Archive for January, 2008

The Legend of the Three Peplumators

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

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If you hadn’t guessed, we’ve got more Peplum reviews up today, this time from the Historical Peplum field. Read and enjoy:

The Colossus of Rhodes – Sergio Leone’s directoral debut starts slowly but provides some genuinely awesome spectacle and is certainly worth watching.

Messalina – Based, loosely, on real history this is a very unusual film, more akin to a Shakespeare play than a Peplum, with not much action and loads of court intrigue and murder. Worth checking out.

Gladiators 7 – a rather generic, but enjoyable adventure film set in Sparta, with Richard Harrison in the lead role. Genre fans should check this one out.

So, this takes us up to 11 Peplum reviews and there are plenty more to come, keep watching this blog! As usual, comments, corrections and suggestions are more than welcome, via e-mail or the comments form below.

Soledad Miranda sampler

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Jess Franco, you either love his films or hate his films and even his most ardent fans will admit that he is at best unpredictable in his output.

Often most highly spoken of was his tragically short lived union with the beautiful Spanish actress Soledad Miranda. Today we take a sampler of their work with one of the best and one of the worst of Franco’s films:

Vampyros Lesbos – undoubtedly on of Franco’s best, this genuinely erotic and mysterious Dracula riff is highly recommended.

Nightmares Come at Night – probably one of his worst there is nothing here to keep you interested and even the beautiful Soledad makes a mere cameo appearance.

I’ll be covering lots more Franco later on in the year with a particular look at his three favourite women…

The Yangtse Incident

Saturday, January 5th, 2008

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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.

2008

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

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So as we pay our tributes the the ancient gods of cinema it is time for my annual ‘proper’ blog posting.

I won’t bore you with a traditional “best of 2007″ films list, for I realise that I simply have not watched any films that were released in 2007, my only cinematic expeditions were for classics showings (see my post on the Bradford Film Festival).

On the DVD front I didn’t get too many newly released discs this year but there was certainly a fine selection available. Severin excelled again with some lesser known Fulci titles finally hitting DVD and two superb Black Emanuelle boxsets. In the UK, Network did good work with some more classic television boxsets, while Optimum continued their rather hit-and-miss output with some real classics emerging, with superb prints, but a complete absence of any features, even trailers. On the mainstream front MGM‘s Midnite Movies collection returned with some great new releases but some real furore over the use of the US print on Vault of Horror.

Here at Mondo Esoterica we hit 200 reviews back in August and I now have over 30 fully featured actor/crew biographies and 8 highly detailed genre guides on the site, with many being further enhanced over the next few months. Throughout 2008 I will be adding a number of additional Guides with a few very exciting projects in the pipeline.

There have already been some changes this year – the ‘upcoming DVDs’ page is now gone – it was requiring a lot of time to update and was too often out-of-date. DVD News will now be posted directly to the blog. As for the films being reviewed, I am going to be contrasting the depths of Euro-sleaze with some rather more cultured productions.

So that was 2007, Happy New Year and let us see what 2008 brings….