Monday, August 03, 2015

Virgin Witch (1972)

A film I know only by reputation - and it's a bad reputation at that.  Effectively a sex movie/horror cross over, Virgin Witch is often dismissed by horror aficionados as poverty row smut.  Indeed, the trailer's focus on sex and nudity make it pretty clear that its aimed more at the dirty raincoat market than pure horror fans.  But the fact was that, by the early seventies, horror alone simply wasn't enough to sell a genre movie, sex was increasingly injected into the formula to widen their appeal.  Around the same time Virgin Witch was in production, Hammer, the 'respectable' face of British horror, was gleefully adding copious quantities of bared boobs, bums and lesbianism to its standard gothic fair in titles like The Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire, Twins of Evil and Vampire Circus.  Sex certainly proved to be a more effective additive than Kung Fu, which they tried in Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires.  When it comes to vampirism, it's like Count Mitterhouse observes in Vampire Circus as he seduces another woman, shortly before being staked: 'One lust feeds the other'.

But to return to Virgin Witch, the film's main interest to me is that it is another product of the film-making alliance of wrestling commentator Kent Walton and soap writer Hazel Adair.  Walton hides behind a pseudonym (Ralph Solomons), whist Adair is only credited a co-writer of the theme song (she apparently didn't admit to writing the film until 1975).  Like Sex Clinic, Virgin Witch utilises a scenario ripped from the Sunday tabloids of the seventies - the likes of the News of the World , Reveille and Tit Bits were seemingly obsessed with suburban witches covens and middle class Satanists during this period, (when they weren't 'exposing 'sex clinics').  Besides, like a 'sex clinic', satanic rites give plenty of excuses for full frontal nudity and kinky sex.  Also in common with Sex Clinic, Virgin Witch features a director who appears to be slumming it somewhat.  In this case it is Ray Austin, a highly successful TV director who started off arranging the fight scenes for The Avengers, before directing episodes.  Virgin Witch also has the distinction of having been distributed by Tigon - a fact which has often been used by horror fans as evidence of that company's decline in the period running up to its sale by founder Tony Tenser.

If you want to know more about Virgin Witch, Gav Crimson has an excellent and very detailed analysis of it over at his site.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Clarence the Cross Eyed Hunting Trophy

So, some wealthy dentist has shot Clarence the Cross Eyed Lion and taken his head for a trophy, so now the entire world is up in arms about it, forcing him into hiding.  They should set Tarzan on his trail - he'd be bound to be able to track down the bastard, with his jungle skills and the assistance of his animal friends.  Then Marshall Thompson could shoot the dentist with his tranquiliser dart gun to subdue him before handing him over to the relevant authorities.  Apparently this dentist has claimed that he thought he was engaged in a legal hunt.  Oh come on!  Surely the fact that the lion was wearing bloody glasses should have told him that it wasn't a regular big cat?  Maybe that's what those locals who helped him did - knock Clarence's glasses off so that he couldn't see?  The bugger wouldn't have stood a chance - they call that sport?  Mind you, I might have got some of that wrong -  I might be confusing childhood memories of Daktari and that Ron Ely Tarzan series which used to be on at Saturday tea time, with current events.  Perhaps the lion in question doesn't wear glasses, but I'm pretty sure it had a name beginning with 'C'.  Back in my day, lions didn't have human names.  They were called things like Leo, if they had names at all.  If nothing else, this whole business just goes to show that you can't trust dentists.  I mean, they've got form for this sort of thing: Doc Holliday was a dentist by training and he was a cold blooded killer. At least he shot cowboys rather than lions, though.

