alexanderdavies-99382

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Reviews

The Jerusalem File
(1972)

Mostly ineffective and rambling.
If it wasn't for Ian Hendry, Nicol Williamson and Donald Pleasence, I'd have given this film the old heave ho! As it is, "The Jerusalem Files" is a rambling affair with a confusing story and a bunch of characters I didn't particularly care for. Ian Hendry only has 3 brief scenes and all with Williamson. The latter doesn't seem to know if he's for or against his own students in their political views but I soon lost interest. Donald Pleasence at least has a fair amount of screen time but it sadly doesn't mean much. Hardly a surprise that the film isn't on DVD or Blu Ray. More should have done with the plot and there are three great actors gone to waste.

The Phantom Light
(1935)

Dull, confusing and unmemorable.
I didn't expect much from this obscure film and that was the right approach. The film's pace is a big letdown - it's consistently slow from beginning to end. The scriptwriters couldn't have been bothered with the development of the story, as it is never made clear what is going on. Gordon Harker does quite well and tries his best to enliven the proceedings but it's all in vain.

The Squeaker
(1937)

Not worth my time.
The story was poorly cobbled together. No sense of continuity and the narrative was threadbare. Only those two brilliant actors - Alastair Sim and Robert Newton - make this film tolerable. The former plays a London journalist and the latter is a luckless jewel thief. Edgar Wallace is a very good author in his own right but he would have been appalled by the shoddy treatment of his novel, courtesy of this production!

Song of the South: Duane Allman and the Birth of the Allman Brothers Band
(2013)

A long overdue documentary!
I can't believe no one has reviewed this documentary, it is one to cherish. Despite not being authorized or officially sanctioned by the band or their management, this is a highly informative and detailed look at the life and career of Duane Allman. The various interviewees are people who worked with the Allman Brothers Band during the early days, along with a couple of childhood friends. From the outset, I got the impression that Duane Allman was an assertive, determined, ambitious individual who knew what he wanted to achieve in music. I really enjoyed the section that covered his time with the Derek and the Dominos band. The song "Layla" wouldn't be half as effective without Duane composing the opening guitar riff! Despite his career lasting only three years (including the time spent in Muscle Shoals), the guitarist left quite a body of work. The documentary describes how Duane became fascinated with blending different styles of music - such as rock and soul with jazz etc. He was always looking for inspiration and fresh ideas for songs. A couple of sound engineers from the early Allman Brothers albums, state how Duane was rarely without a guitar in his possession and that he would be strumming away by himself in creating new riffs. That says a lot about the man's work ethic, in my opinion. Unavoidably, the documentary finishes on a tragic note. The music world was robbed of a fine musician on that fateful day in late October 1971. The band's roadie is clearly finding it hard to talk about what happened, even after all this time. Thanks to this feature length tribute and a couple of recent biographies, Duane Allman is finally getting the credit he deserves for his being one of the leading guitarists of the past 50 years.

The Professionals: Klansmen
(1977)
Episode 13, Season 1

Half successful, half failed.
This is still a good episode of "The Professionals," despite the controversy surrounding the subject matter. It's hardly a surprise why the episode was banned from being shown in 1977. The one weakness I find, is the way Bodie reacts to practically every black person he comes across. It's out of character for him, seeing as nothing of this nature had been even hinted at - before or after. However, there are some gripping scenes along the way and I enjoy the ironic twist at the end. Edward Judd - totally forgotten today - gives a good performance as one of the main villains. His career was nearly over by the late 1970s, a pity as he was talented.

Turner & Hooch
(1989)

Better than I expected.
It's been many years since I last saw "Turner and Hooch" but I'm glad I saw it once again. When he was making these comedic films, Tom Hanks was good at playing the kind of character who is under constant stress and feeling rather overwhelmed by his own comic situation. Such is the case here, courtesy of a slobbering but loveable dog by the name of Hooch. There's no point in describing the plot, it's been covered in previous reviews. So funny to see Hanks struggling with Hooch, I loved the scene where he's yanked all the way to the local vets surgery! The only disappointment for me, was the climax. I found it unnecessary to have Hooch killed off, it cast a big shadow over the film's many comic moments. At least there was another dog of the same breed to make an appearance, so all is not lost. This film deserves to be better known.

Punchline
(1988)

Great acting and writing overcome weak plot.
I'm not surprised that this film didn't perform well at the box office in 1988. Tom Hanks was cast against type and this must have left the public feeling bemused. While it is a change of pace for Hanks to play an unlikable character, he doesn't quite pull make it work but still delivers a very good performance. The scene where he has a meltdown is a big highlight and proof that Tom Hanks was destined for dramatic roles. Sally Fields is great as the character who struggles to keep her family together, whilst attempting to hit the big time on the stand up comedy scene. Her attempts at performing the comedy skits are not bad but her delivery was off base. Her best acting comes with the drama in the screenplay. The biggest problem for me with the movie, is the running time. 117 minutes is simply too long and the plot becomes stretched long before the end. 90 to 100 minutes would have been preferable. For those who think "Punchline" made the mistake of taking its subject seriously, they are missing the point of comedy. Any typical comedian, will say that trying to create new material is about as unfunny as it gets. A more obscure Tom Hanks movie but well worth a look.

The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll
(1960)

A misfire in almost every way.
"The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll" is one of the lesser known "Hammer" films and for good reason. From the opening scene, I gathered the impression that the film would have its share of shortcomings. The plot is wafer thin and has little to no narrative. The pace is slow and hardly anything happens. The Hyde character seems to serve little purpose, except regarding his debauched and sadistic behaviour. Paul Massie isn't the best actor for the dual role (perhaps Andrew Keir would have been preferable) but does his best. Christopher Lee is on hand as a money-grasping parasite and is completely unlikeable. The same applies to Dawn Addams who plays Jekyll's wife - he must feel he's married to an iceberg! For 1960, the movie contains a few scenes of sexual content which is rather daring to say the least. It's hardly surprising that the BBFC were unhappy with such content, resulting in some censorship before the film's release. Francis De Wolf is wasted as the police officer on the case, he only comes in towards the end. A mild curiosity of a movie but no classic.

The Man in Room 17
(1965)

Worth sticking with.
First of all, some people see fit to judge a TV series by its age. Okay the TV of yesteryear didn't have fancy production values or pretty faces who couldn't act their way out of a Johnny. However, look past the modest budget and focus on the acting and the writing! A series like "The Man in Room 17" is a typical example: you have seasoned actors from the theatre in the main roles, being Richard Vernon and Denholm Elliott. They more than pull their weight in this series about Government operations and such like. Yes, this can be a talky programme but it is worth sticking with.

Redcap: Epitaph for a Sweat
(1964)
Episode 3, Season 1

Racial discrimination being the theme.
An episode like this one, isn't likely to be shown on British TV these days - courtesy of some racist comments to be found in the dialogue. Despite that, this is a great story. Leonard Rossiter gives the best performance as the tough, veteran soldier whose methods can only rub the private soldiers up the wrong way. He gladly ill treats the foreign locals and forever believes that the British army should rule over foreign countries. As usual, John Thaw's Sergeant Mann clashes against those who refuse to assist in his enquiries. Initially, he's investigating an allegation of a local being assaulted by some of the posted soldiers. Before long, Mann is investigating a murder.

Redcap: Nightwatch
(1964)
Episode 7, Season 1

One of the greats!
"Redcap" deserves more recognition than it gets. It has a gritty feel to it and pulls no punches. The above episode is no exception. The story has moments of genuine tension, courtesy of Sergeant Mann (John Thaw) finding himself among raving lunatics rather than soldiers. A British battalion has returned home after spending time posted in Borneo. The mental strain shows itself with a few of the men, some of whom claim to have seen an apparition by their barracks. No location work in the episode, but that adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere. The actors have some outstanding dialogue to work with and they rise to the challenge terrifically. The supporting cast is good: Brian Wilde, Hwyel Bennett (he did some odd films) and Allan Cuthbertson.

WrestleMania 2
(1986)

Much better than today's rubbish.
I can't understand why this "Wrestlemania" is hated so much. It has a few naff matches but there is plenty of quality action as well. Hulk Hogan's steel cage match against King Kong Bundy, is a sight to behold. The latter sure looks enthusiastic about charging into Hogan and taking the wind out of him! No wonder Hogan didn't like this match. A great main event. Ricky Steamboat has a good match with Hercules and displays a variety of moves. The tag team title match is marvelous from beginning to end! The British Bulldogs were one of the leading teams in the WWE at the time and were worthy of holding the belts. Jake Roberts made his P.P.V debut in a short but good encounter with George Wells (who ever he was). The 20 Man Battle Royal is a major highlight: a mixture of wrestlers and football players. I like the way Andre the Giant casually tosses out some of the opposition! The Adonis/Elmer match is poor, it's true. Too short and not enough happening. The same applies to the women's title match. Macho Man must have felt rather insulted at having to work with someone as stiff as George "the Animal" Steele. The former does his very best to put on a decent show but the latter gives nothing in return. Paul Orndorff and Don Muraco have a reasonable opening match but the ending was a bit silly. For me, the positives of "Wrestlemania II" FAR outweigh the negatives.

Train of Events
(1949)

A mixed bag, final results none too good.
I can't say that I was expecting a masterpiece in the form of "Train of Events." After all, I believe the film is attempting to cash in on the success of "Ealing's" "Dead of Night." The story lacks much in the way of momentum and narrative. Scenes are merely thrown together, even with a film which consists of different scenarios. Tedium had set in, long before the end. There are some good camera shots of London and a good cast. Jack Warner was his usual watchable self and Valerie Hobson did quite well. Too much emphasis is placed upon the previous 2 days before the crash in the film. The plot should have focused more upon events after the train tragedy, a bit of drama might have resulted but who knows? Not vintage "Ealing" by a long way.

Mr. Denning Drives North
(1951)

Uninspired, poorly plotted bore.
I'm a big fan of John Mills, he's made some masterpieces in his time. Sadly, "Mr. Denning Drives North" isn't one of them. The plot can't seem to decide whether to focus on Mills and his mental strain after the tragic events from the film's beginning, or on Sam Wanamaker as the ambitious solicitor who's determined to unravel the truth about John Mills's plight. Frankly, I grew quite irritated with the film. The opening 15 minutes offered a vague hint of something which might have been good. Alas, this was not the case. The conclusion is one of the most ridiculous I've ever seen - and there are plenty to choose from! The supporting cast are wasted. The likes of Raymond Huntley, Wilfred Hyde White and Herbert Lom have little to do. Why couldn't the scriptwriter incorporate their characters into the story properly? John Mills does his best with such bland material and he's the only reason to give this film so much as a side glance.

The Karate Kid
(1989)

Goofy but watchable in small doses.
Two things which don't surprise me about this cartoon show: that it was made in the first place and that it didn't last long. Timing is a major factor. "The Karate Kid" movies were still fresh in the minds of the public at the time, otherwise the cartoon wouldn't have been green lit. I can't take the episodes too seriously (folly to do otherwise), so it's simply a case of switching off the brain cells for the duration. The animation itself, has the distinctive juvenile look about it. Children aged between 7 to 10 might find some appeal. "The Karate Kid" has long faded into 1980s cartoon obscurity but I can tolerate the show in small doses.

The Twilight Zone: The Bard
(1963)
Episode 18, Season 4

Should have been more serious.
I don't loathe this episode but the story should have been written much more as a dramatic piece. The attempts at humour are met with failure, for the most part. Jack Weston does pretty well, he can handle light comedy. Humour was never Rod Serling's forte but he's only human like the rest of us. I agree with other reviewers that Burt Reynolds does a good job at spoofing Marlon Brando. His mannerisms and general demeanour prove to be effective. I've seen evidence that the one hour "Twilight Zone" episodes do work, in spite of what British critic Leslie Halliwell thought. However, "The Bard" has a plot which is too tightly stretched and incapable of lasting the whole hour. Luckily, the final season of this show was to provide several new masterpieces.

James Dean
(2001)

Franco is quite good, TV film is dreadful!
You would be better off in watching every scrap of footage with James Dean, rather than this appalling TV movie. It sheds little to no light upon who the real person was and is a wasted opportunity. The scale of the production is far too small. No location photography that includes wide camera shots of New York for example, just a few close up ones. The plot feels like a rushed job, months of Dean's life have been bypassed, not to mention all the people he knew during the days when he struggled to become successful. The likes of Rogers Brackett, Bill Bast and Dizzy Sheridan aren't included in the story at all. No inclusion of either Natalie Wood or Elizabeth Taylor, only adds to the film's woes. Only James Franco in the title role, adds anything to the proceedings. He captures James Dean quite well. The aura of shyness and insecurity, wanting to do things his own way, being at loggerheads with his father - all this adds up to a very respectable performance. A shame that the rest of the cast fell flat on its face (no one familiar amongst them). If there's any future attempt at making a biopic of James Dean, pray someone has the common sense to research his/her chosen subject beforehand!

Life in Danger
(1959)

Who's life is in danger exactly?
From the opening scene of Derren Nesbitt running through those woods and after that alarm goes off, you could be easily forgiven for believing he's wanted for something. But things aren't quite what they seem. The film's title is slightly ambiguous. I enjoy this film as it deals with issues like bigotry and prejudiced attitudes. The local villagers react in different ways upon hearing of a patient escaping from the nearby mental hospital. The one played by Howard Marian Crawford is someone to be wary of, as he thinks all problems can be solved with a gun! He hardly needs any excuse to use a loaded weapon to justify his wanton hostility. Derren Nesbitt makes for good "leading man" material and should have had more leads during his career. The pace of the film is solid, the supporting cast is reliable and the plot works perfectly OK with a running time of under an hour. The climax is laced with tension as things come to a head between Nesbitt and the local residents. Worth seeing.

Where There's a Will
(1936)

Rather slow-paced but Will Hay makes this one.
"Where There's a Will" mightn't go down as one of Will Hay's best films but he maintained my interest throughout. The material is rather inconsistent and the direction sluggish. Marcel Varnel would have been far better a choice. The scene with Hay and the butler getting drunk is very well done and the film does build to a good climax. Graham Moffatt has nothing to do, no point in him being included. Luckily, this would all change for the better before long. I'm not sure why there were American actors cast for the film, the people of the United States wouldn't understand Will Hay's humor as it's distinctly British.

