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Different takes on old themes are welcome in my experience and 'Mud' has a few different takes on very old themes of adolescence and generational clashes.

Which is shown as two young teenage boys encounter their own early romantic adult lives and the outlasting, crippling, lingering of Mud's adolescent loving.

With a slow pace and long takes 'Mud' certainly doesn't flow fast but it is trying to operate at a tangent where actions are metaphors for human circumstances and characters exist as a network of relationships, some of them unconventional and emotionally complicated.

The performances are mainly adequate but the abstract tone forces a very reserved approach from the cast who don't really exhibit their characters as a consequence.

The film is simply too long and parts of the second and third acts could have been quickened.

Technical credits are sufficient and the writing achieves most of its targets with its human characters and themes.

I rate a 7/10 and I recommend to fans of indirect psychological thrillers and extensive character relationships.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Worrisome, strange and hard to love
Stanley Kubrick directed an array of films that stand as testimony to his vision of cinema and of humanity. 'Dr. Strangelove' certainly maintains itself in the pantheon of Kubrick creations commenting on film form and human behaviour.

Concerning itself with the madness of M. A. D doctrine in the height of the Cold War seems an obvious vehicle for a comedy film: in my opinion, too obvious. It's a straight forwards comedy which Kubrick and Sellers take too far on film.

Clearly the nuclear weapons arms race, weapons of mass destruction, mutually assured destruction, technological and ideological confrontation, east and west, was fertile ground for satire and parody in the 1960's for differently minded people and Kubrick was certainly differently minded.

The weakness that concerned many people then and now was of a rogue element within the political or military castes, on either side, breaking that balance of terror unilaterally and unaccountably by a determined act of sabotage.

'Dr. Strangelove' adequately uses this as it's departure point for a comedy about a black, dark, bleakly comedic situation where military doctrines then logically, irrevocably, inevitably doom the world.

This film will therefore appeal to people with a despairing sense of the madness of their fellows but mainly leave those already adjusted to this arrangement largely unmoved.

It is well acted and scenes are handled well, the small cast and sets are well enough designed and used, the narrative progresses relentlessly and the editing is quite tight.

I rate a 5/10 average score and I recommend to Kubrick completists and to fans of 60's counterculture and to those of an ironic contrarian disposition.

I feel that a straight film would have been better handled by Kubrick, with a knowingness settled in beneath the surface of the piece regarding the surreal bleak comedy of M. A. Dness at large.


Like a ship in a bottle 'Battleship' is trapped in a terrible story that ruins quite an interesting sci-fi idea of an alien invasion of Earth via the it's oceans which has to be fought off by naval power rather than the conventional airpower, land power or fantasy space fleets.

This story premise is not completely new but it's much less well travelled than many others and in terms of a wholesale "hard power" alien invasion of Earth story its new to me.

The premise is where all my stars are earned however; the actual execution of the film is more of a foundered ship than a bottled one and I can't endorse the film except to say that I enjoyed it's playful premise and mash up with the game 'battleships'.

The story is cast adrift in shark infested waters and the characters are barely laid down let alone launched or fitted out.

Sea trials and tribulations are boringly staged with set piece action at sea and on land settling equally low in the water.

The cast fail to gain any headway with their characters and the climax is as predictable as the tides.

I rate 3.5/10 because 'Battleship' has a little gleam of newness in its story outline but I can't get anything but salty about the actual film.

The Killers

The Fillers
A script so chock full of actors and filler that it readily reveals its t.v. Genesis, 'The Killers' suffers from a dreadful script most of all, but also from its t.v. Production standards, however it benefits from some casting choices and a really strong director.

This script treatment is so dull and flat that it really leaves it up to the director and the actors to carry the whole thing, especially when considering that the production values are lower than usual for a film with such a strong cast and renown director. Fortunately the cast and the director do pretty much carry this so there is still a good film experience for the keen viewer.

The story works like it's flat filler for so much of it's narrative because the premise is stacked with two very unbelievable and therefore unengaging premises: that Lee Marvin's lead hitman character would be so shocked by a different human reaction to death, as evidenced at the start of the film by their victim, played by John Cassavatas, and secondly that he would think to 'go rogue' and become an independent operator working for himself on the inside track of the various criminal circles that he haunts.

'The Killers' does afford the possibility that Marvin's protagonist is really just swinging for retirement and doesn't really mean what he says about any of his motivations and interest in the situation but it seems like this suggestion is just plot justifying dialogue to me personally and never received any inner character affirmation that I detected.

There are a lot of cutaway and flashback narrative jumps which are not really successful and increase the filler quota very greatly whilst doing little to improve the humanising of Angie Dickinson's femme fatale and her romance with Cassavatas.

