Archive for James Villiers

Unbandaged

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2012 by dcairns

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The director had hiccups. A really bad case — they lasted days. It was a real problem because he might hiccup at any point, during a take, and ruin the sound. It became a running joke — the production hiccups.

Then one day he didn’t come in to the studio. He was dead. Apparently hiccups can be a sign of an approaching heart attack. Who knew?

With Seth Holt out of the picture, the picture was finished by the talentless Michael Carreras, the man who destroyed Hammer films with his terrible ideas and equally terrible ambitions to write, direct, produce, none of which he had the slightest knowledge of or capacity for. But BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB is still a pretty interesting show.

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It’s got Andrew Keir, the best film Quatermass, and James Villiers, and George “I was in CITIZEN KANE and now this” Coulouris, Aubrey Morris (Yay! P.R. Deltoid!) and Valerie Leon, known in the UK as the Hi Karate Woman. A fine actress with enormous juicy breasts.

The musique concrete is by Tristram Carey, who also scored THE LADYKILLERS, which Holt produced. He’s one of the very few filmmakers who worked at Ealing and Hammer, and he must have liked the dysfunctional family atmosphere — he might have fitted well into the BBC. Holt’s wife said that he and director Sandy Mackendrick should never have worked together, since rather than anchoring one another and compensating for their excesses, they hyped each other into a frenzy and made everything twice as crazy as it needed to be. Which is perhaps why THE LADYKILLERS is such a brilliantly extreme film. (Say, I’m writing a book about it, aren’t I?)

Kenneth Tynan wrote NOWHERE TO GO, consciously intended as the last Ealing picture (perhaps a good film to watch for this Blogathon!), a dark thriller which Holt served up with bracing savagery. TASTE OF FEAR, aka SCREAM OF FEAR, was Hammer’s best DIABOLIQUES knock-off, with the corpse sitting calmly at the bottom of the swimming pool destined to traumatize a young Tom Hanks when his mother, in a confused state, led him into the wrong cinema. Not BAMBI at all.

Holt’s best movie is surely THE NANNY, with a powerful and relatively controlled performance from Bette Davis, great work from the child actors, and a really gripping use of interior space — shot by Harry Waxman, who was always at his best in black and white (cf BRIGHTON ROCK). Davis described Holt as “a mountain of evil” or something, somewhat to the bafflement

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Late Hammer films are typically portraits of the disintegration of a stolid but efficient studio organisation, derailed by monumentally clueless management. TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER is actually really good, but the powers that be cut off the whole climax, leaving Christopher Lee and Satan apparently vanquished by a small pebble hurled at the Great Man’s dome by Richard Widmark. This one manages to hold back on the nudity apart from a couple of modest, not-too-distracting instances, and balances creepiness with camp in an unusual way. The asylum scene, with the maniacal flurry of canted angles and ludicrous toy cobra, was actually helmed by Carreras and it may be the only good thing he ever did — I’m inclined to credit Holt’s shooting plan or DoP Arthur Grant, who’d begun in quota quickies with Michael Powell and had worked at Hammer throughout their glory years –

UK: Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb [DVD] [1971]

US: Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb

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Culp De-Programmer

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2012 by dcairns

SPECTRE — a failed TV pilot devised by Gene Roddenberry. Download it! Slap it in the Panasonic! Watch it!

Stars Robert Culp — my new hero! as Gene Roddenberry William Sebastian, a stylishly dressed criminologist and expert in paranormal abnormality, who, assisted by Dr Ham Hamilton — who I kept thinking was played by Bradford Dillman, but is actually the murderer Gig Young — “He looks nothing like Bradford Dillman. Why did I think it was Bradford Dillman?” “You just wanted it to be,” claims Fiona. “I deny the accusation!” — this sentence has really lost its way. Back up. Start again.

