Category Archives: Comedy

#208 – Lost Generation: A Murderous Feast

(2010, US, 135 min) Dir Jeremy Bangold. Cast Michael Fassbender, Tom Hardy, Robert Pattinson, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Stewart, Marion Coitillard.

With a mega cast like this and a concept higher than high who would have thought that this franchise could have stalled? Who might have thought the paying public shy of shelling out for the adventures of modernist writers solving occult mysteries? I know – who’d of thunk it? Riding a wave of hot cash on the back of Gerard Butler starrer Frogman, Bangold winkled a cool $100 million for this and I really can’t think of money better spent. At an unspecified time in the 1920’s in Paris there has been a murder in the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop. The fact that the victim, a M. Reynold Chouff, regularly paid the bar tabs of authors leads tipple hounds Joyce (Fassbender), Hemmingway (Hardy) and Fitzgerald (Pattinson) to investigate the crime with Joyce electing to begin by interrogating the cats of the bookshop murder scene (and apparently gaining testimony). Unfortunately the central trio spend most of their time in drunken speculation and are perpetually beaten in their quest for clues by the more sober triumvirate of Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas (Stewart, McCarthy and Cotillard respectively). At the end of the day all paths lead to Cthulhu (of course) and the budget starts to show itself but the wit of the slower, more character based first half never lets up. The finale, with the reveal of the dastardly Aleister Crowley (Mark Strong, obviously), set the tone for what was supposed to be a franchise and even now, five years later, there are occasional Twitter campaigns to resurrect the idea. We should forget the idea and be glad of the crazy vision that we have.

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#200 – Fabulous Two Hundred, The

(1935, US, 98 min, b/w) Dir Gerard Handley. Cast Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, Stacy Burch.

Showbiz comedy and the one and only Hollywood picture from British director Handley. Gable plays smooth manager John Jackson who is put in charge of the popular dance troupe of the title when their previous manager leaps from his hotel room window rather than continue managing them. Immediately he spots the source of the problem – strong willed lead dancer Natasha Rudolph (Loy). Jackson figures that if he can cow her he’ll have the group on hand but this proves easier said than done. A fine, breezy film whose production didn’t run as smoothly. Life imitated art when Handley butted heads with Gable on set, becoming so enraged in the course of one argument that, according to witnesses, he pulled the hat from his head and tore a strip from it with his teeth. In a further turn of grim irony Handley would later fall to his death one night from his hotel window under mysterious circumstances while in the midst of filming 1962’s Christmas in February. His body was discovered in the bushes below the next morning when no one was able to satisfactorily explain why he was dressed as Henry VIII.

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#199 – Royal Ridgefort All-Star Palladium, The

(1983, GB, 104 min) Dir Andrew Burgundy. Cast Dexter Fletcher, Norman Wisdom, Clare Grogan.

The Royal Ridgefort All-Star Palladium is on it’s last legs – for the ornate 1920’s picture house in the declining seaside town of Ridgefort a busy night sees all of three customers. That may be a blessing in disguise for the staff runs to a grand total of two people – Albert (Wisdom) the owner/projectionist who wakes only to change film reels and his apprentice Rob (Fletcher) who does everything else from the box office and concession to toilet cleaning and bouncing out trouble customers. The majority of his time on the quiet nights is spent roaming the halls, talking to the old film posters. The trouble begins when the posters start talking back, intensifying when Bogart’s Sam Spade, Eastwood’s Man With No Name and more make the leap from two to three dimensions. Initially Rob makes the most out of his new companions, mining them for advice as to how to approach the object of his affections, motorbike riding older woman Pat (Grogan). Soon enough he realises that he’s not going mad when they start bothering the customers. Will he have to wake up Albert or can he deal with this himself? A sweet low-key film that builds to a climax that’s a movie lover’s dream when the cinema becomes packed with a century’s worth of film characters.

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#198 – Plastic Song (Peullaseutig Song)

(2008, SKor, 131 min) Dir Kim Chang-wan. Cast Shin Ha-kyun, Kim Ok-bin, Kim Roi-ha.

South Korea, the near future. Lonely office worker Joon, disheartened by a life of unrequited heartbreak, orders himself something from the cutting edge of technological advance – a seemingly sentient plastic sex doll that is called a Song. Once released from her coffin-sized packaging she is initially all that he could have hoped for – pretty, meek and sexually insatiable – but after a while he finds himself overcome with conflicting emotions towards her, the chief one being love though complicated by guilt. As you might expect from South Korean cinema Plastic Song juggles genres, morphing from the lighthearted comedy of the opening to a dramatic second act before going out in the world with Joon as he advocates politically for the recognition of the Songs. Not only that but it then becomes an action film as he in co-opted by pro-Song revolutionaries and then it finally ends with a blend of sci-fi dystopia and romance as Joon finds peace and mutual love with an upgraded Song in a shack in the hills of a depopulated post-apocalypse Korea where she lives on forever after Joon grows old and dies. If you can withstand the genre whiplash there’s much to enjoy in this buffet of a film with Kim Ok-bin managing to imbue her Song with an array of emotion despite being limited to a mere half-dozen expression settings.

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#197 – Beat Bourguignon

(1962, US, 118 min) Dir William Lett. Cast Russ Tamblyn, Rosalyn Bier, Lou Jacobi.

Fleeing an enraged landlord after an all night bongo party ends in an unacceptable amount of property damage, even for the dive he’s renting, Russ Tamblyn’s beat wannabe Chico Wow hitches a transatlantic crossing to France, ending up on the streets of Paris where he is mistaken for bona fide hepcat poet Jimmy Coinsberg. Within no time at all he’s holed up in a garret of his own and in love with Rosalyn Bier’s romantic prostitute Candy. Oh, and it’s a musical with some exceptional dance numbers in the streets of a Paris that’s imagined with fantastic colourful sets in the vein of An American in Paris or Irma le Douce – their torn posters and exposed brick walls are worth the price of admission alone. By the end of the film the streets are stuffed with Parisian wannabe hepcats, swinging to Chico Wow’s imported beat. A huge flop at the time and almost devoid of tension, Lett’s film is nonetheless a perfect time capsule from the era.

