Being There (1979) – Peter Sellers Gardening Guru

Being There (1979) poster film movie

Being There is one of those movies that digs about in your brain, popping up throughout the day nagging at you to decipher what it was all about. Could it be that deep, did it have so many undercurrent takes on life, metaphors of differing scales on the human condition .. I don’t know to be honest but man did I absolutely adored this film.

Being There (1979) Peter Sellers Chance chancey gardener

How could you not love the delightful wandering simple minded performance of Chance by Peter Sellers.  Our wonderful innocent hero is, Chance the gardener or as he becomes known, Chauncey Gardiner.

Being There (1979) Peter Sellers Chance chancey gardener guru

Chance works as a gardener for a wealthy old man in a massion stuck in the middle of a Washington DC ghetto. He spends his days tending the estates court yards and gardens whilst entertaining himself the rest of the time watching and learning from the television, constantly flicking through channels educating himself from infomercials and news reports. He’s seems very content in this life until his whole world changes with the death of his master (father?) and has to leave the estate behind, wandering off into a strange and bewildering world.

Being There (1979) Peter Sellers Chance chancey gardener guru 2

Tagline – Getting there is half the fun; being there is all of it!

Now that adventure into a brave new world starts with a truly amazing scene set to, of all things, the theme to 2001 Space Odyssey, well that damn funky 1973 version of Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra by Eumir Deodato.

Being There (1979) Peter Sellers Chance chancey street walking

It so suits Chances departure off on his epic journey upon the unknown. Accompanied by the grand orchestra and the funky sounds enhancing his travels through the slums. I suggest you watch the scene unfold in the film but if you fancy a recap or just happy to watch it anyway, here’s the full scene.

Tagline – Life is a state of mind

Now like a certain Forrest Gump our Chance has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and literally bumps into his next destiny. Meeting up with Eve Rand, played by a orgasmic Shirley Maclaine, the wife of elderly wealthy businessman Benjamin Rand (Melvyn Douglas). From there on Chance manages to become a “guru” talking in gardening quotes. Impressing non other than the President of the United States
President Bobby (Jack Warden) himself.

Being There (1979) Peter Sellers Chance Melvyn Douglas randBeing There (1979) Peter Sellers Chance Shirley Maclaine

Graffiti – America ain’t shit cause the white man’s got a God complex

Chance inadvertently gives sex tips, speaks a dozens languages, befriends the upper-class and appears on TV. What is so special about Chance? You will have to watch it to find out.

Based upon a 1970 novel by Polish born writer Jerzy Kosinski, Being There is directed by Hal Ashby who gave us the wonderful dark humour and sweetness of Harold and Maude.

Being There (1979) Peter Sellers Chance Shirley Maclaine Melvyn Douglas rand

The ending? Spoilers in the link, only open this link if you have seen it.  I noticed this article on screenprism.com gives some wonderful insight to work that grey matter. Have a read and see what you think.

Fun Fact – On the end credits sequence Peter Sellers wasn’t happy to have that out-take footage. I thoroughly agree with his thoughts that it took you out of the magicalness of his character. It was still pretty funny though.

Have fun, being there…. Thanks for reading Mikey the Wolfman

Further Reading Links

1979 Being There New York Times Review by Janet Maslin
Roger Ebert Being There DVD review
Being There (1979) IMDB

Wake in Fright (1971) – The Greatest Australian Film?

Wake in Fright (1971) poster image dvd vhs film movie

Another month, another bonkers film to add to the list, Wake in Fright from 1971 is essential watching. Marooned in a small town resembling some kind of maddening limbo land, a possible stop off for hell itself . But to be honest this could be just an ordinary Australian outback town going about its everyday life for all that I know.

Think Walkabout meets all of Crocodile Dundee’s mates, add a gazillion gallons of booze and crank that unbearable blistering heat up to maximum overdrive, blast in mountains of dry hot dust and you get a slight picture of what to expect. Who needs water when the beer flows like white rapids at the bottom of a waterfall.

Wake In Fright (1971) beer can crushing Joe (Peter Whittle)

Tagline – Have a drink, mate? Have a fight, mate? Have some dust and sweat, mate? There’s nothing else out here.

