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1  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Korean Noir:The Age of Shadows (2016) on: November 20, 2017, 08:29:19 PM
R2 DVD from Amazon UK. 10

"The early bird gets caught."

* This review may contain spoilers ***

Getting the chance to host the ICM film festival for the second time,I took a look at the titles set for festival viewing. Recently watching his magnificent 2003 Horror A Tale of Two Sisters,I was absolutely thrilled to see Kim Jee-woon's latest in the listings,which led to me stepping into the shadows.

The plot-

1920's Korea:

Under Occupation from the Japanese,a Resistance movement starts building underground to overthrow the invaders from Korea. Wanting to root out troublemakers, the Japanese order Korean police captain Lee Jung-chool to track down members of the Resistance. Known for doing deals to stay on the safe side of the Occupiers,Chool is hit by the death of Resistance member Kim Jan-OK,who used to be a school friend. Learning of Jan-OK's murder weighing heavy on Chool, Resistance leader Che-san begins attempting to turn Chool to their side,as the Resistance start planning a major fightback,by making bombs in the shadows.

View on the film:

Unleashing his first period piece, co-writer/(with Ji-min Lee/ Jong- dae Park and Kathy Pilon) director Kim Jee-woon & cinematographer Kim Ji-yong create an immaculate presentation,with dazzling crane shots gliding along the rich primary colours covering the corridors of the ruling Japanese,Jee-woon sends coiled shots down the drenched in fog streets,where Resistance fighters are attempting to walk down unnoticed. Retaining the eye he had in examining the psychological horror in A Tale of Two Sisters, (with the torture that the Resistance fighters suffer being bloody and blunt,as tightly-held close-ups reveal their resistance to giving secrets away) Jee-woon brilliantly expands his psychological examination into Neo-Noir, where this age of shadows is lit with beautiful panel shots and elegant low-lighting capturing the anxiety of being caught,that the Resistance is under.

Following the Resistance's plan of attack at every stage of inception, Jee-Woon and Ji-Yong uncover griping Neo- Noir set-pieces such as a 20 minute train journey,set alight by Jee- Woon's ultra-stylised tracking weaving between Resistance fighters hiding with the passengers,and the mighty fist of the police walking down each carriage in long takes of them trying to sniff out the rebels.Giving them not only the Occupiers,but fears of betrayal within their own group to fight against, the screenplay by Jee-woon/Ji- Min / Jong-dae and Kathy Pilon sharply turn the screws of Noir pressure on the gang, via every move to bring Chool closer to the group being drenched in anxiety. Making the 2 and a half run time feel like nothing, the writers bravely show little concern over Chool (played by a superb Song Kang-ho) being likable,as any help he offers to the Resistance is balanced with sudden outbursts of brutality that explode into a pitch-black ending of deep Film Noir pessimism,where Chool sets alight the age of shadows.
2  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / French Neo-Noir/Marion Cotillard: A Private Affair (2002) on: November 18, 2017, 09:59:43 PM

DVD:

https://www.amazon.ca/UNE-AFFAIRE-PRIVEE-Version-fran%C3%A7aise/dp/B0019F342G/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1511067236&sr=1-1&keywords=Une+affaire+priv%C3%A9e

8

“I never forget a face,even battered ones.”

** This review may contain spoilers ***

September 2016:

Searching for movies online that a family friend was after,I got told about a Neo-Noir he had been interested in seeing for years, that was an early credit for Marion Cotillard. Checking various sites,the only think I could find was a French DVD,with no English Subtitles.

October 2017:

Whilst getting to place an order with a DVD seller,I decided to have another go at finding the movie,and stumbled on a DVD with English Subtitles…Only on Amazon Canada. Hoping to get the flick right away,I found no seller who would send it to the UK. Mentioning this in passing to the DVD seller,I was happily caught by surprise,when they said that they could order it from Canada,and then send it to me, (shame the DVD could not claim for flyer miles!)which led to me at last discovering the private affair.

The plot:

After being missing for over six months, Rachel Siprien's mum hires private detective François Manéri as a last roll of the dice in finding her daughter. Learning from the cops that they have hardly any clues over what has happened to her, Manéri begins visiting the clubs she went to and the friends Siprien,which leads to two thugs breaking his knuckles,and telling Manéri to stop checking Siprien's friends list. Catching the eye of Siprien's friend Clarisse Entoven, (who he starts sleeping with) Manéri opens the box to Siprien's private affairs.