But if you can stand the crud of a plot and the scrappy technical production Don Siegel and Lee Marvin work together to make an eye catching 1964 made for TV movie!

Marvin's hitman is calmly, calculatingly, vicious and increases his intensity as the film progresses until his character ends the thing deservedly top drawer.

Don Siegel thought needs a lot of credit as his interpretation of scenes keeps in synch with his cast and expands on Marvin's menace with tightly constructed vignettes of his visits to various villains and victims.

I rate 6.5/10 for the star power of Marvin and Siegel who have crafted a B-movie of terse power and class between them.

Terror in a Texas Town

Terrorists in a Texas tale
An odd feeling end to Joseph H Lewis' career in film direction suits the director well; as do the odd characters suit the uneven Sterling Hayden and the blackisted Nedrick Young whilst Carol Kelly gives snarky and downbeat support.

Lewis stamps his stylistic approach all over the film and the cast all relish playing it up.

Shots are composed, photographed and edited in typical Lewis fashion whilst a visual theme of carrying and drinking clumsily suggest the uneasy interest in abusers and outsider relationships.

The sound is nicely mixed and the locations are well chosen.

This must be viewed with the appreciation that it's not realistic or bothered with authenticity instead we are dealing with a statement of outsiders and abusers. That's about all the film is about: abusive people and stylised filmmaking.

I rate a good 6/10 and I recommend to fans of the director and of the principal cast very highly; for more neutral film fans it might be too, frankly, odd and camp.


A splendid, well paced, written and acted film with exemplary cinematography and direction 'Nightfall' is a minor classic and a brilliant film noir.

With a lesser known cast giving excellent performances as well rounded and motivated characters in a tense and mysterious story this is a must see for film noir fans.

The first half is a mystery, with several characters operating according to undefined relationships and the second half builds into a suspense and tension filled climax.

Even the unusual introductory musical score enhances the mystery element by misdirection regarding the tone of the film to follow.

I rate a superior 8/10 and had there been slightly tighter handling of the dramatic climax I would have rated even higher.

I recommend to all film noir fans and 50's film fans; Aldo Ray was unknown to me until this performance but the longer he spends on screen 'Nightfall' the more I appreciated his performance. He has good support throughout and the photography, the locations and the sound mix all need complementing.

The Big Country

Too Big Runtime
Overlong and inefficient but powerful and well handled by almost all involved, 'The Big Country' has lots of everything including some giant steaks that defy sense...also high stakes over watering access and personality clashes between two cattle ranching dynasties.

Gregory Peck is the protagonist and his character gets a long time to take in the situation, for my money, too long.

The musical score is commendable and fits the scale and tone of the piece and the sound design is well blended.

Some indoor scenes are rather static, clunky and flat but when outdoors they are well staged and photographed almost all the way through.

'The Big Country' is always at its best when outdoors with its overlarge themes and characters having sufficient room to show off.

The performances are strong across the cast, with particular mention for Gregory Peck who handles the different tempos his character must exhibit with a well crafted performance, he gets good support, and Burl Ives handles his part with zest.

After such a protracted narrative it's a shame that certain interactions are too neatly curtailed to be believable, which occurs more and more as a rather unbelievable climax approaches.

The climax is my main reservation regarding 'The Big Country': it's unbelievable, overly drawn out, and then gives neat and tidy resolutions to character conflicts, not just once or twice but several times over and this after a bloated duration setting the climax up whilst some characters disappear from view altogether such as Carrol Baker's cast aside fiance.

Here the inefficiency of the film is most easily observed as it thuds along, neat resolution piled upon neat conclusion after a timorously slow and tangential build up of over two hours screen time.

However it has a power in its topic of western standards, it's theme of resource and family rivalry, it's tone of a contemplative and comparative protagonist and beautiful scenery, excellent cast and marvelous score; none of which can be ignored.

I rate a 7/10, just about a seven, and I recommend to fans of Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Burl Ives and fans of long films that provide an immersion in broad themes, topics and tonalities.

Men in Black: International

Muddled and Bland: Interminable
A film like 'Men in Black: International' needs really good writing or genuinely personable and charismatic stars. Preferably both. This hasn't. The writing is dreadful and the cast give bland and bored performances befitting their anemic characters and story and the two lead stars are easily outperformed by the uneven special effects.

I don't blame the actors, even the lifeless leads, it seems that the writing, the director, the producers and the editor are the culprits to me. Probably the issue is the script: a sequel/reboot made so long after a franchise has petered out really needed a plot and set pieces to stand out. This has a dreadful muddle of a plot and action set pieces of mind numbing boredom plus special effects of uneven design and very uneven execution, I will say however that I never detected a moment where I thought that the director had managed to add anything to the composition of a scene or to an actor's performance.

