Wednesday, 27 April 2011

And Now The Screening Starts...

This seems to be the longest film review I've ever done. I don't know why. The film certainly doesn't desrve it - it's not very good. And in fact it's not really even a review as I'm not really saying anything about the film; I'm merely sarcastically commenting on the action for cheap laughs. There's no commentary, no critical distance, no attempt to analyse its themes, tropes or mores. It's one long sneering spoiler. But it's not like any of you are ever actually going to watch this film...

Oh, and it's not the worst modern British horror film I've seen. That would be House of Nine.

Reverb. (2008) dir. Eitan Arrusi. starring: Eva Birtwhistle, Leo Gregory, Margo Stilley.

We open on the hum of white-noise, grainy footage of viscera on tiled walls; analogue recording equipment and a hobbling figure making its way down a poorly lit corridor.

It's a horror film, then.

But we cut to an attractive indie-ish couple doing their mundane day jobs. It's tedious, repetetive and soul corroding stuff but they haven't lost their edge. He says the company name in a sarcastic manner and rolls his eyes. She draws a v-sign on a post-it note and sticks on her fore-head. No e-mail in that office then. Surely there must be more to their lives than this? They seem so young and spunky: look; he's driving erratically and she's smoking drugs in the car! Cool, they've got me on-side; they're free-spirits, not mindless drones. But which one is Dharma? And which one is Greg?

Meet Alex (Leo Gregory): he used to be in a band with his gal-pal Maddie (Eva Birtwhistle) until it all went wrong for some reason. He's been offered a chance to get onto a compilation album as long as he has the track by Monday - but he doesn't have any tracks at all! Maddie calls in a few favours and gets him a weekend at the world's most ridiculously glamorous recording studio which, for some reason, closes at weekend. And evenings (Rock-star work; it's a steady nine-to-five).

Once inside he starts listening to XFM for inspiration(!) and is flabbergasted by the industrial-lite indie pop that he hears! (listen to some early 90's Curve*, mate - it'll blow your fucking mind!)His creative juices flow and he records a bit of it and shifts the pitch slightly. That's his now. But wait, what's this peculiar frequency?

"There's nothing happening on the outboards," says Maddie, "if it was distorting on the record it would have the same distortion pattern as the's not happening on either of those!" I don't know what this means - surely the record is the recording? I've been in bands. I've worked in call-centres too but I've never managed to acquire the sort of casual and authoratitive sound-engineering skills exhibited here. I've been walking around with my eyes closed.

Maddie decides to use her dictaphone(from space) to record the room itself and when the recording is played back the soundwave shouts "Help Me" in a spooky voice. So Maddie decides to go for a walk. On her own. Down a hundred miles of dimly lit corridor.

Now, I don't want to come across like a policeman watching The Bill and snorting derisively at procedural innacuracies BUT...every recording studio I've ever been to has beige carpet, a little kitchen for making tea and a couple of bijou studios, built for speed not comfort (or speed cut with comfort, if you get a bad batch). They do not look like high-end hotels with ersatz Jamie Hewlitt art on the walls and endless moodily-lit corridors.

Alex is making music. Where does the music come from? Nobody actually seems to be playing or recording anything but the consoles keep leaping into life and playing hidden tracks of people having a really rough time of it.

"Probably just some muso joke," say Alex, convincingly.

Maddie isolates another track of human suffering - a woman's voice pleading for help. What to do? Ring the authorities saying enough is enough? No, she has sex with Alex. With her knickers on.

