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Reviews Written by
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.)

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The 39 Steps [DVD]
The 39 Steps [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kenneth More
Price: £5.09

4.0 out of 5 stars Here's to you Mrs. Robinson., 30 Aug. 2015
This review is from: The 39 Steps [DVD] (DVD)
The 39 Steps is directed by Ralph Thomas and adapted to screenplay by Frank Harvey from the novel of the same name written by John Buchan. It stars Kenneth More, Taina Elg, Brenda De Banzie, Barry Jones, Reginald Beckwith and Faith Brook. Music is by Clifton Parker and cinematography by Ernest Steward.

Some found it hard to differentiate this interpretation of the classic novel from the superb Alfred Hitchcock version made in 1935. Which is a shame because on its own terms this is a fun packed mystery boosted by More's effervescent charm.

Story is a cracker, Richard Hannay (More) finds himself up to his neck in espionage after a mysterious lady is stabbed to death in is flat. Trying to get to the bottom of the mystery puts him in grave danger and takes him North to Scotland, where he hopes he can clear himself of the suspected murderer rap - and unravel the words he heard - The 39 Steps.

No! It isn't as good as Hitch's film, choosing to replace out and out suspense with a more humoristic approach, but the chase yarn aspects are briskly directed by Thomas, and the Scottish locations provided a wonderful backdrop to the fun drama. This same year Hammer Films put a different spin on The Hound of the Baskervilles, with fine results. So it be with the Rank Organisation and this take on the Buchan story. Good fun and well worth a look if you haven't seen it before. 7/10

Never So Few [DVD) [1959]
Never So Few [DVD) [1959]
Dvd ~ Frank Sinatra
Price: £25.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing in this war makes sense. Why you expect it to make sense now?, 30 Aug. 2015
This review is from: Never So Few [DVD) [1959] (DVD)
An allied guerrilla unit led by Capt. Tom Reynolds (Frank Sinatra) deals with the Japanese army and warlord controlled Chinese troops out in the Burma jungle.

"In the hills of North Burma, gateway to the vast prize of Asia, less than a thousand Kachin warriors, fighting under American and British leadership of the O.S.S., held back 40,000 Japanese in the critical, early years of World War II. It has been said NEVER have free men everywhere owed so much to SO FEW".

Killer Warrants and The Unprecedented War.

Directed by John Sturges and featuring Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Peter Lawford, Brian Donlevy, Gina Lollobrigida, Richard Johnson and Paul Henreid. Never So Few it's fair to say has a iffy reputation, originally conceived as a rat pack war film, it has some great strengths and some annoying weaknesses. The story itself is great, a part of the war that deserves to have been portrayed on the big screen, but why the makers didn't exorcise the whole romantic thread remains not just a mystery, but nearly a film killer.

As lovely as Miss Lollobrigida is, her whole character arc, and the relationship with Sinatra's stoic Reynolds, is surplus to requirements. It serves absolutely no purpose to defining other characters or for narrative invention. This strand of the story carries the film to over two hours in length, without this strand it's a film of 90 minutes focusing on the brave souls who fought in the Burmese conflict. Which is what it should have been.

When dealing with the conflicts, both outer and inner, the film does excite. The wily Sturges knows his way around an action scene and all the efforts here are gripping. Cast are fine and dandy, with McQueen dominating his scenes, Johnson the class act on show, while Sinatra, once he gets rid of the fake beard, shows his knack for tortured emotion to the point you just can't help but root for him even when he's being pig-headed (not a stretch for old blue eyes of course).

Tech credits are mixed, the studio sets are easily spotted, but conversely so are the real and pleasing location sequences filmed in Ceylon. The Panavision photography (William H. Daniels) is beautiful, a Metrocolor treat, but Hugo Friedhofer unusually turns in a lifeless musical score. All told it's not hard to see why it's a film that divides opinions, it's very episodic and that romance drags it something terrible. But still strong merits exist and it at least gets the core of the real story out in the public domain. 6/10

Cole Younger, Gunfighter [DVD] [1958] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Cole Younger, Gunfighter [DVD] [1958] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: £10.39

2.0 out of 5 stars A remake of The Desperado (1954), 28 Aug. 2015
In 1873 the proud citizens of Texas were humiliated and oppressed under the carpet-bagger administration of Governor E.J. Davis and his especially created state police, the corrupt and tyrannical "Bluebellies". Natuarlly they didn't take it lying down - - -

R.G. Springsteen directs and Daniel Mainwaring adapts from Clifton Adams' novel, The Desperado.

This is pretty much a like for like remake of Thomas Carr's 1954 version which took the title of the novel. Only difference here is that it is in De Luxe Color and filmed through the CinemaScope process. Main character change is with the outlaw Cole Younger (Frank Lovejoy), where in the 54 film it was an outlaw named Sam Garrett played by Wayne Morris.

