from 'Cry Of The Banshee'.

Cry of the Banshee

The rather Pythonesque titles (darting boggly eyes and all) are, perhaps not surprisingly, by the very Pythonesque Terry Gilliam.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Where Vile Things Crawl

'The Oblong Box' was originally to be directed by Michael Reeves, but he chucked a spanner in the works by dying of a drugs overdose in the pre-production stages. The film re-united (the Reeves directed) 'Witchfinder General' star Vincent Price with his co-stars Rupert Davies and Hilary Dwyer and, like that production (in the US at least), attempted to link the film to American International Picture's highly successful Edgar Allen Poe cycle. 'The Oblong Box' is the title of a Poe story, true, but this is not that story.

A sort of bizarre take on 'Jane Eyre', it concerns Julian Markham (Price), a rich man with a young fiancee and a dark secret gained in the Colonies: a crazed and disfigured older brother who he keeps chained up in an attic - but, as crazed and disfigured elder brothers chained up in attics are prone to do, keeps getting out and causing mayhem. The problem is exacerbated by catalepsy, body snatching and a Voodoo curse. Thinking about it, what problem wouldn't be?

Not entirely successful, but very entertaining, AIP liked the film enough to immediately fling Hessler, Price and most of the supporting cast into Elizabethan horror 'Cry Of The Banshee', which just so happens to be the featured film on this very weblog tomorrow. We don't always just throw this shit together, you know.  

The Oblong Box