View on the film:

Linking Manéri and Siprien together,the alluring Marion Cotillard (who appears naked a number of times) gives a excellent performance as Entoven, whose free-spirit personality allows Cotillard to give the title a mischievous Femme Fatale glint in the eye. Given the challenge of holding the big twist together, Cotillard does incredibly well in one of her first film credits of bringing the revelation across smoothly, via calmly giving Entoven's free-spirit nature a frosty sting. Rolling Manéri into the case looking like a total mess, Thierry Lhermitte gives a great, rugged performance as Film Noir loner Manéri.

Unwrapping the hidden seedy underbelly of the city, Lhermitte strikes Manéri with a grit that bleeds out in every attempt made to stop him,as he tightens his focus on finding Spirien,whilst allowing his attention to drift away,as Manéri becomes more entangled with Entoven. Keeping the private affairs of Entoven and her family closely guarded,the screenplay by writer/director Guillaume Nicloux tugs at the anxieties of Manéri, which are laid to bare in wonderfully odd sex dungeons and the clipped mutterings Manéri catches from each family member.

Shooting an arrow into Manéri's view on the case, Nicloux cuts a deeply cynical wound into Manéri with a crystallising ending,that sends Manéri off to drive back into his Neo-Noir pessimism. Cracking Manéri's hands against the red lights of the city, director Guillaume Nicloux & cinematographer Olivier Cocaul rub up a stylised Neo-Noir covered in grime, as Nicloux covers Manéri's investigation with saturated green,blue and yellow tints,that reflect the murky details Manéri uncovers of a private affair.
3  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Seijun Suzuki's Voice Without A Shadow (1958) on: November 17, 2017, 07:15:45 PM
Hi XHC,thank you for the kind words (and the tick!) and looking at her creditsI've found that the actress is in a highly-praised Comedy that Masters of Cinema have put out:

A Sun-Tribe Myth from the Bakumatsu Era:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/BAKUMATSU-TAIY%C3%94-DEN-Masters-Cinema-Blu-ray/dp/B06XT3SMH2/ref=tmm_blu_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Being the first movie I've seen by him,I was wondering what Suzuki's other movies are like?

At the moment,I'm putting a bit aside each week for this Suzuki set Arrow are bringing out in Jan:

https://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/shop/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=1025

4  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Seijun Suzuki's Voice Without A Shadow (1958) on: November 16, 2017, 09:07:03 PM

Blu-Ray 8

** This review may contain spoilers ***

After seeing Nobuo Nakagawa's outstanding Film Noir Onna shikeishű no datsugoku,I started trying to think up of a second title to watch for a Asia Noir double bill. Despite hearing about him for years,I have somehow missed out on catching a glimpse of auteur Seijun Suzuki. Buying Arrow's Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol 1 recently,I was thrilled to discover that one of the diamonds in the set is a Suzuki creation.

The plot:

Working at a call centre, Asako Takahashi helps to connect each call at lightning fast speed. Preparing to connect a call, Asako hears that she is trying to connect to the wrong line,when she hears a murder taking place. The only person to hear the voice of whoever did the killing, Asako is asked by the cops to listen to 100's of voices,but fails to catch a match.

3 years later:

Keen to build on their working relationships, Asako's husband Shigeo Kotani invites work mates Kawai, Hamazaki, and Muraoka to play some late night gambling. Seeing them play late into the night,Asako starts sitting in the next room waiting for Kotani to return. Listening in on them one night, Asako's hears a voice that sounds chillingly familiar…

View on the film:

Pulling diamonds from Nikkatsu studios long history, Arrow Video present a crystal clear Blu-Ray transfer,with the picture transfer being sharp,but retaining the Film Noir grit,and the soundtrack being perfectly clean.Working as an "in-house" studio director for his 10th movie, director Seijun Suzuki & cinematographer Kazue Nagatsuka transmit peculiar, off-the-wall surrealism into the Film Noir reception,from a murderer re-naming the location of the killing "The funeral centre",to an ominous omen of a chicken being plucked.

Listening in on Asako's calls,Suzuki and Nagatsuka pick up the phone to stylish Film Noir,with superb,ultra-stylised tracking and crane shots gliding round the house as Asako attempts to stay out of sight,being crossed with clipped camera moves round the side streets of Japan going up the youth coffee shops,and down into the Film Noir coal of the underworld. Calling up Seichô Matsumoto's novel Koe,the screenplay by Ryuta Akimoto and Susumu Saji crosses the wires of Film Noir with the first major wave of Giallo that was still a few years away (!),where Asako forming a team with a journalist leads to a gripping desire to finally close the cold case,as recurring fragments of the call haunt Asako in her dreams.

