Happy New Year to all of my hungover WordPress friends, slowly emerging into the light of 2016.
Happy New Year to all of my hungover WordPress friends, slowly emerging into the light of 2016.
Hell Is A City (1960) 5/5
Not a horror, Hell Is A City is a fast-paced thriller filmed on the grimy backstreets of my home city of Manchester. I spent half of the film trying to recognise landmarks in this long altered cityscape.
Stanley Baker plays Harry Martineau, a tough police inspector on the trail of a man that he put away for robbery fourteen years ago.
In escaping from jail, Don Starling (played by John Crawford), clubbed a warder who subsequently died, and so is now wanted for murder.
To further ensure that it is the gallows that await him, the escaped convict puts a gang together to rob bookmaker Gus Hawkins (Donald Pleasence) in an attempt to get enough money to get out of town, but a nineteen year old girl, to whom the bag of money is handcuffed, is killed. And the money is marked with a green ink, too, scuppering that particular plan of escape.
Starling then desperately seeks places of refuge throughout the city while the Inspector tries to track him down. One implausible place is the bookie’s own attic, after threatening Hawkins’ cheating wife, played by the great Billie Whitelaw.
After the convict terrorises deaf-mute ( and greatly named) Silver Steele, Martineau’s pursuit of Starling ends in a roof-top chase, with both cop and robber injured in a shoot-out. Eventually he is overpowered by police officers where I normally only see pigeons, and heads for the hangman.
This is a good film with a great cast, and, being a lover of old black and white movies, I think it qualifies as a classic film noir.
Anyway, next time: back to horror.
One Million Years B.C (1966) 3/5
John Richardson plays a prehistoric man banished from his savage tribe. He leaves behind his own dark haired, cold, volatile people (and Martine Beswick), to find, or rather, be found by, a contrasting tribe of blonde, warm gregarious people (and Raquel Welsh).
Every cloud and all that.
But soon he is banished from there, too, taking his new found mate with him. Popular guy, ain’t he?
You can bet Martine Beswick won’t take that lying down.
According to this film, we learn that prehistoric man had Victorian values:the men went out hunting while the women stayed at home making necklaces and sewing animal hides. Also, even less believable than the fact that dinosaurs and man lived side by side, is the fact that prehistoric women didn’t have hairy legs. And only the men had beards. But I’m not one to quibble.
The adventures of these two tribes play out with a sprinkling of wild beasts and dinosaurs before an apocalyptic ending with an erupting volcano. Even the landscape back then was deadly.
An enjoyable story, it is as much remembered today for Welch in her fur bikini than for Ray Harryhausen’s dinosaurs.
Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb (1971) 4/5
Enjoyable Egyptology hokum, based on a book by Bram Stoker, and made watchable by the beautiful Valerie Leon in a rare lead role. In fact, she plays a double role: that of Margaret, the daughter of Professor Fuchs (Andrew Keir), and also that of the ancient Egyptian Queen Tera. She waits all her career for a lead role, then two come along at once.
We discover that Margaret’s mother died giving birth to her at exactly the same moment that Fuchs makes the discovery of the inexplicably still-bleeding body of the Queen. Now what a coincidence you may say. Or perhaps there’s something going on here. Maybe even just get on with it.
Twenty years later, Margaret, plagued by nightmares, is given a ring by her father on the day before her birthday. And guess who the ring used to belong to?
What ensues is the discovery that, among many deaths, Margaret is the vessel through which Tera still wields her magic, ahead of her planned resurrection. Along the way we are treated to such creepy images as the shadow of a jackal, and a crawling, severed hand.
In the end, both of Leon’s characters are buried in rubble as a battle between them occurs. Only one woman survives-but which one? Lay in a hospital bed, wrapped ridiculously in a swathe of bandages covering everything but the eyes, and looking just like, well, a mummy, a clue is that the patient is missing a hand. Hmm. Thank God for the NHS. Sleep well.
I enjoyed this film, but it could have been so much more for the presence of the great Peter Cushing, who had to leave the production after just one day to nurse his wife who had fallen ill (and eventually died). Although Keir does a satisfactory job as a last minute stand in.
Also, five weeks into filming, director Seth Holt suffered a fatal heart attack, encouraging rumours of a mummy’s curse, and another director had to fill in to film the remaining sequences.
Given Leon’s presence, it is curious why Hammer never gave her another lead role. Someone suggested to me that it could be because she was quite tall, and leading actors of the time did not want to be set against taller leading ladies. And they couldn’t run around graveyards wearing heels. Or maybe it could be down to something much more credible like a mummy’s curse. Either way, Leon can lay claim to be the only Bond girl who worked with two different Bonds-both Sean Connery and Roger Moore. Whenever put on the spot to name her favourite she played it safe, saying that she thought both were good.