He's no better. After a post-coital chat about his creative muse: "One minute there's silence in my head and the next there's a song!" he drifts off into troubled dreams; full of blood and people wandering down tunnels looking like they've shit their pants. He wakes up (or does he?) with blood on his hands (or has he?) and discovers shit emo lyrics felt-tipped all over his body (or are they? Yes. Shit, I mean)

Maddie wakes up paralysed in her pants and terrorised by some shadowy horror. And then she isn't paralysed, so goes and does yet more moody mooching around. She discovers, on the internet, that a musician named Mark Griffin (rock 'n' roll!) committed suicide at the age of 27 in that very studio. We know he was 27 because the on-screen Google-search flashes up the names of Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain before settling on Griffin (so presumably the search request was "musicians who died at 27 who have had films made about them"). Griffin believed, as the shamen believed, that the recorded voice steals the subject's soul. Though Mr.C has subsequently distanced himself from these comments.

Alex appears back in the room, unecessarily abruptly, with pages of felt-tipped lyrics: "I've got it!" he says. And soon Maddie is doing an accapella version of his song - but something is not right. Alex rips off his shirt and wraps it around the microphone. Perhaps the studio should have scrimped a bit more on the tastefully lit corridors and bought a few pop-shields.

Amazingly, as Maddie has perfect pitch, timing and phrasing, her vocals fit perfectly when Mark hits the button marked "generic indie band".

"This is the one that's going to turn it all around!" he says, convincingly.

Maddie has lost her dictaphone and it's back to wandering the corridors alone again. She ends up in the cellar but it's morning. And nothing has happened.

At home in her surprisingly nice flat for a twenty-something call-centre worker; all high-tec computer equipment and National guitars, Maddie discovers the voice shouting "help me!" is a perfect match for her own voice; using the voice-recognition soft-ware fitted as standard on modern lap-tops.

She does further research. It seems that the song "Blood Room", originally sampled from XFM, is also an experimental film, also made by Mark Griffin in 1971. He's an auteur! The film is shit but it looks an awful lot like Alex's nightmares. Alex goes round to his ex-girlfriend's flat to try and get her to sing on his new project. "Just listen!" he yells, thrusting a C90 cassette at her. A C90? Wha?

Alex and Maddie try to track down "Blood Room" the album. They haven't slept for about twenty four hours by this point and that is possibly why, instead of just looking it up on Spotify they go to see surly record collector Wurzel, who lives in an office full of records and sunlight.

Wurzel has the record and about 300lbs of exposition: Griffin made his record, mysteriously, in one night and nobody knows who the singer is! Hmnn.

Back in the studio and Alex and his ex (Margo Stilley) are rocking the new tune. Maddie wants to show them the spooky cellar. Wurzel turns up, panicked, to tell them he's found out what a "Blood Room" is for. Full house; time for people to start dying! At the 52 minute mark!

"The Blood Room:" says Wurzel,"at the moment of death we released a sound that would open a door between worlds!"

Alex has some sort of fit in the bathroom and wakes up with "help me" scored into his arm like an honest Richey Manic. Wurzel hears a lot of noise and the camera starts to shake. For some reason if Alex finishes his song it will open the gates of hell. It's surprising that this hasn't happened previously given that this is a recording studio - one imagines that songs are recorded on the premises quite regularly.

Alex has got his full invocation on and, after an inept cat-scrap between ex-girlfriend and recent shag, ties Maddie up and threatens her with a mic-stand. Then he grabs the ex and pulls her into what we're now agreeing to call the "Blood Room", where he ties her up in mic-flexes and gets her drunk by messily pouring booze over her head. Maddie escapes, wanders back amongst the corridors and finds Wurzel dead, presumably from a terminal case of vibration white finger.

Alex catches her again, drags her into the "Blood Room" to make her special noise, while she looks into the cold dead eyes of Margo Stilley (no diservice to her, she's meant to be dead).

At the last minute she knocks over her microphone, it lands upon the booze
saturated wires and electrocutes Alex at his recording desk. The Fire Brigade arrive. Maddie thinks she is fine. She isn't.

There. Done. Don't watch this. It's not very good.

*slightly superfluous. There is only early 90s Curve. as far as anybody knows.

