Thursday, 30 September 2010

Empire's 500 - The View from the Mainstream

Published in this month's Empire is their list of 500 Great Movies Of All Time, which makes for interesting reading. The list was compiled from votes from film makers - writers, directors, cinematographers, critics and fans. Of course lists of this kind are highly contentious but I just wanted to add a few random comments about the list. Before that, worth mentioning this issue's cover - Empire put out 100 different covers featuring films from the list. I went with the Eraserhead cover for this post, but my own copy is the Citizen Kane cover - the best choice that day at the newsagents with a rack filled with Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Big Lebowski.

Favourite film lists are argued about as much for what's missing as opposed to what's included, but I expected to see Nashville, Easy Rider, The Devils, Deliverance and The Blair Witch Project, all of which were absent from a list that included the junk like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Transformers

I always assumed Suspiria was Argento's most well known, popular film but The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (#272) sits some 40 places above Suspiria (#312). Cronenberg has just one entry - the overrated A History of Violence (#448), no sign of Videodrome or The Fly. Alejandro Jodorowsky's only film on the list is Santa Sangre (#476) - good to see it included but I would have assumed it would have been El Topo. Possibly the most disappointing ranking on the list is The Wicker Man which just crawls into the list at #485.

Only 3 Italian westerns figure on the list - Once Upon A Time In the West (#14), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (#25), and The Great Silence (#386).

It was perhaps inevitable that The Terminator (#308) and Alien (#33) would be outranked by their more inferior sequels, but the original Evil Dead figures nowhere on the list despite the presence of Evil Dead II (#49) and Army of Darkness (#372)

