Roger Moore had dragged the Bond franchise well into `pleasingly silly’ by this time which is good in a sense but on a rather more sour note was also probably to blame for the lunge into `darker’ territory and the shift in quality took place under Sylvester McCoy, sorry, Timothy Dalton later on. Daft as a brush this may all be but there’s no denying that it’s well made nonsense at least and features a plethora of good stuff, from Louis Jourdan as one of the baddies (oh yes, there’s more than one here!) and Bonkers Steven Berkoff as the other. In the background there’s even General Gogol – always a favourite of ours – and Bruce Boa as the suitably sappy American General at the end. Faberge eggs, auction rooms, casinos, athletic popsies in red skin-tight outfits, menacing clowns, comedy Soviets that all look like Spitting Image puppet Russians, it’s all here. Not the best but it’s a long, long way off being the worst.
O is for…
Jack Lemmon’s toilet roll will maker shacks uneasily up with Walter Matthau’s brown and green sandwich maker in this Neil Simon mannerfest with both leads on sparkling form in a perfect comedy duo before they did Grumpy Old Men and spoilt it all. Personally we’d have thrown Lemmon out if we had been Matthau, but that’s just us. Now, there’s a shop in Glasgow called Felix and Oscar which nestles comfortably in the uber-trendy/pain-in the –arse belt of the West End and we often wonder how many people actually realise where the name came from. It’s nowt to do with anything, but we thought we’d mention. Now, if they’d called it Lewis and Clarke, then we might have gone in.
TV CREAM SAYS: THEY'RE LIKE YOUR ORIGINAL ODD COUPLE!
Wounded IRA gang leader James Mason ducks in and out of the streets of Belfast one night, meeting drunken painter Robert Newton, barman William Hartnell and assorted others as a touch of the magic realism sets in. Also with Wilfrid Brambell and Dora ‘Taste of Honey’ Bryan.
TV CREAM SAYS: AND INDEED THE SAINTED DAN O'HERLIHY
Yes, this really is “based on the Bobbie Gentry song of the same name”. Robby ‘Rent-a-Cop’ Benson jumps off said Tallahatchie bridge. James ‘Roscoe P Coltrane’ Best is also involved. Follow-up film told the moving story of a girl who caught a cold off her boyfriend, who from that day forward refused to contact her on the telephone. More named-after-songs films – Catch Us If You Can, Help!, Cliff Richard’s mighty ’70s Birmingham fast food adventure Take Me High, and maybe even Seasons in the Sun (starring Terry Jacks and the daughter of Ross ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ Bagdasarian, of course) for curiosity’s sake.
TV CREAM SAYS: ALSO, SEE CONVOY, THE GAMBLER AND FLORAL DANCE TWO: EUPHONIC BOOGALOO
Jon Voight gets involved with this week’s contingent of naughty Nazis as he tracks the secret ex-SS organisation headed by Maximillian ‘Black Hole’ Schell and dealing with Derek ‘Mr Pye’ Jacobi and Peter ‘Cut Off In My Prime’ Jeffrey along the way. Handy information on the relative values of various Iron Crosses contained herein, and just in time for your Christmas shopping, too.
TV CREAM SAYS: "A GRIPPING PUZZLE OF PURSUIT AND ESCAPE!" NO, THAT'S MOUSETRAP
One of Gainsborough’s best – and that is saying something indeed – this is really a reworking of Arnold ‘Godfrey’ Ridley’s The Ghost Train, but importantly with Will Hay and not Arthur Askey, a substitution we’re well in favour of. Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt are in tow of course lending their own particular light to shine off of the great comedian-astronomer who remains the star of the piece in any case. Not particularly long it manages however to pack every minute with laughs and surprises that bear up to constant repeat viewing. When you hear about the latest comedy sensation concocted by the newest groundbreaking team of wunderkind and what amazing work they are doing, look back on the likes of this and realise that it was all done nearly seventy years before and with greater panache and style than anyone in recent times has ever mustered.
TV CREAM SAYS: YOU'RE WASTING YOUR TIME!