Overall I would have to say that this is a stinker. It does get a handful of stars from me though because two jokes registered, very slightly, and a couple, just a couple, of alien effects were engaging.

Overall boring and bland film production design also hindered the effort, a bland score, boring sound design, and very ugly photography also afflicted my enjoyment: simply put I have never seen the actors in this cast looking so immediately and deeply ugly on screen.

I rate a 3/10 and I don't recommend to anyone really. There are a couple of moments in the mix that are slightly better than the rest but, in my opinion, it's probably a film to watch while you are sleeping if you must put it on.

The Naked Spur

The bag of gold
Robert Ryan plays a sly and sneaky, no good, and one time killer, being hunted for his bounty by James Stewart and a collection of opportunistic and dubious tag along accomplices. Janet Leigh plays a young female who is being "guardian-ed", or groomed, or covertly kidnapped, by Ryan's antagonist.

Such a set up of characters and agendas makes for a lot of dialogue and a simple narrative that is well paced, captured in beautiful cinematography and accompanied by a subtle and complementary sound design.

The characters are all involved in this bounty hunt for compromised motives and the film details the distortions and tensions that the situation creates between unfriendly comrades, stoked all the way by Robert Ryan's cunning criminal who can read his captors well enough to realise that they are all greedy, deceitful and desperate men brought together by chance meetings.

'The Naked Spur' is scripted, directed and acted so as to gradually develop the realisation of each characters tawdry nature through the characters reactions to experiencing extended time and travails together and in the earlier phases it succeeds well in this. In essence each character is involved in something that they'd rather not be in but they won't let the bounty go and insist on their troubled partnership to get their share of the reward.

As the narrative progresses the tension and division is shown to boil over to a climax that seems to make 'The Naked Spur' predictable and clichéd: it uses the romantic sincerity developed between Stewart and Leigh's leads to provide an atonement that gives her salvation from a depraved future and provides redemption for Stewart's broken, morally corrupted, degraded character; really a story of moral redemption through romantic purity.

This seems to cloud the skill and balance by which Stewart's character is being shown for the first half of the film however and really, perhaps, beneath the obvious morality tale romance there is a knowing darker side to this tale of redemption regarding James Stewart's protagonist Howard Kemp: a side illuminated by Ralph Meeker's dissolute discharged US army lieutenant where he speaks with brutal honesty about them all, and most potently of Stewart's character when he calls Robert Ryan's villain not a man, but a bag of gold, to all of them, and most of all to Stewart.

This is the rebuke that crystallises the whole films treatment of all it's characters: their foibles and errors, and especially James Stewart's, and it explains his final motivation to renounce his bounty and thereby cleanse himself of his own past's pain.

This theme of morality, the treatment of characters and bleak tone run all through the film and are bookended by confrontations on rocky outcrops with flowing perils of rivers in spate and rock slides and people making pacts for money at the start and against money at the end.

I feel that 'The Naked Spur' is almost a great film, very nearly, but not quite; I rate 7.5/10 and I commend the direction, the acting, the photography and the sound design highly: the writing is almost there but it fluffs some of its power as it reaches its denouncement and the musical score is uneven in how it engages with the drama of the film: sometimes beautifying it and at other times hammering it.

I recommend to fans of character westerns, to fans of Robert Ryan, James Stewart and most of all Anthony Mann; beautiful scenery and cinematography mean that location fans will be satisfied too.

The Man Who Never Was

The characters who hardly were
A nicely made 'stiff upper lip school' example of British war film reflecting on the second world war, where calm and reserve threaten to deaden the drama of a cadaver sent to war in the name of British military deception.

The greatest reserve is shown in the writing of the principal characters who, barring Gloria Graham's character development, have little in the way of definition.

'The Man Who Never Was' remains a testament to British deception and this is it's single defining feature: obviously the narrative is mainly based on a factual operation that was a probable success in actually aiding the allied amphibious invasion of Sicily, at a time when the western allies were still learning that skill and still in the earlier stages of pushing the axis powers backwards from their conquests.

However the film itself stands as a deception in that it omits any mention of British cypher intelligence and British military espionage which were both considerable successes in the conflict and it is therefore, even as a film, a sort of continuation of a deception.

Clearly the degree of British success in cypher breaking and espionage and military deception and black propaganda in the second world war was deemed to still be sensitive in the 1950's i.e. Secrecy about these deceptions was still deemed beneficial to British decision makers.

