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Directed by Bernard Rose. 1992.
Starring Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, Xander Berkeley, Kasi Lemmons and Vanessa Williams. 96 mins. Released by Arrow Video on two disc Blu-ray October 29th.
Candyman is the only horror film to boast of having a Philip Glass soundtrack. With 143 scores to his name you couldn't exactly call the New York taxi driver turned pioneer minimalist composer picky, but he usually lent his services to higher brow stuff or documentary. Supposedly, (which is a euphemism for according to IMDB) he was disappointed by the resulting film and felt hoodwinked. He believed he was working on a low budget independent project, not the Hollywood slasher film he viewed it as. He was half right. Candyman is a bold and original presentation of some bog standard horror norms.
Juliet of the Spirits (15.)
Directed by Federico Fellini. 1965
Starring Giulietta Masina, Sandra Milo, Mario Pisu,Valentina Cortese, Lou Gilbert, Sylva Koscina. 132 mins. Italian with subtitles. Released on dual format Blu-ray/ DVD by Cult Films
I remember reading an article about Tony Hancock many decades ago where the writer said how strange it was that a comedian with such a remarkably expressive face, who could do so much without words, became a star on the radio. Watching Juliet of the Spirits, Fellini's first full-length colour film, it's hard to believe that this man could ever have made films in black and white. Indeed, made some pretty good films in black and white. He's like a boxer who became a champion fighting with one arm behind his back.
The Producers (PG.)
Directed by Mel Brooks. 1968.
Starring Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Kenneth Mars, Dick Shawn, Lee Meredith, Estelle Winwood. 85 mins.
It's a story about two fraudsters, one a gigolo and the other obsessive-compulsive, who try to con an array of pensioners out of their life savings by producing a play that makes light of fascism and the Holocaust; it's a compendium of greed, mindless consumerism, licentiousness, selfishness and callous disregard for others, that gloriously encapsulates everything that is best in humanity. Mel Brooks' first film may or may not be the funniest film ever made but must surely be among the most joyous, especially for a film that is technically a black comedy. The film that was supposed to be called Springtime For Hitler doesn't need any special reason to be celebrated but its 50th-anniversary release is a good enough reason for wheeling it out again. The Producers is a special, special achievement because it cemented the triumph of showbusiness over fascism, and now that that victory is under threat, it deserves to be honoured and reflected upon because it was quite a thing.
D.O.A : A Rite of Passage. (18.)
Directed by Lech Kowalski.
Featuring John Lydon, Sid Vicious, Nancy Spungen, Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Terry Sylvester. 90 mins. Released on Dual Format Blu-ray and DVD by Second Sight.
When I was a kid I had a friend who lived on a rough estate. In the house two doors down from him, there was a News Of The World front page stuck up in an upstairs window proclaiming Punk: the Shocking Truth. (I was never quite sure if that was a sign that the householder was a punk enthusiast or was trying to spread a warning to impressionable uvz.) Teddy boys; Mods and Rockers; Acid House: youth culture used to turn up these moral panics every decade or so but apart from Elvis's rotating hips, none sent the willies up the establishment quite like Punk. Now punk has been explained away and rationalised and deconstructed and assimilated and it's all la la la Vivienne Westwood in the V&A, and la la la Situationism and oh darling Malcolm McLaren and Glen Matlock doing corporate gigs advertised in City AM, but at the time it was nasty and scary and meaningful. Nobody would say that director Kowalski did a stellar job, but in its artless way, DOA captures that better than anything else.
Directed by Michael Lehman.
Starring Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannon Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker and Penelope Milford. 103 mins. 30th Anniversary release on Blu-ray and DVD by Arrow Video.
A dark high school comedy about cliques, teen suicide and falling for psychopath boyfriends, Heathers is full of baroque outrages – and that's just in the dialogue. Hollywood professionals proclaim that screenplay is structure and scoff at idiot film reviewers who only judge them by the quality of the dialogue, but from the moment within the first five minutes that Heather No 1 utters the line “F*** me gently with a chainsaw” it is clear that this is a movie with a unique way with words. Surely no film since Sweet Smell of Success has been held together by the sheer force and invention of its dialogue: everything hangs from it and it has such power its words seem to be yanking the great performances out of the cast.
I Vitelloni. (PG.)
Directed by Federico Fellini. 1953.
Starring Franco Interlenghi, Alberto Sordi, Franco Fabrizi, Leopoldo Trieste, Riccardo Fellini and Eleonora Ruffo, Jean Brochard, Claude Farell, Carlo Romano. Black and white. 108 mins. Released on Blu-ray and DVD dual format by Cult Films.
Of all the great non-English language filmmakers, Fellini is probably the one with the most titles that are not translated into English: there's La Dolce Vita, Il Bidone, La Strada, Amarcord, Intervista, Fellini Roma and his first big hit, I Vitelloni. (Possibly Kurosawa could give him a run for his money.) Some of this is down to the vitality of the language – what would you rather see, The Road or La Strada, The Good Life or La Dolce Vita – but for his study of not-so-young men drifting aimlessly through a year in a small coastal town it's because there is no direct translation. In the opening scene, the narrator's subtitles have it as young rascals but the Italian is supposedly big cows.
