With this list I have abandoned all notions of objectivity. More than any human emotion, humour is a very personal thing and what makes one laugh like a drain may leave others cold. I’m painfully aware, too, of the titles conspicuous by their absence, like Wilder’s masterpiece Some Like It Hot, Keaton’s The General, Lubitsch’s bitter-sweet Little Shop On The
Corner, or Hawks’ screwball comedy par-excellence Bringing Up Baby, and so on. What remains is a personal choice of favourites, films which still make me laugh after repeated viewings.

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Like a good meal, great comedy doesn’t have to be heavy, as long as it satisfies. The following list, in no order of preference, will remain my own table of excellence for a long, long time.
Young Frankenstein (1974) director: Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks at his peak, with a spot-on funny pastiche of all those great Universal horrors of the 1930s and early 1940s. Peter Boyle is great as Frankenstein’s well endowed monster (who at one point does a Fred Astaire number), Feldman does his Igor, Wilder is the reluctant scientist with the famous mispelt surname, while the loving creation of incidentals shows a sympathy and care entirely lacking in Brooks’ career after High Anxiety. For a while the director and his preferred star Wilder were a creative comedy team unequalled in Hollywood, as was proved by another cult favourite, Blazing Saddles.

Sullivan’s Travels (1942) director: Preston Sturges
Sturges’ masterpiece, and that’s saying something. A spoilt filmmaker goes on the road to gather research for his next worthy project O Brother, Where Art Thou? (sound familiar?) and encounters in succession – Veronica Lake, the constraints of fame, a chain gang and the existential joys of animated film. A work which emphasises the transforming nature of comedy, and one in which the most distinctive comedy writer-director of the 1940s makes a witty statement about his own craft. After a short run of great films, Sturges career entered a precipitous decline after his uneven late work for Harold Lloyd on Mad Wednesday (aka: The Sins of Harold Diddlebrock).

Start The Revolution Without Me (1970) director: Bud Yorkin
Wilder again, in another historical comedy and this time cast as one half of a double set of identical twins separated at birth in pre-revolutionary France. The other set of twins is played by a goofy Donald Sutherland. Orson Welles is the portentous narrator who, in an echo of Touch Of Evil gets shot at the close and topples into a lake. Frenetically paced, and shot on locations, this farce is still very funny and bears worth watching again and again. Billy Whitelaw displays an unexpected light touch, while Hugh Griffith is surprisingly touching as the cuckolded French King. Inspired by a great cast, Yorkin never made anything so entertaining and reached a nadir with Arthur 2.

Weekend At Bernie’s (1989) director: Ted Kotcheff
Low-budget and in bad taste yes, but this film still succeeds on its own terms where, say, Eight Heads In Aa Duffel Bag failed – a genuine black comedy for the youth market. Images such as Bernie’s artificial hand-waving, the wig-stapling and beach scene, once seen, remain indelibly in the mind. An unwise sequel in 1993 overstretched the original joke too thin, and reduced the laugh quota accordingly. Andrew McCarthy may have done more worthy projects since this, but few have been this entertaining. It’s harder to make a film this funny, without a sense of strain, than one may think. Apart from this cult highlight Kotcheff’s career contains little else of lasting interest and he has since retreated to television.

The Music Box (1932) director: James Parrott
This short won Laurel and Hardy their only Oscar. Although perhaps not their very finest two-reeler (The Perfect Day or Two Tars may take that honour) it is remembered fondly as one of their funniest 20 minutes on screen and appears here as symbolic of their great career in comedy shorts. A fat man and a thin man try and transport a piano in a box up some steps in a scenario which is both beautifully simple and utterly timeless in appeal. Virtually alone out of the great silent comedians, Laurel and Hardy successfully made the transition to sound without difficulty and much of their work from their great years 1927-35 has the unassuming air of easy perfection. The steps featured so prominent in this film still exist, something of a Mecca for the duo’s fans. Laurel and Hardy’s finest feature is Sons Of The Desert, in which Parrott’s younger brother, the now neglected comedian Charlie Chase, co-starred.

Duck Soup (1933) director: Leo MacCarey
The Marx Brothers’ most completely realised film, made without the usual distractions of the boring padding of romantic subplots and songs. For once they are outside of a realistic setting, and running (or attempting to run) the surreal, fictitious country Freedonia. Graucho is Rufus T. Firefly, the ridiculous dictator, who brings his country to war over his love for a society matron, was the most memorable representation on screen of political foolery until Chaplin’s Great Dictator a decade later. MacCarey also worked with Laurel and Hardy (helming the magnificent short Liberty in 1929) in a long career which gradually went off the boil in the 1950s.

There’s Something About Mary (1998) directors: Bobby and Peter Farrelly
After several uneven productions, the Farrelly brothers struck gold in this film of what is, essentially, the old tale of unrequited love repeated in different contexts. Cameron Diaz’s hair gel has entered popular mythology, while in this film she also revealed an innate gift for light comedy. Ben Stiller went on to star in the almost-as-good Meet The Parents. The song refrain structure was unusual and proved another inspirational touch in a plot which is delightfully complex and proportioned.

Monty Python And The Holy Grail (1975) directors: Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones
When I saw this in the cinema originally, it was accompanied by a spoof travelogue with John Cleese swearing at gondolas. That extra is missing from more recent showings and video, but the unadorned feature which remains is still one of the Python’s most enjoyable films. The Life Of Brian may be more controversial running this close in the estimation of fans, but this mock-epic just nudges ahead with fine location shooting, lunatic credits in Norwegian and Chapman’s booming voice as God. The self-referential ending reminds me vaguely of that of Hellman’s Two Lane Backdrop, where the medium of film similarly comes to an ‘end’ over familiar now, but a reminder of how radical the team were, both on big and small screen.

It’s A Gift (1934) director: Norman Z. McLeod
Fields was always beloved by critics than by fans, although the run of films he made in the second half of his career remain firm favourites, even after a generation. It’s A Gift characteristically satirises the pretensions of America’s middle-class, indulges Field’s love of language (indebted to Dickens who was a favourite author) and attacks many sacred cows (financial solvency, love of children, sobriety, sexual probity) with an unerring aim. Field’s brand of anarchy still seems daring and mature, particularly when contemporary Hollywood product is often the opposite. Of Field’s other films, only The Bank Dick, made later, is just as good, but the present film includes the classic porch scene, blind Mr Muckle demanding cumquats, and Field (alias ‘Harold Bisonette’) finally arriving in an orange plantation nirvana. Several of the ten minute scenes were released by Castle films as ‘mini-masterpieces’.

Raising Arizona (1987) director: Joel Coen
Before he remodelled himself into an action hero and was so badly miscast in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Cage made a few much more interesting films of which this, the second by the Coen brothers, is a standout. Obviously conceived in comic contrast to the darkness of Blood Simple, (birth being the underlying theme here, whereas death was at the heart of the earlier film, for instance) Raising Arizona was the first to reveal the Coen’s unerring touch in weird characterisation, pacing and the surreal. Cage’s goofy character, the eccentric hero at the centre of all the fun-with-fecundity, is a unique creation and his pairing with Holly Hunter is an inspired combination. With each new film it grows obvious that, amongst other things, the Coens are the finest comedy creators of their generation.

Any writer drawing up a ‘Top 10 list’ is always going to be subjected to the ‘How could you have forgotten X?’, or ‘They’re not icons!’ reader responses.

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So, up front I’m stating that this list of Ten Female TV Icons has been compiled entirely by me and so, if you have any violent disagreements, well frankly tough luck! In my defence, I’d like to state that it was a near impossible task to draw up such a list. The first had over 60 names, with everything from Angela Rippon on Morecambe & Wise to Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth I. It was more of a question of who to leave out rather than who to include.
Some actresses like Liz Smith and Juliet Stevenson have graced our screens for years, playing a whole range of different characters, each one memorable and endeared by millions. Whilst others, like Julie Goodyear have lit up our screens for decades playing the same role; we know Bette Lynch as though she was part of the family, we have seen her through her ups and downs, her good and bad times. When I worked in the press office at Granada Television each week at least one letter would arrive, addressed to Bette at ‘the Rovers Return’, advising on her most recent drama and passing on precious words of wisdom.
When speaking to these ten wonderful actresses, again and again the dreaded ‘typecasting’ word sprang up. The quandary of being thought of as actually being their most famous creation rather than versatile actresses, and the pleasure at being involved in such a successful series where their involvement was taken so unanimously to heart is a difficult one for actresses to overcome when a beloved series comes to an end.
This feature will be highlighting only ten of these actresses whose images have flickered across our TV screens and who have been successful in creating a role that has been so taken to heart. From Julie Goodyear to Juliet Stevenson, Pam Ferris to Pam St Clement, read on…
Julie Goodyear as Bette Lynch, in Coronation Street (1966, 1970 – 1995)
Julie Goodyear first appeared on our television screens in Coronation Street, back in 1966 and returned permanently to the show in 1970. For the next 25 years, Goodyear, with her tell-tale blonde hair-do and her never-ending supply of dangly earrings was barmaid Bette Lynch – the reigning queen of the soaps.
I asked her why she accepted the role, all those years back.
“I wanted to learn and try and perfect my trade as an actress, and of course the money! I was a single mum with a very young son to bring up. In 1970 I was paid £50 per episode, and then we were making two episodes per week. A £100 per week, wow we were millionaires! I bought my son his first bike out of my first weeks’ wages on the condition I had the first ride.
“I instinctively knew that the series would run and run. But I just prayed they’d let me stay with it. I never fully understood that my role as Bette was so loved to the extent that she was, until I left five years ago. Sometimes you have to distance yourself to be able to see more clearly.”
The success Julie achieved as Bette has been a double-edged sword. She finds that producers, directors and writers are not able to see beyond Bette and therefore make her a prisoner of her own success. She describes this as “a great pity and very frustrating.” But she adds, “Coronation Street will always be number one to me, that’s why I did the spin off of it last year. I’m very proud of the contribution I was able to make as Bette. It was an absolute joy to see her evolve in so many different situations. For me to play comedy and drama combined is wonderful.”

Wendy Richard as Pauline Fowler, in EastEnders (1985 to the present)
In 1985 Wendy was cast completely against type as the rather frumpy and miserable Pauline Fowler, mother of two teenage children, with a third child on the way. It was a shock to the nation, as only the previous year she had been tottering around on high heels and wearing short skirts as Shirley Brahms in the hugely popular Are You Being Served? Her role in this sitcom and her occasional appearances in Dad’s Army had made her a household name and was the only well-known actress to be cast in this new series EastEnders.
“I finished Are You Being Served? at the beginning of the year, by August/September I was working on EastEnders. It was a golden opportunity, I would have been off my head to turn it down. I had a gut feeling about it. I remember seeing these big trucks driving about with ‘The EastEnders is coming’ on the side. I got such a sense of pride about it, because I thought ‘nobody knows what its about, but I do because I’m in EastEnders.’ We worked on it for six months before it started to go out because everything had to be just right – all the costumes, the make up, the sets had to right everything. Julia Smith, our creator, was such a stickler that everything had to be absolutely spot on. It had to be right and it was.”
Pauline has had a lot of heartache in the series, her teenage daughter became pregnant by Dirty Den, and her elder son got AIDs. Her husband, Arthur, was arrested and jailed and later he had an affair with another resident of Albert Square. Although Pauline has had her fair shares of downs, she has remained a stalwart and a focal figure on the Square. Wendy says:
“It upsets me when Pauline gets knocked in the press, because she’s not miserable, she’s a grafter, she’s had a lot of problems in her life but first and foremost is her family and she will fight tooth and nail for them, that is the most important thing for her. I’ve never actually had a bad review for my acting. They might have criticised me and said I’ve got bags under my eyes, or that I’m always looking miserable. Fine, that’s up to them if they wish to say that, but they cannot say I’ve turned in a bad performance.”
Wendy herself has had her fair share of downs which she candidly re-examines in her autobiography Wendy Richard ‘no S’ My Life Story published by Simon and Schuster, last year. She talks about her growing up as the daughter of publicans, her private school education, her early career and her unsuccessful marriages as well as her career in showbiz from her early performance in Sammy Davies Jnr’s TV special Sammy And The Girls, to her recent work in EastEnders and the Are You Being Served? spin-off Grace And Favour. It is this honest and open account which makes for an entertaining and refreshing look at her career in showbiz and her recent battle against cancer.
With regard to the future Wendy was rather cryptic:
“I’m on the Square until 2001 – that’s when my contract expires. I’m saying no more than that.”

Linda Thorson as Tara King, in The Avengers, two series, 33 episodes (1968 – 1969)
The Tara King episodes were always my favourite from The Avengers. The plots were the most bizarre, and the relationship between Tara King and Steed was far more fun. Having Tara as a young novice being trained by the ‘old pro’ gave Patrick MacNee the opportunity to show greater strength than pervious partners had allowed him to. The flirting between the two allowed for a greater sexual tension that plays well alongside the surreal plots.
Unfortunately, most critics have tended to favour the Emma Peel series and as a consequence Linda has suffered a tough mauling for daring to step into Diana Rigg’s kinky boots! Considering that Thorson was only 20 and fairly inexperienced her being chosen to play Steed’s new sidekick was quite remarkable.
“I was seen by John Huston while I was still at RADA. He had come to find an unknown for his film Sinful Davey. He liked me and he offered me the role. Subsequently, he cast John Hurt as the male lead and I was deemed ‘too tall’. Pamela Franklin gained the role and to make up for this John Huston sent me to ABPC to meet with Robert Leonard who was head of casting as he knew they were searching for a replacement for Diana Rigg. I went along for the interview thinking I would be in competition with a few others. They were actually seeing 200 actresses for the part. I just somehow stayed the course until it was 50, then 25, then eight, and then three. Mary Peach, Tracy Reed, and me. We were all screen tested and in the end I got it.”
Making the role her own was not a problem that Linda had to concern herself.
“I had never seen The Avengers. I had no television in my flat and in fact only had the radio (which I adored) for entertainment and news since I had first come to Britain three years before. So, as they say, ‘ignorance was bliss’. I feel sure I would have been infinitely more intimidated had I actually seen Diana. But at 20, I was blessed with great confidence and optimism and felt I had the enthusiasm and energy the job required.”
Following The Avengers, Linda returned to the other side of the pond, and has worked in America on both film and television, as well as a number of Broadway shows. It is New York that she’s hoping to return to next year in a musical. Being a single mother of a teenage boy keeps her pretty occupied but she has also found the time to work on a book of poetry, which she hopes will be published sometime this year.

Liz Smith as Nana Royle, in The Royle Family (1998 – 1999)
Liz Smith is one of those wonderful character actresses that have been so successful in British television comedy. She seems to have been on our screen for decades playing mad aunts or mothers who turn up on the doorstep unwanted and unloved. Following her occasional visits to the 2.4 Children family, Liz has now taken up residence in the Royle household.
The Royle Family was a breath of fresh air in the stale BBC schedules when it was launched two years ago and it quickly became cult viewing. Caroline Aherne had already caused considerable public adoration with her caricature Mrs Merton in the offbeat chat show. The Royle Family, set on a sofa in Manchester, concerns a family who sit and look at their own flickering box in the corner of the room. Liz Smith as Nana Royle is a frequent visitor to this cluttered and mismatching sitting room.
Her penchant for the occasional tipple is a running joke as the drinking of said tipple is usually accompanied with the dialogue “You know me, I don’t drink, just a stout at night, a short at Christmas and whiskey at New Year’s.” Well it must be Christmas every day in the Royle household. With many families recognising something of their own granny in Nana Royle, Liz has enjoyed a certain adoration.
Her views on the show are enthusiastic. When she was first sent a script, she knew it was a project that she wanted to get involved with. It was quite simple: “I just wanted to say the dialogue as soon as I saw it.” She knew that the series was good when they were filming, but she had no notion that the series, and her role in particular, would be taken to heart on the scale it has done. Unlike younger actresses who become associated with a particular role early on in their career and find it difficult to break free, Liz has a along and healthy career as a character actress, appearing in both comedies and dramas alike including The Vicar of Dibley, Trial And Retribution and last winter’s modern-day version of A Christmas Carol.

