An all action Alistair MacLean double-bill

November 24th, 2007

Now here is an interesting contrast of films. Two films based on popular Alistair MacLean novels, made within two years of each other, both starring upcoming actors in the lead roles with some well known supporting casts, and both helmed by lesser known directors. The difference comes therefore in the writing – Fear is the Key was scripted by Robert Carrington, while Eight Bells Toll is adapted for the screen by MacLean himself. Both films follow a similar pattern with the adaption, basing the script strongly on the book with some trimming for time, however MacLean shows infinitely more talent in doing this than Carrington, who leaves Fear is the Key with a mess of storylines, that is almost incomprehensible, and completely loses the Nihlistic tones of the book. Fortunately the film is saved by one of the best car chase sequences in cinema.

I have to admit to surprise over this result, many other writers have trouble cutting their works for the screen, getting rather too attached to the storylines. Hammer’s Quatermass and the Pit (1967) is a perfect example, with Nigel Kneale attempting to cram his 3 hour teleplay into a 90 minute film, leaving it overly rushed and chaotic.

Both of these films have been released with little flair but good looking prints in R2 land, and are now fully reviewed:

Eight Bells Toll (1971)

Fear is the Key (1972)

Chase a Crooked Shadow

November 4th, 2007

Optimum UK have a very mixed record on their DVD releases, with many titles being simple re-issues of existing discs, frequently changing release dates and a complete lack of publicity for many of their releases. However, every so often there is a gem, and the new British Thrillers collection released on Monday contains two. Fear is the Key (1972), an Alistair MacLean adventure film (review coming soon), and this film Chase a Crooked Shadow (1957), a two rather little known titles and completely unavailable on DVD before, they both get good looking (if barebones) prints.

The film is enjoyable, and very reminiscent of the Hammer thrillers of the early 1960s and comes recommended to fans of this time.

Check out the full review: Chase a Crooked Shadow

Have a Hammer Horror Hallowe’en!

October 31st, 2007

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Ah Hallowe’en, the best time of the year for a horror fan, and not just because its the only time you can get Pumpkins in the shops to make Pumpkin stew, but because all of the DVD companies decide to put out every horror film in their store-rooms, and the shops finally put horror films front row with big discounts. I’ve got to give credit to my local supermarket, I found The Haunting (1963), Hills Have Eyes (1978), and to my real surprise Mark of the Devil (1970). Someone will be in for a surprise when they sit down to watch this tonight!

So what horror soaked gem did I choose for tonight. None other than Hammer’s often overlooked Plague of the Zombies – a tight and well told tale of Voodoo in Cornwall. With some very good direction and acting, I highly recommend it.

Read the full review: Plague of the Zombies

Now in print!

October 30th, 2007

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Well, it’s not quite All the Colours of Darkness, but here is my first film related appearance in print. Horror 101 was a group project launched on a few forums last year, with the aim to compile reviews of 101 different horror films into a single book. Perfect as a reference work or for genre newcomers. My personal contribution is a chapter on Amicus, and specifically Asylum (1972).

A million thanks to Dr. AC who lead the project, and got it into print. Sadly it is not yet available in the UK (although if there is enough demand, I can import a few copies to pass on, e-mail me!). However you can buy it direct from Amazon.com or the official Horror 101 with Dr AC website today.

Have we no SHAME?

October 26th, 2007

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The year started with cries that cult DVDs were doomed, talk of “over-saturation” and “the end of an era” were banded about. Yet we are still here, and much to everyone’s surprise, heralding the launch of an all new cult DVD company, in England!

Shameless Screen Entertainment has been established with the sole intention of distributing ex-video nasties, and the more extreme cult cinema. Their first two titles released earlier this month are a good example of this, and reflect the real possibilities… or the possible realities of this new company.

Phantom of Death is a real plus. Previously only available on DVD from Germany, and generally not very well known, despite the presence of the notorious Ruggero Deodato at the helm, it is presented fully uncut and in a good looking widescreen print.

