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Is This the Real Life?: The Untold Story of Queen
Is This the Real Life?: The Untold Story of Queen
by Mark Blake
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars This IS The Real Life, 30 April 2014
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“Freddie Mercury was good at being seen and heard but not known.”

That telling quote from Queen’s first publicist speaks volumes about the late, great Mr Mercury. He is one of the most famous performers that ever lived but we still know very little about him. That’s the challenge that faced Mark Blake or any author trying to get to the root of this enigmatic diva and he gets as close to the man as is humanly possibly now he’s gone. It’s the Queen equivalent of the book Last Train To Memphis about Elvis Presley (a similar hugely influential and enigmatic presence in music history like Mercury) by Peter Guralnick. Bob Dylan said you could feel Elvis breathe on the page in that book and you get that same feeling with Freddie Mercury here.

It does a superb job of reconstructing Freddie’s student days when he was trying to find himself both as a performer and and as a man. He cross-references recollections from people who knew him then to corroborate or, in some cases, contradict each other and it’s fascinating to see how many variations there are as people’s memories fade. Just take Freddie’s acceptance as the new singer of Ibex, one remembers him joining in a meeting in the Kensington Tavern pub while the other two can’t decide if it was at an audition in someone’s basement flat or at Imperial College. Unable to get to the truth, Mark Blake just presents the conflicting stories and lets us make up our own minds about what is true. In the student squat where Freddie was staying, his hippie housemates used to hide their drug stash in with the tea leaves but nobody told Freddie. He makes a cup of tea and they find him half an hour later tripping out as he listens to music.

There are also several tales of Freddie spotting his college friends in the street and shouting their names as he runs after them. We don’t think of Freddie Mercury ever walking in the street like a normal person (Mercury, in mythology, was the messenger of the Gods, after all), we think of him as living a rock star’s life in mansions, limousines, private jets and five-star hotels (it really is unbelievable to see how poor Freddie and the others were before and, due to a bad first record deal, after Queen started having hits. Not only that, there’s a great story of Freddie Mercury giving a broke David Bowie a free pair of boots from the market stall he was working at). It humanises Freddie and is also sad to think that that moment in time is gone forever and so is he.

It is also incredible to read about Freddie being unable to write songs at first and slamming his piano in frustration. This is the man who in just a few short years would be responsible for Bohemian Rhapsody, a regular winner of The Best Song of All-Time polls. We all have to start somewhere. Through sheer force of will, Freddie forces himself to become a great songwriter, a great singer with stage presence and forces his way into the vacant spot in Brian May and Roger Taylor’s group Smile. There is no doubt that when Freddie heard Brian and Roger play in Smile, he could hear the engine of the group that would take him to success.

Freddie’s influence on Queen cannot be underestimated. He named the group, he designed their logo, he made the breakthrough by writing their first Top 10 hit (Seven Seas of Rhye, Brian May wrote Queen’s first ever single Keep Yourself Alive and it flopped badly), he wrote their first number one single (Bohemian Rhapsody) and he even was responsible for the costumes they wore on stage and the lighting that would make them look dynamic. This was in addition to playing piano, doing backing vocals (with their huge stacked harmonies) and co-producing all their records with the rest of the band. That is not to underestimate the other members of Queen who were all highly-intelligent guys, virtuoso musicians and innovative songwriters who could follow the lead of Mercury and write in the style he had established. When Freddie’s songwriting output dwindled in the 80s (and all the tales of cocaine-fuelled lascivious excess are here), it was the others in the band especially Roger Taylor (Radio Ga Ga, A Kind of Magic) and John Deacon (Another One Bites The Dust, I Want To Break Free) that saved Queen from fading away. “I’m nothing without the others,” Freddie said in the 80s when his solo album came out.

In tandem with Freddie’s rise to stardom, his struggle with his sexuality is sensitively handled. You can see Freddie slowly beginning to drift away from heterosexuality, spurning female Queen groupies that break into his room and asking his assistant to tell girlfriend Mary Austin that he might be gay and being rebuffed. When Freddie eventually does tell her the truth himself, it is very moving how they react to one another. It gives the whole book a tragic dimension; Freddie had just become the confident, successful and famous star of his dreams and yet, at the same time, he was unwittingly sowing the seeds of his own destruction by rejecting Mary and setting himself on the path to catching the dreaded AIDS virus that killed him. That scene alone shows a writer in total control of his subject that he can put you right at the heart of a crucial, intimate moment in the life of a man who was ferociously private about everything. Blake has clearly done painstaking research over many years to piece all this together and it is a triumph of investigative reporting. Even though the information to go on is thin, the prose is sparse and only a few lines are given to it, it does the trick of filling in the many blanks in the story.

On the downside, there are dozens of typos in the book and some phrases repeated twice in the same sentence. Proofreading? There are also some minor but niggling factual errors; Queen played Slane Castle in County Meath not Dublin (Brian May made the same mistake at the Slane gig: “It’s good to be back in Dublin!” to which the crowd shouted back “We’re in Meath!”), Rock Hudson died on October 2nd 1985, not October 3rd. It doesn’t stop your enjoyment of the book but it is careless and takes you out of the story occasionally. Perhaps these errors could be corrected in future versions.

The book is good on Queen’s “night of Halloween madness in 1978” in New Orleans, excellent on Queen’s Munich recording sessions for The Game album detailing their working methods, fights and extra-curricular activities. It’s also excellent on the impromptu recording session and massive subsequent power struggle between David Bowie and the Queen camp that resulted in another classic single “Under Pressure.”

After Freddie’s death in the book, you really do miss his humour and big personality in it in the way the remaining members of Queen and his fans around the world did and still do. The book ends with “speculation” that Adam Lambert would take over as Queen’s lead singer, “though nothing has come of it.” And Sacha Baron Cohen being set to play Freddie in a “forthcoming” film. We both know that the opposite has now happened to both those bits of gossip with Lambert fronting Queen on their American tour this summer and Baron Cohen dropping out of the film over creative differences.

With each passing year, the loss of Freddie Mercury seems greater and greater. Here, for the first time, we have the definitive account of his life, extraordinary career and tragic death plus you get the stories of all the other members of Queen too. There really can be only one and it is Freddie Mercury, we were lucky to have had him as long as we did. May he rest in peace.

Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler
Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler
by Simon Dunstan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.79

33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Grey Wolf On The Run, 8 Feb 2012
The authors of this book point out that there is no actual forensic evidence to prove that Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his bunker in 1945. The alleged Hitler skull that the Russians had in their possession for decades has been tested and turns out to be that of a woman under 40 years of age - definitely not Adolf Hitler's (unless there's some other revelation coming out in another book soon!) The skull of this woman appears to have gunshot wounds on it and there are no reports of Eva Braun shooting herself, so it appears it couldn't be her skull either.

The authors believe that Martin Boorman convinced Hitler to flee to Argentina with all the ill-gotten gains of the Nazis in a U-Boat with Eva Braun and Hitler's dog Blondi. They even give a date when Hitler really died - February 13th 1962.

Did Nazis flee to South America? Yes, they did, oddly helped by the Vatican (is it possible to have worse PR than the Vatican these days?). The Nazis called these escape routes "rat lines" and some of the worst war criminals in history used them like Doctor Josef Mengele from Auschwitz and Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Holocaust along with many other nefarious characters.

The big question is - did Adolf Hitler flee to South America by U-Boat also? Hmm, I'm not too sure about that. We know that Hitler was a control freak who never listened to anyone, that's why Germany made so many disastrous mistakes in World War II that lead to their defeat. I find it hard to believe that he would listen to Boorman and flee. Hitler's ego was too huge to contemplate a boring, quiet life in hiding having been the most powerful man in the world at one stage.

The Russians were shelling Hitler's bunker and it is possible that the remains of Hitler and Eva Braun took a direct hit and were destroyed or that the bodies were buried somewhere else by loyal Nazis.

