April & May at The Movie Morlocks

Highlights from my April & May contributions to TCM’s Movie Morlocks. You can read all the articles by following the links below:

Happy Birthday Doris!
Excerpt: “The legacy of this vivacious movie star, popular vocalist, television personality and animal rights advocate is truly unparalleled. And knowing Doris Day’s is still here with us doing good work that benefits us all is something worth celebrating!”

When Insects Attack: GENOCIDE (1968)
Excerpt: “The unexpected blend of film genres makes GENOCIDE a unique viewing experience that benefits from some impressive psychedelic inspired visuals. Director Kazui Nihonmatsu uses a number of imaginative film techniques including superimposition and slow dissolves to express the fractured state of mind of his tormented cast as well as the apocalyptic nature of their plight. And the relentless close-ups of actual insects munching on human flesh gives this low-budget production an uncomfortable documentary-like ambiance. Fans of Toho’s more atypical outings such as THE H-MAN (1958), THE HUMAN VAPOR (1960) and MATANGO (1965) will appreciate GENOCIDE and if you enjoy a good bug invasion movie as much as I do you should find this interesting little gem worthy of your time.”

Matrimony, Madness and Murder: HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON (1970)
Excerpt: “What sets HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON apart from many other pretty-boy “psycho-thrillers” (a term I’m borrowing from film journalist Kim Newman) that were prevalent in the late sixties and early seventies is its international setting and baroque setpieces. Bava’s film was shot in France, Italy and Spain and used the elegant villa of the infamous Generalissimo Francisco Franco as one of its backdrops. The House of Harrington contains an extravagant bridal salon adorned with mannequins that model beautiful wedding gowns and resemble the lifeless corpses of dead brides. And it is in this enclosed and highly stylized setting that the killer feels most at home as does Bava’s camera which lovingly lingers over every macabre detail allowing us an intimate look into the murderer’s mind.”

Rough, Raw & Randy: UP THE JUNCTION (1968)
Excerpt: “Peter Collinson’s effective slice-of-life drama UP THE JUNCTION (1968) makes its DVD and Blu-ray debut in the U.S. this week thanks to Olive Films. Today the film is often fondly remembered by fans of sixties cinema for its South London setting, colorful mod fashions, beehive hairdos, boastful bikers and jazzy psychedelic pop score by Manfred Mann. But UP THE JUNCTION has more to offer viewers besides an abundance of great style and an unforgettable soundtrack.”

Bad Movie Mothers We Love to Hate
Excerpt: “TCM is celebrating Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 11th) with a great program of classic films showcasing notable mothers. While looking over Sunday’s line-up I was surprised to spot NOW, VOYAGER (1942), which features Gladys Cooper as the incredibly cold and domineering mother of Bette Davis. Cooper won an Oscar nomination for her memorable performance and went on to play another overbearing mother in SEPARATE TABLES (1958) who torments poor Deborah Kerr. While considering Gladys Cooper’s portrayal of two heartless mothers I started thinking about other horrible movie moms that I’ve enjoyed watching over the years.”

Spy Games: BANG! BANG! YOU’RE DEAD! (1966)
Excerpt: “BANG! BANG! YOU’RE DEAD! Is just one of hundreds (possibly thousands) of spy spoofs that were released in the sixties following the world-wide success of the early James Bond films. Its unwieldy plot and cookie-cutter characters will be familiar to many but thanks to a solid cast, the spectacular North Africa locations and some thrilling action sequences this amusing romp managed to keep me entertained throughout its 92 minute running time.”

Mystery & Melodrama: THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE (2012-2014)
Excerpt: “It’s a shame that so many women who took on incredibly difficult and challenging jobs during WW2, such as flying planes, driving tanks, nursing the wounded, spying for their governments and breaking complicated codes shared by enemy nations, have been overshadowed by their male counterparts. Rosie the Riveter has become a symbol of female ingenuity during wartime but women did much more in WW2 besides working in ammunition factories. THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE shines a welcome light on a group of heroic women that have all too often been forgotten by history and brings them to vivid life.”

“The World’s Most Beautiful Animal!” – Ava Gardner in THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA (1954)
Excerpt: “Ava Gardner makes one of my favorite film entrances of all time in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA (1954), which airs on TCM June 1st. If you want to kick off the new month with a bang I highly recommend making time for this verbose Technicolor-noir that critiques Hollywood excess and the powerful studio system that frequently exploited its stars. Mankiewicz’s film is a heady brew of CITIZEN KANE (1941), LAURA (1944), SUNSET BLVD. (1950) and the director’s own ALL ABOUT EVE (1950) shot with abundant style by master cinematographer Jack Cardiff.”

