Deadlier Than The Male (1967)

Even though Bulldog Drummond can be considered a prototype for the spies who would populate films and television throughout the fifties and even sixties, a strange thing occurred in 1966. Bulldog Drummond was revamped and remodelled to become a swinging sixties spy, well an insurance investigator actually, but none-the-less he became an imitation of the very thing he created. I haven’t written up a review for Deadlier Than The Male, but I will entrust you to the very safe hands of Tanner at the Double Section who has written two fantastic pieces about this seminal sixties action spy film.

To visit the Double O Section and read Tanner’s review of Deadlier Thean The Male, click here.

And additionally for Tanner’s article on Lipstick Feminism, click here.

Deadlier Than The Male (1967)

Chopper

ChopperMGChopper is not just one of the best Aussie crime films of all time, but is also one of the best Australian films of all time regardless of genre. As a crime film though, it is not particularly large scale. There are no daring robberies or heists, and there are no shoot-outs with the coppers. But it is a film about criminals, and one of these criminals just happens to be Mark Brandon Read, known as ‘Chopper’ to all and sundry. Mark allegedly got the name Chopper from cutting off the toes of people who owed him money with a set of bolt-cutters – that’s not in the film, by the way. If you want to see some bolt-cutter action, you’ll have to go back to Bruce Beresford’s The Money Movers.

Prior to this films release, Chopper had been the author of nine books (since then he has written more including the children’s book, Hookey The Cripple). This film is loosely based on some of the episodes mentioned in Chopper’s books.

The film opens in Melbourne’s Pentridge Prison in the early 1970’s, and young Mark Brandon Read is already well versed in prison life. Gathered around him are two mates – his only mates, Jimmy Loughman (Simon Lyndon), and Blue (Daniel Wyllie). They are in the midst of a turf war inside the prison – a struggle to see who runs H-Block. On the other side are a bunch on crims under the control of the Painters and Dockers Union. The Painters and Dockers were a real union (since disbanded), but at the same time were corrupt and secretly ran organised crime in Melbourne at that time. The top man for the Dockers in Pentridge was Keithy George (David Field).

In a startling scene which has little buildup, Chopper rushes at Keithy and starts stabbing him in the face with a sharp implement. Keithy collapses on the floor in a pool of blood. Now this is where the film is very different to your average drama about criminals. This is not Goodfellas. Chopper ‘thinks’ very different to your average crime. Immediately after the attack, as Keithy writhes on the ground trying to stop a geyser of blood pissing out from his neck, Chopper approaches him – not to finish him off – but almost in the spirit of friendship. He holds out an olive branch to Keithy. ‘Are you alright?’ he asks. He even lights a cigarette and tosses it to Keithy. Of course the bloodied unionist is not so forgiving. But this strange sort of remorse or compassion for his victims makes Chopper a fascinating and unpredictable character. Sure he’s a vicious brute, but at the same time he cares about the people he is threatening. Later in the film he shoots a drug lord in the stomach, and then immediately drives him to the hospital for medical attention.

This strange, twisted duality is what gives the film its unique edge, and much of the films success on this level is do to with Eric Bana’s outstanding performance. Prior to this Bana was primarily known as a standup comedian and for his appearances on Full Frontal (an Australian sketch comedy series). Nobody expected this kind of performance from him. I guess his experience as a comedian trained him to be a good mimic and observer. He nails Chopper’s mannerisms and speech inflections. Not surprisingly, Bana won the AFI (Australian Film Institute) award for his performance.

Also collecting an AFI award in 2000 was director Andrew Dominik. Truth be told, Chopper is an episodic story, but Dominik handles the story threads and time changes masterfully. The film is essentially broken up in to two parts. The first concerns young Chopper and his life in Pentridge; and the second looks at Chopper’s life on the outside. Each section is filmed in very different ways. The prison scenes are almost mono-chromatic blue – cold and austere. The scenes outside prison, most filmed at night, are garish. It’s like it’s an amphetamine fueled trip through Melbourne’s seedy underbelly.

