Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries - George White ""

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Film Discoveries - George White

George White has a podcast:soundcloud.com/george-white-70
He can be found on twitter here:
https://twitter.com/GeorgeShite
--------------

Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself With Tea (1977)
A rare Czech Nazi time travel comedy I discovered thanks to MJ Simpson, British film critic, a film that picked up a small cult audience in Britain when shown in the early 80s in a foreign film slot on BBC 2. Genuinely odd, and despite knowing no Czech watching an unsubtitled print of Youtube, I appreciated it. The comedy is a bit laboured, but the plot is barking - Nazis who've kept themselves young via surgery travel back to the dawn of the Second World War via a spaceship in Space: 1999/2001-type spacesuits to give Hitler a neutron bomb. However, various things including one of the Nazis' twin brother stop them in their way. Plus, the Telstar-esque theme is catchy. 

Hardcore (1979)
I watched this film after hearing about it for a long time. I knew about the scene with George C Scott in a cinema, screaming in horror, as it has permeated popular culture. I sat down and watched it. Paul Schrader directs. As someone who never really found Taxi Driver all that, this was intriguing. George C  Scott is his usual good self as Jake Van Dorn, a good Protestant businessman whose idyllic Christian life in Grand Rapids, Michigan is turned on its head when his daughter goes missing in LA. He then discovers the horrifying truth that she is working in pornographic motion pictures. He becomes involved with Peter Boyle as a sleazeball PI and a young porn actress played by Season Hubley. The daughter is played by Ilah Davis, who never acted again, but actually resembles Caitlin O'Heaney from "Tales of the Gold Monkey" so much that one would swear blind they are the same actress. The film has a nice authentically sleazy tone, that is a contrast to the ultra-idealistic opening with Buck Owens protege Susan Raye singing a treacly country song. However, the standout scene is when Scott is forced to watch a snuff movie, as this was one of the mainstream films that followed Snuff (1976), the others including bizarrely the Audrey Hepburn-starring Sydney Sheldon adap Bloodline.
High Road To China (1983)
Brian Blessed as an Afghan! Wilford Brimley AND Jack Weston! Bess Armstrong as a flapper. A film about Germans that for once has Michael Sheard playing British. Planes! Lynda La Plante as a flapper! Tom Selleck living up to the status Leslie Halliwell gave him as "the new Clark Gable". Robert Morley. An oddly off the road ending. Not really an Indiana Jones knock-off, being long envisaged as a Roger Moore vehicle by Golden Harvest with John Huston to direct. Instead, Brian Hutton brought his Where Eagles Dare flare to the proceedings. 

Teen Agent (1991)
A rather fun if at brief moments, tonally off spy spoof, starring Richard Grieco post-"21 Jump Street" as a rather mature high school student on a French exchange, mistaken as a CIA agent on lease to British Intelligence, represented by Michael Siberry (Algy in the 1986 "Biggles" film) and Geraldine James. On a mission to investigate Roger Rees as the brilliantly named Head of the EEC, Augustus Steranko (with Linda Hunt fine support as his Rosa Klebb/Irma Bunt expy sidekick, Ilse Grunt), he bonds with Gabrielle Anwar as an English girl avenging the death of her Bond-like British spy dad (Roger Daltrey!!!). Written by Fred Dekker and Sex and the City's Darren Star, and directed by William Dear, it is goofy but endearing. Any film that has a scorpion attack soundtracked to the Stock-Aitken-Waterman goodness that is Kylie Minogue's "Better the Devil You Know" can't be all bad. And indeed it has charm. Montreal substitutes for Paris (complete with loveably shoddy matte shots of the Eiffel Tower), and London, and the US high school at the beginning looks weirdly European. It feels like a feature-length live-action movie of the James Bond Junior TV cartoon. 

The Martian Chronicles (1979)
Like Quatermass, a then highly-expensive British sci-fi miniseries, a coproduction between the BBC,NBC and a post-Amicus Milton Subotsky, it feels like one of Amicus' sci-fi adventure movies treated more seriously, or a Doctor Who (a series Amicus adapted) serial given a big budget, except for the models which look rather laughable post Star Wars. Adapted from the Bradbury stories with a kind of 50s-70s sheen, it has a superb cast, Rock Hudson, Gayle Hunnicutt, Darren McGavin (looking rather ridiculous as an ex-astronaut diner owner in cowboy outfit and wig), Roddy McDowall and Fritz Weaver as missionaries trying to baptise the Martians, Nicholas Hammond, Christopher Connelly, Barry Morse, Nyree Dawn Porter, Bernadette Peters, Maria Schell, Robert Beatty and Jon Finch as Christ. It's rather eerie, especially the first episode's Illinois town on Mars, and Michael Anderson's direction, usually a weakness actually helps. The languid pace adds a sense of dread. The Maltese locations look convincingly alien. And there's a rather jazzy Stanley Myers disco score.

