Thursday, 18 September 2008

Ciao For Now

We are on hiatus here at the 100 'W' Movie quest as we are off to Italy for 2 weeks for some in depth research and heavy drinking. See you in October.

No.75 : Where the Buffalo Roam

 Where the Buffalo Roam at the IMDb

Bill Murray stars as gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson in this bio-pic that focuses on three episodes from his times as a journalist for Life magazine.

The film has a predictable book ending device that sees Murray at his desk with a deadline looming. Short of inspiration he thinks back to his past and the three episodes follow. We fist meet him in San Francisco in the 1960’s where he recalls the exploits of Lazlo, his lawyer, who turns up in each subsequent part. Bill sits in the courtroom as his friend defends some hippy pot smokers, unsuccessfully.

We then move to the 1972 Superbowl where Bill has a hotel suite and is fully abusing the expenses tab. He doesn’t go to the game and trades his tickets for a hat before joining Lazlo at his militia training camp.

The last part sees Bill on the campaign trail with nominee Richard Nixon. He is refused an interview but manages to get some prize quotes when he gets Odo off ‘Deep Space Nine’ high and nicks his credentials.

As the last story fades we rejoin Bill in the present with his dog and his assignment complete.

I didn’t really like this film much mainly because I didn’t like Bill Murray’s character at all. He was constantly being wacky and obstinate but came across as a total prick. You never got the impression that he was anything other than Bill Murray doing an impression, and that distraction undermined the whole film.

For a gonzo writer like Thompson the lazy framing method for the stories must have been an embarrassment and I doubt he liked being portrayed as a laconic douche bag either. Peter Boyle as Lazlo was a bit better and at least the mania from him didn’t seem forced. The other main player was an underused Bruno Kirby as Thompson’s editor who spent the whole film getting angry at missed deadlines.

The three episode format for the film did make it more digestible, but I don’t think anything was learned or developed from section to section. Lazlo was the only real connection and his part was more comic relief than essential to the stories. Of the three sections the last was best and the actor who played Richard Nixon did a pretty good job - better than Anthony Hopkins at least! This was the most fun too and saw Bill relegated form the journalist plane to the zoo plane where all the hangers on got high. And flew on it too. Boom Boom.

The opening episode was the worst with an interminable 30 minutes spent on some students getting tried for pot possession. I know it was to show how bad ‘the man’ was but it seemed a real waste of time as we joined Bill sitting casually by, watching events unfold. The middle part was ranked as such and had a few funny bits; but this was were Bill was at his most wasteful and annoying and some poor maid will have to clean that up.

I hadn’t heard of this film before, and it was a lot more accessible than the other Hunter bio-pic ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, but it’s poor lead performance let it down along with the dull predictable script.

Best Bit Tricky Dickie in the toilet
‘W’ Score 11/23

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

No.74 : Waz

Waz at the IMDb

The IMDb gives the title of this film as ‘W Delta Z’ which seems a bit literal to me but to be fair they do use the Greek letter as a substitute ‘A’. Never mind, gets on the list either way!

‘Waz’ is a detective thriller in which a serial killer is on the loose. Jaded detective Eddie Argo and his fresh faced partner Helen notice that the bodies have unusual injuries and have an equation carved into their flesh. Lab tests reveal the presence of horse tranquilliser and as good fortune would have it there is only one source of the drug in the area. They raid the supplier and find slightly wacky lab man Dennis Pennis and the self same equation on the black board. It transpires that Pennis is just the supplier and he only has a few clues to assist the detectives.

The cops notice that the bodies are linked and that they appeared to have been given the choice to be killed or allow a close friend or relative to die in their place. We learn that Eddie had a high profile case collapse that involved many of the now dead people and his only link is the victim in that case, a rather grubby looking Selma Blair. Things move quickly when we learn that Blair is indeed the killer and that she’s been working on the equation which she believes proves that we’ll always seek self preservation over the welfare of others, even if they are our children or grandparents.

The last surviving acquitted man is in police protection but manages to fall into the killers hands. Eddie now has a choice should he let the man die or place himself in the killer’s hands?

This was a pretty horrible post ‘Saw’ serial killer with an elaborate plan movie. I don’t know what’s wrong with a good old fashioned killing spree as nowadays it seems to be a requirement that the killer has a scheme and a sound proof basement. The tortures such as nails bashed into finger nails and knees hammered were really gruesome and certainly not my idea of entertainment.

The detection angle was pretty good, although as soon as we meet the scarred and weird Blair there is no doubt that she’s the baddie. They did well to dispel any notions that her plan was unworkable by having her enlist unwilling strangers to help he move burly men by acting weak and needy.

The big reveal at the end did catch me unaware but on reflection it wasn’t really believable and nothing that had gone before gave it any credibility. The torture scenes were brutal and nasty and although necessary in the frame work of the film you have to wonder who’d enjoy seeing them.

These torture horror crime films are getting more and more prevalent and it isn’t welcome trend. This film wanted to be ‘Se7en’ but fell well short of that and barely scraped its way to parity with the likes of the ‘Saw’ franchise. It did have a good cast but when you have Melissa George and Selma Blair looking like a pair of hags you are clearly not making the most of your assets. Of course grimy and squalid is what the director aspired too and the fact that he achieved this meant only that my enjoyment was curtailed.

Not one to recommended unless you are a sick son of a bitch!

Best Bit : How much do you love Granny?

‘W’ Score : 12/23

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

No.73 : Walk All Over Me

IMDb Link :

Truck stop assistant Alberta is a bit ditzy and accident prone as well. When she loses her boyfriend’s cash and gets him beaten up she decides to make a run for it rather than face the consequences. She ends up in Vancouver and looks up her childhood baby sitter who seems to be doing well for herself. After explaining the house rules she lets Alberta stay, but the guest is somewhat surprised to see a naked man cleaning the floor.

Alberta’s friend, Celene, makes her living as a dominatrix and is so successful that men have to send audition videos to get on her list. Alberta quickly settles in and gets a job at the local supermarket. She is however still clumsy and her lack of confidence makes her a target of losers and weirdoes alike. Looking to cheer herself up she tries on some of Celene’s sexy costumes but manages to ruin a dapper Russian army outfit that cost $800.

Determined to pay her friend back she roots through the audition tapes and takes on her friend’s persona to make some money. Things don’t go well at first with her initial client who was a bit too keen on being a dog in public. She is persuaded to go home with him after being tempted by the piles of cash that he claims he’s won at poker but as you‘d guess there is more to him than meets the eye.

Unfortunately for all concerned the money belongs to some local gangsters and they are keen to recover their $500,000. Alberta manages to get away with $20,000 but the crooks soon come calling when they find Celene’s business card and are understandably disbelieving when she says she doesn’t know where the rest of the money is. The gangsters kidnap Celene and the doggy man and demand that Alberta recovers their cash in return for the hostages’ safety. Can she get the dough to save the day and will the naked cleaner be of some assistance?

