Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971)

jekyll1The Horror channel’s airing of old Hammer faves continues with this tongue-in-cheek, horror-come-sex-farce tale based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Dating from the 1970s decline of the studio, Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde is no doubt one of the lesser films that Hammer released but it certainly left its mark on me as a young man watching it on late-night tv many years ago. Hammer often offered a few twists when retelling famous old horror tales (updating Dracula brilliantly in 1958) and here it retold Robert Louis Stevenson’s story by Jekyll transforming into a beautiful woman instead of the usual monster. The scene when Jekyll is first transformed into his female alter-ego, Sister Hyde (deliciously played with mischievous fun by Martine Beswick) and examines his new breasts in the full-length mirror certainly got my attention back then, and I’ve never forgotten it since. The weird thing is, beyond the obvious titillation (sic) the scene provides males of the audience, its also an inevitable ‘true’ moment- what else is a guy going to do when he first finds himself in the body of a beautiful woman? It reminds me of similar moments in Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days, where one of the popular tapes played by men features the recording of a young woman bathing in the shower.

The casting is excellent- the facial bone-structure of  Martine Beswick looks remarkably similar to that of Ralph Bates, whose obsessed,  socially inept Dr. Jekyll is a perfect balance against the more confident and predatory Sister Hyde. The perhaps unnecessary elements of sex-farce arise from Jekyll’s upstairs neighbours, a brother and sister, one of whom is in love with Jekyll while the brother naturally has the hots for Hyde, with the inevitable timing foul-ups and confusions that follow.  There is plenty of material here for comments on gender, something a more sophisticated film might really have gotten it’s teeth into, but of course Hammer was just a studio turning out rather simple horror pics.  There are the barest hints of homosexuality, transvestitism and gender confusion (Jekyll momentarily attracted to the brother for instance). It’s telling though that Jekyll’s friend Professor Robertson, suspicious of his old colleague’s medical research and the rising numbers of murders in the area, is undone by his own sexual urges when he is seduced by Hyde.

One thing I was surprised about watching it again after so many years (its funny the things you forget)- I always thought that Hyde represented Jekyll’s evil, darker urges, but in the film once his supply of cadavers dries up, Jekyll himself is out there wandering night-time Whitechapel murdering women himself.  By the time his transformations begin, he’s something of a Jack the Ripper already (indeed its very impressive how cleverly Hammer ties together the Jekyll and Hyde story, the Jack the Ripper murder case and the infamous grave robbers Burke and Hare). Jekyll is hardly the innocent at all which rather overturned my expectations of how the plot would play out (indeed, the audience never has much sympathy for Jekyll at all and he deserves his inevitable undoing).  While Hyde herself soon takes the opportunity to use her own gender as a disguise for committing further murders, the chief difference between the two is one of social adeptness, confidence and character.  Jekyll is attracted to Susan, his upstairs neighbour who is clearly smitten by him, but is rather inept and awkward at pursuing any romance, whereas Hyde soon has Susan’s brother on the couch! Perhaps there are suggestions of sexual politics and women’s liberation there. In more sophisticated times or under the control of a more ambitious studio, this could have been a very thought-provoking and impressive horror tale with all sorts of messy subtexts to delve into.

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Oblivion (2013)

oblivionposter1Well, first things first, I enjoyed this film a lot. I think its a good sci-fi movie, but with reservations that I’d like to get into in a moment. I would just like to warn readers that the following will be spoiler-ific so if you have not seen the film yet, please avoid what follows and come back later. You will enjoy the film more. What follows is aimed at people who have seen the film so please, if you do intend to see it go ahead, its a good film, you will likely enjoy it. But do come back and maybe let me know what you think.

Anyway, rather than wax lyrical about the film, I’d just like to submit a few cautionary comments about Oblivion.

