Wolfen (1981)

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Summer’s lease really is up. Autumn is turning the leaves to red and gold and you know what? Halloween is right around the corner. Not that I need that as an excuse to watch horror movies but, you know, sometimes it helps. Particularly when it comes to the exchanging of souls, as Whitley Strieber described in his Seventies novel The Wolfen, adapted by director (former editor) Michael Wadleigh, Eric Roth and David Eyre. Albert Finney is the cop assigned to investigate deaths presumably caused by feral city animals. He and criminal psychologist Diane Venora (how wonderful is she?) find themselves amongst Native Americans who believe they have a special relationship with wolves and their leader Edward James Olmos warns them of a mythical creature and the havoc that will be wrought upon a city ripe for development … On the one hand this is a police procedural;  on the other it’s a mystical exploration of the clash of civilisation with the animal world. This mix caused immense confusion to the studio who treated it as exploitation: it’s anything but. With wonderful photography by Gerry Fisher and a resonant score by James Horner, it’s as if Peter Weir’s themes were transmitted to another continent and it’s just THIS short of being great. One of the best of the Eighties.


Nothing But the Best (1964)

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Social mobility was a 60s theme and a number of films took the baton and ran with it. This black comedy starring Alan Bates as an estate agent on the make who eventually makes a killing – literally – is very much of its era with an eye on ‘A-type ladies in E-type Jags’ as our feckless hero James Brewster espouses. A sharp picture of the time adapted by Frederic Raphael from Stanley Ellin’s story The Best of Everything. Co-star Denholm Elliott is the con who trains Brewster up; Millicent Martin is the lady he squires and she was a veteran of TV satire That Was The Week That Was (Willie Rushton can also be seen in the ensemble – and look fast for Patti Boyd). Wonderful title sequence (by James Baker) and it’s  shot by Nicolas Roeg who would of course direct Elliott 16 years later in his masterpiece, Bad Timing. Terrific.

Man About the House (1974)

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Saturday afternoon viewing, perfectly easy on the eyes right before an FA Cup match! Oh yes, it’s like the Seventies all over, with free-to-air soccer. Quite the time warp sensation, handily echoed in the wallpaper and general interior decoration (and the wonderful cars – how I want that yellow Beetle!) in this Hammer big-screen version of the popular TV series with Richard O’Sullivan as the lucky chef sharing digs with two beauties, Paula Wilcox and Sally Thomsett. When an unscrupulous property developer moves in on the terrace it’s up to plucky Paula and formidable landlady Yootha Joyce to mobilise the troops, despite hapless hubby Brian Murphy seeing pound signs. Arthur Lowe is the developer with Peter Cellier as his footsoldier and there are some TV jokes and a denouement at Thames Studios where Spike Milligan pops up as himself before there’s an interview with host Bill Grundy. Practically social realism now.