About This Blog

A place to find my reviews not featured on epinions.com or horror-asylum.com, as well as opinions and lists on everything from movies to TV to music. It's all about me! Send hate mail to vegie18th@hotmail.com or just leave a comment beneath the posts. Review grading system assumes C+ is somewhere in the vicinity of a Passing grade or minor fail.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Review: Vigil in the Night


Dedicated nurse Carole Lombard takes the blame for careless sister Anne Shirley’s fatal stuff-up, gets fired, but then ends up at a bigger but poorly equipped hospital where she meets handsome surgeon Brian Aherne, who wants funds for a plague ward. Ethel Griffies plays the rather stern but fair matron. Hammer legend Peter Cushing plays a hopeless ne’er-do-well. Julien Mitchell plays a sleazy benefactor, with Doris Lloyd his pathetic wife.

 
1940 George Stevens (“Gunga Din”, “Shane”, “The Diary of Anne Frank”) flick in the nurse/missionary drama subgenre proved that Lombard could be more than just a funny gal. It’s a shame then, that she would die just two years later, tragically in a plane crash. She’s really good here, as is Griffies as a tough old matron. Look out for an early role for Cushing, quite a different part as a sad sack ne’er-do-well.

 
Solid stuff all round, though Shirley’s character comes across as borderline intellectually disabled at times. The screenplay is by Fred Guiol (Stevens’ “Giant” and “Gunga Din”), P.J. Wolfson, and Rowland Leigh (“Charge of the Light Brigade”), from an A.J. Cronin (the former physician who wrote “The Citadel”, made into a film with Robert Donat and “The Keys of the Kingdom”, made into a film with Gregory Peck) novel.

 

Rating: B-

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Review: The Wilby Conspiracy


Sidney Poitier is a black South African activist freed from a decade in jail by his white lawyer Prunella Gee, only to get into strife by brawling with some racist police officers, whilst in the company of Gee’s British lover, played by Michael Caine. For some reason, racist copper Nicol Williamson lets them escape, but nonetheless follows their trail for reasons only gradually revealed. The two initially can’t stand one another, with Caine not wanting to get involved at all, but in order to survive, they will need to work together. Saeed Jaffrey plays an Indian-born dentist friend of Poitier’s, whose bewitching assistant is played by Persis Khambatta. Rutger Hauer turns up as Gee’s selfish, estranged pilot husband, whilst Helmut Dantine (the film’s producer) appears early as a prosecutor.

 

1975 Ralph Nelson (“Lilies of the Field”, “Charly”, “Embryo”) film is an odd but surprisingly enjoyable mixture of racial/political drama, buddy movie, diamond heist movie, and chase flick, and bolstered by scene-stealing work by the eccentric Williamson as a pompous, cheerfully nasty piece of work of the highest order. Caine is always good to have around, Poitier is merely OK in a role beneath his talents, and Gee is pretty awful as a lead actress, it must be said. Fine supporting roles for Jaffrey, the alluring Khambatta (a former Miss India, who has one incredibly sexy scene with Poitier in a closet), and a youngish Hauer, despite the latter being the most Dutch-sounding Seth Effriken I’ve ever heard in my life (Then again, the film itself stars Kenya in the role of South Africa, and there’s apparently a strong Dutch influence in South African history I didn’t know of beforehand, so perhaps I’m just stupid). Apparently this was Hauer’s first English-language role, several years before he became known as Replicant leader Roy Batty in “Blade Runner”.

 

This is a pretty original blend of genres and entertaining as a result. It might even be considered a little daring given the subject matter and the year of release, as stories set in apartheid-era South Africa weren’t in vogue in the 70s, to my knowledge. Perhaps this will make it an acquired taste (I’d suggest if you liked the more recent “Blood Diamond”, you might like this also), but I saw nothing offensive or wrong-headed about it. The screenplay is by Rod Amateau (who went on to direct the ghastly “Garbage Pail Kids Movie”) and Harold Nebenzal (“Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects”), from a Peter Driscoll novel.

