Monthly Archives: May 2011

Warlock (1959)

Starring: Henry Fonda, Anthony Quinn, Richard Widmark

Released: 1959

Certificate: U

Directed by: Edward Dmytryk

Synopsis:

Fonda plays a heartless but honourable gunslinger hired to marshal in ‘Warlock’ – a little  town plagued by a gang of bandit cowboys – whilst Quinn provides support as his devoted and crippled gambling friend. Widmark is cast, as an ex-bandit come good, in the role of a Deputy Sheriff desperate to preserve law and order. This obviously becomes difficult when a hired gunslinger and a gang of rootin’ tootin’ cowboys  are on either side of you.

There are numerous other sub-plots in the movie which we won’t delve into here but watch out for DeForest Kelly (Bones from Star Trek) as the bandit’s court jester, Curly.

Review:

No overly violent western by any means, much of the movie concentrates on the moral challenges faced by the individual leads (Fonda, Widmark, Quinn) and displays the upmost contempt for the lynch mob mentality possessed by the somewhat colourless inhabitants of the town under siege. As the film develops we learn the surprising truth behind Fonda’s reputation as a ‘great’ gunslinger and watch Widmark wrestle with the pains of going against his own kith and kin.

What really stands out in this movie for me is the dynamic between Fonda and Quinn. Dmytryk charts the decline of their unusual but mutually beneficial relationship superbly; against a visual backdrop of hailing thunderstorms and a fog of gunsmoke, leaving the audience with an inevitable but perhaps unexpected feeling of empathy for these two abhorrent but dependent characters.
The film is not full of the set-pieces which would come to characterise the westerns of the sixties but its focus on individual characters and the motivations for their actions is a welcome break from the run of the mill western shoot ‘em ups that we are all so familiar with. This is an adult western which is, at times, quite sad to watch . The direction is not indulgent, allowing the characters to develop without being constrained by over the top spectacular visuals.
In a nutshell if it’s a typical western you want, you probably won’t enjoy this but if you want a thought-provoking character study of the disintegration of relationships, set in the West, then it’s for you.

Unfortunately there aren’t too many westerns in this ilk, but if you want a darker Western with good performances, I’d gun for Unforgiven (1992).

hotdog rating: 8/10

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A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, John Saxon, Johnny Depp as ‘Glen’.

Released: 1984

Certificate: 18

Directed by: Wes Craven

Synopsis:

The spirit of a child murderer, killed by vigilante parents, stalks the surviving teenage children in their dreams (and nightmares). All too soon, the divide between what happens in dreams and what happens in reality becomes blurred…..much to the teenagers’ disadvantage.

Review:

A dark and somewhat violent film with some very impressive set-pieces. The blood really does pour everywhere; a young Johnny Depp is sliced and diced in his bedroom, a girl is wrapped in a shower-curtain and grated like cheese while the heroine’s alcoholic mother is swallowed by a a particularly nasty bed.

It wasn't advisable to bath at Freddy's house.....

The first hour develops particularly well – and the supporting cast is pretty competent – but in the latter stages the film dispenses of earlier atmospherics and of its ‘edge’ more generally; sadly giving the first indication of the direction the series would move in (towards a vehicle for advertising a wise-cracking comedy horror villain and little else).

Very much a film of tw0-halves, nevertheless the first one is sufficient to scare even the most seasoned of  horror movie fans – and for this reason, it must receive a pretty-good rating.

hotdog rating: 7/10

the final scenes of The Fog – be afraid…

The Fog (1980)

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook and Janet Leigh

Released: 1980

Certificate: 15

Directed by: John Carpenter

This was Carpenter’s follow-up to the 1978 hit ‘Halloween’ and retains Jamie Lee Curtis in a starring role. The film is basically an old-fashioned ghost yarn of the sea, involving avenging dead sailors -wronged by the elders of a seaside town 100 years ago –  and a screaming Jamie Lee. Add to this the acting talents of Hal Holbrook as a bottle-battling priest, Tom Atkins as the all-american hero & Janet Leigh as herself and we have a real winner.

A great cameo  performance by the wonderful John Hausmann as the enchanting storyteller  gets the ball-rolling. From there it is all about blunt instruments lodging themselves in hapless victims to a truly eerie and rattling Carpenter score. That is, until we reach the final sequence, which is damn scary and pretty out-of-the blue…..‘Blake?’

they hadn't been to Church on a sunday for some time.......


It may not be better than Halloween but they aren’t too far apart. The Fog, has more in common really with Carpenter’s ’76 claustrophobic cult-hit Assault on Precinct 13 than the film that started the slasher genre.

Put simply, a somewhat unappreciated movie which is well worth renting.

hotdog rating: 8.5/10

Rope (1948)

starring: Farley Granger, John Dall and James Stewart

released: 1948

certificate: PG

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

The film tells the tale of two young men (Farley Granger and John Dall in fine form) who, in order to obtain intellectual thrills and enlightenment, murder a university ‘chum’. They then hide him in a trunk and later serve a meal on said trunk containing the body to their unfortunate-friend’s family. Also present at the dinner party is the professor (Stewart) whose intellectual theories provide the motive for the murder.

This is a wildly amusing tale from Hitchcock which centers around the heroic performances of Granger, Stewart and Dall. Granger plays the killer riddled with guilt who gradually goes insane as the night goes on, with Dall as the confident, dominant and witty instigator of the crime. Rather unusually, Hitchcock’s perverse sense of justice forces the audience to side with the killers against the authorities – not least because of Granger’s sympathetic portrayl – which is not a trademark of the director, whose preference at this stage of his career was for the good guys at the final curtain call (1948 was still some time away from the horror of ‘The Birds’ and the bleakness of ‘Vertigo’).

The film itself is laced with the typical black humour and double entendres we have come to love from Hitchcock; there’s a great discussion about throttling chickens and Aryan supermen in this vein about half-way through. The supporting cast provide impressive support and substance to a picture which only gets better with repeated viewings. There’s some cool shots too – a favourite of mine being the scene with the swinging door and the piece of ‘rope’ being dropped in the kitchen cabinet in full view.

In itself, it was also a magnificent and risky experiment in film-making by Hitchcock, as the film was shot in ten-minute long takes. You can sense this throughout the movie which furthers the claustrophobic aura of the entire film. The zenith of the movie comes at the finale where a – by now – emotionally-broken Granger confronts the old professor, uttering the lines ‘Cat and Mouse, Cat and Mouse!….only who is the Cat and who is the Mouse?

'I always smoke after a good murder too'

Overall,  a most intriguing, innovative and enormously entertaining piece of cinema.

If you like this, you may wish to try other Hitchcock thrillers such as Strangers on a Train (1951) and Dial M for Murder (1953).

hotdog rating: 9/10

Killer Klowns

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) is on in June at the prince charles cinema in leicester square.

http://www.princecharlescinema.com/indexdown.php?display=1705

i’ll be there….

a truly amazing film and this is my favourite quote from it:

Curtis Mooney: They took your wife away in a balloon? Well you don’t need the police, pal, you need a psychiatrist!

John Vernon, who plays Officer Curtis Mooney, looks like he is having the time of his life in this crazy excuse of a movie.

Friday the 13th Part 2

 
Starring:Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King, Walt Gorney and Warrington Gillette/Steve Dash as Jason
Released: 1981
Certificate: 18
Directed by: Steve Miner
Brief Synopsis: 
Set 5 years after the first bloodbath, some ‘kids’ return to camp crystal lake for a week of
camp counsellor training. A bad move, as one-by-one the ‘kids’ are hacked to death by a
masked madman.
Review: 
A formulaic, by the numbers slasher at its heart. It’s nevertheless one of best genre efforts of the early 1980s.
Miner – who would go on to direct part 3 – manages to build tension throughout and there are some
genuinely frightening moments, particularly during the climatic chase  sequences of the last half hour.
On the other hand, some of the performances here are particularly poor, although Amy Steel as Ginny,
our female protagonist, is far better than most. It’s also good to see Adrienne King reprise her role as Alice from the original movie; as well as fan favourite ‘Crazy ralph’, played by a returning Walt Gorney. Indeed, the pre-credits sequence featuring Adrienne King is one of the best parts of the movie – being both atmospheric and brutal.
It’s pretty impossible to get away from the fact that this isn’t a great film – at least in terms of movie-making. But, there are some interesting set-pieces and some inventive kills including a double-impaling (which apparently warranted an initial ‘X’ rating), but the film doesn’t rely too heavily on gore and is quite tame sat next to the likes of ‘Hostel’ and the ‘Saw’ series.
Recommended for fans of the genre as well as anyone with an interest in pop-culture –  this movie launched the career of one of cinema’s greatest boogeyman. In truth,the Jason of part 2 is rather more creepy, albeit less iconic, than his latter incarnations (there is no hockey mask to be found here….only a pillowcase) and this is why this film just ‘works’.

Jason was still saving up for his hockey mask in 1981....

hotdog rating: 7/10

Signing on…

This blog is an attempt to share reviews of the many movies I have seen over time. I have no qualifications in film or cinema, I’m just a complete movie junkie. No doubt you’ll find this blog heavily-biased towards the horror films and westerns of yesteryear, which we’ll put down to personal taste.

I’ll also try to keep people up to date on interesting screenings in and around the London area.

hope some people find it useful……..

best,

hotdog