Film Review – TAKEN (2008)

TAKEN (2008, France/USA/UK) ***
Action, Crime, Thriller
dist. 20th Century Fox; pr co. EuropaCorp / M6 Films / Grive Productions; d. Pierre Morel; w. Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen; pr. Luc Besson; ph. Michel Abramowicz (Colour. 35 mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision Premier 2393), D-Cinema. Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), HDCAM SR (1080p/24) (source format), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format). 2.35:1); m. Nathaniel Méchaly; ed. Frédéric Thoraval; pd. Hugues Tissandier; ad. Gilles Boillot; rel. 16 February 2008 (France), 26 September 2008 (UK), 30 January 2009 (USA), ; BBFC cert: 18; r/t. 93m.
cast: Liam Neeson (Bryan Mills), Maggie Grace (Kim), Famke Janssen (Lenore), Katie Cassidy (Amanda), Leland Orser (Sam), Jon Gries (Casey), David Warshofsky (Bernie), Holly Valance (Sheerah), Xander Berkeley (Stuart), Olivier Rabourdin (Jean-Claude), Gérard Watkins (St-Clair), Marc Amyot (Pharmacist), Arben Bajraktaraj (Marko), Radivoje Bukvic (Anton), Mathieu Busson (Undercover Agent), Michel Flash (Gio), Nicolas Giraud (Peter), Rubens Hyka (Leka), Camille Japy (Isabelle), Valentin Kalaj (Vinz).
Neeson stars as Bryan Mills, a former government operative trying to reconnect with his daughter, Kim (Grace), in this fast-paced action thriller. His worst fears become real when sex slavers abduct Kim and her friend shortly after they arrive in Paris for vacation. With just four days until Kim will be auctioned off, Bryan must call on every skill he learned in black ops to rescue her. The movie coasts on Neeson’s charisma and macho performance as well as the tightly edited action sequences. The pace is such that director Morel manages to gloss over the story’s plot holes and its many conveniences. The villains remain two-dimensional targets for Neeson’s killing machine and there is only lip-service paid to the strained relationship between Neeson and ex-wife Janssen. That said, what we have left is an undeniably enjoyable and bone-crunching entertainment. Followed by TAKEN 2 (2012).

Film Review – SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939)

SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939, USA) ****
Sci-Fi, Horror, Drama
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), General Film Distributors (GFD) (UK); pr co. Universal Pictures; d. Rowland V. Lee; w. Wyllis Cooper (suggested by the novel “Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus” by Mary Shelley); pr. Rowland V. Lee; ph. George Robinson (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. Frank Skinner; ed. Ted J. Kent; ad. Jack Otterson; rel. 13 January 1939 (USA), January 1939 (UK); BBFC cert: PG; r/t. 99m.
cast: Basil Rathbone (Baron Wolf von Frankenstein), Boris Karloff (The Monster), Bela Lugosi (Ygor), Lionel Atwill (Inspector Krogh), Josephine Hutchinson (Elsa von Frankenstein), Donnie Dunagan (Peter von Frankenstein), Emma Dunn (Amelia), Edgar Norton (Thomas Benson), Perry Ivins (Fritz), Lawrence Grant (Burgomaster), Lionel Belmore (Emil Lang), Michael Mark (Ewald Neumüller), Caroline Frances Cooke (Frau Neumüller), Gustav von Seyffertitz (Burgher), Lorimer Johnston (Burgher), Tom Ricketts (Burgher).
Rathbone is the son of original Frankenstein who returns to the ancestral castle long after the death of the monster (Karloff). There he meets the mad shepherd Ygor (Lugosi) who is hiding the comatose creature. To clear the family name, he revives the creature and tries to rehabilitate him. The third in the series was successful enough to re-ignite Universal’s interest in the genre. Whilst the plot may be familiar, there are still many iconic moments here that make this another high quality addition to the series. Lugosi is superb as the bitter and twisted (both mentally and physically) Ygor and Atwill enjoys himself as the police inspector with an artificial arm (lampooned hilariously in Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974)). Rathbone too rises to the occasion with an energetic performance. Karloff continues to add pathos and a physical presence to the role of the creature, but here he is given less to do. The expressionistic set design and shadowy photography are first class and Lee directs the material with a sure hand. The series would descend into routine hokum starting with THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942).