 

Rating: B-

Monday, September 3, 2012

Review: The Night Porter


Set in post-WW2 Vienna, Dirk Bogarde plays the fastidious night porter at a hotel and a former SS officer. He occasionally meets with other former officers (Gabriele Ferzetti among them) to talk about issues of guilt in quasi-psychoanalysis sessions, and hunt down any possible Holocaust survivors as the date of an upcoming trial for Bogarde draws closer. Bogarde just wants to be left alone to do his quaint little job and live a modest life, trying his best to forget about his horrid past (of which he appears to be extremely tormented by, if not quite ashamed of). Complications arise when he locks eyes with a bewitching new resident, Charlotte Rampling, who just so happens to be the young concentration camp Bogarde used to abuse during the war. However, when Rampling quickly dismisses her musician husband to reconnect with Bogarde in a kinky S&M relationship, it becomes clear that...well, things aren’t as clear as one first thought. Meanwhile, Bogarde’s cronies soon find out about Rampling’s identity and want something to be done about the ‘problem’. Bogarde, of course, finds it highly unlikely that Rampling would ever testify against her, but obviously can’t tell Ferzetti about their strange, ‘forbidden’ relationship, either. Isa Miranda turns up as one of the hotel guests, an aging countess.

 

I don’t offend easily, but this controversial 1974 piece of garbage masquerading as art crossed just about every line of decency I can think of. Directed and co-written by Liliana Cavani (“Francis of Assisi”, “Ripley’s Game”), it’s basically “Ilsa”-esque Nazisploitation material, except it has the gall to take itself most seriously. At least with trash that only wants to be trash, one doesn’t have the stench of pretension to contend with. This film reveals its trash roots in a scene where Rampling performs at a nightclub in Nazi gear, supposedly to titillate. It’s at that point that Cavani proves herself dishonest. I’m not much of a Nazisploitation kinda guy, but at least those films didn’t try to pretend to be something they weren’t.

 

To be honest, I can’t for the life of me work out what the point of all this was, thus it doesn’t earn the right to tackle the historical/tragic subject matter it deals with I felt there was no need to take what is basically an S&M relationship and relate it to the Holocaust. It’s just grossly inoffensive and unnecessary. Even if these sort of submissive/dominant relationships did exist between Nazis and concentration camp prisoners, I can’t imagine the events depicted in this film are anywhere near reality. I can perhaps see a Nazi and a Jewish woman falling in love (apparently it did happen from time to time) in a more traditional relationship, but S&M? Hell no. Save that for the exploitation films where reality isn’t remotely a concern.

 

In particular, the enthusiasm, compliance, and ultimate power held by the Rampling character does not seem plausible to me at all in a Holocaust context. Just make it about S&M, or just a romance between a Nazi and his Jewish former prisoner. It still might not be a good film, but at least it wouldn’t be quite as offensive. As is, it’s not even worth seeing once as a curio, nor is it enjoyable in a bad movie way. It’s a foul film, one of the very worst I’ve ever seen (though many do praise it for Jebus knows what reason), despite the fact that it’s got perfectly fine performances, notably by the respectable Dirk Bogarde and the underrated Gabriele Ferzetti.

 

Even the content outside of the central relationship is ridiculous, with the loopy hotel guests, and a poorly thought out subplot (that eventually bleeds into the main narrative) involving Bogarde’s fellow former Nazi brass staging mock trials to rid themselves of any physical or psychological guilt issues (or something like that...I think). The film’s finale is particularly appalling as Cavani and co-writer Italo Moscati seem to be aiming for cruel irony as Bogarde (and Rampling) find themselves hunted down, imprisoned, and ultimately meeting a cruel, malnourished end. Pretty rank, to be honest, and does Cavani want us to sympathise with a murderer and abuser simply because he kinda sorta feels bad about it and has fallen in love? Fuck off.

 

A shameful film that should probably never be seen, and I say that as someone who deplores banning films and stringent censorship (Not that the film is as graphic as some other ‘controversial’ films out there). This piece of shit isn’t worth championing, it should rather be forgotten. I’m sure that the film’s admirers will tell me I’m totally overreacting, but even if the element of the Holocaust were removed (or kept in and have the S&M aspect removed instead) this film simply wouldn’t interest me at all.

 

Rating: F