Home Blog

COUNT DUCKULA (1988-93). Review by Steve Kirkham

0

COUNT DUCKULA (1988-93)

3 stars (4 stars if you are a fan)
Fabulous Films. DVD. 3rd June
Often as a critic you are sent titles to review which quite honestly there are not enough hours in the day to fully watch and have a considered opinion about. Such is COUNT DUCKULA, with Fabulous Film releasing all 4 seasons on disc for your delectation. So this is more a preview than a full review as there is no way I could watch all 65 episodes before the release date.
That being a given I did dip into the series with my 6 year old grandson – he chuckled at some of the slapstick elements but wasn’t overly taken by it as a whole. Much of the humour is dialogue driven and as such is aimed at older children and adults, so I suspect the main audience for this set will be those who have a nostalgia for this cartoon about a vegetarian vampire who goes on various adventures using his castle which can teleport to different locations.
Created by Cosgrove Hall, this was spin-off from the better known DANGERMOUSE, with David Jason returning to the fold to voice the main character, having also been the voice of Dangermouse in the classic cartoon. Duckula first appeared as a villain in that animation – whereas this time out he is a vegetarian due to the fact that he was resurrected using tomato ketchup by mistake. That’s about the level of the silly humour it seems.
The intro and ending are narrated by Barry Clayton doing his best Vincent Price impersonation – allegedly much to Price’s annoyance after he saw the show.
This was a show that passed me by – as I indicate in my star rating above, if you are a fan you are going want to get this DVD set.
EXTRAS
2 stars
Interview with Brian Cosgrove
Interview with John Doyle
How to Draw Count Duckula with Mike Whaite
Stills Gallery

CJ7 (2008). Review by Steve Kirkham

0

CJ7 (2008)

3 stars
88 Films. Blu Ray. Out Now
Young Dicky (Jiao Xu) has little money and is bullied by the rich kids at school because of his poor background. This, despite the fact his dad Ti (Stephen Chow) works hard in construction, to give his son a better life and to have the all the opportunities (since his Mum died) and enable him to go to the fancy school.
His father tries to instill good values in his offspring (though you might question some of his methods) – to study hard so that he doesn’t end up like him, a lowly labourer.
When the young boy desperately wants a robotic toy dog, the CJ1, his Dad has to disappoint Dicky, as there is no way he can afford it. Then, going through the rubbish at the dump, as he often does, to find things like shoes for his son, he discovers something way better than a mechanic mutt. An adorable green bodied, furry headed, alien creature, like a small puppy – which Dicky calls CJ7. Son the other kids at school are jealous of this new ‘toy’.
Star Stephen Chow is probably best known for SHAOLIN SOCCER (2001) and KUNG FU HUSTLE (2004), so this sweet, family oriented movie is something of a change of pace. He also directed and co-wrote the script with Vincent Kok, Tsang Kan Cheong, Sandy Shaw Lai King, Fung Chih Chiang and Lam Fung – though why it took a committee to craft this lightweight confection is beyond me.
Undemanding entertainment with at times daft and silly humour that will likely appeal more to kids than adults.
This all looks fine on this Blu Ray though some of the CGI effects are a bit rudimentary.
Steve Kirkham
EXTRAS
3 stars
Subtitled Director’s Audio Commentary
Archival “The Story of CJ7” featurette (13 mins)
Archival “CJ7 TV Special” featurette (22 mins)
Archival “Anatomy of a Scene” featurette (6 mins)
Archival “How to Bully a Bully” featurette (4 mins)
Archival “How to Make a Lollipop” featurette (1 min)
English Theatrical Trailer
Reversible Sleeve featuring alternative artwork

PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES (1965) Reviewed by Steve Kirkham

0

PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES (1965)

4 stars
Radiance Films. Limited Edition Blu Ray. 27th May
PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES is something of a misnomer, as there are no vampires in the movie! Known as TERRORE NELLO SPAZIO in it’s native Italy, it has had numerous alternate titles over the years including Planet of Blood, Space Mutants, The Haunted Planet, The Haunted World, The Outlawed Planet, The Planet of Terror and Planet of the Damned.
The ship Argos, captained by Mark Markary (Barry Sullivan) makes a forced landing on the alien planet Aura following a distress call. For some reason the crew start attacking each other but are eventually snapped out of it. They then try to locate their sister ship Galliott and must set off across the strange landscape to try and rescue the stranded crew. They find them dead – having seemingly attacked each other in the same manner they had earlier. But soon things get creepy when the bodies rise from the dead…
One of several films that are cited as being influential on ALIEN – though Ridley Scott claims he has never seen it. This was an unusual dip into science fiction for visionary director Mario Bava, better known for his horror movies. With clever use of what was clearly a limited budget, this is a stylish, very 60s film, with its groovy leather clad space adventurers and funky use of colour. Bava was the king of being able to eke out the money he had to hand with clever use of lighting – and in this instance copious amounts of fog to cover the studio floor and the placement of several rocks to indicate the world in which they have landed.
Based on the pulp sf short story “One Night of 21 Hours” by Renato Pestriniero this Blu ray presents both the English language version and the original Italian. The presentation looks fantastic with rich colours and sharp picture showing off the 4K restoration from the original 35mm negative – which was supervised by Lamberto Bava, son of Mario (he worked as an assistant director on the production).
Interestingly the Italian version credits the script to Ib Melchior, Alberto Bevilacqua, Callisto Cosulich, Mario Bava, Antonio Roman and Rafael J. Salva whereas the English version just cites Ib Melchior alongside Louis B. Heyward.
Steve Kirkham
EXTRAS
4 stars
Archival Commentary from 2014 by Bava expert Tim Lucas
Transmissions from a Haunted World (41 mins) – A comprehensive new documentary which explores Planet of the Vampires, with a good career overview of Mario Bava and his films. Includes interviews with Guy Adams, Xavier Aldana Reyes, Alexandra Benedict, Johnny Mains and John Llewellyn Probert (did I spy a copy of a book I designed, The Peter Cushing Scrapbook on his shelves?)
Archival interview with Lamberto Bava discussing the film as he worked on it as third assistant director (13 mins)
Super 8 Version – a reconstruction of the German Super 8 cut down version – as Planet der Vampire (17 mins)
Joe Dante (4 mins) and Josh Olsen (2 mins) trailer commentaries – from Trailers From Hell
Trailer
Press and image gallery from the Tim Lucas / Alan Y. Upchurch collection
Plus you get Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Time Tomorrow
Limited edition 80-page book featuring new writing by Kyle Anderson, Martyn Conterio, Barry Forshaw, George Daniel Lea and Jerome Reuter
Limited edition 20-page booklet featuring a new translation of Renato Pestriniero’s original short story
A collection of six exclusive postcards featuring promotional material
Limited edition of 5000 copies

BREATHE (2024) Review by Steve Kirkham

0

3 stars
Signature Entertainment. Digital Platforms. Available now
We are in a post apocalyptic world in Brooklyn, New York in 2039. The oxygen levels are such that the world is uninhabitable without some kind of outfit, complete with breathing apparatus and plant life has also become non-existent. You know the usual cheery fate we face in so many sci fi movies. But clearly some folk have managed to survive.
Darius (Common) is a clever engineer who has made suits to enable going outside and survive the harsh environment plus has built a bunker to keep both himself and wife Maya (Jennifer Hudson) and daughter Zora (Quvenzhane Wallis) alive, which has an oxygen generator to enable them to breathe.
When his father dies, for some reason known only to himself, Darius decides to make the treacherous journey to bury him near his mother – quite why you would do this which such a harsh and uninviting environment is beyond me! When after several months he hasn’t returned, Maya and Zora have managed to survive … that is until Tess (Milla Jovovich), who claims to know Darius, turns up at their door, alongside Lucas (Sam Worthington) and Micah (Raul Castillo), and try to gain access by whatever means necessary. The duo are faced with a real fight for survival as the interlopers are determined to get inside.
About the best you can say about BREATHE is it has a good cast – shame they are wasted by a by the numbers, muddled script by Doug Simon, which never fully engages. There is some visual styling from director Stefan Bristol, with the scenes outside all burnt orange to depict the failed world. Unfortunately the stand-off between the mother and daughter and the outsiders never really excites – it has it’s moments but never reaches a satisfying whole.
Steve Kirkham