The supporting cast are top-notch too. Simon Lyndon’s portrayal of Jimmy Loughman, Chopper’s right hand man, is a thoughtful and well realised characterisation. These guys are not super-heroes – they are very flawed and damaged people. Loughman’s knife attack on Chopper has to be considered as one of the most astounding set-pieces put to film.

Vince Colosimo, who appears to have a monopoly on starring in Australian gangster flicks, plays Neville Bartos. Neville walks with a limp because Chopper shot him in the kneecap many years prior. But that’s all water under the bridge now, and Neville has become a successful drug dealer. I may have been a bit cheeky when I said Colosimo has a monopoly on gangster roles, because Chopper is the film that set it all rolling, and his portrayal of Neville kept him at the forefront of casting directors minds. Colosimo gets the work because he puts in good dependable performances – and Neville is no exception – ‘Mate’ I’m flying!’

I could, of course, talk about Chopper all day. It’s one of my favourite films of recent years, but in case my brief scene descriptions haven’t painted an accurate picture, let me say it is a violent film. It isn’t particularly gory, though there is a little bit of blood, but the sudden ferocious acts of violence are presented quite realistically. So if violent Aussie crime dramas don’t sound like your cup of cocoa, then I’d give this a miss. Everybody else, start queuing now, and track yourself down a copy and strap yourselves in for ninety minutes of quality, visceral cinema.

Chopper

Tom Jones: Live Caesars Palace

TomJonesVarése Saraband Records – Re-issue (1971)

I found my knife in my hand, and she laughed no more!

As production techniques got better in the late 60’s and early 70’s, songs began to get really big. Added to usual band line ups, were string and brass sections and girl backing vocal groups. Through all this came a new type of song – ‘The Psycho Drama’. These were songs that were massively overproduced and dripping with emotion. The Queens of this type of music were Shirley Bassey, Nancy Sinatra, Dusty Springfield and Cilla Black. The kings were Roy Orbison, The Righteous Brothers and Tom Jones.

Now I love Tom, and I love all his overblown crowd pleasers like Delilah, I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, and Daughter Of Darkness. But one fine day I was travelling back home from rural Victoria, and was channel hopping on the car radio. Finally I landed on a independent radio station that was playing some really good live soul recordings. As I travelled on, I thought, hey I recognise that voice – that’s Tom Jones. It wasn’t his usual repertoire, it was a selection of old soul classics. And they were bloody good. As this station was run by volunteers, they didn’t feel the need to impart any information about the music they were playing, and to this very day, I do not know the name of the album that these songs come from. So many years have past, I am wondering if it really sounded like that at all?

But I knew there was a great Tom Jones live album out there somewhere, and tried to track it down. My first attempt was Tom Jones: Live Caesars Palace. It’s not the album I was after, but it’s so good, in a very different kind of way. This is Tom at the height of his manly appeal. In fact the whole album is interrupted with girls throwing themselves at Tom. But this just adds to the show. And the music is all of his big ‘psycho drama’ tunes. If you want to see a grown man cry, just play me his version of I (Who Have Nothing), and I’ll be a blubbering mess.

TRACK LISTING:
01. Dance Of Love
02. Caberet
03. Soul Man
04. I (Who Have Nothing)
05. Delilah
06. Bridge Over Troubled Water
07. My Way
08. God Bless The Children
09. Resurrection Shuffle
10. She’s A Lady
11. Till
12. Hit Medley: – I’ll Never Fall In Love, Daughter Of Darkness, Love Me Tonight, It’s Not Unusal
13. Hi Heel Sneakers
14. Rock ‘N’ Roll Medley: – Johnny B Goode, Bony Maronie, Long Tall Sally

Sound wise, the album is very good, and the arrangements by Johnnie Spence are perfect for a recording of this era (if it was done today, there’d be more emphasis on the bass).

The line up for this show includes: Tom Jones – vocals and whipping the ladies in the crowd into a frenzy, Jim Sullivan – Lead Guitar, Kenny Clare – Drums, John Rostill – Bass Guitar, Bobby Shew – Lead Trumpet.