The Chronicles of Nornia

My knee has been stiff for the last few days so I decide to go for a walk. Frankly I need the exercise; my sedentary lifestyle and ready-meal diet has seen me swelling like a happy prick and my brilliant idea of swapping drinking litres of red wine for litres of full fat coke hasn't exactly done wonders for my...well, anything. So I go for a walk aiming for a park called Orangefield. I know where Orangefield road is and I head for it thinking it'll lead to the park. It doesn't. It leads to an Orangefield Grove, and to an Orangefield Grove, an Orangefield Way, an Orangefield Straight, an Orangefield Path, an Orangefield Straight and Orangefield Clippings. There is no park. I continue on through similar permutations on the word Sandhill before finding Clarawood which was likewise diffuse. But Clarawood did have a park and a millenium park at that, made up of a series on concentric circles; like Basingstoke - or hell.

Leaving it I happen into the Clarawood Estate which has only one way in and one way out, like the whale that swallowed Pinnochio. As I am in there I am buzzed by men driving around in cars, like flies round the ceiling, their tattooed elbows hanging out of their window. I'm suddenly reminded of the Shankhill Butchers and mince at speed away from the cruising killers. Every man I see is either bald, tattooed or smoking and most are all three and doing something with their cars. I am reminded of my childhood, of that sense of suburban otherness (I never left the house as a child so everything seemed odd and strange when I went outside. Basingstoke, though far more suburban, I knew with contemptable familiarity). It's street after street of smalled, named houses; stone-clad where they aren't pebble-dashed. It's like Portslade, near Brighton, where I grew up in seventies except the cars have all swollen to monstrous proportions; all cow-catchers and chrome. I don't know what people are doing with all those cows they must be easily, possibly inadvertantly, catching.

Every house has a rusting basketball hoop fixed to the front of the garage.

While I'm terrified of the men (and men everywhere) the women are delightful. They smile. They say hello. They aren't even selling anything. After London it's a revelation. By the end of the walk I am actually returning smiles and hellos. If I could have tipped my hat I would have done - my hair will not tip. And at no point during this fairly pointless circuit (I end up back at Orangefield Road and go home) am I pepper-sprayed.

I call that a result.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Chronicles of Nornia

Belfast: land of the erotic clown. The accepted look for teenage girls here is simillar to the young boys of ancient Rome in Fellini's "Satyricon". How many young men have never seen their girlfriends naked because of the obfuscating two inches of brick-dust plastered over their bodies. Each sexual encounter must leave the bedroom looking like a German porn-set. I don't know when it starts but it starts young: the crowification of the hair, the tandori-ing of the skin, the pornstar plucking of the eye-brows. The boys, conversely, don't seem to make any effort at all; pull on the trackies, pop the collars, a quick rinse with Oxy 10 and they're out the door!

It's different to London and I'm old. And I'm not good with change (which is why my pounds don't look after themselves - in every sense). Don't get me wrong - I'm not Liz Jones! I'm not going to move to the country and slag off the locals until I get a shot-gun blast through the letter-box (I don't have her readership for a start. Or her FABULOUS figure!). It's certainly not WORSE than London (and god knows I was sick of that place) and in many ways far better. But it is different. would be.

The house we live in (a spacious two-up two-down, in a quiet mews) is heated with oil. Obviously this is no odder than heating your house with gas. But actually, for some reason, it is odder.Maybe because a giant oil-drum isn't a feature of most London gardens. I have already tangled with THE OIL MAN (where, in true buck-toothed, silly-ass style, I didn't get his jokes, fumbled the meaning of the words "cheque" and "check", forgot how to use a padlock and tripped over a step into my garden. As he left he gave me a look last given by a Spartan mother depositing her child on a hillside.). What kind of oil is it? Can I top up with Mazola if we're running low and I need a bath? Or is that the equivalent of trying to make toast with a lit fart?

Then there are the peculiar taboos around drinking (please note: the only things I seem to have noticed about Belfast after living here for the best part of a month are: teenage girls, my own house and booze. And the fact that I can't seem to get a duck anywhere. These are my concerns. Quite the everyman).