2013 at the Movie Morlocks

jfrancoJess Franco 1930-2013

What follows is a collection of links to some of my posts at TCM’s Movie Morlocks from 2013. These are (in my estimation) the best and most interesting articles I wrote last year but you can read my entire output for 2013 at the Movie Morlocks if you peruse the archives. From this point onward on I’ll be collecting links to my Morlocks’ posts and sharing them here at the end of each month.

Rio – Rififi Style! GRAND SLAM (1967)
A Brief History of the Telefilm
Out, out, brief candle: Jon Finch 1942-2012
This is a Time for Ghosts : THE AWAKENING (2012)
All Love is Mad : MAD LOVE (1935)
Does Oscar gold come with an Oscar curse?
Telefilm Time Machine: DAUGHTER OF THE MIND (1969)
Tracing My Irish Roots Through the Movies
The Pulp Adventures of Lee Marvin
Telefilm Time Machine: THAT CERTAIN SUMMER (1972)
In Memoriam: Jesús “Jess” Franco (1930-2013)
Lon Chaney Jr. – Lady Killer
Comic Relief with ARTISTS AND MODELS (1955)
Telefilm Time Machine – FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY (1973)
GUN AND SWORD: An Encyclopedia of Japanese Gangster Films 1955-1980
Personal Passions: Alain Delon
Derelict Dancers: Gerard Depardieu vs. Roman Polanski – A PURE FORMALITY (1994)
Hail Cleopatra! Queen of the Nile & Queen of ’60s Style
Arsenic & Ambiguity in David Lean’s MADELEINE (1950)
Final Faces
Francois Truffaut – Friend, Teacher & Film Critic
Someone is Bleeding: LES SEINS DE GLACE (1974)
Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be? : SO LONG AT THE FAIR (1950)
Telefilm Time Machine: Steven Spielberg’s SOMETHING EVIL (1972)
Four Reasons Why I Love Natalie Wood
Julie Harris 1925-2013: “And we who walk here, walk alone.
The Story of Film: UN CHIEN ANDALOU (1928)
In the Trenches with James Whale
Hollywood Goes to the Dolls
Telefilm Time Machine: SATAN’S TRIANGLE (1975)
Vincent Price Takes Center Stage
Vincent Price’s Small Screen Successes
Vincent Price & Gene Tierney: A Doomed Romance
In the Kitchen with Vincent Price
Adults Only: HOUSE ON STRAW HILL (1976)
Fighting Prejudice with Sidney Poitier
A Celluloid Revolution – James Dean: Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray
Telefilm Time Machine: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (1972)

Embracing Ambiguity: Figures In A Landscape (1970)

I’ve had Joseph Losey on my mind a lot lately and this week I decided to revisit one of my favorite Losey films, the extraordinary FIGURES IN A LANDSCAPE (1970) starring Robert Shaw and Malcolm McDowell. From my latest post at the Movie Morlocks:

[Warning! Spoilers on the road ahead.]

“The first thing that you see in Joseph Losey’s FIGURES IN A LANDSCAPE (1970) is the big black helicopter. It lingers in the sky like a giant buzzing insect or an angry bird of prey. For the next two hours it will pursue the film’s two protagonists (Robert Shaw and Malcolm McDowell) in a relentless game of cat and mouse over various terrains of uncompromising beauty. You will never find out who is pursuing them. You will not discover what they are running from. You will never know when these events took place or where. And last but not least, you will never know why they happen. If clarity, easy answers and conventional storytelling techniques are something you demand from cinema you’ll probably find FIGURES IN A LANDSCAPE a frustrating viewing experience. But if you relish unexpected pleasures and are willing to embrace ambiguity the film might capture your imagination as forcefully as it does mine.”

