Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
School for Scoundrels (1960)
The English Sense of Humour
Stephen Potter's biography tells that, before this happy film version was made, Cary Grant was keen, with American producer Carl Foreman, to make a film about Potter's brilliant (now sadly out-of-print)Oneupmanship books. The problem that confronted Grand and Foreman was that they couldn't find anyway to make the humour "American". In the end they dropped it and this rather Ealing-esque film was made instead. This film is just great fun and a reminder of what British cinema at its best can offer. Thank goodness Grant and Foreman didn't give it the "American" treatment. Thank heavens also for a sterling case, in which Terry-Thomas particularly stands out. Tennis, anyone?
The 39 Steps (1959)
Better than it's often given credit for
Often criticised for being a shot-for-shot remake of the Hitchcock original, this film is in fact a perky little thriller which benefits from Kenneth More being a more sympathetic leading man than Robert Donat (he was somewhat aloof) in the '39 version. True, the film trades heavily off the script for the Hitchcock version, and true it does not go back to the original novel for context, spirit or historical setting in the way the '78 version does; but for me, the film is the jewel among the three. As well as a pacy and fun thriller, it catches the spirit of the England and Scotland of the time. It is also interesting to note the role of the two hit-men characters; they are shadowy background figures in the '39 version, but here they are more fully flushed out (and well played by Duncan Lamont and Michael Goodlife). In the '78 version (and the unofficial remake called North By Northwest) the role of the hit-men is further developed and the suspense increased as a result.
Other things to watch out for in the '59 version are Sidney James, Brian Oulton and a host of supporting players (not to mention Tania Elg's legs in the remake of the stocking-removing scene, all the more intriguing for being in colour). Long available on VHS in the UK, this film now sadly seems to be deleted and is much missed.
Count Dracula (1977)
Now on DVD
This beautiful and much-loved version is now available for a short time only from the BBC on its Special Interest label. This is a limited edition (apparently) and is region 0 coded according to the box so is should play anywhere in the world.
I remember this from my childhood: I was 13 when it was first on and boy did I drool over Judi Bowker! I saw it all three times it was on the BBC.
This is still the most majestic and magnetic production. Only the Badham '79 version comes close (or may be Hammer's Brides of Dracula from '60, still the most atmospheric vampire film ever made, if not actually about Drac himself) to capturing the magic of Stoker's original. Coppola's is a poor-man's version, a wasted opportunity and a bore! How anyone can possibly rate it beats me, but there's no accounting (or Count Dracula-ing!) for taste (especially not the taste of blood! Yuck!).
No more puns! Good luck getting hold of a copy on DVD of Louis Jourdan's Count Dracula while yea may. I'm sure they'll become priceless heirlooms to be passed from sire to son before the sun has set too many more times.
Never Say Never Again (1983)
One look is enough to make you realise why Roger Moore WAS Bond in the 80s. Really, this is so poorly acted, written and directed, and Connery does nothing but attempt to impersonate Moore, without the ability to deliver glib lines glibly and looking older in this than Moore does in the same year's Octopussy, which is a much tighter and more enjoyable affair all round. The stunts are in this lame, the gadgets are not so great, the special effects poor, Basinger was still learning to act and Barbara Carrera looks positively ill. It's a remake of one of the slackest-scripted early Bond movies and time has not been kind to it -- it's dated more than almost all the rest of the Bonds put together. The score by Michael Legrand has its high points and its lows, but overall is unable to compete with the very good work being done by the likes of Bill Conti, Marvin Hamlish and John Barry on the EON pictures. For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, Spy Who Loved Me, even the much-bashed Moonraker are much better Bonds -- 'nuf said.
And Then There Were None (1945)
The one problem I have with the works of Agatha Christie when performed in play, TV adaptation or film form, is that the writers have to put so much effort in to make the characters and motives better than one-dimensional pasteboard cutouts she created that it doesn't seem worth their while.
Although this follows the stage adaptation of the novel, rather than the novel itself, this is superior fare, largely to the playing of the cast (especially Loius Hayward, the brilliant Roland Young, Barry Fitzgerald and Richard Haydn, and Basil Rathbone (bet you can't spot him!)) and the fact that director Rene Clair refuses to take it seriously.
It is genuinely suspenseful and rewards repeat viewings to see how the mechanics of a good suspense film work. Better than Hitch? For the period, yes, and equally as good or better than Clair's other British or American efforts, such as 'The Ghost Goes West' and 'I Married a Witch'. Buy, savour, enjoy... It's a lot better than either book or play!
I Married a Witch (1942)
Thorne Smith lives on
Not too many films rate big accolades from me -- I like what I like and I dislikes what I don't. But, for my money, you'd be hard pressed to find a more likeable Rom-Com this side of Thorne Smith's other comedic creation, Cosmo Topper, in "Topper Takes a Trip" or "Topper Returns".
The plot, partly taken from Smith's unfinished "The Passionate Witch" is more logical than the novel, which was finished by Smith's collaborator Norman Matson after his death.
The film follows a more typical Rom-Com formula (Witch meets boy, falls in love with boy, and marries his ancestor 200 years later) than the book, but never mind. It is moments of inspired hilarity (even if watched when sober) and downright joie de vivre that I think you'd have to be at least partly dead not to enjoy it.
Favourite scene: groom Fredrick March's character pausing on top of a staircase in front of hundreds of guests during the mother of all wedding days. Line: "Did you ever have one of those days when nothing quite went right?"
Wedding Rehearsal (1932)
Sort of 'Four Weddings (minus a funeral)'
Minor London Films comedy, chiefly interesting now because of the number of British actors it features who later went on to greater things. The plot concerns the Marquis of Buckminster (Roland Young), who must marry or be cut out of a rich relative's will. Instead he sets about marrying off all his friends to the eligible girls on his relative's hit-list in an attempt to save himself from such a ghastly fate. Only as the moon sets on the day of his friends' weddings does he finally find himself smitten...
Not as witty nor as farcical as it pretends to be, Young (later Mr Topper) gives a marvellous performance that makes it sort of worthwhile. Other notables include John Loder, Wendy Barrie (of The Saint, Falcon and Sherlock Holmes films), Joan Gardner (later Mrs Zoltan Korda), Maurice Evans (later Dr Zaius in Planet of the Apes) and a stunning Merle Oberon. Something perhaps for an older generation - or those deeply in love with early cinema - to savour, but an acquired taste for everybody else.
The Shadow of the Cat (1961)
Here kitty, kitty...
Although supposedly made under the name of BHP Productions for contractual reasons, there is no doubt that what you are watching is a Hammer film. Everything about it reflects the Hammer trademarks of the era. The lighting, the music, the photography, the use of the exteriors at Bray (Hammer's first and most fruitful home) and the ever-present Black Park (a green lung in urban Slough that Hammer turned into everything from a Swiss mountain stream to a tropical river filled with piranha fish) - nothing is out of place. The plot is typical Grand Guignol - a rich elderly woman is murdered by her relatives for her money. They might get away with it too, except her pet cat takes exception to the plot and decides to exact revenge. While not thought-provoking by any means, the film moves confidently and swiftly along. Director John (Plague of Zombies, The Reptile) Gilling papers enough shocks over the holes in the plot to keep it interesting and the cast (led by Barbara (The Gorgon) Shelley and Andre Morell) do their jobs efficiently and entertainingly. The movie, though, belongs to Tabitha... Oh, and do you get the significance of the widow's reading of Poe's "The Raven" at the start of the film? Creepy stuff!
The Bat Whispers (1930)
Whispering down the ages
Like `The Cat and the Canary', `The Bat' has been filmed many times and is a highly influential example of the `Old Dark House' type of spooky murder mystery popular in the 1920s and 30s. Based on a successful stage play by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood, both the play and the various film versions of it seems slightly antiquated now, although both combine enough humour with thrills to remain sufficiently interesting. The opening scenes of this version, `The Bat Whispers' are said to have greatly influenced the Batman cycle and Bob Kane.
