Tuesday, 30 April 2013

W Is For Wyngarde

‘The Man Who Liked Lions’ is a 1966 episode of long running ITC series ‘The Saint’, starring an alternately smug and sulky (and surprisingly chubby) Roger Moore, although here the draw is an appearance by our old mucker, Sir Peter Wyngarde. Wyngarde isn’t in it that much, really, but, by Christ, he makes the most of his time onscreen.

He plays Tiberio Magadino, an Italian gallery owner who, in his spare time, is an international hit man. He likes lions (hence the title) and Romans and, in the episodes climax, fights a gladiatorial battle with The Saint while dressed as a Roman. Oh, and over an open trapdoor that leads to a cellar with a hungry lion in it. Wyngarde doesn't so much steal the show as simply stride up to it, shout 'I'm taking this', before putting it in his pocket and marching off. It’s a commanding performance, devoid of camp, although nothing he does is not without a wry, arch sense of amusement. I particularly like the sheer brio he brings to the scrapping, throwing his all into the sword play. It’s also inconceivable that any other actor could bring such clipped menace to lines like –

'I'm a great admirer of the early Roman culture. It had much to recommend it: force, compulsion, discipline and strength. At least it produced men, real men, unlike our sick, decadent society today. What has it produced? Long haired, self-absorbed effeminates.  I'd like to see most of them quietly exterminated'. 

There’s an interesting scene where Tiberio is being massaged by a muscular black man. When another heavyset man enters, the session stops, although the masseur apparently sneaks a quick peek at Tiberio’s exposed crotch. Interestingly, Tiberio then grabs the masseur’s hands and forces him to his knees, out of shot. In context, it is clearly meant to convey that Tiberio is a surprisingly powerful and dangerous man but, in reality, the whole thing reeks of homoeroticism. I’ll bet Peter would have found the scene terribly funny. I certainly did.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Building A Human

We've (alright, I've) already had some fun with World Of Wax, but here's some next level shit from Peter Serafinowicz and Robert Popper.

It kind of, sort of pisses on my pommes frites in terms of the other posts I had planned but, you know what, it tastes like vinegar. On the pissy chips, I mean. I love it.

World of Wax

Another expedition to the World of Wax, this time stopping to squint at the Literary Giants section. They're all British, of course. If you can't write in English, mate, we can't read it. I'm joking, these are pretty big names, regardless of nationality.

Bill Shakespeare wasn't around to sit for the modellers, so this figure is based on Maurice Gibb.

H.G Wells did have slightly protuberant eyes, but they weren't dead and psychotic like these. Or made of glass, of course, perhaps that's it.

Charles Dickens. If this had been the real Dickens, that blank paper would have been a book by now.  

J.M Barrie has the harrassed look of a man on trial. He also looks like a turn of the century poisoner, which doesn't help. Great Ormond Street are grateful to him, though, and so should we be.

Finally, George Bernard Shaw. Shaw died in 1950 at the age of 94 from injuries received after falling off a ladder.

If there are any hair colour bullies reading this, please note that four out of five of our greatest writers were ginger, so pack it in.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Marked For Torture

'Man Of Violence' (aka 'Moon') presents us with a domestic (and international) criminal world that is both swinging and sleazy, an underworld milieu of smuggling and double crosses, crooks pretending to be cops, cops pretending to be crooks, pop music, loose women, torture and casual murder.

Michael Latimer plays Moon, an amoral, bisexual, sharp dressed hustler who is quick with a gun and makes a living by playing both ends against the middle. He seems to only work for crooks, who expect him to be on the make and, to compensate, try to rip him off and kill at every turn. It’s a pretty tiring way to earn a crust, really, but there are compensations: lots of blonde women in their underwear (and out of it), the occasional pretty boy and, in this particular instance, a trip to North Africa and a shot at nicking thirty million quid in gold bullion.

