Thursday, September 18, 2008

Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977)

***½
Italy



The most famous of Dario Argento's horrors is as much about a Satan-possessed German dance academy as it is about his pungent, psychedelic colour schemes and soundtrack. Charges of all-style-and-no-substance would be missing the point.

The cast includes Joan Bennett in regal mode, a perpetually sneering Alida Valli, as well as American import Jessica Harper in the lead, who is amazingly wooden even within the campy slasher context. You want her dead early on, especially since you can never get enough of the ludicrous, wonderfully grotesque killings.

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The Hills Have Eyes (Wes Craven, 1977)

***½
USA



Wes Craven pits a family of sunny Republican-voters against one of mutant cannibals in a remote stretch of Californian desert. It's only his second feature, but he's already built up the perfect sensibility for this kind of thing. It's cheap, it's gory, it's nerve-racking and sometimes funny in a very nasty way .

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Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (Bertrand Blier, 1978)

***
France


A resolutely French absurdity, wherein a young and slim Gérard Depardieu is unable to satisfy his wife, so he turns to the stranger at the next table, a bookish primary school sports teacher. He also fails, as does his next-door neighbour, but not his 13-year-old pupil... Writer-director Bertrand Blier is after the giddy nightmare logic that Buñuel had brought into fashion, and he succeeds to a point, though he lacks Buñuel's visual flair and acuity.

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Pumping Iron (George Butler, Robert Fiore, 1977)

**½
USA



The competitive bodybuilding exposé that introduced the future Governor of California to a disbelieving world. His grotesque physique is one thing, but the analogy he draws between flexing and perpetual orgasm is quite another, and almost definitely the highlight of George Butler and Robert Fiore's marketable, faintly condescending documentary.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Muppet Movie (James Frawley, 1979)

***
USA



Kermit & co. are so irresistibly cute in their first movie showcase that you laugh uncomfortably even at the gags that don't really come off (a hefty portion) and are absolutely on the floor with the ones that do (most of them involving Miss Piggy).

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The In-Laws (Arthur Hiller, 1979)

***½
USA



A flamboyant man of international intrigue and a nebbishy dentist are forced together in an elaborately contrived farce that barely comes out alive from its first act, but gradually picks up and is positively buzzing by the time Richard Libertini turns up as a phenomenally disturbed South American dictator.

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A Wedding (Robert Altman, 1978)

**½
USA



Robert Altman was criticised for introducing too many characters into this satire of matrimony and the nouveau riche, though that's in some ways the least of its problems. You don't need character depth in a farce, so much as the jokes to work and few here do.

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Newsfront (Philip Noyce, 1978)

***
Australia



A warmly-regarded ode to the Aussie newsreel industry in its final years, it incorporates into its well-worn tale of technological takeover actual footage of things like the bloody, politically motivated scuffle between the Hungarian and Russian water polo teams at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. The bits of newsreel are fascinating and exciting, the rest is mostly prosaic.

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Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978)

***
USA



The first of of the neverending stream of remakes of Don Siegel's politically ambiguous cult B-movie is enjoyable and adequately eerie, though the plot seems that much sillier in a contemporary context and the means of deduction by which our heroes come to uncover the invaders' horrifying takeover methods are even less palatable.

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Superman (Richard Donner, 1978)

***½
USA



It's 50 minutes into the movie by the time Superman gets to fly - and roughly 45 of these are redundant - but it picks up significantly thereafter (even if Lois Lane's out-of-body love poem is still to come). It's a tack-fest but it's very enjoyable, and for having pretty much spawned the mammoth-budget superhero movie, it warrants some interest, if not necessarily adulatory gratitude .

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Interiors (Woody Allen, 1978)

***
USA



Woody Allen's first stab at glum Bergmanesque drama is so meticulously patterned after the work of his idol that he allows nothing of his own to slip in. So, it's all artifice - hollow imitation, Bergman without the tension. That it's compelling at all is thanks to the performers, but Allen himself was onto something infinitely worthier when he reworked the scenario into a comic melodrama eight years later.

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