Solving the case with a marvellous Agatha Christie/Giallo-style final flashback, the writers cover the mystery in glittering Film Noir grit, via the constant invitations Kotani gives to his work pals to come round leading to an excellent groove of pessimism to be cast between Kotani and Asako,who expresses her frustrations in snappy asides that Kotani fails to pick up on,but those with deadly intentions do not miss. One of the few ladies to get top billing in this era of Japanese "genre" cinema, Yôko Minamida gives a brilliant performance as Asako,thanks to Minamida highlighting the Noir isolation that Asako is trapped in,not only from the chilling awareness of hearing an unsolved murder,but also seeing Kotani fade into the darkness of the underworld,as the shadow finds a voice.
5  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Asia Noir: Death Row Woman. on: November 15, 2017, 05:59:39 PM

Torrent 10

* This review may contain spoilers ***

Sharing my top viewings of Oct 2017,I started talking to fellow IMDber ManFromPlanetX about the highlights from their month of Asia viewings. Taking part in an ICM Film Noir challenge,I asked Planet X about their favourite Noir's from Asia,and got told about a great- sounding title,which led to me visiting woman's death row.

The plot:

Wanting to keep pride and money in the family business, Mr. Imai wants to get his daughter Kyoko married to. Unknown to her dad,Kyoko secretly loves the less well-off Soichi,who has gotten her pregnant. Eventually revealing this to him,Kyoko and her dad have a huge row,as Kyoko's sister Minako and mother Midori listen in. Finishing the argument,Mr. Imai has a glass of whisky,and dies. Learning that the whisky was poisoned,the police charge Kyoko with his murder. Going to trial,Kyoko is found guilty and sent to death row. Horrified that she has been set-up, (and is unable to see her new- born son or Soichi) Kyoko starts making plans to crack open a whisky bottle to freedom.

View on the film:

Pulling all of Kyoko's hopes and dreams out onto the screen into a bloody mess, director Nobuo Nakagawa & cinematographer Jűgyô Yoshida drill down into an incredibly intense Film Noir atmosphere,with the anxiety in an attempted prison escape sequence being heightened by Nakagawa with ultra-stylised shots above the ceiling,looking down as night guards cross the escape lines of Kyoko,and a nail-biting set- piece on a train,has Nakasawa and Yoshida weaving the camera between the lines of passengers. Following the Imai family on a hunt where the rules of the game are established,Nakasawa enters the Noir gloom at the heart of the family with elegant,backwards tracking shots that allow the tension between Kyoko (played by a magnificent Miyuki Takakura) and her family to be spread across the cell.

Chaining Kyoko up on death row, the screenplay by Yoshihiro Ishikawa sentences her to impressively taking on mental breakdown and rape committed by a woman in a delicate manner,that is focused on these being extensions of the miscarriage of justice that Kyoko is suffering. Giving Kyoko's family venomous dialogue, Ishikawa superbly crosses WIP,taboo-pushing Drama, frantic murder- mystery investigating, with white-knuckle Film Noir,as Ishikawa makes Kyoko's time on death row one where tragedy and family backstabbing take place in the outside world,and Kyoko can only look out from her Film Noir loner prison cell,on woman's death row.

6  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Diana Dors/Rod Steiger/John Farrow's The Unholy Wife (1957) on: November 13, 2017, 06:32:37 PM

9 Seen on Video

* This review may contain spoilers ***

Talking to a fellow IMDber a few years ago on the IMDb Film Noir board (RIP!) I got told about a great-sounding Noir starring Diana Dors and Rod Steiger. Hoping to find the title,I was surprised to not being able to find it on DVD or Video in the UK. Keeping a note of the movie over the years,I decided whilst doing some online X-Mas shopping,to have another go at finding it,and stumbled on the US Video version! Despite the postage price tag being a bit hefty,I decided it was time to at last meet the unholy wife.

The plot:

Moving to the US from London, Phyllis gets married to former pilot/now vineyard owner Paul,and has a son Michael with him. Over the next six years,vines grow on their marriage,which leads to Phyllis falling out of love with Paul. Looking for a spark in life,Phyllis becomes tangled in an affair with rodeo San Sanders. Desiring a fresh start in life,Phyllis makes a plan with San to kill Paul. Going out with a gun one night,Phyllis aims to kill Paul,but in the dark accidentally kills his pal Gino Verdugo. Running back into the house,Phyllis starts changing her plan to manipulate Paul,so he can fade into the darkness of the night for her.

