Friday, July 03, 2015

The Wrong Type of Heat

Another day in the blistering heat.  It's strange how we British spend so much time complaining when it rains during the Summer months, yet when we get a genuine heat wave, we all start moaning that it is too hot.   Apparently it is all down to the fact that we get the wrong type of heat here in the UK.  At least, that's what someone was trying to convince me of today.  You see, in Morocco you can go out all day in the sun and never burn, but come back to the UK and your skin peels off in the heat.  I suspect this has more to do with the fact that when people go off on their foreign holidays, they tend to smother themselves in sun cream, yet back home don't seem to think that their skin might need the same protection.  Personally, I just try to stay out of direct sunlight at this time of year and instead lurk in dark corners.  Actually, I've just learned to take precautions like always wearing long sleeved shirts when outside in this weather (my skin burns before it tans) and, since my once luxurious locks have begun to thin, wearing a hat when the sun is very strong.  To be honest, my main problem in the heat is the risk of dehydration - I spend a lot of the time in the car and, even with windows open and fans on, it feels like a furnace by mid-morning.  Consequently, this week has left me feeling exhausted.

Which is probably why I've spent most of the week here being nostalgic and rambling on about the TV of my childhood and my fallen heroes of that era.  Thankfully, no more of these figures of my past have died (not that I've heard of, anyway), but that won't necessarily stop me from getting nostalgic again.   Talking about The Val Doonican Show yesterday reminded me of all those other TV favourites of the seventies who had eponymous shows back then: Lulu, Petula Clarke, even Vera Lynne.  At holiday times they'd all have their own special programmes - how well I remember Tom Jones on Happiness Island back on Easter Monday 1974.  That was the one where he performed that song on the yacht, whilst dressed only in his speedos and a sea captain's hat, which traumatised my ten year old self greatly.  I mean, that was the image of masculinity which we were supposed to aspire to - is it any wonder I was left feeling totally inadequate?  How could anyone live up to that?  Cliff Richard was another semi-permanent fixture in the schedules back in the early seventies, with It's Cliff Richard.   Another Saturday night show, this one was sandwiched between Dr Who and Dixon of Dock Green.  There's probably a joke in there somewhere, but it's probably also libellous so we won't go there.  I seem to remember that Engelbert Humperdinck had his own show around this time as well, but he was no match for Cliff  (again, there's probably a gag in there, but it is still probably libellous).  But enough, for now, of this nostalgia.  I've got to go and sort out my new phone.  I'm already getting nostalgic about the old one...

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Thursday, July 02, 2015

Rocking Chairs, Pullovers and Bowler Hats

Val Doonican is dead!  How can we go on without the Irish crooner and his nice pullovers and rocking chair?  Actually, we've been doing pretty well without him since he retired from British TV back in the eighties.  But for more than twenty years he seemed to be a Saturday night fixture on the BBC with his show.  It was television of a different, far gentler, kind than we've become used to - if a celebrity has their own TV show with their name in the title these days, it's usually some kind of egotistical chat show, with the guests lucky to get a word in edgeways.  Back when Val was in his prime, though, it was the norm for singers to have their own show where, in addition to trotting out some of their favourite numbers, they'd feature several guests, usually other singers or comedians, allow them to do their thing and probably perform a duet with them.  To be frank, when I was a kid, these types of TV shows used to bore me rigid - all that bloody singing!  Dr Who and The Basil Brush Show were more like my idea of Saturday night TV - not to mention Kojak in the mid-seventies. At least stuff happened in them!  Besides, there are only so many times you can sit through Val singing 'Paddy McGinty's Goat'.  Obviously, I was in the minority with these opinions, as his show ran and ran and even spawned a series of popular Christmas specials - mind you, even Doonican himself admitted that he found these unwatchable.

