Latest Posts

Fantômas in blue make up


Though the character of Fantômas – ruthless arch-criminal and master of disguise – had been around in book form since the early 1900s, and there’d been regular film adaptations through the 20th century, the modern Fantômas, blue of face and black of glove, starts with this 1964 movie simply named after the man himself, which re-introduced the character to French audiences and exported him to the rest of the world. The original Fantômas of Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre was something of a response to another successful French character of the time, Arsène Lupin. Both operated in similar fashion as lords of misrule disrupting the boring everyday with mad feats of fantastical excess, … Read more
Toni Collette as Kristin

Mafia Mamma

Two thirds good, one third bad, as George Orwell almost said, Mafia Mamma is a comedy about a timid, emotionally giving American mother who becomes a mafia don, a donna in fact, after her grandfather in the old country dies in gang-related circumstances and she takes over the firm. Not that Kristin (Toni Collette) understands any of that. As far as she’s concerned the old guy was a winemaker and at the point where she is heading off to Italy to attend his funeral, it’s as much to get some “Eat. Pray. Fuck.” as to pay her respects. The fact that she’s just caught her husband banging her son’s counsellor in the kitchen … Read more
Peggy and Thomas

Red Sun

Before we start, not the Red Sun from 1971, directed by Terence Young and starring Charles Bronson. Most emphatically not that one. Instead, the Red Sun from a year before, a film originally called Rote Sonne, from West Germany, directed by the largely overlooked Rudolf Thome and melding the politics of the post-1968, Women’s Lib era with a good old-fashioned horror movie. Though a warning to lovers of red plush and stakes through heart, there is none of that going on here. But first let’s meet the hero/victim of this story, a sad sack of male entitlement, a total waste of petulant, lazy, sponging space called Thomas, who we first glimpse hitch-hiking and … Read more
Indiana Jones and god-daughter Helena

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is 20 minutes of brilliantly choreographed, jeopardy-filled action featuring a de-aged Harrison Ford as everyone’s favourite whip-wielding archaeologist followed by a further two hours-plus of an 80something Harrison Ford doing the same, slightly slower, with a bit more regard for tardy reflexes and a more shatter-prone skeleton. Old or young, he’s great if sometimes a bit slow, which you could say about the film too. It’s mostly a case of back to basics, with the “basics” being, of course, the Nazis, who have set their sights on the Antikthera, the dial of Archimedes, an ancient Greek artefact long thought lost, which is powerful enough to unlock … Read more
Inspector Paine and Miss Casson

The Body Vanished

The Body Vanished is so old school you half expect it to be Vanishéd, Regency drama style. In fact it’s a 1939 British whodunit, a “quota quickie” intended as a programme filler and running only 46 minutes. It covers plenty of ground in that time and that is its main claim to your time – it tells a decent story at pace. Two men arrive in the small British backwater of Middle Wickering. They’re up from London and don’t the locals know it – the two newcomers have soon bought the entire clientele at the pub they’re staying at a drink. “Most kind, sir… don’t mind if I do etc etc”. They are … Read more
Dracula from behind in silhouette

The Last Voyage of the Demeter

The Last Voyage of the Demeter lifts a chapter from Bram Stoker’s Dracula and turns it into a standalone story. Ambitious enough. If you haven’t read it, it’s a dark, storm-tossed episode told through the captain’s log of the doomed vessel the Demeter, a cargo ship which sails from Varna in Bulgaria, laden with boxes containing Transylvanian earth – plus one containing Dracula himself – destination London. By the time the ship reaches the UK, everyone on board is dead, having been sucked dry on successive nights by the Count. Spoiler? Yes, except the film gives us this grim conclusion right up front – a ship wrecked off the coast of Whitby and … Read more
Janusz Gajos and Krystyna Janda


It took real courage to make Interrogation. Known as Przesluchanie in the original Polish, it looked like career suicide for everyone involved in the making of it. Even given the easier political situation in Poland once the Solidarity union had started making headway from 1980 onwards, the film’s message – that the regime was inhumane, Nazi even – was never going to be tolerated by the authorities. And it wasn’t. Banned before it appeared in 1982, it was nevertheless widely seen in Poland, thanks to pirate tapes played on VHS machines, which had only recently been introduced to Poland. When the Iron Curtain fell in 1989 it finally got its official release and … Read more
Maika Monroe as Case

God Is a Bullet

Wow, God Is a Bullet is violent. Teeth-kicked-out violent. And it’s Maika Monroe, slender, fragile Maika Monroe, who’s having her teeth kicked out. She also has her nose broken twice (at least) during the course of this long and almost relentlessly brutal film. Not her, of course, but her character, Case, known as “Headcase” to the cackling, tattooed, wild-eyed members of the cult she used to belong to but has now left, no doubt in part on account of having had her teeth kicked out, nose broken etc etc Rewind. Bob (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a smalltown cop, a “seat warmer” and “desk cowboy” as his partner disparagingly calls him, is galvanised into action when … Read more
James Coburn as Sergeant Steiner

Cross of Iron

Two types of nobility do battle in Sam Peckinpah’s Cross of Iron, a 1977 movie out of time in the Star Wars era and too subtle and ambiguous to count back then as mass entertainment. Starting with the opening credits – German schoolchildren sing nursery rhymes one second, German soldiers bellow military anthems the next, while images of war and destruction flash up on the screen. Hitler takes a salute, there are pictures of men starving and dying on the front, and now we hear the children again. Is Peckinpah being ironic? And then a shock. The Germans are the good guys. They are played by recognisable faces – James Coburn, James Mason and … Read more
Ben and Dom


I wondered early on in Swallowed whether it was going to have an anal as well as an oral angle. I was right, it did. Some background on that speculation. Two friends, Ben and Dom. Ben is gay and handsome and about to leave his no-mark hometown to be a porn actor in LA. Dom, not quite so hot and straight, is not. He’s staying behind, where he might well, from the looks he’s giving Ben before they part, be nursing the remains of an unrequited love. As a farewell gift to Ben, Dom has arranged to make some cash to give to Ben by smuggling drugs into California. It’s easy money. All … Read more
Rosa reclining with cigarette

Beyond the Forest

“Nobody’s as good as Bette when she’s bad!” screamed the posters for this 1949 melodrama starring, of course, Bette Davis. But bad how? The latest of a run of flops for Davis when it was released, Beyond the Forest allowed Jack Warner to offload the star who’d made him fistfuls of money for 18 years. Good riddance to you too, said Bette, who’d wanted out anyway. Or so she said. It’s a madly overcooked affair from the outset, with a rolling written introduction after the opening credits insisting that this is a grim but necessary portrait of evil and its rewards and ending with a metaphor about a “scorpion in a mad fury” … Read more
Ansel Elgort and Chloë Grace Moretz

November Criminals

In reverse chronological order November Criminals can refer to this movie from 2017, the book by Sam Munson on which it’s based or the German government in 1918, the one that signed the armistice that ended the First World War – the “November criminals” is what purveyors of the “stab in the back” myth called them at any rate (according to which the elites of Germany “stabbed” their own people by surrendering). Does the last have anything to do with the first two? I have no idea, and having watched the film but not read the book cannot see any connection. But then there is a general sense watching the film that something is … Read more

Popular Posts