I just find it hard to believe that Hitler was seen one night in a casino in Brazil with Eva Braun. That's just too high-profile for the world's most wanted man. It's possible this was a case of mistaken identity (there were sightings of Hitler all over the world, don't' forget) or that it was a lie made up by an attention-seeker. Nevertheless, these alleged sightings are presented as fact in this book and this reliance on such flimsy evidence seriously undermines its credibility.

When the authors don't have random sightings to rely on they resort to writing large paragraphs in italics to highlight what they call "deductive reasoning" - a euphemism for guesswork. Not even evidence, yet again presented as fact.

That's the problem with this book, it's subtitled The Escape of Adolf Hitler but not much is known about the alleged escape if it actually happened at all. So most of the book goes way off track to pad it out, even going into totally irrelevant British operations in Libya. It only starts dealing with the escape near the end and it takes a long time to get there.

Then there are the rumours of various love children the writers allege Hitler had with Magda Goebbels and Eva Braun. It all reminds me a bit of Elvis Presley and the various sightings of him after his death claiming he is still alive and that his love children are walking the planet somewhere. Very dodgy tabloid territory indeed.

It is excellent though on the Nazis money and what a shrewd operator Martin Boormann was in doing business deals for Hitler and the Nazis, protecting the Fuhrer and making him Europe's richest man by the end of World War II. It is also very good on all the stolen artwork the Nazis looted from museums across Europe and from the homes of rich Jews sent to concentration camps.

It also believably sketches how fanatical Nazis gradually drifted away from a defeated Hitler in Argentina or appropriated Nazi booty for themselves (they even allege that the Perons helped themselves to huge chunks of Nazi loot in return for allowing Boorman and Hitler to stay in Argentina).

It is hard to believe that this story has been kept secret for decades. We know that people love to talk and spill the beans, as it were. Hitler was the most famous man in the world at one stage, how would knowledge of his whereabouts not come out at some stage? Why were authorities never informed when he was allegedly seen? Where is his body in Argentina? We will probably never know.

It is a fast read and, for the most part, a well-written book, I'm just not sure I believe everything contained in it. You'll have to read it for yourself to see if you agree or not.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 17, 2012 7:57 AM GMT

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Triple Play (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) [Region Free]
Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Triple Play (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) [Region Free]
Dvd ~ James Franco
Price: £8.14

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Now, Fight Like Apes!", 24 Aug 2011
Planet of the Apes: 5-Movie Collector's Edition [Blu-ray]
Planet of the Apes -- 35th Anniversary Special Edition (2 discs) [DVD]
Planet of the Apes - Definitive Edition [DVD]
Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes [DVD]
Planet Of The Apes Tv Series [DVD] [1974]
King Kong [Blu-ray][Region Free]

(If you haven't seen this movie yet, don't read any further as there are spoilers)

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes is a triumph on every level. I am a long-time fan of this series (there's old home movie footage of me at age 7 wearing a Planet Of The Apes mask at Halloween). The Tim Burton remake of Planet Of The Apes was a mess and a disaster in 2001. When I heard they were doing Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I didn't hold out much hope for it. The director Rupert Wyatt had only made one other movie, The Escapist. And the writers had a patchy track record. From this inauspicious beginning, they have fashioned a movie or real heart and technical proficiency. (Wyatt is a name to watch out for in the future)

In the early days of computer-generated imagery (CGI), they had trouble rendering fur and eyes convincingly. Judging from this movie, they can now do both photo-realistically. They can capture not only an actor's facial movements but intelligence, fear and anger in the eyes too. That is some leap forward and that is what makes Caesar the ape a fully-fledged character that you care about and root for in his many trials and tribulations.

Rise Of The Apes is the story of a chimp called Caesar and his rise to power as leader of an ape revolution. It is essentially a remake of Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes but, with a bigger budget than Conquest, Rise can expand on ideas only hinted at in the old movie.

For the first time in the apes series, we have a plausible explanation for why apes can talk. In the 1968 Planet Of The Apes, Charlton Heston sees from his spaceship's clock that he is some 2,000 years in the future, nowhere near enough time for apes to evolve the power of speech. That's where Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes comes in. Here, they have gene therapy and the cure for Alzheimer's disease providing the unexpected side-effect of raising an ape's IQ rapidly (similar to how the cure for cancer mutated in I Am Legend, a remake of another Charlton Heston sci-fi flick). Exposure to the more aggressive virus later pushes Caesar's intelligence further and gives him the power of speech.

