Fankie and Deano pal about down Galveston way, setting up a riverboat casino and copping off with Ursula Andress and Anita Ekberg into the bargain. Comedy westerns are, for some reason, very hard to get right. Perhaps because, out in the desert, a holiday atmosphere takes over and people tend to think, after they’ve got all dressed up and are lobbing their six-shooters about at The American Adventure, the on-set laughs will translate effortlessly to the screen, with no actual funny business necessary, and if it sags we can always speed up bits of film of everyone running about, can’t we? And this is pretty much what we find here. The two stars are, as ever, out to have a laugh first and make a film second. In the past they’ve gotten away with this, but not with pesky meddling Serious Director Robert Aldrich breathing down their necks. Friction ensues. Charles Bronson does various cartoony bits of black hat business. The Three Stooges, always mentioned in conjunction with this film, actually only turn up for slightly longer than they do in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World, but by then the damage is done. After two hours of this, even the most patient Rat Pack Fan will be eyeing the exit, even envying Charlie’s comedy death, impaled on the paddle wheel of the casino.
F is for…
War – or rather anti-war – propaganda from Powell (this time with Pressburger) and a story of a U-Boat landing in Canada whose crew struggle to reach then-neutral America. This was voted for – amongst others – by director Terry Ryan, who told us a nice story about Powell. It seems that Terry was despatched from his film school to collect Powell by car from the station he was to arrive at. This he did but on the way back Powell insisted they stop at a bookshop. When they arrived Powell strode in and looked to find his autobiography which had been recently published. At first alarmed by this flash of ego Terry then recalls how the great man picked each copy out, signed it and returned it to the shelf, leaving still unannounced. We think that’s great.
TV CREAM SAYS: WE'RE NOT ASKING FOR THOSE PANTS. WE'RE JUST TAKING THEM
Of course, the bonus about “doing” a historical epic about the Boxer rebellion is that practically no-one will question the facts because practically no-one has the faintest idea what it was all about, including us. We know it wasn’t a fracas at a dog’s home but that’s about the size of our knowledge on the subject. Still, it’s worth watching cos David Niven and Dame Flora ‘to name but three’ Robson are in it.
TV CREAM SAYS: FILMED ENTIRELY IN AN AUTHENTIC TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY PEKING BUILT IN THE MIDDLE OF SPAIN
First out of the traps, and probably the most famous of the bunch, but still a bit of a flop, with Ray Bradbury’s portentous book-burning dystopian skit given the full weight of Francois Truffaut’s Gallic intellect. It’s possibly ever so slightly marred by the fact neither he nor his co-writer were much cop at English. Cue much tediously stilted dialogue, the end result proving every bit as much fun as memorising the complete works of Dickens.
TV CREAM SAYS: AS EXCITING AS WATCHING PAPER SMOULDERING
Undoubtedly the most revered of tonight’s uselessly scheduled triple bill, in which Roger Corman finally gets his finger out and does Poe proud, with Vincent Price in his pomp as the baroque head of the titular cursed household.
TV CREAM SAYS: CORMAN ON RECORD AS BEING 'SURPRISED' ANYONE NOTICED
Epic chronicling of the last days of Marcus A (and not, y’know, *really* the fall of the Roman Empire at all), in the old school manner. Sophia Loren and Stephen ‘Fantastic Voyage’ Boyd are fairly rubbish, but behind them you’ve got Alec Guinness, James Mason, Christopher Plummer, Anthony Quayle, Omar Sharif and Andrew ‘Quatermass and the Pit’ Keir, so a decent Saturday afternoon’s wallow is assured.
TV CREAM SAYS: GUINNESS ON RECORD AS NEVER HAVING MANAGED TO WATCH MORE THAN TWENTY MINUTES, SO THERE'S YOUR GET-OUT CLAUSE
“A tale of urban reality”. It’s not like this round my bit of urban. Michael ‘nepotism’ Douglas stars as either a victim of modern society frustrated to the point of madness by the callousness of a post-industrial wilderness where the rights of the individual are challenged at every turn and decency and civility are lost in a maelstrom of consumerism and corporate heartlessness, or a self-obsessed moany nutter: take your pick. The best bit is right at the start in the convenience store cos the Korean bloke’s hilarious but it’s got a good cast including Robert ‘who told him Ally McCoist could act?’ Duvall and Barbara ‘obvious nickname’ Hershey.
