richardchatten

IMDb member since May 2016
    Lifetime Total
    2,500+
    Lifetime Name
    1+
    Lifetime Filmo
    10+
    Lifetime Plot
    1+
    Lifetime Trivia
    5+
    Lifetime Image
    25+
    Poll Taker
    10x
    IMDb Member
    4 years, 5 months

Reviews

Recoil
(1953)

Avenging Angel
The 'other' Ian Fleming plays the lovely Elisabeth Sellars' father and Edward Underdown and Keiron Moore are rather unlikely siblings in this talky but well-acted and languidly ruthless little crime drama with the usual atmospheric photography by co-producer Monty Berman and some surprisingly violent action.

Jack London
(1943)

Jack London vs. the Yellow Peril
Beginning and ending with the launching of the battleship Jack London. This is one of numerous films made by the combatant nations during the Second World War posthumously enlisting an eminent countryman of the past in support of the present war effort.

In this case it's author Jack London who in the second half of this highly romanticised biopic, after witnessing the Japanese denying water to prisoners and machine-gunning civilians is transformed into a two-fisted action hero grimly determined to spread the word about the need to stop the continued imperial ambitions of the Land of the Rising Sun.

Stazione Termini
(1953)

The Long Goodbye
It's easy to imagine this starring Ingrid Bergman as originally intended, but with David Selznick signing the cheques Jennifer Jones inevitably played the lead and is in fact extremely well-cast suffering at a railway station in a chic little suit as Celia Johnson had done in 'Brief Encounter'.

Rome's Stazione Termini as lensed by the great Italian cameraman G.R.Aldo provides a majestic backdrop, and with Ms Jones usually in the foreground the eye is ravished throughout. Aldo was ironically killed soon afterwards in a car crash while making his first film in colour (Visconti's 'Senso'); and this is actually one Italian neo-realist film that would probably have worked even better in high contrast Sirkian Technicolor.

Something to Live For
(1952)

When a Man Loves a Woman
The presence of Ray Milland prompts memories of 'The Lost Weekend', but it's emphasis of the relationship between two professional people is more like 'Days of Wine and Roses'.

Despite the star power of it's leads (Fontaine is particularly touching ), it's production values (particularly George Barnes' glacial photography), and the fact that George Stevens made it between 'A Place in the Sun'and 'Shane', Andrew Sarris managed to entirely omit this very low-keyed romantic drama from his seminal book 'American Cinema'; although such lack of ostentation links it to Stevens' other postwar chamber pieces 'I Remember Mama' (1948) and his final film, 'The Only Game in Town' (1969), the latter equally obscure today.

Doctor in Love
(1960)

Carry On Doctor
The first 'Doctor' film without Dirk Bogarde is also the first to strongly resemble a 'Carry On', with several veterans of the 'Carry On' series (including Joan Sims, also in the original 'Doctor in the House') and several others who became features of the smuttier parallel series. The humour was already becoming more off-colour here (and it's in colour, which the budget of the 'Carry On's didn't yet run to).

We actually see Lady Spratt in this episode (played by Ambrosine Phillpotts), but James Robertson Justice is himself absent much of the time; while in place of Bogarde we get the more abrasive Michael Craig, who plainly doesn't fit in with such frivolity and otherwise steered well clear of either series.

The Magnet
(1950)

No Peace for the Wicked
Ealing often sent their crews to exotic locations and the claim in the opening credits that this fanciful whimsy was filmed at Ealing Studios - unusually without Alec Guinness - is ironically promptly contradicted by its's vivid rendering by cameraman Lionel Banes of the Merseyside locations around which a young 'William' Fox (as he was then called) is pursued; although Banes does also do an atmospheric job on the interiors.

The Broken Melody
(1934)

Man Adrift
John Garrick looks far too beefy to be a poor struggling young composer starving in a garret turned inmate of Devil's Island, and Merle Oberon far too chic as wifey pining while he dallies with high maintenance blonde diva Margot Grahame (at one point almost spilling out of a low-cut slip at one point which doubtless accounts for the eight minutes cut on reissue) in this incredible melodrama which starts as 'Waltzes from Vienna' then turns into 'Papillon'; made when Dreyfus was still alive.

With Julius Hagen's production values in the adroit hands of director Bernard Vorhaus it remains very watchable for it's brief running time in which an awful lot happens; further padded out by being unnecessarily narrated in flashback.