Film Review – BLACK SUNDAY (1977)

BLACK SUNDAY (1977, USA) ***½
Adventure, Crime, Drama, Thriller
dist. Paramount Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Paramount Pictures / Robert Evans Company; d. John Frankenheimer; w. Ernest Lehman, Kenneth Ross, Ivan Moffat (based on the novel by Thomas Harris); pr. Robert Evans; ph. John A. Alonzo (Movielab. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. John Williams; ed. Tom Rolf; ad. Walter H. Tyler; rel. 22 March 1977 (USA), 12 August 1977 (UK); cert: 15; r/t. 143m.
cast: Robert Shaw (Kabakov), Bruce Dern (Lander), Marthe Keller (Dahlia), Fritz Weaver (Sam Corley), Steven Keats (Robert Moshevsky), Bekim Fehmiu (Mohammed Fasil), Michael V. Gazzo (Muzi), William Daniels (Pugh), Walter Gotell (Colonel Riat), Victor Campos (Nageeb), Joseph Robbie (Joseph Robbie), Robert J. Wussler (Robert Wussler), Pat Summerall (Pat Summerall), Tom Brookshier (Tom Brookshier), Walter Brooke (Fowler), James Jeter (Watchman), Clyde Kusatsu (Freighter Captain), Tom McFadden (Farley), Robert Patten (Vickers), Than Wyenn (Israeli Ambassador).
Intermittently tense but overlong thriller in which Palestinian terrorists look to transport and explode a bomb in a Goodyear blimp to the stadium staging the Superbowl. Frankenheimer allows the character motivations to come to the fore, which occasionally slows the pace in the deliberate build-up. This allows Shaw, Dern and Keller to flex their acting muscles, with Dern in particular memorable as US military veteran harshly treated by the government. Well-staged action sequences are sprinkled throughout but the climax stretches narrative logic by going for big set-pieces.

Film Review – THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (1943)

SONG OF BERNADETTE, THE (1943, USA) ****
Biography, Drama

dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. Twentieth Century Fox; d. Henry King; w. George Seaton (based on the novel by Franz Werfel); pr. William Perlberg; ph. Arthur C. Miller (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. Alfred Newman; ed. Barbara McLean; ad. James Basevi, William S. Darling; set d. Thomas Little; cos. René Hubert; m/up. Guy Pearce; sd. Alfred Bruzlin, Roger Heman Sr. (Mono (Western Electric Recording)); vfx. Fred Sersen; rel. 21 December 1943 (USA); cert: U; r/t. 156m.

cast: Jennifer Jones (Bernadette), William Eythe (Antoine Nicolau), Charles Bickford (Father Peyramale), Vincent Price (Prosecutor Vital Dutour), Lee J. Cobb (Dr. Dozous), Gladys Cooper (Sister Marie Therese Vauzous), Anne Revere (Louise Soubirous), Roman Bohnen (François Soubirous), Mary Anderson (Jeanne Abadie), Patricia Morison (Empress Eugenie), Aubrey Mather (Mayor Lacade), Charles Dingle (Jacomet), Edith Barrett (Croisine Bouhouhorts), Sig Ruman (Louis Bouriette), Blanche Yurka (Aunt Bernarde Casterot), Ermadean Walters (Marie Soubirous), Marcel Dalio (Callet), Pedro de Cordoba (Dr. LeCramps), Jerome Cowan (Emperor Louis Napoleon III).

Based on the popular novel by Franz Werfel, this drama focuses on Bernadette Soubirous (Jones), a young French woman who experiences vivid visions of the Virgin Mary. While many dismiss her claims, certain people, including the priest Dominique Peyramale (Bickford), slowly begin to believe her. Eventually, Bernadette is deemed a saint, and becomes a nun at a convent, where she must deal with jealousy from others who resent her revered status. An earnest adaptation that nails its colours to the mast from its prologue. The deeply religious tale is played out at great length, perhaps overlength. The production, however, is very strong with King’s direction giving encouragement for an exceptional cast to deliver consistently excellent performances. Jones’ wide-eyed innocence perfectly embodies Bernadette’s voyage of discovery. Revere as her mother conveys the emotional turmoil of a woman torn between her familial struggles and the love of her daughter. Price is restrained and almost sympathetic as the cynical politician, whilst Bickford is sturdy as the priest who is initially sceptical of Bernadette’s claims. Technical attributes are also top-notch with Miller’s photography making the most of the production design and Newman’s score evocatively complementing the unfolding drama. Linda Darnell appears uncredited as the Virgin Mary.

