Category Archives: Film

All You Need Is One Killer Track

The latest movie that my wife and I have watched was the latest offering from writer / director Edgar Wright (“Hot Fuzz”, “The World’s End”) – the action / crime film “Baby Driver”.

Ansel Elgort

As the movie opens we meet young getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort – “November Criminals”, “Divergent”) as he drops a crew outside an Atlanta bank.

Eiza González, Jon Hamm & Jon Bernthal

While the three robbers – Buddy (Jon Hamm – “Keeping Up With The Joneses”, “Mad Men”), Darling (Eiza González – “Almost Thirty”, “True Love”) and Griff (Jon Bernthal – “Sicario”, “Pilgrimage”) – hit the bank Baby sits in the car grooving to “Bellbottoms” by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – the first of numerous tunes that are an essential part of this film.

Kevin Spacey

Following the raid there is a superb car chase scene as Baby successfully evades the police, before we move on to meet the mastermind behind the robbery, Doc (Kevin Spacey – “The Usual Suspects”, “Casino Jack”). This follows on from another brilliantly choreographed scene set to Bob & Earl’s “Harlem Shuffle” – where the background of each shot is just as important as the foreground, so careful watching is definitely rewarding.

Lily James & Ansel Elgort

Other characters that show up as the story unfolds include diner waitress Debora (Lily James – “Darkest Hour”, “The Exception”), criminal Bats (Jamie Foxx – “Sleepless”, “Miami Vice”) and Baby’s deaf foster-father Joseph (C. J. Jones – “Lincoln Heights”, “Frasier”).

Jamie Foxx

Baby is indebted to Doc for one more job, then dreams of hitting the open road to freedom with his love interest. Will he manage to extricate himself from Doc’s clutches and stay one step ahead of the authorities while driving the crew?…

Ultimately the story kind of plays second fiddle to the action scenes and set pieces on show here. The stunt driving is impressive, with some neat twists thrown in. There is plenty of humour to be found (watch out for the Halloween mask gag), and the visuals are great throughout.

Baby Driver – Music From The Motion Picture

As mentioned earlier, though, it’s the music that is vital to the success of this film (and makes the cool soundtrack album a necessary addition to my collection). During the movie Baby almost always has music on the go, to combat the tinnitus that he suffers from. There are classic numbers from the likes of Dave Brubeck, Queen and the Beach Boys amongst many others (including Sky Ferreira who also portrays Baby’s mother in flashback scenes), and they all play major parts in the action.

Eiza González & Jon Hamm

Of specific note, apart from the previously noted “Harlem Shuffle”, is another fantastically choreographed scene involving ex-banker Buddy and his younger wife Darling) later in the film to accompany “Hocus Pocus” by Dutch legends Focus.

Ansel Elgort

I saw a review that said “Baby Driver” was a bit like a mix-tape with a film added, and there is certainly some validity to that. The fairly routine storyline and a central character that doesn’t have a great deal to say, however, do not detract from nearly two hours of great fun and entertainment. Highly recommended viewing!…

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It’s Not The Size That Matters… It’s How You Use It

A few evenings ago my wife and I watched “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”, an action comedy film from director Patrick Hughes (“Red Hill”, “Expendables 3”).

Ryan Reynolds

At the beginning of the film we meet bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds – “Criminal”, “Self/Less”) – a man at the top of his profession until one of his clients is assassinated right in front of him…

Gary Oldman

Two years later we find the International Criminal Court in The Hague conducting the trial of the dictator of Belarus Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman – “Child 44”, “JFK”). Witnesses are being killed off and the prosecutions hopes of conviction rest of the evidence of an imprisoned hitman.

Salma Hayek & Samuel L. Jackson

Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson – “Django Unchained”, “Kingsman : The Secret Service”) is the notorious hitman in question and agrees to testify in court, in exchange for the release from Dutch prison of his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek – “Americano”, “Everly”).

