Thursday, 28 August 2014

Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

Making my way through my Hammer boxed set, I’ve discovered some real gems (Plague of the Zombies, The Nanny), but also some fairly forgettable productions (The Reptile, She).  Oops, I’ve said this before!  I really shouldn’t repeat myself.  Oops, I’ve said this before!  I really shouldn’t repeat myself.  Quatermass and the Pit definitely falls into the second of these categories.  Other than the novelty of seeing a very young Grand Maester Pycelle, there is nothing that really stands out.

The eponymous Professor Quatermass (Andrew Kier) has been tasked to help Colonel Breen (Julian Glover) with the development a new rocket programme.  Their first collaboration is interrupted when they call by to check on an incident in Hobb’s End underground station.  They soon unearth an alien spacecraft; a craft that has been there a very long time.

Director Roy Ward Baker (A Night to Remember, 1958), is a steady pair of hands which are never-the-less tied by a forgettable story and wandering plot.  There is the interesting idea that the human race is a result of experiments carried out on our ancestors by the insectoid Martians 5 million years ago (a theme also explored the following year in 2001: A Space Odyssey), but the concept of the race memory is a step too far.

Sure, I like the way that the opinion of the scientists are trusted, and the fact that we see some lab research (spurious science notwithstanding).  But nothing memorable happens, apart from a very rushed ending involving a floaty psychic alien (ghost?) thing which is destroyed by crashing a crane into it!  Perhaps not exactly a Deus ex machina, the resolution only occurs to Quatermass in the final few minutes of the film.

I realise that in terms of special effects, a Hammer production can’t really compete with those of Planet of the Apes or 2001: A Space Odyssey (both of which were released the following year), but I feel those in Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) or even The Plague of Zombies from the the previous year are better than the cardboard insects on offer here.

Generic thriller sci-fi with little to recommend it, or indeed little to remember.  Competently directed with a good cast and some nice ideas in the story, let down by some more ridiculous ideas and some spectacularly bad special effects.  In fact the most interesting thing could be this line from the parents guide in IMDB: “The giant locusts could be frightening to some viewers even though they are dead”.  Locusts or viewers?  Says it all.  But, well, you know, that’s just, like, er, my opinion, man.

Friday, 1 August 2014

First Blood (1982)

OK, so I'm 37 and I've never seen a Rambo film until now.  Does that make me a bad movie nerd?  I've seen Son of Rambow which is brilliant, but I don't think that really counts.  The whole premise of First Blood, that a Vietnam vet is treated badly by the Sheriff's Office of some small town so he runs into the woods and takes revenge, is fairly ridiculous; but it is a testament to the direction by Ted Kotcheff that the film is so much fun.  It's all a bit A-Team as I don't remember many people dying despite all the explosions and violence, but it doesn't suffer because of it.

Probably one of the reasons I've never made an effort to see a Rambo film is that I've never been a fan of Stallone.  If I'm honest, I've always preferred Arnie; he seems to feature in more films I'm interested in (I hate boxing, so Rocky is wasted on me), and even if Schwarzenegger isn't a great actor, at least I can understand him when he speaks!

Having said all that, Stallone was perfectly watchable as John Rambo; and though he isn't the most eloquent, the fact that I really routed for his character helped a lot.  It does feel like the first part in a series, and I've no idea whether First Blood Part II was already planned, but as First Blood works great as a stand alone film, it really doesn't matter.

The only other main player of any real note is Brian Dennehy, who is great as Sheriff Will Teasle, the guy who arrests John for being a bum; even when he realises he's bitten off more than he can chew he belligerently goes after Rambo.  All the other cops are fairly incidental; Richard Crenna plays Rambo's previous senior officer when in 'nam, but really only turns up at the end as more of a link to the next film

First Blood doesn't do anything particularly special, other than cement Stallone as a bona fide action star and convince me that he isn't all that bad. Well paced, and some brutal action, First Blood is very enjoyable. But, well, you know, that’s just, like, er, my opinion, man.