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Richard Bowden "The Film Flaneur" (UK)

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4.0 out of 5 stars A little too distant, 4 Nov 2012
Horgan's A Distant Trumpet (a title perhaps better known these days from the film adaption made by Raoul Walsh) is a long, expansive novel which has at its heart the early cavalry career of Matthew Hazard. Whether or not Horgan intended to take up Hazard's career in further novels I don't know, but this present book is complete in itself. It is divided into four sections, beginning with Hazard's childhood and romance, going onto his posting to a cavalry outpost on the frontier, then a perilous mission carried out at the behest of his military mentor, and finally Hazard's leaving the service.

Several supporting characters are filled out at depth with substantial personal histories and it is clear that Horgan is more interested in the characters and (often interesting) psychologies which make up army and frontier life than its dangers and actions - although there are three major engagements along the way, treated in varying manners.

The main problem for this reader was that, despite the length of writing, Hazard never really comes alive on the page as a central character representing as he does honour, ability and duty. Ironically by far the most memorable character is Kitty Mainwaring, the frustrated wife of the posting's first lieutenant - a thoroughly modern figure of feminine angst and doomed sexual dissatisfaction, brief seducer of the hero. Also memorable is General Quaint, a peculiar figure who combines great learning with eccentric ability in the field. Caught between these extremes of duty and desire, learning and instinct, Hazard appears rather anaemic, even though the best passage of the book (Quaint's account of Matthew's mission to Mexico) do bring him necessarily to the fore.

Some incidents spring naturally from the narrative, such as the tentative romance then marriage between Matthew and Laura. Other elements occasionally seem less certain, making one all the more wish that the internal life of Hazard was dwelt upon more. Cynical about Washington machination, the book ends on a contemporary note with news of the betrayal of the Indians who had trusted the white man. Horgan's prose is clear and occasionally moving but with few of the flights of poetry the wilderness inspires in others. All in all then, a good read, albeit with a hero close to his soldierly calling but ultimately just a bit distant to the reader.


4.0 out of 5 stars Bangkok fun-o!, 30 May 2012
This review is from: DVD BANGKOK LOCO (DVD)
The most fun I have had at an asian film since Kung Fu Hustle, and one of those rarities that I have wanted to watch through again immediately after the credits. Bangkok Loco is an exhilarating, vivid, and utterly mad film that combines martial arts, musical numbers, police thriller and cinematic homage in one in your face package. It has everything: drowning dogs, policemen with black eyes (and ears), 70's décor and haircuts, gore, references to Star Wars, Requiem for a Dream, The Stuntman and James Bond at least, yellow tracksuits in purple landscapes, tea parlours, drumming competitions, cheesy songs and two headed women. Oh yes, and the director's first name is Porno something. It's the sort of surreal, fresh product which Hollywood seems utterly unable to concoct, probably as it requires the fresh eyes of a different culture to reassemble so many familiar elements into such a jaw-dropping package. Either that or the production team were on something stronger than green tea.

The region 3 disc has a razor sharp image values as well as excellent sound which makes the most of the larger than life cinematography and the great score. Forget the nonsense about Loco running out of steam towards the end - it does no such thing. Although well subtitled, one amazing thing about this film are the many no doubt Thai-specific in jokes, which would make it even funnier for local audiences.. For more of the same type of Thai film madness, check out SARS Wars (Khun krabii hiiroh (2004)) - but even that doesn't quite match the delirium on offer here.

Kindle Touch, Wi-Fi, 6" E Ink Touch Screen Display
Kindle Touch, Wi-Fi, 6" E Ink Touch Screen Display

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent device - but you're tied to Amazon's format for ebooks, 25 April 2012
The Kindle is one of the best selling e-readers around at the moment, and it is not difficult to see why. An attractive price point and user-pleasing design means that it is an easy choice for many who wish to try out such a format. Amazon have, it is suggested, opted for a price which is actually close to losing money per unit sale, hoping to spread through the market quickly and make profits back thereafter on ebooks purchased as well as other items accessed through their site (on the 3G version at any rate). Therein of course lays the rub: those who purchase the Kindle are tied to only reading Kindle-format ebooks. For many this won't be an issue as the choice is wide. But issues surrounding the pricing of ebooks, currently a subject of action by the courts in the States, lurk in the background, while those who purchase regular all-purpose tablets (other than the walled-garden iPad, where pricing is even more of an issue) have the luxury of downloading free ebook reader apps, including one from Kindle, from such places as the android marketplace enabling a much wider selection of titles and prices. Most of the major e-book readers also, rather controversially, silently collect data on usage to transmit back to the manufacturer. Never the less, glowing reviews of the Kindle over its competition are common and so there's no need to withdraw any overall recommendation.

