Blogathons, Disaster, Films I Love

The End Of The World Blogathon: Deep Impact (1998)

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MovieMovieBlogBlog and The Midnite Drive-In are co-hosting this blogathon about films depicting the end of the world. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

In 1998, two films were released which had almost identical storylines. Both films focused on the potential destruction of Earth by a comet which is heading straight for us. If these comets hit the planet it will cause an extinction level event.The first film to be released was Armageddon. That film is a pure popcorn flick and it is great fun. That film has Bruce Willis and his team of oil drillers heading up to the comet and destroying it. It has ended up becoming the more popular of the two films. I do like Armageddon, but I think it is more intent on focusing on the special effects and action, than on the characters and getting you emotionally invested in what is going on. It is also so over the top. The music and photography are awesome though.  

My favourite of the two films is Deep Impact. I love this one because it really makes you think about how you would feel, and what you would do, if the events depicted in the film were to actually come true. It also takes a more realistic approach to the subject matter than the other film does. It also makes you care about the characters and builds up the tension, the fear, and the despair about what will happen once the comet hits. It also ends on a much bleaker note than the other film does.

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The comet hits our planet. Screenshot by me.

I’m also not ashamed to say that this film makes me cry quite a few times – the address about the national lottery and learning who won’t be picked for it. The astronauts final messages. A couple of the president’s addresses to the nation. Jennie giving up her place on the helicopter to her colleague and her baby.   

This film also has some incredible actors appearing in it. There’s Morgan Freeman (dignified and reassuring) as the first black president of the US. Vanessa Redgrave, Robert Duvall, James Cromwell and Maximilian Schell. I just wish that the ending had been a bit longer (so we could have seen even more of the destruction and the immediate aftermath)and that we had seen the experiences of people outside of America.  

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President Beck has to make a difficult address to the nation. Screenshot by me.

A comet is detected heading directly towards Earth. From its size and width it is evident to scientists that if this hits us, then it will be an extinction level event. Governments around the world know of this impending threat and all keep silent until an agreed later time when the news will be revealed publically.

A sharp eyed American news reporter, Jennie Lerner (Tea Leoni)stumbles accidentally onto the story about the comet when she is investigating the resignation of The Secretary Of The Treasury (James Cromwell). Jennie thinks he has resigned due to having an affair, she soon learns this could not be further from the truth and that he resigned to spend more time with his family because of the comet. 

Jennie is persuaded by President Beck (Morgan Freeman)not to break the story. He will announce it in a couple of weeks any way. If she holds off he will allow her to ask the first questions at the comet briefing. She agrees to this. The President announces the news and panic and fear descend.

There is hope though in the form of a shuttle crew led by NASA veteran astronaut, Captain Tanner (Robert Duvall). The crew launch, travel to the comet, and set nuclear weapons on its surface. The world watches anxiously for news, hoping for success. Sadly only bad news comes through. The weapons detonated, but instead of destroying the comet, the detonation actually ended up splitting it in half.

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The comet enters our atmosphere. Screenshot by me.

This means that there are now two separate comets heading straight for the planet. One astronaut was killed setting the weapons, the rest survived and the shuttle is still being tracked by Houston, but Mission Control have lost voice contact with the crew. 

President Beck then announces the back up plan, this is the national lottery plan. This will see citizens get selected at random, those selected will be escorted to some deep caves, to live along with a selection of animals. Nobody over the age of 50 (unless already preselected for their expertise in a necessary field of study such as medicine)will be picked at all. This news is met with a very mixed reaction indeed. Those who are not picked must make tough decisions about what they will do next (commit suicide, try and hide underground somewhere, or live on the surface as normal right up to the last second).

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Jennie hears some bad news. Screenshot by me.

As the comets get closer and closer, the surviving astronauts work together and make a brave decision. They can’t stop the first piece of comet from hitting the earth, but they can try and stop the bigger piece.

The crew agree to fly a suicide mission into the bigger comet and detonate the remaining weapons they have on board. This is what they do and they manage to destroy the comet. I really love how they put their own desires to get home aside in order to save their planet.  

The first piece of the comet sadly still hits the earth, and the impact from it kills millions of people. The comet also destroys all the land and cities in its path. Some of the main characters are killed in this sequence. So the film gets quite a bittersweet ending. I personally think that the film becomes all the more moving because of that ending.      

Elijah Wood is good as Leo, a teenage boy who must grow up fast because of what is happening. Leelee Sobieski doesn’t really get much to do as Leo’s girlfriend Sarah, but she does a good job in the scenes she is in. Also, does anyone else think that Leelee looks exactly like Helen Hunt in this film? Vanessa Redgrave is moving as Jennie’s mum. Morgan Freeman oozes decency, strength and kindness as President Beck. Robert Duvall is excellent as the wise space veteran, who ends up becoming a father figure to his new crew. Maximilian Schell is good as Jennie’s estranged father. 

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Captain Tanner comes up with a plan. Screenshot by me.

I think that both Freeman and Duvall deliver the best performances in the film. Both convince as decent men of experience who know what they are doing during this crisis.

I’ve never been much of a fan of Tea Leoni, but I really like her in this and thought she did a good job conveying the horror she feels in scenes such as where she has to read out the national lottery details.

Star Trek fans will be happy to see Denise Crosby (Lt Tasha Yar in The Next Generation)as the mum of Sarah. The scene where Denise’s character says goodbye to her children for the last time gets me sobbing every single time I see it.  

James Horner provides a beautiful and emotional score which I think really adds a great deal to the film.  

I just wish that the film had some scenes in it showing how people outside of the US reacted to the comet coming towards them. Other countries and how they are preparing for the end are mentioned a few times in the film, but I’d have really loved the film to be a bit like The Day After Tomorrow and have followed various characters in different locations around the world as the comet gets closer to the planet.

My favourite scenes are the following. The national lottery news broadcast. The astronauts farewell messages. The buses and helicopters arriving at the caves. President Beck patting the arm of an elderly colleague as he leaves the White House for the last time. Jennie and her dad on the beach. The husband and wife gazing lovingly at each other as the comet hits. The wedding scene. Tanner reading Moby Dick to another astronaut after he has been injured. Jennie giving up her place on the helicopter to her colleague and her little girl. 

Hopefully we won’t ever have to face the end of the world. If we do, I think that the way people are depicted in this film trying to survive and how they react to the news won’t be far from the truth of how that experience would go in reality.  

What did you think of Deep Impact?

 

 

 

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Films I Love, Page To Screen, Science Fiction

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

In 1968, a film was released which blew the minds of all the people who saw it. That film was Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Fifty years after its original release, Kubrick’s film remains something which has the power to fascinate, to stun,and to leave people scratching their heads in confusion. This film also has the ability to leave the viewer open mouthed in awe at what they have just witnessed.

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The space station. Screenshot by me.

There are so many memorable moments in the film. Who can forget the space station swirling in space to the strains of The Blue Danube Waltz? The gravity defying walking scenes inside ships and shuttles? The trippy stargate sequence, which surely must have inspired the makers of Star Trek: The Motion Picture? Many people even went to the cinema to see 2001 back in the 60’s and 70’s and dropped acid during the stargate sequence, they called the film the ultimate trip.   

This is very much a film that will divide audiences. Some will love every second of it and will hear no word against it. Others will find it slow, incomprehensible and even boring. I remember when I first saw this film. It was on VHS and I had no idea what I should expect from the film. It was a film I was coming to completely blind. I had only been told it was a film I should watch because I was starting to really get into classic era cinema around this time. When the film finished, I just sat in a stunned silence for quite a while. I remember being both very impressed and VERY confused by what I just seen. I also thought (and still do) that the dawn of man sequence didn’t need to be as long as it is. A couple of days later I watched it again, and that is when I came to appreciate it much more.  

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Kubrick as a director though. I admired his skill but found his approach to filmmaking to be quite cold and detached. Over the years he has ended up becoming a favourite of mine. His films have a unique look to them and are very visual and immersive, they are not traditional films in any way. His films are powerful and so well made, and the majority of them have an impact now just as they did upon their original release. He may well be the best director of all time due to his preparation, his directorial eye, and because of the themes and issues which his films tackle.  

I think that on a first viewing this film is actually quite an overwhelming experience. It makes you think and then what you’re thinking about just blows your mind (I’ll come to my interpretation of some things in the film a little later on).  Kubrick also bombards you with images, music and sound effects to the extent that the film becomes more of a sensory experience than an ordinary film viewing. I think this is what makes Stanley Kubrick such a master of his craft, his films were events and they were special. If you watch just one film of Stanley’s to get a sense of what he could achieve, then I would recommend that this is the one you choose to watch. 

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Bowman prepares to leave the ship. Screenshot by me.

I also like how Stanley brings a reality to this film. Nothing in 2001 seems like it couldn’t happen, or that it couldn’t ever be invented. I also like how he moves away from the incorrect depiction of there being sound out in space. In the scenes where Bowman and Poole go outside The Discovery, all we hear is them breathing in the oxygen being pumped through their suits. In reality this is what it is like when taking a space walk. Apart from the inclusion of Pan American spaceflights and 1960’s fashion, there isn’t really anything that dates this film when we watch it now. 

