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Motte and Bailey Films "Lawrence Freiesleben" (Northumberland, England)

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The Greed Of William Hart [DVD]
The Greed Of William Hart [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tod Slaughter
Price: £12.57

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars might find yourself shivering - or laughing..., 11 Feb. 2013
The Greed of William Hart,

Despite that 'the ham of Tod Slaughter, don't go as rich as it oughta'; for fans of period Gothic, The Greed of William Hart, (1948) has some good theatrical points. And theatre is the word - the dialogue once you ken understairnd it, is florid and quite well winded!

A variation on the Burke and Hare grave-robbing and murder spree of the 1820's up in Auld Reekie, Edinburgh here consists of a couple of dingy rooms, a pub, a mortuary (almost as dingy) and the cobbled cardboard alleys between!

Down these alleys rattles Daft Jamie's cart, and little does he suspect the nefarious use it is hired for. Aubrey Woods was very appealing as Daft Jamie - in fact he is probably the high point of the film. Everybody likes him - his pantomime innocence and the products of the pub are all that holds this community together: after all - what else do they share but the cockroaches that surely maunder and cautiously traipse their peeling walls!

Sadly, almost as retiring is that Histrionic Hero of Hysteria, that Mad Master of Melodrama - Tod Slaughter - whose customary relish never gets going until the end . . . when he grovels and pleads as if to make amends.

His notorious "resurrectionist" partner is well played by Henry Oscar - and the two make a grim and gruesome team - mentally pawing the poor they so callously sell. In a more exploitational age the plight of the women might have been allowed more time - here they are cut off before their characters become sympathetic or memorable. For 1948 this may have been simply discretion or tact? Perhaps the films alternative title, Horror Maniacs was daring enough!

The picture quality is excellent and the soundtrack pretty good. Apparently at the last moment, the filmmakers were forced to dub in different names - Burke being replaced by Hart, Hare by Moore, and Dr. Knox with Dr. Cox.
The cost of this, on an already low-budget production, meant they had to scrimp on the music.

Watch it late at night in the right spirit - Irish not Scotch, William Hart would insist! - and you might find yourself shivering or laughing in their ghastly, corpse-filled fog.

The Hand/The Ambush Of Leopard Street [DVD]
The Hand/The Ambush Of Leopard Street [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bryan Coleman
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £10.84

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two complimentary B films, 11 Feb. 2013
After a explanatory sequence in Burma,The Hand becomes a fast paced thriller, settling into the mist and darkness of England. The undemanding and excited tone could have come straight from a boys book of crime fiction - except for the amputation of hands! Such a ghoulish touch spices both the mystery and the suspense - one such gruesome token even finds its way into a box sent through the mail!
As right hands get chopped, left hooks fly: an eager young detective - who naturally never gets to meet with his girlfriend - with his thoughtful inspector, race to prevent more deaths, while the smarmy villain seeks another stalking horse to deflect the pursuers . . . who may become his victims. Fate itself deals a last minute retribution, just before a hasty The End.
Low budget and fairly obvious, The Hand is never less than enjoyable.

Meanwhile Ambush in Leopard Street has some genuine tension and a strange, very faintly exotic ambiance to its backstreets and "park" - perhaps due to its being shot in and around the Ardmore Studios, County Wicklow in Ireland?
Loaded with twists perhaps its best aspect is a true sense of moral dilemma. James Kenney as Johnny, really does end up in an impossible position. Unfortunately, due to the film's concise length, all the subtle ramifications that might have arisen haven't time to be explored in the ways you might predict.
The Internet Movie Data Base hints (possibly inaccurately) that the film originally had a U.K. running time of 70 minutes - another 13 minutes added on to Ambush in Leopard Street would be a real, if unlikely luxury!

The two films on this double bill are ideally complimentary. The gritty plausibility (despite the obligatory nightclub scenes so beloved of most B film productions - was there ever a Butchers production for example without a nightclub scene complete with glamorous or would-be glamorous singer/dancer/stripper?) and moral dilemma of Ambush in Leopard Street is balanced by the macabre-edged, adventure fantasy of The Hand

Double Confession [DVD]
Double Confession [DVD]
Dvd ~ Derek Farr
Price: £12.95

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dark cliff path to a shining sea..., 11 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Double Confession [DVD] (DVD)
Double Confession (1950) opens in mysterious and dramatic fashion, and remains secretive almost to the end. Every frame is filled with felicities: dark cliff paths down to shining seas, ominous funfairs and vivid exteriors - there are even shots of the famously refurbished De La Warr Pavilion only some fifteen years old at the time. It certainly makes striking use of the Sussex coast and Isle of Wight locations.

