Apocalypse Later Empire



I also write books, for sale at Amazon and the other usual online stores.
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Also announcing the 2nd annual Apocalypse Later International Fantastic Film Festival!
Filmmakers, submissions for horror and sci-fi shorts are open through Film Freeway.

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Saturday, 23 September 2017

Santo vs. The Vampire Women (1962)


Director: Alfonso Corona Blake
Writer: Rafael García Travesi, based on a story by Antonio Orellana, Fernando Osés and Rafael García Travesi
Stars: Santo, Lorena Velázquez, Maria Duval, Jaime Fernandez, Augusto Benedico and Ofelia Montesco


Index: 2017 Centennials.

The great folk heroes of the ages are usually timeless. We don’t know when they were born and they generally don’t die; they just live on in our culture, forever young. However, we can put some dates on one of Mexico’s greatest folk heroes, El Santo, because it was the character of a man who lived and died and made a huge difference in between. His real name, not that it was well known during his career, was Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta and he would have been a hundred years old today. El Santo was a symbol of truth, justice and the Mexican way and he plied his trade as a luchador enmascarado or masked wrestler. He fought in the squared circle for almost half a century and, after a few decades, successfully took his character onto the big screen, starring in fifty feature films, fittingly taking on all comers, whether they be criminals, monsters or aliens. I re-watched two of these in celebration of his career and realised in the process how varied the quality of these films really was.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a Santo movie, the last one being 1973’s Santo vs. Black Magic, which was screened at a local cinema in Spanish with live Mystery Science Theater 3000 style commentary from a local improv troupe, following a set of wrestling matches. So, trusting Wikipedia, I initially went for The Mummies of Guanajuato, a colour picture from 1972 in which Santo lends his luchador colleagues Blue Demon and Mil Máscaras a hand to save a town from reincarnated luchador mummies seeking revenge. After all, some nameless editor suggests that it was the ‘most financially successful’ Santo movie of them all and the one which fans call the ‘greatest luchador film ever made.’ Well, as much as it sounds like a blast, with not one but three legendary masked wrestlers and a script spun out of the real mummies of Guanajuato, a collection of corpses buried during a nineteenth century cholera outbreak but naturally preserved and now displayed in a museum, it sadly isn’t. This is why ‘citation required’ is so important, folks.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

That Obscure Object of Desire (1977)


Director: Luis Buñuel
Writers: Luis Buñuel and Jean-Claude Carriere, inspired by the book, La femme et le pantin by Pierre Louÿs
Stars: Fernando Rey, Carole Bouquet, Angelia Molina, Julien Bertheau, Andre Weber and Milena Vukotic


Index: 2017 Centennials.

Fernando Rey was born in 1917, began his film career in 1935 and remained a busy man throughout it, but he wasn’t really noticed by the world until the sixties and didn’t find fame until the seventies. In the States, he’s probably best known for playing drug lord Alain Charnier in The French Connection and its sequel, though they were far from his English language debut. That came in 1963 in The Running Man, a British film shot in Spain, and was immediately followed by The Ceremony, an American movie shot in Morocco. By that point, he’d racked up a large filmography in Spanish and a number of films in French and when he started making English language movies, they were usually westerns shot in Spain, like Son of a Gunfighter or Guns of the Magnificent Seven, indistinguishable from spaghetti westerns, Italian but also shot in Spain and usually dubbed into English, films like Revenge of Trinity or A Town Called Hell. A rare exception was his role as Worcester in Chimes at Midnight, Orson Welles’s epic take on Falstaff.

In Europe, however, he’s probably best known for his collaborations with fellow Spaniard, Luis Buñuel, the grand master of movie surrealism. Buñuel moved around too. His first film was made in Spain in 1929, becoming what Roger Ebert described as ‘the most famous short film ever made’; that was a collaboration with Salvador Dalí, Un Chien Andalou, complete with an infamous eye-slicing scene. After the follow up, L’Age d’Or, caused a major scandal, he escaped to the US to learn from MGM; when that didn’t work out, he returned to Europe, working in the dubbing departments of Paramount in Paris and Warner Brothers in Madrid. When he shot films in Spain, they were mostly anonymous and, after the Spanish Civil War placed the fascists in charge, he moved to the States, eventually editing documentaries at MoMA until resigning after Dalí’s autobiography outed him as a communist and an atheist. By 1949, he had become a naturalised Mexican and contributed some incredible films to the Golden Age of Mexican cinema.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Time Travelers (1964)


Director: Ib Melchior
Writer: Ib Melchior, from the story by Ib Melchior and David Hewitt
Stars: Preston Foster, Philip Carey, Merry Anders and John Hoyt


Index: 2017 Centennials.

