Thursday, 29 November 2007

A QUIET WEEK?

Not been able to post for a while. Unfortunately, a torrid 10 days at work have taken every ounce of my physical and mental strength. As soon as things turn round, I'll be back with a look at UK cult classic WITHNAIL AND I.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

NOSFERATU RISES AGAIN










Shot in 1921 and released a year later, F.W. Murnau's NOSFERATU: A SYMPHONY OF TERROR remains a chilling horror classic, with a chequered history. Murnau's film was actually the first and last production of Proma-Film GMbH who became bankrupt after being sued for copyright infringement. Bram Stoker's estate, following instructions from his wife Florence, also ordered the original negative and all existing prints be destroyed. Thankfully, a few of the prints had been sent overseas, giving generations the chance to view this eerie silent movie. The film itself is a genuine monochrome nightmare, with Max Schreck's skeletal Count Orlok casting the darkest shadow over the lives of Thomas and Ellen Hutter. Setting the film some 50 years earlier than Stoker's novel, Murnau deposits us in a plague-infested Europe with Schreck symbolising the decease and decay. While Hammer's Dracula would later cast Christopher Lee as an imposing figure with considerable sexual attraction, Murnau's Count is a carrier of death, and resurrection is not on the agenda. My most memorable viewing of this film goes back to November 1995, where a restored colour-tinted print played before a packed auditorium at the National Film Theatre during the London Film Festival. On the big screen, Murnau's decision to use outside locations rather than studio-bound sets comes over stronger than ever, and live piano accompaniment added to the experience.


Here in the UK, a 2 disc DVD has just been released; the result of the recent Wilhelm/Murnau/Stiftung restoration. This release sees the DVD premiere of a score composed for the original NOSFERATU by Hans Erdmann, and the restored print has removed many of the visual imperfections. Extras include a commentary track, a 53 minute featurette titled 'The Language Of Shadows' (taking in Murnau's early career and a tour of Nosferatu's locations) and a restoration demonstration showing how much work went into this project. There's also an 80 page booklet containing essays and an article on Vampirism from Albin Grau. Definitive? Well, it certainly appears to be the version to buy, for the moment at least.

Murnau perished in a car accident before the premiere of TABU, which has also just been released in the UK. Both releases are on the Eureka/Masters Of Cinema label. I'll be taking a longer look at NOSFERATU as soon as I get a copy.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

MORE TEA, VICAR? #3

Mier Zarchi's I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is available on DVD in the UK via a butchered version, missing over 7 minutes of footage and the Ebay UK site have banned sellers from listing the Region 1 DVD. Larry Clark's KEN PARK is another title to fall foul of Ebay's listing policies.
Definitely another film our resident Vicar advises you don't screen at the next family gathering.



I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE


Meir Zarchi 1978


Camille Keaton, Erin Tabor, Richard Pace, Anthony Nichols, Gunter Kleemann, Alexis Magnotti, Tammy Zarchi, Terry Zarchi