I didn’t really like this film much. You get the idea that it’s meant to be daring and thrilling but for the most part it’s dull and predictable. The sight of men in bondage gear might have shocked 20 years ago but now it all seems a bit passé. For a sexy film there is no nudity, apart from a couple of saggy arses, but to be fair the lead actress Leelee Sobieski has a planet engulfing cleavage - which is nice.

She is a funny looking girl, a bit like a tubbier Helen Hunt, to be holding the film together and I didn’t really buy her change from down trodden woman to kick ass dominatrix. All the men as you’d expect are pathetic from the clients to the bad guys, the leader of which was shown to be a loser as he was wearing a wig.

I found towards the end that I didn’t really care who lived or died or who got the money despite investing 100 minutes of my life in the journey. The title is a kind of pun with the downtrodden woman turning the tables but as far as I can see the only thing crushed underfoot was any wit or originality in the script.

Best Bit : Some pretty decent costume work there

‘W’ rating 7/23

Monday, 15 September 2008

No.72 : White Nights

IMDb Link :

Ballet dancer Mikhail Baryvshnikov stars in this 1985 tights and treason drama. He plays, you guessed it, a ballet dancer who has defected from Russia to become an American citizen. The film opens poorly with a ten minute performance which has him hoofing about to great acclaim. Things go less well when his flight home develops problems and has to set down at a Russian airfield, in a pretty impressive crash sequence. He attempts to hide his identity by flushing his passport but them damn Ruskies are on the ball and he’s soon in the clutches of the nasty Colonel Chaiko.

Elsewhere Gregory Hines is tap dancing away at a run down Russian theatre. He is a defector in the opposite direction and living with Isabella Rossellini in a crappy apartment. The Russians, who have faked medical evidence showing Mikhail is more injured than he really is, plan to use the two dancers as a propaganda tool and put them in the same apartment where their relationship is fractious at best.

After some threats from the bad guys the pair relocate to Leningrad which looks strangely stock footagey. The car journey to the dance hall is plagued by some ropy rear projection work, but you have to remember this was made during the Cold War and the Russians were understandably reluctant to assist a production so jaundiced towards their cause.

The pair are ensconced in a fancy apartment and told to practice for the big show, but Mikhail can’t help but try to escape. He meets up with his frosty ex-lover played by Helen Mirren who has had a hard time of it as the KGB don’t believe that she wasn’t in on the defection, but she soon melts when she sees that hot shoe shuffle once again.

Mikhail manages to contact the US embassy and may have an escape route but can he convince his new friend and his wife to join him on his perilous journey?. Also, which is better the USA or Russia?

It would be churlish to criticise this film for the many dance numbers as basically that’s what it promised from the off. The politics however where extremely jarring with endless chats about freedom and ideologies filling every spare moment. As an actor Baryvshnikov is a good dancer and this is in a role that he is basically playing himself. Hines is also unconvincing as a black American tap dancer who has defected to Russia, but you have to accept that that’s a pretty tough gig!

Better is Helen Mirren as Mikhail’s ex-squeeze. Although she keeps her clothes on for once, her Russian accent is very sexy. The overblown, sax heavy, 80’s soundtrack is really annoying as is Mikhail’s big hair, but at least you get lots of tap dancing. Wait, that’s shit too.

All in all the film is a pretty unsatisfying affair with its cod politics and social commentary. If you like your dancing you’ll be pretty happy with the well choreographed numbers but I’d have fast forwarded through them if I wasn’t watching it on Five US. You get the impression that they signed up Baryvshnikov and then assembled a film around him, focusing on his talents. It is, to be fair a fair stab at a bio-pic, but as it’s actually a scripted drama you can’t help but be disappointed.

Best Bit : Exciting Campbeltown filmed plane crash

‘W’ Score : 13/23

Sunday, 14 September 2008

No.71 : Wasabi

IMDb Link :

Jean Reno plays super cop Hubert Fiorintini in the Japanese/French comedy thriller written by Luc Besson.

Hubert is a kick ass style of police man and his carefree style puts him at loggerheads with the Chief, especially when the Chief’s son gets a kicking during one of Hubert’s raids. When his efforts to apologise to the boy results in his being electrocuted Hubert is told to take a couple of months of overdue leave. The timing of course is perfect as he soon learns that his lost love has died in Japan and he is the father of her daughter.

Hubert goes to Japan after a 19 year absence and hooks up with his former partner, Momo, who keeps him fully armed and informed. Hubert meets the girl but hides his identity as her father, as her mother spoke badly of him. We quickly learn that the woman was in fact murdered and has left the girl $200 million which she’ll collect on her 20th birthday in 2 days. Mum it seems was working undercover for the police and had to sever links with Hubert to preserve her identity.

The money was pilfered from the Yakuza and they are keen to collect. What follows are several elaborate shootouts interspersed with some buddy cop moments and culture clashes. Can Hubert reconcile his relationship with his newly found daughter and ease his own overdraft at the same time?

This is a strange film. It looks like it has been shot in French but has been dubbed by the crew at ‘Eurotrash‘. The dubbing is so funny it has to be a deliberate move to make the film seem more eccentric and wacky. Reno appears to have done his own English translation but the rest of the cast sound like leftovers from a 1970s kung-fu flick. Once you get over the voices, which are a bit distracting, there is a lot to like. The film is similar in style to the ‘Rush Hour’ series with lots of gun play but no blood and little danger to the leads.

The culture clash gags are well done and Tokyo looked great. There are funny scenes in the shops and especially in the amusement arcade where Reno shows his dance moves before playing the video shoot out game for real. The bad guys are cut out villains with black suits and sun glasses and I don’t think they get one bullet on target in the whole film.

The detection angle was very slight with barely a breath caught between each puzzle and its solution, but the fast paced action more than made up for that. Overall I enjoyed the film with the action set pieces such as the driving range fight well executed and pretty funny to boot.

I hadn’t heard of this film before despite its great pedigree, and if you fancy a bit of action and a few laughs you could do a lot worse than ‘Wasabi’.

Best Bit : Driving range fight

‘W’ Score 17/23

Saturday, 13 September 2008

No.70 : What About Bob?

IMDb Link :

Richard Dreyfuss plays Dr Leo Marvin a successful psychologist who is about to depart for his month long holiday. He’s feeling good as his book ‘Baby Steps’ is doing well and a crew from ‘Good Morning America’ is going to interview him for their show. As he’s about to leave a colleague calls and asks if he’ll take a patient for him as he’s about to retire, somewhat prematurely. Leo agrees and is surprised to find that the client has already scheduled an appointment in the next 5 minutes.

The client, Bob, played by Bill Murray, is a nightmare with every phobia and fixation in the book vying for his manic attention. Leo uses his tried and tested methods and quickly ejects Bob with a copy of his book and a few tips. Clearly he hasn’t read Bob’s notes, or indeed the script, as the rest of the film is basically Bob annoying the good doctor.

