Saturday 18 February 2023

The Final Programme (1973)

Robert Fuest's film of Michael Moorcock's science fiction novel (the only one of his to have had a screen adaptation so far) gets a DVD, Blu-ray and Download release from Studio Canal. 

Dystopian Britain in the near future, heading towards an apocalypse with only days to go and World War III having been rumbling away for years but nobody's really noticed. Nobel Prize-winning, Bells whiskey and chocolate digestive-consuming, well-dressed genius Jerry Cornelius (Jon Finch) attends the funeral of his physicist father in Lapland. Afterward he's accosted by one of his father's colleagues asking for help locating microfilm that will assist in 'The Final Programme' which, it transpires, is a plan to funnel all human knowledge into a single human being which will form the next stage of evolution. Despite Jerry having other problems, including his brother Frank (Derrick O'Connor) keeping his sister Catherine (Sarah Douglas) drugged at the family home, he agrees to help the scientists, led by the mysterious (and mysteriously abled) Miss Brunner (Jenny Runacre), with eccentric consequences.

Of all the many novels written by Michael Moorcock the Jerry Cornelius quartet must be considered amongst the most difficult to adapt for the screen. Full marks, then, to Robert Fuest for making a pretty coherent job of what is admittedly the most narratively linear of the Cornelius books. That said it would have been marvellous to see what Fuest could have made of A Cure for Cancer or The Condition of Muzak, and it would have been especially marvellous to see Jon Finch in the role more than once. As it is Finch is likely the best screen incarnation of Jerry we will ever see, alternately brilliant or useless, foppish or aggressive, off the cuff witty or at a complete loss as to how to respond. One of the few individuals who could make a ruff shirt look cool, the others being Jimi Hendrix and Jon Pertwee. It's a memorable performance and after watching it's difficult not to think of him when reading later Cornelius books. 

Studio Canal's Blu-ray comes with an 11 minute interview with Jenny Runacre which starts off by her talking about her role in Freddie Francis' THE CREEPING FLESH before going into more detail about THE FINAL PROGRAMME. Kim Newman gives us 14 minutes on the films and career of Robert Fuest, we get the Italian title sequence with Moorcock's name spelled Moorcoek and three trailers, two UK ones and one for the US with its alternate title of LAST DAYS OF MAN ON EARTH. Note that the commentary track which is on Shout Factory's Region A Blu-ray release has not been ported over.

Studio Canal are releasing Robert Fuest's film of Michael Moorcock's THE FINAL PROGRAMME on Download, DVD and Blu-ray ( the Blu-ray comes with four art cards) on Monday 20th February 2023

Wednesday 15 February 2023

Jane (2023)

"Entertaining High School Satirical Thriller"

Out on Digital now from 101 Films is this decent, brisk high school thriller from director (and co-writer with Rishi Rajani) Sabrina Jaglom.

Olivia (Madelaine Petsch who also produces but don't let that put you off) is a student at an exclusive private girls' school. She has her heart set on going to Stanford University but gets a letter saying she's been 'deferred'. In the UK that would mean she would still be going but just in the intake after the next one. Presumably it means something different in the US because this news suggests her world is ending. 

The arrival of a new transfer student also provides Olivia with some competition as the school's best debater. If only there was some way of discrediting the new arrival (there is) and a handy accessible social media account of a recently deceased (by suicide) student (the Jane of the title) available. Oh there's one of those as well.

As a thriller JANE reaches the heights of 1990's PAPER MASK as Olivia manipulates those around her while increasingly threatening to bring about her own downfall. As a satire about the influence of social media and technology in student life it hits the target. Running a brief 83 minutes, JANE moves along at a cracking pace while never feeling rushed, and the performances by the leads are very good. Worth catching. 

JANE is out on digital from 101 Films on Monday 13th February 2023

Saturday 4 February 2023

Video Shop Tales of Terror (2023)

Not given an actual release yet but starting to make the rounds of film festivals is anthology movie VIDEO SHOP TALES OF TERROR, one of a number of ultra low budget UK genre movies that have been made over the last few years. Some of these, such as the oeuvre of the late Andrew Jones, have found distribution through supermarket shelves, others through mail order and VOD, and doubtless there are a few languishing in distribution hell to be discovered by UK horror obsessives at some point. The thing many of these films have in common is an almost guerrilla approach to film-making, fuelled in the absence of money (and sometimes talent) by sheer enthusiasm and love of the genre. VIDEO SHOP TALES OF TERROR is packed with enthusiasm and has buckets of genre love. It also has buckets of blood, gore, and an endearingly cheerful sense of nostalgia.

