Film Reviews by sb

Welcome to sb's film reviews page. sb has written 194 reviews and rated 2796 films.

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The Man Who Could Cheat Death

Overlooked Hammer

(Edit) 17/04/2024

FILM & REVIEW An oft-overlooked entry in the Hammer canon which is a shame as it’s rather good. Paris 1890 and Diffring plays Dr Bonnet a celebrated surgeon and sculptor who hides a dark secret. He is awaiting the arrival of Dr Weiss but who is a few weeks late - in the meantime he meets fellow surgeon Gerrard (Lee) and his girlfriend Janine (Court) the latter who had modelled for him and had fallen in love. The reason he needs Dr Weiss is to perform an operation on him and it’s revealed that although Wiess is a very old man Bonnet is even older - as students they realised that by replacing a gland every 10 years the patient never ages and is immortal . Wiess has had a stroke so Gerrad is persuaded to take over with misgivings. Obviously the gland can only come from a live person so every 10 years Bonnet vanishes along with whoever was his then model…. It’s a very literary script with nods to Dorian Gray and although Diffring was a last minute replacement for Cushing who pulled out having done 4 films back to back but is very good - a monster but a very charming one and Lee and Court are equally good - so 4/5

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Man in the Shadow

Cracking stuff

(Edit) 17/04/2024

FILM & REVIEW Terrific modern western which opens with a Mexican ranch hand beaten to death by the Boss’s henchmen. This is witnesssed by an older hand who reports it to the local sheriff Ben Sadler (Chandler). Most people are dismissive as the victim was a wetback but Ben is a man with principles and this brings him into conflict with the local ranches boss Renchler ( a suitibly menancing Orsen Welles). He is the most powerful man in the county and has all the important townspeople in his back pocket. Ben is warned off but this just makes him more determined to get to the truth especially when he discovers that Renchler’s daughter was sweet on the murdered boy. Ben finds himself up against both Renchler and most of the town so goes into full on Gary Copper mode. The warnings get more and more dangerous and he soon finds that his own life is on the line. It fits well into a lot of films of the period dealing with small town corruption and racism with Chandler solid in the part and Welles believing there is nothing he can’t get away with - 4/5

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Phantom of Death

Has its moments

(Edit) 16/04/2024

FILM & REVIEW Fairly effective late period Giallo slasher. York plays Robert a dashing and successful concert pianist whose doctor has him diagnosed with a rare genetic disease. Meanwhile someone is butchering young women with Pleasence’s copper on the case. He is convinced it’s one killer but wintness’s decribe a man of every increasing ages. It’s soon revelealed to be Robert whose body is aging at an accelerating pace - decades are added in mere weeks and this drives him insane with a rage at all things young and beautiful. What lifts the film is York’s performance with some very creepy make up - he knows what he is doing is wrong and invests a real pathos into the character. Add is some effective locations in Venice and some spectacularly baroque murders and you do have something worth a viewing - 3.5/5

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Night of the Big Heat

Interesting

(Edit) 11/04/2024

FILM & REVIEW Not a Hammer movie but with Lee, Cushing and director Fisher it may as well be. In the middle of an English winter the remote island of Faro is basking in a unexplained heatwave The local hotel is run by Callum (Allen) and his real life wife (Lawson). One of the guests is mysterious scientist Hanson(Lee) is conducting secretative tests while various locals are being incinerated. It’s revealed that radio waves transmittted from earth have attracted the attention of aliens and a scouting party has been sent to see if they can make life compatable - thus the heatwave. It’s got more than a hint of Quatermass about it (which Hammer also made) and is quite effective as an under siege movie and the way the characters begin to crack in the rising tempatures works well. There is an unfortunate soapy sub plot with Merrow as a girl from Callum’s past which just gets in the way and Cushing has more of a guest cameo and budgets mean that Fisher wisely keeps the aliens as a out of shot menance until the end but overall it works pretty well - 4/5

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Crime and Punishment / Calamari Union

Very droll

(Edit) 21/02/2024

FILM & REVIEW Always been a fan of Finnish Auteur Aki Kuarasmaki and his deadpan droll films and athough this is an early work a lot of his preoccupations are here. A group of friends all called Frank decide to leave the dull superb of Helsinki and set out to travel to a mystical seaside town. To get there they break into a subway station and steal a train overpowering a guard. They make it as far as the Centre (but not before one gets shot by the guard) and find themselves in limbo with no money and no idea how to get to their goal. They split up and get into all manner of surreal occurances then meet up in cafe’s where they chain smoke and wear sunglasses indoors. They are slowly getting whittled down with more shootings and begin to realise they will never make the destination. It’s got a Homeric undercurrent with some very droll moments ( and some truly terrible 80’s hairstyles) plus they join a local punk band on stage at one point. It a really interesting early example of his unique cinematic vision - 4/5

