Eaten Alive

Tobe Hooper sure likes them weirdo, murderin’ yokels. As if he couldn’t get enough of all the dead skin wearin’, chainsaw totin’, blood suckin’ hicks in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre he takes us back into familiar territory with Eaten Alive – the loosely factual based story about an unhinged hotel (?) owner with a swamp instead of a backyard, and a croc instead of a dog. After the success of his breakthrough film it appeared that Hooper was safely giving the audience more of the same – but is it as good as its predecessor?

No is the short answer. There are many reasons why The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is held in such high esteem and many horror films are not. That doesn’t mean Eaten Alive isn’t worth watching – for horror fans it’s fairly close to essential viewing given the director’s pedigree, and it stars a varied cast making some interesting choices. The film starts with a lead character fake-out a la Psycho or Scream – a young woman called Clara is a somewhat reluctant prostitute working in a small town brothel. Her reluctance causes her boss to chuck her out, and she is advised to walk to a nearby hotel for the night. Lets back up – the film actually opens with a nice crotch shot as Robert Englund utters the Kill Bill inspiring ‘my name’s Buck and I like to…’ you get the idea. It’s not often that Englund gets to play a ladies man, but here we assume he has the stamina and libido of an adolescent rabbit, casting off Clara before having a threesome, before picking up a girl in a bar. The film takes place over the course of a single night – a few hours – so that Buck fella must hella fuck.

Clara finds her way to the hotel, run by the muttering unhinged Judd (Neville Brand), who recognises her as coming from the brothel. Ol’ Judd isn’t a fan of such things so he grabs his handy scythe and dispatches of Clara, feeding her to his pet crocodile. The remainder of the film is Judd’s night being disturbed by additional visitors – Buck and his girl, the local Sheriff, a bickering husband and wife and their daughter and dog, and Clara’s father and sister hot on her trail. There are quite a few comparisons to be made between this and TCM – there is a similar low grade, dirty look to the cinematography, although at times there are bizarre saturated reds and backlights. Both films feature women in peril, both feature an unhinged man using a farming tool to murderous ends, and both films are incredibly noisy, with screams and shrieks and a buzzing atypical score. The scares here don’t work nearly as well though and there is a more voyeuristic, lurid tone with plenty of boobs on display and a little more blood. The crocodile never feels like a threat and is mostly used as a disposal unit, and Judd pales as a villain in comparison to any of the TCM family.

Where the film at times surpasses TCM is in its performances. There are some truly WTF moments when it comes to the acting and some strange choices which hurt overall, but Hooper is in command of professional actors this time around. TCM’s heroine Marilyn Burns appears here too in a role that largely recalls Sally from that film. It’s the characterisation which lets the film and the performances down – Burns plays a wife and mother who moves between hating and loving her husband and giving him drugs? She is wearing a wig when she first arrives and it’s unclear if she is supposed to be some sort of criminal. It’s difficult to feel any sympathy for her then when Judd kills her husband and ties her to a bed for who knows what. Roy, her husband, is played by William Finley who gets the lion’s share of bad moments, wailing and stretching and overacting to the point of underacting. At first he is confident, then he has an inexplicable breakdown, before turning into some attempt at a vengeful hero. Judd all the while stumbles around the hotel, muttering and groaning to himself. Neville Brand has a great voice for Cinema, a deep, low tone which instantly grabs your attention, but it isn’t put to use here – hi mutterings mostly indecipherable. He’s never less than manic, hopping about on one good leg and displaying a range of tics but like his pet you imagine that a good stiff boot in the nuts would put him down easily enough.

The better performances come with Mel Ferrer and Crystin Sinclaire as Clara’s siblings. Ferrer aches with loss and guilt and a touch of manic desperation himself, while Sinclaire is the spitting image of Hilary Swank. Sinclaire doesn’t get a lot to do, but she has a confident presence and allure which makes you wonder why she never became a star. The Sheriff, as played by the ever familiar Stuart Whitman, adds his own brand of tainted understanding. Rounding out things are a young Kyle Richards as the annoying, screeching child who is chased under the house but won’t scream when there’s actually someone there who can help her, and Buck’s pickup Janus Blythe who brings another layer of amusing sleaze – both decent performances. The performance and appearance of the croc is underwhelming – it’s hidden for most of the film, but when it does pop out it doesn’t look the best – think Jaws but cheaper.

