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Reviews

Rumble Fish
(1983)

Underrated tour de force
In Rumble Fish, much directorial and acting talent is brought together to produce a strange but effective work.

The soundtrack, by Stewart Copeland, is a tremendous backdrop to the arresting visuals. The soundtrack CD, even in isolation, is great music.

The film is beautifully shot entirely in black and white, with the exception of the Rumble (Siamese Fighting) Fish, of the title, a metaphor for Rusty James (Matt Dillon) and his brawl-prone friends. The monochrome photography is supposed to mirror the colour blindness of The Motorcycle Boy (Mickey Rourke).

The fish - and ergo the boys - will fight their own reflections, if there's nothing else to fight. For Rusty James and friends, fighting is an outlet for the frustrations of their doomed existence, born on the wrong side of the tracks, with few prospects. Rusty James yearns for a time when there were gangs, led by his brother The Motorcycle Boy. He wants more than anything to be like his brother, but can never get there. He lacks his brother's intelligence and is too stupid to understand that this is why he will never be like The Motorcycle Boy who, for his part, now regards the "rumbles" as childish.

The performances of Dillon, Rourke, Nicolas Cage, Vincent Spano, Diane Lane etc - are excellent. For me, though, Dennis Hopper, as the boys' alcoholic father, is startlingly good, unearthing real emotion from the pathos of his character's life. The intensity of his little bar-room speech about Rusty James' absent mother sends shivers up and down the spine.

Coppola must be credited for a unique and profound interpretation of SE Hinton's short novel. He employs stylistic flourishes - time-lapse photography, expanding and contracting shadows, monochrome-except-for-the-fish. He loads the film with symbolism and mood. For this, the film has been accused of pretentiousness and there is some justification for this, because it is not evident who it is aimed at. The book was teenage fiction, but the film is 18-rated. Much of the subtlety might be lost on the likely audience of a film which is ostensibly about youth gangs. However, if you can get past that, Rumble Fish remains a superb film and something you can watch repeatedly and always find rewarding.

Jabberwocky
(1977)

Well worth viewing, and viewing again!
A Python spin-off, owing much to the earlier 'Monty Python and The Holy Grail', Jabberwocky is a fine film in its own right, featuring a tremendous cast of British stalwarts, a regrettably high percentage of whom have since died. Harry H Corbett, John Le Mesurier, Max Wall, Bernard Bresslaw and Brian Glover all feature and none is still with us.

Disinherited by his father and therefore unable to win the hand of the appalling Griselda Fishfinger, who snacks on raw potatoes, gormless but optimistic Dennis Cooper (Michael Palin) sets off for the city to make his fortune. The city is somewhat under siege by the vicious Jabberwock(y), a beast influenced by Lewis Carrol's doggerel poem of the same name. Dennis, in the time-honoured tradition, is ultimately required to rid the city of the threat and accordingly claim half of King Bruno the Questionable's creaking kingdom and the hand in marriage of his beautiful daughter, notwithstanding the dubious but apparently lingering attractions of 'Greasy' Griselda.

The riotous succession of eccentric characters encountered along the way is what it's all about, of course, with a memorable string of ridiculous situations and occurrences and liberal spattering of mud and gore to be undergone. This film rewards repeated viewing, when previously unappreciated subtleties emerge. The Fishfinger family's changing attitude to Dennis, according to his perceived fortunes, Dennis narrowly escaping death or serious injury on a regular basis, Gordon Kaye appearing briefly, dressed inexplicably as a nun, the kingdom by degrees collapsing, there's a beggar who attracts charity by means of auto-amputation, street-racing merchants, the King displaying only intermittent episodes of lucidity, characters who step out of line are suddenly and brutally eliminated - it's all great fun.

Jabberwocky is less well known than the pure Python films, but none the worse for that.

Cairo
(1963)

Lackluster outing for Sanders et al
A surprisingly unenthusiastic piece, which should be a thriller but manages to seem only to go through the motions.

There is a certain amount of visual excitement and atmosphere in the bazaars of Cairo and the scenes between Sanders and Eric Pohlmann are interesting, but there is a somewhat detached feel to the theft itself, where it should be suspenseful.

Richard Johnson is an extraordinary choice for the part of Arab Ali Hassan. Even in black and white, his appearance is not that of an Arab and his accent is very English.

While not terrible, this film fails to excite much and is probably best ignored unless you have an academic interest.

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