I'm in "Horatio Todd's" a bar that actually sells beer other than Harp and Guinness but because it's Good Friday they can't serve alcohol until five o' clock in the evening. So I'm scribbling furiously in a booth listening to Amy Winehouse and supping delicately on a ginger beer. Incidentally, I didn't initialy order a drink - I stepped into the pub and the barman took one look at me and said "There's no alcohol till five o'clock, pal! It's the law!" I didn't much care for the "pal" or his assumption of my ignorance of the law: I was ignorant but I don't expect people to be able to read it from my stupid face! The person behind me at the was also English but as he was a colourful cockney the exchange was louder, brighter, took far longer and ended in back-slapping bonhomie while I skulked on my bench.

It's twenty minutes later; the cockney still seems to be ordering his drink. He keeps floating back and forth to bar as if distracted always on the point of finalising his order. The bar-man doesn't seem the patient type and indeed doesnt seem to be displaying any patience at all; he's acting as if this were entirely normal behaviour. Belfast seems unknowable even when a Cockney is introduced into it. The cockney seems to have the hang of it far more than I do - though, in fact, his skin DOES look far more comfortable than mine!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

And Now The Screening Stops...

Hello. Haven't been away or gone mad or anything - BT are just fucking my internet connection around. Arseholes. Anyway...

Martyrs. (2008) dir. Pascal Laugier, starring Morjana Alaoui, Mylene Jampanoi,

I wouldn't watch this. Here's what you do: go and watch Radiohead's video for "Just". It's exactly the same as this story except you don't have to put up with an hour of watching a woman being skinned alive. The more I watch "transgressive" cinema the more I like seventies' children's television. What is wrong with a kindly rag and bone man? There were no starved tortured women in "Egghead's robot" - there was Roy Kinnear, a brace of Chegwins and a whole lot of running about.

Friday, 15 April 2011

And Now The Screening Starts...

Strip Nude For Your Killer. 1975 dir.Andrea Bianchi. starring: Edwige Fenech, Femi Benussi,Nino Castelnuovo

If the past, as L.P.Hartley continues to point out (from the past, where he now has his passport stamped), is a foreign country, then the past in a foreign country is a very strange place to be indeed. And so it is. As I sit and watch "Strip nude for your killer" I am aware of how utterly without map and compass I am in 1970's Italy. This film begins with a botched abortion and ends, and I don't think I'm giving too much away here, with an anal-sex gag. Amazingly the two are not unrelated!

There is a lengthy sequence in which a very fat man drives a woman at high speed around Rome. Once he gets her into his flat he offers her money for sex. She declines so he has a go at raping her and, when this fails, he becomes weepy and maudlin. At this point she relents, undressing neatly and, when he can't get it up, she comforts him and refuses the money that he offers again. After she leaves he retrieves a blow-up doll from the bedroom but it is he who is punctured by a leather-clad murderer!

Much of this is presented as if it is humorous and perhaps the portly rapist is a stock comic character in Italy. But trying to get a handle on these peculiar cultural conventions is, for me at least, much of the charm of the giallo (much of the rest is Edwige Fenech, of course). All of the usual giallo tropes are obediently in place: the leather gloves, the bottle of J&B (official liquor of throat-ripping Italian men since 1957)the brilliant score are all here. But trying to fathom the motivations of the film makers as bizarre scene lurches into bizarrer scene is harder to map out.

Femi Benussi's lengthy trot past a swimming pool and up into a bar dressed in a bikini too small to hide her luxuriant seventies pubes, plays like a classic Scorcese tracking shot grafted onto an Italian sex comedy. An elderly homosexual is killed and the next time we see his corpse his bum is out! Why?

This is a relatively late giallo and all the memorable murders have been done so to say that the killer's motivations seem a little tacked on is something of an understatement. The entire raison d'etre is tossed off between Edwige Fenech's tits and the afore-mentioned bum-sex gag. Surely its spiritual home!

