Friday, 31 May 2013

Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) - Horror Musical Film Review

Sweeny Todd is yet another Tim Burton film starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. This one is a musical that is based on the popular theatre show of the same name.

London barber Benjamin Barker (Depp) is arrested on false charges and sent off to a penal colony in Australia by crooked Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) so that the judge can have his wife Lucy for his own. Fifteen years later Barker returns  under the new name of  'Sweeny Todd' in order to set things right. Discovering his wife Lucy has committed suicide, and that his daughter is now a ward of Turpin Sweeny swears revenge. Biding his time he goes into business with a pie maker Mrs Lovett (Carter) and they create a plan to make meat pies out of victims that Todd kills on his barbers chair.

The look of this film is traditional Burton, it stars his favourite actors and has the whole gothic, dark Burton thing going on. The music though is not the usual Danny Elfman score though as the songs are taken from the Stephen Sondheim musical. For the most part the songs are misses in my opinion, Todd is a dark character but he doesn't really get many songs about himself, far too many songs are whiny, soppy or a combination of the two.

The main plot is not bad, Todd's thirst for revenge has twisted him into quite the monster. Arriving in London he doesn't appear that bothered to find out his wife is dead, or that his daughter is under the guardianship of his mortal enemy Turpin, he is driven to get his revenge and that is all that keeps him going. The sub plot involving a romance between Anthony (a young sailor who arrives in London with Todd) and Todd's daughter Johanna is tiresome, Anthony is a very irritating fresh faced idiot who thankfully takes mostly a back seat. The whole turning people into meat pies story makes sense for Todd and for Mrs Lovett, he sees life as futile and worthless and so has no qualms at ending peoples lives, while Lovett is driven by simple greed.

Sweeny Todd is a very bloody film, mostly due to Todd's throat slashings that see fountains of blood flood out of his victims. Not blood for bloods sake as it represents Todd's only way of getting release from his violent tendencies, he needs the violence otherwise he would implode. Depp is excellent as Todd it must be said even if he is an unsympathetic character which is at odds with his plight for revenge, he is just not likable, no redeeming qualities. Elsewhere Sacha Baron Cohen is fantastic in his small role as fraudster Pirelli, he steals all his scenes. Rickman and Timothy Spall also excel as the villains of the piece fitting comfortably into their roles.

I did enjoy this film, I thought it looked great and had some good songs and scenes of gratuitous violence, just overall I was not blown away due to a glut of weak songs and weak singers and the whole Burton thing is just feeling quite old nowadays.


Thursday, 23 May 2013

Konga (1961) - Horror Film Review

"There's a monstrous gorilla that's continually growing to outlandish proportions loose in the city!"

Konga is an alternative interpretation of the King Kong story that has recently been released on DVD recently in a brand new transfer in its cinema aspect ratio (1.66.1). This is British B-movie madness at its fineness!

Dr Decker (Michael Gough) goes missing after his plane crashes in the dark jungles of Africa. One year later he reappears in London with a baby chimpanzee having spent the previous year doing research on carnivorous plants with the aid of some friendly tribes people. Decker has discovered a plant based serum that can rapidly grow living beings as well as allow him to control them. He uses his knowledge to rapidly grow his pet chimp into the size of a full grown gorilla. Decker will stop at nothing to complete his research and become famous, even if it means resorting to unleashing a crazed brain-washed ape onto his unsuspecting enemies...

Michael Gough is the glue that holds this film together, he reminded me very much of Vincent Price in his glory days, full of over the top acting and some amazing reaction shots. Gough plays the part of Decker with obvious glee, it looks like he had a blast playing the mad scientist, he steals the show from everyone with his evil genius ways. 

While inspired by King Kong the whole giant ape section only actually amounts to 10 minutes of the films 90 minute running time. A lot of Konga is Deckers petty squabbles and lustful designs being resolved via the killer gorilla. Decker is a very flawed and narrow sighted villain whose downfall is very much his own creation, this makes him so much fun, you are never meant to emphasise with him, he is cartoon like in his badness. Early on in the film for instance casually shooting dead his assistants cat for interfering with his experiment.

