Archive for September, 2010

Hannibal Lecter was first let loose on the public in Thomas Harris’ 1981 novel Red Dragon. A murderous serial killer, a psychiatrist, an evil, yet, intellectual sophisticated charming man the who’s character has captivated readers and film goers for nearly thirty years . Although Anthony Hopkins was the second actor to portray the cannibal, his Hannibal was chosen by the American Film Institute a the number one movie villain and won  him many prestigious awards.
I’ve put together a collection of my thoughts and comments on all the films to date that have followed Hannibal escapades.
Sit back, eat your liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti, and take a trip through the world’s most prolific fictional serial killer.
Manhunter (1986)
In Silence of the Lambs, just like Manhunter’s plot (also based on a Thomas Harris novel) an FBI agent seeks help from the notorious serial killer Hannibal Lector to capture a psychopathic killer holding a girl captive.
Michael Mann’s Manhunter (based on Harris’ Red Dragon) is sadly a victim of it’s time, Mann’s ‘Miami Vice’ look aside, lack of socks, blue lighting and intrusive score etc. Manhunter oozes atmosphere. Will Graham is played by William Petersen who is a FBI specialist that must track down a serial killer, assisted by incarcerated Dr. Hannibal Lecktor.
Brian Cox’s Dr. Hannibal Lecktor is incomparable to Hopkins Award winning interpretation of Lecter/Lecktor as Cox plays the killer nonchalant and smart, his normality is what makes him menacing in this version.
William Petersen gives a fine telling performance, for example in the scene where he flees from the killers cell, it’s his reaction that show the intensity and power of Lecktor. Dennis Farina is on usual top form as Jack Crawford who’d later be portrayed by Scott Glenn and Harvey Keitel. Stephen Lang (of recent Avatar fame) is memorable as the hypocritical reporter and Tom Noonan’s rendition of Francis Dollarhyde is quite chilling with his voice, demeanour and stator.
The majority of Manhunter is filmed on location, adding a distinctive atmospheric and realistic feel. Regardless of the film suffering from some poor sound and editing Mann’s sleek direction is first-rate and although dated, a product of it’s time it is still an attention-grabbing and an entertaining thriller. New comers ought to watch this gem if only to draw comparisons to Red Dragon (2002).
Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Director Jonathan Demme’s 1991 award winner was a smash hit that almost catapulted Hopkins into typecast hell. Ted Tally screenplay is excellent and the dialogue superb, however, surprisingly both Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins picked up best actor roles for their melodramatic performances.
Nevertheless, Hopkins commands every scene he’s in but really isn’t that creepy. Inexplicably Ted Levine was not nominated for his role as Jame ‘Buffalo Bill’ Gumb, which is simply psychotic and chilling. Scott Glenn given an understated performance and the supporting cast are familiar faces which includes Anthony Heald as Dr. Frederick Chilton and Charles Napier. There’s even walk-ons by Roger Corman, George A. Romero and singer Chris Isaak!
Demme won best picture for this solid thriller, the scenes lighting and sets are fantastic, including Lectors cell, temporary holding and Bill’s House. The locations are distinct and some credit must go to Tak Fujimoto’s photography for this. The final reel is amazing thanks to Craig McKay’s slick editing coupled with tension of Howard Shore score.
To Silence’s credit it sets the foundation for Hannibal and Red Dragon. It is indeed a solid crime yarn but is overrated and lacks the sophistication of it’s sequel and prequel.
Hannibal  (2001)
Ridley Scott oddly took the job to direct this perfectly crafted sequel to the Oscar award winning Silence of the Lambs. After being located in Florence, Hannibal returns to America and attempts to make contact with disgraced Agent Clarice Starling.
While not following Harris novel to the letter and omitting a main character, Scott directs an atmospheric follow up. With David Mamet’s meaty, intellectual screenplay there’s plenty to like about Hannibal. There are terrific performance’s nobility by Giancarlo Giannini in a subtle and memorable take on Insp. Renaldo Pazzi. Unrecognisable, Gary Oldman is astounding as Mason Verger, the heavy disfigured paedophile and Ray Liotta replaces Lamb’s Ron Vawter and is on form as a sleazy F.B.I Agent, Paul Krendle.
Nurse Barney returns in a larger role, and of course Anthony Hopkins is back in his iconic role as Hannibal Lecter. Hopkins is given more to do and is out of his confinement (much to the announce of some film critics). Although possibly striped of some mystic, Hannibal is far more dangerous and interesting here, mingling with the general public and stalking his prey. They only thing I feel is distracting is the casting of Julianne Moore as Starling, and that is only from a continuity point of view as she delivers a gifted performance.
Blade Runner’s director Scott makes every shot interesting and this coupled with John Mathieson cinematography is first-rate, particularly in the Florence set ups, and US exteriors. Veteran musician Hans Zimmer’s score is mystical and heightening all that is taking place on screen.