Failan [DVD] [2001] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Failan [DVD] [2001] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Min-sik Choi

4.0 out of 5 stars Failan fails you not, 10 Jan 2012
As other reviewers make plain here, the drama Failan is ultimately very moving. In fact I think it contains one of the most affecting scenes in cinema, up there for me with the ends of the likes of Ride The High Country, Robin and Marian, and It's a Wonderful Life in bringing a lump to the throat and a tear in the eye. And like the latter film, it too makes clear the debt we owe to other people throughout our lives but here the result is chastening, not liberating. I'd recommend it to anyone who has yet to discover the pleasures of new Korean cinema.

Gentle Trap/Hangman Waits [DVD]
Gentle Trap/Hangman Waits [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Turnbull
Price: 13.88

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hangman Waits - an extraordinary film, 4 Dec 2011
Whilst The Gentle Trap is an entertaining time-filler, typical of its time, and with one or two inadvertently amusing moments of dialogue, the big draw here must be The Hangman Waits, an extraordinary little-known crime docudrama made in co operation with the News of the World, appearing on DVD for the first time. It comes accompanied with an apology for the less than perfect quality of the source print for which due attention should be drawn. (The accompanying film is much better served).

The Hangman Waits is an account of a manhunt, but told in very striking fashion. It is, I'd suggest - and one hesitates to use the term so readily in such an obscure context - the work of a poverty row auteur: the director, producer and writer being the same person, one A Bar-Smith, apparently his only full length directing job. A lonely review on IMDb points out that this film "looks and feels as though it was made at the dawn of talking pictures with some stilted performances, erratic editing and simplistic storyline...". That's one view.

It certainly seems a throwback to earlier times with words playing a constant second to visuals and sound - and in fact it is 6 minutes in before any dialogue is spoken. Even the police are presented at one point Keystone-cops style, manning the running boards of cars to the final showdown, in a couple of remarkable 'frozen' shots - the careful framing of which, I'd suggest, indicates a sure deliberate stylistic strategy on the part of the director rather than clumsiness. I'd argue that like another favourite of mine, White Zombie, the anachronistic styling gives the film a unique feel, and by using a distinctive mode of storytelling, it turns its austere production values to advantage. The editing is not erratic either: in fact it is at some points quite deliberately structured, such as during the suspenseful, Hitchcockian opening scenes. In fact, dialogue issues apart, The Hangman Waits is striking on several counts throughout, including no less than 3 montage sequences, and a unique score featuring piano and organ intrumentation (the austerity of which at times reminded me of that for Peeping Tom). The killer's face is not revealed until the last few sequences; instead the film contains several interesting minor characters and incidents, which go by way of compensating for the enigmatic man on the run at the centre of the plot. The involvement of the News of the World is obvious with some effective location shooting in Fleet Street, but the view of journalists and reporters is not rose-tinted. The final montage sequence is the most interesting, creating an almost stream-of-consciousness effect as the killer recalls moments of his romantic past as the organ plays a canzona.

Some will find little in the film; others I hope will pause and discover it's avant-garde qualities, seen for the first time in a generation or so, in this release with all of the surprise and delight I did. Ironically, the older Hangman Waits, because so audacious, makes its companion feature The Gentle Trap seem conservative in contrast. I certainly watched Bar-Smith's work open mouthed.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 10, 2014 12:51 PM BST

New York Confidential [DVD]
New York Confidential [DVD]
Dvd ~ Broderick Crawford
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: 7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Confidentially ... just average except for Bancroft, 17 Nov 2011
This review is from: New York Confidential [DVD] (DVD)
Not be be confused with the (I think superior) Kansas City Confidential, the New York variety is a pretty serviceable account of organised crime, featuring at it's heart the stereotypical crime boss Lupo (Broderick Crawford, in a characteristically grouchy performance) and his disaffected daughter (Anne Bancroft). Lately arrived on the scene is Magellan (Richard Conte) the son of one of Lupo's late, old, friends who arrives to take care of a contract hit then stays to work his way up the organisation. Magellan's cool, polite exterior masks his role as professional killer, but he is clever enough to stay out of trouble, rejecting the advances of his bosses' dame, until the inevitable happens and he is drawn to the daughter. The dangerous, svelte Conte is good in his part - and, surprisingly proves less of an emotional bully than we might have expected - but the real star of the film is Bancroft, whose acting is in a different class, even when uttering unremarkable dialogue in predictable scenes. Her best moments of all come when, forced by public exposure to leave the anonymity of a safe job and to confront the stigma of her parentage, she throws herself with self-disgust at the hit man. Sadly her character is removed shortly after and with it comes a return to routine crime melodrama. J Carroll Nash is wasted as a side kick. The DVD offers a good print, but with no real extras. It's good for a single viewing, but apart from Bancroft's magnetism there's nothing really here to return for.