Also 'The Man Who Never Was' contains some interesting moments of reflection on the multiple identities contained in British nationhood and how they relate to Englishness and non-Englishness with Scottish, Welsh and Irish perspectives being repeatedly offered, or at least suggested.

Personally I feel that this deception that defines the whole film is what causes it to teeter on the brink of being detached from believable characters and situations all through its narrative but the sheer audacity of the original operation does come across in the end.

The production is mainly professional and seems authentic in its sets and locations. The actors all do well with what they've got, particularly the smaller support players and Gloria Graham gets a nicely unusual character of an American woman in wartime Britain surrounded by British servicemen and her character permits some emoting even if the circumstances are often rather too contrived.

Overall I rate a good 6/10 and I genuinely think that if watched as a grand deception this film still contains some power, however, if watched "straight" I would hesitate to fully recommend it to most film fans because it seems to require some sympathetic viewing to gain full enjoyment; in the end though the palpable panache of the original story enables this cautious film treatment to work adequately even as a straight film.

The Magnificent Seven

The mouldy story
A tale now so old that it's growing mould and mildew fails to enliven several boring blokes and their meandering film.

Lavish props and costumes are the main plus point alongside Denzel Washington: he generates two stars by himself and the third is for the wardrobe department.

If this had been made by an action movie star in the 1980's or 90's muscle men boom it would have been laughable; but twenty years after that style was in its pomp it provides very thin servings: explosions are plentiful, as are guns and gunpowder but there is no spark from the script, the acting quality is varied as some very limited characters drag down competent actors whilst some unremarkable actors fail all by themselves.

Direction is poor but the editing somewhat redeems some scenes and sequences.

Basically this film has no reason to be and it shows throughout.

Denzel Washington is worth a look and Hollywood still has excellent costume designers, makeup artists and lighting specialists but I struggle to laud anything creative.

I rate a 3.5/10 for some slight flashes of entertainment and good professional work by the technical crews.

The Wrong Man

The Wronged Man
Henry Fonda holds forth in an understanding and understated performance as the wrongly treated innocent suspect in a string of armed hold-ups. Clearly aided and abetted by a firm but steady direction and un-showy supporting characters Fonda plays it all with an impeccably straight face.

The first act crackles with realistic details and an atmosphere of seeping, sweeping inevitability regarding Fonda's protagonist.

The middle has slightly less rounded dramatic credentials but has marvelous physical depictions of sleepwalking through the stages of incarceration and interrogation.

The final act is slightly less focused, less powerful and less memorable with less well defined characters, less clear plot points, and different focuses where the real perpetrator of the crimes and Fonda's wife become increasingly prominent.

Overall the protagonist is made to be unimpeachable in his character, with the patience and fortitude of an old testament prophet, but whilst this makes for an occasionally limp leading character it suitably foregrounds the horribleness of being wrongly treated, especially when you are also nearly powerless to defend yourself and witless about how to start.

Overall I feel that 'The Wrong Man' has a 6.5/10 level as a drama but I'm rounding this upwards to a 7/10 in part due to the score and sound design being excellent and the location shooting being highly effective in this true life tale.

I recommend highly to Henry Fonda fans, to anyone interested in criminal justice/maljustice films and to fans of classical Hollywood realism; for fans of Hitchcock I think that you should try it for its unusual value.

A Monster Calls

A moaning weepie
An unexpected throwback to 'womens pictures' or 'weepies' of the cinematic distant past; 'A Monster Calls' has a lot of grief and gristle.

It has a fine voice acting performance from Liam Neeson and an impressive performance from Lewis MacDougall.

Grief, guilt and gristle permeate everything and make 'A Monster Calls' a boring and unlikable tale constrained by its fantasy from being too honestly human and too deeply entrenched in woe to utilise it's fantastical situation.

I was not sufficiently informed by the film critics that I saw or read reviews of this film from that this was such an old fashioned type of movie of the type that would be aimed squarely at the feminine market multiple decades ago.

I rate a 2/10 because I did not enjoy the film any more than this and the two stars are for the two previously mentioned performances.

I do not offer a personal recommendation to any film fans that I can fathom but a warning as to the nature of this beast: only watch if you are ready for some very old fashioned old wives stuff.

Son of Rambow

Sentimental or rambling
Adequate, albeit unusual film, with few laughs, few memorable moments and few mentionable characters 'Son of Rambow' fails to go on a rampage for a long feeling hour and a half.

Establishing it's story with a decidedly feeble introduction the film does slowly, very slowly, build momentum and energy and eventually it manages to hit predictable story beats in a solid manner. For the most part.