For sheer cheek, this takes the biscuit. Cheapo Italian filmmakers cast Sean Connery’s younger, non-thespian brother Neil as Dr Neil Connery: bearded, badly dubbed, karate-chopping, lip-reading plastic surgeon brother of Bond proper, hired by Bernard ‘M’ Lee and Lois ‘Moneypenny’ Maxwell in lieu of The Other Feller to fight criminal mastermind Adolfo ‘Thunderball’ Celi. Ennio Morricone provides a parping pastiche of a Bassey-esque theme song. Skating as close as possible to the Bond franchise at all points while skillfully avoiding actual trademarked names and designs, this is the cinematic equivalent of nabbing a big pie left cooling on next-door’s window sill and running away chortling loudly. For that, if nothing else, respect is due.
TV CREAM SAYS: ALSO KNOWN AS OPERATION KID BROTHER ("TOO MUCH FOR ONE MOTHER!")
Gregory Peck *is* Ambrose Bierce! Yep, this massively expensive western has the author of the much-quoted Devil’s Dictionary and the much-ripped-off Incident at Owl Creek Bridge coming to the sardonic aid of schoolmarm Jane Fonda, as kidnapped by ‘I’ll be played by’ Jimmy Smits. Interminable epic scenes of the Mexican revolution in full swing make this every bit as much a spiralling budgetary liability as Munchausen, but do you see Hollywood journos quoting this as a textbook profligate disaster? Nope, they go for the ‘European’ cock-up every time. Veh!
TV CREAM SAYS: BURT LANCASTER WOULD HAVE PLAYED THE ROLE, BUT HAD AN ULCER. ANYONE?
Clearly having learnt nothing from his recent sojourn to that terrible Planet of the Apes, Charlton Heston once more fins himself representing The Last of America, as the lone compos mentis survivor of a Sino-Soviet biological war, on the run from a gang of drooling zombies known as The Family out to get him for his evil wheel-using ways. The Heston solution? Hole up in a penthouse flat, drinking scotch and making wisecracks at a bust of Julius Caesar. Well, it’s a living. Textbook post-hecatomb thriftiness is evinced in the abandoned cityscapes – instead of building a massive and costly set, they merely filmed Charlton moping around a shopping centre in the early hours of a Sunday for that all-important desolate feel.
TV CREAM SAYS: LET'S NOT EVEN MENTION RECENT RE-HASH I AM BELL- SORRY, LEGEND
It always amazes us that this programme could still be responsible for so many cultural reference points, since the show itself was always diabolical. Yet strangulated cries of “I ‘ate you Butler!” can still be heard regularly (if you listen in the right places) in public and looking like ‘Olive from On The Buses’ is still a rather cutting insult in many parts – most particularly a pub where some of us used to work. And in fact, aside from some generic randiness from the one with the Stonehenge gob and the supposedly hilarious sight of a man far too old to be riding a motorbike riding a motorbike, that’s pretty much all the show consisted of. Oh, but the film’s actually better than the series. We suggest you watch it whilst clutching a goblet of brown ale just to heighten your level of participation. One of the discontinued Truman’s varieties should suffice.
TV CREAM SAYS: 'ERE, THE CORPORATION DON'T PAY YOU LOT TO SIT ABOUT THINKING OF PROPER FUNNY LINES! YOU GET THEM CATCHPRASES OUT!
This Really Great Big Film comes from Sergio Leone and stars James ‘you would be in hysterics’ Woods and Robert De Niro – proving once again in the opium den scenes that he always looks dead insincere when trying to act happy – in this tale of friends and the nasty things they got up to across a lifetime of being, well, not very nice gangsters basically. It’s just about the full length version which requires a lot of viewing but it’s grand stuff and also features Danny Aiello, which we believe is compulsory for this type of thing.
TV CREAM SAYS: ANSWER THAT SODDING PHONE, YA HIPPIE!
Despite the presence of Peter Ustinov, this isn’t the madcap story of the theft of a spitfire skeleton containing a secret microfilm, but a sober enough piece of WWII propaganda from the Archers. Googie ‘Within These’ Withers, Robert “Lol-i-pops!” Helpmann and Glenda “don’t worry London Underground, we won’t let this happen to you!” Jackson support.