THE BODY STEALERS (1969). Review by Steve Kirkham

0

THE BODY STEALERS (1969)

3 stars
88 Films. Blu ray. Out Now
88 Films continue their exploration into Tony Tenser’s Tigon catalogue – better known for their horror titles like WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968), THE BODY STEALERS is a dip into science fiction territory.
A military airfield. A new type of parachute is being tested – but then suddenly a strange noise and the three men disappear mid-plummet. Then at an air show – again a weird sound, red and pink glow and some skydivers are gone.
An important meeting is called with the government to try and get to the bottom of this mystery. Hindesmith (Allan Cuthbertson), a civil servant, is demanding action from Jim Radford (Neil Connery, brother of Sean), the designer of the chute, General Armstrong (George Sanders) and Wing Commander Baldwin (Robert Flemyng).
By now eleven men are missing. They decide to look for outside help and bring in Bob Megan (Patrick Allen) to try and ascertain what has happened – though this lothario is more interested in every woman he meets than actually doing any investigating. This includes the odd Lorna (Pamela Conway) who he encounters on the beach, who has a penchant for skinny dipping and may well be associated with what’s going on.
Way too talky, the plot ambles along with very little actually happening and all delivered with a resolutely straight faced cast. Honestly, Tigon should have stuck to horror as this is a minor British sf. Still, it looks splendid, with a brand new fully uncut master – though a few scenes (presumably the previously snipped parts) are slightly inferior quality.
Carol Hawkins, best known as Sharon in the TV series PLEASE SIR! pops up briefly in her screen debut, Hilary Dwyer plays a scientist fending off Bob’s advances and it was nice to see the spaceship from the Cushing Doctor Who movie DALEKS’ INVASION EARTH 2150 AD (1966) turn up at the end – though sadly with no Daleks on board to enliven proceedings.
Also known as Thin Air
Steve Kirkham
EXTRAS
3 stars
Audio Commentary By Film Critics David Flint and Allan Bryce
Audio commentary by Actor Patrick Allen, moderated by author John Hamilton
The Making of The Body Stealers (41 mins): a talking heads documentary with Editor Howard Lanning, Dixon Adams (David), Pamela Conway (Lorna), Sally Faulkner (Joanna), Stand by props Arthur Wicks, Assistant Editor Marion Curren, Michael Culver (Lt. Bailes) and Boom operator Rolland Fowler
Invasion of The Body Stealers – An Introduction by Jon Dear (11 mins)
A Career Man – Will Fowler on George Sanders & The Body Stealers – a nice 20 minute overview
Original Trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring very cool new artwork by Sean Longmore & original poster

Infinity Index 61-72 by Mark Campbell

0

The legendary Mark Campbell has once again put his index fingers to good use to supply an up-to-date list of everything we have published. You’ll find the others on here too if want to check whether we have covered your favourite film, TV show, comic or even eccentric stuff like Letraset and Sea Monkeys! Infinity Index 61-72

FOOTPRINTS (1975) Review by Steve Kirkham

0

FOOTPRINTS (1975)

