Archive for the Drama Category


Posted in Australian and New Zealand Films, Drama, Russell Crowe, Soundtrack Samples on October 5, 2011 by Bill Courtney


1992/Director: Geoffrey Wright/ Writer: Geoffrey Wright
Cast: Russell Crowe, Daniel Pollock, Jacqueline McKenzie, Alex Scott, Leigh Russell, Daniel Wyllie, James McKenna, Eric Mueck, Frank Magree,
Romper Stomper was early on in Russell Crowe’s movie acting career and when I first saw the film on VHS back in the 90’s he had yet to achieve the level of stardom he has since attained. Had I known Crowe already and some of the Hollywood work I have seen of his lately, such as A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man I would have thought something like “wow, he really made some wild movies way back then, not like Gladiator at all”. But when I first saw the film I really knew very little of the guy and doubt that I even knew his name, which only added to the intensity of this already riveting drama about angry skinheads in Melbourne Australia. Crowe is simply mesmerizing as Hando, the leader of a band of skinheads who focus their hatred and violent behavior on the local Asian community, and Vietnamese in particular. The film was written and directed by Geoffrey Wright and has a blood pumping soundtrack of instrumental music as well as bombastic skinhead punk rock music. Along with Crowe are Australian actress Jacqueline McKenzie and actor Daniel Pollock, who had played a small role with Crowe in 1991’s Proof, another great independent Australian film.

The film opens up with Hando and his band of neo-Nazi misanthropes intimidating and beating some Vietnamese skateboarders in the train station of a blue collar neighborhood in West Melbourne. The scene quickly set the tone and pace for the rest of the film and there is little let up as the tensions between Hando and his gang and the local Vietnamese escalate as the immigrants seek to find business opportunities in their community. Hando is the dangerous yet charismatic leader of the group and his best mate is Davey, a brooding, thinking type who has a softer nature. He hides his tattoos from his German speaking grandma and collects matchbook covers his father sends him. He seems to have roots the rest of the band lack, including Hando, who reads quotes from Mein Kampf and hurls Italian pasta rather than eat “wop” garbage. The friendship seems solid and deep until Gabe (McKenzie) is introduced into the story as a sexual diversion for Hando. Gabe is really screwed up herself as she is running away from her incestuous father Martin, played well and creepy by Tony Lee.

Gabe is more educated than the thugs she throws herself in with but she falls under the spell of Hando and is even excited by the violence and vandalism the gang dishes out on anybody anything that crosses them. This becomes not more apparent than when it is discovered the local Vietnamese are going to buy the pool hall they hangout in and turn it into a restaurant. The skinheads become immediately enraged and their racial loathing becomes utterly apparent. They go and beat a couple teenagers nearly to death and perhaps would have, if not for the fact one boy who escaped the beating returns with carloads of Vietnamese youth, already fed up with the skinheads, who soon begin to outnumber and over power Hando and his gang. A really great chase and fight sequence develops with great sound effects and film score. In the end the skinheads are driven back to their warehouse hangout and are driven out and it is sacked and burned.

Seeking refuge the gang boot out some squatters from another warehouse and during their time there it is found out that Gabe is an epileptic after she has a seizure. The uncultured and crass skinheds mock her and call her a “spazz” and imitate her seizures and only Davey has any sympathy. It is this incident that drives a wedge between Davy and Hando. Hando kicks Gabe out, both because he is put off by her epilepsy, but also because of her sarcasms about him and the gang botching an easy job the night before, that of robbing her father’s house. Davey tells her to seek him out as soon as she can. She is totally pissed and in the heat of anger calls the cops and tells them where Hando and the gang are hiding and they are the ones responsible for the attack on the Asians and the robbery and assault on her father. The cops show up and the youngest member who waves a fake gun at the cops. Gabe spends the night with Davey (and there as a couple really wild sex scenes in this flick) and when Hando shows up the next day they all flee the police search. Hando kills a convenient store clerk who looks Indian or Pakistani with his bare hands and the three are fugitives for murder now. The film ends with Davey fighting Hando on the beach after Hando tried to choke the life out of her when he finds out she was the one who called the cops. Hando dies violently with the Nazi dagger he loaned Davy the money for earlier in the film.