It really is a film of its time with the female characters being shown as useless airheads subservient to the men, the tribes people Decker lived among for his lost year are in one quite cringe inducing scene condescendingly talked about while stock footage of real tribes people are shown. Ticks off the sexist and racist boxes, less enlightened times! Love the jazz music finger clicking parts well. The acting is truly something special here, highlights being the crowds reaction shots towards the end of the film.

Konga to be blunt is just a man in an ape suit, this adds to the charm of the terrible laugh out loud special effects. He lumbers around like someone trying to do an impression of an ape, doesn't look remotely realistic, his kills amount to him putting his arms around peoples necks and shaking them, hilarious! One special effect was so special that I am going to declare it the very worst effect I have ever seen in a film. First shot is of a woman, next shot of a doll, I had to rewind and re-watch that sequence a few times, and even took a picture on my phone for inclusion here, amazing stuff!

I had a lot of fun watching this film, it is rarely boring, in fact very entertaining thanks to Goughs wonderful delivery. Yet another film that is so bad it's good, and one I would recommend if you fancy something to laugh at. It was released on the 13th May for £9.99 and includes an introduction by Michael Gough.


Monday, 20 May 2013

28 Days Later (2002) - Zombie Horror Film Review

Quite the crime that I have yet to review this classic on my blog. People get annoyed when this is spoken about as a zombie film, but I'm sorry it is, people don't need to be dead to be zombies, just look at Invasion of the Body Snatchers (pod people) and even Kaw (crazed birds). This is the film that introduced the running zombie to the mainstream audience.

28 Days after animal rights activists accidentally unleashed hell after freeing chimps infected with a 'Rage' virus from a lab Britain is in ruins with the majority of the population turned into mindless killers who mercilessly hunt down any non infected. Jim (Cillian Murphy of Batman Begins, Inception) a courier wakes up in an abandoned hospital, having been taken there after a bike accident before the outbreak. Oblivious to what has occurred he wanders the dead streets of London until a couple of survivors rescue him from a pack of infected. Later on Jim and his new friend Selena (Naomie Harris of Skyfall) meet up with a father and his daughter. The four decide to depart out the city, to head toward the broadcast of a radio signal promising a cure for the infection.

28 Days Later is split into three distinct acts, the first act being Jim's journey through London. Much of the iconography of the films legacy is seen here, famous roads and landmarks empty, isolation to a giant degree that is impressive for how difficult it must have been to achieve this in one of the biggest cities of the world. The middle part of the film is the groups journey to the 'promised land' easily the worst part of the movie. A very soppy part of the film where the characters have lame discussions on life and the future. The part when they talk about horses is the nail in the coffin for this boring part. Then there is the amazing third act that as is often the case makes you question just who the real monsters are; the infected or the humans.

This went onto influence the zombie genre as a whole, not a stretch to say that it was dramatic in creating the geeky battle grounds of runners VS shamblers! Both The Walking Dead and most notably the Dawn of the Dead remake were influenced with Dawn even having the same style of zombies. Not many people know though that 28 Days Later is basically a remake of John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids. From the start to the finish the plot is near identical. Replacing the killer plants of Triffids with infected humans is the only real difference!

The very first time I saw this film I was mightily confused due to the frantic quick pacing of the action scenes, I guess that being drunk also didn't help. A lot of the quick paced scenes are filmed with hand cameras with a quick succession of shots creating panic and confusion but also making it a bit difficult to make out what is happening. The infected look fantastic, all vomiting blood and red eyes, their twitching and barely contained anger really coming out.

The soundtrack is inspired and adds fantastically to the goings on. The stand out track of course being 'In the House In A Heartbeat' that returned for the sequel 28 Weeks Later that so perfectly compliments the action unfolding on screen. The cast is quite small and they hold together well, let down slightly by annoyingly voiced Hannah (Megan Burns) whose London accent just makes her sound bored throughout.

