1980s, Blu Ray, british, Drama, film, https://www.facebook.com/scarletthefilmmagazine/, independent, independent film, nudity, review, reviews, SCARLETTHEFILMMAGAZINE.WORDPRESS.COM, sex, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Twilight Time, Twilight Time Blu Ray, Uncategorized

HUSSY (Twilight Time Blu Ray)

 

HUSSY (TWILIGHT TIME Blu Ray,2019) original theatrical release UK-Watchgrove Films,1980. Color. Rated R. 95 min. 1080p High Definition / 1.85:1 English 1.0 DTS-HD MA.\No subtitles. REGION FREE. Extras -Original Theatrical Trailer. $29.95  https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/hussy-blu-ray/

 

In the 1970s, Joan Collins starred in two low budget soft core porn films, THE STUD (Brett Walker,1978) and THE BITCH (Brett Walker,1979). Both were low budget films, but based upon steamy novels by Joan’s sister Jackie, and done with style and enough sex scenes provided by Ms. Collins, the films were enormously profitable, especially when they were some of the first films licensed for the brand-new home video market.

 

Other producers looked at the profits and tried to come up with films of a similar nature. HUSSY seems to be a film that came into being with that idea, but the producers got a film with a lot more depth than they expected.

Writer /Director Matthew Chapman is the great great grandson of Charles Darwin, and who has written extensively on the creation-evolution debate, and in 2007 co-founded ScienceDebate.org, which has been trying to get Presidential Figures to discuss scientific issues (something the current occupant would fail dreadfully).

What he created for his first film was more of gritty drama than a seedy sex romp. Then 35-year-old
Helen Mirren, a naturalist at heart, had no problem with nudity, have appeared in the controversial 1979 Penthouse film CALIGULA. She also brought her usual intelligence and lots of character shading to her part of Beaty, the “hussy “of the title.

 

Actor John Shea (WINDY CITY, Fox,1984) had appeared on Broadway in YENTL opposite Tovah Feldshuh. HUSSY was his film debut, portraying Emory, a member of stage crew at the cabaret where Beaty works, and where he falls in love with her.

Basically, Beaty (Mirren) works as a call girl in this seedy club, where she falls in love for Emory (Shea). Complicating matters is that Beaty has a young son as well as a psycho strong arm pimp /ex-lover Alex (Paul Angelis, who in 1968, provided the voices of Ringo and the chief Blue Meanie in United Artists’ animated YELLOW SUBMARINE!), who is fresh out of prison. Meanwhile Emory’s friend Max (Murray Salem , who later wrote the screenplay for KINDERGARTEN COP ,Universal ,1990,died of AIDS complication at only age 47. ) wants Emory to join him on an upcoming drug deal.

Paul Angelis

 

Alex finds out about the deal and muscles his way in, further endangering Emory and Beaty’s future and safety. The result will end up in murder, but of whom?

 previous DVD release 2006

HUSSY had been released on DVD in 2006 in a rather dull flat print. This new Blu Ray from TWILIGHT TIME has given the film a 1080p High Definition clean up, with colors and images being much sharper, showing cinematographer Keith Goddard ‘s work to good advantage (this film seems to have been his biggest credit).

The 1.0 DTS-HD MA (English only) sound is clear, with dialogue and sound clear and free from pops and hiss. The score by George Fenton (DANGEROUS BEAUTY, WB,1998), his second theatrical soundtrack, is a mixture of club music and songs, as well as disco influence, very much a product of it’s time.

There are no subtitle options.

The only extra is the original theatrical trailer.

Limited to ONLY 2,000 copies,
This Blu Ray is recommended to
Those who like
British Noir and
Helen Mirren fans

 

 

 

Kevin G Shinnick

 

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Island Monsters from Planet Films

 

 

Planet Films UK produced about 5 films between 1951 to 1967 , the first two being gang/crime films(THE SIX MEN,1951 ;  THE MARKED ONE,1963)  while their last three were horror films   (DEVILS OF DARKNESS,1964, being the  first  of   their terror tales .).

The final two were  both directed by Terence Fisher ( Why they didn’t hire Fisher for there vampire film is a mystery , both had Peter Cushing ,were set upon an isolated island ,and featured short squat monsters. However that is where the similarity ends.

The monster/creatures in ISLAND OF TERROR ( 1966. Other titles considered earlier being The Night the Silicates Came and The Night the Creatures Came ) were terrifying , being giant cancer cells that drained the bones from victims, leaving an empty flesh husk by way of a tentacle which also sucked the essence from one in a very noisy fashion.

 

They even divide like cells,(producing what looks like commissary chicken soup goop ),  increasing their number.

ISLAND OF TERROR got a release from Universal often co -billed with another Universal British pick up ,THE PROJECTED MAN.

 

The 1967 film NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT was based upon a 1959 novel that had been adapted in 1960 for ITV television).

ITC play of the week NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT

 

Even though N.O.T.B.H. had Fisher and Cushing ,as well as Christopher Lee ,Patrick Allen , Sarah Lawson ,and Jane Merrow ,the final result was for the most part a rather tamer affair in comparison with it’s predecessor . The threat here was a form of early global warming, with the creatures raising temperatures upon the island. It had a strong story and a good cast, but investors pulled out as the film began production ,which resulted in creatures which were kept hidden for most of the film . It needed a little more blood and thunder ,such as ISLAND OF TERROR possessed.

It was retitled for US release by a small distribution company ,Maron Films, as ISLAND OF THE BURNING DAMNED, and paired as the bottom half of a co- bill with GODZILLA’S REVENGE (Toho).

Later for television, it was retitled once again as ISLAND OF THE BURNING DOOMED, so as not to offend sensitive souls.

In March ,1967, another science fiction blob creature appeared on tv for Desilu/Paramount‘s STAR TREK.

Called “The Horta“. the creature appeared in the episode” The Devil In The Dark“. That creature had a corrosive acid it exuded , and dwelt among silicon nodules.

One wonders if it was the interplanetary futuristic off spring of the two creatures from the Planet Films !

 

ISLAND OF TERROR is currently available on Blu Ray from SHOUT FACTORY,region A only . Odeon Entertainment has released the UK Blu Ray.

NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT is available from Odeon Entertainment in an All Region Blu Ray .

 

Kevin G Shinnick

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ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS (Twilight Time Blu ray)

ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS (Twilight Time Blu Ray) Universal 1969 .Color. 145 minutes. English .2.0             DTS-HD MA sound .English Subtitles option . 1080p Hi Definition 2.35:1 REGION FREE(A,B,C). Special Features: isolated music audio track . Original Theatrical Trailer. Booklet.

https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/anne-of-the-thousand-days-blu-ray/

1969 was a year of change and turmoil. Woodstock . Altamont. Man landed upon the moon. The Stonewall riots. The Charles Manson murders. Nixon says that 25,000 troops will be withdrawn from Vietnam . My Lai massacre. Chappaquiddick . Robert R succumbs to a mysterious disease that will later be identified as HIV/AIDS.

 

Movies too were reflective of the changing chaotic times. Big budget Hollywood movies like HELLO DOLLY(Fox), TRUE GRIT (Paramount) and BATTLE OF BRITAIN(UA) were battling for audiences who were flocking to films like EASY RIDER (Columbia) or MIDNIGHT COWBOY (U.A).

