Goldfinger poster

Popular Features

Alice Terry and Rudolph Valentino

100 Years of… The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was the first of five films Rudolph Valentino made in 1921 and though it’s the film that made him a star he’s not the star of the film, which is an ensemble piece. The star is the film itself, an epic so complete and fine-tuned that it’s a reference point today whenever producers and directors are aiming to tell tender human stories against a background of raging conflict. It’s a big film too – two and a half hours long, which isn’t gargantuan compared to, say, Birth of a Nation (three and a quarter hours) or Greed (originally four and a half hours) – but surprises people who … Read more
wmome p gallery 1508full qsnf6yxyq57dkfvu

The Brooding Intensity of Michael Fassbender

Passion, power and emotional ferocity are all hallmarks of aMichael Fassbender performance. But is he just a kitten in real life? Here’s a funny thing. I’m in the audience at the New York Film Festival. On stage director Steve McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender are answering questions about the disturbing, brilliant film that’s just been shown. Shame, McQueen and Fassbender’s follow-up collaboration to the gruelling Hunger has Fassbender delivering a volcanic performance as a sex addict who’s either dialling rent-a-hooker, beating off at work or devouring porn at home. Intense, dark stuff. Someone from the floor asks Fassbender a question about the relationship between the two damaged lead characters, a brother and sister … Read more
A wounded Juan next to a bull

100 Years of… Blood and Sand

1922’s Blood and Sand was Rudolph Valentino’s third big hit movie in two years and it deserved to be. A grand, well-appointed, beautiful-looking, subtly-acted adventure rippling with themes and sub-themes and with properly fleshed-out side characters, it’s got more going on under the hood than at first appears. Famous Players-Lasky (later to become Paramount) had been caught on the hop by Valentino’s success and insisted that he carry on with the schedule already mapped out for him – which is why you’ll find a number of B movies sprinkled along the way between The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, his breakthrough, and Blood and Sand. Though Valentino was hot stuff (and knew it), … Read more
Makeda and Pharaoh

100 Years of… The Loves of Pharaoh

Why this film from 1922 is called The Loves of Pharaoh in English is a bit of a mystery. It’s Das Weib des Pharao – Pharaoh’s Woman (or Wife) – in German and in every other language it was translated into (per the IMDb), the lady in question has been faithfully rendered as wife/woman/love singular. In fact the film was also much messed about with when it first debuted. In Russia Pharaoh was more of a tyrant, in the US there was more of a happy ending, whereas in its native Germany audiences got to see more or less what the director Ernst Lubitsch and writers Norbert Falk and Hanns Kräly had wanted … Read more
Tyrone Power as Zorro

Zorro: Who Is That Masked Man?

The Mexicans like their heroes the way they like their tacos – with cheese. Enter Zorro. Cue mask, cape and ludicrous pencil moustache Next time you’re in London, try the Robin Hood Zorro restaurant in Hammersmith. This oddly conceived English/Mexican hybrid serves an equally odd drink called the Robin Hood Meets Zorro cocktail. A mouthful to order and a hell of a thing to drink, it contains tequila, gin and beer. The menu doesn’t say it’s served with a bucket, but it probably should be. What is it about Zorro that seems to bring out the naffness in … well, everything? It was not always thus. Dial back to the mists of the … Read more
Esmeralda is carried to safety by Quasimodo

100 Years of… The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Mention The Hunchback of Notre Dame to someone and the response is often a shuffling crouch, accompanied by a moaning “the bells… the bells”, in vague homage to Charles Laughton. Here’s where Laughton got it all from, 1923’s Hunchback, starring Lon Chaney as Quasimodo, the mostly deaf, half-blind unfortunate who falls for a gypsy dancer called Esmeralda, as does nearly every other man in the film. What’s notable watching this version for the first time is how Esmeralda-centric it is. This is her story, not Quasimodo’s. The title of Victor Hugo’s original novel was Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris), and it’s tempting to imagine the title nods towards Esmeralda – she … Read more
538294 334791806577888 1778769632 n