Overlooked, misunderstood and fantastic film, that is a wonderful experience to watch.
Red Dragon (2002)
Comedy director Bret Rattner gives us Red Dragon. Ex-FBI agent Will Graham is assigned to help track down a serial killer; with the aid of the notorious criminal genius Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter who he imprisoned.
Based on Thomas Harris novel inevitable comparisons between Michael Mann’s Manhunter (1986) are unavoidable due to the same source material- in essence it is a remake.
It is big budget event including an expensive supporting cast Emily Watson, Ralph Fiennes and Philip Seymour Hoffman to name a few. The usual provoking Edward Norton sadly gives a monotone performance as Will Graham and those who are familiar with Manhunter will be disappointed. Memorable Anthony Heald reprises his role as Dr. Frederick Chilton and Frankie Faisonis is once again Barney Matthews. Anthony Hopkins is back as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, set before Lamb’s and Ridley Scott’s Hannibal it’s an odd casting choice if only from an aesthetic point of view. becasuse of his age. Also as in the casting of Julianne Moore in Hannibal, Harvey Keitel as Jack Crawford is peculiar from a link point of view as Scott Glenn was just as good. So there really was no need to have cast Hopkins as Lecter as continuity isn’t an issue here.
Danny Elfman’s score is surprisingly mediocre and uninspiring. Dante Spinotti’s cinematography is noteworthy and every scene looks great with some fantastic lighting especially when there’s a big set piece. Rattner’s film over all is fine looking, well constructed and is as well polished as most of the actors. Nevertheless, despite a great cast ensemble and a budget, Red Dragon lacks the on ominous edge of it predecessors.
To it’s credit it is worth watching if only for the opening scene and the joy of seeing Hopkins(albeit older)lurking in his (Silence of the Lambs) cell.
Hannibal Rising (2007)
Based on Thomas Harris’ intriguing novel, Hannibal Rising is an unnecessary prequel.
Where Brain Cox portrayal was forgotten, Hopkins made the character of Hannibal the Cannibal Lector his own topping the lists of fictional villains. The casting director and filmmaker’s fail to remember or ignored the publics love for Hopkins portrayal and overlooked that inevitable comparisons were going to be drawn. This hampers Gaspard Ulliel version of Hannibal Lecter from the outset.
As a stand lone film it is interesting watching a young Hannibal during World War II plotting revenge on those responsible for his sister’s death. However, Thomas Harris’ screenplay is clunky. With a slow build up to the first kill Peter Webber direction is acceptable but the film suffers from a low budget feel in places.
Brit actors Rhys Ifans, Richard Brake and the talented Kevin McKidd give notable performances. Sadly the whole film rests on Gaspard Ulliel and his Lecter and because of his mannerisms, accent and expression not emulating Hopkins it is difficult to connect with him.
Should a younger Hopkins had been mimicked, this could have spawned squeals. However, the producers tried to start with a clean slate but fall short as they set Ulliel has an impossible task of creating a young Hannibal rising that’s so detached from Hopkins. And while the character was still fresh in the views mind from Red Dragon (2002) Ulliel is just not exceptional enough to make that break.
A disappointing entry to a successful franchise that is entertaining as a standalone film.
With my recent blog about Governor Swarzenegger I thought it would be rude not to give a little mention to Stallone.
Ah, the 80’s battle of the box office hero’s, amongst and collection of characters the kings of Hollywood actions had their defining characters, Arnold had The Terminator, Bruce Willis had John McClane (see this blog) and Stallone had John Rambo.
Over the last twenty years Stallone has suffered the same career ups and owns as his boxoffice rivals. What separates Sly from his other ex-Planet Hollywood stars is that he’s an Oscar nominated director and writer (never getting the credit he really deserves as a filmmaker). Rocky aside oddly in comparison to the other aforementioned characters John Rambo his most iconic and significant character that changed noticeably over the course of four films. To sum it up in one sentence Rambo went from a quite realistic war veteran in First Blood, to a totally over the top combat instrument in 2 and 3, coming full circle as a mixture for Rambo.
The movie was officially greenlit by Nu Image/Millenium Films and would be loosely based on a novel called Hunter (a novel to which Stallone had the rights for), it involved Rambo hunting a feral beast. In 2009 Stallone stated that the story had been changed and would feature Rambo searching for trafficked women who disappeared  over the Mexican border. However, in May 2010 he confirmed that Rambo V was cancelled and that Rambo had been “retired”.
So in the meantime sit back and relax, if you’ve never seen them or are a fan, here are my thoughts on one of Stallone’s most memorable collection of films.
First Blood (1982)