The movie is brutally powerful and Crowe is chilling as the sociopathic Hando. The acting and direction is excellent from start to finish. The film was shot on 16mm and has a look much older than 1992. Actors Daniel Pollack and Jacqueline McKenzie had an off screen relationship during the filming of the movie. Problem with the relationship as well as Pollock’s attempts to manage his heroin addiction may led to his suicide by jumping in front of a train, shortly before the film was released. The incident was made into a song by Crowe’s rock band at the time 30 Odd feet of Grunts called The Night That Davey Hit the Train.
Below is an MP3 sample of one the catchy Aryan pop classics from the film.



Posted in Dirk Bogarde, Drama, Harold Pinter, James Fox, Joseph Losey, Patrick Magee, Sarah Miles, Video Clip on September 13, 2011 by Bill Courtney
1963/ Director: Joseph Losey/Writers: Robin Maugham,
Harold Pinter
Cast:  Dirk Bogarde, Sarah Miles, Wendy Craig, James Fox, Patrick Magee,  Catherine Lacey, Richard Vernon   
I had never really heard about this movie, a collaboration between director Joseph Losey and playwrite/screenwriter Howard Pinter except in passing while reading reviews of other films. I had had the DVD lying around for a couple months and decided I would pop it in one night and was so stunned by the film I felt compelled to do a post on it here at the Cafe though it tends to fall outside what I would normally write about though is one I want to promote. In fact, the film is not easy to critique and really is one that must be seen and allowed to wash over you with its dark waters and sinister shadows and its marvelously malevolent  story of role reversal, British class struggle moral decay and sexual decadence.
The story is essentially a set piece with almost all of the drama occurring inside a house recently acquired by the independently wealthy and aristocratic playboy Tony, played superbly by James Fox in his first acting role. Tony is met for an interview by “gentleman’s gentleman” Hugh Barrett as he sleeps off some afternoon beers in the empty house. The opening scene is done so excellently – in particular the edgy b/w cinematography by Douglas Slocombe – and sets the tone of the film which is maintained until the ending. Barrett is played by Dirk Bogarde in what many consider to be his best role. I have not seen him in a film in many, many years and had forgotten about his scene presence. The fact that Barrett is actually evil in a Mephistophelian sense does not become clear immediately, but gradually it becomes clear something is amiss and that the rich and bored Tony has become the target of an evil game played out by Barrett and his ‘sister’ Vera, played coquettishly to a tee by Sarah Miles.
There seems to be no real motive for the games that Barrett and Mary begin to play on Tony other than the fact that Tony seems to be a suitable target for their ultimately spiteful manipulations. I speculate that perhaps the whole thing, in particular his seduction by Vera (and most likely Barrett himself, thought he bisexual innuendo is well hidden between the lines of 1963’s British censors) was to some sort of blackmail plot against Tony to keep his secrets from his serious flame Susan, played by TV soap star Wendy Craig. But the film never really establishes this and Barrett ultimately only seeks his servant’s pay but in the process turns Tony’s world upside down and while Tony loses nothing in the sense of wealth he loses all morally and spiritually, and that alone seems to satisfy Barrett.
What is so fantastic about this film is how it really works on a dark psychological level in every aspect, from the acting and cinematography to the sparse but effective score by Sir John Dankworth. While Tony’s character is not without fault and basically unlikable to any working Joe simply because he is so rich and listless – talking of projects in Brazil that never seem to materialize – he seems undeserving of the wreckage he receives by the bitter Barrett. Barrett no doubt sees himself as superior to Tony and resents his servitude. He has no doubt begun to get bitter long before his employment to Tony, who seems to hire Barrett for no other reason than he cannot take care of himself and has the money to spend on a servant and later a maid (Sarah Miles). Wendy Craig’s Susan seems to despise Barrett from the beginning, and at first I found her unfair and snobbish and disliked her character, yet in the end her character seems to be the only one who retains her dignity. I have read some reviews about how she is undone as well as Tony, but I did see it and the ending shows her winning out over Barrett – where she slaps the crap out of him and he helps her adjust her coat as she leaves – and not the other way around.
Sarah Miles is sexy and hot as naughty Vera and we are never really sure what the relationship is between her and Barrett, except that it is not brother and sister. They are lovers for certain and the plot they develop seems much more complicated than is shown and we have to draw our inferences from their looks and nods as nothing is ever really reveled in dialog.  The house and its hallways and objects – such as an oval mirror – become  a symbol of Tony’s moral decline, starting off bare and empty, then filled with luxury and then with decadence and squalor. There are so many intriguing scenes that I could go on and on and I really like to keep my reviews/comments a little on the shorter side, and do not like retelling the movie narrative really. I like to read those types of movie sites, but I tend to shy away from doing that, and if I wee going to I would have to admit that this film is beyond my skill to do that. I think I can refer you to the clip I made and posted in the next post and it should describe better than I can the mood and angst ridden energy of the film.
It’s as dark as a movie can become without being maudlin and gimmicky. Without ever spilling a drop of blood or firing a pistol the movie is as tense and nerve wrecking An experience as you are going to get  about the horrors of just being a human being.
(My home made clip)