I never got around to seeing Eaten Alive until recently – it wasn’t the easiest movie to get a hold of and it never struck me as a must-see. For some reason I always assumed it was a cannibal movie and combined with it being hard to get a hold of I assumed that all meant that it probably wasn’t very good. There is an Italian cannibal movie with the same name, so somewhere along the way I merged the two in my own mind. It’s worth seeing, both as a follow-up to one of the greatest of all time, and as a quirky slice of Southern grime. Just why is there a hotel out there in the middle of nothing? Why does Clara have to struggle through a bushy forest to find her way to it – isn’t there a path? Should we assume Judd has been killing all of his guests? If he remorselessly wipes out several in this single night, then we have to assume he has done it before giving him a probably high kill rate and surely then the authorities would have been knocking on his door years before? In any case, it’s not a film you’re supposed to question – it’s played more to make you uncomfortable rather than outright scare you, and there has always been something about crazed loner hicks which has both entertained and put me on edge. While there isn’t anything a dedicated horror fan won’t have seen here before, it’s exactly the sort of film a dedicated horror fan should still get a kick out of.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Eaten Alive!

Dumplin’

Watching this, it definitely felt like a Young Adult adaptation. It wasn’t until after I finished watching that I checked online and saw that yes, it was in fact based on a YA book. That’s not always a bad thing, and for the purposes of this review it’s little more than a lazy way to frame this introduction, so joke’s on you.

Dumplin’  is the coming of age story of a teenage girl who lost her father at an early age (I think… it wasn’t really mentioned much) and was mostly raised by her Dolly Parton obsessed aunt. Her mother, a former local beauty queen was too busy organizing beauty pageants to look after her, beyond so embarrassingly calling her Dumplin. She is apparently comfortable with being overweight, is in school, has a fast-food job, and has a ludicrously pretty, equally Dolly obsessed best friend. When her Aunt dies, she looks through a box of her old things and finds that in her youth had wanted to entire a local pageant but chickened out. To honour her memory, Dumplin’ decides to enter one of the shows, but unexpectedly her best friend and a couple of outcasts join her in her journey.

Knowing now that the film was directed by Anne Fletcher – a dancer and choreographer – it makes more sense that it included numerous dance scenes, a lot of music, and lacked a unique style. The film is highly comparable to both Ladybird and Little Miss Sunshine, but while those films had a vision framed by the director, Dumplin’ eschews this in favour of clever casting and a Netflix style. Jennifer Aniston is the mum, who really only shows up in the second half of the movie, while Danielle Macdonald and Odeya Rush are Willowdean ‘Dumplin’ and best friend Ellen. If you ever wanted to see Michael from Lost dancing in drag or Bex Taylor-Klaus wearing unnecessary, hilarious, and ridiculous prosthetic teeth, then this is the film for you. The film takes some slightly odd steps – while Willowdean’s falling out with Ellen is the exact conflict you get in every one of these films, it leads to Willowdean doubting herself and going in a mini cycle of destruction which the film completely fails to sell or give the character any reason to do so. One minute everything is wonderful, and the next she’s in crisis mode for zero reason. The performances are all fine – Aniston doesn’t do a great job with the accent while love interest Bo looks about twenty years older than Willowdean.

There are many reasons why I shouldn’t like this – it’s kind of a romantic comedy, it is filled with Country music (a genre I abhor), and it is set in the world of beauty pageants – something so foreign to anyone outside of the USA that every single one of us thinks it must be a joke. It is a joke though, right? You… you don’t genuinely take these things seriously, right? In Northern Ireland, a talent line up is where you stand facing a wall while a man in a balaclava decides which one of you to knee-cap (shoot in the leg) first, while a beauty pageant is watching the sixteen year olds fall out of the pubs at 1.30 am in Belfast before vomiting onto a rat. Yet somehow I did like it. Well, I watched it at least. It hits precisely every note you expect it to, it ends exactly as you know it will, and it is as by the numbers as any film you’ll ever see. I think the only cliche missed is that no-one in the group of pageant girls is ‘the bad one’ who tries to ruin Willowdean’s plans – everyone is so sweet and kind and helpful, making her aforementioned lapse into self-doubt all the more bewildering. Yet the charming cast carries it through and the occasional gentle laugh stops it from being a generic Hallmark movie. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I enjoyed it more than Ladybird, but it’s essentially the same film – even multiple cast members appear in both – and I probably enjoyed it just as much.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Dumplin!