First of all, the most pressing thing thats bugging me – was anyone in the slightest bit surprised by it? I mean, think about it a minute. When watching the film, did the film at any point actually surprise you? Did any of the ‘twists’ actually take you aback? Admit it, you second-guessed the film throughout? Because I did. I only ask because some comments on the web rate this as a ground-breaking and original story, and I’m wondering if I saw the same movie. Right at the very start, when Jack wakes up from dreams of a strange woman, I was already getting nervous,  distractedly thinking of Arnie waking up with same in Total Recall. And that’s another thing similar to Total Recall– Jack and Vicky having had their memories wiped- Jack forgetting his earlier, true ‘self’ recalls, yes, Total Recall again.

oblivion3 Actually, that whole ‘memory wipe for security reasons’ thing was something that really annoyed me from the start- when you think about it, it makes no sense whatsoever. In what way does it make the team better operatives not knowing anything about their past? Wouldn’t the unknown, unanswerable questions regards who they are and where they come from begin to impact on them? Why is Vicky so complacent and accepting of everything she is told? They have a photo of themselves in a kiss but cannot possibly remember when it was taken, as that is revealed near the film’s end and is part of their ‘erased’ past. I may seem picky about this but it has been bugging me more and more since I saw the film. It simply exists as a plot device to get away with the later ‘twist’ about who and what Jack and Vicky are, (and  mirrors that of Moon) regards them being unwitting clones. Besides which, how does anyone explain how when Jack rescues his wife from the crash-site that she doesn’t just leap into his arms declaring who she is and who he really is? It is established later that she has been floating in space since the incident revealed at the end of the film- as far as she is concerned, the sixty-years of war etc never happened and Jack is the same Jack she last saw when they began their original Nasa mission. Yes she may have been disorientated and dubious for awhile, but even if she accepts that Jack isn’t the same Jack she knew, surely she’d be screaming at him about who the hell he is, why he and Vicky both look the same as her (dead?) ship-mates did sixty years ago and what’s going on?

I think I would have preferred a slightly differently tuned start with Jack openly in love with Vicky and perhaps his dreams becoming triggered later by some event on the surface. I think that would have been more involving, seeing him begin to doubt his feelings and his purpose in life, and seeing his perfect/loving relationship with Vicky begin to fragment in front of us. The way the film is structured, Jack is already haunted by his dreams and already has set up his secret idyllic home behind Vicky’s back. He’s essentially halfway along on his journey/character arc already by the time the film opens.

There’s also a few other things that start to really wind me up the more I think about it. Just what the hell is that Alien pyramid thing and if it can travel through interstellar space why does it need a bunch of clones to engineer an invasion and monitor/repair the drones that are defending the Hydro-rigs?  Why not just arrive at Earth and dump a plague on the planet, wipe out humanity/all life and just take all the resources then? Jack and Vicky just accept the ‘fact’ of a colony on Titan without ever seeing it?  And most importantly, during the big reveal at the films end, if Jack’s Nasa ship is caught in a tractor beam, how come he can jettison the main crew section (who are are in cryogenic sleep) without that section also being caught in the same tractor beam? And er, exactly why are they in cryogenic sleep during the moment of First Encounter? Nasa sends ten or so astronauts/experts to investigate an alien anomaly and leaves the majority of them in bed at the Big Moment?  And where has that cast-off section been floating for nigh on sixty years? How does Morgan Freeman’s bunch know about it, track it and even know how to bring it back down to Earth?oblivion-poster2

Agh, nevermind. Hopefully none of this will bug me so much when I see the film again. But it really bugged me during the movie. Usually films unravel when you think back on them, but this one was unravelling even as I was watching it. Its such a damn shame because the premise is so intriguing.

One other thing- I also had a problem with the music score, which I know many viewers have enjoyed. I can understand why, its a fine score, but its another movies score, surely, and that movie was a Dark Knight movie? This distracted me several times during the film, when the score suddenly sounded like out-takes from The Dark Knight or Tron: Legacy. Its bad enough that the plot kept on reminding me of other movies, without the music doing the same. Maybe re-watching the film on blu-ray in a few months time I’ll be able to accept it, but so many moments during the film things just kept on pulling me out of it. Its also very heavy-handed the way the music is used and mixed. Early on when Vicky jumps in the swimming pool and Jack follows her in, the love music is so loud in the mix it just feels like a parody, it feels wrong.

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But there certainly are many positives. The film looks astonishing. I love the clean, slick, ‘future designed by Apple’ look of the whole thing. It’s so very refreshing after all the dirty, gritty production-designs we have seen over the years, and I’m speaking as a huge fan of Alien and Blade Runner. Many of the visual effects are seamless. I especially appreciate the fact that its a self-contained story and that there is no need for an Oblivion 2; for once film-makers had the confidence to make a film that had a beginning middle and end without the need to leave room for a franchise. I do believe it at least attempts to be a serious, adult sci-fi movie, in a way that really does bring back memories of 1970s films like Silent Running, Solaris, maybe Omega Man even, which has got to be a Good Thing, and its certainly a very welcome change from the big dumb spectacles we usually get. Its certainly a much more successful piece of sci-fi than was, say, Prometheus last year. Maybe if it was longer, had set up the Jack/Vicky love affair, their routine existence more, before bringing on the dreams and the wife. Maybe tried to tell a more coherent story less hell-bent on mysteries and twists.

