Friday, 9 January 2009

The Best of a Bad Lot

I've seen some pretty dubious films over the last few days -- "Alvin and the Chipmunks" anyone? -- which are really not worth writing about. These included another two 2007 efforts which probably did no business to speak of: Hilary Swank in yet another poor role choice in "P.S. I Love You" and where-has-my-career-gone Meg Ryan in fraught family drama "In the Land of Women". Forget about them! So has there been anything deserving of comment? Well...

Venom (1981): This London-set "thriller" (I use the word lightly) would probably deserve to sink into obscurity were it not for the high-powered cast that give their all to this nonsense. The sickly son of a wealthy American couple has been left in their townhouse in the care of his grandfather, Sterling Hayden. A gang of would-be kidnappers, led by the ever-fiendish Klaus Kinski and including a psychotic Oliver Reed as the family's nasty chauffeur and sexy housemaid Susan George, are trapped there after trigger-happy Reed shoots a copper who has come to advise the household that a deadly black mamba is also within. This warning comes too late for Ms. George who has been fatally bitten. The outside forces led by Inspector Nicol Williamson and Sarah Miles as a toxologist attempt to resolve the stand-off. Needless to say -- and I'm not too worried about spoilers here -- the baddies all get eaten up and the goodies eventually survive, but not before the viewer is treated to some tolerable suspense, a few jump scares, and the usual OTT performance from Herr Kinski.

Payment Deferred (1932): This has the feeling of an early British talkie, but in fact it is an MGM movie featuring a number of newish actors before they became better-known, including Ray Milland in a small part as a long-lost and wealthy nephew and Maureen O'Sullivan as the daughter of the family led by paterfamilias Charles Laughton, a lowly bank clerk with unfounded aspirations. It's all very stagy and is in fact based on a Broadway play where Laughton created the role, but he is very definitely the whole reason for watching this obscurity. Hammy and mannered as his interpretation may be, he is never less than watchable, and for a Laughton aficionado like me, the film is a treat. He plays a more than flawed human being who stoops to murder to alleviate the family's financial woes (burying poor Milland out in the yard) and then falling into adultery whilst his family are away. However by a neat twist, he gets his comeuppance -- and not for the crime that he did commit...

Ping dammit!!!
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