 

Fitting into the former category is the epic ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS . Costume spectacles , particularly those dealing with British royalty, seemed to do well both with audiences ,reviewers ,and awards. Films like BECKET (Paramount ,1964) ,MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (Columbia ,1966), and THE LION IN WINTER (Avco Embassy ,1968) , all based upon successful intelligent successful Broadway plays, all found receptive responses.

paperback movie tie -in 

 

Producer Hall Wallis had been Warner Brothers ‘ studio manager back in the late 1920s and early 1930s, overseeing a string of classics like LITTLE CAESAR (1931) to CASABLANCA (1942). He left W.B. to form his own production company ,and continued his movie Midas Touch with films such as SORRY WRONG NUMBER (Paramount ,1948) ,several Elvis Presley and Martin & Lewis films, and screen adaptations of Tennessee Williams’ works.

 

After producing the film adaptation of BECKET , Wallis  and Burton wanted to work together on another historical drama. Burton convinced Wallis to adapt the 1948 Maxwell Anderson blank verse play ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS”.

 

The play ,which opened December 8,1948, was a huge success, running until October 8,1949 at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway. Part of that was due to the dynamic performances between Rex Harrison as Henry VIII and Joyce Redman as Anne Boleyn (I saw Ms. Redman in the superlative 1987 revival of PYGMALION that starred Peter O’Toole and Amanda Plummer, wherein she portrayed O’Toole’s mother). The other was it was considered daring (Anne admitted to having pre-martial sex!) ,a subject that would make the story impossible to get pass the Production Code of the time.

 

 

Polish Movie Poster ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS

 

The late 1960s saw the relaxing of censorship and more daring subjects being brought to the screen ,and so Wallis hired three writers (Richard Sokolove ,adaptation; Bridget Boland and John Hale ,screenplay) to adapt the play for cinematic purposes. Gone was the blank verse, though the dialogue still had a nice dramatic sense of period . One wonders if Burton discussed playing Henry with Rex Harrison when the two filmed STAIRCASE (Fox) that same year ,where the two played not kings but a pair of bickering old “queens”.

 

The production was sumptuous (design by Maurice Carter ,who had also done the same on BECKET; costumes by Margaret Furse who costumed BECKET and THE LION IN WINTER) , with an opulence that truly captured how one felt the court of Henry VIII would feel.

 

Adding to the sweep and majesty was another magnificent score by George Delerue (he had composed the score to A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, and would later write for Truffaut’s classic La Nuit Americaine (DAY FOR NIGHT,WB,1973)and win an Oscar for his work on the lovely A LITTLE ROMANCE (Orion/WB,1979).

The film was shot at such locations as Penshurst Place and Hever Castle (the childhood home of Anne Boleyn ) as well as on magnificent sets built at Pinewood and Shepperton Studios.

 

Lensing all of this was Arthur Ibbetson (director of photography on Chaplin’s last feature, A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG, Universal, 1967) and later the childhood classics THE RAILWAY CHILDREN (Universal,1970) and WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY(Paramount,1971).

Director Charles Jarrott

 

Director Charles Jarrott had directed many intelligent productions for television with this being his first theatrical production. It is directed tastefully and without flash ,allowing the performances and story carry the movement. He was so successful that he was later tapped to direct MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (Universal,1971) with the same finesse.

 

Henry VIII (Richard Burton) is unhappy that his wife ,Queen Catherine of Aragon (Irene Papas,THE GUNS OF NAVARONE,Columbia ,1961) has not born him a son to carry on his lineage. His affair with Mary Boleyn             ( Valerie Gearon, in one of her only four film appearances ) is also losing his interest (even though she is pregnant with his child)when he sees Mary’s 18 year old sister Anne (Genevieve Bujold, so marvelous  in KING OF HEARTS /le roi de Coeur,U.A,1966) at a ball.

 

Mary is engaged but Henry has his “fixer” and Lord Chancellor , scheming Cardinal Woolsey (Anthony Quayle, GUNS OF NAVARONE),break up the engagement. Mary’s father ,Thomas Boleyn (Michael Hordern, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM,U.A.,1966) is a political climber, willing to use his daughters to advance his own political career and agrees to end the engagement.

Anne is not as easily won as her sister ,and dares to insult the King, a dangerous thing to be sure, for it could mean her family losing it’s position and wealth , and even imprisonment and death.

 

Henry, however is smitten with this fiery woman, who unlike so many others, does not bend to his will. Thomas Cromwell (Canadian actor John Galicos, probably best known for playing Kor in the STAR TREK episode, “Errand Of Mercy”, Paramount, 1967 and then later as the evil Count Baltar on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, Universal 1978-9) feels the girl can be a problem but Woolsey feels she is but another bauble for Henry to play with use and discard.

 

Anne is slowly seduced , not so much by Henry as by the power he offers. She refuses Henry’s advances, however, as any child that they have would be illegitimate. Henry says he will divorce Catherine so he can marry Anne, and instructs Woolsey to find a way. Woolsey protests , but the King will not be denied. The Pope denies the annulment ,and Woolsey is removed from office, his London palace given instead to Anne and his title given to Cromwell.

Cromwell comes up with the idea that Henry is the embodiment of the Church in England, and that people cannot pledge loyalty to both The Pope & The Church of Rome at the same time it pledges allegiance to a King who is supposed to be God’s appointed. People are asked to choose, loyalty to Henry and the Crown, or dismissal and worse if they do not recognize his new Church.

 

Finally won over, Anne finally makes love to Henry.She tells Henry that she is pregnant and a quick wedding is arranged.

Catherine ,however ,was very popular with the common people (and the Spanish Ambassadors also sew discontent among the masses ) so that Anne finds herself jeered at and called “the King’s Whore” by the masses . Catherine is banished from court ,spending her remaining years(3 years, 1533-36) at Kimbolton Castle, acknowledged as the Dowager Princess.

Henry is disappointed and enraged that once again he is father to another daughter (Princess Elizabeth. His previous wife, Catherine, bore him Princess Mary).

Once again, Henry ,disappointed by the lack of a male heir, starts looking elsewhere. Anne sees him cast his eye upon young Lady Jane Seymour (Lesley Patterson, who seems to have only appeared in one other film ,THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE, Fox,1969),Anne arranges to keep the young woman from court.

Meanwhile ,the loyalty oath to the King continues . Sir Thomas More ( William Squire , Hammer’s A CHALLENGE FOR ROBIN HOOD, 1967) is still opposed to Anne’s claim as legitimate Queen (and thus the rights of Elizabeth to be a successor to the crown). In a rage, she lets Henry know she wants More done away with. A pre-determined trial finds the scholar guilty, and, denied the right to speak at his execution, he is beheaded. Shortly thereafter, like Catherine before her, Anne gives birth to a still born son .

Angrily, Henry turns to Cromwell to find a way for him to divorce Anne and leave him free to have a male heir. Cromwell invents a hideous lie, wherein he accuses Anne of sexual relations with several men, including her own brother. Her music teacher ,Mark Smeaton (Gary Bond, ZULU,Paramount,1964) ,being a commoner, is tortured into a confession by having a Garotte put around his head and tightened.

When they come to arrest her, Anne thinks that they are joking , but the charges are indeed ,deadly serious, amounting to High Treason.

Once again ,however , her intelligence and strong will come to the fore. At the trial, as Henry is hidden away listening, she gets the chance to question the poor tortured Smeaton. He repeats what he has been tortured into admitting, but when he looks upon Anne, he says that he has never been with her in any way but in friendship . The court is in disarray, but Henry enters the room, and tells Smeaton that he is condemned to die either way, so he is free to tell the truth. Smeaton asserts again that she is innocent. The court is in disarray,, as Anne smiles at Henry .Still, as Henry leaves, he says it may still be true.

