All posts by imaginaryfilmguide

#12 – Jaguar, The

(1964, GB, 102 mins) Dir John Gilling. Cast Noel Willman, Eithne Dunne, Colin Blakely, Harry Towb.

In darkest Cornwall at the turn of the last century returns Doctor James Walker from his latest South American expedition, eagerly awaited by his wife. She suspects that something has changed in him since he’s been away and despite her protestations her haggard husband now spends all his time in his study with his expedition’s spoils, the centrepiece of which is his favourite, a gold statue of a jaguar . Before you can say ‘cursed idol’ the local villagers are being savaged by an unknown beast. Thankfully a renowned hunter of big game in Africa is holidaying nearby and is enlisted by the villagers to hunt down the beast which he, of course, spies as being a Jaguar. Mrs Walker suspects that her reclusive husband with his South American connection has some part to play in this but is compelled to protect him, thus setting the stage for an emotional finale. Despite the inevitability of it all this is a handsome and stately entry to the Hammer canon, shot atmospherically on location.

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#11 – One for the Road

(1992, GB, 116 min) Dir Peter Medak. Cast Bob Hoskins, Peter Capaldi, Emily Lloyd, Maureen Lipman.

An adaptation of Hans Fallada’s The Drinker transplanted into London in the 1930’s, following Hoskins’ businessman Eddie Summers as he descends into alcoholism. Led down the path by a single bottle of wine, before long he’s harassing Emily Lloyd’s saucy barmaid and being cheated out of his money by Capaldi’s mild but scheming Locke. By the end of the film he’s incarcerated in a sanatorium, spitting at his wife (Lipman) and, in a haunting final monologue, wishing on his death for the dim promise of the one last drink it will give him, the ‘One for the Road’ of the title. Medak has the period setting down following The Krays and Let Him Have It and, perhaps feeling liberated after the previous year’s Super Mario Brothers, Hoskins gives a committed central performance that humanises a difficult, unlikable character. Despite fears that Hoskins’ salesman character and the period setting would invite comparisons to Pennies from Heaven this grim spiral out-bleaks even it. Unfairly overlooked on release, time has unfortunately rendered it more obscure.

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#10 – Dorakyura no gyakushū (Dracula vs. the World)

(1960, Jap, 100 min) Dir Kon Ito. Cast Kon Ito, Fumiko Miyata, Yuki Maebara, Kanjūrō Arashi.

An unauthorised Japanese sequel to Hammer’s first Dracula film and an uncannily exact one at that – if you compare the last image of the first film and the first of this one the sets and the photography are perfect recreations, made all the stranger by every actor being Japanese. A labour of love for Kon Ito who wasn’t a director by trade – the owner of a steel company, he sunk his own money into the film’s production and plays the Count himself. But anyway, this expensive bit of fan fiction begins with the resurrection of Count Dracula via black magic from a handful of his dust from the end of the last film. Immediately he drains one of his saviours and with them as his army he sets out on nothing less than world domination! Not a bad film and certainly a gorier one than the original though it recreates the original’s turgid pacing along with the sets etc. A game cast of unknowns around a not embarrassing Ito also helps. It was released in drive-ins in the US for about six months under the title Dracula vs. the World before it was tied in the legal knots that have kept it within Japanese borders ever since. With the world being how it is these days there is a fanslated version floating about on the web (though you didn’t hear that from me).

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#9 – Yubi o tobasu! (Finger Flying!)

(1967, Japan, 98 min, b/w) Dir Shōgorō Nishimura. Cast Hiroshi Minami, Haruo Tanaka, Anna Shimura.

A Yakuza comedy – if that’s a genre – about an accident prone underling named Shiri (Minami) who starts the film drunk and showing off to the viewer the stumped, fingerless hands he holds his sake cup with. The rest of the film is made up of flashbacks showing how he shamed himself and lost his fingers, by being beaten up by a Shinjuku prostitute when shaking her down for payment, being so inept at bribing a police officer that he gets himself arrested, allowing himself to get drugged and then smashing up a pachinko parlour and, last but not least, getting his group embroiled in a turf war. Each vignette ends with Shiri sitting dolefully with the knife and chopping board before him, before cutting to the outside of the building where only his cries can be heard. A strange mix of slapstick and sleaze, the film was rumoured to have been among Seijun Suzuki’s proposed follow-ups to Branded to Kill before he was dismissed from Nikkatsu although this speculation has been denied by Suzuki himself. Though Nishimura is outside of his Roman porno comfort zone (where he directed the likes of the wonderfully named Confessions of an Adolescent Wife: Climax!) he handles the action competently.

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#8 – Taste of Love, A

(2011, US, 110 min) Dir Marc Lawrence. Cast Hugh Grant, Katherine Heigl, Elizabeth Moss, Chris Pratt, Stanley Tucci.

Culinary romcom. Heigl – who is of course clumsy and unlucky in love – decides to go with her heart, packs in her job in some sort of an office and signs up for the notoriously difficult Culinarian school under the tutelage of Hugh Grant’s Gordon Ramsay Douglas Thatchell. He’s a hard taskmaster – sweary, volatile and fond of throwing things – but, wouldn’t you know it, he has a sensitive side, no doubt born from some past heartbreak to be revealed once Heigl’s peeled him like a big angry onion. Of course the road to the inevitable doesn’t run smooth and, along with her comic relief classmates Moss and Pratt (both stealing what they can of the show), Heigl has to cope with soufflé and blowtorch related mishaps en route to the high stakes finale of their end of year show where the dishes will be judged by Tucci’s snobbish broadsheet reviewer. While this is certainly no feast it’s a passable confection, though one with a high sugar content.

