A Jonathan Demme-penned bit of mildly condescending anti-commercialism about a worryingly young-looking Diane ‘Rumblefish’ Lane and pals (including Laura Dern) forming a hopeless band and rising to stratospheric fame levels, then inevitably pissing it up the wall, it sits squarely in the rather broad middleground somewhere between This Is Spinal Tap, Jubilee and Pop Pirates. Good things – Lane’s proto-Bow-Wow-Wow haircut (achieved entirely with wigs, it says here), Fee ‘Tubes’ Waybill’s stoked-up Gene Simmonsalike ‘old fart’, and Ray Winstone’s decidedly Shane Ritchie countenance. Bad things – a half-arsed Rastafarian bus driver character and a climactic gig finale which obviously blew all the remaining budget, resulting in one of the hastiest endings to any film this side of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Still, the sludgy, biscuitty, found-on-Quentin-Crisp’s-floor quality of the print helped add a different kind of grit when the script ran out of the dramatic variety. Professional!
L is for…
“As luck would have it, I found a book of matches.” Raymond Chandler detective noir filmed, “daringly”, entirely from main gumshoe Philip Marlowe’s first-person perspective – cue much “Ya know what happens to private dicks?” “Eyes!” punching-in-face action of the variety normally reserved for 3D films. Fans of Quake may be briefly entertained, but it gets mighty wearing after a while.
TV CREAM SAYS: NOTICE HOW HE NEVER GOES TO THE LAV
A Peter Ustinov directorial affair, with Sophia Loren stomping about Brideshead Castle as the ex-laundering countess torn between ice cool David Niven and hotheaded anarchist Paul Newman. Ustinov nips out from behind the Arriflex to turn up as a mentalist prince, and there’s room in there for an appearance from good old Moustache.
TV CREAM SAYS: ORIGINALLY MEANT FOR TONY CURTIS AND GINA LOLLAPALOOZA. THE BETTER PAIR WON OUT.
Fairly faithful (almost shot for shot) but totally unnecessary remake of the much loved Gainsborough train-napping, with Angela Lansbury just fine in the disappearing part, and Arthur Lowe and Ian Carmichael as a dandy Charters and Caldicott. But Elliot Gould as Michael Redgrave? And more to the point, Cybill Shepherd as Margaret Lockwood? Attempts are made to get some screwball banter going between the pair as of old, but Cyb’s way off Moonlighting chemistry here, and Gould’s more attuned to less well-mannered comedy than this. A better Gainsborough update than Michael Winner’s version of The Wicked Lady, but not by much.
TV CREAM SAYS: LEAVE DAME MAY WHITTY OUT OF THIS!
The (slightly) less silly of Richard ‘Superman’ Donner’s 1985 fantasies (the other being, natch, The Goonies) with Matthew Broderick on the run (good so far) hooking up with, respectively, wolf and hawk shapechangers Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer for a bit of bishop swatting. Leo McKern turns in a fine Benedictine cameo, and The Alan Parsons Project play on. In fact, between the soundtrack for this and the frequent use of Sirius on Ron-Reagan-Jr-period Record Breakers to introduce an in-studio record attempt, didn’t ver kids of the ’80s have more than enough exposure to the former Pink Floyd engineer’s prognum opus?
TV CREAM SAYS: MUST YOU KEEP THUMPING ME IN THE LIVER?
No amount of brow-creasing analysis into the allegorical meaning of this film can mute its sheer unalloyed delight as Alec Guinness plays Alistair Sim plays Professor Marcus, leader of the gang who carry out their robbery and return to Katie Johnson’s enchanted cottage of a house under their guise of a string ensemble. Peter Sellers, Danny Green, Herbert Lom and Cecil Parker, under their sinister tutor, find themselves totally confounded by their hostess even when they decide that the only course of action left open to them is to kill her. Sandy Mackendrick drags the laughs out of the darkness for this and although the whole thing is pervaded with a real air of the macabre, it never descends to a level that the viewer might find off-putting or disturbing. The fairytale landscape is also extended further from the tipsy little cottage to the sprawling black gloom of the marshalling yard across which Professor Marcus tries to make good his escape with locomotives thundering across the tracks bellowing smoke like great iron dragons.
TV CREAM SAYS: PROBABLY EALING'S VERY BEST FILM
You may remember Doug McClure from this film, being shot then rescued, along with Susan ‘Bouquet of Barbed Wire’ Penhaligon and Keith ‘Amy!’ Barron, by a German U-boat crew (featuring – house! – Anthony ‘The Master’ Ainley again). Then they ‘take a wrong turn’, and latex dinosaurs and octopuses ensue, of course.
