Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A double movie report

Thanks to Netflix instant streaming I now get to see a bunch of Hammer horror films I missed out on earlier in life. I watched this one recently:
Once Hammer got the formula for these films down pat, there was no stopping them. The figured out how to make these kinds of film cheaply so they made a quick return on their investment and they churned them out like hotcakes. Which is not to say they were bad, most of them weren't, but just because they weren't bad didn't mean they weren't cheesy. And this one isn't bad but boy is it cheesy.

The film starts out with a scene, Van Helsing killing Count Dracula, that obviously been clipped from a previous film and tacked onto this one. Once they established the fact that ol' Dracula is kaput, they set about trying to bring him back to life in swingin' 1970's London. When the credits finish rolling we're treated to a scene inside a house where a bunch of groovy hip 30 year old teenagers are grooving to a rock band while snooty blue bloods with gray hair look on in horror. They quickly zero in on the main group of kids that the film revolves around, among them a young male character whose last name is Alucard (It's Dracula backwards! Get it?) and Van Helsing's great grand daughter, played by Stephanie Beacham who had some gravity defying breasts back in those days, and who sports the one of the worst hair cuts in the history of British cinema. On the plus side it also features the wildly sexy Caroline Munroe.

Beacham and her pals want nothing more than kicks, booze, dancing, music, and to wear bad clothes while sporting horrendous hairdos and side burns that would make Chester A. Arthur ashamed of himself. They let Alucard talk them into a black mass that will raise Dracula from the dead. The mass works, Munroe gets bitten and dies, and once the cops bring in Beacham's granddad, Van Helsing's grandson, played by a sallow looking Peter Cushing, things really get going.

Of course they get Dracula in the end and Beacham and her fine boobs don't go to the dark side. It's all pretty formulaic but it's fun. I loved the lengths they went to to try and cover Beacham's gawd awful shag haircut. The clothes and cars were a hoot as well. And perhaps the best thing about this film was the opening scene where the oldest teens in the world are grooving to the swinging sounds of the now forgotten rock band Stoneground. If you're looking for an hour and a half of cheesy horror, bad clothes, sexy women, and old dudes fighting it out, then this film is for you. I recommend it but I'm warning you it's cheesy as all get out.

I saw The General back when it first came out on VHS years ago and I recalled really liking it back then in the late '90's. I especially liked Brendan Gleeson's performance. I watched it again the other night and while I still liked it very much, I couldn't but think that deep down, no matter the amount of mythologizing and trying to make Martin Cahill look like a modern day Irish Robin Hood, he was nothing more than a criminal who gamed the system.

Cahill was a well known criminal who was famous for never doing a crime that he hadn't meticulously planned out. As time went on and his legend grew his crimes grew bigger and more audacious. And the response to them by the Irish police, known as the garda, grew more audacious. As happens to most all well known criminals, Cahill took one step too far, he tried to sell stolen paintings to the Ulster Volunteer Force, a Protestant paramilitary group that was at war with the IRA. When the IRA found out that he was selling them the paintings so they could resell them to buy more weapons to use against them, the IRA, as is the common thinking, had Cahill murdered. This film purports to tell Cahill's story from his beginnings as a petty thief up to the day the IRA had him whacked.

I still loved Gleeson's performance as Cahill and I really loved Maria Kennedy Doyle as his wife and Angeline Ball as her sister and Cahill's lover. Both women play tough roles with a great deal of tenderness. The rest of the cast is good as well, although Jon Voight appears to be out of his element. His accent isn't up to par and he looks out of place, although I'm sure director John Boorman cast him in order to secure financing.

As I said, I liked the film upon seeing it this my second time, but I had a few problems with it. The glorifying of the life of a common criminal is one problem and the other is Boorman makes it look like the garda was in collusion with the IRA in Cahill's murder.

All in all though, I recommend this film based purely on the performances of Brendan Gleeson and Maria Kennedy Doyle. They alone make it all worthwhile.


Caffeinated Joe said...

Hammer films are great. Wonderful stuff.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Cheesy Dracula movies might be just what is needed to counteract the effects of too much shortbread. I may need to look for this one.

Anonymous said...

Love those Hammer films. Once, a bunch of my little friends and I sat down in anticipation of a Hammer vampire double feature. Apparently it was a misprint in the T.V. Guide, because something else came on at the appointed hour. A near riot ensued.