Telefon (1977) – The Russian Manchurian Candidates

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Donald is gonna think I’m stalking him! This is the third film in a row with the versatile, dependable Mr Pleasence and this time it was purely by chance as I didn’t know he was in it. What a great surprise.  Cul-De-Sac was first then Ground Zero.

Was ticking this one off the list mainly because of Charles Bronson and second being that it’s a Don Siegel movie I knew about but wondered if I had actually seen it. I hadn’t and I can report that it’s a fine piece of 70’s drama.

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Russian saboteurs within the United States had been placed as sleeper cells at strategic positions around America during the height of the Cold War. Without really knowing it they were hypnotised to go on a suicide mission by a command signal setting them off like the Manchurian Candidate. This message is sent by telephone and consists of a phrase from a poem by Robert Frost called ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’.

Tagline – They’ll do anything to stop Telefon. The operation that can trigger 51 human time bombs.

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Suddenly they are set off one by one blowing stuff up left right and centre. One minute casually fixing a car as a mechanic the next minute you’re plowing through barriers to decommissioned army barracks and blowing up the building. And they just keep coming, hitting targets all over the place. What’s scary is the fact that theres 51 sleepers ready to be activated!

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Who could be doing this? really there can only be one person so dastardly, so ruthless, that it has to be Donald Pleasence playing a disgruntled rogue KGB agent called Nicolai Dalchimsky who has acquired a little black book filled with all the agents addresses and most importantly to him, their phone numbers.

Telefon (1977) - Donald Pleasence telephone bad guy russian agent

Tagline – Your next phone call may be your last!

Who can stop this madman who could actually start world war 3? Well step up Mr Charles Bronson as Russian Major Grigori Borzov, an experienced officer within the KGB with photographic memory superpower. He gets to memorise a copy of the black book before he is sent to the USA to track down and stop Nicolai.

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What name does this Russian super agent go by?  “Gary“! Gary meets up with a sassy CIA agent Barbara played by Lee Remick and she is greeted with the line.

“For an American agent you’re not entirely repulsive!”

There’s lots of great banter and sly spy work chemistry between Gary and Barbara as they try to figure each other out whilst tracking down Nicolai Dalchimsky. Can these two agents work together to bring down this rogue agent on a destructive path trying to start a world war? You have to get this on the watch list to find out if you haven’t seen it already.

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On a side note – Criminally under used in a wonderful little part, is Tyne Daly from Cagney and Lacey fame playing a super brained boffin, CIA computer expert called Dorothy Putterman. Would liked to see more of her used. She was never better than Kate Moore in The Enforcer annoying Harry Callahan.

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Forklift Driver Klaus (2000)

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Many years ago I had attended a course for my forklift license. Twelve of us sitting around a projector screen really not wanting to be there, half dozing off and all getting a little tetchy. In walks the instructor, a tall German guy with a cheeky grin. He pulls out a VHS cassette tape and explains to us the video he is about to show us is the first part of the test and if any of us are squeamish or easily shocked then to please leave now. I gave a little growl “haa what me” and we had a little giggle. 10 minutes later, one guy had been sick and another had left the room but to me it was just another night prowling the city.

Tagline – First day on the job turns out to be the real challenge

Forklift Driver Klaus: The First Day on the Job is a wonderful macabre short film homage to those industrial safety educational films. This is a splatter gore comedy horror and was quite a classic when it did the rounds many years ago on Youtube.

Written and Directed by Stefan Prehn and Jörg Wagner and staring Konstantin Graudus as Klaus.

Fun Fact – The narrator, a guy called Egon Hoegen was actually the voice for a series of real educational videos in Germany.

Further Reading Links

Forklift Driver Klaus WIKI  

Forklift Driver Klaus IMDB

The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)

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One of reasons for doing this blog, apart from chilling my inner Wolf urges, is to find new films to watch. The Day the Earth Caught Fire is one I knew by title but had never got round to viewing. That apocalyptic film title grabs you with it’s no nonsense words. Placing the literal “end of the world” plot splashed in big letters in much the same way The Day The Earth Stood Still did.