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Super Bitch

Classic

(Edit) 20/02/2024

FILM & REVIEW AKA Superbitch - wonderfully overdone Italian Cop thriller has Rassivov as Cliff who we first meet in Beruit where he assassinates a drug middleman working for Mama ( a superbly demented Patricia Hayes). Quick stop off in Rome to meet with his Drug Lord boss then off to London to hook up with Morrell who not only runs a high class escort agency that specialises in blackmail but is also major link in the drug trafficking gang. One of his girls is Joann (Beecham) and it’s soon revealed that Cliff is an undercover cop working to break the case. To complicate things he has his own agenda and isn’t relying on his Police pension in old age so organises mega massacres of rival gangs and sets up the deal so each Drug Lord will blame the other for betrayal with the invevitble consequences. It’s got car chases , beatings, stabbings , nudity and huge shootouts including one in New York warehouse with Rassimov wearing a air of cool detachment worthy of Dirty Harry and Beecham gamely spends the film in various states of undress. It’s really is a key film on the Years of Lead genre - 4/5

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The Breach

Bleak

(Edit) 13/02/2024

FILM & REVIEW Working my way through the Claude Chabrol catalogue to this - one is his most fiendishly clever films as well as a particularly bleak take on the human condition. Audran plays Helen married to Charles with a young son. He suffers from mental health episodes and one morning attacks her and throws their son across the room. She subdues him beating him with a frying pan - Police and an ambulance are called but his Father (Boucher) is immensely rich and secrets his son away. Helen wants a divorce and custody but the father who always thought she was no good takes action to get custody of the boy. To further his aims he hires the destitute son of his late business partner Paul (Jean- Pierre Cassel - Vincent’s father) to dig the dirt. He pretends to be terminally ill and moves into the same boarding house across from the hospital where Helen’s son is being looked after. He finds nothing so concocts a despicable plot involving his nympho girlfriend, some Porno movies , LSD and the landlady’s mentally retarded daughter to frame Helen. Needles to say it doesn’t go to plan and things soon spiral way out of control. Audran is as always excellent and Cassel is a mixture of suave charm and slimey creepiness that centres the film and as mentioned it one of Chabrols bleakest films but very very good - 4/5

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A Black Veil for Lisa

Fairly good

(Edit) 01/02/2024

FILM & REVIEW Ok EuroCop drama - Johnnie Mills plays Bulon a narcotics policeman in Hamburg married to the much younger and vivacious Lisa (Paluzzi) who it’s implied married him in return for avoiding jail time. But he is insanely jealous suspecting her of having affairs which distracts from his work which isn’t going too well. Every time he gets someone to reveal all about the drugs kingpin they end up dead killed by contact killer Max (Hoffman) and he wonders if Lisa has left her past life behind. This time he is sure she has a lover and instead of arresting Max he makes a deal with him to kill Lisa. Max sets out with this intention but begins an affair with Lisa instead leaving Bulon helpless as he loses control of events . Although it’s not a Giallo it does have some of the tropes - Max wears a black coat,hat and gloves prefiguring the standard killer setup although this is more a betrayal movie. Mills does what he can with the role and Hoffman is all handsome charm with good use of the Hamburg locations - 3/5

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Caliber 9

Brutal

(Edit) 12/01/2024

FILM & REVIEW Di Leo’s complex gangster film set in Milan. Ugo (Mostin) is a small time crook just out of jail and is suspected of stealing $300k from local gangster The Americano (Stander).This sets him up in conflict with Rocco (Adorf) the boss’s psychotic right hand man. Ugo denies stealing the money but no one believes him and the Americano sets him back to work to keep an eye on him. He also hooks up with ex girlfriend Nelly (Bocho) who has done very well for herself while he has been inside. - who also suspects he has the money as well. Meanwhile someone is killing bagmen and stealing even more money which sets up a breakdown in trust between all the gangsters. Mostin is very good as the taciturn lead and it’s really brutal at times with beatings,slashings and mass shootouts with a very bleak take on the human condition. The first of a trilogy - 4/5

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The Color of Money

Superb

(Edit) 03/01/2024

FILM & REWATCH Always has this down as a mid-level Scorsese - good but not top rate. Watching it again after several years and it’s just superb. Once you get over the shock of just how young Cruise looks you can see how well he plays the vain arrogant selfish prick that is Vincent. He drives Eddy to almost beyond despair with his antics and his refusal to tone it down that causes the final break with an excellent Mastrantinio trying to make him see sense. Of course the film is really about Eddie who is doing well enough for himself in the liquor business who initially sees using Vincent to get a final shot at redemption and then finally realising he can do that all by himself. Newman is just brilliant in the role - quiet , understated who has to have his pride humiliated by a younger hustler for the fire to reignite. At the time the feeling was he won the Oscar because it was felt they has better give him one sooner than later but watching it again he fully deserved it. Scorsese is at the height of his game here with some magnificent editing by his long time collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker where you are in the front row for every hammer break. Glad I screened it again as it really has gone up in my estimation - 5/5