Perhaps I shouldn't be trying to make light of this situation.  The lion killing has certainly got people around the world up in arms.  Quite rightly, too.  What's happened is pretty disgraceful - that wealth can allow an individual to indulge their anti-social urges and, simply for their own twisted pleasure, kill a much loved wild animal which has given pleasure to the many thousands who saw him.  The hue and cry which has followed has been laudable.  The individual concerned should be condemned and should be held to account for their actions.  What fascinates me, though, is that those pouring opprobrium upon the dentist can't seem to see that his actions represent a good analogy for what is happening in the wider world: a wealthy elite are, increasingly, ensuring that their wealth puts them outside of normal legal constraints, enabling them to treat the rest of us as serfs.  Their influence over governments and unaccountable financial institutions means that they have been able to gradually erode our rights and legal protections, so that now, they can do pretty much as they please.  Like shooting endangered species for sport.  So, if all these people are prepared to take up arms (metaphorically speaking) against this lion-killing dentist, why aren't they prepared to get out on the streets and protest at the growing inequalities in our society, the increasing gap between rich and poor, the erosion of living standards and the destruction of the welfare state?    


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Opening Windows

Apparently my Windows 10 update is ready.  All I have to do is schedule it.  Which I still haven't done.  Operating system updates and installations always make me nervous.  Besides, I've sort of gotten used to Windows 8.1 after having run it for a couple of years.  With the use of some third party apps, it is possible to turn Windows 8.1 into a decent enough operating system - mine boots straight into the desktop (I never have to see those bloody tiles if I don't want to) and has a Windows 7-style  start menu.  Whilst I know that the update most probably won't cause any major problems, there's still that nagging doubt - and I really can't afford to have this laptop fucked up, it's my main production machine when it comes to my various web sites podcasts and films. My only current alternative for these activities is an ancient Linux-powered IBM Thinkpad which, by current standards, is painfully slow (back in the day, when I first owned it, the IBM seemed lightning fast compared to its predecessors).  My recently acquired smart phone is really only good for web browsing and checking e-mail and social media accounts, rather than any kind of creative activity.

All other considerations aside, I think that it is advisable to wait a few days before attempting this update - let the early adopters deal with the teething problems.  Hopefully they will all be ironed out by the time I implement the Windows 10 installation.   I have enough potential problems already,  I'm going through one of those phases when everything worries me and I see disasters lurking everywhere.  Every time it rains, for instance, I anxiously examine the ceiling of the spare room for leaks, despite the fact that the roof was repaired after being damaged in those storms at the other Christmas and there's been no subsequent leakage.  But all of a sudden I've started worrying about it again.  It isn't just the house which has got me worried, either.  Just today I started worrying that the car seems to be producing more visible fumes from the exhaust than normal.  This, despite the fact that I've never actually spent much time previously looking in the rear view mirror for smoke, so really have no idea what is 'normal'.  Not only that, but it is a diesel, so black emissions when accelerating sharply shouldn't be a surprise.  Ah well, it's due a service and MoT in October, so all should become clear then  (if it hasn't already expired of course).  I really must learn to stop worrying.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Ultimate Aphrodisiac

According to Henry Kissinger, 'power is the ultimate aphrodisiac' and, on the face of it, the recent revelations as to what Lord Sewel gets up to when he isn't sitting in the House of Lords would seem to confirm that.  After all, I've still got more hair than him, not to mention quite a few years less on the clock, but I've never yet found myself snorting cocaine (allegedly) off of the breasts of a prostitute (or anyone else, for that matter), but then again, I don't hold a political position which puts me close to the centre of power.  More to the point, I think, is that I don't have money.  Because that's the real truth - wealth is the ultimate aphrodisiac.  At least, for a certain type of person it is.  Let's face it, if Johnny Depp, say, worked in a shoe shop rather than being a fabulously wealthy movie star, I doubt that he would have got laid as much, or have attracted the kind of beautiful models, singers and actresses he has.  I grew up watching old Cary Grant movies on Sunday afternoons, leading me to believe that young women are attracted to older men.  However, as an older man I finally realised that younger women were only attracted you if you were wealthy older movies star Cary Grant.

