Thursday 28 December 2023

More On Movies...The Return

*A couple of weeks ago all of a sudden I had an appetite for watching movies again. In the last two years I probably only watched about twenty films until this new burst of interest occurred. I have the great man David Lynch to thank for my renewed enthusiasm for all things moving pictures. I should really have two blogs, one for music and one for movies. If I can recall how to create a new blog I might just do that when inspiration hits. I feel like I have to relearn how to write about movies. Like what is actually of specific interest about a movie that I need to write about it? I'll figure it out soon enough hopefully. For now here's a tentative attempt to write some words on what I've been watching. 

The Legend of Billie Jean (1986)
Inspirational teen rebel flick or absolutely retarded absurd nonsense? An ever expanding range of tones and bonkers-ness is revealed with each new scene giving the film a constant state of fluxion. This is not uninteresting however I am wondering if this avant-garde effect is perhaps an unintentional consequence of incompetent film-making. 

House By The River (1950)
Melodramatic murder mystery Victorian noir. This is an underrated Fritz Lang film from his American noir era. There is a pretty good gloomy atmosphere and dreamlike vision here. House By The River is a masterclass in noir cinematography with its moonlit rivers, shadowy corridors, sinister silhouettes, ominous skies, dimly lit staircases, curtains ghostly rustling and more. 

The Clouded Yellow (1950)
Top fun ye olde British thriller. Sophie (Jean Simmons) is framed for murder alas she goes on the lam with the expert help of ex-spy/butterfly cataloguer David (Trevor Howard). Suspenseful cat and mouse shenanigans ensue right up until the rivetting climax. The title is naff but it's the name of a butterfly, still I would not have used this as the name of my film. However I do think it was a box office hit. In The Clouded Yellow they sit outside a country pub and later visit the lake district. It is an amazing time-capsule of mid century bucolic English life. 



The Lady Eve (1941)
You wanna know what charisma is? Look no further than this performance from the incomparable Barbara Stanwyck. You can't take your eyes off her: Scintillating! 

I don't know anything about the relationship between Stanwyck and writer/director Preston Sturges but it is hard to imagine that this dialogue could be performed by any other woman. Surely it was written with her in mind. 

Remember The Night (1940)
I thought this was going to be the greatest movie ever as this starts out the gate with a delicious premise of a prosecuting lawyer Jack (Fred McMurray) bailing out a bad arse jewellery thief Lee (Barbara Stanwyck) because it's Christmas. An entertaining chain of events ensue but by the time they get to Jack's country hometown in the sticks they start laying on the cheese thick and fast so as to become pretty unwatchable by the end. Preston Sturges would never allow his screenplays to be directed by anyone but himself after this debacle.

The Strange Loves Of Martha Ivers (1946)
Not quite top tier noir but well worth a look for the performances of Barbara Stanwyck, Lizabeth Scott, Van Heflin and Kirk Douglas. A bit bloated but a good yarn nonetheless.

Baby Face (1933)
Pre-code Barbara Stanwyck gold. Flawless performance. It's incredible to think that they had really nailed talkies already as early as 1933. Baby Face is a fascinating portrait of Lily Powers (Stanwyck) rise from rags to riches. After an abusive childhood of being pimped out by her father during her her early teens Lily manages to accumulate considerable wealth as a young lady by using her feminine wiles to become a supreme gold digger. A morality and existential crisis ensues. 

Peak pre-code.

Crime Of Passion (1956)
Below average crime/noir flick but if you love your Barbara Stanwyck it is still worth a look, even if it's just to see how she handles this unconvincing clanger of a role. Actually now that I think about it, it's unintentionally more entertaining than it should be due the dubious improbable script and her clunky character arc. Perhaps if Stanwyck had camped it up some Crime Of Passion would have become a cult classic like many of Joan Crawford's starring vehicles of the same era later become. 


Storm Fear (1955)
Snowbound home invasion rural noir. How many of those are there? Also notable because Dan Duryea plays the good guy!

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)
Prequel to the 90s hit tv show Twin Peaks where we find out exactly what Laura Palmer was up to and how she reached her demise. An absolute nightmare of a film. This ain't no quirky whodunnit but an horrific depiction of the dark underbelly of idyllic Americana. Sheryl Lee who plays Laura Palmer puts in an all-time virtuoso acting performance like no other before or since. I'm so glad I revisited this flick. I had no idea my mind was not only going to change so much but be totally blown away. I Hated it when it came out. Hated it again in the 00s. Tried again in the early 10s and didn't like it. Now I think it's great, possibly the best thing David Lynch has ever done. It's like I'm seeing an entirely different film to the one I saw in 1992, quite a weird experience actually. I can't for the life of me imagine why I ever didn't think this was peak Lynch: Twin peaks really. 