One can see why The gloomy 30s expressionist art-deco architecture, the shadowy figure of a man-sized, bat-like figure seen against walls and windows, and the way in which the character of the Bat is built up to give the master criminal an almost supernatural aura are very well done. Unfortunately, the film's early promise is let down somewhat as it drifts into what amounts to little more than a filmed version of the stage play, somewhat hammily conducted y some of its stars.
The plot big-time crook the Bat takes time to haunt a mansion rented to a retired gentlewoman for the summer while other mysterious events are going on keeps one generally entertained. The high points of the film after the opening scenes establishing the exact nature of the Bat's criminal activities, featuring a daring robbery and murder, lie in the performance of star Chester Morris and some imaginative photographic tricks. A camera zooms in on a country mansion, and continues right inside the house, giving a dizzying, high-speed tour of the creepy building. At one point Anderson (Morris) runs down the garden and the camera travels with him, taking the viewer right into the heart of the action. Certainly, director Roland West and his team were able to use tricks like this to their benefit at a time when few other directors had even grasped the effective use of sound (also used imaginatively in `The Bat Whispers'). It is these elements that give it a more modern feel than many films of that bygone era now possess. The finale, in which the Bat is finally unmasked, also shows considerable understanding of cinematic technique. That is not to say that the film is wholly accessible to a modern audience. Overall it is too talky and some of the performances, particularly Gustav Von Seyffertitz as Dr Venner (whose English is almost inaudible), occasionally make the film hard going.
However, lovers of the old dark house genre will revel in it and the performances of Morris as slick city detective Andersen and Una Merkle as the love interest more than make up for the deficiencies of others.
Certainly an unusual film and one many will want to come back to as each reviewing brings previously unseen images into the mind.
The Saint's Vacation (1941)
A happy highwayman's holiday
One of the better entries in a series that was starting to tail off. Sanders had left the part of the Saint to become "The Gay Falcon" for the same studio, RKO, and production was transferred to war-torn Britain. Unbelievably this film shows little signs of the conflict as it's a tale of a race across Europe (with train footage apparently dragged out of Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes") to solve the mystery of a strange music box. Hugh Sinclair is slightly wooden as Simon Templar, although he gets into his stride during the action sequences and promises to shape up well (actually his one sequel is slightly disappointing as he doesn't get the chance to display his athleticism in the same way again). Sally Gray, who popped up as the romantic interest in "The Saint in London" is reporter Mary Langdon, out to get a story whether the Saint wants her to or not -- she was easily the prettiest co-star of the series and could easily have outshone a dozen similar Hollywood actresses. Arthur Macrae is a fine comic Monty Hayward and Ealing Comedies regular Cecil Parker an excellent, hissable villain as Crown Prince Rudolph. Gordon McLeod makes the second of three appearances as Chief Inspector Teal, though sadly his is only a guest appearance right at the end of the film. Again, he is easily the best of the screen/TV Teals. The story is faithfully adapted (if shortened) from "Getaway", one of Saint creator Leslie Charteris's best books. Forget the Val Kilmer "Saint" film effort (which has nothing in common with Charteris's character, and doesn't even credit the author) and curl up and enjoy.
Ice Station Zebra (1968)
Really a great movie. Like Sturges's other famed "action" films, "The Magnificent 7" and "Bad Day at Black Rock", absolutely nothing happens for most of the picture but, when it finally does, it is like a sharp shock. The submarine sinking and the fight at the end are two good examples (compare them with one-armed Spencer Tracey beating up Ernest Borgnine in "Bad Day..."). The suspense is created by the characters and the plot, rather than dreadfully tacky "fight" sequences. In all, the film is a huge improvement on the Alistair MacLean novel it claims to be based on, which was just a lame Agatha Christie plot set at sea. As well as master handling from director Sturges, the actors give power-house performances, particularly the principals Hudson, McGoohan, Brown and Borgnine. The real star for me, though, is the compelling soundtrack by Michael Legrand. In all, perfect entertainment for those hot summer nights. One final note. Anyone who can't work out how Faraday got hold of the detonator in the finale really shouldn't bother watching thrillers with twists in the plot. The answer is so simple that it's beneath me to give it away!