The bright lights of New York have inspired many artists, but Jennifer Hills (Keaton) leaves her native city, choosing a cabin in the woods as the perfect place to write her first novel. Her arrival in a small, quiet locale does not go unnoticed, and the tranquility she seeks is soon shattered when four men subject her to a series of brutal rapes. Driven by a burning desire for revenge, Jennifer decides to mete out her own brand of savage justice.Back in the mists of time, I Spit on your Grave (aka Day of the Woman) encountered unbelievable amounts of hostility as the likes of Siskel and Ebert led an army of critics bent on engineering the destruction of the film and its director. In the UK, Day of the Woman (Zarchi's preferred title and, from this point onwards, my own) was consigned to the infamous 'Video Nasties' list, and only became legally available here again in 2002, shorn of more than seven minutes of footage. Easily the most misunderstood film on this censorious slate, Day of the Woman has been ripe for re-apraisal for a good 20 years and Elite Entertainment's Millennium DVD is the perfect vehicle to add a lot more grist to the mill of Zarchi, his film and those of us who hail it a classic. On-screen sexual violence can be criticised on a number of levels and Day of the Woman went head-to-head with all of them, slowly converting those who opted to make up his/her own mind, rather than accept the blinkered prejudice of others. The bottom line is that rape should not be an entertaining spectator sport: any depiction should make you sick to your stomach, and the gruelling scene in Day of the Woman (lasting over 20 long minutes) certainly has this effect. It cannot be seen as either titilating nor as a vehicle to prompt men to go out and violate women. It's dirty, bloody, not in the least erotic and borders on unwatchable, forcing the viewer to share this degrading experience. I guess we have to look at both sides of the coin here, so let's begin by examining some of the theories held by those who cast a shadow over Keaton's character, and blithely ignored her performance.When Hills arrives at her summer retreat, she's immediately eyeballed by gas pump attendant Johnny (Tabor) who takes a long look at her shapely legs, while his two hangers-on, Andy and Stanley ( Kleemann and Nichols) amuse themselves with childlike games. So, while Jennifer isn't exactly advertising her body, there's enough on display to give Johnny a few ideas. Next up is Mathew (Pace); a retarded delivery boy who drops by with some groceries and encounters Jennifer in provocative attire. When Mathew cycles back to his friends with a glowing, if slightly exagerated report, the gang swiftly decide this aspiring author will be Mathew's first fuck. By this time, Andy and Stanley, having caught sight of Hills' bikini-clad body, are also up for some action. The rest, as they say, is history, with Jennifer turning into a seductive murderess. In the second half of this film, Keaton is asked to completely transform her character, and does this brilliantly. She's now a femme fatale in the truest sense of the term; simply oozing sex appeal, and using her body and those remarkable eyes to trap them and kill them. First Mathew, who finally loses his virginity, only to be denied an orgasm by Hills' carefully constructed mantrap: if we believe that oft-repeated theory that death-by-hanging results in an orgasm, then perhaps Mathew did come during his last few seconds on earth - something Jennifer would not allow during their coupling.Next on the list is Johnny: Mr. Married-with-children, who bleeds to death in a locked bathroom while Jennifer calmly listens to some opera on her hifi. Then, it's on with the bikini again for a double-header finale on the Hoosatonic river. Goodbye Andy and Stanley. Throughout the second half, Jennifer does enough to suggest she's a sexually active woman and well versed in the art of seduction. Indeed, her words and actions during the opening minutes may well have been intended as a signal that she was available, though certainly not inviting the gang savagery she later experiences. Another possibility is she's done this sort of thing before; giving guys the come-on, before literally moving in for the kill: a risky business, but one that can bring its own rewards for those investing in the sex-and-death kick.Of course, the most common theory - and the one a good many of us subscribe to - is that Jennifer Hills is simply a woman who is completely at ease with her own body, and totally unaware of her power over men; particularly in a place where a pretty woman is rare as snow in July. Yes, she's naive, but merely conducts herself the way all women should be allowed to. Perhaps she was a bit too wrapped up in those magazine stories (the line, "I have many boyfriends" could well have come from one of her literary competitors) and became further embroiled by lifting her subsequent 'Angel of Vengeance' persona from a story or novel that had previously struck a chord (or hit a nerve).Elite's Millennium DVD gives us further food for thought with the inclusion of two commentary tracks. Director Meir Zarchi has maintained a deafening silence concerning his thoughts on this film (save for one interview in 1984), but considered the time was right to bare his soul. The result is a fascinating account of the making of this film, and the many obstacles that littered its path; before, during and after. We learn how Meir was forced to make extensive cuts in order to avoid the dreaded 'X' rating; why Keaton threw a fit during one particular scene; Zarchi's postive reaction to his critics, and his painstaking audition process which introduced him to his leading lady, who was destined to become his wife. The real highlight of this commentary - and the reason why EVERY critic of this film should listen - is the real-life horror story that motivated Zarchi to make this film. It's a supremely upsetting account of the day Zarchi, his daughter, and his friend Alex Pfau encountered a badly beaten woman who had just been raped by two men. It's almost as hard to listen to as the film is to watch, and Zarchi is obviously moved by the telling; particularly when he reads out a letter of thanks from the girls parents who were grateful for all he did to help. Just listen to this, and then tell me the director is a 3rd-rate hack with a perverted agenda!The second track sees cult movie guru Joe Bob Briggs take the microphone, delivering a lively, humourous talk that's littered with some very astute observations. While Joe Bob does point out when and where events get a little hard to swallow, he's clearly a supporter of this film and his interpretation certainly enriched my viewing experience.Elite's presentation of Day of the Woman also reaches heights of excellence: it's great to see this film afforded the THX treatment. For horror movies, this mark of respect began with Elite's Night of the Living Dead laserdisc, and Zarchi's classic certainly benefits. Picture quality is remarkably sharp, providing a fitting showcase for Yuri Haviv's terrific photography. Purists will appreciate the presence of the original mono track amongst the surround options, although one of this films many strengths is that it has no music score, save for a lonely harmonica and an excerpt from an opera which Jennifer plays as Johnny loudly laments the loss of his penis from a locked upstairs room. "Sola Perduta Abandonatto" - from Giacomo Puccini's "Manon Lescaut" - concerns a woman who is imprisoned after her affair with a married man. She escapes, hoping to cross the desert to British territory and is abandoned by her lover. He eventually returns to find her dying, after her search for water proves futile. Although Zarchi doesn't mention this opera, I'm convinced it ties in with his film: Jennifer effectively abandons each of the four men, whose deaths are all connected with water. It's an inspired choice of music in a film that optimises a 'silent score', making the rape and subsequent slaughter even harder to witness. So, what of the final image of Jennifer heading downstream with that strange look on her face? I think she may well have found a new career. Perhaps if Zarchi and Keaton ever resume their professional relationship, we may one day see Day of the Woman II , with a female 'Travis Bickle' returning to New York for a one-woman clean-up operation. In many ways, I hope not. Day of the Woman is truly a one-off and should remain that way.Did Zarchi go too far? I think the answer has to be 'yes', but sometimes we need films that go too far. Films that remind us that there is a harsh, ugly world outside the soft, sanitised Hollywood product that regularly clogs up our screens. Great film, great disc.