AA: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Jennifer Jones); Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (Arthur C. Miller); Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White (James Basevi, William S. Darling, Thomas Little)’; Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Alfred Newman)
AAN: Best Picture; Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Charles Bickford); Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Gladys Cooper); Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Anne Revere); Best Director (Henry King); Best Writing, Screenplay (George Seaton); Best Sound, Recording (Edmund H. Hansen (20th Century-Fox SSD)); Best Film Editing (Barbara McLean)

Film Review – CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013, USA) ****½
Action, Drama, Thriller

dist. Columbia Pictures (USA), Sony Pictures Releasing (UK); pr co. Michael De Luca Productions / Scott Rudin Productions / Trigger Street Productions; d. Paul Greengrass; w. Billy Ray (based upon the book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea” by Richard Phillips & Stephan Talty); exec pr. Eli Bush, Gregory Goodman, Kevin Spacey; pr. Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Scott Rudin; ph. Barry Ackroyd (Technicolor. 35 mm (anamorphic) (partial blow-up) (Fuji Eterna-CP 3514DI), D-Cinema. ARRIRAW (2.8K) (source format) (some scenes), Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Super 16 (source format) (some scenes), Super 35 (also 3-perf) (source format), VistaVision (source format) (visual effects). 2.39:1); m. Henry Jackman; ed. Christopher Rouse; pd. Paul Kirby; ad. Aziz Hamichi; set d. Dominic Capon; cos. Mark Bridges; m/up. Frances Hannon; sd. Oliver Tarney, Michael Fentum, James Harrison (SDDS | Datasat | Dolby Digital | Dolby Atmos | Dolby Surround 7.1); sfx. Dominic Tuohy; vfx. Daniel Barrow, Andy Taylor, Kris Wright, Charlie Noble, Adam Rowland; st. Rob Inch; rel. 27 September 2013 (USA), 9 October 2013 (UK); cert: PG-13/12; r/t. 135m.

cast: Tom Hanks (Captain Richard Phillips), Catherine Keener (Andrea Phillips), Barkhad Abdi (Muse), Barkhad Abdirahman (Bilal), Faysal Ahmed (Najee), Mahat M. Ali (Elmi), Michael Chernus (Shane Murphy), David Warshofsky (Mike Perry), Corey Johnson (Ken Quinn), Chris Mulkey (John Cronan), Yul Vazquez (Captain Frank Castellano), Max Martini (SEAL Commander), Omar Berdouni (Nemo), Mohamed Ali (Asad), Issak Farah Samatar (Hufan), Thomas Grube (Maersk Alabama Crew), Mark Holden (Maersk Alabama Crew), San Shella (Maersk Alabama Crew), Terence Anderson (Maersk Alabama Crew), Marc Anwar (Maersk Alabama Crew), David Webber (Maersk Alabama Crew), Amr El-Bayoumi (Maersk Alabama Crew), Vincenzo Nicoli (Maersk Alabama Crew), Kapil Arun (Maersk Alabama Crew), Louis Mahoney (Maersk Alabama Crew), Peter Landi (Maersk Alabama Crew), Angus MacInnes (Maersk Alabama Crew), Ian Ralph (Maersk Alabama Crew), Kristian Hjordt Beck (Maersk Alabama Crew), Kurt Larsen (Maersk Alabama Crew), Bader Choukouko (Somali Boy), Idurus Shiish (Pirate Leader), Azeez Mohammed (Pirate Leader), Abdurazak Ahmed Adan (Pirate Leader), Duran Mohamed Hassan (Asad’s Crew), Nasir Jama (Asad’s Crew), Kadz Souleiman (Asad’s Crew), Scott Oates (Navy SEAL Group), David B. Meadows (Navy SEAL Group), Shad Jason Hamilton (Navy SEAL Group), Adam Wendling (Navy SEAL Group), Billy Jenkins (Navy SEAL Group), Mark Semos (Navy SEAL Group), Dean Franchuk (Navy SEAL Group), Rey Hernandez (Navy SEAL Group), Christopher Stadulis (Navy SEAL Group), Roger Edwards (Navy SEAL Group), John Patrick Barry (Navy SEAL Group), Raleigh Morse (Navy SEAL Group), Dale McClellan (Navy SEAL Group), Hugh Middleton (Navy SEAL Group), Raymond Care (Navy SEAL Group), Stacha Hicks (UKMTO Officer), Will Bowden (US Maritime Officer), Len Anderson IV (USS Bainbridge VBSS Officer).