On his journey into the mouth of madness is school teacher John Grant (Gary Bond) a young man bored out of his mind determined to escape the sleepy town of Tiboonda. As school breaks for the holiday term John makes a beeline for the train station to visit his girlfriend in the big city of Sydney.

Wake in Fright (1971) Tiboonda train station platform

Fun Fact 1 – John Grant sounds exactly like comic actor Matt Berry‘s characters like Bainbridge from the Mighty Boosh and Dr. Lucien Sanchez from Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. Big smile from me every time he spoke.

Unfortunately for our man John his train connection brings him to the town of Bundanyabba otherwise known as the Yabba by the locals. A surreal place where there is one main religion, the religion of booze. Promoting the most booze to ever be consumed on film I can only imagine.

Wake In Fright (1971) Jock Crawford (Chips Rafferty) John Grant (Gary Bond)Wake In Fright (1971) gambling John Grant (Gary Bond)

Cop Jock Crawford – “another beer”

John meets a series of characters on his adventure from the friendly but pushy policeman, Jock Crawford (Chips Rafferty) to the kind Tim Hynes (Al Thomas) and his slightly strange daughter Janette Hynes (Sylvia Kay). Then there’s the nutcracker town doctor Doc Tydon (Donald Pleasence) to the bullish introduction to Joe (Peter Whittle) and Dick (Jack Thompson). Everyone puts in a stellar performance and everyone grabs your full attention throughout.

Wake In Fright (1971) Tim Hynes (Al Thomas) John Grant (Gary Bond)

John Grant – “And what do you do?” Doc Tydon – “I drink.”

So many of the set pieces have you transfixed with fear or wide eyed fascination as you watch, especially the gambling sequence where you become as intoxicated in those flying marked coins as the obsessed men playing it. You just can’t help but be mesmerised by John Grant’s journey as he tries to leave the town.

Wake In Fright (1971) Donald Pleasence mad doctor outback

This is truly an Australian masterpiece. A story adapted from a 1961 novel by Kenneth Cook and directed by Canadian Ted Kotcheff the guy who unleashed Rambo on us in 1982 with First Blood.

The history of the film is a mammoth journey in on itself, as lost prints of the film were found at the eleventh hour in a box marked to be destroyed. I read that the films editor Anthony Buckley took it on himself to find the original prints which took on a ten year voyage of discovery.

Wake In Fright (1971) Dick (Jack Thompson)

Please be warned the kangaroo hunting section is barbaric and extremely unpleasant. It’s very tough to watch, so be wary if you watch it. The footage is said to be done by licensed hunters but whatever way you look at it, it is very shocking.

A producer’s’ note at the end of the film states – The hunting scenes depicted in this film were taken during an actual kangaroo hunt by professional licensed hunters. For this reason and because the survival of the Australian kangaroo is seriously threatened, these scenes were shown uncut after consultation with the leading animal welfare organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom

Wake in Fright (1971) booze party time

If you love this then I thoroughly recommend Sunday Too Far Away which has a similar theme, well, of drinking shit loads of booze in the outback but with added sheep.

Fun Fact 2 – It’s currently being made into a 2 part mini series with Wake In Fright (2017) in post-production at the time of posting. To be honest there really isn’t any need to remake it as it’s perfect.

Wake In Fright (1971) Donald Pleasence mad doctor drinking again

If like me and you love Australian cinema then I highly recommend you becoming a “Yabbaman” and getting on this trip if you’ve not seen it.  But if you have, what did you think?

Grab a case of the grog, put another shrimp on the barbie, sit back and enjoy the ride. Watching films don’t get much better. Here’s the trailer for a little peek. Take it easy and drink sensibly hehe … Mikey Wolfie

Further Reading Links

Wake In Fright (1971) New Yorker Article
Wake In Fright (1971) Making Of Notes Guardian Article
Wake In Fright (1971) Wikipedia

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) Fools Gold

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) poster

Quite seriously the beginning opening sequence of Aguirre The Wrath Of God is ridiculously breathtaking, so stunning. A visually beautiful set piece, the panning shots of hundreds of men marching down the side of cliffs and mountains carrying all manner of unnecessary items. Hundreds of slaves and sherpers, interspersed with men in full armour, conquistadores in all their glory.