Empire magazine's The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time

1. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)
3. Star Wars Episode V: Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980)
4. Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994)
5. Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
6. GoodFellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
7. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
8. Singin' in the Rain (Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly, 1952)
9. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
10. Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)
11. Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)
12. The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
13. Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)
14. Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968)
15. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)
16. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
17. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
18. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
19. The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
20. Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)
21. The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)
22. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (George Lucas, 1977)
23. Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985)
24. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson, 2001)
25. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1967)
26. Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
27. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
28. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
29. Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988)
30. Aliens (James Cameron, 1986)
31. Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Sam Wood)
32. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 1969)
33. Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)
34. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Peter Jackson, 2003)
35. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (James Cameron, 1991)
36. Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1969)
37. A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)
38. Heat (Michael Mann, 1995)
39. The Matrix (Andy & Larry Wachowski, 1999)
40. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
41. The 400 Blows (François Truffaut, 1959)
42. Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949)
43. The Big Lebowski (Joel & Ethan Coen, 1998)
44. Schindler's List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
45. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
46. On the Waterfront (Elia Kazan, 1954)
47. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982)
48. This Is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984)
49. Evil Dead II (Sam Raimi, 1987)
50. Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
51. 8 ½ (Federico Fellini, 1963)
52. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
53. Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001)
54. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Peter Jackson, 2002)
55. La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)
56. Casino Royale (Martin Cbell, 2006)
57. Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)
58. His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
59. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977)
60. Come and See (Elem Klimov, 1985)
61. The Usual Suspects (Bryan Singer, 1995)
62. The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967)
63. Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)
64. Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003)
65. Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby, 1971)
66. Edward Scissorhands (Tim Burton, 1990)
67. Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 1953)
68. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
69. Three Colours Red (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1994)
70. Stand by Me (Rob Reiner, 1986)
71. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
72. 12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 1957)
73. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
74. The Treasure of Sierra Madre (John Huston, 1948)
75. A Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1946)
76. Manhattan (Woody Allen, 1979)
77. Spartacus (Stanley Kubrick, 1960)
78. Rosemary's Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968)
79. The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick, 1998)
80. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1943)
81. Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan, 2005)
82. The Great Escape (John Sturges, 1963)
83. Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985)
84. L.A. Confidential (Curtis Hanson, 1997)
85. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
86. Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1976)
87. The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 1983)
88. Ferris Bueller's Day off (John Hughes, 1986)
89. Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999)
90. When Harry Met Sally (Rob Reiner, 1989)
91. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (Richard Marquand, 1983)
92. Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984)
93. Spirit of the Beehive (Victor Erice, 1973)
94. The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)
95. Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa, 1961)
96. American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999)
97. Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992)
98. North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
99. Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995)
100. Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976)
101. Raising Arizona (Joel & Ethan Coen, 1987)
102. The Hustler (Robert Rossen, 1961)
103. Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
104. The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939)
105. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Milos Forman, 1975)
106. A Man for All Seasons (Fred Zinnemann, 1966)
107. An American Werewolf in London (John Landis, 1981)
108. The Tree of Wooden Clogs (Ermanno Olmi, 1978)
109. Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)
110. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)
111. Fitzcarraldo (Werner Herzog, 1982)
112. I Am Cuba (Alexander Payne, 1964)
113. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Adam McKay, 2004)
114. The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
115. Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks, 1974)
116. Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)
117. Miller's Crossing (Joel & Ethan Coen, 1990)
118. Withnail and I (Bruce Robinson, 1987)
119. The Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953)
120. The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)
121. Los Olvidados (Luis Buñuel, 1950)
122. The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987)
123. A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavetes, 1974)
124. The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)
125. A Bout de souffle (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)
126. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (Sam Peckinpah, 1973)
127. The Sting (George Roy Hill, 1973)
128. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)
129. Harvey (Henry Koster, 1950)
130. The Man Who Would Be King (John Huston, 1975)
131. The Last of the Mohicans (Michael Mann, 1992)
132. Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
133. Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)
134. Seven (David Fincher, 1995)
135. Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933)
136. Amadeus (Milos Forman, 1984)
137. Dances with Wolves (Kevin Costner, 1990)
138. Cool Hand Luke (Stuart Rosenberg, 1967)
139. Blow Out (Brian De Palma, 1981)
140. As Good as It Gets (James L. Brooks, 1997)
141. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (David Hand, 1937)
142. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, 2000)
143. Cyrano De Bergerac (Jean-Paul Rappeneau, 1991)
144. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
145. Sophie's Choice (Alan J. Pakula, 1982)
146. Shoo (Hal Ashby, 1975)
147. Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946)
148. Z (Costa-Gavras, 1969)
149. The Red Shoes (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1948)
150. The French Connection (William Friedkin, 1971)
151. Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2000)
152. Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997)
153. The Innocents (Jack Clayton, 1961)
154. Betty Blue (Jean-Jacques Beineix, 1986)
155. Badlands (Terrence Malick, 1973)
156. Saving Private Ryan (Steven Spielberg, 1998)
157. True Romance (Tony Scott, 1993)
158. Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood, 1992)
159. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
160. Being There (Hal Ashby, 1979)
161. The Year of Living Dangerously (Peter Weir, 1982)
162. A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984)
163. The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957)
164. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
165. Partie de cagne (Jean Renoir, 1936)
166. Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton, 1964)
167. Don't Look Now (Nic Roeg, 1973)
168. Tootsie (Sydney Pollack, 1982)
169. Viridiana (Luis Buñuel, 1961)
170. La Haine (Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995)
171. Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945)
172. The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939)
173. Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)
174. Superman the Movie (Richard Donner, 1978)
175. Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998)
176. A Canterbury Tale (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1944)
177. City of God (Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund, 2002)
178. Hellzapoppin' (H.C. Potter, 1941)
179. Toy Story 2 (John Lasseter, 1999)
180. To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 1962)
181. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Russ Meyer, 1970)
182. Performance (Donald Cammell, Nic Roeg, 1970)
183. Le Samourai (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967)
184. Dirty Harry (Don Siegel, 1971)
185. Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957)
186. United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006)
187. The Big Country (William Wyler, 1958)
188. School of Rock (Richard Linklater, 2003)
189. Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984)
190. Big (Penny Marshall, 1988)
191. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)
192. Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1977)
193. Ed Wood (Tim Burton, 1994)
194. Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)
195. It's a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)
196. Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1999)
197. Point Break (Kathryn Bigelow, 1991)
198. Fargo (Joel & Ethan Coen, 1996)
199. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974)
200. Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater, 1995)
201. JFK (Oliver Stone, 1991)
202. The Killer (John Woo, 1989)
203. Life of Brian (Terry Jones, 1979)
204. The Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935)
205. The Addiction (Abel Ferrara, 1995)
206. The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973)
207. The Misfits (John Huston, 1961)
208. The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
209. Local Hero (Billy Forsyth, 1983)
210. Platoon (Oliver Stone, 1986)
211. Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001)
212. M (Fritz Lang, 1931)
213. Songs from the Second Floor (Roy Andersson, 2000)
214. Army of Shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1969)
215. Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino, 1997)
216. Sunday Bloody Sunday (John Schlesinger, 1971)
217. The Magnificent Seven (John Sturges, 1960)
218. Mr. Hulot's Holiday (Jacques Tati, 1953)
219. The Outlaw Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood, 1976)
220. Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002)
221. McCabe & Mrs Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)
222. Mother and Son (Aleksandr Sokurov, 1997)
223. Safe (Todd Haynes, 1995)
224. Distant Voices, Still Lives (Terence Davies, 1988)
225. Get Carter (Mike Hodges, 1971)
226. Romeo + Juliet (Baz Luhrmann, 1996)
227. Léon (Luc Besson, 1994)
228. No Country for Old Men (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2007)
229. Festen (Thomas Vinterberg, 1998)
230. Howl's Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, 2004)
231. Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004)
232. Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
233. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Steven Spielberg, 1984)
234. The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass, 2007)
235. Battle Royale (Kinji Fukasaku, 2000)
236. Black Narcissus (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1947)
237. Delicatessen (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro, 1991)
238. Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000)
239. Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988)
240. Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994)
241. Brighton Rock (John Boulting, 1947)
