In a year that has seen the loss of so many icons I had missed the death of Joseph Mascolo on 8 December 2016. Mascolo, who brought a sense of charisma and style to his portrayal of Gus Mascola in Shaft’s Big Score! Mascolo (born 13 March 1929) was of Italian descent, his parents having emigrated from Naples. He studied acting under Stella Adler and was also a trained classical musician – he would famously use his clarinet skills to flesh out his portrayal for Gus Mascola. He had worked his way through TV and theatre from the late 1950s. He was a regular on TV through to the late 1980s and is probably best remembered for his portrayal of soap villain Stefano DiMera from 1982 to 2016 on NBC’s Days of Our Lives. In the last couple of years he had experienced deteriorating health, having suffered a stroke in 2015 and battling Alzheimer’s disease, from which he eventually died. He is survived by his wife, Patricia Schultz-Mascolo, his son Peter, his step-daughter Laura, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Case of the Mukkinese Battle-Horn, The (1956, UK, B&W, 29m) ∗∗∗½ d. Joseph Sterling; w. Harry Booth, Jon Penington, Larry Stephens, Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers; ph. Gerald Gibbs; m. Edwin Astley. Cast: Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Dick Emery, Pamela Thomas, Bill Hepper, Wally Thomas. A pair of detectives from Scotland Yard are assigned to look into the disappearance of the Mukkinese Battle Horn, a ninth-century artefact, from the Metropolitan Museum. Engagingly silly comedy with some genuinely funny gags amongst the misfires. This short is a good example of the free-spirited and surreal approach to comedy the Goons adopted in the 1950s. Emery works well with Milligan and Sellers, who also bring in some of their well-known characters from their ground-breaking radio show. Emery replaced Harry Secombe, who was too expensive for the film’s low budget. [U]
Island of Terror (1966; UK; Eastmancolor; 86m) ∗∗ d. Terence Fisher; w. Edward Mann, Al Ramsen; ph. Reginald H. Wyer; m. Malcolm Lockyer. Cast: Peter Cushing, Edward Judd, Carole Gray, Eddie Byrne, Sam Kydd, Niall MacGinnis, James Caffrey, Liam Gaffney, Roger Heathcote, Keith Bell, Shay Gorman, Peter Forbes-Robertson, Richard Bidlake, Joyce Hemson, Edward Ogden. A scientist searching for a cure for cancer unleashes deadly bone-eating monsters on a tiny Irish island. Cushing manages to maintain his dignity in an otherwise overwrought and silly blend of sci-fi and horror. Judd is poor in the lead and the monsters are more comical than scary. One that respected director Fisher would have wanted to forget. [PG]
Scoop (2006; UK/USA; Technicolor; 96m) ∗∗∗ d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Remi Adefarasin. Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Ian McShane, Woody Allen, Romola Garai, Kevin McNally, Jim Dunk, Geoff Bell, Christopher Fulford, Nigel Lindsay, Fenella Woolgar, Matt Day, Rupert Frazer. An American journalism student in London scoops a big story, and begins an affair with an aristocrat as the incident unfurls. Lightweight comedy mystery is one of Allen’s lesser works. Allen and Johansson spark well with Allen relishing his role as a cheesy magician. The mystery elements are less satisfying and not all the one-liners hit home, but it has just enough to make it an entertaining diversion.