Tagline – A breathtaking journey into the heart of darkness.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) Don Lope de Aguirre Klaus Kinski 2

Add to this gorgeous scene the haunting music from the German ambient new-age electronic band Popol Vuh that actually penetrates the soul, it transfixes you. Electric keyboard strings and voices pre-warn of the coming doom and despair.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) woods

A 16th century Spanish expedition of soldiers and noblemen on a mission in search of the fabled gold of El Dorado. After hitting a dead end filled with mud and cut off by the white rapids of the flowing river. The leader of the main party has no choice but to abandon their plans and high hopes of riches. With no food supplies, helplessly lost, and with the reality of despair setting in, a group is organised together to build rafts and set off in search of food and rescue. Deep down everyone must see this as a hopeless task but proudly they fight on.

Tagline  – On this river, God never finished his creation.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) Don Lope de Aguirre Klaus Kinski

What they probably didn’t expect was politics, mutiny, cannibals, psycho locals, their own inner demons and a lunatic leader by the name of Don Lope de Aguirre, played by Klaus Kinski who looks as mad as he will become. Directed by one of Germany’s greatest original filmmakers Werner Herzog, a man who has such a talent for investigating the inner conflict of the human condition and always brings such obscure and awe inspiring films to make the viewer invest themselves full force into the experience.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) Klaus Kinski Pan Pipes
You try and hide in the most god forsaken places but those blooming pan pipers find you everywhere!

This is a journey in the heart of darkness, a truly poetic picture filled with metaphors and similes. I can imagine many essays have been written and discussed about this film, so I won’t drivel on in my illiterate way but believe me this is a fascinating film. Plus I know when that opening scene will ever leave me. Here’s the music.

Popol Vuh – Aguirre, The Wrath Of God Soundtrack

To be honest I should’ve seen this many years ago but you can’t watch them all and it’s now been ticked off list mountain. I very much recommend it, have you seen it before? Let me know your thoughts….. BTW one of those Conquistador helmets would make a most excellent popcorn bowl. Take it easy and enjoy film… Mikey Wolfman

Further Reading Links

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) Roger Ebert Review

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) IMDB

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) Wikipedia

Radio On (1979)

radio-on-1979-poster

I was hooked right from the get go when the typewriter letters started hitting the screen as the intro credits started over the soundtrack to David Bowie’s “Heroes“. Lush black and white photography panning out around an apartment flat going from room to room. Radio On is a British road movie looking like a German art house film. It’s no accident it looks that way as the camera work is done by Martin Schäfery and associate produced by Wim Wenders (Paris Texas) and even stars Wim’s girlfriend at the time Lisa Kreuzer . It’s seems the production was a joint venture between the UK and West Germany.

radio-on-1979-sign-hippodrome

Adding to this UK and German connection are a few other things, the soundtrack with Kraftwerk, features very heavily throughout and there’s this curious handwritten message. At the beginning the camera focuses onto a bedroom wall filled with posters and memorabilia and centers on this mysterious note. . That’s got to be on the back of a Kraftwerk LP cover hasn’t it?

We are the children of Fritz Lang and Werner Von Braun. We are the link between the Twenties and the Eighties. All change in society passes through a sympathetic collaboration with tape recorders, synthesizers and telephones. Our reality is an electronic reality.

radio-on-1979-letter-on-bedroom-wall

The film is directed by Christopher Petit and set in 1970s. Our “hero” Robert, played by David Beames, finds out his brother has died and takes to his Rover P4. Travelling from Ilford, London to Bristol listening to music as he takes in the somber road trip meeting a series of odd people along the way.

radio-on-1979-motorway-views

The movie is a series of moody long lingering shots of broken landscapes of high rise flats and council estates, panned out shots of the car driving and then transports you into the back of the car looking out the windscreen, watching the motorway falling beneath whilst music plays on the radio.

Wim Wenders – “One of those true pioneering films… Chris Petit reinvented the road movie for England”

radio-on-1979-highrise

Radio, of the title, is featured constantly during the runtime of the film. Robert is a radio disc jockey for a local broadcaster. Slices of news reports filter in alongside mundane tones of the football scores. Car stereos and cassette tapes, a chance meeting with a musician. Music and radio waves are a strong part of this independent feature.