Leo gets away with his family but Bob, displaying some out of character smarts and bravery, tracks him down and begins to weasel his way into the family. We soon learn that Dr Leo’s life isn’t as ordered as he’d like to think and he has issues with his wife, children and neighbours. Of course Bob’s innocent charm wins them over and they are at a loss to see why Leo hates his guts. After Bob salvages the interview when Leo chokes the doctor cracks and has Bob committed, only to have him sent home in time for dinner.

With the family loving Bob and his reputation in tatters Leo begins to get a bit mental himself and plots to kill Bob. As the dramatic climax approaches and the bomb countdown started can it all come together in a happy ending for all or maybe just some of the cast?

I didn’t really like this film much and I think it was because I was meant to like Bob and dislike Leo but failed to do either. Bob’s character is meant to be obsessive and annoying but he just grates and you want to punch him in the throat after 5 minutes. Leo on the other hand is meant to be uptight and stuffy but I thought he showed remarkable restraint when dealing with this total prick who was spoiling his holiday.

There were a couple of funny scenes, mostly involving Bob coming through again with his innocent charm as another of Leo’s schemes went awry, but they were few and far between. The less good bits involved Bob winning over the family, with him successfully teaching the son to dive where dad had failed. Thanks a lot, you show off twat!

Towards the end the film got a whole lot darker and although Bob’s mask was never shown to slip I’m sure the implication was that he was an evil cuckoo trying to steal the nest. The finale was unbelievable on all counts and finished with my least favourite ending - the ‘funny’ captions telling you how things panned out in the future. For us to care about their futures we need to be somewhat invested in their present situation and I wasn’t. Poor old Dreyfuss deserved better, as did the viewer who got an uneven and largely unfunny prescription doled out.

Best Bit : Bob gets uncommitted

‘W’ Score 12/23

No.69 : Where Have All the People Gone

Where Have All the People Gone at the IMDb

Another film title that should have a question mark but doesn't . After my review of ‘What‘s Eating Gilbert Grape‘ I did some research (well looked up Wikipedia at any rate) and learned that a question mark in the title is considered bad luck in America! Sadly, despite adhering to the question mark superstition, the curse claimed this film as the only thing worse than the production is the VHS box - I mean look at that - who’s going to a rent a video with just Captain Oveur out of ‘Airplane’ on it?

Anyway to business. ‘Where Have All The People Gone’ is a TV movie starring Peter Graves as one of the few survivors of a global calamity. He and his son and daughter are on a camping holiday in the Sierra mountains and are all in a cave when a bright line shines followed by an earthquake. Their friend is caught outside and at first is OK but soon gets sick. As he worsens the family decide to drag him back to town but he soon dies. As they prepare to bury him they find that he’s disappeared. But wait! He’s still there but has turned to dust for no apparent reason.

Suitably puzzled they hit town only to find no one about, prompting the titular question. They load up on supplies with a plan to head back home to Mom. On the way they encounter a crazy lady and a newly orphaned boy and they take them along for the trip. Other encounters involve run ins with a hijacker who nicks their car and a pack of wild dogs that look like they’ve been ferried straight over from Crufts.

As they arrive home some pieces fall into place but can the mystery be solved and will Mom be OK?

Although barely 70 minutes it was a real effort to watch this film to its predictable conclusion. The plot is so ridiculous and full of holes that the actors have to pull out all the stops to avoid laughing at the dialogue. The phenomena, which turns out to be solar flares, is so specific that it turns some people to dust whereas others are fine. Horses survive OK but dogs are driven mad and children get all emotional and lose the power to act in a believable fashion.

It is of course a savvy move on the producer’s part to tout an end of the world scenario that is so cheap. There are no injuries or devastation to show and a pack of salt covers the make up for all the fatalities. The lack of people save on the extras budget and the catastrophe is just a bright torch shone at the camera.

Every character gets an emotional scene with the son particularly bad in his “No, no, no!” phone smashing routine. The daughter nearly ties for awfulness with her clutching a doll for comfort histrionics. Graves himself largely has to carry the can and sadly he drops it from the off. You get no sense that he gives a toss for his family or mankind in general and he’s so devoid of emotion that a nice bed side table could have conveyed the same intensity.

The resolution was equally dire with Mom’s note a real heart wrencher complete with some pretty detailed scientific research. Well done, Mom! As with all these few survivor pieces we end with a voice-over talking about making a new start and hopes for the future - just when I was ready to end it all if this gubbins lasted another 5 minutes!

Best Bit : Graves goes mano a mano with a poodle

‘W’ Rating : 5/23

Friday, 12 September 2008

No.68 : White Heat

IMDb Link :

James Cagney stars in this 1949 gangster classic as psychotic con Cody Jarrett. The film opens with the Jarrett gang robbing a train and netting a cool $300,000. The blood thirsty raid leaves four dead and the treasury department has had enough. When a nicer member of the gang disobeys Cody’s order to kill an injured comrade the police find the man and a clue. With the net tightening and the gas chamber looming Cody decides to claim responsibility for a lesser robbery, knowing he’ll get two years maximum and beat the train robbery rap.

He thinks he’s smart when the plan works but unknown to him the treasury department agreed the deal with the judge so that they could plant a man in Cody’s cell to trace the stolen cash and other gang members. Things go well at first with the agent, Vic Pardo, winning the con’s trust by saving his neck when a hit from an ambitious member of the gang goes down.

Pardo convinces Cody to agree to his escape plan but things go wrong when Cody hears that his beloved mother has been killed and goes mental. When in the prison hospital Cody forges his own plan and breaks out a group of cons, including Pardo who no longer holds all the cards. Now on the outside Cody decides to settle some scores and arranges a big robbery at a petrol refinery. Can Pardo get a message out to his colleagues or will his cover be blown by a new gang member that the erstwhile cop put away 4 years before?

This is a cracker of a film that is held together by Cagney’s outstanding performance. He genuinely seems evil and unhinged and the scenes he shares with his overbearing mother are classic. Despite his small stature he is a real presence and you can tell the other actors aren’t feigning their fear when he kicks off.

The investigation side of things is well handled by the inside man and there are real scenes of tension as he infiltrates his way into Cagney’s affections. Less good are the treasury men who spend too long explaining their fancy triangulation device that helps track the felons down.

For its era the film is very violent, with gangsters and cops alike being killed by the cartload. There is also some fruity dialogue and wife slapping going on, as well as a few cold bloodied murders. Despite him being a classic screen bad guy Cagney does well to gain a bit of sympathy for his headaches and slutty wife. We’re not very sad when he gets his comeuppance (as he really had to) but we do mourn the passing of a great character.

If you’ve never seen ‘White Heat’ give it a look, it’s easily one of the best gangster/prison break movies ever. Top of the list Ma!

