Posts Tagged ‘Review’

BFI Dual Format Edition

DirectorTony Scott (as Anthony Scott). Writer: Tony Scott. Producers: Stephen Bayly and Albert Finney (uncredited). StarringRosamund Greenwood (Woman), Roy Evans (Man), David Pugh (Young Boy). Cinematography: Chris Menges. 52 mins, 1971.

The suicide of film director Tony Scott makes the title of his early experimental film Loving Memory (1971) bitterly ironic. This splending BFI Dual Format release contains the title film and two other shorts, One of the Missing (1968) and Boy and Bicycle (1965).

Tony Scott was, of course, the younger brother of Ridley Scott, and though both were successful mainstream Hollywood directors Tony is generally regarded as the more commercial of the two: his first Hollywood movie was the stylish arthouse vampire film The Hunger (1983), a box-office failure, after which he returned to advertising, but a successful campaign for SAAB featuring a Saab 900 turbo racing a Saab 37 Viggen fighter jet lead to him being offered the director’s seat on the gung-ho action flick Top Gun (1986); this was followed by a string of commercially successful blockbusters including Beverly Hills Cop II (1987), Revenge (1990), Days of Thunder (1990), The Last Boy Scout (1991), True Romance (1993), Crimson Tide (the first of a series of  successful collaborations with Denzel Washington, 1995), The Fan (1996), Enemy of the State (1998), Spy Game (2001), Man on Fire (2004), the time travel movie Déjà Vu (2006), The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009), and Unstoppable (2010).

The accident

Loving Memory is about as far away from these star studied, blockbusting action movies as it is possible to imagine. Despite being British neither of the Scott brothers have set much of their work in Britain: Loving Memory is Tony Scott’s only purely ”British” film (although Spy Game features some London scenes); it is a macabre character study which has been justifiably compared to Harold Pinter.

David Pugh as the Young Boy

The film concerns an elderly couple played by Rosamund Greenwood and Roy Evans, who we later discover to be brother and sister, who accidentally run over and kill a young cyclist played by David Pugh on a lonely northern moor – but instead of reporting the incident to the police the woman decides to take the corpse home with them. There she dresses him in the clothes of a second brother, killed in the Second World War, shows him her photo-albums, and tries to engage him in conversation. Her brother, meanwhile, gathers wood to build a coffin.

Rosamund Greenwood as the Woman

Greenwood has the only speaking part in the movie and largely carries it; she gives a subtle, heart-rending performance as a sister clinging to her past. Memories of the War hang heavily over the house – quite literally in the form of an aircraft propeller suspended from the ceiling that the woman boobytraps in order to prevent her brother burying the corpse. Greenwood had appeared in Jacques Tourneur‘s classic horror film Night of the Demon (1957) and Wolf Rilla‘s Village of the Damned (1960), and would appear as a witch in Nicolas Roeg‘s The Witches (1990), an adaptation of the children’s book by Roald Dahl; her distinctive features are beautifully captures in Chris Menges photography and reproduced in detail in the crisp Blu-ray transfer.

Roy Evans as the Man

Roy Evans, the brother, was a character actor who had previously appeared in Doctor Who as Trantis in ”The Daleks’ Master Plan” (1965-66), and would later appear in ”The Green Death” (1973) as Bert, a Welsh miner, and as another miner in ”The Monster of Peladon”  (1974). Here too he wears a miner’s helmet.

David Pugh would be a regular in the ITV children’s show Roberts Robots (1974)

Cinematographer Chris Menges had previously shot Peter WatkinsThe War Game (1965), Ken Loach‘s Kes (1968) and Lindsay Anderson‘s If…. (1968); he would later photograph Bill Forsyth‘s Local Hero (1983), Roland Joffe‘s The Killing Fields (1984) and The Mission (1986), which won him an Academy Award each; Neil Jordan‘s Michael Collins (1996) earned him another Oscar nomination. As you would expect the landscapes look incredible on Blu-ray, and the cluttered rooms of the elderly couple’s house are rich in detail.

Loving Memory  was selected for the Cannes Film Festival’s Critics Week.

One of the Missing (1968)

Director: Anthony Scott. Writer: Anthony Scott. Photography: Anthony Scott. Starring: Stephen Edwards (James Clavering), Ridley Scott (Unionist Officer, uncredited), Dave Edwards (Voices). BFI Production Board, 26 mins, 1968

One of the Missing (1968) was Tony Scott’s first film, an experimental short based on a short story by Ambrose Bierce about an American Civil War soldier trapped beneath the rubble of a collapsed building.

The film is a tense, claustrophobic film with virtually no dialogue other than an opening narration, and contains no synchronously recorded sound – presumably for budgeting reasons. Scott appears to have been inspired by Robert Enrico‘s Au Coeur de la Vie (In the Midst of Life, 1963), which also drew on Ambrose Bierce’s work.

