Adam Driver ready to shoot something

“Adam Driver fights dinosaurs” seems to be the social media consensus on 65, in which Adam Driver does indeed fight dinosaurs, but also fear itself, in a surprisingly good and tense thriller directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the guys who wrote A Quiet Place. The buzz was not good even before it opened, and the studio kept this film away from the press, allowing only one screening right before it premiered, to minimise negative publicity. Clearly, they felt, something had gone wrong. Which is odd because Driver is a proven quantity, so it should have been something. Sci-fi – also a winner. Dinosaurs – who doesn’t love a dinosaur? And yet… The … Read more

The Naked Kiss

Kelly attacks in the film's opening moments

Tabloid journalist makes tabloid movie shock! Writer/director/producer and former newspaperman Sam Fuller demonstrates his nose for a story with The Naked Kiss, a lurid, headline-grabbing movie too sensational for a few jurisdictions when it came out in 1964. It is the whore-to-madonna tale of a prostitute who – either seeing the error of her ways or realising she’s too old for the job – gives it all up and becomes a teacher of disabled kids in a white-picket US town. But can the universe forgive her for her previous life, or will an avenging angel soon be winging its way towards her? You know it will. The film opens in spectacular fashion, with a one-two … Read more

The Virginian

The Virginian draws a gun

The Virginian’s ambitions aren’t that great. It wants to be a normal, everyday western like they used to make, in which man’s-gotta-do men negotiate morality in a lawless world, a baddie wore a black hat and a fair lady was open to a bit of courting as long as it was respectful. Can such a western be made? Is there an audience for it? The TV show The Virginian, which this isn’t, was one of several long-running series with high production values and fine actors. It ran for 249 shows over nine years, a way behind Bonanza (430 episodes between 1959 and 1973) and Gunsmoke (635 episodes between 1955 and 1975). Together, with … Read more

Un Comisar Acuzã

Inspector Moldovan

The Romanian Spielberg is how director Sergiu Nicolaescu is often described. That’s a bit misleading but catches a flavour of the prolific writer/director/actor who from the 1960s until his death in 2013 made films designed to be seen by as many people as possible. 1974’s Un Comisar Acuzã is a prime example of what he was all about. A classic crime thriller with a distinctly political angle, it both plays to the Communist Ceaușescu regime’s notion of itself as the font of justice and, glimpsed side-on, critiques it, all the while delivering action, thrills, a fast-moving narrative and a hero who’s easy to like. Useful background to have before going in: in the … Read more

Mermaid in Paris

Lula in the bath

The title is a potential problem for Mermaid in Paris, Une Sirène à Paris in the original French, a language with only one word, Sirène, for both Mermaid (half human, half fish, entirely fictional, essentially benign) and Siren (half human, half fish, entirely fictional, essentially malign). Mermaids are sexy and nice; sirens are sexy and not. Mermaids aren’t known for the voices; sirens lure humans to their deaths, often on treacherous rocks, by singing to them. Mythologically, sirens didn’t start out as half fish. They were half bird until the Middle Ages, when, under the influence of the mermaid, they began transitioning. Why does this any of this matter? Because Lula (Marilyn Lima), … Read more

Irma Vep

Zoé and Maggie

Irma Vep is an obvious anagram of “vampire” and so you might reasonably expect it to be about a vampire, or vampires, or something that sucks blood. Maybe? Wrong. And yet right. Oh these trickster French directors. Olivier Assayas wrote this 1996 movie, as he did the 2022 TV show based on it. Both tell the same story – of a foreign actress who arrives in Paris to star in a remake of a classic 1915 film, Les Vampires, about a mysterious black-clad female who is part cat burglar, part seductress and part muse, and the force behind a criminal gang called the Vampires, on account of the dark clothing more than anything … Read more

Enys Men

Close up of Mary Woodvine

How the hell do you follow Bait? A movie made for nothing shot on 16mm on a wind-up Bolex, an experiment, more or less, which somehow got off Dr Frankenstein’s table and made it into the big wide world. If you don’t know what I’m talking about… shakes head. Enys Men is the answer, writer/director Mark Jenkin’s bold sideways move into colour but using the same basic equipment – wind-up camera, 16mm film (later digitised and then massively colour graded) – and with the sound post-dubbed. A tiny crew, a handful of actors, with the vast bulk of the action focusing on Mary Woodvine, who plays The Volunteer, a woman on a remote … Read more

Side Street

Joe finds the money

An overwrought civics lesson done as film noir, Side Street sees Farley Granger’s humble postman making one tiny mistake and finding himself in deep trouble. One minute he’s trading small talk with a cop in the bright daylight, the next he’s mixing with murderers, femmes fatales and other unsavoury sorts and has become a creature of the night. In Side Street, when you fall, you fall. No wonder it flopped – it’s overcooked. And it did flop, badly. So much so that its director, Anthony Mann, abandoned film noir for good and headed off into the hills where a career making highly regarded westerns beckoned. But all that was in the future. First … Read more


Cameron and Erin

I must have missed the bit where they explained why this strange, Shyamalan-on-a-budget movie is called Linoleum. But Linoleum it is. “A floor covering made from… linseed oil, pine resin, ground cork dust…” etc etc. Says Wikipedia. No idea. But then I’m not the sort of movie watcher who second-guesses. I like the film-maker to reveal what they’re going to reveal at the time they want to reveal it. If I get there first… problems. Otherwise, you do you and I’ll sit back and watch. So, obviously there is a reveal. A grand one. Which casts everything you’ve been watching in a new light, explains it all, also helps explain some of the odd … Read more

The Prowler

Mrs Gilvray opens the door to cop Webb Garwood

“A masterpiece of sexual creepiness” – writer James Ellroy’s verdict on 1951’s The Prowler, a film that gave two good actors roles of a lifetime and which languished in the pit of obscurity until it was rescued by a restoration in 2011. The “sexual creepiness” arrives early on. Married woman Susan Gilvray (Evelyn Keyes) calls the cops after seeing what she thinks is a prowler outside her window, peeking at her as she got out of the bath. The cops turn up. No one there. Or is there? One of the policemen, Webb Garwood (Van Heflin), has taken an instant interest in Mrs Gilvray and he returns later that evening, ostensibly just to … Read more