Best Bit : The train raid sets the brutal agenda

‘W’ Score 20/23

Thursday, 11 September 2008

No.67 : Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Here we go with one of the more famous ‘W’ movies, and another with a question in the title with the supposedly unlucky question mark omitted.

This was a groundbreaking film in it’s time, that saw it marry live action and animation almost seamlessly. Unlike previous films that had attempted this tricky feat, like ‘Bed Knobs and Broomsticks’, the people actually interact with the animations and they inhabit the same universe.

Bob Hoskins stars as Eddie Valliant a drunk private eye who gets his booze money by taking seedy photos of people having too good a time. He used to be in partnership with his brother until he was killed by a piano dropped by a cartoon character or ‘Toon’.

He takes a job photographing cartoon superstar Roger Rabbit’s wife making pat-a-cake with Acme chief Marvin Acme, who soon turns up dead. Roger is in the frame for the crime and faces ‘the dip’ a fatal brew cooked up by the evil Judge Doom. Despite his hatred of toons Eddie agrees to help and the pair have to stay ahead of Doom and his Cadre of evil weasels. When studio boss R.K. Maroon is shot dead it’s clear that more is at stake than first thought, and the whole of Toon Town may be in danger. To save the day Eddie must overcome his hatred of Toon Town and face the man who may be responsible for his brother’s death five years ago.

This is a really hard film to dislike and although it’s magic has faded since I saw it on release it still brought several wry smiles to this old cynic. The opening sequence where a Roger & Baby Herman cartoon is being shot is amazing especially when the human director walks on to chide Roger for having birds rather than stars fly around his head after he’s been clocked by a fridge.

Roger is a poor character to hang the film on as he’s really annoying with his high pitched voice and destructive antics. His wife, Jessica, voiced by Kathleen Turner is a lot better, although she does give uncomfortable images of a woman making it with a rabbit.

Bob Hoskins is pretty good as the weary private dick but the main kudos go to Christopher Lloyd as the maniacal Judge Doom. Of the cartoons I’d have liked Foghorn Leghorn to be in it more but it was good to see Disney and Warner Brothers stars get equal screen time.

The interactions between human and toon weren’t as good as I’d remembered them, with a lot of the time it looking like the cartoon was drawn in later - as if! Look at the bar scene for example - Roger’s drink goes straight out the back of his head. I was surprised at some of the more adult content with Jessica’s ‘booby trap’ and a song with a reference to balls possibly a bit uncomfortable for the parents. Judge Doom was also pretty scary and the murder of Maroon and the deaths of the weasels all seemed a bit incongruous with a kid’s film. I know they like to put in the odd bit for Mum & Dad, but I was scared!

The animations were great although not always totally consistent. When you see the characters gather at the end many look a lot different from their incarnations earlier in the film. Some things I liked were the madcap Acme factory and seeing that bloke out of ‘The Ritz’ in the bar.

The themes of tolerance and our old friend redemption weren’t overblown and there were enough laughs in this fast paced crowd pleaser to keep me happy.

Best Bit : Watch out for the steamroller!

‘W’ Score : 17/23

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

No.66 : When A Stranger Calls

IMDb Link :

This 2006 film is a remake of the 1979 slasher horror of the same name. The story is a familiar one, and even if you haven’t seen the original I’m sure that you’re familiar with the urban legend that contains all the plot key points.

Young Jill is having a hard time of it. Her boyfriend has been snogging her best friend and her authoritarian dad has stopped her going to the school bon fire night for running up a huge mobile phone bill. She reluctantly takes a baby sitting job for a rich doctor and her dad drops her off at their palatial home.

After the usual routine of going through the closets and grazing at the refrigerator she settles down for the evening. Her peace is however soon interrupted by a deluge of calls from her friends, a prankster from school and a heavy breather. Understandably nervous she sets the alarm and does a quick sweep of the house armed with a poker.

Nothing shows up, but the calls become more frequent and personal. Soon it is apparent that she’s being watched and the police are of little help. Things soon escalate and the police eventually manage to trace the call - “he’s in the house”. You can’t call that a spoiler as it was the most predictable thing since day followed night. With half an hour to go Jill has to scoop up her young charges and stay one step ahead of the psycho, who may already have a few notches on his axe handle.

This is a desperate effort, with absolutely nothing to recommend it. There are no surprises, grisly killings or even scenes of teenagers having sex. I have no idea who it was aimed at because it ticked none of the teen horror boxes. There are only two deaths in the whole thing and both of them happen off camera, with our only becoming aware of them when Jill finds their totally unhacked bodies whilst fleeing.

It is also very annoying, with at least five ‘false frights’ where we get a jump but no; it’s the cat, it’s the sprinklers, it’s the wind, it’s the cat again. In the original ‘Friday the 13th’ series this tactic was employed effectively and sparingly. Here you get nothing but false starts. You also get about 40 phone calls for your money. Really, sometimes they are stacked on top of each other with dull call following dull call - it was like watching a surveillance tape of a call centre.

The lead does OK with her limited material, but she has no chance of rescuing a film so devoid of ideas that you’d have more fun watching a blank E180 for three hours.

When things eventually kick off all the clichés are in place, from shutting the door - ooh there he is, to the hit him once and run away - don’t smash his unconscious face in or anything.

Without doubt this is the worst film on the list to date, and if you have the chance to see it or go on a psycho plagued babysitting gig, choose the later, it will be the least painful of the two.

Best Bit : End credits could not have been more welcome.

‘W’ rating 3/23

No.65 : Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie

IMDb Link :

‘Anchorman : The Legend of Ron Burgundy’ was an instant favourite of mine so it was a no brainer to buy this straight to DVD partner film which was offered with the American release of the film. It’s no longer widely available, although I think you can find it on YouTube.

The film isn’t a sequel as such, more a film made up from the discarded subplots and scenes from the original movie. It isn’t shy about its lowly origins with the voice over man describing it as “the chaff from the wheat” in the opening sequence.

It does hold up pretty well as a stand alone film, although some incongruous bits are ironed over with some timely voice over work. I wouldn’t be surprised if some new footage was shot to tie the thing together but for the most part the joins are obvious as is the standard of the ‘B’ material.

That said, there is a lot to like and it’s good that some effort was made to marry the scenes together rather than leave them as a pile of deleted scenes on the DVD. The main plot of this film concerns ‘The Alarm Clock’ - hence the title - a radical group whose aims are unknown even to them. They start out robbing banks but in a desperate bid for direction turn on Ron who happens to be on TV at that moment.

Although Rebecca has a lead to catch the gang it’s stolen by Ron and the boys who manage to let them escape and with a Channel 4 news van to boot. The villains then kidnap Rebecca and it’s up to the Channel 4 news team to save the day.

It was clearly a good decision to excise The Alarm Clock from the original feature as their unfocused approach is a bit distracting and none of their characters really work. They do however allow a couple of funny sequences including Ron’s investigative effort to ‘Rip the lid’ off the whole plot. We also get a slightly broader sequence where the guys relive their experiences in ‘Nam under Captain Brick’s command.

