BR2049: Interlinked- The Art

P1100243Much-delayed, BR2049: Interlinked- The Art finally got published this week. Written/curated by Tanya Lapointe, this book is a companion piece to her 2017 book The Art and Soul of Blade Runner 2049, which was published back in 2017 shortly after the film originally came out. That book was a reasonable examination of the making of the film – the cast/crew and the sets, etc- but considering its title surprisingly had little actual artwork, instead focusing on behind the scenes imagery of the sets and actors and props, its title seemed rather a misnomer, something which this book addresses.

P1100244Its telling that the majority of the artwork within Interlinked -most of it artwork created in computer art packages as opposed to pen, brush and paper- is very tonal, very concerned with atmosphere and mood. Its clearly one of the things that most interested Villeneuve, or something that he prioritised. You can see it in the film itself, the studied attention to lighting and cinematography. An artbook for the 1982 film would have been more about the design details, the intricacies of objects, form and function, than what seems to have been the chief concern of the artists on BR2049. That being said, in this dawning age of limited behind-the-scenes documentaries on home video releases (we were so spoiled by Dangerous Days the 2007 documentary on the making of Blade Runner by Charles de Lauzirika and his Alien 3 documentary Wreckage and Rage) anything we can get now about the making of these films is fascinating and valuable. Obviously a detailed, definitive making-of book about BR2049 is some distance away, if ever, but if these artbooks are all we get, fair enough, its certainly better than the little afforded by the films marketing and home video teams.

P1100241They actually have a third book due out next year containing all the BR2049 storyboards, I imagine the three books together will be everything that the 1982 film never got even after all these years. Not that I’m sore about that. Well okay, a little- I waited years for an Art of Blade Runner and we never really got one; apparently all the rights issues derailed several attempts to actually get such a book of the ground. How odd though that the 1982 pretty much got no proper books (Future Noir may be the ‘bible’ of the making-of the film but it is deplorably lacking in imagery/presentation, and the few paperbacks we got in 1982, the sketchbook etc were basic) and yet the sequel seems to be getting so much attention- you’d think it had been a huge success and the franchise going from strength to strength).

P1100245In any event, its nice to see that BR2049 is still subject top some interest and attention. Maybe there is life in it yet. I suppose the chances of the film getting an in-depth and expansive future home video release with docs and commentaries etc -much as I would love to see it and double/triple-dip yet again- are so remote as to be quite inconsequential. Its simply the world and home entertainment landscape we’re living in. Interlinked is a very handsome book; and I’d certainly recommend it to fans of either of the Blade Runner films – its particularly interesting to see the evident mark of the 1982 film and the artists gradually moving away from it- I would have perhaps appreciated more text and anecdotes but its clearly more of a visual exercise, and that in-depth examination of the making of the film may yet be in my hands someday. I certainly wouldn’t rule it out considering the lasting interest/legacy of the 2017 film.

Its coming outta the Goddam Couch! : Split Second (1992)

split1
“Operator? Get my Agent!”

There’s a scene in Split Second in which our hero’s love interest, Michelle (Kim Cattrall) is sitting in her lover’s apartment being stalked by the monster, and she’s frantically sweeping the room with her gun for sign of the menace, when its huge claws rip up from inside/under the couch she’s sitting on… utterly ridiculous and nonsensical (this thing is ten or twelve foot tall but it can sneak up out of the sofa?) this moment sums up the whole sad, silly film.

Its a very cheap, very dumb British sci-fi film trying so very hard to be an American action thriller, heavily indebted to Blade Runner and Predator and Alien, set in an unconvincing flooded future London with a plot and characters that come across as pure unadulterated fan fiction: the kind of thing where being adult is saying the F-word endlessly, so much so that this film may have the most F-bombs of any film I’ve ever seen. The kind of film where sophistication and ‘cool’ is mistaken for chomping cigars and eating junk food. Its the kind of film that can star actors like Rutger Hauer and Kim Cattrall and waste them completely.

I have Rutger Hauer’s book All Those Moments, in which he reminisces about his film career. I just searched through it for any mention of Split Second. I don’t know what I expected. Maybe some self-deprecating comment, some wry humour, some telling anecdote. But no. No mention at all. Maybe Rutger was trying to pretend it never happened. Maybe his book only had so many pages permitted and some topics/films just had to be cut. Maybe he had forgotten it.

I’ll be honest, I was rather disappointed. His memories of making a film like Split Second would be fascinating, I think. We are used to hearing actors talk about their finest moments, their greatest films (for obvious reasons), but I suspect we might learn the most telling things about them if they talked more about their mistakes, their embarrassments. Tom Cruise, for instance, has never, to my knowledge, ever reminisced about starring in Ridley Scott’s Legend– its a film he’d clearly rather forget and strike from his filmography. Indeed, maybe dear Tom has absolutely forgotten that film, had it excised from his memory totally I’m not so sure Rutger would be like that regards Split Second; he seemed the kind of guy that wore all his films like some badge of honour: proud of his finest hours, pragmatic about his more embarrassing efforts. Goodness knows he had plenty of the latter: so many times in the 1980s and 1990s I was horrified in seeing his face on the cover of some straight-to-VHS b-movie fodder, far too many times.

The guy was Roy Batty. I always thought he deserved better, but then again, I was an LA 2019 obsessive. Everyone who was involved in that film was touched by greatness, in my book.

So how to explain Rutger in trash like Split Second, a film so bad even its title doesn’t bear any connection with anything in the film itself, it feels so absolutely random, nonsensical. I suppose Rutger was practical. He needed the money, it was a job, you can’t expect every film to be a Solder of Orange or Blade Runner or LadyHawke or The HItcher (moment of confession: I only ever saw one of those. There are so many films of Rutger’s that I have to catch up with).

I find it so very difficult to say anything positive about Split Second. It seems well-intentioned, but the story is so weak, the direction so amateur, it feels like something based on a very dated, very poor 1970s comic strip so obscure most people forgot it and it got handed to a creative team still in film school. Rutger is hamstrung by a very poorly written, cliche-ridden character, but he’s also actually very good in it: you can see a wry gleam in his eye at times, like he knows he’s in a piece of trash only dreaming that its Blade Runner (and God knows he was in that, so he’d know the difference) and that he’s going to have fun with it anyway. There’s a gentleness to Rutger: you could see it in his Roy Batty even though he was ostensibly that films villain. Rutger deserved his own franchise, his own Indiana Jones series of films.  He could have been great in it.

KIm Cattrall of course is as sexy as ever- she just exudes this aura in everything she did, and that’s true even in something as poor as this- the film suddenly brightens, quickens, somehow, as soon as she (eventually) appears in it. The film  missed a trick not bringing her appearance forward by about half-hour. Indeed, she perhaps shouldn’t have been Rutger’s lover at all, but rather his buddy cop. She must have come to the set straight adter appearing in Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country, because I swear she’s wearing the same hair-do. That’s one of the most interesting things I can say about Split Second, its that poor a movie.

Split Second is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

“Gordon’s Alive!!” Flash Gordon (1980)

flash1You waited long enough. Why Now?  I’ve mentioned this a few times on this blog, but up to now I’d only seen this film in pieces during tv showings, where I’d sit down for maybe twenty minutes and walk away from it a little horrified. Turns out there was a good twenty-thirty minutes I’d never seen at all. As for why now, well, there is a restored edition coming out on 4K UHD this week that has all the films fan excited, and I figured, well, maybe its finally time, so I pulled it up on Sky Cinema.

So whats it about, then?  Seriously? Oh go on then. Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow), Emperor of the Universe, has turned to Earth as his new plaything, threatening total destruction as he hurls storms and disasters at the planet. Dr. Hans Zarkov (Topol) a discredited ex-Nasa scientist is the only one who deduces the disasters are of extra-terrestrial origin, and intends to use a rocketship in his greenhouse (sigh, stay with me, its that sort of movie) to fly into space and save the Earth. He enlists the assistance of New York Jets Quarterback Flash Gordon (Sam Jones) and ace reporter Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) and they race into space to face the tyranny of the despotic Ming.

Any good? Well, no, and few even of its fans would claim it to be. Its one of those “so bad its good” movies- for my part, I’d rate a film like Lifeforce in that department too, there’s loads of bad films that fans still manage to obsess over. Famously, George Lucas made uber-hit Star Wars only after his overtures to Dino De Laurentis to purchase the rights to Flash Gordon failed, and Dino, later seeing Star Wars make millions, decided he’d get a slice of the action by making Flash Gordon himself. Dino would discover making a modern-day space fantasy rather more difficult than it originally seemed, as would those behind so many jumping on the Star Wars bandwagon post-1977 (Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica, The Black Hole, Star Crash etc).

Dino’s project did everything wrong: Dino, possibly suffering from Movie Mogul Madness chose an unknown lead rather than an established actor (I think Kurt Russell was in the running for awhile), Dino obviously thinking he could make an unknown into a Superstar –  likely having an eye towards Christopher Reeve’s success in Superman: The Movie (Dino evidently forgetting that Reeves was at least an actor: Jones can’t act, and Flash comes across as bumbling imbecile, albeit his silly innocence proves endearing to many fans). That’s not the only thing he didn’t heed from Richard Donner’s movie, of course: Flash Gordon is decidedly camp, ironically one of the things that possibly saves it in the end in a “well we know we’re rubbish, buts its only meant to fun!” kind of way, but Donner’s film taught the lesson that you had to take this stuff seriously, which Lucas had also done with Star Wars and Marvel would later heed decades after. At one point Superman: The Movie was indeed as camp as Flash Gordon, something Donner changed when he took that project over from Guy Hamilton, and when Donner was pushed out, its telling that the Superman sequels all degenerated further and further into campness becoming more like Flash Gordon in every unfortunate instalment, so, er, the producers of Superman: The Movie themselves hardly heeded their own lesson, the crazy fools.

Flash Gordon also had the wrong director, and a bad co-star (Melody Anderson is pleasant enough, but hardly set the film world on fire, utterly lacking the spark of Carrie Fisher or Margot Kidder). Flash Gordon is a pretty dire, easily forgettable movie only saved by an utterly superlative Queen soundtrack. We all had that soundtrack back in 1980/1981, even those of us who didn’t like the film or didn’t go to see it.

So worth waiting for? Are you kidding? Well, it is kind of oddly fun, I suppose. I can understand the nostalgia making fans ignore the films many shortcomings (which are too many to mention here, really). Its one of those films that the fans can champion those mistakes and failures, revelling in its badness, so is utterly impregnable from criticism.

Worthless observation? I was surprised how much in the background that Queen soundtrack really is – Howard Blake’s orchestral score doing a lot more heavy lifting than I expected. I really rather thought the film would have the feel of a rock video, sequences cut to the Queen soundtrack entirely, but it doesn’t seem to have been, which makes me suspect that the film-makers didn’t know what they had until the film was released and the audiences reacted to it. The Queen music elevates the film to a Space Rock-Opera, and had it gone ‘all the way’ a little more like The Rocky Horror Show the film might have been a delirious crazy treat and a huge success. Or not. Maybe the world wasn’t quite ready for Flash Gordon: The Musical, even with the Queen music, but I suspect the world might have been a better place with it.

As an additional bonus observation, I point readers towards my review of the interesting documentary Life After Flash for more Flash Gordon, er,  stuff.

Knives Out (2019)

knives1With Knives Out, Rian Johnson returns to what he seems to do best- films full of artifice, manipulation both subtle and obvious, with plenty of twists and turns and entertainment. Its something that time travel movies (Looper (2012)), and whodunnit movies (Knives Out) are eminently suited to, especially when characters are your own creation and can act in whatever way best suits your movie and screenplay. Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) a famous mystery writer can suddenly take a 180 in behaviour and it doesn’t ring untrue because we haven’t seen him establish other tendencies in three other movies.

It doesn’t, ahem, suit established franchises like Star Wars and its characters who have established mythology and behaviour. But lets not go into that again.

So yeah- Knives Out. Turns out its a pretty great movie, a hugely entertaining entry in the whodunnit genre offering a labyrinthine plot in which super-sleuth detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig obviously relishing the opportunity to chew up the scenery like never before) is tasked with solving a complex murder mystery when it appears that Harlan Thrombey’s suicide is not as it seems. The conceit of the movie is that we are let in on what actually happened and once ‘in’ on the mystery we can still be manipulated by the film as we may not actually know what we think we know.