An air of post-war weariness and melancholy spreads from Derek Farr playing the leading character and finds itself echoed in the atmosphere of the film - punctuating it with strange, questioning lulls. Even the crowded beaches, the social-life-at-the-seaside interludes - seen through the curtaining tone of Farr's mind perhaps - suggest somehow that all these holidaymakers are desperate to find a return to the happiness of yesterday. But they are trying hard and can succeed - even the leading man, tired of life though he seems, begins to find escape in a burgeoning romance . . .

Peter Lorre gives a weird, shambling, schizophrenic performance while character actors and English eccentrics abound: including a pencil thin Ronald Howard, before he moved to 221b and put on his deerstalker! Joan Hopkins is nicely affecting as Farr's troubled but determined redeemer.

Double Confession is a fascinatingly over-ambitious film that tries to cram everything in: mystery, romance, social comment and comedy and very nearly succeeds - though its truthfully fatalistic air must inevitably run counter to its pace as a thriller.

The Yellow Teddybears [1964] [DVD]
The Yellow Teddybears [1964] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jacqueline Ellis

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Social history in vivid black and white., 15 May 2012
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Firstly, I must say this is NOT a five star film, but it deserves a little more consideration than the other one star reviewer has given it.

If it is the teasing Jezebel cover that caught your eye, then you would be disappointed by the film. There is little in it that would at least superficially, shock children nowadays - even the 15 certificate is laughable: A PG or even a U would be fine - children in a school or home situation might still learn something from it, if they were young enough and it was accompanied by a class discussion. As for the Yellow Teddybears, they are of course grey.

Inevitably it is a period piece, at times vividly atmospherically so: there are some wonderful shots of streets and houses and of the optimistically Post-War styled school and swimming baths. The down side to the period is the usual sub-Shadows music and dated (even for then!) dancing - but you can always speed that bit up.

Amongst all this however, some serious points are made and the climatic argument, passionately put across by Jacqueline Ellis, still carries weight...even if the kids of today would listen even less, and the governors of schools be just as hypocritical. In fact, over the last 20 years my impression is that sex education has gone backwards and we are almost as coy about it now as they were in the 60's. The U.K. still has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe - and I have heard it argued that it is only the rampant drug culture that keeps the pregnancy rate down - the kids are too out of it to get around to sex!

Yes, it is preachy and sometimes slow - but it is well worth a look, mostly for the social history. In its day I would have thought it carried a useful message - even more so if it could have been shown to the age group from whom the original 'X' certificate would have denied it.

Private Road (BFI Flipside) ( DVD + Blu-ray)
Private Road (BFI Flipside) ( DVD + Blu-ray)
Dvd ~ Bruce Robinson
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: £11.81

18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This road should be highlighted on more maps., 28 Feb. 2011
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PRIVATE ROAD, written and directed by Barney Platts-Mills, is as I suspected, better than it at first seems. It's a month or two since I first saw it, but certain images recur...are quietly haunting. Though some obvious things date it (mostly perhaps the music) in other ways despite its strong sense of period, it seems strangely timeless. That could be because aspects of it are, like the "I see a boy running barefoot over fields..." story from the brilliant NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947), universal, and if well enough told (and the naivety/naturalness of some of the acting, or perhaps presentation, here, adds to this) can echo with everyone's memories, emotionally if not literally.

At first PRIVATE ROAD seems pleasant but inconsequential when contrasted to so many other more dramatic stories, but it's this very lack of overstatedness that gives it the truth beyond its surface. As always, this truth in films is made up of so much more than what the characters do or say, or what the story does or says. It's as much in the landscapes and rooms and in all the moments inbetween - and to really work must stimulate our own memories and dreams, past, present and future. All of which is precisely what most films, indeed most art, so signally fails to do.

Susan Penhaligon, despite the obvious shortcomings of her character remains largely sympathetic, but it's Bruce Robinson's weak but very appealing, good naturedness, that holds the film together. It is interesting to see the obvious parallels with WITHNAIL & I - a film that despite its deliberate overstatedness also succeeds in carrying a strong, though to my mind ultimately melancholic and self-protectedly cynical, charge.

The extras on this dvd are ST.CHRISTOPHER - a wonderfully vivid documentary and THE LAST CHAPTER, a silly but enjoyable short film with Denholm Elliot and Susan Penhaligon again - you can't have too much of Susan Penhaligon! There's a very nice booklet as well. Highly recommended!