Quatermass (1979)
The final outing for Nigel Kneale's character, a four-part miniseries released abroad as a cutdown feature. Massively expensive and ambitious at the time, with John Mills as the lead, made for ITV, and with a good cast, Simon MacCorkindale who is good despite being miscast as a Jewish family man, a pre-fame Brenda Fricker and various other actors. It is set in a future not unlike today. It seems to be set in a future iteration of what Cameron's Britain will result in. Society has broken down, a la the contemporaneous Mad Max, where the roads are littered with burnt wrecks of cars and dead bodies, where medicine men and witch doctors roam suburban streets, where the US and the Soviet Union have channelled their resources into a intergalactic peace-sign called the Hands in Space that ends in disaster. Quatermass, no longer the steely hero full of determination, but a rather sad and lonely pensioner, dedicated to looking after his granddaughter who has gone missing. Arriving in London to arrive at BTV Television Centre (the idea being the British television companies have combined into one whole, prophetic of the real-life deregionalisation when BBC now show ITV series) for a science programme, he meets Joe Kapp, a young Jewish astronomer, whose radiotelescope he visits, which is attacked by the Planet People, a band of hippies gathering at the local stone circle, Ringstone Round (complete with specially-written but rather authentic sounding nursery rhyme). The series was written for the BBC ten years earlier, but expenses caused Euston films to make it, so the seemingly dated hippies in a post-punk world  is actually somewhat prescient of the New Age Traveller movement. The Planet People including songstress/TV personality Toyah Wilcox are headed by Ralph Arliss, a rather striking actor who bears an uncanny resemblance to MacCorkindale, that one wonders was his casting intentional to mirror the old-when-young Kapp. The Planet People believe they are going to be picked up by an alien spacecraft. Then, most of the hippies are seemingly raptured and we learn that an alien harvester is feeding on Earth's youth. Filled with memorable moments (a body explosion as good as Brian De Palma's the Fury, the pornographic TV discussion show Tittupy Bumpity) and with a poignant ending, it was ripped off by the BBC series Torchwood: Children of Earth, complete with the grandchild gambit ending. However, there is something much sadder about Quatermass having already met his granddaughter as part of the Planet People, while handing out photos of her, and yet not being able to recognise her. 



The Last Polka (1985)
Thanks to this blog, I discovered this wonderful SCTV spinoff mockumentary, which Warner Archive need to bring out on DVD. Eugene Levy and John Candy are brilliant as Leutonian polka stars the Shmenges, whose James Last/Laurence Welk-type de-modernisation of pop music is popular with the older audience. Filled with belly laughs, i.e. the trio the Lemon Twins and I shall never listen to Willie Nelson's "On The Road Again" the same way after hearing Rick Moranis as Livsk Minyk sing it in a thick semi-Lithuanian accent. Leutonia is a rather surprisingly well done bit of world building, and Dave Thomas' Attenborough/NFB-type narration is pleasingly accurate. 

Wrong Is Right (1982)
Another prescient film, Sean Connery as a superstar reporter for a Fox News-type network, who while visiting Ron Moody as a North African monarch in the remote desert state that looks most like New Mexico, becomes involved with another journalist, played by Katharine Ross and Henry Silva as a scene-stealing terrorist leader not unlike Osama, while George Grizzard is playing Bush, Rosalind Cash is Condaleeza Rice and Leslie Nielsen is Dan Quayle. Surprisingly fun conspiracy thriller, almost "Carry On Network, Follow That Camel". Its TV movie production values (i.e. California streets littered with Arabic signs and extras in teatowels and thawbs and "France" being some docks, and an airport). However, it more than makes up for this with a startling Gulf War-esque conclusion and a great cast, also including a young Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robert Conrad as a George C Scott-type general, John Saxon, Hardy Kruger, Robert Webber (who bizarrely reprises his cable news boss role in the Wild Geese II) and Dean Stockwell. 



Wild Geese II (1985) 
It's a dud, alright, but oddly enjoyable in its dudness. Its terrible, alright. It feels like a European co-production TV movie. Scott Glenn is not endearing, and was a replacement for Lewis Collins who ducked out of his contract for producer Euan Lloyd, after making Who Dares Wins (1982) for him by doing Antonio Margheriti's Eurotrash mockbuster Codename: Wildgeese (1984). That had a better cast than this. Richard Burton died during production and is replaced by his character's brother, played by Edward Fox. However, someone clearly forgot to change the dialogue, as Fox mentions being a member of the previous film's African raid team, which he wasn't. Barbara Carrera plays a damsel, odd considering the original film had no need for women in any role other than nagging wife and one-scene eye candy. Aside from Robert Webber and Laurence Olivier as Rudolf Hess (my favourite exploitation billing), the cast list isn't that stellar. Ingrid Pitt plays a prostitute. Derek Thompson reprises his IRA shtick from the Long Good Friday (1980) and the British miniseries Harry's Game and is in a weird bromance with a loyalist Royal Irish Guard played by Dublin actor Paul Antrim.  But other than them, we barely get to know any of the mercs, most of them interchangeable pretty boys rather than wonderful British character actors. And those that do appear are wasted. Kenneth Haigh is good as the British Colonel in Berlin, and perhaps should have played Fox's part. The great Stratford Johns is scene-stealing as a contact. And Patrick Stewart appears as a Russian general, in his least favourite role (At least Lifeforce was fun to make and had Mathilda May). There is no clear villain. The action scenes are pedestrian, the Berlin setting has nothing on the original's African savannah, and the ending rather feeble, Hess being a lonely old bloke who would rather be at home, home being prison. Any film that ends with an old man walking home slowly though can't be bad. It can either be terrible or pleasingly meh, in this case the latter. However, Roy Budd again contributes a fine score. 

No comments: