Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)

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Although it never attains the sensual heights of Deep Red (1975), ‘Bird’ is an electrifying blueprint for that movie and indeed the genre that Argento would dominate in the 1970s and 1980s.

‘Bird’ kicks off with shots of a leather-gloved ‘man in black’ handling a bizarre set of knifes whilst the camera stalks a beautiful young woman about the city. A man on his way home then witnesses the same figure attack a woman in an art gallery, a scene which replays throughout the film as our witness struggles to remember key details. Whilst he helps the police with their investigations, he becomes the target of the killer himself.

It’s surprising that in his first movie, so much of what would become to define Argento is already present here. We have set-piece murders, a leather-gloved killer on the end of a phone, curious offbeat characters, jazzy camerawork, a terrible event hidden in the past and the necessary violent plot-twist. However, Argento’s omnipresent weaknesses are unable to hide behind the bravado of his debut feature; ‘Bird’ has a poor and sparse script which at times belittles the element of suspense held within the movie’s narrative. The acting on display is nothing much to shout about either.

To look at, it’s a very pretty film with a visually-punishing use of colour. On the acoustics side, Ennio Morricone’s score is far removed from the pounding prog-rock soundtracks of Goblin on Argento’s later films, but fits the mystery of the film beautifully.

All in all, this is a notable movie. Firstly, as the cinematic introduction to Argento’s technical brilliance but also because it’s actually a rather neatly packaged mystery thriller. This is probably Argento’s most hitchcockian film and the air of suspicion which gathers around our main protagonist (and intrepid investigator) has a decided ‘wrong man’ feel to it.  A minor cult classic.

Hotdog rating: 8/10

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weekend viewing – Lifeforce (1985) and more

Just thought I’d put up a quick post on the movies  I watched this past weekend……..

Lifeforce (1985)

Quite clearly, this is a nonsense movie.  The plot is lovingly confused but basically involves naked space vampires – unwittingly brought back to earth of course –  turning the London populace into marauding zombies. Despite it’s dire reputation and the fact that the whole film is sodden with over-acting, there are flashes of Tobe Hooper’s directorial flare and some enjoyable melodramatic visuals of London to get your teeth into. The plague scenes more than foreshadow 28 days later but the highlight for me is both Frank Finlay’s mad-scientist and an unintentionally comedic script. They don’t make these sort of films anymore; nothing more than campy entertainment gold.

hotdog rating: 6/10

Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

Set during the filming of  horror masterpiece Nosferatu (1922),  this movie alleges that actor Max Shreck really was a vampire, only agreeing to star in the picture if he could have ‘the girl’ on the film’s completion. John Malkovich plays the deranged director who will stop at nothing to capture a real-life vampire on screen. Willem Dafoe is electric as Shreck and the supporting cast includes a nervous Eddie Izzard and a ruthless Udo Kier as the film’s producer. The film looks great and all the performances are noteworthy. But there is something missing, maybe it’s Dafoe’s vampire, who as the film goes on seems to lose his sense of menace…and by the end of it all, the true monster is Malkovich and his insane crusade in search of the ultimate cinematic experience. It’s still very good but it could have been fantastic.

hotdog rating: 7.5/10

Flesh and Bone (1993)

Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan play a dysfunctional couple slowly falling for each other before Quaid finds out that Ryan is the sole survivor of a burglary-turned-killing spree that he and his sadistic father (James Caan in terrifying form) carried out 30 years ago. A dark, heartfelt and majestic drama. The first set-piece is one of the most touching murder scenes I have seen on screen whilst the philosophical ending brings justice and raw sadness.

hotdog rating: 8/10