Archive for the ‘author Allan Fish’ Category


Note: This fourth Halloween entry in the classic Allan Fish Bonanza Encore series is the twenty-fifth in the series overall to post over the past weeks at WitD.

by Allan Fish

(UK 1945 105m) DVD1/2

Just room for one more inside, sir…

p  Sidney Cole, John Croydon  d  Alberto Cavalcanti, Robert Hamer, Basil Dearden, Charles Crichton w  John Baines, Angus MacPhail  stories  Angus MacPhail, John Baines, H.G.Wells, E.F.Benson  ph  Douglas Slocombe, Stan Pavey  ed  Charles Hasse  m  Georges Auric  art  Michael Relph

Mervyn Johns (Walter Craig), Roland Culver (Eliot Foley), Judy Kelly (Joyce Grainger), Mary Merrall (Mrs Foley), Anthony Baird (Hugh Grainger), Sally Ann Howes (Sally O’Hara), Frederick Valk (Dr Van Straaten), Ralph Michael (Mr Courtland), Googie Withers (Joan Courtland), Esmé Percy (antique dealer), Renee Gadd (Mrs Craig), Basil Radford (George Parratt), Naunton Wayne (Larry Potter), Michael Redgrave (Maxwell Frere), Miles Malleson (hearse/bus driver), Elisabeth Welch (Beulah), Hartley Power (Sylvester Kee), Peggy Bryan (Mary Lee), Michael Allan (Jimmy Watson),

Considering their incredible reputation as a producer of classic British comedies, it would be easy to forget that Ealing also produced various classic dramas, among them Went the Day Well?, The Next of Kin, The Captive Heart, It Always Rains on Sunday, Mandy and The Cruel SeaBut it is this truly disquieting ghost story compendium that remains their non-comic masterpiece.  Considering that it has been parodied and pilfered in numerous other films and TV plays, it’s quite surprising how fresh it still remains after sixty years.  Even the use of several directors doesn’t harm it, adding a different style to each of the individual stories that adds to the dreamlike texture.

Architect Walter Craig drives out to spend the weekend with a potential customer, Eliot Foley, who wants extra bedrooms added to his country house in Kent, Pilgrim’s Farm.  Once he arrives he acts strangely around everyone who is there, until he admits to the other guests that he has seen them all in his nightmarish dreams and that each one plays a part in his dream.  Only the visiting psychologist, Dr Van Straaten, refuses to believe this psychological phenomenon, but when each of the guests relates a spooky tale of their own, everyone’s preconceptions are eradicated. (more…)

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Note: This third Halloween entry in the classic Allan Fish Bonanza Encore series is the twenty-fourth in the series overall to post over the past weeks at WitD.

by Allan Fish

(Germany 1922 96m) DVD1/2

Aka. Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens

A true symphony of horrors

Albin Grau  d  Friedrich W.Murnau  w  Henrik Galeen  novel  “Dracula” by Bram Stoker  ph  Fritz Arno Wagner, Günther Krampf  m  Hans Erdmann/James Bernard/Art Zoyd  art/cos  Albin Grau

Max Schreck (Count Orlock), Alexander Granach (Knock, the estate agent), Gustav Von Wangenheim (Wutter), Greta Schröder (Ellen),

Werner Herzog is of the belief that Nosferatu is the greatest German film ever made and certainly it would have to be a serious contender to that crown, and Herzog paid it his own homage with a fair remake with the loathsome Klaus Kinski in 1979.  However, there is only one version of the tale and Murnau’s film, freely adapted from Bram Stoker’s masterpiece of Gothic horror, is the greatest vampire film of them all, a film that truly lives up to its subtitle, “a symphony of horrors.”  If it were a symphony, it’s worthy of those eternal children of the night Dowland, Moussorgsky, Borodin and Kilar.

