Smartly written by an on-form Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Bedazzled sees Cook's George Spiggott, aka The Devil, giving seven wishes to Moore's George Moon; a suicidal, lovestruck Wimpy Burger chef. However, each wish comes with a sting in the tail. Presented as a series comedic vignettes, Bedazzled is awfully clever, funny and, more often than not, barking mad. Highlights include a trampolining nun initiation, and a delightfully downbeat, nihilistic, anti-pop number performed by Peter Cook.
There is, at times, a distinctly Eurocult vibe to Bedazzled. A point that is underscored by Raquel Welch, who performs a sparkly exotic dance not unlike that of Barbara Bouchet in Milan Calibro 9. Meanwhile, for the time capsule inclined, there is a wonderful tour of swinging London locations. Stanley Donen, of Singin' in the Rain and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers fame, directs.
Eurocult favourites Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina play a pair of sassy assassins in this jet-setting, classy James Bond pastiche of the sort that found favour across Europe in the late sixties. Stylish and moddish Richard Johnson, of Zombie Flesh Eaters fame, dodges bikini girls with machine guns, a martial artist with machetes and exploding cigars, while poor Leonard "Rigsby" Rossiter is drugged, paralysed and tossed from a window.
The action moves from the swanky apartments and stuffy aristocratic boardrooms of red bus London, to the villas and yachts of the Italian Riviera. There, bizarreness is turned up a notch as Johnson confronts a spivvy Nigel Green among the moving pieces of a giant mechanical chess set.
The theme song, performed by The Walker Brothers, tells of how the female of the species is Deadlier Than the Male. A subject that would be revisited, almost two decades later, by Liverpool indie popsters, Space.
A later addition to the Bulldog Drummond franchise, Deadlier Than the Male was written by Jimmy Sangster, directed by Ralph Thomas and was intended to be a pilot for a television series. This never came to fruition but the film did, however, spawn a sequel in Some Girls Do. Yeah baby!
The Trygon Factor is a swinging London krimi heist movie. It is based upon the works of Edgar Wallace. Starring Stewart Granger, Susan Hampshire and Robert "poodle pie" Morley, it features a few giallo-esque black gloved murders, a convent of nuns with something to hide, some safe cracking involving a gun that launches fireworks, a bloke wearing yellow armour that resembles the robot from Mysterious Doctor Satan and a suspect in a scarlet Pierrot costume. It is completely crackers of course. But, in its own silly way, it works.
Based upon a story by Nikolai Gogol, the same one that would also inspire Mario Bava's Black Sunday, the colourful and at times creepy Viy is a delightful slice of supernatural Soviet fantastika that is very much in the spirit of Britain's Hammer Studios. Here, a drunken Cossack seminarian, played by Leonid Kuravlyov, carries a Dostoyevskian inner torment. This he must confront when summoned to pray over the body of a beautiful peasant girl. She, in turn, is played by Romanian former circus performer, Natalya Varley.
Of course, not all is as it first appears. Because the girl, so it transpires, is merely the latest manifestation of a justifiably miffed, broomstick riding crone who had recently met her demise at the hands of the troublesome trainee priest.
Featuring Bava-esque lighting, and art direction by renowned fantasy director Aleksandr Ptushko, the Mosfilm produced Viy pre-empts, somewhat, The Devil Rides Out. Yet, at the same time, finds its echo in the joyously colourful, fairytale world of Alexandr Rou. The result is magical. Indeed, a conclusion in which chattering skeletons, giant claws and gargoyle-like winged demons emerge from the shadows probably would, in itself, justify the price of admission.
Moving away from the stark, downbeat neorealism of his celebrated earlier work, here Federico Fellini finally embraces Technicolor with Juliet of the Spirits. And what an eye-popping experience it is!
Rooted in both psychoanalysis and the surreal, Juliet of the Spirits nevertheless provides just about enough of an anchor in the real to make some sense of the unrelenting assault of psychedelic weirdness that comprises the brilliant, and busy, final third. Here, a dazzling and dizzying display of fragmented symbols convey the thoughts, dreams, fears and fantasies of a superstitious cuckquean played by Giulietta Masina.
Flashback exposition of a traumatic school play presage the recurring appearance of nuns and the resurrection of a school friend. While guilt and fear are expressed in a semiotic relationship with the iconography of Christian martyrdom. Complex, yes! Yet, while this is something of an enigmatic feature, demanding patience and concentration throughout, both should be rewarded in abundance.
Eschewing traditional narrative, the thought provoking and subversive Daisies tends toward an experimental approach to cinema that is infused with the spirit of both Dada and La Nouvelle Vague. Through a series of playful pranks and a series of light-hearted, hedonistic and anarchic vignettes, the later banned Daisies presented its existential challenge to a Soviet driven orthodoxy.
Utilising montage, collage and plenty of hyperactive bouncing, Vera Chytilová's Daisies manages to capture, perfectly, the optimistic Zeitgeist of the Prague Spring as the pretty, quirky pairing of Marie and Marie, played by Ivana Karbanová and Jitka Cerhová respectively, dance, date father figures for food, natter away on beds, roll drunk out of cabaret bars and eat and eat and eat.
With a psychedelic beauty, Daisies is a film that seldom fails to mesmerise. It is brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant! Truly excellent stuff!
With a cast of characters that appear to fall straight from the pages of Guido Crepax, Harry Kümel's Les lèvres rouges is one of the real highlights of the European sexy vampire wave of the seventies. Thoughtful and stylish, the film manages to effortlessly strike a perfect balance of erotic tension and discordant unease.
Delphine Seyrig, with a filmography as varied as Last Year at Marienbad, The Black Windmill and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, takes the lead role as Countess Bathory. While her assistant is played by Andrea Rau from The Love Mad Baroness, Naughty Roommates and Italy's The Hostess Also Likes to Blow the Horn.
Blessed with a delightful eye for composition and the novelty of less familiar Ostend locations, a languid pacing allows the viewer the chance to soak up every single atmospheric moment. Featuring a François de Roubaix score, the result is Eurohorror at its most poetic. Recommended.