Wednesday 31 March 2010

Once Upon A Time in Glasgow

That Sinking Feeling. 1979. UK.
Directed by Bill Forsyth. 2 Entertain DVD. Reg 2.

It’s been a little over a quarter of a century since I watched That Sinking Feeling. Now on DVD I was pleased to discover that the movie has lost none of it’s charm. Okay, so the acting is quite bad but the heart behind the comedy performances more than makes up for any flaws in the casting.

There’s not much of a plot but the characters begin to slowly wear you down like the sea lapping at a beach until you’re pulled under the ocean of light comedy without even realising it.

And there are little sequences I could still remember from my teenage years. Like the two victims of the over-enthusiastic, suspended animation Mickey Finn and it’s two victims (one human and one feline).

There were, however, two things that greatly alarmed me about this particular DVD. One is that it states clearly on the cover that it is in a 4:3 aspect ratio. Well fans of this film can rejoice, the label got it wrong. It is, in fact, a non-amorphic 1:85 aspect ratio within a 4:3 frame and easily zoomable to the correct “fit” if you have a widescreen TV... and similarly perfect as it is for those of you who don’t. The original aspect ratio is preserved in tact on both formats.

The other thing which is really worrying is the description the BBFC felt necessary to include next to the movies reclassified 12A Certificate... “Contains comedic suicide references, sexualised nudity and smoking scenes.” That really is an indicator of what sad times we are living in.

And it’s also a sad fact that, try as I might, I could find no scenes whatsoever including sexualised nudity.

That Sinking Feeling is a charming movie for people who like nice, gentle, lazy comedies.

Monday 29 March 2010

A Wordsworth to the Wise

Thought this might be an opportunity to give my readers a quick pointer to Wordsworth Editions. People may remember this publisher, who introduced us to the idea of the £1 classic back in the early nineties.

Well, they’re still going strong and their editions are still exceptionally "value for money" (ok cheap, then) ranging at prices from £1.99 to £2.99 which, when compared to the cost of many modern paperbacks and given the extraordinary array of books available from Wordsworth Editions, is truly staggering. They’ve recently released my favourite Jules Verne novel, Mysterious Island, as part of their range and I’d urge any interested parties to pick this up as soon as they can - I remember waiting ages for a special order of this novel only a few years ago and when it finally came through it cost about a tenner! Wish I’d waited until now.

Of special interest is their “Tales of Mystery and the Supernatural” series of classic reprints. There are some great “value for money” editions of some absolutely terrific titles lurking beneath the covers of these distinctive black and charcoal grey editions (with their odd embossed and spot varnished blood and skulls), many of which I might never have been aware of if it wasn’t for the existence of this company.

Richard Marsh’s truly amazing tale of The Beetle for instance, which outsold publication of its nearest rival Dracula (also available in an excellent Wordsworth Edition) by a significant margin, is on their listings... and once you’ve read it you’ll see why it outsold the Stoker classic - it’s fantastic. This was apparently the source novel for a silent film of the same title, so if anyone can get ahold of a copy or give me any information as to its status as either a lost film or something from which the footage still survives... please contact me.

If you’re a fan of recurring characters, they have some complete collections of some very interesting ones... for instance, “The Casebook of Carnacki the Ghost Finder” by W.H. Hodgson or “The Right Hand of Doom and other tales of Solomon Kane” by the legendary Robert E. Howard. Plus lots of stalwarts of the genre such as Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft and Arthur Conan Doyle (and not just his Holmes stories, although these are obviously all covered... my first read of the Professor Challenger stories was via a Wordsworth Edition called “The Lost World and other stories”).

Contemporary writers are also on board with this label, such as David Stuart Davies and his remarkable tales of Sherlock Holmes adventures “previously unwritten” (like The Tangled Skein, which pits Holmes and Watson against Dracula).