242. King Kong (Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933)
243. Heimat (Edgar Reitz, 1984)
244. Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993)
245. Downfall (Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2004)
246. The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940)
247. All That Jazz (Bob Fosse, 1979)
248. Pandora's Box (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1929)
249. My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)
250. Sunrise (F.W. Murnau, 1927)
251. Darling (John Schlesinger, 1965)
252. The Leopard (Luchino Visconti, 1980)
253. First Blood (Ted Kotcheff, 1982)
254. The Verdict (Sidney Lumet, 1982)
255. Ninotchka (Ernst Lubitsch, 1939)
256. Le Quai des brumes (Marcel Carné, 1938)
257. The Black Cat (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1934)
258. The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 1980)
259. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)
260. Field of Dreams (Phil Alden Robisnon, 1989)
261. Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953)
262. The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola, 1999)
263. Das Boot (Wolfgang Petersen, 1981)
264. American Graffiti (George Lucas, 1973)
265. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg, 2001)
266. Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001)
267. Crimes and Misdemeanors (Woody Allen, 1989)
268. The Lady Vanishes (Alfred Hitchcock, 1938)
269. A Place in the Sun (George Stevens, 1951)
270. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, 2005)
271. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (Tim Burton, 1985)
272. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Dario Argento, 1970)
273. The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941)
274. Sin City (Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, 2005)
275. My Neighbour Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)
276. Layer Cake (Matthew Vaughn, 2004)
277. On the Town (Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly, 1949)
278. Carlito's Way (Brian De Palma, 1993)
279. National Loon's Animal House (John Landis, 1978)
280. Mad Max 2 (George Miller, 1982)
281. Interview with the Vire (Neil Jordan, 1994)
282. The Godfather Part III (Francis Ford Coppola, 1990)
283. Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985)
284. Scarface (Brian De Palma, 1983)
285. Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972)
286. L'avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)
287. Secrets and Lies (Mike Leigh, 1996)
288. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Robert Zemeckis, 1988)
289. John Carpenter's The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982)
290. Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)
291. Rocco and His Brothers (Luchino Visconti, 1960)
292. Le belle et la bête (Jean Cocteau, 1946)
293. La maman et la putain (Jean Eustache, 1973)
294. The Red Balloon (Albert Lamorisse, 1956)
295. The Untouchables (Brian De Palma, 1987)
296. All the President's Men (Alan J. Pakula, 1976)
297. It Happened One Night (Frank Capra, 1934)
298. Le cercle rouge (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1970)
299. The Palm Beach Story (Preston Sturges, 1942)
300. Sawdust and Tinsel (Ingmar Bergman, 1953)
301. Love and Death (Woody Allen, 1975)
302. The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)
303. Together (Lukas Moodyson, 2000)
304. Radio Days (Woody Allen, 1987)
305. The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006)
306. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Steven Spielberg, 1989)
307. Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger, 1969)
308. The Terminator (James Cameron, 1984)
309. Transformers (Michael Bay, 2007)
310. Gremlins (Joe Dante, 1984)
311. American History X (Tony Kaye, 1998)
312. Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977)
313. Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)
314. Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick, 1957)
315. Sense and Sensibility (Ang Lee, 1995)
316. Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996)
317. Midnight Run (Martin Brest, 1988)
318. Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)
319. The Lion King (Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff, 1994)
320. Braveheart (Mel Gibson, 1995)
321. Funny Face (Stanley Donen, 1957)
322. Aladdin (Ron Clements, John Musker, 1992)
323. The Last Seduction (John Dahl, 1994)
324. Lone Star (John Sayles, 1996)
325. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (Quentin Tarantino, 2003)
326. Out of Sight (Steven Soderbergh, 1998)
327. The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick, 1993)
328. The Truman Show (Peter Weir, 1998)
329. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
330. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (George Lucas, 2005)
331. The Green Mile (Frank Darabont, 1999)
332. The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan, 1999)
333. Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978)
334. The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942)
335. The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)
336. Titanic (James Cameron, 1997)
337. 300 (Zack Snyder, 2006)
338. Jules et Jim (François Truffaut, 1962)
339. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
340. High and Low (Akira Kurosawa, 1963)
341. The Passenger (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975)
342. The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin, 1925)
343. Monsters, Inc. (Pete Docter, 2001)
344. The Last Waltz (Martin Scorsese, 1978)
345. Fatal Attraction (Adrian Lyne, 1987)
346. Leave Her to Heaven (John M. Stahl, 1945)
347. All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)
348. Au hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson, 1966)
349. Arthur (Steve Gordon, 1981)
350. Planet of the Apes (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1968)
351. Zulu (Cy Endfield, 1964)
352. Unfaithfully Yours (Preston Sturges, 1948)
353. Bugsy Malone (Alan Parker, 1976)
354. Un chien andalou (Luis Buñuel, 1929)
355. Sunshine (Danny Boyle, 2007)
356. Napoléon (Abel Gance, 1927)
357. The Long Goodbye (Robert Altman, 1973)
358. Russian Ark (Aleksandr Sokurov, 2002)
359. The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941)
360. The Return (Andrei Zvyagintsev, 2003)
361. Clerks (Kevin Smith, 1994)
362. The Elephant Man (David Lynch, 1980)
363. Good Morning, Vietnam (Barry Levinson, 1987)
364. Natural Born Killers (Oliver Stone, 1994)
365. The Bourne Identity (Doug Liman, 2002)
366. Predator (John McTiernan, 1987)
367. Cabaret (Bob Fosse, 1972)
368. Airplane! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, 1980)
369. The Breakfast Club (John Hughes, 1985)
370. Rocky (John G. Avildsen, 1976)
371. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Gore Verbinski, 2003)
372. Army of Darkness (Sam Raimi, 1992)
373. Wall-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008)
374. Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007)
375. Four Weddings and a Funeral (Mike Newell, 1994)
376. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
377. Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese, 1973)
378. The Goonies (Richard Donner, 1985)
379. Ratatouille (Brad Bird, 2007)
380. Children of Men (Alfondo Cuarón, 2006)
381. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, 1975)
382. Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)
383. Serenity (Joss Whedon, 2005)
384. The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)
385. Ace in the Hole (Billy Wilder, 1951)
386. The Great Silence (Sergio Corbucci, 1968)
387. Rain Man (Barry Levinson, 1988)
388. The English Patient (Anthony Minghella, 1996)
389. Election (Alexander Payne, 1999)
390. 2 Days in Paris (Julie Delpy, 2007)
391. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
392. Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders, 1984)
393. Garden State (Zach Braff, 2004)
394. Cloverfield (Matt Reeves, 2008)
395. Casino (Martin Scorsese, 1995)
396. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)
397. Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)
398. Killer of Sheep (Charless Burnett, 1977)
399. Greed (Erich von Stroheim, 1924)
400. The Incredibles (Brad Bird, 2004)
401. Batman Returns (Tim Burton, 1992)
402. Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, 2006)
403. Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)
404. RoboCop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987)
405. Dirty Dancing (Emile Ardolino, 1987)
406. Iron Man (Jon Favreau, 2008)
407. The Jungle Book (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1967)
408. Zelig (Woody Allen, 1983)
409. Men in Black (Barry Sonnenfeld, 1997)
410. A Hard Day's Night (Richard Lester, 1964)
411. Spider-Man 2 (Sam Raimi, 2004)
412. Heathers (Michael Lehmann, 1989)
413. Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton, 2003)
414. The Double Life of Véronique (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1991)
415. Dawn of the Dead (George A. Romero, 1978)
416. Bad Taste (Peter Jackson, 1987)
417. Lords of Dogtown (Catherine Hardwicke, 2005)
418. V for Vendetta (James McTeigue, 2005)
419. Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)
420. Jerry Maguire (Cameron Crowe, 1996)
421. Lethal Weapon (Richard Donner, 1987)
422. A Man Escaped (Robert Bresson, 1956)
423. Kill Bill Vol. 2 (Quentin Tarantino, 2004)
424. To Have and Have Not (Howard Hawks, 1944)
425. Wonder Boys (Curtis Hanson, 2000)
426. Enduring Love (Roger Michell, 2004)
427. Spring in a Small Town (Mu Fei, 1948)
428. The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (Werner Herzog, 1974)
429. Danger: Diabolik (Mario Bava, 1968)
430. Big Trouble in Little China (John Carpenter, 1986)
431. Electra Glide in Blue (James William Guercio, 1973)
432. X-Men 2 (Bryan Singer, 2003)
433. Good Will Hunting (Gus Van Sant, 1997)
434. The Cat Concerto (William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, 1947)
435. American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000)
436. Beauty and the Beast (Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise, 1991)
437. Spider-Man (Sam Raimi, 2002)
438. The Lost Boys (Joel Schumacher, 1987)
439. Grosse Pointe Blank (George Armitage, 1997)
440. Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo, 1988)
441. Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 1999)
442. Atonement (Joe Wright, 2007)
443. Dog Day Afternoon (Sidney Lumet, 1975)
444. Hairspray (John Waters, 1988)
445. Dumb and Dumber (Peter and Bobby Farrelly, 1994)
446. High Fidelity (Stephen Frears, 2000)
447. Ten (Abbas Kiarostami, 2002)
448. A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005)
449. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (George Lucas, 1999)
450. King Kong (Peter Jackson, 2005)
451. Speed (Jan De Bont, 1994)
452. Unbreakable (M. Night Shyamalan, 2000)
453. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Steven Spielberg, 2008)
454. The Bourne Supremacy (Paul Greengrass, 2004)
455. Top Gun (Tony Scott, 1986)
456. 28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002)
457. Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick, 1987)
458. Batman (Tim Burton, 1989)
459. Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa, 1952)
460. Crash (Paul Haggis, 2004)
461. Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978)
462. Dead Man's Shoes (Shane Meadows, 2004)
463. Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007)
464. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Stanley Donen, 1954)
465. 12 Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995)
466. Snatch (Guy Ritchie, 2000)
467. The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino, 1978)
468. The Crow (Alex Proyas, 1994)
469. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Terry Gilliam, 1998)
470. Glengarry Glen Ross (James Foley, 1992)
471. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Alfonso Cuarón, 2004)
472. Le Doulos (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1962)
473. Into the Wild (Sean Penn, 2007)
474. Enter the Dragon (Robert Clouse, 1973)
475. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Gore Verbinski, 2006)
476. Santa Sangre (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1989)
477. Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955)
478. Flesh (Paul Morrissey, 1968)
479. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Norman Z. McLeod, 1947)
480. The Son's Room (Nanni Moretti, 2001)
481. Topsy-Turvy (Mike Leigh, 1999)
482. Scream (Wes Craven, 1996)
483. The Big Red One (Samuel Fuller, 1980)
484. The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2006)
485. The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, 1973)
486. Breakfast at Tiffany's (Blake Edwards, 1961)
487. Superbad (Greg Mottola, 2007)
488. Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1997)
489. Brick (Rian Johnson, 2005)
490. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Tim Burton, 2007)
491. Ben-Hur (William Wyler, 1959)
492. Amores Perros (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2000)
493. In the Company of Men (Neil LaBute, 1997)
494. Sideways (Alexander Payne, 2004)
495. Jailhouse Rock (Richard Thorpe, 1957)
496. Superman Returns (Bryan Singer, 2006)
497. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000)
498. Back to the Future Part II (Robert Zemeckis, 1989)
499. Saw (James Wan, 2004)
500. Ocean's Eleven (Steven Soderbergh, 2001)