Mollie Sugden as Mrs Slocombe, in Are You Being Served?, 10 series, 69 episodes (1972 – 1985)
“Over the years one has become associated with the role, but I’m not going to complain,” said Mollie Sugden on her well-loved role as Mrs Slocombe.
When one of Britain’s most popular actresses leaves such a message, calling back is a pleasure. Are You Being Served? is one of the those sitcoms that audiences will never tire of, it is as funny today as it was 20 years ago. It is a perfect example of an ensemble cast working together to create a simple light-hearted atmosphere where the ‘saucy postcard’ humour that the British do so well, can flourish.
I asked Mollie how the role of the multi-coloured haired Mrs Slocombe came about.
“David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd wrote the part for me. I’d first worked with David in a TV series for Tyne Tees – Under New Management. He moved to the BBC and worked on Hugh and I and he cast me as a snooty woman. After that I played Mrs Hodgkinson in The Liver Birds, David again cast me in a Comedy Playhouse, which he was directing. It was a small part, about five or six lines, and after the show he came to the dressing room and I said that he had something in the pipeline that he had written especially for me. He wouldn’t tell me anything else about it; a few days later I got the script and thought, ‘this is it’.”
Gut instinct told Mollie that Mrs Slocombe was a part she could play, “She came straight off the page, you couldn’t play her any other way.” Everyone knows someone like Mrs Slocombe, which is why the series has been such a worldwide success, and continues to attract sizeable viewing audiences every time it is repeated on BBC television.
There are two things that everyone immediately recalls when thinking of Mrs Slocombe; one is her ever-changing hair colour and the other was Mrs Slocombe’s pussy. Mollie was eager to talk about both.
“When the pilot was transmitted I thought I looked awful, so dull and dingy, when it went into series, I got the bright idea about my hair. I went to David on the first day of rehearsal and said ‘Do you think it would be a good idea if I changed hair colour each week?’ He thought it a great idea, he was always very good at listening to suggestions and was happy accept any bright ideas the cast came up with.”
The subject of Mrs Slocombe’s pussy generates a different reaction altogether
“The irony is, is I’m not a cat person – I get sent lots of cat paintings, embroidered cats, stuffed cats, porcelain cats but I’m really more of a dog person. I’m getting on a bit now, and I’m too old to have my own dog, but when my son comes to visit, get to play with his border-collie – my ‘grand-dog’.”
One of the reasons why the series has remained so popular is that the warmth and affection between the actors comes across.
“Filming was always such a laugh, but not really something you can share with others. You really had to be there.” As our conversation drew to a close she summed her life up “I’ve had a happy career which I’ve enjoyed enormously and for which I am very grateful – what more could I ask for!”
What more indeed!

Pam St Clement as Pat Butcher, in EastEnders (1986 to the present)
“Roles for women on TV drama are hard to come by – if you are glamorous it’s not so bad, but for older character actresses it’s a different story” was Pam St Clement’s matter of fact statement on the state of TV drama industry. She went on the add that “The joy of an on-going drama [like EastEnders] is that it has to be about women and their men. Women have to be central and the men revolve around them. There can be action and car chases, but ultimately the drama has to come back home to its roots.”
Central to the ‘roots’ of the actors in EastEnders is the Queen Vic, where for many years Pat Butcher has been at its core. Pam first moved into the square in 1986:
“I liked the series, and was very keen to be involved. I told my agent to keep an eye open for a part for me. I got a call from the director, telling me that there was a role coming up and would I be interested, I read the script and agreed straightaway. I had a good feeling about it, the show would be a winner and I’m not even a clairvoyant!”
Prior to EastEnders, Pam had been kept busy in a number of small roles in popular TV series like Minder, Angels and Within These Walls. But when she walked onto the Square, and became Pat, she instantly became a force to be reckoned with. Pat has had a hard life on the Square and Pam’s powerful performances have given her the opportunity to be constantly challenged:
“It is wonderful to be working on a production with such old-fashioned production values, to be working on a TV show which does tell a story, and that as an actor I can tackle the highs and lows.”
One of the perils for an actor once they have left a series is that they find the future rather bleak. But regardless of the success an actor has made for themselves there are always career worries, even those Pam has worked with in the past forget that –
“I can do other things. Casting directors have short memories, not the audience… Audiences are very accepting. If a part is good enough and written well, for the first few minutes they might say she was Pat in EastEnders, but then hopefully what you’re doing has gripped people and they ride the journey with you.”
Pat Butcher has been on an emotional ride recently, with some powerful story-lines that have made the front pages of the papers. When I asked her about the future in EastEnders she was suitably cagey “The future? It’s not in my hands, but in the production and in those who employ you. As for me, I have to ask myself is there something left with the character, is there anything more to give? It is important to retain the integrity of the role and not tread water. I have to ensure that the audiences get a return on their investment in both the series and me.”
In addition to EastEnders, Pam has done two series for Anglia Television on Whipsnade Zoo, which are also being shown on Discovery Channel.

Pam Ferris as Ma Larkin, in The Darling Buds of May, three series, 20 episodes (1991 – 1993)
I was working for a rival ITV company when LWT first broadcast The Darling Buds of May. The series was an instant success reaching unheard of ratings (18 million +) and substantial and positive newspaper coverage. It was a happy, sunny series that you couldn’t help but enjoy. David Jason, a familiar face to TV from Open All Hours and Only Fools And Horses, headed up the Larkin household. Pa was a bit on the shady side but worked hard to support his wife and large family. Ma Larkin was played by Pam Ferris, and as with the rest of the cast, she was a relative unknown to TV audiences.
When I asked Pam what the key factors were in her accepting the role, she laughed, saying
“That makes it sound like I was a star who could pick and choose her work – no, I was very glad to be offered it. Most jobbing actors see a series as a way of earning enough money to pay off some debts – and I was no exception.”
There were three series in total, the series only losing its lustre when they left their home turf and headed to France. The beauty of the series was in the seeing a rural idyll with Ma Larkin in full control of her brood and the interaction with the other eccentric villagers. She believes that Ma was taken so much to heart during the early 1990s because social and political climate at the time, what “with Gulf War and Thatcher’s exit, the nation was in need of mothering.”
The typecasting curse doesn’t appear to affect actors as much as it does the fairer sex. David Jason has continued to star in high quality TV dramas and comedies, winning Best TV Actor awards many years in succession. For Pam, although she has continued to work both here and the States, has not managed to retain the same high profile that Darling Buds of May brought her. On this dilemma, Pam said:
“I’d always hoped to be a practitioner of the art that conceals art – but I succeeded too well with Ma Larkin, as most people think I’m really like that and don’t realise the many choices that were made to create her. However, I’m so grateful for being put into public awareness.
“[I was also] delighted to be working with David Jason – so sad we’re not likely to work together again because of associations with Darling Buds.” Although not working with David Jason, Darling Buds of May fans this year saw Pam playing the horrid Mrs Squeers in Nicholas Nickelby for ITV, and also a solo piece for Carlton TV playing a toilet attendant in the First Signs of Madness series.