And for all you people who like to know where your movies and TV shows have grown from, an interesting batch of short stories await you from this sterling publisher... an M.R. James collection, for example, which includes his “Casting The Runes” most famously adapted as Night of the Demon (or Curse of the Demon depending on which version you know)... an Ambrose Bierce collection which features “The Damned Thing” (most recently made into a Master’s Of Horror episode)... Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” (which was the basis for many vampire films based on tales of the Karnsteins - including Hammer’s three movies kicking off with The Vampire Lovers)...Lafcadio Hearn’s “Oriental Ghost Stories” (which includes the tales which were the basis of Masaki Kobayashi's masterpiece Kwaidan... or Kaidan, depending again on which edition you have)... the list goes on. Do some research because I think you’ll find it’s worth it.

I should probably stop gushing now... suffice it to say that I owe Wordsworth Editions an enormous debt when it comes to exposure to a lot of great tales which I might not otherwise have read. From D’Artagnan to Dr Nikola and from Robinson Crusoe to Rouletabille, these editions are not to be missed and I personally consider this particular publisher to be providing, frankly, a wonderful and much needed (in these jaded times) public service rather than running a business... although they seem to be managing to do both quite well.

For details of all their editions go here...
Don't Panic!

I know I have no header.

There are header and picture problems which... although I've wasted an hour trying to solve... turns out to be the hosting company.

Please retune your interweb TV to the NUTS4R2 channel soon!

Sunday 28 March 2010

When Time Lords come marching home again...

Doctor Who: The War Games. 1969.
UK. BBC DVD. Region 2.

I never knew Patrick Troughton’s Doctor when I was a kid. I was only one year old when he starred in his last story for the show, The War Games. My earliest memories of Doctor Who are of Jon Pertwee and the Autons as they smashed out of the shop windows as tailor’s dummies.

I grew up with Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker and Peter Davidson as the time lord I knew so it seems strange to me now that, when asked who my favourite doctor was, I invariably say Patrick Troughton.

I first discovered his portrayal as a third party by reading those old Target novelisations as a kid... then in 1981 his Doctor Who story The Kroton’s was shown as part of The Five Faces of Doctor Who show that the BBC ran. I was hooked from that point on and as the other few surviving stories were systematically released onto VHS cassette in the 80s, I borrowed and watched all of the Troughton episodes.

I have just finished watching last years BBC DVD release of The War Games and, considering that it was a quick replacement story which had to last ten episodes and considering it was still being written as the earlier episodes were being shot... it is a testament to the professionalism of the cast and crew that the story hurtles along at a cracking pace and is never treated as anything less worthy of the best efforts from the people involved.

The story was a bit strange in that all three regular actors of the show, Troughton’s Doctor, Frazer Hine’s Jamie and Wendy Padbury’s Zoe all left in the final episode. We finally find out about the Doctor’s people, The TIme Lords and they maroon him on earth with a new face (unseen until Jon Pertwee makes his first appearance in Spearhead from Space - the story with the tailor’s dummies). And he was marooned on earth, of course, because the budgets needed for making alien planet sets was so high and money needed to be saved somehow.

Since this is a story which isn’t usually much of a blip on most people’s Doctor Who lists I was surprised, pleasantly, to learn that this DVD spent some time at number one in the DVD charts when it was released in 2009. A testament, perhaps, to the power of Troughton’s portrayal of The Doctor as a cosmic hobo.

The DVD is an ambitious 3 disc set with the third disc giving the usual full-on extras which the BBC have been licensing for these releases. Included in with the usual extras you would expect are a featurette on Doctor Who composer Dudley Simpson, another looking at the Second Doctor cartoon strips in TV Comic and TV21 and one on the Target novelisations of Malcolme Hulke. So there’s much to sink your sonic screwdriver into with this set and it’s well worth purchasing if you are a fan of the Troughton era of the show.

Saturday 27 March 2010

Charlie Chan Carries On. 1930. Earl Derr Biggers.
Academy Chicago Publishers. ISBN: 9780897335942

And now finished the fifth novel in the series (I do hope nobody berates me for starting a sentence with the word “and”).

