Yet another modish Hollywood comedy caper which employs a convoluted plot to escalate confusion. Hamburg-based bank security chief Warren Beatty observes various felons stashing their ill-gotten gains in adjoining safe deposit boxes, and hooks up with Goldie Hawn, a hooker who “does” for all said villains, to obtain the keys to the boxes and rip off a million, er, dollars, safe in the knowledge that the police are unlikely to be alerted by the hapless heistees. The crims, natch, have other ideas, and a delirious half hour pan-Germanic chase results, with the criminals trying to steal back the stolen money Beatty stole from them. Cynics would argue that’s not all Beatty stole, as a very similar plot underpins archly-shot British eccentric caper Perfect Friday from a year previously.
D is for…
“The Great Love Story of The Great War”. Now, we always thought it was the First World War that got called the Great War, but no matter, here’s Robert ‘Saddle the Wind’ Taylor and Richard ‘don’t mention the dog’ Todd reminiscing about the times they romanced the same woman – though not, we presume, at the same time. Who will survive and go back to the little woman? They keep you guessing ’til the very last.
TV CREAM SAYS: SPOILER: THE GERMANS LOSE
Yay! The better of the two Cushing films, we say, with grim London-based apocalyptic violence, Ray Brooks and, of course, your very own Bernard Cribbins as the bumbling plod’s bumbling plod. Only bum note: the Daleks’ ship, which some bright spark thought would look more ‘futuristic’ if it was kitted out with all the trappings of a sort of bollocks hovercraft. Mind you, the pepperpots themselves were never masterpieces of slick, streamlined design and they seemed to do OK, so what do we know? We blame the Mods. Art Deco sci-fi we can take (Things to Come and their curlicued mates). The Nuclear Age ‘pointy bra’ aesthetic is admittedly more problematic, but it usually tends to hail from over the pond so we feel we can laugh it off without feeling guilty about contributing to the falling pound. But when a Gaggia machine straight out of the Two I’s coffee bar comes trundling at you demanding to see your driver’s licence, where to look? We shouldn’t be talking like this, we know, the ‘Lekkies being a design classic, a fait accompli long before we were even in a position to audition for the 2001 star child, but we still find ourselves thinking a few more drafts on the old drawing board mightn’t have gone amiss. The fact we have no problem with the aesthetic appearance of the Axons, Scaroth and the Nucleus of the Swarm in no way invalidates everything we’ve just said, nor does it make us look like the fools we secretly suspect we are.
TV CREAM SAYS: "LEAVE THE WHO-ING TO THE WHOVIANS, EH, LAD?" - MATRIX DATABANK OPERATIVE
We figure this film has inspired more lager adverts than any other, to whit that Carling Black Label one and, of course, the infinitely superior Russ Abbott “Kestrel kegs away, Ginger!”. More fun from Michaels Todd and Redgrave and Robert Shaw and Patrick Magoohan are in there as well somewhere. Still not mentioning that dog, now.
TV CREAM SAYS: WELL, WE'VE NEVER OBJECTED TO BEING CALLED 'THE ARMCHAIR SQUADRON'
We’re still flogging this theory that the middle film of a trilogy was always the best – or was it the worst? On the one hand you’ve got your Empire Strikes Back (don’t argue) and your Godfather: Part II, but on the other you’ve got your Temple of Doom and this load of old bobbins. True, the little fella who plays Damien is genuinely creepy, but in a no-friends-talks-to-himself-at school-calls-his-schoolbag-by-a-name kind of way and not necessarily in a son-of-Satan-bringer-of-darkness kind of way. True, it does star Leo I’m off on a residential course in double-entry bookkeeping’ McKern, though not for long, and Ian ‘Don Quick’ Hendry, but that’s little consolation for a film whose most sinister dramatic device is some ancient scribblins on a wall.
TV CREAM SAYS: "THE BEAST HAS NO BROTHER!"
Button-down sergeant George Peppard and wayward comrade Jan-Michael Vincent drive specially-constructed armoured cars across a post-nuclear wilderness of giant cockroaches to a ruined Las Vegas. In a rare turn of events for this genre, the film ends with the desolate Earth getting better, and everyone going off to live on a cosy farmstead. Which is nice.
