Sunday, 29 September 2013

Short Announcement

I know I’ve only just got back, but I have decided to put Island Of Terror on hiatus for a while. I seem to have less to say than I used to, and am saying it in a less interesting way, so I’m going to shuffle off for a bit and do a few other things. British horror and sci fi and all the rest of it are still massively important to me so, believe me, I will be back and we can carry on where we left off.

In the meantime, I will still be contributing to ‘Mounds & Circles’, the smut / art blog, as well as to ‘The Pseudoscientific World Of TOMTIT’, on which Fearlono and myself will shortly be presenting our first original audio works (we’re not calling it music). In addition, there is, or was, ‘Sub-Machine Gun’.

Please continue (or start) to follow this site for updates, especially regarding some interesting ‘Island’ related events coming up in November and December.

I’m not going to say too much more, as I will be coming back here and will be around elsewhere, but thanks for all your support and your interest over the last few years, it’s much appreciated.



Saturday, 28 September 2013

Burn, Baby, Burn

Disco Inferno courtesy of 'The Bitch'.

After The Stud

For all its artistic faults, ‘The Stud’ was extremely successful in financial terms and, naturally, a sequel was created, this time concentrating completely on perhaps the first films least interesting character, sophisticated slag Fontaine Khaled, as played by the increasingly witchy looking Joan Collins.

‘The Bitch’ is a mess from start to finish, so much so that I was surprised to see in the credits that someone had actually written it, and that someone actually claimed to have directed it (it was the same man, Gerry O’Hara, who should be ashamed of himself).

The format is familiar – short sex scene, long disco scene, tiny amount of plot, short sex scene, long disco scene, tiny amount of plot, short sex scene, etc. The world presented is supposed to be opulent and decadent, but just looks incredibly boring and the interiors, especially Fontaine’s bedroom, are unspeakable, like a Russian oligarch’s box room, jam full of fur, onyx and disgusting contemporary art.

There is a story in there somewhere, something about The Bitch getting stitched up by an Italian super lover on the make, a sort of role reversal of the first film that could have provided a mildly ironic counterpoint, although I should say at this stage that my reading of the ‘plot’ is subjective, and that there are no dramatic scenes to support this, and the actors are unable to convey the range of emotions needed to tell any sort of story, so who knows what the point is. Actually, it's pointless, and that's all there is to it. Now I'm not a person who insists on meaning, as long as the journey is enjoyable, as long as the trip is worth it. 'The Bitch' isn't worth it, and it isn't enjoyable, which to me is the true definition of pointless.

Characters from the first film crop up every now and again and, despite only a few months having passed between ‘The Stud’ and its sequel, they all seem terribly aged and exhausted, as if their wild lifestyles have finally caught up with them. If there had been a third film, it probably would have starred a bunch of skeletons.

There is disco dancing, which I like, especially a silly but enjoyable routine featuring Cherry Gillespie from Pan’s People and a topless lady with an impressive afro. Mostly, however, the cast and extras clomp about to unhip tunes by Quantum Leap, Leo Sayer and The Three Degrees, or, somewhat pathetically, to a track called ‘Everything Is Great’. It isn’t.

There’s a scene set in some tacky, sticky nightclub where the ‘beautiful’ people are chaotically throwing shapes to some rubbishy disco track, and the camera zooms in on a pair of flashing feet in a pair of stiletto shoes. It starts off alright but, within seconds, the feet have lost it and are all over the place, crashing down in an attempt to stomp the beat to death. Does the camera turn away? No. Do we cut to something else? No. And that’s ‘The Bitch’ in a nutshell and why I don’t like it. They don’t care, so why should I?

The Bitch


Friday, 27 September 2013

Getting Down

What's His Game?

‘The Stud’ may have seemed the perfect suburban adult entertainment in 1978, but today the signifiers of sophistication displayed in the film (furs, cocktails, poppers, loafers, top loading VCR's, Joan Collins) give it a laughably kitsch appeal that just about make up for its shortcomings as a work of art.

