Gonks Go Beat (1965)

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The Sixties were so wild and funky that someone thought a psychedelic pop interpretation of Romeo and Juliet set in space would be just the thing. A world in which Terry Scott is Prime Minister, Arthur Mullard the Drum Master and the Graham Bond Organisation is the house band can only be described with one word – CRAZY! The first British sci-fi musical and quite as bad as that sounds. Written by Jimmy Watson and director Robert Hartford-Davis, whom we encountered with The Fiend/Beware My Brethren.

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What Ever Happened to Baby Jane ? (1962)

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Or, What happens to ageing Hollywood actresses. This adaptation of the novel by Henry Farrell (by Lukas Heller, a regular Robert Aldrich collaborator) was the first of a cycle of so-called hag movies. Hardly director Aldrich’s intention, he nonetheless fuelled it himself by doing a sort-of sequel, Hush … Hush Sweet Charlotte two years later with Bette Davis and the original star proposed here, Olivia De Havilland.  Davis and Crawford’s offscreen rivalry made their casting as desperate old ladies with one living off faded childhood stardom, the other failed actress condemned to a wheelchair, a riff on rumours feeding into Hollywood legends plundered here with gusto. This is a marvellous comment on what the theorists might call the monstrous feminine, the terrible toll that Hollywood takes on actresses, and the sheer deadening effect of living in a dayglo Los Angeles suburbia. Who knew what went on behind the walls of all those Spanish houses before this came along? The twist is brilliant.

Cross of Iron (1977)

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When I was growing up one of my favourite novels was The Willing Flesh by Willi Heinrich. The story of a German platoon abandoned behind Russian lines in World War Two is thrilling.  I loved it so much I wrote a sequel to it – in French! (For a high school writing assignment. It was read out to a no doubt enthralled throng on a day I chose … not to attend!) So it came as rather a shock to find that it had been adapted as a film years earlier under this title. Julius Epstein, Walter Kelley and James Hamilton are the writers responsible. I acquired my copy from a video outlet in Belfast (along with Big Wednesday, a favourite) and someone called Mervyn complimented me on my choice. In truth James Coburn was never my idea of Sergeant Steiner and while it receives typically robust treatment by director Sam Peckinpah, for me, it is a hard film to love. I recommend the book wholeheartedly.