Sunday, June 24, 2012

FROM SNAKES TO ZOMBIES
The advent of Blu-ray has given a new lease of life for old cult classic films. British horror and cult movie house Hammer is no exception and two of its minor key movies, The Reptile and The Plague of The Zombies, have just been released on Blu-ray by StudioCanal, a company for connoisseurs of the kitsch. Neither film features Hammer stalwarts Cushing and Lee and so they are less well-known than the Dracula and Frankenstein efforts from the studio. Beginning with the stronger film, The Plague of The Zombies is a simple tale of gothic horror: set in a small village in Cornwall where its inhabitants are dying of a mystery disease, and Professor James Forbes and daughter Sylvia are invited down to try and get to the bottom of what's been going on. Andre Morrell, as Professor Forbes, is good value on screen and John Carson as the sinister Squire Clive Hamilton is suitably creepy. As with the best of Hammer's output, there's a naive charm here that the filmmakers carried off with panache and there's even a few genuinely creepy moments. The transfer here to Blu-ray looks great with the picture sharper than it's been in years and it is great to see one of the lesser known Hammer films get a new release for home entertainment…

The Reptile, from the same year as The Plague of The Zombies, hasn't aged as well as the other film. The plot is simple enough: soldier Harry Spalding and his wife inherit a house in the countryside from Spalding's dead brother. But when they get down there, they find themselves caught up in a web of murder and deceit with Dr Franklyn (Noel Willman) at its centre. The transfer is crystal clear here too and the move to Blu-ray has really sharpened the picture but the script feels like a rejected Doctor Who plot and the acting isn't up to much, although Jacqueline Pearce is always worth watching. It does have a little bit of that naive charm I mentioned earlier and the makeup on The Reptile is quite well-done though and if you're a Hammer completist, then you should have this film.
So The Plague of The Zombies is a worthy addition to Hammer on Blu-ray but The Reptile is a bit of a curio and for Hammer obsessives only.

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Thursday, June 07, 2012
















UNBOUND: A MONTH IN
TRIPWIRE 20 has been up at Unbound for around a month and it's 5% into its pledges. So it's a decent start to proceedings and I thought I'd talk about the process so far and share the images I've had in for the book. It's been very interesting so far: TRIPWIRE 20 is the first project I've ever done through crowdfunding and so I have had to think of something to say every day on Twitter and Facebook to keep people interested. Because TRIPWIRE has such a rich history (with 55 back issues to dip into), I've been putting up whole classic features in the author's shed, a place on the Unbound website that you can only access if you pledge on the specific book. I've also been plundering my contacts book to get publicity for the book. Having worked as a journalist and a sub editor for fifteen years have proven to be very useful. I have also been writing guest blog posts for people like my friend Stevyn Colgan and genre figures like Christopher Fowler have been kind enough to give the book a plug. The other thing, just like when we did the tenth anniversary book but perhaps moreso, has been the joy of getting images in to run in the book. As of this writing, we have art in from Drew Struzan, Henry Flint, Phil Hale, Walter Simonson, Dave Dorman, Ben Templesmith, Mike Mignola, Frank Quitely,  Roger Langridge, Jon Haward, Chris Weston, Duncan Fegredo, Dave Taylor, Joe Kubert, Mike Perkins and Howard Chaykin. This is an amazing list and one that keeps on growing. I have also come to realise that people don't check Twitter and Facebook religiously so I have to keep informing them about the book. So here's some of the images that I have in already. Please feel free to pledge on the book by going to www.unbound.co.uk/books/43 (also until 12th June, there's £5 off pledges and that includes US residents. All you have to do is get the voucher code from here: http://eepurl.com/mddlX)Hope you enjoy the images…
TRIPWIRE 20th Unbound

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Monday, June 04, 2012

STALLS IN THE AIR
Red Tails is a strange film. Produced by George Lucas, it tells the story of the Tuskagee Airmen, a group of black pilots stationed in Italy during the Second World War. Initially they are only tasked with menial jobs like blowing up supply trucks but they begin to prove their mettle and are soon acting as a chaperone for key bombing missions. It obviously is an interesting and compelling story but Red Tails is a very flawed film indeed. Director Anthony Hemingway makes a decent fist of the aerial dogfights, which are very exciting and well-orchestrated CGI, but the characters are very hackneyed. English actor David Oyelowo as the reckless pilot Joe 'Lightning' Little is likeable and the rest of the cast including Terrence Howard as the irascible Colonel AJ Bullard and Cuba Gooding Jr as Major Emmanuelle Stance turn in solid performances but the script is very hackneyed and cheesy. So what you end up with is a weekday afternoon made for TV movie with money lavished on the action sequences. It also shows off Lucas's weaknesses: he has an obsession with technology but can't create credible characters if his life depended on it. He didn't direct Red Tails but his fingerprints are all over it. So it's not a total disaster but the story of the Tuskagee airmen still deserves a better, more intelligent vehicle. Worth watching for the dogfights but don't expect too much…

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