TV CREAM SAYS: ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR WAS JOHN SEABOURNE... WHO WAS PRONE TO SEASICKNESS! WHAT ARE THE CHANCES?
Dick Emery does all his dodgy characters in this plotless (he has to look at some women’s arses, is the extent of the concept) Britromp with . The fact that the funniest bit is the caption over a picture of Rome that reads ‘Roma (Rome)’ should tell you something. Notable in a macabre way for being the film the BBC decided was suitable to be shown on the night of the Hungerford Massacre when it had felt compelled to pull Nevada Smith.
TV CREAM SAYS: MADE BY THE MYSTERIOUS 'QUINTAIN PRODUCTIONS'. SOMETHING FISHY THERE, WE THINK
Salty old fisherman Richard ‘lower teeth’ Harris accidentally kills the titular zebra-skinned cetacean’s mate and unborn child, causing it to go on an implausible rampage, sabotaging gas pipes to burn down the harbour and biting off Bo Derek’s leg, until Harris and marine biologist Richard Drey- sorry, Charlotte Rampling go after it, sub-Moby style. It’s gloriously silly, of course, with swathes of lovely wildlife photography on good old ’70s stock, and there’s a slightly naff, slightly nice earnest theme song by Ennio Morricone and Carol Connors, who penned the themes for Rocky, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and ‘Forgotten Eyes’, the theme for the Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation. We’re warming to a, er, theme here, can you tell?
TV CREAM SAYS: DINO DE LAURENTIIS'S PROPOSED KING KONG VS ORCA GRUDGE MATCH NEVER GOT OFF THE DRAWING BOARD, ALAS
With astonishing rapidity, not to mention alarming ferocity, Hollywood took the release of Dr No as the starting pistol to a silly spy spoof celluloid race to out-Bond Bond himself. Top of the uber-007 pile has to be James Coburn’s brilliant, aloof, ultra-suave freelance spy Derek Flint. When staff agent 0008 isn’t available, the US government goes cap in hand to Flint’s luxury Manhattan apartment, full of art treasures and high-haired ‘playmates’, to beg for his help in dealing with a trio of white-coated scientists manufacturing global warming from their remote island base in an attempt to force unilateral nuclear disarmament, with the help of Edward Mulhare as a bludgeon-handed henchman with the brilliantly ‘Briddish’ name of Malcolm Rodney.
The highly cultures, chess-playing Flint is a damn sight more cosmopolitan than your vodka-swilling, baccarat-playing, yet still undoubtedly Tory-voting, Bond. From karate to chess, he’s the master, managing to annoy the audience, his enemies and even his employers with his ludicrous precocity. He blithely rejects the standard issue Walther PPK for his own, superior arsenal of lethally absurd gadgetry, which includes an 82-function lighter (83 if you use it to light cigarettes), a wristwatch microscope and a safecracking stethoscope implanted in a shirt collar, among other miniaturised marvels from the Espionage Innovations catalogue.
When transistorised help fails, he can get out of a sticky situation by stopping his heart at will. He gets some condensed pre-mission kip by sleeping thus, supported only at head and feet by two antique dining chairs. (He’s wakened from this Spartan slumber by a bevy of flatsharing beauties, of course – self-denial isn’t that big a deal.) Best of all, after an attempted assassination with a poison dart (fired from a concert harp, of course) he analyses the characteristic traces of garlic and herbs on the tip and tracks his assassin down to a specific Marseilles club via a whirlwind gastronomic tour of southern France, just in time for a fist fight with old pal 0008. Flint appeals to anyone who finds Bond’s unlikely mixture of gritty espionage and pompous high living ridiculous, a secret agent who’d rather relax in erudite splendour than drop kick a jump-suited henchman off a gantry.
