Psycho II (1983). Film review of the slasher horror

Anthony Perkins phone Psycho II (1983)
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Horror

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy
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New films out in the UK…Friday 4 March 2016

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A list of the new films being released across the UK, from Friday 4 March 2016. Use the Find Any Film website for details of which cinema nearest to you will show these movies.

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Use the search function on the left of the screen to look for other reviews and updates.

The ChoiceThe Choice film poster

Author Nicholas Sparks’ (The Notebook, The Best Of Me, et al) chronicling of young love continues with this adaptation of his novel about a young couple who fall in love until the girl’s involvement in a car accident upends their lives. See the official website for more; this will be showing all over the UK.

Hail, Caesar!Hail Caesar poster

The big release of the week is the Cohen brothers’ latest comedy about the kidnapping for ransom of a major Hollywood star (George Clooney) who is bumbling his way through a big budget, ancient Rome epic. Josh Brolin plays real-life producer Eddie Mannix, Scarlett Johansson is an Esther Wlliams style actress and Tilda Swinton is the gloriously named gossip columnist Thessaly Thacker. See the official website for the trailer and details; it will be playing all over the UK.

The Other Side Of the DoorThe Other Side Of The Door poster

The Walking Dead‘s Sarah Wayne Callies stars in this horror. A tragic accident takes the life of a family’s young son. The inconsolable mother learns of an ancient ritual that will bring him back to say a final goodbye. She travels to an ancient temple, where a door serves as a mysterious portal between two worlds. But when she disobeys a sacred warning to never open that door, she upsets the balance between life and death. See the Fox webpage for more. The film will be showing across the UK, but use Find Any Film for your nearest cinema.

Hitchcock/Truffauthitchcock_truffaut film poster

We rather liked this documentary about French New Wave director Francois Truffaut’s interviews with (and subsequent book about) the film director Alfred Hitchcock. Read our review above for more, but the film is now out on general release, showing at these key cities.

TruthTruth poster

Journalism is currently the hot topic in cinemas, the release of this film coming hot on the heels of Spotlight winning Best Film at the recent Oscars. This movie follows a scoop about a US President who is alleged to have shirked his war duties. But, in the cold light of media analysis, does the evidence stand up to scrutiny? Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett star. It will have a wide release, so check Find Any Film for your nearest participating movie venue. The official website has the lowdown.

Goodnight MommyGoodnight Mommy poster

In the heat of the summer in a lonesome house in the countryside, nine year old twin brothers await their mother’s return.  When she comes home, bandaged after cosmetic surgery, nothing is like before and the children start to doubt whether this woman is actually who she says she is. Showing at key cities only, check out the trailer to see if this one for you.

Time Out Of MindTime Out Of Mind poster

Richard Gere plays a man who finds himself suddenly living on the streets. He befriends a season veteran of homelessness and begins to repair his relationship with his estranged daughter. Showing at key cities only, check out Cold Iron’s webpage for the trailer.

And on Thursday 10 March…

The Divergent Series: AllegiantDivergent Series- Allegiant poster

The sci-fi series continues, Beatrice and Tobias venture into the world outside of the fence and are taken into protective custody by a mysterious agency known as the Bureau of Genetic Welfare. Theo James and Shailene Woodley co-star. See the official website for more, this will be showing at just about every cinema in the UK.

Top 5 Films on UK TV this Christmas

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A list of the top 5 films being screened on UK TV channels during the 2015 Christmas and New Year period, in order of when they are being screened.

To like this review, comment on it or to follow this blog, please scroll to the bottom of the page.

Murder On the Orient Express (1974)
Showing on ITV3 Saturday 19 December 2:10pm and Tuesday 22 December, 3:30.

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Hitchcock/Truffaut (2015)

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Maysa Moncao’s film review of the documentary about the creation of the seminal biography of film director Alfred Hitchcock, authored by fellow director Francois Truffaut, via the Toronto  International Film Festival.

