Bananas (1971; USA; Colour; 82m) ∗∗∗½ d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen, Mickey Rose; ph. Andrew M. Costikyan; m. Marvin Hamlisch. Cast: Woody Allen, Louise Lasser, Carlos Montalban, Natividad Abascal, Jacobo Morales, Miguel Angel Suarez, David Ortiz, Rene Enriquez, Jack Axelrod, Howard Cosell. When a bumbling New Yorker is dumped by his activist girlfriend, he travels to a tiny Latin American nation and becomes involved in its latest rebellion. The gags come fast and furious and as many miss the mark as hit the mark, but this is still a frequently funny satire inspired by the lunacy of the Marx Brothers and silent comedians. The “sports report” bookends of the assassination and the consummation are priceless. Watch for a very young Sylvester Stallone as a hoodlum. 
Phil Collins has been slowly returning to the limelight over the last year. Firstly there was the staggered re-issuing of his back catalogue with recreations of the original covers and an additional CD with rarities, B-sides and live tracks for each album. Then there was the release this week on The Singles – a collection of all the songs Collins released as 45s or CD singles. Also this week we see the publication of his autobiography, Not Dead Yet – a frank chronicle of the singer/drummer’s life told from his perspective. Finally, today it was announced that Collins would perform a mini-tour in June 2017 covering nine dates in three European cities – London, Koln and Paris.
Collins has been doing the rounds from his formal announcement this morning, hosted by Jools Holland, to an appearance on BBC’s The One Show this evening. Further press, TV and radio interviews are also planned. Whilst he is obviously still struggling with the effects of the back surgery he had last year and its impact on his neural network, I am hoping he will have gained sufficient strength and fitness to deliver a performance at these shows. He will have a strong band and his army of fans to support him and he may even have built enough strength back in his fingers to deliver the famous drum fill to “In the Air Tonight.”
For now, it’s great to see him back and interested in performing and writing again.
McCloud (TV) (1970; USA; Technicolor; 98m) ∗∗∗ d. Richard A. Colla; w. Stanford Whitmore, Richard Levinson, William Link; ph. Ben Colman; m. David Shire. Cast: Dennis Weaver, Craig Stevens, Peter Mark Richman, Diana Muldaur, Terry Carter, Mario Alcalde, Raul Julia, Shelly Novack, Julie Newmar, Michael Bow, Nefti Millet, Kathy Stritch, Albert Popwell. A marshal from New Mexico travels to New York City to deliver a witness who is supposed to testify in a murder trial. The rather mundane plot is secondary to character introduction and the liberal use of New York locations. Weaver has plenty of charisma in the lead and the street shots are authentically captured. Pilot for the McCloud TV series (1970-77), which became part of NBC’s Mystery Movie cycle. Inspired by COOGAN’S BLUFF (1968). Syndicated sub-titles: PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GIRL and WHO KILLED MISS U.S.A.? A reunion movie THE RETURN OF SAM MCCLOUD (1989) also followed. [PG]
FLOWER POWER by ERNEST TIDYMAN (1968, The Paperback Library, 160pp) ∗∗∗
Blurb: Phyllis Greenfield was sweet sixteen – and never been stoned. Life was passing her by. So she ran away from her comfortable home in Cleveland, Ohio, and went to Haight-Ashbury to make the Underground Scene. There she met Furman, a young Black acid-head who wanted to be a FBI agent – or at least a member of the Hell’s Angels. Furman rechristened her “Flower” and brought her to his crash pad where she settled down to making the protest rallies with Me, a mystic love-child who took her to a swinging guru. And Signal, who caught special vibrations by making sex a mixed-media happening. And Tripper, who convinced her that LSD was the only ticket to visiting Inner Space. Flower was grooving in the switched-on life until one day the straight and the hippie worlds clashed in a battle that taught her the true meaning of FLOWER POWER!
Ernest Tidyman’s debut novel was published six months before he signed a contract with Macmillan to write Shaft. At the time, Tidyman was working as a freelance writer and magazine editor. He wanted to write a novel that would connect with the fashion of the time and so he came up with this story of a young girl exploring free-spirited communal living in the hippy culture of San Francisco.
Tidyman invests time in his characters and adds touches of humour throughout, but the story is slight at best. The book was very much of its time and many of the situations and characters will seem stereotypical today – the experimentation with drugs and sex; the Indian karma influences; the garden of home grown marijuana and the open-house approach to living. The first half of the book concentrates on Phyllis and her transformation to Flower whilst living with her small group of new friends. Once this is established the book opens up to bring in a wider group of characters including a motorbike gang, FBI agents and corrupt cops. The whole thing culminates at a party hosted by Flower and her friends where all these elements collide in true crazy sixties fashion.
Tidyman prefers an observational approach to his writing here, without getting too deeply engrossed in the politics of what these youngsters are about. indeed they all seem lost in one way or another and none of them really find their answers – they merely move on to the next adventure. Whilst this may be an accurate portrayal of the hippy movement in its free-spirited mentality of living for the now – it leaves the book’s character stories incomplete. Like the characters, the reader is left to feel they have spent time in a strange new world but then simply moved on feeling unfulfilled.
