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Spaghetti Westerns Unchained – The Good, the Bad and the Guilty Pleasures

poster of Lee Van Cleef in The Return of Sabata (1971)

The Return of Sabata (1971)

‘Django Unchained’ (2012), Tarantino’s Academy Award winning and hugely profitable homage to the Spaghetti Western (with a worldwide gross of $425 million plus DVD and download sales) has proven what we SW aficionados have always known – that Italian westerns are deliriously enjoyable, seriously addictive and offer more bang for your buck, literally, than any other genre.

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The New Era of Silent Movies, Part I

still of the film Dr Mabuse (1932) by Fritz Lang
‘The Testament of Dr Mabuse’ (1932), dir: Fritz Lang

“There’s so many great films that you feel like you’ve seen everything, but then you crack open a vault of amazing stuff.”  Rob Zombie

The recent release of several fully restored classic films from the 1920s on Blu-ray suggests that silent movies are no longer a niche market for the cineast and art house audience, but are a core element of the DVD retail market with an increasing share of disc sales. And with sell-out screenings for the recent theatrical reissue of the influential German expressionist classic ‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari’ (1920), F. W. Murnau’s iconic ‘Nosferatu’ (1922), Buster Keaton’s comic masterpiece ‘The General’ (1926), Raoul Walsh’ opulent ‘The Thief of Bagdad’ (1924), and Fritz Lang’s dystopian SF epic ‘Metropolis’ (1927), silent cinema appears to be enjoying a real revival.

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The Man Who ‘Saw’ The Ripper

It is not an exaggeration to say that today psychics are consulted on an almost routine basis when the authorities have exhausted all conventional avenues of investigation. But in Victorian England ‘spiritualists’, as they were then known, were regarded at best as being either a novelty Music Hall act or at worst, fraudsters preying on the weak-minded and bereaved. The fact that clairvoyant Robert James Lees had been consulted on several occasions by Queen Victoria did not, however, make him a credible witness as far as Scotland Yard were concerned. When Lees offered his services as a psychic sleuth it is said that they laughed him out of the building. However, if the account published by ex-Scotland Yard officer Edwin T. Woodhall (author of ‘Secrets of Scotland Yard’) is to be believed, they were soon to regret their rash decision.

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Let the Blood Run Red (1983, Part 1)

Paul Roland braves the curse of the critics to trace the history of HAMMER – the house of horror

Prologue

During the early 1980s I was writing for a number of film and music magazines and, being a huge horror movie buff, I naturally took the opportunity to suggest a Hammer feature at one of Kerrang’s weekly editorial meetings. It is basically an introductory overview of the studio’s horror output and for reasons of space omits reference to a couple of my favourite Hammer filmsm ‘The Witches’ and ‘Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter’, but for those who are not hardcore Hammer fans it may be of interest for the brief quotes from Christopher Lee and the various Hammer ‘House’ directors. (My interview with Peter Cushing can be found elsewhere on this site).

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Let the Blood Run Red (Part 2)

Paul Roland (still) braves the curse of the critics to trace the history of Hammer, the House of Horror

1960–1976

The following year, Hammer released no less than three films, two of which have since become classics of the genre, while the third, ‘The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll’, remains an interesting curio. Jekyll featured Paul Massie in the title role, portraying Dr J as a bearded, insensitive scientist, and his primitive half as a handsome, clean-shaven sadist. A unique interpretation and one which easily stole the acting honours from Christopher Lee, who had been relegated to a minor supporting role.

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