Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Men of Sherwood Forest (1954)

Director: Val Guest

Writer: Allan MacKinnon

Composer: Doreen Carwithen

Starring: Don Taylor, Reginald Beckwith, Eileen Moore, David King-Wood, Douglas Wilmer, Harold Lang, Ballard Berkeley, Patrick Holt, Wnsley Pithey, Leslie Linder, John Van Eyssen

More info: IMDb

Tagline: All the glory and splendour of stirring adventure!

Plot: In 1194, on his return from the Third Crusade, Richard the Lionheart is taken prisoner in Germany. Disguised as a troubadour, Robin Hood formulates a plan to rescue Richard but he is captured himself.

My rating:  6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Nah.

I recognized a few names in the opening credits that would later be associated with Hammer's horror pictures and then at the end I see that it was a Hammer production, their first in color it turns out.  That would explain the overall quality of the picture.  Since THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) there have been several Robin Hood pictures in color.  No one can top Errol Flynn's turn on Robin but Don Taylor does an excellent job and takes second.  The music here is rousing and robust, there's plenty of action sprinkled throughout this 74 minute adventure flick and there's a general sense of fun.  Thankfully this isn't a retelling of the 1938 movie but there are some elements of it to be found.  A lot of time is spent inside the castle and the 8 year old adventurous boy in me would've preferred more outdoor scenes.  Hell, it's an English production filmed in Robin Hood's backyard so why not take advantage of the beautiful English forests and countryside?  I'm almost inclined to give this a solid 7 but it's missing a little something that pushes it over the edge.  It's a fine film but it's also not as fun as it should be.  That might sound silly but when you see I hope you see what I'm trying to get at. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

All in a Night's Work (1961)

Director: Joseph Anthony

Writers: Edmund Beloin, Maurice Richlin, Sidney Sheldon, Margit Veszi, Owen Elford

Composer: Andre Previn

Starring: Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Cliff Robertson, Charles Ruggles, Norma Crane, Jack Weston, John Hudson, Jerome Cowan, Gale Gordon

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It's nice work - and you can get it!

Plot: Colonel Ryder, the publisher of a magazine, dies while on vacation. Tony, his swinging nephew, inherits the magazine and takes over. Presently, the magazine is planning to expand and to do so they need some capital. Tony's trying to arrange a loan through his friend. He is then informed by the hotel detective of the hotel that his uncle died in, that on the night of his death, a woman, wearing only a towel, came out of his room, and ran away before the detective could catch up with her. They suspect that the Colonel was "with" her on the night he died, cause he was smiling when he died. Tony and two of his uncle's confidants are worried that not only if the bank hears of this they will not get the loan but the magazine wholesome image could be tarnished. So they ask the detective to stay around so he could identify her. What they don't know is that the woman is Katie Robbins, one of the magazine's researchers and that she entered the room by "accident". When the detective identifies her and after having a few misconceived conversations with her, they suspect that she is trying to extort them, and she thinks that Tony's a nut.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  Nope.

This is what happens when talented people in the movie business get together to make a mediocre movie.  It's all in the story, too, I think.  The actors do well enough, Andre Previn's John Williams-esque score is delightfully fun but Shirley MacLaine goes overboard with the hyperactivity and Dean Martin isn't the relaxed, smooth mofo we're used to (I guess that's where acting comes into play).  It is wild seeing Cliff Robertson so young.  What you end up with is a typical, run of the mill Hollywood romantic comedy that isn't adding anything new or interesting to the genre.  It shouldn't have to but then if you're not doing anything special then you should at least make it entertaining and this didn't do anything for me in that way, either.  There are lots of familiar faces on display and there Martin is still fun to watch but this is by no means a forgotten classic.  It's close to being 'cute' and that's it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Robbery (1967)

Director: Peter Yates

Writers: Edward Boyd, George Markstein, Gerald Wilson, Peter Yates

Composer: Johnny Keating

Starring: Stanley Baker, Joanna Pettet, James Booth, Frank Finlay, Barry Foster, William Marlowe, Clinton Greyn, George Sewell, Glynn Edwards, Michael McStay, Martin Wyldeck

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Who says crime doesn't pay? 3 Million pounds says it does!

Plot: A group of British criminals plans the robbery of the Royal Mail train on the Glasgow-London route.

My rating:  6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Crime capers are tricky.  This picture's got a good cast doing a fine job, an interesting heist that's also a real one at that, a great opening car chase and lots of cops and robbers doing their thing and doing it well.  What's missing is tension or even strong drama.  It's well put together except for the lack of suspense.  I'd only heard about the heist years ago but I knew nothing about it except that some blokes robbed a train in 60s England.  I didn't even know how it turned out.  Without tension, what's left is an overlong film that spends enough time setting the heist up, too much time in executing the heist and too much time after the gig without any suspense.  The film told me the coppers were on the way but it didn't matter.  The last hour and something was pretty ho hum.  I enjoyed it to a point but the lack of suspense hurt it overall.  I'm not suggesting it needed to grab me by the short and curlies and not let go but gee whiz, the movie starts with a bang and never achieves that level of excitement for the rest of the picture. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

It Happened Here (1965)

Directors: Kevin Brownlow, Andrew Mollo

Writers: Kevin Brownlow, Andrew Mollo

Starring: Pauline Murray, Sebastian Shaw, Bart Allison, Reginald Marsh, Frank Bennett, Derek Milburn, Nicolette Bernard, Nicholas Moore