28 Days Later is a classic film but it is fair to say the weak middle part lets it down a bit as well as a few silly plot holes, and it does steal a bit too much from other sources to be defined as completely fresh. Despite that the first and third acts are so strong that it is a film that I still do repeated viewings of to this day.


Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The Sleeping Soul (2012) - Horror Film Review

The Sleeping Soul is an indie film made by Concept Media, primarily Shawn Burkett. The film is 50 minutes long and mainly features just the one character.

On the way back from a graveyard visit a young couple are involved in a traffic accident with a drunk driver which claims the life of the girls unborn child as well as her fiance. One year later and the girls life is a mess, she is an alcoholic, on lots of medication and has reoccurring dreams about killing herself. As it comes up to the anniversary of her loved ones death strange things start to happen in her small flat and she comes to believe she is being haunted.

Ayse Howard as Grace James does a fantastic job of holding the film together, at least 40 minute of the film are her alone in her flat slowly going insane. She does a daily webcam entry and with this device she is able to have a reason to speak aloud. She comes across as supremely messed up, and visibly deteriorates as the days pass by. By the end she is gaunt, heavy bags under her eyes, hair a mess, she seems like a person in deep depression.

The Sleeping Soul does share some similarities with Paranormal Activity. Firstly the film is set over the course of a few days, each new time frame gets its own little intro credit giving the date, time etc. When the paranormal activity starts to occur Grace sets up her webcam to prove it is happening and that it isn't her hallucinating due to either mixing her meds with alcohol, or the chronic insomnia she is experiencing. This leads to some night vision style shots of her kitchen where most the activity takes place.

The effects consist mostly of doors opening and slamming and all look good enough, there is no violence, some implied which gave me the shivers. Some cool direction leads to some odd camera angles and shots that keep the plain apartment interesting, and there is some nudity if you like that sort of thing (personally it doesn't appeal to me at all).

I was surprised that I did not get bored. The Sleeping Soul starts off and ends badly, the graveyard scenes with the overly dramatic music were kind of boring truth be told but it is the rest of the film that is so effective. The flat the woman lives in is tiny, you get the impression she is a bit of a hermit, she never leaves during the films running time, and even after creepy things start to occur she never once contemplates escaping, I don't think it even crosses her mind. Her downward descent into despair is already well on the way, watching the tail end of this is quite engrossing.

Overall this is not a bad little film, held together by a strong performance from the lead actress (humorously bad typing sound effects aside), just let down by a weak start and finish.


Monday, 13 May 2013

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Deadfully Ever After (2011) by Steve Hockensmith - Horror Book Review

Dreadfully Ever After is the final book in the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies trilogy and the second one to be written by Steve Hockensmith. It is a sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies but also quite heavily references Dawn of the Dreadfuls.

Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy have been married for 4 years, a time in which Elizabeth has become increasingly despondent due to it not being proper for a married lady to slay zombies. While out walking horror strikes when Darcy is bitten by a zombie child, in desperation his wife contacts her nemesis and Darcy's Aunt; Lady Catherine who tells her that there may well be a cure for the disease but that in order to get it Elizabeth is going to have to seduce the creator Sir Angus MacFarquharr. While Darcy is looked after by his creepy cousin Annabelle and kept in secret of his wife's mission, his wife heads to London with her father Mr Bennet and sisters to play out her part.

The majority of Dreadfully Ever After takes place in London, a nice change from the countryside the other books have primarily been placed in. London has a vibe of Land of the Dead to it, the city is split into sectors, each with giant walls and checkpoints so that the rich can live in peace and luxury while other sections house the poor as well as the many zombies that still infest the city. Much like Dreadfully Ever After the zombies are far better integrated and it is interesting to see how the general population deal with the menace, the gentry doing their best to ignore the 'unmentionables' but living such sheltered lives that the mere sight of one is enough to cause widespread panic.

