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I saw this at the weekend with the lovely ms_siobhan and planet_andy. It's an Amicus werewolf film complete with Peter Cushing, Charles Gray, a youthful Michael Gambon, an alsatian wrapped in a rug, some extremely spangly shirts and a soundtrack full of wacka-wacka guitar music. In other words, lots of silly '70s fun. And just to make the atmosphere complete, ms_siobhan had used some brand new skull-shaped silicon cake cases which she got for Christmas to bake spongy pink brain-cakes with a delicious layer of boiled eye-balls (aka cherries) to eat while we watched.

The USP of this particular film is that it is (meant to be) as much a detective film as a horror film, with the viewer invited to work out the identity of the werewolf amongst a party of guests at a millionaire's isolated high-security mansion. We were instructed by a voice-over to be on the look-out for clues from the start of the film, and towards the end the narrative stopped for a 'werewolf break', during which we were shown pictures of the surviving guests, and then given thirty seconds to figure out which was the werewolf.

We did managed to narrow it down correctly to two possible suspects out of six, but most of the clues were pretty ham-fisted, and I'm still not convinced we'd actually been given enough information to identify the correct individual. And, disappointingly, there was no Sherlock or Poirot figure within the narrative to explain in detail how we should have been able to work out which character was the werewolf. The identity was revealed, but not the reasoning. Also, the narrative which we had been given up to that point didn't exactly match up with the parameters we were being asked to subscribe to anyway. The millionaire who had assembled the guests kept stating very confidently that he knew ONE of his guests was a werewolf - and indeed this turned out to have been true. But he also gave reasons for suspecting each and every one of them of being a werewolf, and it was never clear why he felt so sure that only one of them actually was, but still couldn't tell which.

Also interesting was the fact that the main character - the millionaire who had invited everyone to his mansion, and who got by far the most screen-time in the film - was black. In fact, so was his wife, which meant that the film passed the ethnic minority version of the Bechdel test - there were several scenes in which the two of them discussed their own goals and motivations with each other, without any particular reference to any of their white guests. That's extremely rare for a '70s British horror flick - but you still couldn't exactly call it a positive portrayal. This character is stereotyped into something of a Blaxploitation role, running about the place a lot in shiny PVC shirts and wielding enormous guns. He also plays right into the age-old trope of the nouveau riche social climber with more money than sense - he's shown as a slightly unhinged play-boy, spending thousands on his obsessive hunt to find a werewolf, and getting several people killed in the process. So, yeah.

And, for a film with such a stellar cast, it doesn't half waste them. Michael Gambon is all right, although he doesn't have terribly much to do except sit around looking a bit sulky. But Peter Cushing gets precious little screen-time; most of his dialogue is incredibly hokey and utterly boring faux-science; and he's obviously been asked to lay aside his trademark crisp English enunciation in favour of an annoying and completely unconvincing foreign accent. As for Charles Gray - to be honest, he was basically phoning it in.

So, not exactly what you'd call a masterpiece, but fun for an afternoon's entertainment. And it's hugely whetted our appetites for more of the same at this year's Bradford Fantastic Film Weekend, too. :-)

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( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 2nd, 2011 12:39 am (UTC)
Ah... that is a supremely silly film isn't it? If I remember right it also hamfistedly breaks just before the reveal to remind you that there's a final chance to guess.

Edit: I do in fact remember right because rereading that's what you mean by "werewolf break".

Edited at 2011-02-02 12:40 am (UTC)
Feb. 2nd, 2011 12:59 am (UTC)
Oh, I remember watching this years ago on BBC2 or some such. It was very silly, and very very 70s (I suspect the black couple were a half-hearted attempt to jump onto the then-trendy blaxploitation bandwagon). I certainly don't remember it being very good, which is a shame as something that silly could be great fun if done right.
Feb. 2nd, 2011 08:46 am (UTC)
It was a top load of old nonsense wasn't it? and quite high budget for a low budget film, though I suspect most of the budget went on burning a helicopter and spangly shirts for the lead rather than making the werewolf look anything like even remotely convincing.

Thanks to the wonders of Amazon - there should be a copy of Horror Express making it's way to me as I type :-)
Feb. 3rd, 2011 07:04 pm (UTC)
The Bradford film weekend thing sounds wonderful - I remember your review of it last year. When's it on?
Feb. 3rd, 2011 08:13 pm (UTC)
Yes, it's great! It's in the same museum I took you, Holly and Pete to last year, and I think you'd really enjoy it. The dates this year are June 10th to 12th, and there's also a Facebook group about it which is worth joining. That should alert you when the programme is announced, and when tickets go on sale. You can buy full weekend passes, or just buy tickets separately for individual films - which usually works out cheaper to be honest, unless you are going to be watching four or more movies per day!
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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