Posts Tagged ‘Ian Ogilvy’

Movie Reviews 375 – The Day the Fish Came Out (1967)

January 5, 2019

I’ve always had a taste for the offbeat and camp movies (if you haven’t noticed) and The Day the Fish Came Out, probably one you’ve never heard of before, has always been one of my favorites. For some strange reason this was one of those films that my local TV station, CFCF-12 Montreal used to play over and over when I was a kid. But honestly, I was hooked the first time.

Part of the eccentricity lays not in just the plot itself, but the genre and setting. Believe it or not this is a Greek production of a science fiction comedy that skirts a doomsday scenario of all things . Written, directed and produced by Michael Cacoyannis (of Zorba the Greek fame) it was loosely based – and I do mean loosely – on the real life accidental dropping of hydrogen bombs on a Spanish island, the so called Palomares incident, just a year earlier. Cacoyannis took that concept, changed the island to Karos Greece, threw in lots of bikinis and made it colorful beyond belief.

The military trackers of a mission note the radar disappearance of a plane whose precarious cargo consists of two bombs and a particularly radioactive large metal container simply codenamed “Q”. When it becomes evident that the plane is lost a team a recovery team is sent to the island posing as real estate developers who want to build a hotel, despite the obvious barren landscape. Meanwhile the plane pilot and navigator (Colin Blakely and Tom Courtenay) are left scrambling and hiding with nothing but their skivvies, without any way to communicate with command. To make matters worse, “Q” is found by a peasant goat herder intent on cracking open the box dreaming of what must surely be riches within.

But the fun really starts when the locals start promoting the island and foreign touring groups, believing it to be the next hot-spot vacation destination, start sending tourists in droves to Karos. The leader of the covert military team (Sam Wanamaker) now has the added headache of keeping the tanned and toned tourists from interfering the mission to find Q.  Especially troublesome is the vivacious Electra (Candice Bergen, who was a model long before she was an actress) who has her eyes on one particular able seaman (Ian Ogilvy) who is soon ordered to keep her occupied.

Despite many flaws this movie still works on so many levels. There is the clash of cultures, the nutty characters such as a torturous dentist, the bumbling plane crew at each others nerves and scurrying like hobos throughout the film, the determination of the goat herder to try ever more powerful tools and techniques to open the container, and the frantic locals doing everything to try to cash in on the tourist trade. The backdrop transforms from a mundane archaic town to a rainbow painted settlement. The tourists that take over are a futuristic looking collection of Warhol-esque models that would look at home on a 60’s Parisian catwalk. You really have to see the outlandish garments to believe them. And when they party to a catchy heavy beat tune they flail their arms while shouting “Cooah-Cooah!” like giant multi colored birds in heat.

Perhaps the greatest appeal is how deftly the story navigates the boundary between comedy and  sombre drama. As the silliness in town gets weirder by the minute, the movie switches over to the desperation of a father sweating with every attempt to relieve the misery of his family. Title kind of gives away the ending which begs the question of whether this is really a comedy or a thinly veiled socio-politico commentary. Either way, you will be entertained.

“Cooah-Cooah!”

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Movie Reviews 337 – Witchfinder General (1968)

March 23, 2018

Back in the day the name of Vincent Price was synonymous with horror cinema. His 200 plus acting resume was filled with performances in many horror staples including The Fly, House of Wax, The Tingler, House on Haunted Hill, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Theater of Blood, and those only touch the surface as he had an illustrious career in mainstream films. His roles oscillated between being the protagonist and the antagonist, interchangeable in the sense that he was equally adept in either capacity. But one film often left out when reciting those better known horror films is Witchfinder General, ironically the one in which I find he is at his detestable best (a good thing in horror). But perhaps this performance transpired as it did for other reasons.

Titled as The Conqueror Worm in the US, the film is set during the 1645 civil unrest in which lawyer Matthew Hopkins (Price) is appointed as ‘witch finder’ a duty he fulfills wandering the British countryside from one town to the next accompanied by his trusty torturer Stearn (Robert Russell) who all too happily does most of the dirty work. Needless to say the goal is not so much to save anyone from the evils of Satan as it is to put down political foes or just a pretense to collect a few guineas.

After demonstrating some quick marksmanship that saves the life of his unit commander, cavalryman Richard (Ian Ogilvy) is granted a few days of leave and takes the opportunity to visit his beloved Sara (Hilary Dwyer) who lives with her priest uncle (Rupert Davies). The priest urges Richard to marry Sara as soon as possible but only on the promise that he will take his niece and leave the village, only hinting at troubles brewing. But almost as soon as Richard returns to his unit he learns that the uncle has been taken in by the witchfinder. Against orders he returns to the village but not before Sara herself is imprisoned and Richard must save her from the horrific fate that awaits all those accused by the witchfinder.

While not as resplendent in blood as Hammer Studios and American International Pictures (AIP did provide some funding for this film) gothic horrors of the era, the gory scenes are fairly graphic. The allure of the film lies with the richness in character and the clear distinction of good versus evil. The sorcery perspective is well captured with such scenes as a cleric appealing for repentance from a woman being dragged to her death with the opportune witchcraft references like brimstone and burning flesh read aloud by a vicar. What makes the film truly terrifying is wrapping your head on how mere accusations could result in one’s demise. What comes off as comic in one of Monty Python’s troupes best sketches (“She’s a witch!”), is eerily prescient here with dead seriousness despite the equally insane faulty logic we see the witchfinder using to ‘test’ those accused. And there are plenty such trials and extractions of false confessions with all manor of deadly sentences.

A cult favorite today, one of the reasons Price may have been so effective in this film portraying the ruthless, conniving Matthew (based on the real life character) was that the director never wanted Price for the role and made no secret of the fact throughout filming which rankled the otherwise humble Price. This acrimony seems to have translated into Price’s deadpan performance which was perfect for the role.

If the Salem witch trials were your idea of Satanic eradication, they have nothing when compared to The Witchfinder General.