There are things we have come to expect from science fiction movies of the sixties, not least that they’re sci-fi not science fiction. The terms are interchangeable today but, for a while, there was a real battle going on. Serious writers often felt a need to draw a line between their new works of imagination and what they saw as pulp schlock, so they stuck with ‘science fiction’ or ‘speculative fiction’, both often abbreviated to ‘sf’, but followers of the original fan, Forrest J. Ackerman, who just wanted to have fun, adopted ‘sci-fi’ as a riff on hi-fi. And so science fiction was deep and meaningful exploration of ideas while sci-fi was bug-eyed monsters and rayguns. I mention this because Ackerman, who coined the term ‘sci-fi’ in 1954, has a cameo role in this picture and because, while The Time Travelers looks like sci-fi, it’s surprisingly full of serious ideas, shifting it into science fiction territory. Or, in the cinematic equivalent battle, where movies are mindless entertainment and films are high art, it’s closer to film than movie.

Of course, such debates are pointless. Any creation has to stand on its own merits, whether it’s intelligent or not, and this one does surprisingly well. More than anyone, that’s surely due to a man named Ib Melchior, who would have celebrated his one hundredth birthday today, had he lasted only a few years longer than he did; he passed in 2015 at the age of 97. Melchior was a real character, born in Copenhagen to a Danish opera singer who was the most notable Wagnerian tenor of his day. The title of his autobiography highlights what he felt was his greatest contribution to society: Case by Case: A U. S. Army Counterintelligence Agent in World War II; this work included being part of the liberation of the Flossenbürg concentration camp in Bavaria, the capture of a Werwolf unit and the discovery of the Nazi hoard in the salt mine at Merkers-Kieselbach. It also led to him being honoured as Knight Commander of the Militant Order of Saint Bridget of Sweden, though this seems to be a self-styled order not officially recognised by any nation.

Monday, 11 September 2017

The Ringer (1952)


Director: Guy Hamilton
Writer: Val Valentine, from the play by Edgar Wallace, with additional dialogue by Lesley Storm
Stars: Herbert Lom, Donald Wolfit, Mai Zetterling, Greta Gynt, William Hartnell, Norman Wolland, Denholm Elliott, Charles Victor, Walter Fitzgerald, Dora Bryan and Campbell Singer


Index: 2017 Centennials.

Today, it would be surprising to discover a film fan who doesn’t immediately associate the name of Herbert Lom with that of Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus, so memorable was he in that role in a number of Pink Panther movies. However, he was a man of talents far beyond magnificent comedic timing and the rare ability to prevent Peter Sellers from stealing every scene he was in. Taking a look back through the phases of his career highlights those different talents well: Czech pictures in the thirties, villainous roles in British films of the forties, stage musicals in the fifties, a wide variety of roles in the sixties, European horror icon in the seventies and, of course, Dreyfus across the decades. He even found time to write two historical novels, one about Christopher Marlowe and the other about the French Revolution. I’ve enjoyed his work since I was a kid, so his versatility isn’t news to me, but I had no idea until now that he was the King of Siam in the original British stage run of The King and I, the role Yul Brynner played on Broadway.

While he was far more frequent a supporting actor than a lead, there are intriguing features almost leaping out of his filmography to be covered in a project like this. I’m a sucker for Ealing films but he wasn’t most prominent in The Ladykillers. I love the classics of horror, but he was disappointed with the Hammer version of The Phantom of the Opera, in which he played the lead. He appeared in other iconic roles too: Captain Nemo in Mysterious Island, Van Helsing in Jess Franco’s Count Dracula (supporting a dream pairing of Christopher Lee and Klaus Kinski as Dracula and Renfield) and Napoleon Bonaparte in two films: The Young Mr. Pitt in the UK and War and Peace in the US. He even appeared in two different versions of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. The movies that shouted the loudest, though, were his British film noirs of the forties and fifties, like Dual Alibi, in which he played twin acrobats, a Hammer noir called Whispering Smith Hits London and this Edgar Wallace thriller, The Ringer.