Two bits I could have done without were extended scenes where Champ professes his love for Ron and when Ron has to work without a teleprompter. Both go on far too long and are devoid of laughs.

The best of the new scenes were the leachy well wisher asking an amiable Ron about his sex life to Rebecca’s consternation, and Brick having a falafel for lunch which turned out to be a coffee filter full of cigarette butts.

It was also fun to see frat packers Justin Long as Ed Harken’s son and Seth Rogan as a cameraman in blink and you‘ll miss them cameos. You also see Stephen Root as the weekend anchor and Jess Moondragon’s ass, as he gives Ron some uncomfortable wisdom.

If you regard this film as a bonus feature to the original you’re in for a treat. A lot of scenes are crackers and you get loads of funny bits with Wes Mantooth and Ed Harken which would otherwise have been lost on the cutting room floor. It is however a pale vision of the original and if you pick it up thinking it’s a sequel you’ll be disappointed.

Best Bit : News Team Assemble!

‘W’ Rating 16/23

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

No.64 : What Planet Are You From?

IMDb Link :

Garry Shandling stars in this 2000 comedy as an alien on a mission to Earth. His advanced species procreate by cloning so there are no women, and the female kind are a mystery to all. The plan is therefore to send Garry as the vanguard to impregnate a woman and gather data. On his return he is to train up the men of his planet so that they can impregnate all the earth women and take over from within.

For some unexplained reason the aliens transporter always lands them in the toilets of high flying jets. The arrival cause unusual turbulence and puts the whole scheme on the radar of airline investigator John Goodman. The aliens have set up Garry with a job and references at a bank and he’s soon on the dating scene with predictably brash initial results.

He hooks up with slimy co-worker Greg Kinnear who shows him the best places to score chicks, including Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. It is here that he meets Annette Bening’s newly sober estate agent and after a short romance the pair marry. After some marathon sex sessions courtesy of Garry’s mechanical penis they soon fall pregnant. With the baby due in just three months will Garry report back to HQ as ordered or will John Goodman’s men in black spoil the party?

I enjoyed the first hour of so of this film before it collapsed under a weight of improbability and sentimentality. The whole set up with the aliens was a bit muddy with far more questions than answers. You’d think that if they could manipulate our computers etc. they’d be a bit more savvy when it came to women. The mechanical penis gag was quite funny but ran short the tenth time that you heard the tell tale buzzing.

I did like how Garry started off focused on the mission but was soon bitching about the minutiae of office politics. Ben Kingsley was really poor as the chief alien and John Goodman offered no menace whatsoever as the pursuing agent. I did like Bening as the love interest and no one does a slimy creep better than Greg Kinnear.

The last half hour or so spoiled the film as Garry started to shed tears and become predictably in love with being human. The whole emotions angle was like Data out of Star Trek and just as superfluous - why to people always have to grow emotionally in the movies? Never happens in real life!

I quite enjoyed the film but it could’ve been so much better. One to beam up only if you have an insatiable need for some buzzing crotch gags.

Best Bit : The changing tone of the buzzing gives us some insight

‘W’ Score : 15/23

No.63 : Without Warning

Without Warning at the IMDb

Our regular programming is interrupted to bring you this review…

‘Without Warning’ is a faux rolling news report that covers a meteor landing that soon escalates into a global emergency. I was actually annoyed that they broke away from the film they were showing at first as it looked far more fun than the derivative drivel that is to follow.

The film is basically an updated version of Orson Welles’ ‘War of the Worlds’ broadcast for the CNN generation. The aged anchor, whom I understand is a real life newsman, holds things together as various correspondents file shaky reports with snippets of information. There is precious little in the way of actual footage with us having to make do with a bunch of actors shouting and holding their ears a lot.

The initial three prong meteor strike is written off as a freak natural event but when three more are spotted on the radar the SETI nuts are believed. We then get a nervous wait before the threat is dealt with by a tactical nuclear strike. Is the threat over and is an alien intelligence at work?

This film is really annoying and it’s hard to stay the course. It masquerades as a real life event but when you have ‘Malcolm in the Middle’s Mom, the Library Detective out of ‘Seinfeld’ and Q out of ‘Star Trek TNG’ pitching in, you know reality isn’t what it was. Added to the mix is an interview with Arthur C Clarke which may be archive, as he doesn't relate to the events in play during it. They probably asked him so make a comment about the tri-meteor threat to the world but were told to bugger off.

The static laced pieces to camera may be authentic looking but it is a bit annoying when they keep crackling and cutting out. The amount of access given by the government is also unbelievable as they let all the camera crews into witness a nuclear deployment - aye right. As the threat heightens the professional journalists start bubbling and talking about their kids - gee that‘ll help when the alien slavers arrive!

The special effects match the acting in the dire stakes, with computer graphics standing in for all the action. The crash scenes we do see are dark fields with small fires in them, intercut with stock footage of people rioting, celebrating and bowing to our alien overlords. Maybe not the last one, unfortunately.

To be fair this was a TV movie and you can’t expect massive alien monsters to be roaming around shooting the place up. You could however expect something a bit more exciting and believable than this full sized game of ‘Asteroids’. Supposedly people believed that the Welles’ radio show was real - anyone taken in by this nonsense should be sectioned immediately.

Best Bit : “If I turn the triangle upside down…whoa!"

‘W’ Score : 6/23

Monday, 8 September 2008

No.62 : Witch Hunt

Witch Hunt at the IMDb

This 1994, made for cable company HBO, movie is a follow up to 1991’s ‘Cast A Deadly Spell’, which I haven’t seen nor intend to given its lack of a ‘W’ first initial. The scenario and characters appear to have been retained from the original although the lead, H. Phillip Lovecraft is now played by Dennis Hopper instead of Fred Ward.

The film is set in 1940’s Los Angeles in a reality where magic is common place and used by most to assist their daily lives. One exception is Hopper, whose private eye does things the old fashioned way without recourse to the supernatural. He is given a case by a Hollywood starlet who thinks her husband is playing around. When he promptly dies the woman is a suspect and our man’s brief changes to proving her innocence.

While the investigation progresses we witness a backdrop of political intrigue which sees an ambitious senator try to out law magic as ‘anti American’. Hopper manages to progress his case with the help of a licensed witch but is troubled when she’s sentenced to burn for her witchy habits. The senator clearly has skeletons in the closet but can Dennis solve the case, save the witch and avoid the zombies in time?

Although this film has the unmistakable cheap look of a TV movie I enjoyed the first half hour. The set up is a bit clumsy with the actors looking faintly embarrassed, talking about magic as if it’s a fact of life. Once you buy in there is a lot to like with some funny scenes such as the executive shrinking to the size of a doggy toy to the obvious delight of his Dobermans. I also like the witch’s spell turning into physical words as she spoke them and the idea of her retrieving great writers such as Shakespeare and Twain from the past so that they could work on some screenplays.

