TV Movie Review – COLUMBO: ANY OLD PORT IN A STORM (1973)

Adrian CarsiniCOLUMBO: ANY OLD PORT IN A STORM (TV) (1973, USA) ****
Crime, Drama, Mystery
dist. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. Leo Penn; w. Stanley Ralph Ross (based on a story by Larry Cohen); pr. Robert F. O’Neill; ph. Harry L. Wolf (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Dick DeBenedictis; m sup. Hal Mooney; ed. Larry Lester, Buddy Small; ad. Archie J. Bacon; set d. John M. Dwyer; cos. Grady Hunt; sd. David H. Moriarty (Mono); rel. 7 October 1973 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 96m.

cast: Peter Falk (Columbo), Donald Pleasence (Adrian Carsini), Joyce Jillson (Joan Stacey), Gary Conway (Enrico Guiseppe Carsini), Dana Elcar (Falcon), Julie Harris (Karen Fielding), Vito Scotti (Maitre d’), Robert Donner (The Drunk), Robert Ellenstein (Stein), Robert Walden (Billy Fine), Regis Cordic (Lewis), Reid Smith (Andy Stevens), John McCann (Officer), George Gaynes (Frenchman), Monte Landis (Steward), Walker Edmiston (Auctioneer), Pamela Campbell (Cassie Marlowe).

Adrian Carsini (Pleasence) runs a California winery owned by his younger half-brother (Conway) who reveals he’s about to sell it. This enrages the older wine connoisseur who knocks the young playboy out cold and ties him up in the wine cellar. Soon Carsini has committed a murder and makes it look like a scuba diving accident. The rumpled Lt. Columbo (Falk) is on the case and is willing to harass everyone – even Carsini’s cold but devoted secretary (Harris) – until he’s discovered the truth. One of the most entertaining of the Columbo mystery movies and one of the few where the rumpled detective has a liking for the killer. The winery setting and Pleasence’s delightfully snobbish performance give this episode a playfully novel feel. Whilst the murder is hardly perfect, the way Falk unravels the case is sublime. The finale in the expensive restaurant and on the cliffs overlooking the sea are neatly staged and the final scene where the detective and the murderer share a last bottle is nicely played. The production values are standard for 1970s TV, but the light, humorous touch and the lead performances make this well worth a look.

Film Review – HALLOWEEN II (1981)

Halloween II is Better Than the Original & Here's Why | Horror Obsessive |  Film ReviewHALLOWEEN II (1981, USA) ***
Horror, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Columbia-EMI-Warner (UK); pr co. De Laurentiis / Universal Pictures; d. Rick Rosenthal; w. John Carpenter, Debra Hill; exec pr. Joseph Wolf, Irwin Yablans, Moustapha Akkad (uncredited), Dino De Laurentiis (uncredited); pr. John Carpenter, Debra Hill; ass pr. Barry Bernardi; ph. Dean Cundey (Metrocolor. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.35:1); m. John Carpenter, Alan Howarth; ed. Mark Goldblatt, Skip Schoolnik; pd. J. Michael Riva; set d. Peg Cummings; cos. Jane Ruhm; m/up. John Chambers, Michael Germain, Frankie Bergman; sd. David Lewis Yewdall (Dolby Stereo); sfx. Lawrence J. Cavanaugh; vfx. Sam Nicholson (uncredited); st. Dick Warlock; rel. 30 October 1981 (USA), 25 February 1982 (UK); cert: 18; r/t. 92m.

cast: Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie Strode), Donald Pleasence (Sam Loomis), Charles Cyphers (Leigh Brackett), Jeffrey Kramer (Graham), Lance Guest (Jimmy), Pamela Susan Shoop (Karen), Hunter von Leer (Gary Hunt), Dick Warlock (The Shape / Patrolman #3), Leo Rossi (Budd), Gloria Gifford (Mrs. Alves), Tawny Moyer (Jill), Ana Alicia (Janet), Ford Rainey (Dr. Mixter), Cliff Emmich (Mr. Garrett), Nancy Stephens (Marion), John Zenda (Marshall), Catherine Bergstrom (Producer), Alan Haufrect (Announcer), Lucille Benson (Mrs. Elrod), Howard Culver (Man in Pajamas).