There's a really good scene where Caesar demonstrates how it is easy to break one stick (an ape alone) but harder to break many sticks together. This bundle of sticks in his hand is like the fasces of ancient Rome, the word fascism originates from it and is an intelligent reminder of the cruel, genocidal society the apes will create in the future when it comes to their treatment of humans. It also reminds us that today's revolutionaries are tomorrow's dictators because absolute power corrupts absolutely.

There are some who questioned the relevance of Frieda Pinto's character, but I don't care. The girl is utterly gorgeous in a Halle Berry kind of way. If she has a flaw, I can't see it. I have no problem watching her all glammed up here.

The final ape assault is a tremendous outburst of primal ferocity brilliantly rendered by the WETA effects team. It leaves it open for a sequel (or sequels as the writers and director have said).

I smiled to myself at the end with the ape virus being spread around the world via airports and even to Africa. It's the HIV pandemic in reverse, a disease which started out in apes in Africa. Sly humour which ties in nicely with the satire of the 1968 original (I would argue that this is best movie in the apes series since the first one in 1968 and I never thought I would ever see that or say it about a new movie.)

There's life in the old ape yet! And I, for one, am looking forward to seeing what they do with ape series next. Today San Francisco, tomorrow THE WORLD!

And Soon The Darkness [DVD]
And Soon The Darkness [DVD]
Dvd ~ Amber Heard
Price: £5.99

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Light And Shade South Of The Border, 18 April 2011
This review is from: And Soon The Darkness [DVD] (DVD)
(If you haven't seen this movie yet, don't read any further as it contains spoilers)

This is a remake of an obscure British thriller from the 70s that I have seen. The original is quite a slow, dated movie now and I have to say this remake is better. It's a sexed up version of the original with human trafficking, mobile phones, mp3 players and a tighter script with tighter female bodies in it.

The movie kicks off with a scene of a young girl being tortured with electric wires and for a moment you fear it's going to be a grisly torture porn flick like Hostel or Saw, (the title "And Soon The Darkness" also makes it sound like a horror movie), but it's not like that. It's more of a thriller like Breakdown with Kurt Russell or Frantic with Harrison Ford (with T&A of course!).

It's the story of two American girls on a cycling holiday in Argentina (switched from the two British girls in France in the original). Amber Heard is the heroine (and co-producer to boot) and her friend who goes missing is played by the utterly gorgeous Odette Yustman (I will keep an eye out for her in future).

The photography of Argentina's ravishingly beautiful countryside by cameraman Gabriel Beristain is impressive.

The two girls go drinking in a dingy local bar and the friend who goes missing does show a lot of flesh and drink too much and tease the local boys, which brings up the age-old question of whether she's "asking for" what happens to her. That's good writing as it makes things more morally complex (the script was written by a man and a woman).

The heroine does act stupidly, leaving her friend alone in the middle of nowhere and then, once the friend goes missing, breaking into innocent people's rooms in the place she's staying looking for evidence of her pal's disappearance. Again, this is good writing as she's not perfect and does make mistakes and it makes her character more believable and human.

This movie seeks to do for Argentineans what Deliverance did for rednecks in the American South. The men in the movie conform to Latin stereotypes; at best they're staring, creepy types that talk over the heads of the girls in Spanish, at worst they're corrupt, aggressive perverts that treat women like animals and casually murder anyone that gets in their way.

The finale takes place in an incredible-looking ruined town that looks like a nuclear bomb has been dropped on it. The heroine does rescue her friend, but, after all that, the friend is unconvincingly killed by hitting her head off the ground. (She immediately says her friend is dead, but she could be wrong and we never find out if the friend lives or dies and the movie ends too soon. It should've shown what happened after the rescue with the two friends reconciled).