Although Tony Scott would not return to the historical genre himself the visual style anticipates that of Ridley Scott’s 1977 film The Duellists.

One of the Missing is presented in it’s original full-frame format and shows a little sign of wear but that’s not surprising given the age of the source material.

Boy and Bicycle (1965)

Starring: Anthony Scott (The Schoolboy). DirectorRidley Scott. Producer: Ridley Scott. WriterRidley Scott. BFI Experimental Film, 25 mins, 1965.

The third feature in this set stars Tony Scott (again credited as Anthony Scott) as the title character in the charming experimental short Boy and Bicycle (1965) written and directed by Ridley Scott. This tells the freewheeling adventures of a 16 year old cyclist in a Northern industrial seaside town.

As with One of the Missing there is no synchronous sound and the only speech is Tony Scott’s internal monologue. The script is funny, with Tony filling in the absence of dialogue with his own parodies of adult speech.

It’s not hard to see this short as the inspiration of Ridley Scott’s classic Hovis advert, “Bike Round” (1974).

The theme music was by John Barry and the incidental music by John Baker of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop; sound was by Brian Hodgson, also of the Radiophonic Workshop, and Murray Marshall.

Boy and Bicycle is also presented in its original full-frame format.

Read more
  • Bierce, Ambrose ”One of the missing”
  • Morrison, David (undated) Boy and Bicycle at BFI Screenonline
  • —– (undated) One of the Missing at BFI Screenonline
  • Newman, Kim (undated) ”Ridley Scott” at BFI Screenonline
  • —– () ”The Films of Tony and Ridley Scott” (published in the booklet accompanying the BFI Dual Format release)
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Ultimate Warrior 1

DirectorRobert ClouseProducersFred Weintraub & Paul HellerWriters: Robert Clouse & Fred Weintraub. Starring: Yul Brynner (Carson), Max von Sydow (Baron), William Smith (Carrott), Joanna Miles (Belinda), Richard Kelton (Cal). MusicGil Mellé. Cinematography: Gerald Hirschfeld. EditorMichael KahnWarner Bros, 1975 (94 mins).

A Film of the Future

Ultimate Warrior 2Ultimate Warrior 3

The Ultimate Warrior (1975) is a post-apocalyptic Kung Fu movie directed by Robert Clouse and starring Yul Brynner and Max von Sydow. It was part of a cycle of violent post-apocalyptic movies made in the ’70s which included The Ωmega Man (1971), A Boy and His Dog (1974) and Damnation Alley (1977). It is a predecessor to George Miller‘s Mad Max (1979) and its sequels (and numerous rip-offs) and, most obviously, John Carpenter‘s Escape to New York (1981).

The Ultimate Warrior is set in the New York of the then-near future of 2012 (the normally reliable Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has it incorrectly dated 2022) after the fall of the West due to fuel shortages, crop failures and pandemics. New York is now inhabited by scattered communities living on the scraps of civilisation. One of these communities is lead by Baron (Von Sydow) who has maintained some degree of civilization.

Carson

Brynner plays Carson, a samurai-like warrior for hire who advertises his services by standing motionless, half-naked, meditating atop an overturned bus. He is approached by a delegation lead by Baron who needs muscle in his struggle with a more barbaric gang lead by Carrot (William Smith).

Brynner was a Russian-born star most famous for playing  Mongkut, the eponymous King of Siam, in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I (1956), and  Chris Adams in  John Sturges‘ The Magnificent Seven (1960). He had already starred in one successful sf action movie,  Michael Crichton‘s Westworld (1973), in which he played a silent gun-slinging android; here his character is almost as taciturn.

At first Carson seems to ignore Baron’s advances until Baron’s party are attacked by Carrot’s men while returning home, when Carson comes to the rescue. This is the first of several action sequences in the movie. The film is directed by Robert Clouse and produced by Fred Weintraub and Paul Heller, the team behind the Bruce Lee‘s English language breakthrough movie Enter the Dragon (1973). Clouse would later direct the  Blaxploitation action movie Black Belt Jones (1974) starring Lee’s Enter the Dragon co-star Jim Kelly,  Jackie Chan‘s The Big Brawl (1980) and  Cynthia Rothrock‘  China O’Brien (1988) – though, in truth, he generally lacked the skill to generate much excitement from his action scenes.

Stabbing

Rather shockingly to contemporary audiences, Carson is a knife-fighter rather than a martial artist as such, and not averse to stabbing his opponents in the back. Stabbing gets a bit of a bad press these days thanks to some people taking it too far but back in the ’70s everyone was at it (see Leela in Doctor Who). The result is that the violence lacks the balletic grace of the more authentic Kung Fu movies but feels more brutal. Interestingly, in Bill S. Ballinger‘s novelization, based on an earlier draft of the script, Carson acquires the knife rather later in the story: he rescues Baron’s party using proper martial arts.