The young leads are occasionally interesting but usually dead wood trying to bring odd-job characters to life; the other adolescents and children are meaningless and the adults undeveloped and therefore the acting for those roles is negligible.

The score adds little, sound design is pared down and the production design has a few charming props and locations.

The script is the key here: it's not particularly good in any department, but it builds up it's narrative adequately well, and that's why 'Son of Rambow' holds its own at a 4/10 level; a few more jokes, pertinent dialogues, human gestures; a few more moments of adult involvement, a few more developed scenes and a less incomplete ending would improve things for my personal enjoyment.

I recommend to quirky film fans. And fans of quirky films.

I rate a 4/10 because there is a good premise and an honest attempt at the material in 'Son of Rambow' and both the young leads commit their fullest to the endeavour however it's not really funny or nostalgic or enlivened with brilliant scenes or supporting characters.

Gun Crazy

Car Driving me Crazy
'Gun Crazy' has two leads, male and female, embarking on a joint, marital, crime and delinquent driving spree based loosely on the stories surrounding Bonnie and Clyde from the 30's.

Directed by a candidate for best all time B-movie director Joseph H. Lewis, 'Gun Crazy' actually seems to have more in common with his earlier, somewhat famous, semi films noir: 'My Name is Julia Ross' and 'So Dark the Night' than with his later, Uber stylish, and more well known ultra film noir 'The Big Combo'.

Lewis certainly leaves his mark on his film: the car based sections of the film are rightfully famous to film buffs; and his frequent use of windows and mirrors as framing devices; light sources, camera angles, scene blocking and long takes are of such a filmmaking quality that even a flat as a pancake film score can't drag scenes down below the level of interest for the viewer.

This is strictly B-movie territory: produced by the King Brothers and featuring a definitely 'b' calibre cast in leads Peggy Cummings and John Dall who both fail to capitalise on their characters in several scenes but find enough in their performances to carry 'Gun Crazy' to it's climax.

As with Joseph H Lewis' earlier films noir 'Gun Crazy' has an unusual structure for its protagonists and a clear theme that forms it's narrative. This combination, along with the traditional director input of Lewis with his camera and scene staging, is what elevates 'Gun Crazy' to heady heights.

The protagonists are, as with many films noir, unbalanced: the male lead is the protagonist but the female lead is actually the narrative force: we experience the film through John Dall's male lead but it's Peggy Cummings' female lead who drives the plot and narrative flow, it's just that this structure isn't immediately obvious and hence gives the destabilising effect that this arrangement often achieves in film noir.

The theme of the film seems to be built from the same dynamic as the split protagonists: we share the male leads experience whilst the female lead actually drives the story: in essence the theme of the film is literally stated in it's alternative title "Deadly is the Female"; in that whilst Dall's character is a gun obsessive and outcast Peggy Cummings' character is a man eater and sociopath.

The essential clue to this, and incidentally the indicator that this film is not about sex itself at all, but about the use of sex: use by the director to motivate his actors and spice his film, and use by the characters to keep each other going is the balanced bookending between the prologue and the climax.

The prologue pains itself to paint it's male lead, as a child, as a gun obsessive outcast, who through his obsession with guns eventually gets into trouble, and is ultimately punished with utter banishment for it.

That's actually repeated exactly in Dall's character journey in adulthood in the main story if the film. Secondly he will not kill, he hates killing, and this is established by him visiting the local hills and refusing to participate with his two best friends in killing a predatory animal with their firearm.

To these same local hills at the films climax he will return, and this time he will kill an even worse predator to protect his two best friends: his wife, the sociopathic serial killer of Peggy Cummings' female lead.

This brings us to Peggy Cummings, her character is the deadly one, Dall's a gun obsessive she's gun crazed.

Her use of sexual allure is established at the very start as she realises the connection Dall has to her gun play and via that to her feminine self. Dall is warned of the nature of her sexual charms; that he's a fool with women, but by a carnival clown no less, and so he doesn't heed the warning and prophecy.

He sees an acrimonious break up of what turns out to be a failed criminal partnership as well as semi romantic partnership between Cummings and their employer but interprets it gallantly as her escape from an unwelcome boyfriend.

Once they run off together Dall insists on marriage and talks of jobs whilst Cummings allows this and then allows him to impoverish himself by honeymooning with her to their last bean.

Then she leads, encourages him, to be her 'extra gun' using his honest infatuation and his sexual desire for her. Once he's used to having and needing her and spending on her she uses his insolvency combined with sexual intimacy to control him to ever escalating crime.

Cummings' devastating character falls gradually in love also....but it seems to be self love of an alignment of fortunes that put this man into her path and thrall. Essentially she is in love with him being in love with her and the deeds that that enables them to do together.