But, to be perfectly frank, I really don't care about the extracurricular activities of Lord Sewel.  As far as I'm concerned, it's pretty much a private matter.  I'm in no position to stand in judgement over the foibles of foolish, wealthy old men.  What does interest me about these revelations is the level of moral self-righteousness it has ignited amongst both press and public.  'Lord Sewer' one of the tabloids dubbed him.  Really?  Like journalists and newspaper proprietors never get involved in sex and drugs parties with prostitutes?  Worse still was a bit of vox pop I heard on the radio with various idiots from the street being asked their 'opinions' on the scandal.  "Disgraceful.  A man in his position has no business getting involved in that sort of thing', opined one moron, identified by the interviewer as a builder.  Again, really?  Does anyone still think that social position should dictate standards of behaviour?  And this from a builder, who probably regularly rips off his customers, over-charging for shoddy work and who has probably also been featured on Cowboy Builders, Rogue Traders and half a dozen other consumer programmes.  I know which of these I think is more reprehensible.  Let's not forget that His Lordship was doing all of this behind closed doors and surely had a reasonable expectation of privacy.  I know that The Sun will claim some kind of public interest defence, arguing that Sewel, in addition to being Deputy Speaker of the Lords and a former Minister, was also responsible for drawing up codes of conduct for our parliamentarians, thereby making him a hypocrite, it should be remembered that such codes of conduct have to do, mainly, with things like expenses, rather than their private sex lives.

In truth, of course, it has nothing to do with public interest, but instead offers a chance to be self-righteous whilst simultaneously taking a prurient pleasure in reading about Sewel's sexual antics, described with lip=smacking relish by those guardians of morality in the tabloid press, (let's not forget that this is the same newspaper which regularly features teenaged girls topless).   I don't know where this new self-righteousness has come from, but it's suddenly everywhere, usually hand-in-hand with the modern vogue for being offended by the most innocuous thing that you happen to disagree with.  Even hackers (surely one of the lowest forms of humanity) have been bitten by the bug.  Only a couple of weeks ago, apparently full of self-righteous indignation over the infidelity they were encouraging, a group of hackers broke into one of those dating sites for married people wanting to cheat on their spouses, stealing their membership lists.  With this information, these bozos then effectively tried to blackmail the site's users, threatening to publish their details if they didn't leave the site.  Who set them up as arbiters of the world's moral standards?  People who go around stealing private data really have no business believing that they are morally superior to people who cheat on their partners.  One is a criminal act, the other isn't.  Again, we come back to the fact that, whatever we might feel personally about the users of such online services, it is entirely their private matter.  It simply isn't any of our business.  It especially isn't the business of self-righteous web criminals, any more than the sexual peccadillos of peers of the realm are the business of sex obsessed tabloid newspapers with a record for illegally hacking phones.    

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Clunk Click Every Trip

I grew up watching public information films in the seventies.  The BBC was fond of showing them either late at night or, during school holidays, just before children's TV programmes started.  From today's perspective, it seems rather disturbing that so many of them are fronted by notorious sex offenders, but back then we were blissfully ignorant: Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris were just a pair of apparently harmless weirdos.  But to focus on the films themselves - many of them were truly scary.  Everyone remembers the 'Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water' one, narrated by Donald Pleasance in his creepiest voice and featuring a death-like figure watching as various youngsters drown in flooded quarries and the like, but others were equally disturbing.  I always found the road safety ones, with their graphic depictions of drivers going through windscreens and pedestrians being mown down particularly unsettling when I was a child. Then there was the one with the kid climbing up an electricity pylon to retrieve a kite and getting electrocuted for his troubles - pretty grim stuff.  The abrupt endings, often freeze framing on the screaming face of the victims' best friend, brother, mother or whatever, didn't help. offering no hope of an unexpected happy ending ('it's OK, he's only singed a bit and has permanently lost control of his bowels, but he isn't dead').

They must have had an impact on me, as I've always remained wary of  open water, never loiter near electricity pylons and always keep my distance whilst driving, ('only a fool breaks the two second rule').  Moreover, I always buckle up before driving, (although, as it was Jimmy Savile urging us to 'clunk click every trip', perhaps we shouldn't be wearing seatbelts as it is probably all part of some evil paedophile plot).  Even the slightly friendlier animated public information films aimed specifically at kids (the 'Charlie Says' and 'Tufty the Squirrel' series) obviously made an impression, as I never got run over running in front of oncoming cars to get to the ice cream van, never went off with strangers and always made sure that my cat didn't get scalded by pulling pans of hot water on top of himself (I loved that cat). 