Euro-Fantastico: No Survivors Please & Black Cobra [DVD] [US Import]
Euro-Fantastico: No Survivors Please & Black Cobra [DVD] [US Import]

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable films though perhaps best for tolerant entusiasts?, 28 Feb. 2011
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THE BLACK COBRA....I wonder if this a Krimi under a different title? All the ingredients are there: The German idea of England, poor dubbing and of course Klaus Kinski, even that hulk Ady Berber...though in this he is 100% friendly - and useful to have around if you haven't got an engine crane! I watched this with my equally tolerant children and we all really enjoyed it. Of course it would be improved if it had a little more pace...

NO SURVIVORS PLEASE, was the film I really bought the disc for and it didn't disappoint me. It was strange, vivid in places and had some good characters and great locations....I wonder where in Germany (?)that high bridge is?

If you want lost classics with a sharp picture and perfect audio, look elsewhere. But for enthusiasts of Euro-spy or Krimi type films I would say both films are well worth a rainy afternoon - and nowadays would be no more than a PG rating

Room In Rome [DVD] [2010]
Room In Rome [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ Elena Anaya
Price: £8.99

7 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Medem's sandals have melted!, 7 Jan. 2011
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This review is from: Room In Rome [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
What has become of the truly great Julio Medem of 'The Red Squirel' & 'Tierra'??
Even the trailer for this confection only mentions the inferior 'Sex and Lucia' and 'Lovers of the Arctic Circle'. Perhaps it is the slow slide of success, or the mellowing of a motion mainstream? Both the latter two films had many saving graces, but here that slide has become a fall...though to be fair, Room in Rome has one or two moments of poetic poignancy. But its such an artificial construction...and the music!! Medem's music could always be a little dodgy, ("MYSTERIO"!!!) but this is simply diaboilical! Despite all appearances to the contrary this is a cold, hard film with a saccharin surface and the music makes it truly sickly. I only hope that this sugared, bitter pill will help finance Medem's renaissance.

Bad Girls of Film Noir 1 [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Bad Girls of Film Noir 1 [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Occasionally Morally Dubious Girls of Film Gris.... but definately worth watching!, 27 Sept. 2010
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It's true these films aren't genuinely Noir - that most misused of words in the film lexicon - but we found them very enjoyable nonetheless. The ways in which redemption is usually squeezed in, just when you least expect it, is often fascinating.

On this volume, Two Of A Kind was our favourite - with lots of morally ambivalent charaters, and varied locations. The young and enthusiastic Terry Moore has a more memorable role than Lizbeth Scott. Edmond O'Brien is as good as always, despite his inescapably Everyman appearance and Alexander Knox gives an early performance as an insidious manipulator.

Bad For Each Other is also filled with atypical situations and settings - Charlton Heston as a doctor in a coal mining town! least to start and...but no, I don't want to give it away....

The best genuine Noir films, such as Build My Gallows High a.k.a. Out Of The Past [DVD] [1947] with the peerless Bob Mitchum and Jane Greer, not to mention Rhonda Fleming and an early, underplaying, Kirk Douglas, or Kiss Me Deadly [DVD] [1955], whether promoted from B films or not, are undeniably in a different league.

These films by comparison do all seem like B films, even if some of them weren't originally. But this is often what makes them worth seeing - the sometimes improbable inventiveness and the complexity of the characters...even if those depths often remain unresolved.

Big budget films, when as is always likely, they don't turn out to be greater than the sum of their parts, can be boringly predictable. These films are certainly not that. Bad Girls of.... was obviously a misleading title for these collections - but then one has to take the designation Noir with a pinch of salt.

By the way, Bad Girls of Film Noir 2 [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] is just as good if not better - both for unusual not-really-Noir stories and for picture quality.

Melody [DVD] [1971]
Melody [DVD] [1971]
Dvd ~ Roy Kinnear
Price: £9.98

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paradise by way of Lambeth Road, 19 Sept. 2010
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This review is from: Melody [DVD] [1971] (DVD)
The Formula transcended - but you'll yearn for a time machine.....

I first saw this film as part of a double bill with The Railway Children in 1973. The Railway Children was O.K. - it had trains in it anyway, but Melody (or S.W.A.L.K. as I remember it being billed) seemed bursting with anarchic life. It was the world I knew, only less restrained. The Railway Children, if a little sentimental, became (therefore) a deserved family classic, while Melody went underground. Why, I cannot understand.

Then, I was 11 and it was only because of this film that I could face going on to a secondary school where uniforms were compulsory - which I viewed as a kind of death. Maybe I could subvert the uniform and it would be like the school in the film? But for a start, there were no girls in the new school... In fact the one I'd just left was far closer.