After Doctor Samuel Loomis (Pleasence) shoots Michael Myers six Times and falls off a balcony. Michael escapes and continues his massacre in Haddonfield, Laurie (Curtis) is also sent to the Hospital and Dr Loomis gathers a group of police officers to hunt down Michael and put an end to his murderous rampage. This sequel is a more formulaic and bloody continuation but makes effective use of the almost empty hospital setting. Curtis gives a much more physical performance here, requiring little dialogue, whilst Pleasence manically tries to convince others that Myers lives on despite the number of bullets he has put in him. The most effective moments are those that mirror set-pieces from the classy original, which emphasises the film’s weakness in that it has nothing new to offer and merely feels like an extension of the first movie. Followed by the unrelated HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982). The true sequels picked up with HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS (1988), HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1989), HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995), HALLOWEEN H20: 20 YEARS LATER (1998), HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002), HALLOWEEN (2018) and HALLOWEEN KILLS (2021). The film was also remade by Rob Zombie in 2009.

Film Review – HALLOWEEN (1978)

Halloween' 1978: The Times Finally Reviews a Horror Classic - The New York  TimesHALLOWEEN (1978, USA) ****½
Horror, Thriller
dist. Compass International Pictures (USA), Miracle Films (UK); pr co. Falcon International Productions; d. John Carpenter; w. John Carpenter, Debra Hill; exec pr. Irwin Yablans, Moustapha Akkad (uncredited); pr. Debra Hill, John Carpenter (uncredited); ass pr. Kool Marder (as Kool Lusby); ph. Dean Cundey (Metrocolor. 35mm. Digital Intermediate (4K) (2018 remaster), Panavision (anamorphic). 2.35:1); m. John Carpenter; ed. Charles Bornstein, Tommy Lee Wallace; pd. Tommy Lee Wallace; set d. Craig Stearns; cos. Beth Rodgers; m/up. Erica Ueland; sd. William L. Stevenson (Mono | Dolby Surround 7.1); sfx. Conrad Rothmann (uncredited); st. James Winburn; rel. 25 October 1978 (USA), 25 January 1979 (UK); cert: 18; r/t. 91m.

cast: Donald Pleasence (Loomis), Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie), Nancy Kyes (Annie (as Nancy Loomis)), P.J. Soles (Lynda), Charles Cyphers (Brackett), Kyle Richards (Lindsey), Brian Andrews (Tommy), John Michael Graham (Bob), Nancy Stephens (Marion), Arthur Malet (Graveyard Keeper), Mickey Yablans (Richie), Brent Le Page (Lonnie), Adam Hollander (Keith), Robert Phalen (Dr. Wynn), Tony Moran (Michael Myers (age 23)), Will Sandin (Michael Myers (age 6)), Sandy Johnson (Judith Myers), David Kyle (Boyfriend), Peter Griffith (Laurie’s father), Nick Castle (The Shape).

Halloween 1963, 15-year-old Judith Myers has been stabbed to death, by her 6-year-old brother, Michael. After being institutionalized for 15 years, Myers breaks out on the night before Halloween. No one knows, nor wants to find out, what will happen on October 31st, 1978 besides Myers’ psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis (Pleasence). He knows Michael is coming back to Haddonfield, but by the time the town realizes it, it will be too late for many people. Carpenter’s landmark slasher movie spawned many sequels and imitations, but none has bettered this masterclass in building tension through visuals, tight editing and innovative camera work. The use of steadycam hand-held camera to create the illusion of a first-person point of view was a new technique at the time. Carpenter expertly builds the tension through the performances of his young cast and crew. Curtis is excellent as the square student heroine. Pleasence has fun as the psychiatrist who believes Myers is beyond redemption. Carpenter also contributed the eerie synthesised soundtrack, which has become a classic example of marrying music and image to create atmosphere and tension. It is also notable that there is very little blood, despite the carnage, as Carpenter relies more on lighting, editing and music to create the shocks. Curtis’ first feature film. The extended TV version runs 101m featuring footage shot during the filming of its sequel HALLOWEEN II in 1981. Remade by Rob Zombie in 2007.

Film Review – FANTASTIC VOYAGE (1966)

Image result for fantastic voyage 1966FANTASTIC VOYAGE (USA, 1966) ***½
      Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox; Production Company: Twentieth Century Fox; Release Date: 24 August 1966 (USA), 14 October 1966 (UK); Filming Dates: 25 January – mid June 1965; Running Time: 100m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: CinemaScope; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: Richard Fleischer; Writer: Harry Kleiner (screenplay), David Duncan (adaptation) (based on a story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby); Producer: Saul David; Director of Photography: Ernest Laszlo; Music Composer: Leonard Rosenman; Film Editor: William B. Murphy; Art Director: Dale Hennesy, Jack Martin Smith; Set Decorator: Stuart A. Reiss, Walter M. Scott; Costumes: Bruce Walkup, Truman Eli, Ollie Hughes (all uncredited); Make-up: Ben Nye; Sound: David Dockendorf, Bernard Freericks; Special Effects: Johnny Borgese, Greg C. Jensen (both uncredited); Visual Effects: L.B. Abbott, Art Cruickshank, Emil Kosa Jr.
      Cast: Stephen Boyd (Grant), Raquel Welch (Cora), Edmond O’Brien (General Carter), Donald Pleasence (Dr. Michaels), Arthur O’Connell (Col. Donald Reid), William Redfield (Capt. Bill Owens), Arthur Kennedy (Dr. Duval), Jean Del Val (Jan Benes), Barry Coe (Communications Aide), Ken Scott (Secret Service), Shelby Grant (Nurse), James Brolin (Technician), Brendan Fitzgerald (Wireless Operator). Uncredited: Brendon Boone (Military Policeman), Kenneth MacDonald (Henry – Heart Monitoring), Christopher Riordan (Young Scientist).
      Synopsis: A diplomat is nearly assassinated. In order to save him, a submarine is shrunken to microscopic size and injected into his bloodstream with a small crew. Problems arise almost as soon as they enter the bloodstream.
      Comment: Imaginative sci-fi memorable for its superb production design and photographic effects, which deservedly won Academy Awards. The script is solid, even if the dialogue is a little hokey at times, and provides the requisite set-pieces, helping build tension in the story. The concept of miniaturisation is fanciful, but once you get past that element there is much to enjoy in the fantasy it creates. Boyd makes for a likeable square-jawed hero and Welch adds glamour to the mix.  Capably directed by Fleischer and with an eerily discordant score from Rosenman.
      Notes: The picture marked the first major screen role for actress Raquel Welch. Won Oscars for Art Direction-Set Decoration (Jack Martin Smith, Dale Hennesy, Walter M. Scott and Stuart A. Reiss) and Special Effects (Art Cruickshank). Novelised by Isaac Asimov. Followed by an animated TV series in 1968.

Film Review – ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981)

Related imageEscape from New York (1981; UK/USA; Metrocolor; 99m) ***½  d. John Carpenter; w. John Carpenter, Nick Castle; ph. Dean Cundey, George D. Dodge; m. John Carpenter, Alan Howarth.  Cast: Kurt Russell, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence, Harry Dean Stanton, Isaac Hayes, Season Hubley, Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, Charles Cyphers, Frank Doubleday, John Stobel, Bob Minor, John Diehl, George “Buck” Flower. In 1997, when the US President crashes into Manhattan, now a giant max. security prison, a convicted bank robber is sent in for a rescue. Cult classic may have dated, notably in the visual effects, but still has much to enjoy. Russell deftly essays Clint Eastwood in his portrayal of Snake Plissken. Good support cast of oddball characters and some nice tongue-in-cheek touches from director/co-writer Carpenter. Grimy and decadent representation of Manhattan as a prison city is well realised. Followed by ESCAPE FROM L.A. (1996). [15]

Film Review – HELL IS A CITY (1960)

Image result for HELL IS A CITYHell is a City (1960; UK; B&W; 98m) ***½  d. Val Guest; w. Val Guest; ph. Arthur Grant; m. Stanley Black.  Cast: Stanley Baker, John Crawford, Donald Pleasence, Maxine Audley, Billie Whitelaw, Joseph Tomelty, George A. Cooper, Geoffrey Frederick, Vanda Godsell, Charles Houston. A police inspector pursues a dangerous jewel thief. Fast-paced and atmospheric crime thriller shot on location in and around Manchester. Baker is excellent as the driven detective on the hunt for Crawford. Director Guest works efficiently with a strong supporting cast (notably Pleasence as a tight-fisted bookmaker and Whitelaw as his promiscuous wife) and witty dialogue. Exciting rooftop climax adds to the suspense. Based on the novel by Maurice Procter. [PG]

Film Review – HALLOWEEN II (1981)

Image result for halloween iiHalloween II (1981; USA; Metrocolor; 92m) ***  d. Rick Rosenthal; w. John Carpenter, Debra Hill; ph. Dean Cundey; m. John Carpenter, Alan Howarth.  Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Charles Cyphers, Pamela Susan Shoop, Tony Moran, Lance Guest, Dick Warlock, Hunter von Leer, Leo Rossi, Gloria Gifford, Tawny Moyer, Ana Alicia, Ford Rainey, Cliff Emmich, Jeffrey Kramer. Following the events of HALLOWEEN, Michael Myers finds Laurie (Curtis) at the Haddonfield Hospital. More formulaic and bloody continuation, but makes effective use of the hospital setting. Curtis gives a physical performance requiring little dialogue, whilst Pleasence manically tries to convince others that Myers lives. Most effective moments are those that mirror set-pieces from the classy original. Followed by HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982). [18]