La Loba y la Paloma (Gonzalo Suárez, Spain, 1974)

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The hoary old plot of the villain returning to reclaim his loot is behind this Spanish chiller with heavy gothic trappings. Wily desperado Donald Pleasance stabbed a man to death over this particular loot, leaving himself unconscious and his victim’s daughter in an enduring catatonic state. All in a night’s work for The Plez, but now the treasure has vanished and only the girl holds the key to its location…

Director Gonzalo Suárez is best known for his arthouse work, but wasn’t ashamed to make crowd-pleasing horror-themed films as well back in the early ‘seventies. Using a cast of familiar genre stars, his strengths of mobile camerawork, attention to detail in art direction, and carefully composed atmospheric photography suited the prevailing gothic style very well. Beatriz (1976) featuring Nadiuska and Sandra Mozarowsky is a fine dark period drama, while the Psycho inspired Morbo (1972) is a true modern classic. It’s no surprise that this one (distributed in English as House of the Damned) turns out to be a minor classic as well, but what is puzzling is the obscurity it has fallen into, especially considering the rise in popularity of Spanish horror in recent years.

Standing in for the traditional gothic castle is a large house in the Spanish hills, a gatekeeper’s house apparently, that controls the sluices that drain the dank reservoir behind it. The householders are a swarthy thug with a menacing version of the looming physique of Bernard Bresslaw (Aldo Sambrell), and his wife a fantastically juicy red-headed tart in the shape of Carmen Sevilla. These are the remaining family of our orphaned heroine Maria. Pleasance, the cause of the orphaning, turns up on the doorstep one day with a cunning plan. Why don’t they bring Maria home from the convent, nurse the thoroughly mute and withdrawn girl back to health, then (and this is the really cunning part) have her tell them where the treasure is hidden?!

Unfortunately these unsophisticated people have the ‘grab, shake and slap’ approach to extracting information from a young female, going about it in much the same way as they would get a dog to tell them where it buried the Sunday joint. Clearly something more subtle is called for, so step up manservant Michael Dunn, a dwarf, and a small one at that. An alternatively cheery and scheming fellow (who walks like Mr. Bean), he has the advantages of both intelligence and closeness to Maria’s emotional wavelength. Egged on by Pleasance he uses the girl’s mangy old dolls to re-enact the tragic night of her father’s murder. It’s a grotesque and disturbing performance in which the puppet artiste gets quite carried away, but it draws the first glimmer of a response from Maria…

Muriel Catalá makes a classic gothic heroine, something of a surprise to those of us who only remember her for splashing around with nothing on in Le sauveur (1971). The camera loves her with her clothes on too, and never misses a chance to focus on a new angle of her distant and fragile beauty. She is the timeless gothic archetype, struggling against all the odds, fortified only by resourcefulness and inner purity, while the villains, cursed by innate wickedness, destine themselves to DOOM.

Suárez treats it all with tongue a little in cheek, sometimes verging on parody with overheated melodrama. It is probably significant that the treasure is a shapeless lump of a statuette that nobody could possibly want if it was not made of precious metal, and its all-important location hardly a secret from the audience given that the imagery is positively drenched in clues. But overall the film hangs together very well, and the best parts are visually intense and memorably thrilling.

Clip with Carmen Sevilla

scene from La Loba y la Paloma scene from La Loba y la Paloma scene from La Loba y la Paloma

Rating:   ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 4/5

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Dedicato a una stella (Luigi Cozzi, Italy, 1976)

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Teenager Stella gets the results of her blood tests in a hospital on Mont Saint-Michel, the famous landmark on the Normandy coast. A picturesque though unlikely and impractical choice; you can only get to it at low tide for a start. Perhaps the place has been a well-known centre of healing since its origins as a leper colony in the Dark Ages or something and I’m just showing my ignorance.