The plot is far more entertaining this time around, the Bennet family have been stripped of the most annoying character Mrs Bennet who thankfully is only used sparsely, while the other sisters (Mary and Kitty) are given far more personality and bigger roles than the background stance they took before. There are a lot of nods to both the previous books, including a great story beat that is based off a humorous aside from '...and zombies' that I am sure was never intended to have such an impact. New characters are also interesting, in particular the ninja Nezu who is unaccustomed to normal life, and the fantastic limbless Mr Quayle (fake name, but kinda obvious who he really is) who lives inside a small black box on wheels and is pulled around by two hilariously well trained dogs. Deadfully Ever After does get a bit predictable towards the end though, a bit of an over the top final section that gave me deja-vu. Also a minor quibble but the illustrations don't seem as well drawn this time around.

Zombies are all over the book but are never really a big focus, their inclusion is always well done though and create some fantastic scenes. The book also gives some insight into why the zombies crave the flesh of the living, and even why they crave cauliflowers! Hockensmith has written another great zombie book that has enough new ideas and such wonderful crazy characters that it is another essential read and a great end to the most curious of trilogies!


Thursday, 9 May 2013

Evil Dead II (1987) - Horror Film Review

The last of the Evil Dead films is here to review now, for a long time Evil Dead II was my favourite of the original trilogy but later got over taken by The Evil Dead's black humour. For the longest time I assumed this was a remake of that first film, it is shockingly only recently I discovered it was not and that the film after the first 10 minutes is a continuation of the events of that one.

The only survivor of a night of terror in which he had to kill his demon possessed friends Ash finds himself the new target of the Evil Dead. Dawn brings release from the terror but spending much of it unconscious it is soon night time again when the evil returns in force. Meanwhile the Professor's (whose recordings unleashed the terror) daughter has arrived back in America and is enroute to her familys cabin along with some missing pages of the Necronomicon, and a small group of helpers. Can the Evil Dead actually be stopped?

Evil Dead II looses a lot of the atmosphere that made The Evil Dead such a feat of endurance (well, for me watching it for the first time), it replaces it with slapstick, funny one liners, and even more over the top gore than before, here the blood runs red, green and blue!

Bruce Campbell really brings Ash to life as the self obsessed, arrogant heroic idiot, a joy to witness. Half the film is Campbells gurning face and slapstick fights, two in particular spring to mind; his fight against his girlfriends severed head clamped to his hand, and the iconic cult battle between him and his possesed hand, both of which Campbell does a laugh out loud performance. The other half of the film are the demons and the effects done for these. Somehow the special effects don't seem as good this time around. The stop motion dancing girlfriend scene looks really rough, but this just adds to the charm for a film that does not take itself seriously, the monster transformations again look rough but again just perfectly fit this film.

Evil Dead II works because of the comedy, plain and simple, the best parts of the film revolve around this. The scene that always gets me laughing my head off is when every object in the cabin starts laughing at Ash; books, chairs, a deer head on the wall, even a table lamp, in his madness Ash joins in, such a funny scene that ends Ash's alone chapter and ushers in more characters to be possessed and killed in entertaining ways.

The horror aspects work well when they do appear, the scene where Ash is locked in the cellar is memorable, and the whole end sequence with the cabin under massive attack work well. The Deadites look more like monsters this time around rather than human, changing into hideous forms and being more gooey and icky such as when redneck girl Bobby-Joe accidentally swallows a demon's eyeball! Sam Raimi again does a fantastic job of directing bringing yet more unique and crazy camera angles that have influenced many films since (e.g: Edgar Wrights ones).

My reviews have been lacking lately, I blame a darn sinus infection that is giving my face constant pain, but there you go, my review of one of my favourite films of all time. If you haven't seen the original Evil Dead trilogy then it is something you have to do now!