In April 2009, the U.S. containership Maersk Alabama sails toward its destination on a day that seems like any other. Suddenly, Somali pirates race toward the vessel, climb aboard and take everyone hostage. The captain of the ship, Richard Phillips (Hanks), looks to protect his crew from the hostile invaders, and their leader, Muse (Abdi). The pirates are after millions of dollars, and Phillips must use his wits to make sure everyone survives and returns home safely. Greengrass provides a masterclass in building tension and then holding it, whilst Hanks gives one of his absolute best performances and is totally believable as the experienced captain trying to stay one step ahead of the Somali pirates. Abdi is also excellent as the skinny leader of the pirate group. The film has been criticised for lacking sufficient background and motivation on the Somalians, but in fact there are subtle points made about the gulf between the might of those who have (represented by the US Navy) and the futility of those who have not (the Somalian fishermen forced into piracy). Credit to Greengrass for showing the shock and trauma of Hanks’ character once rescued – a scene devastatingly real as performed by Hanks.

AAN: Best Motion Picture of the Year (Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca); Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Barkhad Abdi); Best Achievement in Film Editing (Christopher Rouse); Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Oliver Tarney); Best Achievement in Sound Mixing (Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, Chris Munro); Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Billy Ray)

Film Review – FRANKENSTEIN (1931)

FRANKENSTEIN (1931, USA) *****
Horror, Sci-Fi

dist. Universal Pictures (USA), General Film Distributors (GFD) (UK); pr co. Universal Pictures ; d. James Whale; w. Garrett Fort, Francis Edward Faragoh (Based on the novel “Frankenstein or, the Modern Prometheus” by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and the composition of John L. Balderston from the play “Frankenstein” by Peggy Webling); exec pr. Carl Laemmle; pr. Carl Laemmle Jr.; assoc pr. E. M. Asher; ph. Arthur Edeson (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.20:1); m. Bernhard Kaun (uncredited); md. David Broekman (uncredited); m sup. Gilbert Kurland (uncredited); ed. Maurice Pivar, Clarence Kolster; ad. Charles D. Hall; set d. Herman Rosse (uncredited); cos. Mae Bruce (uncredited); m/up. Jack P. Pierce; sd. C. Roy Hunter (Mono (Western Electric Sound System)); sfx. John P. Fulton (uncredited); vfx. Raymond Lindsay (uncredited); rel. 21 November 1931 (USA), 25 January 1932 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 70m.

cast: Colin Clive (Henry Frankenstein), Mae Clarke (Elizabeth), John Boles (Victor Moritz), Boris Karloff (The Monster), Edward Van Sloan (Doctor Waldman), Frederick Kerr (Baron Frankenstein), Dwight Frye (Fritz), Lionel Belmore (The Burgomaster), Marilyn Harris (Little Maria). Uncredited: Ted Billings (Villager), Mae Bruce (Screaming Maid), Jack Curtis (Villager), Arletta Duncan (Bridesmaid), William Dyer (Gravedigger), Francis Ford (Hans), Mary Gordon (Mourner), Soledad Jiménez (Mourner), Carmencita Johnson (Little Girl), Seessel Anne Johnson (Little Girl), Margaret Mann (Mourner), Michael Mark (Ludwig), Robert Milasch (Villager), Pauline Moore (Bridesmaid), Inez Palange (Villager), Paul Panzer (Mourner at Gravesite), Cecilia Parker (Maid), Rose Plumer (Villager), Cecil Reynolds (Waldman’s Secretary), Ellinor Vanderveer (Medical Student).