 

Later,Henry goes to the tower to beg Anne to annul the marriage so he can wed Jane Seymour. Anne once again refuses ,as she says Elizabeth will be one of the great leaders of England, and Anne would rather die rather than deny her daughter her rightful place of history.

Anne is indeed found guilty, and in a tragic scene ,she is led to her death by beheading. Henry ,who was not there, but instead ,out hunting with several groomsmen, hears the cannons in the distance announce her execution. Henry urges his entourage to follow him ,and they set off to Jane Seymour’s home, the hunt once again begun for Henry to get a male heir.

The final shot shows young baby Elizabeth (Amanda Jane Smythe), hearing the cannons roar as well, and wanders sadly ,alone in a garden, as her mothers prophecy about her is repeated

 

“Elizabeth shall be a greater queen than any king of yours. She shall rule a greater England than you could ever have built. My Elizabeth shall be queen, and my blood will have been well spent.”

 

The film was given a wide release by Universal to mixed reviews. All reviewers ,however agreed upon one thing, the magnificence of Bujold’s performance.

It received numerous nominations at the 1970 Academy Awards, winning for Best Costume ; winning Golden Globes for Bujold (Best Motion Picture -Actress-Drama) ,Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director-Motion Picture(Jarrot) and Best Screenplay (Boland, Hale,Sokolove)

 

The film did well, though it did not crack the top 20 films for 1970 (it was released in December, 1969, but played throughout the next year ).

Three small  bits of trivia-Burton’s wife at the time, Elizabeth Taylor, made a cameo appearance as a courtesan. However, she is not noticed ,as her character is masked. Miss Taylor, while in costume, wore a gift from Burton, the La Peregrina Pearl ,one of the most valuable pearls in the world.

12 year old Kate Burton also had an uncredited cameo as a serving girl.

The expensive costumes and props were re-used for the 21st(!) CARRY ON film, CARRY ON HENRY (Rank,1971) ,which had an original alternative title of “ANNE OF A THOUSAND LAYS ” ,that sounds more like a porno version than the fun though bawdy film that resulted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On video, the film was released on VHS in a very flat print that muted the colors and lost information on the sides of the picture ,as well as a flat mono sound.

 

Universal released it to DVD as a co-bill with MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (Universal,1971)in a slightly improved version.

 

This TWILIGHT TIME release is the must have print to own. The 1080p Hi Definition 2.35:1 transfer is incredibly rich, with solid reds ,blues ,and skin tones. The film has not looked this good since it was originally unspooled theatrically in 1969.

 

The sound has also been upgraded with a 2.0 DTS-HD Master audio track. The sound is incredibly rich in this dialogue driven film, with the score and sound effects also clean and free of hiss or pops .

Extras are few , though one can enjoy Delerue’s magnificent isolated score on a separate track .

The original Decca Sound Track release

Also included is the original theatrical trailer, narrated by Hal Wallis himself. It has not been cleaned up, so you can get an idea of how rough some of the previous releases have looked.

Finally , an 8-page insert booklet with an essay by Julie Kirgo is included within the case.

Subtitles in English SDH are also available.

One would love to have had an audio commentary, perhaps with Ms. Bujold . That said, the magnificent print that TWILIGHT TIME has released is nothing to dismiss.

The film, like most of TWILIGHT TIME collectible releases , is limited to a press run of 3,000.

The film is a superb example of intelligent film-making ,wherein story and acting ruled over C.G.I. and mind-numbing sameness.

Hopefully, TWILIGHT TIME will release the original 1971 MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (Universal) and perhaps the unjustly overlooked gem LADY JANE (Paramount ,1986) to be proper companion pieces to ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS and  A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (released by Twilight Time in 2015).

 

I highly recommend this film to people who enjoy historical dramas, as well as superlative acting and thoughtful storytelling.

 

I do wonder, however, now, in this time of the Me-Too Movement, how many will look favorably at the cavalier attitude of the men within this story, and their views of women .

Seriously, how many men would create an entire religion, just to have sex ???

 

Thoughts to ponder.

HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.
-Kevin G Shinnick

 

 

 

I just wanted to make note of  very  sad news .

NICK REDMAN passed away January 17,2019 after a valiant two year battle with cancer. Mr. Redman co -founded Twilight Time in 2011. Mr Redman also was a film historian,documentarian, and sound track producer.

Our deepest condolences go out to his friends  and family , including his wife  Julie Kirgo  ,his brother, and his children .

 

*********************************************************

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PATIENT ZERO (2018)

PATIENT ZERO (Vertical Entertainment) R -now playing limited theatrical and available as V.O.D. 87 Min. Rated R. horror/science fiction.
patient-zero-2018

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mn-wBZwQdRA

Imagine if you will Bub from Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD (1985, U.F.D.) were fully cognizant of his situation, and able to have a full conversation about it (MY DINNER WITH BUB? ). Throw in a bit of 21 DAYS LATER (2002, Fox) and you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from PATIENT ZERO.

Filmed in 2015 by Screen Gems, it sadly sat on a shelf until now. Why? Screen Gems opened the abysmal ULTRAVIOLET (2006) wide, and that was nowhere near as good as PATIENT ZERO.

In 2013, Mike Le’s script for PATIENT ZERO was called “the Most Liked “unmade script of the year in the annual Black List poll. A bidding war between several studios took place, with Screen Gems winning the rights to make a feature of the script. Matt Le had prior only worked on a few reality shows and later some forgotten thrillers like AMNESIAC (2014, XLrator) (get it? forgotten? Amnesiac?) and DARK SUMMER (2015, IFC). The frenzy was no doubt due to Paramount’s mega zombie blockbuster WORLD WAR Z that came out that year.
Patient+Zero

Director Stefan Ruzowitzky had directed the German horror thriller AUTOPSY (Sony,2000) and won the 2007 foreign language Oscar for his film THE COUNTERFEITERS (released in the US by Sony)and so there a bit of buzz around his second English language film (his first ,ALL THE QUEENS’S MEN ,2001,Sony,starred Matt LeBlanc & Eddie Izzard ,was a fun little film that came & went).

patient-zero

Adding to the buzz was the casting of Matt Smith (popular from DOCTOR WHO, portraying the character from 2010-13, with a guest appearance in 2014, BBC) and Natalie Dormer (GAME OF THRONES, appearing from 2012 to 2016 in the HBO series) and Stanley Tucci (Oscar nominated for THE LOVELY BONES ,2009, Dreamworks).

The majority of the film was shot in a massive set at Shepperton Studios that was built to resemble an underground military missle silo built into caverns.

In the near future, a new pandemic has broken out, driving people into a bloodthirsty rage. The world is so caught off guard by how quickly this spreads that a large group of survivors, men, women and children, take refuge in said underground military bunkers. There, they work frantically to try and seek some sort of cure, and if they can, discover Patient Zero, the first of the infected (Odd Doctor Who trivia (Matt Smith’s first full episode as the Doctor, “The Eleventh Hour”, he spent a good bit of time looking for PRISONER zero. Back to the review.).

Morgan (Matt Smith, sporting a Midwestern accent) has been bitten but unlike many, has not turned into one of the rampaging creatures (referred to as “the infected”). Instead, he can communicate with the transformed in their own language (that this is never explored in more detail made me wonder if the film had been drastically cut down) as well as using music to set off the murderous victims of the plague.