Despite not being a fan of his shows, it always seemed clear to me that Doonican was a pretty nice guy.  So I'm going to enjoy his legacy before someone starts making allegations as to what he got up to with Paddy McGinty and his goat in the 1970s.  Sadly, Val Doonican is just the latest in a number of people from the world of entertainment who we've recently lost: Christopher Lee, Ron Moody, James Horner, the list just goes on.  Saddest of all, from a personal point of view, has been the passing of the great Patrick MacNee.  The Avengers was a big part of my TV watching childhood - Diana Rigg was my first crush and MacNee's John Steed was, for my younger self, the epitome of what an English gentleman should be.  I know he was 93, so his death was hardly a shock, but it still came as a bit of a blow to me: another big part of my childhood gone.  An interesting fact about MacNee which I learned from his obituaries was that, in later life, after he had retired to California, he became an enthusiastic naturist.  I'd like to think that he kept his bowler hat on and still carried his umbrella, though.  Now, that would have been an interesting episode of The Avengers - Emma Peel opening her front door to find Steed, clad only in bowler and umbrella, standing there, with  'Mrs Peel, we're needed', written across his chest.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Spiders, Spectrum and Pyramid Power

Another year and another Glastonbury festival I didn't go to - but the Dalai Lama did.  Sadly though, he didn't sit on the Pyramid stage and lead the revellers in a series of Buddhist chants which, amplified by the power of the pyramid, culminated in the materialisation of a giant spider from the planet Metabelis III.  It certainly would have enlivened proceedings.  Having recently watched, for the first time since it was first broadcast, most of the Dr Who story 'Planet of the Spiders', I'm well aware that if those damn spiders get on your back, you find yourself speaking in a shrill electronic voice and shooting blue lightning from your fingers.  Clearly, my arachnophobia is well founded.  Those eight-legged bastards, far from being harmless, as their apologists claim, are a real threat to the universe. Damn it, they even did for the Third Doctor, forcing him to regenerate into Tom Baker!  I have to say, having watched that story again, that despite the ropey special effects and rickety plot, Jon Pertwee actually puts in one of his best performances as the Doctor.  He's far more vulnerable and human here, compared to his usual haughty and over confident self, full of self doubt , questioning his own motivations and concerned as to the consequences of his actions.  It's really quite poignant when he finally regenerates.

But it isn't just the Dalai Lama who has been reminding me of my childhood TV viewing.  David Cameron's call for a 'full spectrum response' to the terrorist attack in Tunisia brought visions of Captain Scarlet and Spectrum being sent to deal with ISIS. Who better than an indestructible man to deal with those suicide bombers?   Who better to bomb ISIS than an all-female group of fighter pilots in the form of the Angels?  If these extremists don't like women driving, then just imagine how pissed off they'll be when they find the planes attacking them are being flown by women.  And in Cloudbase, Spectrum would have an unassailable headquarters from which to launch their counter-terrorism activities.  Mind you, I very much doubt that this what Cameron had in mind.  Indeed, nobody seems to know what he had in mind when he uttered his essentially meaningless words.   Today I had yet another reminder of the TV of my youth with news that former Blue Peter presenter John Noakes had gone missing in Majorca.  It was a jolt to be reminded that he's now in his eighties and apparently suffering from Alzheimer's.  My initial reaction to the news was to hope that he wasn't suffering a flashback to his glory days on TV and attempting re-enact one of his daring stunts, like hang-gliding or climbing Nelson's Column.  Luckily, he's since been found, although there's still no news on whether he was attempting to sail around the world in a bath tub at the time.


Monday, June 29, 2015

The Business of Terror

Without wishing to make light of a tragedy, recent events in Tunisia have simply reinforced my aversion to foreign holidays.  Despite all the usual claims that we must also remain vigilant on the home front because these 'militant Islamists' could strike in the UK, I can honestly say that I don't feel that I'm likely to be the victim of a jihadist attack in Milford-on-Sea, which is the sort of place I tend to wind up in these days whilst on holiday.  I found the reporting of the 'Tunisian holiday massacre' rather disturbing - barely forty eight hours after nearly forty people had been killed and many others wounded, the media started focusing on the detrimental effects the attack would have on the local tourist industry.  Apparently taxi drivers and owners of gift shops selling tat could suffer significant losses in earnings.  Is this what we've come to?  People have died and, within a couple of days, everyone is throwing their hands in the air and wailing 'Will nobody think of the small businessmen?'  Is this really the face of modern capitalism?