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#7 – När jag föddes en Canary (When I was born a Canary)

(1983, Swe, 69 min) Dir Tomas Kinnaman.

The heart-tugging tale of the life of a canary as narrated, in a droll and deadpan voiceover, by said canary as he passes his life from one cage to another, ruminating on his circumstances as they occur and on the meaning of life in general. He is born in a pet shop, lives in the apartment of an arguing couple (and their interested cat) before moving to the country as the pet of a young girl who names him Nils and sets him free. He comes back, of course, after a night among the branches of a tree when he finds out exactly how big the world outside his cage is and how small he is in it. By the last moments, after Nils has been found dead at the bottom of his cage and his voice is gone from the soundtrack, when he is buried in a little box in the back garden by the weeping child – if anyone isn’t crying themselves at that point then they have no emotions and are possibly an alien.

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#6 – Vendetta di zombie (Revenge of the Living Dead)

(1980, It, 86 min) Dir Paolo Andreotti. Cast Tisa Farrow, Fabrizio Jovine, Olga Karlatos, Michele Soavi.

Poor Tisa Farrow – she’s just back from tussling with the gross undead of the Caribbean in Zombie Flesh Eaters (and yes, the film suggests that she plays the same character here even though it makes no sense) and now, on holiday in “the Greek island”, the surprisingly perky corpses of the local fishermen are walking in with the evening tide, their flesh pale and bloated and gross. Somehow Andreotti manages to surpass the nastiness of the Fulci flick he’s imitating here, perhaps absorbing the Greek island vibe of Nico Mastorakis’ Island of Death with multiple disembowelments and, in one legendary scene, the pulling off of an unfortunate Olga Karlatos’ face. The ending is even more nihilistic too – following an unsuccessful last stand on the island’s hilltop chapel the whole of our resourceful gang are horribly slaughtered and eaten. The final moments of the film capture the setting sun as it silhouettes the shambling dead, who roam the island in wait of further unwary guests. Released in the UK and US as Revenge of the Living Dead it is thankfully unrelated to the 1970 stinker that shares that name. A belated sequel is also available should the first not suffice – 1986’s Vendetta di Zombie 2.

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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#5 – Revenge of the Living Dead

(1970, US, 71 min, b/w) Dir Jon Salman. Cast Jane Dickens, Peter Grayson, Roberto DeMeo, Dominique Harrison.

You might think that a concept such as revenge would be beyond the abilities of the average brain dead zombie and you’d be right, vengeance is indeed absent from this hastily assembled love letter to/rip off of Romero’s original. The title seems merely to have been chosen because the film is presented as a sequel so I suppose we should be glad they didn’t call it Son of the Living Dead… The problems extend beyond the title too – the plot is a virtual retread of Night albeit with a mere one zombie barricading the cast in the farmhouse and a bizarre squeamishness that relegates the all-important gore off-screen. Not only that, but the protagonists actually engage their zombie in conversation towards the end! Lest my description tempt you I should warn you that there is no camp or ironic value to be had from the film either – its badness is too dull and sluggish for even that. Thankfully hard to find, it should be avoided should the opportunity present itself. Consider yourself warned!

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#4 – Boxer’s Chains, The

(1986, US, 109 min, b/w) Dir Randall Hex. Cast Matt Dillon, Stacy Herr, Brad Dourif, Ogdon Marshall.

Matt Dillon’s Cal lives in a town called Blueford in an unnamed Mid-West state. Blueford has been gutted, a depopulated maze of cracked streets and leaning buildings – it’s the mid-Eighties and Reagan’s America is downsizing. Cal lives in an abandoned factory, sleeping the day and boosting cars at night to sell to Dourif’s Cash. He’s in love with Sandy, the skinny half-punk waitress at the local diner who’s too shy to talk (an ethereal Herr in her first film role). He takes her into the country and their love blossoms and they plan their escape from Blueford. So far so generic – one part Badlands to one part Drugstore Cowboy – but what sets it apart is how it’s shot, in luminescent black and white like it’s the last silver nitrate print struck. The film just glows off the screen. The still pace isn’t a problem when it looks this good, giving you all the time in the world to drink up every shot of the big cloud smeared sky, the never-ending wheat fields, the rusting factory hulks, the planes and angles of Herr’s face shot in enraptured close-up. The film ends, not with a bang but a whimper – no high dramatics or adolescent nihilism, just life moving on as life does. When it was released in ’86 it got lost between Blue Velvet and True Stories and Randall Hex – a former war photographer who had captured the war in Vietnam – died two years following this, his only film, in a car accident that some claim still was suicide.

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#3 – Commander in Beef

(1993, US, 105 min) Dir Andy Farmer. Cast Jim Varney, Jon Lovitz, Heather Locklear, Charlton Heston.

Daft candy coloured ‘satire’. An irate farmer (Varney), angry at the corrupt local governor, puts forward his award-winning heifer Daisy as a candidate in the upcoming elections. Despite the odds – and thanks to a century old legal loophole – Daisy is indeed elected and thus the ball is rolling for her ascension to the highest office in the land with all sides hoping to gain, from cynical journalists out for a story to corrupt politicians using her to score points off their rivals. Heston, as her main opponent, surprisingly emerges with his dignity intact, despite a prolonged scene where he has to endure a televised debate with the beast, a scene that now stirs memories of Clint Eastwood’s chair talking escapades. Like Daisy though, this film is mostly toothless – a daffy enterprise neither funny nor insightful enough to be of much use for anything. It’s too dull for the Disney crowd and lacking the requisite bile for a satire and ends up falling between more stools than a greased drunkard.

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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms