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Okay now that was a long power nap. My netbook with the entire raw site on decided to die and it has taken a long time to get everything sorted out, but fortunately the time has come to resuscitate once again so watch out for all new reviews soon….
Coming to UK DVD on March 16th, this grimly surreal modern horror should appeal to all fans of modern cult horror – provided they have a strong stomach for hand-held camerawork.
I’ve reviewed 4 films from this collection released at the beginning of this week (Hills Run Red, Legend of the Lost, Man of the East and Navajo Joe) and to wrap the reviews up I have completed a summary of all of the American Western titles.
I am going to be reviewing most of these next year as part of a feature into the more obscure American Westerns, so keep your eyes open for that.
Part 1 of the Mondo Esoterica Forgotten Wars selection.
The Yangtse Incident (1957) tells the true story of the British ship HMS Amethyst. In 1949, at the height of the Chinese Civil War that saw Communist rule come to China, the British ship was travelling, with full permission of the existing Chinese Government, to the city of Nanking, conveying essential supplies to the British and embassy aiming to relieve the existing British warship there that was standing by to evacuate British personnel from the city. Travelling up river the ship came under heavy fire from Chinese People’s Liberation Army gunners on the shore and was badly damaged, forcing it to ground. Another British ship attempted to provide aid but was beaten back by heavy fire. A cease-fire was arranged with the People’s Forces who offered to let the ship go, provided that the British admit that they were at fault. After the wounded were evacuated over land, a British naval attaché was brought to the ship and arranged to escape under cover of darkness…
Made less than a decade after the incident, The Yangtse Incident is very historically accurate, although as is mentioned in a note at the start of the film, time constraints have limited how much detail could be shown. However this does not excuse the rather piecemeal information that we, as the viewers, do get. We never find out how the men who evacuate the ship get to safety, or how two of the wounded become separated. Similarly, those without a detailed knowledge of the Chinese river network might well find the long list of place names and locations to be rather confusing in establishing what is going on. Fortunately the film holds its own on the storyline front and the good characterisation and strong pacing build up to a genuinely gripping climax as the ship makes a bid for freedom.
Director Michael Anderson had previously helmed iconic British war film The Dam Busters (1955) and brings a similar ‘documentary’ style approach to the production which gives a good sense of realism to the whole proceedings. The ship itself was used extensively during filming, although there are a couple of model shots later on.
Richard Todd takes the top credit here in another British military man role, as usual he suits the role very well. There are a good number of familiar faces in the rest of the cast including future Doctor Who William Hartnell and an uncredited debut role for a young Bernard Cribbins.
Refreshingly free of the unsubtle “anti-war” messages and political correctness that would doubtless plague any modern adaptation, The Yangtse Incident is a solid two hours of stiff upper lips and British pride and comes recommended to all 1950s war movie fans.
Sadly there is no DVD in any region at present although some VHS copies do circulate. A solid looking print on Film 4 in the UK was the source of this review.
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Director Sergio Corbucci is probably best remembered now for the dark, grim and nihilistic Spaghetti Westerns, Django (1966) and The Great Silence (1969), but his first genre entry was a very different film. Grand Canyon Massacre (1965) was a typical early Italian Western, from that period when the producers and filmmakers tried their hardest to give the films a Classic American Western feel. So the storyline and ambience is all very typical American Western stuff, while the lead star is the imported James Mitchum (son of Robert), who gives a very flat performance here.
Unusually for an Italian Western, the film was shot in Jugoslavia, home of the German produced Karl May Westerns and fans of the latter films should recognise character actor Vladimir Medar. There are a couple of other familiar faces on the cast, including George Ardisson and Giacomo Rossi-Stuart.
Ultimately it is an enjoyable film, if you go in expecting an American style Western, anyone hoping to see some of Corbucci’s later greatness will surely be disappointed. The German DVD from Koch Media is rather like the film, serviceable if unremarkable – a good, but non-anamorphic transfer and a light selection of extras.
A full review of the film and the disc: Grand Canyon Massacre
Its that time of year again, the Hallowe’en period, and the months before and after, are a goldmine for classic horror titles, and this year is certainly no different.
The Midnite Movies line is back, to much fanfare, with a great selection of titles – like most people, I am most excited about Witchfinder General (1967) – finally (I hope) with a good looking, uncut print. A duet of Amicus anthology horror films from the new 20th Century Fox branch of the MM collection, along with the recently announced release of Beyond the Grave (1972) from Warner Brothers will also be more than welcome. I’m also likely to be tempted by MGM’s Vincent Price boxset, as I only own one film from it (Dr. Phibes). Expect reviews of all of these as soon as I can get my hands on them as part of that annual institution – Horror September!
For anyone who has not already seen them – the MGM/Fox titles and the WB collection.
Some other news, leaked yesterday, concerns the new Mario Bava releases coming from ABUS in October. As well as a single disc release of the exciting Erik the Conqueror (1961), there will be a boxset of Baron Blood, Bay of Blood, 5 Dolls for an August Moon, Roy Colt and Winchester Jack, Four Times that Night and Lisa and the Devil (with the House of Exorcism recut) – 3 of these films will also include newly recorded audio commentaries from Tim Lucas. This should be a good set to pick up – more details.
And literally just announced, from Severin Films, a brand new release of Lucio Fulci’s classic giallo Murder to the Tune of 7 Black Notes (1977), to be released in late October, along with his little known sex comedy The Eroticist (1972). The details.
If you can’t wait until then, BCI are releasing two more titles in their well received Spanish Horror collection in August, Paul Naschy in Exorcismo and Amando de Ossorio’s Night of the Sorcerers. Probably not for fans of “top quality” horror films, if you like the trashy stuff, this should be a good buy. Details. While the World Cult Cinema experts, Mondo Macabro are releasing the French sex-horror film The Blood Rose this month as well. Details.
It should be a good couple of months – not to mention the great series of reviews and features that I have got lined up for the site (hopefully including most of these new releases!).
More Peter Brady action, and plenty of character actors to spot :
The Invisible Man – Season 2.
So I’ve finally completed my review of the Universal Hammer boxset, a year and a half later. All new reviews of:
There’s more Hammer to come later this month with a Vampire Women double-bill ….
Once again the real-world is getting in the way of film reviewing! We will be temporarily without internet access for up to a month, but I will be writing plenty of new reviews during this time, so watch out for a big stack of new reviews in July! Meanwhile, anyone coming to the Bradford Fantastic Films Festival – keep your eyes open for the Mondo-Esoterica team, we’ll be there all weekend.