This is a film which inspired many future filmmakers including Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. This film changed the visual look of Science Fiction films forever. The effects look real and spectacular today. When the film was first released, the effects completely blew peoples minds because nothing like these visuals had been seen in films before. The effects in this film still look realistic when they are viewed today. I think that there is nothing in this film which screams out to you ” I am a special effect”, apart from the stargate and space baby scene at the end.

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A stewardess walking upside down. One of many shots that makes you wonder how they achieved it. Screenshot by me.

Some people consider present day special effects to be amazing, but personally I find current special effects to be very fake looking and way too overused. When it comes to effects, nothing that we see today even comes close to what we see in 2001: A Space Odyssey.   

I also think that this film feels fresh and relevant when viewed today. It makes us think about human evolution and where we rank in the universe. It looks at the positives and negatives of artificial intelligence. It shows us how human beings are always striving for something more, and are always up for adventure and exploration. How humanity is always trying to be something more than it is. The film also shows young filmmakers just what they could achieve if they put their minds to it and put in the effort and focus.

Interestingly this film also predicted technology that we have now as a part of our everyday life. The videophone that Floyd uses is obviously the precursor to technology like Skype, webcams and FaceTime.  

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Floyd calls home using video technology. Screenshot by me.

We now have artificial intelligence that we interact with. Although these are not as advanced as HAL is, they never the less do exist and they are quite remarkable achievements. Lots of manual jobs are now done by automation.

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HAL. Screenshot by me.

We see devices that look like big Ipads being used by Bowman and Poole. The two astronauts are also seen enjoying a TV dinner long before that really became the norm of an evening for most people. In this scene they are both sitting next to one another, and both of them has their own device and they are watching the same programme! This is now sadly a norm in many homes as people sit next to one another on their mobiles and Ipads instead of sitting talking to each other. 

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Bowman and Poole each looking at an Ipad type device, watching TV while eating dinner. Screenshot by me.

We also have an international space station now (much smaller than that we see in the film of course)and have gone to moon (although we have no bases there).  

Kubrick was a very visual director and he always had a crystal clear image in his head of how all his scenes should look. He was a perfectionist and would work extremely hard until he got the shots he wanted. I think that this film is possibly his greatest achievement behind the camera. The film plays out like a Silent film in many parts, and it falls to the images in the film to draw us in for a large portion of the film. This is also a film where pretty much every shot is memorable. I think that you could walk away from this film for twenty minutes, come back and you would walk back in as another impressive scene/shot was getting underway. Most films only have a handful of standout moments, but with this film, pretty much every scene standouts and remains in your mind after viewing. 

The film was based upon a 1948 short story called The Sentinal. This was written by the British author, Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke would later expand on that story and publish it as a novel called 2001: A Space Odyssey. He would write several sequels to this story over the coming years. Clarke co-wrote the screenplay of the film along with Stanley Kubrick.

Clarke explains in the novel what the star baby is, but in the film it is left unexplained. I actually prefer the ending of the film because it is the moment that audiences always talk about the most after watching the film. You can really draw your own conclusions about the end of the film. If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend that you read Clarke’s novel and the other novels in his 2001 series. 

The film is split into three sections. The first section focuses on apemen (played by actors in very convincing ape costumes, mimicking ape behaviour) and how they are merely a part of the land around them. One day a smooth rectangular black monolith appears on the ground. The apemen are wary of this object, but then curiosity becomes too much for them and they all touch it. Shortly after this one of them picks up the bone of a dead animal. He realises that he can wield this bone and use it as a tool to harm and kill others. This shot also shows the exact moment that man started to move away from being an animal and started to become aware of things beyond itself; human beings minds from this moment on are opened to  bigger thoughts and ideas. The ape throws the bone into the air and we cut from the past to the future. The shot of the bone cuts to a shot of an orbiting space satellite. This is what this one spark of realisation by the apeman has led to.

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The apemen encounter the Monolith. Screenshot by me.

The second section shows us the great achievements that man of the future has made. Man has created technological wonders and moved off the earth and ventured out into space. Man has become civilised and sentient. If these men were to be seen by the apemen, then I think they would be perceived by them as god like figures. 

Dr. Heywood Floyd(William Sylvester)is a scientist who is flying out to an American base on the moon. Floyd spends some time on the international space station before travelling over to the moon. He is there to look at what has been discovered on the surface of the moon. A monolith identical to the one the apemen saw has been found. Tests indicate it has been buried there for millions of years and was deliberately buried. 

When the science team walk up to the monolith they are overwhelmed by a piercing high pitched sound emanating from the monolith. The film then jumps forward again in time. 

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Overwhelmed by the Monolith signal. Screenshot by me.

The third section finds us eighteen months on from the moon incident. Astronauts David Bowman (Keir Dullea)and Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood)are onboard the new deep space vessel, Discovery One. The ship is the first manned mission to Jupiter. Also aboard in suspended animation are three scientists who will be awakened upon arrival at the planet. Bowman and Poole have lots of work to do onboard, but the overall running of the ship is done by HAL 9000. HAL is an advanced artificial intelligence (spookily voiced by Douglas Rain). HAL is supposed to be incapable of harming or endangering human life.

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The Discovery. Screenshot by me.

As the months go on, HAL becomes concerned about the mission and behaves erratically. He kills Poole and the three scientists, and then attempts to kill Bowman who manages to survive and disconnects HAL’s circuits. After this Bowman discovers a prerecorded message from Dr. Floyd explaining the real reason for the Jupiter mission. The signal from the moon was detected as being sent out to Jupiter. The crew were going to be instructed to investigate for signs of life on the planet.

Bowman leaves the ship and comes into contact with a monolith. He travels through some sort of stargate or star tunnel. This experience is beyond his comprehension. We next see him in a strange room, and he ages and is transformed into a star child. The film ends with the star child orbiting earth.

I interpret the film as telling us that mankind is small and child like in comparison with the vastness of the universe, and also in comparison with the awesome power and inexplicability of the circle of life. We have learnt much, we have created some remarkable things which would have been considered impossible centuries ago; and yet we still have so much to learn and comprehend. We act as though we are in control of all we do, when actually we are not and our lives are short and fragile. We know we will all die, and yet we still react with surprise and horror at death when it arrives.  I also like that the humans are very much secondary characters in the film in comparison with the mystery of the monolith and of all the scenes showing the vastness of space. We are so small in comparison with the universe as a whole and the film shows us this fact. 

The film makes me think about some very big things. I believe that none of us will ever know for certain if there is a god or not until we die. I also have a theory that god is simply the name that mankind has come up with in order to explain the unknowable force that is the circle of life. When we don’t understand something, we have a tendency as as species to have to try to explain it. Isn’t it far easier for us to say that some all powerful being created us and gave us life by magic? than to admit that we don’t know how we came to be, and that we have no idea why we are here or how and why we evolved how we did? The life cycle is something to revere though in the way that people worship god, because it is the life cycle which brought us into being. Life sustains us, it ends our lives, and it is something far beyond our comprehension.   

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Perhaps the Monolith represents all that we still have yet to learn and understand? Screenshot by me.

There are so many big questions still unanswered in life. Why is our planet set up to sustain our life? Why is there gravity? Why are our bodies and organs set up the way they are? Why do most animals have shorter lives than humans? How come everything on the planet exists for a specific reason? How come we have so far been unable to find other lifeforms of equal or advanced intellect elsewhere in the universe? Why do we seem to be the only species on the planet who seem to be aware of our own mortality and ask big questions about who we are and where we came from? Why do we insist on wasting time killing and hurting each other instead of working together to cherish our planet and help increase our understanding and knowledge? This film makes me think of these things and ask all these questions.

I think the mysterious monolith represents all that we have yet to learn (be it about life, or the universe etc)and all that we don’t yet understand. I think it also represents man’s evolution and our ability to change and to grow. The monolith appears in the film at key points in mankind’s evolution. I think the space baby represents us as being as a child in comparison with the size of the universe and with the power of creation and life. At each point in human existence we think we are all powerful and are in control of what goes on around us, this film shows us that is not the case at all and we are not as invincible or powerful as we like to think we are. 

I have to mention HAL now. He is actually the most developed and interesting character in the entire film. The human characters are not all that well developed and they are secondary to the story and the visuals. Perhaps this was done to emphasise their lack of importance in the face of what they get caught up in and discover?

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Bowman and Poole speak with HAL. Screenshot by me.

I also think that the scene where Bowman disconnects HAL is very disturbing to watch. We hear and see this entity slowly lose his mind as Bowman pulls out his computer chips. We are seeing Bowman literally kill HAL in order to save his own life. As scary and dangerous as HAL has been up to this point, we have never the less been able to connect with him in some way and we consider him as much of a real being as Bowman and Poole are. The disconnection scene makes for very difficult and uncomfortable viewing. 