View on the film:

Gliding across the screen, the alluring Diana Dors gives an incredible performance as Phyllis, whose seductive innocence Dors threads into a Femme Fatale ruthlessness of Phyllis manipulating Paul and San to play her tune. Looking back on her games in flashbacks, Dors digs her nails deep into Phyllis Femme Fatale state of mind,that Dors transforms from being devilishly mischievous,to life completely from Phyllis's face. Riding a wave of passion with Phyllis, Tom Tryon gives a swaggering performance as drifting Noir loner San. Setting off Paul's concerns about Phyllis's faithfulness, Tryon gives San an arrogance dripping with menace. Caught between Tryon and Phyllis, Rod Steiger gives a brittle performance as Paul. Worn down by the years of a loveless marriage, Steiger's brings out Paul's attempts to grasp of what little remains of the Phyllis he knew.

Introducing the leading lady in a washed-out close-up,director John Farrow & cinematographer Lucien Ballard bravely contrast the glamour of the Film Noir with raw present-set scenes splashed with murky colours that subtly bring the bad times to Phyllis and her guys. Hearing Phyllis and San's plans on the grapevine, Farrow and Ballard give the flashbacks a ruby red appearance which brims a fantastic atmosphere of a "Woman's Picture" that has gone off the tracks into Film Noir,as scattered close-ups uncover the rot eating away in the vineyard.

Mapping out the state of Paul and Phyllis's romance as she makes a plot with San, the screenplay by Jonathan Latimer and William Durkee pour a glass of cracking Film Noir dialogue,that is shaken with a harsh pessimism and jet-black comedic one-liners. Whilst having to go for a "spiritual" ending that the Hays Code would accept, the writers make Phyllis's journey to the spirit world be one that takes a wrong turn to merciless desire for murder,and a calculating Femme Fatale knife edge,where the unholy wife stands.

7  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / The Man with My Face (1951) on: November 12, 2017, 06:15:57 PM

Thanks to XHC for rec. YouTube 7

** This review may contain spoilers ***

Taking part in a Film Noir challenge on ICM,I started trying to decide which two US Noir's I could watch as a double bill. Checking up titles on IMDb,I remembered a Noir fellow IMDber XhcNoirX had told me about,which led to me meeting a guy,whose face looked oddly similar.

The plot:

Arriving home, Charles "Chick" Graham is faced with his wife Cora Cox Graham saying she has never seen him before,and a lookalike of Chick's called Albert "Bert" Rand,who is pretending to be him. Failing to get the police on his side,Chick goes undercover,when he finds out that Bert has linked him to a bank robbery. Surviving an attempt on his life,Chick sets his sights on unmasking his fake self.

View on the film:

Shot on location in Puerto Rico, director Edward Montagne & cinematographer Fred Jackman Jr. give the Noir face off a sun-kiss elegance against rugged rocks and dusty tunnels underneath the welcoming sights of Puerto Rico. Made on a low budget,Montagne does give the place the feeling of being a small village,with the leads easily crossing paths with each other,and it looking like the island only has one cop.

Slowly sinking the realisation into Chick that he has been played, the writers give their adaptation of Samuel W. Taylor's book a Noir playfulness that covers some of the sketchy marks over how Bert was able to make everything perfectly fall into place,thanks to a murderous dog keeping the exchanges between Bert and Chick clouded in a mood of danger. Playing not one,but two roles, Barry Nelson gives terrific performances as Charles 'Chick' Graham / Albert 'Bert' Rand,thanks to Nelson balancing Chick being at his Noir wits end with Bert's abrupt wise-guy asides to the man whose face he's stolen.
8  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Stanley Baker/Peter Cushing Noir: The Man Who Finally Died (1963) on: November 11, 2017, 08:41:32 PM

DVD 8

** This review may contain spoilers ***

2012:

Allowing my copy of the delightfully bonkers Peter Cushing flick Corruption to play on after the credits,I caught an enticing 5 minutes from a TV showing of a Film Noir co-starring Cushing. Checking for the title online,I was disappointed to find no DVD,or even Video of it.

2017:

Finding out that UK DVD company Network were holding a flash sale,I rushed over to place an order. Preparing to order the enjoyable 1957 British Film Noir The Hypnotist,I was thrilled to see Cushing's Noir appear on the same page,which led to me finally seeing the man die.