The action centres around a video rental store, the exterior of which is rendered a charming little model straight out of Michael Bentine's Potty Time. To continue the 1970s kids' TV vibe the proprietor of the shop bears an alarming resemblance to Dusty Mop from ITV show Hickory House. It's from here we go into the stories.

First off is MJ Dixon's Egghead, a jolly bit of comic strip-styled fun very much in the EC style in which disgraced surgeon Dr Egbert Humphries goes to a rival of his to get a new face and things get horrible from there. Next is Sam Mason-Bell's The Red-Lipped Moon, in which a man investigates the death of his friend and ends up meeting the lethal Ivy. Filmed in slick, stylish black and white this one has the look of a classy 1950s British B movie and gets the awards for the most professional-looking segment of the bunch. 

Third is the brief Fleurs du Mal in which there are strange time-travel goings on Andrew Elias' 1894 horror set in a convent staffed by Nigel Wingrove-style nuns who wear nail varnish and makeup. After that it's Mary Whitehouse You're a C***, an extremely jolly and good natured EVIL DEAD tribute from Alexander Churchyard and Max Davenport that includes Mrs W herself back from the grave (and the reason for her being brought back did make me laugh out loud) and some endearing stop motion animation.

Tom Lee Rutter's These Burnt Children features disillusioned film director Ron Bayliss taking revenge on producer Benny Southpaw. A scene with a medium (with the splendid name of Lemora Lachymose) is the closest VIDEO SHOP TALES OF TERROR ever gets to the classic Amicus anthologies of old and as the segment reaches hysterical fever pitch you're left with the distinct feeling that a John Waters-style script in the hands of Mr Rutter could be a dangerous and wonderful thing.

The final tale is the SALON KITTY-style Vergessen. Those in the know will enjoy ticking off the Nazisploitation personality names in this tale of a brothel designed to get secrets out of visiting officers.

But that's not all. The wraparound features plenty of bonus bits and pieces, including a trailer for something called Don't Sit On His Face which again had me laughing out loud. A bit later on there's a bizarre advert for Japanese hot dogs and the soft core porn video Video Repair Man which, true to the era, has at least eight 'sequels'. 

The overarching theme of VIDEO SHOP TALES OF TERROR is determinedly (and affectionately) retro. It's frequently crude, both in terms of subject matter and execution, but it succeeds in one very important area, in that it actually feels like a project its makers enjoyed making, and their enthusiasm, dedication and love for their subject matter really does shine through, and it's infectious. By the end of the movie I felt I'd had a disgustingly fun time. Well done, chaps.

VIDEO SHOP TALES OF TERROR is currently awaiting a distribution deal

Friday 3 February 2023

Bros (2022)

"Utterly Charming RomCom"

Star and co-writer Billy Eichner's entertainingly in your face romantic comedy  gets a DVD and Blu-ray release from Mediumtrare Entertainment.

Bobby (Eichner) is a podcaster with a place on the board of a local LGBTQ+ history museum that's in desperate need of funding for it to even open. His romantic life consists of brief Tinder hookups and he's content (albeit neurotically) to remain single. But that all changes one night when he meets Aaron (Luke MacFarlane) who is far happier just to play the field. Gradually the two men are drawn together in the good old-fashioned romcom manner.

BROS is almost consistently charming, frequently laugh out loud funny, and gives the Hollywood glitz and glamour treatment to a lifestyle with which many viewers of mainstream cinema will be unfamiliar. It's a little bit long (no innuendo intended) and could have done with tightening up (ditto) here and there, but overall the characters are likeable, there are plenty of funny set-pieces, and we even get Debra Messing turning up for a cameo playing herself.

Mediumrare's disc comes with a stack of extras, including 13 minutes of deleted scenes. If you only watch one watch the Pride Fight scene. I know I've just said the film is a bit too long but it's a shame they left this out. There's also a four minute gag reel and six behind the scenes featurettes including a 13 minute making of, six minutes on the filming of the deleted 'Pride Fight' scene, eight minutes on the cast, and a selection of other bits and pieces including Art of the RomCom and the filming location for the LGBTQ+ history museum. Here's the trailer:

BROS is out on DVD and Blu-ray from Mediumrare Entertainment on Monday 6th February 2023 - just in time for Valentine's Day!