John Rambo (BAFTA winner Sylvester Stallone) is a fairly reserved and
sensitive guy, a man who has seen and lived the horrors of the Vietnam
War. He returns to the good old United States of America to find his
only friend has died. You can sympathise with him and when small- town sheriff (Brian Dennehy) takes a needless dislike to him and his heavy handed deputies mistreat Rambo you can see why Rambo is sent over the edge.
In retrospect, unfortunately the sequels turned John J Rambo into
‘Rambo’ the icon who relies more on an M-16 to get him out of trouble.
In First Blood Rambo utilises the teachings from Col. Trautman (Richard
Crenna) his war training and combat skills to stay alive and outwit his

With less guns and explosions director Ted Kotcheff competently builds the tension and suspense and you get the feeling Rambo may not make it till the end. The locations are wonderfully atmospheric – foggy, earthly capturing the true outdoors. Stallone, Crenna and Dennehy are on form and the movie has a strong supporting cast that includes David Caruso in an early role as Deputy Mitch. Underpinning all this is Jerry Goldsmith’s memorable score.
Rambo First Blood is a grounded drama and action must see.
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
Picking up with Rambo doing hard time after the events of the first film, he is given a second chance, however, he is left for dead behind enemy lines and must escape from his Russian & Vietnamese captors and bring some Vietnam Vet’s home.
Where as the first film was credible, the late George P. Cosmatos’ far-fetched First Blood Part 2 metamorphoses Rambo into the memorable gun-touting icon. With a James Cameron and Sylvester Stallone screenplay it plays on Rambo as the loner war machine. Jack Cardiff’s cinematography is worth mentioning, especially the jungle scenes, and rice-fields where Rambo must dispose of an endless supply of solider extra’s using a machine gun and a bow. Comatos’ packs the screen with stunts and explosions and handles the subtler moments with ease. Jerry Goldsmith once again delivers a thriving memorable score, that adds atmosphere to the films proceedings.
Famous writer and actor Steven Berkoff is perfect as the Russian bad guy (although peculiarly similar to his own General Orlov from 1983’s Octopussy). With a distinguished cast including Julia Nickson as Rambo brief love interest Co Bao, Charles Napier and Martin Kove. Richard Crenna makes a welcomed return as Col. Trautman and once again is the mediator between Rambo and the ‘bureaucrats’. Again Sylvester Stallone is in fanatical preposterous physical shape and mumbles through the restrained scenes with Nickson convincingly.
All in all it’s a great 80’s action flick, delivering a larger than life sequel. However, if there were any serious war messages they’re lost in the mist of leeches, explosions and bullets.
Rambo III (1988)
Peter MacDonald’s Rambo 3 is far removed from Ted Kotcheff’s credible First Blood and follows the Rambo icon established in George P.Cosmatos’ First Blood Part II.
What’s notable from the outset is the real life political and conflict shifts since ’88, as the Americans are helping the Afghan rebels achieve freedom from the invading Russians. As the cold war ended overnight this appeared to hamper this Rambo’s already out of date story line box office success. That said, paradoxically it has made Rambo more significant and highlights how quickly an alliance can shift which may stick in some viewers throats satirically or not.
Richard Crenna once again plays Col. Trautman who is captured behind enemy lines and Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) must stage a solo ‘unofficial’ rescue mission. Again, Stallone is in obscene physical shape for this instalment, and is 100% committed to his role as Rambo. There’s a brief appearance by Kurtwood Smith who gives the usual effective performance. Sasson Gabai and Spiros Focás are part of an effective supporting cast. However, the Russians are an array of forgettable extras and Marc de Jonge Colonel Zaysen just can’t escape from the stereotype script he’s been given.
Rambo 3 is very watchable but in retrospect it’s fraught at times by diplomatic changes of the time, even more so in today’s climate and ironically this takes the fun out this instalment.
Jerry Goldsmith’s score is once again excellent and MacDonald who was handed the directing reigns last minute does his best. There are a few stand out scenes all of which display Stallones refined abilities, a stick fight and horse game. Nevertheless, Sylvester Stallone and Sheldon Lettich screenplay is all comic book dialogue. The film looses memento in the second act and by the third you don’t care who lives or dies.
There’s gun’s, helicopters, bullets, explosions, monks and glow-sticks if that’s your thing you’ll love Rambo III.
Rambo (2008)
Now living in  Thailand, Rambo joins a group of mercenaries to venture into war-torn Burma, and rescue a group of Christian missionaries.
While this is another sequel that keeps John J Rambo as ‘Rambo’ the icon who relies more on a gun to get him out of trouble, Stallone is on top form as the heavy, bulky, Rambo – out with ‘don’t push me’ and in with the new catchy saying ‘go home’.
Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna) is sorely missed but he still makes a brief (from the grave) appearance in Rambo’s dream. With this film is there’s no developed bad guy in a cinematic sense but there is however a bad army and silent leader which adds to the realistic tone of the film.
The acting is a mixed bag from the supporting cast, Brian Tyler’s music is fine, the locations and sets are fantastic but what stands out is Glen MacPhersons cinematography and Sean Albertson’ slick editing. Sly is on top directing form, giving a film that is like a war doc at times and you really see what damage bullets can do. Like is predecessors there is a message in Art Monterastelli’s and Stallone’s screenplay but it’s sometimes lost in the powerful gunfire and graphic blood. It’s not as smart as the First Blood but the ending rounds the film off well and Rambo ‘does go home’…
Yes, I’d happily pay to see another Rambo made. Well done Mr Stallone!
Rambo: Last Blood (2019)