Many versions of Dracula have followed, with the 1931 Universal (with the immortal Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye) and the 1958 Hammer (covered previously) standing out and a mention in despatches for the romantic Frank Langella.  They may indeed stick closer to the novel and keep the characters’ names, but the very term ‘Nosferatu’ isn’t just referring to the undead, rather a sort of pestilent plague that spreads after sunset.  Indeed the opening titles refer to the tale that follows as “A Chronicle of the Great Death of Wisborg – 1838.”  The story, which we shall not waste space detailing, may be changed radically from the original, being set in Germany and Transylvania rather than England and with rather dramatic changes to the rest of the characters, but it’s still a truly disquieting movie to this day.  There are scenes here that truly chill over eighty years on; the first vision of the Count, beckoning on his guest into the castle with cadaverous glee, lusting after his blood when he pricks his finger; the shot of Orlock standing on the deck of the ship of the dead; the immortal shadow of Orlock climbing the stairs and unlocking Ellen’s room; his death as the sun rises over the very houses opposite which he owns; and arguably most memorably of all, the numerous shots of sunsets and sunrises over the German countryside.  Murnau has always been fascinated with temptation and the symbolism of sunlight and of the earth itself (just check outThe Burning Soil, for example), but never has it been more prevalent than here in his first true masterpiece.  It’s here that we first see the imagery that would be so perfectly deployed in Hollywood in Sunrise(more…)

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Note: This second Halloween entry in the classic Allan Fish Bonanza Encore series is the twenty-third in the series overall to post over the past weeks at WitD.

by Allan Fish

(USA 1960 109m) DVD1/2

A boy’s best friend is his mother

p Alfred Hitchcock d Alfred Hitchcock (and Saul Bass) w Joseph Stefano novel Robert Bloch ph John L.Russell ed George Tomasini m Bernard Herrmann art Joseph Hurley, Robert Clatworthy tit Saul Bass

Anthony Perkins (Norman Bates), Vera Miles (Lila Crane), John Gavin (Sam Loomis), Janet Leigh (Marion Crane), Simon Oakland (Dr Richmond), Martin Balsam (Milton Arbogast), John McIntire (Sheriff Al Chambers), Patricia Hitchcock (Caroline), Lurene Tuttle (Mrs Chambers), Frank Albertson (Tom Cassidy),

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is a stand alone in his filmography. It’s not the cruellest or most cynical film he ever made, which would probably be either his often repulsive Frenzy or his earlier British film Sabotage (blowing a small boy up on a bus, it doesn’t get much more cynical than that!) but Psycho is Hitch’s last masterpiece, an unsettling last hurrah. Unsettling in that it is deliberately shot cheaply (as befits it being shot quickly by a crew from his TV series) and that it killed off its nominal star but a third of the way in.

The action begins in Phoenix, Arizona, on Friday 11th December at 2.43pm, where secretary Marion Crane is enjoying a lunchtime love-making session with her boyfriend before returning to work. There she is asked by one of her boss’s clients to deposit $40,000 for him into the bank on the way home. Rather than deposit the money, she absconds with it to go off to meet her lover. She trades her car, somewhat hurriedly and suspiciously, and gets caught up in a rainstorm, forcing her to miss her turn-off on the freeway and wind up at a desolate motel, where she decides to spend the night. (more…)

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Note:  This first Halloween entry in the classic Allan Fish Bonanza Encore series is the twenty-second in the series overall to post over the past weeks at WitD.