153694078162355269 Then one day, they bring in The Professor (Stanley Tucci), who not only is unaffected by the music, but also speaks in a calm clear manner. However, we also feel that underneath his demeanor is this seething rage, waiting to get out, and tear out the throats of all around.

The scenes between Smith and Tucci work wonderfully well, as if in a zombie film version of the Clarice /Hannibal Lector scenes from SILENCE OF THE LAMB (1991, Orion).

4E580E2B00000578-5962725-image-m-155_1531838122713

Scientist Dr Rose (Natalie Dormer) is trying to get Morgan to hurry up while trying to placate Col. Knox (Clive Standen, star of the recent NBC Universal series TAKEN (2017-18) based upon Luc Bresson’s films) whose attitude is shoot them all let god sort it out.

Morgan also wants to find a cure, not only for himself but also his wife Janet (model /actress Agyness Deyn). Can they before the bunker is overrun by the ever increasing infected? Plus, watch out for those damn raging rats!!!

I don’t understand the general dismissal of this film. The cast is good, and the production values are decent.

The accent that Matt Smith uses is a bit jarring, and since most of the cast is British, why didn’t they just set the story in the U.K.?

Also, as I mentioned, there are a lot of very interesting ideas brought up but then never fully developed in the finish film, making me feel that there was some drastic editing to the movie.

cPlBjz2
However, once Stanley Tucci shows up, PATIENT ZERO hums along quite nicely, with the exchanges between Morgan and The Professor holding our attention. The idea that the disease is merely releasing the rage contained in all of us is a good one and adds a bit of brains to the usual zombie fare.

I don’t think you will be disappointed if you watch this film without comparing it to films like DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978, UFD). It is a nice variation to the apocalyptic zombie film, with some novel additions.

I do hope that a Blu Ray with commentary track is in its future, as I would love to hear about the behind the scenes of PATIENT ZERO.

Currently, director Ruzowitzky is working on The Last Voyage of the Demeter, which is based on Bram Stoker‘s Dracula . I look forward to his new additions to genre films.

Check out PATIENT ZERO.
Kevin G Shinnick

ZOMBIES
Apocalypse
Matt Smith
Natalie Dormer
Stanley Tucci

Climax

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Andy Milligan Double Feature (Alpha DVD) Body Beneath/Guru

Andy Milligan Double Feature: The Body Beneath (1969)74 min. / Guru, The Mad Monk (1970) 56 min. Color. $7.98 single disc DVD.Region “0”

https://www.oldies.com/product-view/8028D.html

Andy Milligan (Feb 12,1929- June 3,1991) was an interesting eccentric.
An avante garde theatre director. Born in the Midwest, his early life was troubled by an abusive alcoholic mother.

After serving four years in the Navy, he was discharged and move to NYC to run a dress shop. During that period, he became involved in the genesis of the original Off Off Broadway theatre movement at Café Cino and La Mama. He got involved with directing, writing, and even designing and creating the costumes for his productions. Some of them were so quickly put together that the costumes practically fell apart as actors exited the small stages.

It was a time of great freedom and creativity, though very little financial reward.

To make a bit of extra money, he did appear in some early television as an actor, though how many he appeared in is not quite clear (Imdb lists 4 shows, but not what he played in them).

The greater though secretive freedoms of homosexuality in New York City also allowed him to explore that aspect of his life.

Andy Milligan  

This led him into creating a 30-minute short called VAPORS (1965). Milligan assumed a lot of alias but seemed to have done almost everything but act to get this film made. It plays like a one act by writer Hope Stansbury (a member of his film family before and behind the camera). It is a sad tale of sex and a failure to connect with others (though only a male male kiss is shown, and a character opening his robe walking towards the camera is shown. In most prints, there is a black line across the nudity.) .

Like most of his films, the film deals with rejects, degeneracy, and a palpable gloom. VAPORS is probably one of his most thoughtful film and shows the direction that he could have gone.

Milligan moved to Staten Island to a large house where he would shoot a large portion of his NYC area made projects. As always, he handled almost every job, probably including the catering. His budgets were never very large, but his ambitions were.

Sadly, for him, he got involved with distributors who took advantage of him, so that he rarely saw any real money for his projects.

He ran a hotel in Staten Island (which probably provided some of his funding) as well as running a theater on West 39th Street for several years, from 1979 until he left NYC in 1985.

His move to California only produced three more films as well as briefly running a dress shop and another theatre company. Nearly penniless, ill health took him in 1991.

Since the early day of video, Milligan’s films have been offered on tape. The transfer was often taken from prints that were dupes. Milligan shot often on 16mm, with his films blown up to 35mm. The duplicates seem to have been reductions from 35mm to 16mm again, meaning the films had been through several transfers.

Framing was off, and grain was often a major problem, as well as color shifts and sound warbling. Mind you, these may have existed in the originals, but so many of his film negatives have disappeared (indeed many of his films have vanished as well, again due to shady distributors).

Having worked in a film storage house, it is amazing how films can be mislabeled and put within the wrong film cans. Perhaps one day we will find a cache of his original prints as well as his lost films and be better able to judge his works.

 

As I was researching this piece, I discovered that someone had posted a print of one of his “lost “sexploitation films, COMPASS ROSE (1967) https://youtu.be/00AS-GaLe78 . I reached out to playwright Robert Patrick, and identified the opening bedroom set as being one for a Landford Wilson play at Caffe Cino ! Just a little more info on this never released film .

 

That said, now to this Alpha DVD double feature. The prints are worn, and the sound has a bit of warble in places. That said, they are in better condition than copies of these films that I have seen in the past. The scratches on the film also increase the grindhouse feel of the theatres in which these films were unspooled.

GURU, THE MAD MONK was released September 1970. The film was shot for an incredibly small $11,000. PINK FLAMINGOS (1972) was produced for only $10,000, but that was a modern-day project. GURU was an ambitious period piece, which required several costumed characters, as well as furniture, props and locations that would suggest the time.

 

The main part of the filming took place around and in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church ,346 W 20th St in NYC. The Church, established in 1832 on land donated by, among others, Clement Clarke Moore, author of “A Visit From St. Nicholas/The Night Before Christmas”.

 

The Church, which is still a major part of the Chelsea Community to this day, has dedicated outreach programs, food banks, and permit a lot of performances upon the property.

Nothing, I think, was quite like the craziness of GURU THE MAD MONK. One wonders what the director did to convince them to film this hysterical historical within these sacred walls?

The film was obviously shot with haste, with some shots carefully composed (a nice travelling shot is quite impressive within the Church) as well as many obvious one take blunders that remain in the final print (an actress stumbles upon her line, a character steps upon the train of Guru, a loud rip being heard. Nothing is made of this, so it appears to be unintentional. A light switch is quite visible in one shot in this medieval tale, as well as the title card for the screenplay is misspelled!

Some of the costumes are quite good, some, like the dress of the leading lady, are an obvious 1960s sun dress with alterations. The makeup is never blended, with one character playing an older man wearing obvious white and blue make up, while poor Igor, the hunchback, suffers most from non-blended applications to his face.

Producer M.A. Issacs ( whose initial form the first letters of Maipix Organization in what seems there only attempt at producing, the film later being released by Nova International Productions)seems to have suggested the story to Milligan, perhaps inspired by Hammer’s RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK (Fox, 1966).