TV CREAM SAYS: WHY THIS HASN'T BEEN REVIVED BY CLIMATE CHANGE SCEPTICS, WE DON'T KNOW, BUT THANK GOD IT HASN'T
Bryanston Films, who gave us Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, A Taste of Honey and, even more excitingly, Double Bunk, as well as handling UK rights for such titles as Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dark Star and, er, Deep Throat II also brought us this. However, we can’t find much of interest about, save for the presence of Ruth ‘Children of the Stones’ Dunning and Joanna ‘Moondial’ Dunham in the cast.
TV CREAM SAYS: IF, BY SOME UNLIKELY CHANCE, YOU'VE COME HERE LOOKING FOR INFO ON THIS FILM, PLEASE ACCEPT OUR APOLOGIES
Drunkenness, bar-room brawling, death and love triangles may not be what most people expect from a Disney live-action feature, but they’re all here and in glorious Technicolor, too. Albert Sharpe is the eponymous hero tussling with his leprechaun adversary King Brian – played brilliantly by Irish comedy legend Jimmy O’Dea – and all the great clichés of Irish folklore, banshees, pookahs and death coaches abound. Sean Connery also makes an early appearance demonstrating that his unique talent for speaking lines in his own accent even though they have clearly been written for another had developed early. In addition, forced perspective may be wowing the masses in the Ring Trilogy these days but here similar effects are achieved with creditable success and with only a fraction of the expertise now available. The Disney live-action feature has a worthy history often forgotten (The Black Hole, The Love Bug, Tron etc) and this sits comfortably at the top of the heap.
TV CREAM SAYS: TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING!
This story of wartime reminiscence amongst concert party veterans stars Terry-Thomas and Norman Wisdom, in what we reckon must have been his first film. Also featured is the great Wally Patch who is listed on imdb.com as having appeared in 181 films, surely challenging Sam Kydd for supremacy in the appearance stakes. There’s a film school thesis right there.
TV CREAM SAYS: FEATURES MUCH BREAKING OF THE FOURTH WALL, MUSIC HALL STYLE. WHICH IS OF COURSE GREAT
The Marx Brothers’ second MGM outing, this, very much in the mould of Opera format-wise, and subsequently talked down as its inferior by many, though there’s plenty of prime Marx amid the endless expository sequences and big time musical numbers (though rather sadly they chose to cut the excellent Dr Hackenbush’s Song – “For ailments abdominal/My charges are nominal”). The genesis for this one was as long and painful as Opera’s. The traditional 14 initial script treatments and six full screenplay drafts by various old hands moved the film from being a medical satire set in a sanitorium to a tale of a horse doctor getting the once-over at a racetrack. Groucho’s character changed from brazen fraud Syrus P Turntable to masquerading vet Hugo Z Hackenbush (although he was for a long time Dr Quackenbush, until, brilliantly, MGM received a number of litigation threats from genuine Dr Quackenbushes). Harpo went from a tree surgeon to a jockey, and Chico from a piano-playing law student to a shady tipster. Then, when studio head Irving Thalberg finally approved the script, it went on tour, for timing changes, word-by-word rewrites (one use of the word ‘nauseating’ was only arrived at after a dozen or more less funny alternatives were tried in its place – we hate to carp on, but again, imagine the Broken News team putting in that much care). Then, back in the studio, there were even more rewrites of the bits that hadn’t been performed on the tour, and indeed the bits that had. Then, tragically, the astoundingly hardworking Thalberg kicked the bucket at the age of thirty-seven, putting the mockers on the project for a while. Eventually, however, filming finally began, under the stern aegis of Sam ‘Twenty takes of everything’ Wood. Complete with on-the-fly rewrites. Much chicken soup has been spilt over the supposed conflict between MGM’s highly polished, plot-driven approach to comedy and the Marxes’ freeform free-for-all mania, but it works fine in Opera (when no-one’s singing) and, largely, it manages just swell here, too. Standout routines include the initial Groucho-Chico meeting, with Hack swapping a dead cert tip for endless codebooks with which to understand it, the top flight game of charades between Chico and Harpo (“Buffalo Bill goes ice skating!”), a chaotic wallpapering bit, an examination of Harpo (“He’s what we doctors designate as the crummy, moronic type”) and best of all, the three-way medical shenanigans towards the end, conducted to the tune of Down By the Old Mill Stream (“Sterilisation!”) That’s five more classic scenes than a Jerry Lewis film usually contains (and about a dozen more than a Ritz Brothers picture), and whatever your position on the merits of the whole (and we won’t rehearse the debates about the usefulness and/or appropriateness of the Buzby Berkeley-style water carnival scene, or the infamous “All God’s Chillun Got Swing” number) it’s still head and shoulders above anything else about at the time (Wheeler and Woolsey, anyone?) and in a different league to the MGM stuff they’d turn out subsequently (which will no doubt crop up on here within due course). So make an appointment. “Don’t drink that poison! It’s four dollars an ounce!”