Vicki Michelle as Yvette Carte-Blanche, in ‘Allo ‘Allo, nine series, 85 episodes (1982 – 1992)
For ten years Vicki Michelle was on our screen as the beautiful but seemingly rather dumb Yvette in ‘Allo ‘Allo. She charmed the German soldiers and viewers alike. It is almost 10 years since the last series, and yet Vicki is still recognised and remembered for the this one role.
Prior to ‘Allo ‘Allo, Vicki had with her elder sister Anne gone to Ada Foster Stage School. Their mother was the actress Rosanna Lee whose most well-known role was as the young bride in The Glass Mountain (1949) and so they’d always done singing and dancing lessons. After leaving school, she began working getting small parts and one-liners here and there.
“It was when I did a series with Dick Emery that things began to take off this lead to cameo roles, and sketches with all the great comedians of the late 1970s, early 1980s: Ken Dodd, Les Dawson, The Two Ronnies, Little and Large and Cannon and Ball. Once I was on the comedy scene, I found that I had good comedy timing and I became quite in demand.”
Her first meeting with David Croft who wrote ‘Allo ‘Allo was when Vicki and her sister Anne both went for an audition for David’s sitcom Come Back Mrs Noah.
“We were both up for the same part and they chose Anne. I was in one episode playing a French maid robot, so when they were casting around for ‘Allo ‘Allo, they invited me in to read for two parts, the French Resistance worker Michelle, and Yvette. I had to wait six months before hearing that they were going ahead to film the pilot, and then another six months before we began working on the first series.”
The beauty of ‘Allo ‘Allo, as with other Croft and Lloyd sitcoms, is that they create good parts for women, and pull together a cast of relatively unknown actors who, through their comedies, become household names. It is a formula they have created over and over again, from Are You Being Served?, to ‘Allo ‘Allo and Hi-de-Hi. With ‘Allo ‘Allo they created an extremely artificial (but very funny) vision of France and the French Resistance during the second world war. The dialogue was quick, with the very best of schoolboy humour thrown in. It was fast and funny and the public loved it. Viewing figures increased with each series so that by the third year when they went on tour, they played to packed houses all over the country.
Yvette, as she frequently told us, was “doing it for her country.” She used her sexuality to fraternise with the Germans to get information, as well as to try and take Rene away from his wife. Men related to Rene, thinking that if he could pull the girls and not be wonderfully handsome then there was hope for them. For Yvette, the rather two-dimensional role evolved over the years.
“I asked David if I could have a catchphrase – he said that there were too many already – ‘listen very carefully I will say this only once’, ‘Oh, you are so stupid’. Over time, my line ‘Oh, Rene’ became more of a growl which was hell on the throat. On one occasion I was hidden behind the bar and the growl started and just went on and on and so my ‘catchphrase’ was born.”
Yvette was flirtatious, whereas Vicki is flirtatious in a much more subdued way
“Yvette is me personified, with her I could be larger than life, as soon as I put on my costume I became Yvette, out came the French accent, I walked differently, wiggled, threw my hands, pouted.” But with the success of the series, out came that double-edged sword. “The series brought me to the public eye and I had to learn to cope with the success. It doesn’t matter how old you are, the transition is always hard. When I walked into a bar and got chatted up I wondered whether they were talking to me or Yvette. People stare whilst I am eating, now I don’t notice it, but friends still point it out – I’m oblivious to it. Celebrity can get to you, I had to work hard to keep my life in perspective. I have seen people change, really nice people who are now full of their own self-importance – fame does change you, but I’ve kept my feet on the ground.”
In terms of her career, Vicki feels that she has been typecast, “to casting directors I am still Yvette. I have to remind people that I am an actress first and foremost.” However she quickly adds that “The alternative would have not to have been in a wonderful series.”
After leaving ‘Allo ‘Allo, Vicki set up her own business Trading Faces, which organises celebrities for after dinner speaking and personal appearances. “I ran it on my own for three years, but it became so successful that now I run it with two of my sisters.” She adds “It is hard being a working mum. I do turn down work if it takes me a way from home for too long. I have to tread the fine line between not turning down work too often otherwise people won’t offer it me thinking that I won’t do it because of I have children. My daughter can come with me when I’m doing summer season and panto, and jobs near London. She comes first, the career second.”

Lesley Joseph as Dorien Green, in Birds Of A Feather, nine series, 102 episodes (1989 – 1998)
Although it is Linda Robson and Pauline Quirke who are the Birds Of A Feather, and who are the series’ two leads, it is Lesley Joseph’s role of Dorien that audiences remember and have taken so much to heart. Dorien is the over the top (and over the hill) Jewish temptress whose cuckolding of her accountant husband was a weekly event that has gripped the nation for ten years. They saw her through her various lovers, and when the table was turned on her, they were there for her.
The series’ beginnings were humble especially for Lesley, she was an unknown and unproven television actress. “When we filmed the first episode we thought it might do well. We didn’t realise how big it would become – also, I know that if my character hadn’t worked I would be gone at the end of the first series.” Luckily, Dorien didn’t disappear at the end of the first series, she remained a friend and neighbour throughout the 102 episodes.
Lesley said “a gift of a part” as Dorien was a larger-than-life character who was at once vulnerable and a complete bitch. The series has brought Lesley instant recognition, when she went to visit Chigwell, Essex (where the series is set) for the first time, there was a stampede of ‘Mrs Greens’ all clamouring to meet their icon.

Juliet Stevenson as Flora Matlock, in The Politician’s Wife (1995)
Juliet Stevenson is one of the country’s most respected and versatile actresses. Her roles in both film and television have always been stunning and moving performances, and her role in The Politician’s Wife was no exception.
This mini-series caught the public imagination and sparked debate and analysis of the morals of the Conservative party, who were struggling to maintain the clean ‘family values’ image they so hoped to create. It was a topical subject matter considering the many wives of Tory MPs who had had to ‘stand by their man’ after a betrayal. For Juliet the key factor in accepting the role was her desire to play what she considered a rather unsympathetic character:
“I liked the journey the character went on, she had the chance to develop and change as she went through the series. I had no idea the series would be so popular, taken to heart in the way it was. But when you are filming, you don’t often have a sense of what the end product will be, and you can never second-guess an audience’s response. You can only go on hunches. I just hoped future audiences would respond as I did to the original script.”
Juliet was delighted to have worked on a such a high profile and good quality TV project. Since then she has continued to work on TV, film and theatre both in the UK and the States. Following on from her powerful and emotive performance in Truly, Madly, Deeply, Juliet has recently been reunited with Alan Rickman in two feature films which are waiting for release dates: a film version of Samuel Beckett’s Play directed by Anthony Minghella, and an American comedy with Janeane Garofalo.

cast: Chris Potter, Alex Reid, José Sancho, Neus Asensi, and Ravil Isyanov

director: Jack Sholder

91 minutes (15) 2001
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Arrow DVD Region 2
[released 6 June]

RATING: 3/10
review by Mark West

Arachnid

This film doesn’t start well. After panning across the ocean, a shoddy CGI waterspout appears, linked to what looks like a Klingon cruiser that’s partly invisible. A stealth fighter, on exercise, spots this – though it’s not on his radar – and chases said CGI away from land. Something happens and the pilot is forced to eject where, bizarrely, he lands in the middle of a jungle. He spots an alien, watches it get attacked by a giant spider, then gets attacked himself…

At some point later (the film doesn’t make it clear), a man is admitted to a hospital in Guam (how do I know this? There’s a sign above the nurses station that reads ‘Guam Hospital’) with mysterious bites. Dr Leon (José Sancho) decides to find out what caused them so he enlists Valentine (Chris Potter) and his crew – Bear (Rocqueford Allen) and Reyes (Luis Lorenzo Crespo) – ex-marines who just happen to be hanging around, to help him out. A local pilot, Mercer (Alex Reid), is drafted in too though she has different reasons for wanting to go to the island. What island, you ask? The island that the attacked man was from, silly… How did he get away from the island? Oh, erm, I don’t know…

Mercer, squabbling with Dr Leon and his nurse Susanna (Neus Asensi), loses control of the plane and crash lands it on the beach of the island. Entomologist Henry Capri (Ravil Isyanov, putting on a terrible English accent) discovers a giant spider leg and the group makes camp.

Let’s not beat about the bush here, Arachnid is a terrible film. Clearly made for the most rock-bottom of budgets, it suffers badly from poor CGI (the elements at the beginning must have been rendered through a ZX Spectrum), poor prosthetic work (no attempt is made to blend the clearly rubber parts with the actors skin, or even match the tones) and some truly slipshod direction. This is highlighted most clearly in the plane crash. At no point do we see the engines fail, though the characters keep telling us they have and, when we get shots of the plane coming into the beach the engines are clearly running. As for the point of impact, does director Jack Sholder involve miniatures? Nope, he points the camera at the beach and jiggles it around.

The acting is unfortunate, with Alex Reid perhaps coming out of it the best (she thankfully went on to make The Descent), though her character is very much one-note, as dictated by the script. Chris Potter tries his best, but never looks comfortable while José Sancho, and Neus Asensi (present, I assume, to satisfy quotas since the film is a Spanish-based production) clearly don’t have English as their first language, meaning that their dialogue (despite a credited dialogue coach – shame on you, Ramon Ibarra, for not helping out your countrymen) is garbled, unclear and not helped by being poorly recorded. The special effects from Steve Johnson’s XFX (he made the spider) are good, but just highlight how bad everything else is.