The plot:

Receiving a mysterious call, London musician Joe Newman is told that the person speaking to him is his dad Kurt Deutsch,who died during WWII 20 years ago. Finding out that the call has come from a small Bavarian town,Newman leaves London for the town. Receiving a less than warm welcome, Deutsch is taken to the grave of Deutsch. Disbelieving what he sees, Newman goes to visit his mum Lisa Deutsch. Finding his mum to be living in the country home of Dr. Peter von Brecht,Newman begins to notice that Brecht and others in the town appear determined to keep Deutsch buried.

View on the film:

Finding the title from fuzzy TV showings,Network present a perfect transfer,with the soundtrack and the picture quality being pristine.

Shot in the UK, director Quentin Lawrence & cinematographer Stephen Dade send Newman to an excellent, disorientating Film Noir town,where razor-sharp black and light low-shadows fill the space of the small population. Unearthing the truth about Newman's family with a quirky, spidery score by Philip Green, Lawrence slants the paranoia on Newman with ultra-stylised pans across to strangers with an eye on his search,against a washed-out sky that rains an eerie atmosphere on Deutsch's grave.

Based on a 7-part British mini-series, (sadly not seen since airing in 1959)the screenplay by Lewis Greifer and Louis Marks adapt the show into a tightly coiled stranger in a strange land Film Noir,as Newman's determination to dig up the secrets of the town leads to brash confrontations with locals who want the truth kept six feet under. Whilst openly borrowing from The Third Man a number of times,the writers compose an excellent, distinctive tone that tracks the revelation of the ending to the post-WWII pessimism of Film Noir,with Newman's discovery crossing the WWII isolation that haunts the town, with the shivering terror of the Cold War.

Kicking the cobblestones lining the town to the side, Stanley Baker gives a terrific performance as Newman,who Baker gives a Film Noir loner thirst to uncovering the truth about his dad,while legendary character actors Eric Portman,Nigel Green and Brian Wilde listen in on his paranoid questions. Hovering above Mai Zetterling's withdrawn widow Lisa, Peter Cushing gives a great performance as Brecht,that Cushing brims with a horror ambiguity over what Brecht knows about the man who finally dies.
9  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Brit Noir: The Hypnotist (1957) on: November 10, 2017, 03:31:58 PM
 DVD 6

* This review may contain spoilers ***

Learning of a sale on UK DVD company Network's page,I quickly looked for titles to pick up. Previously seeing him in the very good British Film Noir The Dark Man,I was pleased to spot another Noir co- starring William Hartnell, which led to me getting hypnotised.

The plot:

Hurt doing a test run, pilot Valentine Neal becomes haunted by past events in his life. Wanting to help her boyfriend, Mary Foster arranges for Neal to meet psychiatrist Doctor Francis Pelham. Hypnotising Neal,Pelham begins to explore his dark childhood memories. Finding Neal easy to hypnotise,Pelham decides to put Neal in a trance for his own use.

View on the film:

Bringing the title out of a trance,Network deliver an excellent transfer,with pristine sound and picture quality. Adapting Falkland L. Cary's play,the screenplay by writer/director Montgomery Tully partakes in an impressive level of psychological depth, as gripping exchanges between Pelham and Neal dig up the Noir horrors laying in Neal's sub-conscious. Giving Neal ambiguous shakes,Tully disappointing calms things down far too early,with the mysterious doubt between Neal and Pelham being explained 20 minutes before the end. Gliding round on the streets of late 1950's London,Tully sets his sights on glimpses on Film Noir stylisation,via shots spanning Neal's flat,and icy flashbacks unveiling the inner workings of Neal.

Playing a similar role to the one in The Dark Man, William Hartnell gives a good, gruff performance as Detective Inspector Ross,whilst the very pretty Patricia Roc gives a clever performance as Mary Foster,who raises questions to how helpful Pelham is being to Neal. Playing off each other, Roland Culver & Paul Carpenter give great performances,as Culver gives Pelham an unsettling,calculating calm,and Carpenter brings out the hypnotised fears of Neal.
10  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Armando Iannucci's The Death of Stalin on: November 07, 2017, 09:09:10 AM
 Seen at cinema 10

* This review may contain spoilers ***

A fan since seeing him credited for the satirical TV series The Day Today,I was disappointed to find in 2009 that no cinema near me was showing Armando Iannucci's (Oscar nominated) film directing debut In the Loop. Seeing news of his second movie getting a limited release,I checked listings and found it was going to be shown at one cinema once a day,by chance (?) on the week of the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, which led to me waving goodbye to murderous "Uncle Joe."