You can read my entire post if you follow the link below:
Embracing Ambiguity: Figures In A Landscape (1970) @ TCM’s Movie Morlocks Blog

The Children Are Watching: Ruminations on Jack Clayton

Harold Pinter, Anne Banecroft & Jack Clayton on the set of THE PUMPKIN EATER (1964)

I really enjoyed TCM’s British New Wave Mondays in March and I made time to revisit some of my favorite films included in the series such as Jack Clayton’s THE PUMPKIN EATER. I hadn’t seen the film in years but I found it even more powerful and chilling than I had remembered it. I couldn’t resist writing about the film so this week I shared some thoughts about THE PUMPKIN EATER and director Jack Clayton at The Movie Morlocks. Here’s an outtake from my blog post:

“One of the most frightening aspects of Clayton’s work is the ways in which he makes monsters out of children. Adults in Clayton’s film procreate beyond reason and without responsibility. They give birth to babies they can’t financially or emotionally care for in some vain attempt to fend off their own mortality or fill some bottomless void. While it’s easy to see the children in Clayton’s films as victims of circumstance, it’s impossible to ignore the cruelty they often display towards adults and one another. Clayton began his career as a child actor and he often talked about how much he enjoyed working with kids. He was able to get some incredibly nuanced performances from the young actors in his care. But it’s wrong to assume that his films simply depict children who are corrupted by the adult world when their roles are much more complex and far reaching than that. In THE INNOCENTS and OUR MOTHER’S HOUSE, children aren’t just pliable blameless creatures. They’re menacing, malicious and bloodthirsty. They often display a viciousness that’s more organic than conditioned. Even in films like ROOM AT THE TOP (1959), THE GREAT GATSBY (1974) and THE LONELY PASSION OF JUDITH HEARNE (1987) children act as barriers (or bad mistakes), blocking the adult’s road to happiness while depriving them of true love and financial security.”

Follow the link to read the whole piece:

“The Children Are Watching” @ TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog>

I also created a Fickr gallery with images from the film that you can find here.

British New Wave Mondays In March On TCM

Top: Tom Courtenay & Julie Christie in BILLY LIAR (1963)
Middle: Richard Lester, John Schlesinger & Tony Richardson
Bottom: Richard Harris & Rachel Roberts in THIS SPORTING LIFE (1963)

I recently took a quick look through my blog archives and discovered that I’ve written about British Cinema more than any other topic. I shouldn’t have been surprised because the truth is that I adore British Cinema and I could probably spend all my free time writing about it. One subject that particularly interests me is the British New Wave or “Kitchen Sink Dramas” released in the ’60s. When I started blogging six years ago there was very little information about the British New Wave available online. The topic was rarely discussed among blog critics and film journalists in the US. When it did come up it generated mixed reactions and very little passion. The truth is that British cinema has often gotten the short end of the critical stick but thankfully that’s slowly changing and the general outlook towards British Cinema is much more positive than it was just six short years ago.

With this in mind, I was was particularly happy to learn that TCM will be playing host to British New Wave Mondays In March. All month long British film fans will be able to tune in to TCM on Monday night and watch British films all evening until the early hours of the morning. Here’s a complete schedule of all the films being shown:

March 5

Room at the Top (1959)
The Entertainer (1960)
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)
Morgan: a Suitable Case for Treatment (1966)
Victim (1961)

March 12

A Kind of Loving (1962)
The L-Shaped Room (1962)
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)
A Taste of Honey (1961)
Girl With Green Eyes (1964)

March 19

This Sporting Life (1963)
Billy Liar (1963)
The Servant (1963)
Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1965)
Only Two Can Play (1962)

March 26

Kes (1969)
Darling (1965)
The Pumpkin Eater (1964)
The Knack . . . and How To Get It (1965)
Petulia (1968)

You can find more information about British New Wave Mondays In March On TCM here. I’ve also tried to collect some (not all) of my relevant posts about the films, performers and directors associated with the British New Wave, which you can access by following this link:
British New Wave @ Cinebeats

I especially hope that you’ll take the time to read my article and interview with The Alan Sillitoe Committee. Alan Sillitoe is responsible for writing and scripting some of the most important films to emerge from the British New Wave and The Alan Sillitoe Committee is committed to preserving his legacy.