Its an absurdly old-fashioned film, in surprising ways, gathering an old-fashioned parade of star actors in its cast, like some Hollywood studio picture of old (Plummer, Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Toni Collete, Ana de Armas headlining… a list of talent old and new, with a few character actors like M.Emmet Walsh and Frank Oz thrown in for good measure). It reminded me considerably of Kenneth Branagh’s 2017 Murder on the Orient Express, a film I likewise enjoyed with its strong cast and old-Hollywood sensibilities. Paradoxically, of course, Knives Out is also very modern and feels very contemporary. Its a grand, almost intoxicating mix and I thoroughly enjoyed it. What in the world was Rian Johnson doing messing about in the Star Wars universe?

Knives Out is of course out on DVD and Blu-Ray, and is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. 

The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967)

fu manchu boxIndicator are releasing in October a Blu-ray box-set of the Fu Manchu film series starring Christopher Lee as the nefarious super-villain- a huge fan of their Hammer box-sets, I was pretty intrigued they would go to all that effort – its the usual bonanza of restored films, commentary tracks, archive audio recordings and new video interviews – considering that the films are largely frowned upon today in just the same way as similar Hammer material of that era. Discarding all the racial stereotyping issues, I was unimpressed, really, by Hammer’s The Terror of the Tongs (1961) that appeared in Indicator’s third Hammer set last year- I thought it was a very lacklustre effort only enlivened by a typical Christopher Lee performance elevating it to Shakespearean drama. Someone obviously noticed something in Lee’s unofficial Fu Manchu to warrant hiring him for the real thing, because five official Sax Rohmer adaptations followed: The Face of Fu Manchu (1965), The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966), The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967), The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968) and finally The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969).

I’d never seen any of them, but the geek and film-fan in me seems to be instinctively drawn to box-sets such as this, in a similar way as Arrow’s The Complete Dr Phibes Blu-ray set with its gloriously rotten films staring the wonderful Vincent Price. I imagined that the Fu Manchu series were at least as politically incorrect and racially blundering as Hammers The Terror of the Tongs, and marvelled at how ill-timed the release seemed to be, considering everything going on in the world today.

And then, wouldn’t you know it, but I noticed Talking Pictures, yet again proving to be a marvel as they broadcast the third entry in the series just a few days ago. I set the Tivo (Talking Pictures always schedule stuff at exactly the time that its impossible to watch it), and yesterday gave it a go.

fu manchu1I’ll cut to the chase- I’ve ordered the Indicator Fu Manchu box. Yes it was bad, but it was bad in a good way; surprisingly well made (far more ambitious and successful than Hammer’s effort) with a good cast and impressive locations and sets, and I found it a great pulp yarn. Yes its very politically incorrect and you’d never get this kind of thing made today, but that’s exactly part of the films appeal: its all rather insane and feels so wrong but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from it. The Vengeance of Fu Manchu is the third film in the series, which means, in the time-honoured tradition of film cycles, that’s its worse than the first two but better than the last two, and gauging those other films on the merits of this one, I have to say, this series could well prove to be a delirious blast this Autumn. 

fu manchu2There’s a scene in The Vengeance of Fu Manchu set in the super-villains lair in which an American crook perpetually doffed with  a cowboy stetson is torturing a woman stretched out on a rack while her father is forced to look on from a cage suspended above: its decidedly strange and as crazy as it might sound. Considering the sensitivities regards western actors playing Asian characters these days, this film also features the novel spin (I doubt it qualifies as serious social commentary) of a plot-point in which an Asian character is given plastic surgery in order to pose as white man and commit murder.

I should point out my affection for a series of Robert E Howard yarns, Skull-Face in particular, but he did a run of Weird Menace stories for the pulps, which Howard wrote obviously inspired/indebted by the Sax Rohmer tales of Fu Manchu and the Western world under the threat of degenerate Asian menace. Clearly they are of their time and have to be accepted as such, but Howard was a masterful storyteller and wrote incredibly powerful potboilers (Skull-Face just blew my teenage mind back in the day). I can’t speak for the original Rohmer yarns as I never read them but Howard was a brilliant pulp writer. The Vengeance of Fu Manchu rather appealed to that love of mine for those Howard stories.