This classic horror film follows the obsessed scientist Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Clive) as he attempts to create life by assembling a creature from body parts of the deceased. Aided by his loyal misshapen assistant, Fritz (Frye), Frankenstein succeeds in animating his monster (Karloff), but, confused and traumatized, it escapes into the countryside and begins to wreak havoc. Frankenstein searches for the elusive being, and eventually must confront his tormented creation. Following hot on the heels of the release of the phenomenally successful DRACULA six months earlier, Whale produced a masterpiece of image and atmosphere. From the opening graveyard scenes to the climax in a burning windmill, the film grips tight and refuses to let go. Edeson’s use of light and shadow is wonderfully creative and Whale uses the camera frame to get maximum effect from Hall’s gothic set designs. The iconic moment where Clive’s monster shows signs of life leading to his creator’s exultant cries of “It’s alive!” are chilling. Karloff conjures both menace and pathos as the monster and Pierce’s ground-breaking make-up has entered cinema folklore. The supporting cast is led by Van Sloan as Clive’s mentor, whilst Frye is memorable as his hunchbacked assistant. Clarke plays Clive’s fiancé, bemused by his obsessive behaviour. Boles is a little too wooden as a friend of the family, but Kerr as Clive’s father is wonderfully dotty. Watch out for the memorable restored scene with Karloff and a young girl by the lake, which leads to the torch-bearing mob climax. Van Sloan (Dr Waldman) also makes an uncredited appearance as himself in the film’s prologue, to warn audiences of what follows. In 1991, the Library of Congress selected Frankenstein for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Followed by BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935).

 

Film Review – CAST AWAY (2000)

CAST AWAY (2000, USA) ****
Adventure, Drama, Romance

dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. Twentieth Century Fox / Dreamworks Pictures / ImageMovers / Playtone; d. Robert Zemeckis; w. William Broyles Jr.; exec pr. Joan Bradshaw; pr. Tom Hanks, Jack Rapke, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis; assoc pr. Steven J. Boyd, Cherylanne Martin; ph. Don Burgess (DeLuxe. 35 mm (Kodak Vision 2383). Spherical. 1.85:1); m. Alan Silvestri; ed. Arthur Schmidt; pd. Rick Carter; ad. Stefan Dechant, Elizabeth Lapp, William James Teegarden; set d. Rosemary Brandenburg, Karen O’Hara; cos. Joanna Johnston; m/up. Daniel C. Striepeke, Kathryn Blondell, Ronnie Specter; sd. Randy Thom, Dennis Leonard, William B. Kaplan, Ken Fischer, David C. Hughes (SDDS | DTS | Dolby Digital); sfx. John Frazier; vfx. Harry Gundersen, Eric Hanson, Ken Ralston; st. Doug Coleman, Bud Davis; rel. 7 December 2000 (USA), 12 January 2001 (UK); cert: PG-13/12; r/t. 143m.

cast: Tom Hanks (Chuck Noland), Helen Hunt (Kelly Frears), Nick Searcy (Stan), Jenifer Lewis (Becca Twig), Geoffrey Blake (Maynard Graham), Peter Von Berg (Yuri), Chris Noth (Jerry Lovett), Lari White (Bettina Peterson), Paul Sanchez (Ramon), Leonid Citer (Fyodor), David Allen Brooks (Dick Peterson), Yelena Popovic (Beautiful Russian Woman), Valentina Ananina (Russian Babushka), Semion Sudarikov (Nicolai), Dmitri S. Boudrine (Lev), François Duhamel (French FedEx Loader), Michael Forest (Pilot Jack), Viveka Davis (Lady from Dick Bettina farm), Jennifer Choe (Memphis State Student), Nan Martin (Kelly’s Mother).

Hanks stars as Chuck Noland, a FedEx systems engineer whose personal and professional life are ruled by the clock. His manic existence abruptly ends when, after a plane crash, he becomes isolated on a remote island – cast away into the most desolate environment imaginable. Hanks delivers a superb performance, holding then screen for the most its running time. He superbly relays the character’s instinct and will to survive in a hostile environment along with the mental impact and emotional scars the experience leaves on him. The film is bookended with a set-up and resolution to his relationship with Hunt. It is here the film admirably tries to keep a balanced view but falls into some of the trappings of soap opera, However, the two stars play the scenes perfectly and elevate them above the material. Also notable in a supporting role is Searcy as Hanks’ closest work colleague. Technical attributes are strong. The photography is colourful; the plane crash scene tensely portrays the terror and confusion; Zemeckis directs with a sure hand and uses the FedEx delivery system as a neat way of topping and tailing the story. But it is Hanks’ film and his solo turn on his desert island that is the heart and soul of the production. The film was shot in two blocks over a year apart to allow Hanks to lose weight and grow his hair for the four-year gap in the story.