4stars-Very good lots to enjoy 1

 

 

If you desire to be more than an ordinary film-goer, you should spend some of your time reading ’Hitchcock/Truffaut’.

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The White Shadow (1924)

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Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Woolf & Freedman/Selznick.

SILENT

Cast and Crew

Producers: Michael Balcon/Victor Saville.
Writers: Michael Morton, Alfred Hitchcock.
Camera: Claude L. McDonald.
Sets: Alfred Hitchcock.

Betty Compson, Clive Brook, A.B. Imeson, Daisy Campbell, Henry Victor.

Synopsis

A tale of two polar opposite twin sisters, Georgina and Nancy (Compson) – one craves the party life in Paris, the other is a good girl with a ‘soul’ (the shadow of the film’s title). Mixed in with this is a gentlemanly American (Brook) who ends up romancing both following a joke played by one of the girls.

Review

One of the ‘Hitchcock five’, a number of previously lost or rarely seen movies made in the silent era by the director Alfred Hitchcock because the copy of the film had degraded to such a degree they were deemed unwatchable. The films were released in 2013 by the BFI to much fanfare following the committed efforts of film restorers.

The White Shadow is not one of the better films and this isn’t just because a third of the film is lost forever. Co-producer Balcon said in 1969 that the film was rushed into at the time as they were desperate to retain Compson, a popular actress at this time in Britain and then later in Hollywood, as a leading lady (she had just helmed their hit Woman to Woman) before she returned to the states.

Big mistake as this film tanked at the box office and the results show with a thin and frustratingly dull plot. Think of one of the most boring story-lines in Downton Abbey without the words. It doesn’t help that a segment of the film is missing entirely leading to a shocking jump in the story where several characters have either died or changed beyond recognition; the script was obviously silly but this is compounded further at this point.

Amongst the amusing silent movie period discrepancies are the tourists who change their travel plans so they can hook up with a total stranger on a boat and the sensitively worded police communications (which thankfully have improved since 1924) on missing person letters, explaining to frantic loved ones that “thousands go missing and are never seen again”.

The restorers are to be praised whole heartedly for their own masterful cinematic wizardry. International teams must have been run ragged cleaning and re-framing this little batch and richly deserve the plaudits heaped on them. Although there a few brief moments during the film when the original film stock’s disintegration was too much to overcome, it never detracts from watching the film and reminds us again of the quality work that has gone in here.

 

Champagne (1928)

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Director: Alfred Hitchcock. British International Pictures (BIP)

COMEDY

 

Producer: John Maxwell. Writers: Alfred Hitchcock, Eliot Stannard. Camera: John J. Cox. Music: Mira Calix (2012 reissue). Sets: Wilf Arnold.

Betty Balfour, Jean Bradin, Ferdinand van Alten, Gordon Harker.

SYNOPSIS

Spoiled heiress Balfour defies her father by running off to marry her handsome but poor lover (Bradin). But Daddy (Harker) has a few tricks up his sleeve to show his daughter who is in control.

REVIEW

Hitch’s effervescent silent comedy stars the irrepressible and mostly adorable Balfour (so called the British Mary Pickford, though here she’s far gamier and raucous than eternal child of the screen Pickford ever was) and is as delightful as the bubbles up your nose that champagne itself can bring.

Hitch was never the master of comedy, but when he attempted one they were clever and efficiently produced. Champagne is an of-it’s-time frothy confection on the surface, but underneath runs a vein of cutting social observation. Hitch’s sly swipes at the frivolously hedonistic ‘It’ girls of the day have more than just a whiff of mendacious commentary. Perhaps this explains the ‘fun’ that comes from the storyline as Balfour is hoodwinked by all around her, veritable torture for such a flibbertigibbet.