More info: IMDb

Tagline: What would have happened if the German army had crossed the English channel

Plot: In 1940, the Nazis invade Britain and transform it into a fascist state where some Britons collaborate and others resist.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

I've seen this twice now and the second time is just as good.  The black and white photography really brings out the harshness of the story.  It doesn't feel like there are many trained actors involved but the all do a very fine job.  The two writer/directors began making this film when they were teenagers and it took them eight years to complete.  It's got that documentary/newsreel vibe which helps sell the realism.  With this and their other storytelling techniques, I was struck by how easily someone could get wrapped up in all of this.  These events forced people to accept their new way of life or live hard fighting for their old way.  Everything builds to the bleak final half hour.  It's a good picture and one most people will live their entire lives having never heard of it.  Don't make that mistake.  Of special note to STAR WARS fans, actor Sebastian Shaw played Anakin Skywalker in RETURN OF THE JEDI and cinmeatographer Peter Suschitzky was the DP on THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Twisted Nerve (1968)

Director: Roy Boulting

Writers: Leo Marks, Roy Boulting, Roger Marshall, Jeremy Scott

Composer: Bernard Herrmann

Starring: Hayley Mills, Hywel Bennett, Billie Whitelaw, Phyllis Calvert, Barry Foster, Frank Finlay, Salmaan Peerzada, Christian Robers

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Cleaver. Cleaver. Chop. Chop. First the mom and then the pop. Then we'll get the pretty girl. We'll get her right between the curl.

Plot: Martin is a troubled young man. With a mother who insists on treating him like a child, a stepfather who can't wait to see the back of him, and a brother with Down's Syndrome shut away in an institution, is it any wonder he retreats into an alternate personality - that of six-year-old Georgie? It is Georgie who befriends Susan Harper, but friendship soon turns into obsession. When Susan begins to distance herself, something inside Georgie snaps and he embarks on a killing spree, with Susan as the next target.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

This is one of those pictures I watched strictly because of the composer.  This time it's Bernard Herrmann, one of my favorites.  His music was a contrast to others.  His music was not only unique but it had a mysterious quality that often perfectly matched the visuals.  As soon as you hear the whistling theme you'll mostly likely recognized Tarantino's use of it in KILL BILL (2003).  I've been a fan of Herrmann's for more than thirty years and this theme has been bouncing in my head ever since.  I FINALLY got around to watching the movie.  It's a British thriller so it's practically already got good written all over it.  It looks good, the acting is very good and it plays well.  It takes a while before the body count rises but it's not dull for a moment as long as you give yourself into it.  Martin/Georgie (Bennett) has issues and someone's got to pay.  The leisurely pace will likely turn some folks off but it is a pretty good psychological thriller if you stick with it until the end.  Herrmann's music brings that TWILIGHT ZONE quality to it which isn't surprising since he wrote a good deal of music for that classic Rod Serling series. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Terminal Man (1974)

Director: Mike Hodges

Writers: Michael Crichton, Mike Hodges

Starring: George Segal, Joan Hackett, Richard Dysart, Donald Moffat, Michael C. Gwynne, William Hansen, Jill Clayburgh, Norman Burton, James Sikking

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Harry Benson is a brilliant computer scientist. For three minutes a day, he is violently homicidal.

Plot: Hoping to cure his violent seizures, a man agrees to a series of experimental microcomputers inserted into his brain but inadvertently discovers that violence now triggers a pleasurable response his brain.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

This one was a real letdown considering the director, writer, cast, premise and being 70s sci-fi.  The film's biggest crime is that it's very slow and unnecessarily so.  Like how long it took to get through the surgery Harry (Segal) undergoes.  It felt like it lasted forever.  The build up was very well handled and it was done in such a way that really had my curiosity piqued.  After Harry escapes (which was neat) the pacing picks up a little and the thrill ride begins when he start killing folks.  The movie has a nice, subtle not-so-futuristic look that works very nicely.  The ending was neat and felt like a natural progression and conclusion.  What left me wanting was needing more.  It seemed like the story was much too simple in parts.  It's an interesting premise but it's one that felt like it gave up in favor of becoming a more traditional thriller/sci-fi/horror movie.  It's ambitious but only to a point.  The acting is just fine.  It was neat seeing Segal play a villain.  He played it calm and collected.  It's a disappointing picture but it does have enough going for it to warrant a look.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Killer Force (1976)

AKA:  The Diamond Mercenaries

Director: Val Guest

Writers: Michael Winder, Val Guest, Gerald Sanford

Composer: Georges Garvarentz

Starring: Telly Savalas, Peter Fonda, Hugh O'Brian, Christopher Lee, O.J. Simpson, Maud Adams, Ian Yule, Michael Mayer, Victor Melleney, Richard Loring

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They were professionals who killed for hire. But the man who hunted them killed for pleasure!

Plot: A five-man team of professionals undertake a daring robbery at a diamond mine.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

Director Val Guest directed some good non-horror movies for Hammer.  He's good with action and that's on display in this picture.  The last half is all heist, stealing diamonds in the African desert.  It looks great, the actions is great, people die in a way that feels natural.  Hell, I even like Peter Fonda.  He must've been clean when making it.  I didn't recognize him at first with that beard.  The dialogue is good as is the story.  There are a few twists and turns that turn up the interest and intrigue.  The music feels out of touch and twenty years too late.  What's left is a surprisingly good and tight action thriller that was fun from start to finish.  It's much better than I expected.  Nice job.