Category Archives: Comedy
Heading into black comedy horror territory, Hammer screenwriter Jimmy Sangster made his directorial debut with 1970’s The Horror of Frankenstein, a revisionist remake of the studio’s stylish 1957 Gothic horror classic The Curse of Frankenstein – which he also wrote. But it’s quite the disappointment – even to die-hard fans.
With Hammer eyeing up a hipper, younger crowd, Taste the Blood of Dracula’s Ralph Bates takes over the title role of the monster-making Baron from Peter Cushing (who had played it four times) and he portrays him as a psychopathic serial killer and arrogant womanising misogynist who prefers tight breeches to show off his ‘average’ manhood.
Taking its narrative cue from Curse, the Gothic horror parody finds Bates knocking off his dad, claiming his Baronic title and fortune, and heading off to medical school. But, after getting the Dean’s daughter pregnant, he returns to the family castle, where he sets up shop with fellow medical student, Wilhelm Kassner (Graham James, wearing a hideous pink cravat), to create human life using a big chart labelled with numbered body parts.
Once assembled and activated, the new Baron’s creature – played by a pec flexing Dave Prowse (aka bodyguard Julian in A Clockwork Orange and the strongman in Vampire Circus) – starts killing all and sundry for no apparent reason – altough the indignity of having to wear an S&M collar, nappy and red lipstick applied stitch marks could be justifiable.
The studio-bound exteriors (except for a shot of Austria’s Hohenwerfen Castle, and a bridge and churchyard scene shot in North Mymms, Hertfordshire), re-used sets (the castle stonework looks like wallpaper), and ‘toilet humour’ does Sangster a real disservice (something he later admitted); but this lacklustre affair is worth watching for the Hammer glamour on display.
The Vampire Lovers‘ Kate O’Mara, sporting a dodgy accent that’s West Country by way of the Emerald Isle, vamps it up as the ‘accommodating’ chambermaid Alys, while statuesque Veronica Carlson (who was so good in 1969’s Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed) tries her best as needy professor’s daughter, Elizabeth, whose designs on the Baron get short shrift – probably on account of her Heidi hair-do of greasy links of bratwurst.
Both O’Mara and Carlson add some real Hammer glamour to the proceedings, and on a personal note, it has been great to have met them on the convention circuit. Sadly, Kate O’Mara passed away on 30 March 2015, aged 74, from ovarian cancer. Veronica, meanwhile, has become quite the artist and lives with her family in the US.
Dennis Price (now there’s someone I would have loved to have met) and Joan Rice (in her last film role) steal the show as a husband and wife pair of body snatchers, while Jon Finch is totally wasted as the Baron’s former childhood friend turned local copper. He did, however, find his stride in Roman Polanski’s The Tragedy of Macbeth the following year, and Robert Fuest’s The Final Programme in 1973.
Carry on… Young Frankenstein this is not! But it should have been!
The Horror of Frankenstein gets its Blu-ray UK debut (on Doubleplay from 29 January 2018) courtesy of Studiocanal featuring a brand new HD restoration (which only serves to accentuate the ‘wallpaper’ scenery, plastic forest trees and garish costumes).
It does, however, include the featurette, Gallows Humour: Inside The Horror of Frankenstein, which includes some interesting comments from Veronica Carlson about her time on the production, as well as some interesting production trivia from a handful of Hammer experts.
Shock Treatment (1981) | You’ll be jumping like a real live wire after seeing Arrow’s fan-bloody-tastic HD release of the cult musical
From Richard O’Brien, the writer and director of The Rocky Horror Picture Show comes not a sequel, not a prequel… but an equal – Shock Treatment, out in a limited edition HD release from Arrow Video.
This riotous, toe-tapping 1981 musical sees Jessica Harper (Phantom of the Paradise) and Cliff De Young taking on the iconic roles of Rocky’s Brad and Janet Majors alongside Barry Humphries, Ruby Wax and a very young Rik Mayall, plus Rocky alumini Patricia Quinn, Charles Gray and Richard O’Brien.
Now leading a quite life in Denton, USA: The Mecca of America, The Bethlehem of the West, The birthplace of the virtuous and the home of happiness, Brad and Janet find their marriage put to the test when they take part in a hugely-popular TV show, only for Brad to end up being institutionalised on the TV station’s medical show while Janet becomes an overnight reality star. But what are the real motivations behind the kooky DTV crew and their enigmatic head-honcho, Farley Flavors?