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Bowman disconnects HAL. This kills HAL. Screenshot by me.

The inclusion of HAL in the film also poses the question about whether or not artificial intelligence is capable of thinking beyond its programming. Can it feel emotions or not? Should it be considered as much a lifeform as we are? HAL also makes us see that technology can sometimes be promised as being perfect and safe, and yet can often break or malfunction. This is an issue we are experiencing right now as greater advancements are being made in the creation of artificial intelligence. 

Fifty years on, and there are still no definitive answers to any of the questions and issues found in this film. We still have so much to learn and to do. For all our intellect, for all our ability to create and change, mankind is still sadly very primitive. We are still governed by animalistic instincts and urges (to procreate, to survive, to kill)to the extent that we hinder any meaningful progress because we’re hating each other over things like racism and religion. If only we could all come together to ponder the bigger questions in life. If only we could come together to work as the one species we are (there is no race, we are ALL human beings)and work towards a world where we live as one and share the planets resources equally. 

Stanley Kubrick’s film was a game changer in film history. His film made Science Fiction a genre to be taken seriously. It pushed the boundaries of what could be made possible on screen. Planets, ships and stars all look like they are the real thing in this film. Scenes such as that featuring the stewardess walking upside down as she moved around the ship were really unlike anything seen before.  This film also inspired the realistic look found in later Science Fiction films such as Star Wars and Alien.

This film also highlights the power of film to transport you to another place and how it sucks you in completely. I would say to someone who hasn’t seen this before to prepare to surrender themselves to the film. 2001: A Space Odyssey isn’t merely a film, it’s an immersive experience and it will make you ponder some VERY big and deep issues and questions. If you’re after films that cater to short attention spans, then this really isn’t the film for you. If you don’t like long films, then again, this isn’t the film for you. If you appreciate a well made film by a master of his craft, then this is one to check out.

My thanks go to Stanley Kubrick and all his crew and cast for their hard work in creating this film. That it looks new, and feels relevant fifty years on, is really a testament to the skill and genius of Stanley Kubrick. 

If you want more of the story, then do check out the sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact. I think this sequel (starring Roy Scheider, Helen Mirren and Kier Dullea)is highly underrated. While the sequel isn’t in the same league as 2001, it is a very good film and people who didn’t get on well with the first film may like this one better. 

Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough I think. What do you think of this film? What do you make of the ending of the film?

 

 

 

 

 

Drama, Films I Love, Horror

Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo At 60

This year is the 60th anniversary of the release of an Alfred Hitchcock film called Vertigo. This dark and powerful film wasn’t all that well received upon its release back in 1958, but over the following decades it has been reassessed and it is now considered to be one of Hitchcock’s greatest film achievements.

The film has since been showered with many accolades. It has even been called the greatest film ever made by some film critics. It is a film that I have come to love a great deal. I was entranced by its story of sadness, love, horror and tragedy the first time I saw it. It has become a firm favourite. 

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Scottie and Madeleine kiss. Screenshot by me.

This film is really several types of film all rolled into one, it is part Film Noir, part horror, part mystery, part romance and part tragedy. It is a film about obsession, mystery, death, love, longing, desire, fear and guilt. I consider this film to be Hitchcock’s most fascinating, haunting and unforgettable film. I think it’s also his most moving and romantic film. I also find this one to be the Hitchcock film which lingers the longest in my mind after I’ve finished watching it. It is a film that really gets under my skin.

The film was shot out on location in San Francisco and the history and beauty of that city ended up being the perfect backdrop for the film. The city almost becomes another character in the film and the city streets and locations feature heavily in the vast majority of scenes. 

Vertigo is certainly a dark and hypnotic film, but it is also a very beautiful and moving film too. At its heart is the growing bond between Scottie (James Stewart)and the mysterious and troubled Madeleine (Kim Novak). Scottie is a former Police Detective who has quit the force after developing vertigo and acrophobia. He develops these conditions after nearly falling from a building during a police chase. Scottie also blames himself after a colleague died while trying to save Scottie from falling from the roof. He is wracked with guilt and fear following this incident.  

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Midge comforts Scottie. Screenshot by me.

Scottie is aided in his recovery from this incident by his friend and former fiancé, Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes). Midge is the woman for him, she is a real woman and she adores him and is there for him no matter what. Scottie ends up ignoring her though in his pursuit of a femme fatale (typical Noir guy there then 😉 ).

Scottie is hired by an old friend, Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore)to work as a private detective to keep an eye on Elster’s wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak).

Elster tells Scottie that he is worried about his wife, he fears that she may be possessed by the spirit of a dead ancestor. She is acting very strangely and he fears she may also be suicidal.

Scottie follows Madeleine, he soon becomes convinced that something is not right with her at all. He also comes to accept that as odd as it may seem, that Elster may well be correct when he suspects Madeleine could be possessed.

Scottie ends up falling in love with this mysterious woman. He is left wracked with guilt and despair after he fails to prevent her from jumping to her death. Some time after her death Scottie meets Judy (Kim Novak), a young woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to the dead Madeleine. Scottie soon learns that all may not have been as it had initially seemed to him. So he sets out to do some investigating. 

Scottie and Madeleine are two troubled and sad souls clinging to one another, they remind me of the way a drowning person clings to a lifebelt or piece of wood to try and stay afloat. Scottie feels protective of Madeleine, he is drawn to this gentle and shy woman of mystery. He can’t see that all may not be what it seems with her at all. He is so blinkered by love and desire that he ignores reality. He is the typical Noir detective slowly being drawn to his doom by the femme fatale that he desires. The irony is that the woman he loves isn’t real in any sense of the word. The woman that Scottie sees before him isn’t even the real Madeleine. Her actions and personality are not even those of the real woman pretending to be Madeleine. So Scottie is basically in love with a woman who doesn’t exist. The woman he loves and longs to have is nothing more than a phantom. Madeleine is the ultimate Noir femme fatale, she leads Scottie on and is forever unattainable. 

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Scottie and Madeleine in a rare happy moment. Screenshot by me.

Madeleine likes Scottie very much and she can’t deny her feelings for him in return, but she never lets him too close to her. She feels safe with him and yet she runs from him, never allowing herself to stay with him for long periods of time. Madeleine always runs away or pushes him away from her. They want to be together but can’t. We in the audience want a happy ending for them but we know that it is highly improbable they will get one.  This is Noir and Horror territory that we are in after all. 

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James Stewart as a traumatised Scottie. Screenshot by me.

James Stewart and Kim Novak deliver career best performances here. James in particular goes places we have never seen him go before. This is one of the darkest roles he ever had in his career, and I think he does a superb job in playing this troubled character. He really makes us feel Scottie’s obsession, lust, love, grief and longing.

I think that James also does a superb job of conveying the crippling fear when Scottie has an attack of vertigo and is left helpless and paralysed in terror, shaking and sweating and desperate to get away from wherever he may be at the time. 

                                         Kim Novak as Madeleine and Judy. Screenshot by me.

Kim is superb in the dual role of the ethereal, refined and regal Madeleine, and the fun loving, independent and sexy Judy. She does a terrific job of conveying Madeleine’s fear and vulnerability. She also excels at conveying Judy’s longing and fear much later in the film. Kim’s roles were originally going to have been played by Vera Miles, she unfortunately had to give up the role after becoming pregnant. I really wish we could have seen how Vera would have played this dual role, but I’m convinced that she wouldn’t have been able to match what Kim did with these two roles. 

Hitchcock made three films in his career that I think can be considered to be horror films, Psycho, The Birds and Frenzy. Vertigo is the closest he ever came though to making a ghost story. The first half of the film plays out like a ghost story. It appears that Madeleine is possessed by the spirit of a dead ancestor who went mad and committed suicide aged 26.   

Kim gives Madeleine an otherworldly and ethereal air in these sequences, she really makes you believe that this woman is torn between the realm of the dead and the world of the living. There is a far and away look in Kim’s eyes during the scenes where Madeleine is possessed. You believe she is someone else and is a deeply troubled woman. Some of the scenes in the first half are very eerie. Look at the sequence in the forest for example, that scene is very eerie and would not be out of place in a horror film. Don’t forget the scenes where she visits the graveyard and the old hotel too. Seeing these scenes makes me wish that Hitchcock had tried his hand at making a ghost film.

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Madeleine visits a grave. Screenshot by me.

Madeleine throws herself to her death from the roof of a bell tower. Scottie tries to save her from jumping but he is prevented from doing so by a vertigo attack. In the second half of the film we see Scottie haunted by the memory of the dead Madeleine. He has a breakdown brought on by his guilt at being unable to save her, and his deep grief and pain at losing her. When he recovers from his breakdown he wanders the city streets and constantly runs into women and places who remind him of Madeleine and their time together. Scottie then meets Judy (Kim Novak) and we see another type of horror as a living woman is remoulded into the image of a dead one, and we see a dead woman resurrected.