Monday, 27 September 2010

Until the Light Takes Us

"The truth is out is to be found, in a sea of lies". So says Burzum main man Varg Vikernes, interviewed from his prison cell where he was, during the making of this film, serving a 21-year sentence for killing fellow black metaler Øystein Aarseth, aka Euronymous, frontman of Mayhem. Until the Light Takes Us is a 2008 documentary exploring the phenomenon of Norwegian black metal, and how a few bands centered around a small record store in Oslo would make international headlines after a spate of church burnings, a suicide and two gruesome murders...

Unraveling this extraordinary story, the film features interviews with Varg Vikernes and Gylve "Fenriz" Nagell of Dark Throne, two pivotal figures in the origins of the black metal scene, as well as members of Mayhem, and Immortal. To their credit film makers Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell take a suitably cold detached view of the black metal scene, and treat their subject with intelligence and a refreshing lack of pretension. Don't expect long poetic tracking shots through the bleak Norwegian woodlands, this film identifies the banal conformism of Norwegian society and its slide into consumer globalization as the springboard for the extreme worldview and lifestyle (and propensity for self-destruction) shared by many of the bands at the center of the first wave of black metal.

Whether we emerge from the film with the truth about what really happened on the night of August 10th 1993 when Varg Vikernes plunged a knife into the skull of Øystein Aarseth, remains unclear. Certainly, the film makers absent voice throughout the film is felt most strongly here, and for all his intelligence, wit and sensitivity Vikernes' assertion that the killing was done in self-defense is somewhat hard to swallow considering he was busy stockpiling explosives and ammunition at his home, with the intention of destroying the head-quarters of an anti-fascist league in Oslo. Yet the film makers never question him on this point.

Criticisms aside, the film does a fine job of recounting the rise of this very insular underground scene before its colonization by the metal mainstream. There's some startling newsreel footage of medieval Norwegian churches burning to to the ground, and one particularly memorable sequence where Satyricon drummer "Frost" mutilates himself at a performance art installation. The film also features some rare clips of many of the black metal bands in their infancy (albeit mostly on unwatchable VHS footage) and the fine soundtrack, not only features black metal music but well chosen cuts from Boards of Canada, sunnO))) and Black Dice.

For metal fans (and anyone interested in transgressive culture), Until the Light Takes Us is highly recommended. The film makes its long awaited debut on DVD and Blu-Ray in the US on October 19.

Saturday, 25 September 2010


Hardware, Richard Stanley's 1990 debut film could have came fresh from the pages of the long-running British sci-fi comic 2000AD, (and it almost did, but more about that in a minute). Set in a poisonous post-apocalyptic radioactive future, the remains of a prototype android finds its way into the hands of metal supltress Jill, who fashions the head as a centrepiece of her latest metallic creation. However, the android, a killing machine designed to curb population growth is not so obsolete, and after recharging itself from the power supply and rebuilding its body from various bits of metal, recommences its mission...

Anyone seeing Hardware for the first time after experiencing Richard Stanley' strange and enigmatic Dust Devil may be be surprised by the flat-out commercialism of Hardware, a film that makes no bones about being a rollicking sci-fi actioner. Stanley was probably saving his Tarkovsky influences for his next film, as Hardware sees the director riffing, (quite expertly it must be said) on the kinetic thrills of The Terminator, Blade Runner, and The Thing, (which like Carpenter's alien monster, Hardware's android is a shapeless bastardization of various forms). And if that wasn't enough, added to the mix is the hallucinatory weirdness of Dario Argento and outrageous splatter of Italian Post-Apocalypse Cinema.

Hardware is a heady brew, but the film is not without its shortcomings - the script is often clumsy and too busy with awkward exposition, the performances are variable, some of Stanley's ideas are a bit too broad (does the film really need Iggy Pop's irritating radio shock-jock?) and Goblin member Simon Boswel's score sounds terribly dated nowadays. Still, a far better film than much of the independent sci-fi fare that came in the early 90's (Split Second, Liquid Dreams anyone ?), and that a talent like Stanley has still only made two full features films to date is lamentable.Hardware was a considerable hit for Palace Pictures and Miramax on its release, but attracted some unwanted heat from the folks at 2000AD, who claimed that the film bore some striking similarities to SHOK! Walter's Robo-Tale, a comic strip which appeared in the 1981 Judge Dredd annual. Perhaps, but ironically, Hardware is a much superior film than the official 2000AD spin-off Judge Dredd.

Severin's US Blu-Ray edition of Hardware is quite simply a stunner. I had the Palace VHS edition in the 90's and home video just wasn't robust enough to do justice to Stanley's blazing color schemes. The high definition transfer is nothing short of miraculous, truly the film has never looked this good. Audio is equally strong so crank this one up, after the neighbours have gone out, and there's quite a treasure trove of extras - deleted scenes (from a scuzzy looking workprint), trailers, featuretes, some short films, a lengthy documentary about the film, and an informative, interesting commentary from the director (which differs from the commentary on the UK Optimum Blu-Ray, another fine disc (which completists may want to pick up). This is what you want, this is what you get...

Friday, 24 September 2010

Deadly Blessing

Famous nowadays for a scene in which a young Sharon Stone has a spider dropped into her mouth, Deadly Blessing, Wes Craven's 1981 film, is one of the director's more marginalized films, unfairly so as it remains a fascinating work for a number of reasons.

The film set in the pastoral farmlands of Ohio begins with a murder. A farmer is killed in mysterious circumstances when he's crushed under the wheels of one of his machines. It appears to be the work of an Hamish-like fundamentalist religious sect, who shun the sinful conveniences of modern life, and preach a sermon of fire and brimstone. And now it seems the killer has turned his attention on the farmer's widow...

On paper it sounds pretty uninspiring but nothing in Deadly Blessing is quite what it seems. Early on in the film Craven quite skillfully disorientates the audience about where exactly the film is going and the pace of the film from there on in rarely flags, with a number of suspenseful set pieces. Without giving it away, the final sequence of the film is quite astonishing so be sure to stick it out to the end. It may leave you with your jaw on the ground but it does add quite an extraordinary dimension to the events of the film.

Craven's direction is typically solid throughout, and performance-wise, this is one of the better casts from Craven's early film-making career. Maren Jensen (best known for the original TV series of Battlestar Galatica) playing the terrorized widow, Martha, is especially good and makes for a strong resourceful heroine. Its quite a shame, Deadly Blessing would be her last screen appearance. Impressive too is a fresh-faced Sharon Stone who very bravely shares screen time with some rather nasty looking spiders. And of course there's Ernest Borgnine playing the sect leader with all the thunder and fury of a deranged preacher. His biblical beard looks a little phony but he's great nevertheless. Michael Berryman the poster-child of The Hills Have Eyes is in there as well, and appeared on the striking UK video sleeve.

