Archive for Blood on Satan’s Claw

The Cut-Ups

Posted in FILM, Television, Theatre with tags , , , , , , on June 7, 2011 by dcairns

Weird how Terry Gilliam’s animations for Monty Python’s Flying Circus always seemed a bit scary, but his titles for CRY OF THE BANSHEE, a Vincent Price horror flick, are mainly just funny.

Weird also how the movie, which is part of AIP/Tigon’s series of period horrors including also WITCHFINDER GENERAL and BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW, is so unlikable. The earlier WITCHFINDER benefited from a realistic approach with no supernatural elements and an admirable seriousness of purpose by its director. The later CLAW has a thoroughly goofy narrative but again tackles it with sincerity and verve — the writer had been influenced by accounts of the Mary Bell case, in which a little girl murdered a little boy: the idea of evil infecting children was taken seriously, even if the filmmakers don’t bring much in the way of sensible ideas to the situation.

BANSHEE is really just a parade of nastiness, most of it directed at young women. The only really interesting thing after the opening credits is the ending, which to my mind was swiped by THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, which could be seen as an unofficial remake in gangster form of BANSHEE. Bob Hoskins may seem an unlikely replacement for Vincent Price, but really he’s not.

Wishing he was back with the Ken Campbell Roadshow.


And Soon The Dotrice

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 29, 2008 by dcairns


Robert Fuest’s first film, AND SOON THE DARKNESS, starts with two Brits, Pamela Franklin and Michelle Dotrice (pronounced “dough-treece”) on the world’s most boring holiday, cycling across a totally flat stretch of French countryside. They stop at a roadside bar ~

“Did you get your bum pinched?”

“No, that’s Italy. They’ll do anything in Italy.”

“What’re we doing in France then?”

This slightly smutty, un-PC girltalk gets things off to a good start, striking one as credible and well-observed, and the actresses handle it well. Franklin had played little Flora in Jack Clayton’s THE INNOCENTS, and Dotrice went on to co-star in the hugely successful 70s sitcom SOME MOTHERS DO ‘AVE ‘EM, and both are terrific, naturalistic players, who always feel overheard rather than performative.

The Girl with Green Eyes

Fuest, fresh from designing and directing episodes of TV’s The Avengers, has a passable thriller plot by Brian Clemens and Terry Nation (both from that show — Nation also created the Daleks): Dotrice vanishes and Franklin finds the entire countryside is populated only with red herrings — and one sex-killer.

The central premise sometimes feels like an expansion of the build-up to Hitchcock’s cropduster attack in NORTH BY NORTHWEST — unseen terror in a landscape of limitless,blank horizons. Though in fact the bright flatness does yield to tangled woods, presenting a contrast between total visibility with nothing to see, and dense impenetrability where something may be lurking millimetres away.

Fuest, one of the great director-designers, has handicapped himself with a film where there seems to be nothing to design, but he exercises his eye with strong compositions and a sensitivity to objects, both the shiny kind brought by the tourists, and the rusty local equipment.



He’s also attentive enough, without being lecherous, to his leading ladies. They spend the whole film in tight, huge shorts — this is a film very much focussed on the plump white thighs of young English womanhood, and white panties hung to dry on a tree are a major plot point, but Fuest’s interest is frank rather than salacious. He doesn’t have the slightly seedy intensity of someone like Nicholas Roeg, who is rather too concerned with the passage of Jenny Agutter’s knickers up and down her thighs (Roeg was — maybe IS — a swinger, I’ve been told — parties, car keys, the whole bit — which makes total sense when you put it together with his films). Indeed, Fuest’s DR PHIBES films may be proto-slasher movies, but they’d more concerned with killing esteemed British character actors than busty dolly birds, which makes them rather refreshing in their sadism.


The plot slips into variations on THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE — of course she’s going to cold-cock a suspected killer and run smack into the waiting arms of the real killer, but it has the benefit of that compelling news story subject: something nasty happening to normal young holidaymakers, and despite the title there’s no darkness in sight — Fuest’s credit even appears over sunlight glinting through leaves, and the whole action takes place on a single day under blue skies… though a storm is predicted…

Wet Afternoon

Suggested Fever Dream Double Feature: THE VANISHING (original Dutch version), or make it a Dotrice double with the mind-blowing ~The Crow

R.I.P. Tony Tenser

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2007 by dcairns

First Karlheinz Stockhausen, now THIS.

quoth the raven

As head of Compton Films and then Tigon Films, Tony Tenser at produced first cheap-and-cheerful skinflicks (NAKED AS NATURE INTENDED, with Pamela Green of PEEPING TOM fame), then horror movies that ranged from the semi-classy: WITCHFINDER GENERAL, BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW (both touched with genius), to the trashy: CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR, a stodgy country-house horror than features both Karloff and Lee, but finds nothing for either to do, but is enlivened by hilarious s&m dream sequences with a green-painted Barbara Steele with horns on.

Tenser did dabble in other genres too, distributing the very uneven but at-least-arguably brilliant THE GREAT MCGONAGALL with Spike Milligan (the only film I know that actually stops for lunch) and WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE, a downright bizarre and unwelcome sex comedy starring Norman Wisdom and a teenage Sally Geeson (“Makes NOT NOW DARLING look like the fuckin’ MAHABHARATA,” – Steven McNicoll), but his greatest contribution to cinema must be his launching of Roman Polanski’s U.K. directing career.

REPULSION was a risky project for anybody to undertake, with censorable sexual situations, a depressing ambience, and a stylistic journey from British social realism (sort of) to avant-garde expressionist terror. The result is still Polanski’s most extreme, strange and powerful film (which is not intended as a knock against his later works).

I think it’s a great shame Tenser retired from movies when he did, for with the disappearance of mini-moguls like him, British cinema stopped generating these rogue movies which are our artistic lifeblood, and we pretty much gave up on making commercial potboilers too. The dreaded middle ground was all that remained:

Run, fat boy, run!

“It’s OK if you like films about…students…running,” – Greg/Sylvia Edwards.

So goodbye, Tony Tenser, we were missing you already.

Buy REPULSION here ~

Repulsion [1965] [DVD]