Donald Henry Pleasence, OBE 5 October 1919 – 2 February 1995)

Donald Pleasence began his acting career on stage before WWII, before joining the RAF and being shot down and taken into a POW camp. Continuing his Theatre work for the rest of his life, as well as appearing in several notable Television Shows in the UK and US, it is nevertheless his movie career which he is most remembered for. Appearing in many classic films over a wide array of genres, I, like many others, recall him most fondly in The Halloween Series, in You Only Live Twice, and in The Great Escape. Pleasance was also an author, and provided spoken voice work to books and most infamously, the terrifying UK Advert The Spirit Of Dark And Lonely Water.

RIP

Feel free to share your thoughts and memories of Donald Pleasence in the comments below.

February 5, 2016 at 12:05 pm 2 comments

Nightman Listens To – Keep The Faith – Bon Jovi!

Greetings, Glancers. Today we fluff up our mullets, stick a torch down our pants, and join the Poodle bunch as they embark on a mysterious new adventure into the 1990s – the decade when wuss rock was momentarily ripped to shreds by a new wave of young upstarts, only for them to implode and open the door for – well, nothing. There hasn’t been a single interesting advance in rock music since the grunge era. Regardless, we’re not here today to talk about such things, we’re here to listen to Keep The Faith, another monumental hit record for Bon Jovi which did see them shift in their musical direction to a more streamlined, mature rock approach, albeit one with many, many more ballads. It’s an album that I’m pretty familiar with, in that it has a hefty number of famous songs, but there are probably a few in there I have never heard so lets give it a shot and see if there are any goodies in the bunch.

I Believe: Warbling. Chugging guitars fading in. Swirling riff with building drums. A slice of cheese on the side. I don’t recall this one so far. Deeper vocals than usual in the first verse, with a touch of U2. Turns to usual rock vocals in second verse. Decent chorus, going for the stadium approach but lacking in the melody department.

Keep The Faith: A big, throbbing rocker with great build up in the verses and pay off in the chorus. We all know this one, fairly groovy as Jovi songs go, and the usual memorable melodies. It does take a strange military march/spoken approach near the end, but amazingly this doesn’t do any damage.

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: An unnecessarily cheese-laden intro with silly drums, hand-claps and yeah-yeahs almost makes this a complete mess, but luckily the melodies are sharp enough and the chorus is strong enough to pull things back from the brink. Everyone remembers the chorus melody and forgets all the other crap, so it must have something going for it – the second verse does get rid of most of the crap (and adds in some new crap) – it’s okay but could have been much better if they had just gone with a more straightforward rock approach.

In These Arms: The band channel U2 again and go for their first epic of the album. Luckily it pays off as this is a great track with powerful vocals, infectious melodies, and decent lyrics. Like a few others on the album the build up from verse to chorus is flawless.

Bed Of Roses: This is probably still my favourite Bon Jovi song, the rare Power Ballad which avoids being cheesy and has all of the important elements – atmospheric verses building to emotive, explosive chorus, and filled with melodies that you’ll be humming for hours after hearing. Perhaps unusually for the band, the lyrics are very strong but as expected the songwriting and playing is top-notch. A lighters in the air classic. I love the screeching guitar intro against the soft piano intro, the harsh middle section, everything really.

If I Was Your Mother: Starts with a phat riff. I don’t know this one. Chugs along heavily enough. Odd lyrics. Not much to say about the verses, and the chorus is fine – just plain and album filling stuff.

Dry County: I was always a bit partial to this one, but like many other people it seems that I forget about this one easily. Not sure why, I assume because I haven’t heard it often. I like the main melody, as kicked off in the intro – it has that atmospheric, burning ballad quality that I always fall for. I will say that the verses don’t do a lot for me, the lyrics are pretty odd for a Bon Jovi song, but the chorus is pretty good. There’s a pretty good Sambora solo, into musical interlude, into faster solo section which adds some icing to the cake. I suspect this is popular in Texas.

Woman In Love: I don’t remember this one, it feels a little like re-treading some of their 80s album filler tracks – sleazy, not much of a melody (the chorus attempts to go for glory but falls flat) or hook, and fairly standard rock playing from the group. It’s under four minutes so it doesn’t out stay its welcome but is instantly forgettable.

Fear: Continues the style and approach of the last song, though it’s a bit more robust. It has a better melodic quality but still isn’t memorable.

I Want You: An 80s sounding epic power ballad opening. The verses are more restrained, with soft guitars, piano and organ, and John singing at his most urgent. The chorus is fine but doesn’t reach the heights of their most famous work. I don’t remember ever hearing this one, and as it’s quite similar to many ones that I do know and like, it’s a pleasant surprise to catch this one finally. There are a few bridge type sections which stretch the song, but don’t add anything much of value.

Blame It On The Love Of Rock And Roll: I think I’ve heard this one before, but nothing about it sounds familiar. It has your standard rock stomp, but the verses and chorus are incredibly plain. Decent playing and vocals, ok lyrics, fun and upbeat, but very average stuff.

Little Bit Of Soul: Noises and chatter. Is this another experimental attempt? Electric and acoustics. Organs and piano. Finally singing. Light-hearted blues. More average melodies. Building, but more of the same. It’s another plain song which needlessly goes over the five-minute mark without actually saying anything.

So, Keep The Faith comes to a close and gave the band another bunch of hits. The first half of the album is peppered with brilliance, while the second half doesn’t have any standout moments with the exception of Dry County. Those five or so songs which keep the album afloat are among the best the band have recorded and prove again that they are gifted hitmakers. Yet again though, much of the album is simply treading the same old rock and roll ground with mid-tempo, blue jean forgettable hits, good for playing 8 ball and sinking beers to, but nothing else. The band would next release their greatest hits Cross Road, which I won’t review, but which could be considered their best album given that it contains their best songs up till this point as well as adding two personal favourites in Always and Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night. Next time, I’ll be reviewing their mid-nineties effort These Days.

What do you think of Keep The Faith? Do you have any fond memories of the album? Did you think the band successfully left the 80s behind and became a 90s band? Let us know in the comments!

February 4, 2016 at 4:28 pm 1 comment

Best Picture – 1966

Official Nominations: Alfie. A Man For All Seasons. The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? The Sand Pebbles

1966 saw Beatlemania and a love of all things British making an impact on The Academy. It was the height of the Swinging 60s, and for a brief moment, London seemed like the Capital of the world again. Lewis Gilbert and Michael Caine teamed up to make one of their most popular films (Alfie) respectively, yet it now seems like an overly camp, overly out-of-time curio. Okay performances, but it’s possibly best viewed as a relic of a long lost era. Zinneman’s unfortunately uninspired A Man For All Seasons reeks of stage adaptation, though good performances save it from being unwatchable. Even with this British invasion, the final three films officially nominated are distinctly North American affairs. Jewison’s The Russians Are Coming (I won’t say it twice) is a daft farce, full of funny and ridiculous moments which Kafka would have been proud of, while Nichols’s Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? is a groundbreaking film mostly because of its adult content. Full of shocking language and innuendo for the time, as well as frank discussions about sex, the script is a powerful and engaging series of arguments and insults delivered well by the unexpected cast of Burton, Segal, Mason, and the beefed up Taylor. Viewers wondered if this was what Burton and Taylor were really like. In addition to this it must be noted that it is the only film ever to have been nominated in every category in which it was eligible. My winner though goes to the All-American The Sand Pebbles, by Robert Wise. The gung-ho cast of Steve McQueen, Mako, Attenborough, Crenna, and more make this a winner even though it is overly long and has the typical inaccuracies we come to expect when Hollywood speaks of the past. Even though Woolf is the best film here, I’ll go against the grain.

My Winner: The Sand Pebbles

sand_pebbles_09

My Nominations: Blow Up. Born Free. Fahrenheit 451. The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. Torn Curtain. The Sand Pebbles. Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

Out of the official nominations, only The Sand Pebbles and Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? get The Spac Hole’s Seal Of Approval. Added to my list of nominations are a selection of worldwide hits, most of which are rightly held up as classics today. Arguably Antonioni’s best film, Blowup merged Italian flair and lust with the exuberance of the British swinging sixties, all wrapped up in a boundary-pushing story of existentialism and murder. The sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll proved to be a hit with audiences and forced Hollywood to realise that the world had moved on, and was no longer only interested in white picket fences, singing and dancing, and dogs being swept away from Kansas. Bringing a different flair to Bradbury’s under-appreciated vision of the future, Truffaut’s Farenheit 451 does a decent job of capturing the fears of the story whilst delivering poignant visuals. Like Antonioni, this was Truffaut’s first English film. Keeping with the English theme, Hitchcock returns with Torn Curtain, a typically tight political thriller which few people speak of when regarding the Director’s best work. It may not be his best, but it is a highlight of his twilight career. In a completely different type of film, Born Free is a timeless tale of love, dedication, and nature, and is a movie which deserves to be shown to children yearly, just like The Snowman or It’s A Wonderful Life. My winner though has to be Leone’s masterpiece. After a few brilliant attempts, he cements everything that he set out to do to the Western genre, and gives us arguably the genre’s finest film. Violent, gritty, stunningly beautiful, and with iconic performances and a sharp script, it is one of the all-time greats.

My Winner: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

gbu

What do you think is the best film of 1966? Or more importantly, what is your favourite of 1966? Let us know in the comments!

February 3, 2016 at 12:24 pm 2 comments

Heli – DVD Review

maxresdefault

Another gritty Mexican drama highlighting corruption, violence, and the growing impossibility of innocence remaining innocent, Heli is a gripping, well acted piece which will hopefully do well around the world with foreign film aficionados. Heli is the title character, the young man who acts as the alpha in his meager household – living with his wife, child, sister, and father. He and his father have simple, manual labour jobs which keep them at a distance from the apparent all-encompassing threat and allure of drug dealing which surrounds their town. He is having marital struggles with his wife (luckily the film doesn’t go down the terrible trope of showing the wife having an affair), while his young sister is just experiencing the first adolescent pangs of love and lust with an older boy.

Really, this is a film about outside interference. Heli just wants a stable family with an easy life – obviously things could be better, but in a town like his the tendency is that things could be much much worse. When her sister’s boyfriend makes the mistake of stealing some local gangster’s drug stash, all hell breaks loose for Heli. The second half of the film is Heli’s heroic struggle for survival, his refusal to have his own morals and hopes compromised by thugs or police, and his desire beyond his control to have things back to the way the were. In this section of the film we get a number of fairly violent and dark scenes which contrast in a startling way to the more mundane first portion. That isn’t to say the first half is boring, rather it contains many more lighthearted moments, and takes the time to let us learn and care about each character before tearing it all down. The scenes of violence are handled very well, feeling much more real and alarming than the torture porn cousins it resembles.

Heli

The making of documentary gives interesting insight into a director I didn’t know, showing the casting process of mostly first time actors who have basically no experience in the business and instead more closely resemble their characters. It’s interesting to watch their thoughts on the film-making process as they go through it for the first time. The director is clearly a skilled storyteller with a strong handling of character and a good eye for a nerve-jangling moment or memorable shot, and the actors are all very convincing in their roles. I’d recommend this to anyone looking to branch out into foreign or Mexican film, to fans of films like Amores Perros, and to fans of good movies in general.

Have you seen or heard about Heli? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

February 2, 2016 at 12:56 pm 2 comments

Manic Mondays – 1st February 2016

‘Children can be cruel she said/So I smashed her in the fucking head/Sorry dear that’s the nature of Tourette’

A-Picture-of-Tourettes

Symphony of Tourette

February 1, 2016 at 2:11 pm Leave a comment

Jack Nance (December 21, 1943 – December 30, 1996)

It’s easy to say that Nance had a tragic life and had much more to give, but in his 53 years he appeared in many successful and groundbreaking TV shows and movies, his performances never less than memorable, and he crafted a number of iconic, cult characters. As a big Twin Peaks fan, Nance made an impression as Pete Martell, one of the few true good guys in the series, but he will also be remembered for his roles in Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and Colors.

RIP

Feel free to leave your thoughts and memories of Nance in the comments.

January 29, 2016 at 11:22 am 2 comments

1966 Academy Awards: An Introduction

39th_Academy_Awards

Bob Hope hosted the 39th Academy Awards in Santa Monica, which saw 2 Stage Adaptations tugging for the votes, with Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf getting 13 nominations (the only time a films has been nominated for every category it was eligible for) and A Man For All Seasons winning 6 awards.

Special Awards went to Director Robert Wise, Producer Frank Freeman, and Stuntman Yakima Canutt, whilst the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Charlton Heston, Sidney Poitier, and Julie Christie presented awards. Patricia Neal took to the stage for the first time in two years to a standing ovation, following a near fatal stroke, while Dionne Warwick and Roger Williams amongst others, provided music for the night.

Stay tuned as I make my way through most of the categories and select my winners from the official nominations, and pick my own nominees too.

January 27, 2016 at 12:32 pm Leave a comment

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