Mental illness and mass consumerism are fair game in the hands of O’Brien director Jim Sharman, who use some eye-watering day-glo visuals and some witty songs (that certainly rival Rocky) to serve up their blackly comic attack on reality TV (and pre-dating The Truman Show by some 17 years to boot). Time to slip into a little black dress or some green hospital scrubs, grab some friends over and tune into all the crazy madness. Altogether now: ‘You need a bit of ooooh, Shock Treatment!’
Arrow’s release comes in two designs – Cosmo and Nation (named after O’Brien and Quinn’s characters in the musical), and feature the following contents in each brightly coloured digipak, featuring artwork from Graham Humphreys. You’d better hurry and snap them up on Amazon because they’ve now sold out on Arrow’s own store.
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original Stereo 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
• Isolated music and effects track
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Archive audio introduction by Richard O’Brien
• New audio commentary with actresses Patricia Quinn and Nell Campbell
• Archive audio commentary by “Mad Man” Mike and Bill Brennan
• DTV Presents: A Shockumentary – retrospective making-of featurette
• Let’s Rock ‘n Roll: Shock Treatment’s Super Score – archive featurette on the music of Shocky
• The Rocky Horror Treatment – vintage behind-the-scenes documentary
• Patricia Quinn in Conversation with Mark Kermode
• Fan featurettes & cover songs
• Promo gallery featuring trailers, radio spot and stills
• Collector’s booklet
• Set of exclusive Shock Treatment Mix ‘n’ Match Cards
• Exclusive double-sided “D-E-N-T-O-N” poster
• Complete Soundtrack CD
Cockneys vs Zombies (2012) | ‘Bloody Trafalgar!’ this zom-com is just as bloody brilliant as Shaun of the Dead
While geezer brothers Andy and Terry (Harry Treadaway and Rasmus Hardiker) rob a bank with their cousin (Michelle Ryan), an ancient plague is unleashed on London’s East End turning the locals into zombies. Next stop – the Bow Bells Care Home, where their granddad Ray (Alan Ford) and his fellow residents are trying to fend off the undead horde. Can the trio save the oldies and escape before it’s too late?
This 2012 zom-com combines the witty banter and comic hi-jinks of Carry On films of old with the flashy fast cut edits of a Guy Ritchie-styled mockney crime heist to produce one of the best British comedies in ages. In fact, having seen in countless times now, it’s as bloody brilliant as Shaun of the Dead.
Veteran stars Honor Blackman, Richard Briers and Dudley Sutton get the biggest laughs – especially Briers (who died six months after the film’s release) trying to outwalk the zombies on his zimmer frame. And the Ska-fuelled end credits song Head to Head with the Undead is just so darn catchy, you might find yourself wanting the soundtrack as well (yep, there is one).
Cockneys vs Zombies screens on The Horror Channel on Saturday 19th August at 9.00pm
David Niven’s super smooth Count Dracula is strapped for cash and renting his Transylvania castle out as an upscale B&B and corporate event facility. But when he uses the blood from four finalists doing a Playboy photo-shoot to resurrect his beloved wife, Vampira (Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In’s Teresa Graves), he gets the shock of his life when Vampira turns black.
Packing his coffin, old Drac, his jocular manservant Maltravers (Peter Bayliss) and Vampira leave the Carpathians behind for swinging London and a haunted Hampstead mansion to track down the right ‘donor’ to restore Vampira…
Known as Old Dracula in the US (to cash in on Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein), this 1974 vampire comedy was written by Jeremy Lloyd (of Are You Being Served? and ’Allo ’Allo fame) as a vehicle for David Niven, who brings a real touch of class to director Clive Donner’s Carry On meets Confessions of a Biteable Playmate farce.
One-liner vampire jokes are the order of the day, with the best of them deservedly going to Bayliss, although Niven does get some nifty ones like: ‘That look of horror when they realise that it’s me is so exciting’. Drac’s castle dinner show, complete with creepy organ-playing and flying bats, effectively spoofs Hammer’s horrors, while his gimmicky haunted London pad with its screaming, laughing ghosts, satanic imagery and rat-infested well is a nod to William Castle and AIP’s 1970s shockers.
Lloyd and Donner also pay homage to blaxpoitation and spy flicks by turning Vampira into jive-talking disco queen after watching Black Gunn, and giving Niven some nifty weapons, including a cane with a deadly blade, which he uses to rescue a damsel in distress; while Anthony Newley’s jaunty theme tune sung by UK soul band, The Majestics is played over Bond-esque silhouetted credits. Mind you, Niven blacking up for the film’s final shot may have been misguided.
Psychomania‘s Nicky Henson plays horror writer Marc, who comes under the Count’s hypnotic control in order to put the bite on the likes of Jennie Linden and Veronica Carlson; while sex kitten Linda Hayden makes an early exit when her just-turned waitress Helga gets staked with a crossbow. Comedy actors Bernard Bresslaw and Frank Thornton make their hilarious cameos count, while the other ‘stars’ are the gritty Soho locations and David Whitaker’s funky music that has an air of Geoff Love’s fake 1970’s exotica group Mandingo about it. Fangs for the laughs, folks!
Convinced by her unborn baby (who speaks to her from her womb) that her partner’s death in a climbing accident was the result of a group decision to cut his rope, Ruth tracks them down and kills them with a large kitchen knife. But when her waters break as she finally confronts the group’s leader, Tom, (Kayvan Novak), Ruth finds herself on a cliff edge (both literally and metaphorically) swaying between redemption and destruction…
Shot in just 11 days during Lowe’s own real-life pregnancy, Prevenge is an assured directorial debut from the writer/actress, who is best known for her turns in Ben Wheatley’s Kill List and Sightseers. Now I came into the film expecting it to be played strictly for laughs, but there’s an emotional core that quietly drags you in.
And that’s down to Lowe’s compelling performance as Ruth who, throughout her murder spree, which includes slashing the throat of Kate (Game of Thrones) Dickie’s bitchy boss and the gory castration of Tom Davis’ sleazy DJ, the viewer is left wondering if she’s clinically mad or just having a really bad day?
Thankfully, Ruth’s got Jo Hartley’s caring midwife to help ground her back to reality. But Ruth is a deeply sad and lonely woman – and you can’t help but sympathise with her because she has no family or support as she awaits the birth of her baby.
Ruth’s bland apartment – which looks like temporary council accommodation – only heightens her loneliness and sense of alienation. So do the other-worldly neon-lit Cardiff city locations – which were chosen on purpose according to Lowe in the extras.
Speaking of which, do check out the Post Natal Confessions extra, it’s really informative in shedding light on the making of this surprisingly emotional black comedy that deserves multiple viewings. It also reveals the genesis behind my favourite scene in which Ruth meets ‘Death’ in the form of a Halloween party-goer.
Prevenge is out on DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD from includes an audio commentary with Alice Lowe, cinematographer Ryan Eddleston, editor Matteo Bini and producer Vaughan Sivell.
The Prevenge soundtrack by ToyDrum is also available digitally through Invada Records at www.invada.co.uk
Boccaccio ’70 (1962) | Italian sexual mores as seen through the eyes of Fellini, Visconti, De Sica and Monicelli
Italy’s greatest directors bring four stories of Italian post-war sexual mores and morality to cinematic life in the 1962 big-screen anthology Boccaccio ’70, which gets a brand-new remaster on Blu-ray, DVD and digital from CultFilms in the UK.
Federico Fellini directs his first colour work, the wild fantasy, Le tentazioni del dottor Antonio, which perfectly illustrates why Fellini is Fellini. Starring Anita Ekberg, who beguiled cinema audiences as the lady in the Trevi Fountain in 1960’s La Dolce Vita, Fellini’s surreal play sees a prudish man driven insane when a giant billboard featuring the ravishing Ekberg comes to life.
Luchino Visconti provides some serious melodrama with Il lavoro, a play in which Romy Schneider’s aristocratic housewife shows her independent side when her husband’s affairs make front page news. This one features what Time Magazine described as ‘surely one of the most provocative stripteases to be recorded on film’.
Vittorio De Sica’s story, La riffa, sees screen siren Sophia Loren putting her sexual favours up for auction in a bid a to pay off her taxes. While the portraits conclude with director Mario Monicelli’s once lost segment, Renzo e Luciana – a sweet, funny play about two working class lovers (Marisa Solinas and Germano Gilioli) who keep their impending marriage a secret in order to keep their jobs.
With an exciting soundtrack from the legendary Nino Rota and Armando Trovaili and outstanding camerawork, Boccaccio ’70 is a slice of cinematic history past that deserves multiple viewings.
For the first-time ever, the film is presented here in both its original language with new, improved, English subtitles and alternatively with an English audio track. The new Blu-ray release also features previously the unseen documentary, Sophia, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, a candid, intimate interview with Sophia Loren with contributions from Woody Allen, Giorgio Armani and other close friends and collaborators.
Boccaccio ’70 is available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital from CultFilms in the UK from 26 June 2017
Heading up the survivors are tough army sergeant Mac (Jim Sweeney) and cowardly Major Gibson (Joe Rainbow), who are transporting the alleged architect of the virus, Dr Sykes (Eric Colvin), to the city of Imperion; the golf-mad Beaumont (Danny Brown) and his teenage daughter, Becca (Rachel Nottingham); office worker Gandhi (Simon Burbage); Essex slag Harden (Jade Colucci); and a pint-sized, heavily-pregnant, religious nutter (Shamiso Mushambi).
Once inside, however, the survivors discover they are not alone – a messiah-like zombie (Rupert Phelps) with the power to heal the infected is wandering the corridors. Believing him to be the cure, Sykes convinces his captors to try and capture the unholy undead dude. But their task isn’t made easy when the virus starts spreading amongst the survivors…
‘Die down the negative energy, it’s not the end of the world!’
This low budget zombie comedy horror from Hampshire-based film outfit Charmed Apocalypse Pictures (aka Andy Phelps and Jake Hawkin) is way better than it ought to be. If you can forgive the copious amounts of swearing and questionable acting ability, this homemade horror is a riot.
It’s got a cracking script, whose black humour owes a big debt to Monty Python, Blackadder and Shaun of the Dead; gory special effects that really do deliver (decapitation by golf club, anyone?); some nicely twisted takes on the horror genre’s stock-in-trade characters; cool comic book style graphics; and a catchy darkwave electronic theme tune (that sounds not unlike Laibach).
Much fun is made about death and religion and some of it is very dark, like when the Bible-spouting Esther tries to crucify herself. It’s also incredibly inventive – who knew wearing a coat of rotting human skin will make you invisible to zombies? Then there’s the fatalistic central theme of being eaten, resurrected and eaten again: now that’s really scary. If there’s one downside, it’s that the comedy ends up taking the back seat as the grisly theme plays out. But then, we wouldn’t have the film’s Romero-esque final shot…
Paying homage to classic Forties film noirs, 1982’s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid starred Steve Martin (giving one of his best performances) as the Philip Marlowe-styled gumshoe Rigby Reardon, who is hired by Juliet Forrest (Rachel Ward) to investigate the death of her father, a noted scientist, philanthropist and cheesemaker…
Originally released on 21 May 1982, the film is irresistibly silly and very funny (aside from the misogyny of course, which was typical of films of the era). But the best thing about the comedy is how it cleverly intercut 19 classic movies into its spoof adventure. Whilst writing the film, Carl Reiner and George Gipe spent countless hours looking for specific shots and ‘listening for a line that was ambiguous enough but had enough meat in it to contribute a line’, while 85 sets were constructed in order toe edit in and merge the old film footage.
Then, of course, there was that amazing cast of Hollywood greats who ended up being Martin’s co-star. Alan Ladd, Barbara Stanwyck, Ray Milland, Burt Lancaster, Humphrey Bogart, Eva Gardner, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Charles Laughton, Joan Crawford Veronica Lake, Bette Davis, Lana Turner, Kirk Douglas, Fred McMurray, James Cagney and Vincent Price.
Check them all out here.
Available on Blu-ray in the UK from Fabulous Films, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid really makes you want to revisit the classic films spliced into the light-hearted spoof. And here they all are.
Johnny Eager (1941)
Keeper of the Flame (1942) (uncredited)
This Gun for Hire (1942)
The Glass Key (1942)
Double Indemnity (1944)
The Lost Weekend (1945)
The Killers (1946)
The Big Sleep (1946)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
I Walk Alone (1947)
Dark Passage (1947)
Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)
White Heat (1949)
The Bribe (1949)
In a Lonely Place (1950)
The Magic Christian (1969) | Peter Sellers, Ringo Starr and a shipload of famous faces make this comic misfire worth a revisit
This wildly undisciplined 1969 British comedy sees a homeless man called Youngman (Ringo Starr) being adopted by the world’s richest man, Sir Guy Grand (Peter Sellers), who sets out to prove that money can make people do anything through a series of practical jokes and bizarre stunts…
Shot with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mentality by one of the seven directors of the dire Casino Royal (The Goon Show’s Joseph McGrath), The Magic Christian is an absurd satire on capitalism, greed, and human vanities based on a novel by Terry Southern, whose warped imaginings also turned out screenplays for some of my favourite ‘out-there’ movies, Candy, Barbarella, The Loved One and Dr Strangelove.
Southern co-wrote the film with McGrath, but much was altered when the film’s star Peter Sellers – who loved Southern’s book so much he bought 100 copies to give to friends – got Spike Milligan, John Cleese and Graham Chapman to rewrite some scenes, some of which didn’t end up in the final cut. The biggest change was Ringo’s character, which was created especially for the movie.
Not that Starr brings much to the film, apart from hanging on Sellers’ every word (which the comedy legend utters in a vast array of vocal mimicry), as he carries out his ‘Grand’ schemes. These include getting Laurence Harvey’s Shakespearean actor to do a striptease during a performance of Hamlet, blowing the shit out of a squire’s sedate country shoot, fixing the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, and inviting a bunch of city types to bob for pound notes in a vat of animal blood, piss and manure.
Along for the wacky ride are Spike Milligan as a traffic warden who eats a parking ticket for £500, Hattie Jacques as a vain train passenger with a penchant for Nazi torture porn, Yul Brynner (voiced by The Rag Trade’s Miriam Karlin) as a transvestite singing Mad About the Boy to Roman Polanski, John Cleese as a surly Sothebys auctioneer, and Raquel Welch as a whip-wielding galley slave mistress, while Christopher Lee has fun sending up his Dracula persona. Shamefully, however, Leonard Frey (of Boys in the Band fame) is called Faggot.
The hit and miss satire ends in a shambolic riot aboard the eponymous Magic Christian, a luxury liner berthed in the Thames where London’s elite gather for the social event of the year (as reported by Michael Aspel and Alan Wicker).
While it certainly fails as an incisive satire (probably on account of it being lost in translation), The Magic Christian does have those fun cameos to tickle your funny bones, and the central London locations (with a Thames bursting its banks) are a real nostalgia trip. Watch out for the grotesque dining scene which could very well be the template for Monty Python’s Mr Creosote sketch in 1983’s The Meaning of Life (well Messrs Chapman and Cleese probably wrote that as well).
As for the Beatles-sounding theme tune ‘Come and Get It’, well that was written and produced by Paul McCartney for the Welsh rock band Badfinger, who released it as a single in December 1969 on the Beatles’ Apple label.
Fabulous Films presents the film on DVD in an unrestored version (some slight flecks appear here and there), with no extras.
Stung (2015) | Giant mutant wasps attack in the knockabout horror comedy premiering today on Horror Channel
An upper-class garden party on a country estate turns to bloody chaos when a swarm of mutated wasps descends to feast upon its guests. Trying to escape the deadly insects, catering staffers Paul (Matt O’Leary) and Julia (Jessica Cook) retreat inside of the mansion with a handful of survivors, including the town’s mayor (Lance Henriksen) and local eccentric Sydney (Clifton Collins Jr). But with each victim they consume, the wasps grow bigger and bigger, and it’s only a matter of time before the survivors finds themselves trapped inside a giant nest…
This creature feature from director Benni Diez (who did the visuals for Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia) is enormous fun, boasting a super cast playing some downright kooky characters, some gleeful gore and super SFX (both practical and digital), plus some laugh out loud in-jokes that all serve to pay homage to the big bug monster genre. Love it!
Stung is available on DVD from Entertainment One, and gets its premiere on the Horror Channel in the UK on Saturday 29 April at 10.55pm