Nightman Listens To – Madonna – Music!

Greetings, Glancers! It’s Madonna time again and an album released back in 2000, a simpler, less stressful time some would say. Not me though – I was in the middle of my A-Level preparations, I was 17, drinkin’ and a druggin’ and a womenin’. As you’ll have read in my previous post, Ray Of Light had been a massive hit with me and some of my friends, but in the few years between these albums we had started to see Madonna in a less favourable light. She had a lot of stuff going on which made her a prime candidate for ridicule, not that she’d care, and her release of American Pie was met with general laughter. To many of us it seemed she had lost it. I don’t know how much, if any, this contributed to me not paying much attention to the album but Music is not one I know much about, outside of some vague memories of the singles.

The album seems like it could be short and brisk – only ten songs and the only one I can clearly recall is the title track, and that’s a song I wasn’t a fan of. William Orbit did an awesome job on Ray Of Light so presumably the same will be said for this, although I think this album has a more general dance music flavour with less focus on atmosphere and rock. There’s no point guessing, lets just get into it.

‘Music’ was the first single from the album, and I didn’t like it from the first moment I heard it – much too much focus on quirks and production than, you know, actual music. The video likely influenced me too, what with its apparent love of celeb culture and lifestyle. Lyrically of course the song is supposed to be about the power of music to bring people together and overcome… something, but when the music is mostly dire the message falls flat. I appreciate the creativity and the production, but the style is not for me, the vocals are too whiny, and the melodies grating.

‘Impressive Instant’ is… well, my instant impression is that I’ll never want to listen to this again. It seems to be like another irritating dance song, entirely manufactured in the studio with nothing tangible. The vocals are annoying, the music is repetitive, the lyrics are garbage… unless you’re into dance music there’s nothing good here.

Runaway Lover‘ is a more traditional dance track. As a general rule I’m not a fan of dance music in most of its guises, but there are exceptions. This, I don’t mind. It could be any style of song, they just happened to make it dance – take away the beats and replace them with guitars or generic pop stuff and you’ll have a decent rock or pop track. Some of the noises and drums stuff annoys me, but it moves swiftly with a tidy energy and some decent melodies.

I Deserve It’ seems familiar somehow. I’m almost certain I’ve never head it, but I’ve shared many a set of earphones with many a person, so possibly… This one rambles along never quite reaching any sort of point or peak, though based on the lyrics that in itself is possibly the point. There are moments of potential where I thought it was going to build into something more, but then it didn’t.

Amazing‘ starts with manufactured bird-like noises and bell type sounds. Before long a beat that’s unusually similar to Beautiful Stranger takes the song further along. The song has more of a rock vibe like some of the songs from Ray of Light, though in a completely different style.

Nobody’s Perfect’ begins with something that sounds like ‘I am wet when I am with you’ which seems a little inappropriate even for Madonna. This is annoying because I do like the melodies here, but they are largely ruined by the auto-tuning nonsense. The drum sounds feel too weak in places, but I do like all the robotic laser stuff going on. This would be great if it had a traditional vocal throughout, but even with the nonsense I can’t help but like it and I think it could become one of my favourites over time.

Don’t Tell Me‘ is one I’d forgotten about. I like the disjointed nature and I remember this one had fairly heavy rotation when I was in the University Student’s Union bar anytime Kerrang wasn’t being shown. It’s a decent single but clearly I’d forgotten it for a reason, gets annoying before long.

What It Feels Like For A Girl’ begins with experimental sounds, some annoying English accented speaking, lyrics about androgyny etc. I have a feeling I have heard this before. The good qualities here are buried under the production – the melodies and the backing sounds don’t go together at all, making the whole affair feel like two completed different songs which got mashed together accidentally.