Deadly Blessing is an important Wes Craven film as it sees him working towards the kind of dream ambiance of A Nightmare on Elm Street. The film seems preoccupied with dreams - Sharon Stone's character has nightmares about being visited by a ghostly presence, and watching the film a second time I was struck by the how much of the film makes little sense with odd moments of strange, surreal imagery - a milk carton pouring blood, a flock of chickens in a coffin. In fact two from ideas for the film would be loaned out to A Nightmare on Elm Street - the aforementioned spider-in-the-mouth sequence and a scene where the heroine shares a bath with an unwanted guest.
Craven Images
top, a spider in the mouth in
Deadly Blessing
bottom, a centipede in the mouth in A Nightmare on Elm Street

Deadly Blessing remains unavailable in the US on DVD which is strange considering Wes Craven recorded a director's commentary for the film. My copy is the R2 budget release courtesy of Arrow. Completely barebones, not even a trailer, the film at least looks good, preserving the modest 1.78 widescreen image. The informative commentary track can be found on Umbrella's Australian release (coded for Region 4) and of all the editions of Deadly Blessing available it's the one to get...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Sketches for Alejandro Jodorowsky's Dune

I'm planning on picking up the Blu-Ray edition of David Lynch's Dune in the next few weeks, its always been a favourite film of mine despite the critical mauling the film regurly receives. Possibly the greatest sci-fi film never made has to be Alejandro Jodorowsky's adaptation of Frank Herbert's epic novel. Jodorowsky was hired on to direct the film in 1974, and after two years and two million dollars worth of pre-production the film was abandoned after the French financier's balked at the scope of Jodorowsky's vision.

Jodorowsky had amassed quite a team for his production of Dune - conceptual artists HR Giger, Jean 'Moebius' Giraud and Chris Foss, Dan O'Bannon was hired to supervise special effects, Pink Floyd were proposed for soundtrack duties, and Salvador Dali was to appear as the Emperor of the universe. No footage was ever shot for the film so all we are left with are various artworks for the film, including five wonderfully dark and strange paintings by Alien designer HR Giger. The final two paintings below post-date the Jodorowsky production.

Ireland says "No !" to I Spit On Your Grave

From the Irish Times website... THE IRISH Film Classification Office has banned the DVD re-release of Meir Zarchi’s notorious 1978 horror film I Spit on Your Grave. The body, formerly the Irish Film Censor’s Office, has, in recent years, been reluctant to ban films outright, so this must be viewed as an unusual move. The reason given for declining to issue a certificate for the DVD, was the depiction of “acts of gross violence and cruelty towards humans”. Mr Zarchi commented: “It doesn’t surprise me that Ireland have decided to ban the film.

The decision comes a little less than a year after John Kelleher, seen as a liberalising force, retired as the director of classification. Ger Connolly, the current acting director, was formerly an accountant in the advertising and manufacturing industries. The reissue is timed to coincide with an upcoming remake of Mr Zarchi’s creaky original.

I'm surprised by this... Head censor Ger Connolly's move to make the film unavailable is perplexing considering the DVD can be obtained from the UK in a matter of days, never mind the fact that the film is beamed into Irish homes almost weekly on Sky's Horror channel. This is not the first time Ireland has refused classification to titles freely available in the UK - in the early 90's Ken Russell's film Whore was refused a release, as was From Dusk Til Dawn and the 2002 film Spun. Is this latest banning the beginning of a new era of stringent censorship ? Watch this space....

Monday, 20 September 2010

Code Red (not to close its doors)

I heard the sad new this week, that DVD label Code Red are set to wind down operations before the summer of 2011. Code Red commissar Bill Norton put it down to a certain indifference on the part of the horror community towards Code Red titles, not to mention the sheer difficulty of dealing with film rights, DVD production and deadlines - all very stressful I'm sure in today's climate. I was on the Code Red blog a few days ago and was floored by the amount of abuse the label was receiving from DVD collectors, who were behaving like a bunch of fucking pricks whining about the titles that Code Red were putting out. I'll certainly miss Code Red and their idiosyncratic range of releases, I'm not so sure the likes of Blue Underground, Synapse etc would invest in obscure fare like Don't Go In the Woods (Code Red's debut disc), Sole Survivor or The Strangeness, and I could hardly blame them. So Code Red should be applauded for bravely mining their own territory out there in the perilous land of DVD Production.

I've started picking up Code Red titles in the last few days before stock starts drying up. I've snagged a used copy of Devil Times Five, which is currently on Amazon for sixty bucks (?), Messiah of Evil, Stunt Rock and Pets. In the next few days, I'll pick up Trapped, Sole Survivor, and Terror Circus. Hopefully, other folks are doing likewise and throwing some cash Code Red's way...

Postscript: 4/17/2012 Of course Code Red did not go to the wall my prophet of doom post predicted - the label is still a going concern and are prepping new titles for future release. However, as Bill Norton's blog posts attest, running a small indie is a precarious business, so to echo what I previously wrote, please do what you can to support this great label.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

The Lost Criterion Commentaries

It’s a real shame that the Criterion-recorded commentaries for Taxi Driver and David Cronenberg's Crash are still marooned in laserdisc limbo, such is the habit of Criterion for hanging onto their extras, when they lose the rights to a particular film. Luckily, mp3 rips have been made of the director commentaries for their Taxi Driver and Crash laserdiscs, and both are presented here...

David Cronenberg always delivers fascinating commentary tracks for his films but the Crash commentary is especially illuminating as Cronenberg discusses and elaborates on some of the more esoteric ideas in the film, as well as the controversy that followed the release of the film.

The Taxi Driver track is one of Scorsese's better commentaries, recorded as Scorsese watched the film (and not stitched together from interviews). Joining Scorsese on the track (but recorded separately) is writer Paul Schrader, and both men deliver an excellent and comprehensive overview of their iconic film. Listen out for Scorsese in a rare slip, bungling a Jean-Luc Godard title !

Late addition: John Sturges commentary for Bad Bay at Black Rock, from the Criterion laser (Many thanks to Rob for this!)

Crash - David Cronenberg (Mediafire)
Taxi Driver - Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader (Mediafire)
Bad Day At Black Rock - John Sturges (Mediafire)

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Within the Woods - the original Evil Dead

I had high hopes that the Blu-Ray edition of The Evil Dead would include Sam Raimi's 1978 short Within the Woods a dry run for Raimi's most celebrated film. Sadly, it wasn't to be, and this wonderful 30min artifact of Evil Dead mythology still remains unseen and unavailable today, in any official channel that is...

Shot in 1978 in and around producer Robert Tapert's family home (a far more agreeable place than the rustic cabin in The Evil Dead), Within the Woods concerns two couples vacationing in the woods. One of the couples, Bruce and Ellen (played by Bruce Campbell and Ellen Sandweiss, yes, they keep their names) unwittingly choose an Indian burial ground for a picnic and unleash a force seeking revenge for their desecration of hallowed earth. After Ellen discovers the mutilated dead body of Bruce in the undergrowth, she runs back to the cabin to warn Shelly and Scotty (played by Intruder director Scott Spiegel). In the meantime, Bruce it seems is not so lifeless after all and his body is now possessed with the spirit of the evil dead...