The plot:

Whilst reading a note from pianist Maria Yudina about wanting to see him dead as he listens to a recording of hers, Stalin suffers a cerebral haemorrhage. Gathering round their Dear Leader, Nikita Khrushchev/ Georgy Malenkov/ Lavrentiy Beria/Vyacheslav Molotov/Anastas Mikoyan and other hangers on talk about how to keep things in order as Uncle Joe gets better. As they argue among themselves,Stalin takes his final breath. Finding a power space for the first time in decades,Stalin's former old pals begin fighting to decide who will lead the Soviet Union.

View on the film:

Greatly expanding on the fake documentary style of In the Loop,co- writer/(with regular collaborators David Schneider,Ian Martin and Peter Fellows) director Armando Iannucci goes for a cinematic change of power,by working closely with cinematographer Zac Nicholson for stylish crane shots over the lavish locations of Stalin's Russia,and winding camera moves,closing in on the horrid treatment given out to "dissidents." Retaining a documentary sensibility, Iannucci finds jet-black comedy in " the moment" from the camera staying at the back of a corridor as all would-be leaders run round like headless chickens, and lingering wide-shots hilariously catches catch them each attempting to present the "correct" image Comrade Stalin would love.

Creating a union by transferring Thierry Robin & Fabien Nury's Comic-Book (!) to the screen,the writers treat the horrors of Stalin and his henchmen with an impressive level of care,with the mass murder of innocents on Stalin's "lists" and the killing of 1,500 members of the public at Stalin's funeral being treated as serious,brutal events. Perfectly balancing the harsh reality with comedic punch-lines, the writers continue building on themes from In the Loop and the series Veep of the power politicians have just being an image,as each of them fight for the smallest handout of power in wonderfully bitter,rapid-fire one-liners.

While not getting a chance to enter the power game taking place in post-Stalin Russia, Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough give excellent performances as Yudina and Svetlana Stalin,with Kurylenko giving Yudina a brittleness in her hatred of Stalin,and Riseborough shoving Svetlana into very funny spots of Melodrama. With none of them thankfully having to put Russian accents on, the ensemble cast each give outstanding performances,as Simon Russell Beale freezes the screen up as the cold,heartless Beria, Jeffrey Tambor shakes with terror as Malenkov,and Steve Buscemi hits whip-smart punch-lines as cunning Khrushchev,whilst Jason Isaacs roars as the over the top Georgy Zhukov,as they all fight in the aftermath of the death of Stalin.
11  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Michael York Giallo: Phantom of Death (1988) on: November 05, 2017, 04:53:42 PM

Seen on DVD. 7

** This review may contain spoilers ***

After deciding that I would soon watch Ruggero Deodato's 1976 Italian Crime epic Live Like a Cop,Die Like a Man for the first time soon,I started checking for Horror flicks to view in the run-up to Halloween. Looking at the films from DVD company Shameless I had left to view,I spotted a Giallo by Deodato,which led to me playing the music of the Phantom.

The plot:

Whilst one of the most successful classical composers around, Robert Dominici has to keep secret from his fans,co-workers and girlfriend Helene Martell that he has an illness which makes him rapidly age. On the same day his doctor says they have given up finding a cure,Dominici is told by Martell that she is pregnant. Horrified about there being no cure,and fearing that his child will have the same illness as him,Dominici begins writing a murderous composition.

View on the film:

For what was then the second film they had put out,Shameless give the title a passable transfer,with the soundtrack being clear,but the picture having a noticeable amount of grain. Largely staying away from the genre until the third,and final wave of Giallo (with this,the Slasher hybrid Body Count,and the classy Gialli The Washing Machine) director Ruggero Deodato (with family member Giovanna designing the costumes) and cinematographer Giorgio Di Battista slant the Giallo to the Erotic Thriller side,with blue low-lighting covering Dominci's face,and slick camera moves gliding on his high- life. Backed by a smooth synch score from Pino Donaggio and surprisingly good practical effects, Deodato makes the murder set-pieces short and sharp,with the stylised splashing of Gialli red heightening the madness of Dominci.