(US/UK 1980 146m) DVD1 (114m only on DVD2)


p/d  Stanley Kubrick  w  Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson  novel  Stephen King  ph  John Alcott  ed  Ray Lovejoy  m  Bela Bartok, Wendy/Walter Carlos, Rachel Elkind, Gyorgi Ligeti, Krzysztof Penderecki  art  Roy Walker, Leslie Tomkins

Jack Nicholson (Jack Torrence), Shelley Duvall (Wendy Torrence), Danny Lloyd (Danny Torrence), Scatman Crothers (Dick Hallorann), Barry Nelson (Stuart Ullman), Philip Stone (Delbert Grady), Joseph Turkel (Lloyd, the barman), Anne Jackson (doctor),

Of all the puzzling enigmas at the heart of Kubrick’s bona fide horror masterpiece, the biggest that still plagues me is rather why he saw fit to shorten the film for its UK release from the version that showed elsewhere.  In the UK it is only shown in the full 2½ hour version on TCM, Kubrick himself having had control over his movies in the UK (which of course allowed him to withdraw A Clockwork Orange so famously).  At the time of its release, like Barry Lyndon before it, it was roundly misunderstood and jeered; critics and audiences expected a horror movie and a transcription of King’s novel.  They failed to understand that source novels are merely the bare bones upon which Kubrick fleshes out his movies with something deeper that interests him more.  What is so baffling is that the shorter version, though tighter, misses a pivotal early sequence with Lloyd, Duvall and Jackson’s psychiatrist, which at least goes some way to explaining one aspect of the piece, if not remotely all.

Jack Torrence is a recovering alcoholic who has had trouble in the past getting started on writing a novel and has come to the Rocky Mountain resort of the Overlook Hotel to become the site’s new winter caretaker during the off-season.  He brings with him his wife and his young son, Danny, who unbeknownst to his parents, is possessed with a special gift of sight which the hotel chef, also a possessor of the ability, is the only one to recognise.  Jack slowly begins to feel at home at the hotel, and thinks he’s been there before, but the atmosphere proceeds to send him insane, much like a previous holder of the post, who killed his family several years earlier. (more…)

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Note: The twenty-first entry in the stupendous Allan Fish Bonanza Encore series was chosen by WitD site writer Maurizio Roca, who credits Allan for making him “see” the artistry of this film after an initial  viewing proved inconclusive.

by Allan Fish

(USA 2006 131m) DVD1/2

Are you watching closely?

p  Christopher Nolan, Aaron Ryder, Emma Thomas  d  Christopher Nolan  w  Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan  novel  Christopher Priest  ph  Wally Pfister ed  Lee Smith  m  David Julyan  art  Nathan Crowley  cos  Joan Bergin

Christian Bale (Alfred Borden), Hugh Jackman (Robert Angier/Gerald Root), Michael Caine (John Cutter), Scarlett Johansson (Olivia Wenscombe), Rebecca Hall (Sarah), Piper Perabo (Julia McCullough), David Bowie (Nikola Tesla), Andy Serkis (Alley), Samantha Mahurin (Jess), Roger Rees (Owens), Ricky Jay (Milton),

Christopher Nolan’s fifth film was met with muted applause on its release in 2006.  Many critics were impressed by it, yet at the same time maddened by it.  Others didn’t rate it at all and couldn’t take it seriously.  The reasons for ironically slighting this sleight of cinematic hand were numerous, but mostly centred around several factors, the biggest being the release earlier that year of similar magic trick The Illusionist – backed up by the fact that in the UK the earlier film came out afterwards, and received the fate Nolan’s film had received in the US.  That other film was a fine film in its own right, but once the trick is unravelled, there’s not much else to it, while it’s never explained how its protagonist managed to make himself incorporeal.  There is nothing in Nolan’s film that isn’t explained, and yet for all that, it remains enigmatic, multi-textured and involving no matter how many times you see it.  This is not merely a case of pulling the rug out from under the audience, but convincing them that the rug was never there in the first place. (more…)

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Note:  This twentieth entry in the superlative Allan Fish Bonanza Encore series was chosen by Marilyn Ferdinand, who was fully cognizant of Allan’s particular affinity for silent cinema.  This is again a case of a great review for a great and iconic film.

by Allan Fish

(USA 1923 70m) DVD1/2

I’ll be back as soon as I ditch the cop

p  Harold Lloyd  d  Sam Taylor, Fred Newmeyer  w  Harold Lloyd, Tim Whelan, Sam Taylor, Hal Roach  ph  Walter Lundin  ed  Thomas J.Crizer  m  Carl Davis  art  Fred Guiol

