Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Year in Pictures

OK, perhaps it's just me, but it definitely feels a bit milder this evening.  Which wouldn't be difficult as yesterday was freezing - so cold, in fact, that when I came out of the pub late last night the puke had frozen solid to the pavement, thereby creating a health and safety hazard.  But I definitely feel warmer this evening, although that could just be down to the hot bacon roll I've just eaten.  But to get to the point, I suppose it's time to engage in some kind of 2014 retrospective.  To be honest, most years seem the same to me, things happen, some good, some bad, but I can't say that I judge the year's 'significance' on their basis.  Consequently, to all intents and purposes, 2014 was just another year to me.  Except in one aspect.  This past year I've managed to catch up with a significant number of films which I'd pretty much given up hope of ever seeing in their entirety.  After years of having to make do with reading other people's reviews or watching trailers and clips, I finally got to see a trio of seventies low-budget classics from Lindsay Shonteff: Clegg, Big Zapper and Zapper's Blade of Vengeance.  I've written at length about these films already, so I won't rehash my opinions of them here.  Suffice to say that they were well worth the wait.

But I've also caught up with various other obscure and forgotten films, ranging from sixties golem horror It! to dismal seventies war flick Breakthrough, in which Richard Burton substitutes (badly) for James Coburn in a misguided sequel to Cross of Iron.  For all of these experiences I have to thank Google and its slack attitude to other people's copyright with regard to films posted on You Tube.  Provided a movie is pretty obscure or the ownership of its copyright is confused, then it can usually manage to remain posted for months, even years, before anyone claims that their rights are being infringed.  Foreign films (especially if they don't have an English language dub) stay up even longer.  (That said, English dubs of such films can stay up for much longer, as the copyrights of that specific version can be lost in the mists of time, or even lapsed completely).  Consequently, this past year also saw me catch up with all manner of wonderful Italian exploitation films, often dubbed into Czech, Hungarian or French.  I've reacquainted myself with Terence Hill and Bud Spencer, discovered their imitators 'Michael Coby' and Paul Smith, been deeply disturbed the 'sex comedy' To Be Twenty and marvelled at numerous peplums and war movies.  But it isn't just You Tube which has enabled me to catch up with Italian schlock: the arrival of Movies4Men on Freeview earlier this year has given me access to various spaghetti westerns, war movies and sword and sandal epics.  Not to mention the odd pirate movie.  It's been an education.

But why stop at Italian exploitation movies?  I didn't.  During the Autumn I took the opportunity to finally watch some of the films of Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy courtesy of You Tube.  Again, it was fascinating to finally see these films after years of only being able to read about them and form my own opinions of them instead of having to rely on those of supposed experts (some of whom, I now suspect, hadn't actually seen the films first hand themselves).  My journey of discovery hasn't been limited to films: as I recently mentioned, thanks to Radio 4 Extra, over the festive period I've finally been able to listen to those three faux Goon Shows Spike Milligan did for BBC Home Service during 1964-65.  Once again, these were things I'd given up hope of ever actually hearing for myself.  I know that this must sound pretty trivial as far as annual retrospectives go - talking about films I've seen - when so many other things were going on in the world: disappearing air liners, Russian aggression in Ukraine, the rise of ISIS, police shootings in the US, Ebola and the seemingly never ending violence in Israel.  But the fact is that I wasn't directly involved in any of those things - they might ultimately affect my life directly or indirectly, but I had no influence over them.  The stuff I've just been writing about are things I actually experienced and which directly affected me.  The films involved might not have been high art, but they do offer a glimpse into another world, in the case of the foreign films, a different culture.  They help us appreciate that there are other perspectives on cinema, other ways of viewing the world, remind us that there is more to the world than just our own narrow experiences.

Well, that's enough of my 2014 retrospective - bring on 2015!

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