Revealing the killer to be Dominci early on,the screenplay by Gianfranco Clerici/Vincenzo Mannino & Gigliola Battaglini focuses on the rapidly ageing romance between Dominci and Martell in rather mature characterisation, which whilst giving the movie a dramatic weight,does drain any feeling of urgency from the murder case being solved. Whilst Deodato says she was only included because the producer wanted her, Edwige Fenech (whose voice for the first time is not dubbed) gives an alluring performance as Martell,who is pulled by Fenech to her wits end at the change of her lover,and Michael York gives Dominci a strong dose of gravitas,in the writing of his final composition.
12  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Hammer Noir: Paranoiac (1963) on: November 05, 2017, 04:49:38 PM
Paranoiac: A paranoid. Of, relating to, or resembling paranoia.

Paranoiac is directed by Freddie Francis and loosely adapted to screenplay by Jimmy Sangster from Josephine Tey's novel Brat Farrar. It stars Oliver Reed, Janette Scott, Sheila Burrell and Alexander Davion. Music is by Elisabeth Lutyens and cinematography by Arthur Grant.

The Ashby family has been blighted by tragedy. 11 years previously the parents were killed in an accident and their younger son, Tony, was so grief stricken he committed suicide by leaping off of a nearby cliff into the sea below. However, Anthony's body was never found. The remaining siblings, Eleanor (Scott) & Simon (Reed) have been raised at the family mansion by their aunt Harriet (Burrell), and neither of them have grown into stable adults. So when an adult comes into their lives claiming to be Tony it further opens up neurotic wounds and dark family secrets.

Skeleton in the closet.

Hammer Films tag onto the coat tails of Hitchcock's Psycho with this slick and moody psychological thriller. The studio would become synonymous with reinventing the creature feature sub-genre of horror that encompassed the likes of Dracula & Frankenstein. What often gets overlooked is that in the 60s they were producing some excellent thrillers, little seen gems that didn't even get home format releases in Britain until over 40 years later! Paranoiac is one such gem, it forms part of the thriller splinter involving someone either going insane or being driven so by unscrupulous bastards.

Paranoiac thrives on slow burn pacing and atmospheric black and white photography, and features a roll call of characters who are either up to no good or are clearly skew-whiff in the head! Perfectly filmed out of the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset, England, where the jagged cliff faces match the fragmented state of minds of the principal players, it's a film that benefits greatly from the acting on show. Reed is an oily drunk and a bully, Scott expertly portrays a timid gal clinging onto to her last bit of sanity and Burrell puts a shifty cynicism into mollycoddling Aunt Harriet. Pleasant surprise here is Davion as the man claiming to be Tony, not a well known name but he does a great job in a tricky role, with cards held close to the chest he handles a big shift in the character's fortunes with a smoothness that's most impacting.

It's no Psycho (what is?) and it has some minor flaws in the writing, such as an incestuous thread that is never expanded on, but this is still a moody little cracker of a thriller. Slow burn for sure, but always holding the attention right up to the deliverance of a joyously macabre finale. 7.5/10

Hi Spike,thanks for the great review,what did you think of the ending? I felt that it appeared Hammer believed that the audience would want some bang for their bucks,instead of the slow-burn terror that had featured in the rest of the movie. Btw,I saw your review on the new Mummy,Universal have recently canned their Dark Universe,after just one movie.
13  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Hammer Noir: Paranoiac (1963) on: October 28, 2017, 08:27:53 AM
I'll look for it too. I've been meaning to check out more Hammer Noir. Any good suggestions?

Hi Jess,my favourite from Hammer's Psych-Thriller's is the Giallo-inspired Crescendo, which is on YT:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnuR8N8MDCQ
14  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Spanish Giallo: La muerte ronda a Mónica (1976) on: October 21, 2017, 09:04:45 PM

Watched on DVD 8

** This review may contain spoilers ***

Taking part in a ICM poll for the best movies of 1976,I started checking the shelf for the DVD of Ruggero Deodato's Italian Crime epic Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man. Looking down the shelves,I was pleased to find the 1976 duo of Nico Mastorakis's debut Death Has Blue Eyes,and an enticing-sounding Giallo,which led to me meeting Mónica.

The plot:

Getting married to heiress Mónica, Federico uses her money to set-up a successful company called Eurozona. Dominating boardroom meetings, Federico starts an affair with Eva, (who is a lesbian,and deeply in love with Elena)Unknown to Federico,Elena and Eva have made plans to blackmail Eurozona out of Federico's hands. Aware of their marriage being in trouble and feeling uncomfortable around Eurozona's co- CEO/her husbands pal Arturo, Mónica is shaken when a burglar enters her house and she shoots him. Waking up after fainting from fear, Mónica finds the dead body of Federico's former business partner Diego. Dropping Diego's body in the river, Mónica soon finds her sanity to drop with it.

View on the film:

Investigating this psychological "bloodless" Giallo with a Film Noir flavour, director Ramón Fernández & cinematographer Hans Burmann make their three leading ladies appear incredible beautiful,with the extended scenes where they are naked being presented in elegant side-shots that give a playfully casual mood to the double-dealing conversations taking place. Smashing into Mónica's mansion, Fernández burns down her life of luxury with ultra-stylised creeping camera moves slithering round the house,and lingering glimpses in the corner of rooms building on the anxiety of Mónica's crumbling mind.

Laying out all of their possessions, the screenplay by Juan José Alonso Millán superbly agitates the gaps in Federico and Mónica "perfect marriage", where Federico's dangerous liaison with Eva brings out a cold Film Noir fear in Mónica of being surrounded by vipers. Racing to a wonderfully odd mad-dash double-crossing revelation to the mystery, Millán chips into Mónica's doubts over her sight with gripping Giallo sleigh of hand that in this case actually does run like clockwork, and uses the double trouble of Elena and Eva as Femme Fatale sirens who attract Mónica anxiety to their underhanded dealing.

Wrapping tightly round each other,sexy Karin Schubert and Bárbara Rey give terrific performances as Elena and Eva,who are both given an icy vibe that gives their exchanges with Federico and Mónica a venomous snap. Bouncing off Jean Sorel delicately playing the ambiguity of Federico, "Nadiuska" sizzles as Mónica,whose ruptures in paranoia Nadiuska pushes Mónica deep into the Giallo black gloves.
15  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Nordic Noir: The Hunters (1996) on: October 20, 2017, 07:10:53 PM

Watched on DVD 9

* This review may contain spoilers ***

After seeing the Nordic Noir False Trail a few weeks ago,I made a note to pick up the first of the two films (made 15 years earlier!)in the series. Finding the adaptation of Jo Nesbo's very good book The Snowman to be getting terrible reviews, (with the director admitting that production was rushed,and saying that 15% of the script that was needed to be shot was left un-filmed) I decided it was time to go on a hunting trip.

The plot:

Returning to the small town of Norrbotten after being a cop in Stockholm for 20 years due to the recent death of his dad, Erik Bäckström joins the local police force. Joining his brother Leif,Erik Finds the village to appear to be crime free,where all the people know each other,and know each other secrets, Bäckström decides to investigate a case of reindeer poaching. Learning that the poaching has been going on for years, Bäckström tries to find out why no one has been arrested,but is told by his fellow officers not to hurt local honour. Seeing his brother Leif wide smirk when standing with a group of local thugs, Bäckström decides to hunt down the secrets of the town.

View on the film:

Going down a similar country lane as the one in Lucio Fulci's superb 1972 Giallo Don't Torture a Duckling for this very early Nordic Noir, the screenplay by co-writer/(with Björn Carlström)director Kjell Sundvall dig up the superstition and Noir distrust just below the peaceful village image. Arriving as an outsider,the writers give the dialogue thrown at Erik Bäckström a brittle crunch,where one sly hand-shake can cause secrets in the town to be lost forever. Giving an excellent twist to the genres major theme of the elite being corrupt, the writers keep the mystery of the poachers tightly linked to the dour arrival of Erik into town,which exposes the police force working with the corrupt locals,which causes any trust Erik gives to his fellow officers to leak out.

Impressively starting visual themes which would be expanded on 15 years later,director Kjell Sundvall & cinematographer Kjell Lagerroos keep track on the activates in the town with sweeping crane shots over the beautiful countryside,that close in on the sniper-fire of deceit. Peeling away at the calm appearance, Sundvall paints Erik's bitter Noir frustrations in a deep black canvas,where outbursts of violence hit the screen with a blunt force.

Hanging around each other like a pack of hyenas,all of the guys playing the local thugs give outstanding performances,with Jarmo Mäkinen making gang leader Tomme Harela a psychopathic ticking time bomb, and Lennart Jähkel seeds moments of doubt into Leif,which are unable to overcome the allure of the darkness. Currently looking like he will return for an upcoming TV mini-series in the role, Rolf Lassgĺrd gives a magnificent performance as loner Rolf Lassgĺrd,whose failure to catch any glimpse of happiness is drawn with a superb heaviness on his shoulders by Lassgĺrd,as Erik Bäckström joins the hunting season.
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