Rambo goes on a rescue mission to Mexico to return a kidnapped loved one but a Mexican gang brings the war back to him.

Last Blood is an interesting Rambo instalment, just as you think Adrian Grunberg’s well directed outing is going to be a paint by numbers kidnap flick there’s a major twist on the Taken-like premise. However, while Sylvester Stallone’s and and few other writers flesh out Rambo (reminiscent of First Blood’s characterisation) aside from some old photos it lacks some much needed dialogue nods and throwbacks. Col. Troutman doesn’t really get a mention, his Vietnamese flame, Co Bao, doesn’t get a look in etc. No bandana or hair cut tidbits either. And the theme music is not as punchy as the early outings.

That said, Rambo’s father is mentioned , his mental state is explored and his reliance on medication is touched on. The last twenty minutes as the grizzled veteran dusts off his crossbows to take on the sex traffickers are particularly gory and graphic, appeasing Rambo action fans. There’s gut-wrenching carnage as he picks off a variety of stereotype cartel. Its as hard hitting as it’s predecessor and makes Part II and Rambo III look quite tame in comparison.

Hopefully, Stallone has one more Rambo outing left in him to come full circle, connect the dots with more Vietnam and First Blood, 2, 3 links not just weapon references. We always wanted him home but maybe Rambo is more entertaining back out in a war zone.

Nevertheless, it’s great to see Stallone as Rambo back on the big screen. Recommend.