Things quickly deteriorated however and by the end I was looking for a spell to get my two hours back. The obvious device of substituting ‘magic’ for ‘free speech or expression’ was overdone and laborious. Why the baddie senator wasn’t simply called 'McCarthy', to be sure I don’t know. The same point was hammered home so relentlessly it got to the stage you were willing the bad guy along so that you wouldn’t be exposed to some more liberal outpourings.

Dennis Hopper is always worth watching but his part here was a sub-par Marlowe, complete with portentous voice over. You also get a happily underused Julian Sands and Eric Bogosian (Talk Radio) as the really annoying senator.

It’s a shame this film drifted off down a dull avenue named preachy liberal clap trap as the premise and set up were good. TV movies aren’t necessarily bad but I’m afraid this one certainly was.

Best Bit : Will Shakespeare fails to pep up the screenplay.
‘W’ Score : 12/23

Sunday, 7 September 2008

No.61 : Warlock

IMDb Link :

The good police folk of 17th century Boston have done a fine job in capturing slick back hair baddie Julian Sands. Sadly their long title sequence walk through the town gives him ample time to escape through a handy time bubble. Only witch hunter supreme Richard E Grant is on the ball and dives in after him. As movie law dictates the bubble deposits them in contemporary Los Angeles, where their battle continues.

Sands is on a quest to reunite three sections of a book, a task that offers the reward of revealing God’s name and the chance to unravel humanity. He gets his orders through a phoney medium who is most surprised to be channelling the devil himself. She also provides Sands with a handy page finder in the form of her eyes which swivel about in his palm, offering directions.

Grant on the other hand falls into the lap of Kassandra “with a ‘K’” played by the cello girl off ‘Fame’. She is a bit sceptical at first of Grant’s bad acting and furry coat but comes around when Sands curses her to age 20 years a day. The trio get into various scrapes one of which suggests that Grant was wrongly omitted from Great Britain’s Olympic javelin squad. As you’d have guessed from the off the pages are eventually assembled and the bad word is about to be spoken - can the world be saved? I’ll give you a clue - there were two sequels to this masterpiece.

I quite enjoyed this piece of 80s hokum. It is basically a straight steal from ‘The Terminator’ with time travelling warriors having a dust up in contemporary LA with a modern girl brought along for good measure. There are loads of fish out of water moments with Grant getting the phone, cars and planes all wrong. He does get a four foot weather vane onto a plane so good work there - I got manhandled for having toothpaste!

The special effects are rubbish to the point of ridiculousness with Sands’ flying especially ropey. The dialogue is atrocious and when married to Grant’s Scottish accent it’s often watch through your fingers time. Sands as the cold evil bad guy is as scary as Big Bird but he gives good value with his cold bloodied killing of a child and portentous speeches.

‘Warlock’ is a poorly written and terribly acted piece of nonsense that employs pathetic effects and is predictable throughout. Quite taken by its cheezy charms though!

Best Bit : Eye, eye, they’re over there!

‘W’ Score 14/23

Saturday, 6 September 2008

No.60 : When Harry Met Sally...

 When Harry Met Sally at the IMDb

Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan star in this ‘he said, she said’ romantic comedy that remains the definitive title in that threadbare genre.

The film opens in 1977 with Billy and Meg sharing an 18 hour car journey across America. The trip is one of convenience as both have other partners but their relationship sparks from the off. Although Billy’s sexist and Meg’s compulsive personalities clash we the viewer know that they are a good match, even if they don’t.

The pair meet again five years later in an airport and again get along well, albeit in the form of an argument. A further five years down the line sees the couple both single and in New York and a friendship tentatively develops. Although Billy states he can’t have a woman as a friend as he’s always thinking about sleeping with her, he manages to convince himself that it’ll be different with Meg.

His pal Bruno Kirby and hers Princess Leia try to set up the pair with other people, but the tables are turned when the friends get engaged leaving Billy and Meg alone with each other. When Meg gets dumped and calls Billy for comfort the pair have sex, affecting the relationship to the point of destruction. As their friends’ wedding approaches, Billy and Meg reappraise what they mean to each other and despite some reluctance to go for it love will probably conquer all.

Although it’s a bit soppy and sentimental I quite like this film. It’s appeal is mostly down to the two leads who make a good pair and the crackling dialogue that riffs along at fantastic pace. I also like the episodic nature that jumps across time using real anecdotes of couples meeting spoken by them on a couch as bumpers. There is a nice if predictable treat in this towards the end.

The ‘will they won’t they’ dilemma was a bit overblown, especially as the answer is given away in the film’s poster. The picture obviously did well as it speaks to people about their relationships in a true and identifiable way. No doubt endless streams of couples left the cinema saying ‘that bit was just like you’. The main argument about men wanting to sleep with women rather than have them as friends was pretty obvious but I’m sure enough women would be surprised to keep it in as an educational point. The film pans out pretty much the way Billy Crystal said it would at the start, so Q.E.D. there. At least they had fun getting us there!

The famous deli demonstration still raises a smile but I preferred the Billy and Bruno scenes where they debate their own love lives at the football game or batting cages. The script by Nora Ephron was very snappy and wise and she must have had a bloke giving input - bloody traitor!

Best Bit : Billy fakes regret at shagging Meg Ryan
‘W’ Score 18/23

Friday, 5 September 2008

No.59 : White Christmas

IMDb Link :

It’s Christmas Eve 1944 and some American soldiers are facing some real horrors on the front. No, not the Nazis, a pair of tits in Santa suits doing song and dance numbers. Damn strippers not showing up!

After a bit of the phoney looking set falls over Danny Kaye saves celebrated singer Bing Crosby and then guilts him into using his song and ‘talent’ in his previously one-man show. Their double act is an immediate success and the pair soon starts to produce their own shows. Things start to get a bit fractured when Danny keeps trying to fix the disinterested Bing up with a girl. He works in musical theatre - get the message!

Before heading off to record a TV special the pair stop off to see a sister act as a favour to an army buddy. Of course the girls are fantastic but are in trouble over a ruined rug. Kaye helps out by giving them their train tickets so they can get to Vermont for a show. Our men just make the train but Crosby is annoyed to find their tickets are gone, but softens when he see the girls are installed in their room. They decide to go to Vermont as well and are surprised to see that there is no snow and that the hotel is managed by their former army General.

He’s in trouble as the lack of snow is keeping the tourists away, but our men agree to bring their show to town to help him out and to get more quality time with the girls. There a few bumps in the road ahead but for the most part it’s let’s cram in as many song and dance numbers as possible and hope for snow in time for the title song finale.

‘White Christmas’ is great at what it does but sadly middle aged men singing show tunes isn’t for me. The songs by Irving Berlin are fine but as one segways into another you forget which is which. The two leads don’t seem to like each other much with the crumbly Bing , the oldest soldier in the army, seeming a bit arrogant. Danny Kaye has a face you wouldn’t tire of punching, especially in his Santa suit. The two women are as sexy as Barbie dolls and you get the impression that it’d take a tin opener to get their dresses off.

It is a bit creepy to see Bing wooing the young show girl and there was no chemistry at all between any of the four leads. Clearly I’m not the target for this kind of sugar coated mince but I thought it a torturous two hours that had me praying for an avalanche.

Best Bit : The guys look a bit too comfortable in drag.

‘W’ Score : 8/23

Thursday, 4 September 2008

No.58 : Wolf

 Wolf at the IMDb

On the way home from clinching a book deal in Vermont Jack Nicholson smashes his Volvo into a jaywalking wolf. Rather than drive off or hit it with a tyre iron he goes to see if it’s OK, and gets bitten for his trouble.

He quickly notices changes in himself such as hairy hands and improved vision and hearing. Just as well really, as his firm is being taken over and his job is on the line. He learns he is to be marginalized by new owner Christopher Plummer’s incoming regime, that sees slimy subordinate James Spader promised Jack’s job. At a party at the boss’ house, where he learns his fate, he meets Plummer’s daughter the slightly dull Michelle Pfeiffer.

Whereas he‘d have previously accepted his fate, he goes on the attack and threatens to take all the good authors from the firm and upset the stock price. Impressed by this Plummer agrees to Jack‘s demands while Jack himself is starting to lose time and wake up covered in blood. Suspecting something wolfy is going on, Jack meets up with an aged expert and begins to harness his new powers. When he finds his wife is seeing Spader he gives him a bite and her the boot, but things go pear shaped when the wife turns up dead.

The police suspect Jack but he was in bed with Michelle at the time of the killing - or was he? As the police move in we discover who the killer is and who else has the hairy hands syndrome. Can Jack find the happiness that he’s being denied in the non-lupine world?

‘Wolf’ is an OK distraction but it is so predictable and derivative that I wouldn’t recommend it. The plot essentially follows that of ‘An American Werewolf in London’ with the midnight hunts and enhanced senses all present and correct. I liked the idea of his new found talents being transferred to the dog eat dog business world but this wasn’t developed in favour of the dull romantic angle.

The big reveal at the end was seen a mile off and the whole thing was unsatisfying. The transformation scenes were very poor with yellow contacts and big side boards being all we get. The wolves can jump great heights but this just looked like basic wire work.

Nicholson is always watchable but this definitely falls into the playing himself category. There was no chemistry with Pfeiffer, and Spader just played his usual slime bag character. You do get some Cybil Fawlty for your money, so it’s not all bad.

‘Wolf’ offers nothing new in an already cluttered genre and you have to wonder why they bothered.Not to worry it’s finished nowooooo!

Best Bit :Michelle’s short skirt bitch fight
‘W’ Rating : 11/23

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

No.57 : Wonder Boys

IMDb Link :

Michael Douglas plays an ageing English professor who enjoyed success with his first novel but is seven years late with the next, which is a bloated 2000+ pages and counting. His publisher, Robert Downey Jnr is in town supposedly for a literary festival but in fact to badger his writer into producing his book. Douglas has other fish to fry however, as his married girlfriend ,Frances McDormand, is pregnant and his most promising student, Tobey Maguire is troubled.

The literary festival hammers home how his career has stalled with prolific writer Rip Torn holding court. He does however see great potential in Maguire, the same he had when he was a wonder boy himself. In a bid to inspire him Douglas shows his student his lover’s husband’s prize possession - the jacket Marilyn Monroe was married in, which is then stolen. Add to this the shooting of a blind guard dog and you get a right old caper.

Douglas knows Maguire has the jacket but when looking for it he finds the lad’s novel which may be the next big thing. Gay Downey Jnr seduces the boy and signs him up but can they keep him out of jail and can the experiences of the weekend reignite the jaded Douglas?

This film is based on the book by ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay’ author Michael Chabon and will be a real treat to any writer, aspiring or otherwise. Douglas’ waffling and unfocused new book is brought into sharp focus against Maguire who can bash out classics over a weekend.

The situations they get into never seem that contrived or farcical but they are funny and at times excruciating. Douglas is great as the slightly foppish scarf wearing professor. Maguire also shines as the slightly mental student although his intensity and unpredictability would stop me having him over for tea. Downey Jnr. Is OK as the fast talking publisher as is Katie Holmes as a student with the hots for Douglas.

The film has a predictable path, albeit one filled with pot holes and diversions. It’s all about our old friend redemption which is never a bad thing. When Douglas’ massive manuscript is piled into a car we know where it’s going, and that it’s going to be for the best. The ending is no surprise as Douglas is doing the narration from the start, but given the journey we don’t grudge him his outcome.

I really enjoyed ‘Wonder Boys’ which is a sharp, dialogue heavy essay into what it takes to be both a writer and a survivor. Douglas can be annoying as the precious Professor but he carries the film throughout and it has to be his best showing since ‘Wall Street’.

Best Bit : Look after my book - uh-oh

‘W’ Score 19/23

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

No.56 : Witless Protection

Witless Protection at the IMDb

Jeez, the things I have to watch to keep this challenge in motion. ‘Witless Protection’ fully deserves its place in the IMDb’s worst 100, but I must confess that I did smile at least twice.

Larry the Cable Guy plays Larry (Duh!) a small town sheriff’s deputy. He aspires to greater things and is self training to become an FBI agent using a video tape and a home made gym. His girlfriend, who is infeasibly played by Jenny McCarthy, doesn't agree with his dangerous career change but when a case falls into his lap Larry grabs the opportunity.

When Larry spots a witness being escorted by four FBI agents he notices some procedural inaccuracies from his video and decides that they are bogus. He grabs the witness and the pair then head across country with the baddies in hot pursuit. The witness, a sausage heiress, obviously dislikes the boorish Larry from the off, but over time they bond as Larry’s true qualities shine through.

The witness has evidence regarding corruption at the sausage firm but as some pieces are missing and a dangerous mission into enemy territory is needed. Can Larry jump through the fatuous hoops necessary to get the girl and evidence to court in time and will his FBI dreams be realised?

You have to hope that this film with its farts and puking gags is aimed at 12 years olds but seeing as it also is full of racial and sexist abuse you’d kinda hope it wasn’t. Lead Larry is an odious character who intimated Asian hotel clerks with Guantanimo threats and then projectile vomits to find a key. Of course we know he’s lovely and decent but he can’t help but look like a bigoted, red-neck prick.

The script is really awful with ‘gags’ like “we’re a team, t-e-e-m -team” and various other misunderstandings for humourless consequences. The set up, that sees an odd couple allied with a fish out of water scenario, is lazy trash and clearly just a device to transport us to the next big fart.

The film does have a decent cast with Katanga out of ‘Live and Let Die’ as the crooked agent and the usually good Peter Stomare (Fargo) as an English polo playing gent who gets a face full of horse shit. He must have had a tax bill. You also get the aforementioned Jenny who is looking a bit rough and the always terrible Eric Roberts (except in ‘Best of the Best 2’).