Harold Lloyd (Harold), Mildred Davis (Mildred), Noah Young (the cop), Bill Strothers (Limpy Bill), Westcott B.Clarke (Stubbs, the floorwalker),

Safety Last is one of those movies cherished in the memory long before you actually see the full film.  My first glimpses of it were probably exactly the same as many other people’s in the UK, courtesy of a half hour teatime show on BBC2 showcasing Lloyd’s comedy, with an inimitable nine note theme tune unforgettable to those who heard it.  Of course that glimpse was only an edited version of Last and, indeed, of its most famous sequence, but it was enough for me.  I would only have been about ten years old, but to a childhood friend and I, it was pure bliss.  Even now, over twenty years later, though I reaffirm that fact that The Kid Brother is Lloyd’s best feature, there is nothing on his CV to match Last.  It’s one to cherish.

Harold is a country boy from Great Bend who goes to the city to make his fortune so he can send for his beloved Mildred.  “She’s just got to believe I’m successful until I am” he tells new found friend Bill, and he spends every cent he has on buying her pretty trinkets and doing without such comparative expendables as food.  His life made into a living hell by a supercilious floorwalker at the store where he works (a man “muscle-bound from patting himself on the back” the caption reads), he cooks up a publicity stunt (in more ways than one) to have his expert climber friend Bill climb the building where his place of work, the De Vore department store, is situated.  Unfortunately a hostile cop has his eye on Bill after an earlier encounter and Harold has to undertake the climb himself. (more…)

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Note:  This review of the Czech masterpiece ‘Marketa Lazarova” is the nineteenth in the ongoing Allan Fish Bonanza Encore series.  I considers a film Allan has championed for a number of years dating back to the time when he led a petition drive well before it was eventually released by Second Run and then on blu-ray by Criterion.  It is my own choice among Allan’s reviews for this series, and like its subject is spectacular  -S.J.

by Allan Fish

(Czechoslovakia 1967 162m) DVD2

Do not be an animal

p  Josek Ouky  d  Frantisek Vlácil  w  Frantisek Vlácil, Frantisek Pavlicek  novel  Vladislav Vancura  ph  Bedrich Batka  ed  Miroslav Hajek  m  Zdenek Liska  art  Oldrich Okác  cos  Theodor Pistek  sound  Frantisek Fabian

Josek Kemr (Kozlik), Magda Vásáryová (Marketa Lazarova), Nada Hejna (Katerina), Jaroslav Moucka (Jan), Frantisek Velecký (Mikolas), Karel Vasikek (Jiri), Pavla Polaskova (Alexandra), Ivan Palúch, Václáv Sloup, Martin Mrasek,

In the 1964 epic The Fall of the Roman Empire there is a wonderful funeral scene in the snow on the German frontier where you really could “hear the Gods laughing.”  If the Gods of Rome were still around in the 13th century, they would doubtless weep at the goings on here.  Yet as one old crone, as she is called, says, “weeping is the gift of relief.  Men do not know it.”  Here men are animals, no different to any other creature that hunts in packs, but his prey are stray travellers, to satisfy his lust for money and women.  This is a medieval world like no other.  If you thoughtThe Lion in Winter or The War Lord were stark, you’re about to get a rude awakening.  The film may have been influenced by Bergman, Dreyer and Jancsó, but it’s bleaker than any of them.  As the opening narration tells us, “our tale takes place during a savage winter with frosts as passionate as Christianity at the time.”  So frozen are the wastelands depicted that one half expects the screen to freeze over completely.  The huge snow-covered trees may look Christmassy, but these are not mere tannenbaums, but living wooden statues marking time, crying like weeping willows.  Even the wolves stand back here and let the humans get on with it, knowing there will be enough corpse meat to last them through the winter.  Death really is a steady diet here. (more…)

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