Our two decrepit intrepid heroes journey to London, England, to investigate a case of possible satanic possession at a stately home newly outfitted as mod shagging palace by incumbent Sir Geoffrey Cyon (James Villiers). Just as in SOME GIRLS DO, Villiers is surrounded by dolly birds, although whether in this film they have had their heads hollowed out and filled with radio-controlled microchips is never stated — but going by their behaviour, I’d say the answer is YES, and Roddenberry has the remote.

Gig’s bedchamber — and waterbed — is invaded at night by Allo Allo‘s Vicki Michelle, plus a dominatrix and a schoolgirl, but that’s just the beginning of the diabolism in store! The problem is figuring out which of the Cyon scions is possessed of the Devil — Villiers (who definitely is), Ann Bell, who might be, and John Hurt, who probably definitely is. “I remember being very disappointed in him for doing this,” says Fiona. Whereas I don’t remember it at all. If I did, I’d like to think I wouldn’t be watching it now. Fiona has no such excuse, other than wanting something cheery after running PUZZLE OF A DOWNFALL CHILD.

John Hurt tries out for the role of a Klingon.

James Villiers turns into a cat.

Tits! Obvious cutaways of tits to try and sell this as an X-rated horror movie abroad. Clive Donner directed this — I’m starting to think he was never very good, you know. His camera swoops in, leering, in like a dirty eagle, every nipple a merit badge.

Jenny Runacre smiles slyly in the background, which you’d think would be enough, and Culp is pretty delightful, channeling Shatner’s heavy pauses. Gordon Jackson is on hand, as ever.

“You hear a lot about Bradford Dillman,” I observe, “but you never hear about his brother, Rochdale.”

Culp is such a Roddenberry substitute, he even has Majel Barrett (Mrs R) as housekeeper. And the voodoo curse on him, manifesting as chest pains and a blob of mortician’s wax on his manly abdomen, is presumably a thinly-veiled fictionalisation of the heart condition that slew the Star Trek creator.

Why Gene Roddenberry wrote science fiction: his first wife was named Eileen Rexroat. It was inevitable.

More Wiki –

“Star Trek theme music composer Alexander Courage long harbored resentment of Roddenberry’s attachment of lyrics to his composition. By union rules, this resulted in the two men splitting the music royalties payable whenever an episode of Star Trek aired, which otherwise would have gone to Courage in full. (The lyrics were never used on the show, but were performed by Nichelle Nichols on her 1991 album, “Out of this World.”)”

The only Star Trek lyrics I ever heard require to be sung with a Scottish accent –

Star Trek! It’s a funny tune!

It goes UP and then it goes doon!

AND! just when you think you’ve got it mastered,

It flies off like a crazy bastard!

I think perhaps those are not canonical.

As someone who grew up with a lot of terrible, boring, generic American TV (Petrocelli, The Fall Guy, Fantasy Island, Kojak, Dallas) I kind of wish Spectre had been commissioned. It’s not boring. It’s terrible and ridiculous, but not boring. If it had run, there might have been some good episodes, but even if they were all dreadful, they would have been more diverting than all the lawyer and cop and doctor shows, and with Culp and his polo neck, they’d have been more fun than Kolchak, too.

In some dreamy alternate reality, this series ran for decades. David Duchovny eventually took over from Culp.

All About “Eve”

Posted in FILM, literature, MUSIC, Painting with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2008 by dcairns

“It’s Losey’s film maudit,” explained David Wingrove to a skeptic after the film fest screening of EVE (1962). “It’ll have to get in line!” I said. If I’d set it within an hour of David’s statement this might have qualified as repartee. Anyhow, I do think the film is probably more highly regarded than BOOM and SECRET CEREMONY, though both of those have devoted sexy weird admirers.

“A cheap, tawdry melodrama,” is how Jeanne Moreau described the producers’ cut, in which the notorious Hakim Brothers sheared about an hour off the film’s running time. Given that the film is adapted from a James Hadley Chase novel, I bet that’s exactly what they were hoping for. Given that the piece is replete with adultery, fraud, lavish parties, gambling, the movie biz, suicide, and Jeanne Moreau savaging Stanley Baker with a whip, if it attains the status of cheap, tawdry and melodramatic, shouldn’t we regard that as a sign of success?