Checkpoint
(1956)

Fast Company
Another piece of fifties Rank escapism that proudly declares itself 'A British Film' in the opening credits before promptly decamping to a glamorous foreign location (in this case Florence) where we meet glamorous women against the glamorous and macho backdrop of motor racing, international crime and fisticuffs. All in glamorous fifties Eastman Color while composer Bruce Montgomery blares away in the background!

The Scarlet Pimpernel
(1934)

An Englishman Abroad
Yet another British film of the thirties made by Hungarians (including Sir Percy himself, Leslie Howard), with a director and cameraman imported from Hollywood and the French villain played by a Canadian.

Like much history, the film is viewed through what came afterwards; and most viewers when they come to this movie now, do so via the much livelier 1941 update, 'Pimpernel Smith'. This 'straight' version, which had a difficult gestation (the original director - also American - was fired) emerges as handsome but rather cold and talky; rather like Sir Percy himself. But with actors of the calibre of Howard and Raymond Massey as the two central antagonists, whose complaining? The ending has been much criticised, but I personally thought it was pretty cool.

The Boy Who Stole a Million
(1960)

Hue and Cry in Valencia
The fine job Charles Crichton did with Jon Whitely on 'Hunted' doubtless led to him being assigned by Bryanston to this slightly more ambitious variant on the sort of thing the Children's Film Foundation were starting to make (such as 'Hunted in Holland' the following year) depicting a pursuit involving a kid against a backdrop of travelogue. Fellow Ealing veterans Douglas Slocombe and Tristram Carey supplied the location photography and the gallumphing score.

The Creation of the Humanoids
(1962)

Rise of the Machines
Sixty years after it was originally shot this unique movie continues to divide the still tiny number of people that have actually seen it, from Susan Sontag & Andy Warhol - the latter quoted by David Bourdon in the 5 December 1964 edition of 'The Village Voice as calling it "the best movie he has ever seen" - to Leonard Maltin, who gives it a 'BOMB' rating.

Obviously screenwriter Jay Simms knew his sci-fi, and it remains one of the very few sci-fi movies accurately to reflect fifties magazine fiction and visually to evoke the cover art of the era. With expressionistic sets stylishly lit by veteran cameraman Hal Mohr, it resembles one of the preachier episodes of 'The Twilight Zone' or 'Out of the Unknown' with it's allegory of bigotry (which anticipates later more prestigious productions like 'Guess Whose Coming to Dinner' and 'Blade Runner'), and manages to compress an enormous ammount of allusion into just an hour and a quarter. The League of Flesh & Blood, for example, wear Confederate-style uniforms and are pointedly dismissed by the sister "in rapport with a Clicker" in language that could easily apply to the Klan ("You hold meetings. Wear ridiculous clothes. You tell each other how superior you are to the robots. Because you know we're not!"). Meanwhile accusations of electoral fraud are still arousing passion sixty years after Kennedy's highly questionable election victory over Nixon in 1960.

The wonderful dialogue is regularly remarked upon, my personal favourite being "the only crime that can be committed against a robot is vandalism"!

Emmanuelle in Soho
(1981)

Peggy the Pushover
Anybody who thinks the British cinema's absolute nadir was the quota quickies of the thirties has never seen one of our seventies sex comedies; which today look far more dated and technically primitive after forty years than films of the thirties do after nearly ninety.

One of the last gasps of the genre just before Soho was in actuality required to clean up it's act; at least 'Emmanuelle in Soho' boasts a fairly sophisticated sounding title. But despite all the nudity and indiscriminate rutting that was by then permitted by the British Board of Film Censors, the culmination of fifty years of progress was as sexy as a week-old blancmange. The drab clothes and hideous hairstyles (and that's just hero Keith Fraser) are absolutely no match for the figure-hugging dresses and sleek bobs worn by the women in the thirties. And even the bored-looking chorus girls in the cabaret looked as if they were wearing dirty macs.

But at 67 minutes at least it was also as short as an old quota quickie.

The Ace of Spades
(1935)

Railroaded
Even poor George Pearson couldn't be bothered to try to inject any life into this stilted Twickenham quota quickie, which isn't even bad enough to be enjoyable as camp.

Obviously based on a play - with the actors lined up in evening dress like mannequins - it manages to have a plot that involves murder, blackmail, political chicanery and death threats written on playing cards without once arousing even a flicker of interest.

Typically we're just told about the murder; whereupon the film then continues on it's garrulous way until it's reached it's required running time and ends.

Flight from Ashiya
(1964)

Flying Boy Scouts
Shot in Japan. Basically a soap opera aimed at the men in the audience - complete with flashbacks and an appropriately romantic score by Frank Cordell, but skimping on the model work and special effects, while the women supply the coffee - of the sort that John Wayne was actually making in wartime and was later sent up something something rotten in 'Airplane'.