What is unbelievable is that the first minute of the opening credits is made up of logos from various Spanish bodies – film companies, government subsidies and grants – yet it appears not one of them either read the script or watched dailies.

This is how even some of the fraudulent systems advertise and present themselves with lavish offers and promises. This is a clean disguise; do not go by what they tell. Get in deep to know if they are like the crypto code which is considered one of the best systems in the market.

Clearly made on the cheap, if the filmmakers don’t have respect for the audience and deliver decent entertainment, why should the audience view the film?

My screener copy has three extras, one of which is the theatrical trailer. King Of Spiders is a 20-minute chat with Brian Yuzna (whose Fantastic Factory made the film), wherein he seemed to spend more time chatting about Stuart Gordon than anything else. The final extra is Creature Comforts, a 26-minute interview with Steve Johnson, and it makes for interesting, if quite sad, viewing. Johnson was a star of make-up effects in the 1980s and 1990s, as he states several times, with an impressive resume to match. But, as he talks about the advent of digital effects (and I share his hatred for them), and the pinch on money for animatronics, the bitterness seeps through the screen. Worse, after apparently getting knocked back by Spike Jonze (for Where The Wild Things Are), and Sam Raimi (for Spider-Man 3), he left the business. I don’t know what he’s doing now – the interview ends, before he says – but I sincerely hope that he’s remembered for his 1980s’ highlights and not this piece of schlock.

cast: Lenna Kurishingal, Tony Swansey, Charles Ramsay, Will Cummings III, and Dennis Doornbos

director: Bernie Woodell

90 minutes (18) 2009
widescreen ratio 16:9
Chemical Burn NTSC DVD Region 1

RATING: 2/10
review by James A. Stewart

Fast Zombies With Guns

‘Holy moley! Did that just happen?’ This is pretty much the question I asked myself after watching the revealingly titled Fast Zombies With Guns. In the event that the movie’s title doesn’t quite get you to the place you need to be in terms of understanding what it might be about then let me elaborate. There are three key ingredients to this film: zombies, speed and guns.

Well, actually there is a fourth ingredient but calling the film ‘Fast Zombies With Guns And A Couple Who Stupidly Chase Dollars Instead Of Just Driving Away And Saving Themselves’ would have been silly. By now you get the main thrust of the movie’s plot no doubt, but there is a smidgen more to it.

A mob hit goes wrong in the sleepy town of Spring Grove. Mob boss Paul Varlo sends a would-be assassin to take out an informant by poisoning the snitch’s water, but instead of killing the grass, the botched attempt turns him and his wife into zombies; and we know zombies create other zombies quicker than bacteria spreads. It is a rule that this film studiously adheres to.

This is a terribly acted film, akin to the kind of thing that you would expect from a primary school Christmas play; only the garb and direction are slightly better at school. There are, without exception, no laudable elements to the casting in this film. It appears to be a group of college friends and their parents getting together to have fun with fake blood and faker guns. However, and endearingly, there are scenes when fast zombies are chasing slow mortals that the cast and crew just appear to be having fun. It is like the whole thing is the kind of project a bunch of mates would do for a laugh.

The zombies generally consist of actors with pink or red tees (to represent blood, duh!) and whose make-up exaggerated to depict how zombies would turn out in Spring Grove. The budget of this film must have been about £4.20 and it shows, but somehow this adds an air of whimsicalness to the blood and gore. It’s like a beggar who asks for a couple of pounds to buy a can of special brew; honest but still wrong.

Anyway, for doyens of the zombie genre the flesh eating and carnage will appeal. The fact that the zombies are cast as Usain Bolts with rotting flesh is a different twist on the zombie flick, as is the fact that they have the coordination to shoot. This at least adds some novelty element to what is essentially an eat-fest of fake blood, crappy plotting and stammering acting.

Fast Movies With Guns is as titled. It is the Ronseal of zombie films. If you buy this and are disappointed then god only knows how you’ll feel about The Last King Of Scotland.

Go to review Aftershock – epic disaster movie about an earthquake that wrecks New York
Go to review All Ladies Do It – sex comedy directed by Tinto Brass, on disc
Go to review The Art Of War – conspiracy action thriller starring Wesley Snipes
Go to review Babycart In The Land Of Demons – fifth samurai movie in Lone Wolf and Cub series
Go to review Bring It On – teen movie about cheerleaders, on disc
Go to review Cherry Falls – serial killer drama, starring Brittany Murphy and Michael Biehn
Go to review City Hunter – Jackie Chan’s comedy-adventure based on the popular manga
Go to review Cradle Will Rock – drama set in art and theatre world of 1930s New York
Go to review The Doll Squad – the Ted V. Mikels’ movie that inspired TV series Charlie’s Angels
Go to review Feeling Minnesota – comedy romance starring Keanu Reeves and Cameron Diaz, on disc
Go to review The Flame Trees Of Thika – TV drama mini-series about an Edwardian family in Africa
Go to review For Love Or Country – drama based on true story of a Cuban jazz musician
Go to review Highlander: Endgame – fantasy adventure sequel, stars Christopher Lambert, Adrian Paul
Go to review The Intruder – science fiction mystery thriller directed by David Bailey
Go to review The Jazz Channel Presents: Ben E. King – rhythm ‘n’ blues concert, on disc
Go to review Julien Donkey-Boy – art house drama about schizophrenia, stars Ewen Bremner
Go to review Komodo – monster movie about killer-reptiles on tropical island. on disc
Go to review Les Destinées Sentimentales – period romantic drama, with Emmanuelle Beart
Go to review Lilith Fair – film of first ever all female rock music festival, on disc
Go to review Little Nicky – romantic comedy fantasy starring Adam Sandler
Go to review Lost Souls – occult horror thriller, starring Winona Ryder
Go to review The Madness Of King George – film of Alan Bennett’s play, starring Nigel Hawthorne
Go to review Passion Of Mind – romantic fantasy thriller starring Demi Moore
Go to review Paul McCartney: Live At The Cavern Club – ex-Beatle’s 1999 Liverpool gig
Go to review Purely Belter – new British comedy from director of Brassed Off and Little Voice
Go to review Purple Storm – award-winning Hong Kong action movie produced by Jackie Chan, on disc
Go to review The Ruling Class – classic black comedy starring Peter O’Toole, on disc
Go to review Running Mates – comedy drama about campaign to elect Tom Selleck as president
Go to review Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday 13th – farcical serial killer spoof
Go to review Singin’ In The Rain – classic Hollywood comedy musical, starring Gene Kelly
Go to review Small Time Crooks – crime comedy directed by Woody Allen
Go to review Space Cowboys – astronauts’ adventure puts Clint Eastwood (star & director) into orbit
Go to review The Stuntwoman – Michelle Yeoh stars in drama about filmmaking in Hong Kong
Go to review Sugar Town – comedy-drama about LA rock’n’roll scene
Go to review The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg – French romantic drama starring Catherine Deneuve, on disc
Go to review Way Of The Dragon – martial arts thriller, starring and directed by Bruce Lee
Go to review X-change – science fiction thriller about cloning and mind transference
Go to review The Yards – crime drama set in world of New York’s subway system
Go to review Zatoichi At The Fire Festival – another samurai tale of the blind swordsman

Movie Vault: – neglected classics & cult favourites get a fresh look
Go to review Targets – Boris Karloff stars in Peter Bogdanovich’s first movie
Top 10 list: – favourites by genre, category, scenes, year, actors, directors, music, etc.
Go to review World Cinema – a top 10 foreign films by Rhys Hughes

director: Bill Knell

240 minutes (n/r) 2009
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Chemical Burn / Reality
NTSC DVD Region 1

RATING: 1/10
review by Ian Sales

Aliens From Outer Space

The Fermi paradox states that given the size and age of the universe, it is statistically certain that other technologically advanced civilisations exist, but no evidence supporting this has ever been found. There are those, however, who would have you believe such evidence is common and frequent. The Earth, they claim, has been visited throughout history by aliens, that these visitors have encountered and studied humans, and that they are secretly in cahoots with assorted national governments. Naturally, this runs counter to common sense. The universe is huge, and travelling through it is both very difficult and very expensive. Having spent all that time and energy crossing untold light years, for alien visitors to land secretly in some US backwater and then stick probes up a redneck’s backside appears extremely unlikely. It seems a somewhat narrow area of study for a race whose curiosity and ingenuity has brought them across such unimaginable distances to our planet.