Update 29/12/2020: Having got the Blu-ray box set recently I checked this out once again. This is a great horror film with some really iconic moments, it doesn't get old.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Baron Von Frankenstein: A Hollywood Fairytale (2013) - Horror Comic Review

Baron Von Frankenstein: A Hollywood Fairytale is a digital comic book that features all the old monsters of Hollywood.

In the world of the comic all the old Hollywood monsters we know and love are actually real, the wolfman, Frankenstein s monster, Igor, the mummy and more all exist but have faded into obscurity a bit now that the golden days of classic monster movies has passed. With all CGI and special effects all the rage they struggle to find work, reduced to doing menial jobs to pay the bills. Advertising agent David Sippiro wants to make a series of adverts featuring the monster likeness in computer generated form, saying it will make them rich, but the monsters leader Baron Von Frankenstein doesn't want to sell out. Later that day he mysteriously vanishes. Despite the other monsters not caring, and being suspected of the disappearance themselves, Igor and Frankenstein's monster decide to turn detective and find their beloved master.

The look of this comic is fantastic, it really has an old school hand drawn style to it, something that is sadly missing nowadays as everything is all neat and computer created, this has the feel of a comic from the 90's, something that is much appreciated. The panels are full of detail, incidental and otherwise, a later driving sequence is full of chaos which the nattering characters driving the car pay little attention to, reminded me a bit of Tank Girl.

Baron Von Frankenstein himself is unlikeable; arrogant, proud and annoying but thankfully the comic focuses on Igor and Frankenstein's monster. Frankenstein's monster is fantastic, a teen, he is early on seen (always emotionless) wearing teen clothes, listening to music on headphones, he only talks in grunts but Igor is able to translate. A grunt could be a simple response or it can elicit a long reply out of Igor, really is the comedic highlight of the thing The other monsters are not featured as much, they are all portrayed as normal people who just happen to be monsters.

The plot is interesting if a little simple, the kidnapper is revealed early, would have been better to be kept guessing as the most intriguing part was the bit before the reader is shown who was responsible. Still it moves along quickly and is well told.

A fun comic, one that I would recommend, it is a light hearted comedic one though, so don't go in expecting scares! Baron Von Frankenstein: A Hollywood Fairytale was released a few weeks back on Apple ibooks, Amazon Kindle, Nook and Kobo, well worth a look at, old school entertainment.


Monday, 6 May 2013

Thir13en Ghosts (2001) - Horror Film Review

I could have sworn I had reviewed this before, but apparently not. A remake of the 60's film of the more sensible title of 13 Ghosts this film shockingly enough revolves around 13 ghosts.

During a ghost hunting expedition Cyrus; a wealthy ghost hunter is killed. Arthur Kritcos (Tony Shalhoub of Monk) and his family receive a video informing them Cyrus (Arthurs uncle) has left him a house as part of his will. The family are eager to check it out due to money troubles since their own house burnt down a year previous. They head there with Cyrus's smarmy lawyer, meeting Cyrus's psychic (posing as a repairman) on the way. Looking to steal Cyrus's fortune the lawyer accidentally sets off a trap that seals the group in the house and starts to release ghosts from containment units, one ghost at a time. Trapped in a house of angry, insane spirits Arthur must find a way to save his family.

This is actually quite a entertaining film, I don't know why so many people look down on it, it is a lot of fun with some  great ghost designs and imaginative death sequences.  The house is a weird place made up of windows etched with Latin symbols that repel ghosts, and clockwork mechanisms that close off corridors and doorways periodically. Also is an abundance of special glasses that let the wearers see ghosts.

The design of the ghosts is the real highlight, each of the 13 have their own distinct look to them, and even a back story (never revealed in the film itself). You have a giant man wielding a hammer, nails embedded all over his  face, a torso wrapped in plastic sheeting, a suicide victim naked and covered in deep cuts, a young boy dressed as an American Indian with an arrow through his head and many more. They all look suitably creepy, having an over the top look, but a dark look to most of them. The anti ghost walls give an excuse for why they just cant immediately butcher the family and give some dramatic chase scenes down the many corridors of the house.

Head of the bad things I would have to say is the god awful title 'Thir13en Ghosts', up there with Scre4m, next is the totally out of place licenced song at the end, seems to be there as it is sung by Rah Digga who plays Maggie; the babysitter. Maggie is the very worst character, screeching and acting like an idiot the whole way though. She is the very definition of a token black character, and that is combined with her being the 'comedy' character. The family themselves are not at all likable, the daughter is a bubble head, the son annoying, the Dad is just plain miserable and unhappy (he did lose his wife in a fire I guess). Saving grace is Matthew Lillard as Dennis Rafkin. He is a psychic who has done some bad things while working for Cyrus and is partly to blame for the whole situation everyone is in. His path to redemption is very interesting, he starts off as annoying but by the films end he is pretty damn awesome. Lillard is great in the role. 

The plot is a bit bare bones, mostly is just a survival tale, reminded me of the far more scary 'House on Haunted Hill' (1999). There are plenty of plot holes paved over for convenience, though some fun little later twists. The film cannot be said to be too scary, it has too clean of a look, some nice scenes of violence.  The most gory scene being a character sliced in half by a door, one half slides to the floor, the other half stays stuck to the other side of the glass door, looks great. Characters are assaulted by a variety of haunted weapons and get suitably beaten up (nice to see the annoying daughter get her face sliced up!). There is quite a bad looking CGI death later on, the early thousands were a bad time for CGI.

Thir13en Ghosts really is an under rated horror. It is almost scary in places, has a fantastic look and design and is not at all boring. Just let down a bit by mostly unlikeable characters and a bit of a silly plot.


Sunday, 5 May 2013

The Rise of Valhalla - Zombie Horror Film News

The Rise of Valhalla is an independent horror film currently being made in Germany by Daniel Konze. Much like The Bunker (2001) and Deathwatch (2002) this horror film takes place during one of the World Wars.

A group of Nazi's hoping to ensure victory in their war against the allied forces have opened the gates to Valhalla (the resting place of ancient dead warriors) and unleashed an army of zombie vikings to aid in their cause. However they can't be controlled and soon the group are killed. A bunch of resistance fighters stumble upon the ruined camp of the Nazis who had unleashed this plague and now must try to survive.

I can't say I have ever seen zombie Vikings before, the teaser trailer wasn't bad, will have to see if this is any good when it comes out! I quite enjoy zombie films that take place in the past, makes for a different experience! The teaser poster says this is due for release in 2015.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

The Evil Dead (1981) - Horror Film Review

Having seen the remake of Evil Dead I had to go back and watch the original. The last time I saw it was many years ago when I watched it three times in a row one awesome day, it is one of my favourite horror films, I even have the poster on my bedroom wall. How does it hold up revisiting it now?

Five friends head up into the woods to an old cabin for a holiday. In the cabin they find a tape recorder, a strange ritualistic looking dagger, as well as a creepy book full of images of demons. Playing the tape they hear a professor talking about discovering an ancient book; the 'Necronomicon' that legend says can summon demons to inhabit the souls of the living. The recording also includes the incantation said to summon the evil dead. True to form it actually works and the horror that claimed the life of the professor is now to unleash itself on the poor friends.

The Evil Dead is certainly a true horror classic, the first film living legend Bruce Campbell got to star in. I remember as a teen watching this and finding it horrific, the 'Deadites' (humans possessed by demons) are relentless, poor Ash (Bruce Campbell) is forced to repeatedly attack and kill his friends, as soon as one is down another one appears. The idea of one long relentless terror filled night used to fill me with dread. Later on I came to see just how funny the film really is, it has a vein of jet black humour running throughout, everything from the over the top scenes of violence to corny dialogue and more gives comedy that may be missed on an initial viewing.

The special effects used on The Evil Dead are really very well done with director Sam Raimi using some novel camera shots. The 'Evil Dead' itself is represented by a camera zooming through the woodlands with a great deep zooming noise used, extreme close ups (such as a wonderful scene between Bruce and his girlfriend) and the iconic shot of the camera rolling across the ceiling. Raimi is not afraid to make the camera a part of the film, adding sound to its movements.

A lot of violence abounds in this film, more than I remember, there is of cause the controversial tree rape sequence that is very well shot, also some gruesome shots that nearly hold up today such as a hand severing, and a pencil jabbed into a characters ankle. The Deadites look grim, heavily made up with contact lenses and lots and lots of makeup. Being a scrappy film there is lots of inconsistencies with the amount of blood on characters clothes varying between scenes. Plenty of blood also, a fantastic sequence in a cellar where the walls spurt out gallons of the stuff, a dying Deadites face exploding in a fountain of gore and the camera itself getting coated in a layer of blood at several points.

The plot is really just an excuse for the horror to occur, there is not much depth to the characters. Scotty is the joker, Shelly his girlfriend, Cheryl the sister, Ash the reluctant hero (after tough guy Scotty is defeated), and Linda; Ash's girlfriend. With such a small cast of just five characters, and the small location of the cabin the thrills come thick and fast

The Evil Dead holds up well, it really is an impressive little film that is creepy despite the bad acting, fantastic direction, awesome camera work, has Bruce Campbell in it, and features one of my favourite horror movie endings of all time. The very definition of a classic!


Update: 09/12/2020:

I have recently got the Evil Dead trilogy of films on Blu-ray so felt a rewatch of them was in order. The Evil Dead remains a very strong horror film, some of the effects and make-up are not as good as I remember, but then I am watching it on the highest quality transfer yet. Still gotta love that fantastic ending shot.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Man at the Top (1973) - Film Review

Man at the Top has been re-released as part of The British Collection which is a series of cleaned up DVD versions of cult British films. Not a horror, barely a thriller this none the less was a film that I found to be quite interesting even if a bit tenuous to be featured on The Rotting Zombie.

Joe Lampton is a no nonsense business man obsessed with money and power. Having gotten a well paid job as managing director at a pharmaceutical company run by Lord Ackerman Joe is at first pleased, but upon discovery that the previous person to have his job committed suicide he soon realises he may have become a fall guy for some dark secret. With attack as his best idea of defence Joe aggressively sets out to find the truth and save himself.

This is very much a film of the 70's, characters have ridiculous facial hair, terrible dress sense and the acting is all very serious and determined. Joe himself (played by Kenneth Haigh) is a very confident idiot. He is a Northerner from a poor background and looks in disgust at the people he is now associated with (the middle class). The main focus of the film is on class wars, the difference between the haves and the have nots. A bizarre, long middle section of the film ignores the main plot and instead focuses on Joe and two girls who he picks up hitch hiking (during a highly sedate chase sequence). During this time the film focuses on ambition and how Joe's world view is at contrast to the common folk who are happy with what they have. He knows he has to be tough to succeed, he is a success but even he admits he is not at all happy.

There is a faint vein of thriller running through Man at the Top but it teases, never coming to fruition. As mentioned the chase sequence is very tame, though there is an awesome almost The Wicker Man style sequence later on. After sleeping with Lord Ackermans daughter in the middle of a fox hunt she steals his horse leaving him to wander the fields back to Ackermans mansion. Over the hill in a big field comes Ackerman, his daughter, and a host of riders, along with a pack of dogs. Joe quickly realises they mean to hunt him, planning to kill him for the damaging evidence he has uncovered, after an admittedly intense chase sequence it just ends, Joe giving one of his never ending speeches about how he is never going to bow down to the man. Was a very good part of the film though.

This is the best looking 70's film I have ever seen! Crisp, clear and with beautiful audio this is high quality. It is not horror, it is not even thriller (much) and sure maybe it does not belong on this blog, but Man at the Top was an interesting slice of 70's film making, feels very much of it's time, just was too mild and the tension never leads to anything.