TV CREAM SAYS: A SELF-IMPORTANT DISCUSSION OF THIS FILM WAS THE FIRST TIME WE HEARD THE IDIOT PHRASE 'POLITICAL CORRECTNESS'. NOT THE LAST, SADLY
A good old fashioned tale of, well, falling in love. Nothing much else happens in this movie – in fact nothing much happens full stop, but that’s the beauty of it. Robert De Niro is a electrician riding the train everyday to work, he’s married with a kid – nothing much happening there, then – but one day he clocks Meryl Streep and after a few mornings bottling up his desire for her, he finally plucks up the courage to strike up conversation. They’re both cripplingly aware of their responsibilities at home, but they can’t help themselves and inevitably they, ahem, fall in love. Best scene is the one where they kiss for the first time, and De Niro finally blurts out ‘I love you, I really do’.
TV CREAM SAYS: MAGIC
Alan Parker’s slightly *too* zeitgeisty stage school fluff comes round again, and of course we prefer the series – OK, it was watered down, the characters were generally niced-up etc, but it had more Debbie ‘where you start paying’ Allen, less Irene ‘Breakdance’ Cara, more of that Bruno/Mr Shorofsky to-and-fro, and of course Hi Fidelity, which is what we’ll really remember them for, when all’s said and done.
TV CREAM SAYS: KEEPING IT LIGHT, ALL RIGHT
Kevin Costner, Jason Robards’ son, the ‘scallywag’ character off of The Breakfast Club, and er, Jesse off of Nutriaman – the Copasaw Creature do some pretty entertaining all-American coming of age road trippery, with a laundry/parachute confusion gag and amusing trying-to-tow-knackered-car behind-train tomfoolery. ’70s period soundtrack from Elton, Cream and, er, Blind Faith.
TV CREAM SAYS: SPOILER: THE TRAIN PULLS THE BUMPER OFF AND THE CAR DOESN'T MOVE. NO-ONE LAUGHS
One of the last of the “golden era” soft-porn romps to feature past-it actors in desultory supporting roles, with Oliver Reed, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Shelley Winters, Alfred Marks and Liz Smith. We’re surprised C5 haven’t yet seen fit to dig out any Derek Ford films, as the Soho smut hound’s glitter-free directing career more or less encapsulates the shabby life cycle of the Brit sex romp industry. From the early ’70s Wife Swappers, shot in grisly mondo moc-doc style a la those ’60s US drive-in “some scenes will shock you!” B-movies, via laughable “pop expose” Groupie Girl, Ford was instrumental in moving the focus away from the (supposedly) shocking and onto the (supposedly) comic, with the slapstick vignette efforts Suburban Wives and Commuter Husbands, roping in such cash-strapped stalwarts as Robin ‘hotter mints’ Bailey, Queenie Watts and Frank Thornton, and linked by Gabrielle Drake touring Piccadilly in the back of a limo, which all but defined the genre. We’re sure his career zenith, namely the short lived “What’s Up…?” series of hospital-set Carry On rip-offs, featuring a star cast as long as your arm, are up for grabs in the disused warehouses Channel 5 seem to buy their midnight film supplies from, so how about it?
TV CREAM SAYS: DON'T ALL RUSH AT ONCE NOW...
This demented costume romp combined spy and superhero in the form of Sir Reginald Hoover: suave, pipe-smoking criminologist ensconced in a secret Thunderbirds-style island retreat by day, banana-suited telekinetic freelance secret agent equipped with vintage wrestling moves and radioactive cigarettes by night. Sir Reg was enlisted by MI5 to stop the cat-suited, hovercraft-driving Jennabel, Queen of the World stealing the Muradoff A-4, a football-sized diamond with untold laser death-ray potential. (This is quite a silly film.)
TV CREAM SAYS: "KILL EACH OTHER! KILL EACH OTHER!"
Donald ‘Perfectly’ Pleasance and Raquel ‘Legend of Walks Far Woman’ Welch are at cross purposes amongst the stringy antibodies in this inexplicably famous “don’t drop the scalpel” miniature psychedelic surgery trip. But never mind all that, we want to see the Filmation cartoon spinoff series again, complete with eyepatch-wearing ship’s captain and turban-wearing “master of mysterious powers” The Guru. “Time limit – twelve hours!”