In Aliens From Outer Space, subtitled ‘UFO landings, crashes and retrievals’, UFO researcher Bill Knell lays out the evidence for UFO visitations, and the government conspiracies which have kept this fact hidden for almost a century. The documentary is presented as four hours of slideshow, with a voiceover by Knell. When Knell makes mistakes – slips of the tongue, or flubbing words – he doesn’t re-dub but simply corrects himself and carries on. I suspect the ‘film’ was knocked together on Knell’s home computer. It is an entirely amateur production.

The content is equally unimpressive. If you believe in flying saucers, Aliens From Outer Space is not going to change your mind. If you do not believe in them, Aliens From Outer Space is only going to convince that those who do believe are deluded fools. Knell’s concept of ‘evidence’ requires serious re-thinking, for a start. A reported incident is still anecdotal, it is not irrefutable evidence. And when, in response to a letter supporting the presence of UFOs and allegedly written by a senior NASA official, NASA point out that they have no copy of the letter themselves, and indeed the letter’s reference number is one that NASA has never used… this is not proof of a conspiracy. It means the letter is a fake.

In 1979, David Langford wrote a spoof alien encounter book, An Account Of Meeting With Denizens Of Another World, 1871, which purported to be a true-life account of an alien encounter by Victorian gentleman William Robert Loosely. Langford, the ‘editor’ of the found manuscript, declared that it had “passed every test to which it was subjected” [emphasis mine]. That book has now entered UFO mythology as one of the first recorded encounters with alien visitors. It is this eager grasping at straws which characterises much UFOlogical research. Knell is not unusual in this regard. There is a lack of scientific rigour in many of arguments. Not to mention that some of the incidents he covers are known to be fakes.

It is this disregard for scientific rigour and common sense which characterises most studies of UFOs. Occam’s razor is not in their toolbox. Given the most obvious solution for a situation, UFOlogists will pick the one that best fits with their beliefs. It is likely that many of the unexplainable UFO incidents of the Cold War were manufactured by the military-industrial complex as part of a complex misinformation campaign designed to protect military secrets. Other unexplainable incidents probably had perfectly natural causes, but eyewitnesses were too unsophisticated to realise this.

Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of the whole phenomenon is the meta-narrative which has arisen out of it. It is not enough for a series of probes – analogous to, say, the space probes sent by NASA and Roskosmos to the Moon, Venus, and Mars – to have visited Earth in search of scientific knowledge. The probes’ motives may be unknowable, their form may vary from one incident to the next, the technology which drives them may be magical to our untutored eyes… but this is insufficient. There must be a pattern. Humans demand it. The UFOs must be craft from specific alien civilisations – Greys, for example; or lizards from Zeta Reticulae. Their actions must have purpose, must be part of a great plot, a secret plot known only to the privileged and powerful.

It is not enough that an average person feels fear at how their lives are being increasingly controlled by an impersonal bureaucracy – and it is a chiefly American fear, driving both libertarian and conservative politics – and so threatening their ability to choose how to live their life. It is not enough that the government apparatus is beyond the power of one person to influence or control… There has to be some secret cabal underlying and managing this bureaucracy. Some believe it is the Freemasons, the Illuminati, or some secret plutocratic council. Others believe it is aliens.

Yet while the meta-narrative seeks to understand the story of ‘aliens from outer space’, no such narrative attaches to the visitors’ purpose for controlling Earth and its inhabitants. If there is a resolution to this story, there are no signposts to it. If there is foreshadowing, it is too subtle to be read. On the other hand, it could simply be that the only narrative which exists is the one supplied by those who invented the conspiracy. It is perhaps no coincidence that many of these secret alien bases are within military installations – such as in Dulce, New Mexico, at Montauk Air Force Station, New York. The misinformation contained only what was needed, and it is UFO mythology which has subsequently made of it one giant story.

Which is not to say that UFOlogy has not had its share of fakes and charlatans. Langford’s spoof may have only ever been intended as fiction, but there are those present themselves as bona fide experts and their ‘knowledge’ as fact. Some of these present themselves as experts – for whatever reason. Others are ‘eyewitnesses’ and it is gullible researchers who propagate their lies. Many such, resort to risible codenames, such as ‘Commander X’, in order to – supposedly – protect their identities.

Aliens From Outer Space is an amateur piece of work which does nothing to convince a sceptic, or present anything remotely like plausible evidence in support of its thesis. Given its subject matter, it would not be unreasonable to expect it to entertain on some level. But it doesn’t. It is long and dull. If it were someone you met in a pub, you’d make an excuse and walk away after five minutes. You certainly wouldn’t listen to them for four hours. Or pay for the privilege of doing so.

The Alternative Monthly VHS & DVD Review – Guide to Reviews in Past Issues Here is a listing of the reviews in every issue of VideoVista. Some of these titles can be found in the VideoVista archives.

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Go to #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 #13 #14 #15 #16 #17 #18 #19 #20 #21 #22 #23 #24