Gradually he learns, reluctantly he realises, and hence the climax of 'Gun Crazy' resolves into his humane, pitiful, pitiable and atoning murder-suicide to protect his two best friends in his childhood hills from the dangerous predator that he loves and followed.

I rate a full blooded 8/10 and had slightly better acting been added to the mix, and somewhat more well defined supporting characters, together with a better score, I would rate 'Gun Crazy' a full blown ten. I recommend to every film noir fan, to any film buff and to fans of the director....plus fans of vintage car driving.

The Furies

The faded
'The Furies' from 1950 stands and falls by its characters as the situation of the story is trite and deliberately over turbulent: when the characters are well written, acted and directed scenes are vivid but at other times 'The Furies' fades very badly into ham and hock.

Inconsistencies in tone and temperature are unresolvable and suggest to me a troubled experience during the production.

The photography is nice and the sets befitting the tale but the cast are inconsistent in their efforts to animate their characters and the themes of the film.

If you enjoy a different branch of western from the hay day of the American genre: as the late forties rolled into the early fifties; try 'The Furies' and partake of it's heavy handed assault on it's themes of family, rivalry, sex, greed, ambition, hubris and revenge made in an very offkilter manner due to its axis of attack being centered on a daughter-father-mistress power struggle and utilising usually indirect methods of character intrigue including sexual skirmishes and financial dealings and ploys.

I rate a cautious 6/10 and I recommend to people interested in a somewhat different take on the western, to fans of Walter Houston and Anthony Mann and to film fans who enjoy sexual politics. Certainly it is worth seeing for its unusual narrative crux.

For myself I don't elevate 'The Furies' any higher than this because it simply defies my suspension of disbelief at several junctures and overplays it's themes, undercuts it's characters, has too inconsistent a level of acting, a narrative that is overlong and uneven and ultimately leaves all of its characters insufficiently humanised for my own inclinations. Possibly a harsh and determined re-edit would greatly enhance the effect for me personally.

Gojira, Mosura, Kingu Gidorâ: Daikaijû sôkôgeki

Solid, steady and creaky goofs
'Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah' trundles along at an acceptable rate, turning over a few stones but never really uprooting any trees with its either it's themes or its execution.

Godzilla has a physical redesign befitting his casting as a gruesome antagonist and the smaller cutesy guardian creatures are primly presented.

The action scenes are laced with a little dark humour but almost no elan whatsoever.

Scenes are set up and staged in clunky and obvious ways and the editing fails to add to the atmosphere.

The first act is the best part of the film where new ideas and interpretations are at their freshest and the narrative is adequately layered scene by scene. These qualities of the film diminish very rapidly however.

I rate a 4.5/10 with applause for the new ideas and angles attempted in this Godzilla film but after the first act it's actually quite a boring and plodding development which fritters it's originality on extremely obvious and well used routines.

Score is satisfactory and the sound effects fair but the visual designs are lackluster and sets and costumes boring.

I recommend to Godzilla fans as this installment has a genuinely different vibe and starts off with a some wit too however for general action/fantasy fans this has as many deficiencies as pluses.

Der schweigende Stern

Failed Storytelling on Earth
Silence would have been golden in this film otherwise known as 'The Silent Star': there is quite possibly a passable silent movie hiding beneath the dreadful dialogue, limp sound design and limited score; not to mention wooden acting, static direction and clunky editing.

A cast of actors playing unconvincingly as a crew of boffins in a stilted science script seem to be completely undirected during dialogue scenes and badly directed during physical scenes.

The editing is so severe that almost no semblance of human interactions remain in the American cut, only a bare bones story, absurdly handled, of Venusian technological Armageddon filtered through the narrative structure of a mystery/exploration formula.

As an historical document this film can be watched for some interest but unless it is reworked into a silent film I don't think that I could recommend that 'First Spaceship on Venus' will excite or entertain.

I rate 3.5/10 because there is a little historical value in this film, and also some production design work is worth seeing with some sets, models and props being quite nice. I can only give a guarded recommendation to hardened fans of this kind of nonsense otherwise I would advise staying within Earth's gravity well.

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers

Earth Vs Fabulous sci-fi
A fabulous demonstration of elan and endeavour overcoming material shortcomings, 'Earth Vs the Flying Saucers' has very special effects from Harryhausen and a well balanced pair of leads played by Hugh Marlowe and Joan Taylor as husband and wife scientists.

The script provides a simple tale enhanced with imaginative touches and some powerful sci-fi scenes. Conversely it doesn't trouble to develop its central characters very far past the first act and gives no attention to any supporting characters.

