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.



Blogger gavcrimson said...

To me A Touch of the Son is forever joined together in my mind with Incense for the Damned and Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein as films ITV used to show on very late night TV in the 1990s, where they seemed ideally suited. You can’t help but think that many of the people watching those three films in a late night TV state of mind (i.e tired and/or drunk) must have just thought they’d hallucinated seeing those films the next day, so detached are that trio from the way conventional films look and behave.

I do often wonder what Peter Cushings’ motivation was for appearing in the films he made overseas during that late 1970s/early 1980s period. By all accounts he didn’t like to travel, so that would rule out the locations being part of the appeal, and it is hardly as if he had the same taste for living life in the fast lane as Oliver Reed which would explain away Reed’s need to participate in junk like this. Nor did he have massive amounts of alimony to pay which apparently was the reason why Donald Pleasence was so prolific and unfussy about the type of films he appeared in during his final few decades. Surely the likes of A Touch of the Sun, The Devil’s Men, Mystery on Monster Island and especially Son of Hitler, didn’t look any better in script form to Cushing, than how those films eventually turned out.

9:09 am  
Blogger Doc Sleaze said...

I miss those days before ITV started filling its overnight schedules with gambling and repeats of Jeremy Kyle. I caught up with so many films which nowadays just don't appear anywhere - I saw numerous English language versions of seventies and eighties French thrillers (usually with Delon or Belmondo in the lead), not to mention a very peculiar (and badly dubbed) Dutch sex comedy which used to keep turning up. It was a real education. Back in the seventies - when I was too young to be allowed to stay up and watch the late night films, I used to marvel at the exotic titles in the newspaper listings: The Frozen Dead, Twilight People, Navy Vs The Night Monsters and the like. I then spent ages poring over the few horror film reference books available from my local library to try and find details of them. As you say, these are exactly the sorts of things a post pub audience should be watching - I well remember the disorientating experience of coming to on the sofa to find Mummy's Shroud playing on the TV and, for a moment, not knowing whether it was part of a dream or not.

As for Cushing's late period catalogue, I can only imagine that his participation in these films was motivated by a desire to keep working, particularly after the death of his wife. I recall that in an interview he gave around the time of Blood Beast Terror, whilst alluding to the poorness of the script, he commented that at least it was work and, as an actor, he felt it was important to always be working on something. I guess that as the seventies rolled on and the UK film industry contracted, he felt obliged to take whatever was on offer - which, unfortunately meant the likes of A Touch of the Sun. The alternative, I suppose, would have bee sex comedies, which I can't imagine would have appealed to Cushing.

Glad you mentioned The Devil's Men - it's reminded me that it is high time got around to writing that one up.

1:00 am  

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