The problem with even the best Bond spoof is of course the eternal question: surely Bond himself was a spoof? Well, yes, but those films – until they went for all-out Goodies-esque daftness in the seventies – did at least keep up some pretence of playing with a straight bat. No such seriousness for Flint: he’s suave, disinterested and smugly capable to a cartoonish extent, and no-one could convey the mix of Rat Pack cool and Bugs Bunny superciliousness better than the heavy-lidded, eternally-underrated Coburn. And he may be working for the Establishment, but he’s hip! Whereas Bond was always more a creation of the pipe-and-sweatered ’50s, Flint’s world is as groovy as they come. Go-go girls litter the screen, Flint’s playmates fall victim to a switched-on sex cult and become ‘pleasure units’, split-level bachelor pads pling with perspex plushness, and even the spy organisation – Zonal Organization for World Intelligence and Espionage – has a pleasingly diggable acronym. And, need it be said, the thing looks ludicrously lavish, seeing Dr No‘s million dollars and raising it another half dozen, at least. Sod the International Laws of Parody, why can’t decorative daftness beget ever more decorative, ever dafter daftness? And Mike Myers fans note – you heard that “diddle-ah, diddle-ooh, diddle-ee, diddle-um-dum-dah” emergency telephone ring here first.
TV CREAM SAYS: SECOND OUTING IN LIKE FLINT (1967) SAW A CABAL OF HAUGHTY LADIES TRY TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD WITH BRAINWASHING HAIRDRYERS
Did Ian McEwan rip this old horror off for The Cement Garden? Libel laws prevent us from saying ‘Well yes of course he did, it’s bloody obvious isn’t it?’ So, er, we won’t. Yes, that’ll do. Anyway, Catholic harridan mother of seven Annette ‘B off of The Prisoner episode where he has drugged tea and dreams about his supposed secret contacts’ Carell dies, so her resourceful brood, with no dad and a fear of the orphanage, bury her in the garden of their shambling Croydon house and carry on as per. Then wayward gambling drunken dad Dirk Bogarde turns up, as does mum in the minds of the more impressionable kids, and it gets, well, tricky. Top performances by the kids, especially Mark ‘Oliver!’ Lester and Pamela ‘Screamer’ Franklin, and Yootha Joyce is in there too.
TV CREAM SAYS: CLAUSTROPHOBIC, INTENSE AND NOT AT ALL OVERBAKED
One of the late-period Ealing drama series to cover a particular location or institution ( e.g. The Square Ring – boxing, Pool of London – the docks, The Rainbow Jacket – racing) via an ensemble cast and criss-crossing narratives. Here it’s Heathrow – sorry – London Airport, and as well as drinking in the evocative recreation of BOACland, you can augment the rather dull action with a round of spot-the-typecasting – James Robertson ‘bleeding time’ Justice (stalwart captain, of course), Sid James (oh look, he’s gambling!), Bernard ‘M’ Lee (“did you pack this bag yourself, 007?”) and Esma ‘Flo’ Cannon (no-one’s telling *her* how to behave!). William ‘Schhh!’ Franklyn and Terence ‘Bergerac’ Alexander are there too.
TV CREAM SAYS: LITTLE BRITISH PEOPLE, GORBLESSEM
By the ’70s, of course, Australia was the number one destination for British ex-pats. saw Brit teacher Donald Pleasence stranded in The Yabba, a remote scrub wilderness where sun, chronic boredom and dumb drunken insolence are the inescapable order of the day, the week, and the year. The Australian tourist board didn’t take kindly to this warts-and-more-warts portrayal (which incidentally was Chips’ last film), and several counter-message films were pushed through, mainly in a lighter, more continent-promoting mood, such as Sunstruck (1972), a whimsically romantic tale of rather more ebullient and eager teacher Harry Secombe upping sticks to Oz for sun, surf and Sheilas, but finding himself in an outback girls’ school instead. Still, it all turned out all right in the end .
TV CREAM SAYS: WHAT WOULD YOU EXPECT FROM A FILM MADE BY IMMIGRANT PRODUCTIONS?
High Noon in space…apparently. Actually this is really rather good and features Sean ‘Canary’ Connery in all his balding, paunchy glory. With Peter ‘Puttin’ On The Ritz’ Boyle, John ‘Cliffy’ Ratzenberger and Steve Berkoff playing a goodie. Only joking!