West 11
(1963)

A big load of nothing.
I don't know why anyone would give this film the time of day. It has virtually nothing in its favour and an effective cast quickly goes to waste. I'm a bit surprised that writers like Willis Hall and Keith Waterhouse couldn't have produced a stronger narrative. "West 11" merely stumbles about from one scene to the next, with little continuity. A few characters are completely irrelevant to the story, so why bother having them in the first place? Michael Winner was never a good director in my opinion, more like an average, ordinary hack. Whenever he tried to make something remotely trendy or thought-provoking (like with the above film), Winner is all out at sea! The film may be well photographed - which it is to be fair - but that can't compensate for a weak plot. After all, Alfred Lynch is supposedly persuaded into committing the so-called perfect crime by Eric Portman. The only problem is, this doesn't happen until over an hour of the film has elapsed. So in the meantime, Lynch's character wonders aimlessly around London and drags the audience along with him. The only scenes I feel that work, are the ones Alfred Lynch has with his on-screen mother (well played by Kathleen Harrison). Alas, it doesn't last. Diana Dors was quite watchable, even though she wasn't that important to the story. The producer of "West 11" didn't a good judge of acting potential or those with box office appeal. He had the nerve to turn down different people for the leading role because he felt they were only good enough for "B" films?? Who the hell was he trying to kid? This particular film is just that - a low budget production that not many care about. Alfred Lynch is a very capable leading man and should have been used more in that capacity. It's a pity he's not very well remembered today. I would avoid this tedious mess of a film for all its worth....

Time to Remember
(1962)

One of the best from this film series.
"Time to Remember" deserves to be regarded as one of the best films from the "Edgar Wallace Mysteries" series. It has a good pace, a good enough narrative, the usual stellar cast and some intrigue (not of them have). Harry H. Corbett takes the acting honours as a shady estate agent who seizes on the opportunity of recovering some stolen loot after a robbery goes wrong. Speaking of which, that particular scene could also have gone awry as one actor is clearly making his way along a real rooftop! In spite of what one reviewer wrote, the above film is certainly available on DVD. It can be purchased on various websites.

Spare the Rod
(1961)

Not as bad as I imagined.
"Spare the Rod" may not qualify as a masterpiece but it's still worth seeing all the same. The story about an inexperienced school teacher who has the task of teaching a difficult class, usually makes for fairly engaging drama. I believe the above film achieves this, thanks to a good script and a solid performance from Max Bygraves. I've no idea why he didn't appear in more movies like "Spare the Rod," he would have been good. Even though Donald Pleasence is billed second in the cast, he hasn't much to do and his character isn't part of the storyline. Geoffrey Keen does quite well as a rather brutal teacher colleague who relishes the chance to use his cane. After a while, he manages to partly redeem himself. The classroom scenes are the best in my opinion, as the dramatic tension between teacher and rebellious pupils is at its best. You won't see much location photography around London, which is good as the narrative can remain focused upon the films main setting - that being of the school. One scene which must have raised an eyebrow or two, is the one where that blonde schoolgirl makes a pathetic attempt to seduce her own teacher. I'm surprised the B.B.F.C didn't demand the scene be removed. Obtaining this film on DVD is next to impossible but if you can watch it on TV, don't miss it.

Marriage of Convenience
(1960)

An effective early entry.
I disagree that this is a poor film. In my opinion, "Marriage of Convenience" is one of the stronger "Edgar Wallace" films. Harry H. Corbett is well cast as the customary police officer, although I wasn't so convinced by John Cairney being cast as the villain. The story is quite routine but still watchable. Even so, the pace is good, there's a bit of incident and it's a black and white British film!

Attempt to Kill
(1961)

Quite passable.
An agreeable time-filler which manages to maintain my interest, despite the movie including all the usual trimmings. Derek Farr as the lead is a bit devoid of any kind of charisma but he's not bad as the investigating police officer. The set used for his office at the old Scotland Yard building, is identical to all the other "Edgar Wallace" films. No big names here (as I expected) but the cast do their best with ordinary material.

Time Lock
(1957)

First speaking role for Connery in minor "B" movie.
I didn't expect Sean Connery to have any dialogue for this little known "B" picture but to my surprise, he does have quite a few lines to act with. His character has no depth or significance however and isn't even given a name. He is one of many cast members involved in a simple story about a young boy who's accidentally locked inside a bank vault. The usual scenario follows: a race against time, the need to find a particular person who can help with the situation in hand, panicking characters etc. No one in the cast is well known apart from Connery and he hadn't appeared in many films before this one. The production moves along at a reasonable pace, dialogue is standard but the last few minutes includes a tense moment or two.

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