3 stars
Shameless. Blu Ray and digital 29th April
FOOTPRINTS appears to be highly regarded, but, having now seen it twice I have to say I struggled to see why? For me it was a film I appreciated for it’s artistry rather than enjoyed, finding it drawn out and with a script that goes out of its way to be confusing and obfuscating.
Florinda Bolkan plays Alice, a translator who is plagued by odd dreams of an astronaut who has been left on the moon (and which also features Klaus Kinski in a cameo as a Professor Blackman, enough to give anyone nightmares). This may have been from a film she saw some years previously called Blood on the Moon or Footprints on the Moon (which is also one of the several alternative titles of the movie under review).
When she finds out she has lost several days, which she doesn’t remember, she is drawn to visit the deserted seaside town of Garma and a large hotel there, to try and solve the mystery of these missing parts to her life. She can recall small things like buildings and an image of a stained glass peacock.
Staying at the grand old Hotel Garma, she begins to explore the area (which include some amazing locations like a massive mosque) and meets a young girl (Nicoletta Elmi, who appeared in several genre films around this time including WHO SAW HER DIE?, DEEP RED and FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN). Strangely, she seems to know Alice. Several other people she encounters infer that she has been there before – but this is her first visit… why does everyone seem to know her? Plus let’s not forget the continuing odd dreams with the spaceman and Kinski.
What’s going on? Damned if I know as this infuriatingly obscure narrative plays out. Directed by Luigi Bazzoni (and an uncredited Mario Fanelli), from a script written by both of them based on a novel by Fanelli. They are certainly in no hurry to clear up the mystery at the heart of the story.
Bolkan is fine in the lead and this is a gorgeous looking film with cinematography by the great Vittorio Storaro. Weird and often dreamlike in nature, this is also meandering and eventually culminates in a bonkers denouement.
Also known as: Le Orme/Footprints on the Moon/Primal Impulse
EXTRAS
3 stars
3 versions of the film: Director’s Integral Cut (96 mins); Director’s Integral Cut with Italian Credits (96 mins) USA Version (94 mins) – I watched the subbed Italian version
Introduction by star Florinda Bolkan
Interviews with Vittorio Storaro; Ida Galli aka Evelyn Stewart
Audio commentary by Film-Critic Genre-Expert Rachael Nisbet
Original Italian theatrical trailer

A TRIO FROM SOUTH KOREA Reviewed by Steve Kirkham

0

A TRIO FROM SOUTH KOREA

Blue Finch Film Releasing. Digital. Out Now
Three films from South Korea are seeing digital release – two have been available variously before and one, FOUL KING, is making it’s debut.
Best of the bunch is A BITTERSWEET LIFE (2005, Dalkomhan insaeng) (4 stars). Sun-woo (Lee Byung-hun) is a highly trusted ‘fixer’ of mob boss Mr. Kang (Kim Yong-cheol). The opening sequence establishes that Sun-woo is a bad ass who can fight his corner.
He is given the task of watching over the head honcho’s much younger girlfriend Hee-soo (Shin Min-a), whilst Kang is away on business, as he suspects she is cheating on him. If that proves to be the case then he is to “deal with it”. Realising she IS playing away, the young mobster has a fit of morality and decides not to kill her and her lover. Big mistake. He then spends the rest of the film either being tortured, beaten up and at one point being buried alive! He must fight back to stay alive.
Slickly and stylishly directed by Jung Doo Hong and Jee-woon Kim, this is often teeth clenchingly violent. Lee Byung-hun makes for a dynamic and charismatic lead as he uses all his skills to try to survive. There’s plentiful martial arts fighting and gunplay to keep action fans satiated – it wouldn’t be a stretch to see this as an influence on the JOHN WICK movies.
Running it a close second is THE CHASER (2008, Chugyeokja) (4 stars). Ex police detective Joong-ho (Kim Yoon-seok) now runs a small prostitution ring. Several of his girls have gone missing. When one of his best ladies, Mi-Jin (Yong-Hee) also disappears he soon realises one client connects them all via a phone number ending in 4885. Believing they are being sold off, he decides to take matters into his own hands and tracks down Young-nun Jee (Ha Jung-woo) who, in police custody, admits to being a serial killer.
It then becomes a race against time to try to gather enough evidence to actually prosecute the creepy murderer and hopefully find Mi-Jin alive.
This is a gripping, often unflinchingly brutal thriller (the South Korean’s are good at this kind of thing and rarely shy away from full-on violence). Kim Yoon-Seok is great in the somewhat unsympathetic lead role and Ha Jung-woo is suitably scary as the sinister and menacing maniac.
The outlier, if you will, of this trio is FOUL KING (2000, Banchikwang) (3 stars), a comedy about an inept and cowardly bank clerk Im Dae-ho (Song Kang-ho) who isn’t very good at his job and is constantly berated by his boss, who one day puts him in a headlock which he can’t extricate himself from.
Dae-ho eventually finds himself at a rundown wrestling school – and ostensibly goes in there just to try and learn how to get out of a headlock! But when a promoter approaches the old man who runs the place to find someone who can be trained up to be a wrestler, in order to actually throw a fight, he decides to give the downtrodden banker a chance. As long as he agrees to follow the “script” of the final fight… of course you know where this is heading.
Thus follows a slightly overlong, often quite silly comedy, with juvenile humour at times and Song Kang-ho suitably buffoonish in the lead. I suspect this has been picked up for release due to his starring role in the Oscar winning PARASITE (2019) – though he has had a long career appearing in many well known films like SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE (2002), MEMORIES OF MURDER (2003) and THE HOST (2006).
The film is directed by Jee-won Kim, in common with A BITTERSWEET LIFE, and is different to much of his known output which includes A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (2003) and I SAW THE DEVIL (2010).
Steve Kirkham