Elodie Yung & Ryan Reynolds

Interpol agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung – “Gods Of Egypt”, “G.I. Joe : Retaliation”) is tasked with leading the convoy taking Darius Kincaid from England to the Netherlands. When the convoy is attacked en-route – in Coventry, no less – only Kincaid and Roussel survive and, realising that there must be a traitor within Interpol, the agent calls her ex-boyfriend Bryce to protect Kincaid and get him to The Hague to testify…

Samuel L. Jackson & Ryan Reynolds

The movie has some decent action sequences and enough tension when required but the main attraction here is the comedy. The chemistry between Reynolds (with some priceless facial expressions) and Jackson is spot on with some very funny lines and scenes and it is this that really makes the film such an entertaining experience. Hayek gets to swear at her prison guards – and everyone else – a great deal, but her role is definitely that of support, as are those of Oldman and Yung. No, the stars of the show are without doubt those two adorning the movie poster and they definitely lift this film. Reviews for the film seem to have been routinely poor, but for us this was a very well-spent two hours viewing…

London 1980. The World Witnessed A New Way To Tackle Terrorism

The latest movie that my beloved and I have enjoyed is the new action drama from director Toa Fraser (“The Dead Lands”, “Giselle”). The film is based upon the real-life Iranian embassy siege in London at the end of April 1980 and is titled “6 Days”.

Iranian Embassy Siege In 1980

I was twelve years old at the time of the actual siege, so although I have memories of seeing images from the SAS assault that ended the siege I had little knowledge of the events that had led up to that point.

Toby Leach

At the start of the film we see a group of armed men walking up to the Iranian embassy and bundling the on-duty policeman at the door, PC Trevor Lock (Toby Leach – “Shortland Street”, “The Making Of The Mob”) into the building before quickly rounding up all those inside. They took a total of twenty-six hostages, and demanded the release of Arabian prisoners being held in the Khuzestan province of Iran, as well as their own safe passage out of the UK.

Abbie Cornish

Naturally the authorities are quickly on the scene, as are TV and radio journalists – including a young BBC correspondent named Kate Adie (Abbie Cornish – “Limitless”, “Seven Psychopaths”) – and sees Chief Inspector Max Vernon (Mark Strong – “Kingsman : The Secret Service”, “Before I Go To Sleep”) tasked with the role of police negotiator.

Mark Strong

Margaret Thatcher’s government, which had at this point been in power for just under a year, arranged for a team of SAS soldiers to travel from their base in Hereford to Knightsbridge, where they moved into the building next to the Iranian embassy and prepared various scenarios in the event that they were required to take action against the terrorists. For the purposes of the film, at least, the main focus of the SAS activities is Lance-Corporal Rusty Firmin (Jamie Bell – “The Eagle”, “Filth”).

Jamie Bell

The film then tracks the six-day siege primarily from the perspectives of Adie, Vernon and Firmin as the viewer gets to see the action surrounding the events unfolding within the embassy, but little of what’s actually taking place inside – with the exception of during telephone exchanges between Vernon and lead terrorist Salim AKA Ali Mohammed (Ben Turner – “Casualty”, “300 : Rise Of An Empire”).

Ben Turner

Other well-known names appearing include Martin Shaw (“The Professionals”, “Inspector George Gently”) as Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Dellow of the Metropolitan police and the late Tim Pigott-Smith (“Quantum Of Solace”, “King Charles III”) as Home Secretary William Whitelaw.

I thought that this was a really well made movie. Despite knowing the outcome in advance there was still a good sense of tension as each day – and in some cases hours and even minutes – went by and even though the film is noted as “based on  real events” you get the impression that the filmmakers have tried to tell the story of what actually happened as opposed to using the true story as a mere jumping off point for a big and brash action movie. The end result feels like a very entertaining history lesson – albeit a very one-sided one presenting the Thatcher government’s position that the terrorists should only leave the embassy to go to prison or in a coffin whilst ignoring the backstory that lead to the siege taking place at all. Nonetheless, this is a film that is most definitely worth a watch…

You Will Never Leave

Having visited the Welsh town of Bridgend recently for a Death Angel gig, it seemed as good a time as any to check out the 2015 drama film, titled “Bridgend”, from director and co-writer Jeppe Rønde, whose credits are almost exclusively for documentary work.