Paradise (Not For Me)’ is a song that mostly goes nowhere until the second minute where a very John Carpenter piece emerges followed by a much stronger vocal (though still downgraded by auto-tune). It’s clearly an attempt at an epic and it doesn’t quite get there, though I appreciate the effort. I love the strings which join the mess near the third minute, but the opening two minutes are too uneventful – a better melody lifting towards that middle section would have improved things drastically. The final couple of minutes repeat variously the good and bad without offering a final distinct section – aimed for the stars and scraped the clouds or something.

Gone‘ begins as an unusually streamlined and simple song – only voice and acoustic guitar. I love the melodies, the vocals and lyrics are plaintive, and the chorus is great. Given what has come before I keep waiting for the big production to come blasting out of the speakers. It does come, kind of, but it’s not as intrusive or all encompassing as elsewhere on the album. This is good stuff, and a great ending – another song I wasn’t aware of that I already look forward to hearing again.

For me this was an ambitious yet disjointed album. As a sequel to Ray Of Light it tries a host of new ideas but it doesn’t have the impact, musically or emotionally, which that album had. Where one felt urgent and inventive, this one feels at times like a joke or more accurately that the people involved were just having fun without caring about the quality of the end product, while at other times it feels as if they are throwing as much sound and technique into the mix in the hope that some of it will come good. The best moments are those where the simple tune is allowed to speak for itself – some of the songs are bogged down by production to the point where the melody is drowned, while in others the production fails to disguise the dull core. There are still some great moments here, and a few songs that I’ll add to my regular rotation, but as a sequel to a great, it falls below expectation.

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Let’s Dance!

Greetings, Glancers! Ugh, I’ve been dreading this one. Not for any understandable reason you know, but I’ve still been dreading it. Like when you went to a school disco when you were a kid and you got all concerned and sweaty even though you’d be seeing the same friends and classmates you’d seen a few hours earlier? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the title of the album that’s had me wary, along with the fact that we’re now well into the 80s – the decade when good musicians forget how to make good music. I’ve never liked the Let’s Dance song either, and I’ve been concerned the rest of the album will be similar. China Girl sounds familiar, but other than that I don’t recognise any of the songs listed. We’ve been hear many times before, but let’s dance once more.

Modern Love: Well, it starts with guitar at least, so that’s good. Uh oh, repetitive and crappy drums. Talking with accent. Garth Marenghi. Better singing, and I like the minor stuff. Neat melodies. There was this terrible pop song a few years ago which had a very similar beat and rhythm to this and now that I’m hearing this it’s clear the pop song ripped this off. It was this overplayed twee mess with… were there two singers? Thankfully I’ve put it mostly out of my memory, but did it have someone singing ‘infatuation’ over and over? Something like that. The guitar is mostly gone now, leaving jagged piano and prodding brass. It’s very poppy, but it’s good.

China Girl: Okay yes, obviously I know this one. I quite liked the main riff but the song doesn’t really lift off for me until Bowie belts out the vocals after the halfway point. It feels like a curious one-off pop single till that point – I like it, though not a favourite.

Let’s Dance: Ugh, I never liked this one. It just sounded too 80s cheese, mixed with a faux 50s rock swagger and disco sound. It’s not a bad song or anything and I like the parts of the song outside the main ‘Let’s Dance’ vocal and riff. I find it quite overplayed too.

Without You: So, this is a new one on me yet it feels familiar. I like these unassuming songs which don’t try to show off or be some big hit yet quietly do a better job. Like the previous two songs there is a prominent repeating riff, and as this is new for me it doesn’t feel annoying or overplayed. The vocals are gentle, the song is short, and it has an unexpected finish.

Ricochet: Clapping and jungle beats – two of my least favourite things. A stuttering beat and near spoken vocals. It’s certainly doing its best to not endear itself to me. Smokey jazz horns play over dissonant sounds and soundbites. It’s a bit of an experimental mess. I know what he’s going for here, but it’s nowhere near interesting enough for me to be anything more than a one time curio.

