Monday, 30 August 2010

Arrested Development, now Cardiac Arrest...

Now, I dont watch the Bill anymore, nor have any reason to. I have been watching the early episodes fairly recently, and have been entertained throughout. However, reading that The Bill will be closing its doors this week, has filled me with a twinge of sadness.

The reasons are not for a show I enjoy in its current state, more for nostalgia and watching a show being fucked over by people who do not understand what makes good television these days. The Bill in its old format was an hour long show that always left you with a conclusion, it was not a soap more like taking any day in the life of the people of Sun Hill and letting you know how it panned out. These days, unless you have the patience to watch it regularly, you will not get your reward. The Bill in its infancy, covered many issues head on that the man in the street was talking about (AIDS, Immigration etc etc) It was never over the top in the early years and I think thats what made it work. The intricate character developments in the first three seasons underline this.

Fast forward 25 years and ITV has done the unthinkable, it killed one of its 'Crown Jewels' by trying to be too hard hitting, appealing to a target audience that it never suited and forgetting its roots.

Yet another victim claimed by a network that has lost touch with the people who actually watch television. Personally, these days the saturation of reality shows and celeb based content makes me wish for the simplistic years I enjoyed watching television with a little more invention and the focus was on the acting, writing and directing. Not who the main actor happens to be fucking or the fact he/she was in Hollyoaks.

Thanks for the memories Sun Hill...

Monday, 23 August 2010

You might not have seen...