Posted in Crime and Suspense, Drama, Terence Stamp, William Wyler on August 15, 2011 by Bill Courtney

1965/Director: William Wyler/ Writers: John Fowles (novel), Stanley Mann (script)

Cast:  Terence Stamp, Samantha Eggar,  Mona Washbourne, Maurice Dallimore

The Collector is a film by William Wyler starring basically two actors in a almost stage style performance. Terrance Stamp plays butterfly collector Freddie Clegg who is brilliant but has an incredible inferiority complex. He works as a clerk who is taunted by his co-workers but one day wins a substantial fortune in the British football pool. He uses his money to buy and equip a isolated, rustic old house in the country side. By equip I mean he turns the Gothic looking cellar into a furnished holding cell meant to contain one Miranda Grey (Sammantha Eggar) who he had developed an obsession with and is determined to make her fall in love with him. The first step in his bizarre courtship is to chloroform her then kidnap her and haul her back to her cell. She has no idea where she is or what Freddie’s intentions really are.

The film focuses on the tension and conflicts between educated and born into money Miranda and once working class Freddie who is now wealthy and has a lot of free time on his hands. Both actors deliver excellent performances. The movie follows Hitchcock’s Psycho and while technically Psycho is a better made film, The Collector is a more believable study of a broken mind. One cannot help but sympathize somehow with Freddie’s plight (and Stamp’s performance adds to our ability to connect with the unhinged young man). We almost wish that Miranda will little by little actually come around to Freddie or that he will honor his word and release her at the time he promises at the beginning of her captivity. None of this is to be and the film ends tragically, but not with Freddie being killed off by his captive, but with the death of Miranda from exposure to the elements basically. Some reviews I refer to Freddie as a serial killer, but this is not the case at all. He sincerely means no harm to Miranda and while he is forceful he is never brutal or sadistic. As the film progresses however and the worlds from which Freddie and Miranda were born into seem to remain distant and unknown to the other Freddie get more and more frustrated and Miranda more and more terrified. In one scene Freddie tried to understand Miranda’s interest in Picasso and J.D Salinger and destroys the books he bough her. In another Miranda insults Freddie’s prize winning butterfly collection that he shyly reveals to her, hoping to show something of his true self to her.

As I said, the film ends not with the death of the captor but with the slow decline and death of the captive which was a bit of a shocker for the time. The last shots of the film show Freddie stalking his next victim, now more experienced and not apt to make the wrong choices as before, such as choosing someone he has nothing in common with. Freddie, while at times likable and almost naive in nature, in the end has little remorse left for Miranda and concludes she brought it all on herself. The movie is nicely shot and I may say it suffered a little from a lack of a truly claustrophobic atmosphere. It also suffered from a really inadequate soundtrack by the usually capable but sometimes inappropriate Maurice Jarre. The soundtrack is nice but too nice and at times a little goofy and seems like more of a soundtrack style for the films of the 40’s and 50’s where the music tried accentuate every movement the actors made. The movie needed a score that was a little more tension creating, rather than, honestly, soothing and inappropriate.

Another great British movie that, like The Servant, uses the action and drama for a vehicle for other messages, here such as British class struggle, the basic problems of loneliness and men and women communicating in general. I am also preparing a post on what I call Miranda style movies, and have about eight films to try and pander. Some may seem a little odd and may stretch the category a little and I will see if I can manage to be convincing or not. I searched for some quotes from the film but could find none really and will see if I can get a script from online and select some of my own, as some of the lines are so unsettling and chilling. A truly creepy film that relies on acting and atmosphere and well written lines. I have never read the book by John Fowles and being in China I may have a hard time locating it unless I can back to Beijing or Shanghai. I would certainly like to read the book after seeing this film again the other night.