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Ten Little Indians (1974) | The Agatha Christie who’s next whodunnit gets the Harry Alan Towers treatment

Ten Little Indians (1974)

Ten strangers are invited to the luxurious Persian desert hotel owned by the wealthy, but absent, Mr Owen where they learn, from a mysterious voice, that retribution is at hand as each one of them is an unpunished murderer…

Ten Little Indians (1974)

1974’s Ten Little Indians (aka And Then There Were None) which screens on ITV3 HD tonight at 1.15am was the third film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s best-selling 1939 novel (whose original title was latter changed for being racially insensitive) by legendary exploitation producer Harry Alan Towers, whose Euro thrillers were all bankrolled on the back of deals made with hoteliers and government tourism ministers around the world, and getting big name stars to sign up for a glorified paid holiday.

Ten Little Indians (1974)

For this ‘international movie mess’ which is how Vincent Canby of the New York Times described the film, the fabulous Abbasi Hotel (then known as the Shah Abbas Hotel) in Isfahan, Iran stood in for the desert home of U.N. Owen (voiced by Orson Welles, who played Long John Silver in Towers’ Treasure Island in 1972).

Ten Little Indians (1974)

But aside from the opulent hotel and a haunting score from an uncredited Bruno Nicolai, the most entertaining thing about the film (which was directed by Peter Collinson of The Italian Job fame, but who ended up helming genre fare like Fright, Open Season and Straight On Til Morning) is the starry cast, which included two former Bond villains Gert (Goldfinger) Fröbe and Adolfo (Largo) Celi, as well as Oliver Reed, Charles Aznavour, Herbert Lom, Richard Attenborough, Elke Sommer, Stéphane Audran and Maria Rohm (aka Mrs Harry Alan Towers). And as for the award to the best ‘worst’ performance – well, if you can stay awake until the end, then it’s a toss up between Reed and Aznavour (who lip-synchs his trademark song The Old Fashioned Way).

Fans of the classic mystery might like to know that an all-star three-part dramatisation is heading to BBC1 over Christmas.

Five Golden Dragons (1967) | Girls, gold and intrigue await in the comic retro adventure

Five Golden Dragons

American playboy Bob Mitchell (Robert Cummings) arrives in Hong Kong, where he is given a message, found on the body of a dead man. The message reads: ‘Five Golden Dragons’. It is Bob’s introduction to an illicit gold-trafficking operation, run by a secretive global crime syndicate who plan to sell out to the Mafia to the tune of $50million.

When stewardess Ingrid (Maria Rohm) is kidnapped by gangsters out to get their hands on the cash, Bob is forced to impersonate one of the five Dragons in order to steal the money and save the girl. But the gang are unaware that Bob is also working with District Commissioner Sanders (Rupert Davies), who is out to nab the lot of them…

Five Golden Dragons

This 1967 adaptation of one of Edgar Wallace’s District Commissioner Sanders stories is a breezy comic affair from director Jeremy Summers and legendary B-movie producer Harry Alan Towers, who together made also The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (with Christopher Lee) and House of a 1000 Dolls (with Vincent Price) the same year.

Robert Cummings is perfectly cast as the joker playboy, even though he’s past his prime here. If this weren’t a Bond-esque spoof then he’d come off as rather sleazy trying to pick up the likes of Maria Perschy, Maria Rohm and Margaret Lee with his corny pick-up lines and dodgy dance moves (check out his Chinese Watsui). But he plays the hapless humorist with his tongue firmly in his cheek.

And as for the rest of the cast, well Rupert Davies’s Sanders is a Shakespeare-quoting buffoon with chronic indigestion, and Roy Chiao, who’d go on to appear opposite Bruce Lee in Game of Death (1978), does his best to flesh out his character, as Sanders’ much more capable assistant Inspector Chiao. As sadistic hitman Gert, Klaus Kinski gets to do very little except look über cool, while the film’s big name stars, George Raft, Christopher Lee and Brain Donlevy who, together with Dan Dureya, make up four of the five Golden Dragons, only get two scenes together. But, then again, they probably only agreed to appear in the film so they could head for the greens at Hong Kong Golf Club or in Donlevy’s case the nearest bar.

Christopher Lee in Five Golden Dragons

Shot entirely in Hong Kong, the film makes great use of the locations (before the skyscraper boom), with its chase scenes taking place in the harbour on a flotilla of Chinese junks, a pagoda and the brand new Hilton (which was demolished in 1995).

The film’s interiors, however, which were all shot at the Shaw Brother’s Hong Kong studio, look like they were borrowed from TV’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E or Batman, two shows that were big business at the time of the film’s release. There’s even a powder pink dressing room with a secret passage like the one that Barbara Gordon uses to hide her Batgirl outfit. In another Batman connection, and again in 1967, George Raft also popped up in the Tallulah Bankhead episode, Black Widow Strikes Again

Five Golden Dragons

But the highlight of this comic retro adventure is the music. Malcolm Lockyer’s score is a jazzy cocktail of bongos, brass and Hammond organ served up with an oriental twist, while Margaret Lee gets to sing the catchy theme song and famed Japanese actress/singer Yukari Itô guests with a song that will have you searching for her on YouTube.

THE UK DVD RELEASE
The Network Distributing DVD presents the film in a brand-new transfer from original elements, in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio, and includes an hour-long audio interview from 2001 with director Jeremy Summers, trailer and gallery.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAJc6TGqi04%5D

The Bloody Judge (1969) | Christopher Lee flips his wig in Jesús Franco’s vintage historical horror

Bloody-Judge-DVD

HORROR WILL HOLD YOU HELPLESS!
In Jesús Franco’s 1969 Euro-horror Christopher Lee (in a powdered wig) stars as the real-life 17th-century Lord Chief Justice of England, Judge Jeffreys, dramatised here as a depraved character who condemns women as witches to further his political and sexual needs. Catching his lusty eye is Maria Rohm‘s buxom wench Charity, who is forced to submit to Jeffreys’ desires in order to stay alive. But the judge had better watch out, as William of Orange is poised to end his sadistic reign.

The Bloody Judge

NOT THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL, AGAIN!
The Bloody Judge
(aka Night of the Blood Monster) is one of two films that tried to emulate Michael Reeves’ superior 1968 British period drama Witchfinder General. The first, Mark of the Devil, was a sadistic German-made sex movie that exploited its screen violence with sick bags being handed out to cinema patrons. Franco’s film, however, is a much more restrained affair, with Christopher Lee in fine form as the dissolute Jeffreys, while cult legend Howard Vernon plays a genuinely sinister hooded executioner (obviously modelled on Boris Karloff’s Mord in 1939’s Tower of London). It’s also so darn gorgeous to look at that you can forgive the film-makers for not using any real English locations.

Christopher Lee is The Bloody Judge

THE UK DVD RELEASE
The 2013 Mediumrare Entertainment UK DVD release of The Bloody Judge contains a lovely print of the film (sadly there’s no sign of the nudie scenes that were supposed to have been shot after Lee finished filming his scenes). Extras include interviews with Franco and Lee, deleted scenes, poster and stills gallery, trailer.

The Bloody Judge also screens on The Horror Channel in the UK (Sky 319, Virgin 320, Freesat 138). The next showing in Monday 20 January at 10.45pm

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqOsFbN2Bug%5D

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