Archive for St Trinians

Immortal Combat

Posted in FILM, Interactive with tags , , on August 2, 2013 by dcairns

outpo

A disgruntled review left over from EIFF 2013…

OUTPOST III: RISE OF THE SPETSNAZ is the latest installment in a profitable franchise made in Scotland but set in Eastern Europe. In the first film, modern soldiers of fortune in Serbia discover an abandoned Nazi bunker where surprisingly advanced experiments in the practical application of unified field theory have given rise to teleporting Nazi zombies. I haven’t seen the second film, but I went to see the third, which jumps back in time to the 40s to show the experiments in their early stages, pitting a team of crack Russian soldiers against the sci-fi horror — or so we’re promised. Mainly I went because I have to respect any movie which voluntarily uses “RISE OF” in its title, now that the phrase is conclusively linked to awful sequels. It’s a bit like the ST TRINIANS sequel calling itself THE SEARCH FOR FRITTON’S GOLD, which shows an admirable sense of humour and self-awareness and willingness to embrace the inherent shittiness of sequels. Or so I thought.

The trouble with the first film in the series, for me, is that despite careful marshaling of its limited resources, the movie did not differentiate its characters, who were all equally unpleasant, so that watching them die in sequence provoked no other reaction than a satisfied nod of the head. It certainly wasn’t scary. The new film continues that approach, seemingly quite deliberately. The narrative resembles a video game with more than the usual number of cut scenes, and demonstrates the same problems as most vidgame films — without the ability to control the action, the viewer is left rather frustrated — it’s like watching someone else play a video game. Someone you don’t even know.

The sequel also introduces a new problem: lack of interest in its own premise. I was waiting for the heroes to be subjected to the mad science experiments themselves — if one or other of the main characters was mutating as the story progressed, losing his humanity, some emotional pull might be generated, and a nasty protagonist might actually gain sympathy. But nothing of this kind happens, and the Nazi monsters this time round are just ugly thugs, supposedly gifted with superhuman strength, but still killed by the normal heroes using normal methods.

outpost-3-rise-of-the

One other problem before I leave the poor film in peace: the actor playing the lead German just can’t do it. It’s awkward that all the characters in the film have pretend Russian or German accents, anyway, but this chap is particularly unconvincing. One wants to say it’s because INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS hand Christoph Waltz raised the standards for Nazi menace, but really, if you look at any British war movie of the fifties, sixties or seventies, the Germans were ALWAYS played by real Germans. That’s all you needed. If you were lucky, you got Anton Diffring. But even if you weren’t lucky, you at least got a German. This fellow can’t do it, and it’s not his fault: it’s the fault of whoever cast him on the basis that he looked like he MIGHT be able to do it.

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The horn.

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2008 by dcairns

Sexy musical instruments from Sidney Gilliat’s ENDLESS NIGHT, a weird Agatha Christie adaptation from the early ’70s. These shots function as cutaways during a passionate shagging scene, and each gets its own little nod (well, crashing paroxysm) from Bernard Herrman’s insanely overwrought score.

Of course there are a thousand reasons why this scene is vulgar and ludicrous, but several reasons why it makes sense and is appropriate, too. And those reasons win. In that way it’s a bit Ken Russell-like.

I would show you some of the hot action that appears between each of the instrument shots, but that would be an absolutely massive plot spoiler, and the film is well worth seeking out and enjoying. Gilliat, having co-authored THE LADY VANISHES for Hitchcock, had clearly been paying attention to Hitch’s oversees adventures, and this is one of the few films I can think of with VERTIGO’s vaulting ambition to break new ground in the realm of the romantic thriller. There are plenty of VERTIGO rip-offs out there, from Jonathan Demme’s partly-successful LAST EMBRACE, to Brian DePalma’s… well, there are too many DePalmas to mention, but let OBSESSION stand for the best of them. But the difference between borrowing from VERTIGO and emulating it is like the difference between calling yourself Christian and actually trying to be like Christ.

Anyhow, Gilliat’s film doesn’t really approach VERTIGO’s greatness at all, but it does set out to be as daring visually, and that’s a rare thing. Gilliat and his partner Faank Launder had these moments of wild ambition thorughout their lengthy careers, but only intermittently. I SEE A DARK STRANGER is the other strongest one.

They also had their smutty moments. From the somewhat-inappropriate teen rudery of the ST TRINIANS series (which tapered to a grotesque conclusion with the softcore misery of WILDCATS OF ST TRINIANS), to the desert island suggestiveness of THE BLUE LAGOON, they were, along with Val Guest and Terence Fisher, at the forefront of the battle to get sex onto British screens. More on these erotic pioneers later.

Quote of the Day: At Sea

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on March 8, 2008 by dcairns

knock knock 

Aspiring actress calls at the offices of Optimum Films: 

“I tried to phone, but they said it was out of order.”

“Oh — how nice of them to put it that way.”

“Mr. Draper, the casting director, said if I came back next month — that’s now — Mr. Murington the producer would see me.”

“Oh, I’m afraid the casting director is no longer with us.”

“Isn’t he?”

“No, Murington alone remains, and he faces you.”

“You mean you’re the Mr. Murington?”

“No longer ‘the’. ‘That.’

“It was about a part in your new film.”

“My new film. Ahumm.”

“The casting director thought there might be a part for me.”

“Look — sit down, my child. Surely you have heard of the British film crisis?”

“I thought it was over.”

“My dear girl. What with television to the left of us, Hollywood to the right of us, and the government behind us, our industry — laughable term! — is forever on the brink.”

“I didn’t know, I’m sorry.”

“Not more than I. I have sat here for months, waiting to start my new film. I have my breakdowns, my crossplots, my shooting schedule…I even have a script. Heh heh. All I need is a quarter of a million pounds. But they won’t give it to me. Miss Clarke, when I tell you that in the past my films have been so successful that no other producer in the country has lost less money, you’ll understand how ludicrously impossible the whole situation has become.”

She Played With Fire

I’ve been spending — I’m not sure why — a lot of time strolling the film-worlds of Mssrs. Launder & Gilliat. I could put a little season of their best work together and they’d be reappraised as forgotten masters. A full retrospective might get them dismissed as also-rans. The real pearls, like GREEN FOR DANGER and I SEE A DARK STRANGER, both quirky, cinematically exuberant, and sharp-witted, are surrounded by numerous disjointed time-passers like FOLLY TO BE WISE and the ST TRINIANS sequels.

LADY GODIVA RIDES AGAIN is decidedly of the latter camp, but like most L&G shows it manages to rustle up a few delights. The scene quoted above, featuring L&G stalwart Alastair Sim as the Last Gasp of the British Film Industry, come into his office one last time to watch the gas get cut off, has a desultory gloryabout it, and still stands as one of the timeless commentaries on cinema in this country. Perhaps the reason the film as a whole lacks drive and compulsion is that it regards the showbiz horrors it unveils — beauty pageants, commercials, the Rank Charm School, publicity shoots (“Throwing snowballs in bikinis?” “Not necessarily.”) and “French revues” not with anger and satirical spite, which would have elevated it to the level of the Boulting brothers’ I’M ALRIGHT JACK or, later, Lindsay Anderson’s BRITANNIA HOSPITAL, films full of gumption and bile, but with a very British acceptance, a sad shake of the head — things are awful, awful to a ridiculous degree, but they could not be otherwise.

Sim’s little uncredited cameo reminds me of my old friend Lawrie’s entry into films. He was adrift at sea in a lifeboat. It was World War II. He had only a newspaper for company and he read it from cover to cover. There was an article about the man who discovered Leslie Howard. Lawrie had always loved films. “I decided that if I was ever rescued I would look him up.” True to his resolve, once ashore and released from service, Lawrie knocked on the man’s door. “I’ve come about a job.” The Great Producer looked briefly hopeful, then realised that Lawrie was not, after all, offering him a job. 

“Only a few years ago, Marjory, my name was known to every financier in the city. Oh, it’s still known to them, but not quite in the same happy light.”

(The lights go out.)

I See a Dark Stranger