This is a surprisingly good little thriller that went under the radar in cinemas. Worth checking out.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 26, 2011 1:23 PM BST

Public Enemies [DVD] (2009)
Public Enemies [DVD] (2009)
Dvd ~ Johnny Depp
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £2.50

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Michael Mann's Best Film Since "Heat", 24 Dec 2009
This review is from: Public Enemies [DVD] (2009) (DVD)
First off, Johnny Depp has never convinced me as a serious adult actor. He's always looked like a kid dressed in his father's clothes trying to convince people he's an adult (maybe it's because he's so freakishly young-looking, the man is nearly 50 and still looks like a teenager. Perhaps that's why he's more effective in fantasy films by Tim Burton or in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies). In "Public Enemies" though, he convinced me at last. Michael Mann, stickler for detail that he is, has pulled out a fully-fleshed performance from Johnny Depp and I'm delighted for him that he is growing and improving in this way as an actor.

"Public Enemies" is the story of legendary bank robber John Dillinger (played by Depp) and how his gang's use of superior weaponry and vehicles outfoxed the fledgling FBI for a while.

The movie thematically is a precursor to a lot of Mann's earlier movies. The embryonic scientific approach of the FBI in this film would morph into the revolutionary behavioural science and forensics on display in "Manhunter." The post-World War I weaponry and tactics of "Public Enemies" would become the SAS-inspired bank heist shootout in "Heat." Plus there's the two-sides-of-the-same coin protagonist and antagonist here that would also serve Mann well in the Pacino/De Niro relationship in "Heat." The high-def photography of "Public Enemies" is also reminiscent of "Collateral."

For me, this is a huge return to form for Michael Mann and his best film since "Heat." "The Insider" had some great performances by Russell Crowe and Al Pacino and had an interesting story but it was a little long-winded at nearly 3 hours. I wasn't a fan of "Ali" and I still think Mann should never have touched that film with a ten-foot pole. "Collateral" was good with Tom Cruise revealing the dark side of his grinning, couch-jumping public persona as the ice-cold assassin Vincent although the movie got more and more unrealistic as it went on. "Public Enemies" has got one of the tightest scripts Michael Mann's ever shot. If I have any criticism of it, it's that you do feel it's a movie you've seen before, whether it's "Bonnie and Clyde", "The Untouchables" (Frank Nitti, Al Capone's hitman and successor, is a character in "The Untouchables" and in "Public Enemies") or Mann's own "Heat."

Like "Heat", "Public Enemies" has a huge cast stuffed full of great and/or quirky actors. I thought I saw Stephen Dorff in it, but he looks unrecognisable under his fedora and with a floppy fringe that I had to check the credits at the end to make sure it was him.

I was glued to "Public Enemies" from start to finish and the making-of documentaries on the two-disc DVD are absolutely fascinating showing how Mann insisted on restoring and shooting at actual locations from Dillinger's 1930s crime spree. Highly recommended.

Cruising [DVD] [1980]
Cruising [DVD] [1980]
Dvd ~ Al Pacino
Price: £17.99

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cruising For A Bruising, 10 Dec 2009
This review is from: Cruising [DVD] [1980] (DVD)
I first saw "Cruising" on grainy VHS back on a chilly February night in 1998. I was mesmerized by it. Al Pacino was the star of gangster classics like "The Godfather Trilogy" "Carlito's Way" and "Scarface." He was a cool, tough guy. To see him with his permed hair going to gay bars in this movie and letting himself be felt up, tied up and slapped was bizarre.

Now "Cruising" has been released on DVD for the first time. First off, the movie has been remastered and looks like a different film. What was murky or muffled before, now is crystal clear, especially the soundtrack. The songs in the clubs have much more oomph to them than they did before.

Al Pacino plays a cop called Steve Burns who's offered the chance to go undercover in the gay community to catch a serial killer. He agrees and goes under the alias of John Forbes. There are hints that Pacino's character is struggling with his own sexuality despite having a girlfriend (Karen Allen). But it is never really properly addressed in the film.