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Judy becomes Madeleine. Screenshot by me.

This second section of the film plays out to me like My Fair Lady meets Frankenstein. I find this part even more disturbing and sad than the first half to be honest.

In this half of the film, Scottie changes Judy into Madeleine and thus he erases Judy from his life so that he can be with Madeleine again.

This final half also plays out to me like a Greek or Shakespearean tragedy. There is no happiness to be found in this film from this point on.

We see Scottie learn that his breakdown, guilt and grief were all for nothing because the woman he loved wasn’t even the woman who died. We also see him destroy Judy (the real woman he loved, he just didn’t realise that at the time)and recreate her in the image of the dead fantasy he so desired. We also see Scottie inadvertently cause the death (once and for all, no bringing her back from the dead now)of Judy/Madeleine by taking her back to the scene of the crime at the end of the film.  It’s dark, disturbing and bleak stuff for sure, but also incredibly sad too. 

I also like how the film gets us to change who we sympathise with and also why we sympathise with them as the film goes along. At first we sympathise with Scottie and Madeleine for being troubled and lonely souls who want to be together. We then sympathise with Scottie when he loses the woman he loves and blames himself for it. We then sympathise with him when we learn he was used, manipulated and lied to. We then sympathise with Judy when we see how Scottie treats her and uses her. We then hate Judy when we learn what she did and what she agreed to be a part of. We still feel sorry for though because she was used by Elster and is being used by Scottie to get what he wants. We then sympathise with Scottie again during that tragic ending.

There are no black and white characters in this (apart from Elster who is villain, and Midge who is the good girl left on the sidelines by the man she loves)only grey characters. Personalities change through out the film, and we like and loathe certain characters at certain times during the film. Nothing about this film is simple and uncomplicated. This is precisely why I love this film so much.

I have to praise the photography by Robert Burks. His work makes the film look so vibrant and beautiful. I think that he deserves high praise indeed for what he managed to achieve here. I love the lighting in the film and I’ve also noted the recurring use of green clothes and green lighting when Madeleine/Judy are around.

We have Madeleine wearing the green and black evening dress, driving a green car, being surrounded often by green trees, lawns and plants. We have Judy wearing a green dress, green skirts and green jackets. We also see her being bathed in an eerie green light (shining through her window from the neon light outside). Green symbolises jealously and life. So perhaps this colour was used to show that Scottie is jealous that Madeleine is Elster’s and she isn’t free to be his?

                           A few shots featuring the key colour of green. Screenshot by me.

Perhaps green was also used to show Madeleine and Judy as offering Scottie life and freshness, and an escape from his troubled life? Perhaps it represents Madeleine/Judy as being the object most desired by Scottie, yet also ending up being the one thing that he can never end up having? What do you think about the use of green in the film? 

The music is important in the film. Bernard Herrmann’s score here could well be his best work. It is beautiful, romantic, sweeping, spooky, sinister and thrilling. At times the music also sounds like it is swirling, I like that because it represents Scottie’s feeling of vertigo. The music adds so much atmosphere to the film. 

This is a film where Scottie and Judy deserved a happy ending. Of course if they had got a happy ending I highly doubt we would be talking about this one so much sixty years on. Plus a happy ending isn’t what Noir and tragedy are all about. There was an alternative  happy ending that Hitchcock was made to film to keep the production code people happy. This ending is included as an extra on many DVD and Blu-ray releases, it shows Scottie and Midge back together again and a radio report indicating that Elster has been brought to justice for his crimes.  The trouble is that this ending just lacks the shock and emotional impact of the bell tower finale.

The bleak ending also implies that Elster has completely got away with his crimes, and this to me makes that ending all the more dark and disturbing than it already is thanks to that final shot.This is a film that offers plenty for audiences to discuss and ponder over once the film has finished. I think that is why I love this one so much. This film makes you think and feel and draws us in, just like Madeleine and her problems draw Scottie in. 

The only issues I have with the film are the following points. I don’t find it plausible that Elster would have left Judy alive, she knew what they had done and she could have gone to the Police or blackmailed him. If Elster wanted no trace left back to him why leave her alive?

I also don’t get why Judy didn’t just run away once Scottie found her and invited her out for dinner. I also don’t get why the reveal to what had happened in the bell tower was shown so early in the film. I think it would have been more impactful if the truth had been learnt by us and Scottie jointly during the scene where Judy puts on the necklace. 

I’d like to say happy 60th birthday to one of Hitchcock’s greatest achievements. Well done to James Stewart and Kim Novak for so perfectly conveying tragedy, love, desire, pain, fear and obsession to us. Thanks to all the cast and crew for their hard work to help make this film. 

What do you think of this film? Please share your thoughts and views below. 

 

Films I Love, Horror, Thriller

Jaws (1975)

Photo0086This film had a huge impact on me the first time I saw it. It completely terrified me and had me on the edge of my seat throughout. It has been a favourite since I first saw it in my early teens.

I love the characters and the story a great deal. I love how the film is a mix of genres – horror, thriller, adventure and comedy. I love the locations. I also think that John Williams chilling and suitably atmospheric score is one of the very best he has ever composed, his music greatly adds to the film.

I also love how the two parts of the film are so different from each other as well. The first half is pretty much a horror film featuring some very disturbing sequences. The characters are all established in the first half and the unseen creature from the deep keeps the viewer terrified. The second is all about the growing bond between Quint, Brody and Hooper. The second half also becomes quite the thriller and has a lot of action in it. When I first saw this film I was also very surprised by just how much humour is to be found in the second half – Quint’s outrageous sea songs for example, plus Quint and Hooper’s banter and constantly trying to outdo one another. This is in stark contrast to the grim and frightening atmosphere of the first half.

A scene that always cracks me up in this is Brody’s reaction to Hooper, when he asks him to go right out to edge of the boat so he can get Brody in the foreground for scale as he snaps a picture of the shark. Brody refuses to do so. He looks at Hooper as if he is crazy, and climbs down to side of the boat(to go back up to the bridge)only to be met with the sight of Quint coming towards him carrying a spear gun. This sight forces the Chief to return to where he just came from. 🙂

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The shark attacks The Orca. Screenshot by me.

The trio are so different from each other and I really like watching them overcome their differences to find some common ground and work together to survive. The development of their relationship is as fascinating for me to watch now as it was when I first watched it years ago. All the characters(but particularly the main trio)are so well written and they come across as being very real people who you can connect to.

Jaws was the film that really started Steven Spielberg on the road to film success. He had impressed with his debut film, Duel, but it was Jaws that made him a household name. He really proved with this film just what he was able to accomplish as a director. I think this is one of the best films he has ever made (and that is saying something). If I had to pick just one of his films to keep I would pick this one without hesitation. I really like how Spielberg conveys so much horror and suspense without even showing the shark for a larger portion of the film. When he does show the shark, he does so sparingly and its appearances have a far greater impact than they would if he had shown it all the way through the film.

The film is based upon the novel by Peter Benchley. The film sticks pretty close to the book but there are some differences to be found. I don’t find the characters as likeable in the book as I do on screen. I think that bond between the characters is part of the films success and I didn’t feel the growing friendship in the book. 

I was also very glad that the subplot of an affair between Hooper and Mrs. Brody wasn’t included in the film. One of my favourite aspects of the film is the happy family life that Chief Brody enjoys, if this subplot had been included then that happy atmosphere would have been killed. I also think the subplot would have made it really difficult to like Hooper.

Benchley would ironically spend the rest of his life trying to undo the bad reputation his novel and the film had given to Great White Sharks. Benchley became a marine conservationist and he wrote books about sharks and the sea, helping people to understand these creatures and their habitat.Shark attacks certainly are horrific, but they are thankfully extremely rare events. Yet, thanks to the novel and this film, people are sadly wary of the sea, and also of the fascinating and beautiful creatures that live there.

The film is set in the American coastal town of Amity. The film opens with a young woman called Chrissie, going for a moonlight swim in the ocean. What starts off as a beautiful scene(I love the moonlight shining on the water and how peaceful that moment looks)soon turns horrific. Poor Chrissie is grabbed from beneath the waves by something unseen. She screams in agony as she is pulled and dragged around, finally she is pulled beneath the waves and all we can hear is the splashing of the waves. 

                                           Chrissie gets attacked. Screenshot by me.

The next day Chrissie’s remains are washed up on the beach and the police are alerted. Chief Martin Brody(Roy Scheider)discovers her death was due to a shark attack. He has to try and persuade the mayor(Murray Hamilton)to close the beaches to prevent any further attacks. Vaughn refuses and a young boy is killed very close to the beach in a truly disturbing scene. As the shark attacks mount up, and become more disturbing and graphic each time we see them on screen, Brody and Vaughn hire experienced local fisherman Quint(Robert Shaw)to hunt and kill the shark. Brody and Quint set out aboard Quint’s ship, The Orca, to search for the shark. They are joined by young shark expert Matt Hooper(Richard Dreyfuss)who comes equipped with specialist technology and equipment to help them find the shark. Quint and Hooper rub each other the wrong way right from their first meeting, this leads to many funny scenes as they argue and try and outdo one another. The trio soon find the shark they seek(or rather the shark finds them)leading to a terrifying finale.

