Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE (1977)

Star Wars (Star Wars: A New Hope) (1977) - Movie Review / Film EssaySTAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE (1977, USA) *****
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. 20th Century Fox; pr co. Lucasfilm / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; d. George Lucas; w. George Lucas; exec pr. George Lucas; pr. Gary Kurtz, Rick McCallum; ass pr. James Nelson (uncredited); ph. Gilbert Taylor (Technicolor. 35mm. Digital Intermediate (4K) (2019 remaster), Dolby Vision, Panavision (anamorphic), VistaVision (special effects). 2.39:1); m. John Williams; m sup. ; ed. Richard Chew, Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas; pd. John Barry; ad. Leslie Dilley, Norman Reynolds; set d. Roger Christian; cos. John Mollo; m/up. Stuart Freeborn; sd. Sam F. Shaw (70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | Dolby (35 mm prints)); sfx. John Stears; vfx. John Dykstra, Dave Carson, John Knoll, Alex Seiden, Joe Letteri, Steve ‘Spaz’ Williams; st. Peter Diamond; rel. 25 May 1977 (USA), 27 December 1977 (UK); cert: U; r/t. 121m.

cast: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa), Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin), Alec Guinness (Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), David Prowse (Darth Vader), James Earl Jones (Darth Vader (voice)), Phil Brown (Uncle Owen), Shelagh Fraser (Aunt Beru), Jack Purvis (Chief Jawa), Alex McCrindle (General Dodonna), Eddie Byrne (General Willard), Drewe Henley (Red Leader), Denis Lawson (Red Two (Wedge)), Garrick Hagon (Red Three (Biggs)), Jack Klaff (Red Four (John D.)), William Hootkins (Red Six (Porkins)), Angus MacInnes (Gold Leader), Jeremy Sinden (Gold Two), Graham Ashley (Gold Five), Don Henderson (General Taggi), Richard LeParmentier (General Motti), Leslie Schofield (Commander #1).

The Imperial Forces, under orders from cruel Darth Vader (Prowse/Jones), hold Princess Leia (Fisher) hostage in their efforts to quell the rebellion against the Galactic Empire. Luke Skywalker (Hamill) and Han Solo (Ford), captain of the Millennium Falcon, work together with the companionable droid duo R2-D2 and C-3PO (Daniels) to rescue the beautiful princess, help the Rebel Alliance and restore freedom and justice to the Galaxy. It is hard to believe today in this world of blockbuster CGI driven epics, the impact the original STAR WARS had on release in 1977. Driven by a fast-paced pulpy script, superbly edited with its scene transitions ensuring the story keeps moving. It made a star of Ford as the cynical Han Solo and introduced characters that would pass into cinema folklore. The well-choreographed action sequences, great visual effects, detailed model work and imaginative realisation of alien landscapes and worlds were spectacular for the time. Influences ranged from the western to samurai films and swashbucklers. The effects industry may have moved on, but the heart and sheer exuberance of this story have rarely been equalled since. The special edition with new effects runs 125m. Original title: STAR WARS. Followed by the equally superb STAR WARS: EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980).

AA: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (John Barry, Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley, Roger Christian); Best Costume Design (John Mollo); Best Sound (Don MacDougall, Ray West, Bob Minkler, Derek Ball) Best Film Editing (Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas, Richard Chew); Best Effects, Visual Effects (John Stears, John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Grant McCune, Robert Blalack); Best Music, Original Score (John Williams); Special Achievement sound effects. (For the creation of the alien, creature and robot voices.) (Ben Burtt)

AAN: Best Picture (Gary Kurtz); Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Alec Guinness); Best Director (George Lucas); Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (George Lucas)

Film Review – LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971)

LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971, UK) **
Horror
dist. Anglo-EMI Film Distributors; pr co. Hammer Films; d. Jimmy Sangster; w. Tudor Gates (based on characters created by Sheridan Le Fanu); pr. Harry Fine, Michael Style; ph. David Muir (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.85:1, 1.66:1 (Blu-Ray release)); m. Harry Robertson (as Harry Robinson); m sup. Philip Martell; s. “Strange Love” m/l. Harry Robertson (as Harry Robinson), Frank Godwin (performed by Tracy); ed. Spencer Reeve; ad. Don Mingaye; cos. Laura Nightingale; m/up. George Blackler, Pearl Tipaldi; sd. Terry Poulton, Ron Barron (Mono (RCA Sound System)); rel. 17 January 1971 (UK), 2 September 1971 (USA); cert: 18; r/t. 95m.

cast: Barbara Jefford (Countess Herritzen), Ralph Bates (Giles Barton), Suzanna Leigh (Janet Playfair), Yutte Stensgaard (Mircalla / Carmilla Karnstein), Michael Johnson (Richard Lestrange), Helen Christie (Miss Simpson), Mike Raven (Count Karnstein), Christopher Cunningham (Coachman), Harvey Hall (Inspector Heinrich), Michael Brennan (Landlord), Pippa Steel (Susan Pelley), Judy Matheson (Amanda McBride), Caryl Little (Isabel Courtney), David Healy (Raymond Pelley), Jonathan Cecil (Arthur Biggs), Erik Chitty (Professor Herz), Jack Melford (Bishop), Christopher Neame (Hans), Kirsten Lindholm (Peasant Girl), Luan Peters (Trudi).