Within the Woods is a fast paced, energetic little horror film and is surprisingly intense and gory for its meager means (shot on Super 8 to drum up much needed funds to shoot a feature length project). Tom Sullivan who engineered the amazing fx work for The Evil Dead was on board for this film and provides plenty of blood and gore here. The scene where Shelly is stabbed by Bruce in the neck is especially savage and Bruce Campbell himself spends most of the film drenched in splatter. Ellen Sandweiss is particularly excellent here, a little more robust than the character she would play in The Evil Dead, acting her socks off, tumbling through dense woods and streams, and all the while screaming the house down. Bruce Campbell is of course effortlessly cool even at this early stage in his career. The score for the film is composed of some recognizable cuts lifted from other films, and the end credits features a Tangerine Dream piece. No doubt, an official release of the film would be problematic...

Absolutely required viewing for Deadheads, Within the Woods features a number of ideas and motifs that would live on into the film's next incarnation. The striking roaming camerawork was already established here, so too the shot of the ghostly swing chair, the gag where Ellen struggles with the key to the cabin only to be grabbed by a hand, the shot of the ritual dagger in the back, the scene where the possessed Bruce bites off his hand, were all reused for The Evil Dead.

Within the Woods is hugely enjoyable stuff and its a shame it could not be included on one of the countless Evil Dead editions issued on home video over the years. Sadly, the current version circulating, sourced from a mangled VHS copy borders on unwatchable - the version I have is so degraded, I could not get any usable screenshots for this post. Apparently Raimi is strongly opposed to an official release citing his film as amateurish. Whatever shortcomings Within the Woods may have, I certainly enjoyed it a lot more than his Spiderman films.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Waves of Lust

Waves of Lust made in 1975 marked a return to feature film making for Ruggero Deodato after a few years in the wilderness of television. Deodata was initially lukewarm about taking on the film - at that point it was a relatively innocuous softcore skin flick, but his interest was stirred when he realised that Lamberto Bava's treatment had the makings of a good thriller.

A balmy, sun-kissed Italian version of Polanski's Knife in the Water, Waves of Lust concerns a free-wheeling young couple, Irem and Barbara, played by Al Cliver and Silvia Dionisio (Deodato's wife at the time) who spend a few days on a luxury yacht with another couple, Giorgio a wealthy industrialist and his wife Silvia, played by John Steiner and Elizabeth Turner. With Giorgio completely dominating his wife and guests and dishing out abuse, humiliation and degradation, its only a matter of time before good manners and hospitality goes overboard...

Deodato's instincts proved right, Waves of Lust is an entertaining sex flick and an engaging thriller. Deodato, one of the more competent and reliable directors of Italian exploitation cinema delivers a very enjoyable romp making fine use of the confined spaces of the yacht, while generating some real heat with the plentiful nudity and teasing sex. There are a few subtle hints early in the film that Irem and Barbara may not be a innocent as they seem, and in the second half of the film, Giorgio, fueled by booze grows increasingly paranoid that his life is in danger. Very much a film about about psychological violence as opposed to real violence, Deodato does included one bit of nasty business involving a spear gun, and the haunting ending of the film chills the blood...

That the film is so highly erotic is largely thanks to the two beautiful lead actresses. Elizabeth Turner makes much of her role as the long suffering Silvia. She can also be seen in Fulci's The Psychic and Antonio Margheriti's Cannibal Apocalypse. Silvia Dionisio, an especially gorgeous actress was quite a big star in Italian cinema at that time, so no surprise the film was a huge success on its release. Of the male leads, Al Cliver, an actor who has clocked up his fair share of vacant performances over the years actually turns in something credible here, but he's outclassed by the wonderful John Steiner who specialized in playing sneering, conceited assholes, and here he's on top form playing one unmerciful prick.

Gorgeous scenery - Silvia Dionisio in all her glory

Raro presents Waves of Lust on DVD in a fine special edition. The image quality is generally very good utilizing a crisp, clean print. Some flesh tones are a little too hot in some scenes but its a minor complaint. The audio track is Italian only with removable, easy to read English subtitles.

Extras include an English subtitled feature on the film with contributions from Deodato, Al Cliver, Lamberto Bava and Deodato's son, who appears in the opening sequence of the film as the little boy on the beach. Also included are some deleted sex scenes that were prepared for the export market, which amounted to slightly longer and explicit shots of the existing scenes in the film. Rounding off the extras, are some 20mins of commercials Deodato shot for Italian TV, mostly for cosmetics. One of the adverts features a shaggy dog and a cute rabbit, which Cannibal Holocaust fans will no doubt be disappointed to learn that neither are mutilated on camera.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Demon Seed

A few years ago British movie magazine Total Film ran a feature on Cinema's most embarrassing moments. Demon Seed was one such film included in their list. Granted, the film is built upon a number of absurdities but it remains a well made, interesting sci-fi thriller and quite undeserving of Total Film's dubious accolade. Directed in 1977 by Donald Cammell (and based on the Dean Koontz novel of the same name), Demon Seed is about a super-intelligent computer called Proteus which develops a HAL-like ego, and in its quest for omnipotence, integrates itself into the computer system of its creator's home, and impregnate his wife transferring its consciousness into a bio-mechanoid being.

Of the four films directed by Cammell (which includes Performance, White of the Eye and Wild Side), Demon Seed is his most conventional in terms of style and narrative. The unique signature Cammell established with Performance - the non-linear cutting and shot-construction is notably absent here, and one longs for the unsettling weirdness of John Frankenheimer's Seconds or DePalma's Sisters. Perhaps the oft-repeated stories of Cammell having his films recut without his supervision is in evidence here. Still, its sufficiently Cammell-esque to recommend a viewing - Julie Christie's imprisionment in her house reminds one of James Fox's similar predicament in Performance, and there's plenty of bizarre sexuality at hand. Its an intense film too, aided in no small measure by Julie Christie who suffers some gruelling tortures in preparion for becoming the reluctant host for Proteus' offspring. There's some good support from Fritz Weaver (Romero fans will know him as the long suffering husband in Creepshow episode The Crate), and the sinister voice of Proteus is courtesy of Robert Vaughn.

Certainly, the film looks very dated nowadays. The Proteus computer lab is literally the size of a warehouse, and leaving aside the film makers predictions for the future of computer technology, the film features a number of mediocre computer-animated sequences which can't quite match Douglas Trumball's "Stargate" effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey made almost 10 years earlier. But the central idea of Demon Side is still valid today, that if society can develop technology for harnessing life (as we are reaching towards with cloning), life will find a way...

Warners DVD of Demon Seed is a good presentation of the film. The 2.35 transfer is mostly fine - there's some grain in the darker scenes, but overall its a good image. The mono audio is solid too and does a fine job with Jerry Fielding's avant-garde score. The only extra offered is a battered trailer. Incidentally, the Warner's DVD sleeve replicates the original MGM poster, which sold the film like it was a Rosemary's Baby style chiller - Julie Christie carries the Demon Seed - Fear for Her

Three on a Meathook

An early backwoods horror film, Three On A Meathook made in 1972 was William Girdler's attempt to out psycho Psycho by returning to the source material for Robert Bloch's original novel, namely Wisconsin's own favourite son, Ed Gein. In the film, four girls drive to the country for the weekend only for their car to breakdown in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night. However, their troubles are only beginning when local shy guy brings the girls back to his home where he lives with his father, and a very dark secret...