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Brody and Hooper make a frightening discovery. Screenshot by me.

There are so many memorable moments in this film and the following are some of my favourites. Quint’s Indianapolis story. The estuary attack(this is the first time we see the shark and it looks terrifying). Quint scraping the chalkboard in the meeting to get some attention. Hooper and Quint’s tattoo stories(love the way Dreyfuss laughs in this scene, it cracks me up every time).Hooper and Brody discovering Ben Gardner’s boat. Hooper’s argument with the mayor and his shocked reaction to what the mayor says back to him. The scene with the two fisherman who almost get attacked by the shark and the “You’re going to need a bigger boat” scene.

Scheider, Shaw, and Dreyfuss are all at their very best in this film. Scheider is the hero of the film, his character is an everyman who is thrown into an unusual situation made worse for him by his fear of the sea. As the film goes on we see Brody having to conquer that fear in order to be able to survive. Brody is my favourite character in this and I love the way Scheider plays him. He is a quiet hero and Scheider does such a good job of portraying him working hard to overcome his fear to be of great help in the second half of the film.

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The chief takes aim. Screenshot by me.

Shaw steals every scene he’s in as the hot tempered Quint. He provides many of the films biggest laughs, but he also gets to deliver the most moving and powerful scene in the film, the famous Indianapolis speech. Shaw’s performance in that scene should be used in an acting master class, the way he delivers those lines, the look on his face and in his eyes is what makes that moment so powerful to the viewer.

I also like how it is the laughing Hooper who first gets his laughter under control and realises the significance of the story Quint is about to tell, and after this you can see he has a newfound respect for Quint. It’s also interesting to note that the second half of the film almost plays out like a version of Moby Dick, with Quint in the role of Captain Ahab.
Dreyfuss is essentially the comic relief role in this film, his laugh always cracks me up because it’s so infectious. There is more to Matt Hooper than comedy though, he is also a dedicated shark expert, he loves these creatures and is fascinated by them, but he knows what they are capable of and doesn’t underestimate them. He and Quint both know what sharks can do and both know much about them and their habitat.

The film has three sequels. Jaws 2 is just about ok. It has its moments and some of the original cast return. Avoid 3 and 4 though, they are in the so bad they are laughable category(joining Exorcist 2 and The Swarm on the “what were they thinking when they made this?” shelf). 3 has some special effects that look they were lifted straight from an 80’s computer game. 4 features sharks that can roar, target specific humans and do so for revenge(I’m not making this up.)Going back to the original film – I’m curious to know if this is just me, or if anyone else has ever noticed this? The opening scene to me has many similarities to Creature From The Black Lagoon(1954). Particularly the shot filmed from under the water as the women in both films swim across the surface. Could this film have had an influence on Spielberg and that shot was put in as a homage?

I’d love to get your thoughts on this film. Never seen it? Get the DVD and watch it.  

Classic TV, Science Fiction

The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)

In 1959, a TV series aired in America that was quite unlike anything else airing at that time. This series tackled the big issues of the day. Issues such as racism, individuality and conformity, hatred and war. The series also looked at what it even means to be human. It was scary, moving, shocking, powerful and very thought provoking. The series stands up very well when viewed today and more than retains its impact and ability to make the audience think. That series is The Twilight Zone.  

“You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into The Twilight Zone!” Rod Serling’s opening narration for seasons 4 and 5.

I love this series! Growing up I had heard and read a lot about this series, but I had only ever actually seen a handful of episodes from it. That all changed a couple of years ago. I treated myself to the complete series on Blu-ray(the episodes are beautifully cleaned up and look like they could have been made today). It is now one of my favourite series.

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Gig Young takes a trip down memory lane in Walking Distance. Screenshot by me.

In addition to it being one of greatest Science Fiction series ever made, I also think this is the most human series I have ever watched. What I mean by that is it so perfectly captures just what it means to be human.

The series shows us our weaknesses, our strengths, our desire to better ourselves or to change a situation we don’t like. It reflects humanity back to us by showing us the best and worst of humanity.

The series also contains some very moving performances and scenarios which have the ability to really touch the viewers heart.

I especially love the episodes where we in the audience are made to think what we would do if we were in a particular characters shoes. Who among us wouldn’t love to be able to go back and offer advice and support to our younger selves? Well, by watching Gig Young in Walking Distance we can feel like we have done. By watching No Time Like The Past, we can see that the good intentions in trying to chance historical events may not be possible or even advisable.

The Twilight Zone series was created by Rod Serling. Rod was a WW2 veteran who despised hatred, war, bigotry and cruelty. He poured his heart and soul into this series and it shows on screen. He not only created the series, but he also produced it and wrote many of the episodes. 

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Martin Balsam and William Bendix in The Time Element. Screenshot by me.

The series first came into being with a script written by Serling, called The Time Element. This unofficial pilot episode for the series was first aired on the Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, on the 24th of November, 1958.

Martin Balsam(who would go on to guest star in the official series)and William Bendix were the stars. This story of a man who claims to be able to time travel back to Pearl Harbor just before the infamous attack there really sets the tone for the series we all know today. This episode is included as an extra with the Blu-ray boxset.

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Earl Holliman in Where Is Everybody? Screenshot by me.

The official series aired a year later, on the 2nd of October, 1959. The first episode of the official series was called Where Is Everybody? This episode finds a man (Earl Holliman) discovering an abandoned town and not remembering who he is.

The series would continue on the air until 1964.  The series is primarily classed as Science Fiction, featuring many stories of time travel, alien invaders and alien worlds. I like many of those episodes, but my personal favourites are the creepy ones: episodes such as The Grave. Thirty- Fathom Grave. The Hitch-Hiker(the first episode that I ever saw). Deaths-head Revisited and The Howling Man.

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Some shocking information is revealed at the end of The Silence. Screenshot by me.

The powerful performances and different weekly settings ensured that Serling’s series became very popular with audiences. The series real claim to fame though was the twist ending to each episode.

These endings are the series trademark, and these twists often leave us reassessing the previous 25 minutes that we have been watching. I love that no matter how many times I watch the episodes that those twists still retain their shock factor, even when I know full well what’s coming next they still work.

It is a credit to Serling and his superb regular writing staff of Charles Beumont, George Clayton Johnson and Richard Matheson, that the series is still as powerful and impactful today as it was when it first aired. Many other famous writers including Ray Bradbury took turns writing scripts for the series.

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Ed Wynn and Murray Hamilton have an important talk in One For The Angels. Screenshot by me.

The scripts are real quality too and they are very good character pieces. They really knew how to write back then and how to put so much into a simple 25 minute episode.

You just don’t see anthology series like this any more. You also seldom get script writing of this quality anymore, which is a real shame I think.

 

I also like how you never know where you’ll end up next in this series from episode to episode. One episode could be set on an alien world, another set in the old west, and another in the present(50’s and 60’s).

Serling’s series also bravely tackled the big issues of his day – particularly racism, fear of nuclear war, fear of people and places unknown to another set of people etc. The morality tales still pack quite a punch and sadly make you see that in some ways not much has changed since the series aired. Humanity is still intent on killing one another, there is still racism, and there is still fear of other cultures etc.  

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Rod Serling in one of his introductions. Screenshot by me.

I can also think of no other series where the creator became such an integral part of their own series(not even Alfred Hitchcock on his anthology series.) Serling is the heart and soul of the series I think.

He provides the voice over narration for all episodes and he filmed intros and outros to the episodes. The face of Serling is as much a part of the series as the famous theme tune and the twists. In the Blu-ray boxset, Serling’s intros and outros are included for all the episodes. I really enjoy watching those and seeing Rod introduce each episode.

I consider the first three seasons to be the best. I’m in the minority of fans who actually quite likes season 4(locks self in sealed vault to escape onslaught of season 4 hate 😉 ). While I will agree with the season 4 critics that the format change from 25 minutes to 50 was a mistake; I do strongly disagree that the episodes found here are the weakest of the series.

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Robert Duvall becomes fascinated by a doll house in The Miniature. Screenshot by me.

Some of my favourites from season 4 are The Thirty-Fathom Grave. On Thursday We Leave For Home. Miniature(one of the most moving of all the episodes, and featuring a memorable performance by a young Robert Duvall).The New Exhibit. Jess-Belle and Printer’s Devil.

I actually think that season 5 is the worst of the series. So many of the episodes in this are terrible(what went wrong with the writing here?)or bear too strong a resemblance to earlier episodes. There are a few gems to be found though such as In Praise of Pip. Nightmare at 20,000 feet(perhaps the best known of all the episodes).An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge. The Masks. Living Doll. Night Call and Stopover in a Quiet Town.