Milligan upgraded his equipment on this project to 35mm, which may explain why this film is a bit slicker looking than a lot of his earlier projects. However, it is also more expensive film stock, so even using short ends (left over unexposed film sold back to the labs from other productions), it increased the costs on his already tiny budget. Milligan, later in life, felt that this was his worst film. While it is not a classic, it is certainly far from his worst.

Set upon the fictitious island of Mortavia during the Middle Ages, a young woman named Nadja (Judith Israel, her only film credit) is imprisoned upon a false charge of having killed her baby.

Everything seems to center around the Lost Souls Church of Mortavia, which seems to contain the prison as well as the Church wherein sentencing is carried out.

Carl (a very monotonic Paul Lieber, who went on to a long successful career on television and on stage in L.A., winning 5 Dramalogue Awards and an L.A. Weekly Award for his performances), her jailer, is smitten with her, and seeks to save her.

He appeals to FATHER (not a mad monk as the title suggests) Guru, the religious leader. Guru is played by actor Neil Flanagan, who also appeared in Milligan’s SEEDS (Aquarian,1968,) and TORTURE DUNGEON (Constitution,1970, an earlier “period” film that was shot on 16mm with a $15,000 budget).

Flanagan was a staple of the Village theater scene, winning an Obie in 1967 for his starring role as an aging drag queen in Lanford Wilson’s hit ‘THE MADNESS OF LADY BRIGHT” and a second Obie in 1976 for his contributions to over 10 years of Off Off-Broadway Theatre. He died from AIDS in 1986 at age 52. He relishes his plummy role in this film and plays it to the hilt.

 

Guru makes a deal with Carl to save the girl, but it involves Carl having to help finance the Lost Souls Church by a bit of body snatching. In exchange, Guru will keep Nadja hidden until his three-month morbid indenture is over.

Carl is sent to see Olga (Jacqueline Webb) who will provide a potion to make it appear that Nadja is dead (a la Juliet in Romeo & Juliet). Olga also requires a price, which is to supply human blood from the executed for her experiments. Carl reluctantly agrees, and Olga seals the deal by pricking his palm with a needle. It is almost laughable when he lifts his hand, for it is drenched in blood!

 


We see various accused brought before Guru within the Church, wherein he gives them a blessing and then brands them before they are dragged away. Igor (Jack Spencer) the deformed hunchback, stirs the fire and hands over the torture instrument. When Nadja is brought before him, he slips the drug into some sacrificial wine, and gives it to the young woman.

The medicinal works and Nadja is buried, only to be dug up by Carl, and hidden within the church. Carl is really not too observant, as both the mad mon…er.. Priest and Olga have plans for the young woman . Guru and Olga are, it seems bumping uglies, and enjoying torturing and killing others from Milligan’s stock company. Olga, it seems, doesn’t want the blood for experiments, but for herself, as, it is revealed, that she is a vampire! One thing about a Milligan film, is sometimes things can appear out of nowhere.

Next up on the disc is THE BODY BENEATH. In 1968, Milligan had gone to England after making a multi picture deal with producer Leslie Elliot. Eliot had been involved with producing the MGM film THE LIQUIDATORS (1965) but  he also ran the privateThe Compton Cinema), and ,having released some of Milligan‘s earlier work in the U.K.,  he may have been on the lookout for inexpensive product that he would own.


Their first production was NIGHTBIRDS (Cinemedia, released in 1970). The dark kitchen sink drama barely got a release and vanished for years. Thanks to Nicolas Winding Refn (director of NEON DEMON, Broad Green 2016) and the BFI, the film was been restored and released to DVD in England in 2013, where it has been getting mixed reviews but better than one often associates with Milligan’s work.

Refn is obsessed with Milligan’s work, buying up prints from various sources, including those in the private collection of author Jimmy McDonough, who wrote the must have biography of the director, THE GHASTLY ONE (Chicago Review Press,1st Edition, October 1,2001). For more on the fascination by the one director for the other, read
https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2012/jun/14/obsession-andy-milligan-cult-movies .

For some reason, Leslie Eliot dissolved the partnership during the making of one of the remaining films (no doubt the director’s caustic personality) , and Milligan was forced to deal once again with William Mishkin.

Mishkin and his Constellation Films were known mostly for cheap nudies and sexploitation films. He was willing to help distribute films by Milligan because even if they just played the NYC grind circuit he could make his money back. Unfortunately, distributors could and would sublease titles out to other regional distributors, so filmmakers would be at the mercy of the original distributors for a full accounting. Neglect by the distributors is also how many of these and other films were lost (it is said that Mishkin’s son destroyed the films rather than pay for film storage fees). Is it any wonder after a lifetime of mistreatment that Milligan’s negative world view seeped so heavily into his work?

 

It is doubtful that Milligan ever saw more than what he spent on making his films, and, like poor Ed Wood, did not retain the rights to his own work. Mishkin had backs Milligan’s sexploiter THE PROMISCUOUS SEX (1967, “Made in Greenwich Village! “  for about $10,000, returning a profit over 13 times its budget), and so he was willing to back the four remaining British films, if they were exploitive.

The results were BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS (released January 1970,on a whopping $18,000 budget, with certain scenes filmed when Milligan returned to the U.S.),THE RATS ARE COMING, THE WEREWOLVES ARE HERE (released in May,1972, again an $18,000 budget ,with some footage shot in Staten Island to complete /pad the film after Milligan returned to the U.S. in 1970), THE MAN WITH TWO HEADS (released June 1972,shot on a “massive” $20,000 budget) ,and the film we are reviewing here THE BODY BENEATH (released September, 1970,again with a budget of $20,000 estimated).

THE BODY BENEATH is one of Milligan’s most uniformly acted production. There are less overly over the top histronics, though still many plummy performances. Like all his British films, this was shot with his 16mm Auricon camera. These cameras were popular with journalists as they were a single system machine that recorded sound DIRECTLY to the optical track, thus eliminating the need for a separate audio recorder. A major liability was the camera were parallax view, meaning you were not looking directly through the lens, but what you saw from your viewfinder was slightly off from what was really being filmed.

In a wide shot, this is not normally a problem, but Milligan’s style were tight shots to cover perhaps how little set decoration there was in the scene, giving the framing an often claustrophic effect. Plus, one of the characters might be barely in the shot due to the framing problem combined with the parallel view. Retakes, alas, would cost too much.

     Auricon 16mm camera rig used by reporter Tony Hamilton not Milligan

The film begins with Anna Ford (Susan Clark,NOT the Canadian actress of the same name who played Mary Kelly in MURDER BY DECREE ,Avco,1979. This British actress seemed to have done mostly minor roles, with this being her largest part.) going to place flowers at her mother’s grave just as the graveyard is about to close. Never a good thing, as Barbra (Judith O’Dea) found out in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD(Continental,1968).

Moments after the caretaker alerts her to the closure, Anna finds herself surrounded by several bluish tinged blonde women. “Hellloooo” says one with an almost childlike quality. This is a bit chilling, but the print has very warbly sound at this point (though I don’t know if any other print that I have seen is any better, so it may have been in the original recording and Milligan never bothered to redub it later.).

 


Just a side note: the original poster declared that the film was “filmed in the graveyards of England”. This was probably to make ticket buyers assume they were going to see a Hammer or Amicus Film. The one thing these films shared was filming in Highgate Cemetery, which was also used in Hammer’s TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1970) and AmicusTALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972) and FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE(1973).