Action in Arabia (1944)
Sanders - a smooth-talking hero in a white dinner-jacket
Basically, this is a Casablanca rip-off by RKO about passion and hidden Nazi sympathies in World War II Damascus. Ex-Simon Templer ("The Saint!") star George Sanders is on impeccable form as a New York reporter (with a British accent) on the trail of Nazi sympathisers in the desert. When his fellow reporter is murdered, Sanders (in a white dinner-jacket that predates Sean Connery's wearing of it in Goldfinger by some 20 years) sets off coolly to track down the killers, uncovering a plot in which the Nazis aim to unite the Arab tribes against the Allied forces. The story is pure hokum, but never mind. Some of the action and the audacity of the plot are breath-taking and anyone who enjoys The Saint or The Falcon films, or Casablanca, will probably enjoy it. It's only a pity Sanders didn't make more films as the hero -- this was his last. After this, he would only play the sneering villain and, eventually, become a real-life parody of his own screen persona. A pity, as he really could have been more hero than cad when the fit took him. If you like this movie, check out the novel by George Sanders (actually ghosted by Falcon screenwriter Craig Rice) called "Crime on My Hands" in which Sanders has to solve a muder on a film set. It's light, amusing and reminiscent of the Saint/Falcon films that made Sanders a star in the first place.
Shout at the Devil (1976)
Shamefully treated classic
This is a splendid action/adventure of a type they just don't make any more, with excellent performances from Marvin and Moore that move from the comic to the dramatic. With rolling African scenery and a thunderous music score, not to mention Barbara Parkins as the love interest, and stunning direction by Peter (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) Hunt, this deserves to be much better known. Unfortunately it was lambasted by ignorant and ridiculous critics on both sides of the Atlantic upon its initial release, so it was re-edited and much of the more moving aspects of the film were cut out. As it stands, the video release and television versions in the UK show only about 2/3ds of the finished film. A few years ago a company called WideAppeal released a widescreen version on video, but this was some European print that contained much that had been cut from the US/UK version, but missed out instead much that the US/UK version had originally contained (much of it was also in German and undubbed or subtitled as I recall). WideAppeal must still be highly praised for releasing it on video. The British Film Institute had, when I inquired a few years ago, all of the original footage but had not got around to working on restoring the print to its original glory. I count myself lucky to have seen the original release print and feel annoyed and betrayed by the critics who savaged the film on its initial release (and the studio which reacted so swiftly to their meagre complaints) -- may you hang your heads in shame! I now only hope the BFI does its work swiftly so we can be presented with a version of the full film in all its glory.
`The Guns of the Magnificent Seven' is, after the first film in the series, the best of the four `Seven' films. I'm constantly surprised at the number of critics who feel that this is the most undistinguished of the bunch as it is better cast, better written, better acted and better directed than any of the original `Magnificent Seven's other predecessors.
In my book, it easily rates alongside the first. It has a stronger story than any of the others (including the first) and the `seven' (especially Bernie Casey, Joe Don Baker and an excellent Monte Markham, in Steve McQueen-mode as Keno) have a doomed quality about them only matched by the Robert Vaughan character in the original film.
As the leader of the group, Chris, George Kennedy is excellent. He is both powerful and commanding, and more believable than either Yul Brynner or Lee Van Cleef were in the role. Sure, he's not as suave and `cool' as Brynner, but his Chris is a lot more interesting. Kennedy is an actor capable of delivering much tension and underplayed anger, and in this role he serves up plenty of each. The plot (the seven must rescue a Mexican bandit revolutionary from an evil army commandant) is skilfully executed by director Paul Wendkos. The action sequences are lively and made even more so the excellent (as ever) Elmer Bernstein score, which is played at an even more upbeat tempo than usual.
On the whole, this film would easily be at the top of my list of favourite Westerns, along with the Anthony Mann/James Stewart thriller-westerns of the 50s. It is certainly a cut above the score of cheap Italian/Spanish/US genre films that usually - and somewhat incredibly to my mind - seem to command greater respect in the field than they deserve. This is classier stuff than some critics would have you believe and deserves to be viewed as an enjoyable film in its own right rather than simply as a sequel to a great film. Indeed, in many ways it might have played better as a sequel to Richard Brooks' 1966 film `The Professionals' than as a follow-up to `The Magnificent Seven'.
Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) (2000)
This was simply the greatest surprise of the year so far on UK TV. I must confess to not liking Vic and Bob in anything else (like the Fast Show and League of Gentlemen, they are simply not funny) but in this they pulled the trick. They were helped by some great scripts, witty invention and good special effects. Only the last episode failed to stand up to scrutiny (too much fantasy not enough of the "detective" type bit). The ratings success of this has more than justified a second series, and the ratings for once aren't wrong. Witty, humorous and poignant, and with some great actors (Fox and Baker especially) in support. I look forward to a second season of something on TV for the first time in about a decade.
Sophia Loren and Gregory Peck team up in this virtual re-make/sequel to director Stanley Donen's Charade, made three years earlier. Then it a glamorous couple being chased around Paris. Here it is an equally glamorous couple being chased around London, with the Zoo and Ascot races playing the backdrop to the film's key action sequences. Like the Grant character in Charade, it is impossible to work out just which side Loren is on until the film's final stages. The plot (in which Egyptology Professor Peck tries to unscramble a hieroglyphic for madman Alan Badel and Israeli agent Kieron Moore) is as dispensable as Charade's was. This is not quite up to the standard of the earlier film, but never mind, the action is breathtaking, the finale genuinely surprising, and the Mancini score is riveting.
Cary Grant the best Bond who never was
Charade is an elegant and witty adventure. Audrey Hepburn is a UN translator whose husband is killed by a seemingly motiveless murderer. In her Paris home she is menaced by ex-soldiers James Coburn, Ned Glass and George Kennedy, fed confusing information by spy Walter Matthau and aided by the charming but elusive Cary Grant. The plot (five men who were behind enemy lines in wartime Germany stole a hoard of gold. Now four of them have come back to find the loot and the man who double-crossed them) is secondary to the suspense generated in the treasure hunt across Paris. The villains particularly Kennedy as a one-armed hood who literally makes sparks fly are genuinely menacing to poor Hepburn's sexy young widow, and trying to work out just on who's side Grant is provides much entertainment (especially as he changes identity every quarter of an hour). Charade's director Stanley Donen (former dancer and maker of musicals) easily out-Hitches Hitchcock. In its way, this was a hugely influential film. The villain with a metal hook motif was taken up again in the Moore Bond Live and Let Die, while the music and editing influenced the later Bond cycle (the film even has a pre-title teaser scene, a trait the later Bonds would make their own). The subplot, about stealing gold during wartime, provided the basis for the Clint Eastwood actioneer Kelly's Heroes and the recent George Clooney effort Three Kings. The photography, lighting and music (courtesy of Henri Mancini) are as good as if not better than anything the Bonds of the time could come up with (this is 1963, the same year as From Russia With Love). Particularly riveting is a rooftop fight between Grant and the one-armed Kennedy. This is one of the best fights in cinema history, nasty, suspenseful and with a viciousness that only the Dalton and Brosnan Bond movies have matched in the action films of recent years. When watching the film, you become aware that Grant was the model for the screen Bond. It's a pity he turned down Dr. No and never played the part, but at least here we have a taste of what his Bond might have been like. If you like comedy thrillers you won't want to miss a moment of this one. Director Donen, composer Mancini and scriptwriter Peter Stone reunited three years later for Arabesque, a suspenser with Sophia Loren and Gregory Peck in the Hepburn and Grant roles.
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Once more, a Roger Moore Bond film seems to be unfairly overlooked by fans who know little of the original stories or novels. Moore is a real treat, serving up a rather nasty Bond (as he did in The Man With the Golden Gun). The plot cleverly uses the left over bits of the novel Live and Let Die and the stories Risico and For Your Eyes Only (from the Fleming short stories in FYEO) as well as the motorcycle chase from the story From A View to a Kill. The supporting cast is great, especially Topol and Glover, and Bill Conti's score is a humdinger. As for the scripting, of the recent Bond movies only The World is Not Enough of the Brosnan batch comes anywhere close to this Bond. Come back Rog, there's nothing to forgive.