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#195 Mon Maître Chien (Dog Boss)

(1985, Bel, 105 min) Dir Schipperke Tervuren. Cast Cierny Sery, Shiba Inu, Keeshond Samoyed.

Patrice (the perpetually hangdog Sery) has spent his life working his way up the ranks of the bottled water company Belle Eau Belge to get to the position of vice-president where he stalls, having to endure a decade of the abuse of the president Charles (a desiccated Samoyed) and deal with his bizarre requests. When the president dies Patrice thinks that his time has come but unfortunately for him Charles set out in his will that his dog – a chow-chow called Puffy Lion – take over the company. To Patrice’s surprise and annoyance the universally senile board approve this and thus he ends up second in command to a small dog that hates him. Initially he waits for things to go wrong on their own but is constantly thwarted – a potential business deal with the Japanese company Airashīdesu Nihonjin Mizu ends up more successful than imagined because the Japanese representative thinks that Puffy Lion has a nice face. In the end Patrice is forced to take matters into his own hands… A fantastically broad, surreal Belgian farce.

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#193 – Devils in Harbin, The (Teufel in Harbin, Die)

(1979, WGer, 111 min) Dir Nickolaus V. Müller. Cast Wolfgang Feebler, Alfred Abel, Patti Bapp.

Of course Nickolaus V. Müller, the constant enfant terrible of German cinema, would reimagine the spectre of European terrorism in the form of this absurdist comedy. Based less on the exploits of his countrymen the Red Army Faction and more on the Italian Red Brigade’s kidnapping of Aldo Moro meshed with the Symbionese Liberation Army’s brainwashing of Patty Hearst, Devils sees incompetent middle class terrorist group the Red Devils (who have no connection to Manchester United football team or parachute displays) abduct fictional German President Hans Beuller and persuade him to their side. Of course their kidnapping is all an accident with Beuller initially mistaking the group for a half-dozen Young Christian supporters and his eventual indoctrination more to do with LSD spiking and free love than his prolonged exposure to their muddled ideology. By the end he’s joining in on the raid of a television station dressed, like them, as a Nazi in clown paint. As subtle as a sledgehammer and as politically incisive as a children’s drawing it remains unmissable due to the sheer verve of the filmmaking.

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#192 – No Bread for Brenda

(1943, GB, 90 min) Dir Basil MacDougall. Cast Maggie Friend, William Hartnell, Phillipa George.

Wartime propaganda comedy starring the child star ‘Darling of the Second World War’ Maggie Friend as Brenda Leavensy, a young girl whose desire for her favourite pre-war crusty loaf runs so strong that she’ll do anything – anything – to get it after four years of denial. It all starts innocently enough with young Brenda going from house to house, scrounging together whatever she can of the necessary ingredients but by the end of the film what is perceived as her patriotic fervour has found her kidnapped by the Nazi’s to the heart of Germany where she is to be appraised by a comedy Hitler (future Who Hartnell who, it is said, detested the role). Of course it’s 1943 and it’s a British propaganda film so before long Ol’ Adolf is embarrassingly incapacitated down a chimney while dressed as Santa (don’t ask) and Brenda is winging her way back to Blighty to be greeted by more bread than she could have ever dreamed of. The humour’s dated and the sentiment is plastered thick but, as you’d expect, there’s a certain historical interest to the film.

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#191 – Zūmurenzu: Kameraman Bōkō (Zoom Lens: Photographer Assault)

(1974, Jap, 61 min) Dir Kan Tan. Cast Mitsuo Ibaraki.

In the early Seventies the studios got involved in the formerly independent pinku eiga genre and the films got slicker. As ever Kan Tan was waiting and Zoom Lens saw him attempting to kick-start his own series following the success of the likes of the Apartment Wife series. The idea is simple – Ibaraki (the De Niro to Tan’s Scorsese) is a camera wielding pervert who roams Tokyo hunting for women to photograph. Sick of continuously being thwarted in his lusts he takes to forcing himself on women and photographing the results. More than that, this is a comedy. A curious, queasy mix of sexual assault and slapstick that seems more bizarre and less palatable than Tan’s previous work due to the increased budget on display with its attendant glossy photography and high production values. The series was a modest hit and a further thirteen installments were produced before the series was put out to pasture.

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#189 – Puta Enojada (Angry Bitch)

(1993, Mex, 88 min) Dir Antxón Arango. Cast Sally del Toro, Hector Mendez, Gabriel Quinn.

An Almodóvarian comedy drama. Sally del Toro is Lucia, a downtrodden housewife who dreams of her youth before she married her boorish husband Windsor (Hector Mendez, his huge moustache still present) while she maintains their spotless household. One evening, while Lucia is ironing his shirt for work, Windsor announces that he is leaving her – now that their children have moved out, he says, there is no need for him to continue to live the lie. There is someone else and has been for some time. Lucia, in a fit of fury twenty years in the making, beats Windsor to death with her iron and thus the film comes over all Ms. 45 with Lucia taking to the street with her Windsor’s revolver on a misandrist rampage. How many men will fall to her bullets before the night is out? Will Gabriel Quinn’s dashing detective Alejandro stop her? What will her brat children think? Accusations of chauvanism are steadily avoided with a film very much on Lucia’s side, cheering as she guns down the worst examples of masculinity she can find. Good fun for those with a darker sense of humour.

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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms