Archive for the ‘Britt Ekland’ Tag

Asylum (1972)   1 comment

asylum poster

I love anthology films.  It doesn’t matter if they’re anthology drama, comedy, or horror films, but I hold a special place in my heart for anthology horror.

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ASYLUM begins with Modest Mussorgsky’s A Night on Bald Mountain.  As the music swells, we see Dr. Martin (Robert Powell) arrive at a remote sanitarium.  Martin meets with Dr. Rutherford (Patrick Magee) who offers him a proposition.  Rutherford will hire Martin if, after interviewing four patients, he can identify which of the inmates is B. Starr, the former head of the institution.  Starr had a complete breakdown and is now an inmate.  Attendant Max Reynolds (Geoffrey Bayldon) takes Dr. Martin from room to room to hear each patient’s story.

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“Tonight on Spot the Loony…”

In the first segment, “Frozen Fear”, Bonnie (Barbara Parkins) tells the story of her lover, Walter (Richard Todd) and his wife, Ruth (Sylvia Syms) and their, um…breakup.  Walter, sweet guy that he is, takes his wife down to their basement to show her a gift he just bought for her.  She’s always wanted a chest freezer and is delighted until Walter surprises her further with a blow to the head.  Fortunately, the freezer is Ruth-sized so Walter has plenty of room to store the bits of Ruth he chopped up and wrapped neatly in brown paper and twine.  Now Walter can abscond to Rome or Nice or Trenton with Bonnie and live happily ever after, right?  Not so fast, bub.

toddaxe

“Oh, honey?”

Barry Morse plays the titular role in “The Weird Tailor”.  With no money coming in and the threat of eviction looming, Morse gets an odd request from new customer, Peter Cushing.  Cushing commissions Morse to make him a suit made of special fabric he brings himself.  Morse must construct the clothing in a particular order to exact specifications and during the times mandated by the instructions.  Since Cushing wants the outfit immediately and promises to pay handsomely, Morse agrees to his terms.  Things move along swimmingly until delivery day when Morse makes an odd discovery.

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“I’m odd.”

Dr. Martin sees patient Barbara (Charlotte Rampling) next.  Barbara tells of her release from another sanitarium.  Her brother, George (James Villiers) drives her back to the family home and introduces her to her new nurse, Miss Higgins (Megs Jenkins).  Barbara, annoyed at the prospect of a nurse telling her what to do, goes to her room to find her friend, Lucy (Britt Ekland) there.  Barbara is overjoyed to see her old friend who immediately suggests that they go over the wall and go on a spree.  Their outing doesn’t go as planned.

rampling

“Summerisle?  No, I’ve never been there.”

“Mannikins of Horror” stars Herbert Lom as Dr. Byron, a man who believes he can transfer the essence of himself into a small robot who will carry out his will.  All I can say is I want a Herbert Lom robot.

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The Lombot in action.

ASYLUM has a scary, dramatic score by Douglas Gamley and Mussorgsky, a great horror film setting, and a super cast of veteran British actors.  Robert Bloch of PSYCHO fame wrote the stories, and Roy Ward Baker directed.  Baker also directed A NIGHT TO REMEMBER and quite a few films for Amicus and Hammer Productions including the portmanteau horror, VAULT OF HORROR.  Amicus made a number of anthology horror film in the 1960s and 1970s and this is one of the best.

poster asylum

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The Wicker Man (1973)   1 comment

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This is one wacky island.

Sergeant Neil Howie flies to Summerisle, a remote Scottish island, to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. Immediately he notices the queerness of the townsfolk. Their ways differ wildly from his devoutly Christian life on the mainland and as Howie’s investigation into the villagers progresses, his outrage grows. Robin Hardy directed The Wicker Man from an Anthony Shaffer (Sleuth, Frenzy) screenplay on location near Inverness, Scotland. Edward Woodward of Equalizer fame plays Sgt. Howie as an uptight, morally certain policeman thrust into a bizarre world of bawdy songs, pagan teachings, and orgies.


Spinal Tap comes on at 8.

His incredulity mounts as Howie realizes that not only will the villagers not help him find young Rowan, but also they don’t care if she’s found. Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Diane Cilento, and Aubrey Morris, as a creepy gravedigger, play their parts well, but it’s Christopher Lee who steals the show. As Lord Summerisle, Lee has all the best lines and looks thoroughly amused by Howie’s righteous indignation.
Example: about some girls dancing in the altogether during a religious rite Howie says, “They’re naked!”
“Well naturally” says Summerisle, “It’s much too dangerous to jump through fire with their clothes on.”


“The Welcome Wagon’s here!”

The Wicker Man lives up to its cult classic status because the writing is solid, the performances strong, and the locations authentic. The statements it makes about religious hypocrisy aren’t subtle, but they don’t achieve Oliver Stone ball peen hammer to the skull-level either.

lee wicker
“It’s good!”

Get Carter (1971)   Leave a comment

Get Carter 1971 movie poster

Jack Carter (Michael Caine) hears of his brother’s death and heads up to Newcastle from London where he works as a mob hit man. As he speaks to his brother’s friends and coworkers, Carter suspects the car accident that killed his brother Frank was no accident at all. Inconsistencies in people’s stories along with their unwillingness to talk about Frank’s last day convince him to look deeper. As Carter digs we see how much the local gang wants him to stop looking and go home to London. We also see how ruthless he is. He doesn’t care who gets hurt in his quest for answers about a brother he hasn’t seen in years.

We also get some idea of why Carter left for London in the first place. He rose above this second-tier town. Seedy and low-rent, Newcastle’s bars, betting parlors, and rooming houses serve as the perfect backdrop for the story of a pretty serious bastard picking through the low-lifes to find the lowest one. You don’t love Carter, but he’s fun to watch. He maneuvers around the local thugs like a sort of hoodlum James Bond. Violent and single-minded, Carter has no qualms about using his friends to get the answers he wants. An interesting scene in a local bar gives some insight into Carter’s personality and the atmosphere in Newcastle. A pub singer kisses a male customer as part of her act and a jealous woman attacks her. The two women roll on the floor fighting as the patrons look on, cheering. It’s one of the few times in the film when Carter smiles.

The character of Carter and the story “Jack’s Return Home” by Ted Lewis appealed to Michael Caine and his business partner, Michael Klinger, so they bought the rights to it and chose Mike Hodges (Terminal Man, Croupier) to direct. Caine had been searching for a vehicle since he found his last few films disappointing. He had to be happy with this one. Get Carter showcases Caine’s assets spectacularly. He gets to be crafty, sardonic, and even cruel as he muscles his way toward the real story behind his brother’s death. This is Caine at his best. He outsmarts the goons hired to rough him up while throwing out great lines. After going to the wrong man’s house, he attempts to leave quietly. The man starts to fight with Caine/Carter who says, “You’re a big man, but you’re out of shape. With me it’s a full-time job. Behave yourself.” Carter slugs him and leaves. Even while chasing a man in order to kill him, Carter has some great lines. As the man falters trying to escape Carter says, “You couldn’t win an egg and spoon race, [name*].”

I loved Get Carter. It had a strong story and an incredible performance by Caine. The direction was no-nonsense and very Don Siegel-like which suited the material perfectly. I haven’t read the story so I don’t know how much material Mike Hodges added when he wrote the screenplay, but choice bits abound. During one scene, Carter has phone sex with his mistress Britt Ekland while staring at his landlady. The camera stays on Carter in the background on the phone and the landlady in the foreground in a rocking chair. As the conversation gets more heated, the rocking quickens. Later, Carter has sex with the landlady under a sampler that reads ‘What Would Jesus Say’. Priceless.   BAFTA nominated Ian Hendry for best supporting actor, but skipped Michael Caine entirely. Since he dominates the film, his omission stuns me. Caine acts in every scene and I couldn’t take my eyes off him for a second. The plot, atmosphere, supporting cast, and especially Michael Caine’s performance makes Get Carter one of the best crime-related films I’ve seen.
*including the name would be a spoiler

get carter still
“Alfie who?”

 

 

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