#171 – Camino de Santiago

(2003, US/Sp, 104 min) Dir Emmanuel Pascal, Andrea Filipe.

The first in Pascal and Filipe’s four years in the making Walks Trilogy. The directing duos films are the very paragon of simplicity, following a process or – in the case of their Walks Trilogy – journeys. In Access Road they follow the construction of a mining road in the forests of the Pacific Northwest and with Camino de Santiago they turn their cool lens on the route and the walkers of the famous European pilgrimage. It’s simple – the film begins in Roncevaux and ends in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela recording the landscape along the way. To some it’s the very definition of cinematic wallpaper but to others the way they record the changing of the landscapes, the relationship of the people within it and the places where the modern world runs up against a path that has remained unchanged in hundreds of years all tells a story that no words could adequately convey. As you can tell I’m a fully paid up member of the latter camp. Still a stunning film on the small screen it plays all the better in the cinema. Pascal and Filipe followed this up with The Inca Trail and Shikoku Pilgrimage, both as stunning as this.

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#170 – Golden Padlock, The

(1931, Ger, 61 min, b/w) Dir Hans Thomas Mann.

Hans Thomas Mann (not to be confused with regular old Thomas Mann, sans Hans) was an early pioneer in German cinema. In the early days he ran a one man operation, producing his own ‘lantern shows’ (rudimentary animation, mostly) with which he would then tour the country to show with his daughter Pini as assistant. In his autobiography, The Picture Man, he revealed that his tours took him up mountains, down valleys and across half of Europe to bring cinema to the country folk who would not have witnessed such a thing otherwise. This golden era for Mann ended, rather inevitably, when the First World War broke out. Like many during those long hard years he lost much, not least his beloved daughter. The interwar period found Mann struggling for work but he found himself a patron in Lupu Speyer, star director of Zwei Brüste (and, more famously, 1927’s megabudget flop Götz von Berlichingen) who had first been introduced to cinema as a boy by Mann’s travelling show. Speyer, having clout in spades at this time, wrangled Mann the budget for his debut film with an actual budget and what would turn out to be his final film – The Golden Padlock. The fairy tale story of a young girl lost in a vast forest primeval and the titular object that keeps shut the door leading to her home in the subterranean land of fairy. It’s totally animated in a style similar to Lotte Reiniger (whose career was taking off about the same time) with the padlock hand painted in a fashion that shimmers off the screen. A soundtrack silent save for the sound of a distant flute only adds to the etherial strangeness. A labour of love obviously made in honour of his lost daughter the process as a whole took almost ten years, during which time Speyer’s career had peaked and nosedived back into obscurity and Mann had emigrated to England where the film was finished. It’s been seen very few times since then but the BFI have a fantastically well preserved copy in their vaults which they wheel out on occasion – if you get the opportunity run, don’t walk, to see it.

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#169 – House at the End of the Street of the Dead, The

(1980, It, 86 min) Dir Sergio Patrino. Cast Sal Lion, John Morghen, Annie Belle, Pat Bellows.

A curious conflation of the post-Fulci zombie film and the post-Last House on the Left revenge fest. Carl and Manny (Lion and Morghen) are a pair of New York street punks out for thrills who decide to indulge in their favourite pastime – breaking into people’s houses so that they can rape and torture its occupants. The first house they happen upon is Annie Belle’s swish, modern digs and they have their gruesome fun there. The next house – as they have apparently not sated their bloodlusts – is further down the street and, as they find out, is populated with the recently revived dead. Meanwhile victim house #1 are on the blower to the fuzz and within no time our punks are the filling in a sadist sandwich between a slice of the law and a slice of the undead. It’s a cheap flick to be sure and not as hardcore as it makes out it is which will be a relief to some and will dismay others. On the plus side it betrays an invention that is pure Patrino, who couldn’t stop himself even when he was onto the nastier type of no-budget schlock.

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#168 – Excuse Me Sir, I’ve Just Been Shot

(1973, GB, 105 min) Dir Aldous Oxbury. Cast Peter Cushing, Felicity Montague, Denholm Elliott, Christopher Lee.

Zany detective nonsense with Peter Cushing’s famed detective Albert Franklin investigating his own murder as he bleeds out from the gunshot wound he believes to be the agent of his ultimate demise. “But you should see a doctor!” exclaims his secretary, Pam. Not a bit of it – he’s too excited about the investigation to be bothered wasting his time on medical assistance. “Imagine how cold the trail will be by the time they’ve pulled out that bullet and stitched me up!” A fun romp with Denholm Elliott his nervy contact on the force and Christopher Lee as his incarcerated Moriarty-like nemesis. The best part of the film has to be the gravitas Cushing brings to the role that sells every scene regardless as to whether it requires him to crawl through a bed of eels (don’t ask) or deliver a dressing-down to a royal guard who he believes is wearing an improperly buttoned coat. Fantastic London locations add to the film’s charm including a chase through both Kew Gardens and Highgate Cemetery. This seems an obvious set-up for a series but alas, if this were the case there none but this sole entry.

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#167 – Man From D.I.E.T., The

(1982, GB, 47 min) Dir Barry Endwater. Cast Michael Banks, Eleanor Metz, Harvey Bealey.

One of those dire educational films that was put on when the teacher couldn’t muster the energy for a lesson plan, it seems that everyone I’ve talked to about this has seen it – both in the UK and, amazingly, the US. It’s gained a new lease of life recently thanks to the wonders of the internet. Yes, we really did have to watch stuff like this in school. The most novel thing about this is the presence of Michael Banks in the lead – Banks was a perpetual rising star in the late Sixties/early Seventies, mostly in forgettable actioners. He was even, if you believe the man, in consideration for Bond when Connery hung up his PPK. He gets to live out his fantasy here in a way as Bond-alike Hamilton Greens, up against a nefarious plot by devious disseminators of junk food like Glutenous Bap and the E Numbers crew. Cardboard sets, nonsense plot and sledgehammer messages – those were the days, eh? To his credit Banks doesn’t seem to be going for the easy cheque, he’s really going for it here. A quick perusal of his credits on IMDB suggests that this was a rare bit of work for him at the time so fair enough.

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#166 – Jehovah Slim

(1972, It, 95 min) Dir Sergio Patrino. Cast Jimmy Wrigley, Lee Van Cleef, William Berger.

Right on the back of The Beast in London’s Fog, a Victorian horror romp, Sergio Patrino jetted back to Italy for this, his follow-up – a Blaxploitation spaghetti western. You can’t fault the guy for versitility. The genre starting one-two of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and Shaft were barely a year old at this point but ol’ Sergio knew a hit when he saw one and corralled NFL benchwarmer Jimmy Wrigley, Lee Van Cleef and William Berger in Spain and on set in double time. Wrigley is Jehovah Slim, ex-slave bounty hunter, Van Cleef’s train robber Alan Dunnock is on his hit list and nobody gets in Jehovah Slim’s way. It’s a straightforward chase movie, the only thing setting it apart being the choice of a black lead but then the same could be said (and has been said) about Shaft. Wrigley returned for three more films, all featuring his patented sign-off “Your chances are SLIM!”

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