THE KEEP RESURRECTED


Fast approaching its 25th anniversary, Michael Mann's 1983 film THE KEEP remains unavailable on DVD. Paramount Pictures hold the rights to this film but, according to Anchor Bay UK's Marc Morris, have no plans for a release and are unwilling to sub-licence this title.

THE KEEP appears to have as many detractors as fans, with those based in the former camp preferring F. Paul Wilson's novel to the film. In Mann's defence, it has to be said that the released 97 minute cut wasn't to his liking and rumours of a Director's Cut running between 3 - 4 hours certainly stimulate the imagination.

January 26th 2008 will see the resurrection of this film via a one-off screening at The Prince Charles Cinema on London's Leicester Square. In consultation with Paramount Pictures, the evening will commence with the screening of a brand new 35mm print of this film, followed by a Q & A session with cast and crew and a discussion relating to the missing footage. Fans are promised that the cinema's interior will be decorated to resemble the Keep's interior and there will be a full-size Molosar on the loose. I've been to The Prince Charles on several occasions, and they pull out all the stops to ensure special events are even more special. Of course, the vast majority of KEEP buffs will be unable to attend this event, but its significance may well surface in the near future. Perhaps Paramount's interest has been rekindled? We can but hope that a DVD release is not too far away. THE KEEP was available on CIC video here in the UK and on Laserdisc in the US. Can't remember the last time it played on TV here, so with that anniversary on the horizon, what better time for its DVD debut? I'd say it deserves a second chance in a longer version.

Those of you wishing to keep track of developments regarding this event should put this site in your browser: http://www.manhunter.net/

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

MORE TEA, VICAR? #2



Another film that you may not wish to screen for an elderly relative

THE STORY OF SIN. 1975

Walerian Borowczyk

Grazya Dlugolecko, Jerzy Zelnik, Olgierd Lukaszewicz, Roman Wilhelmi, Marek Walczewski, Karolina Lubienska, Zdzislaw Mrozewski, Mieczyslaw Voit