There are no real surprises at all, and you could miss the middle 90 minutes and still know what’s happening in the last five. I did snigger at the over zealous airport guard and the trade off DVD reveal, but only because the gags were so predictable and overdone. Honest, it’s low brow rubbish. Snigger, Billy Ray Cirus, hee-hee…

Best Bit “ I suggest you take off your boots…”

‘W’ Score 6/23

Monday, 1 September 2008

No.55 : Where Eagles Dare

Where Eagles Dare at the IMDb

‘Where Eagles Dare’ is an 1968 ‘men on a mission’ World War 2 movie staring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. It is regarded as a genre classic and its fans include Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino and me. The only dissenting voice I could find was Clive James who recently described it ‘the worst movie ever’, but what does he know? He’s got a stocking over his face for a start!

The film opens with a transport plane making a perilous journey through the Alps. Although the men on board are in German uniforms we know they’re the good guys because Clint is among their number. Their mission is one of rescue and is explained during a flashback sequence that introduced Michael Hordern of ‘Paddington the Bear’ fame as the Admiral in charge of the operation. We learn that an important American general has been shot down in enemy territory, and if he is not rescued plans for the second front will be lost.

We, the viewer, suspect things are not what they seem early on, as after the men make their parachute exit Mary Ure is ushered from a secret compartment and jumps a few moments later. On the ground the plan starts to unravel when the radio operator is found murdered. The team make it to a remote alpine lodge and after making his excuses Burton makes his secret rendezvous with Mary. The General, we learn, is being kept in the Sloss Adler, a remote castle base serviced only by cable car and seemingly impenetrable. Luckily Ingrid Pitt is on our side and manages to get Mary a job when she sweet talks horny Gestapo man Derren Nesbitt.

Fears of traitors in the ranks are quickly realised when another member of the team is killed and our men are captured by the Germans. Luckily the Nazis do a pretty poor job of escorting Clint and Burton to the jail and the pair manage to escape within five minutes. With the team now separated into two groups its up to the stars to break into the castle and rescue the General and their three comrades.

But no! Twists and schemes abound when the real traitors are revealed and the whole point of the mission is explained. With the castle aflame and the Jerries falling by the dozen can our happy crew escape back to England, and expose the conspiracy that reaches to the very highest echelons of M.I.6.?

I must have seen this film 20 times but rarely all the way through. It plays on a near constant loop on TCM and I usually get hooked in again when I flick past the cable car or school bus scenes. What a complete viewing allows is the chance to appreciate how well crafted the film is, with plot points seeded throughout that are harvested in the thrilling climax.

In some scenes the viewer is in on the plan with reveals such as Mary exiting the plane and the paratrooper being murdered rather than accidentally killed as the dialogue suggests. In others we are kept in the dark, such as the tavern scene where Burton is about to explain things to Eastwood and the camera tantalisingly drifts away to another part of the bar. Techniques like these keep us guessing and allow us a sense of involvement as well. This juggling act is well handled and not one of the later revelations seems improbable given what has happened before.

The action sequences are excellent with more Germans killed and more explosions per square inch than any other film I know. Some of the rear projection work is a bit ropey, especially on the cable car scenes, but you hardly notice amid the brutal fighting and face kicking. The cable car sequence is perhaps the best remembered and it certainly features prominently on the film’s poster, but for me the chase in the school bus is best with all the earlier planning paying off in tree-mendous fashion.

Clint does his usual good job as an action star but how the Jerries don’t twig his accent I’ll never know. Burton is great running the show and he just passes in the action stakes too. Barely 10 years later in ‘The Wild Geese’ he looks daft running about with his Uzi, but here he pulls it off - just. Of the second stringers who can fail to remember Derren Nesbitt’s nasty, horny Gestapo man? His earlier fall out with the General serves our guys well in the dining room showdown and he’s exceptional in the regard that he’s the only German with an IQ of more than 30. His successful reading of Mary nearly saves the day for the bad guys but sadly it’s not to be as she bursts in to ruin his night.

The script by Alistair MacLean is top notch and despite running for a hefty 155 minutes there isn’t a wasted moment or superfluous scene. The action is invariably described as ‘Boys’ Own’ and you can see why, when the good guy losses total Burton’s scratched hand against 500 Germans and a castle. No one claimed it was a documentary though!

If you are one of the four people who like war films but haven’t seen this masterpiece I trust you will rectify the situation immediately. Look it’s about to start on TCM right now! For the rest of us let us begin ‘ Broad Sword calling Danny Boy, Broad Sword….

Best Bit : “That almost makes it worse”

‘W’ Score : 22/23

No.54 : Witchfinder General

IMDb Link :

During the English Civil War Mathew Hopkins makes a lucrative, and sexy, living travelling around East Anglia ridding towns of their alleged witches.

Young Roundhead trooper Richard (Ian ‘The Saint’ Ogilvy) is horrified to learn that Hopkins has killed his fiancée’s father and deflowered his bride to be. He vows revenge but is sidetracked by the Battle of Naesby and only just manages to send his now wife off to Laudanum. Unfortunately for all concerned Hopkins is heading off to that self same town and has the smell of witchiness in his nostrils.

After the battle Richard is charged by Oliver Cromwell to seek out the fleeing King, but has an agenda of his own. As he tears off to save his girl can he avoid Hopkins’ henchmen and accusations that he’s looking a bit witchy himself?

The plot of this film is pretty straightforward and for the most part it’s a revenge thriller. It is quite effective though in showing the paranoia and mob mentality prevalent at the time. Hopkins’ word is law and he can have any girl he wants lest he find a black cat and broom stick in her home. The film uses the full repertoire of witch killing and we see really gruesome executions in the form of hangings, drownings and a particularly horrible burning.

Vincent Price finds perhaps his best ever role as Matthew Hopkins, a true personification of evil. Happy to torture and kill for money he can only exist with the help of willing accusers who are happy to use him to settle grievances. In one case an ugly man accuses two lovelies, no doubt because they laughed off his advances.

Ian Ogilvy is pretty good as the righteous lead, as is Mr Johnston off ‘Fawlty Towers‘ as his friend. Elsewhere we are treated to a cameo from Albert Steptoe as a camp horse dealer, a style he later reprised in his grandstanding role in ‘Holiday on the Buses. Hopkins’ villainous aide was less good and a bit too full on to be believable.

The film is pretty cheap and the Battle of Naesby, for example, happens off screen - just as well really as the Roundhead army consisted of about six men. The effects were well done with the witch being lowered into the fire a real shocker.

You know a film has done its work when you can’t wait for the baddie to get his, and I certainly enjoyed the blood soaked finale.

Best Bit : “ send the two young ones up”; “What about the hag?”; “er, I’ll get to her later”

‘W’ Score 17/23