Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Brevity, Where Art Thou?

How hard can it be to write a satisfactory development outline? Not the 10 page or more type, but the one or two page type, setting things out at an early stage? I'm buggered if I know. Got to get this thing down and I'm in danger of overwriting it.

I suppose it is harder writing that kind of document, condensing things and telling it as quickly as you can, without either resorting to an expanded logline (i.e: cheating) or subconsciously doing to much. The latter probably means I'm not confident in my descriptions and feel the reader would need to know more.

Time for a metaphorical scythe to hit the text, methinks.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Coming up for air

Crikey. I need a bit of air away from this bloody keyboard. I'm actually getting some work done.

Blog posts are a bit thin on the ground for me right now. I'm hammering out a short outline for a possible horror project - if it doesn't happen, I'll still write the beggar as a spec script as I think it's a neat idea - and then it's back to Glencoe for another draft.

I'm not watching too many films right now as a result, but that'd be a hell of a better form of procrastination that arsing around on Facebook all day. Suffice to say that I loved Star Trek (but it's not without its problems) and hated Wolverine. Summer seems to start earlier every year in cinemas now. Pretty soon, we'll be watching "blockbusters" in February at this rate. Maybe Christmas will be rescheduled to September.

I still have lots of horror films to watch - my Lovefilm queue is 90% made up of them right now and I'm making progress with my Hammer Box set - I managed to squeeze in To The Devil A Daughter last week. If you pardon the expression. Nice performance from Christopher Lee but a very stupid ending.

The disorganised ballet goes on...

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Faith in Lee

There's something quite comforting about seeing Christopher Lee as a good guy in a Hammer film. The calm authority he exudes in his more villainous roles serves to let you know that someone with real knowledge is in charge. But this also serves to let you know that the challenge about to be faced may be greater. Such is the case in Terence Fisher's The Devil Rides Out, a film I've been hearing friends rattle on about for years and finally watched last night.

It wasn't quite the masterpiece I'd been led to believe it to be, but it is certainly one of the best Hammer films I've seen so far. I think not seeing the film for such a long time after having heard about it, perhaps the title of the film gave me a grander impression of the proceedings. The only time anyone "rides out" is when the Angel of Death appears on a horse, stuck at the mercy of an editor having too much fun with the reels, winding them back and forth. Finding it relying much less on the schlockiness of some of their other films, there is a genuinely unsettling feeling to much of the proceedings, but nowhere near as much as in Night of the Demon, a film which scared the bejesees out of me as a nipper (even if the titular demon does look like it's riding a bike in its wider shots).

Distracting Patrick Mower from the Emmerdale with a haircut proved disastrous.

There are three moments where some kind of creature shows up, two of which I found particularly effective. The first is where the initial demon appears, manifested as a black man. Not very scary and a touch of the ol' Empire thinking, one might say. I may grant you the latter, in context, but what is really scary is the demon's eyes. Two unnaturally yellow orbs in an otherwise calm and normal face, altering the visage just enough to make the familiar into the horrible - a fine line which, when crossed, can result in pure comedy.

"I've got something in my teeth, haven't I?"

The other is when the Goat of Mendes shows up - a bloke in a mask, to be sure, but done just right so that the actor's eyes show through, giving the beast a real look of life. The fact that Terence Fisher doesn't dwell on showing off the mask and tends to keep the Goat in the background for several shots helps tremendously. It treads a fine line again between stupid and scary and dwelling on it would have made it as scary as grass growing. Maybe I just find odd things scary. It's an eye thing for me. One of the scariest aspects of Giger's Alien is its lack of eyes.

Ah, Charles Gray. One of the best British screen villains ever, in my humble op. His parting words to Lee's niece are wonderfully threatening - "I shall not be back. But something will." Shudder. The unseen is the best cause of fear, yet again.

One problem I had, and I may have to watch the film again, was the Deus ex Machina style ending. Yes, Christopher Lee did say that the incantation could alter time, but something felt missing in this regard. A tad convenient.

Nevertheless, a great Hammer film with a superb performance from Lee. I've seen him once only before as a good guy in a Hammer film in The Gorgon, but I found his performance, which was broader and a bit loud, to be less effective, even if it was refreshing. It's odd how unusual it seems to find him as a good guy in a Hammer film, whereas we can take Peter Cushing working for either side as read.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Sellers Alive?

Is Peter Sellers alive and well and aiding Michael Jackson in his career revivial/farewell/last gasp before his slide into obscurity?

"I like to watch" - Being There

Well, no. But the director of the High School Musical films, Kenny Ortega, certainly bears a resemblance at this angle, even if Ortega's chin and Sellers lack of protest at Steve Martin's recent activites are a bit of a giveaway.

I thought they were a pair of lookalikes. One can never tell with Jackson these days. One day, he may very well be revealed to be the Beast, from Krull. And when that happens, only Kenneth Marshall and Alun Armstrong can save us.