Sefon Zeromski’s literary classic provided the inspiration behind Walerian Borowczyk’s first (and last) feature to be shot in his native country of Poland.Working under the strict regime of the Catholic church, Borowczyk was forced to tone down the more sexually explicit elements of his source, and yet constructed an erotic melodrama that may yet turn out to be the film he’ll be remembered for. In her feature debut, Grazya Dlugolecko plays Ewa - a young woman who falls in love with a lodger at her parents home. When Lukas Niepolomski (Zelnik) turns out to be a married man, Ewa embarks on a tragic journey; her path littered by a succession of men who bring lust, deception, jealousy and death.Those who associate Borowczyk with little more than boobs ‘n’ bums would do well to investigate this stately account of a life less ordinary which strides purposefully forward to the music of Mendelssohn. Here, Borowczyk shows a remarkable eye for detail in his socio-political condemnation of 70s Poland, while largly leaving his cast to grow with the story. The men in Ewa’s life - a wholly unsympathetic bunch - are well portrayed by a capable troupe of performers (Zelnik, in particular, is excellent as Ewa’s guardian devil) but it’s Dlugolecko who should receive the lion's share of the praise.Her remarkable performance wrings every last drop of emotion from the words and images of this film, compelling one to wonder why she failed to reach the heights of her profession (more on that later). With an approach to her art and a style that reminds me of Fassbinder’s Hanna Schygulla, Grazya commands sympathy for her deeds and her suffering, taking us through several emotionally intense scenes, including a shattering event that you really will not want to witness: watch out for the roses scene, too, which surely inspired that much-talked about scene from American Beauty. Apart from a rather messy final scene (partially rescued by a beautiful closing shot), The Story Of Sin remains a timeless, harrowing study of the exploitation of sin and the innocent. Indeed, it inhabits the same block as Terence Davis’ The House Of Mirth and Harry Kumel’s extraordianary Eline Vere, while not being quite so moving. Full marks, then, to Nouveaux Pictures for their release of a Region 2 DVD which honours this important work.In lieu of a full restoration, picture quality is as good as one could hope for, with a generally stable, colourful transfer. Extras are also well catered for, and include a commentary track and interviews with two key figures from the film.The still-gorgeous Dlugolecko takes part in a 6 minute interview, during which she explains how she got the role sans audition; why The Story Of Sin remains her biggest film, and her profound regret that she failed to push her career in foreign markets “until it was too late”. Borowczyk also gets 6 minutes of face time; giving us some background on his film; commenting that Disney features are more erotic than his own productions, and countering accusations of being “a big pervert” from a rather forward interviewer.While it’s a matter of regret that both interviews are so short in length, it’s a genuine pleasure to see and hear the participants.The audio commentary track, from Daniel Bird, is restricted to comments on selected scenes with valuable information on Borowzyk’s career and a breakdown of Polish life during and prior to the making of this film. Unfortunately, there is a huge amount of ‘dead air’ which Bird could have effortlessly filled. Daniel is a wonderfully gifted writer, an expert on Borowczyk’s career, and also possesses an articulate vocal delivery that is tailor-made for this line of work. So, it’s a crying shame that he did not elect/wasn’t commissioned to undertake a two hour track that would have further enriched our appreciation of this film.