TV CREAM SAYS: "AN ADVENTURE YOU WILL NEVER FORGET!" NO, BUT YOU'LL GET IT MIXED UP WITH HALF A DOZEN SIMILAR ONES
Grizzled former ‘tec Eddie Albert (best known as the pratfalling comic relief off Roman Holiday) teams up with ex-con and adversary Robert Wagner to form the feature length pilot for what would become Switch, yet another Glen A Larson detective series wi-hi-hith a difference, the best bit of which is Sharon Gless as their receptionist who goes, rather wonderfully, by the name of Maggie Philbin. And you don’t need us to tell you that the only other fictional character named Maggie Philbin to appear on American television, a year before this film to be precise, was when Louise ‘Mrs Woody Allen Mk I’ Lasser portrayed one Sergeant Maggie Philbin in a fourth series episode of McCloud, the Midwestern-sheriff-comes-to-NY series masterminded by… Glen A Larson! We have made what James Burke would call a connection.
TV CREAM SAYS: SORRY, WHAT WAS THE QUESTION?
One of Hollywood’s countless Mad Max road rip-offs. In a Clarksonian nightmare future where eco-fascists force America’s populace into dinky electric cars, free-thinking rebel Lee Majors dusts off his trusty old racing machine and bombs across the desert to California. Burgess Meredith in a jet fighter is sent to shoot the mother down, in a temptingly daft blend of Revelations and The AA Book of the Road.
TV CREAM SAYS: 'DELIGHTFULLY UN-PC!' ZZZZ...
At last! A palpable hit! This mammoth production is forever talked of in hushed tones, with awed mentions of cavalcades of extras, costumes, period detail, Forbidden City filming permissions and so on. So we feel a bit sheepish about judging it a big old overblown bore. But it is though, isn’t it? Billowing silks, serried ranks of bowing minions, swelling Sakamoto score, lovely old cars, boiler suits towards the end… yes, you carry on, Bernardo, we’ll just be over here by the Sid Field counter, thank you very much. Still, this musty old museum exhibit clocked up a sizeable profit on its $25 million budget (which at least is all up there on screen, eh, Ishtar?) and cleaned up on Oscar night. Small comfort for David Puttnam, who was by then out of Columbia Pictures after a fraught and, let’s be honest, rubbish tenure at the helm, watching the ceremony, in which none of the winners gave him even a mention, on a telly in a Toronto hotel room. A far cry from the Chariots bombast evening, eh, Dave?
TV CREAM SAYS: MENTAL NOTE - DON'T OVERDO THIS...
You’re not allowed to call yourself a ‘movie buff’, of course, if you don’t think Peter Bogdanovich’s meditative study of post-war small-town coming of age is one of the best films ever made, so it’s just as well we don’t. It’s still pretty good, though, mainly down to an excellent non-star cast (Bottoms, Bridges, Burstyn, Leachman, Shephard, the venerable Ben Johnson et al), some excellent b&w photography and, well, we’re just as sentimental as the next feller when it comes to old times. See you in a year or two, if we don’t get shot.
TV CREAM SAYS: THINGS HAVEN'T BEEN RIGHT SINCE SAM THE LION DIED
Apart from his Brooksfilms collaborations, Marty Feldman didn’t score very big with his big screen outings. Between the decidedly shaky The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother and the swinging mania of Every Home Should Have One, there wasn’t an awful lot to see, to be honest. But just before it would become too late, Marty pulled this little nugget out of his hat and it’s a beauty. The cast is splendid – particularly Peter Ustinov – but Feldman is the star and you can’t take your eyes off him, or his eyes. The plot, naturally, is largely incidental, but this isn’t pointless; the point is to let Feldman deliver his comic mania unbridled and this it does. If you haven’t seen it (and you probably haven’t, it’s criminally underused in a world where second rate war films and substandard westerns litter the schedules) then do so as soon as you can, and remember just how truly brilliant Marty Feldman was.
“LIFE’S AS BRIEF AS A BUTTERFLY’S FART…”
TV CREAM SAYS: "LIFE'S AS BRIEF AS A BUTTERFLY'S FART..."
Now, we love this and are delighted to see it…again. Anyway, the thing to watch out for here is the scene where Xur appears as a holographic image in the Starfighter Hangar on Rylos (bear with us on this) and demonstrates his power by displaying on a screen the captured chief of Rylan intelligence, whom he proceeds to torture by having a laser beam melt his head. Now, this was in the original but they *never* show it on the telly usually.
TV CREAM SAYS: PREMIERED IN FRONT OF PRINCESS DI! BET SHE HAD A WHALE OF A TIME
It is almost forgotten now what a massive star Jack Hawkins was. Perhaps the only British film star worthy of the term who didn’t seem to decamp wholesale to Hollywood to confirm his status, as the likes of David Niven and that Micklewhite character did. So it’s always worth recalling just how good he was and we can’t do much better than point in the direction of this superlative British film directed by Basil Dearden and from the stable of J Arthur Rank. Some think it should have a lighter ending, but then some think that if their grannies had wheels they’d be handcarts. Leaving deranged wishful thinkers behind the end as it is suits Hawkins perfectly; brave, desperate, tragic, bold. Hawkins turns up in Theatre of Blood (see below) but only for no more than a cameo and clearly very ill.