If your a fan of Tom Jones, I’d go as far as to say, this album is a ‘must have’. Of course if you’re a ‘tourist’ there are plenty of fine compilations out there, which feature more of his big ‘hits’. And finally, here’s my plea, if you know the live Tom Jones album where he performs all the great soul numbers, please leave a comment… I am getting older and my memory is fading, and need to know if it really exists.

Tom Jones: Live Caesars Palace

Bulldog Drummond's Secret Police (1939)

Country: USA
Director: James Hogan
Starring: John Howard, Heather Angel, H.B. Warner, J. Carrol Naish, Reginald Denny, Leo G. Carroll, Elizabeth Patterson, E.E. Clive
Based on the book, ‘Temple Tower’ by Sapper

This Bulldog Drummond adventure picks up almost where Bulldog Drummond in Africa left off. Drummond (John Howard) and his fiancée, Phyllis Clavering (Heather Angel) still haven’t tied the knot. But this time it looks like it may actually happen. They are due to be married in twenty hours. All the usual crew, Algy (Reginald Denny), Tenny (E.E. Clive), and Colonel Nielson of Scotland Yard (H.B. Warner) have gathered at Rockingham Lodge for the ceremony.

The preparations are interrupted when absent minded Professor Downie (Forrester Harvey) arrives at the door. He brings with him a diary belonging to Colonel Cooper who hid a great treasure, belonging to Charles I in Rockingham Tower, in a series of secret passages and hidden chambers. Drummond, for the sake of his pending marriage chooses not to go on a treasure hunt, and leaves the Professor to his own devices as a guest. All this changes when the diary is stolen and the Professor murdered.

The ‘secret police’ of the title aren’t that secret, or at all interesting. They are a couple of ‘bobbies’ assigned to patrol Rockingham Lodge’s grounds after the death of the Professor.

The first forty minutes of this production (it runs under an hour) are pretty slow. The only real action sequence is in fact a flashback dream sequence which shows highlights from previous Drummond movies. But once the characters move into the hidden tunnels and the treasure hunt begins in earnest the film becomes what it should be – a good old fashioned cliff hanger adventure. In the catacombs under the tower we are even treated to that time honoured classic of the adventure film – a room with a spiked ceiling, which lowers down to impale and crush our heroes trapped inside. It’s good fun, but has taken too long to start.

This Drummond adventure, if you are patient and a fan of the Drummond films may be worth seeking out. But generally I think most viewers can give this entry a miss.

Bulldog Drummond's Secret Police (1939)

Bulldog Drummond’s Secret Police (1939)

This Bulldog Drummond adventure picks up almost where Bulldog Drummond in Africa left off. Drummond (John Howard) and his fiancée, Phyllis Clavering (Heather Angel) still haven’t tied the knot. But this time it looks like it may actually happen. They are due to be married in twenty hours. All the usual crew, Algy (Reginald Denny), Tenny (E.E. Clive), and Colonel Nielson of Scotland Yard (H.B. Warner) have gathered at Rockingham Lodge for the ceremony.

To celebrate the happy day, click here.

Bulldog Drummond’s Secret Police (1939)

Bulldog Drummond’s Secret Police (1939)


Country: USA
Director: James Hogan
Starring: John Howard, Heather Angel, H.B. Warner, J. Carrol Naish, Reginald Denny, Leo G. Carroll, Elizabeth Patterson, E.E. Clive
Based on the book, ‘Temple Tower’ by Sapper

This Bulldog Drummond adventure picks up almost where Bulldog Drummond in Africa left off. Drummond (John Howard) and his fiancée, Phyllis Clavering (Heather Angel) still haven’t tied the knot. But this time it looks like it may actually happen. They are due to be married in twenty hours. All the usual crew, Algy (Reginald Denny), Tenny (E.E. Clive), and Colonel Nielson of Scotland Yard (H.B. Warner) have gathered at Rockingham Lodge for the ceremony.

The preparations are interrupted when absent minded Professor Downie (Forrester Harvey) arrives at the door. He brings with him a diary belonging to Colonel Cooper who hid a great treasure, belonging to Charles I in Rockingham Tower, in a series of secret passages and hidden chambers. Drummond, for the sake of his pending marriage chooses not to go on a treasure hunt, and leaves the Professor to his own devices as a guest. All this changes when the diary is stolen and the Professor murdered.

The ‘secret police’ of the title aren’t that secret, or at all interesting. They are a couple of ‘bobbies’ assigned to patrol Rockingham Lodge’s grounds after the death of the Professor.

The first forty minutes of this production (it runs under an hour) are pretty slow. The only real action sequence is in fact a flashback dream sequence which shows highlights from previous Drummond movies. But once the characters move into the hidden tunnels and the treasure hunt begins in earnest the film becomes what it should be – a good old fashioned cliff hanger adventure. In the catacombs under the tower we are even treated to that time honoured classic of the adventure film – a room with a spiked ceiling, which lowers down to impale and crush our heroes trapped inside. It’s good fun, but has taken too long to start.

This Drummond adventure, if you are patient and a fan of the Drummond films may be worth seeking out. But generally I think most viewers can give this entry a miss.

Bulldog Drummond’s Secret Police (1939)

Mighty Peking Man

MPM150There are films that are legendary because they are outstanding pieces of cinema. Then there are other films that are legendary because they aren’t. Mighty Peking Man is one such film, but it tries really hard. The key to that last sentence is ‘try hard.’ An enthusiastic film made by people whose talents and abilities fall short of their goals can provide a great deal of entertainment. Mighty Peking Man does exactly that. It is one of the classic ‘so bad that it is good’ movies. No, let me take that further — this is so bad that it is GREAT!

One of cinema’s undisputed classics is the original King Kong. When it was remade in the 1970’s, it was accompanied with one of the biggest saturation marketing campaigns that I can remember. Hell, I even remember making my mum buy a copy of a women’s magazine because it had a King Kong iron-on transfer inside. During that time, everybody was talking Kong. That includes the Shaw Brothers studios in Hong Kong — but rather than a giant ape, they chose to depict a ten story tall Neanderthal man.

Thankfully, they chose not to hide their creation. You don’t have to wait for an hour to see the beast in action. Before the titles have even rolled, you see Mighty Peking Man trashing villages and temples — or at least, models thereof. If it looks a little bit fake, who cares? The film is off to a rampaging start. After the titles, the film opens in Hong Kong, and some bright spark with a huge bankroll of cash thinks he can make even more cash if he can capture Mighty Peking Man and display it to the world. To do this, he launches an expedition to the Himalayas. He tries to hire Johnny Fang (Danny Lee) to lead the expedition. Johnny used to be a great hunter, but now he is a drunk because he has busted up with his girlfriend. This is shown in a corny little flashback. It’s the old “one day I came home early…” story! Despite his sorry state, Johnny agrees to lead the expedition.

We next join the team in India, decked out in safari suits, on the trail of Mighty Peking Man. They are following a track in wagons pulled by oxen. At the first village they come to, they are caught in an elephant stampede, and many of the natives (Chinese extras in Indian “brown face”) who were carrying supplies are killed. Their wagons are overturned and destroyed too. Their next trial comes when the group is confronted by a tiger. And then, three of the party step into quicksand! It’s starting to look like the expedition is cursed. Johnny, who hasn’t got that much to live for, declares that the expedition must go on, but that night as he sleeps, everybody packs up their tents to go home, leaving him stranded.

Alone, Johnny continues the quest. It doesn’t take long for him to encounter Mighty Peking Man. As he tries to flee, he’s knocked unconscious. Just as Mighty Peking Man is about to crush Johnny into warm liquid goo, the hapless explorer is rescued by a beautiful blonde jungle girl who seems to have control over the beast!! Who is this girl? Her name is Ah Wei (Evelyn Kraft), and she has a back story too. Time for another flashback! It seems that many years ago, when she was just a child, she was traveling with her parents in an airplane in the middle of a severe thunderstorm. Her father lost control of the plane and crashed. Both of Ah Wei’s parents died. Alone in the jungle, Ah Wei was found by Mighty Peking Man, who protected her. Now she is a fully grown woman, much in the Sheena: Queen Of The Jungle mold. She has elephants, tigers, and leopards as her friends and wears a magical jungle girl bikini top that manages to droop as low as possible without actually showing nudity. The thing is really a marvel of jungle engineering.

Ah Wei has Mighty Peking Man carry Johnny back to her cave, where she can tend to him. When Johnny awakens and finds himself in the care of a beautiful, semi-naked blonde, he does what any red-blooded male would do: he spends his time frolicking around the jungle with her. Although Ah Wei is friends with most of the jungle creatures, one creature she has no control over are snakes, and one happens to bite her on the upper thigh. Johnny, poor guy, has to suck the poison out. As she heals, Johnny and Ah Wei fall in love. Mighty Peking Man, or ‘Utan’ as she calls him gets a little bit jealous, but she manages to appease the beast.

After more jungle frolicking, tiger cuddling, and leopard tossing, Johnny suggests that they return to the ‘real world’ with Utan. She agrees and says a teary farewell to her jungle friends. Then Utan picks them up gently in his hands and walks with them down from the mountains and to a city in India. Upon arrival, the inhabitants of the city panic. I guess that’s what you do when a ten story tall neanderthal man walks into your city. But Ah Wei shows them that he means no harm. Johnny then arranges a freighter to take Utan back to Hong Kong.

Eventually they arrive in Hong Kong, and Johnny is an instant celebrity. And who should come crawling back, but his old flame! Johnny reconciles with her and is giving her a sloppy pash when Ah Wei walks in. She freaks and runs off into the city.

Meanwhile, Utan has become a circus freak, performing feats of strength at an arena. Ah Wei naturally makes her way to Utan, but the unscrupulous show promoter (Ku Feng) captures her and tries to rape her. Utan see this, goes crazy, and breaks free. Let the rampage through the streets of Hong Kong begin!

Danny Lee needs little introduction, and for those who want a broader overview can beam across to Keith’s excellent review of Battle Wizard. Before becoming the star of a whole swag of tough cop films, Lee starred in a whole swag of kung fu films for Shaw Brothers. That’s a lot of swags! Mighty Peking Man was one of Lee’s first breakaway roles.

It’s impossible to deny that Evelyn Kraft looks great in this film. Clad in skimpy animal skins for the majority of the movie, she cuts a fantastic figure — and I am sure viewers will enjoy the scenes where she shimmies up trees (and later lamp-posts). Its hard to find accurate information on Evelyn Kraft. On various sites she is listed as being either Russian, Swiss, or German. Regardless, Shaw Brothers chose her to star in two of their higher profile films in 1977. The first of these was The Deadly Angels, in which Evelyn joined Shaw Yin Yin, Dana, and Kim Ching Lan as a foxy force of fighting females. As you no doubt have guessed, The Deadly Angels was a ripoff — no let’s say it was ‘inspired by’ — Charlie’s Angels. The other Shaw Borthers feature for Kraft was Mighty Peking Man.

Mighty Peking Man is one of the greatest films of its kind. It’s fast paced and infectiously likable. The miniatures used in the film aren’t that bad. Of course, they look a little bit phony, but on the whole they are pretty good for a film of this vintage. The real goofball part of the this film is its plot, which serves up every corny ‘jungle movie’ plot contrivance it can muster — and the film is all the better for it. The funny thing is, and I know that this film is just a King Kong ripoff, but when the climax of the film comes around — and anyone who has seen Kong will know whats going to happen — I actually got emotional. I’m too manly to admit to a tear welling up in my eye, but I really sympathized with Utan’s plight. The film successfully asks ‘who really is the beast?’

I know that many readers are fans of Godzilla and kaiju films. If you are, then add this to your list. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Mighty Peking Man