In a mix-up, perhaps or perhaps not deliberately contrived by the mischievous young Belgian (at least that’s where she says she’s from), the doctor gives the unvarnished truth of the results to middle-aged Englishman Richard, in the mistaken belief that he is her father. And he doesn’t even look Belgian; he’s an unshaven figure in a heavy overcoat with the posture of a hungover consumptive, though the disappointing truth is that he’s merely there to get a cut hand seen to.

This pretty girl is a lively and talkative thing, and thus to a man who has reached the age of reason a whole bundle of grief. She tries to inveigle herself into Richard’s life with a variety of ruses. The man’s reaction is complicated by the fact that he knows the dire prognosis of her medical condition and she does not. She is suffering from leukaemia and has three months to live…

There seemed to be a lot of these love stories around in the ‘seventies, about middle-aged men being the objects of over-attention from pretty young girls. Transparent wish-fulfillment fantasies, perhaps they were the revenge of the generation that missed out on the decade of free love. Often they had a mawkish tint. Some were more gloomy than others; Moments (1974) for instance, with Keith Michell and Angharad Rees, positively wallowed in an atmosphere of abandoned hopes, emptiness, and death. This one is about in the middle. The photography, most notably of the wintry coasts of northern France, is attractive if unimaginative. But in an era when even the most humble Italian films could have fantastic soundtracks, this one by the normally gifted Stelvio Cipriani has a plonking theme orchestrated for what sounds like recorder and tambourine.

The Last Concert (to use the title chosen for the English-language edition reviewed here) frequently provokes unintended hilarity. Richard Johnson, something of an older Alan Bates-alike (cf. Story of a Love Story (1973)), is decently gruff and hangdog but in a role that is inherently ridiculous. Pamela Villoresi is clearly from the school of acting that says the best way to play the part of a sixteen-year-old is by simulating brain damage. (On second thoughts perhaps she was just trying too hard to pass herself off as a Belgian.) Her eccentric tones of speech (scratch that: gabbling) are not what I would confidently identify as an Italian imitating a Belgian girl’s English accent, but she’ll do. Best line: “I am a silly girl; I won’t talk any more.”. Well, most promising line anyway.

It’s surprising to note how few characters are in this film. I mean people who interact with the leads and develop the storyline, rather than doing something as humdrum and mechanical as delivering a piano. The only character of note is Richard’s plump and jolly landlady, a mellower version of the Claire Davenport type. Strangely enough she can’t wait to bundle the young couple into bed; not like an English seaside landlady at all. Her daughter appears once at the breakfast table, played by Lucia D’Elia whose only other role was in Beyond the Darkness (1979). This cameo is just as memorable. Watch half her career going by in one hearty appetite. Such a lovely girl. I wonder what happened to her?

Stella’s antics, refusing to take anything seriously, taunting and manipulating with childish tricks, begin to suggest there is method behind the imbecility, and this flibbertigibbet has hidden depths – and pain. She reveals that, now her mother is dead, she is on a quest to find her father, a wealthy man who abandoned her as a baby. Meanwhile, after one joke in poor taste too many Richard finally cracks and slaps her; though it’s closer to the truth to say he fells her with a right hook. He put the entire weight of his body behind the blow, not to mention forty years of rage. The impact would certainly have broken the girl’s jaw. But they are friends again almost at once.

The pair visit a vacant house belonging to Stella’s father, a grey coastal mansion in strawberry gothic. As she wanders through the empty rooms haunting music drifts through the house. Broken-down bar-room piano bum Richard has pulled back the dust sheets from a grand piano and is playing a slow movement from a classical concerto of his own composition. It’s a revelation as profound and deeply moving as Tom Fun’s down-and-out friend Derek turning out to be the drummer from Roxy Music.

The crisis comes one evening over dinner at a restaurant when Stella confronts the self-pitying musical maestro with some home truths; without her he’d be “bumming around in Brittany” apparently. In the days when that didn’t sound like the week’s cultural highlight on BBC3 he takes offence. Get out my life he orders her, loudly, and using coarse and unimaginative language. (It was a posh gaff as well.)