Then there was the usual confused reporting about the perpetrator - footage of him break dancing and generally behaving like a normal young person is unearthed, accompanied by the usual astonished commentary asking how someone so 'normal' could become a terrorist.  Which ignores the fact that, despite what the authorities want us to believe, terrorists are actually normal, ordinary people you wouldn't give a second look in the street.  They aren't born evil.  They aren't demonically possessed.  They've simply come to embrace an extremist ideology, usually as a result of socio-economic factors influencing their world view - they come to believe that the only solution to their situation lies through violent action.  In other words, their experiences have convinced them that the normal democratic process (where available) does not work to effect change in a way beneficial to them (and after that recent general election result, who could blame them?).  Likewise, they have come to believe that the prevailing social conditions and economic system oppress them, stopping them from advancing themselves.  But it's much simpler for the media and the establishment they serve to portray terrorists as outsiders, psychopaths and evil loons.  The alternative is to concede that we, as a society, might have to bear some responsibility for their creation.

But portraying them as an external force, like invading space aliens, is much easier - they make the perfect scapegoats.  It's got to the stage where 'Islamist extremists' has become the catch-all explanation for everything bad that happens - they are now the external force causing every catastrophe.  That coach crash involving British school kids?  Islamist extremists were behind it.  Why did that US rocket taking stuff to the International Space Station explode?  Sabotage by Islamist extremists, obviously.  Those two kids stabbed near Portsmouth the other day, apparently by a tramp of some kind? Well, don't you know that tramp had converted to Islam and was an Islamist extremist?  They probably ate Freddie Starr's hamster, as well. It explains everything without having to resort to reason, logic, science, human error, social exclusion, economic deprivation or any of the other factors which lie behind events.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Doc Sleaze's Day Off

I took a day off work today.  Officially this time, not like that Friday afternoon I got pissed off and went AWOL.  This time it was pre-planned.  It couldn't have come at a better time, as the four days I did work this week were trying, to say the least.  So today's trip to the seaside was a most welcome diversion.  I ended up spending a fair proportion of my afternoon in Milford-on-Sea, once a tiny coastal village now, if not quite a resort, certainly somewhere that has attracted its fair share of the well off, judging by the kind of housing you find as you approach the beach front.  But I didn't confine myself to the sea front and its upmarket residences, I also spent some time in the older part of the village, which has an agreeably slightly run-down yet twee look.  It's early in the season, so there weren't many tourists about and the local shops weren't full of the usual seaside tat - plastic buckets and spades and inflatable rings - which seemed to make us so happy in those hazily remembered, seemingly endless Summers of our childhoods.

There's much to be said for spending some time sitting on the green, observing village life, which, as you can see from the above picture, I did this afternoon.  That's actually a screen cap from some of the video footage I shot today - at some point I'm hoping to put it together into a film about the village.   It was all very relaxing, just sitting there, watching the world go by.  Which was just what I needed.  I really need to do this sort of thing more often, but unfortunately it seems to be getting increasingly difficult to take odd days off of work.  I did think about taking along a friend on this trip but, in the end, I decided to be selfish instead.  I just wanted a day of me time - no demands from other people, no having to accommodate the wishes of others.  I just wanted a day off of work when I wasn't painting ceilings or assembling beds, which is all I've seemed to do during my time off recently.  (Yes, I finally assembled that new bed I bought - it nearly killed me, but I'm finally sleeping on a bed/mattress combination which is neither in danger of collapsing nor trying to stab me).  So there you have it, Doc Sleaze's Day off.  Not as exciting as Ferris Beuller's, I'll grant you, but that was the point: an uneventful, undemanding and very relaxing day.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Poverty at the Palace?

