Island of Lost Souls (1932; USA; B&W; 70m) **** d. Erle C. Kenton; w. Waldemar Young, Philip Wylie; ph. Karl Struss; m. Arthur Johnston, Sigmund Krumgold. Cast: Charles Laughton, Bela Lugosi, Richard Arlen, Leila Hyams, Kathleen Burke, Stanley Fields, Arthur Hohl, Paul Hurst, George Irving, Tetsu Komai, Hans Steinke. An obsessed scientist conducts profane experiments in evolution, eventually establishing himself as the self-styled demigod to a race of mutated, half-human abominations. Laughton is terrific in this creepy and atmospheric horror movie. It may seem a little creaky by today’s standards and tension would have been built even more with a full music score, but this remains an unsettling and memorable viewing experience. Special nod goes to make-up man Wally Westmore for his creations. Burke is billed at “The Panther Woman”. It was not passed for release by British censors until 1958 – and even then, with cuts. Based on the novel “The Island of Dr. Moreau” by H.G. Wells. Remade in 1977 and 1996. [PG]
Strike: The Silkworm (TV) (2017; UK; Colour; 2x60m) ***½ pr. Jackie Larkin; d. Kieron Hawkes; w. Tom Edge; ph. Gary Shaw; m. Adrian Johnston. Cast: Tom Burke, Holliday Grainger, Kerr Logan, Monica Dolan, Sarah Gordy, Dominic Mafham, Peter Sullivan, Tim McInnerny, Lia Williams, Sargon Yelda, Caitlin Innes Edwards, Ian Attard, Joey Batey, Natasha O’Keeffe, Jeremy Swift. Strike is approached by Leonora Quine with a plea to locate her husband, the notorious writer Owen Quine, who has disappeared without a trace. The plot, dealing with literature used as a sadistic weapon for revenge was never going to be easy to adapt for TV and whilst the first book stretched to a 3-hour adaptation, here Robert Galbraith’s (J.K. Rowling) second Cormoran Strike novel is condensed into 2 hours. Whilst this creates some necessary tightening of the plot, it does make for demanding viewing in trying to keep up with its intricacies. Those who do so will be rewarded with a strong variation on the traditional whodunit. Burke and Grainger again excel in their lead roles and the support acting all round is strong. The series will return in 2018 with an adaptation of the third novel in the series, “Career of Evil”. 
Showdown at the End of the World (TV) (1973; USA; Technicolor; 74m) *** d. Lou Antonio; w. Robert Hamner; ph. William Cronjager; m. Lee Holdridge. Cast: Dennis Weaver, J. D. Cannon, Bradford Dillman, Lee J. Cobb, Eddie Egan, Jaclyn Smith, Terry Carter. McCloud falls for model smuggling drugs to find a missing roommate. Strong entry in the McCloud series with an excellent guest cast and good use of NYC locations – including a finale at the disused observatory towers from 1964/5’s World Fare. [PG]
Lady on the Run (TV) (1975; USA; Technicolor; 97m) **½ d. Russ Mayberry; w. Gilbert Edd; ph. Ben Colman, Gilbert Torres; m. Stu Phillips. Cast: Dennis Weaver, J. D. Cannon, Terry Carter, Mariette Hartley, Clu Gulager, Ken Lynch. A dead woman’s vengeful sister pursues her brother-in-law to Mexico City, but an assassin finds him first. McCloud entry is one long chase and travelogue. A slight (and old) plot of mistaken identity provides an excuse for fugitive pursuit through the city. Filmed on location in Mexico City, with many fine day and night interiors and exteriors centred around the Grand Hotel. [PG]
LAUREL & HARDY: THE MAGIC BEHIND THE MOVIES (The Ultimate Edition) by RANDY SKRETVEDT (2016, Bonaventure Press, 630pp) *****
Blurb: Randy Skretvedt’s seminal LAUREL & HARDY: THE MAGIC BEHIND THE MOVIES is generally acknowledged as the gold standard in writing about the work of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Since the book’s original release in 1987, it has been updated several times through the early 1990s. But over the last 15 years, author Skretvedt has been compiling an Ultimate Edition of his master work, with nearly 50% more text and quadruple the number of photos of previous editions. And to mark its release, Bonaventure Press is producing a single limited print run of 2,000 copies of this special edition, as an oversized 8.5 by 11 hardcover, with heavy glossy paper and all the trimmings of a top-quality art book, to help show off its 1,000 rare photographs and greatly expanded text.