TV CREAM SAYS: MORE PEOPLE HAVE DONE 'AMUSING' PARODIES OF THIS FILM'S PREMISE THAN HAVE ACTUALLY SEEN THE THING
Rather distasteful and utterly unfunny Whoopi Goldberg drugs ‘n’ vice “comedy”, with little of interest on screen unless the sight of such luminaries as Cheech ‘The Golden Palace’ Marin and Fred ‘Joe ‘Mama’ Besser, you know, the fat, absconding drummer off of This is Spinal Tap’ Asparagus floats your cameo boat. Still, the soundtrack’s late-’80s heaven, with Harold Faltermeyer, Debbie Gibson, Miki ‘Love Under New Management’ Howard, the original ‘Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)’ by The System, and – yes! – ‘Casanova’ by Levert.
TV CREAM SAYS: ONE TO WATCH WITH THE VISION OFF
Ill-fated attempt at creating a sort of amphibious counterpart to Modesty Blaise (whose own attempts at cinematic translation weren’t exactly well-fated to begin with) starring Raquel Welch as an undercover agent – under the cover, and that’s pushing it, of a startling lime green bikini – sent to recover an atomic device from those pesky commies. Unusually for an unashamed Hollywood star vehicle, it is lent some decidedly eccentric ‘Brit’ touches by the deployment of a brass-blaring Johnny Dankworth soundtrack and, somewhat more jarringly, by the presence of a very young Richard Briers as an unlikely ‘handsome’ male sidekick.
TV CREAM SAYS: EVEN WHEN SHE PUTS SOME CLOTHES ON, A BULL THREATENS TO RIP THEM OFF STRAIGHT AWAY
Is there something inherently rubbish about the source material that makes just about every adaptation of the memoirs of this bullshitting Venetian nobsmith turn to celluloid porridge? That one with Doctor Who David Tennant was good in parts but no great shakes (and relied rather too heavily on the sub-Blackadder belief that having someone in period costume saying “Er, I dunno” a lot is the very essence of wit and knowing charm), the Dennis Potter one we’ve never managed to stay awake through, and as for that German telly one with Christopher Lee, Roy Kinnear and a woman fainting head-first into some grapes… well, yes. Anyway, here’s decadent, can’t-be-arsed, I’m-bloody-great-me-period Fellini having something of the right idea – no-one cares about the randy old sod really, so let’s just go mad with the production design and hope the studio accountants don’t come back from lunch early. We know we go on about how good old films look all the time, but really, when you look at the boring visuals on offer in 99% of the stuff at your local Warner Village, you really do miss the days when things this madly colourful were a relative commonplace. A few minutes’ exposure to Fred’s feisty folly and you’ll wonder where your retinas went. Sumptuous, chandelier-heavy palaces fill up with multicoloured fops, tarts, circus performers, orgies and organ players on trolleys, and there’s the famous bin-liner sea, a whale skeleton and various Phibesian horny clockwork robots. Sadly, like a P*t*r Gr**n*w*y period effort, all this high quality eye curry adds up to a big pot of sod all when it comes down to such lowbrow trifles as ‘plot’ and ‘characterisation’, which is a shame. It’s not all photography, mind – there’s a weird electronic score from Nino ‘Godfather’ Rota, and among the usual Eurocast, Donald Sutherland plays your saucy hero, and the dream combo of Russ Meyer stalwart Chesty Morgan and a periwigged Dudley Sutton are in there somewhere too.
TV CREAM SAYS: THAT SAID, WE STILL PREFER CASANOVA '73.
The tell-tale director’s name in the title fingers this as one of those late-period bunches of self-indulgent cobblers, to wit two hours of ‘impressionistic’ vignettes including mime artists, blokes in white safari suits, women in fur coats and wide-brimmed hats, convoys of Vespas outside the Coliseum, Dayglo nuns on a catwalk, car crashes, ugly people, naked people, and plenty of shots of Fellydraws making the film we’re currently watching in a trad Chinese puzzle stylee that must have been tediously old hat even in 1972.