But there was one which was far less effective.  In addition to all the road and child safety films, there was also a series about dangers which lurked around the home. One of these feature an old bloke putting up decorations around the house whilst his wife had gone to collect their grandchildren.  He's seen balancing precariously on various chairs, tables and other items of household furniture whilst he goes about his task, all accompanied by the usual soundtrack warning of the perils of not using a step ladder for such things.  The pay off came when the wife and grandkids arrive, see him at work in the living room as they come down the garden path and bang on the window to surprise him - and surprised he is as he falls off of the table he's stood and is seen crashing to the floor.  It then cuts to the horrified expressions on his wife and grandchildren's faces, freeze framing on them.  I'm not sure why, but this always made me laugh uproariously.  Maybe I'm just a sick bastard.  Then again, maybe it was the slapstick nature of the whole thing - it played like a Laurel and Hardy short or even an episode of Some Mothers Do Have Them.   OK, I know it was an old man falling off of the table, but it was still funny.  And you know something?  Repeated exposure to that film has never deterred me from climbing on all sorts of unsuitable things in order to carry out DIY projects.  Ironically, the only thing I've ever fallen off of was a step ladder.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

What the Swedish Butler Saw (1975)

The year 1975 saw the release of two movies based upon the anonymously authored Edwardian erotic novel The Way of a Man with a Maid.  One - The Naughty Victorians - was a relatively faithful, hardcore pornographic version of the novel.  By contrast, What the Swedish Butler Saw is a farcical sex comedy which, despite being filmed in Sweden and Denmark, is in much the same mould as contemporaneous British pictures of the same genre, such as the Confessions and Adventures series.  Indeed, it even features Diana Dors and the lovely Sue Longhurst, stalwarts of British sex movies in the seventies, in the cast.  However, instead of Robin Askwith or Barry Evans, we have Danish erotic comedy superstar Ole Soltoft as Jack, although the performance and characterisation is much the same. 

On the face of it, The Way of a Man With a Maid wouldn't seem to be an obvious candidate for adaptation into a softcore sex romp.   The 1908 novel is a first person account (by a narrator named 'Jack') of one man's systematic subjugation, humiliation and rape of several women.  Over several episodes, Jack lures a series of women into his home made S&M dungeon, where he ties them up an subjects them to various types of bondage, before raping them.  Of course, not only does the act of rape awaken their repressed sexuality, it leaves them entirely subservient to Jack and willing participants in his subsequent, carefully planned and highly elaborate abductions and rapes.  His first victim is a young woman named Alice, who once jilted his attentions.  She then lures her maid Fanny into the dungeon (which Jack refers to as 'The Snuggery') for the same treatment.  The two women then help Jack subjugate Alice's friend Connie.  Finally, Lady Betty and her daughter Molly are lured to the dungeon where they are subjected to all manner of sexual humiliation and degradation and forced to perform various incestuous acts.  By this time, Jack has to do very little, other than watch the spectacle as his earlier victims - now his willing accomplices - do all the work.

In order to turn this into a comedy suitable for seventies audiences, What the Swedish Butler Saw turns Jack from the confident sexual predator of the book into a nervous, semi-incompetent, comedy character.  Furthermore, it focuses entirely upon the novel's first episode, prefacing it with a brief account of Jack's childhood of sexual repression at the hands of his parents.  Following their deaths, he stumbles across his father's hypocrisy, discovering that he had been a regular at Diana Dors' high class brothel, at which establishment Jack then receives his sexual education.  Jilted by Sue Longhurst's primly virginal Alice, Dors advises him that he needs to awaken her sexuality, by force if necessary.  Eventually luring her into his 'rape room' - which he has constructed with the aid of his deaf comical butler - he subjects her to some fairly tame bondage shenanigans, all played for laughs and involving some bizarre home made sex machines, which wouldn't have looked out of place in a slightly saucier Carry On film.  In a major departure from the source material, Alice eventually takes the initiative, turning the tables on Jack and consenting to have sex with him as his attentions have, indeed, awakened her repressed sexuality.  (Interestingly, the other adaptation of the novel -The Naughty Victorians - also felt it necessary to alter the ending, to show Jack's victims turning the tables on him at the film's climax).  The final scenes see Jack effectively trapped into marriage with Alice, before the film ends with Jack and Alice sharing their marital bed with his butler and Alice's maid (who have also engaged in a series of 'comic' escapades throughout the film).

