Friday, 24 July 2009

George McBride Remembers Space Zeppelin

From the memories of the late George McBride, edited slightly from what was given in interview:

Space Zeppelin was a wonderful experience, starring actors you probably have never heard of. George Muffin Taylor, Brian Tellidude McNut and little Anne Wainthorpe. Made in the early sixties, it was my first non-exploitation film. It was my first time with a real effects budget. Alas it was not my first time with good actors but at least they were professional and sober.

What makes a good actor. I'll tell you. Focus on the lines. Don't inflect, don't whine, don't shake your arms and any other noteworthy body parts. Be serious. Be courageous in trusting that the writer knows what he is doing. For the first time my actors did that. And that's all you can ask as a director.

You know the plot of course. Zeppelin's appear from space, float into atmosphere and amass all over the world. Then the world begins to get paranoid, madness spreads, mothers killing sons, daughters killing fathers, children killing clowns, while the Zeppelin's do nothing. Of course in the second half the massive robots attack. Kinda like Daleks but we got out three months earlier. Too bad about our publicity budget, as we called them in those days, didn't stretch very far.

You know the writer objected to the robot attack. Said it would be scarier if the Zeppelins remained, were never explained, as they didn't quite make sense, thus would be creepy. What rot! People can imagine space zeppelins and that's all you need as the base for a man versus robot movie. Our way of getting rid of the robots was wonderful. There was rain and they all rusted. That was a wonderful touch by the writer, although he said it was sarcasm. Their winding down I think was wonderfully haunting, as they yell die, unable to move, as their Zeppelins wind down and crash into the cities below. It was one of my best reviewed films, is quite the cult oddity now.

Black and white is a wonderful visual too for a director, especially with models. Nowadays its all colour this and bulging that but in the good old days of acting and craft, black and white could save you a bob or two and give you the reputation as a craftsman.

That's all I have to say about the film Space Zeppelin. It literally speaks for itself.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

The New World: Extended Cut

I'll blog on this probably later but the extended cut of The New World is a stunning achievement. The film was already a masterpiece and this cut made it far better. The extended moments added depth to the great images and gave them context beyond what was there in the original cut. I've just finished watching it so will need distance before writing something that is intelligent.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Terminator's Future

This is just me musing as I try and avoid going to bed (or ever see Transformers 2).

Where the hell is this series going? It's vomited all of its goodwill as a film series into the lap of the brain-deadened consumer, especially after Terminator 3. I mean I liked Terminator Salvation more than average but it wasn't the most imaginative of films, as it didn't suggest a truly intriguing world, nor the most interesting of narratives or character arcs, and basically didn't have that kick that a proper film needs. It was like a Planet Of the Apes sequel. Fun, okay-ish, I'd happily watch it on a Saturday night, would watch it over part 3 any day of the week. I like Christian Bale ranting like a madman. But I'd rather watch a Mad Max movie first. Or the first two Terminators. How the hell did they manage to piss away all the audience goodwill from the first two films? I don't think even the most enthusiastic of terminator fans are now that interested in Terminator 5. (I'm probably one of them but a note to G.S. you never read this sentence. Go back to sleep. This entire article is just a bad dream. Look behind you. It's a Bresson film. Or a Bunuel film. What is reality? Is reading this article just a projection of your up-coming madness?)

So the glow has gone and now middle-age, impotence, insomnia, bad backs, premature ejaculation (Terminator 3, sorry, couldn't resist), all that good stuff, has now afflicted the series. And there seems to be no cure.

And yet the TV show grew slowly but surely into something interesting, if a little slow at times. It had solid characters, good b-movie premises that followed on from the film. I admit the dialogue sometimes could be as subtle as using a crowbar to pick your nose but it was better than the last two films by a wide margin. The show actually had a decent, intriguing ending. It had sub-plots over the development of machines that, while not stunning developments, did progress the story well. It's character's progressed and got more interesting over time. It had a sexy Terminator that the hero frankly kinda wanted to bone, which was an interesting story choice. Given a choice, that's the story terminator fans would be more intrigued by.

I say give the guy who wrote the TV show a shot at the films. The films now have to be at a lower budget, which will probably improve them no end as it forces more novel story solutions, and truly need a character and story focus over action. The first two films had stories you remember and had real character moments and continuing beats. The last two films feel like an effects orgy, hoping no-one will notice. They may even be able to do subtle things to bring together the time-lines, or simply follow the end of the TV show. It could definitely open up some kind of continuation, especially of the one line that still has story interest.

