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John Payne

John Payne

Monday, 15 January 2018 16:35

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes - out now on Blu-ray“The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes”, in a new Blu-ray release, is a warm and jolly interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, directed by Billy Wilder of “The Apartment” and “Some Like it Hot” fame. Robert Stephens (“The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”) is a softer, more affable Holmes and Colin Blakely (“Murder on the Orient Express”) plays an energetic, fidgety Watson. Christopher Lee (“The Wicker Man”) – for once not typecast – is a slightly mellower, less superior Mycroft.

A chest is opened 50 years after Watson’s death containing case-related items. The associated investigations were deemed of a more private or shocking nature than the rest, hence their delayed disclosure. The result is an entertaining adventure featuring an unlikely roster of characters and a mash-up of genres. Where else would you encounter a half-drowned, umbrella-flashing woman, a troupe of circus midgets, a feisty ballerina, some meddling monks, Queen Victoria and a mystical sea beast?

Monday, 08 January 2018 16:30

For Whom the Bell Tolls on Blu-ray

For Whom The Bell Tolls comes to Blu-rayGary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman star in this Oscar-winning adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s novel. Robert Jordan (Cooper – “High Noon”) is an American volunteer in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). Jordan has been tasked with blowing up a strategically important bridge that spans a gorge, but to stand any chance of success he must gain the trust of some local Republican guerrillas.

The bandits he joins are headed by Pablo (Akim Tamiroff – “Touch of Evil”), a moody and suspicious individual who would rather remain hidden in the mountains, protecting his wealth. Fortunately for Jordan, Pablo’s wife Pilar (Katina Paxinou – “Uncle Silas”) is a fiery, independent woman who sides with the American, and the rest of the group fall in line behind her. Also in the group is Maria (Bergman – “Notorious”), who Jordan immediately takes a shine to.

Monday, 20 November 2017 08:00

Tag dual-format Blu-ray/DVD

Tag - ouit now on Blu-rayA few minutes into “Tag”, my jaw was on the flaw and I did not know whether to laugh, scream or reach for the sick bucket. I settled mostly on laughing, having immediately skipped back to re-watch a particularly shocking scene again, and make sure I had not imagined it. The film contains some seriously disturbing imagery, but nothing quite matches the opening. School girls, buckets of blood and bewilderment are high on the agenda.

Mitsuko (Reina Treindl) is on a school coach trip when a bizarre disaster strikes. Fleeing for her life from an unknown threat, she bumps into her classmates who she thought were dead, at an unfamiliar school. They think Mitsuko is suffering from amnesia but soon realise something terrible is going on. This Japanese horror movie by director Sion Sono (“Suicide Club”) wants to shock you but also make you think.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017 18:26

Buster Keaton: 3 Films on Blu-ray

Buster Keaton - 3 Films on Blu-rayThis box set presents some of the very best silent movies from the 1920s starring Buster Keaton. It includes “Sherlock Jr.”, “The General” and “Steamboat Bill, Jr.”, along with a wealth of special features and a 60-page book. Each film has been meticulously remastered for Blu-ray from 4K sources, with crisp black and white visuals. Keaton’s trademark physical comedy and impeccable timing have never looked so good.

My review focuses on “The General”, a lively piece set in the early 1860s during the American Civil War. Keaton plays Johnnie Gray, a steam train engineer on the side of the Southern Confederates. Gray’s engine, the titular General, is stolen in an audacious heist by spies from opposing Union forces, and it is down to Gray to recapture the train, rescue his lover who is taken hostage, as well as return home to relay details of a surprise attack.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017 08:59

The Vikings on Blu-ray

The Vikings - available now on Blu-ray“The Vikings” is a star-studded historical epic featuring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh and Ernest Bourgnine. Einar (Douglas – “Spartacus”, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”) is an impetuous, war-waging Viking prince who becomes infatuated with an English princess (Leigh – “Psycho”, “Touch of Evil”), and driven by his hatred of Eric, a defiant slave who is actually his bastard half-brother, though neither of them know it.

Eric (Curtis – “Some Like it Hot”, “The Defiant Ones”) is the offspring of Viking King Ragnar (Borgnine – “The Wild Bunch”, “The Dirty Dozen”) and an English queen, who seems fated to big things. The swashbuckling, melodramatic story is based on a novel by Edison Marshall, and directed by Richard Fleischer (“Tora! Tora! Tora!”, “Soylent Green”).

Monday, 16 October 2017 08:48

The Party on Blu-ray

The Party - Out now on Blu-rayThe dynamite duo of Peter Sellers and director Blake Edwards (“The Pink Panther”, “A Shot in the Dark”) return for this comedy about an accident-prone Indian actor who is mistakenly invited to a prestigious Hollywood dinner party. Hrundi V Bakshi (Sellers) arrives at the palatial residence of movie mogul Geoffrey Clutterbuck, and immediately begins to weave a web of chaos in the best slapstick tradition of Inspector Clouseau, Laurel and Hardy, and Mr Bean.

Bakshi is not the only individual disrupting the party, however, as overbearing, egotistical big-wigs try to force themselves on up-and-coming starlets, and an alcoholic waiter causes friction in the kitchen. And that is before a baby elephant makes an appearance! A homage to the silent movie era, this largely improvised farce is heavy on physical comedy and light on dialogue, and based on recent events is as topical now as must have 50 years ago.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017 08:35

Hannibal Brooks on DVD

Hannibal Brooks - out now on DVDOliver Reed (“Gladiator”, “Oliver!”) stars in this unusual World War II movie about a British soldier’s mission to escort an elephant from a zoo in Munich to Innsbruck in neighbouring Austria. The plan is to take a train but then a German officer commandeers their carriage and Brooks is forced to go on foot, with an attractive Polish cook and two guards for company. Michael Winner of “Death Wish” fame directs.

There is a bit of everything in this film – action, comedy, romance, suspense and at the centre of it all is Lucy the elephant, who acts as both a hindrance and a vital aid when events take a perilous turn. Reluctant soldier Hannibal (Reed) crosses paths time and again with an American POW called Packy (Michael J. Pollard – “Bonnie and Clyde”, “Scrooged”) and his growing guerrilla army, leading to some nervous exchanges.

Sunday, 24 September 2017 00:01

Gotham - Complete 3rd Season

Gotham - Season 3 out now on Blu-ray and DVDAnarchy reigns in Gotham as escapees from the Indian Hill research lab run riot, whilst Jim Gordon has left the GCPD and become a lone bounty hunter. Adding to the chaos is murderous hypnotist The Mad Hatter and the mysterious Court of Owls who are pulling strings throughout the city. Meanwhile, an adolescent Bruce Wayne is slowly but surely gaining in experience, strength and a sense of purpose as a future Batman.

Released on home video in the before its broadcast on other channels and streaming services, it has been a frustratingly long wait for UK Gotham fans. Has it been worth it? On balance I would have to say yes. The show has a more confident feel to it now, with characters that are slowly but surely developing into the comic book supervillains and superheroes we know and love (or love to hate).

Monday, 18 September 2017 19:18

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Journey to the Center of the Earth - out now on Blu-rayBased on Jules Verne’s classic novel, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” is an old-school, globe-trotting adventure story. Reminiscent of the escapades of Indiana Jones and Tintin, the film stars James Mason as Sir Oliver Lindenbrook, a Scottish scientist who stumbles on a secret route to the Earth’s core, following in the footsteps of a legendary long-lost explorer.

Lindenbrook initially has student Alec McEwan (singer Pat Boone) for company on their trip to an Icelandic volcano, with the duo picking up Hans - a towering blond local (Peter Ronson) - and Carla (Arlene Dahl – The Love Boat), the Swedish wife of a fellow scientist en-route. Oh, and Han’s savvy pet duck, Gertrude. If the journey into the planet was not dangerous enough, they also have to contend with a murderous, despicable rival.

Monday, 18 September 2017 00:01

The Red Turtle on DVD/Blu-ray/DD

The Red Turtle - out on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital DownloadNominated for 2017’s Best Animated Feature Film Oscar, “The Red Turtle”, is another jaw-dropping release from Studio Ghibli (“Spirited Away”, “My Neighbour Totoro”). A man awakens on the beach of a deserted island after being shipwrecked. With nothing but the native wildlife to keep him company, he attempts to escape but is repeatedly obstructed by an unseen force from beneath the waves.

Eventually the man discovers a large red turtle is responsible for the destruction of his many rafts. If that fact was not strange enough he soon finds out there is much more to the turtle than he could possibly imagine, and his life on the island takes a dramatic turn that will change him forever. The writer/director is Michaël Dudok de Wit (“Father and Daughter”).

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