 

      Highgate today and as it appears in TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA

 

 

Back to this film. Graham Ford (Colin Gordon.I think IMDB is mistaking him for another actor with the same name so I cannot tell what his credits are.) is awaiting his wife’s return when he is visited by the Reverend Alexander Ford (Gavin Reed,who had small roles in films like CARRY ON LOVING,Rank ,1969, relished his leading role here ) and his wife, Alicia (Susan Heard,who played a maid in Milligan’s NIGHTBIRDS as well as various crew roles on his other  U.K. films .).

 

                                          IMDB : not the same actor who appeared in this film !


Gavin Reed is delightful, making Milligan’s overwrought writing roll easily off his tongue as if he is in an Oscar Wilde play (who is referenced during their exchange), giving the part some much needed wit. His talk of the family genealogy reminds one of Ernest Thesiger in THE OLD DARK HOUSE (Universal, 1932). Graham we discover is Canadian and finds that the Reverend and his wife are freshly arrived from Ireland to re-open All Souls Church (a satellite of the LOST Souls church from GURU?) and he has a lease on Carfax Abbey (a clue for all you Dracula fans) next door. To put a point on it, Graham says that it is right next to Highgate Cemetery. In real life Carfax is near Whitby, nearly 264 miles from London.

 

Anna comes home but reacts startled by seeing the Reverend. We abruptly cut to another couple, Susan Ford (Jackie Skavellis,who also appeared in Milligan’s THE RATS ARE COMING….) and her boyfriend Paul (Richmond Ross,his only listed film credit). We find out that Susan is pregnant and that she is going to Carfax to meet a relative who recently contacted her, namely the Reverend.

We are introduced to one final relative, Candace Ford (Emma Jones,in her only major role). As she is about to leave her home, her maid answers the door a hunchback, Spool (Berwick Kaler ,who appeared in all of Milligan’s British films, and who since 1981 has appeared as The Grand Dame in York Theatre’s Royal!He has little recollection of his three day’s work on this, other than Milligan wanting him to stoop more) hands her flowers. When she turns, one of the blue faced woman is behind her. She sends the maid to deliver the flowers and steal some blood from Candace by pricking her finger.

Gavin Reed discusses with Berwick Kaler how to stoop lower

 

      Berwick today,in a costume that Milligan would have loved!

The basic plot unfolds that the Ford family line have been vampires, but they need to replenish. Thus, the gathering of the family to restore the bloodline with Susan popping out vampire babies while the other relatives supplying blood.

There is a lot of shaky camera work that is meant to add style but instead induces motion sickness, and many scenes are very ill lit. Gore is low in this film, though a second maid Jessie (Felicity Sentence,who played First Girl in NIGHTBIRDS) ends up with knitting needles to the eyes and dragged off by Spool, while the Reverend seems to need leeches applied to him to keep his blood pressure down, and poor Spool, perhaps the most sympathetic character, is cruelly crucified by the Reverend.

At the end of the film, there is a vampire gathering that shows that Milligan had seen several of Roger Corman’s films, particularly aping the Vaseline smeared lens that Corman employed for his dream sequences. While giving the scene an arty effect, it also perhaps helped hide the improvisational nature of the costumes, which often look they were made from grandma’s sofa!

      Hazel Court  hazy in Masque Of The Red Death

 Milligan’s attempt 

No one ever addresses why many of the vampires are blue skinned, while the Reverend is not (a question, though, that also comes be questioned about the superior RETURN OF COUNT YORGA, A.I.P.1971, wherein his brides look the worse for wear while he looks handsome, at least until he attacks).

I thought having a vampire as a priest was a unique idea, which allowed Milligan to express his feelings about religion through the character. However, it was pointed out to me that the title character in VARNEY THE VAMPIRE by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest (serialized beginning in 1845) posed as a monk (but was he mad??)at one point and he told his story to a sympathetic priest, before he hurled himself into a volcano . Varney’s subtitle would have fit a Milligan film by the way,  FEAST OF BLOOD.

Neil, are you wearing Grandma ‘s curtains? ” ” No, Ma….”

Andy Milligan’s films , unlike Ed Wood’s , are hard for many to take. One cannot certainly warm up to them as one does with Wood.

Wood, no matter how inept his films, had a certain positiveness to them, a definite “Let Me Entertain You” sincerity, no matter how many wobbly cardboard headstones one saw on display.


Milligan was a more complex individual, dealing with a lot of anger issues, a rage against the world, that he used his theatre work and his films to lash out at what he perceived a cruel world. From all he endured in his life, one is not surprised, but his cruel streak still emerges.

A few of his films have some animal torture which simply pure sadism is (THE RATS ARE COMING had Milligan himself mutilating a poor mouse in the Staten Island shot footage, as well as his killing a pigeon in NIGHTBIRDS) that cannot be condoned.

 

Luckily none of that is in these two films (just the poor abused actors!).

I cannot say that I find his films entertaining, but that said, they are hypnotically fascinating. Had he more money, a proper crew and support, one wonders what he might have accomplished? Maybe it would have tamed the anger in him. Perhaps he would have eased from the horror films into more films like NIGHTBIRDS and VAPORS, which seem to be where his heart truly was.


What we are left with is a collection of odd films that seem to become more and more a time capsule of what grindhouse truly was.

This ALPHA dual feature could have been called the Andy Milligan Deliver Us from Religion Co bill, and it is nice to get the two films on one affordable disc to recreate the original theatre release from Nova.

If you are curious about grindhouse, microbudget, or seeing what all the cult buzz is about Andy Milligan, then definitely pick up this release.

Kevin G Shinnick

 

 

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ENGLAND IS MINE (2017) Blu Ray

ENGLAND IS MINE – (Cleopatra Blu Ray) 2017. color.94 mins. Region A. $29.95- https://www.amazon.com/England-Mine-Blu-ray-Jack-Lowden/dp/B074R49SZX/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1513794098&sr=8-2&keywords=ENGLAND+IS+MINE

 

Indie icon Morrissey continues to stir controversy. His first album in three years, LOW IN HIGH SCHOOL, was released on a new label that he created after he felt his last release was mishandled.

 

He claimed that HMV was refusing to carry the album due to it’s anti -monarchy cover art as well as throwing his support behind an anti-Muslim politician in the U.K. (who was trounced) rather than throwing his arms around Paris. After seemingly defending Kevin Spacey and other serial abusers (“When you are in somebody’s bedroom, you have to be aware of where that can lead to. That’s why it does not sound very credible to me. It seems to me that Spacey has been attacked unnecessarily”), he has sworn off any future print interviews, saying that he was misquoted.

 

Plus, he has cancelled a recent spate of performances for a variety of reasons (one because the venue was “too cold”), so he has been front and center in the public’s eye, and not for his music. Even today as I write this, an hour ago he claimed that he was interviewed by the Secret Service after a flip comment about Donald Trump.

 

ENGLAND IS MINE is a film that seeks to explore what turned shy socially awkward intellectual became the darling of the alt rock scene as well as a dissent magnet.

 

 

Steven Patrick Morrissey (born 22 May 1959) to Irish Catholics who immigrated to Manchester, a poor working-class area. The film opens with Morrissey (marvelously embodied by Olivier Award winner Jack Lowden, also in the epic DUNKIRK( W.B,2017 )and to portray Lord Darnley in the upcoming MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS (Focus,2018) deep in thought about his place in life observing churning waters that seem to reflect his own inner turmoils.

He and his friend and confidante Anji (Katherine Pearce, recently in MY COUSIN RACHEL, Fox,2017) go to local clubs wherein he writes blistering letters to N.M.E.(New Musical Express). She says he should stop complaining about others and start his own band. To this end, she contacts another musician, who shows up at the appointed place, but Morrissey’s shyness has him run away before even chatting.

 

Meanwhile, all is not good at home, as his father abandons the family at Christmas, forcing the young man to take a dead-end job at the Inland Revenue Service. His outlook is bleak until he meets free spirited artist Linder (Jessica Brown Findlay, so good in VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN, Fox,2015). She exemplifies what he would like to be, and so he finally joins a band.

 

There first gig is so well received that an agent gives them his card. Morrissey quits his dead-end job, thinking that stardom is now his but finds that the agent only wanted their guitarist.

 

Morrissey plunges into a massive depression, made worse by Linder leaving for London due to her art.

 

The film ends just as Morrissey joins up with Johnny Marr (Laurie Kynaston, THEY FOUND HELL, Cinetel ,2015) to form The Smiths.

 

Lowden & Kynaston as Morrissey and Marr

 

Sadly, since this was not an authorized biography, the movie was not allowed to use any of Morrissey’s music. Instead, music that he loved and inspired him is used as a soundtrack to events happening. One would have liked music by the composer to be used, especially with The Smiths (The title ENGLAND IS MINE comes from “Still Ill”, a Smiths song (“England is mine, and it owes me a living”). The film began production as “Stevie”).

The real Marr & Morrissey

 

However, since this is set just prior to their formation, one could be forgiven that absence if more New York Dolls and Sex Pistols had been used. Instead, we are treated to Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Diana Dors, The Shangri-Las, and The Marvelettes pops up. Mostly, it is not even used as ironic counterpoint. It might have been wiser to have had a completely original score.

 

Heaven Knows, I’m Miserable Now” (another Smiths hit) may have been a more appropriate title for the film, as this kitchen sink drama gets caught up in the depressive side of the singer composer’s life.

 

First time director Mark Gill (who co-wrote the screenplay with William Thacker) get the air of depressiveness that overwhelmed England during the time of Margaret Thatcher, but makes his lead a most unlikeable smug egomaniac (accurate perhaps, but not one with whom you wish to spend 90 minutes of cinema time).

 

It is odd that one of the producers of ENGLAND MADE ME was involved with CONTROL (Weinstein, 2007) which dealt with the life and early death of Ian Curtis ,the lead singer of Joy Division, at age 23. That film got it so right.

Another rock star biopic by a first-time director that works was NOWHERE BOY(Weinstein,2009), about young John Lennon.

The filmmakers make a lot of assumptions that the audience for this are die hard Smiths fans alone, and so no explanation is given for example of the fixation for the Moor Murders by the characters. For those who do not know, The Moors murders were of 5 children sexually assaulted and murdered between 1963 and 1965 around Manchester. Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were both convicted for the killings, Brady dying in prison in 2002, and Hindley just this past May,2017.

The Blu Ray disc from Cleopatra accurately reproduces the dark drab grays and blues of cinematographer Nicholas D. Knowland (The Quay Brothers’ INSTITUTE BENJAMENTA, Image 1995). It is presented in a widescreen ratio of 2.35:1

The 5.1 Dolby Digital 5.1 is serviceable, but nothing memorably outstanding.

The extras include:
SMOKE & MIRRORS: an onset chat with cinematographer Nicholas D Knowland .

Audio Commentary: Actor Jack Lowden and director Mark Gill discuss the making of the film. Both have a great deal of respect about each other’s work. Stand out moment to me was when Lowden said the most difficult thing for him to learn was to use a record player (! I’m old).

SAD FACTS WIDELY KNOWN: Some behind the scenes footage. It is without commentary, so it is best to check this out after watching the film to see what is going on.

Optional English subtitles: this may come in very handy for those not accustomed to English accents, and it follows the action quite well.

Original theatrical trailer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DHJa10Sa8A

The film will be of interest to

Fans of Morrissey (of course) who may say “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want”.

British Drama.

  –  Kevin G Shinnick

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PIRATES OF BLOOD RIVER (Twilight Time Blu Ray

 

PIRATES OF BLOOD RIVER (Hammer/Columbia,1962) Twilight Time Blu Ray. 87 min. Color. $29.95. Region Free (A/B/C). https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/pirates-of-blood-river-the-blu-ray/ Limited to 3,000 copies.

Hammer in the late 1950s had found a popular and financially profitable niche with their now classic horror films. The studio, however, also produced a wide variety of titles in other genres. Powerful War films (YESTERDAY’S ENEMY, Hammer/Columbia 1959), Comedies (WATCH IT, SAILOR! Hammer/Columbia ,1961), even crime dramas ( HELL IS A CITY, Hammer/Warner Pathe ,1960).
They even made movies for the popular family market U certificate films. In England, to get the “U” (Universally suitable for all) certificate, a film was thought generally acceptable for ages four and up.

SWORD OF SHERWOOD FOREST (Hammer/Columbia, 1960) was a surprise hit, and so Hammer decided more swashbucklers would do the same. Hammer had done a Robin Hood film back in 1954 (THE MEN OF SHERWOOD FOREST) but each of their Robin Hood tales were standalone stories. *

Oddly, Hammer waited two years to do another swashbuckler, but what they came up with was a winner. PIRATES OF BLOOD RIVER was paired with the Ray Harryhausen adaptation of Jules Verne’s MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, and upon its release in July,1962, quickly became the highest grossing double bill in the U.K. that year.

To get that important “U” rating, a gory filmed scene had to be excised. In the film, actress Marie Devereux unfortunately flees into a river filled with piranhas, and as the vicious killers swarm around her, she screams as the water around her turns red with blood. This scene was returned in later versions of the film, including its DVD release in a 2-disc set called ICONS OF ADVENTURE (Sony Home Entertainment,2008. The other titles were Hammer’s THE DEVIL SHIP PIRATES (1964), THE STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY (1959) and TERROR OF THE TONGS (1961)). In fact, PIRATES at various times was rated ‘U’, ‘A’ (Those aged 5 and older admitted, but not recommended for children under 14 years of age) and even an “X” certificate (Suitable for those aged 16 and older (enforced by all councils) due to what scenes were edited in or out of a release.

 

The film opens with a stock shot of a 17th Century sailing vessel (anyone recognize from what movie this was lifted,let me know) and then we are told via credit crawl that the island is a refuge for Huguenots fleeing religious persecution and settling upon an island they named Devon. “But in the years to come, the just laws of the Colony began to yield to greed and tyranny. Happiness became an echo of the past. Freedom-just a memory.”

Now Huguenots were mostly Northern French Protestants who fled for their lives after the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 24 August – 3 October 1572, wherein Catholics killed over 25,000 Huguenots in the country, only to have the murderers granted amnesty, as well as the edict of Fontainebleau in 1685 wherein the beleaguered religious sect had to convert to Catholicism or risk ruin, imprisonment of worse.

Devon is a British Iron age name derived from Dumnonia, so it is an odd name for French Settlers to choose. Then again, none of the islanders speak French nor even with an accent but sound very British indeed. Maybe they were some Huguenots who fled first from France to England and from there to the New World?

They are an island whose location is never exactly placed, but piranhas mostly reside in the Amazon and certain Brazilian or Venezuelan rivers. We can thus guess that this island is supposedly located in that general region. Not a wise area for the groups to settle, as the Spanish and Portuguese who occupied those countries were Catholics nations.

This, however could explain why they chose to remain so isolated, and established their harsh fundamentalist governing system. Then again, I am perhaps over thinking this fun romp, so back to the story.

Jonathan Standing (American actor Kerwin Mathews ,forever to be remembered for Columbia’s 1957 classic THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD ) is found with Maggie Mason (Marie Devereux in her final appearance in an Hammer film ),the wife of one of the town elders Godfrey Mason (Jack Stewart ,who had appeared in the early Hammer film A CASE FOR P.C. 49,1951), The religious leaders, led by Jonathan’s stern father Jason Standing (Andrew Keir, to me the best Professor Quatermass due to his performance in QUATERMASS & THE PIT for Hammer ,1967).They seek to arrest and punish the lovers but the poor Maggie flees into the river, suffering the fate of the piranhas mentioned earlier. Jason says that it is a judgement of God.

Jonathan is tried by the council, who, led by his father, sentences for him to be sent to a penal colony for 15 years. Jonathan’s sister Bess (Marla Landi, so good in Hammer’s HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES,1959) tells her father that the council is using him. It seems that Henry (American actor Glenn Corbett, who had starred in William Castle’s HOMICIDAL the year prior) says sarcastically says that Jason’s grandfather who helped found the colony and whose carved likeness stands above the courtroom, would be so proud. Jonathan asks that Henry, besides watching over his sister with whom Henry is in love, also watch over Jason’s father until the tyranny is brought down.

 

We then see the cruelty of the mining operations wherein the prisoners are forced to work and be tortured, including leaving Jonathan punished by having his hands tied to a cross beam and dangling above the ground (a form of crucifixion Hammer also used in 1965’s THE SECRET OF BLOOD RIVER). Thank goodness this is family friendly?

Jonathan escapes with an older prisoner who drops dead from exertion. Jonathan flees into the swamps and is presumed killed by the guards. He however, was shot in the arm, and is found by Mack (the great Michael Ripper, who appeared in more Hammer films than any other actor) Hench (Peter Arne, THE HELLFIRE CLUB, Tempean Films,1961) and Brocaire (Oliver Reed, right after his starring role in Hammer’s CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF) and a group of pirates. They bring him to their boat (a wonderful Les Bowie glass matte) and to Captain LaRoche (Christopher Lee, who does speak with a French accent). LaRoche is a soft-spoken, intelligent character, adorned with an eye patch and withered arm and Lee makes the most of his performance. Eleven years later , he donned and eye patch once again and demonstrated his wonderful swordsman skills , with Oliver Reed now an international star in THE THREE MUSKETEERS (Salkind, 1973 ).

 

The pirates say that they would travel back to Jonathan’s colony, which has remained hidden for a 100 year, and help Jonathan establish a just rule, in exchange for a haven and a place they can safely refresh their supplies. They trudge through the river (Michael Ripper disappearing briefly below the surface, Lee trudging on, probably inwardly cursing once again being soaked and walking through muck in another film, like his end in THE MUMMY, Hammer ,1959). Brocaire gets into a fight in the water with another pirate, which is stopped by a stare from the Captain. Filmed in brackish water that smelt awful (Black Park), Oliver Reed got inflamed eyes while Lee got a stomach infection.

Of course, the pirates have no intention of a peaceful co-existence, believing that there is a hidden treasure within the colony. Can Jonathan and the settlers rid themselves of their occupiers?

The film is an exciting, thoughtful thriller. The underlying distrust of an oppressive religious leadership is heavy, considering this is again thought of a family film. Hammer would expand on the idea of Religious close mindedness in greater detail in their horror film TWINS OF EVIL (1971). For the most part, though, this is a thrilling and well-made period adventure piece, that once again Hammer’s wonderful technicians make look so much more expensive than their limited budgets should allow. Michael Ripper has a much larger role than many of his films, and you get to see what a truly fine actor he was. When drunk, he foolishly mocks his Captain, satirizing his bad eye and injured arm.

Now TWILIGHT TIME has released a magnificent blu ray of this fun Hammer action adventure.

The previous Sony DVD was fine, and a bargain when released with the other three titles.

This new Blu Ray release, however, is a revelation. A 1080p High Definition / 2.35:1 / Color print really shows off the Megascope cinematography (kudos to Arthur Grant ,who worked brilliantly at Hammer from 1957 to 1972 ). The colors are incredibly rich, and the sharpness makes this look like a new film rather than a 55-year-old movie.

The 1.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio is surprisingly rich, with the dialogue, soundtrack and effects all quite clear and crisp.

As for extras,

the optional English SDH subtitles are clear and easy to read, following the action and dialogue perfectly.

There is an isolated music and effects track, wherein you can really enjoy how much both add to the enjoyment of this film. Composer Gary Hughes seemed to be Hammer’s going to man for their 60s swashbucklers, as he also composed their THE CRIMSON BLADE (1963), THE DEVIL-SHIP PIRATES (1964), THE VIKING QUEEN (1967) and A CHALLENGE FOR ROBIN HOOD (1967). You also appreciate how much care Hammer put into their sound design, with not only gunshots and screams added in, but so many tiny details that perhaps go unnoticed by most moviegoers that subconsciously make the scene stronger. Kudos to Alfred Cox (sound editor) and Jock May (sound recordist). They also knew when to pull back on sound, as during the wonderfully suspenseful scene between Hench and Brocaire, wherein both men are blindfolded and have a sword fight. It is without music, and the sounds are dropped down to those of clashing blades and items scattered during the conflict.

An informative audio commentary runs the length of the picture (taken from a previous DVD release) with film historian Marcus Hearn (THE HAMMER STORY, co written with Alan Barnes, Titan Books, 1997), who keeps things going by dropping in some wonderful facts, and prodding the memories of writer Jimmy Sangster (who passed away in 2011) and art director Don Mingaye (who is as of this writing, still alive at age 88).

 

They discuss their experiences with the studio, writing and budgeting, memories of various actors (look for Desmond Llewelyn, later gain fame as Q in the James Bond series) and crew, and having to write a pirate movie without a ship (save for the opening stock shot and glass matte). They also verify that director John Gilling was while a brilliant craftsman was subject to mood swings wherein he could be quite nasty. Christopher Lee even found him difficult to work with.The commentators attribute this to a head wound that Gilling had, which left him with a large scar. Gilling did give us several horror classics, such as FLESH & THE FIENDS (Regal 1959) and the Hammer “Cornish “horrors, THE REPTILE and PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES (both 1966). They also talk about how surprised Sammy Davis Jr, a huge Hammer fan, was when he visited the set of this film.

Julie Kirgo as always supplies a nice overview appreciation of the film in the booklet enclosed with the blu ray.

Finally, we get the original theatrical trailer.

Today, to do a pirate film costs over $200 million dollar and is CGI crazy to the point wherein the actors often become ciphers to the visual chaos. However, releases like this show you what talent before and behind the camera could do with a very small budget.

Recommended to fans of Hammer, Christopher Lee, and adventure fans of all ages (just watch out for those piranhas!).

-Kevin G Shinnick

 

*-the other Hammer Robin Hood film was A CHALLENGE FOR ROBIN HOOD (Hammer/Warner Pathe ,1967). WOLFSHEAD: THE LEGEND OF ROBIN HOOD was a failed tv pilot from 1969 that Hammer acquired but did not produce, and released theatrically as a B feature in 1973.

 

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STILL TIME TO ENTER TO POSSIBLY WIN A DVD/BLU RAY of BETTER WATCH OUT . December 1,2017 deadline. 

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