This is a British science fiction disaster movie and really very entertaining. What struck me most about the film is the dialogue, it’s relentless. Centered around a bunch of reporters, editors and journalists working for The Daily Express trying desperately to keep the newspaper updated with the world filled chaos. There isn’t a moment’s silence as these guys fire out nonstop sarcastic wit, quips and rude brash British banter. It’s just as you can imagine the fast paced, long hours and stress would bring working to deadlines on a real tabloid but with added heat and sweat.

Another fact that brings this film alive with realism is the way the cast moves around the working environment of the whole newspaper plant, traveling through all departments. From rooms filled with noisy chat of typewriters, to runners bustling back and forth with information and getting shouted at. Then being transported down to the deafening working press rooms filled with massive machinery pushing a constant hustle of printed pages through their metal jaws.

It’s so impressive when you find out it was actually filmed at the Daily Express headquarters in Fleet Street, London. Giving the film such a raw realistic feel.

Another touch that I loved was the black and white film print is gorgeous and when it shows scenes from the “future” right at the start of the film and again at the end, they use a beautiful sepia hue to tone the film print to give a feeling of intense heat. It’s very effective.

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The INCREDIBLE becomes Real! The IMPOSSIBLE becomes Fact! The UNBELIEVABLE becomes True!

What’s the plot in a quick rundown? Well in between grabbing quick rounds of drinks at Harry’s Bar,  America and Russia have been testing nukes on each side of the Earth which incidentally makes the world tilt on it axis pushing us closer to the Sun. Weather patterns go totally schizo, firing out snow, high winds and then a thick fog they call heatmist. The fog engulfs London giving for some effective scenes of half covered Battersea Power Station, Big Ben and the House Of Parliament and a few other national monuments. The Earth is doomed! Is there anyway the scientists of the world can save mankind!

Oh and add in a CND march, a riot and a truly bizarre scene where the youth have gone into some sort of New Orleans inspired Mardi Gras delusional water madness!

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There’s a big cast of players in this film but the three main heroes are Peter Stenning (Edward JuddFirst Men in the Moon) Bill Maguire (Leo MckernRumpole of the Bailey, Number 2 in The Prisoner) and Jeannie Craig (Janet Munro – A bonkers looking B-movie called The Crawling Eye, adds to wants list) and there’s also even a blink and you’re miss him Michael Caine as an uncredited Checkpoint Policeman.

The film is directed by Val Guest who had earlier made the creepy The Quatermass Xperiment in 1955 and, your only watching it because of Victoria Vetri, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. Only joking, that is a fun film.

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Val Guest and Victoria Vetri on the set of  “When Dinosaurs Ruled The World” 1970

Here’s the trailer for The Day the Earth Caught Fire

Further Reading Links

BFI Article On The Making Of 

The Day the Earth Caught Fire – Wikipedia

The Day the Earth Caught Fire – IMDB

Phase IV (1974)

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What better film to follow up Them but with another bunch of crazed, demented six legged psychopathic ant nut jobs than the 1974 film Phase IV. This feature is filled with visually luscious images and gorgeous landscape design, it’s quite the wonder to look at. But please be forewarned that you spend the runtime scratching like a shaggy dog. Oh my fur was twitching and an itching like crazy right through this creepy crawly movie. Even the eerie music gets under the skin. Essential item to have with you whilst watching is a personal back scratcher or two, down a bit, ooo to left a bit ooo thats it, thats the spot. A big thanks goes out to Lieutenant’s Nina Barry and Gay Ellis from UFO in helping me with my itching, you did a grand job….

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Lieutenant’s Nina Barry and Gay Ellis popped in to help with my ants in my pants problem

Right onto the plot! Did I say it’s got a load of ants in it? Tons of the pesky critters.

Well these guys get a rather big dose of cosmic rays when some planets align and the Sun shines through making them super intelligent. They then go all thug like and smash up the local area and build themselves a manor, a strange looking future council estate.

Tagline – “Ravenous Invaders Controlled by a Terror Out in Space Commanded to Annihilate the World!”