So will it be kiss-and-make-up, or goodbye forever? We’re only half way through the running time so we can guess the answer to that one. It’s all utterly ridiculous, but on a second viewing the story reveals more subtleties than the crude treatment allows a sane person to take in at first sight. The stuff that cults are made of.

Rating:   ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 3/5

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Netzwerk (Ralf Kirsten, East Germany, 1969)

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I think it might be a spy thriller. Usually you can get a pretty good idea of a storyline without understanding the dialogue, but in this case the language barrier was insurmountable for me. It’s an East German flick, starkly photographed in black & white.

It starts off at a petro-chemical works. As a brief aside, take a look at the Wartburg barely seen at the bottom of the title shot (it didn’t seem worth a separate picture). Its lines seem relatively modern and stylish by late ‘sixties standards, not the ugly rattlebox East European cars are supposed to be at all. Of course they then didn’t change the design for twenty years.

Anyway, our hero the very familiar Alfred Müller, is a bigwig at the plant. He usually plays authority types, but here he’s younger and more vigorous than I’m accustomed to seeing him. Take a look at him doing his best ‘my name is Michael Schumacher and you have just blown off in my lift’ face (try it, it breaks the ice at parties). The phrase ‘doesn’t suffer fools gladly’ springs to mind.

Elsewhere, in some kind of hospital, there’s a middle-aged guy of Middle Eastern appearance. His nurse is a young Ursula Werner. Yes, you read that right, his nurse is Ursula Werner! She’s one of those starchy but really pretty and if-she’s-not smiling-she’s-positively-beaming ones too. If it’s wish-fulfillment fantasy you’re after then you’ve found your film.

Talking of wish-fulfillment fantasy, over in the university lecture hall drawing equations on the blackboard, hiding behind thick-rimmed spectacles but with an unmistakable jawline, is none other than Jutta Wachowiak as a university lecturer. Mmm, imagine Jutta Wachowiak saying something so important you actually wrote it down! She seems to be married to protagonist Müller (both characters are in the credits as ‘Doctor’) so this appearance isn’t purely gratuitous.

The setting and characters remind me of Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain (1966), which is the main reason I guessed it was a spy film. There are other hints too, such as people sitting around in fields at midnight presumably waiting to intercept possible parachute drops. I’ve become somewhat addicted to East German films in recent years, and enjoyed this one about as much as I can enjoy any film without any shootings, nudity or car chases, and without understanding a single word of the dialogue.

Rating:   ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 4/5

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Laughter in the Dark (Tony Richardson, UK, 1969)

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One of a number of cynical romances of the time, this one has a wealthy art expert falling in love with penniless young cinema usherette Margot (Anna Karina). This expert, Sir Edward More (Nicol Williamson), has a beautiful wife and bright young child, a house in the country in spacious grounds, even spots on the telly. Clearly he’s no fool, yet he falls for this scheming bint head-over-heels.

This is the first problem with the film. Williamson is an engaging actor, sometimes fragile and irrational, so very believable and easy to empathise with if not to like. Here you just want to give him a slap. The girl taunts him with greedy demands to be set up in a flat with everything to match while turning up at his house unasked and wrecking his marriage. And all before he’s even slept with her. Sometimes the less you get the more you want, but this is taking it too far.

No sooner is Margot shacked up with her sugar daddy than she takes up with an old flame, a French art forger and all-round chancer (Jean-Claude Drouot). Together they plot to fleece the older man, under the cover story of the virile lover being in fact a homosexual. Older men with nymphette lovers are renowned for raging jealousy, but that of Sir Edward is ridiculously easily dispelled. Later, when he has become entirely dependent on the girl, we the viewers are aware of things that he himself is not. But he clearly ought to be, so the necessary suspension of disbelief is not there.

Another weak point surprisingly enough is Anna Karina. She is a little too old for the part, and is an unenticing presence with an unpleasant (and unplaceable) European accent. Worse, the camera doesn’t really love her. Sometimes she doesn’t even look beautiful.