His attention would always be on the visuals and there is an awesome opening shot, as a champagne bottle’s cork and contents explode over the camera, cutting directly to the point of view of a club reveller downing a glass of bubbly, the dancers in front of him magnified through the side of the glass. There is an ingenious trick shot later, aboard a rocking ocean liner, the crew lurching to and fro in perfect unison. Later, Balfour appears to whizz in and out of Bradin’s view as he succumbs to sea sickness.

Balfour has buckets of charm as the original 24 hour party girl. Bradin is good looking but otherwise vacuous as the socialist minded boyfriend whom she adores.

This reissue, from the British Film Institute, features an intriguing, other-worldly score from Calix, who herself described her music as “psychedelic”. Audiences will certainly agree; it may take a little getting used to. It’s interesting to note how a different score can totally change the meaning and appreciation of a silent film. Calix makes eerie use of violins during the opening, as shrill and nerve jolting as those Bernard Hermann would utilise in Hitch’s Psycho (1960). It is a slightly epileptic modern jazz, almost discordant but never displeasing, like a pleasant hangover. The original vocals, by the Juice vocal ensemble, are almost a sibilant wail and veer from Madonna’s ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ to Pink’s ‘Get the Party Started’, suitably complementing the kooky acoustics.

A tasty and satisfying vintage that has been made glorious for modern eyes and ears.

 

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1926)

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Film review of the silent Alfred Hitchcock film starring Ivor Novello.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Gainsborough/Carlyle Blackwell.

SILENT

 

 

Cast & credits

Producers: Michael Balcon, Carlyle Blackwell.
Writers: Alfred Hitchcock, Eliot Stannard.
Camera: Gaetano di di Ventimiglia, Hal Young.
Music: Ashley Irwin (1999 reissue).
Sets:
C. Wilfred Arnold, C. Bertram Evans.

Ivor Novello, June, Marie Ault, Arthur Chesney, Malcolm Keen.

SYNOPSIS

There has been a series of brutal murders, in which the victims are all blonde women. Young Daisy’s (June) parent’s take in a mysterious and creepy, but handsome, young lodger (Novello). He has a habit of being absent from the house during the time that each new victim is slain. But pretty, golden haired Daisy is drawn to him and spends more time in his rooms, even as her mother (Ault) and her ex-boyfriend, a policeman (Keen) start to gather circumstantial evidence against him.

REVIEW

Jack the Ripper has long held a grip on British criminology and the public fascination with crime ever since he committed his atrocities against women in the 1890’s.

Within less than a year, this still unknown assailant had killed five prostitutes in the east end of London. Despite a committed police effort and local uprising at their perceived inefficiencies, he was never caught. To this day, he hasn’t been conclusively identified, so his presence looms over us still somewhat.

In this film, based very loosely on the case, a young director who would cast his own, rather portly, shadow across international cinema, lets us see the flip side of the coin in the Ripper saga.

Known to most audiences by the first part of it’s title (for a ‘story of the London fog’, there is precious little of that in any part of the film), this early offering from Hitchcock offers an intriguing taster of what he would deliver to film audiences over the next half century.

On reflection, and seen as a whole piece, The Lodger is not as arresting as Hitch’s other silent films (Blackmail being an obvious example). This film can perhaps be seen as Hitchcock groping his way toward the full narrative and stylistic mise en scene that would later be so easily recognisable as ‘Hitchcockian’.

This furtive fumbling in the cinematic darkness might explain The Lodger‘s plodding pace that is a major detraction. For less than an hour and a half, the time seems to drag. The relative lack of the key ingredients that make Hitch’s films uniquely his compounds this feeling further.

Never the less, there are some intimate, sexually charged shots as Hitch and his cameraman catch Novello and June in glistening soft-focus close-ups as they kiss for the first time. His taste for expressionistic visual flourishes abounds (Daisy’s mother in her starkly designed room; the silhouette of the window frames that projects a cross on Novello’s face when he first moves in).

Daisy’s nosey and perceptive mother (Ault), who cottons on to Novello’s weirdness before the coppers, elaborates on Hitch’s obvious mistrust of the police and capture, that would be most noticeable in later products, such as The Wrong Man and North by Northwest.