Another day, another tale of cruelty to the old and infirm in Cameron's Britain, as the newspapers are full of reports that an octogenarian lady and her extended family could be forced out of her home due to its advanced state of dilapidation.  Outrageous, I know.  Just another example of the most vulnerable members of our society being let down by those who should be helping them - why, oh, why haven't social services or the like stepped in to help this unfortunate pensioner?  I ask you, how will her majesty cope if she's forced out of Buckingham Palace whilst it is repaired and refurbished?  Surely she can't be expected to set up home in  draughty Windsor Castle, or remote country pile Sandringham?  As for Balmoral, well, it's in Scotland - hostile territory.  Various members of her layabout, universally jobless, family are occupying most of her other palaces, like Kensington and St James.  As for Hampton Court - they let the bloody public wander around there gawping at everything!

I always love it when the right-wing press try to make us feel sorry for the Monarchy by attempting to convince us that these fabulously and wildly over privileged anachronisms somehow suffer the same problems as us ordinary mortals.  They don't.  They live in a different world, (as, apparently, do the editors of the right-wing rags in question).  However, I can't deny that I was moved by the descriptions of the terrible state that Buck House is allegedly in: apparently it all needs rewiring and hasn't been redecorated since the fifties.  It conjures up visions of overloaded old-style two pin plug sockets, with a dozen appliances plugged into a single, sparking, socket, peeling pin-striped wall paper and lumps of plaster falling off of the ceilings.  In other words, something that looks like a seventies TV sitcom depiction of the average working class home.  How can we keep forcing her Maj to keep living in the same conditions the likes of Rag Varney had to endure in 1971?  We should start up a collection for her now, so that she can at least buy some new wall paper.  Perhaps flower-patterned this time.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Ultimate Warrior (1975)

Another half-remembered movie I haven't seen in an age.  I remember a time when The Ultimate Warrior seemed to turn up quite regularly on TV. But, just as black and white movies have gradually been marginalised by mainstream TV, so anything made before 1985 (unless a 'classic') seems to have been consigned to oblivion by the TV powers that be.  Which is a pity.  The Ultimate Warrior, not a  biography of the late WWE wrestler, but rather one of a spate of post apocalyptic movies which turned up in the seventies, is, to my recollection, a reasonably entertaining ninety minutes or so.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about it is that it doesn't feature Charlton Heston, who seemed to be a permanent fixture in this type of film during the late sixties and early seventies, (Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green and Omega Man, for instance).  Instead we have Yul Brynner as the 'waning mainstream star slumming it in a genre movie'.  To be honest, he looks far more at home in this sort of role than Heston ever did, brining his usual enigmatic aloofness to the title role.  As the film is effectively a martial arts/post apocalypse crossover, the role gives Brynner plenty of opportunities to take his shirt off and flex his muscles, something you really couldn't envisage Charlton Heston doing at the same point in his career. 

The set up is familiar: society is fractured after a global catastrophe which has seen the death of most plant life.  A devastated New York is inhabited by various small communities and vicious gangs, which spend most of their time fighting over the scarce remaining resources.  One community is led by scientist Max von Sydow, who is on the verge of having bred a new type of seed hardy enough to grow in the harsh post-apocalyptic conditions,  In order to protect his community from the depredations of gang leader William Smith for long enough to complete his work, von Sydow engages the services of mercenary warrior Yul Brynner.  You can probably work out for yourself how this all plays out.

Whilst the film, as I recall, has the somewhat rough hewn feel of all director Robert Clouse's films, it clearly had a reasonable budget, with an impressively realised devastated and depopulated New York.  Also characteristic of Clouse's other films is the well orchestrated violence, with the vicious clashes between Brynner and Smith particularly well choreographed.   Indeed, the levels of violence and the relatively realistic depictions of its consequences were unusual for films of this era.  There's nothing particularly deep or original about The Ultimate Warrior, but I fondly remember it is an entertaining action film, more entertaining than the vaguely similar Omega Man, for instance, and not as 'important issue' heavy as the overrated Soylent Green. It would be nice to see this turn up on free-to-air TV again - I live in hope that it might yet surface on Movies4Men.


Monday, June 22, 2015

The Wild Beasts (1984)

This is the film that Gavcrimson mentioned in the comments a couple of posts ago:  The Wild Beasts (or Belve Feroci, to give the movies its original Italian title).  I managed to watch the film in Italian over the weekend.  Now, my Italian is non-existent, but believe me, this isn't the sort of movie where you need to understand the dialogue in order to grasp what is going on.  The scenario is simple - dangerous levels of PCP somehow get into Frankfurt's water supply and the zoo animals that drink it go berserk, break out of their cages and run amok on the city streets.  That's it.  The characters are all stock: heroic moustachioued zoo keeper, dogged cop, lady reporter, imperilled daughter of said reporter.  But none of this matters.  It is the execution of this set-up which is, to be frank, astounding.

Made in the early eighties, Wild Beasts predates the kind of CGI technology which would be used nowadays to send hordes of slightly unconvincing wild animals stampeding through the streets.  Instead, the film makers staged it all for real.  So we have incredible shots of a herd of elephants careering down a main street in Frankfurt, causing motoring mayhem, a polar bear terrorising children at a dance class and a tiger rampaging around on a commuter train.  Perhaps most amazing of all these sequences is that which sees a drug crazed cheetah chasing a car down what looks like a main thoroughfare, itself pursued by a police car from which our heroic zoo keeper tries to shoot it with a pistol.  Watching this kind of thing makes you wonder if you yourself might have inadvertently ingested some kind of hallucinogenic substance.

That these sequences should have a certain cinema verite, or even documentary, feel to them should come as no surprise, as the film's director was none other than Frederico Prosperi, co-director of Mondo Cane and several other mondo movies.  The film's quick cutting between unrelated animal attack sequences in different parts of the city is reminiscent of the editing style used to segue between sequences in mondo movies, for instance, as the use of recurring motifs which underline and emphasise the film's themes: attacks on humans often occur under the unblinking gaze of stuffed animals, and mounted animal specimens feature in the background of several scenes, for instance.  More negatively, the film also features plenty of the animal cruelty characteristic of mondo movies: when a horde of rats are destroyed with a flame thrower, for instance, it is clear that real rodents have been incinerated - a disturbing number can be seen trying to escape the inferno, their fur ablaze.  In a later sequence, several escaped big cats make their way into the local slaughterhouse, where they terrorise the pigs, horses and cattle awaiting their fate - the terror of these animals is evident and one lion is allowed to maul and kill a cow trapped in a holding pen.  Again, this sequence is clearly real and not faked.

For sensitive UK and US audiences, (the film never received a theatrical release in either country and English-language VHS and DVD releases have been sparse), the film commits another, possibly even more heinous crime than showing scenes of animal cruelty: it climaxes with the murderous antics of drug addled pre-pubescent children, who cut their teacher to ribbons whilst under the influence.  The spirit of Prosperi's mondo days clearly lives on in his apparent determination to shock in Wild Beasts. On a lighter note, one of the animal set pieces topples over into such utter, surreal, ludicrousness that it made me laugh out loud.  The elephants eventually crash through the perimeter fence of the local airport, giving us truly surreal images of them wandering past hangars full of Jumbo jets, before wandering onto the runway, where they cause an airliner to crash as it comes into land.  Utterly insane, completely over the top and laugh out loud funny - it is a sequence which wouldn't have looked out of place in one of the Airplane movies.