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Dark Angel

80’s Cheese

(Edit) 04/01/2024

FILM & REVIEW Occasionaly when you have a rental by post list something turns up you don’t remember adding but heck it here so let’s have a look. A truly thick slice of 80’s action cheese has Dolph as a maverick cop tracking down some drug dealers who have killed his partner . This time he is saddled with straight laced FBI man who does everything by the book but they soon discover that someone else is after the heroin….that someone else is a an alien who injects the heroin into various people and extracts some fluid that he can use to make even stronger heroin that he take back to his own planet and sell at a huge profit. If all this sound ridiculous it is….as is the terrible script , truly dreadful acting (Dolph is a real Poundshop Arnie ) with loads of car chases, explosions and every cliche in the book. But at the same time it’s rather fun in a Friday night straight to VHS rental way- it’s not a Canon film but it may well as be…so 3/5

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What Have They Done to Your Daughters?

Excellent thriller

(Edit) 04/01/2024

FILM & REVIEW Excellent hybrid Italian film - part Giallo and part Police procedural. A young girl is found hanged and naked - at first its seen as suicide but is soon revealed to be murder and the cops led by Silvesrti (Cassinelli) and DA Stori (Ralli) investigate . A private eye is found to have been investigating as well but he turns up chopped to pieces and his girlfriend is attacked and revealed the private eye had uncovered an underage ring of prostitutes with several powerful wealthy clients . The main hunt is after the meat cleaving black leather clad killer while trying to uncover who is behind the ring. It doesn’t shy away from the depraved antics of the clients and is really effective mixing both genres together. Both leads are very good - Cassinelli would later die in a helicopter crash on the set of another film and it’s a key entry in that great period of Italian cinema in the 1970’s - 4/5

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Tokyo Twilight

Masterful

(Edit) 05/01/2024

FILM & REVIEW Over the last few years I have been working my way through the films of Yasujro Ozu who makes wonderfully detailed films about Japanese families in their various permutations and this is t he final one I hadn’t seen. It’s by far his darkest bleakest film - regular actor Rye plays the father on two daughters the eldest Takako (Hara) has left her husband taking her daughter with her and Akiko (Arema) who never seems to settle to anything. There was a Mother who is never talked about but one day Akiko meets a lady who runs a mahyong parlour who seems to know a lot about the family and Takako works out who she really is. She tries to hide the truth from Akiko but the plan goes wrong and sets in motion a series of events that ends in tragedy. As always the performances are subtle and understated and Ozu uses his trademark static camera as a lens through which the audience are held as the inevitable events unfold. He really was a master filmmaker - 4/5

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Sawdust and Tinsel

One of his best

(Edit) 06/01/2024

FILM & REVIEW Another film from the golden era of Bergman’s career. This time it’s set in a travelling ragtag circus where there is no money and even less hope. It’s run by Albert (Grojberg) who lives with his much younger mistress Anne (Bergman regular Anderson ) but he is old and tired and disillusioned with the life. The next town they visit is where his estranged wife and sons live and Anne suspects he plans on leaving her to go back to his family. They visit a local theatre where a vain preening actor (Ekman)propositions her but she refuses. She later returns when Albert has gone to family and in return for an apparently valuable neckless gives herself to him - although it of course turns out to be worthless. Albert pleads with his wife to let him back but she values her independence more and they part. Albert gets drunk and gets the truth out of Anne so the stage is set for a final confrontation in the circus ring. Excellent performances from the cast and beautifully shot by Sven Nykvist it tends to get overlooked in comparison to the other films of this period -shame as it’s very good - 4/5

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The Suspicious Death of a Minor

Mixed

(Edit) 07/01/2024

Working my way through Sergio Martino's catalogue but this is a bit of a minor entry.?Cassanelli plays Inspector Germi an undercover cop investigating the sexual trafficing of underage girls in Milan.At the same time some-one is kidnapping the kids of leading industrialists and demanding ransoms but the money can never be traced - can the two cases be linked.....?Its part cop thriller and part Giallo and to add to the confusion its tonally all over the place - there are several nasty murders where major characters get offed then it lurches into slapstick humour - there is even a Keystone Cops car chase that although fun to watch seems to have wondered in from a completly different film.?Cassanelli is very good (with more than a hint of Rutger Hauer about him) but Martino can't seem to make up his mind where he wants the film to go....one knocked off the list but not much more - 3/

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