Novello may have been the darling of London stage and society at this time but his histrionic, fey turn is as suspect as his character (for a man attempting to go undercover, he blows his cover with creepy Nosferatu body language stares before he’s even stepped foot inside the front door).

Blackmail (1929)

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Director: Alfred Hitchcock. British International Pictures.

SILENT

 

Producer: John Maxwell. Writer: Alfred Hitchock. Camera: Jack Cox. Sets: W.C. Arnold.

Anny Ondra, John Longden, Donald Calthrop, Sara Allgood, Charles Paton, Cyril Ritchard, Hannah Jones, Sam Livesey.

SYNOPSIS

Young Alice (Ondra), bored with her workaholic Detective boyfriend (Longden), dumps him one night to spend a night on the tiles with an artist (Ritchard) who has taken a shine to her. Invited into his flat, he forces himself on her, forcing her to stab him in self-defence. A creepy man (Calthrop) who earwigged on their earlier conversation attempts to blackmail her.

REVIEW

Rarely seen (and more the pity) as this entirely silent film of Hitchcock’s more famous, semi-talkie version is a stand-alone piece itself, seen to be of better quality.

Blackmail is undoubtedly a visual binge for the eyes, one they will drink in heartily, happily suffering a celluloid hangover. The feats accomplished here are more surprising when one considers that at this time in cinema the silent camera was only just experiencing the dizzying liberation from its usually static confines. Directors such as Hitchcock, Eisenstein and Murnau were now fully confident in utilising all aspects of the art form from acting to camerawork and editing to result in the most thrilling motion pictures.

Here, Hitchcock almost knocks the viewer out with an audacious series of shots and techniques:

His frequent and innovative use of mobile camera as he swings his camera from one character to another, jumps into a ringing phone and also tracks his actors as they walk around the sets.

He performs an immaculately staged craning shot, swiftly following Ondra and Ritchard as they ascend four floors of a Chelsea townhouse with elevator smoothness. Camera wise, Blackmail outclasses most other films of this period, if not all of them.

Hitchcock had already started developing his very own mise en scene in his earlier films’ and would continue to develop this throughout his career, tickling film critics and theorists the world over, as they look ever deeper for psychosexual meanings behind ‘The Master’s’ images.

There are the visual motifs (the outstretched hands of various characters mimics the hand of the murder victim, as if he taunts Ondra from beyond the grave), the car wheels that whirl around, giving chase to not only a criminal at the film’s opening but then Ondra and her complicit lover thereafter.

There are the visual jokes of course. As Ondra walks home from committing her double sins, the sign on a theatre notes the play is a comedy; an advertisement billboard extols the virtues of a gin that is “white as purity”. Hitchcock’s trademark appearance before the camera is as a commuter harassed by a little boy on the underground.

There is also a juicy humour interspersed throughout; when Ondra comes to the police station, ostensibly to ‘fess up, the policeman is incredulous that this could see “women detectives in the yard”, the obvious anachronism not being lost on an appreciative audience.

The technical details of how the sound and silent versions cross-over and how the films came to be made in such a manner could fill a whole other review, but suffice to say contrary to legend, Hitchcock almost certainly planned Blackmail from the outset as finishing at least a part talkie. But the dual production style helped both films contrast and also complement each other in the end.

Ondra, despite her notoriety these days as one of the most unfortunate casualties of the sound transfer (her Polish accent, deemed impenetrable for British audiences, meant she mouthed her lines for the sound version whilst actress Joan Barry spoke hers from nearby on set) turns in a delicate, tortured performance as a flighty girl caught in an escalation of Hitchcockian coincidence. She also displays one the finest pairs of legs in the movies.

Allgood, playing her devoted mother who nags incessantly about doing the cleaning whilst her murderess daughter is being conned in the parlor, would go onto a successful career in Hollywood that ultimately saw her nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for How Green Was My Valley (1944).