This is the second in Hammer’s Karnstein trilogy following 1970’s THE VAMPIRE LOVERS. It is 1830 and the vampire Carmilla (Stensgaard) is re-incarnated by her heirs (Jefford and Raven). Stensgaard (who has cunningly changed her name to Mircalla) joins the finishing school for girls run by Christie, at which Bates is a schoolmaster who becomes smitten with her. So to does Johnson, as an author assigned to the school. When Stensgaard returns Johnson’s advances a conflict arises between her feelings and her thirst for blood. This is the weakest of the trilogy, flatly handled by Sangster – who generates little in the way of thrills and shocks, which are here substituted by a heightened eroticism. One scene where Stensgaard seduces Matheson is accompanied by an appalling pop song, which destroys any sense of threat. The script is poor, with little wit and a by-the-numbers approach to its plot, merely replaying themes already visited in the first film with little new to offer. We even descend into a cliched angry mob finale. The acting is adequate at best, although Leigh deserves some plaudits for adding a sense of dignity to her schoolteacher character, who becomes suspicious of Stensgaard. Peter Cushing was initially cast in the Bates role, but had to drop out due to his wife’s illness. Sangster too replaced Terence Fisher who was originally slated to direct. US version runs 91m. Followed by TWINS OF EVIL (1971).

Film Review – HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

Image result for HORROR EXPRESS QUAD POSTERHORROR EXPRESS (Spain/UK, 1972) ***
      Distributor: Gala Film Distributors  (UK), Scotia International (USA); Production Company: Benmar Productions / Granada Films; Release Date: November 1973 (USA), December 1973 (UK); Filming Dates: December 1971 – January 1972; Running Time: 91m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Eugenio Martín; Writer: Arnaud d’Usseau, Julian Zimet; Producer: Bernard Gordon; Director of Photography: Alejandro Ulloa; Music Composer: John Cacavas; Film Editor: Robert C. Dearberg; Production Designer: Ramiro Gómez; Set Decorator: Ramiro Gómez; Costumes: Charles Simminger; Make-up: Julián Ruiz; Sound: Antonio Illán; Special Effects: Pablo Pérez; Visual Effects: Brian Stevens.
      Cast: Christopher Lee (Prof. Sir Alexander Saxton), Peter Cushing (Dr. Wells), Telly Savalas (Capt. Kazan), Alberto de Mendoza (Father Pujardov), Silvia Tortosa (Countess Irina Petrovska), Julio Peña (Inspector Mirov), Ángel del Pozo (Yevtushenko), Helga Liné (Natasha), George Rigaud (Count Maryan Petrovski), Alice Reinheart (Miss Jones), José Jaspe (Konev – Conductor), Víctor Israel (Baggage Man), Juan Olaguivel (Creature), Vicente Roca (Station Master), Barta Barri (First Telegraphist), José Marco (Vorkin), José Canalejas (Russian Guard).
      Synopsis: In 1906, in China, a British anthropologist discovers a frozen prehistoric creature and must transport it to Europe by train.
      Comment: Euro-horror transfers the plot of THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD from the remote base of the Antarctic to the Siberian Express. The production starts unsteadily but slowly gathers momentum building to an exciting climax. Great make-up effects for both the monster and the effects of its work. Neat use of lighting in the confined spaces of the train helps to generate mood and tension. Lee and Cushing add dignity amongst a largely solid European cast. Savalas is delicious as a sadistic soldier who enters the story late in the day. Although set in the icy Siberian landscape the film was shot in Spain.
      Notes: Various roles are dubbed by Roger Delgado (the Police Inspector), Robert Rietty (Father Pujardov), and Olive Gregg (all female voices).

Film Review – ARABIAN ADVENTURE (1979)

Image result for arabian adventure 1979ARABIAN ADVENTURE (UK, 1979) **½
      Distributor: British Lion Film Corporation (UK), Associated Film Distribution (AFD) (USA); Production Company: EMI Films / British Lion Film Corporation / Major Studio Partners; Release Date: 19 July 1979 (UK), 21 November 1979 (USA); Filming Dates: 24 July 1978 – October 1978; Running Time: 98m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: Kevin Connor; Writer: Brian Hayles; Executive Producer: Kevin Connor; Producer: John Dark; Director of Photography: Alan Hume; Music Composer: Ken Thorne; Film Editor: Barry Peters; Casting Director: Allan Foenander; Production Designer: Elliot Scott; Art Director: Jack Maxsted; Set Decorator: Terry Ackland-Snow; Costumes: Rosemary Burrows; Make-up: Yvonne Coppard, Robin Grantham; Sound: Jim Atkinson; Special Effects: George Gibbs; Visual Effects: Cliff Culley, Charles Staffell.
      Cast: Christopher Lee (Alquazar), Milo O’Shea (Khasim), Oliver Tobias (Prince Hasan), Emma Samms (Princess Zuleira), Puneet Sira (Majeed), Peter Cushing (Wazir Al Wuzara), Capucine (Vahishta), Mickey Rooney (Daad El Shur), John Wyman (Bahloul), John Ratzenberger (Achmed), Shane Rimmer (Abu), Hal Galili (Asaf), Elisabeth Welch (Beggarwoman), Suzanne Danielle (Eastern Dancer), Art Malik (Mamhoud), Jacob Witkin (Omar, the Goldsmith), Milton Reid (Jinnee), Roy Stewart (The Nubian).
      Synopsis: An evil magician seeks to gain power by obtaining a magic rose. A peasant boy and a Prince join forces to stop him.
      Comment: The last of five fantasy adventures made by director Connor with producer Dark. This hokey Arabian Nights tale owes much to the strong cast headed by Lee at his villainous best. However, Tobias lacks charisma and acting chops as the hero prince. Samms makes for an appealing princess whilst Rooney adds some comic relief and Cushing some gravitas in cameo roles. The action scenes are plentiful, but often sub-par with obvious choreography. The visual effects are average at best, as is evident in the climactic magic carpet battle. A fun adventure nonetheless for the undemanding.
      Notes: Feature film debut of Emma Samms.

Film Review – AT THE EARTH’S CORE (1976)

Peter Cushing, Doug McClure, and Caroline Munro in At the Earth's Core (1976)AT THE EARTH’S CORE (UK/USA, 1976) ***
      Distributor: British Lion Film Corporation (UK) / American International Pictures (A.I.P.) (USA); Production Company: Amicus Productions; Release Date: July 1976 (USA), 22 August 1976 (UK); Filming Dates: 26 January 1976 – mid April 1976; Running Time: 90m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Kevin Connor; Writer: Milton Subotsky (based on the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs); Executive Producer: Harry N. Blum; Producer: John Dark, Max Rosenberg, Milton Subotsky; Director of Photography: Alan Hume; Music Composer: Michael Vickers; Film Editor: John Ireland, Barry Peters; Production Designer: Maurice Carter; Art Director: Bert Davey; Costumes: Rosemary Burrows; Make-up: Robin Grantham, Neville Smallwood; Sound: Jim Atkinson, George Stephenson; Special Effects: Ian Wingrove; Visual Effects: Charles Staffell.
      Cast: Doug McClure (David Innes), Peter Cushing (Dr. Abner Perry), Caroline Munro (Dia), Cy Grant (Ra), Godfrey James (Ghak), Sean Lynch (Hoojah), Keith Barron (Dowsett), Helen Gill (Maisie), Anthony Verner (Gadsby), Robert Gillespie (Photographer), Michael Crane (Jubal), Bobby Parr (Sagoth Chief), Andee Cromarty (Girl Slave).
      Synopsis: A Victorian era scientist and his assistant take a test run in their Iron Mole drilling machine and end up in a strange underground labyrinth ruled by a species of giant telepathic bird and full of prehistoric monsters and cavemen.
      Comment: Scatty, juvenile and low-budget fantasy adventure gets by on its camp approach to the material with Cushing excelling in one of his lightly comic and eccentric scientist roles. McClure makes for an effective and likeable hero and Munro is stunning as one of the scantily clad natives. The monsters betray the lack of funds, but the action is well-edited to disguise some of the limitations this presents the production. The script is tight but lacks any depth or set-up. Vickers provides an eerie electronic score and Connor directs with a great sense of fun which he balances with the eerie atmosphere created by the imaginative production design and Hume’s photography.
      Notes: Last film produced by Amicus, Hammer’s chief rival during the 1960s and ’70s.

Film Review – ISLAND OF TERROR (1966)

Island of Terror (1966; UK; Eastmancolor; 86m) ∗∗  d. Terence Fisher; w. Edward Mann, Al Ramsen; ph. Reginald H. Wyer; m. Malcolm Lockyer.  Cast: Peter Cushing, Edward Judd, Carole Gray, Eddie Byrne, Sam Kydd, Niall MacGinnis, James Caffrey, Liam Gaffney, Roger Heathcote, Keith Bell, Shay Gorman, Peter Forbes-Robertson, Richard Bidlake, Joyce Hemson, Edward Ogden. A scientist searching for a cure for cancer unleashes deadly bone-eating monsters on a tiny Irish island. Cushing manages to maintain his dignity in an otherwise overwrought and silly blend of sci-fi and horror. Judd is poor in the lead and the monsters are more comical than scary. One that respected director Fisher would have wanted to forget. [PG]