It’s post-apocalyptic New York. Again. Two rival gangs fight for control of the streets, one led by Max von Sydow – Antonius Block in The Seventh Seal – the other by William Smith – Lord Zombie off of Zombiegeddon. Who will win? Luckily Max ropes in Yul Brynner, in the title role, to do the roughing up for him. Which he does. Natch.
U is for…
Odd, Anglo-Canadian feline horror portmanteau in which horror novelist Peter Cushing tells three terrible tales of supernatural catty menace to disbelieving publisher Ray Milland. In one: Susan Penhaligon is a maid out to get a slice of her cat-loving ma’am Joan Greenwood’s inheritance by suffocating the old cow, only for the feisty felines to scratch her to death in retaliation. In two: a quiet orphan girl has her revenge on her teasing cousin by shrinking her and getting her cat to do her in, with lashings of appallingly-matched back projection shots. And Cushy’s special prize: Donald Pleasance and Samantha Eggar are ’30s Hollywood actors having an affair and doing the former’s wife in with a non-fake ‘fake’ Pit and the Pendulum film studio prop, only for her ginger tom to have the last miaow. Milland sees Cushing out and burns the script – but did his cat tell him to do so? Or did he just think it was rubbish? And lurking in the production credits, good old Milton Subotsky.
TV CREAM SAYS: YOU CAN TAKE THE LAD OUT OF AMICUS...
Dappy vanity project from Prince, which is only of interest if you really, really, *really* like the Parade album but for some reason don’t own a copy. Ah, but what if we told you it featured an unexpectedly Cream-heavy cast list, including Steven “Powerball!!” Berkoff, Francesca ‘Krull’ Annis, Victor ‘Take My Wife’ Spinetti, Greg ‘My Two Dads’ Evigan, Jenny ‘Walkabout’ Agutter, David “come in!” Cann, Dana ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ Plato, Anthony ‘Noggit’ Booth, Toni ‘Mickey’ Basil, Christopher ‘On Safari’ Biggins, Willie ‘Pigsticking’ Rushton, Madeleine ‘Eureka!’ Smith, Jack ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ Smethurst, Keith “Amy!!” Barron, Carol ‘Chockablock’ Leader, Paul ‘Bunco Booth’ Daniels, Ken ‘Erasmus’ Campbell, Anita “the body” Harris, Richard ‘Finders Keepers’ Stilgoe, Paul ‘Hi-De-Hi’ Shane and George ‘Inigo Pipkin’ Woodbridge? You’d see through our crummy ruse and still not watch it, of course. Good on you!
TV CREAM SAYS: SOMETIMES IT PISSES IT DOWN IN JULY
Jane Russell does The Deep – i.e. swims about a lot looking for treasure. We do love exclamation marks in titles – so many uses and intonations! They can be used, as here, as simple way of calling attention (see also Oklahoma!, Sweeney!), as a signifier of comedy (What a Carry On!, Follow That Horse!) or horror (Amicus favourite And Now The Screaming Starts!), or both (Carry On Screaming!), as part of an exclamatory phrase (Avanti!), deployed with knowing irony (O Lucky Man!) or shoved in all over the place for demented drive-in chic (Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) The ever-versatile exclamation mark (or – if you’re one of the Cambridge poshoes who wrote the BBC Micro User Guide – “pling”), we salute you! Next week’s dramatic film title punctuation mark… the ellipsis!
TV CREAM SAYS: !!!
After quitting the Bond franchise with just the one international cap, George Lazenby sank most of his earnings into this turned-on riposte to the archaic secret agent. Lazenby sported a shaggy mane and Jason King moustache as a jaded agent-turned-arms dealer, who mends his violent ways after his dog gets accidentally shot during a machine gun demonstration. Welching on a $250,000 deal with a shady African potentate, he drops out, rents a dingy basement flat from pot-smoking mum Germaine Greer (plans for Jimi Hendrix to guest star were cut tragically short). Lazenby attends an agit-prop political debate, plays Frisbee in Hyde Park, cops off with Greer’s underage daughter, and spends a great deal of time hanging about the Wimpy bars of west London with a haunted expression of existential angst. The timely peacenik point is made, but it isn’t half a dull film. Lazenby fires machine guns at cardboard Vietcong, has a desultory car chase in his Reliant Scimitar, crashes a combat hovercraft into a ditch, and rounds off with a slow-motion punch-up on a motorway verge, but action-wise, that’s it. Everything’s determinedly low-key and anti-Bond, right down to the semi-improvised mumbled dialogue – a long way from Bond’s bespoke quippage. Lazenby’s gamble that Bond was old hat in the Age of Aquarius stiffed at the box office.
TV CREAM SAYS: FROM BIG FRY TO - TITTER! - SMALL FRY!
Debbie Reynolds plays a sort of backwoods Toyah who rises to become the toast of Europe, before making an elementary yet rather grievous booking error for the journey home (you’d've thought the presence of Kenneth More and Kate Winslet in the baggage queue might have set alarm bells ringing). That modern artist bloke everyone kept mistaking for Frasier’s dad in the Frasier where the four poster bed full of coats comes through the ceiling belts out a tuneless lament in the middle of a big empty field, and Ed Begley Sr lobs a custard pie. Based, you’ll be pleased to know, on a true story.
TV CREAM SAYS: NEARLY FINISHED...