TV CREAM SAYS: YET ANOTHER BIT OF DREARY 1970S CINEMATIC 'DECADENCE' WHICH INVOLVES GORE VIDAL. STILL, THAT ELECTION 2008 DIMBLEBY-BAITING MAKES UP FOR EVERYTHING
“Save Ferris!” went the cry. And so we did. Yeah, it’s a little childish and stupid, but then so’s school. Actually, what makes this film work outside the US is probably the fact it’s largely set outside high school, thus avoiding many of the bewildering cliches of America’s largely alien education environment. Instead it’s Broderick vs. Jeffrey ‘Beetlejuice’ Jones through the streets of Chicago, relentlessly cracking wise as they go. And wise they certainly crack – you won’t find dialogue of this calibre in most “uh-DULT” films these days, never mind the witless, clammy-handed “teen” fare that clogs up the multiplexes during latter-day “spring breaks”, which makes us weep for the future. Plus you get Zapp, BAD, Dream Academy, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and, of course, Yello’s mighty Oh Yeah on soundtrack duties, which helps wrap it in its own evocative time capsule, abetted by the fact they wisely avoided a sequel (although a ’90s sitcom version with Charlie ‘Delinquents’ Schlatter and Jennifer Aniston thankfully bombed). Writing magnificently and directing with sacks of flair, it’s Hughes’ baby all the way, and though the rest of his canon we can mostly take or leave (especially the sentimental Breakfast Club), this still comes up as fresh as paint. You may baulk at the high placing, and granted, it’s definitely a film you have to buy into wholesale or sit there nonplussed throughout, but we’re not going to let the snot-nosed detractors leave our cheese out in the wind. We’re going to defend it. Right or wrong, we’re going to defend it.
TV CREAM SAYS: BUELLER...
It’s missing an exclamation mark, is the title of this film, along with a luxuriant Edwardian moustache on the upper lip of the gentleman exclaiming it. But never mind, for this is a rancid slice of bottom-feeding horror, and all the better for it, if that’s possible. It’s a production of World Arts Media, a grand-sounding company title that of course instantly signals the two-bit, back- office nature of the operation, in the same manner as Global Kebabs or World Books. Pulling the kettle out of the filing cabinet in this particular office is schlocketeer Robert Hartford-Davis, whose Incense for the Damned (you know, Patrick Macnee on a donkey etc.) has been on a loop in these environs before. Anyway, this has rogue priest Patrick Magee heading a murderous cult round lovely old widow Ann Todd’s place, with her son, aka Camp Freddie off of The Italian Job, doing most of the doings-in, and taping the screams in a Hindley stylee. Lovably tatty gospel music comes to the fore on the soundtrack, and there’s a bit where Freddie goes to see Scars of Dracula, but yet again we don’t know whether a clip of Dennis Waterman’s y-fronts is on offer. As ever with a Hartford-Davis, the accent is on untrammelled norks and shoddily-photographed fag-ends of the Golden Age of Military Jacket Wearing, so any fans of both will be on a reasonably even keel.
TV CREAM SAYS: SMALL-TIME COBBLERS WITH BIG IDEAS
Ropey, ‘troubled’, bizarre-in-the-worst-way last hurrah from Peter Sellers, who plays both Sax Rohmer’s titular mastermind (in latex make-up and corny accent) and his dashing, lawnmower-loving British nemesis (in grey wig and incoherent aristocratic mumbles). He does both very badly indeed, but then he was not a well man, either physically (the ailing Fu jump-starts himself with electric shocks, in a grisly echo of Sellers’s own cardiac traumas) or mentally (the ever-difficult star sacked director Piers Haggard half way through, and finished it off himself, hence the resulting mess that takes “being all over the shop” into a new dimension). A wasted supporting cast includes Helen Mirren, David ‘tuppence’ Tomlinson, a totally out of place Sid ‘Show of Shows’ Caesar, a Dad’s Army double of John Le Mesurier and Clive Dunn, and Burt Kwouk in an obvious Panther-referencing cameo at the start. From then on, it’s a mish-mash of fizzling sub-plots, misfiring gags (and huge stretches without any recognisable gags, or indeed anything happening at all), much gratuitous ‘delightfully un-PC’ racism, and some admittedly rather good set design, all culminating in Sellers doing a totally pointless Japanese Elvis routine that would have Simon Groom slapping his ample forehead in disbelief.