The Sting 2

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After the huge success of The Sting, neither Paul Newman, or Robert Redford fancied another, so this sequel represents a mighty downgrade on most aspects of the package. Who better to step into the shoes of Newman than Jackie Gleason? Almost anyone. And if Mac Davis is a like-for-like substitute for Redford, it’s a strange equation indeed. It’s another con-man story, with rollercoasters, boxing and all kinds of period attractions thrown in. But despite the lack of star-power, there’s much to enjoy here, with a super script by the same author, David S Ward, more wonderful soundtrack work from Lalo Schifrin, and some neat support from Karl Marlden, Oliver Reed and Teri Garr. Forever in the shadow of the original film, The Sting II is actually a pretty good film in its own right, and worth checking out for curiosity’s sake.

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Burnt Offerings 1976

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Dan Curtis’s horror film has become something of a seminal work, influencing Stephen King’s various descriptions of houses as killers, or as King deems it in his excellent book Dance Macabre, ‘the bad place’. Adapted from Robert Masasco’s novel, Burnt Offerings sees couple Marian and Ben (Karen Black and Oliver Reed) moving into a remote summer-house which seems to have a mind of its own. Bette Davis is on hand as Aunt Elizabeth to add warnings about the crushing weight of the past, with Burgess Meredith and Eileen Heckart on hand. Not a haunted house movie, Burnt Offerings offers something fresh in a direct physical conflict between an inanimate object and humans. Much like Black’s battle with the Zuni doll in Trilogy of Terror, these practical threats have more impact than any amount of spiritual mumbo-jumbo.

Dr Heckyl and Mr Hype 1980

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The opening credits of Mr Heckyl and Mr Hype offer ‘apologies to Robert Louis Stevenson’; it’s fair to say that writer/director Charles B Griffith has some apologising to do. This astonishing in all the wrong ways comedy sees a game Oliver Reed in a modern reworking on the old story; Dr Heckyl is a podiatrist who is thwarted in romance by his hideous looks. A potion offers him a chance at the different life, but his appearance, as the saturnine Mr Hype doesn’t make life much easier. Not a straight horror, Griffith’s film has a wildly uncertain tone, aiming for some kind of Mel Brooks chaos but falling on the wrong side of Jerry Lewis’s The Nutty Professor; in a career of butch, taciturn performances, Reed’s comic turns are an unfortunate departure; the imdb notes that he won best actor at the 1983 Fantafest, which makes you wonder what the competition was like.

The Brood 1979

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A typically chilly Canadian venture from writer/director David Cronenberg, The Brood is a thought-provoking horror film that deals specifically with psychiatry and therapy. At  the Summerfree institute, Dr Raglan (Oliver Reed) is experimenting with his patients; one, Nola (Samantha Eggar) is able to produce  dwarf-like figures that act on her vengeful impulses. The dwarves resemble the haunting figure from the end of Don’t Look Now, and set about their victims in highly disturbing set-pieces.  The Brood deals overtly with divorce and custody issues, as well as offering a withering critique of psychological  experimentation techniques  in a vivid, gory thriller.

Venom 1981

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Piers Haggard’s 1981 thriller is notable for the combination of two of cinema’s most notorious hell-raisers, Oliver Reed and Klaus Kinski. From all accounts, they hated each other, and it’s remarkable that Haggard kept the film on track. They play two terrorists who attempt to take a child and his grandfather hostage in a London flat, only to find themselves trapped in a siege situation and a deadly black mamba snake loose in the building, picking off the bad-guys one by one. Although Venom failed to do for snakes was jaws did for sharks, venom is quite an engagingly trashy thriller, with the Black Mamba, Kinski and Reed all giving uniformly strong and rather similar performances. Kinski turned down Raiders of the Lost Ark to make this forgotten often amusing film, notable for a scene in which the snake enters Oliver Reed’s trousers.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Venom-Klaus-Kinski/dp/B00ESQBNUI/ref=sr_1_1?s=instant-video&ie=UTF8&qid=1394975646&sr=1-1&keywords=venom

Revolver 1972

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One of Ennio Morricone’s greatest themes, lifted by Tarantino for his Inglorious Bastards film, and some sumptuous photography set a classy mood for this terse thriller from Sergio Sollima, also known by the more lurid title Blood In The Streets. Oliver Reed plays Vito, a prison warden whose wife is kidnapped. The deal is for Vito to exchange  criminal Milo (Fabio Testi) for his wife, but Vito strikes back by kidnapping Milo for himself. Revolver is an original plot idea and lots of sweaty tension; the action is sparse, but the plotting and two muscular central performances make this a minor classic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5Xt1hiGmS0

The Devils 1971

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Ken Russell’s notorious film was cut, denounced and ridiculed on release, but has gained considerably in reputation despite being seen in butchered cuts. In hindsight, and without listing the catalogue of scenes deemed offensive at the time, it’s a serious minded adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Lourdon and John Whiting’s play The Devils with Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave on top form as the priest and the nun set against each other by an inquisition into the behaviour of nuns in 17th century nuns. Seen with the missing Rape of Christ sequence restored, and you may have to cobble this edit together yourself, it’s a moving depiction of the corrupt nature of power, one that the film applies rigorously to Catholicism, but which has a wider and more potent meaning if audiences can see beyond the sensationalism. The Derek Jarman sets in themselves are extraordinary.