So I look forward to rewatching this film in high quality- all five films have been remastered in 4K from the original negatives for Indicator’s box-set – and naturally watching all the films in order.  Should be a guilty blast, if nothing else. We can’t get The Abyss on Blu-ray but we can get these Fu Manchu films… its a crazy bloody world, but I figure you just have to go with it.

 

Villeneuve talks Dune

Here’s a link to an hour-long interview that Denis Villeneuve made for the Shanghai International Film Festival discussing his upcoming Dune. Its a fascinating insight firstly regards some of the issues he is a having making the film whilst the Covid 19 Pandemic continues, and also his thinking and approach to the adaptation. The film is still coming, folks- I’m not entirely certain it will be this December though. Fascinating stuff.

The Quiet Earth (1985)

quiet1This is a film that I have wanted to watch for such a long time, but again, one of those that proved continuously elusive – I finally relented, at long last a sale on Amazon of Arrow titles swung it. As I’d expected, the film proved to be both a tantalising and frustrating experience: I think the key to appreciating it, really, is to remember its from 1985, and is, incredibly, 35 years old now. Its important to consider, I think, that just 14 years separates Geoff Murphy’s The Quiet Earth from its cinematic forebear The Omega Man, and that the real gulf separates us in the present day from The Quiet Earth. Its become an artefact of another time.

The film is un-apologetically of the 1980s. A film with this subject matter made in the 1970s, for instance, would naturally be colder and more nuanced, more paranoid and concerned with what went wrong, laden with a sense of judgement and blame. In many ways The Quiet Earth is less concerned with the why, even though one of its characters shares some of that responsibility. Even though much of the plot centres on the experiment that went wrong, and the dawning realisation that it isn’t over yet, and that the survivors are yet in danger, there is a sense… almost of casualness about it. A natural reaction in a 1970s film by a survivor to the news that Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) was involved in destroying the world would be revulsion, anger and possibly physical reprisal- here the redhead girl befriends and sleeps with him. There is a sense of archness and humour -likely a decidedly New Zealand sensibility- that feels almost Gilliam-like, the film sharing a similar feel to the fellow-1980s film Brazil. I didn’t really feel that any of the three survivors had lost anything, unless the point was that they were still numb from the trauma and it hadn’t hit them yet. These survivors have lost everything- family, freinds, lovers, jobs, their whole lives but it never convinces- there is no screaming, few tears, few sleepless nights or abject apathy. A vacancy of the mournful.

Of course what I’m getting at here is my own creative view- I’m criticising the film for what it isn’t, not what it necessarily is. Were I writing it, I would have done so differently, focused on different things. My own version of The Quiet Earth would be a little more like The Leftovers, and been a more serious, emotive piece. But this is 2020, not 1985, and we indeed have The Leftovers for that, and of course the film is constrained by the original 1982 novel it was based upon, so my criticisms wholly unfair.

For what it is, the film is very good. Bruno Lawrence is hardly the usual leading man, a nod more to the 1970s and its down-to-Earth leads than even the 1980s propensity towards the Arnies and Stallones of the cinematic world. There are inevitable budgetary constraints, this was a low-budget independent New Zealand production, so lacks the Apocalyptic gloss of a Hollywood epic like the Will Smith vehicle I Am Legend. There’s a few lapses in logic, only isolated indicators of people suddenly disappeared -no clothes littering streets or homes, for instance, so they apparently didn’t go naked- other than a few abandoned cars and half-eaten dinner plates in houses, but there is always something hypnotically arresting about empty streets and highways, just as proved by The Omega Man. Glimpses of a world devoid of humanity are… I hesitate to call it entertaining, exactly… fascinating would be nearer the mark. There is also something of the nostalgic, of distant memory almost, seeing a character exploring an abandoned shopping mall, picking up supplies at leisure, as the characters of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead did, from my perspective of a country with increasingly abandoned High Streets, exasperated in this time of Covid 19. Again I am reminded that The Quiet Earth is 35 years old, and I wonder how much stranger re-watching Dawn the Dead will seem next time. Films never change but we do, and the world around us certainly does. Fresh insights, I suppose, and maybe The Quiet Earth says something different now than it did back in 1985.