Directed by Hal Ashby. 1975.
Starring Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, Lee Grant, Tony Bill, Carrie Fisher and Jack Warden. 112 mins. Released on Blu-ray on November 5th as part of the Criterion Collection.
Is Shampoo a shallow, narcissistic, self-portrait that gullible people take as a deep and penetrating look at America's spiritual and political rot setting in? Or, is it a shallow, narcissistic, self-portrait that gullible people can't see past to appreciate how it works as a deep and penetrating look at America's spiritual and political rot setting in. Damned if I know. Still Warren Beatty eh? He's so vain he thinks the spiritual and political decline is all about him.
Directed by John Landis. 1973.
Starring John Landis, Saul Kahan, Joseph Piantadosi, Eliza Garrett, Charles Villiers and Eric Allison. 79 mins. Out on Blu-ray from Arrow Video on 15th October.
In the late 70s/ early 80s John Landis was probably second only to Spielberg in the movie brat ratings, turning out The Kentucky Fried Movie, Animal House, The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London and Trading Places, back to back and all before he was 35. KFM, the first script by Airplane writer Jim Abrahams, David and Jerry Zucker, is a film I remember as being hilarious but doubt it stands the test of time and Trading Places I turned off after about half an hour the last time I watched it. But those other three, magnificent.
Horrors of Malformed Men (18.)
Directed by Teruo Ishii. 1969.
Starring Teruo Yoshida, Yukie Kagawa, Teruko Yumi, Mitsuko Aoi, Michiko Kobata, Yumiko Katayama, Kei Kiyama. 99 mins. Japanese with subtitles. Released on Blu-ray by Arrow Video
Horror. Malformed men. Bound to happen, I suppose. The Malformed are always playing up in one way or another. Speaking as a man mildly malformed by 21st-century indulgences, I'd have to admit to being a tad horrified by the wildly, almost deliberately nonsensical plot of this classic example of ero guru nansensu (or at least that's what Wikiedia says) that mixes bits of soft porn with a Hitchcock-style framed man plot before becoming a Japanese Dr Moreau.
My Man Godfrey (U.)
Directed by Gregory La Cava. 1936.
Starring William Powell, Carole Lombard, Alice Brady, Gail Patrick, Eugene Pallette, Alan Mowbray, Jean Dixon and Mischa Auer. 89 mins. Black and white. Available on Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection.
Crazy Rich American are on the loose in this classic 30s screwball romantic comedy. Made in the middle of The Great Depression it follows enormously entitled, frivolous and indulged people delighting in an enormously entitled, frivolous and indulgent lifestyle. It's a very exclusive group: even the hobo living in the rubbish dump by the river turns out to be high born.
Directed by Oliver Stone. 1986.
Starring James Woods, Jim Belushi, John Savage, Michael Murphy and Elpedia Carrillo. 123 mins. Out on Dual Format Blu-ray/ DVD from Eureka! Masters Of Cinema series
Stone's born-again debut directorial feature* is, as you'd would expect, a crusading vehicle exposing the immorality of US foreign policy and cheering on left-wing rebels. It would be released the same year as Platoon, the Oscar-winning Vietnam epic (or low budget, Full Metal Jacket pre-empter) and these two films set Stone in his role as Hollywood's most vociferous anti-government lefty. Prior to this though Stone's political allegiances were all over the place. As the scriptwriter of Midnight Express, Conan The Barbarian, Year of the Dragon and Scarface he was more likely to be labelled fascist or racist than liberal. In Salvador, the struggle between his boorish nature and his stated political ideals is still raging.
Patrick Melrose. (18.)
Directed by Edward Berger.
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Hugo Weaving, Anne Madeley, Pip Torrens, Indira Varma, Jessica Raine, Prasanna Puwanarajah, Celia Imrie, James Fleet, Holliday Grainger, Sebastian Maltz, Blythe Danner and Harriet Walter. 290 mins. Out on DVD from Acorn Media.
Of all the 21st century's many crimes I suppose the stratification of TV watching is a minor one, but it follows the principles of the major ones. Telly used to be a communal practice, something we all did together, a shared experience. Now it has become aspirational and competitive and materialistic: where style gurus and influencers once spoke of Must Have accessories, now they extoll the Must See boxsets. You don't have to enjoy it, but you need to be seen to be seeing it. True, most of these can be downloaded for free off of that there internet, but the edge of competition remains. Being a couch potato used to be shameful; now binge watching is culturally acceptable.
The Shape Of Water. (15.)
Directed by Guillermo Del Toro.
Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer, and Doug Jones. 123 mins
Anyway, the subject of hysterical anti-Trump propaganda brings us to the home release of The Shape Of Water. When last it was featured on this site it was as a charming little film that was quickly becoming a big deal. Now it is a Big Deal Oscar Winner that seems like a very small film, pitifully insubstantial to support the load placed upon it.