To say this book is the most detailed work on the films of Laurel & Hardy would be an understatement. Skretvedt’s knowledge of his subject is second to none. He acknowledges many other scholars of the comedy duo’s work, but none has come close to this level of research and presentation. As the blurb states this is a much expanded version of a book originally published thirty years ago. Skretvedt covers L&H’s film career in meticulous detail through reference to source studio documentation, scripts and Stan’s notes as well as interviews with cast and crew. The author also provides his own analysis on every one of their films as a team from the silent shorts throught to the talkies and their feature films. It’s a story that demonstrates how Hal Roach studios created an environment in which the team could work without interference enabling them to capitalise on their ideas. This is contrasted with their later films, in the 1940s, at Fox and MGM, where studios protocol acted as a straight-jacket restricting the duo’s effectiveness.
The book itself is a weighty hardback of 630 glossy pages. Many of the photos are rare and often serve to show scenes deleted from the final product or link into the private lives of Stan and Ollie – both of whom had more than their fair share of marital problems. It is a beautiful presentation and a must for L&H enthusiasts and fans of cinema in general.
The original 1971 Shaft, starring Richard Roundtree and directed by Gordon Parks, finally gets its UK Blu-ray release on 2 October via HMVs excellent Exclusive series. The extras are identical to the Region 1 release in 2012 in that it also includes one of the seven TV Movies – Shaft: The Killing. The bonus here though is the art card print set.
Park Avenue Rustlers, The (TV) (1972; USA; Technicolor; 74m) *** d. Jack Arnold; w. Sy Salkowitz; ph. William Cronjager; m. Lee Holdridge. Cast: Dennis Weaver, J. D. Cannon, Eddie Albert, Roddy McDowall, Diana Muldaur, Brenda Vaccaro, Lloyd Bochner, Norman Fell, Terry Carter. A partner poses as McCloud’s lover to help him infiltrate a car-theft ring. Strong entry in NBC’s McCloud series, which formed part of the Mystery Movie wheel. Veteran Arnold directs with added vigour – notably during the climax involving a hair-raising helicopter stunt. Weaver is excellent, as ever, with his laconic charm and Cannon is a great foil as his world-weary superior. Weaver was actually dangling from the helicopter skid as it left the top of the 20-storey building, having missed the cue to be replaced by a stuntman. [PG]
Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling (TV) (2017; UK; Colour; 3x60m) ***½ pr. Jackie Larkin; d. Michael Keillor; w. Ben Richards; ph. Hubert Taczanowski; m. Adrian Johnston. Cast: Tom Burke, Holliday Grainger, Martin Shaw, Kerr Logan, Killian Scott, Kadiff Kirwan, Elarica Johnson, Bronson Webb, Leo Bill, Tezlym Senior-Sakutu, Tara Fitzgerald, Natasha O’Keeffe. Private investigator Cormoran Strike is hired to find out if a supermodel’s suicide in London may have been a murder. Faithful adaptation of the novel by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym for J. K. Rowling, who also exec produced). Stylishly shot on location in the city of London. The mystery elements are traditional, but the lead characters of the one-legged war hero turned PI and his new female assistant are interesting and they are compellingly portrayed by Burke and Grainger. Followed by STRIKE: THE SILKWORM (2017). 
Starsky and Hutch (TV) (1975; USA; Colour; 73m) *** d. Barry Shear; w. William Blinn; ph. Archie R. Dalzell; m. Lalo Schifrin. Cast: David Soul, Paul Michael Glaser, Michael Lerner, Morgan Sterne, Michael Conrad, Antonio Fargas, Richard Ward, Gilbert Green, Carole Ita White, Don Billett, Gordon Jump, Karen Lamm. The two detectives investigating a double homicide, discover that the man and women who died were mistakenly murdered – it was the detectives themselves who were the intended targets. Pilot movie is a success due to the on-screen chemistry between Glaser’s demonstrative Starsky and Soul’s laid-back Hutch. Plot is okay and there is a well-shot finale pumped along by Schifrin’s score. Grittier than the eventual series and showing its influences to the extent that a barroom interrogation scene is almost a direct lift from THE FRENCH CONNECTION. Followed by a TV series (1975-9) and a big screen adaptation in 2004. 
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989; USA; DeLuxe; 127m) *** d. Steven Spielberg; w. Jeffrey Boam, George Lucas, Menno Meyjes; ph. Douglas Slocombe; m. John Williams. Cast: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Denholm Elliott, Alison Doody, John Rhys-Davies, Julian Glover, River Phoenix, Michael Byrne, Vernon Dobtcheff, Paul Maxwell, Kevork Malikyan, Alex Hyde-White, Richard Young, Alexei Sayle. When Dr. Henry Jones Sr. suddenly goes missing while pursuing the Holy Grail, eminent archaeologist Indiana Jones must follow in his father’s footsteps and stop the Nazis. Highlight is the chemistry and interplay between Ford and Connery. This third instalment is played more for laughs – and there are a fair few. Unfortunately, the change in tone diminishes from the adventure with overly-choreographed action set-pieces and a lazy screenplay overloaded with plot conveniences. Won Oscar for Sound Effects Editing (Ben Burtt and Richard Hymns). Followed by INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008). [PG]