#1 Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Back In The USSR, Benefit Of The Doubt, Blue Tiger, Dark Waters, Fearless, Grumpy Old Men, The Last Seduction, Necronomicon, On Deadly Ground, Police Academy: Mission To Moscow, Robotech, Something In The Shadows, True Romance, Vinyl Virgins, When The Bough Breaks
#2 Arnold – The Man Behind The Muscle, Bay Of Blood, Cruel Passion, Deep Red, Full Eclipse, The Getaway, Häxan, Kiss Me Monster, A Lustful Mind, Mark Of The Devil, Maverick, One Wedding And Lots Of Funerals, The Phantom Carriage, Return Of The Evil Dead, Sadisterotica, Thumbelina, Tombs Of The Blind Dead, The 25 Year Mission
#3 Against The Wall, The Art Of Love, Big Beat Box, Black Candles, Blown Away, The Brain From Planet Arous, Cat-Women Of The Moon, Cyborg Cop 2, Deadly China Dolls, Dracula: Prince Of Darkness, Erotic Dreams Of Cleopatra, Evolver, F.T.W., Gilda, Heritage Guides To Great Britain, Holy Virgin vs The Evil Dead, Identification Of A Woman, The Jungle Book, Lethal Panther, Magic Cop, The Mesa Of Lost Women, The Monastery Of Sendomir, The Mummy’s Shroud, The Pleasure, Randall & Hopkirk, The Red Squirrel, The Saint, Season Of The Witch, Spooky Encounters, Stroszek, Top Fighter, Visions Of Light, War Of The Buttons, Wings Of The Honneamise, A Woman Scorned, Working Girls, X-tra Private Lessons
#4 Airheads, The Alcove, Angel Cop 1, Bubblegum Crisis, The Client, Cronos, Dark Habits, Dr Crippen, Frankenstein Created Woman, Godzilla vs King Ghidorah, Hand Of Death, The High Crusade, Honor & Glory, Ladislaw Starewicz, Love In The Strangest Way, Monster From Green Hell, Naked – As Nature Intended, The Navy vs The Night Monsters, One Armed Boxer, Rasputin The Mad Monk, Revelations, The Silent Feminists, Story Of A Cloistered Nun, Teenage Monster, The Tin Drum, Titanic, A TV Dante, The X-Files
#5 Alien Nation: Dark Horizon, The Atomic Café, The Avengers, The Babysitters, City Slickers 2, Eastern Heroes Video Magazine, Escape From Brothel, Fatal Instinct, The Flying Saucer, Godzilla vs Mothra, The Guyver: Dark Hero, The Hideous Sun Demon, The Hot, The Cool & The Vicious, Immoral Tales, Island Of Fire, L’Enfer, The Line, The Cross & The Curve, My Crazy Life, Peter Gabriel’s Secret World Live, The Refrigerator, The Tigers, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
#6 The Atomic Submarine, A Better Tomorrow, Bob’s Birthday, The Brain, Corridors Of Blood, Cyber Tracker, Eyes Without A Face, First Man Into Space, Funny Man, Guardian Angel, Just Cause, Last Gasp, Leon, Logan’s Run, The Lost Boys, Martin Scorsese Directs, Midnight Angel, Mind Ripper, Mutiny On The Bounty, Night Caller, The Outer Limits, People’s Hero, Pink Floyd – Pulse, Project Shadowchaser: Beyond The Edge Of Darkness, Reckless Kelly, Clive Barker’s Salome & The Forbidden, Showdown, 13 Cold- Blooded Eagles, THX-1138, Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis, With Honors
#7 Angels 2, The Best Punk Video In The World…Ever, The Black Cat, Blue Thunder, Boulevard, City Cops, Deadly Dream Women, Death Match, Die Harder, Fade To Black, The Fearless Vampire Killers, The Frontline, Ghost In The Shell, Guns Of Dragon, Hell Night, Highlander, Hollywood Hiccups, Introduction To The Internet, Jail Of No Return, Judge Dredd, Little Red Riding Hood, Man Wanted, Marc Bolan: The Groover, No Surrender, Oasis: Live By The Sea, The Other Hell, Parasite, Piranha 2: Flying Killers, The Pope Of Utah, Runaway, Stagefright, Street Fighter II, Transgression, The Upstairs Neighbour, Willow, Witchfinder General
#8 Angel Enforcers, Armitage III, Avenging Quartet, Baby’s Day Out, Caged Women, Can You Keep It Up For A Week?, City Hunter, Curse Of The Demon, Dead Of Night, Expect No Mercy, Exquisite Tenderness, Faraway, So Close, Halloween, The Harvest, The Many Faces Of Christopher Lee, The New Age, Princess Madam, Ring Of Steel, Seven, The Shaolin Temple, Species, Under Lock & Key, War Zone, White Tiger, The Wind & The Lion, Winsor McCay: Animation Legend, Zeram, Zeta One
#9 Above Suspicion, Animalympics, Assassins, The Bedford Incident, Cleopatra Jones, Clockwork Mice, Crime Story, Dragon Ball: The Movie, Dr Strangelove, Eagle’s Claw, Fail Safe, Hitman In The Hand Of Buddha, House Of Whipcord, L.A. Takedown, Lord Jim, Martial Combat, Naked Killer, Paris, France, Super Fly, Under Siege 2, White Angel, The Young Master
#10 American Yakuza 2: Back To Back, A Bucket Of Blood, Bullet In The Head, Copycat, Cross Of Iron, Cybersex, Decoy, The Demolitionist, The Dentist, The Devils, Escape From L.A., Executive Decision, Face/Off, The Final Cut, From Dusk Till Dawn, GoldenEye, Homicidal, Independence Day, Johnny Mnemonic, Last Man Standing, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Mars Attacks!, Natural Born Killers, The Prophesy, Radiohead Live, Screamers, Sheryl Crow: Live In London, Striptease, True Crime, Twelve Monkeys, Twister, Violent Tradition
#11 Alien Resurrection, The Big Lebowski, Blade, Contact, Dante’s Peak, Enemy Of The State, Event Horizon, The Fifth Element, Godzilla, Grosse Pointe Blank, Hollow Point, Jackie Brown, Kiss The Girls, L.A. Confidential, Lost In Space, Mercury Rising, Mimic, The Peacemaker, The Postman, Project S, The Replacement Killers, Sliding Doors, The Triple Cross, US Marshals, U-Turn
#12 Against The Law, American History X, The Assignment, The Astronaut’s Wife, Blast From The Past, Cube, Dark Star, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Erotic Ghost Story, Goodbye Lover, Lost & Found, The Mummy, The Negotiator, Pirates Of Silicon Valley, Pleasantville, Ronin, Storm Of The Century, The 13th Warrior, The Trench, Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars, The Wisdom Of Crocodiles, Xena: Warrior Princess, You Know My Name
#13 Analyze This, The Avengers, Basket Case, Beast Cops, The Blade, Carnival Of Wolves, Crash, Dance With Me, Dead Man’s Curve, Drive, Eyes Wide Shut, The Faculty, Gormenghast, Killer Instinct, King Cobra, The Legend Of 1900, Pink Floyd: The Wall, Progeny, Sheryl Crow: Rockin’ The Globe, Stop Making Sense, What Dreams May Come, Young And Dangerous 2, You’re Dead
#14 Bride Of Chucky, The Bride With White Hair, The Corruptor, The Deep End Of The Ocean, Detroit Rock City, East Is East, The Eternal, eXistenZ, Happiness, Instinct, Lion Of The Desert, Mad Cows, Raw Nerve, Ride With The Devil, Soldier, The Straight Story, Thick As Thieves, Vampires, The Vivero Letter, Wild Wild West, Xena
#15 American Pie, Bowfinger, Crash, Deep Blue Sea, Demolition University, The Dentist 2, Dogma, Fight Club, Forget Me Never, Gloria, The Iron Giant, Julian Po, The Mod Squad, Payback, Practical Magic, Pushing Tin, The Rage: Carrie 2, The Sixth Sense, She’s All That, Slam, A Slight Case Of Murder, Swing, Tenebrae, True Crime, Virus, The World Is Not Enough
#16 The Big Tease, Brooklyn South, Complicity, The Debt Collector, Dr Who: Time-Flight, End Of Days, The Gate, Ghost In The Shell, GMT, Inspector Gadget, The Limey, Mickey Blue Eyes, Onegin, Rancid Aluminium, Star Trek: Insurrection, Time Regained
#17 Adventure Duo, American Beauty, Anguish, The Batchelor, The Bedroom Window, Body Shots, Boys On The Beach, The Carriers Are Waiting, Chance Or Coincidence, Dark City, Evilspeak, Four Sided Triangle, Freedom Song, H.O.T.S, House On Haunted Hill, Les Enfants Du Marais, Martin, Mifune, The Muse, Nosferatu, Quatermass 2, Shock, Star Blazers: The Quest For Iscandar, Stigmata, The Thirteenth Floor, Three Seasons, Tron, Urotsukidoji III: The Return Of The Overfiend, The War Zone
#18 Annie Hall, The Beach, Being John Malkovich, Blood & Black Lace, The Bone Collector, A Clockwork Orange, Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child, Fail Safe, Hard Boiled, Knightriders, Manhattan, Molly, Ordinary Decent Criminal, A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies, Possession, Rosetta, Simpatico, Sleepy Hollow, The Talented Mr Ripley, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Thing, Three Kings, The Virginian
#19 American Psycho, The Boiler Room, Chinatown, The Green Mile, Hellraiser, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, The Idiots, Independence Day, Kiss: The Second Coming, The Lathe Of Heaven, Leon: The Professional, Lovers Of The Arctic Circle, Magnolia, Matador, Mystery Men, Next Friday, Pola X, Space Precinct, Topsy-Turvy, Tumbleweeds, Watching The Detectives, Xena: Warrior Princess, X – The Unknown
#20 The Abominable Snowman, Airwolf: The Movie, Apocalypse Now, Beowulf, Bruce Lee: The Path Of The Dragon, Crime Story, Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet, Down To You, Felicia’s Journey, Final Destination, Gallivant, The Groundstar Conspiracy, The Hairdresser’s Husband, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Kevin & Perry Go Large, Last Hurrah For Chivalry, Modulations: Cinema For The Ear, My Best Fiend, The Philadelphia Experiment, Positive I.D., Pusher, Repo Man, Strapless, Supergirl, 2010, Vampyres, With Or Without You, Woyzeck, Yojimbo
#21 Aardman Classics, Beau Travail, The Big Boss, Blood Surf, Blowback, Body Weapon, Bogus Witch Project, Brothers, The Brutal Truth, Cheaters, Deadlocked, Doctor Who: The Robots Of Death, Dreamscape, 8MM, The Filth And The Fury, First Blood, Frequency, Galaxy Quest, Halloween III: Season Of The Witch, The Highwayman, Holy Smoke, Island Of Fire, Jack Reed: Badge Of Honour, L’ennui, Mr Murder, New Dragon Gate Inn, Nora, Once Upon A Time In China And America, The Perfect Storm, Pitch Black, Rambo: First Blood 2, Rambo III, The Realm Of The Senses, Relative Values, Richard III, Saving Private Ryan, Scandal, Serpent’s Kiss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Wild Side
#22 Bats, BattleStar Galactica, B.Monkey, Bruce Lee: The Man The Legend, Chill Factor, Chopper Chicks In Zombietown, Class Of Nuke ‘Em High, The Delivery, Eye Of The Killer, Falling Through, Fear City, Fight Club, Five – Live, Gangster No.1, The Girl On The Bridge, Gladiator, Go, Heavy Metal, Jesus’ Son, The Last Supper, Love & Basketball, Man Bites Dog, Maybe Baby, Michael Flatley: Gold, The Million Dollar Hotel, Ms .45, Of Freaks And Men, Scorn, Small Time Obsession, Strange Planet, Straw Dogs, Surf Nazis Must Die, Three To Tango, The Tichborne Claimant, The Toxic Avenger, U-571
#23 Affliction, Agnes Browne, The Big Hit, Boiler Room, Cherry Falls, Chicken Run, Cliffhanger, Dogma, Dragons Forever, The Fly/The Fly 2, For Love Of The Game, The Fugitive, Funny Games, High Fidelity, A History Of The Avant-Garde: Britain In The Twenties, A History Of The Avant-Garde: Britain In The Thirties, The House Of Mirth, Mission Impossible 2, Night Of The Living Dead, The Patriot, Snatch, Starship Troopers, Stir Of Echoes, Supernova, Two Hands, The Whole Nine Yards, Wonderland, X-Men, Zombie
Movie Vault: Island Of Lost Souls
#24 The Alcove, Battle Creek Brawl, Breakfast Of Champions, Carole King: In Concert, The Cell, The Cranberries: Beneath The Skin, Don Henley: Live Inside Job, Earth, End Of Innocence, Fantasia 2000, Freeway II: Confessions Of A Trickbaby, Gargoyles, Godzilla 2000, Gossip, The Governess, Hana-Bi, Hell’s Angels On Wheels, Himalaya, Hound Of The Baskervilles, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Jazz Channel Presents: B.B. King, Joan Of Arc, Kids, Liberty Heights, The Luzhin Defence, Moonraker, One Deadly Summer, Place Vendôme, Play It To The Bone, A Room For Romeo Brass, Rory Gallagher: Irish Tour ’74, Scarface, Siberia, Sign Of The Four, The Spy Who Loved Me, Stranger Than Fiction, Sunshine, Sweet Hereafter, Those Who Love Me Can Take The Train, Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Two-Lane Blacktop, When Justice Fails, Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo, Zatoichi The Outlaw
Movie Vault: Touch Of Evil
#25 April 2001 Alice Et Martin, And Now You’re Dead, Armour Of God, Astérix & Obélix, Barber of Siberia, Bring It On, Cherry Falls, Circus, Dancing At Lughnasa, Doctor Who: Remembrance Of The Daleks, Fist Of Fury, Fist Power, Giulietta Degli Spiriti, Hard-Boiled, Holy Smoke, In All Innocence, Intern, I Vitteloni, Kentucky Fried Movie, La Dolce Vita, L’Appartement, La Haine, Looking For Alibrandi, Nasty Neighbours, Nora, Once Upon A Time In China, People On Sunday, Praise, Prophet’s Game, Regan, Regeneration, Return Of Living Dead, Ring, Romeo Must Die, Roy Orbison: Black And White Night, Salo, Seven, Shanghai Noon, Some Voices, Stuart Little, Supercop, The Thin Blue Line, Turbulence 3, Une Liaison Pornographique, What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted?, Where The Money Is
Movie Vault: Night Of The Eagle