Is this the best ever film version of a sitcom? The Likely Lads runs it close, but there’s just so much about this that we love; the excellent device of having Francis appear over a splendidly crap model of Vesuvius with attached Pompeii (‘Copulatum expensium, as we Pompeiians say!’), the fantastic ‘there’s no deco-rum in the fo-rum’ theme song, the sheer stupidity of the plot and silliness of the conclusion complete with all characters returned to life and the present day for a winning reprisal of their individual traits, “lamp black”, the appalling wig on the bloke that is manifestly not Francis wrestling with Bernard Bresslaw but which is manifestly his own wig, “the street of a thousand…yippeee!”, Derek Griffiths on a treadmill, “known to gardeners everywhere as the last of the red hot pokers”, Michael Hordern in a toga, “you see that ring that she’s wearing? The ring? Well it was given to her by her husband on their wedding night, but then he left her and she’s never had it off since. It is a shame.” You hardly need to watch it now. But you should anyway. It may sound tame with a Latin name, but – oooooOOOOOOOoooooh!
TV CREAM SAYS: HANG ON A TICK WHILE I TOUCH UP THE PROOOOOOO-LOGUE...
Famed high school drama with Sandy Dennis as an idealistic young English teacher flung in at the deep end to a violent, under funded and rule-heavy New York campus. Always reminds us of the Mad parody, In the Out Exit, which we found in a collection of ’60s Mads we inherited in 1980, which kept us enthralled for most of that summer with stuff like Mission: Ridiculous! (“Mr Nogoodnik, could you be a real sport and put down your attaché case?”) and a top Peanuts parody, You’re Getting Old, Charlie Brown, which struck us as the most blackly satirical thing in the world back then. No, really.
TV CREAM SAYS: MORE FOOL, AS THEY SAY, US
Odd stuff indeed with Barbra Streisand (no, come back!) as a lonely mother indulging in crypto-feminist reveries in her apartment – joining in an African fertility ceremony, bedding a transsexual Fidel Castro, blowing up the statue of Liberty, and eventually going to the hospital for an abortion when it all becomes too much.
TV CREAM SAYS: DUST MOP OF THE YEAR!
Aka “The Happy Housewives,” for some reason. Not a ‘Confessions’, or even an ‘Adventures’, this odd piece of bawdy flotsam which takes Barry ‘Reilly: Ace of Spies’ Stokes as its Askwith, and features Flumps narrator Gay ‘Wheels Turning Round’ Soper, Sue ‘Crossroads’ Lloyd, Valerie ‘String’ Leon, Bob “in every dodgy comedy film” Todd and Chic “off you go, you small boys” Murray. Consensus has it that, of the Askwith knock-offs, this is the poorest by an arse, although there’s much worse out there, we can assure you. Ahem. Anyhow, for the lowdown on this particular entry, we now defer to the internet in all its majesty – “Four spankings are administered by the bottom spanking village squire Bob Todd. All the spanking scenes are on screen and are all mild and fun”, “Female celebrity smoking review: Sue Lloyd takes a couple of long drags”, “Features shot of both BEA and British Airways liveried RMA class AEC Routemasters on Hammersmith flyover and also background shots of Alder Valley Dennis Loline IIIs and a Marshall bodied saloon in National Bus Company red.”
TV CREAM SAYS: STOKES GAMELY LENT HIS SEESAWING TONSILS TO THE TUNELESS THEME. ("UP AND DOWN ALL OVER TOWN/I CAN MAKE YOU SMILE, I CAN MAKE YOU FROWN...")
Robert Zemeckis turns out wall-to-wall emetic drear these days, but this little diamond from the days when the phrase ‘black comedy’ still had some sort of meaning is like the work of someone else entirely. Jack Warden plays two rival used car dealers, with a hapless Kurt Russell working for the one who gets knocked off in spectacular brick-on-pedal fashion. Then it’s all fast talking, exploding Mercs, TV hijacking and loud sports jackets, Al ‘Munsters’ Lewis as a demented, death-penalty-happy judge, a climactic ‘mile of cars’, President Carter and a dead dog. The best thing to come out of John Milius’ coincidentally-named A-Team Productions.
TV CREAM SAYS: TRUST US...
Kiwi director Geoff Murphy started out self-funding his own spare-time productions on 16mm. Early efforts included action comedy Tankbusters and Uenuku, the first Maori-language film, followed by Wild Man (1977) starring Bruno Lawrence as one of a pair of conmen finding rich pickings in late 19th century gold mining communities, and Dagg Day Afternoon (1977), a zany vehicle for Wellington boot-wearing kiwi comic Fred ‘That’ll be the door!’ Dagg. Then came a real popular success – Goodbye Pork Pie (1981) sees a jilted husband hook up with a local nutball to drive from top to bottom of the country in a yellow mini to try and win her back, getting into many high- speed run-ins with the law and other New Zealanders along the way. Murphy’s follow up was even more off-the-wall, a western with Maori rebels led by Te Weke (an acting debut for former trade union leader Anzac Wallace), an ex-army corporal who swaps sides to exact revenge on the colonial government who have reneged on their land agreements and attacked villages. It’s chock full of action and gun battle scenes, shot in a fast-paced, wide-angle style for which the term ‘bravura’ could have been invented. But there’s more to it than straightforward white/black hat fare, as distrust ambiguous motives are felt and held by nearly all the characters. It’s a serious tale, but black humour seeps through, as does a hefty dose of violent slapstick – one memorable running gag sees settler Bruno Lawrence, descending into paranoid obsession after Te Weke kills his wife, trying to invent a Maori-stopping supergun by strapping first two, then four, then eight rifles together, with disastrous recoil results.