I do think Oblivion is a good movie. I can put up with the music score being so, well, generic because these days so many films scores are. I can put up with reminders of past sci-fi films because, well, sci-fi films have always been rather cannibalistic in how they use earlier movies. But I do take stock with some of the hype/praise about the film when its own logic doesn’t really work. Maybe I’m being overly critical? Oh well. It certainly looks fantastic…

The Bloody Judge (1970)

bloody judgeThis is a pretty appalling film, frankly.  One of those films where you grit your teeth in a stubborn drive to watch the bloody thing to the bitter end, knowing that life’s just too short to be wasted on films like this. I mean, there are far better films that there’s just not enough time to watch, and I end up watching this rubbish? Ah well, that’s the Horror channel for you, goodness knows there are some shocking films dumped on that channel to fill the airtime. Having been sampling some of that channels ‘delights’ of late I guess it was just a matter of time until I got stung. Really should have known better.

It’s also a film that utterly perplexes me.  For one thing, it ‘star’s Christopher Lee as the titular character. Lee has a bizarre performance here that is one third bored, one third embarrassed, one third incredibly sincere. What I can’t figure out, is that if I remember rightly, around that time, Lee didn’t want to be typecast as Dracula, or to be famous only for being in poor  Hammer films (I had the impression he always thought he was a better actor than that) and yet he signed on for this rubbish? What in the world was he thinking of? Was it for the art? The pay-check? I mean, I’d really like to know Lee’s reasoning regards appearing in something like this. Perhaps if someone has read Lee’s memoirs or biography they could enlighten me here.

But anyway, The Bloody Judge. It’s directed by Jess Franco, who is apparently some kind of cult exploitation director- this is my first encounter with his work, and I’ve since discovered that the sleazy, gorier aspects of this film is fairly typical of his output, which is disconcerting, as its those elements that are really bad. The gore is clearly just red paint, and the sex/nudity is inept, tame and boring; it’s all hopelessly, terribly amateurish, so why is Jess Franco apparently such a  famous ‘cult’ director?  I can’t figure that out, maybe someone can explain his appeal to me. I figure some film fans get the films they deserve, because some films fans seem to deliberately champion bad films by giving them the ‘cult’ label, and some film-makers seem to get careers and reputations pandering to such film fans.  Shame on both parties, because it results in me watching rubbish like this on a Monday night when I could be re-watching Michael Mann’s Heat or something.  If I had to say one good thing about the film, it would be regards the score by Bruno Nicolai- its very good, but its clearly for a different movie, because while it does, yes, seem very good it nevertheless  ‘feels’ very wrong in just about every scene.

I don’t know the history of this film. It’s clearly either some kind of Anglo-Italian or Anglo-Spanish production as most of the film is like a (really bad) Spaghetti Western, with obviously European actors being hopelessly dubbed into English. The print shown on the Horror channel was doubly confusing as it kept dropping into German dialogue for some scenes, making it quite a surreal experience trying to figure out what was being said and what was going on. Turns out it wasn’t some technical slip by the Horror channel; apparently the scenes with the German dialogue were cut from original editions of the film as they were the goriest/sexiest bits, and DVDs of this version had subtitles during the ‘restored’ scenes.  Without the subtitles it just made the whole experience doubly bizarre. Oh well.

 

The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

plague-of-the-zombies-poster-large-quad (1)Well, it has to be said- this film has a plot so genuinely odd it’s just, well, completely bizarre. Another discovery via the Horror channel, I had heard of  this film but never seen it until now. The story of a Doctor’s Cornish holiday, its also some kind of social commentary on the exploitation of the working class, in the cunning guise of  a horror film in which  Cornish zombies are used as slave labour in a tin mine. Yep, its that kind of odd. They don’t make ’em like this any more.

Its the late 19th century, and Sir James Forbes, enjoying a summer vacation with his daughter Sylvia, visits a former student of his, Dr Peter Thompson, who is now the doctor of a small Cornish village. The visit is precipitated by a curious letter from Dr Thompson describing a plague in the village that has thwarted all of his attempts to cure.  Well, no doubt it sounds like a lovely place for a holiday. Sir James arrives at the village with Sylvia and decides to investigate further, but is confounded by the local Squire who has refused to allow any of the plague victim’s bodies to be examined post-mortem. Deciding a bit of grave-robbing will spice up his vacation, Sir James enlists Dr Thompson’s aid in exhuming the most recent burial to find the coffin empty. Shocked and appalled, Sir James convinces the local police sergeant to assist him further, and they discover that all of the coffins of the village graveyard are empty. Now this is a vacation!

Suspicion quickly turns toward the cad of a squire whose merry band of lackeys are proving themselves a darned nuisance fox hunting and generally berating the poor locals. The squire himself, the mysterious young Clive Hamilton, had recently returned from exotic climes following the death of the old squire. Clive is rather a bad sort, as he brought back with him a secret penchant for practising black magic and a three-piece voodoo drum band he keeps in caves under his great mansion.  The caves are part of the local tin mine, which the squire purchased on his return but left abandoned. Of course its not really abandoned at all. Secretly the mine is in full operation, but the devilish squire has employed his own dark brand of slave labour- namely the zombies of the villagers who have died by his voodoo plague. Cue all manner of readings regards industrial relations and exploitation of the working class beyond death, as his merry band of upper-class toffs whip said workforce into all manner of deprivations in the mine in their zeal for profit. Its something like Temple of Doom down there, only with the walking dead instead of the Temple‘s children.

Its sounds like a rather dark film, but its really quite fun as most Hammer films are now- back at the time it was made it must have seemed rather grisly and possibly even disturbing but time has left it rather quaint and charming. Its hardly vintage Hammer but its well worth a visit. The acting is pretty dire -although Andre Morell’s Sir James Forbes is really quite excellent and reminds me of a time when the antagonist of a film could be over sixty and still cut the mustard, despite looking and acting his age. There is also a dream sequence of zombies clawing their way from out of their graves that tellingly predates similar shots in Michael Jackson’s Thriller video by decades.  Indeed its a zombie film that was made before Romero took the undead theme to be a genre of his own, and with its depiction of the social classes etc, Plague of the Zombies provides a social commentary using the walking dead that Romero would become much more famous for a decade later. Well, we Brits got there first George!

 

Twins of Evil (1971)

Twins Of Evil is the third of a series of films loosely inspired by the vampire novella ‘Carmilla’ by J.Sheridan LeFanu. It’s your typical Hammer ‘heaving breasts’ movie, demonstrative of the continuing falling fortunes  for the studio as it tried to maintain relevance in changing times by injecting more sex into its films. It is indeed interesting to see how relaxing censorship rules and public tastes reflected on Hammer films from the classics Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula to later fodder such as this.

Twins of Evil‘s titular characters were played by Madeleine and Mary Collinson, who had earlier received the distinction of being Playboys first centerfold twins. Hardly averse from baring their flesh, the girls would take every opportunity to lean forward displaying their proud bosoms to the movie audience. That’s not to denigrate the quality of their performances; each of them do quite well in the film, but its nevertheless clear they knew what they were being hired for and its clear they relished the opportunity to have fun with it.

toe_poster_02But while on the surface its certainly a dumb, lesser-Hammer movie, dating from the era of its remorseless decline,  it does have much going for it. The film looks impressive, indeed remarkably atmospheric with some rich photography and framing by Dick Bush- some shots are quite arresting, moodily and exquisitely lit. Even on a poor tv transmission quality image on the Horror channel, some shots looked quite amazing.

Twins of Evil also has a story more layered and interesting than you might expect. Certainly there’s plenty of subtext here for ‘readings’ of the film beyond its generally-accepted reputation for being a Hammer Cleavage Potboiler. Somewhere in Eastern Europe, a group of puritan zealots called ‘The Brotherhood’, led by the fanatical Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing) terrorises the area by seizing any young woman that takes their fancy and promptly burning her for witchcraft. The men evidently equate sexuality with the Devil, and anyone who questions them is believed to be in league with Satan.  Into Gustav’s home arrive two orphaned nieces, Frieda and Maria Gellhorn who Gustav greets with  stern disapproval- they are young, wanton spirits,  provocatively dressed and to him clearly corrupted by the  ‘outside’ world.toe2 As it turns out, Gustav isn’t far wrong- Maria is an innocent virginal ‘good’ girl, but Frieda is clearly all too willing to be corrupted by any man game enough- and fortunately there is just such a guy up in the Castle yonder.

Local aristocrat Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), who lives in a foreboding Castle overlooking the village, is a satanic acolyte looking for darker and darker thrills as he despoils local girls,  finally culminating in a human sacrifice, which summons his evil ancestor Mircalla from the dead. Karnstein cements the loss of his soul to Satan by bedding the wraith, who in return grants him the powers of the  undead by vampirizing him. The Count intends to continue the Devil’s work with gusto, turning his attention to seducing  Frieda. Excited by the Count’s attention, this ‘bad’ twin willingly becomes his vampire bride. Sex again equals death. Or, as it is here, undeath.

It’s inevitable that the best thing about the film itoe1s the magnificent performance of Peter Cushing as the twisted puritan Gustav. But I’m likely biased, as I’d pay to watch a film of Cushing playing Scrabble, I think he was that good an actor. Regards this film in particular though, I’ve always thought that Cushing was the perfect actor to play Bob Howard’s hero Solomon Kane,  and never has that been more clearly evident than in this movie- its as if Cushing is channelling the icy coldness of Howard’s Kane here, particularly when he becomes conflicted and doubts his actions.   Alas, if only the world had been different, that Hammer might have shot a Solomon Kane movie back in the mid-sixties (of course, I doubt anyone at Hammer had even heard of the Texan’s fantasy series back then). Cushing is note-perfect here, his performance as usual very complex yet looking effortless. As an actor he deserved films leagues beyond the quality of this one.  One further note- I read with interest that this film was the first part he took following the death of his beloved wife Helen, the loss of whom is well-known to have devastated the actor. How much is that grief and loss in those agonised eyes and haunted character?

There are some genuinely shocking moments in this movie, particularly one where Gustav leaps upon his evil vampire niece and decapitates her without warning as she attempts to flee the castle at film’s end. It’s a reminder of how good Hammer could be when suddenly shifting gears into moments of savage horror.  Of course its restrained compared to all the gore and graphic detail horror films have now, but the power of it is how sudden, untelegraphed it is, how it is suddenly cut (sic) into the film. Gustav seems to come out of nowhere like a vicious force of nature. And of course, he’s the nominal ‘good-guy’ even though he has burnt several innocent girls at the stake.

Not that the film is anything near perfect- despite its finer moments, much of it is unintentionally  hilarious, reminding me somehow of stuff like Lifeforce as the horror slips into self-parody and comedy. Gustav and his band of merry zealots ride around all night to  bizarre Western Music From Some Other Movie as they round up poor girls for burning. Maria’s love-interest is a music teacher who writes as agonisedly bad a lovesong as you will ever hear. Near the film’s end when Karnstein’s black mute servant spots the villagers about to attack the castle,  he attempts to warn his master through some strange game of  ‘Give Us A Clue’ that has to be seen to be believed.

But on the whole this is a pretty good Hammer movie- certainly better than I had expected.  As I have noted, I watched this on tv on the Horror Channel, so can only imagine how good it would be to see it on blu-ray. Unfortunately the only HD release I am aware of is a Region A-locked edition in the US. Perhaps someone will have the wisdom to release it over here someday. It deserves to be.

Braveheart’s Unofficial Sequel?

worldwithoutWatched Braveheart last night, having not seen it in years. Well, it’s still a great film telling a great yarn, as long as you don’t confuse it for being historically factual. I will just say it was nice watching a film with a proper beginning, middle and, gosh, an honest-to-goodness end, as opposed to closing with a tease for the follow-up Braveheart 2 and 3.

But in a way, they did indeed make a sort-of sequel to Braveheart. Not that anybody responsible had any inclination they were doing it.

A few months ago Ch4 screened a miniseries based on Ken Follett’s World Without End book. A medieval drama akin to Game of Thrones, The Tudors, The Borgias and Spartacus in style and approach, it’s a multi-layered tale with several interconnected threads running through it. The main thread concerns Queen Isabella (Aure Atika) and her machinations for political power. Viewers of Braveheart will recall her character being played by Sophie Marceau. In Braveheart, Isabella fell in love with Mel Gibson’s William Wallace in an unlikely affair and became pregnant with his son just prior to the film’s end. In World Without End, she is older and bitter, and has just placed her son Edward III (Blake Ritson) on the throne after arranging the secret assassination of her husband, Edward II. In light of Braveheart‘s version of history, it can be seen as her usurping her husband and placing Wallace’s secret son on the throne of England. A secret final victory for Wallace over his hated nemesis Edward the Longshanks.