TV CREAM SAYS: THINK OF HIM LIKE THIS
Sort of like Witness but with a better plot but less soul music, Humphrey Bogart is a priest who appears in a village in China much to the consternation of the copper from the Exorcist and Endora from off of Bewitched (that’s the old telly programme as opposed to the mid-90s girlband that looked like it was made up of teenagers who would have looked more comfortable in the surroundings of the change box at the Waltzers.) Or is he? Is he instead a man with a past who is only pretending to be a priest? Oh-ho! The perfidy of it all! Indeed, for a priest he is strangely attracted to strangely-glamorous-although-flecked-with-horseshit Gene Tierney.
TV CREAM SAYS: AFTER ALL, PRIESTS AREN'T NORMALLY ATTRACTED TO GORGEOUS YOUNG WOMEN [INSERT CONTROVERSIAL JOKE HERE]
Not a film version of the old STV afternoon political boreathon but instead the glorious topical romp with an impeccably on-form Ian Carmichael getting embroiled in all the tawdry bluff nonsense of British post-War, pre-Wilson politics. Looking down the list of candidates: Alistair `modesty forbids me from telling you precisely where you can send your daughters’ Sim, Richard `Sykes’ Wattis, Eric `stern glasses’ Barker, Leslie `Sod off!’ Dwyer, Irene `Who of?’ Handl and Hattie Jacques.
TV CREAM SAYS: ANY FILM WHICH CAN BOAST `GILBERT HARDING AS HIMSELF' IN THE CREDITS IS SOME KIND OF CLASSIC AND NO MISTAKE
Tap-dancing lawyer Robert Redford (doing his lovable simp thing) has his career stalled by partner Debra Winger (doing her emotional jaw-wobbling-from-side-to-side thing) and her pyromaniac client Daryl Hannah (doing her spaced-out-peering-from-underneath-fringe thing). Ivan “Ghostbusters” Reitman throws explosions and pratfalls into the usual courtroom double-cross affair, making up a mess of, well, mess. An early Christine “Dick!” Baranski appearance, Hannah singing a song of her own composition and a malevolently camp art click-ting Terence Stamp are minor points of interest here.
TV CREAM SAYS: NO FURTHER INTEREST, YOUR HONOUR...
Regular readers will know the problem we have with the cinematic genre most usually known as The Sort of Foreign Films You Can Safely Watch With Your Mum. You know the deal. Babette’s Feast. The Chorus. Life is Beautiful. The Quince Tree Sun. And so on. No dirty muckiness, no existential unrest and nothing to frighten the horses, just the sort of bucolic whimsy that goes down well with a glass of Pinot Grigio (or maybe a Stella, seeing as how those very beer ads faultlessly replicate the relentlessly cheery continental quirkiness of the genre). We can’t stand ‘em as a rule – boil-washed, ironed-out dullness with hospital corners, mostly. We make an honourable exception for Cinema Paradiso, but even then we’re not quite sure why. But lest a reactionary gut dislike be in danger of watering down, the director of said film-based cute-in really blows the sickometer with this appalling, appalling confection in which Tim Roth grows up on an Atlantic cruise ship, plays the piano as it rolls around the ballroom, and generally acts the twit while overblown sets and Guinness advert-standard camerawork choke the screen with their pointless expense. Peter Vaughan’s in it at the start for a bit, but otherwise this is pure glutinous, congealed quaintness of the foulest stamp.
TV CREAM SAYS: THREE PIGGIN' HOURS OF THE STUFF AN' ALL!
Ropey entry in the werewolf canon from short-lived (and you can see why) Hammer imitators Tyburn, with Peter Cushing and Ron Moody out camping each other, plus Renee Houston, Michael Ripper and Roy Castle. The TVC Brithorror chart at the moment goes – Hammer (the daddies), Amicus (portmanteau gold!), Tigon (mainly poor Hammer rip-offs but the occasional gem like Witchfinder General), Tyburn (The Ghoul and nothing much else). This one doesn’t really help their placing.
TV CREAM SAYS: CASTLE KNOCKED MOVIES ON THE HEAD AFTER THIS TO CONCENTRATE ON MAKING NORRIS MCWHIRTER LOOK LIKE THE STIFFO HE IS. YAY!
