Category Archives: Maybe Miss
When the BBC1 TV series Doomwatch began hitting the headlines in the early 1970s and shows like On the Buses started heading into cinemas, Tigon’s Tony Tenser rushed out this big-screen spin off in the hope it would become the new Quatermass. But this ‘Chilling Story from Today’s headline’ was not the success that Tigon had hoped for, and ended up sitting on the shelf following its disappointing run in UK cinemas.
An ecological nightmare gone berserk!
A year after an oil tanker sinks off the west coast of England, Doomwatch scientist Dr Del Shaw (Ian Bannen) heads to the isolated island of Balfe to investigate the effects on marine life and discovers the local population have also been affected, creating physical abnormalities and turning the men-folk aggressive. Seeking out the aid of local teacher (Judy Geeson), Shaw then finds he has a battle on his hands trying to convince the locals he wants to help the, while also trying to get the Ministry of Defence and a chemical corporation to accept responsibility for the accident.
Director Peter Sasdy (Countess Dracula), cinematographer Ken Talbot (Hands of the Ripper) and production designer Colin Grimes (Nothing But the Night) do what they can with a script by Clive Exton (10 Rillington Place), that was part thriller, part horror, part ecological drama, and was shot on location around Polkerris and Falmouth in Cornwall and at Pinewood in October 1971.
But there isn’t enough depth, action or sense of menace to make it work, which also lessens the impact of Tom Smith’s effective makeup. Even the classic Doctor Who serial The Green Death, which used the mutations vs multinationals premise, is way more effective; and we all know how brilliant The Wicker Man turned out, a film which also followed an official’s investigation of a closed island community.
It was disappointing for fans of the TV show to see regulars John Paul and Simon Oates taking a back seat in the film, and their replacements are not that much cop either. Ian Bannen comes off as overly shouty and unempathic, while Judy Geeson seems like a fish out of water as the mainland school teacher who has no connection with the locals. At least she doesn’t eat their fish!
Future Bond star Geoffrey Keen and veteran actor George Sanders put in safe, but dull cameos, but its Shelagh Fraser who brings some unlikely comic relief as the nosey local who possesses the only phone on the island. And keen-eyed viewers will catch future EastEnders‘ star Pam St Clement playing one of the villagers.
Doomwatch has been digitally restored for a Blu-ray and DVD region free release by Screenbound Pictures, available from 20 June 2016
• Read all about the original Doomwatch TV series UK DVD release HERE
The Blood Harvest (2016) | Plot-holes and poverty row production values plague this low-budget serial killer slasher
Do not judge them for what they reap…
Belfast detective Jack Chaplin (Robert Render) is fired over his crazy theories that supernatural forces (namely vampires) are behind a string of horrific murders which left victims with one eye scooped out and their Achilles tendons sliced. Hooking up with his former partner, Detective Hatcher (Jean-Paul Van de Velde), Jack then sets out to uncover the truth and halt rising body count…
The Harvest Is Coming…
In fusing horror with procedural crime, you’d expect this to be a Northern Irish take on the giallo in the tradition of Lucio Fulci or Dario Argento. Well, the attacks (spoiler alert: by two psychos in a banged-up old 1950s car sporting welders masks) are certainly on par with those shock merchants, but the violence is particularly nasty, lacking visual style and finesse, and there’s a lot of talky bits in dimly lit rooms. But it’s the big final reveal that will have you pressing rewind on the DVD to make sure you’re not imagining things. It’s really out of this world – literally!
Plot-holes and poverty row production values aside, fans of extended scenes of senseless violence will get a thrill out of this bloody harvest, which does offer up some effective SFX (which scored a gong at the Freak Show Horror Festival in Florida last year). But aside from some atmospheric location set-ups, the pacing, direction and acting reminded me of the kind of homemade movies that I used to make with my university mates.
This is George Clarke’s sixth feature under his Yellow Fever Productions banner and I’d like to shake his hand for keeping the indie film spirit alive. As he says on his website, ‘It isn’t a crime to follow your dreams’. And it certainly isn’t. But if he’s hoping to become Northern Ireland’s answer to Roger Corman, Jim Wynorski or David DeCoteau, then he might think about upping his game next time round.
BTW: Britain’s Got Talent fans might recognise one of the victims as Matt McCreary, who pranked Simon Cowell in 2015 with a free-running routine.
The Blood Harvest is out on DVD in the UK from Left Films, which includes a making of featurette, bloopers and trailers.
Check out the official website: here
Shark Killer opens with a cool graphic novel animated opening credit sequence and a comical Jaws II meets Piranha scene in which a bunch of American teens become shark food, before our square-jawed hero Chase Walker (Derek Theler) saves – then shags – the girl (think Bond as a muscled jock).
It certainly sets the scene for a tongue-in-cheek adventure in which Chase jets off to Cape Town in South Africa where he’s coerced by his obnoxious adopted (and therefore less attractive) brother Jake (Paul du Toit) into retrieving a priceless diamond swallowed by a Great White. And helping Chase in his quest is local beauty Jasmine (A Town Called Eureka‘s Erica Cerra), who looks like a cross between Jessica Alba and Courtney Cox, but sounds like she’s swallowed a frog.
Next stop, a bargain bin Romancing the Stone meets buddy comedy where gags like ‘This isn’t flipper we’re talking about’ fall flat at every turn, there’s little in the way of action (apart from a couple of well-choreographed fight scenes that show off Theler action man skills) and practically nil shark carnage (which is what we came for).
Instead we have just three CGI shark attacks (one on a fluffy white terrier) amid lots of flirty talk between Theler and Cerra. Now, they’re certainly a fit-looking couple, but they’re no Michael Douglas or Kathleen Turner – and du Toit is no Danny De Vito either.
Doing his best Bond-style villain, Arnold Vosloo is pretty cool, especially when his drug-dealing diamond collector takes his final revenge after being almost been burned to a crisp in an explosion. But, ultimately, even he can’t save this sinker.
Shark Killer dives onto DVD in the UK on 20 July from Image Entertainment
The pimps and the prostitutes and the body-snatchers. The brothels and dens of iniquity!
In 19th-century Edinburgh, Irish immigrants William Burke (Derren Nesbitt) and William Hare (Glynn Edwards), discover there’s money to be made supplying fresh corpses to noted College of Surgeons anatomist Dr Robert Knox (Harry Andrews). But when demand starts outstripping supply, the greedy resurrection men turn to preying on drunken prostitutes and vagabonds. However, the death of a club-footed simpleton and a young woman’s disappearance proves to be their undoing…
Gallows humour and saucy British sitcom-styled shenanigans make strange bedfellows in this 1972 British period horror yarn. In retelling the story of the infamous Burke and Hare murders that took place in Edinburgh in 1828, director Vernon Sewell, who had just made two horrors back-to-back (The Blood Beast Terror and Curse of the Crimson Altar), chose, unwisely – as it turns out – to take the sexploitation route for his final fright flick. Littered with penis jokes and gratuitous nipple flashing (even in the morgue – how disrepectful), it should have been called Confessions of a Body Snatcher.
Although Harry Andrews gives a terrifically hammy performance as medical pioneer Knox, playing him as a bullish obsessive gleefully carving up the dodgy cadavers while turning a blind eye to their provenance, Burke and Hare are played strictly for laughs. Thick in mentality and in their ‘Oirish’ accents, they eminded me of Stan and Jack from On The Buses. But instead of pulling birds, they are the henpecked husbands of the film’s real villains – their shrewish wives, played by Dee Shenderey and Yootha Joyce (who was married to Edwards until their divorce in 1968), who think nothing of killing old ladies for ‘a wee dram’.
The comedy thriller’s side-story, involving three medical students and a local brothel, is also an awkward mix of Benny Hill slapstick and whodunit, especially when Alan Tucker’s young doctor in the love goes in search of Françoise Pascal’s missing Marie. Yutte Stensgaard (who once guested in On The Buses) also mysteriously disappears – but it’s not clear if she ended up as another victim or just got left on the cutting room floor. One minute she’s there, the next she’s gone.
The theme tune is by the legendary Liverpudlian band, The Scaffold – who are best known for Lily the Pink. But their bawdy title song, which features the slightly unsavory lyrics ‘Beware they’re out to rape you and drape you in white’ sits uncomfortably alongside the rest of the film’s music score – which sounds like something out of an old silent movie during the brothel burning scene.
Burke & Hare is a misfire whose only merit is in seeing some fine character actors having a lark in period garb on some unconvincing Twickenham Studio sets.
THE UK RELEASE
Burke & Hare gets a UK release on Blu-ray and DVD from Odeon Entertainment as part of their OEG Classic Movies collection from 4 May 2015, featuring the film in its original 1:66.1 aspect ratio and with Dolby Digital mono sound (note: the opening title theme is rather scratchy, but the rest of the audio track is perfectly fine).
AND ANOTHER THING…
When it comes to screen adaptations of the Burke and Hare story, few stand out – except maybe John Gilling’s The Flesh and the Fiends (1960), with George Rose and Donald Pleasance playing the body snatchers and Peter Cushing in Knox role; while Robert Wise’s The Body Snatcher (1945), the last film to feature Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff together, drew heavily on the West Port murder case, but was actually based on a Robert Louis Stevenson short story. Back in 2010, meanwhile, John Landis took a comic stab at the material with Brit favourites Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis playing the rogues. But has anyone actually seen it? For information on the real Burke and Hare, check this out: http://burkeandhare.com/
Simon Killer (2012) | Antonio Campos’ psychological thriller is as empty and soulless as the character being put under the lens
SO WHAT’S GOING ON?
Alone and adrift in Paris, American college graduate Simon (Brady Corbet) tries to get over his recent break-up with his girlfriend by taking solace in the company of prostitute, Victoria (Mati Diop). But after Simon finally wins her trust, it’s not long before he starts looking for a replacement in his affections.
AND IT BOILS DOWN TO THIS
One of the basic rules of filmmaking is that an audience must be able to sympathise with the characters – no matter how repellent they may be. But in this kitchen sink drama masquerading as psychological thriller, there is little to empathise in the character of Simon. Not that there is anything wrong with the acting, as Brady Corbet gives his all playing the sleazy little toe-rag who flits from one woman to another like a magpie in search of a new nest. What this film lacks is soul, and that’s down to the story, the direction and the camerawork.
With its cramped Parisian apartment setting and two central characters, director Antonio Campos’ Simon Killer is reminiscent of Bertolucci’s erotic dramas Last Tango in Paris and The Dreamers – but minus the kinky sex, big star names and colourful period settings. With his incredibly slow pans and headless framing, Campos strives to be arty in a Jean-Luc Godard/existential kind of way, but he fails to deliver. And as for the story, well there isn’t one and there’s no killer to speak of. For me, Campos’ psychological thriller is as empty and soulless as the character being put under the lens.
Eureka Entertainment’s The Masters of Cinema Series release includes a Blu-ray presentation (progressive presentation on the DVD); behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with Antonio Campos, producers Sean Durkin and Josh Mond, and Brady Corbet, trailer and booklet. Also included is Campos’ Palme d’Or nominated short film, The Last 15, which is actually way more interesting than the feature.
A Maybe Miss – because of all of the above.