Thursday, March 29, 2018

Easter Schlock

Well, the long Easter bank holiday weekend looms, although, in truth, it makes little difference to me as I'm still off work, (I'm on annual leave now, while I try to decide my next move following my long period of illness).  But I still feel that I should be doing something different to mark the holiday.  Obviously, one thing I won't be doing much of, as a recently diagnosed diabetic, is eating chocolate,  (That said, I do have a bar of reduced sugar chocolate on standby).  What I really should be doing is getting back to the schlock.  Despite the time I've had on my hands over the past couple of months, until the past couple of weeks, I haven't actually done much in the way of actually watching any schlock movies.  But, of late, I've finally managed to catch up with Michael Winner's seventies excursion into Exorcist territory, The Sentinel, and rewatched cheapo British seventies sex horror flick Virgin Witch.  I've also got some Giallo movies on DVD to catch up with.  So, hopefully, I should be getting around to writing about these soon.

Talking of classic British schlock, courtesy of Talking Pictures TV, I've been able to catch up with some of Merton Park Studios' Edgar Wallace Mysteries over the past few weeks.  I have vague memories of watching some of these back in, I think, the eighties, when Channel 4 gave them late night showings.  Made as supporting features in the early sixties, these black and white pictures all run around the hour mark and produced with an eye to TV sales once they had finished their theatrical runs.  They are fascinating to watch now, chock full of character actors being given a rare chance at leading roles and young versions of performers who subsequently became household names.  The directors too now seem impressive, with the likes of Clive Donner getting a first shot at direction.  Several, including Gerald Glaister and Robert Tronson, later became highly successful TV directors and producers.  Despite invoking Edgar Wallace's name (and featuring a rotating bust of the late crime writer in their opening credits), most of the scripts weren't directly based on his stories, instead being in the style of Wallace.  (Even those actually using Wallace stories as a basis were only very loosely based on the source material).  The budgets for these B-features were clearly tiny, with the same sets and exteriors featuring over and over again.  Nonetheless, they do conjure up an agreeably dark and smoky atmosphere, very much in the British noir tradition established by fifties black and white crime movies.  The individual films can vary in quality, but overall they provide a highly enjoyable trip back to an early sixties London populated by bent bookies, dodgy solicitors, shifty enquiry agents and stalwart police inspectors. British schlock at its finest.

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