There's the usual creeping around in the dark, all manner of nonsense in a photographic dark-room. The central conceit; that the murderer only murders the naked, isn't strictly adhered to and, at one point, after stealing a sword from a suit of armour (!) the murderer cuts off and keeps a man's penis. For no reason. The man has just been revealed as the main suspect - though we're now pretty certain it isn't him - that's a pretty impressive alibi! Impressive alibis are surplus to requirements though given that the police in this film are among the most inept in cinematic history. At one point they are unable to catch a man fleeing the scene of a double murder with a drunken woman in his arms. They escape by hiding in the garden! The drunken woman is the always wonderful Edwige; Audrey Hepburn pressed against glass but with boobs till Tuesday. In fact she's in the film far too little, most of the action featuring the elementally unattractive leading man. He is in turn leering, sexist, violent, untrustworthy, smug and the owner of the nastiest pair of swimming trunks of all time. Throughout the film you're thinking well, surely he must die.

You may be disappointed.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

And Now The Screening Starts

The Nightcomers dir. Michael Winner, starring Marlon Brando, Stephanie Beacham, Thora Hird

In a way I'm not sure that there's much more I need to to do in this review than list the members of this dream-team cast. If you're of a certain disposition the collision of the worlds of Marlon Brando and Thora Hird is almost irresistable. And Michael Winner is attempting wrangle this remarkable hotch-potch. I'm not sure Michael Winner is a bad director; a bit meat-and-potatoes certainly, lacking a certain zest. But he films the story (a bit stodgily)and his films always look beautiful and that's certainly the case here; the film has tremendous visual atmosphere, the cameras constantly poking their way through silhouetted trees to brooding sunsets, while thick blue curlicues of mist rise from the verdant earth. All that sort of stuff. But a director who allows Marlon Brando to improvise a monologue about his dad selling a horse to the gypsies in a hokey Irish accent, to camera, which takes up fully five minutes of screen-time and advances the plot nary a jot, is clearly, shall we say, in thrall to his leading man.

When really he should be in thrall to the reliably busty Steph Beacham who is able able to portray a governess in the nursery and Marlon's stress-ball in the bedroom with equal facility. I'd like to further rhapsodise on Ms. Beacham's impressive bosoms, but each time they are unveiled Marlon's great fat hands are right in there, sqeezing away like half lemons on a juicer. It's like door-step robbery: she leaves a couple of milky ones out and she's got blue tits for weeks!

Sorry. I'm so sorry.

The story: it's a prequel to Henry James'"The turn of the screw".

A pair of orphaned children are left in the care of a house-keeper,a governess and Peter Quint, who was once a valet but now appears to be a gardener cum household tramp. It's difficult to believe that the tousle-haired fatty was ever a valet, but it's harder to believe that a man with the sexual allure of the one-armed dish-washer from "Robin's Nest" could have la Beacham rolling and panting and submitting to clothes-line bondage.

The children, under Quint's spell rather more than Mike Winner's, start to immitate the pair's kinky antics and things start to go very very wrong with the introduction of a few archery lessons.

The children, incidentally, grate throughout; the girl has the carbolic-scrubbed dullness of a grown woman playing a child, while the boy has the sort of full throated over-projection latterly seen in "Hammer House of Horror's Growing Pains".* Though separated by a decade there is an eery resemblance between these two twin pillars of bed-wetting poshness. As a consequence the children's artless aping of Quint's hog-tying look like just that; harmless children's games, utterly denuded of any sinister quality. This beyond anything else is the film's great failing. At the story's closure, when another governess turns up at the gate, and as the real story is about to begin, we don't care. We're glad to see the back of them. Precocious little shits.

*this is an excellent reference. Everybody has seen "Growing Pains" and everybody knows exactly what I'm talking about.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

This is my 1ooth post on this blog. Bit of an anti-climax then. Nevermind, here's a joke wot I wrote. Ahem.