Love's Labour's Lost (2000)
Best film of 2000
The new millennium dawns, but the best film of the year is a throwback not only to the previous century but to many centuries before. Not being an ardent Branagh fan I went to this with some trepidation, but my fears were unfounded. Not as pompous as his Henry V, this is great cinema. It is not a contrived reason to put a play on film. It is surprising in its nature to touch on two of the most important raw human emotions -- humour and unabashed romanticism. True, these are the basest levels that a film can touch, but never mind. It is a fascinating mix of 1930s chic music (dig that Cole Porter and Gershwin, and Berlin), David Niven stiff-upper moustache "never in the field of human conflict" imagery and Shakespearean dialogue. What marks this out as a great film, and what all the critics I've read have so far missed, is its ability to appeal to all ages of filmgoer, from uncouth youth to aged drama graduate who's seen it all before. This is a five-star, gold-plated, Rolls-Royce (think up your own hyphened adjective) movie. If you don't laugh, weep and come dancing out of this one you might as well give up living now.
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Third time lucky for Brosnan
Bond is back in action finally! After the lacklustre TND' and the truly awful GoldenEye' Pierce Brosnan has at last put his own stamp on the character, as opposed to looking like a cut-price Roger Moore attempting to impersonate a cut-price Sean Connery. Director Michael Apted has rightly eschewed the flash-bang-bonk style of Martin Campbell and the I can't think of anything, so let's have a fight here' approach of Roger Spottiswoode. What emerges is a more thoughtful Bond pic, in the style of the greatest entries in the series, such as From Russia
', OHMSS', For Your Eyes Only', Living Daylights' and Licence to Kill'. What TWINE' has in common with these is fully-rounded characters and a plot that makes basic sense. In GoldenEye', Sean Bean had the scarred face, so had to be the villain, while in TND' potentially interesting characters such as Paris Carver and Dr Kaufman were killed off almost as soon as they'd appeared. Not here. Sophie Marceau is the most fully developed Bond woman since Diana Rigg and, while Denise Richards's character isn't developed in the same thoughful way, she has a vulnerability reminiscent of some of the better Bond heroines (Tania in From Russia
'). Brosnan has matured, put on weight and has developed some of Timothy Dalton's burnt-out assassin approach to the role. Once or twice there are death-defying' leaps more reminiscent of the Bond is indestructible' approach that ruins the Connery films for me, but 2nd unit director Vic Armstrong (a series veteran in a variety of roles and fight arranger extraordinary) ensures his action sequences are in keeping with the humanity of this new Bond. If Brosnan has still not quite captured the humanity and fears of the Fleming Bond, he's probably come as close as modern audiences will allow the screen Bond to go. This is a pity as Fleming's Bond is so much more interesting than the screen version (Dalton, Lazenby and some parts of Moore's characterisation aside). As M, Judi Dench has a larger than average role and is very convincing, while the supporting players (Colin Samson, Michael Kitchen, Samantha Bond and John Cleese) are all up to par. It will be particularly interesting to see how the Bond, Tanner, Robinson, R relationships may develop in future. For the villains, they are mostly an expendable lot, and they are expended violently and often. Cutting down the Rambo-style shootouts that wrecked TND' would have been a good idea given the character-driven approach, but never mind, maybe next time. As villain in chief, Robert Carlyle is excellent (even if his accent isn't consistent throughout the film) and the final confrontation between him and Bond is worthy of anything in Fleming's canon. Meanwhile, Robbie Coltrane gives an excellent reprise of his GoldenEye' role, Zurkovsky. With a little creative effort on somebody's part, Coltrane could become the new Sydney Greenstreet. Let's hope Apted decides to do the next Bond instead of 49 Up', for he has made the most interesting contribution to the series since John Glen left the series a decade ago.