The story is adapted from a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, and here lies another common problem. Perhaps because they are too attached to the dialogue on the printed page the characters don’t come alive, and neither does the story. Something similar happened with another Nabokov adaptation, Jerzy Skolimowski’s King, Queen, Knave (1972). Visually the film is uninspired, though the photography is acceptable if a little limpid. Tony Richardson is one of those journeyman directors who made his name undeservedly by attaching it to the work of other rising stars of the time.

The film gets better as it nears the end, with the atmosphere becoming more dreamy and thus believability no longer a concern, but in the end the viewer is left with the realisation that’s he’s been promised a challenging arthouse drama and been served up nothing but a B-movie, and a slack one at that. People wonder why these films get neglected and forgotten.

Three clips with Anna Karina

scene from Laughter in the Dark scene from Laughter in the Dark scene from Laughter in the Dark

Rating:   ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 2/5

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La ley de Herodes (Luis Estrada, Mexico, 1999)

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I noticed a surprising number of people looking for scenes of Leticia Huijara in this title. So, as a believer in giving the public what they want no matter how prurient their tastes may be, I decided to take a look to see what the fuss was about. And sure enough you see Leticia’s bottom in it. And yes it really is fantastic. But more seriously, is the film as a whole worth watching?

I’m not a fan of modern cinema at all, so this being made as recently as 1999 (uhm, that’s 15 years ago now) I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Herod’s Law. One of the things I don’t like is the unnatural colour tints, where so often everything is tinged with an unappealing brown. But in this case it’s clearly deliberate, so extreme it verges on sepia, and works quite well at evoking a period atmosphere (the late 1940s that is). Also I find the aesthetic of the cramped vertical framing with people’s heads being chopped off at the crown, and the artificial camera movements done for show rather than suggesting the viewpoint of a human onlooker, both ugly and alienating from the human drama. These flaws are present here, but otherwise the photography is so strikingly bold that it compensates somewhat.

What of the story then? Basically it’s the tale of an Everyman (Damián Alcázar), a lowly apparatchik of the one-party state, sent to take charge as mayor of a remote and backward one-horse Mexican town. Presumably, his predecessors all having been lynched, he was regarded as expendable. But slowly, obeying the cruel dog eat dog law of nature of the title, he begins to take the village in hand. Mexican viewers have found the political satire exceptionally poignant, but for us outsiders we can only see it as a sort of blackly comic Western.

And a very lively and even amusing comedy it is too. The cast seem to fill their roles perfectly, especially Alcázar, and the dusty period atmosphere is very well recreated. Director Luis Estrada isn’t afraid to lay the imagery on a bit thick; raising the telegraph pole against the background of the cross on top of the church is a good example. Though it has a long running time of two hours there’s always some little drama or other going on to keep you amused, and the ending is suitably symbolic. Overall well worth a look.

Clip with Leticia Huijara

scene from Herod Leticia Huijara in Herod Leticia Huijara in Herod

Rating:   ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 3/5

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“Herod’s Law” “Leticia Huijara” “Luis Estrada” “Mexican Cinema”
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Thais (Ryszard Ber, Poland, 1984)

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The St. Thaïs of the title lived in the fourth century as a pampered courtesan, before converting to Christianity and retreating to an abbey in the desert. Pafnucy is the name given to the hermit sent to convert her only to find she was already a believer. According to the cynical version in the novel by Anatole France he then set about an uncompromisingly lecherous campaign to unconvert the woman whose beauty had bewitched him, not letting up even on her deathbed. Thus he was one of the first dirty old men in history; presumably he’s the same character Rafael Corkidi made Pafnucio Santo (1977) about.

It’s an odd choice of subject for a film from communist-era Poland. If there’s any moral appropriate to that particular society it’s hard to pick it out, and Caligula-style orgiastics, while fashionable in the West, were hardly encouraged. Maybe it’s an odd choice for me to watch as well, but I can clear that one up easily enough: I saw a picture of star Dorota Kwiatkowska bathing in asses’ milk, and I like watching beautiful women bathing in asses’ milk. So there.

The opening is stark, with the ascetic Pafnucy (Jerzy Kryszak) praying amongst dilapidated desert temples. Right away we have an unfortunate credibility problem: he looks like the It’s Man from Monty Python. In fact with his cadaverous features and golf-ball eyes he’s better than the It’s Man, but in point of fairness we’ll try to put that aside. In a series of decreasingly austere and grubby stages the action moves to Roman-occupied Alexandria, and our hero has his first bath. But in the interests of decency he politely asks the topless handmaidens to leave before he undresses – what a guy!

At an outdoor party amongst fragrant greenery Pafnucy first encounters the beautiful Thaïs, and never forgets her. The subsequent images contrast the poverty and martyrdom of life for the masses with the luxuriant lifestyle of the courtesan. One scene is particularly memorable; Thaïs leads a Dionysian orgy, sacrificing a lamb with a dagger as the women revellers frenziedly tear at each other’s clothes and bodies with blood-soaked hands. I’ve watched a lot of scenes in the same vein, but I don’t think I’ve seen a pagan revel done more intensely than this. Another long scene is of a Roman banquet, a sort of toned-down version of the one in D’Amato’s Caligula: The Untold Story, gladiators and all (though mercifully absent the horse).

Inevitably the film is a clash of styles. There’s just a hint of the filmed opera about it. Pafnucy is often shown in the shadows, looking on like we viewers, brooding, fantasising. Plenty of naked flesh is on show, though the treatment remains fairly tasteful. Dorota Kwiatkowska sometimes looks like she’s in a bubble-bath commercial, leaving more explicit views to the extras. Even here, when the camera has the chance to zoom in Franco-style on female pudenda, it “makes its excuses and leaves” as the News of the World used to say. Glimpses of nudity come across as a delightful bonus, rather than seeming like the intensive aversion therapy of a work by D’Amato and his ilk. Recommended as a not-too-shamefully indulgent piece of spicy entertainment.

Four clips from Thais starring Dorota Kwiatkowska

Dorota Kwiatkowska in Thais Dorota Kwiatkowska in Thais Dorota Kwiatkowska in Thais Dorota Kwiatkowska in Thais

Rating:   ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 3/5

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The Valley (Obscured by Clouds) (Barbet Schroeder, France, 1972)

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Some imposingly desolate and rugged mountain scenery opens this story of a group of young people’s spiritual quest for a remote valley in Papua New Guinea. You think the location is being established impressively well. But then the mist clears a little, and it seems like maybe it’s the Scottish Highlands after all. Obscured by Clouds is literally what this “lost” valley is called on the map. (It reminds me of the time I spent weeks trying to get in to a website called 403 Forbidden – with a saucy name like that it’s no wonder they went to such lengths to protect it.) Here’s one of the problems already; the locations just don’t come across on screen as hostile and dangerous enough. I was going to call it a credibility gap, but how about “intrepidity gap”. Some of us have been on more perilous journeys and still been back in time for our teas.

Viviane (Bulle Ogier) is a bored diplomat’s wife left to fill her days browsing the bric-a-brac stalls for native arts and crafts. One day she bumps into Olivier (Michael Gothard) and he shows her some feathers from an exotic bird of paradise. She joins him and his band of hippie travellers in a search for the hidden valley where the bird is said to live. Will the feathers, and thus the quest itself, turn out to be a metaphor for a journey of self-discovery? Let’s hope not, I can never get my head around things like that.

Not much that is unpredicatble happens. Viviane may be a diplomat’s wife, but first and foremost she is a Frenchwoman. Thus she falls into bed with Olivier the very day they meet. Then off they head into the mountains, and they all take part in a tribal festival; rather coyly unfortunately – one of the girls takes her top off, but Viviane remains disappointingly clothed. Things look like they are about to take a turn for the better when she takes deep draughts of a native shaman’s potion. That stuff isn’t known for making people act more sensibly. Will she check her credit card statements, and wonder aloud whether she’s paying too much for home insurance? I don’t think so! But actually it just makes her act a little bit wet.

La vallée is amateurishly made. It neglects simple things like establishing the core characters, and tends to film in medium shot without interleaving close-ups. Scenes sometimes come to an end before they’ve barely even started, leaving what they were trying to establish something of a mystery. All this acts against any sort of involvement with the characters, who seem irredeemably dull anyway.

Of course this is not an attempt to tell a story of riproaring adventure with heart-stopping incidents along the way. It meditates on how the view of the tourist is literally a world apart from that of the native, who has to take the good with the bad parts of their way of life, and can’t leave it all behind once the fortnight is over. But I knew that already. Even people back in the ‘seventies knew that already.

The ending, again predictably, is open but downbeat (cf. The Holy Mountain (1973)). This film is one part of a nihilist cinematic journey that would end the decade with Cannibal Holocaust.

The Valley (Obscured by Clouds) clip with Bulle Ogier

Bulle Ogier in The Valley Bulle Ogier in The Valley

The Valley (Obscured by Clouds) clip with Valérie Lagrange

Valérie Lagrange in The Valley Valérie Lagrange in The Valley

Rating:   ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 1/5

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“La vallée” “Barbet Schroeder” “Bulle Ogier” “Valérie Lagrange”
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The Ice House (Derek Lister, UK, 1978)

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This is the last of a distinguished line from the BBC: the Ghost Stories for Christmas series. It’s been revived in recent years; this short play may help to explain why it was abandoned.

One fine summer our hero Paul (John Stride), a slow-moving but amiable fellow of a little over forty, is staying at a health spa set in a splendid country house. He finds an incongruity; the young male staff have very cold hands, even the ones in the sauna – “a touch of the cools” they call it. Couple this with the ice house of the title (a Victorian era stone chilled storage house in the grounds) and we can make a fair stab at guessing the plot already. Probably the same device that was used in the chiller Shock Treatment (1973). But that French title boasted a Mediterranean climate and full frontal nudity (“Come on, lets have a seaweed sauna!”, “Hurrah!!” etc.) so I suspect this will struggle to compete.

I worry about giving away too much of the plot, but on reflection the plot doesn’t matter. The hotel is owned by a youngish brother and sister, very close. He reminds me of the guest who called Basil a “grotty little man” in Fawlty Towers, while she (Elizabeth Romilly) looks like a gypsy just down from Oxford. The cream of the English upper-middle class then. The rest of the guests are getting on in age, so Paul is singled out for a warm welcome; expect a lot of expositional dialogue from these two.

One more thing to mention: there’s a vine growing over the ice house, with just two flowers, one red one white, entangled unhealthily close together. That’s a real puzzler: where have I seen something so close in concept this could almost be a metaphor? Hmm.

Here’s the heart of the problem: not only does the script consist of the lowest kind of banalities, the characters don’t act out their parts, they just stand around quoting their lines into the air. I don’t know why the director chose a style of such empty pretension. Perhaps he hoped to create a gently otherworldly atmosphere, but the result seems like an under-rehearsed school play. We must “mull over” the concepts in our minds afterwards I expect.

Meanwhile Paul (our hero) like a typical Englishman is a little too eager to oblige his hosts. The enduring image is of a middle-aged man ambling in carpet slippers to his DOOM.

Rating:   ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 1/5

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Dokter Vlimmen (Guido Pieters, Netherlands, 1977)

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A dog gets knocked down by a car in the opening of this Dutch period drama. Not just any kind of dog either, it was a St. Bernard that was left whimpering in the road. Back in the ‘seventies, when St. Bernards were massive! Crude, but effective as a way of pulling at the heartstrings. It made me wonder for a moment about the validity of how they measure TV ratings. Do you count towards the official viewing figures if your view of the programme was blocked by a haze of tears?