This is a movie that has caused some degree of controversy and consternation, particularly for the real-life residents of the town. That’s because between the end of 2007 and start of 2012 there were apparently 79 suicides in the Bridgend area – largely teenagers and the vast majority by hanging. (In fact, a 2014 documentary film on the subject That there were by then 99 victims). Whatever the true statistics it seems that there is no clear reason for this unusually large spate of suicides taking place. A fictional drama film inspired by these events, then , was always likely to upset someone.

Hannah Murray

The movie sees teenage girl Sara (Hannah Murray – “Game Of Thrones”, “Detroit”) and her policeman father Dave (Steven Waddington – “When The Lights Went Out”, “The Imitation Game”) relocating from Bristol to Bridgend, where Dave is tasked with trying to get to the bottom of a series of teen suicides. They arrive, along with Sara’s horse Snowy, just after the death of the latest victim.

Steven Waddington & Hannah Murray

With Dave busy at work Sara is left to her own devices a lot of the time and soon gets drawn into a group of local teens who spend their time drinking, smoking, swimming naked in a lake in the woods, dicing death in front of trains and partying.

Hannah Murray & Josh O’Connor

Sara grows steadily more distant from her father, whilst getting closer to vicar’s son Jamie (Josh O’Connor – “The Durrells”, “The Riot Club”). All the while the group thins as the woodland hangings continue and Dave worries that Sara will get in too deep with the locals and become yet another victim…

The Teens Partying In Bridgend

I thought this was a really well made film. Filmed entirely on location in Bridgend, the cinematography is suitably bleak and claustrophobic when it needs to be and the whole thing gives a feeling of real-life horror as the teens self-destructive behaviour almost seems to be the only signs of actual life in the isolated community.

Bridgend

As this is not a documentary there are no real attempts to explain the causes for the tragic events which inspired it in the first place. Instead there are suggestions of the circumstances and influences that could perhaps bring such events to bear. Murray is excellent throughout, and is supported by strong performances all round.

The final portion of the film drifted somewhat into supernatural horror in a way, and could be interpreted in more than one way, I felt, but that only helps to make the movie the difficult but potent experience that it is…

From Nothing Comes A King

On Saturday evening I sat down with my better half and son number three to watch the most recent offering from director Guy Ritchie (“Snatch”, “Sherlock Holmes”), “King Arthur : Legend Of The Sword”.

Rob Knighton

Now I must admit that I wasn’t too sure what to expect, as the movie didn’t fare terribly well at the box office and reviews weren’t great either – particularly for football celebrity David Beckham’s brief cameo appearance, but we’ll get to that in time…

Poppy Delevingne & Eric Bana

The film opens with the legendary Camelot under attack from a warlock, Mordred (Rob Knighton – “Anti-Social”, “Riot On Redchurch Street”), who aims to ensure that the mages dominate mankind. He comes up against the King of the Britons, Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana – “Munich”, “Deliver Us From Evil”) who defeats the warlock and his forces.

Jude Law

Unbeknownst to Uther, his brother Vortigern (Jude Law – “Dom Hemingway”, “Sleuth”) wants the throne for himself and has made a pact in which he will sacrifice his wife Elsa (Katie McGrath – “Jurassic World”, “Merlin”) in order to get Uther and his wife Igraine (Poppy Delevingne – “The Boat That Rocked”, “Absolutely Fabulous : The Movie”) out of the way.

Katie McGrath

The sole survivor of Uther’s family is his infant son who is put onto a small boat and drifts off, finally arriving in Londinium (that’s London in today’s lingo) where he is picked up and cared for by a group of prostitutes. Not sure where that would put Camelot, but a fair number of theories over the years have suggested Wales as a location, from where I don’t see a small boat drifting to London somehow…

Charlie Hunnam

We then fast forward through the boy’s childhood as he grows up and learns the way of the streets as well as gaining skills from training with an oriental fighter named George (Tom Wu – “Kick-Ass 2”, “Skyfall”). By adulthood Arthur (Charlie Hunnam – “Sons Of Anarchy”, “Deadfall”) is running a crew of his own.

Jude Law

Meanwhile the waters around now-King Vortigern’s castle have lowered, revealing a sword stuck fast in a stone. The King is forcing all men of around Arthur’s age to attempt to pull the sword from said stone.