Charlie Chan Carries On makes up for the laziness and single location of the previous novel (see my post on The Black Camel) by having this set in a great many countries as the whodunnit is solved at various global locations because a series of murders is taking place in the wake of a world touring party of holiday makers. Like one of the earlier novels, Chan is not present throughout the whole affair... in fact the main character for the first two thirds of the novel is Inspector Duff of Scotland Yard from the earlier Chan story “Behind That Curtain”, although the events are set a great number of years later.

Charlie is given plenty of build up in the first few chapters though as he is discussed in complimentary tones by the Inspector and his boss. So when he makes his entrance later in the novel, he has already taken on the mantle of some kind of superman. When in his friend Chan’s office in Honolulu, just after Charlie appears proper, Inspector Duff is gunned down and seriously wounded by the killer. In his stead it is up to Charlie to join the next part of the cruise and solve the puzzle with which Duff has made no headway.

Although the writing perhaps lacks some of the earlier novels' wit and sparkle (by this time in his career I suspect Biggers was thinking more about movie rights' sales) it is still an enjoyable read and, as usual with these books, a real ensemble piece in regards to the characters.

The book was filmed three times. Twice in 1931 as Charlie Chan Carries On with the inimitable Warner Oland (a film which is unfortunately now lost to the world) and in a simultaneously shot Spanish version with Spanish actors, utilising the same sets and sharing some of the same stock footage (as was standard practice with some of those early talkies). The Spanish version is called Eran Treece and can be found as an extra on the Region 1 US DVD of Charlie Chan in Shanghai (in the first of the 20th Century Fox box sets). Warner Oland’s first successor, Sydney Toler, remade the novel as Charlie Chan’s Murder Cruise in 1940 (also available on US Region 1 DVD in the fifth of Fox’s box sets.

I’m happy to report that although I have seen both surviving movie versions, the plot on this one is so convoluted that there was no way I was going to remember whodunnit! So my exposure to the films didn’t give away the ending of the novel this time around.

Thursday 25 March 2010

Lizard In A Woman’s Skin 1971 Italy
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Work in progress restoration screening
at the ICA on Saturday 13th March

Ok. A couple o’ weeks ago I had the rare pleasure to be at a screening at the ICA of one of my favourite giallos... Lizard In A Woman’s Skin. The unrated screening was to show an incomplete work in progress print that Optimum are putting together for a proposed Region 2 DVD release later in the year (I’ll comment on that later). This is the longest version of Lizard In A Woman’s Skin to date, longer than both the previous Region 1 DVD releases (including the recently restored release).

Anyone not familiar with this particular giallo may well be a tad reluctant to dip their toes in the water with a film directed by Lucio Fulci and I can fully understand why. Before I discovered both Lizard In A Woman’s Skin and another giallo he made called Don’t Torture A Duckling (aka Don’t Torture Donald Duck... also with Florinda Bolkan as the victim in the infamous chain whipping scene) I was not a great admirer of Fulci. His most well known movie in the UK is, arguably, his “Dawn of the Dead sequel/homage” Zombie (aka Zombi 2 aka Zombie Flesh Eaters) which was okay... mainly because, from my point of view, it has a sequence where a topless Italian actress swims to safety from a shark and then the shark, in turn, gets bitten by an underwater zombie! I think any movie with a sequence like that deserves to be included on any Zombie fan’s must see list. The only other comment I can really pass on Zombi is that it strongly reminded me a lot of Breakfast At Tiffany’s in that the shot set ups all seemed to be based on vertical lines.

The only other Fulci film I’d seen before Lizard was his gruelling Spaghetti Western... Four of the Apocalypse. Now I really like Spaghetti Westerns and I’d love to say that this particular film was gruelling because of the screen presence of Italian superstar Tomas Milian as the cruel villain of the piece... but I can’t say that because it was the absolute lacklustre pacing and direction and overall mind-numbingly inducing boredom of the movie which made it gruelling.