AAN: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Tom Hanks); Best Sound (Randy Thom, Tom Johnson, Dennis S. Sands, William B. Kaplan)

Film Review – THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)

BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935, USA) *****
Horror, Sci-Fi

dist. Universal Pictures; pr co. Universal Pictures; d. James Whale; w. William Hurlbut (adapted by William Hurlbut and John L. Balderston and suggested by the original story written in 1816 by Mary Shelley); pr. Carl Laemmle Jr.; ph. John J. Mescall (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. Franz Waxman; ed. Ted J. Kent; ad. Charles D. Hall; cos. Vera West (uncredited); m/up. Jack P. Pierce, Irma Kusely (both uncredited); sd. Gilbert Kurland (Mono (Noiseless Western Electric Recording)); sfx. Ken Strickfaden; vfx. John P. Fulton; rel. 19 April 1935 (USA), 27 June 1935 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 75m.

cast: Boris Karloff (The Monster), Colin Clive (Henry Frankenstein), Valerie Hobson (Elizabeth), Ernest Thesiger (Doctor Pretorius), Elsa Lanchester (Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley / The Monster’s Mate), Gavin Gordon (Lord Byron), Douglas Walton (Percy Bysshe Shelley), Una O’Connor (Minnie), E.E. Clive (Burgomaster), Lucien Prival (Butler), O.P. Heggie (Hermit), Dwight Frye (Karl), Reginald Barlow (Hans), Mary Gordon (Hans’ Wife), Anne Darling (Shepherdess), Ted Billings (Ludwig).

In this sequel to Universal’s classic 1931 FRANKENSTEIN, Mary Shelley reveals the main characters of her novel survived. After recovering from injuries sustained in the mob attack upon himself and his creation, Dr. Frankenstein (Clive) falls under the control of his former mentor, Dr. Pretorius (Thesiger), who insists the now-chastened doctor resume his experiments in creating new life. Meanwhile, the Monster (Karloff) remains on the run from those who wish to destroy him without understanding that his intentions are generally good despite his lack of socialization and self-control. Whale brings in elements of wit and the macabre thereby opening out the story. Notable amongst these new elements is the addition of Thesiger’s Dr. Pretorius. Bizarre, sinsiter and camp in equal measures Thesiger is unforgettable and provides a much needed offset to Clive’s more melodramatic turn as Frankenstein. Karloff returns as the monster and is given the added power of speech following his meeting with a blind hermit (Heggie) in a scene that adds both pathos and humour. The film comes into its own in the climax laboratory scene with Thesiger and Clive bringing Lanchester’s “bride” for the monster to life. The sequence is technically superb with its use of light and shadow, obtuse camera angles and rapid editing. The sequence shows what a true artist Whale was. The gothic set design, innovative creature make-up and dynamic photography are all top draw. Whilst some of the performances may come across as hammy, you must remember this is the early days of the talkies and a certain staginess is inevitable. The look and atmosphere are unforgettable and the film has come to be rightly regarded as a classic of the genre. Clive broke a leg in a horse riding accident. Consequently, many of his scenes were shot with him sitting. John Carradine is one of the two hunters that appear at the hermit’s cabin proclaiming the hermit’s guest is in fact the monster. Followed by SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) and remade as THE BRIDE (1985).

AAN: Best Sound, Recording (Gilbert Kurland)

Film Review – THE VENGEANCE OF FU MANCHU (1967)

VENGEANCE OF FU MANCHU, THE (1967, UK/Ireland/West Germany/Hong Kong) **½
Action, Crime, Horror

dist. Anglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors (UK), Warner Bros./Seven Arts (USA); pr co. Constantin Film / Shaw Brothers / Terra-Filmkunst; d. Jeremy Summers; w. Harry Alan Towers (as Peter Welbeck) (based on the characters created by Sax Rohmer); pr. Harry Alan Towers; ph. John von Kotze (Eastmancolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.66:1); m. Malcolm Lockyer; s. “The Real Me,” “Where Are the Men,” m/l. Malcolm Lockyer and Don Black (voice performed by Samantha Jones); ed. Allan Morrison; ad. Peggy Gick, Scott MacGregor; sd. Brian Marshall (Mono); rel. May 1967 (UK), Jamuary 1968 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 91m.

cast: Christopher Lee (Fu Manchu), Tony Ferrer (Inspector Ramos), Tsai Chin (Lin Tang), Douglas Wilmer (Nayland Smith), Wolfgang Kieling (Dr. Lieberson), Suzanne Roquette (Maria), Howard Marion-Crawford (Petrie), Noel Trevarthen (Mark Weston), Horst Frank (Rudy), Peter Carsten (Kurt), Maria Rohm (Ingrid), Mona Chong (Jasmin).