Charlie Hunnam, David Beckham & Guy Ritchie

It is when Arthur himself has his turn to try to remove the sword that the aforementioned Beckham has his cameo. Beckham had a smaller cameo in Ritchie’s previous movie “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” which was fine and was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of thing. This time around Beckham plays Trigger, a Blackleg commander, and has some lines to deliver. Even now, some days later, I can’t decide if the problem – because there is one – is in Beckham’s delivery (he doesn’t have the most commanding voice for the role in question) or is simply, as my wife said, the fact that you’re thinking “oh, there’s David Beckham” and the scene would be fine with a “proper” actor rather than a celebrity?

Kingsley Ben-Adir, Djimon Hounsou, Poppy Delevingne & Annabelle Wallis

Regardless, it is at this point that Arthur becomes aware of his true origins and the destiny which awaits him. It is, however, a destiny which he is stubbornly determined to resist despite everyone around him – his old crew, including Tristan AKA Wet Stick (Kingsley Ben-Adir – “Trespass Against Us”, “Vera”) and Back Lack (Neil Maskell – “Dog House”, “Kill List”) – doing their level best to get him to do so.

Astrid Bergès-Frisbey & Charlie Hunnam

Also involved in this are Uther’s former knight Sir Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou – “Fast & Furious 7”, “The Legend Of Tarzan”), Sir William AKA Goosefat Bill (Aiden Gillen – “Wake Wood”, “The Lovers”), Vortigern’s maid Maggie (Annabelle Wallis – “Come And Find Me”, “Mine”) and a mysterious unnamed mage (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey – “Pirates Of The Caribbean : On Stranger Tides”, “I Origins”).

Camelot Under Siege From Giant Elephants

Apart from the unsuccessful cameo from Beckham, my only real gripe was that a few of the action / fight scenes, particularly towards the end of the film, looked too much like they’d been taken from a video game, such was the level of slow-mo and CGI on display. Oh, and the giant elephants are the beginning?!. That said, the scenes with huge crowds etc. are really well done.

Jude Law, Guy Ritchie & Charlie Hunnam

All that aside we found the movie to be enormously entertaining. Sure it may not be historically accurate – but then how can one be with so many different stories and theories surrounding Arthurian legend – and one might argue that some of Ritchie’s usual approaches (such as the story within a story where as Arthur relays what he predicts is going to happen we see other characters doing exactly that etc.) and the modern language and haircuts don’t fit with the time period in question. However, taken for what it is – a fun and visually impressive retelling of the King Arthur story for today’s audiences (or maybe for those of us who still enjoy revisiting “Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch” nearly twenty years down the line?) – it’s pretty damn good. Where this all leaves the remaining five films of the originally planned six part series is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, however, this is a well-recommended two hours of cinematic entertainment…

Evil Takes Many Forms

A few nights ago I finally got around the watching a movie that’s been on my to-watch list for a while, the 2016 feature-length debut from writer / director Robert Eggers, “The Witch”.

Ralph Ineson

Subtitled as a “New-England Folktale”, the film begins in 1630 with a scene in which William (Ralph Ineson – “Case Sensitive”, “The Office”) is appearing before the elders of the Puritan plantation on which he and his family live, as he has a fundamental difference of opinion over interpretation of the biblical text by which they live their lives.

Kate Dickie

William, his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie – “Midwinter Of The Spirit”, “Prometheus”) and their four children are banished from the plantation and set off to make their lives on a farm near the edge of a large forest some distance from the plantation.

Anya Taylor-Joy

Eldest child Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy – “Split”, Morgan”) is struggling with the demands of the family’s faith but determined to do the right thing. One day she is playing peek-a-boo outside with Katherine’s new baby Samuel when he suddenly disappears. We, the viewer, then see the baby’s body being used by a witch to make a flying ointment. Katherine is devastated and clearly feels that Thomasin is at least partly to blame for Samuel’s disappearance.

Ellie Grainger & Lucas Dawson With Black Phillip

The young twins Mercy (Ellie Grainger – “The Village”) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) claim that the family’s goat, Black Phillip, speaks to them and they take next to no notice of instructions given by their elder sister, increasing her inner torment.