ALWAYS BE CLOSING




GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS



"And to answer your question, pal, why am I here? I came here because Mitch and Murray asked me to. They asked me for a favour. I said the real favour, follow my advice and fire your fucking ass because a loser is a loser". And there we have the tail-end of a savage wake-up call from a character named Blake, sent in by the heads of real estate firm Mitch and Murray to give their sales force the bollocking of a lifetime. In fact, this is a bollocking royale and, as Blake, Alec Baldwin has probably never been better. Here, Blake marches out from the office of "company man" Williamson (Kevin Spacey) and delivers a shattering assault on the senses of three v-e-r-y tired men. We have Sheldon Levene (Jack Lemmon); a veteran salesman whose better days are behind him and the double act of Dave & George (Ed Harris, Alan Arkin); a pair of inveterate whiners who are destined to perform the bar sketch, mimed by Blake, in the not-too distant future. Missing in action is one Richard Roma (Al Pacino), who is attempting to persuade James Lingk (Jonathan Pryce) to buy some land, with his other 'office' (a nearby bar), ensuring Lingk literally enters into the spirit of things. 6 0r 7 doubles later and Roma has his man, seducing him into signing on the line that is dotted with a bewitching combination of hooch, personal anecdotes and philosophies. This really is prime time Pacino: one moment calm, laidback and persuasive, the next raging at colleagues and even the police who are called in to investigate the theft of some gold-plated leads. Pacino becomes the epitome of a smooth-talking salesman who really does have a gift, coupled with an outrageous line in bullshit. Indeed, it's clear that in another 4 or 5 years, his character will mutate into Blake with fancy cars and extreme pep talks on the horizon. On the surface, Roma seems a caring guy, praising Sheldon when he finally closes the Nyborg sit, but take a closer look at his face and you'll see he's really not interested in Levene's 'war stories'. In short, he's ultimately an unlikeable individual and the same can be said of the rest of this cast. The fact that GLENGARRY is totally absorbing and entertaining from start to finish with no sympathetic characters, is a tribute to director and cast who help fashion a production that gets better with each viewing. Hard-nosed Williamson; living-in-the-past Levene with a sick daughter in hospital, and who still makes me squirm with his old school mentality; Dave and George borrowing Al's megaphone to amplify their incompetence and anger at themselves. Hell, even Lingk fails to command any respect, allowing himself to be sucked in and painfully building up to a half-hearted stand-off during a hilariously bogus partnership between Sheldon and Ricky. This really is a masterclass in acting and the script - penned by David Mamet - must have been a real joy to deliver. There are other 'characters' in this film that we never get to see: the Nyborg's whose signatures briefly put Shel back in the big time ("Put me on the Cadillac board!"), and Jerry Gross: the latter being mentioned by every member of the sales force, coming over like some bogeyman who would be only to willing to employ this motley crew of cheats, spivs and, yes, losers should they care to simply walk across the street. Foley's film really does take the lid off the precarious world of sales where, for every high flyer, there's a dozen poor souls who don't cut it. Lies, petty actions, intense rivalry and the worst kind of jealousy rule this world of pain but, for the odd few like Roma, the rewards are massive. If you have yet to see this film and enjoy wonderful ensemble acting, I recommend it highly. To those who prefer something a little less intense... well, I'd go out and buy you a copy but you wouldn't know what to do with it.
It's for closers.
As a small footnote, my wife and I were in London recently for the Film Festival screening of EASTERN PROMISES, and noticed GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS is just one of the plays lighting up London's vibrant theatreland. Unfortunately, time and money did not permit us to attend a performance but we did discover that Jonathan Pryce is in the cast. He plays Sheldon Levene.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

ENGLAND'S FINEST BACK AGAIN

ENGLAND'S DREAMING
Oh God save history.God save your mad parade.Oh Lord God have mercy,all crimes are paid
When there's no future,how can there be sin.We're the flowers in the dustbin.We're the poison in your human machine.We're the future, your future.

Fans of The Sex Pistols can look forward to a new DVD release titled "Never Mind The Sex Pistols which will contain interviews with band members and influential commentators on the UK punk scene. There's also a flurry of activity on the vinyl front, with a re-release of one certain classic title from a long, long time ago.





















28th October, 1977 saw the release of possibly the most eagerly awaited album ever to come out of England.






"Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols" soon reached number 1 in the UK album charts, combining a glorious wall of sound with Johnny Rotten's venomous vocals . I'd been eagerly awaiting this release ever since the day I turned on the radio, heard "Anarchy In The UK" for the first time, and wondered what the hell had hit me. Happily, the album did not disappoint. Along with "Anarchy" and 3 more singles ("God Save The Queen", "Pretty Vacant" and "Holiday In The Sun"), we were treated to a further 8 tracks, including "Bodies", "No Feelings" and that vicious closing track "EMI". This was what we'd been waiting for. Going to gigs and buying records had been a joyless experience for some time, but it took something like this to wake us up. Seeing the likes of Budgie, Man, Curved Air and other minor-league bands got me into a rut, and I didn't even realise just how desperate things were until punk smashed things up and got us all actually thinking and questioning. Soon, there would be exciting new record releases every single week, with bands such as 999, X Ray Spex, The Banshees and The Clash recording vital vinyl and treading the boards every night of the week. Of course, the media here did their best to break the spirit, but The Pistols, and manipulative manager Malcolm Maclaren, just kept on going with some truly great music and outrageous publicity stunts: A brilliant marketing campaign for their "God Save The Queen" single (released to coincide with her Jubilee helped propel the record to number 2 in the UK charts, and we all know it would have been number 1 save for some blatantly obvious chart rigging); the infamous gig on a boat on the River Thames; the incident on Bill Grundy's show when the band were encouraged to use obscene language, and all the furore with record labels... brilliant marketing but all this added grist to the mill of those who claimed the band were all hype and no substance. Well, the records proved them wrong and now, on the 3oth anniversary of this classic album's release, "Never Mind The Bollocks" has once again hit record shelves, accompanied by those 4 singles. The original line-up is also touring again, with 5 gigs in London, 1 in Manchester and 1 in Glasgow. Unfortunately, work and financial commitments make it impossible for me to attend but I'll be there in spirit. One of the biggest disappointments of my gig-going career is that I never got to see The Pistols live, thanks mainly to Derby City Council. On 4th December 1976, The Sex Pistols were booked to play at the Kings Hall, Derby. For £1.50, ticket holders could see The Pistols, The Clash, The Damned and Johnny Thunders And The Heartbreakers. Sad to say, the gig was called off as Derby City Council insisted on The Pistols playing a pre-concert set which would be vetted by council members before they would give the green light. Rotten and co refused, and we all got refunds. So, a 19 date tour was whittled down to just 3 gigs with towns and cities in the UK banning The Pistols from playing. Subsequent secret gigs went ahead under the pseudonym 'Spots' (Sex Pistols On Tour). Years later, I was lucky enough to see Public Image Ltd live in nearby Nottingham, where a great set was crowned by a blistering version of "Anarchy In The UK"; a memorable night and still the weirdest concert atmosphere I've ever encountered (the house lights were kept on for the duration of the gig due to fears of violence between rival groups of fans). Now, years later, Lydon/Rotten is back . Just like that magnificent album, he refuses to go away and I hope he sticks around for a long time to come.