As are moody, bleak and quiet thoughtful gazing into the void! Contemplating, mourning and more staring, out of a window, in a pub with a pint, on a bridge or just sat in a car.

radio-on-1979-looking-in-the-void

It does all sound so depressing and to be honest it is but it also quite brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed it. What surprised me the most is how modern it all looks. It’s 1979 but it really could be now! I believe it’s down to the black and white print but also it could be down to the fashions. Nobody wears anything too stuck to the era, apart from when Robert goes out on the town with his teddy boy jacket.

radio-on-1979-lisa-kreuzer-ingrid

For some eye candy and maybe some much needed light relief you get a chance meeting with a girl called Ingrid played by Lisa Kreuzer. Getting a few lifts in Robert’s car and sitting chatting about her daughter and life.

Here is that car, The Rover P4 a 50’s mid-size luxury saloon. I have to say it looked beautiful. Here’s a few pictures of it.

radio-on-1979-rover-p4

radio-on-1979-rover-p4-quarry

I loved this film, it hit all the right notes for me. One of those rare little gems that when you unearth them you can’t stop thinking about. If you think this one might be for you I hope you can track it down for a viewing. Plus if you like music it’s like an big music video, featuring artists like Kraftwerk, David Bowie, Devo, Robert Fripp and Ian Dury.

radio-on-1979-dj

Fun Fact – Another case of German influence was in the form of graffiti on a wall stating to “Free Astrid Proll” Intrigued by this name I have found out she was an imprisoned member of the Red Army Faction or Baader-Meinhof Gang. Check her story it’s really interesting. Link at bottom of page.

radio-on-free-astrid-proll

Happy viewing and thanks for reading…..  Mikey Wolfman

Further Reading Links

Radio On (1979) IMDB

“Free Astrid Proll” WIKI 

Screenonline BFI Radio On

The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)

the-gods-must-be-crazy-1980-poster

Sometimes you come across a film you should’ve heard of. For me it was The Gods Must Be Crazy from 1980. I’ll tell you straight out the gate it’s one hell of a goofball comedy with heaps of sweetness to boot. Can’t see how on Earth I missed it as it seems everyone I talk to has heard of it! What with 45 thousand ratings on IMDB bringing its score up to 7.3/10 this movie is much loved and has a devoted cult following. Quick read after watching it, I was surprised to see that it made a colossal amount of money with a worldwide take of around 100 million dollars! Making it one of the most commercially successful films to come out of South Africa.

Tagline – The critics are raving… the natives are restless… and the laughter is non-stop!

the-gods-must-be-crazy-1980-xi
The wonderfully cheerful Xi

Set in Botswana and starting off like a documentary narrated by Paddy O’Byrne who gives a delightful 70’s children’s television show feel to it. He introduces us to our star, the head of a small tribe of bushmen called Xi, played with a tenderness and wide eyed awe by N!xau. This peaceful happy group have been blissfully unaware of the outside crazy world and live a content life in a tight family group.

the-gods-must-be-crazy-1980-poster-1

Until one day the ridiculous “civilised” world comes knocking in the shape of a bottle of Coke Cola. The strange object is thrown out of an airplane and falls right at the feet of our hero Xi. A gift from the gods! A useful tool to be used in everyday life for him and his community. But it’s not long before this foreign object is discovered to be a curse rather than a gift from the gods. Xi decides to take the bottle to the end of the world and give it back to the gods.

What ensues is a trek across the country bumping into all manner of animals and bizarre people, all bringing comical effect to our bewildered bushman on his epic journey.

the-gods-must-be-crazy-1980-water
“Eye eye eye eye eye eye”

Intertwined in this batty story is a biologist Andrew Steyn (Marius Weyers) who is comedy gold. A babbling buffoon who falls over everything in gorgeous slapstick style. Up there with many slapstick performances from the golden age of cinema. One set piece with the Land Rover with no brakes is a deranged piece of genius as he tries to open and close gates with the van always moving. It’s a pure wonder.

the-gods-must-be-crazy-1980-land-rover
Genius Land Rover with no brakes scene.