Harvey Scrimshaw

The parents discuss sending Thomasin away to work for another family as she approaches woman-hood and the farm’s crops fail once again, a conversation overhead by their daughter and her younger brother Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw – “Oranges And Sunshine”). This leads Caleb to set off in the early hours into the forest in an attempt to hunt for food so that Thomasin won’t have to leave. She goes with him but falls from the horse when Caleb rushes off after a hare and is knocked out.

Sarah Stephens

Deep in the forest Caleb spots a small hut and when he approaches is met by an attractive young woman (model Sarah Stephens) who proves to be a witch, and maybe not as attractive as she first seems. When Thomasin reawakens she manages to find her father but, though they search, there is no sign of Caleb.

Black Phillip

Katherine takes this as further proof that Thomasin is evil, and when Caleb returns, naked and barely conscious, her impression is further strengthened when the young twins, Mercy and Jonas, tell their mother than Thomasin had claimed to be a witch. Thomasin counter-claims that the twins speak with Black Phillip. William responds by locking the three children, along with the goat, in the stable for the night, intending that the family should return to the plantation the next day. However, with all kinds of weird and violent events unfolding thereafter what will become of the family?…

The Witch

I’ve probably said too much already, but I really can’t go too much further into the story without definitely giving too much away. Suffice it to say that this is a pretty decent film. The cinematography gives the whole thing a suitably bleak feel, given the hard times that William’s family are enduring, and it all feels nicely atmospheric too.

Anya Taylor-Joy

The ending of the movie felt a little strange at the time of viewing, but a subsequent read of this article helped to make more sense of things – though it’s best read after viewing the movie! Taylor-Joy and Ineson, in particular, were excellent in their roles but all of the small cast are very good.

The Witch

The dialogue and religious aspect of the film felt realistic for the period of history in which it is set, when witch trials and executions were happening in New England and indeed the end titles claim that much of the dialogue is based upon real diaries and court transcripts etc. from that time, throwing light on the effects of a strict religious lifestyle mixed with the superstition of the age.

Overall, I thought “The Witch” was an intense, gripping, spooky and indeed thought-provoking way to spend an hour and a half – a well recommended movie to lovers of folk horror…

What Could Go Wrong?

I was going to write about a new album release today, but then my wife and I watched the 2015 comedy adventure film from writer / directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (both “Horrible Bosses”, “Game Night”) titled “Vacation”. We both enjoyed it so much I felt it deserved a few words…

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

The movie is the fifth in a series that started back in 1983 with the release of “National Lampoon’s Vacation” which told the story of the Griswold family taking a road trip cross-country to the Californian theme park Walley World and all the misadventures that befell them en route. This was followed by “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” (1985), “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989) and “Vegas Vacation” (1997).

Ed Helms

“Vacation” is a kind of sequel / reboot of the first film, with the son of the original Griswold family, Rusty (Ed Helms – “Stretch”, “We’re The Millers”), now grown up, decides to take his wife and two children on a trip to try to recreate his childhood trip to Walley World.

Ed Helms, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins & Christina Applegate

Rusty’s wife Debbie (Christina Applegate – “Married With Children”, “Bad Moms”) was hoping for a trip to Paris but she and the couple’s two sons – 14-year-old James (Skyler Gisondo – “Hard Sell”, “Night At The Museum 2”) and 12-year-old Kevin (Steele Stebbins – “A Haunted House 2”, “Within”) agreed to the trip to avoid the usual annual trip to a cabin in Cheboygan that they secretly hate.

Christina Applegate, Steele Stebbins, Skyler Gisondo & Ed Helms

The tag line for the film is “what could go wrong” and it’s giving nothing away to anyone even vaguely familiar with earlier entries in the series to say that an awful lot is likely to go wrong!

Chris Hemsworth & Leslie Mann

Among the more hilarious moments on the family’s journey is their visit to Debbie’s old college where she decides to show the current Tri Pi sorority sisters how things are done, and their stay-over with Rusty’s sister Audrey (Leslie Mann – “The Comedian”, “The Other Woman”) and her husband Stone (Chris Hemsworth – “A Perfect Getaway”, “Thor”) on their cattle ranch.

Hannah Davis

There’s also a very funny scene featuring model Hannah Davis which references one in the original that saw fellow model Christie Brinkley driving a red Ferrari. To keep some authenticity in terms of continuity, I’m guessing, Rusty’s parents Clark and Ellen are reprised by original stars Chevy Chase (“Fletch”, “Caddyshack”) and Beverly D’Angelo (“High Spirits”, “American History X”).