Criminal World: Another new one for me, but wait, isn’t this just China Girl again? That riff is very similar. It’s lucky the verse is slow otherwise it would have been nearly identical. There’s some deep bass funking along, the vocals are quiet. The chorus speeds up and brings the melody. Rinse and repeat, though I liked this one.

Cat People: Ah yes. I saw the remake when I was in my early teens and liked it okay if it has boobs and blood when you’re that age, it automatically gets a thumbs up. It starts with simple cymbal snaps, then a growing synth purrs its way into view. Bowie does his best deep voice – it’s all very slow and somber, like a proto-industrial piece. The build up is slow, then there’s an explosion of vocals and sound to take us into the second phase of the song – basically a heavier take on the first with added energy and drums. It’s great. We follow this with a funky instrumental section before the vocals return – this is one of Bowie’s better vocals for me. We end on a nice synthetic guitar solo and choir rendition of the chorus.

Shake It: Umm… Prince? This is very 80s and the lyrics seem like the sort of silly stuff you got back then. It’s not quite New Wave pop, but it has that vibe, tone, and sound and feels like it could have been recorded by any number of 80s groups. That’s not always a bad thing – it’s fun and it would probably be catchy after a couple of listens, but on this first hearing it doesn’t have enough to pull me in.

A mixed bag then – some good ones, some I knew, some new ones. There aren’t any songs I didn’t like, title track notwithstanding as I knew it already, but there are a couple which I didn’t care for. Mostly on the positive side then – maybe a couple I’d choose to listen to again and which would potentially be added to my playlist, but nothing immediately jumped out at me and landed on the playlist. What are your thoughts on Lets Dance? Is this the best of Bowie’s 80s offerings, or does he get better through the decade while his peers suffered? Let us know in the comments!

The Nightman Scoring System(c) – A Hard Day’s Night!

 Remember the Nightman Scoring System ©? My system for reviewing music as fairly as possible, an attempt to remove as much inherent bias as possible? That system where I break up an album into twenty evenly weighted categories so that when you score each one out of five, trying to base the score as much on fact as on opinion, you get a fair total out of 100? It’s the best scoring system in the world and you should use it. So should I in fact, hence this post. Anyway, if you want to read the rules about the system click this link and it will reveal all. There’s one for movies too, at this link. Check them both out – I say with absolutely no hyperbole that it will unquestionably change your life, make you an astonishingly brilliant human being, and also get you the ladies (regardless of your gender or orientation).

It’s number 3 and the album I consider to be when the band truly found their stride and their own voice. Check out my original review here.

Sales: 5 (Another smash hit)

Chart: 5 (Another smash hit)

Critical: 5 (The first truly great Beatles album, loved by all)

Originality: 4 (The signs of originality in playing, recording, and writing make sudden, small leaps on this record. There are no covers, giving the band the chance to show off their own abilities in full flight, though they are still finding their direction. Here they move away from the blues laden tracks on the first two albums, and make a selection of pop hits instead but give new twists and flavours on the sounds and content of such songs).

Influence: 5 (Like most of the Beatles albums, this is a huge influence on everything that came after, but this was the first album which showed that a band could do everything themselves without relying on exterior input. The variety of styles, the look and feel, the sound, the lyrics, everything here has influenced countless works since).

Musical Ability: 5 (Not only do the band solidify their playing, but they expand with new ideas, instruments, and they cement their ability to play as a group).

Lyrics: 4 (Although most of the songs still are based on love and romance, there are the odd moments and perspectives which eschew conventions and show that the writing was greatly improving).

Melody: 5 (There is a huge leap here from the first couple of albums, possibly by moving towards a more pop oriented sound, and by having free rein to write whatever they wanted. The harmonies shine through meaning that depending on whose voice you choose to listen to, each song can be heard in completely different ways).

Emotion: 4 (The band step up the emotional content bravely here by baring themselves like few groups had before, not only showing their cynicism but their unabashed love).

Resilience: 5 (Again, 50 years later it still sounds better than much of what is around today, more vital, more important, and will still be discussed in another 50).

Vocals: 4 (Each member excels again, while there are a few moments which drag my score down from maximum such as John’s eunuch moment).

Coherence: 4 (The band’s first fully original album holds together wonderfully, nothing sounds out-of-place, and the overall sense of a romantic chase and the ups and downs within is potent).

Mood: 4 (The record makes you want to dance, to sing along, to write, to pick up an instrument and play along).

Production: 5 (This is the first Beatles album which sounds like a unique Beatles album – no other band could have made these songs in this way. Everything is just right).

Effort: 5 (A lot of effort went into this, especially considering the film was being done around the same time, as well as continual writing and touring, and the mix of breathless endeavor and weariness is apparent).

Relationship: 4 (Fits nicely with the previous albums, stands on its own, and blends seamlessly into the next).

Genre Relation: 4 (It’s pop, it’s rock, it sounds like many of the bands of the time, but more importantly it sounds like it is improving upon, and almost making a mockery of those other bands).

Authenticity: 5 (It’s the sound of a band coming into their own, throwing off the shackles of convention, embracing expectation and confidently acknowledging that they will surpass all expectation. Some may go 4 here, I couldn’t accept anything lower).

Personal: 5 (Not my favourite Beatles album, but it can’t be anything less than a 5).

Miscellaneous: 5 (Great stories from the recording, an oft-imitated cover, a film which should have won several Oscars, a classic).

Total: 92/100

I mean… I’m surprised by that score. It’s by no means my favourite Beatles album but that score is almost perfect and you wonder how anything could get any better. If someone asked me to give a score out of 5, I’d say 5, out of 10 I’d probably say 10, out of 100 I suppose 90 or late 80s would have been my answer. So far my scores are on track with my personal feelings, so that either means I’m a genius or the system is balls. Or somewhere in between, who the hell knows. At the very least, this mirrors the general critical consensus, but that’s not saying much either. No matter which way you slice it, this is one of the best albums of all time and the score reflects that.

Nightman Listens To – Maiden Solo/Other Output

Greetings, Glancers! As many of you may know, I’ve always been a bit of a metal fan and rank Iron Maiden as one of my favourite bands. One thing I’ve never actually bothered to do though is listen to the other work by the various band members – solo or with other bands. And why the hell not? It’s probably crap, as is usually the way with these things, but I’m going to do it anyway, and you can come along for the ride. Oh yeah, I’m not going to bother with the Blaze Bailey or Paul Di’Anno stuff. I can’t be arsed. Maybe one day. For now, here’s a handy list of the albums I’ll be covering:

Bruce Dickinson: Tattooed Millionaire. Balls To Picasso. Skunkworks. Accident Of Birth. The Chemical Wedding. Tyranny Of Souls.

Samson: Survivors. Head On. Shock Tactics.

Steve Harris: British Lion. Calm Before The Storm.

Urchin: Black Leather Fantasy. She’s A Roller.

ASAP: Silver And Gold

Psycho Motel: State Of Mind. Welcome To The World.

Primal Rock Rebellion: Awoken Broken.

Streetwalkers: Downtown Flyers. Red Card.

Fish: Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors

Gillan: Double Trouble. Magic. Gillan’s Inn.

Any favourites, let me know!

Nightman Listens To – Blood, Sweat, And Tears (Top 1000 Series)!

Blood, Sweat, And Tears – are they a spin off of Earth, Wind, And Fire? Nobody knows. One thing is for sure, it has been blood, sweat, and tears listening to some of these so-called best albums ever. Hilarious! Now that the shite is out of the way, I’ll be honest and say I don’t know anything this band or album and I’m not sure I’ve even heard of them. That should make the next piece easy…

What Do I Know About Blood, Sweat, And Tears (band): Nowt

What Do I Know About Blood, Sweat, And Tears (album): Less than nowt.

Lets go.. the tracklisting doesn’t fill me with confidence but as the timeless saying goes ‘don’t judge a song by its shitty name’.

Variations On A Theme: Soft. Flutey, guitary. Quite nice. Feels like I’ve heard this before, once upon a dream. That it? Twinkles.

Smiling Phases: Jazz explosion. Organ. Drums. Funky. Vocals like Baywatch. Chaotic. Drum collapse. Good piano in middle. Lots of shifts. I actually typed ‘lots of shits’ first. It’s all over the place now, but just clinging on – I can dig this amount of jazz. Not much brass so far, so I’m good. Here come da brass. Regal. Back to vocals. Slowing. Drum disaster. End.

Sometimes In Winter: More standard soft jazz into. The flutey stuff gives it a smoother edge which I prefer. Not sure about the vocals, not very exciting or expressive – then I’m not a fan of smooth vocals. This is okay, a little plain, would be served better by a different singer. Some nice parts, lyrics better than vocals, but average all round.

More And More: Trumps. Funky. James Brown. Vocals okay. This has a harder edge, no doubt influenced by the rock of the era. Drum breakdown. Guitar jump scare. Lots of screams. See, again I can enjoy this level of jazz because its so infused with other styles. Sudden end.

And When I Die: Harmonica. Then turns into a jaunty circus pirate song. Faster. Tempo bouncing around. Funny organ. More. Yee ha. Happy songs about dying are probably hard to come by. Slower. Faster. Slower. Faster. End.

God Bless The Child: Slower. Swing. Too many trumpets. Religion. Everyone has covered this. Still not convinced by the vocals. Too slow and dreary for me. Piano shift. Foot tapping time. Turned into a completely different song. Crazy trump solo. More brass. Back to slow and harmonica. End.

Spinning Wheel: Honk in. Pretty sure I’ve heard this before. Vocals better again when gruff. Superman. Fart Trump. As commercial as such a mixture could possibly be. Flute weirdo moment. Going A Day In The Life. Laughs.

You’ve Made Me So Very Happy: More dodgy vocals. Whispery organ and sudden trump blasts. He’s better on the big notes. Not bad, just not my style. Seems a little cheesy, but the edge keeps it on the straight and narrow. More organ bits. The mix of jazz and funk and rock somehow works.

Blues Part II: 12 minutes, eh? Lets be havin’ ya. Organ, obviously, you’ve gots to start a 12 minute song with some organ. Tune’s struggling to come through. Meandering for now. Tune now. Ascending. Swirling. Faster. Where’s the beat. Trumpet disaster. Now beat. Bass. Very loose. Drums. Everyone’s getting a turn. Brass and bass. It goes on. And On. Sunshine Of My Love. Vocals.

Variations On A Theme: Is this the same thing again? Sure sounds like it.

What Did I Think: So, I see now that this was actually mostly a covers album, or at least features several covers.  That explains why some parts seemed familiar. Looking down the page on Wikipedia I see that a few of the songs were either outright covers or included some piece written by someone else. I’m not overly familiar with any of the originals so I can’t speak for how they have been adapted and translated. In the end though, I mostly liked it – no-one is more surprised than I am. It’s not something I see myself ever coming back to, but I enjoyed the energy. I do think the vocals could have done with a shake up, but that’s just me.

Does It Deserve A Place On The Top 1000 Albums of All Time: It’s another instance of the album not being immediately amazing to me to justify its inclusion, yet not obviously bad or average enough to cast it down outright. I can’t imagine this being massively influential – at least from a long-lasting perspective, but I can understand why it was a hit and is highly regarded. Not my thing, but when I can still enjoy something that is not my thing, then it must be doing something right.

Let us know in the comments if you have any particular love for Blood, Sweat, And Tears, and if you have any special memories attached to it.

Amazon Vine Freebies – August 2017

More more more

Rub My Bits

Polish My Claws

Steam My Pants

Home My Friends

Wash My Areas

Sharpen My Nibs

Hurt My Ears

Teach My Brains

Return To Oz

*Originally written in 2003 – again, apologies for posting all these old, crappy reviews.

In this minor dark fantasy classic, we return to Oz with Dorothy Gale who has not been able to adjust to normality since her primary adventures. Her Auntie and Uncle do not know what do to with her, and no-one believes her amazing stories. Eventually she is sent to a psychiatric hospital, and unknown to her family it is run by near-masochists who supposedly perform terrifying experiments on children. As this is still a kids’ movie none of this is shown, but the suggestion is pretty heavy.

Jean Marsh plays the relentlessly horrifying Nurse Wilson, and pursues Dorothy through the stormy night in a bid for escape. Dorothy jumps into a river and when she wakes she is in Oz with a chicken called Billina. However, after some exploring it appears that Oz has been infected with some kind of evil, and it is no longer the enchanting place it was, instead it is a place of nightmares. The Emerald city and all inhabitants including the Cowardly Lion and the Tin-Man have been turned to stone. After a chase by the brilliantly memorable and scary Wheelers, Dorothy meets Tik-Tok, a mechanical man, and they try to find the Scarecrow and work out what has happened. Soon Dorothy is taken prisoner by the wicked Princess Mombi, Jean Marsh again, who is obsessed with her appearance, stealing the heads of beautiful young women. It seems that the Nome King has become immensely powerful, turning all to stone as his personal statues. The struggle to return Oz to its glory is one which will take all of Dorothy’s skill and love.

This film is a definite classic for kids, but beware – it is dark and has many moments which will be scary. I saw this recently, having not seen it in a few years, and although the impact has dwindled, and the flaws are clear, it is still a good film which should definitely be seen at a young age. There are many things to recommend it, although fans of The Wizard of Oz my be disappointed by the lack of music and light-hearted fun. The acting is all top notch; Jean Marsh is excellent in her roles and Fairuza Balk is outstanding in her first major performance, seeming both timid and strong and giving a good account of what may be a disturbed, abused child. The new characters are all just as good as those in the 1939 film, particularly Pumpkinhead and Tik-Tok. The effects are extremely good for their time and hold up today. Scary moments include the Wheeler chase, the final encounter with the Nome King, and of course the infamous screaming heads scene which will likely stay in the memory of all who see it. If you have children with strong imaginations, or with an interest in reading or fantasy, then this is a film they should be shown, but if they are scared easily it may not be such a good idea.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Return To Oz!

Rope

*Originally written in 2004 (it goes without saying as my reviews from this period are basically one big plot reveal, but SPOILER ALERT)

Another technological feat from Hitchcock; a film which seems to have no cuts throughout. Although there are five or six, the editing is so swift that you will have trouble finding the cutting points, and the blend between each is seamless. Like other Hitchcock films where he experiments with camera work and conventional methods of filming and storytelling, it is a success and never feels as if it is the main gimmick of the film. The story and acting are all good enough to keep the viewer enthralled, and the balance between plot and camera-work is perfectly balanced, structured and adds to the overall effect of the film. In short – you can enjoy it without knowing or caring about any of the technical aspects, or for everything mentioned above.

The film takes place over the period of a single night in an apartment owned by two young men, students of Philosophy taught by the well-respected, cynical and clever Rupert Cadell. The students, Brandon and Phillip, decide to murder someone as an experiment, to see what it feels like and to see if they can get away with it. They choose to kill a friend, hiding the body in a trunk in their apartment before inviting Rupert and their other friends (including the victim’s family) over for a party. Enjoying the irony and thrill of it all at first, the pressure soon grows; Knowing jokes about death and murder are thrown around, the victim’s family and friends wonder why he is late and cannot get in contact with him, philosophical, moral and political discussions become heated, arguments break out, and Rupert becomes increasingly suspicious as the Brandon and Phillip’s behaviour gets more strange. Phillip becomes more nervous as the irony, dark humour, and pressure from Rupert grows, and eventually the horror is uncovered. The boys explain their actions and Rupert realises that to some degree he had a part in it, because of his subversive teachings. The superiority complex much talked about by Nietzsche is explored, and the boys question of whether it is right to kill another person because you feel superior is discussed with Hitchockian flair and humour.

The dialogue is typical of Hitchcock, full of dark humour and nodding sight gags such as the fact that the food is served from the trunk in which the body lies. The backdrop of the city is impressive and Dall is pretty chilling. The rest of the cast are admittedly average, but Jimmy Stewart makes up for this by giving a memorable performance, almost against type. He easily controls the screen, and we come to feel like he is superior, all the more shocking and ironic when we sense his involvement in the death and his reaction to that knowledge. A lesser known Hitchcock, but one no less worthy of catching today.

Let us know in the comments what you though of Rope!