New York Ripper is more of a concern. It has been readily available on DVD in the US (although it is OOP at present), and recently released on a very good, feature packed Swedish DVD, the Shameless release has also suffered from that curse that will doubtless hang over the company for a while to come – BBFC cuts. I won’t get into the idiocy of mature and consenting adults in the UK being barred from watching a film freely and fully available in the US, Scandinavia, Italy, France, Netherlands, Australia and Germany.

Ultimately Shameless have no way of telling, before they submit a film, whether or not it will be cut, and with the high cost of submitting a film, they can’t afford not to release it afterwards. However, they do know when a film has been previously released, and perhaps should be looking to fill the gaps in the market rather than simply doubling up – although from the Joe-six-pack perspective, titles like “New York Ripper” are much better known, and likely to sell a lot better in stores.

Shameless are certainly the most exciting company to emerge this year – their superb cover-art and well written case notes show a real love for the films that many of the other cult DVD companies, and certainly the majors seem to be missing. Some will doubtless criticise the lack of bonus features on the discs, but at their own admission, the company have said that the cost of recording interviews etc. would force them to cut their releases from two a month, to one every two months – and while it is a pity not to get to hear Michael York explain just how he came to be cast in a Giallo film, it is a worthwhile sacrifice to simply get the film out on DVD.
So lets just hope that they survive the BBFC maulings, and make enough sales with the better known titles to allow more unreleased goodies to emerge in 2008.

Read more about the upcoming Shameless titles at our upcoming page, or their own site at Shamless-films.com

THE PEPLUM!

October 14th, 2007

Peplum part 1

Well, its been a while, but I’ve been working on something big – and here is the first part of an all new Mondo Esoterica guide, with four all new reviews.
The guide itself is going to be greatly extended over the next few months, as are the reviews, but for now, take a look and enjoy:

The Mondo Esoterica Guide to THE PEPLUM

The Mind Benders (1962) – coming to DVD tomorrow!

September 30th, 2007

We round off Horror September 2 with something a little different.

The Mind Benders (1962) is a rather talky and quite slow, but very well written and acted film, that falls somewhere between science fiction and horror. It is coming to DVD tomorrow here in the UK on a very good looking DVD from Optimum.

We’ve got a first look at the disc, and a full review of this interesting film – The Mind Benders.

Amicus Retrospective

September 18th, 2007

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It is finally here! 3 weeks of hard writing and research, and lots of late night film-watching have produced an all new, 2500 word Complete Guide to Amicus.

That includes 8 all new film reviews:

Not to mention all new, two exclusive and extensive biographies of Amicus’ top directors, Freddie Francis and Roy Ward Baker, check those out.

And it doesn’t stop there, we have more Amicus reviews coming this month, including the impending WB US release of From Beyond the Grave (1973), not to mention more Horror Movie reviews for the rest of the month, all part of Horror September 2!

They Didn’t Die During the War

September 16th, 2007

SHOCK WAVES and THE PROWLER, playing all week at the Mondo Esoterica drive-in:

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Special edition: Ingrid Pitt

September 10th, 2007

Ingrid Pitt

It has been a long time since we had any Hammer reviews on this site, so here are two new titles for your delectation, both starring that voluptuous Polish beauty, Ingrid Pitt.

The Vampire Lovers (1970) – the first, and certainly the best of Hammer’s female vampire movies is this close adaptation of the original Carmilla novel. An Italian DVD release that is a good substitute for the OOP US disc.
Countess Dracula (1971) -  not so good this time, but a relatively enjoyable film, an adaptation of the classic Countess Bathory legend. A recent R2 special edition DVD with lots of great features, might even tempt a double dip.

Of course to tie these together we’ve got the first new guide of Horror September 2, the complete Mondo Esoterica Guide to Ingrid Pitt – and there is more Pitt coming later this month (no prizes for guessing which one)!