Anyway, that's all. I'm off to watch Blade: the Series starring Sticky Fingaz (just kidding).


Torchwood is cheesy as hell in so many ways yet is still a lot of fun, killing off loads of people and damaging others apparently. Still, what's the deal, Dr Who the show kills nobody really (annoyingly actually) but Torchwood is like Friday The 13th of British TV. Anyone who appears is gonna end up dead eventually. And since they all have sex I'm guessing they must deserve it or something.

Of course its dark in a kind of safe way. (Even its gayness is done in a very safe, unsexualised way. Come on, annoy some people please!) Its entertaining but you don't really remember much of it later, unlike Battlestar Galactica, The Wire or Deadwood. The characters still feel like TV safe cliches at the end of the day, not having enough humane and complex elaboration for the situations to stick, something the flawed but more complex show like Terminator eventually developed. For example Torchwood in the past year and a half has killed all but two of its leads and yet nothing as is affecting as the death of a boy in Deadwood, as you saw how it affect an entire community in a complex way over time, like it would in life, or the arrest of a stupid and irritating character in season 2 of The Wire, as it lead to a stunning scene between two character at a children's play park, reminiscing while drunk, which was heart-breaking, as it delivered broken character and the sense of the waste of a generation. Torchwood doesn't fill in these human gaps, doesn't take its time, even in its character moments. Everything is too broad and signalled, even its supposed complexities. It never hit the stunning depths of the mutiny near the end of Galactica's run, where the villain's had a point, conscience, and the deaths were truly a result of the protagonist's inability to treat opponents with the most basic of human rights. Even the Terminator show, which had the same genre and populist constraints, did much better with human moments, the best being the soldier from the future who had to kill his love for a betrayal, something that had tremendous ambiguity and a sense that all had a point of view and and after it all, most of the characters probably wanted to be sick. It had kick as the human moments were built carefully over time and had a real pay-off when the time was right to deliver.

So Torchwood remains in a weird spot. Its better than it should be (its a spin-off of Dr Who after all). It's watchable but without distinction. It has good episodes that are neat but ultimately derivative. Its bad episodes are really bad. At this point I kinda get the feeling that its never going to find its feet to really pull everything together and will wander on for a year or so before disappearing for good.


This is the quickest post I'll ever write. This film is really stupid.

Monday, 6 July 2009

George McBride Obituary

While many a celebratory dies and are feted, no matter how unsavoury some parts of their lives were, some passings go unnoticed. One of those is George McBride, an elderly gay director whose career spanned many eras, from fifties quota quickie sci-fi to sixties nudie zombie biker movies, Roger Corman and American TV.

His producer, Jackson Tulord Breen DeWitt Delauncy 111, an elderly gent himself, (over 100 years old), remembers McBride fondly.

Old George was a strange one. I first laid eyes upon his ghastly nervous shell as he rebounded from a car driven by a thirteen year old child. He got up, took it with grace and got back to work, although the scenes he shot that day for me were a little lacking. Strangely the film made money, yet it was about a dog fighting an alien and its pet floozy in a small English village, so I think it was partially the writing. I remember a great suggestion of repressed sexuality in that one, that George would know all about.

George hated being asked personal questions, especially about his sexuality, which he would try to hide by buying obscene amounts of adult literature. Even the most perverted man could not get through a third of what he bought. He would be an exhausted shell, like the victims in one of George's infamous Nazi-fetish German alien invasion film Herr Slutz Die Neiberling. He was also deathly dull. That line from that semi-remake of George's 1965 bomb Abomination Wolf said it best. "Have you ever talked to a corpse. It's boring." George was like that.

Also, now I come to think of it, many a time could be stunningly unobservant. He always thought I was seventy when I was only twenty years older than him, the cheeky bugger. And his films were deadly and grotesquely paceless, to the point of masochism in regard to watching them, which why he has a following many have observed. They didn't intrigue, rise the passions, dip a little while the writer was drunk, then have have an orgy of either sex or violence (my rule, one, the other, or both!!!!).They meandered on like a serial killer looking for his next skin, like having sex with a vicar, a subject in which many, including myself and George, know a lot about. So they were bloody boring. God, I hated dailies when he was directing coma victims. In my day, producing quota quickies, we would hire the most pervy sicko's just to get through the day, on-screen and off. George had no truck with that so I only saw his films by contractual obligation.