Even if he were permitted to run for President, forget the governor of California, forget he’s married to a Kennedy, Arnold Schwarzenegger will always be the last action hero to me.
His bodybuilding Mr. Universe success aside, From Conan to Terminator 2, Arnold was one of the most bankable stars of the 80’s and early 90’s, I’ll never forget an interview where the late Paul Yates on the Big Breakfast Show asked, “do you ever lie to your wife,” he causally replied something like, “Of course, I told her Last Action Hero was a big hit’. Proof he’s always had a great sense of humour!
With some wise roles and taking from his love of the Bond films and his own humour, Arnold finely tuned the one liner quips and he became a household name. Oddly he was never really criticised for his high body counts and Stallone seemed to take all the negative press.
I’m sure if it wasn’t for the sad death of his mother and his own heart problems and surgery that he wouldn’t have slowed. However, issues allowed wannabe Arnie clones to try and take his mantel, nevertheless, the new style of action hero, where brain means brawn did take the limelight and Schwarzenegger was wise to turn to politics which he’d always been interested in.
From a small isolated village in Austria to king of Hollywood, Arnold’s journey is an attraction in itself, but that is another story…
Below are my thoughts on some of Arnold’s most entertaining films.
Raw Deal (1986)
Wrongly disgraced FBI agent Kaminsky (Schwarzenegger) reluctantly takes up a job as a sheriff of a small town but is given another chance, goes undercover and joins the Mafia to take them down.
Paul Michael Glaser’s Raw Deal, possibly with a different director could have become a successful mediocre 80’s cop/gangster flick. However, it become another Arnold vehicle which does them both credit, playing on his humour, packed with one liners, his physicality, he throws guys about and his action persona, he fire lots of guns.
Looking back and to put things into perspective, and removing The Running Man (1987) from the equation, Raw Deal fittingly sits in between Commando (1985) and Red Heat (1988). The story is superior to Mark Lesters Commando, a high body count, rescue action. However, it lacks the dynamics, acting or grounding of Walter Hill’s ‘buddy’ movie Red Heat.
While this is was a clever Schwarzenegger ‘vehicle’ what stands out about Raw Deal is that he’s not on screen all of the time and gives the movie breathing space, allowing the gangsters, a line up of familiar faces including: Sam Wanamaker, Paul Shenar and James Bond baddie Robert Davi to do their stuff. Darren McGavin gives a subtle performance as FBI agent Harry and Kathryn Harrold isn’t bad.
Raw Deal was never going to win awards but it’s an above average production, fast-paced, action-packed and entertaining. It’s a guilty pleasure and a must for Schwarzenegger fans – No one gives Arnie a Raw Deal.
The Running Man (1987)
Arnold Schwarzenegger is Ben Richards who after being set-up with some altered surveillance footage is wrongly-convicted as the Butcher of Bakersfield. Later captured after a prison break he must try to survive a public execution gauntlet, staged as 2019 highest rated TV game show.
Nothing like the Steven King (writing a Richard Bachman) novel, veteran TV director Paul Michael Glaser gives an extraordinary vision of the TV consumer future. While slightly dated and its annoying use of footage from parts of the a film itself The Running Man (1987) was ahead of its time and still is an atmospheric and engaging ride.
It’s packed with outlandish stereotype characters, larger that life bad guys, big action sequences and the traditional Arnie one liners. But there’s a message that runs deep in Steven E. de Souza’s screenplay, which reflects our society, it’s fascination with realty TV, gambling and our fear of 24 hour surveillance, corrupt powerful corporations and manipulation by the media. Tackling the question in its own way, can you believe all you see?
There’s a dreamlike quality to the film, and the darker scenes ooze atmosphere. The costumes, sets and locations are striking, showing a great contrast between the different classes, the score is memorable but what makes this sci-fi work is that you actually care about the characters. The supporting cast are excellent, including Maria Conchita Alonso at her physical best, Alien’s (1979) Yaphet Kotto and Predator’s (1987) Jesse Ventura. Mick Fleetwood plays his older self and real game-show and TV host Richard Dawson is excellently cast as Killian. It goes without saying that Scwarzenegger is on top form in this physical role.
It’s great entertainment, it’s time to start running, don’t take my word for it, watch it.
Red Heat (1988)
Walterhill is on directing form in this Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick. Red Heat despite some political shifts still holds up today. Schwarzenegger looks leaner and meaner than ever in the role of Ivan Danko a Captain who is sent to the U.S.A to bring back fleeing Russian drug dealer back to Moscow assisted by Det. Sgt. Art Ridzik (James Belushi).
The supporting cast are an array of familiar faces including Gina Gershon, Laurence Fishburne and Peter Boyle. Ed O’Ross is convincing as the menacing drug dealer Viktor. Jackie Burch casting is perfect, Schwarzenegger’s Danko character is the just right as the fish out water Russian and James Belushi is on top form as the wise cracking cynical detective, it’s the perfect ‘buddy’ cop movie. The one liners flow fast at the expense of the culture differences between the USA and USSR.
Aside from James Horners rehashed music score from another Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, Commando (1985), Red Heat feels original and surpasses predecessors, setting the foundation for many copycat films that followed. There’s a witty script but it’s far meatier than your average action film, befitting from a shot on location feel, giving it some believability and atmosphere.
All in all it’s a better than expected, an enjoyable action film with Arnold in his prime.
Total Recall (1990)
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Douglas Quaid who has the planet Mars on his mind. He goes for virtual vacation, however, things go awry as he discovers that his job, marriage and life maybe a lie. After a murder he’s forced to go to the planet for real but while on the run he finds that he may hold the key to an ancient Martian artifact.
Set in the year 2084 there are some nice futurist touches, talking robots, virtual tennis coaches, electronic nail painting to name a few. The internal mars sets are just that, sets, but the external, airport and mine shots are very effective. There is a wonderful otherworldly score by Jerry Goldsmith and some great costumes and spacesuits designed by Erica Edell Phillips.
RoboCop (1987) director Paul Verhoeven once again uses Ronny Cox as the menacing protagonist in this Phillip K Dick inspired story. In it’s day it was hailed for its special effects and make-up effects and while these have dated slightly, it still holds its own as an entertaining science fiction.
If the director reins and role were given to anyone other than Arnold this may have been a sci-fi thriller, but with Arnie’s larger than life screen presence and Verhoeven highly-flavoured visuals Total Recall is not given a noir look that would usual accompany such subject matter becoming a vivid futuristic action flick.
While the acting is a little overboard with a cast that include Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside and Marshall Bell it’s saved by the intriguing story that moves along at a fast pace and Schwarzenegger performance. The rest of the cast are hired bad guys, mutants and an array of quirky characters.
Overall Total Recall is a great piece of captivating entertainment so “for the memory of a lifetime Rekall, Rekall, Rekall.”
Predator (1987)
A team of commandos find themselves hunted by an extra-terrestrial hunter…
John McTiernan directs the perfect cast including the likes of Carl Weathers, Bill Duke and Jesse Ventura who are just right in this action orientated alien film. Arnold Schwarzenegger is armed with some great one liners but packs in a good performance with some subtler moments.
Apart from The Thing like shot at the very beginning, it’s and original piece that deservingly started a franchise. . To be picky only some of the editing and effects let the film down. Those aside, the music by Alan Silvestri is fitting with it jungle beats building up apprehension and suspense throughout the film. This film could have easy fallen into B movie territory, but the great Cinematography, creature effects and costume design keep it grounded.
The film builds up in true monster fashion by holding back the Predator’s reveal. Not since Alien has there been such hand iconic creature which Kevin Peter Hall wonderfully brings to life. John McTiernan notches up the tension in the final showdown and writers Jim Thomas & John Thomas give us a brave bold ending.
One of the most enjoyable rounded sci-fi films ever.
The Terminator (1984)
The Terminator remains one of the most enjoyable Science fiction films of all time. Bradfield’s pulse pumping score and nostalgic music from an array of obscure bands all adds to the lure of this timeless classic.
James Cameron’s direction is excellent, giving the visuals scope and depth. His above average story and screenplay stop it falling into B-movie hell.
The time travel is logical; in as much as if Sarah had never met Kyle, John would have been the off spring of one of her dates. Either way it’s highly satisfying science fiction and not science fact.
The films cast include Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen who play it natural and straight, Bill Paxton and Brian Thompson briefly turn up. The leads Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor give flawless performances and keep you routing for their survival from the now infamous Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the Terminator. The film has a gritty and edgy look, with some gore moments, even though some of the effects have dated, the practical effects from Oscar winner Stan Winston hold up to this day.
A defining moment for sci-fi action, Schwarzenegger and Cameron. The Terminator is compulsive viewing.
Commando (1985)

With a larger than life story, catchy tag-line and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s name in bold letters you felt at the time this action could be something special.

In 1985 Schwarzenegger need only fend off Chuck Norris and Sylvester Stallone to become number the one action hero. Mark L. Lester’s Commando gave Schwarzenegger the opportunity to become a mainstream action star without the high concept’s of being a killer robot or an amoral barbarian. Schwarzenegger, avoiding bad guy typecast quickly became a good guy hero and the rest is history.

In true 80’s tradition Commando’s writer’s Steven E. de Souza, Jeph Loeb, Matthew Weisman deliver a simplistic paper thin, yet pleasing plot. Arnie is John Matrix, a retired elite commando who has only a few hours to rescue his daughter Jenny (a young Alyssa Milano) from an exiled dictator played by Dan Hedaya.

The cast are perfect for this genre and include Predtor’s Bill Duke and Vernon Wells in his best role as Matrix’s adversary Bennett. Striking Rae Dawn Chong is Matirix’s reluctant sidekick and has some amusing lines. And David Patrick Kelly plays a memorable role as the slippery bad guy Sully. Despite some filming and editing goofs, it’s a well-constructed film, Lester’s locations and sets, day and night shoots are worthy of note. James Horner accompanying score is excellent, with its catchy tune, horns and xylophone.

Genuinely funny, Arnold takes one liners quips to a new level thanks to Steven E. de Souza, screenplay. The body count is high and although far-fetched, for example, Arnold carrying a lot of muscle and firepower takes on a small army of extras, he is simply fascinating. With some remarkable practical stunts, brawl scenes, knife fights, car chases and plenty of shooting, Commando has everything an action film should have.

Over all it’s great action fun and as soon as Arnie picks up that first weapon you know, “Somewhere, somehow, someone’s going to pay.”

And so it begins…
Baron Wilton, Iliana and Lucia and array of other Blood Hunger characters have been let loose on the world, not just as a novel but as audiobook (on iTunes); a downloadable e-book and there’s also prelude film Terminus directed by Sean Parsons. There’s no lunch box just yet.

What’s different about Blood Hunger? 
Gathering dust amongst the thousand of vampires books lay a treasure. It’s a definitive vampire story that chronicles their ancient origins and follows the fall of the vampires in the 15th Century to their return and plight to gain control in the present day.
Blood Hunger brings vampires back to basics, striping out the pop culture and watered down characters that they have so often been portrayed as. Blood Hunger returns to the tales, folklore and traditional vampire ‘rules’ but injects new lease of life into the dead. They’re are enigmatic, raw and dangerous killers that made the vampire legend infamous.

It follows Lucia Ferrara’s discovery of a body in Romania, dubbed the ‘Ice Prince’ which is significant enough to put her and her boyfriend Max Lowe in the media spotlight. Iliana and her sister’s journey to the United Kingdom after self-imposed isolation in the United States. News that the ‘Ice Prince’ has been discovered ceases their many years of blood abstinence and they unleash a bloodthirsty terror on humankind leaving a trail of death from Mississippi to London and the crimson stained Welsh countryside.
Prepare yourself, their first bite will be your last!
Blood Hunger the vampire horror is out now from a variety of online books stores, including Amazon US and Amazon UK you can also order it from your local store.
Anyone that has listened my interviews over the years will know that I’m a fan of Hammer Horror films, but if I may add it’s in the oddest sense, they are not the greatest productions ever made but they have a Gothic, eerie, charm of their own with some fine performances, setting, sets, theatrical scores and things that go bump in the night.
I discussed this with the outlandish Scream Queen Ingrid Pitt, it became all to clear to me, having children of my own that Universal classics like ‘Dracula’, ‘The Wolfman’ and ‘Frankenstein’ may never be seen not just by British youngsters but US and  the rest of worlds teens. That is unless they have some kind of horror influence in their lives and find stories, books , posters, of this genre of films intriguing to find out more.  Young people haven’t or don’t get the opportunity to see the older horror movies or Hammer films that inspired me and others like The Reptile (1966), The Gorgon (1964) and Plague of the Zombies (1966) to others such as From Beyond the Grave, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and The House That Dripped Blood. So when I heard about @cyberschizoid’s campaign (on Twitter) to bring back classic horror to BBC 2,  I had to do my bit in joining in by telling you about my fantasy horror double bill.
Now while I could tell you about an array of UK productions from The Ghoul (1933) to Vampire Lovers(1970) and likes of 1957’s The Curse of Frankenstein. Personally I’d love to see Dead People (1974) or Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971) on the BBC 2 but I’ve chosen titles a possibly less obvious to most and not British. I believe they would make great first viewing and have the drawing power to intrigue, inspire and capture the imagination of new comers of the genre.  So in true tradition of those BBC 2 days gone by here are my thoughts on an oldie black and white, followed by a colour film just like they were aired way back when…
BBC take note, I’d be happy to sit in a large leather chair in front of a log fire, in a drawing room and introduce these… And I’m a lot cheaper than Terry Wogan or Jonathan Ross. So turn that tuner, wait for the TV to heat up, this is my horror double bill…
Okay first up is Carnival of Souls (1962) and not a surprise to old school fans. A true horror classic Director Herk Harvey and writer John Clifford both waived their earnings in order to get the film made. Upon release in 1962 the film was a failure in the box office, thankfully its subsequent airings on late night television helped to gain it a strong cult following so Clifford and Herks work was not all in vain.
The delightful Candace Hilligoss is perfectly cast as the troubled woman that after surviving a traumatic car accident, that kills her two friends, becomes haunted by a frightening ghoul and drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival. It’s a shame that Hilligoss only acted in two features as she gives an impressive performance as Mary Henry.
The music is very creepy and a little too intrusive in places, however, for it’s time and budget it is a well crafted film. Carnival of Souls many not be as sleek and stylish as the Haunting (1963) but it is far more eerie. The zombies are not as imposing as in Night of the Living Dead, however, they are vastly creepier and macabre.
Oozing atmosphere it’s a creative and unnerving film that concludes with a common place twist but back in ’62 it was ahead of it’s time, a true cult classic.
And onto the next…
Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti”  (original title) I know its Spanish/ Italian production but it’s set in England and feel very Brit.A crop dusting machine from the agricultural pest-control is emitting ultra-sonic waves that are re-animating corpses… 

A lot have said this is underrated, granted it’s overlooked. It is Atmospheric with an ominous feel. It has great locations and is at times genuinely creepy. However, it’s shares more with Fulci than Romero. The acting is not aided by the bad dubbing. To its credit it has an eerie musical score by Giuliano Sorgini and a number of suspenseful sequences but it borrows many of its best sequences from Night of the Living Dead. 

I watched director Jorge Grau’s offering under the title of ‘Let Sleeping Corpse Lie’ but whichever name you see the film under don’t be mistaken or mislead, it’s a solid zombie horror movie and of its time with fine cinematography from Francisco Sempere. It’s a lot better than the low budget DTV zombie films that there’s no shortage of at the moment.

For more information about the campaign visit cyberschizoid blog

and check out fellow supporter Amanda Norman’s blog

The spin off film to my novel Blood Hunger has just been released – Directed and written by the great talent Sean Parsons.
Below is the Terminus Trailer:
You can now watch Terminus on Video On Demand click here
Sorry UK and the rest of the world, like Baby Ruth candy* it’s only available in the USA
*(citation needed)
So what is the vampire action drama Terminus about…
Ellicott City, a condemned paper mill, home of Anushka – a vampire assassin haunted by self-imposed isolation. Her vow to never feed on humans is tried when a chance meeting tests her resolve. Her first bite could be your last!

Like horror, enjoy reading, suffering technophobe? Don’t read on…

Call me old-fashioned but I liked using a circular dial on a phone, listening to it chink, chink, chink and speaking to an operator. These days we have mobile phones, touch phones and who know what the future holds. I’ve listen to an audiobook in bed, but never read a book for enjoyment on a PC or an electronic device unless editing or typing my own work. I may sound like a crusty old man, out of time but believe it or not I’m of the Star Wars and He- Man generation. Nevertheless, I do enjoy the tactile feel of a book in my hands, turning the pages the but times have changed… You can curl up on a dark night, grab your latest Herbert or King and not physically have to turn a page as such.  

Blood Hunger was published in June 2010. Times have certainly moved on since, woodblock, typewriters and Spirograph, everything has a cross over medium and choice for the consumer is paramount. Already there is an audio book on version of my vampire horror in iTunes, read by a lovely actress Sarah Leigh.

Moving swiftly on  Blood Hunger was released on Kindle. Kindle? I must admit I didn’t really know what it was, it’s been around for a while, I’d heard of it but never gave it any attention during my web surfing (which consists of usually keeping update with horror and film news). So what is Kindle? A Kindle is a thin electronic device used to download e-books and some magazines wirelessly and read them.

What is Blood Hunger? Blood Hunger is my latest horror offering, inspired by the spirit of Bram Stoker’s novel ‘Dracula’, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s novella ‘Carmilla’, ‘Hammer Horror’s’ film series and cult horror ‘The Hunger’.

An explorer makes a discovery in Romania, dubbed the ‘Ice Prince’ find it is significant enough to put him and his girlfriend Lucia Ferrara in the media spotlight. Iliana and her sister’s journey to the United Kingdom, news that the ‘Ice Prince’ had been discovered ceases their many years of blood abstinence and they unleash a bloodthirsty terror on humankind leaving a trail of death from London to the Welsh countryside.

From the fall of the vampire and the Dracul brothers in medieval Europe to their return in the present day. Prepare yourself, their first bite will be your last! A definitive and fresh reinvention of the vampire legend.

Kindle is not a one trick pony, it’s much more that you  can no get Kindle on iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, PC, Mac, Android and Blackberry! This allows you to read books on the go if you wish. 

Blood Hunger on Kindle click below for: