Tag Archives: An American Werewolf in London

Failed Critics Podcast: The Crimson Halloween Beasts

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All of you that have never listened before and have seen your family die [from laughing], huh, you now have something that stands for you! That would be the Failed Critics Podcast: Halloween special.

OK, so it is a couple of weeks early, but think of all that extra time we’ve given you to source the incredible horror movies from a whole host of different decades that we discuss during our spooktacular (urrgghhhh sorry) triple bill. With picks by hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes, and guests Carole Petts and Phil Sharman, there’s plenty for you sink your fangs into (aahhhhhh sorry sorry sorry).

Before all that, we begin as we always do – with a quiz! Steve is in control of the questions and still 2-1 up after last week’s disaster (get it?) leaving Owen teetering on the edge of being handed a potentially diabolical booby prize should he be unable to prevent a joint Carole and Phil triumph. Perhaps regardless of whatever film might await either Owen or Steve, nothing could truly be more distressing than the news that a Die Hard prequel has gone into production. Still, at least there’s the London Film Festival round-up and Godzilla vs King Kong news to discuss, eh?

We even found time to sneak in a couple of new releases alongside our main triple bill feature. With reviews of Guilermo Del Toro’s latest visual gothic tale in Crimson Peak, and the very first Netflix original movie, Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba, there was plenty to talk about in this week’s episode.

Join us again next week for DE NE- NEEERRRR, DE NE- NERRRR, DE, DE NER NER NERRRR… 007 is back for his longest outing yet with the release of SPECTRE.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Favourite Vacation Films

the inbetweeners movieBowing to the “crushing demand” of our followers who will not accept our apology over technical issues relating to our eagerly awaited ‘triple bill’ podcast, in its place this week we have this hastily cobbled together written article which you we hope you’ll accept by way of apology. The idea behind this weeks triple bill is we each pick our favourite three films where one of the main features involves a vacation.

First up getting us going we have Gerry:

  1. The Inbetweeners Movie captures the lads holiday/cheap holiday resort full of Brits experience better than anything else on film (even the mighty Kevin & Perry). Plus it was genuinely funny all the way through, a pleasant surprise considering how things usually go when a TV series moves to the big screen.
  2. Little Miss Sunshine chosen for its realistic representation of the average family holiday, this road trip follows a massively dysfunctional family as they journey to a child beauty pageant. Abigail Breslin quite rightly got a Best Supporting Actress nod for this, one of the finest performances by a child actor ever on screen. Smart, funny and often painfully realistic. A great film.
  3. Adventureland most of us can relate to spending a summer working a minimum wage job with an assortment of weirdos. Michael Cera and Kristen Stewart both perform admirably but Ryan Reynolds steals every scene he’s in. Also, K-Stew‘s annoying open mouth/disinterested scowl thing actually works great here; unfortunately I saw this before I realised she wasn’t acting and this is actually how she is in every film!

Next is James with his 3 favourites:

  1. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) – While this may not be one of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpieces, it is still  a highly enjoyable murder-mystery romp that deserves further investigation. It stars James Stewart (who Hitch saw as a creative partner in a period that saw them make this film as well as Rope, Rear Window, and Vertigo) and Doris Day as an American couple on holiday in Morocco with their young son. They witness the murder of a foreign spy, and their son is kidnapped in an effort to keep them quiet, as the plot accelerates towards a conclusion in London where the Prime Minister is the target of an assassination. The film is most famous for its Oscar-winning song, Que Sera Sera, later adopted by football fans as the soundtrack for hopeful cup runs.
  2. Dirty Dancing – It’s difficult to imagine a film that divides genders as much as this 80s coming-of-age story of summer holidays, carrying watermelons, and putting people in the corner. If you approach the film with an open mind however, you will find a film that has not only aged better than many of its contemporaries, but is also quite enjoyable regardless of the equipment you were born with ‘down there’. Jennifer Grey stars as Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman, the youngest daughter of a typical middle-class American family spending their summer vacation at Kellerman’s, a resort in the Catskill Mountains. Patrick Swayze is Johnny Castle, the resident dance instructor with a working class chip on his permanently unclothed shoulder. While the story itself may be a touch formulaic, the themes of the film explore growing up, privilege, and a remarkably even-handed view of abortion. I can’t guarantee the time of your life, but its ten the feminist tract that Sex & the City claims to be.
  3. Withnail & I – “We’ve gone on holiday by mistake”. One of the most iconic (and quotable) British film of recent times, it’s amazing that Withnail & I was not only the film debut of director and screenwritier Bruce Robinson, but also the cinematic screen debut of Richard E. Grant as the eponymous Withnail. Filmed on a tiny budget, this film has gone onto influence a whole generation of British film-makers. Withnail, and his roommate Marwood (the ‘I’ in the title, played with beautiful understatement by Paul McGann) have had enough of spending the summer in their dingy London flat with only unidentified creatures in the filthy kitchen and a bizarre drug dealer (played by Ralph Brown who essentially reused the character for his appearance in Wayne’s World 2) for company. They decide to ask Withnail’s lecherous Uncle Monty to borrow his country cottage for a holiday, but don’t count on him showing up there with designs on poor Marwood. The film epitomises the badly planned British holiday, with terrible accommodation, shitty weather, and unfriendly locals. We can only stand back and watch as the boys attempt to drink through the pain and spiral into self-destruction.

Steve‘s triple bill choices were the first that saw some crossover. Here’s what he had to say:

  1. The Inbetweeners Movie – More or less what Gerry said. Really captures the essence of the first holiday without mum and dad, first lads holiday and everything that comes with it while continuing the brilliant high standard of the tv series without labouring a half hour episode into a 90 minute movie. The jokes are excellent, the soundtrack is pretty good, Simon is a fucking helmet though. Took him 3 series and most of a movie to bin off Carly who wasn’t even that fit anyway.
  2. Jaws – A pretty tenuous link to the holiday theme but ‘Don’t Go in the Water’ was a tag-line on some posters. Well if the film took place in December sharks would hardly be an issue would they? But with people on their summer vacations on Amity Island, the shark sparks the mayor et al into doing something about it as the loss of tourism dollars could ruin the place. With people on holiday being a catalyst and a great white shark the protagonist Jaws is the ultimate holiday/thriller hybrid.
  3. The other I can’t remember now but it just edged out Weekend at Bernies [This is a direct quote from Steve here. If he can’t remember what it was, what hope do I have?! – Owen]

Lastly, Owen‘s three choices are as follows:

