Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Avengers: How To Succeed...At Murder

More 1966 'Avengers''How To Succeed At Murder' has Mrs. Peel infiltrate a gang of female assassins who are knocking off their male bosses in order to establish a matriachal society after thousands of years of subjugation. Their leader, of course, is a ventriloquist's dummy named Henrietta.

The chief assassinatrix (I think I've made that word up) is played by Angela Browne. Angela was an intelligent, cultured and very beautiful presence in any number of British films and TV shows from the 1950s onwards, including 'Danger Man' and 'The Prisoner' (as Number 86 in 'A, B or C'), before giving up showbusiness for charity work in 1990. She died in 2001.  

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Avengers: The House That Jack Built

For my money, the first Diana Rigg Avengers season was the high watermark of the series, although the next season (the first in colour) comes very close. Surreal and psychedelic before most people knew what the term meant, the Brian Clemens scripted 'The House that Jack Built' is a fantastic episode, and also looks to have had a bit of an influence on 'The Legend of Hell House'.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Plekzy Music

Bristol based radiophonic futurists Ekoplekz have a new ep out on Public Information, the boffins who brought us 'Electronics Without Tears' a scant few weeks ago. It's a hugely atmospheric, occasionally scary recording available on very limited edition vinyl or as a download, and it comes highly recommended for anyone with functioning ears and a scintilla of taste. More information here.

Valerie Leon, Mother Of Three

Valerie Leon as film star and new mother Jane Darling in 'Carry On Matron', Kenneth Cope in attendance. 

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Almost Human

Make no mistake, ‘Shock Waves’ is pure trash but, as aquatic Nazi killer zombie films go, it’s right up there.

Yes, it suffers from the jumpy narrative and variable performances that these sort of films specialise in, but it actually has quite a lot going for it: Peter Cushing, looking worrying thin, but giving his usual credible performance, this time with a clipped German accent and a great big scar down his mush; an effective, abstract score played on cheap synths; location shooting on an eerie looking island and in a run down, deserted hotel, and, best of all, the decomposing genetically engineered Nazi half-living, half-dead killing machines in goggles who live underwater, lying in wait for victims, of which there are many. It's possibly the most fun the Third Reich has ever given the world.

Shock Waves

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Nazis On Ice

Nazis are good value, horror wise, aren’t they? The evil regime that keeps on giving.

In ‘The Frozen Dead’, Dana Andrews is attempting to establish a fourth Reich using the bodies of party members who chose to be cryogenically frozen when the war ended twenty years previously. The thawing process isn’t working, however, so the defrostees come out brain damaged or, in the case of a young Edward Fox, totally psychotic.

What the ‘kindly’ Doctor (who used to preside over a concentration camp and knew Josef Mengele) really needs is a living brain to study, which is soon delivered to him thanks to Fox’s strangling hands. The victim is a friend of his niece who is immediately decapitated and her head is kept in a box and fed a glucose diet. When the box is opened, the severed head scowls angrily – a look I recognise (and fear) from my own wife. When the box is shut, she uses telepathy to call to her friend and to wind up the frost damaged Nazis. It’s a powder keg with a dynamite girdle and nitrogylcerine wheels.

Extraordinary in many ways, few of them good, ‘The Frozen Dead’ is not necessarily terrible, just totally ridiculous. There’s a scene where the American hero is exploring the ‘castle’ (it’s actually just a large house) and, as he explores the dungeons, he comes across a skeleton manacled to the wall. Why? He doesn’t even register surprise, like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Why do the frozen Nazis swing around in the freezer? Have they been doing that for twenty years? Couldn’t they have been secured a little better?

The daftest elements are, naturally, courtesy of the severed head: blue, bald, covered in tubes, its baleful presence is exploited to the full and its scornful, hate filled expression is the stuff of nightmare / farce. The bald blue bonce even speaks at the end (impossible, but why start applying logic now?), before using sheer willpower to revenge itself on its nasty Nazi tormentors. Ludicrous. Recommended!

The Frozen Dead

Friday, 24 February 2012

Shake It Up and Twist and Shout

I've always liked this slice of electronic and vibes driven pop rock, but I especially love the incremental insanity of this Robert Palmer performance courtesy of, well, what else, German TV, more specifically a pop programme called 'Bananas'. Those crazy schweinhunds.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Art of Universal #3

Frames from one of the very best of all Universal Horror films, James Whale's brilliantly realised 1933 version of 'The Invisible Man'.

This was Claude Rains' first American film role, and he was cast because he had an intelligent, cultured, distinctive voice, important in a role where the main character cannot be seen for most of the film. It was a real triumph for Claude, especially as he had to work strenuously in his early career to eliminate a very strong Cockney accent.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Trapped In Wax

Mamma Mia! It's Swedens greatest export, the fabulous Abba, as immortalised at Louis Tussaud's.

Monday, 20 February 2012

The Geography Of Peace

'The Cleveland Way' should be familiar to anyone who was alive in the 1970's and had a telly. It's what my dear wife and I call a 'Clang - Neigh - Argh' PIF, i.e. lots of empty landscapes with exciting noises and sound effects dubbed on to evoke a more tempestuous past. Growing up, I must have seen this a thousand times as, watching it again after thirty years, I could recite the commentary word for word.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

There Is No Escape!

Despite its sensational title and poster, 'Naked Evil' is a rather creaky affair, which is a real shame as its premise - Voodoo comes to London - has distinct possibilities. Despite the supernatural overtones and a few well done atmospherics, however, the film never rises above a fairly basic whodunnit, and although its setting (a hostel for commonwealth men attending college in the UK) is fairly unique, its portrayal of the 'coloured' students as a musical, superstitious, cowardly, slightly comical lot is very much 'of its time'.

On the other hand, the film also presents us with the facinating spectacle of future Dr. Who Master Anthony Ainley enjoying some Jamaican ska jazz. Even Basil Dignam approves.