Sadly, Al Pacino has no involvement whatsoever with this DVD release and there are no interviews or commentaries from him on it. It was a painful experience making it and he brought a firestorm of criticism down on his head by being in it. It was one of three movies in the first half of the 80s that he was lacerated for. "Cruising" was the first one in 1980. It was attacked by gay groups who objected to its depiction of gay life and it was mauled by the critics. The next one was, believe it or not, "Scarface" in 1983. It was attacked by Cuban-Americans for portraying them as criminals and attacked by the critics for not being as good as the 1930s original. Then "Revolution" in 1985 was again savaged by the critics and was a huge box office flop. Pacino must have wondered what he'd done wrong and he retreated into a 4-year exile from films. Many wondered if he would ever return. Thankfully he did with "Sea Of Love" in 1989 (ironically, a sort of heterosexual remake of "Cruising" with Pacino's cop after another sexual killer) and the critics heaped praise on his performance. His non-involvement with this DVD just shows that he would rather forget this movie. It's a shame as it would be great to hear his side of the story and what he saw in the project.

You can see why Pacino would want to forget it from the "Making Of" documentaries on the DVD. Gay activists would turn up on set and blow whistles to drown out the actor's voices. A lot of the dialogue had to be redone in a studio later. The gay activists even resorted to reflecting sunlight with mirrors on rooftops into the actor's eyes and ruining the lighting of the shot. One time, word got around that Pacino was shooting a scene in a coffee shop and the activists surrounded the place. Pacino had to be taken through the hostile crowd by bodyguards as the coffee shop had no other way out but the front door. He was driven away at speed with his head in his hands.

William Friedkin's commentary is not as good as the one he did on "The French Connection" DVD. That's one of the best DVD commentaries I've ever heard and you were gripped from first moment to last with the wealth of detail that Friedkin added to the movie. Here, he doesn't have so much to add and sometimes even resorts to just describing what's happening onscreen when you can work that out for yourself. One fascinating comment is how the radiologist's assistant in "The Exorcist" ended up being accused of a gay murder and Friedkin visited him in prison to do research for "Cruising."

The confusion over who the real killer is is a real cheat on the audience. You can't string the audience along for two hours and then thumb your nose at them and say: "Suckers!" It makes the whole thing seem pointless. I still like watching "Cruising" for the atmosphere. As Friedkin says, it's like no other movie and there are things you'll see here that you'll never see anywhere else. A fascinating glimpse into the pre-AIDS gay leather bars of 1980 and an example of a movie that could simply never be made today.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 24, 2012 1:38 PM GMT

Dirty Harry Complete Special Edition Collection [DVD]
Dirty Harry Complete Special Edition Collection [DVD]
Dvd ~ Clint Eastwood
Offered by WorldCinema
Price: £39.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Dirty Harry Cleaned Up, 6 Aug 2009
There's only one word to describe this boxset - gorgeous. The care that has been put into putting it together is phenomenal. For a start, all five Dirty Harry movies have been newly remastered and they look and sound brand spanking new (particularly Sudden Impact which gains new life).

Then there are the extra items. You get a replica of Dirty Harry's police badge (any kid who ever saw a Dirty Harry movie in the 70s or 80s dreamed of holding Harry's badge and throwing it away like he did at the end of the first movie.) There's a poster tracking how the Scorpio killer "bounces" Harry around San Francisco. There are mini-replicas of memos from pre-production including ones saying how Frank Sinatra is interested in playing Harry. There are lobby cards of the Dirty Harry movie posters, a bonus disc featuring a documentary called "Out of the Shadows" and a small book with lots of great photos from the five movies. There are also short documentaries on the making of each movie.

This one is for hardcore fans who love the Dirty Harry movies. I couldn't wait to get my hands on this and I was not disappointed when I eventually did. This boxset has been deleted now because of a row between the distributors and the Director's Guild of America, which is a shame as this is the best DVD boxset I've ever come across. If you see one for sale, pounce on it before it disappears forever. Highly, highly recommended.

Zoltan, Hound Of Dracula [DVD]
Zoltan, Hound Of Dracula [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael Pataki
Price: £10.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dracula's Dog Returns, 3 Aug 2009
This film terrified the living daylights out of me when I was a kid. After seeing it, I couldn't sleep. It was a hot summer's night and my bedroom window was open. All I could hear were dogs barking in the neighbourhood. I was convinced old Zoltan had got on a plane from Hollywood and come to my area to get me because he knew I was scared of him.

Fast-forward to me as an adult. I watched this film and it was laughable (but still enjoyable) nonsense. I couldn't imagine what I'd found so scary about it back then. Like your first girlfriend though, you never forget the first movie to keep you awake at night.

There are some nice touches in the film, like Dracula's American relatives changing their surnames to Drake (just like Hitler's American relatives had to change their surnames because of the family history.) Michael Pataki plays both Count Dracula and his American descendant Michael Drake and Pataki went on to star in the fourth entries in many franchises like "Rocky IV" and "Halloween 4." Reggie Nalder is in this and he landed a much better role as the Master Vampire in "Salem's Lot" (scariest vampire ever) with David Soul two years later (another movie that gave me nightmares). This film is called "Dracula's Dog" in America, not as catchy as "Zoltan: Hound of Dracula."

I will be investing in this movie, it's been a long time coming to DVD.

Evil Spirits: The Life of Oliver Reed
Evil Spirits: The Life of Oliver Reed
by Cliff Goodwin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Path To The Bizarre...Hic! I mean the bar., 27 Mar 2009
I thoroughly enjoyed this book because of the subject; Oliver Reed. He was a great, big bear of a man who was full of life and you never knew what was he was going to do next, which is the great thing about this book.

He could be funny, he could be scary, he could be sweet, he could be aggressive and destructive. The book is packed full of weird and wonderful stories like the time he shows up at Mark Lester's (he was Oliver to Reed's Bill Sykes) birthday party with a hooker as a gift for the young lad. Reed's reaction to the horror of the guests is to tip a bowl of jelly over his head and walk out. Then there's the surreal scene of him showing his testicles to Robert Mitchum and director Michael Winner to demonstrate the damage he'd done to them the night before sitting on some railings.

I didn't want it to end, but end it did in the most appropriate way in a bar. As Alex Higgins once said of Reed: "God bless him and all who sail in him." Amen.

Mutiny On The Bounty [DVD] [1962]
Mutiny On The Bounty [DVD] [1962]
Dvd ~ Marlon Brando
Price: £17.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Resurrection Of An Insurrection, 27 Mar 2009
Detractors of this film and of Marlon Brando always state the same things; Brando's English accent isn't accurate, Bligh wasn't a tyrant and Brando deliberately sabotaged this film to try and make more money. Who cares? All that matters it that the film is dramatic and entertaining and it is.

By the standards of the day, Captain Bligh probably wasn't a cruel man. Two centuries later, however, the methods of discipline on the Bounty would be seen as inhumane. It's hard enough working with people in an office. Can you imagine being cooped up for years on a ship with people you don't like and NEVER being able to get away from them? It's no wonder they mutinied!

You can see why Brando wanted to do this movie. Apart from the hefty sum he was given, he would also get to shoot in Tahiti and the script touched on things personal to him like the confrontation and subsequent subjugation of authority and the oppression of ethnic peoples. (It's worth seeing this film purely for the slyly lascivious look Marlon Brando gives his future wife, Tahitian beauty Tarita, as she dances for him.)

The film has been given a brand new digital transfer and it looks magnificent, especially the gorgeous vistas of Tahiti. Frustratingly though, the film comes in two parts on separate discs and it is annoying to have to stop the film, eject the first disc and insert the second one. They could have easily used one dual-layer disc and solved that problem.

The special features on the disc all concern the building and voyages of the exact replica of the HMS Bounty that the studio commissioned. The documentary on the construction of the ship is fascinating. It details how difficult it was to find people with the rare skills to actually build a wooden sailing ship long after such methods had become obsolete and forgotten. It then goes into the painstaking effort that was necessary to bring the Bounty to life again. Incredible stuff and a story from movie history you don't hear much about but should. Sadly, there are no commentaries or interviews with cast or crew and no documentaries about the making of the film. Not one. Very strange.

A good film, well-restored and well worth the very reasonable price.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 4, 2010 9:42 PM BST

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