Now, I can see how formulaic Melody is: It aims to be accessible and to appeal to all ages. It is a little sentimental (though this is almost entirely the fault of the songs). It is partly a Never Never Land, conceived from 50's childhoods viewed through 60's liberalism and set in the early 70's - which were the true 60's for most ordinary people. It is always sunny, except for artistic reasons. The wastegrounds are so beautiful....

But if there was a formula, by "Him up There" how transcended that formula is! The children are so real - even their occasional wooden-ness only deepens their reality. Jack Wild of course, can't help but steal every scene, he embodies the ideal, indomitable, working-class survivor, the one who would escape into that New World of sunlit uplands and perfect housing that was always coming...but never came...and which now we can see was perhaps just the last the gasp of post-war hope? Jack Wild was so alive - he and London ARE the film....but Mark Lester and Tracy Hyde are the still points of that turning world.

The adults naturally are caricatures, but Melody's working-class family (brilliant character actors all) are shown to be true. Most of all, the details are astounding, the streets, the faces, the sunlight on buildings, the traffic fumes, the pub on Sundays, the railways and seaside - they have a documentary clarity, but freely associated, no points are being made - which only makes them all the more. The film is vitally social, politcal but beyond politics - naturally socialist!

I knew many of these places and still know those of them left. Then it just seemed like everyday life, now I yearn for a time machine: this film is as close as you can get!

Melody is one of the best films about London that I can think of, and probably the truest about the idea of young love.
Even the fairly trashy pop-with-a-reaching-heart music is given power by the images it accompanies in the musical interludes. (If the film were soundtracked with greater music, say Radiohead's 'True Love Waits' or The Smiths 'Back to The Old House', would it become greater art?...or would the inevitable melancholy overwhelm??)

Perhaps in this 'review' I've gone overboard? All I know is that this film kept me awake thinking how much I must write this - if only for myself. You may not find all of these things in it and perhaps it would be better that way? But I've always believed in the unquiet mind....sometimes anyway!
If you know anyone with a time machine, let me know. It need only be able to travel backwards. As far as the thirties will do, and to return no later than the present day whenever desired.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 9, 2011 8:15 AM GMT

The Last Of England [DVD]
The Last Of England [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tilda Swinton
Price: £9.95

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So near...yet so far, 16 Sept. 2010
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This review is from: The Last Of England [DVD] (DVD)
The Last of England (which I thought looked good on this DVD - didn't it always have that distressed visual quality in places? Plus, the disc looks like it has some interesting extras) as a film starts and ends brilliantly, but unfortunately gets lost on the journey between the two...

After being fairly unimpressed on first viewing the film in the early 1990's I was encouraged to try it again when I happened to re-read Michael Bracewell's superb book ENGLAND IS MINE.

For ambition alone, The Last of England deserves 5 stars...but the sense of the potential it had (still has perhaps, in the viewer's mind) to be a film worthy to stand alongside Lindsay Andersons O LUCKY MAN, or even, holy of holies!, the masterpiece of Powell & Pressburger's A CANTERBURY TALE, is so frustrating that I'm forced, distressingly, to give it only 3.

With the intermittant voiceover running at the beginning, the words, the battery of images, the music; all combine to inspire, to heighten the level at which one's thoughts and intuitions are running....and want to keep running - which is not something very likely to happen in today's film/television/gimmick art, superficial, consumer world (was it ever?). The beautiful 1940-50's amateur films of Jarman's father and the stark images of urban wastelands (somestimes presided over by Cecil Collins' Holy Fool? - is that one allusion of the figure in the tall pointy hat?) need and elevate each other, combining in an elegaic symphony which could stimulate both a deep sense of history and a useful anger beyond despair. The bass and the treble are both there.

Less deliberately irritating than Godard's Histoire(s) du Cinema and potentially so much more worthwhile... If only it didn't start to fall apart in the middle.... Here some sections are just held for too long and the goblin of self-indulgence pushes upstage. The racing, stimulated intelligence just dosen't have enough to occupy it. Any worthwhile art must walk the escarpment of pretentiouness and self-indulgence, and all artists sometimes fall... If only Jarman had lived longer and been able to re-edit this central section...but perhaps he would've liked it just as it is? Unfortunately the ecstatic level is lost, which if it was just an ordinary film wouldn't matter too much, but here, one feels disinherited of some sublime birthright...which only shows signs of returning at the end....but by then its too late, and before we know it, we are heading into exile, leaving the last of England.

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