Call Me Bwana...er , Bond.

Coke bottles find a use in Soviet Russia.

Cubby Broccoli's centenary has brought us new and beautiful digital prints of the first seven (I think) Bond films and I managed to catch a screening of From Russia, With Love last week. I'd previously seen film prints of Dr No and Goldfinger in the past and I love watching the crackle of the print up there on the screen, but age means deterioration and the print of Dr No snapped mid film (kudos to the projectionist, one Fraser MacDonald, I believe, for repairing it and allowing us to hear Big Tam's rendition of Underneath The Mango Tree...). No such problem with the new print of 'Russia.

Spoilers ahead for 'Russia and Quantum of Solace if you live under a large, irregular mound of solid mineral.

Wow. Seeing Bond on the big screen is, as usual, the only way to really see it and the opportunity to watch one of the early ones is a rare pleasure, especially as clearly as this. The amount you are able to take in visually increases exponentially and the moment where the killer Krilencu tries to escape through Anita Ekberg's embiggened mouth is even more bizarre in a crystal clear print, before the great Pedro Armendariz takes him out (having the villain escape out of Bob Hope's mouth might have worked in a Roger Moore film, but here...erm, nope).

As Ali Kerim Bay, Pedro Armendariz is wonderful in the film, reminding me of Giancarlo Gianinni's Mathis in Daniel Craig's recent outings. He really brings to life a man who clearly enjoys what he does and gives him a real feeling of warmth and friendliness, even when he evades being exploded by giving in to his randy mistress. What a life, Ali Kerim Bay had. As a result, I really felt for him after he met his unseen end on the train. Like everyone in Bond's business, Kerim Bay knew the risks, but that does not mean we should not feel a little at his demise. Once again, Mathis' sad demise in Quantum of Solace springs to mind again. What I find equally tragic is the fact that Armendariz was actually dying himself during the making of the film, something he discovered during the making of the film. He was crippled with cancer in his hips and had to be doubled for some wider walking shots - when he and Bond exit the car at the Gypsy camp, it is obviously not Armendariz. But his limp is pretty visible in the scenes on the train.
"Who is this Ricardo Montalban of whom you speak?"

There could be the usual argument that the casual racism of the time led to casting a Mexican actor as a Turkish spy ("he's foreign, he'll do") but Armendariz brought a real humanity and sense of honour and refinement to the role which could have been squandered on a lesser actor, which I believe happened many more times later in the Bond series. Tragically, he shot himself after the end of filming but not before he made sure his family received his salary for the film. A superb actor and, by accounts, a real gentleman.

The other standout role is the relentlessly intimidating Robert Shaw as Donald "Red" Grant. He doesn't utter a word onscreen until he assumes the identity of Bond's contact and meets with Bond on the train. The sheer menace he exudes is amazing, especially when he casually puts on his killing gloves in public when accompanying an unsuspecting victim. I heard a story a few years back from a Bond fanatic friend at university that the fight between Bond and Grant on the train, one of cinema's greatest brawls in my humble opinion, was actually real. They were both big guys who liked a drink and a scrap who decided to go for it and not pull their punches. Whether this is true or not, I don't know but there are some punches and kicks which certainly seem to make contact.

"Yeah, I like High School Musical. So what? Big woop. Wadda fide aboud id?"

The man did silent menace and barely contained physicality better than anyone, I think. Any moment, he could have erupted in an explosion of quick violence. The fact he didn't made him scarier and ramped up any suspense immeasurably. I'm surprised Hitchcock never took advantage of this. Frankly, I found Quint scarier than the shark in Jaws.

Even the other members of the cast are memorable. Lotte Lenya's Rosa Klebb still makes me squirm uncomfortably, her voice setting my teeth on edge and Vladek Shaybel as SPECTRE agent Kronstein is supremely memorable, introduced brilliantly at a chess tournament. His face and performance are so memorable, I have trouble believing him to be a good guy as the doctor in UFO. And even if Daniela Bianchi was dubbed, well...

It still stands up as a great and supremely confident Bond movie; in fact confident enough not have Bond appear for at least the first fifteen minutes of the film. I'm annoyed I didn't know about the other screenings until it was too late. Ah well.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009


Wow. A month since I last blogged. My apologies. A combination of a heavy cold and general laziness I'm afraid. There is more to tell - it's not been an enormously eventful month but work is hopefully turning a new corner, albeit unpaid. I have a list of things in this period I'll blog about, including my Skillset interview, progress of the third draft of Glencoe, Wolverine, a night oot with Shadowplayer David Cairns and friends, excitment at Star Trek (IMAX baby!) and plans for a guerilla feature film - I've noticed an unforgivable descent into coffe shop filmmaker syndrome, somethin I despise.

There, I said it. A guerilla feature film. I'll have to do it now.