Ultimately, whilst no masterpiece, The Wild Beasts is surprisingly effective in turning its titular creatures into truly monstrous presences.  Prosperi succeeds in making these familiar zoo animals into terrifying alien presences, apparently hell-bent on destroying the human race.  Sure, the film is full of lapses in logic - if the water supply is contaminated, surely the human inhabitants of the city would also all be high as kites, whereas only a small group of children seen to be affected, for example - and a lot of it is in poor taste, but it is hugely entertaining and full of 'what he fuck?' moments.  The fact is that The Wild Beasts could never have been made in the UK or US, (the animal cruelty involved in the making alone would have ensured it was still-born), and, as such, stands as another reminder that there is a whole world of non-English speaking film-making out there which seems completely alien to our eyes.  Sadly, most people in the UK are so parochial that they'll never expose themselves to the experience of watching foreign films which don't espouse the same narrow range of values and attitudes embodied by UK and US films.  I'd happily recommend The Wild Beasts to anyone wanting to broaden their cinematic horizons - it's far more entertaining than a dozen sub-titled continental art house movies.

Finally, kudos to Gavcrimson for putting me onto this film in the first place.  Go visit his site.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Reactionary Bullshit

I make it a rule never to argue with drunks.  Not even when I'm drunk myself.  But especially not when I'm sober - alcoholic intoxication impairs the ability to reason, which means that it impossible to engage in any kind of logical debate with a drunk.  So, today, you are going to get what I didn't say to some drunken idiot in the pub last night, who gate crashed a conversation I was having with the Landlady about so-called 'reality' television.  This individuals 'contribution' to the conversation was the usual denouncement of 'reality' TV as worthless rubbish, but they then went on to pour out the usual utter bullshit as to how television generally was responsible for the decline of Western civilisation - apparently it was the reason for supposed declining standards of literacy, the decline of book sales and the erosion of 'civilised' values.  The trouble with this 'argument', apart from the fact that it has no evidence to back it up, is that you'll find the same cobblers being said about radio, the cinema, the popular press, horror comics, probably even music halls, in the pre-television era.  It seems that there are certain sections of society that always needs a convenient scapegoat, in the form of whatever, at that moment in time constitutes mass popular culture, to blame the supposed ills of the world upon.  Nowadays we're beginning to move from TV being the main culprit to the internet and video games.

The reality is that the amount that children read and the level of their literacy has more to do with the environments in which they grow up than the allegedly pernicious influence of TV.  Hell, I watched a lot of TV growing up.  I still do.  But I grew up in a household that also valued literacy, so I also read a lot of books, and continue to do so.  The two aren't mutually exclusive.  One form of media doesn't necessarily supplant another.  The web, for instance, is still very much a literary-based form of media - it requires a certain degree of literacy to fully utilise it.  Print media might appear to be in decline, but e-books seem to be thriving and, as they make it easier for authors to get 'into print', they are arguably democratising the publishing process.  Video games (or whatever those crazy kids call them these days), whilst not being my cup of tea, are clearly becoming a highly immersive experience for gamers, with storylines boasting the complexity of a novel, yet with the added dimension of user interaction.  None of which seems like a case of cultural 'dumbing down' to me.  Quite the opposite.

But just reading stuff isn't a guarantee of that people are actually consuming 'culture' - a lot of what gets read would undoubtedly be classified as trash by those who advocate the value of literature.  Besides, just because people don't read books doesn't mean that they lack literacy or aren't exposed to culture.  The fact is that people today are able to consume their culture via a far greater variety of media than ever before - it's part of an evolution that's been going on for the past couple of centuries, from the rise of the popular press, through film, audio recordings, radio and eventually TV.  Each new innovation has increased access to culture.  But, of course, for those who condemn things like TV, it isn't proper culture, it is popular culture aimed at a mass audience rather than an elite.  Which also utter bullshit.  Popular culture might not be high art, but it is entertainment, and there is nothing whatsoever wrong in entertaining people.  Besides popular culture provides us with fascinating insights into the era in which it was produced, far more so than 'high' culture aimed at an elite does.  It should also be remembered that much of what is now considered 'high' culture - Dickens or Shakespeare, for instance - was original popular culture, aimed at a mass audience.