Based on a best selling ‘novel’ by Jackie Collins, the film tells the story of an ambitious London nightclub waiter turned greeter turned club manager Tony Blake, played by saturnine Swiss actor Oliver Tobias. Tony wants his own club but, in the meantime, is stuck with ‘Hobo’ (absolutely nothing like ‘Tramp’), a swinging cellar populated by wealthy and unbearable middle aged people making jokes about child molestation, Legs and Co. dancing and a cool black DJ in a great big cowboy hat playing Leo Sayer records.

On top of this (literally) he has to contend with his boss, bored socialite Fontaine Khaled (played by Jackie’s sister Joan) who sees Tony’s frequent and vigorous affections as part of their working relationship, and has no qualms about letting him know this on a regular basis. What unfolds over the course of the next hour and a half is a tacky maelstrom of recrimination, class consciousness, disco, angry parrots, homosexual assault, wrinkly nudity, uncomfortable looking lift sex, uncomfortable looking swing sex and an eight minute filler sequence where Tony simply drives through the countryside in his MG.

Glowering Tobias gives a fairly wooden performance, and Joan Collins, as ever, makes your skin crawl. The film itself is obviously low budget, dimly lit and poorly located, re-using shots over and over and slumping unceremoniously from one scene to another. The result is a slightly crushing experience, detailing as it does the depressing, sleazy lives of idiots in a dingy, miserable world where prostitution and borderline paedophilia are presented as the zenith of jet set glamour.

In its defence, the film is very funny on all sorts of (mainly ironic) levels, and has some memorable dialogue (once you’ve seen it, you won’t be able to check your reflection in the mirror without growling ‘you handsome bastard’). It is also quite clearly and cynically designed to make as much as money possible by cutting costs and appealing to the lowest common denominator at every turn, so we shouldn’t expect a cinematic masterpiece. That said, the climactic scene, where a crushed and humiliated Tony fights his way out of the club as the countdown to the New Year begins, finally bursting out into the (day for) night at the stroke of midnight and taking a massive breath of clean and uncorrupted air actually achieves a level of profundity missing elsewhere in the film and, as he saunters off into the night, you wonder where’s he’s going and what (and who) he’ll get up to next. Sadly, the sequel ‘The Bitch’ is all about Fontaine and is irredeemably awful. But we'll pick that scab tomorrow.

The music for the film was put together by the enigmatic Biddu, a talented writer, arranger and producer who had a few glory years in the UK charts with hit records like Carl Douglas’ ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ and Tina Charles’ ‘I Love To Love’ before returning to his native India. Appropriately for this low rent celluloid opus, the soundtrack LP was released by US infomercial giants Ronco, famous for severely editing tracks to fit more on an album and their immortal range of household must haves like the Veg-o-matic and the Buttoneer.

Anyway, here is a pretty comprehensive American trailer, which will give you a damn good idea of what you’re up against.

If you were wondering, by the way, Oliver Tobias' Wardrobe is by Herbie Frogg.

The Stud

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Music Machine

To say that ‘Music Machine’ is my favourite British disco film sounds like faint praise but, in actual fact, it’s a film I have a lot of affection for, a bona fide UK exploitation film that is obviously in the thrall of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ but has all the edge of ‘Summer Holiday’.

Ill-fated Gerry Sundquist plays Gerry, a bit of a chancer who is also a bit of a dancer. When his local nightclub holds a competition for a pair of disco freaks to appear in some dodgy film, Gerry decides that this is his moment and goes all out for the prize, enlisting the fabulously exotic daughter of an African diplomat (played by ‘New Faces’ star Patti Boulaye) as his partner.

There’s the usual trials and tribulations on the way to the big night, dirty tricks, disappointments, confrontations, fallings out and flirtations but, for some reason, the only scene I can really recall is Gerry jerkily dancing up umpteen flights of stairs to the high rise flat where he lives with his Mum and Dad. In true ‘pad it out’ exploitation style this takes a long, long time - but does neatly summarise why Gerry lives for disco: his life is shit, his prospects are zero, the lift is broken but, on the plus side, but he can dance a bit and, when he’s doing it, everything else goes away.

