Thursday, May 27, 2010

Son Of Hitler

Sometimes you just can't understand how or why a film was forgotten about. Sometimes you really can. Let's just start with the title: it doesn't bode well (or perhaps it does, depending on your opinion!). Son Of Hitler. Ok. Right. It's a film about the son of Adolf Hitler. Unless of course it's another Hitler or some kind of clever metaphor for... no, no, no, it's that Hitler. Yes.

Well... - you might say - perhaps it's some kind of historical documentary about Hitler's ideas living on (no...) or... let me see.... could it be some kind of conspiracy theory about real surviving heirs? Again.. no. This is a fictional film about Hitler's son. It is also a comedy.

Wow. A comedy, you say? Yes, a comedy.

Peter Cushing stars as nazi-saluting Heinrich Haussener, camping it up rather as he stomps around in a desperate attempt to find young Wilhelm Hitler, Hitler's surviving son who was raised in the mountains in complete ignorance of the war. Or of reading. Or writing. Or what his name is. (He's also implausibly young, given that this is set when it is filmed - some 30 years after the war - but that's another issue)

And herein lies the er... 'comedy'. Young Wilhelm is coming down from the mountains, birth-certificate (that he can't read) in hand and is completely mystified by everyone's astonished reactions. A local post-master chases him out the shop, he goes to a bar and drinks beer wearing full Nazi insignia, a judge declares his 'lies' the workings of a damaged mind and commits him to a mental institute immediately.

It's a bizarre mix of political 'humour' and slapstick fun. The slapstick element in fact almost succeeds in it's complete bizarre senselessness - the straight-jacketed mental patients being forced to play football in the mental institute is a stand-out scene, the institute officer acting as referee finding it impossible to understand why they can't master a simple throw-in... - as well as some mildly diverting comedy involving a paternoster lift - although whilst watching you can't help but wish there were more skilled slapstick comedians diving in and out; it's ever so Marx brothers but with none of the finesse.

This should hardly come as a surprise, as finesse is surely a word that few could associate with this film. Quite what poor old Peter Cushing is doing in this film, making over young Wilhelm in the desperate hope that he can continue the work of his father, is anybody's guess. You really hope that he told his agent to get him back onto a Hammer Horror set as fast as possible. This was just one year after his appearance in Star Wars! Surely there must have been some mistake in signing up for this?

For those of us who can sit through anything with Peter Cushing in, it might well be worth a look, and for the rest? Well, it's not entirely without merit.... merely almost entirely without merit! The handful of semi-humorous scenes do relatively little to make up for the tragically unfunny script, appallingly bad central concept and cack-handed production. You really do wonder at point this seemed like a good idea. And how many of the cast and production team kept coming back each day fully aware of what kind of monster they were making.

This film should never have been made. But as it has been made, you certainly ought to watch it. Sadly, it's rare as hell and - I WONDER WHY? - appears never to have had a very limited release and has never made it to DVD. Let's hold out for the Blu-Ray copy then, yes? Fingers crossed.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Big Screen Big Tune #3 - Zombi 2

This month, after a short break, Big Screen Big Tune is the brooding, stormy masterpiece by Fabio Frizzi for Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2. Enjoy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Poster Hunt #10 - Suspiria & Giallo

Whilst most of the posters I've selected for Poster Hunt have been classic style, painted scenes, I thought that this time I'd go for a more modern, minimal look: clean lines and bold block colours.

So here we have two posters, the first for Dario Argento's Suspiria (a truly fantastic film, I recommend it highly) and the second for his much more recent Giallo (which I haven't seen and which received very mixed reviews)

Regardless of the quality of the films though, the posters are certainly both gorgeous.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Zulo (Hole)

Right. Zulo. Hmm...

Zulo is, despite being clever, intriguing, mysterious and a whole host of other good adjectives, at it's heart a 77 minute long short-film.

For reasons I've never entirely understood, we don't seem to have much of a tradition of short-films in the UK (or the US as far as I know). Sure, there are handfulls of short-films screened at film festivals but compared to the Spanish, we're a bit thin on the ground in the short film category. Just google cortomentraje to see the wealth of - often free-to-watch- Spanish language websites devoted entirely to the short-film. It's a difference that's even reflected in the language; in English we say short-film, implying a mini version of a 'real' film, whilst in Spanish the words cortomentraje and largomentraje are given equal standing. Each exists in it's own right, rather than one being a diminished form of the other. (As an interesting aside, the same happens in literature: the Spanish have cuentos and novelas whilst we only manage story/novel and short-story/novella)

With the cultural differences out the way, the puzzling aspect about Zulo is that, by rights, it ought to be a short film. To summarise the plot briefly (it can only be brief): a man awakes to find himself in a hole. He is kept there, fed but imprisoned by two monosyllabic balaclava-sporting captors.

That's more or less it.

It's decidedly well done; the cinematography is never less than beautiful, it's claustrophobic and intense and you can really feel for Manuel as he slowly goes mad, desperately trying to keep hold of his physical condition (running in circles around his tiny prison) and cling to his sanity. Jaime Garcia Arija is fantastic as the imprisoned Manuel and, generally, it's hard to find fault with the film.

Except for there being 77 minutes of it.

I feel ungrateful for moaning about this - I definitely enjoyed it as a whole - but it was simply too long for the content. With a few of the endless broodingly slow scenes clipped, this would be a tense and brilliant psychological thriller I'd recommend without hesitation. As it is, it's merely good. Damn with faint praise, yes, but still worth a watch if you've got a quiet hour and a bit.