Chevy Chase & Beverly D’Angelo

Some of the content means that this is most definitely not a film that you could watch with younger children. Many reviewers have talked of the film being too much of a retread of the first movie but lacking in spirit and wit. We thought that potty-mouthed Kevin is a great character and I thought Applegate was brilliant as Debbie and Helms did a great job with his role too. Overall whilst it may not be the most original film in the world – which is surely a nigh-on impossible task these days anyway? – we both found it to be really funny and would thoroughly recommend it…

A Journey Paved In Blood

So the second movie mentioned at the start of my last rambling post about the Fifties film “Untamed Youth” was a new release. Directed by Brendan Muldowney (“Love Eternal”, “Savage”), “Pilgrimage” is a medieval period action thriller.

Tom Holland

As the film opens we are witness to a bound man being dragged by a group of men onto a beach in Colchis mid-first century AD and, having had a wooden crucifix torn from around his neck, being stoned to death. The time then switches to the time of the Crusades in the early 13th century and the location to the far West of Ireland where a small band of monks reside, including a novice monk named Brother Diarmuid (Tom Holland – “The Lost City Of Z”, “Edge Of Winter”).

Tom Holland & Stanley Weber

A white-robed Cistercian monk, Brother Geraldus (Stanley Weber – “Sword Of Vengeance”, “Not Another Happy Ending”), arrives with a message from the Pope that a religious relic held by the monks should be taken immediately to Rome as the belief is that it’s power will help the church in the crusades. The relic, it transpires, is a rock that was used in the aforementioned stoning of – we now learn – St. Matthias that God used to kill all those responsible.

John Lynch

Geraldus sets off with Diarmuid and a few other monks including Brothers Ciaran (John Lynch – “Alleycats”, “Detour”) and Cathal (Hugh O’Conor – “The Stag”, “Summer Of The Flying Saucer”) as well as an enigmatic mute (Jon Bernthal – “Sicario”, “The Ghost”) and soon meets up with a group of French soldiers led by Baron de Merville (Eric Godon – “In Bruges”, “Nothing Sacred”).

Hugh O’Conor, Stanley Weber, John Berthnal & Tom Holland

The Baron’s son Raymond De Merville (Richard Armitage – “Robin Hood”, “The Hobbit Trilogy”) and his men are to lead the monks to Waterford. On the way, however, a skirmish with native forces results in the monks being temporarily left to fend for themselves. Is everything and everyone what they seem and will the holy men manage to complete their pilgrimage with the relic intact?…

Eric Godon

This was a decent enough action flick. The fight scenes were often rather gruesome but I would imagine fairly authentic for the period and the setting certainly felt convincing enough. I think this was aided by the use of various languages throughout – specific to the background of the particular characters and enhanced by some very atmospheric music and cinematography.

Richard Armitage

I suspect that the historical aspects used are probably a combination of inspirations from actual history and a lot of imagined scenarios and this works really well. Armitage said in an interview that he hopes those watching the film “…are transported into a world and a time that feels very very alien to how we live now, but at the same time they can relate to the passions of these people centuries before, who are ultimately the same as we are now – full of ambition and full of rage and full of devout belief.” Well, for me there are most definitely echoes from this period of Christian history that reverberate all too strongly with current world events with people being tortured and killed for being the wrong religion or resisting that which is being forced upon them.

The Monks On Their Pilgrimage

Leaving such heavy thoughts aside and just looking at the movie as a piece of entertainment it’s generally very good. However, come the conclusion I did feel slightly cheated by the fact that we don’t get to really find out about the mute, we don’t know what happens next and Brother Diarmuid’s final action gives rise to the question “was it all worth it?”. Good question. I think so, but could understand if some viewers felt the opposite to be true…

Kids Turned Rock ‘N’ Roll Wild & The Correction Farm That Makes ‘Em Wilder!

Rubbish weather yesterday so watched a couple of movies – one new and one old. The old one was a drama from way back in 1957, directed by Howard W. Koch (“Bop Girl Goes Calypso”, “The Girl In Black Stockings”), and was titled “Untamed Youth”.

Robert Foulk, Mamie Van Doren & Lori Nelson

The film opens with a young man being chased across fields by police cars before being taken into custody. Presumably one of the untamed youths of the title. Then we meet sisters Penny and Jane Lowe (Mamie Van Doren – “Girls Town”, “Guns, Girls & Gangsters” and Lori Nelson – “Pardners”, “Revenge Of The Creature”) who are en-route to appear in a show as they are both entertainers. Unfortunately for them, the girls are promptly arrested for skinny dipping and hitchhiking by a leering police Sheriff Mitch Bowers (Robert Foulk – “The Love Bug”, “Hell On Wheels”).

Lurene Tuttle

Appearing in court before the small town’s female Judge (Lurene Tuttle – “Psycho”, “Niagara”) the pair are quickly sentenced to 30 days and get to choose to spend the time either in prison or doing some healthy, paid work picking cotton. Unsurprisingly they choose the latter, seemingly easier, option.

Lurene Tuttle & John Russell

When they arrive, along with a number of other convicts, at the cotton farm they discover that their wages will mostly be taken to pay for their board and food, leaving them with just a few cents each day. The owner of the farm is Russ Tropp (John Russell – “Rio Bravo”, “Pale Rider” – a man at ease with mistreating and sacking his workers for the slightest misdemeanor. He is also, secretly, married to the somewhat older Judge, who clearly adores him though we can see that it is purely business for the ambitious farmer.

Mamie Van Doren & Lori Nelson

Penny and Jane are put to work cotton picking, but not before they have entertained their fellow convicts / workers by belting out a tune – Jane sitting on a bunk and unconvincingly strumming at a guitar whilst her partly dressed and very voluptuous sister sings and dances.

Eddie Cochran

Among the other young people being forced to work on Tropp’s farm are young blonde girl Baby (Yvonne Lime – “I Was A Teenage Werewolf”, “Speed Crazy”) and the oddly named Bong (Eddie Cochran – “The Girl Can’t Help It”, “Fury Unleashed”) – the latter of whom also gets to sing a number, “Cotton Picker”, which doesn’t give any clue as to just what a rock ‘n’ roll legend he would become.

Don Burnett

Before long the Judge’s son Bob Steele (Don Burnett – “The Triumph Of Robin Hood”, “Tea And Sympathy”), returning from serving in the armed forces, goes to work for Tropp driving a combine harvester and finds himself becoming attracted to Jane.

John Russell & Mamie Van Doren

Despite the long hours picking cotton those working on the farm don’t seem to suffer from too much fatigue as they spend their evenings singing and dancing with great enthusiasm and energy. This is presumably just a release from the hellish conditions under which they survive, as not only does Penny have to contend with the unwanted attentions of Tropp but also Baby collapses after working too long in the sun. Bob rushes her to a hospital but she dies and it’s revealed that she was several months pregnant. The injustice of it all becomes too much for Bob to bear and he goes off to tell all to his mother, but will she be able to see past her adoration of Tropp to believe what she hears?…

John Russell

This is a strange movie to be honest. It’s kind of like musical-cum-social-drama wherein someone decided to string a bunch of inoffensive rock ‘n’ roll-lite singing and dancing numbers together with a plot involving a despicable man taking advantage of all-and-sundry in order to make his fortune?!

Cotton Pickers In Alabama c. 1970

There is undoubtedly some cultural appropriation going on. I don’t know much about the history of cotton picking in the USA but most of what I’ve been able to find online suggests that the vast majority, if not all, of those doing the picking were African-Americans, whereas all of those in the film are White. Perhaps unsurprising given that there were still major racial divisions in American at the time. Adding to this, the closing musical number is a calypso – sung again by Van Doren’s character, supported by an entirely white group of men, all adopting some kind of Caribbean accent.

Mamie Van Doren Sings “Go Go Calypso”

Incidentally, I gather that when rock ‘n’ roll started to take off the established record companies etc., whose business model saw them producing morally clean music for white audiences, tried to kill it off and one of the ways that they attempted this was by using calypso music (whilst replacing any social comment or sexuality in the lyrics with generalities about the Caribbean islands!)

Serbian Blues Artist Ana Popović – Cultural Appropriation Or Misappropriation?

Personally I find the current hysteria in certain quarters over cultural appropriation / misappropriation rather daft and overly politically correct to be honest. I have no doubt that there are cases where there can be genuine hurt caused but to say that one can’t take something from another’s culture would mean no white person could ever play jazz or the blues, for example, as the genres originated within African-American communities (just like the aforementioned calypso). Just my opinion, of course. Anyway, I digress…

Mamie Van Doren

At just 80 minutes this film entertains without outstaying its welcome, despite the feeling of being rather thrown together! Being a man of a certain vintage I’d have to confess that the talents of the (then) 26-year-old Van Doren – which may or may not include her singing(!) – certainly helped pass the time. Worth a look as a curio from another time…

Nothing, But Nothing, Is Left To The Imagination…

The latest old movie that I’ve come across here in the shadows is one with a bit of a chequered history. “Exposé” – also known as “House On Straw Hill” as well as “Trauma” – is a 1976 British horror thriller written and directed by James Kenelm Clarke (“Hardcore”, “Let’s Get Laid”) that was originally released in a heavily edited version before making it onto the list of banned “video nasties” in the early 80s.

Udo Kier

A writer, Paul Martin (Udo Kier – “Suspiria”, “My Own Private Idaho”), rents a cottage in the countryside in order to concentrate on finishing penning “Straw Summer” the follow-up to his successful debut novel.

Fiona Richmond

At the beginning of the film we see Paul and his girlfriend Suzanne (Fiona Richmond – “Not Tonight, Darling”, “Hardcore”) watching one of his own appearances on TV before heading off to the bedroom for a bit of one-on-one time. Things take an early turn for the decidedly weird here as Paul puts latex groves on while Suzanne slips out of her dress and keeps them on for their entire encounter – which is interrupted somewhat by Paul having visions and seemingly getting fixated by the windows!

Udo Kier & Linda Hayden

The following day Suzanne departs and Paul heads to the local railway station to meet a secretary, Linda Hindstatt (Linda Hayden – “The Blood On Satan’s Claw”, “Baby Love”), that he has hired to type up his manuscript as he dictates.

Vic Armstrong

Linda gets some hassle from a couple of local lads (Vic Armstrong (“Black Beauty”, “The Copter Kids” and Karl Howman “Brush Strokes, “The Long Good Friday”) outside the station, prompting Paul to give them a swift beating.

Karl Howman

Unbeknownst to Paul, and to the viewer, Linda has an ulterior motive for wanting to be there. Before that is revealed, however, we get to see her enjoying several sessions of self-love, managing to get rid of the housekeeper and getting raped at gunpoint by the aforementioned local youths in a field behind Paul’s house before taking bloody revenge on the pair.

LInda Hayden & Fiona Richmond

As if that wasn’t enough Linda also manages to have a tryst with the returning Suzanne and cause Paul to end up driving a car into a stream! Throughout the film Paul keeps having strange and unexplained visions, and spends a fair amount of time staring into space…

Udo Kier & Fiona Richmond

I wouldn’t say that this is a bad film exactly as it does have its moments. I can see why the censor had issues with the film when it was first released, with a large helping of sex and violence contained within (though this seems rather tame by today’s standards) but it struck me that if anything it should have been banned for some of the thespian qualities.

Elizabeth Berkley & Kyle MacLachlan In Showgirls

I gather that Richmond was something of a sex symbol in the 70s, appearing in a few X rated movies at the time, so it’s difficult to understand quite how the orange-hued lady gives such an over the top and almost hysterical performance, which is surely one of the least convincing portrayals of sexual coupling this side of Elizabeth Berkley’s infamous swimming pool turn with Kyle MacLachlan in “Showgirls”!

Linda Hayden

Hayden, meanwhile, turns in a decent enough performance as the mysterious Linda. It’s interesting that she has reportedly since said that she regrets making this film, especially as she later went on to take the role of the housekeeper in a 2010 remake of the film, re-titled “Stalker”, by Spandau Ballet man Martin Kemp.

Perhaps there are echoes of the 1971 movie “Straw Dogs”, but that is a far superior film in my view. Still, watching this one was certainly an experience!…