Directed by Pete Walker, ‘Moon’ is too long and too slow to be quite the pop art pulp thriller it wants to be but, when it’s good, it’s excellent. Luan Peters gives an good and thoughtful  performance as Angel, but her future career was more or less dictated by her comeliness, i.e. 'no dramatic roles for you, my girl, just stand around in just your pants'.  

There are lots of scenes in which something genuinely surprising happens, or there’s a burst of violence or suggestion of sadism that reminds the viewer of James Hadley Chase at his nastiest and most prurient. Most of all, I kept thinking of a mod James Bond on a budget, although it is far grittier and dirtier and serious than, say, the twinkly, self-parodying ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, released in the same year. 

As it is it’s a fascinating curio, but with a bit more money and a few more takes (maybe a few songs) it could have been the British equivalent of one of Seijun Suzuki’s manic psychedelic yakuza films. Be warned, however, watching this film will make you wonder if you could get away with a bright orange shirt and a red and black neckerchief. The answer is 'NO'.

Man Of Violence

Friday, 26 April 2013

Switched On

‘The Big Switch’ is a proper b-movie: cheap, short and pretty meaningless. But it has a sense of style, is full of ideas, and manages to transpose the pulp milieu of Mickey Spillane onto London and Brighton in a relatively convincing manner, no mean feat when the chief villain is wearing hush puppies.
Made in two versions (needless to say, one with a lot more nudity, sex and torture), ‘The Big Switch’ trots along nicely, whipping from one hardboiled scene to another, full of tough talk, regular beatings, mod gear, discos, night clubs, endless cigarettes and unfeasibly large London apartments filled with objects d’art and discarded panty hose. The film winds up nicely with a shoot-out in the run down pop art setting of the amusement arcade on Brighton Pier, an unexpected snow storm propitiously adding to the atmosphere (and causing a couple of cast members to slip arse over tit, one while firing a gun – although he was obviously a great shot, as the intended target clutches their chest anyway).
‘The Big Switch’ is far from perfect, but nevertheless provides a great deal of casual entertainment, the odd thrill and, best of all, the occasional surprise. It may be cheap, but it’s certainly not worthless and is ten times better than, say, a punch in the balls.

The Big Switch

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Coming Soon

Who could ask for anything more?

Take Your Own Thunder With You

'Want to fly a Lightning? Want to occupy the single seat in the single seater,
all leather, night and day, high flying, supersonic, supernormal Lightning?'

Jet age, jazz poetry, advertising hip. The RAF was clearly pretty happening in 1960, and the English Electric Lightning was the living end, Daddio.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Many Details Of Its Performance Are Secret

'The Javelin is Fighter Command's first aircraft specifically designed
to seek out and destroy enemy bombers by night or day in good weather or bad...'

In other words, relax Britain, the RAF have got Armageddon covered. Well, some of the local bits.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013


The London Underground is one of the greatest engineering achievements in British history. If, like me, you sometimes take it for granted, then lovely little films like 'The Travelators' (1961) help remind you of the scale and sheer amount of graft that go into its maintenance and constant updating, let alone the original construction.

The film details the building of two travelators at the Bank station. These were the first in Europe, and a huge shaft had to be sunk under the road in one of the busiest parts of London. Scale models were used extensively in the planning and building process. I like scale models very much. If I had to write an episode of 'The Twilight Zone' it would be about a lonely modelling enthusiast who finds a way to live in a scale model, and ends up enjoying it much more than life in the big world. 

Work started on the Bank site in August, 1957, and was completed three years later. The travelators were opened in September, 1960 by the Lord Mayor of London, who was also the first person to officially travelate. After the dignitaries had their photograph taken, the 'moving pavements' were opened up to the general public, who seemed to really enjoy the innovation. People were easily pleased in the olden days, weren't they? I'm not knocking it, it's a good way to be. 

Note misspelling of 'travelator'

Look how clean it all is!

Look how happy they all are!

In case you were pondering the difference between a travelator and an escalator, by the way, it's the absence of steps.