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Dead Ringers

Director – David Cronenberg – 1988 – Canada – Cert. 18 – 116m

*****

Originally published in Samhain.

When David Cronenberg was in the UK to promote The Fly late in 1986, he talked about a project called Twins which concerned two identical twins who fall in love with the same woman. At the time, no-one thought he was serious.

Two years later, the film has appeared (under the appalling title Dead Ringers, since there was another Twins in production elsewhere). Cronenberg denies that the new film is science fiction or horror, or even fantasy. Yet (if one wants to play the auteur game) parallels can be drawn with certain of his earlier films.

Dead Ringers bears a great resemblance not so much to the commercial Cronenberg schlock oeuvre as to the art films of the late sixties from which he has in recent years dissociated himself on the grounds that they were not real movie movies; however, both Stereo (1969) and Crimes Of The Future (1970) were shot on University Campuses with bleak, modernist architecture – and the same setting forms the backdrop to several Cronenberg features, most notably Scanners. Such architecture is more prominent in Dead Ringers than in any previous Cronenberg commercial feature.… Read the rest

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Blade Runner – The Director’s Cut

Director – Ridley Scott – 1993 (1982) – US – 15 – 116 mins 29 secs

*****

DO FILM EXECS DREAM OF ELECTRIC UNICORNS?

One of the two main motivating forces behind the current Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1992) – the other was Videodrome, (David Cronenberg, 1983) – Blade Runner turns up in the cinema here some ten years after its original release in a Director’s Cut.

According to the press handouts, this isn’t just the original cut prior to Warner Bros.’ encouraging director Ridley Scott to remove the downbeat ending and insert a film noir voice over to explain what was going on – the film has additionally been re-edited by the director to make it work for a nineties audience.

Thus, the redundant voice over has gone and the original down ending is back – to make more sense of the story. There’s also a new and crucial sequence in which Harrison Ford as Deckard (an ex-cop, or ‘blade runner’, who forcibly retires renegade androids known as ‘replicants’) dreams of a unicorn which looks suspiciously like an out-take from the director’s later big budget fairy tale flop Legend (1985). The relationship between Deckard and the state-of-the-art replicant Rachel (Sean Young) (“she doesn’t even know,” he comments bitterly) is expanded too.… Read the rest

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Jurassic Park

Director – Steven Spielberg – 1993 – US – PG – 127m

*****

A wealthy philanthropist brings dinosaurs to life from preserved fragments of their DNA to populate his island theme park– in cinemas from 16th July 1993

“God creates dinosaurs.

God kills dinosaurs.

God creates man.

Man kills God.

Man creates dinosaurs.”

– Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), chaos theoretician.

“Dinosaurs kill man.

Women take over the world.”

– Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), palaeobotanist.

“Creation is an act of will: next time, it’ll be flawless.”

– John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), creator of Jurassic Park.

Set to become the biggest grossing movie of all time (if it hasn’t already done so by the time you read this), Steven Spielberg’s latest offering concerns rich industrialist John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) theme park built around his dream to delight children with wonders come to life. The wonders are dinosaurs, cloned from dino DNA ingested by prehistoric insects subsequently drowned and preserved in amber. For more on this aspect of the story, read co-screenwriter Michael Crichton’s original (and best-selling) novel; Spielberg, who races through small chunks of plot as quickly as he can, isn’t interested in them half as much as he is in dinosaurs.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Tetsuo II: Body Hammer

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 1992 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 83m

*****

The Iron Man Tetsuo is back… and this time, he’s got a wife and child – sequel to the cyberpunk classic was first released November 10th 1992, when this review appeared in Manga Mania.

Where Tetsuo: The Iron Man is shot in raw black and white, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer‘s bigger budget enables a thematic reworking with not only colour film stock but also vast improvements in special effects technique (although these retain the no-budget, hands-on quality that renders them so compelling). The sleazy sexual imagery is jettisoned, the terrorized salaryman (Tomoroh Taguchi again) paired with more respectable wife Kana (played by Nobu Kanaoka, Iron Man’s subway attacker) replacing the terminally randy girlfriend. The couple now have a young child.

Tetsuo II thus launches its attack on nuclear family rather than single salaryman, with the infant kidnapped (and subsequently rent asunder) before his eyes early on in the proceedings by muscle-bound heavies hailing from the local smelting factory (occasioning much imagery of both high fetishist body building and equally high temperature molten metal varieties). Once again, Tsukamoto himself plays one of the salaryman’s opponents, on both occasions wearing a vest marked with an “X”.… Read the rest

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Ridley, Ripley, Thelma & Louise

Alien

Director – Ridley Scott – 1979 – US – X – 116 mins 35 secs

*****

Blade Runner

Director – Ridley Scott – 1982 – US – AA – 117 mins 04 secs

*****

Thelma & Louise

Director – Ridley Scott – 1991 – US – 15 – 129 mins 22 secs

*****

At the end of Alien, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), having defeated the monster, strips down to her underwear only to discover that she hasn’t defeated it at all and it’s still in the space shuttle with her in the archetypal Hollywood false ending of recent years. It begged the question, why did Ripley remove her clothing at this point if not for the obvious gratification of the male members of the audience (and, one should add, the accompanying box office returns)?

At the end of Thelma & Louise, the eponymous heroines (Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon respectively), on the run after the former’s rapist has been murdered after the event by the latter, find themselves trapped between the Grand Canyon’s gaping precipice on one side of them and massed hordes of police marksmen, ready to open fire if they don’t surrender, on the other. No pandering to male voyeurism here.… Read the rest

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Total Recall

Director – Paul Verhoeven – 1990 – US – Cert. 18 – 113m

***

UK Release: July 27th 1990

Arnold Schwarznegger’s mind has been stolen – and he’s got to go to Mars to get it back! The seeming perpetrator of this heinous crime is Recall Incorporated, a travel company with a difference: they implant memories of the required holiday destination and period in the client’s brain, and it seems to him that he’s having that holiday then. Recall’s latest deal even allows the client to take a break from his/her personality for the period purchased. Arnie opts for two weeks on Mars as a secret agent.

While the requirements of megabudget Hollywood film making often water down the end result, the premise of this film – fashioned after SF author Philip K. Dick’s We Can Remember It For You Wholesale – is not only imaginatively preposterous but also so utterly cinematic that it has a phenomenal amount going for it right from frame one.

Add to this not only Schwarznegger but his contractually binding choice of director being none other than Dutchman Paul Verhoeven (The Fourth Man, 1983; Robocop, 1987) plus a final price tag which might well be as high as $70m, and you can see why expectations on this movie are so high.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Tetsuo)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 1989 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 67m

*****

Now on BFI Player as part of Japan 2020.

This review originally appeared in Manga Mania.

A metals fetishist (played by director Shinya Tsukamoto) inserts a metal tube into his leg and the resultant infection causes him to run through the streets where he’s run over by a car. A jazz sax score and the words “new world” accompany his passage into to what appears to be another dimension, from which he proceeds to terrorise an unfortunate woman on a subway platform, possessing her hand by metallicising it with spare parts.

The car’s driver, sitting next to her on the platform – who has already discovered a miniscule electronic component on his face while shaving – is pursued by the possessed woman. Later, the driver is sodomised by his girlfriend’s mechanical penis before his own penis develops into a lethal drill.

Flashbacks reveals the pair copulating in the park just after the hit and run accident. As he becomes more and more metallicised, he finds himself locked in combat with his crash victim, and the two eventually become fused into one, accompanying their birth into the New World.… Read the rest

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The Killer (Dip huet seung hung)

Director – John Woo – 1989 – Hong Kong – Cert. 18 – 110m

*****

Starring Chow Yun Fat, Danny Lee, Sally Yeh

What’s it all about?

On the verge of retirement, contract killer Chow accidentally blinds singer Yeh during a hit that goes wrong. Guilt-ridden, he undertakes one last killing for the money to pay for the operation to restore her eyesight. Meanwhile, policeman Lee is determined to bring him to book.

Why is it in our top 100?

Because it enabled Woo to cross over from a Hong Kong to an international audience – a much more personal work than A Better Tomorrow (1986) or Hard Boiled (1992), complete with trademark bloody, balletic, bullet-strewn violence and familiar themes of guilt, redemption and brotherhood.

Something to tell your mates

Chow (his surname) is both a huge star in the Far East and an incredibly versatile, talented and charismatic actor comparable to Robert De Niro or Cary Grant. The detail in facial expression lost on VHS video is very much intact on MIHK’s impressive 1994 PAL laserdisc.

Originally published in Home Entertainment as part of a One Hundred Best Movies on Home Entertainment Formats feature.

Trailer:

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Black Rain

Director – Ridley Scott – 1989 – US – 15 – 120

**

UK Release date: January 26th 1990.

On paper, Ridley Scott’s Black Rain reads like a winner: a police action thriller with Michael Douglas and sidekick Andy Garcia (then a little known star in the ascendant) as an NYPD cop hunting a villain in Japan. Where the film scores heavily is on the visual style level; this is Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982) imagery without the superficial Sci-Fi mega-budget special effects overlay. Or plot. The film looks startling throughout, due in part to Scott’s collaboration with Dutch cinematographer Jan de Bont (later director of Twister, 1996, not to mention Speed, 1994, and its sequel); every frame is a thing of beauty.

Unfortunately, Scott is not shooting a Hovis commercial here, and we need a rather more substantial screenplay – such as Alien (1979) or the extraordinary Thelma & Louise (1991) – than the flimsy sketch on which Scott hangs his current images. Generally, though, Michael Douglas – and the rest of the cast including the versatile Kate Capshaw (Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, Steven Spielberg, 1984) – are wasted.

Things start off well enough with a leather-jacketed Michael Douglas racing his cycle against a fellow biker along a New York quayside.… Read the rest

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Naked Lunch

Director – David Cronenberg – 1991 – Canada – Cert. 18 – 115m

*****

UK PAL laserdisc review.

Originally published in London Calling Internet. See also my reviews in Film And Video – The Magazine and What’s On In London.

Distributor Pioneer LDCE

Cat No: PFLEB 30781

£9.99

BBFC Certificate 18

Running Time 85 min

Dolby Surround

Widescreen: 1.85:1

Chaptered? Yes

CLV

2 Sides

New York, 1953. Bug exterminator Bill Lee (Peter Weller) runs out of roach powder whilst treating an infested apartment. His initial accusations against his employers’ theft of the substance are revealed as groundless when he discovers wife Joan (Judy Davis) is using the brown powder as a drug. She persuades him to take up the habit. In a downtown interview, two narcotics detectives introduce Bill to his “Case Officer” – a typewriter sized bug with a talking orifice in its back who instructs him to kill Joan, as she is an Interzone agent.

After shooting his wife, Bill seeks counselling from Dr.Benway (Roy Scheider) who gives him a counter narcotic. A Mugwump gives Bill two air tickets to the Interzone where he meets (among others) Swiss expatriate Yves Cloquet (Julian Sands) and writers Tom and Joan Frost (Ian Holm and Judy Davis).… Read the rest