Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990) (TVM)

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Get off of me! You are going to forget once and for all about that filthy thing of yours! You’ll forget that you even have one of those things! Do you understand me, boy? Released from a mental institution once again, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) calls in to tell his life story to a radio host (CCH Pounder). Norman recalls his days as a young boy living with his schizophrenic mother (Olivia Hussey), and the jealous rage that inspired her murder. In the present, Norman lives with his pregnant wife psychiatrist Connie (Donna Mitchell), fearing that his child will inherit his split personality disorder, and Mother will return to kill again… Both a prequel and a sequel, this made for TV entry in the series has the original writer Joseph Stefano (never mind Alma Hitchcock’s contribution!) and a whole heap of interest to anyone who either visited the Universal FLA lot where it was shot (I have the shower curtain!) or was addicted to Bates Motel (to which it bears no relation, but you know what I mean).  Apparently Perkins wanted to have his Pretty Poison director Noel Black direct it from a screenplay by III scripter Charles Edward Poague but that film’s commercial failure meant a change in talent and Mick Garris was brought in to direct. Stefano didn’t like the violence in the preceding two films and ignored the backstory about Mrs Bates in II and the aunt in III.  Now, Norman Bates is married. Whatchootalkinabout?! Yup, they go there. Literally the unthinkable. And having a child. With a psychiatrist. Gulp … Pushing Freudian and schizoid buttons galore, Henry Thomas plays the young Norman in out of order flashbacks that clarify the events triggering the break in his personality with a path straight up to the first film.  Ironically this is probably the weakest of the sequels despite Stefano’s desire to have a psychologically accurate portrait of a cross-dressing mother-loving voyeuristic serial killer. But you just have to watch. Don’t you?! A  must for completionists.



Death on the Nile (1978)

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La grande ambition des femmes est d’inspirer l’amour. Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot gets to flex his little grey cells on a luxury cruise through Egypt that is filled with eccentrics, madwomen and murderers.  Peter Ustinov plays the beloved Belgian for the first time in this plush, epic adaptation by Anthony Shaffer which is as much black comedy as murder mystery. Linnet Ridgeway (Lois Chiles) is the heiress who steals Simon Doyle (Simon McCorkindale) from her best friend Jackie (Mia Farrow) and the jilted one turns up on their honeymoon everywhere they stop – including Egypt. Poirot meets up with Colonel Race (David Niven) and a right motley crew of passengers on a paddle steamer tour, including a drunken romance writer Salome Otterbourne (Angela Lansbury) with her long-suffering daughter Rosalie (Olivia Hussey); kleptomaniac socialite Marie von Schuyloer  (Bette Davis, in Baby Jane eyeliner) and her decidedly masculine assistant and travelling companion Miss Bowers (Maggie Smith); Linnet’s greedy lawyer Andrew Pennington (George Kennedy); Linnet’s decidedly frisky French maid Louise Bourget (Jane Birkin). Turns out everyone on board had a good reason for killing Linnet. There’s also Jon Finch, Jack Warden and Sam Wanamaker for good measure. While we see Aswan, the Pyramids, Karnak and the Sphinx, we enjoy the trials and tribulations as these people knock up against each other and what unspools when Linnet is eventually murdered. Seeing Lansbury strongarm Niven into a dance is a particular delight. This is a great cast playing with evident relish. Gorgeously costumed by Anthony Powell, beautifully lit and shot by Jack Cardiff,  typically well scored by Nino Rota and handled with pace and humour by director John Guillermin, this is a leisurely and colourful Sunday afternoon treat.

All the Right Noises (1971)

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Given that Lesley-Ann Down features in a small role, it’s not hard to imagine Bruce Robinson hovering in the background and using some details for his own magnum opus, Withnail and I. This, coincidentally, was on Talking Pictures, the fascinating Brit-movie channel that has recently hoved into view, right after I had my umpteenth viewing of W&I. Starring the incredibly lovely Olivia Hussey (who BR must have known through the Zeffirelli experience in common) opposite kitchen realist star Tom Bell, this takes a favourite trope of the 60s British film – the young girl being seduced by a much older man. Very much a product of its time, then, but with the fillip of having the ring of truth. She doesn’t look 15 and he doesn’t act married – Judy Carne plays his formerly successful actress wife who’s now a stay-at-home with their children. It proves the adage however that men like to have affairs with girls with long hair. And the soundtrack by Melanie firmly roots it in its era. Written and directed by Gerry O’Hara, who has had a very interesting career. He worked as an AD from the mid-40s and when he was directing he started with a precursor to the Swinging London cycle, That Kind of Girl. As far as Swinging goes, he also directed The Pleasure Girls and Maroc 7 (I love it!) and then had a variable series of projects between TV and cinema, including Leopard in the Snow (kind of A Man and a Woman …. kind of) and culminating in the 70s with The Bitch. His last directing credit was on 1993’s The Mummy Lives but his screenwriting career continued to 1992 with 1989’s Ten Little Indians (how many incarnations have there been now?!) on IMdB. This is the version with Donald Pleasence and Frank Stallone….!