Then arrive our two scientists Dr. Ernest D. Hubbs (Nigel Davenport) and James R. Lesko (Michael Murphy) who set up a dome and perform all kinds of tests and experiments on the ants whilst getting attacked from all angles by these enhanced looneys. Throw in some suicidal ants, a bunch of analogue synths, beeping and buzzing computers, scientist tension and a stray young girl, Kendra Eldridge (Lynne Frederick) and you get yourself all the key ingredients for a mad 80 minutes of fun.

Now the film ends on a pretty wacky note but what appeared some years later was a 5 minute cut scene which is one hellova trip-festing mind gravy moment. Check the Youtube video down the page to see the original cut ending.

Tagline – “The Day The Earth Was Turned Into A Cemetery!”

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The greatest thing about this film is that it is director Saul Bass first and only full length film and that as it didn’t do too well at the box office I assume he called it quits and went running straight back to the day job. Now that day job, of being a graphic designer, will blow your mind if you didn’t know who he was because you have seen his work and influence everywhere. Just check the poster work for some of the greatest films ever made. (17 Coolest Saul Bass Posters) but you can tick off Psycho, The Man with the Golden Arm, North By Northwest, Ocean’s 11, The Shining just to note a few.To add that he helped on many great film opening title scenes. Awesome guy.

Here’s one of my favorites.

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Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo poster by Saul Bass

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It’s quite upsetting that Phase IV maybe not doing too well seemed to put Saul Bass off doing another full movie because I’m sure he had a wealth of cool ideas which could have spawned a load of excellent risk taking films. Unfortunately we will never know but Phase IV  has become a Cult Classic and very rightly so.

One last note, the electronic soundtrack is exquisite and performed by pianist and composer Brian Gascoigne.

Here’s the trailer.

Here’s the LOST, cut, tripped out original ending

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Links For Further Reading

Phase IV IMDB

Saul Bass Wikipedia

Short Documentary – Saul Bass- Style is Substance

Pitchfork Phase IV OST Reissue Review

Phase IV Wikipedia

When Worlds Collide (1951)

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Science fiction meets disaster film in this planet smashing doomsday flick which gave Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, 2012) a run for his money destroying cities and monuments before he was even born.

Tagline – This May Not Happen For A Million Years….. But Now You’ll See What Could Happen…. When Worlds Collide….

It’s rather depressing stuff to be honest but entertaining nonetheless.

So what the blue blazes happens you might ask, well to sum things up quickly here goes.
Astronomers see that a planet called Bellus is on a collision course with Earth and man they don’t have much time. Earth is certainly doomed but the scientists come up with a plan, Bellus has a Earth like Moon with it called Zyra. With some quick planning and some top secret building they design a spaceship that can hopefully help save a few people to rescue the human race from extinction. The “Ark” though can only hold a select few passengers, picked through a lottery system and that’s only gonna bring a heap full of trouble.

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Buckle up it might be a tad bumpy ride!

When the planet approaches it’s causes a biblical shit storm, bringing tidal waves, earthquakes and pure unimaginable carnage. The Earth is truly doomed. Can our heroes David Randall (Richard Derr) and Joyce Hendron (Barbara Rush) save mankind from total annihilation? Check out this great film to find out.

The film is directed by Rudolph Maté and produced by George Pal. Now George Pal is very interesting as he had his producing and directing finger on loads of famous science fiction film and animation effects. From the likes of classics War Of The Worlds, The Time Machine, Tom Thumb and produced another sci-fi film I like called Destination Moon in 1950. He was quite some guy.

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George Pal sat in The Time Machine

Based on a book of the same name and co-written by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer in 1933 I’m guessing the film followed pretty much the same path as the book and might of been considered to become a sequel because the duo had released After Worlds Collide in 1934.

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Written in 1933 by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer

This film is on Netflix at the time of writing so come in for a big hairy wolfie snuggle on the sofa and lets watch it together.

Here’s the trailer

Links for further reading

When Worlds Collide – IMDB

The legacy Of George Pal – Sci-Fi Station

When Worlds Collide – Rotten Tomatoes