Chuck in a school teacher called Kate Thompson (Sandra Prinsloo) for some cheeky saucy fun as the biologist falls into pure screwball mode. It’s so amazing to watch his nutty comical display.

Andrew “You know she’s got flowers on her panties!”

To put some danger in the mix, there is a subplot featuring a gang of guerrillas led by the devious Sam Boga (Louw Verwey), who is being pursued by the national army. This turns into speeded up car chases, tanks, rocket launchers and all round carnage.

Do look out for  Andrews mechanic friend Mpudi (Michael Thys) who works on “The Antichrist” the Land Rover. His tantrums and angry words as he works away on the beast are a big laugh.

the-gods-must-be-crazy-1980-desert-scene
Mpudi to the rescue..

I won’t go into the story too much but if you haven’t seen this I can assure you will have never seen anything quite like it. It’s a blast.

Directed by South African Jamie Uys who worked so hard on the film he suffered a heart attack. No stranger to comedy films he looks like he made a few in a the style of Candid Camera called Funny People. After the success of The Gods Must Be Crazy he returned for part two in 1989. After that though N!xau got picked up for some unofficial versions of the film, taking him to Hong Kong and Beijing China and they look pretty bad.

the-gods-must-be-funny-in-china
The Gods Must Be Funny In China 1994!

Further Reading Links

The Gods Must Be Crazy 1980 WIKI

The Gods Must Be Crazy 1980 IMDB

Roger Ebert Review

The Hit (1984) RIP John Hurt

john-hurt
What a tremendous portrait picture

Such sad news to hear the passing of the wonderfully talented actor, the irreplaceable John Hurt. Just like anyone of my age, he just seemed to be there throughout my teenage years and beyond. Whether it was Max in Midnight Express, the voice of Hazel on Watership Down, the iconic scene in Alien as Kane with his chest bursting open, or his beautifully pained and sad performance as John Merrick in The Elephant Man. Add to that he showed us the bleak totalitarian future in George Orwell’s 1984. All these films have always been there, part of my growing up. Mr Hurt has done so many more incredible films but those are the ones closest to me.

the-hit-1984

There is another though, one that is very underrated and maybe not so well known. One I have rewatched today as a little homage to the great man. The film is The Hit from 1984 and stars Terence Stamp as ex-gangster and grass Willie Parker who becomes “The Hit” of the title. Turning his back on England he hides out in a quiet little village in Spain.

Tagline – Willie Parker grassed… ten years later they came for their revenge

the-hit-1984-terrace-stamp-john-hurt

In enters two hitmen, who are ordered to kidnap Willie and escort him to Paris to stand trial with the gangsters who put the hit out. This is where our John Hurt appears as one of the hitmen, the cool Mr Braddock with his shades and pale suited demeanor. Looking mean, thoughtful and with his moments of silence you never know where you stand with him. His partner, is the angry and unprofessional Myron, a guy who really can’t keep his mouth shut. Myron is played by a very young Tim Roth, in I believe his debut major film role but he did star as the terrifying skinhead Trevor in the TV movie by Alan Clarke called Made In Britain in 1982.

the-hit-1984-tim-roth-john-hurt-terrace-stamp

What unravels is a road trip across the country as Willie Parker realises his number is up and makes things as difficult and as fun as he can with little quips and comments to play and put the guys off their game.

Coming along for the journey is the gorgeously beautiful Spanish honey Laura Del Sol as Maggie. She adds a few more problems for our two hitmen.

Tagline – Even Bad Guys Have Bad Days

the-hit-1984-laura-del-sol

It’s an exceptional movie written by Peter Prince and directed by Stephen Frears who has a superb list of films to his name, The Grifters, High Fidelity, Dangerous Liaisons and a couple of UK classics which were big at the time, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid and My Beautiful Laundrette.

If you haven’t seen it I really recommend you get on it and give it a go,  I know you won’t be disappointed.

Rest in peace John Hurt, thanks for all the amazing films.

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Further Reading Links

The Hit 1984 WIKI

The Hit 1984 IMDB

The Criterion Collection