In order to pad all of this out to feature length, various 'comic' sub-plots are added to the narrative, such as all the business with the butler's deafness and Jack's erotic photography business.  Most bizarre of these sub-plots involves Jack the Ripper, who is secretly living in Jack's house and emerges periodically from hidden doors, or observes the bondage action via a pair of eye-holes cut in a painting.  Despite his occasional appearances, nobody other than the audience ever see him - not even the policemen who, acting on a tip off, arrive to search the house, interrupting Jack's bondage session with Alice.  This provides another bit of farce with the now naked and still restrained Alice opts to pretend to be a statue rather than endure embarrassment of the policemen realising that she is a real naked woman.  The Ripper is last seen fleeing the house at the film's climax, unable to put up with that four in a bed romp.  The Ripper scenes are utterly mystifying - quite irrelevant to the plot and not at all amusing.  It's fascinating that film makers who felt it necessary to dilute a tale of erotic sadomasochism by cutting out the subjugation, degradation and rape of the heroine, presumably because they felt that the enlightened audiences of the seventies wouldn't be receptive to scenes of sexual brutality against women should think that a notorious serial killer of women was a suitable subject for comedy.

The film's attempt to turn a paean to the joys of the subjugation women into a sex comedy celebrating the power of bondage to liberate women's sexuality, enabling them to become, not sex slaves, but instead sexually confident dominant partners in a relationship, doesn't really work.  Despite her ultimate emergence as some kind of sexual predator herself, it is clear that the lengthy sequence in which Alice is naked and restrained, subjected to various forms of mechanical stimulation, are presented entirely for the titillation of male audiences.  Her 'liberation' makes her no less of a sex object than the character's literary equivalent.  Moreover, the attempts to present Jack as some kind of Robin Askwith-style ingĂ©nue sits uneasily with his bondage obsession and determination to subjugate women.  The fact is that in none of the Confessions films does Timmy Lea find it necessary to tie up a woman in order to get her to have sex with him.  Indeed, whilst the Timmy Lea character often seems intimidated by women, it is clear that he does actually like them and recognises them as human beings - I was never entirely convinced that Jack did really like women, instead seeing them purely as sex objects. 

Originally shot in 3-D and released under a plethora of English-language titles (the version I saw had a title card reading My Favourite Butler), the film remains a curiosity: an attempt to transform a piece of 'classic' misogyny into a softcore sex farce, it really doesn't work well on either the sex or farce fronts.  Nevertheless, it provides a mildly entertaining diversion, with Diana Dors and Sue Longhurst delivering decent performances in spite of the weak material.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Lurch to the Left?

With all the current furore surrounding the Labour leadership contest, it is perhaps worth reminding ourselves that those on the right of the party currently waving their hands in despair and predicting the end of the party if 'left winger' Jeremy Corbyn wins, are basing their arguments upon a false premise: that of Labour's 'disastrous' defeat at the last general election.  This, they say was the result of the party's 'lurch to the left' and that further 'leftward' movement will make Labour unelectable for all time.  False premise number one is that the defeat was disastrous.  Despite the loss of seats, it's worth remembering that in terms of percentage vote, in England Labour had its best showing since the beginning of the century.  Indeed, overall, across the UK and despite the wipeout in Scotland, Labour's share of the vote was slightly up from 2010, whilst the Tory percentage share was slightly down. The disparity in seats won is, in large part, the result of the UK's antiquated 'first past the post' electoral system. 