In short the pic finds James Best having to leave town due to a violent confrontation with the Bluebellie captain. On the run and having left behind the love of his life (Abby Dalton), he hooks up with outlaw Cole Younger, forms a friendship and is thankful of that friendship when treacherous Frank Wittrock (Jan Merlin) fits him up for a murder.

It looks absolutely gorgeous, the colour, the Simi Valley locations, costumes and set design, but it rarely raises the pulses. It sort of plods through the story and fails to utilise what is a decent cast (it was Lovejoy's last feature length film). There's some value in the themes at work, such as refusing to bow to tyranny and that some gunmen were honourable and kept to gentlemen codes of conduct, but really it's lazy and you are strongly urged to seek out the far superior 54 film instead. 5/10

Blind Date aka Chance Meeting [DVD] [1959]
Blind Date aka Chance Meeting [DVD] [1959]
Dvd ~ Stanley Baker
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £10.24

5.0 out of 5 stars That's not a meeting you describe. It's a collision!, 27 Aug. 2015
Blind Date (AKA: Chance Meeting) is directed by Joseph Losey and adapted to screenplay by Ben Barzman and Millard Lampell from the Leigh Howard novel. It stars Hardy Krüger, Stanley Baker, Micheline Presle, John Van Eyssen, Gordon Jackson and Robert Flemyng. Music is by Richard Rodney Bennett and cinematography by Christopher Challis.

Jan Van Rooyer (Krüger) arrives at the apartment of the lady he is having an affair with, only to find the police following him close behind. It appears that the lady, Jacqueline Cousteau (Presle), has been murdered and he is the prime suspect.

Another cracker-jack slice of British film noir produced by the brilliant Joseph Losey. Blind Date finds Losey on the sort of firm ground he thrives on, examining hot topics such as class consciousness, eroticism, political pot-boiling, corruption, misogyny and at the crux of the story there's a very intricate mystery to be solved. When Losey was at his best there was an edginess to his films, and this is no exception, the construction of the tale is akin to someone dangling a piece of red meat over a Lion's cage (or in this case a Cougar), only to keep pulling it away at the last second.

Hook - Line - Sinker.

It all begins in a jovial manner, Van Rooyer is so happy, skipping his way to his lover's apartment, the jazzy musical score soars and shrieks, then the tone changes considerably, Losey and his crew have offered a false dawn. It soon becomes apparent that Rooyer is something of an arrogant snot, a struggling and tortured painter, he's hard to empathise with as he gets leaned on first by Gordon Jackson's efficient copper, then the mighty presence of Stanley Baker as Inspector Morgan - with Welsh accent joyously in full effect, he's nursing a cold and drinking milk, but boyo this is a guy you don't want grilling you...


Rest of the picture is predominantly told in flashback, how Rooyer and Cousteau came to meet, their initial sparring and eventual relationship, with the mature femme fatale lady wrapping the hapless painter around her finger. Losey sexes things up, really gets as much heat as he can into the coupling without bothering the censors, he even slots in a sex metaphor that Hitchcock would have approved of. Then the rug pulls begin, the can is opened, worms everywhere, or is it just smoke and mirrors?

Losey and Challis use every opportunity to use trusted film noir photographic techniques, but never in a lazy manner. Some of the isolated lighting used - particularly when Presle is holding court - is cheeky but potent with it, and the close ups, long takes and wide frames favoured by Losey ensure that no scene is merely being allowed to be ordinary. Baker, like Dirk Bogarde, was a classic Losey man, a meeting of minds that produced performances of steel and psychological intricacy. Yet it's not Baker who owns this film, it's Krüger, a multifaceted jumping-bean of a performance, simply terrific. As is the film itself, one of Losey's most under valued British treasures. 9/10

The Assassin [1993] [DVD]
The Assassin [1993] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bridget Fonda
Offered by claires_media_store
Price: £9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars New Dawn - New Day - New Life., 26 Aug. 2015
This review is from: The Assassin [1993] [DVD] (DVD)
Point of No Return (AKA: The Assassin) is directed by John Badham and written by Robert Getchell and Alexander Seros. It stars Bridget Fonda, Gabriel Byrne, Dermot Mulroney, Anne Bancroft and Harvey Keitel. Music is by Hans Zimmer and cinematography (Panavision/Technicolor) by Michael Ferris and Michael Watkins.

When drug addict Maggie Hayward (Fonda) kills a policeman in cold blood, she is promptly sentenced to death by lethal injection. But maybe there is an out? A chance to work for the government?

Why so serious?

A remake of Luc Besson's Nikita, this was always going to suffer the usual remake taunts of why bother? Was it necessary etc? Point of No Return is a good honest action movie, it has style to burn, nifty photography and likable leading actors. The action is well staged and thrilling - and Hong Kongish in style, and bubbling away in the writing are themes of identity, absent parents and a delicately off-kilter oedipal angle. The Nina Simone soundtrack is terrific, while Zimmer works around Nina's songs with an aural assuredness that grabs the attention.

It doesn't push any boundaries, and although it has been noted in some neo-noir circles, it is only a borderline entry in that style of film making. But if kinetic is a good word for you, and ultra violence gives you a shot in the arm, then Bridget and her guns are definitely worth a first date at least. 6/10

Hangman [DVD] [1959] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Hangman [DVD] [1959] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: £9.60

4.0 out of 5 stars Marshal Mac Bovard - The Hangman., 25 Aug. 2015
The Hangman is directed by Michael Curtiz and written by Dudley Nichols and Luke Short. It stars Robert Taylor, Tina Louise, Fess Parker and Jack Lord. Music is by Harry Sukman and cinematography by Loyal Griggs.

Marshal Bovard (Taylor) arrives in town to identify and arrest the last of four outlaws who robbed a Wells Fargo stage. Unfortunately for Bovard, the man he seeks is very popular with everyone in town and nobody is keen to help the Marshal do his job.

It is thought, and on reflection it seems likely, that The Hangman is a caustic jab at grassers/finks, with the Hollywood Blacklist never far from the film makers thoughts. Bovard is a grumpy and rough fellow, a jobs-worth who has almost zero faith in the human race. He's confident that the people of this border town wont take much persuading to give up an outlaw, more so as he has money to offer as well. How wrong he is, and the rest of the film follows Bovard as he bangs his head against brick walls, until the banging stops and a light-bulb lights up over his head, perhaps not all people are bad?

In truth not a lot happens, there's no action of note, this is more about morality, redemption, human foibles et al. Yet the literary aspects of the story hold tight, keeping the viewers engaged till the end. It's a very nice looking and sounding picture as well, the absence of airy vistas is not a hindrance as Curtiz and Griggs utilise the interiors for some psychological results that deftly suit the narrative's pointed edges. While the sound mix and musical accompaniments achieve the best results possible to aid the tale.

It's a strange one in that it's more a film in a Western setting than being overtly a Western, it's also a little subversive. It even throws something of an annoying curve ball at the finale, though the makers were probably chuckling away to themselves about this as well. Great and sexy turns from the lead actors sees the material safely onto a healthy grazing pasture, to make it a recommended picture to fans of the stars and of literary Oaters. 7/10

Ouija [DVD] [2014]
Ouija [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Olivia Cooke
Price: £4.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Boo! Jump!, 24 Aug. 2015
This review is from: Ouija [DVD] [2014] (DVD)
Horror is one of those genres that creates such voting and reviewing hostility on internet sites. You can guarantee that no matter what new horror film comes out it will garner posts on the likes of IMDb as being "the worst horror film I have ever seen". That is until the next big release, where we will go around the houses again...

Ouija is just a standard boo-jump horror picture with a standard story line. Any expectation of any thing more would have (will do) led (lead) to great disappointment. It's one of those horror films that asks you to turn off the lights and just enjoy the quick spooky ride, then you get off the ride and quickly move on to something else. It's neither "the worst horror film of all time" or anything remotely original. It's Boo-Jump horror 101, so buy into that or leave it well alone. 6/10

Solomon And Sheba [DVD]
Solomon And Sheba [DVD]
Dvd ~ Yul Brynner
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £5.25

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It is said that Solomon is wise. But no matter how wise he may be, he is still human, with a human weakness., 23 Aug. 2015
This review is from: Solomon And Sheba [DVD] (DVD)
Solomon and Sheba is directed by King Vidor and collectively written by Anthony Veiller, Paul Dudley, George Bruce and Crane Wilbur. It stars Yul Brynner, Gina Lollobrigida, Marisa Pavan, George Sanders, David Farrar, Harry Andrews, John Crawford and Laurence Naismith. Music is by Mario Nascimbene and cinematography by Fred A. Young.

A fictionalised screenplay cribs from parts of the Bible, where the story here follows the relationship between Solomon of Israel and the Queen of Sheba, a problem because initially Sheba is in league with Israel's enemy, Egypt. All that and Solomon has to deal with his nefarious brother, Adonijah, who is a little miffed that Solomon has inherited the crown of Israel.

Famously it was the production that saw the sad death of the leading man, Tyrone Power, while Vidor was so disillusioned about the whole film he quit making feature length films. It's a very mixed bag, very much showing the good and bad sides of the big historical epics that dominated Hollywood back in the day. In part it's a grandiose melodrama, in others it's cheap looking and given to campy histrionics (the orgy operatics sequences are just awful), while the screenplay jostles with itself as to being biblical blarney or potent pontifications.

Costuming and colour photography smooths the eyes, but then the optical nerves are shredded by set design so poor a child making paper mache boulders could have done better. The cast are also in and out, Brynner is fine as Solomon (broody, brainy but troubled), as is the lovely Lollobrigida (stoic, smart and sexy), but the support slots barely convince. Sanders is badly miscast as Solomon's warrior brother Adonijah (he was 53 at the time), 10 years earlier in Samson and Delilah his villain turn worked, but not here.

Sword fighting choreography is poor, as are the miracle effects work, but conversely the big battle that crowns the story is smart in writing and in execution, where not even the model work can dim the thrill of it all. Released in the same year as Ben-Hur obviously does it no favours by comparison! But then so many other big swords and shields epics would also struggle as well. Vidor's movie is just above average in the genre pantheon, but the faults are irritable and hardly render it as a must see film for genre enthusiasts. 6/10

Point Blank [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Point Blank [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Lee Marvin
Price: £9.04

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You're a very bad man, Walker, a very destructive man!, 22 Aug. 2015
Point Blank is directed by John Boorman and collectively adapted to screenplay by Alexander Jacobs, David Newhouse and Rafe Newhouse from the novel The Hunter written by Richard Stark. It stars Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn, Carroll O'Connor, Lloyd Bochner and Michael Strong. Music is by Johnny Mandel and the Panavision cinematography (in Metrocolor) is by Philip H. Lathrop.

Betrayed by wife and friend during a robbery, Walker (Marvin) is left dying on a stone cold cell floor at closed down Alcatraz...

Pure neo-noir, a film that could be argued was ahead of its time, given that it wouldn't find a fan base until many years later. Yet it deserves to be bracketed as a benchmark for the second phase of noir, a shining light of the neo world, experimenting with techniques whilst beating a true film noir heart.

The story is deliciously biting, pumped full of betrayals and double crosses, fatales and revenge, death and destruction. It even has a trick in the tale, ambiguity. It all plays out in a boldly coloured Los Angeles, the photography sparkles as Mandel lays an elegiacal and haunting musical score over the various stages of the drama. The talented Boorman has a field day with the elements of time, shunting various strands of the story around with sequences that at first glance seem out of place, but actually are perfect in context to what is narratively happening, the director gleefully toying with audience expectations. While suffice to say angles are tilted and close ups broadened to further style the pic.

Then there is Walker, a single minded phantom type character, played with grace and menace by Marvin - who better to trawl the Los Angeles underworld with than Marv? This guy only wants what he is owed from the robbery, nothing more, nothing less, but if the meagre reward is not forthcoming, people are going to pay with something more precious than cash. His mission is both heroic and tragic, with Boorman asking the viewers to improvise their thought process about what it all inevitably means. Funding the fuel around Marvin are good players providing slink, sleaze and suspicion.

Deliberate pacing isn't for everyone, neither is stylised violence and stylish directorial trickery, but for those who dine at said tables, Point Blank, and Walker the man, is for you. 9/10

Sleeping Beauty (50th Anniversary Platinum Edition) (1959) [DVD]
Sleeping Beauty (50th Anniversary Platinum Edition) (1959) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Mary Costa
Offered by HereToHelp
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Disney Production Of A Wonderful Fairytale., 20 Aug. 2015
When an evil witch places a curse on an infant princess that will cause her to fall into eternal sleep on her 16th birthday, her three fairy godmothers whisk her away to a life of normality and ignorance of her birthright. But can they stave off the curse when the 16th year of age arrives?

It upped the ante in costing for Disney, also taking a decade to produce. The ambition was high as new techniques were being used such as rotoscoping, while the musical score is brilliantly devised from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty ballet. The story itself is a pure joy, based on Charles Perrault's ever enduring fairytale, it's awash with rich characters, led by the delightful three fairy godmothers - Flora - Fauna and Merryweather, all plumpy and sweet, while evil witch Maleficent is brilliantly produced, with a long pointy chin and devil horns on her head.

There's a whole bunch of charming fun on show, as the three ladies bring the magic and potter around while gently ribbing each other, but it's with the drama where Sleeping Beauty most soars. The nightmare sequence luring Briar Rose (Princess Aurora) to the dreaded spinning wheel is unnerving, and the battle between Prince Phillip and Maleficent is exhilarating and shows the animators at their best. As for the colour? Spanking!

Upon release it wasn't the roaring success Disney had hoped and planned for, but the decades since then have been very kind to Sleeping Beauty. For it's a magical film for children and adults to dreamily get lost in. 9/10

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