Tomita’s Engulfed Cathedral

I spent an increasingly disheartening half-hour searching through piles of CDs buried in a corner; I have too many CDs, and surely a clear-out is due, and at times such as this I can see the positives in digital downloads over physical – is it inevitable that someday I’ll opt for a download over a CD? Anyway, as is ever the case in such moments, I failed to find what I was searching for, but instead stumbled upon a quite-forgotten Tomita CD; Snowflakes are Dancing. Its an electronic album from the mid-seventies based upon some of Claude Debussy’s works; my old friend Andy had it on vinyl back in the mid-eighties. I had fallen in love with Debussy’s Clair de lune many years ago (anybody recall the Disney animated short?) and Tomita’s version was always a favourite. Andy used to play both that and The Engulfed Cathedral late in the evening, sometimes. Hugely atmospheric music, and sounding quite unique here (the nearest I can compare to Tomita is possibly Wendy Carlos, but that’s still pretty wide of the mark). John Carpenter did his own electronic rendition of The Engulfed Cathedral in his film Escape From New York, which is where I suspect most of us of my generation first encountered it.

So anyway, I never found what I was looking for in that pile of CDs, because I succumbed and put the Tomita CD on the player instead, listened to The Engulfed Cathedral for the first time in years. Glorious. Its like years falling away, so strange. Anyway, in case you’re unfamiliar with it, here’s a YouTube link to it:

Blood of the Vampire (1958)

blood2This is really something of a curio- it has the look and feel of Hammer, featuring a Jimmy Sangster script and Barbara Shelley in the cast, but it isn’t a Hammer at all. I can only imagine it was a quick cash-in, maybe, following the success of Hammer’s The Curse of Frankenstein the year before, with Hammer imminently bringing its own Vampire horror to the screen in 1958’s Dracula (since both films came out in 1958, I can’t imagine that Blood of the Vampire was a cash-in on Dracula‘s huge success, but you never know, films got made fast and cheap in those days).

Indeed, now that I think about it, the title is rather misleading, because the villain of the film is a scientist in the vein (sic) of Frankenstein rather than a blood-sucking vampire -there’s certainly no fangs on offer here, which suggests it was indeed based upon The Curse of Frankenstein‘s success with just a canny allusion in the title to a certain vampire movie. Its actually something that proves rather disorientating, and pleasantly so, as it leads the film to subvert expectations. Donald Wolfit,  a kind of ‘Bela Lugosi that can act’,  is great as the mad scientist Callistratus whose experiments have caused him to become a sort of living vampire, his character a peculiar combination of very polite and ruthless in his quest for a cure (hints there of The Invisible Man, too). The film is done few favours with Callistratus’ henchman hunchback Carl (Victor Maddern buried under poor make-up), a character that threatens to plunge the film into farce although I suppose it suggests Sangster was perhaps affectionately nodding towards Universal’s b&w horrors past. I suppose considering that the film is caught between Universals old b&w classic horrors of a then-few decades before and the hugely ‘modern’ rock-and-roll horrors about to come from Hammer, it strikes an oddly cute kind of horror atmosphere.

blood1On the whole its a pretty good film, making a great Friday Night Fright flick- the cast are much better than the script or film really deserves (Shelley in particular is clearly above this sort of nonsense, but both Wolfit and Vincent Ball who plays John Pierre, the nominal protagonist of the film, are very good). It does a very fine job of mimicking Hammer’s gothic horrors (one could be forgiven for thinking it was indeed a Hammer), with pretty solid production qualities suggesting the film had some ambitions- minus one unintentionally hilarious miniature shot that seems to have been taken at a tourist model village (certainly the matte painting shots are no worse than Hammer’s were at the time, and some interior matte’s interestingly extend some sets). I gather the print I watched on Talking Pictures was a UK copy, as the film was subjected to considerable BBFC cuts on its release that never seem to have been restored over here (the US has a slightly stronger cut, which itself apparently lacks some shots still deemed too shocking), but even so the film is pretty strong in places considering how old it is and the draconian censorship codes of the time. A film such as this is never going to get a restoration and I’m sure any cut sequences/shots are long since destroyed, but the film was kind of fun in a lazy, undemanding old-fashioned shocks kind of way, and any Hammer fans unfamiliar with it, like myself, might get a kick out of it.