 

Not to be done with just that, it later arises that Edward II (Ben Chaplin) is not dead at all, but posing as a monk, has hidden away for years in a monastery in Kingsbridge. At the grand conclusion of the miniseries, Edward III lays siege to rebellious Kingsbridge with his army, eventually learning that his ‘father’, the true King, still lives. Soon Edward III (secret and unknowing son of Wallace, bear with me here) is set in deadly combat with Edward II- so we see the son of Edward the Longshanks fighting to the death against the son of William (Braveheart) Wallace. Presto;  a thrilling sequel to the original Braveheart movie as daft and historically inaccurate as the original. Unintentional of course but taken with this tongue-in-cheek point of view, its a pretty mind-blowing saga all told. If they had billed the miniseries as an unofficial sequel it may have gotten more viewers.

And to spare you looking up the history books, Edward III kills Edward II and so William Wallace can be seen to have won his final glorious victory, placing his Scottish son on the throne of hated England.  So the ending of Braveheart isn’t so tragic after all- it all turns out right in the end.

 

Brave (2012)

BravebluI’m constantly amazed at how finely crafted Pixar’s movies are. If God is in the details, then so is the TLC in every frame of their movies. Love or loathe ’em, you can’t help but notice the evidence of how acutely analysed and debated their films are during production- how much attention is given to every shot, every edit, every scene minutely storyboarded and discussed… and that’s all well before anything is actually animated and rendered (the details there hardly need considering, the proof is there in the gorgeous HD visuals). I often come away from viewing a Pixar movie wishing that traditional live-action movies could be given such evident attention. I’m not suggesting that Pixar movies are perfect, but you can see the labours of the film-makers in everything- the polish of the art direction and animation/rendering, the inch-perfect editing, the finely-chiselled, perfectly-paced script, elements of which tailored for both children and adults alike. The thought processes evident in every decision in the film-making process. Some films seem almost haphazardly thrown together (note the plot-holes in many a blockbuster such as Prometheus) but you cannot say that about a Pixar movie.

Not all Pixar films are equal of course- to be honest to expect that would be grossly unfair. Its like expecting Ridley Scott or Steven Spielberg to nail it every time they make a movie. There are good Hitchcock films and great Hitchcock films, and I’d prefer watching a ‘good’ Hitchcock over many other directors ‘great’ films.  So I’ll be clear now and state that Brave is a good  Pixar movie rather than a great one. My personal Pixar favourite remains  Ratatouille, an utterly gorgeous romantic comedy that is so perfectly crafted its a joy to behold and hear- pure cinema in other words, and a perfect movie to my mind. Brave, released last year to a mixed response, may not reach such greatness, but I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless- its certainly fair superior to stuff like Cars 2 and I actually prefer it to perceived ‘classics’ like Finding Nemo and Monsters Inc (I confess I actually loathed the latter and cannot believe we are to be inflicted by a sequel this year).

Brave might be perceived as being, well, somewhat slight compared to other Pixar films. But that’s like comparing different flavours of cheese- not every Pixar movie is going to be a laugh-riot or an ‘epic’. Brave is a different animal compared, say, to The Incredibles or Toy Story or Wall-E. Its more of a children’s fairytale (Pixar’s first?), a gentle adventure- maybe it is rather simple… dare I say, even European as opposed to Americanised Disney-fodder. It is what it is, and for what it attempts to be it largely succeeds. Its funny, its breathtaking to look at, the voice actors are excellent- and at something like 90 minutes in length it certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome. I thought it was great. I had it on Blu-ray at Christmas and only just got around to watching it, and I regret having waited so long. Look forward to watching it again in fact. On Blu-ray the image is consistently stunning, the animation frequently, yes, I’ll use that word again- breathtaking.

Oh, and the icing on the cake- the Pixar short La Luna, included on the disc as an extra, is an utterly charming and whimsical fantasy of such beauty and grace its worth the price of the disc on its own. It’s that good.