Tuesday, 6 November 2007

THE LIVES OF OTHERS




Every now and then, a film comes along that stops you in your tracks. For me and I suspect, many others, these events do not occur on an annual basis. Indeed, Kieslowski's THREE COLOURS:RED was the last time a film really floored me. Yesterday evening, it happened again.



THE LIVES OF OTHERS (Das Leben der Anderen) is set in East Berlin in - very appropriately - 1984. Then, the population of the German Democratic Republic were kept under strict control by the Stasi - East German secret police who used 100,000 employees and 200,000 informants to curtail any subversive activity; real or imagined. THE LIVES OF OTHERS infiltrates these turbulent times, focusing on Stasi agent Wiesler (the late Ulrich Muhe) who is instructed to monitor the activities of a playwright and his actress girlfriend (Sebastain Koch and Martina Gedeck), with the aid of audio surveillance equipment. As events unfold, Wiesler's attitude and commitment begins to change, with exposure to the lives of others introducing beliefs and philosophies which had been previously denied. One of the most astonishing things about this production is that it marks the feature debut of Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck, and won him the Oscar for Best Foreign Film at the 2007 Academy awards. Von Donnersmarck knew exactly who he wanted for the key roles, and his faith and eye for superb actors was rewarded with some marvellous performances. The multi-layered screenplay - penned by Muhi and his director - provided the cast with some wonderful dialogue, while the score becomes an extra performer, weaving around the scenes like some celestial overseer. Donnersmarck explores political doctorine, its effects on those who serve and those forced to follow, and also says a lot about human nature and how people are changed by the simple act of observing and listening. It would be especially harsh to select any highlights from a film that is totally absorbing from start to finish as key moments are many, en route to the most beautiful finale I've seen in years. And years. Special mention must go to Ulrich Muhe, who sadly died in July 2007 from stomach cancer. He was just 54 years old. Michael Haneke buffs will be familiar with this fine actor who appeared in FUNNY GAMES and BENNY'S VIDEO. Muhe was successfully sued by his former wife as a result of a book which detailed his experiences as a victim of surveillance during 6 years as an East German citizen: the fact that his book provided cast-iron proof of his story accounted for nothing. Thanks to Muhe and his director, we now have a better understanding of a harsh political regime; of how good people were hounded and spied on by those whose vision couldn't or wouldn't see the madness in their area.
A masterpiece, no less.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

DRAC'S BACK


To mark the 50th anniversary of Hammer Horror, The British Film Institute have provided a restored print of the 1958 classic DRACULA, which is currently playing at selected UK cinemas. While none of the venues are within reasonable travelling distance for me, I'm heartened by this restoration. For many of us, Hammer films, and this film in particular, were a part of our formative movie-watching years and it's good to see the BFI giving this film the treatment it deserves. Early indications are that the film now boasts more vibrant colours and includes an extra 4 seconds of footage originally excised by our old 'friends' at the BBFC. We can all look forward to a DVD of this restoration in the very near future.
While we're on the subject of Dracula, the cloak worn by Christopher Lee in his first appearance as the count has been found at a London fancy dress store. It was discovered during an inventory and had been returned to the store because the film was not expected to be a hit. On one occasion, it was actually hired out for a childrens nativity play, and was used in other films as well as being hired out to members of the public. The cloak has been valued at more than £24,000 (around $50,000 US). An overcoat worn by Peter Cushing has also been discovered and is currently being valued.