Continuity bothered him even less than me. As I was a producer, that is damning. He didn't really show any interest in actors, actresses, dialogue pacing, story progression, scripts even. His motto was how many pages and where's the pub. And that's an attitude unfortunately lacking in today's directors.

After I fired George for giving oral sex to a leading man five minutes before a start of a day, I never saw him again. Oh I heard of his projects yet I never bothered to look them out as they seemed trashy, probably not in a good way. I never really had any interest in his personal life and would probably have walked by him in the street, given the choice.

I went to his rainy, cheap vulgar funeral, as I felt I should. His few friends had expired years ago from AIDS, there being ten people who sort of knew him. They said it was lung cancer officially but most youngsters sulking around the grave,, trying to cry with passion said it was the booze finally that left him adrift and exiting this mortal.... you know the rest. Ah well. So George McBride is dead. This may sound cruel buts its probably for the best.

A note: Some McBride fans object to the suggestion of why McBride left DeLauncy's employ, most saying it was other studio's offering him work. They also refuse to acknowledge his gayness, which is odd. But McBride was a strange, probably over-rated director. His cult continues to grow.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Brosnan Bond Movies

Basically, why in the hell were the Brosnan movies so bad.

Was just wondering about this. Roger Moore gets a kicking, a lot. but really, save his last one, View To A Kill, the rest were fun and did what you'd expect from Roger Moore. A lot of droll, campy fun, with Moore delivering in a very deft way that looks effortless. Its kind of like Adam West in Batman or Shatner in Star Trek. It's not classical acting, is over the top, but you have to acknowledge a certain skill. And its loads of fun. What more do you want? The Moore films, despite being of their time, hold up very well as entertainment.

Connery- Great, nasty, even in the weaker ones. Shame about the rest of his career where he became one of the worst actors ever to assault the screen, save a few odd moments.

Lazenby- Not a great Bond, a bit thick, but brutal, with one terrific, dark film. He puts Brosnan to shame and was a model to boot.

Dalton- Very under-rated and spare, with a warm sense of humour and sparks of humanity below the darkness. Both Bond films were terrific spy movies. He more or less lead the way to the Craig films of now and is definitely worthy of study.

Craig- Casino Royale was terrific, made with real bite and nastiness but Quantum Of Solace wasn't. It was okay but he really needs a good third film and some expansion in the role before he becomes two one-note. And on a personal note, he still isn't forgiven for The Invasion.

Now Brosnan. Terrible jokes, a bit smarmy. He made the two worst Bond movies ever (yes, worse than the sixties Casino Royale) with Tomorrow Never Dies and Die Another Day. These are unwatchable. His two better ones still had very long minutes of dullness, were very long (could have lost a good twenty minutes each), and had a leading man who wasn't well, very good. Basically both could have starred any other Bond and been drastically improved. Brosnan is a weak actor without much inner drive, which leads to a constant blandness, inertia and vague nervousness that dulls any interest in what he's doing. So why is his stint tolerated, or viewed as good? Lowering standards? Enough explosions? A desire to see a bond movie? Who knows but try watching any of his bond films now.

So that's the rant. If you like Brosnan as Bond I pity you.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Snuff Box

Snuff Box is brilliant. Written by and starring Matt Berry and Rich Fulcher, its a twisted, absurdist romp between the strained friendship of an annoying American and a boorish Englishman. Both work for a hangman, bicker and treat each other and others shoddily, and play multiple characters. There is eventually some time travel, odd brothers and various other absurdities. Yet nothing is taken seriously.

Set mainly in an English upper class club, the fun of the show is that it takes nothing seriously. Its made up of cliches that the creators enjoy then twists these cliches by strange reactions, word use and a haphazard set of events. Nothing is ever close to make sense and no narrative is put into the show for anything other than to parody it. I'm not going to give away any of the jokes as its best to experience this as fresh as possible.

While I'm not familiar with Rich Fulcher, although I've kinda seen him in things, Matt Berry will be recognisable to many viewers who appreciate cult TV as Tod Rivers aka Dr Lucien Sanchez, from the endlessly hilarious Garth Marenghi's Darkplace. Here Berry really is allowed to let loose and is a hilarious swine throughout. Fulcher is the sensitive one and is just as funny, as the butt of every situation.

This show is for people who like the more oddball style of The League Of Gentlemen, Dr Terrible, or Black Books. Its got a wonderful affection for old culture and their absurdities that is very appealing.

Public Enemies

Public Enemies is the new Michael Mann film and it is beautiful. Its about death really, about people hanging onto something, adrenaline, a person, a job, to try and find a heartbeat, as life slowly draws to a close. The film is also about the rise of the FBI, from a series of state-controlled cop shops to one that is organised under J Edgar Hoover, with an eye to stamping down on organised crime.

The film is tied to the general facts, that Dillinger was released from jail, went on a crime spree, was caught, escaped again, things slowly going wrong for him as his people are slowly hunted down one by one by the feds while organised crime turns its back on him, leaving Dillinger with no way out. But its the details that really pump life into it.

We start, as with many Michael Mann films do, is by following the central character, seeing his world. Its is a world of detail, the setting up of the crime, the spread of people, Dillinger working out exactly what he needs to do to be successful while being very careful about the dangerous world he is in. We see the world quickly through details within action but Dillinger is always still, always focused.

Dillinger's problem is that he is defined by his society. He truly doesn't have much to him beyonds his smarts and what he thinks he is fighting for, which is money and to escape a lack of direction through direct action. Society and its appalling sins throughout the 1930's provides an enemy to him, something to define him. So when this society changes and gets wise to him, he has nowhere to go, has to wait slowly for death while those who he has genuine bonds with die one by one, usually in front of him, leaving him haunted, adrift and in hiding. The editing of the film is interesting in that the longer you spend with Dillinger without cutting away to others, this aspect comes through. This is a man in his own tomb, society around him focusing him in a way that leaves him few choices. Depp is great at suggesting a man adrift. I think this might be one of his very best performances, no longer fidgety, bored or distracted, which are some of his weaknesses at times as an actor. Here he always seems to be in the moment, seems challenged. Its pretty awful when you realise how little he is usually challenged by parts, always being too defined as quirky. This and his great turn in Sweeney Todd hopefully will lead to better work.

Bale is great also, is the film's secret weapon in that he's stunningly precise, being given little in elaboration but works on the details to suggest life behind a very careful exterior. Melvin Purvis is a civilised man who has to hunt psychopaths, has to be brutal for the public to survive such types. Bale gives wonderful reactions throughout to suggest both the civilised man and animal hunter existing side by side, always both, always a painful thing he has to deal with. Like Depp he is a good actor who gets half-written parts to elaborate upon. When working with a director such as Michael Mann, the details become the character without speeches so Bale can really do what he does best, which is instinctive, without giving speeches that elaborate and dull what he does best without words. In some ways this is what I wanted to see Bale do with Batman. In this he seems so much sharper and alive than we've seen since The Prestige or Rescue Dawn, two other recent Bale highlights. I really hope he continues to work with Mann as I think there could be some amazing work if Bale moves centre stage in the next Mann film.

Marion Coitallard is also terrific as Dillinger's girlfriend, playing what could be a dull part with a sense of the society that defines her. She doesn't have much screentime but really makes it a presence. Mann also gets back together with Stephen Lang, who plays Bale's lead hunter. Lang was in the masterpiece Manhunter, but more importantly, was the moral focus in Mann's other great work, Crime Story. Here he plays what should be a cold hunter and gives it stunning complexity. The film is great on the hunters of Dillinger, even though nothing much is said as its what's going on with looks and little shrugs, how someone studies a paper. Stephan Graham as the loony Baby Face Nelson is another indelible performance in a short time, as the guy is a nut but is cunning and animal like.

The film is full of moments of grace, from Bale hunting Pretty Boy Floyd, to the bank robberies, which start off as a rush and keep that pace, even as they start to suggest doom and no way out, toe Dillinger's end, one of the great death sequences in cinema.

The film is shot on video and looks terrific. Mann truly has worked the technology to be what he needs it to be. This film again shows that Mann is one of the few serious directors, along with Cronenberg, working today. Its an amazing experience, and like Miami Vice, sure to be underrated in favour of a more flashier type of film-making.