"Who cuts the hair in the vegetable family?"

"The Pa snips."


Showing my age there, obviously. I come from a world where your hair was cut by a family member or "your mum's friend". Today's children, with their pogs and rubik's snakes, would have no concept of being stripped to the waist over the kitchen sink while your "Auntie" Pauline cut chunks out of your scalp while smoking, drinking coffee and chatting to your mum over her shoulder. To this day I shudder on being offered a coffee at the hairdresser's. I'm sure the mirror is there to reassure you that your mum isn't sat behind you advising the barber to "even it out over the ears".

Sunday, 10 April 2011

And Now The Screening Starts...

Phenomena. 1985. dir. Dario Argento. Starring: Jennifer Connolly, Donald Pleasance, Daria Nicolodi.

This is an astonishing film and there are many extraordinary things about it. Perhaps these choice tit-bits of dialogue:

"They call this the Swiss Transylvania."

"Your insects won't help you now."

"It's an established fact that all insects are psychic!"

"Help! I'm lost and foreign!*"

Then there's the oddness of seeing Bill Wyman's name pop up in the credits of a film starring a 15 year old girl or the incongruity of Motorhead soundtracking lushly photographed Alpine landscapes.

Phenomena is the story of Jennifer, the sleek and confident new girl at a Swiss boarding-school. She's confident because her father is an internationally famous film-star and because her hair shines like a wet, black sun. Throughout the film this confidence is never shaken, whether she's dangling from some guttering, having posters of her father confiscated or treading water in a pool of maggots and bobbing human skulls. She retains the sort of composure, in fact, that suggests some sort of pathological disorder; she remains as unruffled as that perfect hair. The source of this serenity may be her peculiar affinity with insects. Insects love Jenny. To the point that one of them attempts to get off with her. Right there in front of people, he starts secreting his lusty bug juice! Get a cocoon! Or whatever it is you people use.

Not only is Jenny plagued by sexified love-bugs she is also troubled by sleep-walking. And when this sleep-walking means falling endlessly down a series of white tunnels to the sound of Iron Maiden you know no good can come of it.And indeed little does, barring the intervention of a kindly ape and a chair-bound Scottish etymologist, certain that the Greeks were onto something because their word for "soul" is the same as their word for "butterfly" (he's an entymologist etymologist!).

This is classic Argento territory. The wind howls constantly as a pathetic fallacy. Girls, fleeing for their lives, look for shelter in unexplored caves. There's the remote school setting, the abandoned child, the pounding Goblin soundtrack. And maggots. More maggots than you will ever need. It's maggotty in there.

Then there is the plot. There is a murderer and we do sort of find out who it is at the end. The murderer does explain why they're doing the murders. But it doesn't make any actual sense. The murderer doesn't really have any motivation, or screen time (though given the casting fans of Argento will have sussed out who it is immediately). And yet, within its cloistered, hyper-real confines, it makes absolute sense. When the stunning double-punch ending is delivered (and believe me it is an audacious denuement - even if you have sat through the rest of this film under duress you will sit up, eyes a-poppin' over the finale. It's astonishing!) it does make a certain amount of sense. Once you have refurled your tongue and peeled down your eyelids you will sit back thinking, yeah, that is a satisfactory resolution to this film - I can now go about my business.

At bottom Phenomena is a fairytale. Connolly is Snow White throughout; the raven hair, the ruby lips, the unstained whiteness of her dress but she also has a certainty, the sure-footedness that comes from being an exemplar of good. That she doesn't actually do anything good, that she's smug and aloof throughout, makes not a jot of difference - she is symbolically good, just as, and rather more difficultly, a deformed child and his obsessive mother are symbollically evil. Outside of Argento's world this would be troubling indeed but in this environment the child is a troll, an imp; he's Rumpelstiltskin. In fact, in purely transliteral terms, he's Grendel, the mummy's boy monster.