Just enough character work and world building is built into the early scenes however that as the drama unfolds and the action and animation take centre stage 'Earth Vs The Flying Saucers' retains its ability to push through phases of exposition and narration and keep its dynamic moving until the ever escalating effects animation climax.

The overall effect is engaging and entertaining if you can accept the slower pacing and editing and the more static shots that go with a 50's b-movie.

I rate a well satisfied 6.5/10 and I recommend this quick 80ish minute film to any and all film fans who might have any interest in this era and this genre.

20 Million Miles to Earth

Round and round in circles
'20 Million Miles to Earth' orbits a good, inventive and off kilter story without ever achieving touchdown, or even a final approach.

A Venusian animal has an involuntary and often interrupted jaunt round 1950's Italy whilst the US military wants it's capture and it's Italian hosts it's destruction.

This is an odd and promisingly unorthodox storyline which starts off quite nicely and ultimately erupts into Roman battles at the end.

In-between however it saggs and solidifies into rather pedestrian pursuits.

The Venusian creature is a splendid addition to both 50's sci-fi and Ray Harryhausen lore and it alone is worth seeing '20 Million Miles' for.

The off-centre story is also diverting for a while before drifting into utter predictability and the big set piece is well animated but fails to satisfactorily gel with the live action components.

The acting is barely adequate; the same can be said for directing, editing, cinematography, costumes and sound design.

I rate a 5.5/10 which I almost round up to a 6 score thanks to a few moments of genuine brilliance in the Harryhausen animation but the film as a whole is a disappointment considering how it uses, or fails to use, it's initial unusual features.

I recommend to all film fans who have an interest in this genre, this period of cinema and of Ray Harryhausen but be prepared to find a tinge of regret at how good a film this could so easily have been.

It Came from Beneath the Sea

It benefits from Ray Harryhausen
A low profile 50's 'nuclear weapons perverting nature' creature feature film elevated by a superior finale courtesy of some marvelous Harryhausen six legged octopus effects; 'It Came from Beneath the Sea' provides fairly few highlights before the final quarter hour however.

A basically cheap and rapid production has a few "battle if the sexes" dialogues to enervate a simple love triangle romantic subplot which passes for character depiction and development. The actors do their best with clunking lines and the principal stars are passable; the supporting players are less successful. The direction and editing is simple and fits the blockish sets and props.

Really this would be a very limited offering of its genre and of almost no merit in a general film sense apart from the glorious climax provided by Harryhausen's famous six-legs "octopus" going on the obligatory rampage. This contains some really good stuff.

I rate a 5/10 but I'm really rounding up my score due to the quality of the final act. I recommend to people looking to explore Harryhausen's filmography and to hardened fans of 50's genre films but this isn't close to top quality work as a whole.

Godzilla vs. Kong

King Kong V Guest opponent
Fun fantasy film: great fighting mayhem and monster smashing and a nice hollow earth sci-fi adventure story; 'Godzilla Vs Kong' ticks a lot more boxes than its predecessors in the "monsterverse" managed.

Fierce scrapping and usually spectacular special effects animation make Godzilla Vs Kong about the best monster combat experience available.

On the other hand it far too frequently attempts to be a comedy film, at which it is atrocious, every single painful struggle for levity is flatter than a flat earth.

It's amazingly badly directed but this could be to accommodate both the shallow writing and the demands of post production effects.

The cast does its best with uninspired characters, storylines and dialogues but nobody prevails against the hollow script.

The score is satisfactory but adds nothing and the cinematography is bland.

King Kong is the main monster and Godzilla, as well as looking far more biological than in the previous films from legendary, plays the support part.

The third monster is barely creditable but this is the least of 'Godzilla Vs Kong' worries because the baddies are bland and pathetic which is much the more serious problem.

I rate 5.5/10 for the sheer panache but there's nothing else here except rare good quality computer animated special effects.

I recommend to anyone who has doubts of the monsterverse to try this one.

At Gunpoint

Attains it's point
Monogram pictures reacted to the rise of television with their 'Allied Artists' banner which made B+ films in colour with recognisable lead actors along with budget and production scales far beyond the new formats reach whilst remaining far more reasonable an undertaking than a "Major" studio's standard pic of the time.

'At Gunpoint' fits this description perfectly and is a fine example of the type.

There is far more on display than a TV show could muster but nothing like the expensive expanses of a Biggie film either.

Fred MacMurray and Walter Brennan give steady performances to take us all the way through the 80-ish minute runtime as good western elements are mashed together to make a character and dialogue based suspense western in the vein of 'The Ox-bow Incident' and, obviously, 'High Noon' set in a small town unused to big doings.

