Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Blu-ray review: The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970)

man who haunted himself poster
Mr Pelham (Roger Moore) is your typical businessman. The bowler hat, suit and brolly type. We know he's dependable because he wears his seat-belt (this wasn't compulsory at this time), which he undoes when something within him makes him snap and begin to drive his reliable car at boy racer speeds. He inevitably crashes, and while on the operating table the doctors almost lose him. Bringing him back to life, they briefly notice two heartbeats on the machine that goes ping (it's solved by a good old fashioned bash though).
As he goes back to work, people begin to act strange around him," nudge nudging" him and telling him that they will keep quiet about seeing him in pool halls and the like. More and more of theses sightings lead him to think something's afoot.
He is investigating a leak of sensitive material, critical to his companies financial future, and all fingers soon point to Pelham himself (a clandestine meeting on a paddle boat on the Serpentine is ludicrously brilliant). This espionage sub-plot plays well with the Pelham's mounting paranoia, and the gradual loss of his faculties.
man who haunted himself man who haunted himself

Moore is brilliant in the dual role, (but in fairness, he is a favourite of mine and yes, he's my Bond) and the rest of the cast, which includes a few recognisable faces, are equally adept. When he bumps (literally) into a beautiful fashion photographer at the swimming pool, he even manages to drop in some shutterbug jargon based innuendo.
man who haunted himself man who haunted himself

It's directed with gusto by Basil Dearden, (who was responsible for both the linking and hearse stories in the Ealing classic Dead of Night (1945) and wrote several George Formby films), from a story by Anthony Armstrong. It had previously been adapted for TV for an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, and it is to the credit of Dearden (and no doubt uncredited screenwriter/producer Bryan Forbes) that it doesn't feel padded. It is naturally paced, and not short of shock moments, while never going over the top. The effects with the dual characters is remarkably well done also.
man who haunted himself man who haunted himself
There's a marvelous sequence with Freddie Jones as a hip, shades wearing, psychiatrist is shot brilliantly, creating a immense sense of claustrophobia and disorientation. Keep an eye open for a brief (uncredited) appearance from occasional Carry On girl Jacki Piper too.
man who haunted himself  jacki piperman who haunted himself  freddie jones
Network DVD have once again come up trumps with the release. The glistening new transfer (in high definition too!) includes a commentary from a previous release, with Moore chatting with Forbes (who sadly recently died), moderated by Jonathan Sothcott, 34 minutes of the score, some image galleries and a SD DVD version of the film (which exclusively also includes a full frame version of the film, renamed the "maximum picture area" version).
man who haunted himself man who haunted himself
For a 40 year old British film, seen numerous times on TV (it's currently a staple on the Horror Channel in the UK) it surprisingly looks great, and is incredibly entertaining. It's certainly worth checking out and putting in your collection. Be aware, the release is in the now standard Network slim-case, so will look out of place next to your standard Blu-rays, but it's a small niggle. It's an "A" certificate film, though, so don't be expecting Hammer or Amicus style horror. This is more akin to a big budget version of an episode of Brian Clemen's Thriller or Tales of the Unexpected, which in no way is meant as a negative. As a macabre and ironic footnote, director Dearden died in a car accident not too long after the film's release. (screengrabs are from the DVD version, not the Blu-ray)
8 out of 10

Friday, 21 June 2013

Frank Sidebottom... Three Years Gone

frank sidebottom (c) martin unsworth/liverecs

It has come to that time of year again. The horrible realism that the wonderful Chris Sievey is no longer with us. This year has seen a flurry of activity relating to Chris, and his timeless genius creation Frank Sidebottom.
As well as the planned statue which is due to be erected in Timperley village sometime soon (it is currently at the foundry being created), there is the documentary being made by Steve Sullivan who directed the short Magical Timperley Tour film in 2006. You can view this in full below.

The documentary was a massive hit on Kickstarter, raising more than twice the initial target, and I personally would like to thank everybody who got involved and helped out. I was interviewed for the project last December just before the fabulous Frank Night took place at the Night and Day in Manchester. This was a brilliant event, with appearances by punk writer and musician John Robb, actress Maxine Peake and former drummer from The Smiths Mike Joyce. The night was topped off by a set from Chris' old band, The Freshies fronted by his son Harry. It was brilliant to see bassist Rick Sarko and guitarist Barry Spencer rip through the best power pop music ever written. The fact The Freshies never made it to be as big as The Beatles is the biggest tragedy in the world. There has also been a film made based loosely on the Frank legend, simply called Frank, it was written by one time Oh Blimey Big Band (south version) member Jon Ronson, who would go on to be a successful writer and journalist, scoring a massive hit with his book The Men Who Stare At Goats, which was made into a film with George Clooney. Frank stars Prometheus' Michael Fassbender as a mysterious, avant-garde singer in an American rock band, and according to Ronson, is definitely NOT based solely on Mr Sidebottom. The photo (below) of Fassbender in costume may not back that up completely. And the actor's own official website features a picture of the Islington "Stewie's Stencils" graffiti of Frank on the page for "Frank news".
frank michael fassbender
Michael Fassbender as "Frank" in the upcoming film

frank sidebottom (c) martin unsworth/liverecs
Hopefully, as the years go by, instead of mourning a cult musician/comedian, we will be celebrating the rightful iconic status of Chris - his music, and his most famous creation.
As ever, I raise a glass to you Chris, and wish you could be here to share it with me, and the thousands that loved everything you did. Thank You.