Fulci’s giallo’s, however, are an entirely different matter and he can definitely hold his head up high with such stalwarts of the giallo genre as Mario Bava, Dario Argento and Sergio Martino. Lizard in A Woman’s Skin is an absolutely superb film featuring most of the main key signatures of the genre... bad dialogue, terrible acting, an uncompromisingly convoluted plot, excellent music and superb direction and camera work.

And seeing it in the longest print yet and on the big screen to boot... was a rare treat. That excellent, hallucinogenic Ennio Morricone score was just belting out of the speakers in a way I’d never heard it before... just fantastic. The opening sequence with all the naked people crowded on a train as Florinda Bolkan is trying to run through the carriages only to find herself in an illusion of lesbian seduction was always going to be a perfect way to start a film like this (although if she’d then gone on to meet Edwige Feneche, that would have been even better ;-) and the film doesn’t fail to deliver on it’s opening. And even if Stanley Baker’s character’s constant and irritating whistling of Ennio Morricone’s main theme is still as annoying on the big screen as it is on DVD... at least it’s a reassuring constant.

My only problem with this particular screening is that I’ve only seen the film twice before and both were of different cuts of the movie... so as I was watching it on a big screen at the ICA... I really couldn’t remember too much about what might and might not have been newly unearthed footage. I think the notorious and hard to watch dog vivisection sequence, which I still find a complete non sequitur of a scene in the context of the rest of the movie, may have been a little longer.

There have been some complaints about the state of the print of this film they showed recently at one of the FrightFests in Scotland. All I can say is they must have done a lot of work on it since then because the print I saw was absolutely sharp and crystal clear.

The screening was presented by Alan Jones (Argento’s biographer) and he mentioned, as I said above, that the idea is to have the longest cut possible available and out from Optimum DVD on Region 2 in the summer. I can’t help but think that this is a somewhat self defeating object since the BBFC (the ultimate villains of art) will probably not have let even the shorter versions through uncut in this country. I think they have better chances of a re-release in the US rather than do battle with the British censors but good luck to them anyway.

One of the original taglines written to sell this film was “WARNING! Not Recommended Viewing for Persons With Schizophrenic Tendencies!”. Well, whether you have schizophrenic tendencies or not, if this new, elongated version does make it out uncut on R2 DVD... I would seriously recommend it for even the most casual giallo fan.

But why labour the point when another of the movies original taglines can say it so much better than I can... “Biting, Gnawing TERROR Claws At Your Brain!”
Dates for your Diary

Saturday 10th April
10am - 4pm
Midnight Media's London Collector's Film Fair
The Electric Ballroom, Camden High Street, London N.W.1
Next door to Camden Town
Tube Station

Saturday 8th May
10am - 4pm
Collector's Film Convention
Central Hall - Westminster, Storey's Gate, London SW1
Opposite Westminster Abbey

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Sherlock Holmes Soundtrack by Hans Zimmer 2009 Sony Classical

Just taken Hans Zimmer’s newish Sherlock Holmes soundtrack out for a spin.

This is definitely one of the best scores of last year (just... the movie wasn’t released until Boxing Day) and I have to say that, after all this time of keeping Zimmer at ears length... I have started to warm to him quite a bit in the last couple of years. His choral extravaganza of a cue, 160BPM from his score for Angels and Demons is certainly one of the best two musical cues I heard last year (along with Bear McCreary’s Gaeta’s Lament from Season 4 of Battlestar Galactica).

The album starts off with the absolutely cracking “Discombobulate”. Lots of cimbalom punctuated with some frantic fiddling against a thumping modern beat... it works really well and is quite infectious. If you don’t believe me, click below for this fantastic spoof video of Discombobulate made by Zimmer and Robert Downey Junior and director Guy Ritchie... Zimmer is the one playing the cimbalom on the video.

I think this track is actually the opening bars of the score as heard at the start of the pre-credits sequence with the end title music spliced onto the end of it.

The whole soundtrack is populated by scritchy scratchy violin figures (think Bernard Herrmann scoring The Devil and Daniel Webster aka All That Money Can Buy) presumably because Holmes played the violin... but it’s used very effectively and although it seems to have a very Hungarian feel to it, it also does feel very much of the period of Arthur Conan Doyles original stories. Actually the Hungarian tinge to the score has been remarked on by a number of people who seem to feel that this score is very similar in tone to Wojciech Kilar’s score for the Coppola version of Dracula... I don’t see it myself (and I certainly don’t hear it) but I’m not here to argue... much. Sounds closer to Chris Young’s Drag Me to Hell score to me.

I seem to remember there was also a lot of Irish music in the film but none of this seems to have made it’s way onto the album (that’s fine with me... it was fairly annoying in the movie).

The soundtrack also seems to be a lesson in playing with contrasting volumes of sound. Discombobulate, for example, seems to start off deliberately mixed too low in an effort to get you to turn the sound up before he hits you with the percussion and the main melody (a tactic I believe Zimmer employed similarly on the aforementioned Angels and Demons album). The whole of the Sherlock Holmes album seems to operate with this as it’s guiding principle... lots of long subtle sections which suddenly get loud and beat you over the head and then slip back down into the quiet range again. I’m not knocking it... it works really well (just don’t expect to hear more than half of it on your ipod on the bus).

All in all, Hans Zimmer’s Sherlock Holmes is a very entertaining listen which certainly doesn’t outstay it’s welcome at a reasonable 52 minutes. Definitely recommended.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Star Trek 11. 2009. US. Directed by J. J. Abrams. Paramount DVD. Region 2.

Let me say, from the first, straight up, with no unnecessary shilly-shallying... Star Trek 11 is not a terrible film. And in some ways it’s actually quite good.

It was designed to reboot a tired franchise and it does so by going back to the original TV series and splitting off a separate timeline which can go anywhere.

Yes there are bad points... franchise continuity sucks, for example. If they were really going back to a time before the Kirk timeline was getting properly started then everyone would be wearing the costumes from either of the original pilot episodes, “The Cage” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before” (I really liked those polo-necks) and not the classic Trek look. And don’t even get me started on the fact that they’ve got new models of ships which aren’t exactly the same or the fact that most of the sound effects aren’t quite right.

I’m just lucky I’m not one of those Trekkies you hear about because I would really have been upset about this movie.

And if Spock’s timeline has now been irreparably altered... how come “old” Spock doesn’t just wink out of existence there and then... not to mention the fact that if a separate timeline was set up then Spock probably wouldn’t have had the same future where he accidentally created the time travel inducing black hole to begin with.

So yeah, this movie has about as much grasp of the laws of time as the temporally-challenged Back To The Future Part 2... that is to say... absolutely no understanding at all.

But there are also loads of good things about this movie... the performances of the new young upstarts are particularly good... all of them... Kirk, Spock, Uhura, McCoy, Sulu, Chekhov... all of them great. And as for the brilliance of “younging up” Simon Pegg and making him Scotty... best thing that happened to the production process.

The uniform that “Admiral” Pike wears briefly at the end of the movie is very much an homage to Admiral Kirk’s costume from Star Trek: The Motion Picture... so brownie points there!

Lots of action, drama, comedy and... you know... fantasy peril. ;-)

And Giachino’s score is a really great piece of work... even if I didn’t understand half of the track titles on the CD. Yeah... you tend to expect to hear more than just the odd paltry reference of Alexander Courage’s original theme which is all it’s given in this film... but it does come back properly for the end titles with some nice interweaving in of Giachino’s new themes... a powerhouse score.

There was an old well-established theory among stick-in-the-mud trekkies in years gone by which stated that if a Star Trek film was an odd numbered film then it wouldn’t be that good while the even ones were always astounding. Well... I would end this article by saying that Star Trek 11 finally breaks this rule (by giving us a pretty good odd numbered movie)... but I think the dire quality of the two movies preceding this one (Insurrection and Nemesis) have already knocked that perceived wisdom for six as far as I’m concerned.

Happy Birthday
Akira Kurosawa!

Just a quickie newsflash. If Akira Kurosawa, the-absolute-directing-God-of-all-directors, were alive today he would be 100 years old.

To celebrate the great mans life and achievements, Google have put a specially comissioned “Google Doodle” of him on their home page. Unfortunately, due to the usual copyright restrictions, I’m sure I wouldn't be allowed to include an image of it on my blog... but don't let that stop you from heading over to Google right now and checking out their rendition of the great man. Click on the doodle and a ton of Kurosawa links will pop up. I guess this will be up just for today so it’s worth making the effort for this now!

And if you’ve never seen any of his movies... go get one now. There’s not a bad one among them and they’re not ALL about men with big swords chasing other men with big swords... although those ones are truly great too!

Monday 22 March 2010

L’Umanoide Soundtrack by Ennio Morricone 1979 GDM CLUB CD 7078 Limited to 500 copies

Just relistening to this recent arrival... Morricone’s score for the Richard Kiel/Barbara Bach/Robot Dog-lets-all-ride-the-wake-of-Star-Wars Italian Sci-Fi mess that was... “The Humanoid”.

I have only the vaguest memories of seeing this with my mum as a kid at a cinema in Wood Green. So I have to say my appreciation of the music of this quite bizarre score is in no way coupled with the way the music worked with the imagery of the movie.

That being said... I do know Morricone’s music pretty well by now and this has got to be the album that has the least of his usual musical signatures on it. What a strange selection. It’s like listening to the music of the far future... as imagined in the 1960s... but it’s a late 70s score!

The opening track, “Un Uomo Nello Spazio” starts off with some not quite atonal bloopity bloopity bloop electronic notes which, over the space of the 6 minutes and 48 seconds of the track, open up into something more sweeping and recognisably Morricone... but this album is all over the place.

That’s not a bad thing though. I get bored easily so an unpredictable album like this is good for my “modern man” attention span.

There’s even a track on here (Track 6: Incontri A Sei) that takes this very firmly into the realm of Walter/Wendy Carlos’ doing the famous electronic version of Beethoven’s Ninth for the Clockwork Orange score. Very much a sparky robots doing chamber music kind of feel. And then later, to my ears, there are some snatches and refrain which get very close to the composers score for Queimada... but then it starts jabbing at the melody with little bursts of Nymanesque musical raspberries.

Very interesting stuff.

The GDM Club edition is limited to just 500 units and is available at

Would definitely recommend this if you’re a die hard Morricone fan and want to hear something a little different but possibly not for anyone else.

Personally I think it’s great and it’s going straight onto my i-pod!

Sunday 21 March 2010

The Black Camel. 1929. Earl Derr Biggers.
Academy Chicago Publishers. ISBN: 9780897335850

Just finished the fourth of Earl Derr Biggers six Charlie Chan novels.

Like the first three in the series, the words sparkle with a level of wit I would best associate with 1930s Hollywood screwball comedies. Like most pulps, these are quick and easy reads but these ones are so well written the words just sing themselves off the page.

Unlike the first three, this one eschews the global locations of the earlier novels and places Charlie firmly in his own locale for once. The island of Honolulu where he lives with his wife and eleven children on Punchbowl Hill serves as a sleepier and lazier backdrop for the murderous shenanigans which make up the plot of this novel.

The only slight dampener in the whole affair is the fact that I remembered whether one of the prime suspects in this whodunnit, did or didn’t do it, because I remembered how it ended when Bela Lugosi played a particular character in the 1931 movie version of the same name. In fact the excellent cover to this edition, and the covers of all these Academy Chicago editions are superb, seems to be based on a publicity shot of Bela Lugosi playing the role of Tarneverro the Great from the movie version.

This one is definitely recommended reading for anyone who likes recurring fictional characters to sink their teeth into.

Piccadilly. 1929. UK. Directed by E.A. Dupont. BFI DVD. Region 2.

Okay then. Second post but first post proper.

Finally got around to rewatching this very welcome Christmas present, the silent movie Piccadilly starring Gilda Gray and Anna May Wong. A tale of jealousy and murder revolving around a night club (actually a restaurant) in London. Although the actual murder only takes place about 20 minutes before the end of the movie.

This is not a bad transfer of a slightly ropey print, although it has to be said that it’s in a very much restored state here. What doesn’t need restoring is the quality of the majority of the actors and actresses performances, which are great. Every time I watch a silent movie I get stuck into that old trap of expecting overly dramatic, showy displays of acting when most of the time, and Piccadilly is an example of this, the reality is that the acting is certainly not as “stagey” as a great many of the early talkies which had started debuting a couple of years before the release of this movie.

In this incarnation of Piccadilly, the film has been tinted, as it presumably was on its first run, in alternating shades of blue, yellow and pink with the only purely black and white sequences being short flashbacks during the courtroom sequence at the end of the picture. So that’s one of the good things about this restoration.

One of the bad things is, if the quality of the original opening certification is anything to compare to, that the intertitles have so obviously been recreated and placed back in. I don’t know who’s to blame but the amount of widows and orphans in the intertitles is extremely distracting and perhaps a reduction of such occurrences may have been what the movie doctor ordered. I don’t know if these annoying typographic barbs were in the original intertitles but I’d like to think they were and that this is an attempt to recreate these exactly... otherwise someone’s got a lot of explaining to do.

Another minor gripe with what is actually a superb DVD presentation is an annoying and newly commisionned score which does no favours to the power of some of the stunning visuals in this film... being perhaps a little to bland and, dare I say it, “out of place” for a movie such as this. I think I’d possibly recommend that people who are easily distracted by such things view the movie as “purely” a silent movie and turn the volume down on their TV.

That all being said... Piccadilly is a very entertaining movie for those who value the history of film and the evocation of a certain period of time in various locales of London which it attempts to capture.

There’s a lot to like in this movie and when you first fire it up the big surprise, to this viewer anyway, is a properly designed title sequence which consists of the credits of the movie as posters on the side of trams which make their way past the camera. An innovative example of title design from an age when the medium was less associated with it than it is now. Saul Bass would have been proud.

Another thing which might surprise viewers less accustomed to watching pre-talkies is the freedom of movement with the cinematography. Like most silent films, the camera is truly liberated to move and dolly and track along and there is a strong sense of camera movement in the first dance scene highlighting one of the characters which takes on almost Scorcese-like proportions. Unlike the early talkies which were pretty much static due to the technical difficulties of having to box up the cameras so the noise from them wouldn’t impact on the recording, the silent films of the times (and especially these later ones when silent films were almost completely eradicated) were getting very creative with the language of cinema and many critics of cinema at the time were very vocal and quick in their denouncement of talking cinema as the death of the form as a creative art.

Creative too are the various interesting shot set ups and some very interesting shot transitions. There’s a very Eisensteinian moment, for example, when a shot of a small statuette of a nodding buddha is juxtaposed with a minor character nodding his head in the following shot.

And of course, Anna May Wongs vamp like sexuality alone is worth taking a peek at this DVD for.

While there is much to recommend in the BFI DVD of Piccadilly I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to novices of the silent screen (a better place to start might be The Lost World, The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari or Nosferatu if you really want to get hooked) but I would certainly recommend putting it on your list if you’re familiar with the mood and tone of silent cinema and want something entertaining and worthy of study to wrap your eyes around.

First Post...

Okay then. I really wanted to just dive in here but having looked at various Blog 101-what-the-bloody-hell-you-should-be-writing-in-your-first-post I have come to the frustrating conclusion that I should at least attempt to follow some of the advice of such prescribed nuggets of wisdom before getting distracted with what I actually want to write about (or just plain record in my case).

So okay, lets try to fill in the blanks as I go along here. Rule 1 seems to be “tell people about yourself”. Okay... well I can discard that one easy enough with an absolutely clear conscious. I’m not easy to get to know... in fact I’m probably hard work to get to know and this is probably by design. If someone actually wants to take some time to get to know me then they must be worth knowing in themselves is my theory on that one... and it seems besides the point anyway. My true belief... and I know most people will disagree with me on this... is that the true knowledge of a person doesn’t come from conversation or drinks at a bar or long drawn out dinner parties or even, you know, really good sex. I think the true soul of a person is revealed in their words. Anyone can blurt out anything in the moment and probably get away with it but that’s NOT who they are. Once, however, they’ve checked what they want to say, corrected the grammar and, you know, really contemplated what it is they want to commit to the page... that’s when you really know the person. At least that’s the way I see it anyway and it’s not something I’m ever going to change my mind on, methinks.

So all you really need to know about me is that I’m male, early forties and love film - but I really hate that thing when people say “It’s on my lovefilm list” and then use that as a justification not to go out to the cinema. In much the same way that people use mobile phones as an excuse to be a bit late for a scheduled rendezvous. Don’t be using technology as an excuse to be lazy around me people!

Right... why do you want to write a blog seems to be the next thing I should know about. Well okay then. I want to write a blog because in my early experiments with the monstrosity that is twitter... I actually found a use for it in that I could use it, diary fashion, to record somewhere what movies or TV shows I had seen on any given day. So partially it’s just something for me to remind me what I’ve been watching/reading/listening to and to clarify my thoughts on it.

So far so good but... the next big question for me... and a very important one actually... would be why would I want to inflict that on any potential readers? Well... over the last couple of decades I’ve noticed the effect on some friends and acquaintances whereby they’ve been generally interested and inspired to explore things themselves based on the range of different kinds of things I like to look at/listen to and read myself. It sometimes has a positive effect on people so that, therefore, can’t be a bad thing. Exposing myself ;-) to people can sometimes turn them on to things they've been missing out on. I don’t know, for example, what I’m going to be wanting to watch from one week to the next... Kurosawa (my favourite director), Tarkovsky (my second favourite director), Noir, Giallo, Nikkatsu exploitation movies, Toho monster movies, Universal horror, Mexican wrestlers, French lesbian vampires, zombies, Bergman, Hartley, Jay and Silent Bob, blind Japanese swordsmen, plagiaristic Turkish superheroes, kitchen sink, 50s B movies, Kieslowski, Suzuki, blind Spanish zombie Knights Templars, Spanish werewolves, Peplum, Almodovor, Eisenstein, anything with Caroline Munro in it... the list goes on. Some people are genuinely interested in what I’m watching to see if they will get anything out of it so... why not give it a shot I thought? I don’t expect to get much of a following (or possibly any following to be honest) but I might as well give it a go. You never know... I might meet some likeminded souls out here in cyberspace... find the gal-of-my-dreams and live happily ever after if I’m really lucky.

Hmmm.... that smacks of having some kind of agenda so I’ll hastily drop out of that last paragraph while the dropping’s good and go on to the next point... which I’ve got no idea of what that’s supposed to be. Hang on a sec.

Oh, okay. Here’s a good one. Why is my blog called what my blog is called.

Aha... NUTS4R2 was a term I made up decades ago as a glib, catch all term to describe a general cultural range. I figured an echo of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau's famous screen vampire mixed up with a reference to one of George Lucas’ famous lowest common denominator androids (by way of Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress) would be a good starting point for a catchy, attention grabbing name.

Makes me smile anyway... well, makes the corner of my mouth twitch up a little anyway. Don’t really do “smiling” these days. :-(

Anyway, that’s it. If you’ve read this far then I hope it wasn’t too boring for you. And I hope... if you decide to continue reading this thing as it progresses, that you find at least a few things of interest to explore yourself. And if you find something you really like which you were made aware of from here... please let me know about it. My ego could use a good kick in the brain!