Friday, 2 November 2007

BOLLYWOOD PSYCHIC

22nd November sees the welcome release of Lucio Fulci's THE PSYCHIC on Region 1 DVD. At last I'll be able to retire my US videotape of this film, and also remember a colourful Bollywood remake of this film.



100 DAYS. Partho Ghosh 1991

Madhuri Dixit, Jackie Shroff, Javed Jaffery, Moon Moon Sen, LaxmikantBerde, Sabeeha



During a decidedly non-competitive game of tennis, Devi (Madhuri Dixit) experiences the first in a series of terrifying premonitions: a gun-toting man clad in a black leather trenchcoat; a girl drying her hair who will soon hit the floor after taking a bullet at point blank range. While further visions fail to reveal the killer's face, Devi discovers the victim will be her sister, Rama (Moon Moon Sen), and desperately tries to save her. 5 years later, with Rama missing, presumed dead, Devi marries businessman Ram Kumar (Jackie Shroff). While renovating their newly acquired bungalow, Devi discovers the skeleton of her sister after taking a pickaxe to an interior wall.If the plot sounds strangely familiar, then you may well be a disciple of the late Lucio Fulci, because this is a 160 minute remake of The Psychic. Overall, Partho Ghosh follows the source material fairly closely, with Devi's visions including a distinctive brand of cigarettes, a magazine photo (this time with a horse on the cover - a nod to the equestrian suspect in the original) and stolen works of art. We also have another limping man to contend with, and a broken mirror: as neither figure in Devi's premonitions, one assumes they serve as further acknowledgement of Fulci's tight-as-a-drum giallo. One valuable plot addition concerns a videotape which contains the identity of the killer, and whose hastily conceived title (100 Days) is a reference to the opening 13 weeks of Devi's marriage. Partho Ghosh unveils a few more surprises before the credits roll - particularly during the suspense-driven final act - though Bollywood newcomers may find the first hour to be heavy going in places, as romantic interludes force the nicely developing plot to frequently grind to a halt.'Go with the flow' has to be the message here, as there are several extremely funny scenes to savour, and some wonderful song and dance numbers which are a riot of gorgeous colours and infuriatingly catchy tunes. Kumar's presence at a wedding offers the film's most humerous moments, when he's accused of theft, thanks to his bungling assistant, while "Ladiki Ladiki" (the first of 5 songs) features pistol-packin' babes dancing down graffiti-infested corridors, while their male partners indulge in shaving foam wars, washed down by a spot of kung fu. While such moments are well worth the admission price, 100 Days does, on occasion, enter the realms of the absurd with a couple of staggeringly inept fight scenes, and a finale that features at least two-twists-too-many.While one can only speculate as to what Fulci would have made of this, those gorgeous Indian babes would surely have brought a twinkle to his eye and, one suspects, Lucio would at least applaud the concept of combining romance, thriller, horror and musical into one colourful package.A Region 0 DVD is currently available on the Eros International label (around $7 plus shipping, from www.indiaweekly.com). Although there is some print damage, the transfer is mostly stunning with cool aqua blues and warm undistorted reds making this a feast for the eyes; indeed, it's hard to imagine it looking much better. Although 100 Days was shot in Cinemascope 2.35:1, the 1.85:1 ratio used here is more than acceptable, and Raam Laxman's score - supremely spooky in places - is well served by a clear, up-front audio mix.As usual, the English subtitles suffer from translation, often providing hilarious reading ("By slipping, I've reached till here") and you'd better brush up on your speed-reading as dialogue has often moved on before you can blink.Not, then, an unqualified success but 100 Days is entertaining for the most part, and a decent introduction to Bollywood delights.