Straight On Till Morning (1972) 1/5
Rita Tushingham plays a rather pathetic and timid Brenda, who moves to London in a desperate move to find someone who will give her a baby. Like you do. Of course, this was before the days when you could advertise on Facebook, get someone to come around and get you pregnant, delete and block them, then meet up with them again some years in the future on Jeremy Kyle.
Unfortunately for her, the first man who shows any interest, after she makes the initial pursuit, is psychotic Peter, played by Hammer regular Shane Briant, who has the unfortunate compulsion to destroy anything of beauty, be it women or, erm, dogs.
We soon learn that Peter is behind the disappearance of several girls in the Earl’s Court area of London. Rest assured, Plain Jane Brenda is perfectly safe among the capital’s bright young things. That is, until she decides to help herself to some of Peter’s money and goes out to have a make over. Purely to please him, you understand. She has a habit of these faux pax, doesn’t she?
In the beginning the film jumps around a little, drags in the middle, and has an ambiguous ending: Brenda learns the truth of Peter’s true nature when he plays her a horrific audio recording of him killing his dog, and also of the murder of Brenda’s friend, and she tries in vain to flee from his home while he assures her he would never harm her. The last thing we see is him sitting alone, with no sign of her. Is she in the bedroom? Did he kill her? Do we care?
The film does have its moments, as well as its fans, but I hated it. It was too slow, and the character of Brenda was too pitiful for me to care about. This is one of the few Hammer films that I wouldn’t sit through again. I’m not really selling it to you, am I?
Released as a double feature with Fear In The Night (last week’s Hammer post), Fear is far superior to this one.
Fear In The Night (1972) 5/5
The much better film of a double feature release (the other being the dreadful Straight On Till Morning), Judy Geeson plays a woman recovering from a nervous breakdown, who is attacked by an intruder with a prosthetic arm. Soon after this she moves, along with her new husband, a teacher, to the country, where he has a new job at a boys’ school. At least she will be safe in the country, won’t she?
Of course not, this is a Hammer film.
A further attack happens in her new home, but, due to her previous mental health problems, her husband Robert (Ralph Bates) doesn’t believe her. She meets the headmaster of the school, the unsettling Michael, played by the ever great Peter Cushing. We soon learn that Michael has a prosthetic arm. Now I’m no Sherlock, but this could just be a clue, couldn’t it, as the number of people that you meet with a false arm you can count on, well, one hand?
One night, alone and tormented, Peggy shoots Michael and flees. The next morning, when Bob returns, she neglects to tell him what has happened. Finding blood, used cartridges, and a damaged door, (but no body), Bob try’s to put the pieces of the jigsaw together, and hunts for Michael’s body.
Eventually, we learn that the villains of the piece are actually Bob, in cahoots with his lover Molly, (played by Joan Collins), who just happens to be Michael’s wife. Keeping up? They have set up Peggy to kill Michael for them.
In the end the unstable Michael, who we learn is the headmaster of a school that, like Molly’s model, has no pupils, comes to Peggy’s rescue and we are left with the image of Bob hanging from a tree.
An entertaining thriller with good performances all round.
Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971) 5/5
Dr. Jekyll’s experiments transform him into a beautiful, female, alter ego, and both he and she go to any lengths to get the female hormones needed to continue the work. The film incorporates historical figures into the story: when bodysnatchers Burke and Hare can no longer provide the bodies, Jekyll becomes the Ripper of Whitechapel.
Just the kind of coat the Ripper needs to blend incongruously into his surroundings.
A battle for dominance between both personalities leads to a struggle for the life of Jekyll’s unsuspecting love interest, played by Susan Brodrick, in a real pea souper of a fog.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who is the fairest of them all? What do you mean you quit?
Just Jekyll’s luck-not only did he manage to transform himself into a woman, but he managed to transform himself into a woman with PMT.
If only Jekyll grew a beard, Hyde would be in trouble. And so would Lewis Fiander, playing her love interest. If he only knew. Death by stubble burn.
At the end of the film, in an attempt to escape capture by the police, the doctor hangs from a rooftop as Jekyll, screams as Hyde, (this is getting confusing), and plunges to his/her death. We see his/her face disfigured by the fall and also, perhaps, the interrupted gender struggle.
Even John Lennon could not resist her charms. Perhaps she was the inspiration behind his Beatles song-You’ve Got To Hyde Your Love Away? Sorry, I’ll get my cloak.
A good film with some great imagery, I can recall watching this many years ago one night at my grandparents’ house. Although I am sure I watched it in black and white-must have been the good old days before they had a colour television.
‘The sexual transformation of a man into a woman will actually take place before your very eyes!’ Thank God my Gran had cataracts.
A good good film which I enjoyed. Now, what’s next?