cast: Brittany Murphy, Dean Cain, Mimi Rogers, Peter Bogdanovich, and Tim Thomerson

director: Michael Feifer

84 minutes (12) 2010
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Scanbox DVD Region 2
[released 13 June]

RATING: 7/10
review by Paul Higson

Abandoned

Running times seem to be shrinking again and it’s all for the better. Particularly so, as the longer a film gets the less story they appear to have to tell, and the more hours they put you through the less content there is.

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To this end Brittany Murphy’s last film is a pat, well-paced thriller with the expected twist and the quota of three acts. No dawdling, just a lean, winding adventure told in a short 80 minutes. In the first act we are introduced to Mary (Murphy) a banking talent who is escorting her beau of four months, Kevin (Dean Cain) to a doctor’s appointment for an operation on his leg.

Following a string of bad luck relationships, Kevin is seemingly the one, but just so as not to jinx this she has kept him from view, and her best friend Christine (Kristen Kerr) is pressing her for an introduction. This doesn’t quite ring possible as Kevin was at Mary’s mother’s funeral a month before, and Mary may have few friends but, what, no other friends or family or acquaintances that could turn up? Still, the plot needs this unfeasible detail as Kevin must go in for his appointment but fail to return from it and, in the absence of those introductions, she can find nobody to verify that he was in the hospital or for that matter ever existed. The doctor who was scheduled to operate on him is on holiday, he went through reception unnoticed, ahead of Mary while she parked, and the nurse who met them, Amanda (America Young), is no nurse that any of the staff recall.

When he is over an hour late returning she goes looking for him and wrong sides the hospital staff; particularly hospital administrator Markham (Mimi Rogers) and the burly security man Holloway (Scott Anthony Leet). The more that she insists and the more she evades them the more convincing is their argument that she is suffering a mental breakdown and that the boyfriend is imagined. A police detective, Franklyn (Jay Pickett), visiting the hospital for a check-up is asked to evaluate the situation. He searches all floors and puts questions to all staff but to no avail. A glimpse of Kevin is identified by Mary in the corner of reception CCTV footage but it could be anyone.

Psychiatrist Doctor Bensley (Peter Bogdanovich) becomes involved and summarises that the fantasised perfect boyfriend is a result of her needing someone to help her with her recent bereavement and the failure to come to terms with her mother’s death. Medication is found on her to support all this, which she does not deny is hers but, of course, this helps convince nobody that what she is reporting as her version is the truth. This plot point made so early at least dismisses the twist option that Kevin is imagined as a double bluff and that being the case would be unwise.

Kevin, with his fear of hospitals, asked her not to leave him, not to abandon him, and it is a promise Mary is determined to keep. Evading everyone again, she hides in the morgue and finally receives a call from Kevin asking her to find him and instructing her not to trust anyone before he is seemingly discovered with the phone and assaulted. An accident puts her in one of the hospital beds where she is visited by the old man (Tim Thomerson) who had earlier befriended her in the canteen. His story then was a tear-jerker about supporting his wife in her treatment for cancer. Now he has another story revealing the true story of the plot against. Her talents are to be put to use or accomplices will begin cutting Kevin up into little pieces. Mary must now make some big decisions if she is to save Kevin, and she cuts loose through the hospital again to make a series of deadlines while trying to determine who she can trust.

This veteran film watcher was not to be tricked or derailed by any of the film’s revelations, though others should enjoy the rollercoaster ride for all of its twists and turns. Unfortunately, though the film is quick it is not zippy enough to avoid the un-likeliness of some of the plot devices. The CCTV cameras are not governed by anyone in the plot, so even if cameras were being avoided it seems unlikely that it could be spun out without their assistance. The inspiration for the plot against Mary comes from a book that plays a returning role in the story but it seems too big a clue to leave lying around and is an absurd revelation. The funeral attendance has been identified already as too much of a contrivance. The time frame is a bit ungovernable too. Jeez, are waiting times that good in the U.S.A. that someone is going to fret about someone one hour overdue. Kills do not take place when it would be most convenient for the villains. Instead, it is drawn out long enough for a reprieve and retaliation. But despite all of these chagrins, the pace of the mental legerdemain, whether it fools you are not, is appreciable.

On a more troubling note, there is certain tastelessness to the final shot and line when Murphy’s character is asked how she means to proceed following her ordeal. She responds, “I’m just going to go on living one day at a time.” They walk in silence towards an exit and the film announces in subtitles there and then that it is dedicated to its tragic star. It may have been wiser to withhold the dedication until after a fade to black.