Throughout the series there are many fan favourite episodes. Time Enough At Last. Five Characters In Search Of An Exit. The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street(although I personally think this one would have worked better as a paranoia story without the alien involvement that we later discover). Nightmare at 20,000 feet. The After Hours. And When The Sky Was Opened. The Invaders. In Praise Of Pip. Walking Distance. It’s A Good Life. The Silence. The Masks. A Stop At Willoughby and The Odyssey of Flight 33.

There are also somewhat lesser appreciated episodes to enjoy. The Last Flight. Nick of Time. People Are Alike All Over. One For The Angels. Printer’s Devil. The Hunt. The Passersby. I Am The Night,Color Me Black. The Sixteen Millimetre Shrine. I Shot An Arrow Into The Air(surely the origins of Serling’s film The Planet of the Apes?).Judgement Night. The Obsolete Man. Passage For Trumpet and Mirror Image.

I also love how many big film stars feature in this series. I envy classic era audiences who got to tune in weekly not knowing who would appear next.

A handful of stars made more than one appearance on the series: Jack Klugman(superb in several deeply moving episodes), Burgess Meredith, William Shatner, Martin Balsam etc. I think the quality of the work is evident given the amount of film stars who agreed to guest star in these episodes.

The series also features one of the most instantly recognisable themes in TV history. Chances are if you’ve never seen an episode, you’ll have heard that intro tune at some point in your life. The original theme tune for the series was composed by Bernard Herrmann, this theme can be heard in season 1. As much as I do love the later theme, Herrmann’s theme is very eerie and mysterious and I love it very much indeed because it’s so atmospheric. The theme that we all know today didn’t make its debut until season 2, that iconic later Zone theme was composed by Marius Constant.  

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Joanne Linville and James Gregory in The Passersby. Screenshot by me.

I suppose there is also the big question as to just what exactly The Twilight Zone is and what it means? I take it that it is a phrase that perfectly sums up the weird and unexplainable events in life, be it our current life or in a time back in the past or forward in the future. I have often found myself saying “I can’t believe this, it’s like I’m in The Twilight Zone”, when faced with bizarre or horrible situations in my life.

My ten favourite episodes are: The Passersby(featuring a heart wrenching performance by Joanne Linville, as a woman left in deep emotional distress following the American Civil War). Walking Distance. The Last Flight. The Grave. Printer’s Devil. The Odyssey of Flight 33. The Changing of the Guard. In Praise of Pip. The Howling Man and One For The Angels.

Similar series to this which I like are One Step Beyond and Thriller. I have also seen a few episodes of Rod Serling’s later series called Night Gallery; this is a much darker series than The Twilight Zone and I highly recommend it to horror fans. 

Please share your thoughts on the series. What are your favourite episodes?

Never seen an episode? What are you waiting for? The Zone awaits you. Just make sure you get a return ticket though, because you wouldn’t want to get stuck there. Would you? 

 

 

Blogathons, Tributes To Classic Stars

Announcing The Ida Lupino Centenary Blogathon 2018

Hi everyone. I think it’s high time we had another blogathon. This year would have been the 100th birthday of the actress, director, writer and producer, Ida Lupino. I’d like to invite you all to join me in celebrating her centenary. 

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Ida in The Bigamist. Screenshot by me.

Ida was born in London, in 1918, she went on to make quite a name for herself in Hollywood. She became an actress, producer, writer and a director too.

She was a tough and determined woman. She had equal amounts of talent both before and behind the camera. I admire her for being a groundbreaking woman in a very male dominated industry. She really helped to pave the way for future generations of female directors.

I am hosting this blogathon to mark Ida’s centenary. I do hope you will all be able to join me to celebrate her life and career. You can write about Ida as an actress, director, producer or as a writer. You can also write about her entire career if you would like to.

You can enter more than one post if you wish to do so. I am allowing duplicates for the films she directed, but no more than two duplicates please for films that she starred in. Previously published posts you’ve written about Ida will also be accepted for this blogathon. 

The blogathon will be held for one day only on the 12th of May, 2018.  

Simply let me know what you would like to write about and leave me a link to your blog. Take one of the banners below and put it on your site somewhere to help spread the word. You can view the list of who is writing about what below. 

Most importantly have fun writing! Let’s do Ida proud. Lets honour her talents and also the great contribution she made to the classic film era. 

 

Participation List

Maddylovesherclassicfilms :The Hitch-Hiker

Movie Movie Blog Blog  :Ida directing four episodes of Gilligan’s Island

Realweegiemidgetreviews :The Sixteen Millimetre Shrine (Twilight Zone episode)

Musings Of A Classic Film Addict :The Sea Wolf

Taking Up Room : They Drive By Night

Old Hollywood Films : The Trouble With Angels

Classic For A Reason : The Hard Way

Down These Mean Streets : Private Hell 36

In the Good Old Day’s Of Classic Hollywood : While The City Sleeps

The Midnite Drive-In: Ida and The Twilight Zone

Caftan Woman: Moontide

B Noir Detour: Outrage

     Portraitsbyjennie : Deep Valley

 

 

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Ida banner 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blogathons, British Cinema, Films I Love, True Story, War

The Marvellous Michael Caine Blogathon: My Five Favourite Michael Caine Performances

caine3Realweegiemidgetreviews is hosting this blogathon all about Michael Caine. Be sure to visit Gill’s site to read all of the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

Michael Caine is one of my favourite actors. He is someone who I have grown up with, and he is someone whose work I always try and make time to watch. I first saw him in The Muppet Christmas Carol and I’ve loved him ever since.  

He is an actor who I think is always worth watching, sometimes he has appeared in some really terrible films (yes, I’m looking at you The Swarm and Jaws The Revenge)but he is usually always watchable. I think he has got even better as he gotten older to be honest. 

The following are my five favourite Caine performances. I’m not claiming that these are his best performances. These are simply all performances and films of his that I really love. 

 

1- Zulu (1964) 

This British war classic is the film which really made me a fan of Michael’s. This is not only a cracking film filled with terrific performances, but it is also the film that got Michael noticed by audiences and critics.

Michael has the difficult task in the film (which he manages so well)of making us both hate his character, and then start to like and respect him, until eventually he has become one of the characters we are really hoping survives. He goes from being arrogant and annoying,to being capable and calm under pressure, to being battle fatigued and desperate.  I love the growing bond between his character and Stanley Baker’s. Starting off as opposites and rivals these two men soon become very important to one another, and they see each other in a different light as their hostility towards one another melts. 

 

2- Miss Congeniality (2000)

This hilarious film sees Michael as a Henry Higgins type character. He plays the fussy make up artist who has to help a seriously unglamorous FBI agent (Sandra Bullock)become a pageant beauty for an undercover assignment. He has to turn her into a lady.

He is hysterical here filled with disdain and possesing an acid tongue one moment, and then turning kind and loveable the next. Michael looks like he is having great fun in this film too and that just helps to make it funnier I think. I love the restaurant scene where he is watching Sandra’s character eat,you can see how repulsed and fascinated by her he is. So funny.

 

3- Batman Begins (2005)

I think that Michael was perfectly cast as a tougher and more worldly screen version of Alfred Pennyworth. He captures Alfred’s great love and loyalty for his master, the caped crusader Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale).

Michael’s Alfred is a war veteran. I think you can believe that he was made Bruce’s legal guardian because he could protect him should the need to ever arise. Michael makes his Alfred tough, funny, sharp, loyal and resilient. I think this film is very good and that he stole all the scenes he was in. Whenever I watch this, I really enjoy the film, but I am always waiting for the scenes I know he appears in. 

 

4- Educating Rita (1983)

Michael is both funny and moving here as the teacher who has lost the will to teach. Into his life comes a young woman called Rita (Julie Walters). She is desperate to learn from him. Teaching her, and seeing her knowledge grow, really makes him very happy and he feels of use again. As they spend more time together he begins to fall in love with her and also grows to love life again and becomes a happier person.

Michael’s performance here is all in his expressions and eyes. It’s a complex character he is playing and he does a fantastic job of letting us see what this guy is feeling and going through. This is a film that I return to again and again, and each time I do, Michael’s performance never fails to have me laughing one minute and tearing up the next. 

 

5- The Ipcress File (1965) 

Michael plays a more realistic secret agent than James Bond. Michael is Harry Palmer, a spectacle wearing British agent who has to find out who is brainwashing some scientists. He is torn between knowing who to trust and gets caught up in something far beyond his control. Michael shows us here that brainy men can be just as sexy as men of action. 

Harry Palmer is the anti Bond and Michael plays the role so well. This guy lives modestly, and cooks his own food. His job is more about observation and being watchful, rather than shooting his way to the answers. Michael is so cool in this flick, and he oozes class and style. I never get tired of watching this film. 

 

What are you favourite Michael Caine films and performances? I’d love to hear what you think of the films I chose. 

 

 

   

Blogathons, Classic TV, Science Fiction

Time Travel Blogathon: The Odyssey Of Flight 33 & Once Upon A Time

Time Travel Banner

Rich at Wide Screen World and Ruth at Silver Screenings are co-hosting this blogathon about time travel. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.   

I have long been fascinated by time travel. What would it be like to actually be able to go forward or backwards in time? What would you do, and where would go if time travel were a reality? Once you travelled through time, would you be able to return to your own time afterwards?

If you went backwards in time would you try to save loved ones from death? Would you try and stop things from happening that would cause misery and death to millions? Should you try and interfere in past events at all?(I don’t think you should, as you would end up changing the future and further negative things could occur because of what you did.) These are all big questions and that is why I love these types of stories so much because they really challenge you to think about what you would do if you were the character travelling through time. 

I’ve decided to write about two of my favourite time travel episodes from the TV series The Twilight Zone. Long time readers of my blog will know of my great love for this series. I love the blend of genres found within it. I love the famous actors who agreed to guest star in it, and I love how the series makes you really think. My favourite stories from this anthology series are the horror and time travel ones.   

The two time travel episodes I’d like to write about are The Odyssey Of Flight 33 and Once Upon A Time. Both take a very different approach to how they tell a story of time travel.

 

If you’ve not seen either of these episodes, then please don’t read on any further as there will be spoilers!

 

 

 

The Odyssey Of Flight 33 (Season 2, Episode 18)

 

 

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The flight crew notice something is amiss. Screenshot by me.

There are no easy answers in this episode and I think that is precisely why I love this episode so much. The anomaly which causes the plane to move through time is completely unexplainable.

The anomaly is simply one of those weird things that exists in our world (like the Bermuda Triangle for example)and if you get caught up in it, then you will be in for a very weird experience indeed.

If you went through what the passengers and crew of this flight are about to, then I think you would be very scared and would be left speechless about the whole experience.

The episode begins up in the air mid flight. A passenger plane is on its way to land in New York.

Towards the end of the flight the Captain begins to feel a very strange sensation, it feels to him as though the plane has drastically increased its speed.  He gets quite concerned about this weird sensation. At first the other crew members don’t feel it, but then they do and become convinced something isn’t right.

      The flight crew can’t believe their eyes. Screenshot by me. 

When the passengers and crew next look out of the windows they are not where they expect to be at all. The land they see down below is empty of all signs of human existence.

Then they see that a dinosaur is down there happily chomping on a tree. They all realise then that they have taken a very strange detour indeed.  

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They see this dinosaur on the ground. Screenshot by me.

Everyone panics. Some people refuse to accept what they are seeing. Then the plane speeds up again and everyone looks out and sees they are back in New York. The crew slowly begin to stop celebrating though when they can’t contact their destination airport on the radio. They also soon see down below them the 1939 World Fair. The plane has come home, but this is not their New York, it is the New York of over twenty years earlier.

They obviously can’t land here either. So, with fuel supplies running dangerously low, they keep on flying, desperately hoping to keep speeding up and hopefully finding themselves back in their own time period. 

This episode is in my top 10 favourites from the whole series. I love the setup for the story and how it has a realistic look about it. There have been many stories and reports of planes vanishing. Many stories of pilots reporting seeing strange things while flying, or experiencing strange events mid flight. I think that those stories make you accept that this story is perhaps not so far fetched as it might sound. 

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Captain Farver. Screenshot by me.

I think that the actors all do a terrific job here. The ones playing the cabin crew all convince as pilots, navigators and radio operators who are all veterans of their jobs. Rod Serling’s brother Robert actually wrote several books on aviation, and he helped Rod write the cockpit dialogue and make it sound realistic. 

John Anderson delivers my favourite performance as the calm and rational Captain Farver, who slowly begins to realise that he and his flight are trapped in something far beyond his control.

This episode always leaves me wondering what happened to the people on this flight. Will they ever make it back home? Or are they doomed to fly around the planet, moving between time for eternity? It’s almost like this plane could become an air version of the Flying Dutchman. Thought provoking and quite sad really.  

 

 

Once Upon A Time (Season 3, Episode 13)

 

 

We now move on to a very different type of episode. This one is much less serious and I think it has an uplifting and warm feeling about it. This one also tells a time travel story, but it tells it in a completely different way to The Odyssey Of Flight 33.  

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Woodrow tries on the helmet and begins to time travel. Screenshot by me.

The episode is basically there to grant Buster Keaton an opportunity to show us all that he still had his comic skills, and that he was still more than capable of performing stunts. The first time I saw this episode I was overjoyed to discover Buster was in it.  

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Woodrow arrives in 1960. Screenshot by me.

Buster plays Woodrow Mulligan, a grumpy caretaker who lives in 1890. A professor he knows has invented a helmet. This helmet has the ability to transport whoever wears it through time.

Trying on the helmet himself, Woodrow gets transported forward in time to the year 1960. He has no sooner arrived there when he quickly realises he wants to get back to his own time. He certainly marvels at what he sees in this new era, but he really misses his own time. 

Woodrow meets Rollo, who is also a scientist and who is fascinated by the possibility of time travel. When the helmet gets damaged, Rollo and Woodrow work together to try and get it fixed. Once that’s done Rollo returns with Woodrow to 1890. When he arrives he soon wishes to be back in his own time too. He realises that his time is more advanced and therefore can better accommodate the sort of work he needs to do. So Woodrow helps send Rollo back to his own time.

I find that this episode makes you value what you have in the present. You may wish to visit another time but never forget that there is no place like home. The episode also shows you that technology may advance and change, but some things such as human behaviour and the need for money seldom ever change for the better.

The episode is also very funny with Buster getting to perform stunts (love the scene where he gets lifted up to put on some trousers in mid air) and make us laugh with his grumpy deadpan routine. He had still got his comic gift right up to the end.

I also love Buster’s performance in the scene where Woodrow sees a TV for the first time. At first he thinks it is a window, then when he turns it on, he thinks that the TV presenter is speaking directly to him and that the TV is a window and the guy is actually there. Buster is so funny in this scene. 

                         Woodrow reacts to seeing a TV for the first time. Screenshot by me.

The 1890 sequences are filmed like a Silent movie, while the 1960 sequences are filmed in the normal sound era way. I really liked the decision to film the different time periods like that.  

These two episodes also both serve to show you just how different this series could be each week. One week a story could be scary and thought provoking, the next it could be funny or moving. This is another reason why I love this series so much. You just never know where the zone will take you next.

Here are my picks for the five best time travel episodes from this series. 

1- The Last Flight

2- The Odyssey Of Flight 33

3- Execution

4- No Time Like The Past

5-A Hundred Yards Over The Rim

If you have seen these episodes what did you think of them? What other time travel episodes of this series do you like? 

 

 

 

 

 

Films I Love, Unsung Classics

Unsung Classics 9: King Solomon’s Mines (1950)

It’s time to take a look at another unsung classic film. This is one that I love a great deal. It really annoys me that so few people ever discuss, or even seem to know about this one today. It has a perfect blend of adventure, action, romance and mystery. It was mostly filmed on location. It also features two of the classic film eras biggest stars – Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr. There is plenty to enjoy in this film.

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Allan protects Elizabeth and John. Screenshot by me.

I will never forget the first time that I saw this film. I was in High School and in history class we were studying the Suffragettes. We had an exam coming up, and our teacher said that if any of us wanted to do so, we could borrow a tape from her to take home for a night to watch.

On the tape there was a documentary about the Suffragette movement. The documentary would help us as a part of our exam revision. I was one of those who borrowed the tape.

I finished watching the documentary and I was about to turn the tape off, when the tape cut back to what had originally been recorded on it. It cut to this film. The film was a few minutes in, starting at the scene where Elizabeth first meets Allan at his house. Seeing Deborah Kerr was in it, I carried right on watching. I was very glad that I did. I loved this film. As I had missed the title, I then spent some time checking out Deborah’s film information until I found that the film I had just seen was King Solomon’s Mines.  

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Stewart Granger as Allan Quatermain. Screenshot by me.

I couldn’t tell you a thing about that documentary now, but I can tell you that I was very happy indeed to have found this film on that tape. I wasn’t familiar with Stewart Granger at this time and he certainly made quite an impression on me in this film. I have been a fan of his ever since, and this is one of my favourite films that he ever made.

I love Stewart’s performance in this as the fearless, experienced, and smouldering adventurer, Allan Quatermain. It was a role he was well suited to playing I think. He’s got the tough guy of very few words persona down perfectly in this. It also doesn’t hurt that Stewart is one of the manliest and sexiest men who ever did live.  🙂 

Deborah Kerr does a fantastic job of playing a woman unaccustomed to the struggle and danger of going on their expedition. Allan is convinced that Elizabeth will not last long and will beg him to turn back. She finds the journey difficult to endure, but she stubbornly refuses to give in and put an end to her misery and exhaustion.

Deborah does her best with a role that is essentially a damsel in distress, she really tries to put across her characters determination and emotional distress. I think she succeeds quite well at this.

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Deborah Kerr as Elizabeth. Screenshot by me.

For a large part of the film Deborah sadly doesn’t get much to do apart from scream as animals scare her or try to attack her. These sequences lead to lots of moments of Allan rescuing Elizabeth, and at the moment of rescue the pair gaze into each others eyes and their growing bond and desire is ever more evident to us.

Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr have some incredible chemistry going on in this film. The sexual tension between them is the thing I remember the most about this film. It is so evident and adds something extra to the film.

From the way Stewart and Deborah both look at each other (swoon)to their body language, they very clearly convey to us their characters growing feelings for one another.   

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Richard Carlson as John. Screenshot by me.

Richard Carlson (who I love in The Creature From The Black Lagoon)lends good support as Elizabeth’s brother. He can see before his sister can, that she and Allan are falling in love. He also knows the real reason (which we don’t learn until later on)why she is pushing herself so hard to find her husband. Carlson is an actor who I think given the right material could have become a much bigger star, sadly that wasn’t to be. 

The film is directed by Compton Bennett and Andrew Marton. It is based upon the 1885 novel of the same name written by H. Rider Haggard.

This was not the first adaptation of the novel, it had been filmed before in 1937. That earlier adaptation starred Cedric Hardwicke as Quatermain. Several other adaptions would follow over the decades.

The 1950 film is not an accurate adaption of the novel. In the novel Deborah Kerr’s character doesn’t exist, and the missing man being searched for is the brother of a man in Quatermain’s expedition party.  

Personally I think that adding the character of Elizabeth helped the film as the growing relationship between Elizabeth and Allen is possibly the most memorable part of the film. I also liked seeing how Elizabeth coped in a hostile environment and how she doesn’t want to be seen as weak or helpless by Quatermain and the others. 

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Elizabeth and Allan share a moment. Screnshot by me.

Elizabeth Curtis (Deborah Kerr)and her brother, John (Richard Carlson)hire  the experienced hunter and guide, Allan Quatermain (Stewart Granger). They hire him to take them in search of Elizabeth’s missing husband. Mr. Curtis was searching for the legendary King Solomon’s Mines and he hasn’t been seen since setting out on his adventure.

Allan accepts the job, but he warns them that it will be dangerous, difficult and it will be unlikely that they will find him. The trio set out, along with a number of native guides and bearers. Along the way they are joined by the exiled (and very tall)native king Umbopa(Siriaque).

The group encounter danger from tribesmen, from oppressive heatwaves and from some wildlife. Allan and Elizabeth start off disliking each other, but over the weeks that follow they both realise they are developing feelings for one another. 

The film also features one of the best examples of an only in the movies moment that I can think of. Elizabeth’s long hair proves to be a real bother to her during the trek, so she takes the scissors to it and cuts it off. After a quick wash in a rock pool by a waterfall, she emerges to sunbathe on the rocks. The next time we see her, she now has a perfectly styled (and blow dried) new hairdo. See my screenshots below to enjoy this transformation. Ah, the magic of film. 😉

The film is great fun and I highly recommend it. My only issue is that there are several scenes where animals are killed for no reason other than they scared Elizabeth. I can’t stand to see animals killed or hurt, and I really hate people who hunt animals. To see these animals killed (even though the animals were probably not harmed for real)really annoys me.

Also the whole thing with Elizabeth screaming every single time she comes across an animal is very annoying. Does she not know that she in these creatures natural habitats and so of course she will be very likely to encounter them at some point?

Anyway, I hope I’ve convinced you to give this film a watch if you’ve never seen it before. If you watch it for no other reason, then at least watch it to see Stewart and Deborah’s chemistry. 

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Allan reunites with his beloved pet monkey, Lulu. Screenshot by me.

Here’s a cute picture from one of my favourite scenes in the whole film. When Allan returns home from an expedition at the beginning of the film he is reunited with his beloved pet monkey, called Lulu.

She is one of the cutest little things I’ve ever seen. Stewart looks genuinely fond of the monkey in these scenes.

 

 

Are there any other fans of this one out there? Somebody please tell me I am not alone in my love for this film!

Disaster, Page To Screen, Science Fiction

The Day Of The Triffids (1963)

 

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A Triffid prepares to attack. Screenshot by me.

Have you ever watched something which has left you with some very conflicting views afterwards? Well I feel that exact same way about this particular film.

Yes, I am very well aware that this film looks extremely cheesy now where the special effects are concerned. I also accept that some of the film is also pretty dire if we’re being brutally honest. 

However, the story about the blindness and the breakdown of society still chills me to the bone, no matter how many times I may watch this film. 

Just imagining such a situation happening in reality is disturbing enough, but seeing it depicted on screen is much worse. So for that alone this film isn’t one I can dismiss easily. 

The film is based upon the 1951 novel by John Wyndham. He was famous for creating stories that made you think and which also really creeped you out (The Midwich Cuckoos for example). The Day Of The Triffids is one of his best stories I think.

This story has a very interesting premise. In the story a new species of plants called Triffids are discovered. These plants can grow taller than most humans, they can move around and they are carnivorous. That sounds good on paper but on film I think that it sadly looks quite silly to be honest.

The Triffids certainly look weird and the squelching sound they make as they move towards potential victims sends a shiver down the spine. They move so slowly though that they are robbed of any possibility of being the truly scary things they were intended to be. Almost all of the scenes featuring the Triffids come across as being quite laughable, and that is a shame because that sure wasn’t the intention of Wyndham or the filmmakers. 

The highlight of the film for me is the first half, where mass blindness and panic occurs following the meteor shower. I actually wish that Wyndham’s source material had forgot the plants and focused solely on the blindness incident and the breakdown of society etc caused by this.

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Karen and Tom are trapped during a Triffid attack. Screenshot by me.

Adding in the killer plants certainly adds suspense as people are vulnerable and can be easily hunted, but for me that aspect just lacks the all out horror and disturbing quality that is present during the mass blindness and the chaos following that.

I will admit though that I found the Triffid attack sequences in the Lighthouse to be very well done. It also has to be said that if one of these things broke through a door and came towards me, I would be very unnerved indeed. I am however confident that I (and anyone for that matter)could easily outrun these things if they were a reality. 

Interestingly when the film was first finished, there wasn’t actually all that much footage in the finished product. So that was when the storyline featuring the Goodwin’s was written. Those sequences were then filmed and edited in with the rest of the film to make it longer. 

The film begins in London. Around the world there is a strange and prolonged meteor shower and lots of bright and strange lights are flashing in the sky. The action in the sky is causing lots of attention and people are stopping what they are doing to look.

The more that people gaze at these lights though, the more they are slowly becoming doomed. Soon everyone who is outside looking at the lights gets blinded by the lights. Only people who were inside asleep, or who were not looking at the lights are left with their sight intact.

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Howard Keel as Bill. Screenshot by me.

Bill Masen (Howard Keel)is a naval officer who is in a London hospital undergoing eye surgery. A few days after his procedure is when the meteor shower occurs.

Bill wakes up the morning after the meteor shower with his bandages still on. When he wakes up, the hospital is deserted. When he removes his bandages he quickly discovers he is one of the few left who is able to see. 

Venturing outside, Bill quickly discovers that society has pretty much broken down. The blind are everywhere and chaos and fear are reigning. He meets a young schoolgirl called Susan (Janina Faye)who also still has her sight. Bill takes her under his wing and together the pair try and find out what is going on.

Soon the pair come across the Triffids. They decide to leave England by boat to travel over to France. Once in France they find more people who can see, and they all try and stop the Triffids once and for all.

Meanwhile, in a lighthouse on the British coast, Karen and Tom Goodwin ( Janette Scott and Kieron Moore) are marine biologists who discover a Triffid has grown near their lighthouse. This pair soon discover a way of killing the Triffids. 

The film frustratingly leaves many loose ends. What happens to all the blind people? How can world governments ensure the destruction of all Triffids using the Goodwin’s discovery? Are there more Triffids lurking elsewhere that we don’t know about?

If you’re looking for some pure escapism this is a good one to watch. It also has some very dark and exciting scenes. There’s the out of control train crashing into the station. The blind doctor throwing himself out of a window. The plane crash. The lighthouse attack. I am also certain that the sequences of the abandoned and chaotic London must have inspired the makers of 28 Days Later for the famous opening of their later film.

Day Of The Triffids also has lots of examples in it of that hilarious old school horror cliché of the screaming potential victim. In such scenes, the soon to be victim leans against a wall and screams helplessly in horror at something that is approaching them VERY slowly. Why don’t they just run away from the approaching horror?!  🙂  

Nobody in the cast really stands out to me as delivering a remarkable performance, but all the actors do the best with what they had to work with. I personally think that Rod Taylor would have been better cast in the role of Bill. Keel is okay in his role, but his performance just doesn’t make me really care what happens to Bill. 

If you’re after a fun and enjoyable Sci-Fi Horror film, then this one is certainly well worth a look despite its weaknesses. 

What do you think of this film?