TV CREAM SAYS: STILL GOT IT - JUST ABOUT
It’s a shit life in ’30s Hollywood as meek set designer Donald Sutherland falls in with extra Karen Black, in one of those period pieces that seemed to turn up all over the place after The Godfather became the spiciest meatball on the block. Best bit is – well, duh – Burgess Meredith as a soused ex vaudeville star reduced to flogging tat with a doorstep dance act.
TV CREAM SAYS: SELLING MUD PIES TO THE GREAT UNWASHED
Infamous in its never-completedness is this uber-ill-advised Euro-funded amplification of the maudlin, borderline-morbid aspects of Jerry Lewis’s slapschtick to their logical conclusion. Lewis plays Herman Doork, a clown charged with entertaining the children and leading them to their deaths in a concentration camp. By all accounts (though admittedly there aren’t very many), it’s a chilling film for all the wrong reasons. The script, once you adapt to the revolting conceit, is cliche-ridden schmaltz, none more so than the final scene where a shattered Lewis leads the kids in a circus parade to the ovens, followed by a solemn FADE OUT, as if that justifies everything. The film itself was directed, by Lewis, as a slice of low-budget desperation with the odd tyroesque shoestring visual conceit, eg shooting some scenes in front of a black cloth, merely adding to the wrongness. The Swedish fundraisers impounded the negative, but Lewis apparently still keeps a VHS copy in a briefcase, still firmly believing this particular story Must Be Told.
TV CREAM SAYS: AS NORMAN WISDOM USED TO SAY: "DON'T LAUGH AT ME..." REQUEST GRANTED!
Not the cheeriest of sci-fi films this, which is probably the way it should be. However, it does feature Leo McKern and Bernard Braden involving themselves in much Hold-The-Back-Page-style newspaper witticisms. And the bloke who played who plays the editor had actually been the editor of the Daily Express, fact fans. Much tumbling around sweatily in amongst the mists in London by Edward Judd and Janet Munro as the Earth is knocked off kilter by ill-advised nuclear tests. It’s a great film but don’t watch it whilst pondering any important decisions as it is likely to radically alter your sense of perspective.
TV CREAM SAYS: IF IT WAS REMADE, THE FINAL FRONT PAGE CLIFFHANGER WOULDN'T WORK, AS IT'D BE 'NEW DIANA EVIDENCE' REGARDLESS
Stanley Holloway leads a darts team on a trip to Boulogne. Basically another of those ‘Brits abroad’ ensemble comedies like San Ferry Ann, or Innocents in Paris. This one’s courtesy Ralph ‘Doctor’ Thomas, and showcases Donald ‘Mmwwwwrrrgh, Smallbridge!’ Sinden, James ‘Mr Tebbs, you know, the short-lived, toupeed Mr Grainger replacement off of Are You Being Served?’ Hayter, Harry ‘Dead Ernest’ Fowler, Peter ‘Book’ Jones, Bill ‘Compo’ Owen (with our own Marianne Stone on his arm, the cad!), Thora Hird, Shirley ‘Goldfinger’ Eaton and Deryck Guyler.
TV CREAM SAYS: UN PEU DE CLIFF LAZARENKO
Ealing Studios assembled four of their finest directors to film five tales of supernatural creepiness, and in the process created what remains the finest horror portmanteau of them all. Architect Mervyn Johns, haunted by a recurring nightmare, visits a country house, the inhabitants of which regale him with stories of their own nightmarish experiences – a premonition of death, a child from the past, a posessed mirror and a ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave) possessed by the malevolent spirit of his dummy. Sounds like a lot of supernatural baloney, but the execution is flawless, and even after sixty-plus years this film retains the power to frighten. The various directors work wonders – that old dark house is a den of claustrophobia, and a simple slow track into a closed hospital ward curtain is imbued with unnameable dread. So effortlessly brilliant was this film, it unwittingly laid down several ground rules most subsequent horror anthologies have followed (or tried to) ever since. There’s the excellent linking narration, which does more than segue from one story to another, but gets various characters featured in the stories to talk to each other, even quibble over the likelihood of the tales, and gives a shape to the episodic structure by building to a brilliantly gothic climax in itself (‘Oh doctor, why did you have to break your glasses?’) Secondly, it injects some pace into the rigid framework, starting off with a five-minute palate-cleanser featuring an ominous hearse driver (‘Room for one more inside, sir!’), and building up to the longer Michael Redgrave segment at the end. Sadly, it also introduced the concept of the mid-film ‘comic relief’ story, with a pair of Charters and Caldicott-like golfing duffers getting mixed up with wagers, hauntings and supernatural hand gestures. It’s not a bad story really, and effectively lightens the mood before that ventriloquist’s dummy brings it crashing down again, but it set a dangerous precedent.
TV CREAM SAYS: AS GOOD AS IT GETS
They like to recycle those titles, don’t they? Nothing to do with the Ealing work, this threesome from the Trilogy of Terror pairing of director Dan Curtis and writer Richard ‘Omega Man’ Matheson is fairly solid stuff, with doctor Patrick Macnee up against vampires, and Ed Begley Jr buying a time-travelling car.
TV CREAM SAYS: THE OTHER ONE! THE OTHER ONE!
To be honest, if you wanted to make a horror film with Christopher Walken in, you could just sit him in a chair and have him look into the camera for 90 minutes, smiling occasionally. Anyway, David Cronenberg has him do a bit more in this version of Stephen King’s novel in which a young, bright, happy – and therefore damned – teacher is put into a coma for five years only to wake up and discover he’s psychic, a power no doubt exacerbated by having scary eyes. Not normally our cup of tea, but Herbert Lom appears, so we’ll always be there for it.
TV CREAM SAYS: COMPLETE THE SEQUENCE!
Ralph Thomas, mastermind of the Doctor… comedy franchise, had dipped a toe into Cold War comedy with Hot Enough for June (1964), casting Dirk Bogarde as reluctant agent 008¾, but really scored with these two camp-outs, dragging HC McNiele’s hardboiled ’20s creation Bulldog Drummond into the swinging era. One-time potential Bond Richard Johnson incarnated the suave Hugh D, pitched against deadly but naturally ravishing female baddies such as Elke Sommer and Daliah Lavi. The first film was packed with gadgets and set-pieces like the climactic giant chessboard shoot-out, but the sequel reached new heights of preposterousness, with a tale of a supersonic airliner hijacked by a squadron of scantily-clad robot lovelies as an ultra-camp Robert Morley demonstrates how to cook an egg.
TV CREAM SAYS: IF YOU WANT TO SPOOF BOND, YOU HAVE TO GO NUTS
Bottom drawer Amicus fun, from a time (the mid-’60s) when they’d only had one portmanteau horror out, and indeed didn’t really see themselves as a horror outlet at all. Anyway, this confused proto-Swarm mess was adapted by Robert Bloch from a novel (why is it that every film that appears to have little or nothing in the way of a coherent plot turns out to be adapted from a novel?), then rewritten on the fly during filming by director Freddie Francis, then butchered in the edit suite by Milton Subotsky (who cut Francis’ excessive two hour print down to just one hour, then found he had to stick in extra dream sequences and all sorts of rubbish just to pad it back out to feature length). It’s every bit as good as this genesis would suggest. In short, Suzanna ‘Chiffy Kids’ Leigh retires from the pop business (backed by Ronnie Wood’s old band The Birds) to a health farm staffed by rival bee-keepers and Frank “Bouquet of Barbed Wire” Finlay. Could the bees be… deadly, you think? They certainly don’t look it. They’re real bees all right (imported from Australia at relatively great expense) but the obvious difficulty in training bees to swarm menacingly out of doors and not just bugger off in all directions was ‘solved’ by painting a tiny room blue, filming the bees fly about in that, then matting them later over shots of Leigh in M&S underwear emoting like some kind of Leicestershire-hailing Tippi Hedren. It didn’t really work. Add to that an on-set disaster that resulted in a sound stage (and very nearly, Leigh herself) burning down, and devastating press reviews, and you won’t be surprised to hear the film turned a handsome profit. Still, it’s good shabby fun if you happen to be in the very precise mood to find such ramshacklery entertaining, though we’re still waiting for someone to show Amicus’ ill-fated sci-fi prolapse The Terrornauts.