False premise number two is the 'lurch to the left' and its supposed unpopularity.  Clearly, the 'Blairite' definition of left wing is very different to anyone else's - the fact is that Labour ran on what was effectively a 'Tory-lite' programme in 2010 which failed to comprehensively challenge any of the assumptions underlying the Tories' 'austerity' policies.  And it lost.  In fact, its worst losses  came in Scotland, at the hands of the SNP, which was running on an overtly anti-austerity programme. All of which indicates that, in some parts of the UK at least, there is an appetite for so-called 'left wing' policies.  Furthermore, the 'Blairite' lament that, in England, many traditional Labour voters rejected the party's supposed 'left wing' manifesto, thereby 'proving' their case, is completely nonsensical.  For one thing, it completely ignores the fact that it for politicians to persuade potential voters of the validity of their policies - they have to go out and make the argument.  Which is something Labour completely failed to do.  Indeed, by failing to lay out any coherent alternative to austerity, they didn't actually have an argument to articulate.  Moreover, a significant number of potential Labour voters didn't even bother to vote because they felt that no party was representing their interests - Labour needs to articulate a set of policies which give those people some hope that engaging with the electoral system might actually effect some positive changes to their circumstances.

Which is essential, as the entirely depressing and negative message that the likes of Tony Blair and his cronies give when they dismiss Labour's left of centre principles as being electoral poison, is that there is no possibility of meaningful change any more.  That in order to gain power politicians must ignore their obligations to represent the people in favour of always adopting policies which favour big business instead, as that will ensure 'prosperity' which, apparently, will solve all our other problems.  The bottom line here is that I'm not actually a Corbyn supporter - I have real doubts as to his leadership qualities and some of his views give me real cause for concern.  However, I'm tired of the way in which his leadership campaign has become the focus of attacks on the credibility of any kind of anti-austerity policies.  The fact is that his apparent popularity - which has got the Blairites scared - indicates that there is wider support for left-of-centre politics in the country than they care to contemplate.  Which scares them even more.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Mighty Gorga (1969)

Talking of bad movies - and if we weren't, then we should have been - it is to my great regret that I've never been able to get my hands on a complete version of The Mighty Gorga.  The various clips I've come across indicate that it is undoubtedly a highly entertaining slice of low budget movie making.  Indeed, the above set of clips (not a 'trailer', despite what the You Tube poster's title might claim), highlight the movie's two greatest special effects: the dinosaur and Gorga himself.  A micro-budgeted King Kong rip off from the late sixties, I do know a little bit about the film's production, courtesy of an article about producer/director David L Hewitt in one of the Shock Xpress paperbacks.

Whilst the dinosaur is clearly a (pretty poor) puppet, the budget didn't run to hiring an ape costume, so Gorga was instead created by sticking hair onto a car suit, whilst the head was a hollowed out foam novelty gorilla head, (the eyes are clearly plastic and unblinking).  Hewitt himself was inside the 'costume' and, judging by the fit of wheezing Gorga has after fighting the dinosaur, suffered badly from asthma.  Hewitt supervised the effects himself and, to be fair, despite their general shoddiness, he did at least use some process work to integrate the creatures with the live actors - I've seen many other low budget films of this type (some of them studio backed productions) which instead rely on poor back projection to achieve this or, worse, don't make any attempt to include their monsters in the same shot as the  actors.  After watching the clip, it will probably come as no surprise to anyone that Hewitt was also responsible for some of the effects work on Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

In order to pad the film out, Hewitt filmed several of the actors getting on and off of an airliner and walking around San Diego zoo (all without permission from the venues).  Amongst the actors involved were such low budget stalwarts as Anthony Eisley, Scott Brady and Kent Taylor - the name of any one of this trio on the cast list of a film is usually a guarantee of low budget schlockiness.   From what I've seen and from what I know about The Mighty Gorga, it is clearly one of those low budget movies which you can't help but admire - a film made by people who are professional film makers, but who inhabit the hinterlands of commercial movie making, where they simply don't have the resources to realise their ambitions.  But that doesn't stop them trying to emulate big budget studio pictures on shoestring budgets.  All power to them, I say: at least they can maintain some semblance of independence in an industry dominated by accountants and executives who see films simply as 'products' and can't see beyond the potential for profitable spin offs when it comes to green lighting projects.

But best of all about this kind of film is that it rekindles that crazy belief that all of us who have ever shot a home movie have: that we could actually produce a commercial feature.  I mean, even I could manage special effects on a par with The Mighty Gorga (green screen effects are actually very straightforward to create on your laptop nowadays if you have the right editing software - much easier than they were to achieve on film back in the sixties).   Damn it, I'll have to get my great nieces to work making a dinosaur puppet - they could probably build something along the lines of the one in the clip.  They'd probably even operate it for me...


