Tuesday, July 02, 2013


And in the month of June 2013 I did, of my own free will and under no coercion, watch the following films:
  1. Ghostbusters (1984)- Friday night with the kids.

  2. The Comic (1984) - when I first watched this last year I dismissed it as 'a turd'. But I think I may be wrong. The Comic, after having lived in my head for a year or so and on another viewing is, possibly, the greatest undiscovered work of genius film-making produced in Britain since the Sixties - or a sustained display of amateur ineptitude which, just by being so incredibly crap, manages to completely bypass any form of criticism.

    With most bad films you have some idea what the film was trying to do:i t's an unfunny comedy, it's a not scary Horror film, it's an unthrilling thriller. With The Comic you don't have a clue. I really haven't got any way to start to work out what the film thought it was other than to liken it to other films which it resembles (slightly - and then almost certainly by accident). Plot-wise I think it's the rags to riches and back again, rise and fall story (think David Essex in That'll be the Day / Stardust) but set in an authoritarian future where jackbooted militia can beat the crap out of people in public for no real reason, then throw them in gaol without trial, and the highest form of culture appears to be the working man's club circuit. It's obviously heavily influenced by David Lynch's unfiltered stream of unconsciousness imagery; uncomfortable, grainy, double-framed shots of nothing much happening are sustained beyond any sensible length. At the end of the film several of these, seemingly totally unrelated shots, are repeated as if they are DEEPLY SIGNIFICANT. There are nightmare/dream sequences with the smoke machines pumping away so much that, at times, it's hard to figure out what is going on on screen.

    The Other Set.
    Fanta Mullets of the Future!

    The cutting jolts all over the place leaving audience confusion in its wake - for most of the film I had very little idea of where any of the 'action' was taking place; apart from a shot of some boats in a harbour and a couple of establishing shots of a big house all the film takes place indoors - even the scenes which are obviously meant to be outside feel like interiors. (Mostly down to the crappy sound work.) The setting is weird too, the street (shot in what appears to be some sort of living museum heritage centre) is knee deep in straw. The rich get about in horse-drawn carriages or vintage auto-mobiles. The protagonist's 'flat' consists of one ground floor room with a door that opens straight onto the street and has shop windows - and some of the worst wrinkled wallpaper-hanging I have seen. A metaphor maybe for all the many layers of meaninglessness on display? A thin covering to be peeled away to reveal even shallower layers of meaningless beneath? And just why does the protagonist's mullet change colour from yellow to orange, then back again, quite so often? What was that grainy, sepia-toned flashback to the granny getting her throat slit by total strangers all about? Who is the whore in the red dress and what has she to do with anything going on in the rest of the film? Why does the hero pay for his daughter to be smuggled out of the country with a small bag of undefined something like a character from a historical movie? and why doesn't the smuggler look to see what's in the bag? - it could be toenail clippings for all he knows! Why is 'the comic' at the centre of the film so incredibly bloody unfunny? the only really funny stand-up delivered joke of the whole film comes from a character we have never met before (and never seen again) suddenly appearing mid-frame to deliver a seriously surreal gag before vanishing from the movie. What. Is. Going. On? This sort of thing keeps me awake at night.


    I think producer / writer / director / editor / sounds effects arranger Richard Driscoll was trying to do something very simple - an SF reworking of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment in the northern Working-men's club circuit - but somehow, accidentally, managed to make the most accurate, sustained, parody of every bad, overly-arty first year Film Student movie ever produced.

    It's comedy heaven.
  3. Kannibal (2001) - It's Richard Driscoll week here at Junk Monkey Mansions - well the man has just been done for defrauding the Inland Revenue for 1.5 million - Kannibal is a pretty terrible Silence of the Lambsy thing about a human liver-eating serial-killer. I've seen it before and have no reason to change my mind about my previous opinion of it:
    a straight to ex-rental, self-financed, incomprehensibly plotted, dreadfully acted piece of serial killer bumsplatter which is close to nudging Zombie Women of Satan off top spot in my Crappest Film Ever Made in Britain list.
    Though I have since seen Driscoll's Legend of Harrow Wood so maybe Zombie Women of Satan is now down at number three.

    This time I watched it with the director's commentary - which was very uninformative but very funny. Driscoll has a very loose grasp of the English language, Kannibal is apparently an "operatic version of Tosca", he also, apparently, not only doesn't know what 'plagiarism' means but can't pronounce it either, Concord is now "sadly out of decommission". I thought he was just a rotten writer; he's not; he talks like that. He's a rotten talker too.

  4. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2003) - Again. I know I'm in a minority but I really like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. It's good old-fashioned, Republical serial hookum and it knows it, and it's FUN. A much better love letter to the glory days of pulp than the Indiana Jones films, or Rocketman, or any of the others that have tried. It succeeds for me I think because there is no cynicism in this show at all. It's all there on the screen. No subtexts, no sly winks to the audience (apart from the Godzilla reference - maybe); it takes itself seriously and stays in character, which is always the best way to do comedy. Love it.

  5. Highway to Hell (2012) - Dear GODS!

    An amazingly dreadful (it's a Richard Driscoll film) Horror Comedy Musical which was ineptly edited down and redubbed from his earlier Eldorado due for the most part one suspects for copyright reasons - i.e. he didn't get clearances/rights to the songs he used in the original. (So ineptly edited that in at least two of the many fades into, and then out from, black between scenes, the opening or closing frames of removed scenes are clearly visible before the incoming shot arrives on screen.) I really really suspect that this may be the worst film in the world. I have seen many utterly shite films over the years but if I say that this makes Frankenstein General Hospital look really good in comparison you may get some idea. Hell, it makes Driscoll's own Legend of Harrow Woods look good in comparison - and that's not somethng I ever thought I would find myself typing.

    I feel like I have just forced myself to stick my head in a blender. Dreadful. I now need to find the original - which is longer....
  6. Wild, Wild Planet (1965) - a rewatch, with the kids this time, of a curious bit of Italian SF which starts of really tediously, get oddly creepy for a wee while in the middle - as dolly birds in beehives, and their rubber-mac wearing, four-armed, sunglassed clone assistants, shrink people and shove them in suitcases - before descending into the usual fisticuffs and random explosions when the evil scientists' underground layer is, for no apparent reason, flooded with explosive Vimto during a glorious donnybrook. There is also a sudden (and pointless) homage to the mirror scene in the Lady from Shanghai.

  7. Love on Wheels (1932) - early, and very very dated, British musical. Ye gods, people were easily amused in those days.

  8. Dangerous Exile (1957) - heaving bosoms, daring rescues, perfidious Welsh sluts, the boy king Louis XVIII hidden among strangers as evil French revolutionaries hunt him down, sword-fights, huge narrative jumps as complex sub-plots are described in a few words, acts of noble self-sacrifice, frantic moonlight gallops, misty dawn landings and all cloaks swirled at every opportunity - and all in glorious Eastmancolor. I rather enjoyed it. I was slightly thrown out of the film every time we had a close up of the young king though as he was played by a 13 year old Richard O'Sullivan (the 70's TV sitcom stalwart best known for playing Robin Tripp in Man About the House). Messed up the old mise en scene for me a bit did that.

  9. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) - two movies in and I am already fed up with the Harry Potter marathon. Gods almighty! this was boring. Over two hours of watching people pulling get out of Jail Free Cards out thin air and explaining away everything with a bunch of make it up as you go along rules. Some seriously shit lines too I really felt for the actor who had to deliver:

    "Your bird may have blinded the basilisk, but it can still hear you."

    A real Dungeons and Dragons line if ever I heard one. I yawned a lot.

  10. Merlin and the War of the Dragons (2008 ) - a cheapo Global Asylum POS (12 days for the principal shoot) which, from time to time, almost... almost... managed to get something mythically mystical going for it (most oftenly the bits when the rather yummy, and very Welsh, Carys Eleri appears as the ethereal faerie Lady of the Lake, Lady Viviane*) - before pissing whatever it was away with some piece of dreadful acting/writing/direction/focus pulling (or any combination of any or all of the above). Favourite moment was watching the unconvincing actor playing the Saxon king delivering the line: "Send forth the berserkers!" with a straight face.

    *About halfway through I decided that she was definitely 'crwmpet'. (Sadly the actual Welsh word for 'crumpet' turns out to be 'Crempoethau'.)

    Carys Eleri in Merlin and the War of the Dragons
    'Ere you are, Merlin bach, magic sword see; be dead useful this will ...

  11. Broken Embraces (2009) - ooh, I likes me a bit of Almodóvar I do.

  12. The Cars that Ate Paris (1974) - what a great little film! A lot funnier than I remember. Brilliant performance from John Meillon as the mayor.

  13. Hollow Man (2000) - Basically it's the Invisible Man updated which segues into a sleazy slasher film. It's so full of OTT stupid moments it almost becomes fun - the heroine escaping from the superconducting walk-in fridge by constructing a powerful electromagnet from a defibrillator and a drawer handle is one of the best (why they keep the defibrillator in the fridge is a question) and as for the moment when the Final Girl and her boyfriend take one look at the centrifuge loaded with home made Nitroglycerine (?), from which the villain has removed the control panel after setting the timer so it starts spinning when he's safely away, is a treat. "There's nothing we can do!" says the script. "Just unplug the fucker!" says the audience.

  14. Quand j'étais chanteur (aka The Singer 2006) - slow, amiable May September romance which is often more concerned with eulogising the vanishing world of the French dance band scene than driving the story. Enjoyable, beautifully acted, and, at times, wonderfully shot and edited but I doubt if it is going to live long in my memory.The final shot annoyed me though. Here's the scene: Gérard Depardieu (aged 60) and Cécile De France (30) have just been sat in a café. Their relationship which started as a (barely credible) one night stand has stumbled on (sexlessly) for months before, it would appear, finally coming to an end. It's late at night. The two of them have been sat in a near empty cafe. A sad regretful song played on the juke-box. Both cried. As the song finishes they leave the cafe together the camera slowly dollies to follow them, then frames them in a long shot out on the pavement the other side of the windows. The lights of the café go out. They are the last customers. The shot holds without a cut as they shake hands and, after a moment, she exits screen left They may have spoken we don't know; we didn't hear if they said anything. They are too distant to lip read. He stands on the pavement, back to the camera, lost, alone, resigned to a life of loveless mediocrity. Depardieu's body language here is strange. Strange but great. Shoulder hunched, twitching and fumbling. He's not put a foot wrong during the whole show; it's a wonderful performance, and here, somehow, he conveys desperate lost uncertainty... in a long shot... with his back to the camera! A bereft old man alone. It's a heartbreaking moment.

    At this point if the director had had any balls he would have faded to black and the film would have had a lovely poignant ending.... but wait! Just to be safe, in case he changed his mind in the editing suite or because the producers needed a 'happy ending', he held the shot for far longer than he needed then had the rather yummy yummy-mummy Cécile suddenly rush back and throw herself into his sad old has been arms arms and snog his battered old potato face as if he were the last man on earth.

    Suddenly "Aaaaah!" turned into "Meh!"

    It's a sad fact of life but miserable, middle-aged, potato-faced men don't get the slim sexy elegant girl. (Dammit!) I know. Been there, done that, fucked it up.

    Just as young women don't need to be sold the knight in shining armour myth. Miserable, middle-aged, potato-faced men like me don't need to be sold this porky that there is some piece of hot totty out there just gagging for our flabby old, world-weary bodies. We need to be told that it's OK; that it's time to stop pretending. We need to be told, 'You're not alone; even wonderfully charismatic people like Depardieu can't pull the birds any more. It's over! Resign yourself to the fact.".

    Should have faded to black.

    Mind you, having said that; if Cécile De France threw herself at me and tried to snog my face off I don't think I'd put up too much resistance....

  15. The Brain that Wouldn't Die ('February 15th 1962') - my annual watch of a truly great bad film which still contains The Mad Scientist's Prayer :
    "What you see is real. What I've done, I've done, and what I've done is right - it is the work of science."
    Amen.  The only thing wrong with this speech is that it isn't delivered by Bela Lugosi.  If Lugosi had said those lines it would have been a Great Movie Moment.  As it is it is a secret pleasure.

  16. The Killer Shrews (1959) - Daughter No 1 has been reading the Medveds' Golden Turkey books and demanded we watch this.


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