Which is a roundabout way of getting Argento off charges of disabilism; the equation of physical difference with mental abherrance. I don't think that's really what he's doing. After all if we literally accept that Argento equates disability with evil, then we also have to accept that insects are psychic, monkeys roam the streets tooled up, and that a Scottish Academic could afford a studio flat in the Swiss Alps! Oh and HE'S disabled - and he's a goodie.

*I've used that one myself.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

And Now The Screening Starts...

This is one of my stop-gap film reviews while I assimilate my Belfast experience...

Venom - 1981 - dir. Piers "Blood on Satan's Claw" Haggard. starring: Susan George, Klaus Kinski, Ollie Reed and, of course, Sir Michael Gough.

Warning: here be spoilers (as if anyone is ever going to watch this film!)

London: big Georgian town-houses, red buses, war monuments to "The Glorious Dead", be-furred American women and their posh English children. Susan George is the maid. Ollie Reed is in evil-'tached-butler mode (shades of "Blue Blood" here). The pair of them are plotting against the family: the kid has asthma! Intrigue!

Ollie is cosily settled beneath Susan George's thumb; her knicker removal hypnotises him into submission. Rich American "mom" is off to see rich American dad, leaving asthmatic animal lover Phillip (Lance Holcomb - in one of only three films on his C.V. sadly) at home with grizzled grandad Sterling Hayden and the tender mercies of the below-stairs pair. Ollie goes to meet the third member of their gang and it's Klaus Kinski and his icily popped European collar, relegating Ollie to only second most terrifying man in the room.

Philip has a well flagged asthma attack and is spirited away in a black-cab. He pops over to an aquarium and then onto a pet shop to pick up a package from the soothsayer out of "Up Pompeii". Meanwhile snake-vet Dr Marion Stowe (Sarah "mine's a pint" Miles) and her charming, racist daughter, discover that the giant black-mamba snake they've been expecting hasn't been delivered. But if they haven't got it who has?

Phillip obviously.

The gang are due to kidnap Phillip but the boy wants to get his snake warm first(not a euphamism). Susan obliges and gets a face full of mamba for her trouble - she's dropped her last knicker! The police, tipped off by Dr. Stowe about the serpentine swappage, turn up at the front door and are promptly shot in the chest by a panicked Ollie who has been calling everybody a bastard since Klaus turned up. Smooth move fat-boy because now there's a seige situation - a seige with a snake!

(Incidentally why did the dead policeman arrive at the house in a brown Datsun? Is this usual? In the seventies perhaps...)

Klaus negotiates with a policeman through a crack in the door - it's Nicol "orth’ bháis’s bethad" Williams, essaying another adventurous accent. He may be American - he may be Scottish; there's definitely something going on with him. We are treated to snake P.O.V. shots; the soundtrack twittering like like Stephen Fry with a bee in his bonnet.

Grandpa susses that there's a mamba on the premises, a little late for Susan George, whose deathly convulsions have contrived to show quite a bit of leg. Very sexy, if you ignore the bug-eyed frothing end. Grandpa searches the house for the mamba, armed only with a table-lamp and a cushion. He's bound to cop it - there's only room for one snake expert in this film and that's Sarah Miles.

The snake has found it's way into the air-vent. Would a Georgian house have an air-vent? Well obviously not, it's a ludicrous plot device but it does allow for excellent snake mobility turning the Mamba into a reptillian Cato - where will he spring from next?

The police tow away the crim's getaway car causing a nervous Ollie to freak out again. In an unlikely scenario tiny Klaus slaps him around a bit. Ollie looks as if he could pick his teeth with Klaus.

The police finally hear about the snake and it turns out to be, worse luck, some kind of paranoid super-snake. Buggeration. Sarah Miles, on a mission of mercy, tells Klaus about her suitcase full of anti-venom. He sees this as an excellent opportunity to get a fresh hostage and tricks her into believing that Susan George is still alive and needs a hot serum injection. In a masterful Cleopatra-style deception Klaus hides in a rug emerging with a gun and edging Sarah Miles into the snake-house. That Klaus!

