Archive for Benjamin Halligan

Primitive London Taxi Driver

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2008 by dcairns

Thanks to film academic and author Benjamin Halligan for sending me the British “Mondo” movie PRIMITIVE LONDON. Made in 1965, what’s jaw-dropping about this film, “directed” by Arnold L. Miller (SEX FARM) and produced by Michael Klinger and Tony Tenser, is how decidedly un-shocking it is. From childbirth to chicken-packing, the grab-bag of sinsational subjects is lame, tame and bewilderingly scatter-shot. SEE — the mods! SEE — the kendo school! SEE — The hatter’s head-measuring instrument!


But some of the desperate measures deployed to liven it up / tie it together are pretty interesting. Here’s the best example of postmodern deconstruction you’re likely to find in a British film of the era:

And what about that music? Esteemed Jazz-man Basil (DR PHIBES) Kirchin and John A. Coleman (apparently still working today, on KUNG FU PANDA no less, if the IMDb hasn’t gene-spliced him with a namesake) seem to have hit upon the main theme of TAXI DRIVER eleven years early. Here’s another, clearer instance:

Can’t you just feel all hope and life ebbing from your body as that sequence goes on? It’s the PRIMITIVE LONDON effect. All British “sex” films were really part of a secret government plan to combat overpopulation by mentally sterilising the populace with desultory erotica. The pornography of despair. And it worked. Anyone who saw THE AMOROUS MILKMAN would be unable to have a sexual thought for months without wanting to run out for a free N.H.S. penectomy. 

Operation Prole-Wipe was so successful that by the 1980s, British cinema was producing non-sex films actively designed to promote a desire for early, childless death. How else to explain REVOLUTION?

Meanwhile, here’s the moral of the story from PRIMITIVE LONDON:

It’s easy to see what happened. Bernard Herrmann was living in England at the time he was approached to do TAXI DRIVER, and must have encountered the P.L. theme during an elicit trip to a Soho sex cinema, or possibly the Eros in Leicester Square (immortalised in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON). As the great composer of CITIZEN KANE and PSYCHO, hidden in the darkest recesses of the smoky auditorium, reached a shivering climax at his own hands, the music oozing from the cinema speakers crept into the similarly shady recesses of his mind, forming an unconscious association, just as it does to Alex in CLOCKWORK ORANGE. When Herrmann was asked, eleven years later, to score a film about a character who frequents porno houses, it all clicked into place.

Dirty Bernard!

Pardon the Intrusion

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2008 by dcairns

WORLD EXCLUSIVE from Shadowplay. This is INTRUSION, the first film by ’60s UK horror-film enfant terrible Michael Reeves.

Unfortunately, in the years since its production, the soundtrack has gone astray. Also unfortunately, since Reeves made the mistake of making his film exactly 34 seconds too long for YouTube, I’ve had to omit the opening title that reads, “This film is dedicated to Jean-Luc Godard.” It’s a dedication that makes me smile. Godard dedicated A BOUT DE SOUFFLE to Monogram Films, makers of low-grade quickies. Reeves dedicates his low grade quickie to Godard, without a trace of detectable irony.

dedicated to the one I love

The film isn’t exactly good or anything, but it’s historically very important and it’s been unavailable for years because the people who have their hands on the only print charge a fortune for video copies. Even Reeves’ biographer, Benjamin Halligan, got stung.

So now here it is for free, so you can all enjoy the first film performance of future Reeves star Ian Ogilvy as the Obsequious Butler (?) the fact that the bad guy wears Jean-Luc Godard shades, the novelty of a would-be hard-edged thriller being performed by public schoolboys in the leafy English countryside, and the complete lack of irony or plot twists.

Neon Ogilvy

It’s an early work, owing more to Reeves’ hero and mentor Don Siegel than to Godard, and probably of interest only to Reeves completists. We get the sex (sort of) and violence (sort of) and the rural and distinctly English setting, which connects it to other Reeves movies, even if it is basically a home movie by precocious teenagers. We’re certainly not talking TWO MEN AND A WARDROBE here. The rest of you should check out psychedelic psycho-thriller THE SORCERERS and vicious allegory WITCHFINDER GENERAL to see Reeves at his height, and mourn the loss to British cinema — Reeves died of an accidental overdose at age 25.

(I love the fact that for some reason INTRUSION is “A Leith Production,” since that’s where I live in Edinburgh. The name has fulfilled itself.)

An RKO Story

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on March 18, 2008 by dcairns

Granger, Love at Work 

There’s a surprisingly terrific documentary series THE RKO STORY. One episode deals with Howard Hughes’ period as studio head/owner (HH appears to have been the only individual ever to have sole ownership of a major studio, and he ran it as a personal fiefdom/seraglio), and it features a startling story from Brit movie star Stewart Granger (real name James Stewart, Jimmy to his friends). The following stuff is paraphrased from memory as I don’t have a copy of the thing, alas.

Jimmy was married to Jean Simmons, contracted to RKO. Mike Todd and Liz Taylor and Howard Hughes were all around at their place in the hills. Now read on:

“They’re both quite big girls, and Howard was standing around trying to see down their tops. We joked at him, ‘Which one do you want, Howard?’ and he said ‘Well, I haven’t quite made up my mind.’

“We thought we were, you know, gently teasing a rather gawky, unworldly sort of chap. We were provoking a RATTLESNAKE!”

The Amazing Howard Hughes (not really)

(That’s not the startling bit, here it comes now:)

Hughes started in on his stalkerish behaviour, trailing the couple and moving in on Simmons whenever she was alone. Detectives trailed Granger, reporting on his every move.

“Finally it got so bad that I said to Jean, ‘We’ve got that steep drop at the back of our house. I’ll go out, and I know for a fact that as soon as I’m gone he’ll be round like a shot. Take him out the back, I’ll come home unexpectedly and shove the bastard over the edge. I’ll say he was attacking you, no court will ever convict me!”

She's Gotta Have It

The exciting Perfect Crime never happened, alas. (Well…it would’ve been kind of fun.)

A while back my friend Benjamin Halligan met Jean. He asked for suggestions for conversation, and I mentioned Hughes — “If things get dull,” I offered, “this might liven her up.”

Things DID get kind of dull, somehow, so he dropped HH’s name, and Simmons fondly reminisced about the nice long talks she’d have with HH in his car, etc. Her memory of the relationship seemed… quite different from her ex-husband’s.

She Killed in Ecstasy

She Played With Fire

Anyhow, I watched Otto Preminger and Howard Hughes’ ANGEL FACE and it made me think of this, on account of Jean’s sinister clifftop shenanigans.