Anyway, the point I'm groping toward is that the anti-TV bullshit is an incredibly reactionary position to take - it condemns the very concept  of mass culture, rejecting it as 'bad' and anti-social.  Like all such reactionary positions, it seeks to blame the perceived ills of society upon some external factor, be it television, video nasties, gay marriage or immigrants , rather than acknowledging that they are the result of complex socio-economic factors created and controlled by government and business.  If educational standards are poor, then it is down to education policy, which is dictated by governments which are elected by ourselves. Likewise violence and anti-social behaviour - they are fostered by the kind of society we create.  But like I said, a reactionary position - and one being espoused by a drunken idiot who likes to style themselves as some kind of 'bohemian' 'radical' type.  Should we be surprised?  But, the rant's over now!  Hopefully, next time I'm in the pub, I won't have my conversation hijacked by a drunk.  Then again, pigs might fly.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Shatter (1974)

One of a pair of movies Hammer co-produced with the prolific Hong Kong studio Shaw Brothers, Shatter is nowhere near as well remembered as its companion piece, Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires.  Which isn't surprising, as its attempt to mix Eastern martial arts with a Western espionage thriller simply wasn't as distinctive, bizarre and just plain camp as the other co-productions mix of Kung Fu and vampirism, with Peter Cushing's Van Helsing going East to fight Dracula's Chinese acolytes.  Whilst Seven Golden Vampires had the virtues of originality in its set up, Shatter's scenario had already been before and done much better, most notably in Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon

Neither Shatter nor Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires set the box office alight, (despite its novelty value, the latter picture was severely hampered by the lack of Christopher Lee as Dracula - John Forbes Robertson, in lurid make up which makes him look like a stereotype theatrical 'Old Queen' and sounding suspiciously as if he's being dubbed by Robert Rietty, is a poor substitute).  In part this was undoubtedly due to Hammer's lack of a proper US distribution deal at this point in time, but the poor quality of the films (in comparison with earlier Hammer output) and their, even in 1974, rather dated feel, really didn't help.   Nevertheless, one can't help but wonder whether, if the films had been better received, it might have proven a turning point for Hammer, reviving the company's fortunes.  Certainly, the hook up with Shaw Brothers must have looked, at the time, a shrewd move - UK producers were, by the mid seventies, desperate for new sources of finance, as US funding dried up.  With the Hong Kong studios riding high due to the popularity of martial arts movies in the UK and US, not to mention the access to a vast and - for Western film makers - virtually untapped Asian cinema audience, the co-production deal clearly seemed a recipe for success as far as Hammer's management were concerned.  Perhaps if the films had been better, then Hammer might have been rejuvenated.  In the end, however, the films fell between two stools, satisfying neither Western nor Asian audiences, instead coming over as awkward compromises.

I must admit that it has been an age since I remember Shatter being shown on TV in the UK.  I vaguely recall it turning up late at night and, whilst my memories are hazy, I think that I'm safe in saying that the trailer makes it seem far more exciting than it actually is.  Interestingly, the film was started by American director Monte Hellman, a Roger Corman protégé, but was completed by Hammer owner Michael Carreras after the former was sacked.  Whether it would have been a better film had Hellman been allowed to complete it is an interesting question.  Somehow I doubt that it would have done any better at the box-office.  As the seventies wore on, it became increasingly obvious that Hammer's finger was no longer on the pulse of popular expectations for exploitation films.  For contemporary viewers, their period horrors seemed too sedate and fussy, even with injections of sex and nudity to accompany the gore, and audiences could no longer identify with their remote and alien seeming historical settings   Even worse, the studio's attempts to update their horrors to contemporary settings always seemed half-hearted.  This last-gasp attempt to tap into the zeitgeist - in this case King Fu films - equally failed to grasp changing audience expectations, attempting to graft tired old formats onto the martial arts bandwagon instead of creating anything new.