Rio Bravo (1959; USA; Technicolor; 141m) ∗∗∗∗∗ d. Howard Hawks; w. Jules Furthman, Leigh Brackett; ph. Russell Harlan; m. Dimitri Tiomkin. Cast: John Wayne, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond, Dean Martin, Angie Dickinson, John Russell, Ricky Nelson, Claude Akins, Bob Steele, Myron Healey, Estelita Rodriguez, Malcolm Atterbury, Yakima Canutt, Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, Bing Russell. A small-town sheriff in the American West enlists the help of a cripple, a drunk, and a young gunfighter in his efforts to hold in jail the brother of the local bad guy. Superb entertainment with characters you can route for and a near perfect cast. The interplay and contrast between the characters is what makes this so enjoyable. Wayne is at his stoic best as the sheriff; Martin delivers his finest performance as the recovering drunk; Brennan cackles and grumbles his way through his most memorable role as Stumpy and Dickinson oozes appeal as the girl with a past who falls for Wayne. Even Nelson gets through a slightly stiff portrayal fo a young gunslinger and has time to share a tune with Martin. Escapist cinema at its best. Based on a short story by B.H. McCampbell. More or less remade as EL DORADO (1966) and elements were also adopted in RIO LOBO (1970). Inspiration for John Carpenter’s ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976). [PG]
Duel (TV) (1971; USA; Technicolor; 89m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Steven Spielberg; w. Richard Matheson; ph. Jack A. Marta; m. Billy Goldenberg. Cast: Dennis Weaver, Eddie Firestone, Gene Dynarski, Tim Herbert, Jacqueline Scott, Lou Frizzell, Lucille Benson, Dale Van Sickel, Dick Whittington, Charles Seel, Alexander Lockwood, Amy Douglass, Carey Loftin, Shirley O’Hara, Shawn Steinman. A business commuter is pursued and terrorized by a malevolent driver of a massive tractor-trailer. Spielberg’s first movie sees him stretch a simple premise into a tense, nail-biting hour-and-a-half. Weaver splendidly conveys the everyman in peril. The film is edited and shot with efficiency and style. Goldenberg’s score adds to the tension as do the gutteral sounds of the truck. Matheson adapted his own short story. After airing on U.S. TV at 74m, Spielberg expanded it into a feature for release in Europe. [PG]
Nice Guys, The (2015; USA; Colour; 116m) ∗∗∗ d. Shane Black; w. Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi; ph. Philippe Rousselot; m. David Buckley, John Ottman. Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Matt Bomer, Kim Basinger, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, Beau Knapp, Yaya DaCosta, Ty Simpkins, Jack Kilmer, Hannibal Buress. In Los Angeles in 1977, a private investigator and an unlicensed enforcer uncover a conspiracy when they team up to trace a missing young woman. Gosling and Crowe have a great chemistry and do their best with a lame script that struggles to find the balance between thrills and comedy. The result is a diverting entertainment that leaves you with the feeling it could have been so much better. 
Crisis in Six Scenes (TVS) (2016; USA; Colour, 6 episodes; 140m) ∗∗∗ d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; pr. Helen Robin; exec pr. Erika Aronson; ph. Eigil Bryld. Cast: Woody Allen, Elaine May, Miley Cyrus, John Magaro, Rachel Brosnahan, Michael Rappaport. A comedy that takes place in the 1960’s during turbulent times in the United States and a middle class suburban family is visited by a guest who turns their household completely upside down. It is basically a movie into six episodes, which admittedly each progress the plot. Whilst not amongst Allen’s strongest work, it does raise some laughs and has moments that suggest he still has much to offer – notably the scenes with May’s marriage counsellor and her clients. It’s great to see Allen in front of the camera again too and he still has his comic timing. He and May spark well, if a little tentatively at times given their age. Cyrus is okay as militant revolutionary who takes over their household, but Magaro struggles to convey the academic won over by the activist. It’s all light, frothy fun – if a little forced – with the odd telling thing to say about passive and aggressive objectors. However, it only rarely captures the spirit of the times and often seems divorced from the world it describes – which may have been deliberate on Allen’s part to suggest how distanced the characters were from world’s events – merely catching up via TV. Edited down it would make a fairly decent movie.
Twister (1996; USA; Technicolor; 113m) ∗∗∗½ d. Jan de Bont; w. Michael Crichton, Anne-Marie Martin; ph. Jack N. Green; m. Mark Mancina. Cast: Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Cary Elwes, Jami Gertz, Lois Smith, Alan Ruck, Zach Grenier, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Scott Thomson, Todd Field, Sean Whalen, Gregory Sporleder, Joey Slotnick, Wendle Josepher. Advanced storm chasers on the brink of divorce, must join together to create an advanced weather alert system by putting themselves in the cross-hairs of extremely violent tornadoes. Action-packed blockbuster may be made to look familiar through its conventional plotting, but has likeable characters and the pace never lets up. Hunt and Paxton make capable leads and the effects are top-notch. [PG]
Copycat (1995; USA; Technicolor; 123m) ∗∗∗ d. Jon Amiel; w. Ann Biderman, David Madsen; ph. László Kovács; m. Christopher Young. Cast: Holly Hunter, Sigourney Weaver, Dermot Mulroney, William McNamara, Harry Connick Jr., Will Patton, John Rothman, J.E. Freeman, Shannon O’Hurley, Bob Greene, Tony Haney, Danny Kovacs, Tahmus Rounds, David Michael Silverman, Scott DeVenney. An agoraphobic psychologist and a female detective must work together to take down a serial killer who copies serial killers from the past. Tone shifts don’t help this otherwise enjoyable and often tense thriller. Weaver is excellent as emotionally scarred psychologist haunted by her past. Hunter delivers an eccentric performance sometimes at odds with the material. Connick, Jr. is surprisingly creepy.