Violent Saturday
Violent Saturday
Dvd ~ Victor Mature
Offered by screen_archives_entertainment
Price: 17.40

13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Buy the Spanish edition instead!, 27 Oct 2011
This review is from: Violent Saturday (DVD)
"4 x 3 Letterbox" says the official description of this edition of Fleischer's mini-classic, along with some flannel about the best prints available. I don't know about you, but as far as I am concerned academy ratio is NOT a letterbox format, unless painfully cropped top and bottom to the wider 16:9 shape. This is a film which has been shown just as disgracefully on UK TV and which cries out to be seen in proper ratio; anything else completely destroys the rich mise-en-scene. My advice is to buy the Spanish edition also to be found on this site, as at least the all-important letterboxing appears present and correct there. After all, why would you want to compromise, especially at these prices?
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 4, 2014 12:09 AM BST

Ciudad Al Desnudo [DVD] [1990] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Ciudad Al Desnudo [DVD] [1990] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Luis Felipe Tovar
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: 7.75

2.0 out of 5 stars Does not have Eng subtitles!, 27 Oct 2011
If you are buying this item and are unable to speak the language - beware! This disc does not have the eng subtitles as advertised. I have found this before on the rarer imports of this type.

The General Post Office Film Unit Collection Vol.2 - We Live In Two Worlds [DVD]
The General Post Office Film Unit Collection Vol.2 - We Live In Two Worlds [DVD]
Dvd ~ Len Lye
Offered by ludovico_institute
Price: 10.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Watch for Harry Watt, 25 Oct 2011
An extremely well presented anthology of GPO documentary shorts from the late 30's when creativity was at its highest. Standouts are the 3 titles by Harry Watt: the famous Night Mail, The Saving of Bill Blewitt and North Sea, all of which would stand issuing on a single disc with an appreciation of the director, who is underrated today. Also especially noteworthy is the jaw droppingly surreal N or NW, the style and execution of which sometimes reminded me of some of the better known European avant-garde work of the Dadaists of a few few years before. Not all here is of equal quality however; a decided dud is Mony a Muckle - a confused contemplation of Scottish saving habits; as well as the dull Big Money, or JB Priestley's consideration of Switzerland as part of 'two worlds'. Prescient of the 'global village' his insight might be, but interest (at least on my part) in 30's Switzerland's infrastructure is slight. Plain bizarre is God's Chillun (victim of a chequered production history by all accounts), covering the legacy of the slave trade and which features a peculiarly ill-at-ease host. Humorously bizarre too, but at least much more entertaining, is The Fairy of the Phone, which ends in a peculiar song and dance sequence. (It's the film apparently in which WH Auden appears as Santa Claus - but you wouldn't recognize him from the brief clip.) In a collection full of the earnest contemplation of male toil, the couple of films which eschew realism in favour of humour and, yes even a little kitsch, are a pleasant contrast. The animated shorts are fine if you like the early style and methods they spring from but speaking personally, dancing shapes may have charm but limited appeal. There's an excellent booklet to accompany all this, need I add, and the restoration is excellent.

Todd Killings [DVD] [1971] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Todd Killings [DVD] [1971] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ James Broderick
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: 8.64

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Little known classic, 9 Oct 2011
In 1968 director Barry Shear directed his first theatrical feature, Wild in The Streets. Featuring a younger generation who, with the help of LSD are eventually able to take over, then run the country, this was a movie which was both an amusing fantasy for the hopheads of the time as well as positing a powerful, if unlikely, enfranchisement of youth. Roll on two or three years and the hippy dream had gone bad. Charles Manson had murdered Sharon Tate, the Vietnam war soured and Shear made The Todd Killings.

Based on the real life crimes of 'The Pied Piper of Tucson' thrill-killer Charles Schmidt, Shear's second film offered a completely different, and far more salutory, view of the younger generations than his first - in fact, arguably rejecting any empathy with it at all. Starting in strikingly edited fashion with the hurried burial of a victim and ending with the police recovering the bodies of two others, The Todd Killings is a work whose negative view of a generation and its alienation is unrelenting, bleak and compelling. The "fictionalised dramatisation" stars Robert F Jones as 'Skipper' Todd, a charismatic 23 year-old slacker, drug dealer and would-be song writer living in the small Californian town of Darlington. Todd lives off an allowance from his mother (Barbara Bel Geddes, her last film) who runs an old people's home. Worshiped by a clique of younger females, Todd's own view of his dissipated lifestyle is characteristically cynical: "fornication isn't much (but) it's about all Darlington has to offer". It's only when he is attracted to the initially standoffish Roberta (Belinda Montgomery) that things get more complicated. At the same time Billy Roy (Richard Thomas) arrives back home in town, fresh out of reformatory, quickly rediscovers his love for an old school sweetheart and is taken under Skipper's doubtful wing.

Although from this summary it seems a film with two infatuations at its core, The Todd Killings is not a romantic piece. On the one hand we have Skipper, scheming and callous towards Roberta, while on the other there is Billy Roy, naive, confused and, ultimately, just as cruel towards his own girl. Neither relationships will end well. In this they are typical of the party and drug set around them, where the only real relationship is with hedonism. Others have noted the fractured and documentary style employed by the narrative, reflecting the lack of real focus in the young lives of Darlington. Only Roberta gets some real sympathy, but ironically its her will-she won't-she attitude towards Skipper and his actions which make up some of the film's less successful elements. When we first see her she seems a cut above the rest of her sex; her continued affection towards Skipper, even after the the most serious suspicions emerge and rape, considerably reduces her standing. Ultimately, even with her self-awareness and conscience, she is barely different from the others.

In the first half of the film Shear breaks up the presentation of Skipper's sometimes frantic, always shallow existence with more formal, considered shorter scenes, as the young man is interviewed in turn by police and military (he dodges the draft by pretending to be gay). At other times too, when faced by the establishment, Skipper acts the considerate, polite young man, and initially impresses Billy Roy's parents by his manner. At first he also seems to fool his former teacher, who's out trying to save local bored housewives from their own intellectual "death sentence" with reading groups of 'Moby-Dick'. At one point he recalls Skipper as one of his brightest former students, but now the young man is as dismissive of literature as of anything else. But we know that the slimy charmer is already a murderer, his secret buried out in the desert - just as his real character lays buried beneath a facade for his elders' benefit. Indeed, with one notable exception, Skipper's violence is hidden from the audience as well. It is Shear's achievement that he makes something shocking and memorable out of the coldness which remains, in an exploitation piece par excellence.

It's hard to think of another film with a heart quite as nihilist as The Todd Killings, a movie in which murders are committed just to see what it feels like, or because there's "nothing else to do", and in which a shiftless society of teenagers seem alienated from the magnitude of their actions. Other films have shown rebellious, shallow and disenchanted youth, but few are so thoroughgoing and so completely dark. For Skipper one of the most despicable emotions is pity, and his lack of empathy with others and is echoed back by his loose circle of friends whose only concern, even when the full horror of his crimes is revealed, is what to do when he's no longer around. (In fact the original shooting script was apparently called 'What Are We Going to Do Without Skipper?'). Some have compared Shear's film to (I think less bleak) River's Edge (1986), while passing similarities can also be seen in another favourite, Mean Creek (2004). A further film based on Schmidt's real life crimes, Dead Beat (1984) is not in the same league.

By turn charming, dangerous and self-centered, Jones' charismatic portrayal as the murdering misogynist is unforgettable, while The Todd Killings further benefits from an excellent supporting cast which, besides Bel Geddes, also includes Gloria Graham and Edward Asner. With hindsight, Richard Thomas' casting shortly after this as TV's John-Boy Walton, where he was to co-star in a completely different moral universe, gives his appearance here particular resonance. A pathetic figure, he is easily led in a world where nothing matters and "there's the crap, and living like you want to live." All of this is aided by some excellent cinematography as well as an outstanding, sometimes frenetic musical score by Leonard Rosenmann. Earlier in his career the composer had worked on Rebel Without a Cause. One wonders what he felt creating music for another, if later generation, equally estranged,but with a much more dangerous alienation, in which personal angst is almost entirely absent.

The current DVD is unfortunately sourced from the 'best video source available', which means the picture is not as sharp as one might hope and the full Panavision ratio is missed. There are no extras worth the name. Its something of scandal that a properly done release is not yet available or that this is region 1 only.. This one looks like the same version which appears, somewhat rarely, on British TV (for then minus some of the nudity) but, until things are done properly, it will have to do. If you haven't seen The Todd Killings, then it may be one of the best films you've hardly heard of. If you have, then you'll surely welcome any chance to see it again.

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