POSSESSOR (2020) Review by Steve Kirkham

0

POSSESSOR (2020)

4 stars
Second Sight. Dual Limited Edition 4K UHD and Blu Ray. Out Now
I wonder if Brandon Cronenberg ever considered changing his name, like Joe Hill did, to escape the long shadow cast by his father? As it is he has managed to carve out a career of his own starting with his debut in 2012 with ANITIVIRAL and also last year’s INFINITY POOL (which I have to say I preferred to his Dad’s recent return to our screens with CRIMES OF THE FUTURE). Sandwiched in between is the film at hand, a challenging psychological science fiction thriller – whilst there are undoubtedly similarities in their work, Brandon’s films veer more to the sci-fi.
The ever excellent Andrea Riseborough gives an appropriately nervy performance as Tasya Vos, the top assassin at a shady, clandestine operation run by Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Using cutting edge future tech – with much of the machinery used pleasingly analogue, with switches and buttons – she is able to inhabit the body of another person and use them to carry out the killing; someone close to the intended target, thereby leaving no clue as to the actual murderer. Remote liquidation!
For her latest she is taking over one Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott), who is fiancé to Ava Parse (Tuppence Middleton), daughter to the intended victim – her father, corporation head John Parse (Sean Bean relishing his role).
But as Tasya’s own reality and emotional stability begins to crumble, she is in danger of compromising her latest, and potentially hardest, assignment yet and also complicating her ability to come out of the integration without a damaged psyche.
I first reviewed this for the magazine back when it was released at the flicks – rewatching it, it has lost none of its power. It looks splendid on this 4K, as you would kind of expect of a film of such recent vintage.
The story sets it’s stall early, with a shocking and violent opening scene – this is a visually thrilling movie, mixing in weird imagery with often savage, bloodthirsty and intense sequences. It is both gripping and startling – a mind bending hybrid of science fiction ideas married to the viscera of horror, with scenes bathed in blood. The great score by Jim Williams adds to the atmosphere and Cronenberg the younger has crafted a wild ride, with memorable imagery that will linger.
Steve Kirkham
EXTRAS 4 stars
New audio commentary with Brandon Cronenberg, producer Rob Cotterill, Karim Hussain and Special Effects Artist Dan Martin
This Unfamiliar Life: a new interview with Brandon Cronenberg
Inside the Machine: a new interview with Karim Hussain
Feel the Real: a new interview with Rob Cotterill
Disassociating from Mind and Body: Zoë Rose Smith on Possessor
Camera Test Footage
FX Show and Tell with Dan Martin
Archive featurette: A Heightened World – A Look at Possessor
Archive featurette: Identity Crisis – Bringing Possessor to Life
Archive featurette: The Joy of Practical – The Effects of Possessor
Deleted Scenes
Short Film: Please Speak Continuously and Describe Your Experiences as They Come to You
Trailer
Limited Edition Contents
Rigid slipcase with new artwork by Marko Manev
120-page book featuring extensive behind the scenes gallery, script-to-screen comparisons, new essays by Stacey Abbott, Anton Bitel, Jon Towlson and Heather Wixson
Six collectors’ art cards
Also available as a standard edition 4K UHD and standard edition Blu ray – without the book etc.