The Big Knife

Ida Lupino and Jack Palance

1955’s The Big Knife is where a lot of people turn when they fancy another wallow in the filth and corruption of showbiz and have already done In a Lonely Place or The Sweet Smell of Success. The line-up looks promising. It’s based on a play by Clifford Odetts, who co-wrote the screenplay for In a Lonely Place with Ernest Lehman. It’s directed by Robert Aldrich, who liked to hang around in dark corners (Kiss Me Deadly, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane) and the director of photography is Ernest Laszlo, a master of dramatic lighting (Stalag 17, While the City Sleeps, Inherit the Wind). The cast is promising too. What you need … Read more


Agent Bradwell

Wifelike is a sci-fi mishmash starring Elena Kampouris as a robowoman and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the cop overjoyed to have taken delivery of a lookie-likie replacement for his dead wife. It’s a mishmash and half, in fact, a little Stepford Wives, more than a touch Humans, a bit of Ex Machina, and towards the end a chunk of Total Recall, with Meyers playing a guy who hunts down rogue wifebots when their programming goes wrong or they make a run for it – see Blade Runner for more on that. There is, the Humans bit, in the background a resistance organisation called Sentient Citizens for AI Rights, a team of badass terrorists … Read more


Sophie Marceau as Clélia

Fidelity (La Fidélité in the original French) is the story of a beautiful young photographer who falls madly for a decent guy, a publisher of children’s books, marries him, then falls madly for another guy, a street-punk photographer. It might also be, in code, the story of its star and her relationship with its writer/director Andrzej Zulawski. Sophie Marceau plays the sequentially amorous Clélia, a strong woman in control of her own life who turns the head of every man she encounters. At the time Fidelity was made, Marceau was in a long-term relationship with Zulawski. They had a son together. Shortly after finishing this film, the two of them split up and … Read more

Meg 2: the Trench

The meg takes on Jason Statham

Meg 2: The Trench, in which a studio tries to turn a good fun one-off into a franchise and winds up on the beach face down, gasping for air and with gravel in its shorts. Quick recap: a massive prehistoric shark, a Megalodon, escapes the depths where it generally operates and starts menacing the upper reaches and beaches of our planet. Enter Jason Statham. Surely one man cannot be a match for something this big? That was The Meg. In Meg 2: the Trench, the monster shark is back, and so is Statham. And if we’d been served up Meg 1 all over again, I doubt anyone would have complained too loudly. It … Read more


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

Mafia Mamma

Toni Collette as Kristin

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

Red Sun

Peggy and Thomas

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 the Dial of Destiny

Indiana Jones and god-daughter Helena

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

The Body Vanished

Inspector Paine and Miss Casson

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

The Last Voyage of the Demeter

Dracula from behind in silhouette

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