Intended to show that saving lives can be just as macho as killing the enemy, with Yul Brynner seeking love while uniformed and looking distinguished learning upon a walking stick, and Richard Widmark chomping on a cheroot as the tough but caring commanding office. In the hands of Sam Fuller this could have been a masterpiece.

Rogue's Yarn
(1957)

Rendezvous at Le Havre
The opening scene between Derek Bond and Nicole Maurey was so stilted I fully expected it to be revealed to be a scene from a play in front of an audience.

But no, it was the actual plot being hatched; and throughout the film stagy dialogue scenes indoors were punctuated by the occasional breath of fresh air provided by scenes shot outdoors; especially those where director Vernon Sewell was permitted to indulge his evident love of boats. Fortunately the plot is sufficiently interesting to continue holding your attention until the dramatic final shot of Ms Maurey (on board a boat, naturally).

The resemblance of Elwyn Brook-Jones's pipe-smoking detective to Columbo has already been pointed out. But Sewell evidently also had in mind insurance investigator Barton Keyes in 'Double Indemnity'; which is actually name-checked at one point by a character who says of Bond "If this was a movie I'd say he dunnit!" and that "If Edward G. Robinson were here he'd have the murderer!!"

The Monster of Highgate Ponds
(1961)

The Serpent's Egg
Like Michael Powell, Alberto Cavalcanti ended his illustrious career in British films following a sojourn abroad with a fantasy for the Children's Film Foundation. Inspired by the big surge in interest the Loch Ness Monster was currently enjoying, it features Rachel Clay (who shortly afterwards played a child that was cold to the touch in Losey's 'The Damned') as one of the kids presented with a dinosaur egg that after millions of years turns out to be still warm.

It demonstrates the film's grasp of science that although he's supposed to be a scientist himself, uncle Ronald Howard is neither surprised nor curious when a reptile's egg (let alone one millions of years old) proves to be warm in the first place. All concerned continue to take it in their stride when the egg then hatches into a cute little stop-motion dinosaur chick (this is a Halas & Bachelor production, after all); and none of the members of the public who see the fully grown monster driven through the streets of London tied to the back of a lorry (after an attempt by the usual pair of bungling crooks to steal it) seem particularly surprised or frightened either.

What a Whopper
(1961)

The Serpent of the Serpentine
A silly British comedy written by Terry Nation rife with leering sexual and regional stereotypes (like Adam Faith in a kilt and fake beard adopting a Scottish accent pretending to be 'Hamish MacSporran'), that actually went to Loch Ness for a few shots (although with outdoor night scenes obviously shot in broad daylight).

The plot is based on a central fallacy, since Faith is reduced to faking a photograph of Nessie on the Serpentine as he can't get his book on the subject published because the Great Orm hasn't been seen for ages; yet the simple fact that this film was being made attests to the current topicality of the Loch Ness Monster. And his popularity as a pop idol accounts for his presence in this nonsense woodenly playing the lead; compensated for by a supporting cast ranging from Amanda Barrie & Trevor Peacock seen uncredited in long shot even before the credits (which do include Peacock for the original story) are over, Jamaican actor Lloyd Reckford in his only credited film role prior to the 1990s, Spike Milligan as a tramp, Terry Scott in his days typecast as a police sergeant to Fyfe Robertson and the late Freddie Frinton (the latter totally forgotten to any Briton under sixty but a household name in Germany thanks to his annual appearances every New Year's Eve in 'Dinner for One'.

(SPOILERS COMING:) It's a typical bit of cynicism on Nation's part that once Faith claims to see Nessie, everybody standing alongside him on the shore jumps on the bandwagon by claiming to see him too. While the actual sound and visual effects of Nessie himself are in fact rather good.

The Holcroft Covenant
(1985)

Nazi Billions
You could always spot a Robert Ludlum novel from their distinctive titles. Possibly because their complicated, garrulous plots resist reduction to feature length only two adaptations hit the big screen during the mid-eighties, and John Frankenheimer - reunited with his scriptwriter from 'The Manchurian Candidate' - doesn't make the mess of this that a drunken Sam Peckinpah had made of 'The Osterman Weekend'.

Frankenheimer instead produced yet another smooth piece of hack work with an entertaining international cast (including Bernard Hepton in an unusually substantial role in a feature film and Lili Palmer making her screen swansong as Michael Caine's mother) and attractive locations with Caine tripping over so many corpses even the script loses count. The press conference where Caine also appears on a tv monitor in the foreground recalls the Frankenheimer of old. But you've already forgotten what you just saw even before it's over.