After rubbing his face a bit Nicol Williams looks at the plans of the house and discovers a servant's entrance! Alright! Now we're policing! Meanwhile, Ollie being Ollie, he fancies a drink "to relax him". Bad move brother, because when he opens the drinks cabinet - here's snakey! Ollie escapes and Sarah Miles pipes up with a bit of advice - turn the heating off and the snake will go into a coma. Klaus thinks about it. What he decides to do instead is to cut Sarah's finger off, stick it into a presentation box and chuck it out the window.

Sir Michael Gough turns up from the zoo. They're going in through the servant's entrance. There are now three snake experts on the scene - I'm starting to feel sorry for the snake! The police burst in, shoot Ollie, get attacked by the snake and piss off again. The snake bites Ollie on the cock - this isn't the first time that Ollie's been left with something toxic in his blood-stream - you'd think he'd be pleased. Apart from the bitten cock.

More and more people turn up to this closed crime-scene. A zoo-keeper, then Phillip's mom, then the father's business partner and bank manager. Finally someone called Lord Dunning arrives and has a poke round. It's a crime scene with a cast of thousands.

Finally the snake, pissed off at being out-reptiled by the cold-blooded Klaus, has a pop at the icy German dwarf and the pair are shot to ribbons through some blinds.

Eight out ten, obviously.

Friday, 1 April 2011

John Not-Particularly Gaunt

So, so-called popular culture, Crazy Horses are fine but Mad Cows are not. That's just racism.

Watching "Dracula 1972" and admittedly not for the first time. Stand outs: Michael Kitchen as a randy hippy, rock band "the Stoneground"'s song "Alligator Man" (not available on general release), Johnny Alucard upsetting a vase at a rich ladies party to prove what a badass he is, the bit where Pete Cushing draws lines from the various letters in Alucard's name to work out that Alucard is Dracula backwards. Johnny's ultimate death-by-skylight-and-shower-fate. The way Steph Beacham's bosoms bloody the nose of gravity. The way that the "kids"* hang out in a coffee shop but go to the pub for pints of mild and desperately want to go to Jazz concerts.

I am clearly a seventies kid.

"Silver bullets are not practical and garlic not one hundred per cent effective"

And i was relying on those kievs!

* Bob's a cock

Apropos of nothing really...except I'm watching Doctor who.

I'm not a fan of the latest series of Doctor Who. I used to be a fan of sorts and, retrospectively, I am a fan of vintage Doctor Who. But that's clearly just my usual prediliction for endless lore and non-canonical histories - it's just another manifestation of my interest in mythologies. And it's grand stuff - hokey, over wordy, wobbly and bit crap: all the things I like.

But I'm not much of a fan of the new series. I like Matt Smith and his odd handsome elephant man as an indie-kid look. I liked David Tennant until his Christ fixation was in EVERY episode ("Forgive me Father. I'm Shorry. I'm Sho Shorry!"). I liked Christopher Eccleston; he turned up looking like a navvy with bad wet-look hair and briefly Billie Piper was the best actress in the country. It was fun and new and fresh. Stephen Moffat seemed to be a granite-hard Scots whittler next to the worst excesses of Rusty Pee's flabby Welsh wafflling. But this series has been wishy-washy and formulaic, with no new or interesting ideas; even the genre stuff like "Vampires of Venice" which should be chock full o' comedy tropes and bits of business is fondant light and unsatisfying. The doctor plays football with James Corden! That actually happened on your screens! Dr Who plays football with a fat comedian! There's no grist. As they say in the 80's, where I'm from, where's the beef?

But, and here's the thing, it has Karen Gillan in it. Those chocolate button eyes and legs till Tuesday: I WILL keep watching. She too is from the 80s - she was born in 1987.

Dirty old man.