Three On A Meathook is no great shakes, but fans of the lo-fi ambiance of American independent exploitation of the early 70's should check his out. The film suffers from some stiff performances, and there's some pacing issues with two sequences in particular - when Billy goes to a bar in the city to cure his depression we have to sit through two (?) numbers by some awful crooning folk rock group; and a sequence in the latter half of the film where Billy and his girl endlessly walk through lyrical shots of meadows.

Director William Girdler is no Hitchcock, but thankfully he's no Andy Milligan either and at least Girdler knows how to frame a shot. Also, good use is made of the isolated farmhouse and its particularly sinister in the final act of the film. And while the film is not awash with the blood and carnage that the title promises, we do get the odd splash (albeit, subliminally) of some Hershall Gordon Lewis style gore. Girdler went to direct a handful of well known exploitation films throughout the 70's - Asylum of Satan (1972), Abby (1974), Sheba, Baby (1975), Grizzly (1976) and Day of the Animals (1977), before he was killed in a helicopter accident in the Philippines.

Three on three meathooks actually...

Three on a Meathook
arrived almost two years before The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and one wonders would Girdler have made a better film had he modeled it on Tobe Hooper's film rather than Psycho. Furthermore, when the plot strands finally tie together in the final act, the film ultimately develops an interesting kinship with Pete Walker's 1974 film Frightmare.

There is a US DVD currently available but I hear the quality is quite poor. Perhaps, a better release will surface one day courtesy of Dark Sky or Code Red. Certainly the film is no better or worse than other obscure films of that era that have arrived on DVD with bells n' whistle special editions.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Derek Jarman's In the Shadow of the Sun

After making a number of Super 8 shorts in the early seventies, Derek Jarman took his first steps towards a long form work with In the Shadow of the Sun. This non-narrative, experimental film is composed of various layers of Jarman’s Super 8 movies blown up to 16mm and superimposed on top of one another. Because the Super 8 films were originally shot without sound, the images are accompanied by music composed for the film by Throbbing Gristle.

In the Shadow of the Sun is an astonishing film, a cinematic equivalent of ambient music. Over the course of some 50mins Jarman weaves an extraordinary tapestry of drowsy half-speed Super 8 images flowing above and beneath one another like rivers of lava, momentarily cooling to form an image then melting, dissolving and reconstituting into the next image. Jarman fans will recognize some of the films that appear within In the Shadow of the Sun -  the landscape film, Journey To Avebury (1971) is extensively used as a backdrop, on top of which you can catch images that have strayed from Tarot (1972) and Fire Island (1974).

There's an extraordinary undercurrent of magick running through the film, with recurring images of mirrors reflecting light, a shadowy figure shuffling tarot cards, sinister figures wearing strange masks and an amorous couple dancing through burning meadows. The Super 8 film stock had naturally degraded to form amazing other worldly colors and textures, and the heavy grain, scratches and rough splices on the film hypnotize the eye as they flicker and dance across the screen.

In the Shadow of the Sun is very much the work of a painter but the films of Kenneth Anger remain a strong influence over the film, and one wonders if Jarman had seen the wonderful 1971 gay experimental film Pink Narcissus, another Super 8 work with searing primary colors and strange, surreal imagery. Jarman would go on to make more conventional films in the succeeding years but he would return to the stylistic experiment of In the Shadow of the Sun with his 1985 film The Angelic Conversation. The score by Throbbing Gristle is a mesmerizing beatless electronic ocean of sound - soothing, becalmed, turbulent and stormy with the occasional anguished, distorted voice rising beyond the surf. The music was entirely improvised by the group to a screening of the film in 1980. After the soundtrack was completed the film made its debut in 1981 at the Berlin Film Festival.

So far the only DVD release for In the Shadow of the Sun is courtesy of Italy's Raro label. Entitled The Super 8 Programme Vol 2, it also includes the Super 8 films Journey To Avebury (1971), The Art Of Mirrors (1973), Ashden's Walk On Mon (1973), Stolen Apples For Karen Blixen (1973). Its difficult to rate the image quality of the DVD, evidently sourced from a VHS copy from the presence of a few tracking lines here or there. However, this may be as good as its gets and the image is pleasing nonetheless. Audio wise, Throbbing Gristle's score sounds a little hissy and dated compared to the current CD version (which was remastered in 1993 as part of Mute's Throbbing Gristle re-issue program). Perhaps one day we'll see a better version of In the Shadow of the Sun, but until then the Raro DVD is highly recommended. The film is also currently available to watch online

Sunday, 5 September 2010

DVD Delirium Volume 4

I've had the latest volume of DVD Delirium for almost a week now, and already its been read cover to cover. Nathaniel Thompson's reviews have been a huge influence on my style of review writing - keep it short, keep it interesting. With the recession-depression forcing me to cut back on DVD spending (and causing me to agonize over each purchase) a lot of great DVD and Blu-Ray releases in the last 12 months have flown under my radar, so the book is a good place to catch up. Volume 4 is definitely light on Criterion reviews, but its probably more a reflection on the amount of good genre stuff being put out by the likes of Severin and Code Red. In the next few weeks I hope to pick up Messiah of Evil, Devil Times Five, The Other Side of Underneath, The Stepfather, The Strangeness, The Anti-Clock, Stunt Rock, Man of Violence, Trapped, Terror Circus (Barn of the Naked Dead) - just to name a few. DVD Delirium Volume 4 can be ordered direct from publishers FAB Press, and if you haven't picked up the previous 3 volumes, I highly recommend you do so...

Saturday, 4 September 2010

The Hill

In 1965 Sean Connery was granted time off for good behavior from the Bond series to star in Sidney Lumet's intense WWII prison drama The Hill. Set in a North African British military jail for deserters, thieves and trouble makers, Connery plays British officer Joe Roberts incarcerated for striking his superior. Roberts along with 4 other new arrivals are forced to submit to a regime of brutal physical manoeuvres under the supervision of Sgt Major Wilson who's job to mould weak flesh back into British soldiers is almost devotional. Also newly arriving at the prison is the sadistic Staff Sgt Williams whose eagerness to break Roberts and his cell mates will tear down Wilson's tight reign over the prison...

The Hill, named after the camp's man-made hill inmates are forced to repeatedly climb over, is a remarkable film. Shot in luminous black & white by cameraman Oswald Morris (Lolita, Look Back In Anger), its a bleak, bitter, remorseless film, confronting institutionalized violence, physical and psychological head on. Clearly Lumet was mistrustful of instutions - his 1962 film Long Days Journey Into Night was about a family falling asunder from alcohol and drugs, his 1964 film Fail-Safe explored the mismanagement of nuclear weapons by the US government, while his 1971 film The Offense was about a man murdered in police custody.

Savour if you must the beautiful opening tracking shot (which surely impressed a young Brian DePalma), because Lumet's direction thereafter is mean and aggressive. Lumet often shoots right into the sun using rough hand held cameras, fast disorientating cuts and filming with rough available sound (the film features no music or score). Thankfully, Lumet's film is devoid of melodrama and sentimentally that was de rigueur of the prison film of that era (see Bridge on the River Kwai, Birdman of Alcatraz, Cool Hand Luke).