Right, then. To have one bona fide turkey, that gets mentioned in list after list of ‘worst ever’ films and lives up to its reputation too, could be regarded as a misfortune. To clock up two in a year points to the kind of psychotic episode that only flourishes within the walls of secure institutions and film studios. The film studio in this case was Columbia Pictures under the misguided tenure of David Puttnam, still reeling from the mammoth flop that was ISHTAR when this effort dribbled into the fleapits. But as with the Beatty/Hoffman calamity, you can’t blame Dave for its existence – Leonard was initiated by star Bill Cosby, a major presence on the studio’s board and official spokesman of Coke at the time, to boot.
The result was a top-down production – start with the star, set aside the millions, assemble the production team around them and, er, we’ll think of something for them to actually do later – that hardly ever works, but rarely crashes on this scale. Puttnam got Cosby’s back up by parachuting Brit ad-man Paul Wieland in to direct. In an astonishing demonstration of misplaced affrontery, Cosby responded to this encroachment on his authority by insisting on hiring an all-black production crew. More time and effort was spent on this sort of tit-for-tat politics than actually making the film.
When things finally wrapped, the nightmare really began. Nothing cut together. Scene after scene was unshowable shite. The editing suite must have been waist-deep in celluloid offcuts, as the final cut ran to a malnourished 71 minutes. Despite this voracious pruning, it’s still a tedious mess. Bets are hedged with a ‘coming up’ montage of action set-pieces before the plot itself is underway. Then we get some clearly after-the-test-screening-panic footage of Tom Courtenay (Cosby’s butler, apparently) laying down the plot. The plot, such as it is, has that ageing clairvoyant woman off of The Matrix as a psychotic vegetarian Bond villain, on a mission to attack good, honest meat-eating folk with mind-controlled fauna and the aid of a team of henchmen dressed as wildlife. Or something like that. And Cosby is a former secret agent who’s retired to open a meatcentric restaurant, but is coaxed back into action by Joe Don Baker.
What you get for your money is a loose assemblage of set-pieces wherein the alert viewer can positively smell the fear on the makers’ grubby paws. Leonard Part 6 is not just a place-stinking-out flop, though, It’s one of those rare films where the entire conceit splits and falls away like a too-thinly-rolled sheet of puff pastry, and the jerking, clueless and panicky idiots piloting the thing are thrown into the foreground, Wizard of Oz-style. Even the most straight-up-and-down, cried-at-Ice-Age-2, writes-concerned-letters-to-Ken-Barlow anti-cynic can’t help but watch Leonard as an unfolding documentary about a bunch of scared, clueless Hollywood nincompoops running round a studio desperately trying to patch up a hideous monster that’s collapsing faster than they can saw. It’s Towed in a Hole on assiduously topped-up expenses.
Like the worst ‘comedy’ TV adverts, the transparency of the shameful situation is embarrassing – a bunch of moderately-to-non-creative types trying to really ‘let their hair down’ and come up with the zaniest, wackiest, most off-the-wall slapstick ideas they can manage, then making them, then realising no-one else finds them as zany or wacky as they did, and so hastily re-cutting, amping up the soundtrack and dubbing comedy sound effects throughout. A trout is ordered to attack someone, and starts looking at a copy of Playboy instead. A gang of frogs push a car off a pier and drown a CIA man. The Adam West-era Batmobile is woefully parodied. Joe Don Baker gets attacked by a rabbit. That sort of thing.
Through all this, Cosby does four things of note – puffs along to a Jane Fonda workout video, does a spot of ‘obvious body double and that’s the gag’ ballet, snogs Tom Courtenay, and rides on the back of an ostrich. When he isn’t doing this, he’s generally just standing about looking knackered. Oh, and supping heartily from a bottle of Coke, in some at least totally shameless product placement. There’s some off-colour humour concerning Cosby’s daughter copping off with a geriatric, and his estranged wife lobs food in his face a lot. The one-liners are of roughly the calibre, and exactly the same irritating inappropriateness, of Russell T Davies’s least judicious Dr Who ‘zingers’. People hit their heads on low-slung objects, with a comedy noise dubbed on. And then they do it again.
The best you can say is that, where Ishtar was merely tediously bad, this is driven by some manic energy – the energy of wanton stupidity, crassness and total humourlessness, admittedly, but energy nonetheless. Apart from the lachrymose Cosby himself, who barely burns a calorie during the entire film. He certainly put in the effort on release, though, appearing on chat shows galore to talk about Leonard and say how shite it was and no-one should go and see it. Coming from a star that’s not so unusual, but co-writer, producer and major studio shareholder? He was obviously having a rough time, so we’ll draw a veil over all that mess, as did Cosby himself by buying up all syndication rights to the thing and, presumably, frogmarching them off a pier. Paul Weiland, meanwhile, picked himself up, dusted himself off, and went on to direct Bernard and the Genie, so it wasn’t all bad.