Casino Royale (1967)
Relax and have a laugh
This is not really as bad as some people make out. I once interviewed Val Guest for a film magazine and he told me that the whole mess was intended by Charles Feldman to be the adventures of several different Bonds by several different directors, with Mr G. doing the overall linking scenes. Obviously, something went wrong, but there are many elements to enjoy in the mish-mash. The grouse shoot, the "wassle" scene in the castle, the car chase and the big casino fight at the end are the main ones -- as is the excellent music score by Burt Bacharach. I quite agree that you should be in a frivilous mood to enjoy it and certainly don't waste time comparing it with the others. It is just its own thing and that's it. I think Niven would have been a great Bond, and feel it's a pity he wasn't allowed to do another. It was a part he was born to play (other great Bonds who never made it include Cary Grant). I prefer the Roger Moore films in the official series (Brosnan is a nobody without presence, Connery a gorilla pounded into a dinner jacket, Dalton is Fleming's Bond to a T and is probably the best, but Moore is still my favourite). Casino Royale may not be a better film than any in the official series, but it's a heck of a lot more fun than Never Say Never Again. Mind you, that wouldn't be difficult...
Topper Returns (1941)
Sprightly ghost play
Unusual among films in the "old dark house" style for being about a ghost who comes back to solve her own murder. Disguised as a Topper film, and with Roland Young and Billie Burke again cast as Mr and Mrs Topper, this is really a clever murder mystery in reverse, a sort of "why he done it". Praise must be lavished on the script, co-written by murder-mystery novelist Jonathan Latimer (who also wrote some of the better Peter Falk Columbo episodes in the 1970s) and on the playing of Young, Burke and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, who steal the film from headliners Carole Landis and Joan Blondell -- it is Topper's film after all. More inspired by the late Thorne Smith's characters than based on anything he wrote, the film nonetheless will appeal to fans of this extraordinary novelist's humorous works. A must for anyone who like horror send-ups, Topper or Smith!
Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962)
Plain relaxing fun
This is an old-fashioned movie about a married couple's attempt to bring their distant family back together. It's not raunchy, violent or nasty, and its depiction of a mum, dad and children living in a "nuclear" family may seem quaintly out-dated, but Stewart and O'Hara provide warmth and depth. Based on a book by Edward ('Father of the Bride') Streeter, Mr Hobbs is one of this American author's typical small-town, upper-middle class heroes who the whole world and his wife (and Mr Hobbs's own wife)are out to get. Simple mechanical devices, plumbers and visiting luminaries' wives all spell trouble, but somehow Mr Hobbs comes through to win the day. Not the greatest film ever, but for anyone who grew up in the early 60s and wants a reminder of how simple life seemed back then, this is a good film to watch.
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
This is a real change of pace from most of the Bond outings, and a real breath of fresh air as a result. So what if the villain doesn't want to rule the world? That only tends to be the scenario in the most tired and lackluster entries in the series in any case. Moore is just great as Bond, hard, nasty, witty and ever ready with some quick escape routines. Not the best in the series? Maybe so, but it's a darn sight more intelligent and entertaining than either of Brosnan's efforts to date. At least this was a Bond who was worthy of the trust of nations, rather than the machine-gunning Rambo-like moron served up in "Tomorrow Never Dies". Some like Connery best, but after watching this film again (I saw it when it first came out and have rewatched it constantly since) all I can say is I think you're missing something truly great in 007 performances. Well done Rog. Shame the ending wasn't properly thought out, but then neither of Brosnan's first two efforts were worked out at all, so that hardly seems a criticism. And as for Lee as Scaramanga, just listen to the monologue from Fleming's book in the kick-boxing stadium. Lee was a sort of cousin of Fleming's, and when he delivers that line he's saying it for Ian. A great villain, a great film.
Our Man Flint (1966)
I guess both Matt Helm and Derek Flint have fans. I like both (I also prefer Roger Moore's Bond to anyone else's, so it may be there's no accounting for taste). Certainly it -- and its much under-rated sequel "In Like Flint" -- are worth watching, the Goldsmith score (now on CD) is mesmerising and the fight sequences worth waiting for. As to Dean Martin's Helm, well, he was also very good. "The Wrecking Crew" is excellent fun but I think Coburn's Flint films stand beside them quite happily. Whichever you catch up with, switch on, tune out and enjoy.