Ultimate Warrior

Back in Baron’s stockade we later learn that it was the offer of cigars which persuaded Carson to take the Baron’s side, rather than any sense of justice. Carson is a morally ambiguous figure and is, perhaps rightly, regarded with suspicion by the other members of the commune. Carson tells Baron that he is just passing through New York on the way to an island off the coast of North Carolina where he hopes to find his sister. Baron, suspecting that his own community has little chance of survival, asks Carson to take his pregnant daughter Melinda (Joanna Miles) with him, together with her husband Cal (Richard Kelton) who has developed a strain of disease-resistant seeds with which he hopes to reintroduce agriculture.

Carrot

William Smith was a familiar figure from 70s and 80s action movies like Clint Eastwood‘s Any Which Way You Can (1980), Conan the Barbarian (in which he played Conan’s father, 1982) and  Francis Ford Coppola‘s Outsiders (1983) and Rumble Fish (also 1983), as well as TV shows like  Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and The A-Team, before becoming the last ever Marlboro Man. More recently he played Dracula in The Erotic Rites of Countess Dracula (2001).

Cal is murdered by Carrot’s men in an ambush and Baron is killed when his own people turn on him. Carson and Melinda escape through the subway system pursued by Carrot’s men. Rather inconveniently Melinda goes into labour and Carson has to deliver the baby. Carson then remains behind to fight Carrot’s gang while Melinda makes her escape, with her baby and her husband’s seeds (I suspect the symbolism is deliberate).

Angry CarrotChopping Carrot

The final duel between Carson and Carrot is genuinely exciting as they fight, locked together at the wrist, by chains. The conclusion is as cynical and brutal as only ’70s movies are, and leaves little space for a sequel though apparently the studio had hopes to continue the story.

Clouse, Von Sydow & Brynner

The partly electronic soundtrack is by American painter, sculpter and  jazz musician Gil Mellé, who also scored Robert WiseThe Andromeda Strain (1971) and  Rod Serling‘s TV series Night Gallery.

The film was edited by Michael Kahn who would soon go on to edit Steven Spielberg‘s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977); his collaborations with the director continue to today. He has garnered seven Academy Award nominations for Best Film Editing, winning three for Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Schindler’s List (1993), and Saving Private Ryan (1998), and has been nominated for six BAFTA awards, winning two, for Schindler’s List and Adrian Lyne‘s Fatal Attraction (1987).

The Ultimate Warrior was released on Region-free  DVD in 2008, paired with Montgomery Tully‘s Battle Beneath the Earth (1967).

Ultimate NovelizationUltimate DVD

References:
  • Ballinger, Bill S.,  The Ultimate Warrior (Novelization, 1974)
  • Brosnan, John & Peter Nichols, ”The Ultimate Warrior” (1979) in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
  • Brosnan, John, The Primal Screen: A History of Science Fiction Film(1991)
  • Newman, Kim,Millennium Movies: End of the World Cinema (1999)

In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build a Perfect Language (2009) by Arika Okrent.

In the Land of Invented Languages is linguist Arika Okrent’s lightning tour of the strange world of constructed languages, or ‘conlangs’.

Okrent has an M.A. in Linguistics from the Gallaudet University, and a Ph.D. in Psycholinguistics from the University of Chicago. She speaks numerous languages including  English, Hungarian and American Sign Language. She also has a  first-level certification in Klingon.

Okrent takes us through the history of constructed languages from Hildegard von Bingen (Saint Hildegard, or Sibyl of the Rhine), a 12th Century Garman nun, composer and polymath, who gave us the first documented invented language, the purpose of which is long forgotten, to the 17th Century English Clergyman John Wilkins, who’s 600 page opus An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language (1668) attempts to categorise no less than everything in the universe according to a branching hierarchical scheme.

There are excellent chapters on auxiliary languages (‘IALs’, or ‘auxlangs’), which are devised to aid international communication or for the teaching of language. These include L. L. Zamenhof‘s Esperanto, and its ‘offspring’ Interlingua and Ido.

There are also excellent chapters on the engineered languages (or ‘engelangs’) Loglan and Lojban originally designed to test theories of linguistic determinism, or the so-called ‘Sapir-Whorf hypothesis‘.

Suzette Haden Elgin‘s feminist language Láadan is also examined. Láadan appears in Elgin’s feminist sf novels Native Tongue (1984),  The Judas Rose (1987) and Earthsong (1993), and, as such, is as much an ‘artlang‘ as it is an engelang – which leads into a discussion on artlangs proper.

There’s a brief chapter on J. R. R. Tolkien‘s various Elvish languages including  Quenya and Sindarin.

Obviously Okrent can’t examine all constructed languages, so the only science fiction languages she examines in detail are and Klingon from the Star Trek franchise.

Sources