I found the middle act to be the strongest as inner and external struggles eat away at MacMurray's protagonist.

Sadly the rest of 'At Gunpoint' is less engaging mainly due to the undeveloped baddies appearing to behave like automata at the behest of the script and the townsfolk "neighbours" really over-egging the ostracism of our unsuspecting and unwanted hero.

A predictable finale almost threatens to be dramatic before resolving into a safe resolution.

There is solid direction with well photographed scenes in an outdated colour format and the production design doesn't let anyone down with sets, costumes, props and lighting.

I rate a 4.5/10 and recommend to any fans of Fred MacMurray and of the 50's Westerns style; also film fans interested in 'Allied Artists' and the last flickers of Poverty Row Hollywood before the TV age really killed it should try 'At Gunpoint': it hits the mark

Seven Days in May

Six stars in Rating
Controlled and concentrated to a palpable pitch, 'Seven Days in May' could almost be described as 'constipated'.

The acting, dialogue and direction all suggest a deeply constrained tone that makes Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas seem to be competing for the status of most understated performance when playing their respective characters.

The script has a problem with believability.......namely the firing mechanism for the constitutional conflict between the military hawks and the dove president......has anyone who has ever watched this film suspended their disbelief regarding this premise?

This seems doubly difficult to me to willingly believe when the Russian/Soviet party to the disarmament agreement are never shown or described in person.

Also the political background and career of the president whose policies have provoked the crises are undisclosed and undiscovered.

Therefore the context of the political and moral actions of the military hawks, and specifically Lancaster's 4-Star Air Force General, is undramatic and 'Seven Days in May' gains it's only drama from the development of its script in tension and suspense, whereas a more believable premise, or a more roundly represented fictitious geopolitical diplomacy would aid in making the film more emotionally engaging.

Also more lively performances would have helped here.

On balance however the story does develop an interesting query about the loyalty of people to their cause and how people can interpret that cause in more or less extreme ways.

The stars of cast, and the able character actors in support, do bring some charisma and confidence to the screen, even if only intermittently, as they develop their performances.

The musical score is sometimes involving, sometimes redundant; the photography and costumes and sets are satisfactory if unremarkable, and the editing seldom injects pace into deliberately paced scenes.

I rate a "good" 6/10 score but this is mainly for the sincerity of the film and for some proficient production and a certain quota of actor investment from the entire cast which make this film seem greater than it probably is.

I can only recommend to fans of the cast or the director, for other film fans this is good and sincere film making but dramatically neutered and emotionally undeveloped for the most part.

The Asphyx

Aplomb and lousy plumbing
Played with deliberate and overstated aplomb by Robert Stephens and supported by a solid cast 'The Asphyx' is in one sense a fairly typical entry in the British period-gothic-literary-horror but it has a different aspect to it that is possibly brought on by the very imaginative, and cheap as chips, production design and the melodramatic family morality of its story.

The story has an interesting premise, there are several characters in motion in the script with upper class marital and familial relations being at issue and inventive production designs and a well put together visual style and music.

All of which makes this one worth catching if you have a penchant for this kind of horror film.

Unfortunately the plot develops more in giant leaps of absurdity than in meaningful small steps of drama, at times Robert Stephens goes complete "ham" instead of deliberate but calculating "broad" and it suffers, despite its inventive props and carefully sorted sets, from what appears to be a miniscule budget and production.

There are only a very few different sets, a small speaking cast, few costumes, bland makeup, few outdoor scenes, and very few extras employed.

This would not be such a problem if the film wasn't either making very big claims about the human condition in order to derive it's horror from delving into human death and personal grim reapers and immortality; or had much more tightly written, and played, believable human characters instead of "melodrama incarnate family" which would then create a sense of the universality of the subject matter.

As it is, 'The Asphyx' asks too much, it's plot is full of holes, it's characters are ripe melons of melodrama and morality and it's production scale is insufficient to carry it's themes off by sheer cinematic zest. This might explain the very meaty lead performance by Robert Stephens: he is trying to carry this thing by an actors conviction where better 'in detail' writing and/or more money and upscaled production are really needed to pull all this gunky junky horror and existential musing together?!

On balance I rate this at a 5/10 average-goodish rating but I am partial to slightly offbeat British literary style genre pictures and my recommendation to others with a different taste could be amiss so I would say if you are versed in this style give it a go otherwise be cautious because the other obvious interpretation of 'The Asphyx' is that it's just silly, ripe, and almost inane nonsense with more plot silliness and character angst than horror or macabre effect; if it doesn't appeal to your taste!

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