Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

For longer than forever...

Everyone has one or two. Films they caught late at night, or on cheap video, or remember from when they were children - absolute classics which no one else has heard of, much less knows where you can get a copy. Typically, the IMDB boards are filled with people crying "OMG I remember this show!!!" or pleading for people to upload a copy. Sometimes these films are hidden gems; usually, they're things you either get, or you don't.

According to IMdiddlyB, 66% of people's favourite films are in the top 250 list (and 12.4% of the votes were given by people who couldn't care either way, so it's not even totally accurate). When the general public say a film is good, they're normally right. Even LOVE/HATE films like The Fountain or Moulin Rouge can scrape 7.6/10 on that site. But just because no one's heard of it, doesn't mean it isn't good. Sometimes it does, sometimes you're just deluded.

No, I'm talking the obscurest of the obscure. Probably the most obscure film I love is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead - though it won't seem very obscure to anyone who hangs around my misspelt blog (have you ever noticed I've spelt my own banner incorrectly? No, me neither until someone pointed it out last week. Can't be bothered to change it...). I borrowed this off a friend last year. They'd recorded it off TV, but unfortunately, her parents had decided some bits needed censoring - including the final 15 minutes. If you thought it was confusing. It still struck me as an instant classic. I finally managed to see the whole thing on a video from the library. So this grainy, grunged up copy with a with a flickery green line at the bottom of the screen became my second version, and I had it on a permenant loan for a few months until finally getting my own dvd. The bad news is the only copy available came with Dutch subtitles. Hey, I ain't complainin'!

Even this copy isn't a pristine transfer. The darker scenes have very little contrast between background and character, and some later scenes have a strange green swoop when people move. Such is the nature of the beast. Despite its obscurity, it's one of my faves.

Velvet Goldmine has had a similarly tortuous history, which involves a video from Oxfam, a "late night signing" version from C4 with a purple guy who mimes the songs, an American R1 DVD, a technically pirated R2 version of said R1 DVD because it's not available in England and finally, a legal rereleased R2 DVD. That's five copies between two people. It's the story of a glam rock star, not-so-loosely based on David Bowie, rising and falling in the 70s. As such, it feels like flicking through someone's scrapbook - reminices out of order, scenes from shows, music videos, quotes from unconnected books and poems, and a LOT of Oscar Wilde. How could it go wrong?

It mainly succeeds because the music is ace, and the atmosphere incredible.

The Look and Read TV show is another lost classic of mine. This was a 70s/80s kids show which showed a number of serial stories, which were thinly veiled attempts to teach us to read. Nine or ten episodes, surrounding a bunch of kids and containing some educational songs. I saw them at primary school, and at the time the five I saw were practically the center of my existance. Particularly the last are the ones we watched:

Spywatch - evacuees to the country discover German spies or something. Frankly, all I remember is a boy giving a girl some chocolate, and the telephone wires being cut at the country house they were staying in. Also featured is the song containing the line: "I'm good, I'm better, I'm the be-est."

Earthsong - awful! A bunch of invesigative kids meet an alien, who promptly starts dying because of the earth's pollution. Even at the time I loathed it.

Badger Girl -similar reaction. Debbie moves to the moors, and starts trying to save badgers from nasty poachers or something. (wikipedia says horse rustlers. Well, what do I know? There was a badger, hence the name.)

Legend of the Lost Keys - This is a classic, even if at times it's a bit rubbish. There's a nice avuncular chap who's taking care of his twin nephew and niece over the summer. But secretly, he's also The Guardian - charged with protecting this box-gateway. So far, so amazing - the Guardian is brill. He has cool magic powers - he can unlock doors, and rescue people, and do all sorts of quiet, defencive spells. The only problem is that he's left the box-gateway in plain sight in a place where it can be stolen by any baddie with a search warrant. It's little, illogical flaws like this which lower the tone. Like the fact the Guardian is intrinsically linked with a Da-Vinci-Code-Mystery set by Romans, and he doesn't know any Latin. Or anything about Romans. Luckily, this gives him the chance to "look it up!" in an encyclopedia, for the sake of us kiddies at home. This Mystery revolves around finding the Lost Keys of the title, so they can open the aforementioned box-gateway, and the two "Children of Heretron" (no prizes for guessing who they are...) can lock it forever. Like the Guardian, the two Children are fantastically creepy once they work out how to use their telekenetic powers.

Along the way, they are helped by two refugees from Heretron who live in a library, and like the Guardian, are a bit shaky on helpful subjects. Refugee-Mom's catchphrase is "look it up!"; Refugee-Daughter was called Ariana, I think, which basically tells you all you need to know about her. Every week, the refugees look at the next page in a "prophecy book", work out the answer to the puzzle with the help of a dictionary, and use it in time to save the day. One wonders why they can't look ahead. And it's marvellously rubbish in the episode where Bad-Guy leaves a message boasting he's rigged a bomb in their library and they have minutes to live. They decide to stay calm, and consult The Book. This takes several minutes, and once the've looked at both it and a dictionary, they solve the puzzle which broadly says this:

"Don't panic. Now go find the bomb and switch it off."

Thanks, magic prophecy book.

Hey, it could be worse. Through the Dragon's Eye conveniantly takes place in a magical world where no one can read. The only other thing worth mentioning about this one is the Bad Guy, the terrifically creepy "Janus", a scarily ordinary man with Mr Bennet glasses. He's in league with a professor who looks like Saruman's younger brother, and takes orders from a Princess Amidala clone he addresses as "eminance". Despite the insanely tedious interludes in the Crystal Capsule (that's what the Refugee library was called, I remember it now) it's pretty exciting, and like the best of Look and Read, far scarier than it strictly should be. And there's a third-act-twist which really shocked me when I was 9, and really shocked me again last month when I watched it again. Singing all together now: "alphabetical order is al-ways the same..."

> Through the Dragon's Eye - similar reaction. This is the grandaddy of classic Look and Read. Check it out on IMDB - hundreds of people with twisted crystalline memories and hours of terror lodged in the back of their minds. Amanda, Scott and Jenny are painting a mural at school, when all of a sudden they fall into the painted fantasy world of Pelamar (perhaps that explains why the cardboard sets look so cheap!). Gorwen the dragon explains that the Veetacore (read: big, glowing, golden McGuffin) which holds Pelamar together has blown up into lots of tiny Veetons, and unless they put it back together Pelamar will fade out of existance. Conveniently, all the Pelamots have forgotten how to read, which means they need the Earth children to read the "Book of the Veetacore" that details how to put it back together. A few word-songs later, Amanda (the perky one) figures out there are some Veetons missing. And so it all begins. Think of it as a sort of lo-fi Narnia and you'll get the idea.

It's a lot less contrived than it sounds, honest. There's just something brilliant about this TV show. Soon, Gorwen, Scott, Amanda, Rody (a large white mouse, who can change into a mouse-sized-mouse if necessary) and Boris are on their way to find the lost Veetons; while Moris, Doris and Jenny stay at the Veetacore House to read them their instructions.

If ever I form a band, we're calling it Veetacore House. Ah yes, Morris, Boris and Doris - the "keepers of the Veetacore". Morris is green head-to-toe, and keeps lots of large caterpillars. Doris is purple, and behaves like the librarian from hell. And Boris, who's my favourite character, is orange and has a cricket bat that grows, shrinks or can fly.

By now you're probably going WHAT?! And I haven't even told you about the Widgets yet (read: Ewoks). The cornerstone of this show is how convincing it all is. Even if the exposition gets heavy at times, it does make a sort of internal sense. At the time, I remember being really involved and really scared; watched it again last year, same response. You can't go far wrong with a quagmire episode (cue tune: the QUagmire will QUench your QUest), and a bad guy who can disintigrate stuff with his mind.

Ah, Charn. How scared we were of you. Check IMDB, I ain't kidding. Terrified a generation. Friend 4 thought he was great when we saw it last year; Friend 5 had the same reaction to him as she did Jigsaw. There is something intrinsically creepy about the slightly crap. It's the weird way that old Doctor Who, with all its cardboard, is far scarier than over-CGd new Doctor Who. It's the slight wrongness which makes forgotten horror The Shout scary, and makes bits of The Prisoner far creepier than it strictly should be. The main bad guy is, after all, what BBC cult review refers to as "a big white wobbly tit". Yet it's scary, and the rubbishness is what does it. The Stone Tape. The Singing Ringing Tree. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Same sort of idea.

I would kill for a copy. BBC used to sell £55 boxed sets, which for 10x20 min episodes seemed a Bit stiff. But I would have done it - not even ebay has them now!

You can see most of the first episode on youtube; part one is here:

You'll be honestly doubting my judgement...things watched in childhood earn a special suspension of disbelief.

On holiday, Friend 4 and I got stuck in a French hotelroom for three hours. In that time we caught the beginning of 16 Blocks (terminally dull and very similar to Die Hard 4.). And this film dubbed into French about a teen-thing party girl falling in love with a blond teen-male thing in a wheelchair. Now my French ain't great; I certainly can't speak much of it, but I can follow along pretty well. And this film was just the most beautiful, romantic thing I've ever seen. Luckily, it starred a few TV actors I recognised, so I "looked it up!".

The Dive from Clusen's Pier, a made-for-TV tweeny version of a badly butchered book about mid life crises and commitment.

The thing is, in French I had a good idea of what was happening, but a dim grasp of what was actually being said. My mind was supplying the meaning and the acting, and it was beautiful. Luckily, someone has uploaded the whole thing on youtube in American. Unfortunately, it's the most shallow, uninspired cliched pile of rubbish in English - I watched the same section as we had in France, and I had to switch it off. What a pity. I only mention it here because it's made for TV, and hence not on DVD - cue people on IMDB begging for torrents and copies. Meh, not worth it. But I'd kill to see the rest of it...but only in French.

Final mention goes to The Swan Princess, a series of three sub-Disney cartoons butchered from the original. Stars the singing princess Odette, dim charming Prince Derek, Jeanbob the frog (played by John Cleese), Puffin the Puffin ("No fear!") and the other one, whose name I forget. Classics! I've found its lead song on youtube (in polish...) which should give you the idea: The translation is "Far longer than forever". If anyone knows what that means...

I have all three of these on video, a fact I'm quite chuffed about, due to the number of people on IMDB who haven't. Mind you, even my collection doesn't quite live up to Friend 5's - she still has a copy of Song of the South. Disney has quietly retired this film, because (obviously) the idea of happy slaves working on plantations is no longer PC - if it ever was. Despite this, it's still loved by many as a children's film, and with Disney officially sweeping it under the carpet, copies will become harder and harder to come by. I've told her to keep it and sell in 20 years...

So, what are your obscure or trashy favourite films which no one else has heard of?


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