Most impressive of The Hill is its cast. Connery is superb as the resilient Roberts, and joined by an excellent supporting cast - cell mates Jack Watson (from Tower of Evil), Roy Kinnear (Taste the Blood of Dracula) and a memorable turn by Ossie Davis (Do the Right Thing) who had to deal with much racial abuse in the script. Facing them down are Harry Andrews (Moby Dick) as Sgt Major Wilson, Ian Hendry (Repulsion) as the monstrous Staff Sgt Williams, and Ian Bannen as the sympathetic Staff Sgt Harris appalled by the cruelty of the fellow wardens. Harry Andrews has an especially wonderful scene where he defuses a near riot with a few a words of gentle but firm persuasion.

Warners R1 DVD of The Hill is low on extras but features a rather excellent transfer, taken from a flawless print, and looks sharp and bright. I watched this upscaled on my Blu-Ray player and the film looked dazzling. Audio is equally strong, and there a short 7-min promo for the film called Sun…the Sand…the Hill. Absolutely required viewing.

Friday, 3 September 2010

JG Ballard and Shanghai Jim

In 1946 JG Ballard left Shanghai, the city he was born and raised in for the first 15 years of his life. His final 3 years in Shanghai, Ballard spent interned in the Lunghua Civilian Assembly Center, a concentration camp under the control of the Imperial Japanese Army. For the 1991 BBC documentary Shanghai Jim, Ballard returned to the city of his childhood, for the first time in over 45 years.

Shanghai Jim is a fascinating and invaluable documentary on one of the great visionary writers and thinkers of the 20th century. Ballard wrote about his experiences of life under Japanese occupation in his 1984 novel Empire of the Sun and the semi-fictionalized sequel The Kindness of Women (1991), and here elaborates further on his life in Shanghai, and life under the Japanese.
In a strange way I quite enjoyed my life here because I had so much freedom, and I was part of this very large nuclear family of 2000 people. We got on very friendly terms with (the Japanese)... There was a certain sort of protocol for dealing with the Japanese - you never provoked them in any way.
As a travel companion, the 61-year old Ballard is gracious and candid, revisiting the house on Amherst Avenue before his internment, and his return to the Lunghua Civilian Assembly Center (which Ballard darkly describes as his "real" home). Ballard discusses his life in England after leaving Shanghai, his interest in science fiction literature as a commentary on contemporary living (and how his experiences of Shanghai life fed into his work), his relocation to the London suburb of Shepperton and the sudden death of his wife in 1964 (leaving him with two daughters to raise). Riveting stuff.

The film makers use the device of fictionalized Ballard appearing in situations from his books - there's a particularly striking sequence where a young Ballard is seen dissecting a cadaver accompanied by a reading from The Kindness of Women describing the strange eroticism of probing the inside of a human body. (Ballard was a medical student for 2 years). Also, there are passages read from Crash - with Ballard looking on at the carnage of test car crashes, and a fragment of Vermilion Sands, read over shots of Ballard walking through a gravel quarry. There's a good use of music too, with selections from Arvo Pärt (found on his instrumental collection Tabula Rasa)

It's a shame, Warners could not include this wonderful film as part of their special edition DVD of Spielberg's Empire of the Sun (which does have a good documentary on the making of the film), so Ballard fans will have to track this one down online. It shouldn't be too difficult. You can watch the film online over at Ubu website
He stepped onto the gangway, conscious that he was probably leaving Shanghai for the last time, setting out for a small, strange country on the other side of the world… Yet only part of his mind would leave Shanghai. The rest would remain there forever…
from Empire of the Sun

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Charlie: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Monsieur Verdoux, Charles Chaplin's wicked dark comedy was greeted with indifference when first released in the US in 1947. Rocked by scandals in the press, Chaplin's popularity was by then in steady decline, and audiences were decidedly lukewarm for the director's latest creation. Looking at the film today, one can still understand the hostility towards the film - it was perhaps too strange, too weird a departure from Chaplin's most famous persona of the Little Tramp, but Monsieur Verdoux remains one of the director's greatest achievements.

Set during the Depression, Chaplin plays the titular character of Monsieur Verdoux, a lowly French bank cashier turned Bluebeard, who after disposing of his wealthy new brides funnels his cash into the stock market to secure the future of his real wife and young son. However, with a bunch of vengeful in-laws hot on his heels, plus the added stress of a wife that simply won't die, Verdoux's luck may be running out...

Originally the film was conceived by Orson Welles, as a portrait of French murder Henri Désiré Landru who was guillotined in 1922 after murdering and incinerating at least ten women he met through Lonely Hearts ads in Parisian newspapers. At some point the film changed hands and gone was Orson Welles (although he retains a story credit), and in was Chaplin, who directed, acted and scored the picture.

Monsieur Verdoux is a marvellous film, handsomely directed by Chaplin, and acted to perfection. Chaplin plays Verdoux as a bit of a dandy, charming and intelligent, lover of the finer things in life, and ruthless in his dedication to his killer enterprise. Its often a very funny picture - Chaplin does numerous bit of business throughout the film, like his rapid-fire counting of his profits, and his acrobatic swagger when swooning over his potential victims. And there's some great laughs from one of his wives, a seemingly indestructible flapper girl tuned high society with a mouth like dustbin lid. There's some thrilling stuff here too, in one scene Verdoux has to out manoeuvre a cop whose has figured out his scheme, and there's a wonderful poignant scene where Verdoux picks up a young woman who he intends to test a deadly poison on, only to have a change of heart when he hears her hard luck story.

The Wages of Sin - Monsieur Verdoux adds up his latest profits

Monsieur Verdoux seems to be out of print on DVD in the US (perhaps a Blu-Ray is inevitable), but is still available as a Region 2 disc (stand-alone, or part of the magnificent 11-disc Complete Charlie Chaplin box). Warners' transfer is excellent, with a fine clear, clean image, and strong audio well representing Chaplin's music. Extras include an introduction from Chaplin biographer David Robinson, and a documentary on the film Chaplin Today: Monsieur Verdoux, featuring Claude Chabrol.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck (Werner Herzog)

Werner Herzog's genuine fascination with the more esoteric aspects of life has made for some great Cinema, none more so than his wonderful 1976 short, How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck... (named after a particularly tortuous tongue twister). Filmed in Pennsylvania, at the World Championship of Livestock Auctioneers, Herzog's film documents the extraordinary talent of the cattle salesmen who can literally auction off livestock in a matter of seconds. Herzog called it the "real poetry of capitalism", and the skill on show here - the speed and rhythms of calling out the prices of the lots, the acute alertness for catching secret offers from the crowd (who bid with an almost subliminal wave of the hand, or a ripple of fingers) is quite simply amazing. The speech patters here are so accelerated, Herzog defined it "extreme language". This may well be one of Herzog's funniest and most life-affirming films, and perhaps in honour of his subjects, the director eschews his usual narration and lets the talkers do the talking. Herzog would return to the Midwest and the world of auctions for a brief moment in his 1977 film, Stroszek.

"Within two or three hours, two and a half million dollars and a thousand head of cattle changed hands..." Werner Herzog