Monday, July 20, 2015

Nazi Business

I really don't understand this furore over film of the Queen (in her pre-Queen days) giving a Nazi salute to Hitler.  So what if the Royals were all a bunch of Nazis?  The previous Pope was one, for God's sake and nobody seemed to bat an eyelid over that.  And he was a proper Nazi, not just someone who did fascist salutes as a child - he was a fully paid up member of the Hitler Youth.  Indeed, a Nazi Pope should have been far more shocking than fascist sympathising royalty.  After all, one would expect members of a feudal institution based upon birth right to tend, politically, toward extreme and authoritarian ideologies which purport to be for the benefit of the common man whilst actually concentrating power into the hands of an unelected and unaccountable elite.  By contrast, one would hope that the leader of the world's largest Christian church, based upon the principles of forgiveness, love and tolerance, would have a sound record of anti-Nazism. 

It isn't as if Britain's royals don't have a track record for this sort of thing - let's not forget Prince Harry dressing up as a Nazi officer that time, or the Duke of Windsor's well documented dalliances with Hitler.  Then there was the Queen Mother.  Allegedly, she was more that a little bit right wing, politically speaking.  Certainly, she was right wing enough that a group of conservative politicians, businessmen and military officers contemplating a coup against Harold Wilson were confident enough of her reactionary nature to approach her to act as a figurehead.  The most intriguing thing about this storm in a tea cup is that the piece of film in question comes from some kind of  royal 'private collection' of movies which are never to be made public.  Which begs the question of what the other films might show.  You can understand why they'd want to suppress footage of royalty giving Nazi salutes, you have to wonder what they think is on a par with that (or even worse than that), so that it also has to be suppressed?  What other decadence have they committed to celluloid?  And do they all sit down in the Queen's living room and watch these secret films every Christmas?

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Friday, July 17, 2015

A Touch of the Sun (1979)

I was going to talk about What The Swedish Butler Saw today, but another day working in he heat has left me feeling too frazzled to do it justice.  Hopefully, I'll get back to it next week.  In the meantime, I thought that I'd briefly look at what has to be one of the worst films ever made: A Touch of the Sun.  It used to turn up on late night TV quite regularly in the 1990s, under its alternative title of No Secrets!, and I was recently reminded of it when I was researching Peter Cushing's filmography for another project.  So bad was the film, that I'd completely blocked out of my memory the fact that Cushing, an actor I have great respect for, appeared in this farrago.  But he wasn't alone, various other thesps who really should have known better, including Wilfrid Hyde-White, Melvyn Hayes, Kennan Wynn and, in the lead, Oliver Reed, also appear.

Shot in Zambia as some kind of vanity project on the part of the director, (although I'm convinced that there also had to be some kind of tax write off involved), this supposed comedy is utterly dismal.  To give you some idea of how bad it is, the above clip is actually one of the highlights of the film.  Reed affects a poor American accent in his role as a bumbling US marine, (I'm guessing that the director would have liked to describe the character as 'Clouseau-esque' - in his dreams), sent to an African dictatorship to recover a crashed US satellite. He has lots of 'hilarious' encounters with various 'wacky' characters, played by the aforementioned actors, taking time off from their paid holiday in Zambia.  The 'special' effects are anything but - the budget was clearly miniscule, the script dreadful and the direction abysmal.  Really, A Touch of the Sun is a crime against cinema.  The 'bad cinema' cultists might like to lionise Ed Wood's body of work as the 'worst movies - ever', but they've clearly not seen as much trash cinema as I have -  A Touch of the Sun wins hands down.  Whilst Plan 9 From Outer Space is actually so inept that it is funny and is curiously entertaining, A Touch of the Sun is merely cringe-worthy - you actually feel embarrassed for the cast as they mug their way through what they clearly know is a barrel-scraping exercise.  The closest thing to a redeeming feature it has is the performance of local 'talent' Edwin Manda as the villainous dictator - his performance is so ridiculous and over-the-top that it is almost entertaining.  Almost, but not quite.