Ben Wheatley’s KILL LIST (2011)

If you happen to keep track of my activities at MUBI.com you might have noticed that I shared a list of my ‘Top 10 Favorite Films of 2011’ there. The list is alphabetical but if I rated the film’s from best to worst, Ben Wheatley’s KILL LIST (2011) would fill the top spot at number #1. But it’s not just my favorite film of the year, it’s also one of the best horror films I’ve seen in a decade. Wheatley’s made a brilliant movie that I absolutely love so I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to write about it for Cineaste. My write-up goes into plot details that you might want to avoid until you’ve actually seen the film. It’s somewhat of a personal piece where I expand on themes and ideas that I took away from the movie. You can find my review here:

WEBTAKES: Kill List by Kimberly Lindbergs

KILL LIST is a very special film and I have to applaud IFC for distributing it in the US. They’re also responsible for releasing another great horror film that I’ve championed in the past, LEFT BANK (2008). Both KILL LIST and LEFT BANK would make for one terrific double feature. They’re two of the smartest, most original and unsettling thrillers that I’ve seen and I don’t say that lightly. Very few new horror films spark my imagination the way that KILL LIST has and I hope the film will reach a wider audience. At the moment it’s getting a limited screening in NY and LA but it’s also available on-demand if you have cable TV access and you can currently watch it at Amazon.com.

I’ve also compiled some of my favorite images from the film into a Flickr gallery that you can find here.

The Fantastique World of Orson Welles

I recently had the opportunity to watch the often forgotten and neglected horror anthology THREE CASES OF MURDER (1955), which features Orson Welles in a segment titled Lord Mountdrago. It’s assumed that he directed some of the dream sequences in the film but after finally seeing it for myself I’m convinced that he had a much bigger hand in the making of the movie than he’s been credited for. It’s an interesting companion piece to CITIZEN KANE because the character of Lord Mountdrago resembles Charles Foster Kane and the direction is often very Wellesian. It’s a bold claim but I stand behind it and I’d like to delve deeper into the topic in the future when time allows. My flimsy blog post at the Movie Morlocks this week (cobbled together very quickly) doesn’t do the film or Welles much justice but I do point out Welles’ apparent interest in the fantastique at this point in his life. He was trying to make OTHELLO while he was in the UK but he found himself making and acting in a few supernatural tales as well including the Irish Ghost story RETURN TO GLENNASCAUL, which I’ve discussed before. Hope to share more on this topic sooner or later in the meantime follow the link below to read more about THREE CASES OF MURDER.
Three Cases of Murder and One Uncredited Director @ TCM’s Movie Morlocks

Interview with Marcus Hearn

This week I interviewed Official Hammer Films Historian, Marcus Hearn about his new book The Hammer Vault: Treasures From the Archive of Hammer Films for TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog. We discussed many topics including Hammer’s enduring legacy and their upcoming adaptation of THE WOMAN IN BLACK, which is scheduled for release in February of 2012. Follow the link below to read the interview:
Hammer’s Enduring Legacy: An Interview with Marcus Hearn

Ken Russell 1927-2011

The news about Ken Russell’s death hit me hard. Just last week the great man actually took the time to befriend me on Twitter (I’d been following him there for a year or more).  I exchanged a brief note with him and got the opportunity to tell him I was honored that he had taken the time to follow me. And I hope that he knew he was one of my favorite directors. He was jovial online, seemed extremely friendly and still very young at heart. I had imagined sending the 84-year-old director some interview questions soon that I hoped he would answer about the upcoming DVD release for my favorite Russell film, THE DEVILS (1971), which featured production design by Derek Jarman. He seemed very excited about that upcoming DVD release but also disappointed that his work was still being censored in 2011. Obviously that email interview wasn’t meant to be. Que sera, sera! You will be greatly missed Unkle Ken. You and your amazing movies made the world a much more interesting place to live in.

Update (12-1-11): At The Movie Morlocks I briefly memorialized Ken Russell by sharing a bunch of insightful quotes from his 1989 autobiography, Altered States: The Autobiography of Ken Russell.

Ken Russell: In His Own Words @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

Some Recommended Links:
Ken Russell: A True British original @ BBC
Ken Russell Dead: Film loving stars lead tributes on Twitter @ The Daily Mirror
Ken Russell Obituary @ The Guardian
Ken Russell: A Life in Photographs @ The Guardian
Ken Russell: His Film Career @ The Guardian
The Musical Legacy of Ken Russell @ The Guardian
“Pity we aren’t madder”: Ken Russell links in his magnificent memory @ Film Studies For Free

“Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down!”


I recently got the opportunity to discuss the work of British screenwriter and novelist, Alan Sillitoe with members of The Alan Sillitoe Committee, including Alan’s son David. The name might not be familiar to many film fans but Alan Sillitoe is responsible for writing SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING (Karel Reisz; 1961) and THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER (Tony Richardson; 1962). He gave a voice to Britain’s “angry young men” and helped define a generation.

Both SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING and THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER are films that are near and dear to my heart and undoubtedly two of the best films to emerge from the British New Wave in the ’60s. I’ve briefly mentioned both movies on numerous occasions but I haven’t given them as much attention as I’d like. SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING will be airing on TCM this Saturday (Nov. 19th) so I thought it would be a good time to rectify my negligence. You can find my interview with members of The Alan Sillitoe Committee at the Movie Morlocks and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts about the film here.

In SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING, Albert Finney made his incredible screen debut as a young man by the name of Arthur Seaton. Arthur is a working-class lad raised in Nottingham who lives with his parents. He has a dead-end factory job that pays the bills but it leaves little room for much else. He spends the work week looking forward to his Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. During these weekend breaks Arthur fishes with friends, drinks himself into a stupor and seduces any willing lady that catches his eye. When he clashes with his boss and is accused of being a ‘red’ (communist) or gets beaten up for sleeping with a married woman, Arthur doesn’t let it faze him and lives by the motto, “Don’t let the bastards get you down!” while making it known that, “I’m out for a good time – all the rest is propaganda!” Arthur is much too smart and much too curious to be satisfied with the life his parents have accepted. Unfortunately his rough existence has made him a little mean and he doesn’t suffer fools lightly. But underneath all that false bravado is an angry young man with a volcanic size chip on his shoulder that could explode at any moment. Despite the underlying tension that filters through every frame of SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING, the film seems to end on a somewhat upbeat note with Arthur denouncing his parents (“They have a TV set and a packet of fags, but they’re both dead from the neck up.”) and realizing that he’s his own man, able to make his own way in the world, even if that world seems determined to hold him back.

“And trouble for me it’ll be, fighting every day until I die. Why do they make soldiers out of us when we’re fighting up to the hilt as it is? Fighting with mothers and wives, landlords and gaffers, coppers, army, government… Well, it’s a good life and a good world, all said and done, if you don’t weaken, and if you know that the big wide world hasn’t heard from you yet, no, not by a long way, though it won’t be long now.” – Arthur Seaton from Alan Sillitoe’s ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’

Watching SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING again recently, I was reminded of how poignant and powerful the film’s underlying message still was. Few films address the concerns of young working-class people so directly and so well. As I said earlier, it’s one of the most important movies that emerged from the British New Wave and it features a literal ‘who’s-who’ of British cinema at the time including the fabulous Albert Finney, as young Arthur. Finney swaggers through the film like a beautiful bulldog always keenly aware of everything going on around him. The film made Finney a star and it’s easy to see why. He’s a handsome man but it’s more than just looks that make young Finney so irresistible. He’s deeply committed to the role of Arthur Seaton and he was able to harness the kind of rough and tumble working-class spirit that is so hard to find in today’s young actors. He’s a genuine tough guy and you don’t want to mess with him but he’s just soft enough to win a woman’s heart.

SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING was directed by Karel Reiz who brought a real authenticity to the film. Reiz was part of the British Free Cinema movement and his documentary background gave him the ability to honestly apture the Nottingham local. He gave the film a real sense of place and purpose. The celebrated cinematographer Freddie Francis also helped shape the look of the film and there are some truly beautiful scenes that showcase Albert Finney and his costars (including award-winning actress Rachel Roberts and Shirley Anne Field) in the most flattering light imaginable. These lush moments can occasionally take you out of the film but Reiz and Francis quickly return you to the gritty streets of Nottingham. SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING was also edited by Seth Holt (THE NANNY) and produced by Tony Richardson (THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER) along with Harry Saltzman (LOOK BACK IN ANGER). And last but not least, it features an amazing jazz riddled score by John Dankworth (THE SERVANT).

If you’d like to learn more about this terrific film please follow the link to the Movie Morlocks. It will take you to my interview with members of The Alan Sillitoe Committe where we discuss Sillitoe’s work in film.
“Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down!” @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

I also wanted to give a special shout-out to fellow film blogger and Alan Sillitoe Committee member Neil Fulwood who agreed to answer questions and went out of his way to contact Alan’s son David. Cheers, Neil! Please stop by his terrific film blog, The Agitation of the Mind and tell him I sent ya.