Night Train Murders (1974) AKA Last House on The Left II, New House On The Left, Late Night Trains etc etc etc
Often dismissed as a mere Last House On The Left (1972) clone, Aldo Lado's Grindhouse flick is so much more and in this humble blogger's opinion surpasses Wes Craven's Last House and the rest of the clones that followed Craven's notorious take on The Virgin Spring.
Night Train Murders opens with a Demis Roussos track (A Flowers All You Need) and a poor German street Santa Claus brutally beaten in a robbery by two of the villains of the piece, Curly (Gianfranco Di Grassi) and Blacky (Flavio Bucci) The story then introduces us to Margaret (Irene Miracle) and Lisa (Laura D'Angelo), two young girls on their way to Italy for Christmas, via the night train, where this film takes it title. The film cuts back to Curly and Blacky, desperately trying to avoid capture, they make a run for and catch the same train. When on board, the two villains cause much annoyance to the other passengers aboard. On the train, we are introduced to the coldest villain of the piece, A blonde femme fatale (Macha Meril) who remains unnamed throughout, blink and you missed her in the opening credits (she was there, buying luggage) The audience is introduced to her sat in a compartment of the train with a politician, she chats cordially, whilst oozing a raw sexual power that is highlighted when she drops her hand luggage (that she purchased in the opening credits!) and Polaroids of her having sex fall out. Blacky & Curly meanwhile have now met Lisa and Margaret and are chatting amicably with them, suddenly the train guard comes along looking for tickets (that Blacky & Curly sadly didn't have time to buy) and the girls agree to help them hide. This turns out to be the biggest mistakes they will ever make. Blacky (Who is the 'Junior/Weasel' type character of the piece) runs into the femme fatale (who is far more dangerous and cold than Sadie from Last House) and attempts to sexually assault her. What Blacky doesn't plan on, is she is as corrupt as him, and quite literally forces herself on him. Curly, who we are starting to realise isn't quite right, gets into a fight with another passenger on the train. Margaret and Lisa, decide that these new friends are perhaps not what they were looking for and decide to get away from them.
The train arrives in Austria, and is delayed due to a bomb scare, the two girls get off and attempt to call Lisa's parents (her dad is quite an intelligent surgeon as it goes, and ironically speaks of urban decay!) who are hosting a rather exciting looking dinner party. The girls cant get through to Lisa's dad and decide to board a train that will get them home quicker. This is when the film becomes very dark, the two girls find a carriage to sit in and eat by candle light as the chilling score by Ennio Morricone plays. As the night gets darker, we come to feel more uneasy by the second as the girls are surprised that Blacky, Curly and the Blonde, are on the train and now want more than horseplay. Blacky and the Blonde decide to have sex in front of the girls, and we discover that Curly is a Heroin addict, as he returns from shooting up, he catches Margaret attempting to escape and beats her down and forces Lisa into giving him a hand job. Now the film takes a ride into voyeurism when another passenger watching from outside is beckoned in by the Blonde, rapes Margaret. Curly, then attempts to rape Lisa, but she is a Virgin, and Curly cannot break her hymen, so using a flick knife he administers the cruelest of cuts. Lisa dies soon after due to her injuries. Curly begins to realise what he has done. Margaret who has been in a trance like state makes a run for it as the sun rises. She locks herself in a toilet and with the thugs in pursuit, climbs out the window and falls to her death. Lisa's body follows soon after along with their luggage.
Blacky, enraged and seemingly guilt ridden takes his anger out on the Blond, and starts beating her. They arrive at the station where Lisa's parents are waiting for her. Alarmed by the non arrival of the two girls, the parents are reassured that the train they were on was running late and they will receive a call when its due in (see the importance of the earlier failed phone call) so they leave, they then encounter Curly, Blacky and the Blonde. Lisa's dad sees the Blonde's injuries and in line with the spirit of Christmas decides to treat them at his house. Back at the house awaiting news on the train arriving, the killers act bizarrely (and in a bizarre twist, the voyeur on the train calls the police) , and when news breaks on the radio of discovery of the body of his daughter (why not inform the relatives first?) the good surgeon puts two and two together and begins to strangle the Blonde. The true villian of the piece convinces him that she did not kill his daughter and that she is being held captive and was looking to escape, as with all great femme fatales he believes her. Seeking vengeance he catches Curly catching a fix and forces the needle further into his arm before kicking the shit out of him. He then spots Blacky high tailing it out the door and grabs his shotgun and shoots him in the leg, then as the police arrive he blows Blacky's head off. Blondie seemingly gets away with it.
The art of the film lies in the production values, lack of humour (after all, its got a shocking content) and the fact that it is at times genuinely uncomfortable to watch. The Femme Fatale of the piece is literally evil personified, someone who is from a privileged background yet finds herself sexually excited by violence, and the orchestration of it. This is at times is symobolised by the removal of her veil. When it is down, she is respectable, when it comes up she belongs in the gutter with Blacky and Curly. Perhaps more surprising is the regret that Blacky and Curly feel, she show no regret. Where Night Train Murders draws its strength over Last House, is that a woman is the truest source of evil and Blacky and Curly give her the chance to flex her evil for all its worth. She manipulates with her beauty, then uses our ideals of a woman to seemingly escape punishment. Her gentile nature displayed when Lisa's father is treating her is worlds apart from the woman who demands that Lisa is punished.
Ennio Morricone's score punctuates the horrific nature of the piece with its chilling harmonica sound. Demis Rossous track is quite apt, well at least the lyrics are in places. The film was notorious enough to warrant a place on the UK's DPP Nasties list, and was released in a slightly cut form by WOV2000 as Dont Ride on Late Night Trains (the same label that released Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, NTM was also rumoured to be released by Cinehollywood, uncut and in scope also in the UK) but was never prosecuted or banned outright, it was however rejected for a cinema certificate in the UK back in the 70's, now its availible fully uncut from Shameless DVD in the UK. It also had a fair bit of trouble in its production country Italy. In the US, the film found itself on the Grindhouse and Drive In circuit under a whole series of different titles like New House On The Left, Last House On The Left II, Last Stop on The Night Train, I could seriously sit here for another 10 minutes writing the titles out. It was wholly dismissed by many as an inferior Last House On The Left clone until William Lustig's Blue Underground lovingly released a beautiful DVD, here the film has found a new audience and a wider appriciation. I stumbled across the film due to its apperance on the Nasties list, and still own the WOV2000 tape to this day. The Blue Underground DVD, was how I rediscovered it.
In closing, I prefer Late Night Trains over Last House on The Left, I felt more empathy for the characters. The Femme Fatale character of the piece gave the film a depth that was missing from Craven's Last House. In fact, Lado presents a far more polished and believable film. Last House with its bumbling cops and hammy acting from the supporting cast (David Hess is phenomenal in Craven's Last House) never quite reaches the same level as Lado's film.
For anyone who likes to take a look at how gritty and dirty a film can make you feel after viewing, you wouldnt go far wrong tracking this one down.
You Might Not Have Seen Rating 5/5
UK DVD and VHS Availible
US DVD Availible

Friday, 13 August 2010

You might not have seen...

Wisdom (1986)

I'm just going to confess right now, this is probably my favourite 'guilty pleasure' movie ever. Its got everything... car chases, over the top action, hammy dialogue, a phenomenal Danny Elfman score, Demi Moore and Tom Skerritt. Also it marked the directorial debut of Emilio Estevez, who also wrote the film. Estevez was in fact the youngest person (at 21) to write, direct and star in a film.

The premise is simple, John Wisdom (Estevez) is paying the price for a drunken joyride in a car he stole, the felony conviction rules him out of meaningful employment (he even gets fired by his brother Charlie Sheen, for lying on his application form at a fast food restaurant ) seeing his life slipping into the myre and his relationship with his parents (Tom Skerritt and Veronica Cartwright... Alien reunited anyone??) is becoming more strained by the day and his girlfriend (played with delicacy by a fresh faced Demi Moore) he decides he has to take action. The action is simple, society sees him as a criminal, so why shouldnt he just become one? Now inspired by a documentary he watches in a bus station, Wisdom decides he's going to take his anger out on the banking system. He's going to disrupt the guys who foreclose on peoples homes and force them out on the street.

Now Wisdom goes into training, buys an army jacket and an Uzi 9mm, fills up some empty bottles with primitive explosives and goes after the banking system. The first caper is flawed, his mothers car dies on him, his girlfriend drives him to the job (blissfully unaware of whats going on) Wisdom walks in, coolly takes the security guards gun and jumps up on the counter, ready to read his demands, only he reads his mothers shopping list. Finally he gets his composure back and blows the banks files up! Giving people more time to pay their bills (how pissed off do you think the people who pay on time were?)

Anyways, his missus decides that she wants in too and they head across America doing the same turn, the FBI agent Williamson is ingenious, he works out that the Coca Cola bottle they've spun is an indication of what direction they are heading in (seriously, all Wisdom had to do was put two bottles down in opposite directions and he was fucked!) The net closes in, and our two heroes are aware they dont have much time left disrupting the banking system, then tragedy strikes and Karen blows away some hillbilly sheriff who was going to shoot her. Wisdom and Karen head for Canada, only to find the FBI in hot pursuit. Karen gets shot and is on her way out when Wisdom decides to face the FBI head on in a sports ground. Only thing is, Wisdom trades his bullets with the bin for a Peanut Butter sandwich, now you know he's accepting death as his fate. After an emotional dialogue FBI Agent Williamson decides he's not such a bad bloke, and is talking him down, when Wisdom stands up and gets killed in a hail of gunfire (despite Williamson shouting that the gun is not loaded) as a viewer you are genuinely saddened, then the real ending starts... it was all a day dream. Yep you read right, the previous 90 minutes was a fucking dream! Wisdom is fine, whacks his shaving foam on and we get to listen to Oingo Boingo's Home Again whilst the credits roll!

Now, I stumbled across Wisdom through a trailer on another film my sister rented and I demanded that Wisdom be our next rental. I watched it 3 times before I returned it, and got my dad to buy me the tape from the Video Shop, over the years I keep revisiting it. The charm is within the performances of Estevez and Moore its not a surprise that they were dating at the time the film was being made as they have great chemistry, one complaint is that Tom Skerritt could have been used more as should have William Allen Young (Agent Williamson) The dialogue at time is laughable (''you're rich in character and have great boobs'') but the cinematograpy is outstanding (Adam Greenberg, who shot the Terminator, keeps things on a grand scale) I keep on about the score, but it is almost hypnotic and showed the early potential of Danny Elfman.

Shamefully dismissed by critics due to the Brat Pack stigma (Estevez and Moore were paid up members) it failed to shine at the box office, but did better on video. It has garnered a slight (and I mean slight) cult following, with a 2009 screening in LA, also it now has a DVD release as a made to order DVD from the Warner Archive. Mine cost me $50, and the transfer was no better than my TV rip that a friend made for me in the US. A film well worth watching, and will forever be a favourite of mine

You might not have seen rating 5/5

UK Release - VHS Only
US Release - VHS/Laserdisc/DVD

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

You might not have seen...

Ghost Town (1988)

This little seen Western/Horror was the only film from the Australian Richard Governor. The plot involves the myterious disappearance of a local girl Kate (Cathrine Hickland) Local Sheriff Langley (Frank Luz) stumbles across the Ghost Town where the population has been blited with the curse of immortality! Strange thing is, sometimes you can see them and other times you cant? Anyway, it turns out Kate has been abducted by an evil cowboy called Devlin who has the idea Kate makes a pretty good missus (even though she dumped her last fella at the alter) as she reminds him of a women he bumped off 100 years previously. Confused yet? Deep breath, continue. Right, now the only way the curse of immortality can be lifted is if Devlin is slain by a lawman, Langley gets to play Sheriff to the town, shag a ghost and rescue Kate. I'm making this film sound decidedly awful, but for some strange reason it works. My first experience of this flick was a late night showing on the Horror Channel, I was tired, but the film kept my attention throughout, and I discovered to my surprise, that I owned the film on VHS.

I've watched it a couple of times since, and even though the plot holes get bigger everytime, the movie does have a charm and the lead actors are terrific value (for their Charles Band wages) I've read rumours since that the Director was canned in post production and the version out there is pretty much a work print, if this is the case, then Charles Band really did miss a trick, with a polish on the script and perhaps 10 minutes added to the running time (for character development) this could have been a real 80's classic. Now it seems to be relagated to the memories of those who watched it.

You Might Not Have Seen Rating : 3.5/5

UK VHS - Availible

Saturday, 17 July 2010

More overrated shit

4. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Guy Richie is a joke as far as I'm concerned, a spoilt rich kid born with a silver spoon up his arse decided one day he was going to make a film about 'ruffians up to no good'. Well, Scorsese did it, didn't he? No, Guy, Martin actually grew up on those mean streets, and that's why he was able to give us a more accurate portrait of how life was growing up around those 'ruffians'.

Add Vinnie Jones, who acts as well as he used to play football, some of the worse dialogue presented in a film ever... what do you get? Fucking morons who come out quoting the dialogue from the film, a short lived TV series and Guy Richie gets the license to unleash even more of his Eartha Kitt on the screen.

Sunday, 11 July 2010


I'm a passionaite man. Too passionaite at times. I form an opinion and I stick with it, quite often I make my mind up about people in a matter of minutes. In terms of the interview process, with me its a one shot deal. I either like you... or I cannot stand you. No real middle ground. With this in mind, I decided to write a blog. I hope you either love it, or hate it. Please no middle ground here. I'm starting here with my top ten most overrated movies of all time. These flicks tend to be universally loved, but I cant love them, I tried but I failed.

1. Lord Of The Rings - The Fellowship Of The Rings (2001)
Overlong, in fact its one of the few films I've sat through that has actually put me to sleep. Attempted to watch this three times, once sat in the seats of the (sadly demised) Odeon in North End, Portsmouth (where I became temporaraly unconcious). It does nothing for me, the fact that people would sit through an even longer cut does make me wonder if Jacksons next film will be 'Lord of The Rings - Warriors of the Drying Paint'

2. The Dark Knight (2008)
Christian Bale gives us a masterclass in how to look constipated. He's Batman? He's not the before bloke on the Senekot advert? Are you pulling my leg? Why so serious Christian? The real problem I have with this film (as you can probably tell) is it takes itself too seriously. I seriously doubt this would have been as successful had Heath Ledger not died just after wrapping this movie up. As for his performance, average at best, certainly not Oscar worthy (was it really a better performance than Phillip Seymour Hoffman's turn in Doubt?) Hollywood, please stop putting Maggie Gyllenhaal in movies, you've had your fun, now its not nice to stare. Finishing on a positive note, Harvey Dent (Aarron Eckhart) was actually a slight light in this abyss of darkness.

3. Titanic (1997)
I saw this opening night in the Cinema, James Cameron is a masterful director. That is without question, his films are so well made, paced and usually have a booming soundtrack. Then comes Titanic, the sinking of the ship is without question breathtaking on the big screen, but to get to that you have to put up with an awful love story. Cameron can do love stories quite well, The Abyss (1989) showed me that. Titanic however made me want to throw up in my empty popcorn bucket at about 2 hours in. Add a hopeless Celine Dion ballad into the mix and a trigger happy First Officer (it wouldnt be a Cameron film without some guns eh?) with a Bill Paxton cameo (at least you lived in this one Bill) and what do you get? 10 OSCARS!!! Thats what. King of the world at the Box Office (until Cameron decided to break that record with Avatar) Titanic is overlong, over cliched and kind of like meeting a beautiful woman, leaning in for a kiss and discovering she has bad breath.