We’ve looked at youth cults before, as well as the transcendent qualities of dancing, and the two bump clumsily into each other here. Ultimately, ‘Music Machine’ is a cheap cash in, and the familiarity of the settings and the depressed feel of late seventies Britain is enough strip it of any trace of stardust – but there’s an endearing, poignant, totally understandable truth there in the way that it shows how young people live for Saturday night, and seize the opportunity to go out and get out, to momentarily escape their limited lives and the adult grind that is just ahead of them. You’re a long time grown up, for Christ’s sake, so why not be able to look back and remember that you once wore a white suit and danced like John Travolta?

Wednesday, 25 September 2013


Perennial heavy Pat Roach gets heavy in 'Gangsters', and I'm not just talking about his jewellery.

Gangsters: The Bottom Five

As a final 'Gangsters' note, I just wanted to revisit the bit about the ‘abysmal’ acting. I can’t think of another show that has such a poor cast. I’m not sure if there was a dearth of black and Chinese and Asian actors around at the time, but the ones they have (with the exception of Sayeed Jeffrey) are terrible, and elaborate, overwritten dialogue plus unconvincing performances / mangled diction leads to a number of strange, stilted, uncomfortable scenes that do nothing apart from highlight that it’s all a big panto. Perhaps given the show’s experimental leanings this was deliberate, but either way it makes for a slightly awkward and jarring experience.

Anyway, in reverse order, here, in my opinion, are the five worst actors.

Maurice had a long career as an actor, latterly appearing in 'Howards Way'. He was always pretty wooden, but here he has to keep it all together as the star and he starts creaking as soon as he's asked to convey anything out of the ordinary. One of his signature bad acting traits is a soundless, mirthless laugh, and he uses it a lot here and it really gets on your nerves because because it's so poorly executed and incredibly fake.   

This is writer Philip Martin. He can obviously act (he played the villain in the original play very well), but his second series impersonation of W.C Fields is funny for approximately two minutes and then just seems staggeringly self-indulgent, especially when he can't quite keep up the pretence in key scenes.

Familiar to British audiences in both Chinese and Japanese roles, Lee always seems fast asleep. When he speaks, you can neither hear nor understand him, and his face doesn't form any kind of expression, so you're fucked if you're trying to follow the plot.

Aside from the fact that we share a first name, Mr. Satvendar does very little for me apart from to annoy. Shrill, slow to react, fond of rolling his eyes and almost forgetting his lines, Paul adds insult to injury by suffixing almost every sentence with a high-pitched hollow giggle and killing virtually every scene he's in stone dead. Awful.

This fellow is just terrible. He can't even walk around convincingly and his laugh (bit of a  recurring motif - I often find you can judge an actor by how they laugh and cry) is a thing of cringing terror. Luckily, his character is written as something of a joke (he has a ridiculous hat and keeps quoting from gangster films) and he gets knocked off pretty quick so it's not like he's given much to do - but what he does do is SHIT.

Who's your favourite terrible actor? And your least favourite? And what's the difference? 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Gangsters 2


Series two of 'Gangsters' followed three years later and goes off the rails almost immediately by introducing the Chinese Triads as a new adversary for the increasingly weary looking Kline. The Triads here are ridiculous, inscrutable stereotypes that owe a lot to Fu Manchu, but this seems deliberate, as this series seem intent on examing popular cliché and subverting the idea of the crime show. This also manifests itself by some bizarre fantasy interludes, an intermittent voice over in which the writer of the show (Phillip Martin) dictates instructions to a typist and Martin later appearing as a hit man who, for cover, impersonates W.C Fields (badly) all the time. This time around, the pretty decent theme tune has turned into a pretty awful theme song.

Clever clever, occasionally infuriating, totally self-indulgent, the series ends with one of the main characters simply saying ‘well, that’s that’ and walking off set followed by the writer throwing his script into the air. It’s not a completely satisfying show in any of its forms, but it is a great example of a time when the BBC had much more faith in its creative people, and was fully prepared to fund their stupid, bizarre, brilliant ideas, as long as at least a dozen people watched it. Them was the days.