Sunset Boulevard (1950)
A sordid cautionary Hollywood tale told with next level irony and cynicism. The mansion is an extraordinary feat in interior design. Dilapidated grandeur in excelcis in more ways than one. 

Mulholland Drive (2001)
The faux lesbian Hardy Boys go on a disturbing yet sumptuous psychedelic dream-logical trip into the nefarious heart of Hollywood. 

Stupendous film-making. 

Supreme entertainment. 

Laura (1944)
We all know the cinematic greatness and the terrific plot twists and turns of Laura. But what about the fact that Laura (Gene Tierney) was basically a beard for her previous two suiters prior to Mark (Dana Andrews) coming along?  

Hard Boiled (1992)
Action. Action. Action. Just prior to moving to Hollywood John Woo directed Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung Chiu-wai in this OTT dazzling 90s Hong Kong classic. While the last half an hour set in a hospital is one of the most famous set pieces in action cinema history my favourite part is the teahouse scene. The teahouse shootout scene begins with the violence of boiling hot kettles being thrust into the faces of the baddies, which is uniquely brutal, visceral and sensationally cinematic, then all hell breaks loose. Next Chow does that memorable sliding down the banister whilst shooting two pistols thing. Legendary.

Kiss The Blood Off My Hands (1948)
Not a horror movie as the title would suggest but an atypical noir flick set in London featuring a strange doomed couple. I mean if you you first meet a fella with him invading your bedroom by breaking in the window in the middle of the night, covering your mouth and almost strangling you to death, is true love really on the cards? Excellent performances from Burt Lancaster, Robert Newton and in particular Joan Fontaine. Also some the greatest ever noir cinematography from Russel Metty of The Stranger (1946) and Ride The Pink Horse (1947) fame.

The Spiral Staircase (1946)
More than just a bonkers serial murder mystery story. Like a giallo The Spiral Staircase has loads of atmosphere and red herrings galore. It also features supreme horror-noir cinematography from Nicholas Musuraca with way ahead of its time killer POV shots. Prior to viewing I didn't realise that it's a slasher innit.

Directed by my other main man of cinema Robert Siodmak. Legendary Ole Bob had terrific run of noir pictures. He made at least ten classic movies in a very short period of time from 1944-1950. The very definition of a purple patch.

The Lodger (1944)
Good silly little creepy Jack The Ripper flick.

I Walked With A Zombie (1943)
There is a film none more atmospheric than this. Spectacular and spectacular cinematography from Roy J Hunt

Peak Eerie.

The Cat People (1942)
Creepy when I saw it as kid on telly, so much so that I could never forget this film and four decades later it's even more creepy. Val Lewton produces. Jaques Tourneur directs. Nicholas Musuraca rolls film. All the shadowy apprehensive goodness you could want in a horror movie. Simone Simon is totally engrossing as the peculiar, aberrant and unsound Irena Dubrovna. 

The Ghost Ship (1943)
What an odd film. Somewhere between a melodrama and a thriller. Really it's a serial killer flick though innit. When I was a kid every second film on the telly was set on a boat. I probably thought some kind of maritime life was ahead of me and that I'd die at sea as well... Anyway this is another Val Lewton production this time with editor of 1942's Cat People Mark Robson directing only his second feature and we've got cinematographer extraordinaire Nicholas Musuraca on board here too.

The ship captain (Richard Dix) starts to lose his mind which puts his crew in perilous danger. Tom (Russel Wade) the ship's third officer is onto this reckless negligence but the rest of the crew in an effort to conform to the captain's authority and not cause any dissent conspire against him. So the captain continues to wreak havoc on the boat. Can he be stopped?  

Lawrence Tierney made his first appearance on film as the doomed crew member Louie. The anchor chain locker scene is one of the most memorable scenes of horrifying claustrophobia in cinematic history. Special mention must go to legendary calypso singer Sir Lancelot (I Walked With A Zombie) for his ace supporting role.

The Old Dark House (1932)
More pre-code gold here. An outstanding cast in an outstanding setting, outstandingly directed with outstanding cinematography, makes this one hell of an outstanding comedy-horror-thriller. I'm so glad I've still got movies like this that I'd never seen up my sleeve. Hopefully there are plenty more unseen classics like this waiting to be discovered so that my eyes and ears may continue to be tantalised. 