I Became a Ukrainian Vodka Baron

Meet Dan Edelstyn. He’s made a film, he’s resurrected a vodka brand and he’s reviving the fortunes of a faraway Ukrainian village Halfway through making a documentary about his grandmother, director Dan Edelstyn realised he was going to have to start all over again. The film he’d been shooting since 2005 – working title From Bolshevism to Belfast – had been a great story. It told of his Jewish grandmother’s sudden exit from Ukraine in the aftermath of the Russian revolution. How privileged, pretty Maroussia Zorokovich had wound up in Belfast, where her husband, Dan’s grandfather, had promptly gone native and become more staunchly Orange than the Paisley family. It was the story of … Read more
Lotus Flower finds the half drowned sailor

100 Years of… The Toll of the Sea

There are two good ancillary reasons for watching The Toll of the Sea, on top of the fact that it’s a touching, almost heartbreaking drama of a sort it’s almost impossible to imagine being made today. The first is that it stars Anna May Wong, Hollywood’s first Chinese American star, here only 17 years old in a role that puts her to the test in terms of subtle emoting, and finds her sailing through unscathed. The second is that it’s the oldest existing Technicolor movie left on the planet. There was an older one, The Gulf Between, made in 1917, but that went up in flames and is now permanently lost. It was … Read more
theproposal2

Ryan Reynolds and the Death of the Real Man

All aboard Ryan Reynolds, prime example of Hollywood’s new breed of depilated, exfoliated, irrigated masculine star. Whatever happened to real men? From out of the low, strong sun, three figures ride towards the camera, tall in the saddle, squinting into the wind. As they hit medium shot, John Wayne turns to the compadre on his left and parts the lips on his line-free face to reveal two rows of snowy white teeth. Meanwhile the man he is about to address, Clint Eastwood, has thrown aside his poncho to reveal a shirt unbuttoned to the waist, his tan, hairless chest cresting sensually towards what might or might not be a nipple ring. And on … Read more
Daniel Craig and Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale

James Bond’s Testicles

Have you ever noticed how James Bond is always getting his balls interfered with? The world’s most virile spy is bursting with so much testosterone that women want to get their hands on them and can’t help but fall into bed with him. Men, on the other hand, feel so threatened they want to crush him/them. Either that, or his heterosexual payload intimidates them so much that they come over all gay – again and again 007 is beset by the world’s elite effete, men with an exaggerated interest in long-haired cats and their own clothes, and who treat beautiful women with a casual disregard. Most notably there was the dual shape of … Read more
ben dover wordpress

Ben Dover: The Sultan of Schwing

Britain’s pornographer-in-chief on the toughest thing about his job, changing attitudes to sex and why all politicians are bastards  “M’lud, one of the pornographic tapes in question involved a young lady and a German sausage, a Brat… (leans back) – or was it a Bock…? It was, I believe, a Bockwurst. The lady was in the process, your honour, of committing an unnatural act with a meat appendage.” Ben Dover, real name Simon (though he tells me it’s Lyndsay) Honey, hits the Soho bar we’re meeting in with his motormouth at full throttle and full volume. Now sitting opposite, he’s telling me about his court appearance for supplying porn to some Belgian bloke … Read more
Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins

Dick Van Dyke on DVD

What a great thing Dick Van Dyke has been. First there’s that improbable name. Even more improbable, it’s his real name. Then there’s his legs, long and lean and made for comedy dancing and comedy pratfalls. And his smile – as wide as the screen and surely the biggest on TV, if we’re not counting that of Mary Tyler Moore, who played his screen wife. We tend to think of him as a TV performer – no less than three TV series have been named after him, including the seminal Dick Van Dyke Show of the 1960s, the direct descendants of which (via Mary Tyler Moore and James Burrows) are Friends and The Big … Read more

Popular Posts