“Not conceited, just accurate,” is how Stanley Baker assesses his high opinion of his ability to please women. It’s such a dazzling display of sexual arrogance that, coupled with his frequent appearances in a dinner jacket, I found myself imagining Baker as James Bond. Sex, crime, exotic locations, sadism, drinking and gambling, it’s all there. EVE’s wild Michel Legrand jazz score is even more dynamic than the Bond theme. With the scenes in Venice, the specific Bond story would be CASINO ROYALE, the one where 007 is bested by a woman.

“All women, six to sixty,”he remarks later, explaining to his rich wife-to-be (the beautiful Lisi) his tendency to stray. That seems like the kind of statement most of us would have to follow with “I mean, er, that didn’t come out right, uh…” but Baker lets it stand. It’s a movie that boldly jettisons conventional notions of audience sympathy — Baker and Moreau are both fascinating monsters, and while Lisi is theoretically sympathetic, there isn’t enough of her in the film for that to matter and anyway her character pales next to the arrogant yet insecure Baker and the heartless Moreau.

When James Villiers’ agent-turned-wife wonders about only getting ten per cent of a man, he retorts happily, “That’s all there is.” Certainly her gaydar must be faulty for her to have stumbled into such a love match. Everything that comes out of the great Villiers’ mouth in this film is pure gold. He’s the comedy relief amid the angst and humiliation, the one character who is never fazed by anything. But let’s get this straight — Stanley Baker has written a book about a lusty Welsh coal miner? And they got JAMES VILLIERS to write the screenplay? With a part for VIRNA LISI? I’m having trouble picturing the resulting movie, which wisely the filmmakers withhold from us. Although I guess the result might have looked a little like EVE.

“I wonder if they’ll bump into Marcello and Anita from LA DOLCE VITA,” whispered David, as Stanley and Jeanne roamed Rome after dark. Later, Stan rides a funeral barge on the Venetian Grand Canal and I wondered if he’d pass Julie Christie going the other way. Perhaps because the cities are so ancient, the film seems unusually haunted by other movies, past and present. Also by guest stars — Peggy Guggenheim, Vittorio De Sica and Losey himself waft by.

“Moreau at her most forcefully, ferally seductive — her frequent disrobings, dramatic departures and solitary sulks, all appropriately backed by a repeated Billie Holliday motif,” says Edinburgh Film Fest director Hannah McGill in the programme, and it’s true. We can tell she’s fickle because she has one cat for her Rome apartment and another in Venice. Shocking. Some — but certainly not all — of La Moreau’s unmotivated cruelty may be down to the film being so hacked about. This “definitive restoration” is still missing some scenes described by Losey, so it’s actually NOBODY’S preferred cut, just the longest version anybody’s been able to assemble, with occasional burnt-in subtitles in Swedish or Finnish attesting to the print’s scattered origins.

“God made Adam from a woman’s rib,” sings Tony Middleton on the soundtrack, lyrics written by Losey with screenwriter Evan Jones (MODESTY BLAISE). This may just be Losey’s jazziest movie of all, what with the incessant Billie Holliday refrain (the people in this film may be rich, but they apparently only own the same two records each). I’m starting to wonder if a sloey movie can truly EXIST without jazz. It certainly seems like a factor whose importance has been underrated in his work.

“It’s a failed art movie,” says John Waters of BOOM, and when an art movie fails, it fails by failing to be art. Is EVE art? Is this shot art? –

It’s beautiful, it made me gasp and grin, and it’s also rather crude and vulgar, particularly in a film named after the lady in the Masaccio on the left. Can art be lurid and overripe? Can a cheap, tawdry melodrama be art? I sure hope so.

EVE was screened in Edinburgh International Film Festival’s Jeanne Moreau retrospective.

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