A dangerous storm in the dark Welsh countryside sends the car, with married couple Margaret (Gloria Stuart) and Phil (Raymond Massey) and their bachelor friend Roger (Melvyn Douglas), off the road but they come across an old farmhouse where they seek shelter. Little do they know that a demented family of psychos dwell within this dilapidated mansion. The frightening Femm family are played by stage and screen luminaries Boris Karloff, Ernest Thesiger, Eva Moore, Brember Wills and Elspeth Dudgeon. Another stranded couple Sir William Porterhouse (Charles Laughton) and Gladys (Lilian Bond) soon turn up too and a delirious array of frightening, deranged and violent shenanigans ensue. Add in some romance and comedy and you've got yourself a rollicking good time. 

Sunday 17 December 2023

A Formal Sigh - Looking At Walls

A Formal Sigh - Looking At Walls (1981)
More shadowy post-punk shenanigans. This time from Liverpool outfit A Formal Sigh. No wonder we've never heard of them: they're called "A Formal Sigh" that's the worst fucking band name in history! Not even doing a John Peel session could save them from their name. They never ended up making a record during the lifetime (1980-82) of the band, even though they were being touted as the next big Liverpudlian thing for a while. Looking At Walls is top post-154 gloomy guitar goodness. That ominous early eighties sound!

Friday 15 December 2023

Fade To Black - Soundtrack

Fade To Black - Soundtrack (1984)
Absolutely infectious post-punk with all the goth-y/synth-y vibes. Reminds me of something great I just can't quite put my finger on right now...maybe like what The Feelies would have sounded like, if instead of being VU obsessed, they were Californian deathrock wannabes. I like to imagine there's at least thousand unknown and neglected tunes from the 80s just like this lying around waiting to be discovered by my eardrums. What a great sound this bunch of San Franciscan hair had. Energetic and quite anthemic.


Thursday 14 December 2023

David Lynch & Dean Hurley - Slow 30's Room

David Lynch & Dean Hurley - Slow 30's Room (2017)
Where the world's of David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Mark Fisher, haunty-ology and The Caretaker further intertwine.

Angelo Badalamenti - The Fireman (2017)
Also from Twin Peaks: The Return Part 8 which was the cinematic event of the last twenty years even though it was on the telly. Despite Badalamanti tunes being scarce during the eighteen hours of Twin Peaks: The Return, one of his best ever compositions was actually commissioned for Part 8. It's unbelievable to think Lynch only procured four new Badalamenti compositions for this epic 2017 telly-visual saga, when for the first two seasons of Twin Peaks, Angelo made over six and a half hours of music. Perhaps he was indisposed! I don't actually know the story behind why such a small amount of Angelo's music was recorded for the show. Anyway The Fireman is primo cosmic, epic and emotional organ musick.

Monday 11 December 2023

The World Spins · Julee Cruise

Haley's Comet's come and gone...
...Falling through this night alone

*A supreme pop culture moment...well several really: Inclusion on the Floating Into The Night The LP, Twin Peaks Episode 14 and Twin Peaks: The Return Part 17.

Laura Palmer's screams echoing throughout the woods endlessly. 

Angelo Badalamenti - Dark Space Low
The final piece of music in Twin Peaks ever. 

Carrie Page, Laura Palmer doppelgänger and/or Laura Palmer.

Wednesday 6 December 2023


It's Christmas season that means one exciting thing: There's a new Moon Wiring Club album.  

This is some hallucinogenic shit. A psychedelic musique concrète dub miasma, Scatterbrain 9 is like the perfect soundtrack for 2023's dysphoric overload. It feels like the noxiousness of the relentless psychological warfare placed upon us by our overlords has permeated this once playfully spooky project giving it a different type of nefariousness this time. A deleterious force has contaminated this once enchanted village, in the most glorious way of course. Delirious. 

No one in the 21st century has the synergy of sound & vision honed to such an impeccably specific degree that Moon Wiring Club does. Ian Hodgson's Moon Wiring Club is an aesthetic triumph

Monday 4 December 2023

Chasin' the Voodoo · Al Di Meola

Al Di Meola - Chasin' the Voodoo (1978)
Congas. Congas. Congas. More drivin' Al Di. This time it's a cinematic cosmic car chase to track down the voodoo.