Saturday, 22 September 2012

Retro Review: Julie Darling (aka Daughter of Death, 1983)

Young Julie (Isabelle Mejias) loves her daddy. A little too much, unfortunately. They spend lots of time together, mostly hunting, and Julie, it seems, is quite a crack shot. After a string of fall outs with her mother (Cindy Girling) which culminates with her setting the teen's pet snake loose, Julie has a strop and puts her headphones on and locks her door. This coincides with her mom getting brutally attacked and raped by the local delivery boy she asked to help get rid of the pet. Just about hearing her screams in the nick of time, she grabs her rifle (every girl should have one) and aims it at her mom's assailant. Dawdling a little too long, and suddenly mom is dead, her head smashed against the wooden floor. Realising she now has her Father (Anthony Franciosa, Tenebre) to herself, she allows the assailant to make his escape.
Father and daughter adapt to live alone, the blossoming teen taking advantage of having the grieving father to herself, even going so far as to consoling themselves by sharing a bed. As time goes on, father  Harold meets a new woman, Susan (the marvelous Sybil Danning) who moves in along with her son. Julie isn't happy with this arrangement, but puts up with it until a chance comes that she must take. Playing hide and seek while the folks are away, the boy hides in the refrigerator that is conveniently lying around their garden, and Julie shuts the door on him. When the parents return, they find him just in the nick of time, and drop the bombshell that they have married. Susan has her suspicions about Julie, and has it out with her in a fantastic scene acted out over a game of chess. Julie must hatch a bigger plan to oust the pair and have daddy all to herself again.
This early 80s piece of nastiness comes (with the "help" of co-writer Maurice Smith) from Paul Nicholas, the director who brought us the best WIP flick, Chained Heat (1983). Although it is a thoroughly entertaining piece of sleaze, there are a few moments that are quite troubling. The homicidal child routine has been done before, many times, and better than this. The troubling moment comes when Julie awakes to the sound of her father and his new wife making love. She opens the door slightly to peek inside, and then imagines herself in the throes of passion with him instead. It's one thing having incest hinted at, or just under the radar, but to go all out and show it takes some balls as a film maker! I'm guessing Mejias was older than her character when she played this, as there is some nudity involved, and the film has not been impounded. The real problem with having this in the story, however is that is never mentioned, or hinted at again. Similarly, Susan has a tense heart to heart with Julie over the game of chess. Basically telling her that she knows she is trying to get rid of her and her son (who we don't see again after he's saved from the fridge) . Yet, a scene or two later, she asks the young girl to help steady a ladder she's working on, right at the top of some stairs! Talk about trust. Talk about a missed opportunity for Julie!  Although there are flaws - some of the younger actors are abysmal - it is a quite effect exploitation film, with plenty of nudity and well put together scenes of violence. The ending is fantastic, so I won't ruin it.
I picked this up for £4 on a UK DVD release by Elstree Hill. They have, of course, got a reputation of putting out shoddy and awful prints on their DVDs, and Julie Darling is no exception. It's probably sourced from a VHS copy, full frame, not even pan and scan. The opening titles are actually "Ulie Darlin" and it's quite muddy and dark. There is a Code Red US release, but it's OOP and costs a lot more than this (although I wouldn't mind hearing the commentaries, as there are one for each of the two main actresses). The back of the box does warn "some quality may have been lost during the transferring process". No kidding. At least it's not as bad as some of their other releases. The real interesting (for want of a better word) thing about the UK release, is it has a PG rating. Considering what I have already said about the subject matter, the fact that there's plenty of violence, nudity (although no front bottoms, sadly) and one "F" word, I was surprised to say the least. After doing a check on the BBFC website, which has a great database search facility, I found not only had Elstree Hill not put the film through the board to get the PG certificate, but the film has NEVER been rated in the UK, making this release completely illegal. I'm pretty sure it would have had a pre-cert VHS release, but it was never rated for cinema or home viewing. Buy it now, kids before they get wise.

Apart from all that, it's a good, solid piece of trash cinema and Sybil Danning's boobs are always worth a look, ain't they? (No disrespect meant, as she is brilliant in this)
6 out of 10

Thursday, 13 September 2012

R.I.P. British Sexpolitation King Stanley A. Long

Sadly, legendary film producer/writer/director Stanley Long passed away on September 10th aged 78.
As regular visitors to this blog will no doubt have gathered, I have a fondness for the type of film Stanley became famous for. His Adventures series (Taxi Driver, Plumber's Mate, Private Eye) were always trying to emulate the success of the Confessions films, but were entertaining in their own right.
His early films as producer, exploitation documentaries West End London, Primitive London and London in the Raw all courted controversy. Yet, some 40 years after they were made were gaining praise thanks to their BFI Flipside releases. Most of his 70s output (both as producer and director) are now available on DVD. I reviewed A Promise Of Bed (aka This, That and The Other) a while back, and have had others lined up to do when I had the time. His final feature film, the 1983 portmanteau horror Screamtime was a favourite of mine from the VHS era, despite its limitations.
He directed and produced a 2007 TV series, The Other Side of the Screen which paired him with legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff (The Red Shoes, and director of The Mutations) and car boot botherer Paul Martin and looked at various aspects of film making.
As a cinematographer, Stanley was behind the lens of classic British horrors The Sorcerers and The Blood Beast Terror and apparently Polanski's Repulsion, uncredited.
His autobiography, X-rated: Adventures of an Exploitation Filmmaker (co-written with Simon Sheridan) is superb and well worth picking up.
My thoughts are with his family and friends. Thank you Stanley for all the fun.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Review: Him Indoors (2012)

A couple of months ago, writer/director Paul Davis (who was behind the fantastic An American Werewolf In London documentary Beware The Moon) posted on Twitter (@kesslerboy) that he was looking to raise funds for a short film he was making, and set up a Sponsume page. The short would be a stepping stone and showreel for funding for his proposed full length feature previously announced, Silent Night of the Living Dead. Intrigued, I checked out the info and, liking the premise and admiring his Werewolf doc I put my money where my mouth is, and donated.
Gregory Brewster (Reece Shearsmith) is facing eviction after his mother's passing. She cared for him, and looked after all his needs as he suffers from agoraphobia. As well as the day to day things a mother would do, she always got a steady stream of people to house for Gregory to kill. Oh, yeah that minor point. Nice boy Gregory is a serial killer. So how to kill different people when you are afraid to leave the house? Well, delivery men provide a wonderful resource. As we meet Gregory he is preparing for a dinner date with the new neighbour, Lizzie (The Woman's Pollyanna McIntosh). "I had planned to do Italian" he tells the bound pizza boy in front of him, but removing his helmet to reveal he is an Asian, "But it looks like we're having Indian, instead"

Davis' script is witty and the humour pitch black, perfectly played by Shearsmith, who has had plenty of experience in dark, sinister yet funny characters (League of Gentlemen and Psychoville). Even at only 11mins long, the film manages to pack plenty into the narrative and and even a little peril, as Lizzie turns up at Gregory's a day earlier than he planned, throwing his carefully orchestrated arrangements into turmoil.
Of course, mental illness problems like agoraphobia are not really a laughing matter, but Davis handles this fantastically, drawing humour from the irony of a house bound serial killer rather than going for cheap and cruel laughs. Everything is so well executed (pun intended) that you wish it was a hell of a lot longer.
I would like to think the name Brewster was chosen as a nod to the murderous old women in Arsenic and Old Lace, but even if not, there's several things for the horror fan to look out for in the house decor, including a Rondo award and there's an appearance (of sorts) of American Werewolf alumni David ("You made me miss") Schofield, a fabulous actor who I have had the good fortune to have seen on stage a few times.
If Davis can make Silent Night of the Living Dead as enjoyable as this, then that will be an instant classic. This short is destined to be remembered fondly for many years to come, and if there's any justice, the doors should start being thrown open for a man with a definite vision, and thankfully, the talent to back it up.
The film is making its way around the film festivals (after premiering at FrightFest in London recently) including Manchester's Grimmfest, so keep an eye open for it and if you get the chance, DO check it out.
Oh, and pay attention to the end credits, and spot my name in there :)
Check it out.. I'm up there with Hitchcock and Tarantino!

10 out of 10