Enough of whimsical diversions, this is about a country vet in the pre-war Netherlands. It immediately makes you think of the much-loved English TV equivalent “All Creatures Great and Small”, but despite the hero suffering similar indignities in farmyard mishaps this is altogether darker stuff. Our easy-going vet is a frequenter of brothels for instance – I don’t remember notorious waster Tristan Farnon visiting a house of ill repute even at his lowest ebb. It doesn’t shy away from showing actual animal slaughter either – even when it is totally unnecessary. The photography is dark and rich too, portraying an authentically damp and grimy countryside and verging towards noirish in the towns.

Dokter Vlimmen has a rival in Dokter Treeborg. He is established as the bad guy straight away. By owning a more expensive car, cultivating a moustache, and generally looking menacingly like an upper-class Englishman. A villain through and through. The plot unfolds via the workmanlike device of a court case. At this point a cynical viewer can give up on the story. On every occasion the liberal doctor will be shown, despite the odd personal failing, as effortlessly more intelligent, caring, open-minded, and just plain better-all-round than his conservative churchgoing fascist-scum counterpart. Oh, and he’ll be better at fighting too.

If filmmakers want to argue for the superiority of a liberal outlook it’s a shame they choose such illiberal ways of doing it. Example: to show what a really cool guy he is Dr. Vlimmen rescues a piglet from drowning in a muck pit by throwing himself in after it. It’s just a shame they had to nearly kill a real piglet in slurry to film the scene.

Like many pre-war dramas I found the atmosphere heavy and oppressive; perhaps this isn’t intentional. The people always seem stuffy and unlikable, and it just doesn’t feel like a pleasant world in which to live. Mixed with a hackneyed agitprop storyline I didn’t enjoy this at all.

 

Rating:   ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 1/5

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Crazy – Um Dia Muito Louco (Victor Lima, Brazil, 1981)

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This is the kind of fluff I spend a lot of time watching but seldom seems worth the bother of reviewing. But this time why not? It’s an amiable bit of fluff if nothing else.

Our hero shoots his housemate dead (I don’t know why but the rat must have had it coming to him otherwise how are we going to identify with the protagonist?). He spends the rest of the film fending off a sequence of callers at the front door (tip for domestic murderers – always bury the body before you advertise his room in the paper).

The first knock on the door of any interest is from Belinda (Alba Valeria). She has what I call the Latin American Revolutionary look (at least until I can think of something more snappy (chic guevara maybe?)). She is soon stepping out of her “combat fatigues” and standing by the umbrella stand in her pants gabbling too fast to understand and making frantic hand gestures. I have a vain hope she is explaining herself.

Meanwhile next door there appears to have been a mix-up as two lads are photographing two naked young lovelies without any film in their cameras. Without even any cameras in fact! Oh dear, some girls are so naïve.

So that was sort of alright, who’s next at the door? We’re in luck, it’s Helena Ramos selling Bibles! And wearing glasses too – why can’t she always be so demure? Helena takes longer than the last one but eventually, after a certain amount of pantomiming with the corpse (sorry sick relative) from our hero, seems to have got the idea she can kip down in the hallway. So we have a shy striptease complete with old-fashioned girdle and suspenders. Nice but I wish she’d left her specs till last. And so it goes on.

This farce is fairly typical of the Brazilian sex comedy fare of the time, a shortlived genre called pornochanchada. Most were cheaply made using location filming and little if any support from original music, action sequences or special effects departments. Nevertheless at its best the results stand comparison with popular European cinema of a few years earlier. Jean Garret made sophisticated pastiche Euro-style psychodramas, while Ody Fraga developed an indigenous comic style of gentle absurdity. Crazy Crazy Day is cheaper and clumsier than the average, being essentially an old-fashioned farce set mostly in a domestic hallway, but has an innocent easy-going appeal.

Crazy – Um Dia Muito Louco clip with Helena Ramos

Helena Ramos in Crazy - Um Dia Muito Louco Helena Ramos in Crazy - Um Dia Muito Louco Helena Ramos in Crazy - Um Dia Muito Louco

Rating:   ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 2/5

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“Crazy – Um Dia Muito Louco” “Helena Ramos” “Victor Lima” “pornochanchada”
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