Doctor at Sea
(1955)

Bon Voyage, Docteur.
It's often said of films with medical themes by the team of producer Peter Roger and director Gerald Thomas that they're "Carry On's in all but name". Well this is a 'Doctor' film in name only.

Like countless British films of the fifties - when foreign travel it was considered incredibly glamorous - it provides a talky and mainly studio-bound economy class trip to an adjacent set peopled with worldly supposedly foreign trollopes. It's sole claim to fame today is the presence of an unrecognisably young Brigitte Bardot in what remained a very rare English-speaking role; whose French accent ironically sounds just as phoney as that adopted by the other young woman in the film.

The Nevadan
(1950)

Twin Forks
The calibre of this slick Cinecolor Randolph Scott western is already signalled by the presence of George Macready's name in the opening credits, here playing the father of Dorothy Malone in her early brunette days in buckskin and stetson.

Both they and most of the cast (including Frank Faylen & Jeff Corey as a pair of bickering siblings) and crew had experience of working in film noirs, particularly evident in the interior scenes.

Go Kart Go
(1964)

Speed Crazy
Cameraman Johnny Coquillon limbered up for the four films he later shot for Sam Peckinpah with this semi-remake of 'The Wild One' with go karts rather than motorbikes, filmed round and about Harrow about a million years ago when Dennis Waterman and Frazer Hines were both teenagers and Waterman still had a full head of hair.

There's more emphasis on slapstick than usual, and unusually for a CFF production the plot doesn't involve a gang of crooks; although the film's villain gets the usual ritual dunking at the conclusion. The conflict is instead supplied by initial parental scepticism ("Buy you a go kart and the washing machine not paid for yet?"), but that's swiftly overcome and everyone goes home happy. Except the defeated rival, of course.

A Touch of Love
(1969)

Fascinatingly Dated
The crying baby with the bright red face Sandy Dennis has thrust into her hands in a hospital waiting room would now be in her fifties (assuming it was a girl).

For someone who regards a film made in 1970 as recent, it's sobering to realise that over half a century now separates us from this attempt by sixties schlockmeisters Max J. Rosenberg & Milton Subotsky to go legit by filming Margaret Drabble's 1964 novel 'The Millstone' in a fashion reminiscent of 'The L-Shaped Room'. More decades now separate us from this film than from this film and the silent era; a time when telephones had rotary dials, the Post Office Tower featured prominently in the background during the street scenes so we knew it was London, Sandy Dennis was a bankable Hollywood star, and Penelope Keith as a nurse and Ian McKellan in his film debut look young and fresh-faced (the latter playing a gay man long before he came out in reality. "I keep it secret not because it's wicked but because it's so dull!").

And the stylistic tic indulged in by first-time big screen director Warris Hussein is pans and zooms rather than pans and steadicam, as it would be today.

Monstrosity
(1963)

The Old Dark House
Shot five years before it was released and with a plot that belongs in a Monogram potboiler of the forties and made with the competence of a very creaky early talkie.

The director was author the much-reprinted handbook 'The Five C's of Cinematography' so his lighting of the authentic Californian mansion in which it's shot results in a film that looks good even if it seldom sounds it, particularly Gene Kauer's annoying score and Judy Bamber's cockney accent.

Where There's a Will
(1955)

The 29 Year Old Thelma Ruby
Adapted by R.F.Delderfield from his own stage farce and directed without much enthusiasm by Vernon Sewell. Despite quite a few shots of a wintry-looking Devon it still manages to feel studio-bound.

Full of vaguely naughty references to things like illegitimacy, chamber pots and the 'News of the World'. Interest is provided amidst a cast of veterans by two newcomers in their twenties: Edward Woodward (leaner and with a a higher hairline than he had twenty years later) repeating his stage role, and a caustic young Thelma Ruby, now at 95 the final surviving member of the cast.

Rokudenashi
(1960)

The Domino Effect
By 1960 the Japanese economy had recovered sufficiently for the malaise to reach them that had already been afflicting restless postwar youth in the West; where it had been finding cinematic expression (among many, many others) in Britain in 'The Blue Lamp', Italy in 'I Vitelloni', America in 'The Wild One' and France in 'Les Tricheurs' that affluence and increased leisure didn't in themselves bring contentment and peace of mind.

The young men in Yoshishige Yoshida's extremely accomplished debut feature learn the hard way - like Dirk Bogarde ten years earlier in 'The Blue Lamp' - that waving guns around isn't big, isn't clever, and ends in tears.

See all reviews