Lee’s third outing as the evil Fu Manchu sees him plot the death of his nemesis Nayland Smith (Wilmer) through the highly implausible use of a surgically created double, whilst looking to hook up with crime syndicates around the world via their go-between (Frank). This entry is not as tightly directed as the first two instalments with often static and unimaginative camerawork robbing the action scenes of much of the energy Don Sharp brought to those first two films. Lee has little to do other than give orders from his throne. However, Chin is again effective as Fu’s sadistic daughter and Wilmer and Crawford continue their “Holmes/Watson” styled relationship. The supporting cast, much of which is dubbed, is less strong and some of the acting is woeful. Despite the period setting, the female characters seem to be dressed and coiffured in 1960s salons adding an anachronistic tone and losing the period colour given to Sharp’s films. That said, there are still moments to enjoy on a basic comic strip level and it remains a notch above what the series would descend into in its the final two instalments. Filmed in Hong Kong and Ireland. Followed by THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU (1968).

Film Review – THE BRIDES OF FU MANCHU (1966)

BRIDES OF FU MANCHU, THE (1966, UK) ***
Action, Crime, Sci-Fi

dist. Anglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors (UK), Seven Arts Pictures (USA); pr co. Constantin Film Produktion / Fu Manchu Films / Hallam Productions; d. Don Sharp; w. Harry Alan Towers (as Peter Welbeck) (based on characters created by Sax Rohmer); pr. Harry Alan Towers, David Henley; ph. Ernest Steward (Eastmancolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.85:1); m. Bruce Montgomery; ed. Allan Morrison; ad. Frank White; cos. Harry Haynes, Tina Haynes; m/up. George Partleton, Anne Box; sd. Len Abbott, John Brommage, Roy Piper (Mono (RCA Sound Recording)); rel. 2 September 1966 (West Germany), 16 December 1966 (UK/USA); cert: U; r/t. 94m.

cast: Christopher Lee (Fu Manchu), Douglas Wilmer (Nayland Smith), Heinz Drache (Franz Baumer), Marie Versini (Marie Lentz), Howard Marion-Crawford (Doctor Petrie), Tsai Chin (Lin Tang), Rupert Davies (Jules Merlin), Kenneth Fortescue (Sergeant Spicer), Joseph Fürst (Otto Lentz (as Joseph Furst)), Roger Hanin (Inspector Pierre Grimaldi), Harald Leipnitz (Nikki Sheldon), Carole Gray (Michel Merlin), Burt Kwouk (Feng), Salmaan Peerzada (Abdul (as Salmaan Peer)), Ric Young (Control Assistant (as Eric Young)), Wendy Gifford (Louise), Francesca Tu (Lotus (as Poulet Tu)), Sally Sheridan (Shiva (as Danni Sheridan)), Denis Holmes (Constable), Maureen Beck (Nurse Brown).

In 1924, Dr. Fu Manchu (Lee), his army of dacoits and his vicious daughter Lin Tang (Chin) are kidnapping the daughters of prominent scientists and taking them to his remote island, where he demands that the fathers help him to build a device that transmits blast waves through a radio transmitter, which he intends to use to take over the world. He plans to keep (even wed) the girls in question. But Dr. Fu Manchu’s archenemy, Nayland Smith (Wilmer) of Scotland Yard, is determined not to let that happen. Lee returns as the evil Fu in the decent follow-up to THE FACE OF FU MANCHU (1965). The film repeats the same formula and adds little that is new, but the direction is lively and the pace quick. The dialogue and script are strictly comic book, of course, and the performances vary in quality. Wilmer replaced Nigel Green in the role of Scotland Yard’s Nayland Smith, whilst Crawford returns as his sidekick Petrie – the pair striking up something akin to a Holmes/Watson dynamic. Chin exudes a sadistic menace as Fu’s daughter. Good location work and period detail for the limited budget. US release includes a 1m prologue reprise of the end of THE FACE OF FU MANCHU (1965). Followed by THE VENGEANCE OF FU MANCHU (1967).