  1. American Werewolf in London – Directed by John Landis, in fact I think the last time I spoke to it on the podcast was when we were doing our directors and actors that we’ve fallen out of love with triple bill, and Landis was one of my picks. The story is essentially the tale of two american backpackers who, as part of their trip, are in Yorkshire walking across the moors when they are attacked by a werewolf. One of them is killed, the other only injured who becomes a werewolf. I love this film, I’m long overdue for a rewatch as I like to try and watch it at least once every year. It’s got some classic scenes that even now are scary and very violent. The machine gunning Nazi werewolves are just bizarre and really are the stuff of nightmares. Aside from your regular run of the mill cabin-in-the-woods type of film, it’s the ultimate supernatural “holiday gone wrong” movie.
  2. Rogue – My second choice was one I only watched the other week actually. I very briefly mentioned it by name on last weeks podcast, but Rogue is an Australian creature-feature. It’s about a group of tourists from all over the world really. England, Ireland, America, a few domestic holidayers too from Australia. They go on a trip down a river to take photos of the local wildlife, which includes crocodiles. You can already see where this is going. They respond to a distress flare which is set off which leads them into a sacred holy part of the river that they’re not supposed to be in, when they’re attacked by a gigantic, angry, territorial crocodile who proceeds to eat and kill them one by one. It’s directed by Greg McLean who is a part of the so called Splat Pack of horror film directors, although Rogue is more about the tension of man vs nature than it is about being a gorefest. It’s got a decent group dynamic amongst the cast of characters, some really well thought out scenes and the CGI isn’t too bad either really. Definitely worth a watch.
  3. Deliverance – All 3 of my picks have been pretty grim haven’t they? I wanted to avoid stuff like Evil Dead and The Hills Have Eyes but ended up with 3 holiday films where people die in them anyway. My final choice then is John Boorman’s Oscar nominated film which is about 4 guys who go on a trip down a river but don’t encounter a crocodile. Instead they’re in the arse end of the American south where they get bummed by some local rednecks. It features Jon Voight, who is as great as he always is, but I really liked Burt Reynolds’ character. He’s properly taken to the whole idea of a lads holiday. He’s got his own fishing equipment which consists of a bow and arrow and some rope, so they can live off the land. He may not have his moustache but still looks pretty bad ass. I think it’s a great film, really memorable scenes here too. Two different ones for two very different reasons, but the duelling banjos scene is excellent. Didn’t quite make my top 2 picks for my decade in film article for 1972, it would’ve had to go some to beat Godfather, but is legitimately one of the best holiday films I could think of.

We also had some great suggestions from twitter! @filmproject13 sent in quite a few different picks including Hostel, Vacation and also mentioned Roman Holiday which I suppose does count, even if it isn’t quite a vacation film like the others. Sightseers was an inspired choice by @tylea002 and one both Owen and James were in agreement over, but he also had Before Sunrise/Midnight (but not Sunset!) in his list. A choice that slipped my mind when drawing up my picks was helpfully tweeted to us by @andrew_alcock which was the Norwegian zombie horror Dead Snow. A slightly more bizarre pick was @wily365 who tried (and failed) with his shout for Lion King, but also sensibly suggested Die Hard too.

Thanks to everybody else who indulged us on Twitter. Next week things should be back to normal with our World Cinema special. Join us then!

A Decade In Film: The Eighties – 1981

A series where Failed Critics contributors look back on a particular decade in the world of cinema and choose their favourite films from each year of that decade.

Matt Lambourne has lucked out with arguably the most entertaining, balls-to-the-wall decade of all. This week he takes us through his choices for 1981.

5. Condorman

Condorman“Have you seen this report on this Condorman? He is an AMATEUR, do you hear? He is NOT an agent of the CIA! He is a WRITER OF COMIC BOOKS!”

Every so often, a movie comes to the fore that is so inherently bad, that it ends up being brilliant. There are a few that I particularly enjoy as guilty pleasures, such as Streetfighter and perhaps more recently Iron Sky. However the original film from my childhood that falls into this category is ‘Condorman’.

The plot surrounds comic book writer, Woody (Michael Crawford), who insists that all his creations must be able to perform their talents in real-life before he commits them to paper. However he is struggling to legitimise his latest creation, a flying crime-fighter called Condorman – as depicted in the opening scene where he fails to fly with mechanical wings from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Hilarity prevails as Woody bumbles his way into the affairs of the CIA & KGB as he pushes the real-life boundaries of his Condorman creation too far, posing as the former’s newest top agent. The action is awkward, yet stupidly funny, imagine Jason Bourne played by Basil Fawlty and you have a good idea of where this ends up.

The movie is anything but cold-war espionage coolness personified; after all it is a Disney movie. However the cast somewhat legitimises the erratic nature of the subject matter with the late Oliver Reed playing the leading bad-guy as Krokov the KGB operative and the lovely Barbara Carrera (Never Say Never Again) as the film’s love interest. It also adds some entertaining action set-pieces and a very cool car-pursuit scene featuring a fleet of souped-up Porsche 911’s that even the Fast & The Furious would be envious. Condorman’s own vehicle would impress even Bruce Wayne!

It goes without saying that this film gets nowhere near the IMDB top 250, it even has a 25% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However it does hold a cult status amongst fans that keeps interest in the franchise alive and an updated version beckons as part of Disney’s new vision for the future. I personally, cannot wait!

4. Escape From New York

escape from new york“When I get back, I’m going to kill you”

Painted in the doldrums of a decaying future, revolutionists have hijacked Air Force One and crashed landed the jet into Manhattan Island. The island is now an impregnable fortress used to house all of America’s most dangerous criminals. The US authorities, unable to send in a mass force for fear of endangering the captive president’s life can only rely on one man.. Snake Plissken.

The role of Snake goes to Kurt Russell, who really shakes off his image as a pretty faced child actor as the down and dirty, super cool and unflappable ex-Special Forces operative. This movie is also a continuation of a mini love-affair between actor and the film’s director John Carpenter, the likes of which weren’t again seen until Tim Burton got his hands on Johnny Depp!

Escape from New York is all atmosphere. The film is shot entirely during the night time and danger lurks around every corner of the rotten Metropolis. It very much reminds me of the nihilist future as depicted in 1979’s ‘The Warriors’ and continued later this decade in ‘The Running Man’. The action is far from snappy, it’s somewhat clumsy and lacks finesse. But the slick nature of the characters, such as Isaac Hayes as the Prison Boss ‘The Duke’ allows you to really take in a rough 90min action ride.

Other notable performances come in the form of Western star Lee Van Cleef as the slimy police boss ‘Hauk’ and Adrienne Barbeau as the most distracting on screen cleavage for the whole year! It’s not hard to see why John Carpenter put a ring on it.

The Snake Plissken role sets a good model for movie anti-heroes, smooth lines, tough and fearless but ultimately doing bad things for good causes. The soundtrack adds to the dystopia portrayed nicely and encapsulates the period of time well.

The franchise spawned 2 sequels much further down the line, both with much bigger budgets, however Escape from New York delivers an unintended grittiness that can only be enforced by a lack of funds and ultimately delivers a much darker tone to the movie.

3. An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London“Have you ever talked to a corpse? It’s boring! Kill yourself, David, before you kill others”

Thoroughly British in it’s almost slapstick delivery, ‘An American Werewolf in London’ has everything, from awkward and uneasy comedy to brutal gore-scenes for hardened fans of the genre.

The film follows David (David Naughton), an American tourist who survives a Wolf attack that kills his best friend. Oddly some of the films most curious moments come from scenes were his dead friend re-visits him as a Zombie to warn him of his impending transformation into a Werewolf and that the bloodline must end for his victims to rest in peace.

Naturally, David does not take heed of the warnings, unsure of if his friend’s visits are a figment of his imagination or indeed the truth. Eventually the beast is unleashed upon London town and makes for a wonderfully cold trail of death that is uncompromising in its lack of fan-fare.

The whole movie is shot on location in the UK and I most admit that I find that the UK movie industry just does these movies far better than our Hollywood counter-parts, see ‘28 Days Later’ as an example. There is something far more sinister about the Middlesex moors and the cold, wet alleys of London than the steamy neon nightlife of New York for example.

No, AWIL does not over-complicate, it removes any unnecessary dramatics and creates frightening scenes of bloodlust, yet somehow you still feel charmed by our leading man. In a decade dominated by American Horror, this film collected an Oscar for it’s gruesome use of make-up and shows one of the most painful looking transformation scenes that I can recall. It’s very much a genre-defining classic and a must see for all horror fans.

2. Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark“I’m going after a find of incredible historical significance, you’re talking about the boogie man. Besides, you know what a cautious fellow I am”

It goes without saying that Raiders could easily have been my #1 pick for 1981. Harrison Ford became probably the biggest Box Office star over a 5-year period in which everything LucasArts and Steven Spielberg churned out turned to absolute gold.

Ford plays the whip-wielding Indiana Jones, archeological & occult expert who is sent on a mission to recover the lost Ark of the Covenant before it falls into the hands of Nazi Germany. I should not need to go into itty-bitty details about the plot; we’ve all seen at least one Indiana Jones movie. Partly this misses out on #1 movie for 1981 mostly because it’s not actually my favourite film from the original trilogy.

Alas, however Raiders is a magnificent piece of action-adventure cinema. Shot in many luscious and beautifully exotic locations, it’s oh so easy on the eye. Ford brings charisma to the Indiana Jones character in equal measure as he did Han Solo, perhaps even more so.

The film is renowned for some of its action set pieces, such as the rolling bolder booby trap during the opening sequence and the hilarious standoff between Indy and the Sword wielding Egyptian soldier. It’s a great story of exciting action, peril in abundance and a story of good vs. evil, as the Nazis are ever willing to take up the bad guy role.

The now famous John Williams assortment is the final piece of the jigsaw although he sadly lost out to Vangelis’ score for Chariots of Fire in the Oscar prizes. The movie however did collect 4 Oscars and cemented the credentials of Spielberg and Lucas, setting up a golden area for the two during the early 80’s, as well as spearheading Harrison Ford for a career beyond StarWars.

Raiders takes its place high amongst its peers on the IMDB top 100 as one of the most memorable and fun movies of the decade.

1. Das Boot

Das Boot“Cheeks together, balls in their hands and belief in the Fuhrer in their eyes. They’ll calm down soon enough..”

It goes without saying that ‘Das Boot’ is one of the toughest watches of any film I’ve ever happily enjoyed watching. For starters, I am reviewing the extended version of an already epically long movie, weighing in at over 3 hours which for any film is a tough ask! However being a sub-titled movie it requires a certain dedication that adds to the viewing experience as you are slowly sucked into the despair felt throughout the movie.

The movie follows a German U-Boat crew who depart on a mission to intercept Allied convoys across an already faltering and mis-directed Axis line of blockades in the Mid-Atlantic. As the film begins we find the fledgling crew celebrating in a debauched leaving party, seemingly unaware of the miserable existence that awaits them under the Ocean’s surface. However, Ship Captain Lehmann-Willenbrock (Jürgen Prochnow) is starkly aware of the dangers that await his inexperienced crew.

The movie quickly plunges from indulgence to desperation as our crew is continually faced with overwhelming odds against the Royal Navy and mis-direction from their superiors. Gradually the viewer is proverbially grabbed by the throat and dragged into a nerve-wracking journey of strained human relationships and the mental breakdown of a threat that you can often only hear, but rarely see.

Prochnow is superb as the battle-weary Captain and director Wolfgang Petersen makes so much from so little real-estate in the claustrophobic metal tube. This would be regarded as Petersen’s 1st great work and perhaps his best ever before eventually working on more mainstream titles such as The Neverending Story, Troy and The Perfect Storm.

However it really is ‘Das Boot’ that delivers his most heavyweight punch and sets the benchmark high for other great Submarine movies that followed, such as Hunt For Red October and K-19: The Widowmaker. The movie ends on the most sombre of moments. After suffering heavy damage and effectively been sunk, the crew manage to revive the crippled boat and reach sanctum at La Spezia port, only to be attacked and destroyed by an Allied Air-Raid as they leave the ship.

The credits roll as the Captain lives just long enough to watch his boat sink at port and keel over and die with the rest of his crew. Like any good war movie, Das Boot reminds you at all times during war just when you think there is light at the end of the tunnel, all hope is brutally snatched away.

Das Boot is not just a great Submarine movie, it’s a fantastic movie in it’s own right which rightfully takes it’s place amongst the IMDB Top 100 and is my movie of 1981.

See the five films Matt picked for 1980 or check out the full A Decade in Film series so far.